Authors: Melissa Giorgio
Rafe pressed the ignore button and shoved the phone back into his pocket without answering.
“Yes, she’s been calling me.” He hunched forward, hiding his face from me. His phone had ruined my night vision, and I wanted to turn on one of the lights, but I was afraid of what would happen if I moved. Rafe’s voice had gone brittle, and warning bells rang in my head, telling me to tread lightly.
“You could have answered, you know.” I put a hand on his arm, squeezing his bicep. “I’m not going to fly into a rage and smash your phone like a psychotic, jealous girlfriend. Promise.”
“I know,” he said. “That’s not why I didn’t answer.”
Rafe was quiet for so long that I thought he wasn’t going to answer me. Finally, he sighed and shifted slightly, so he could rest his head against my shoulder. “Because I’m trying to forget what happened in December.”
“But…” I hesitated, weighing my words carefully before speaking. “Maybe forgetting isn’t the right thing to do?”
He peered up at me, and my eyes had adjusted to the dark enough to allow me to see the pain on his face.
Please don’t let him get mad,
I thought, watching as he clenched and unclenched his jaw a few times.
He looked away first, laughing bitterly. “Charles said the same thing, you know. That I deserved to know the truth, not only for Mom and Dad’s sake, but for my own, too. But what does it matter, Gabi? What’s it going to change? Even if I do find out Silver Moon betrayed us, killing them while trying to test me, what’s the difference? It’s not going to bring them back!”
He was right. Even if we did find out who had ordered the test and the cover up, what then? We lock them in HQ and set the building on fire?
But still. Closure.
“I’m not a murderer,” Rafe mumbled, rubbing his face. “I’m not going to kill everyone in Silver Moon to avenge my parents. My dad is probably watching me right now, cursing me out for being such a coward, but it’s the truth. I just want to keep doing what I’ve been doing since I moved up here. Hunting for Silver Moon, but from a distance.” Rafe shook his head. “But that’s right. I can’t even do that now, can I? How pathetic am I?”
,” I growled, pulling away from him and stomping down the stairs. After flipping on the lights, I returned to the foot of the stairs, my arms crossed over my chest as I glared up at him. Rafe watched me warily, his eyebrows raised in surprise. Even I was shocked at the tone of my voice.
So much for treading lightly.
“I want you to listen to me very carefully, Rafe Fitzgerald,” I said. “First of all, you are
pathetic. You nearly died back in December. As in, two months ago. I’m sorry if you expected to leap out of bed and behead an army of demons the moment you woke up, but that’s not how it works. You need time to recover and get your strength back. It’s not going to happen overnight, either. How many times has Kain told you it’s going to take time? Why don’t you do yourself a favor and listen to him, okay? I know he’s annoying, but he’s also wickedly smart when it comes to magic and spells. If he says you need time, then you need time.”
I paused, in case he wanted to interject, but he just gave me a half-nod, looking slightly dumbstruck. Pressing forward, I said, “If you don’t want to find out what really happened that day with your parents, then fine. That’s your choice, and I will honor it. But you know that’s not going to stop Charles, right? Your dad was his best friend, and I know for a fact that he will destroy all of Silver Moon to avenge your parents.” This time Rafe tried to interrupt me, but I held up my hand. “We don’t have to help him, though. I’ll call him up right now and tell him to leave you out of this, and you know what? He will. He’s the one who warned me to break this to you gently; he’s the one who was worried about how you’d react to it. We both agreed you deserved to know the truth, but I didn’t realize it was going to break you.” My voice cracked, and I had to take a couple of deep breaths to push aside a sudden wave of tears. I wasn’t going to cry, not if I wanted to get through this speech that was two months in the making.
“I thought you were unconscious,” I told him for the first time, watching as his green eyes widened slightly. “When I went to see you the first time, I was so upset that I just started rambling, telling you everything. You didn’t react at all, even when I was crying, so when I told you about your parents, I never expected—” I tugged at a lock of my hair, cursing quietly. “You were awake, and I couldn’t take the words back, no matter how much I wanted to. And now you’re hurting, and it’s my fault, and you’re not even angry with me, and I don’t understand why. I don’t get why you keep blaming yourself and hating yourself and hurting yourself and it’s killing me because you should be blaming
Rafe pushed off the steps and stood, towering over me. “Gabi, I could
be angry with you. None of this is your fault. It’s mine.”
“But don’t you see?” I cried. “You’ve been blaming yourself since you were twelve, and now we’ve found out it wasn’t your fault and you’re
, Rafe? Why aren’t you angry at
for destroying your family?”
Rafe curled his hands into fists, and when he spoke, it was to a spot over my left shoulder, and not to me. “Because it’s still my fault. If I’d been born with the Sight, they never would have felt the need to test me. And if I’d listened to them and quit being a hunter, they never would have killed my parents for disobeying them.” He sat down heavily on the bottommost stair, as if suddenly drained by our conversation, and ran his fingers through his hair again.
I crouched down in front of him. “That’s really shitty reasoning, you know.”
“No, it is.” I put my hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look at me. He had the slightest bit of stubble on his cheeks, and it scratched against my palms. “You can’t blame yourself for their evil actions. I know they had a prejudice against you because they were afraid your Sightless eyes would kill their kids, but that is bullshit.”
“But they were right! I let a demon into the apartment and it killed my parents!” Rafe’s eyes flashed. “If it hadn’t been then, it would have happened some other time, on the battlefield—”
“Oh, really?” I asked hotly. “And how many times have you not Seen a demon since you’ve been hunting, Rafe? How many times have you let one slip by and hurt you or Evan?”
He flinched at the casual mention of his former best friend’s name.
“How many, Rafe?”
“None,” he whispered.
