Invoke, Chapter Five: Free Serial Novel

Invoke, an NA paranormal, is being posted in installments on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After it has been posted in its entirety, it will be taken down.

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Chapter Five

It was Wednesday, and that was Wyn’s laundry day. Everyone was assigned a day. It had worked out well before Reese was here, because there had been seven students in the mansion. Now, Wyn guessed, Reese was going to have to share a day with someone. She wondered if anyone had figured this out. The laundry day tradition had been in existence before Wyn had ever gotten to the academy. She didn’t know who’d decided to run things that way, though. It might have been Madame Braith, but since it had been Meaghan who’d explained it to Wyn, she didn’t know if that was the case or not.

Wyn sorted her laundry into whites and darks, throwing the whites directly in the washer. She’d let them wash, check her watch, and come back in a half hour to throw in the next load. Unlike cooking, laundry was not a domestic duty that relaxed her. Wyn didn’t hate doing laundry exactly, but she didn’t love it either. It was kind of boring and annoying. The throwing it in the washer bit was easy to deal with, but what was a real pain was folding the clothes after it was over. She had to fold the clothes right out of the dryer, because if she didn’t, they would get wrinkly. They got wrinkly even if she just took the clothes upstairs in a basket. So she always had to stand over the dryer, folding the clothes. It hurt her back bending over like that.

She suspected that her clothes really didn’t get all that dirty in a week. Sometimes she thought about skipping her laundry day. But since the day was assigned to her–her very own day to use the washer and dryer–she always felt like she really should use it. Anyway, if she just knuckled down and did it, it was over before she knew it, and she didn’t have to bother with it anymore.

Wyn set the washer for cold water, normal cycle. She poured laundry detergent over her whites and picked up the bleach bottle.

Then she put down the bleach bottle. Leaving the washer open, water rushing into it from the pipes, she walked out of the laundry room. It was located in the basement. Wyn ascended the steps to the top level, walked through the mansion, opened the front door, and stepped outside. She made her way through the woods surrounding the mansion, winding through tiny paths between the trees, ducking thorny bushes and stepping around the underbrush.

At last, she emerged in a small clearing. The trees parted here and the sun was shining. The grass grew tall and wild. Large wildflowers opened to the sun.

Reese was sitting in the middle of the clearing. “My lady,”he said. “You came.”

Wyn ran to him. “Of course I came,”she said.

He opened his arms, and she was inside them, his warmth wrapped around her. She tilted back her face to him. He lowered his lips to hers.

It was always so good to kiss him. It always felt like the most amazing, beautiful thing she’d ever felt. And no matter how guilty it made her feel, she’d always find some way to make it happen.

“I was beginning to think you wouldn’t be able to get away,”he said, planting small kisses on her forehead and the bridge of her nose.

“I almost couldn’t,”she said. “The servants were hovering more than usual. I worry every day that we’re going to be caught.”

“No, my darling, we’re safe. No one suspects, do they?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I only have a bit of time,”he said. “I’ve been waiting for you since–“

“I’m so sorry!”She kissed him again, long and hard, twining her fingers in his hair, his long hair, beautiful hair that– she wrinkled her nose in thought. His hair was this long? And his face, it…? She shook herself. Of course, it was her own love, her perfect man.

He moaned. “Oh, you know how I want you, sweet one, but we haven’t the time.”

“Kiss me again,”she said. “Kiss me.”

Back in the mansion, the washer was in its first cycle. Water and soap bubbles splashed out of the open washer onto the floor. Wyn’s basket of darks got a little wet. So did the rug in front of the washer and dryer.

* * *

Wyn shoved the wet whites into the dryer furiously. “That can never happen again,”she told Reese.

He was keeping his distance from her, standing at the other side of the room, near the steps. “I don’t even know how I got there,”he muttered.

She turned to him. “Never. It can never happen again.”

“Of course not,”said Reese. “Look, I didn’t want to kiss you.”

“I didn’t want to kiss you either!”she replied, getting in the last of the clothes and slamming the dryer door shut.

“Well, good, then. Neither of us wanted it.”

“I’m in love with Gavin.”

“And he’s my best friend.”

She turned on the dryer and began to unload the darks into the washer. “You’ve known him less than a week. How is he your best friend?”

“I don’t know!”Reese said, kicking at the steps. “All I’m saying is that I like Gavin, and I don’t want to do anything that would hurt him, like go around making out with his girl.”

