Chapter Nineteen

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Chapter Nineteen

I run. My limbs feel weak, and my heart pounds unnaturally fast, but still I run. I have to. I need to. How could he do this to me? I push harder, the dark forest streaming past me, air burning in my throat. I don’t want to think of him. Not ever again. But every footstep that slams into the ground shoots his name across my mind. Nate, Nate, Nate, Nate, Nate—Ugh! How could he do this? I skid to a halt, stumble, and trip over a pixie that wasn’t there a second ago. It scurries away as I fall onto my hands and knees. I clench a fistful of leaves and twigs and let out a wordless scream.

It feels good.

I crawl toward the gnarled roots of the nearest tree and collapse against them. My breathing is heavy. I guess Zinnia was right about me needing more rest. I close my eyes and see Nate’s smiling face against the back of my eyelids. Something twists painfully in my chest. He said he cared about me. He almost said he loved me! So how could he trick me into walking right into Zell’s hands? Zell must have some kind of hold over him, right? My desperate heart begins grasping for excuses, but I chase them away. There is no excuse good enough for what Nate did. I would never have betrayed him like that, no matter what anyone threatened me with.

I press the heels of my hands against my eyes. I want to stay angry. I try to cling to it, but I feel it slipping away, leaving a hollow ache behind. My chest hitches and a sob escapes my lips. Then another. The forest swims before my eyes as tears well up and spill down my cheeks. I find my stylus and write a doorway on the tree trunk behind me. I crawl into it.

On the other side, in my sitting room, I don’t bother standing up. I drag myself over to the couch, lean back, and draw my knees up to my chest. The tears keep falling. I don’t try to stop them. I feel as though I am crying with my whole body. Great, shuddering gasps that leave me even more desperate for air.

Something soft nudges my side. Filigree, in white mink form, slips into the gap between my legs and chest. His warm, furry form is comforting, which makes me cry even harder.

I wipe my hands across my face. Stupid, stupid, STUPID. I should not be crying over a boy. I didn’t even love him. “I DID NOT!” I shout, watching a few sparks fly off my tongue. I’m not sure who I’m trying to convince. Filigree snuggles closer, his claws poking me through my clothes. No. I didn’t love Nate. I was just stupid enough to care about him, that’s all. And now I am alone again. There is no one for me to daydream about. No one for me to visit at night. No one for me to share my world with. It’s just Filigree and me alone in this house again. Like it was before.

Except now it’s a lot worse, because now I know what I’m missing.

I take a deep breath and push myself to my feet. “It doesn’t have to be like this, Fili.” I sniff and rub my eyes. “We can make it the way it used to be.” With Filigree curled around my neck, I hurry upstairs to my bedroom. I pull my emergency kit out of my training bag and dump the contents on my bed. “Where is it, where is it . . . There.” I wrap my hand around the tiny vial, then push it into my pocket. I pull Filigree off my neck and place him on the bed, where he promptly turns into an owl. He stares at me with unblinking eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to take it. Not yet, anyway.” I pat his feathery head. “I’ll be back soon.”

*

I enter the Guild through the trainees’ entrance, not the main entrance I took Nate through the first night I met him. The faerie paths let me out into a small room off the main entrance, where I have to let Tank scan my trainee pendant with his stylus before he’ll let me in. I hurry past him with barely a greeting.

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