I nodded triumphantly. “Exactly. And I bet you wouldn’t have missed this one, either, if Silver Moon hadn’t set you up. Isn’t it obvious? They
you to fail, Rafe. They wanted to punish you
your parents for keeping you in the organization.” I wound my fingers through his. “I know you said your dad didn’t want you to train in the beginning, but your mom convinced him to let you. Do you remember this pissing anyone off?”
Rafe shook his head. “I was really young, so I don’t remember it that well. I remember my parents arguing, and… I cried a lot because I thought my dad hated me for being broken.”
My heart ached at the word “broken.”
“But then Dad came into my room and sat down on the bed next to me,” Rafe said, a distant look in his eyes. “He knew, without me even having to say anything, what I was thinking, and he told me that he loved me, no matter what.” He scratched the back of his neck. “My dad wasn’t really affectionate; that might have been one of the few times he ever told me he loved me. That must be why I remember it so clearly.”
“Then what happened?”
“He gave me a present.” Rafe surprised me by smiling fondly. “A baseball glove.”
“Ah,” I said. “That’s how that obsession started.”
My boyfriend nodded. “He told me I had a choice. I could start training to be a hunter, but it would be very difficult, he warned. People would be opposed to me fighting without the Sight, and I would always have to prove myself to them, no matter how well I did. Or,” Rafe continued, “he said I could forget all about that and play baseball.”
“And what did you tell him?” I asked, sitting down on the step next to him.
“I told him I wanted to do both.” We laughed at that. “Dad was pretty happy with that response, actually. He always loved baseball, but because he was so obsessed with hunting, he never had a chance to play. But when I said I wanted to play, he made time to help me practice. And he came to all of my games, no matter what.”
“He was a good dad, wasn’t he?” I asked quietly. I wish I’d been able to meet both Liam and Rosa Fitzgerald. They’d raised an amazing son, and it was so unfair that they couldn’t see the young man he’d become.
“He was the best.” Rafe’s voice caught. “We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, and he was prone to bad moods in those final months, when he was running for the director position against Charles, but he was still…” He took a deep breath and I gripped his hand for support. “The best. They both were.”
Which was why I didn’t understand why someone would want to kill them just to prove a point. How freaking evil did you have to be to do something like that? “I’m sorry I made you relive all of this stuff tonight.”
“No, it’s okay,” Rafe said. “I should talk about them, shouldn’t I? So I don’t forget?”
“You’ll never forget. The good and the bad—it’s always with you.” I was speaking from experience. Mom was gone, but I’d never forget her, even on the days when I wanted to.
Rafe tapped his foot against the floor. “The truth is, I’ve been thinking about this ever since that day in the hospital. Even though I don’t want to. Even though I want to forget what you told me, I know I never will. But I can’t help but wonder: If I do find out who’s responsible,
I be able to move on?”
“Whatever you choose to do—pursue this or leave it alone—I’m with you, one hundred percent.” I leaned over so I could kiss him on his cheek, but paused when I saw an odd expression on his face. It was like he was struggling over whether to tell me something or not. My heart started racing. “Wait—
you know something?”
“It’s just a feeling—I could be wrong. Actually, I hope I’m wrong,” he added darkly.
I waited, my body tense with fear.
“There was this hunter. I haven’t seen him since I was a kid, but he hated me and my dad. The last time I ever saw him, he was arguing with Dad about something.” Rafe shook his head, looking frustrated. “I never found out what, just that Dad was accusing him of doing something and how he wouldn’t be able to get away with it. I didn’t ask Dad about it because I didn’t want him to know I’d been listening when I shouldn’t have been. Those days, even the smallest things set him off, and I didn’t want to piss him off. But now I’m wondering if I should have asked…”
I placed a hand on his knee, leaning closer. “Who was this other guy? This hunter?”
“His name is Collins,” Rafe said. “He’s not a nice guy, Gabi. He used to say stuff about me, and he tried to force Evan to become his apprentice, even when Evan said no. Dad told me to stay away from him, and all these years later, I still want to listen to him.”
This Collins sounded terrifying. “Do you think he could summon a demon and send it after you and your parents?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he confessed. “I really don’t know, but I can’t stop thinking about the last time I saw him, and how mad Dad had been. What if Dad discovered something, and Collins used the demon to shut him up, all the while pretending it’d been a test for me?”
My mouth dropped open. “God, Rafe, do you think that’s possible?” I frowned as something occurred to me. “But I thought a person who summons a demon is marked somehow? That’s how you find sorcerers who’ve summoned one before, right? Wouldn’t Collins have that mark, that stain on him?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Rafe said. “I can’t See the mark, but others would have been able to.”
“Could he hide it?”
Rafe and I exchanged a look, and I could see the fear in his eyes. “If he can do that, Gabi, then I’m scared to find out what else he can do.”
I pressed my body closer to Rafe’s, shivering a little. The thought of someone that strong and evil frightened me. “We should tell the others. Tomorrow. We’ll invite everyone here.” I tapped him on his knee. “I don’t mean just Phil and Kain, you know.”
Rafe stiffened. “But—”
“No buts,” I interrupted. “I can’t believe you’ve been ignoring Alex all this time! And when are you going to make up with Evan?”
“I’d rather kiss a demon,” Rafe said flatly.
I gave him a look. “That can be arranged, Mr. Pessimistic, especially if you continue to be so stubborn!”
“I know what he did,” I interrupted. “I was there, remember? But I’ve already forgiven him. Why can’t you?”
He set his jaw stubbornly. “You
why. Tomorrow is going to be a giant waste of time if you invite Evan over.”
“We’ll see about that.” I stared him down. I could be just as stubborn as my boyfriend. I knew I was right. Something