“Good,”said Wyn. “I don’t even think you’re attractive.”She shut the washer hard, catching her finger inside. “Ow! Jesus!”She popped her finger into her mouth.

Reese was by her side in a second. “Are you okay?”he asked.

“Fine,”she said. “I hurt my finger.”

“Let me see,”he said, taking her hand in his. He looked at it. There was an angry, red mark on her fingernail. “That must have hurt a lot.”

“I’ll be okay,”she said quietly, looking up at his face.

He gazed into her eyes. “You’re just so beautiful,”he whispered.

“I lied,”she said. “I do think you’re attractive. I think you’re amazing. When I’m around you–“

He silenced her with his lips. She clung to him, and they kissed furiously while the dryer thudded away in the background.

* * *

It was Friday, and it was Gavin’s day to make dinner. Since he and Wyn weren’t really talking very much, he’d asked Meaghan if she could help. The two of them were in the kitchen. Meaghan was chopping onions while Gavin was hovering and trying to help. They were making tacos. Meaghan figured that was easy enough. She had Gavin put a skillet on the stove and pour a little oil into it. Then she dumped the onions into the pan and began to stir. “Get the ground beef out of the refrigerator,”she told him.

Gavin went to the refrigerator, opened it, and stared inside for several minutes. “I don’t see the meat,”he said.

“It’s right in front of you,”said Wyn.

Meaghan looked up. Wyn and Reese were both entering the kitchen. “Hey,”said Meaghan.

“I thought Gavin might need help with dinner,”said Wyn, “but I see that you’re in here.”

“He asked me to help,”said Meaghan, feeling a little defensive. She knew things weren’t great between Wyn and Gavin, but she didn’t want Wyn to get the wrong idea.

Wyn sat down at the table. “Well, it’s good that he’s got someone to help him.”

Things were not great these days at the academy. Sophia was gone, and Lissa spent most of her time moping about the place. Wyn and Gavin were fighting or something. Reese would hardly even look at her, no matter what she did. And Amanda and Luke seemed completely oblivious to it all. Meaghan felt extremely uncomfortable. If she weren’t the one who was actually making the tacos, she might have just left. But she didn’t think Gavin could handle it on his own.

Gavin handed Meaghan the ground beef. “Thanks,”she said.

“Sure,”said Gavin. He hovered around her as she put it in the skillet and began to stir.

“Um,”said Meaghan, “do you want to put the taco shells in the oven?”They were sitting out of the baking sheet and the oven was preheated. She figured Gavin could handle that.

“Sure,”said Gavin, but he shot her a terrified look.

She rolled her eyes. “Never mind,”she said. She put the taco shells in the oven herself. Afterwards, she went back to stirring the taco meat. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Reese, who was leaning in the doorframe–half in the kitchen, half out. His arms were folded over his chest. A strand of hair was falling into his face. Meaghan wanted to go to him and push it out of the way, tuck it behind his ear. She knew that would be a bad idea. She couldn’t touch him. He’d hate that. He’d made that clear the night on the rock. But God, she wanted to. He was so beautiful. She wanted to burst because of how beautiful he was.

Reese was watching Wyn, who wasn’t looking at him. No. Wait. She’d just shot a glance in his direction. Then she’d quickly moved her eyes away. Meaghan turned away from the taco meat for a minute to look at them. Now Reese was staring at the floor. Wyn was looking at Gavin. Reese and Wyn were purposefully not looking at each other. What was going on with the two of them?

“I’m going to go,”said Reese.

“Stay,”said Gavin. “You can help with the tacos.”

“I think Meaghan has it under control,”said Wyn.

Meaghan shrugged. She didn’t want Reese to leave. “Do you want to help stir?”she asked him.

Reese looked at Wyn, almost as if seeking permission.

She shrugged. “Sure,”she said. “You stay, Reese. But if Gavin has all this help, then I’m going to go.”

Oh. Wyn wanted to spend time with Gavin, didn’t she? “Um,”said Meaghan, “you could take over for me if you want, Wyn. Reese and I could leave you and Gavin alone.”

“No one has to leave,”said Gavin. “We should all stay and help. Reese, come over and stir the meat.”

Reese shrugged away from the doorframe and shuffled over to Meaghan. She held out the wooden spoon to him. As he took it, she brushed his hand with hers. It was only a light touch. She couldn’t help it. To be that close to him and not touch him was agonizing.

As their skin touched, searing white hotness flashed before Meaghan’s eyes. She stumbled and blinked, trying to see clearly.

