Hugh hadn't just taken advantage of Desandra's pregnancy. He'd engineered this whole thing. He'd pulled the strings and the shapeshifters had obeyed, because he held panacea over their heads. He'd manipulated everyone just to get me here.
"If you hurt him, I will kill you," I said.
"You'll try, and I will enjoy that, too. I meant what I said, Kate. You make me feel that interesting something. That's rare for me. And I like having you around. You're funny."
"Funny. Does your jaw hurt when you laugh?"
"'My hand won't shake,'" he quoted. "'My aim won't falter. My face will be the last thing you'll see before you die.' You're hilarious."
Those were the words I'd said to the Pack Council when Curran was in the coma and they'd tried to separate me from him. My skin crawled. Hugh had a mole on the Pack Council.
"I think we're done here." I rose.
"I always get what I want, Kate," he said. "That's how I'm wired."
I walked down the path and kept walking. Derek saw me, rose, and followed.
"The ship might not be there," I told him quietly.
"I heard," he said. "They will be there. Don't worry."
We kept going.
"Are you really Roland's daughter?" he asked.
"I don't care," he said. "Some people might, but they don't matter."
I didn't say anything, but the night grew a little brighter.
The castle hummed with activity. Servants strung garlands of feylantern lights in the hallways. People moved back and forth. The air smelled of roasting meat and spices.
I walked through it, strangely disconnected, the quiet sounds of my footsteps lost in the celebratory chaos.
Derek raised his head, listening. "It's the hunt dinner. They finally got all the game sorted and cooked. We are supposed to celebrate the winners at midnight."
Great. Everyone stuffed back into the single dining hall. That would go well.
I made it up the stairs. My heart beat a little faster. I picked up speed. He wouldn't leave without me. Not even with the panacea on the line.
I walked into our room.
Empty. A stack of my books had disappeared. Curran's clothes, thrown on the chair, had vanished. The bed was made.
The sound of running water came from the bathroom and Curran emerged, wiping his hands with a towel. He wore trademark Pack sweats. Gray and thin, they fell apart when a shapeshifter shifted form.
Behind me Derek stepped into the hallway and shut the door.
"You're here," I said.
"Where else would I be?"
"Hugh owns the panacea." He's also a complete f**king bastard.
"He sent a note." Curran crossed the floor and hugged me to him. My bones groaned.
I put my face into the bend of his neck. The world suddenly calmed. The fractured pieces snapped into place.
"Did you think I'd leave?" Curran whispered into my ear.
"No." I hugged him back. "What happened to all our stuff?"
"Anything nonessential is packed and loaded. I kept your belt with all your stuff out. Got any messages for me?"
"If we go to that dinner, we'll have a fight. Also, he hopes you will be a challenge."
Curran smiled. It wasn't a nice smile.
We looked at each other. We both knew Hugh would make his move tonight, and after that, everything would be over. We could try to fight our way to the ship now, except we had promised to guard Desandra. Abandoning her wasn't an option. We had given our word.
"Are you hungry, baby?" Curran asked.
"I think we should go to dinner."
"What are you going to wear?"
"My badass face."
"Good choice," he said.
"Let me just get my knives and powdered silver."
* * *
We walked into the great hall to find a new seating arrangement indicated by small name cards: The Italians were sitting at the head table on the right side of Hugh, all the way around the right side of the horseshoe table. The rest of us were seated on the left of Hugh: I was first, then Curran, then Desandra, then the rest of our party. Without saying a word, Curran and I switched seats. If Hugh wanted me to sit next to him, I would sit as far away as possible.
I surveyed the hall. Everyone on our side of the table was dressed to impress: loose sweatpants and T-shirts. Andrea saw me looking and grinned. Raphael winked at me. Mahon was right. I was Pack. At least everyone in gray sweatpants thought so. If I had to fight, I wouldn't fight alone.
The walls of the great hall had gained new decorations: swords and axes hung in hooks within reach. The door to the side exit on the left was shut. That left us with the right exit and the front entrance.
Jarek Kral stared at the hall from a side table to the right, a sour grimace distorting his features into an ugly mask. On the other side, to the left, Vitaliy and Ivanna sat, stone-faced. I scanned the rest of the faces and my gaze slammed right into Lorelei. She stared at me with obvious hatred. I winked at her. She glared back, outraged.
Someone moved into position behind me. I turned. Barabas grinned at me.
"Where is Christopher?" I asked.
He pointed at the side table. Christopher sat next to Keira, his eyes clear as a summer sky without a single thought clouding the blue. He saw me and rose. His lips moved. Mistress.
The belt around Christopher's waist looked familiar, especially the pouches hanging from it. I was pretty sure they were filled with my herbs. "Is he wearing my spare belt?"
"Yes," Barabas said. "He somehow got his hands on it when we loaded supplies onto the ship. I tried taking it off him, but it really upset him and I didn't want to injure him."
"That's fine. Let him have it."
I smiled at Christopher.
He sighed happily and sat down.
Desandra strode into the hall, escorted by Aunt B and George. Doolittle followed her in an ancient wheelchair.
Desandra landed in the chair on my left. "You survived."
"Nobody told me." She sighed. "Nobody ever tells me anything."
I shrugged, feeling Slayer's comforting weight on my back. The tension in the air was so thick, it made me itch.
The fey torches in the great hall flickered. The conversation died.
Through the wide-open doors of the front entrance, I could see the main hallway. Along the wall feylanterns blinked in their sconces. The steady glow flickered. A moment and I felt it too, a swell of magic approaching fast. Someone was coming. Next to me, Curran tensed.