Chapter Twenty-Two

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The irritating thing about sobbing and wishing you were dead was, unfortunately, you usually stayed alive.

Guin got shakily to her feet and moaned. Every inch of her was sore. Her eyeballs ached. Her brain was painful mush. In short, she felt like a damp dishrag that had been mercilessly wrung out by a pro wrestler for a few hours.

But she was still alive, whether she wanted to be or not.

Limping slightly, Guin walked to the bed and sat down with a miserable little sigh. Still alive, still trapped, still useless.

And, she realized after a moment's reflection, still furious.

I saw a murder. Two murders. Two actual, real, horrible bloody murders. And they laughed.

Guin's fingers curled into fists.

Maybe the freaky mermaid was right, and she did have some sort of hidden depths or previously unexplored potential for divine unstoppable awesomeness—but even if that was true, it didn't really matter. Because she wasn't going to help Thesul. No way in hell. Not if he offered her everything in the universe. Not even if he could save Evey—or, his perverse version of saving her.

That scene in the crystal hall. Showing her the murder ritual. The soul-eating. Maybe even letting that lunatic into her room... it was all a deliberate, calculated effort to scare her. Because Thesul's charm wouldn't work. He must have realized that pretty quick. So now he was using fear. Guin knew this, knew it like she did her own thoughts.

Well, it had worked. She was bloody terrified. But that didn't mean she was going to bend. If anything, the more he frightened her, the more she would fight. If he wanted her to shut up and behave, he'd have to kill her first.

And he will. You know he will. He'll kill everyone. He's mad.

Guin buried her face in her hands and stifled the urge to scream in frustration. Her head was pounding. Her limbs shook and throbbed relentlessly, not just with tiredness, but hunger. She hadn't eaten—hadn't even drunk anything—in nearly two days.

How long could she go on like this? How long would they make her wait, make her suffer—wear her down?

She didn't know. It seemed that this place had little concept of time. The people stayed young. Every day was lovely and warm and sunny. Thesul had said himself they weren't afraid of the encroaching Fog, whether or not they should be. As far as he was concerned, they had all the time in the world.

They could keep me here for weeks...

But as it turned out, Guin didn't need to wait very long at all.

She'd just made up her mind to try some more 'Reading' when the doors of her room swung open soundlessly on their well-oiled hinges.

Guin glanced up sharply, and there was the golden boy himself, looking fresh, dashing and gore-free in pale blue velvet and white silk, a flat paper-wrapped parcel tucked neatly under one arm. He smiled like a sunrise and winked at her. "Sleep well?" he asked, and somehow managed to sound as if he meant it.

Guin's metaphorical hackles rose. You despicable, murdering, low-down, filthy, cowardly son of a...

"Go take a long walk of a short pier," she growled.

"Another charming colloquial expression!" Thesul said brightly. "You are simply brimming with these little gems. I must make a study of them some day. They are really quite droll!"

He strode into the room with a light step and stood before her. "Deary, deary me. You look positively dour, Guin," he said, shaking his head. "But never fear! I have some goodnews."

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