He lay in the bed as he had for days. He had a fever from the wound, which was infected, and hadn’t woken. She often wondered if he would die, this beautiful man. And when she thought of it, she thought she would die too, if he did. She didn’t want to exist in a world without him in it.

She pressed a cool, wet cloth against his head, mopping at his sweaty brow. In a few moments, she’d have to change the dressings on the wound. She was steeling herself for that.

She didn’t think the wound was improving.

It was a gory mess of puss and blood. Angry red skin swelled around the puncture. She cleaned it as best she could. He would cry out in his sleep as she cleaned the wound. She hated that she was causing him pain. But she knew that he needed to recover. He was a brave man. An important man. Beloved of the king. Strong.

He rolled away from the cool cloth, murmuring in his sleep, “My lady. My queen.”

He often moaned about the queen. She supposed his devotion to the crown was really quite deep, since even when he was wounded, he pledged devotion. He was an honorable man. He would make an excellent husband. She’d been waiting for one such as this. And once he knew that she had personally nursed him to health all these weeks, he could not help but fall in love with her too. Could he not?

She moved his bed covers aside to get at the dressing of his wound. Deftly, she undid the knots and peeled it away from the wound. Hmm. It looked a little less swollen today. Could it be that he was actually recovering?

She dipped a clean cloth into the basin of hot water she’d brought with her and began to dab at the wound.

He grunted.

“Shh,”she whispered to him, stroking his hand, “it will be over soon.”She continued to clean.

He moaned, “My lady, they seek to harm me. They torture me because I love you.”

She soothed him again, rubbing his knuckles lightly.

“No, no,”he said, “I betray my king, but I can’t help myself. She is my life.”

She started. What was he saying? She attempted to draw her hand away from his, but he seized her fingers and crushed them within his own.

“My lady, my lady,”he repeated. “My love.”

She gazed at him in horror. No. It wasn’t devotion he felt for the queen. He was in love with her. He was having an affair with the queen. She tried to tug her hand from his again, but he held her fast. Then, he rolled his head again, facing her, and his eyes fluttered open.

“My queen,”he said.

She shook her head. But with his eyes on her, his boundless dark eyes, she didn’t know if she cared who he loved, even if it was not her. She was devoted to him for all her life. No. For all of eternity.

* * *

Gavin, Wyn, and Reese were all crowded around Meaghan as she sat up. She was on the floor in the kitchen. Her head hurt.

“What happened?”she asked.

“You fell down,”said Reese. He looked concerned. Concerned! For her. It felt so good to think he cared about her, even a little bit.

“I think you fainted,”said Wyn.

“I saw…”Meaghan trailed off. “I don’t think I fainted. I think I had a flash. Something from the spirit realm. I’ve had them before.”Meaghan’s abilities had caused her to be misdiagnosed as epileptic when she was younger. It was just strange that her “seizures”always gave her visions.

“Right,”said Wyn, who knew about Meaghan’s abilities. “But you haven’t had one of those for…”

“Not since I got here,”said Meaghan. “I had one the first week, but Madame Braith taught me how to block them.”They were always there, and she could choose to go into the vision if she wanted, but instead of blindsiding her like they used to, now her visions were like pop-ups on a computer screen. Sort of little “You’ve got mail”messages. She could just close the window and move on.

Wyn helped Meaghan to her feet and led her to the table. “Things really are getting weird around here, aren’t they?”She pulled out a chair for Meaghan and had her sit down. “What did you see? Was it about one of us?”Generally, Meaghan’s visions were triggered by her environment.

“Someone should check the taco meat,”said Meaghan.

Gavin started for the stove, but Reese stopped him. “It’s okay,”said Reese. “I’ve got it.”

Meaghan watched as he stirred the meat with a practiced hand. God. Gorgeous and he could cook too. He really was perfect. Just like the man on the bed… “I think it was about Reese,”she said. “But it wasn’t Reese. It didn’t look like him, but I had the distinct impression that he was–“

“Oh God, you’re having them too,”said Wyn.

“Having what too?”asked Meaghan. Then she remembered Wyn telling her about her dream about Reese. “Oh right. You and Reese are dreaming about each other, aren’t you?”

“Wait,”said Gavin, sitting down next to Meaghan, “Wyn, you’re dreaming about Reese too? Both of you are dreaming about Reese?”

Meaghan and Wyn exchanged a look and then both shrugged.

“I guess so,”said Wyn.

“And you,”said Gavin, “you’re dreaming about Wyn. Are you dreaming about Meaghan?”

