Chapter Thirteen

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May eyed Welkin, her expression drawn with suspicion.

"I already know he and Audrey were engaged," she said, perhaps a touch more snarky than she meant to sound. "I don't think it can get worse than—"

She froze in the middle of a sentence she didn't dare finish. Of course it could get worse than that.

"Oh no." The color drained from her face, her stomach gave an unpleasant turn. "She's not still in love with him, is she?"

Welkin replied with a light laugh. "May, I think I'm the wrong person to ask but, even if I wasn't, it's not as if Audrey and Jeremy's relationship was exactly reciprocal in the first place."

May and Dom shared a startled look.

"What does that mean?" Dom asked, sounding uneasy.

For a moment Welkin paused to think on how best to proceed. "Theirs was more a relationship of convenience than true romance. This isn't to say they didn't care for one another, but I believe Jeremy may have been far more invested in their coupling than Audrey was, I'm afraid."

"You believe, or you know?" May was tense. A small part of her was embarrassed by her jealousy. A bigger part of her just needed to know the truth. "Because those are two very different things."

"Fair enough," Welkin agreed. They touched their fingertip to their temple. "I know that's how Audrey felt. Perhaps you recall me telling you her life force was weak when I salvaged it; that I needed to complete her by filling in the blanks with essence from myself in order to make her whole. It's the reason Em is her own person and not simply a reincarnation of Audrey."

May riffled through her memories. "Vaguely, sure."

"In doing so, I became privy to all of Audrey's consciousness. Her thoughts and feelings and memories. So you can trust me when I tell you I speak with authority on this matter."

"So what you're saying is, you basically read the diary of your daughter's soul," Dom chimed in. "For shame."

Welkin flinched, their cheeks darkening with a furious blush. "Not willingly!"

"Never mind that," May hissed, shooting Dom a dark look which didn't seem to phase the look of mischief in his eyes. "If Audrey wasn't in love with Jeremy, how did they end up engaged?"

The Star made a dismissive gesture, waving the screwdriver they held with flippant abandon. "Like I said, theirs was a relationship of convenience. Jeremy pursued her in the beginning, with little success, I might add. But WIND was engaged in a harrowing and draining business. It was their shared thirst for justice and bitterness toward the Loyals that eventually drew them together. And who else could understand their unique experiences than one another?"

May nodded. "I suppose that makes sense. But if it's not that — not love — then what is it about him you think I don't want to hear?"

Her question tugged at the corners of Welkin's mouth. When they smiled, May couldn't help but feel they were pitying her.

"What I don't think you want to hear is that Jeremy isn't the villain he has quite convincingly made himself out to be."

May laughed without thinking. Even Dom looked unconvinced.

"C'mon, Welkin," he insisted, sounding incredulous. "The guy's a bit of a dick."

"I don't disagree that his behavior can be boorish," Welkin agreed. "Nor am I implying that his lingering heartbreak is an excuse for some of the questionable decisions he has made as of late."

Heartbreak. The word pierced May like an arrow. Wallowing in her bitterness toward Jeremy made it easy for her to forget he had not only lost the woman he loved — watched her die right in front of him — but that he had his hopes dashed when he discovered what remained of her soul was in love with someone else.

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