Rhea shook her head. “Don’t go there, Sabina. Eventually Maisie would have had to sleep again. Besides, you heard her the next day. Asclepius fought off Cain in the form of the white stag that night.”
“Which means Cain must have come back to her last night.” I ran my hands through my hair, like it might somehow make my brain work better. None of this made sense. “Gods! I wish I knew what game he was playing.”
“What do you mean? He achieved his goal. Maisie killed Tanith and Orpheus. Peace will never happen now.”
I shook my head. “I’m not so sure. If she’d killed one or the other, maybe that would be true. But both? Sure, the treaty didn’t get signed but it’s not like we’re back on the brink of war. No. Cain had an ulterior motive.”
Adam sighed, grimacing as the move pinched his wounds. “So what are we going to do?”
“You are going to rest,” Rhea interrupted. “Between the blood loss and the risk of infection, you’re in no state to do much of anything.”
“Bullshit,” he said. “I’m not going to take a nap like a f**king infant. We’ve got to stop Cain.”
“And save Maisie,” I added. He looked at me then, his eyes telling me what he didn’t want to say out loud: He believed Maisie was beyond salvation. “Whatever she’s done, no matter how horrible, this is not her fault. Cain is a master manipulator. Maisie is as much a victim—maybe more—as any of us right now.”
Adam’s eyes skittered away from my gaze, like he felt ashamed. I suppose I couldn’t blame him for his feelings, especially given everything he’d suffered at Maisie’s hands. But I wasn’t ready to give up on her. Not yet.
Giguhl came back in and handed Rhea a blanket. She carefully wrapped it around his front. “Don’t cover the wounds. They need air to heal.” She turned to me. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”
I nodded. Before I rose, I looked at Adam. Despite the blanket, he was still shaking. I rose to my knees and put my hands on his cheeks. His eyes were red-rimmed and shining. I bit my lip and tried to fight my own need to fall apart. So much needed to be said between us. So much regret and sadness hovered between us like a ghost. But we didn’t have the luxury of indulging our need to talk or find solace in each other.
So I simply leaned forward and kissed his forehead. I closed my eyes and inhaled the sandalwood scent of him. But it didn’t bring me the comfort it normally did because of the added stench of blood and fear.
I pulled away quickly before I could give in to the urge to wrap myself around him and make promises I wasn’t sure I could keep. That we’d get Cain. That he was safe now. That Maisie wouldn’t be a threat to him anymore. That everything would be okay between us.
“Giguhl, stay with him,” I said, my tone clipped. Then I turned my back on Adam and followed Rhea into the studio.
She didn’t shut the door. Instead, she pulled me to the other side, where we could keep one eye on Maisie’s limp form and the other on Adam and his demonic nursemaid. “You know what comes next, right?”
I wished I didn’t. I wished I could just turn away and disappear into the night, my memory wiped clean. But wishes were for children and fools.
Of course I knew what I had to do. The problem was, unlike conventional battles, I felt totally unprepared to fight Cain in the Liminal. Sure, I could get there. Sure, I could probably find Maisie’s dream form. And then what? I couldn’t kill Cain. But even if killing him didn’t have horrible repercussions, how did one defeat a dream?
Rhea looked at me with those we’re-counting-on-you pleading stares. It’s funny. I’d spent so much time declaring myself a lone wolf. Shouting to the world that I didn’t need anyone. But I’d learned a lot about working as a team over the last several months. I’d finally begun to rely on my mentor, my mage, and my demon more than I ever expected. Beyond just friendship and love. As allies. Warriors who had my back no matter the foe. As friends and champions.
But this was one battle I had to fight alone. One I might not be able to return from even if I somehow managed to win. But I didn’t have a choice. Again. Fucking fate had screwed me again.
“Yeah,” I said finally. “Do we need to go back to the chapel?”
“Yes.” She rubbed her lip for a moment, thinking it over. “It’ll go better if we make another offering to Asclepius. He might be able to help once you’re in the Liminal.”
The false optimism in her tone told me she already expected to be mourning me too soon. But she also knew I would go through with the plan despite both our fears. If I was going to be trapped in the Liminal forever, fine. I’d just spend eternity kicking Cain’s ass and making sure he never tormented anyone I loved again.
Giguhl emerged from the closet. “What’s going on?”
I turned and frowned at him. “I thought you were staying with Adam?”
The demon shrugged. “He said he needed a minute alone.”
“We’re talking about Sabina going into the Liminal to hunt down Cain,” Rhea said.
The demon’s scraggly brows rose. “Since when can you access the in-between?”
I paused. How had I not told him about this earlier? Guess he’d been right when he said it’d been too long since we’d really hung out. I’d allowed us to drift too far apart. But now was not the time for sentimentality or regrets. Now was the time for action.
“It’s a long story,” I said. Then I paused. “Wait, how do you know about the Liminal?”
“Are you kidding?” he said, waving a claw. “It’s like the rest stop between your world and Irkalla. I’ve been there lots of times.”
“You’ve never gotten lost?”
He frowned. “Of course not. You know as well as I do that whoever summons me controls me. Even if I wanted to hang out there for a while, I couldn’t if you told me to leave.”
My mouth fell open. I slowly turned to look at Rhea. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
A slow smile spread across the elder’s face. “Let’s get moving.”
The three of us turned to grab Adam and head to the chapel, but the doors to the studio burst open. The Queen’s knights rushed in like commandos storming a hostage situation. When they saw the three of us standing there frowning at them, they skittered to a halt. “Hold it right there,” their leader demanded.