“No,”said Reese. “Just Wyn.”He didn’t turn away from stirring the meat. “I think this is done.”

“Just turn off the heat, then,”said Meaghan.

“And I’m dreaming about Madame Braith,”said Gavin.

“Madame Braith?”asked Meaghan.

“Yeah, but it’s not really Madame Braith,”said Gavin, “it’s just sort of her.”

“Okay,”said Meaghan. “Well, that’s strange then. If we’re all dreaming or envisioning each other not being ourselves. What’s happening in your dreams?”

No one else said anything. The other three all seemed to become very interested in the floor. Meaghan remembered that Wyn and Reese were dreaming about kissing. It was probably not something they wanted to share with Gavin. But why wasn’t Gavin sharing? What had he been doing with Madame Braith?

“What happened in yours?”Gavin finally asked.

“Reese was lying on a bed. He was wounded. It was infected, and I was cleaning it.”She stopped, trying to remember the details. “He was saying something about a queen. I guess it was sort of medieval.”

“Yeah,”said Gavin. “In my dream, I was a king.”

“I was a queen,”said Wyn.

“And you were a queen in my dream,”said Reese.

“All of these spirits are interconnected somehow,”said Meaghan.

“We’re possessed,”said Gavin. “Madame Braith released some kind of old, tattered spirits during that exercise she did. And they’re taking us over.”

“Making us do things we don’t want to do,”said Wyn.

“What did you do?”Gavin asked.

“Nothing,”said Wyn. “I just mean, if we were possessed, they would make us do things. That’s all.”

Meaghan considered. “Possessed,”she said. “But who are these spirits? Are they impressions of real people? A real king and queen?”

“Maybe,”said Gavin.

“Well, what’s going on in the visions?”asked Meaghan. “We have to know that if we’re going to figure out who they are.”

There was a chuckle from the door of the kitchen. They all turned their heads to see who it was. Luke was standing there, a huge grin on his face. “You guys are all crazy,”he said. “You really think you’re possessed by kings and queens?”He laughed again.

Gavin got out of his chair and walked over to the oven. “I think the taco shells are probably done,”he said, opening the oven door.

“Gavin,”said Wyn, “don’t–“

Ow!“said Gavin. He’d just attempted to take the tacos out of the oven without an oven mitt.

* * *

After dinner, Madame Braith popped in to remind them that it was Friday, and she was going into town. Her car, an old station wagon, would fit seven passengers, so they all could have all gone along if they liked, but Wyn knew she wasn’t feeling like it. It was a half hour drive into town, and while there was a movie theater and a mall, Wyn didn’t feel much like doing anything. Gavin agreed with her for once.

In the end, only Luke, Amanda, and Lissa ended up going. Reese said something about studying in his room, and Meaghan said the tacos hadn’t agreed with her. On her way up to her room, Meaghan had nudged Wyn and whispered to her that Madame Braith was definitely gaining weight. Wyn had to admit that she could see it.

She hadn’t expected Gavin to want to hang out, and she was right. He made some excuse to go to his room. Wyn spent the evening alone, reading and trying not to think about the evening’s events. She’d come so close to having to admit to Gavin what had happened between her and Reese. Part of her wanted to blame it all on this weird possession thing. If they were really all being influenced by these spirits then her actions really weren’t her fault. She was at the mercy of something otherworldly. It took over her body. What was she supposed to do?

But it just wasn’t that simple. She and Reese had kissed on their own, without the spirits taking over their bodies. They’d been by the dryer. He’d been so close, and–

Damn it. She didn’t want Gavin to ever know. And it didn’t matter, because it would never happen again. Ever since, she’d been keeping herself as far from Reese as was humanly possible. If they weren’t close, then it couldn’t happen. She tried not to let herself remember that the first time, they’d been very far away from each other. That she’d left her laundry unattended to go to him in the woods.

She spent the evening struggling to concentrate on her book and not to think about Reese or about how she’d betrayed Gavin. Of course, Gavin hadn’t been exactly nice to her recently. He’d ignored her, told her he needed space, and pretty much asked her to leave him alone. But the argument that Gavin had given her to it rang pretty hollow to her. She knew that it wasn’t much of an excuse, and that overall, it was only a justification.

Around midnight, she decided to go to bed, but she didn’t think she’d actually sleep. She figured she’d toss and turn for hours before getting any rest.

She was surprised when Gavin knocked on her door. She let him in, feeling that strange awkward feeling she always felt around him these days. She missed the way it used to be, when things were easy and sweet between them. “Hey,”she said.

“Hey,”said Gavin. He embraced her stiffly, and, surprised at the intimacy, she hugged him back. “I miss you.”

She missed him too! So much. If only everything weren’t… “Yeah,”she said.

He kissed her. She did her best to kiss him back, but it wasn’t the way it used to be. Their kisses seemed boring and pat. There was no passion. It wasn’t anything like kissing Reese. Inwardly, Wyn cringed and redoubled her efforts to kiss Gavin.

Thankfully, after a few minutes, he pulled away. They looked at each other, unsure if they were going to acknowledge the awkwardness between them. Neither of them said anything.

Gavin took a deep breath. “I wanted to apologize,”he said. “I know I’ve been distant and strange lately.”

“We both have,”said Wyn. Now that she’d kissed Reese, Gavin’s sins seemed unimportant compared to her own. She was willing to sweep it all under the rug. “Don’t worry.”

“I don’t know why it is,”Gavin said, “but I know that what you and I had–have–is really special. And I don’t want us to lose it. I want to fight for it.”

“Okay,”said Wyn. She wanted the same thing, but she hadn’t realized that he still cared. “I want that too.”

“Good,”said Gavin. “I think we need to do something. Something big.”

“Like what?”

“I think we should have sex.”

Wyn let out a high-pitched laugh and sat down on her bed. “You think we should…”She couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud.

“I know we were going to wait for like a perfect moment,”said Gavin. “When we said that, I thought it was the best idea. But I’m losing you Wyn, and I’m afraid that we aren’t ever going to have any more perfect moments if we don’t try to get back what we had. So, I thought, maybe–“

“Stop,”she said. She needed a moment to take in what he was saying. Gavin wanted to have sex, because he thought it would bring them closer.

“It was a stupid idea, wasn’t it? I’ll go.”

“I’m not saying no,”said Wyn. She wasn’t a virgin. Not exactly. At least, she wasn’t if you counted having sex with her boss at the Thai restaurant in the kitchen after hours that one time. Which, Wyn guessed, you had to count. Even if halfway through, his wife had found the two of them, and Wyn had lost her job. Even though having sex with her boss hadn’t exactly been her idea, and it had been heavily implied it was something she had to do if she wanted to keep her job. She hadn’t much liked sex that time. It had hurt. It had been uncomfortable. And it had made her feel…

But it was Gavin. She loved Gavin.

She got up off the bed and went to him. She put her arms around him and kissed him again. He responded, and there was a hunger behind his kisses, but also something mechanical, like he was just going through the motions.

She broke away.

It was quiet for a few minutes. She walked over to her window and pressed her face against the panes. She got lost in the darkness outside. She felt like she was lost in it for a long time.

“It’s him, isn’t it?”he said.

She swung around to face him. “You know those are just rumors, my lord.”

“You haven’t been the same since he left.”

She fingered an invisible skirt. “It’s true I miss him. I know you miss him too.”

“I do. I’m not sure why he felt he had to leave.”He crossed to her. Gathered her into his arms. “But let’s not dwell on sadness, love. We have an evening to ourselves with no one to disturb us. We must make the most of it.”

She smiled at him and allowed him to kiss her. She did care so deeply for him. He was her husband. They had shared so much together. And how often had she wished she could feel deep passion for him?

Many times. Tonight was just another night.

“Don’t you feel well?”he asked, his eyes full of concern.

“I am fine.”She kissed him again. She hoped this kiss was more convincing.

“I do not mean to pressure you, my darling. You know that. But we must use our time wisely.”

Yes. Wisely. “We do not have an heir. That is what you mean, isn’t it?”

He released her and went to the other side of the room. “I come to you because I want you. Not out of duty.”

That wasn’t true. They both knew it. She’d lain next to him enough times and heard him cry out for that witch woman while he slept. They both knew where his desires lay, as shameful as it might be. Once, she was bitter about it, but now it hardly mattered. She had her lover. He had his obsession. It was cruel. It was a dark twist of fate. But it was reality. So she went to him and comforted him, her hand on his back, her lips on his neck. “There is duty, though, my lord, and we both know it.”

“You are my queen and my wife. I come to you in love.”

She tugged his shirt over his head. “Shh. It is what it is. And there is love between us. There is.”She kissed him.

He pulled her close, loosening her own garments.

* * *

Meaghan was feeling confused. She knew she’d gotten up from bed to go to the kitchen for a glass of water. But she was standing in Reese’s room now. Scant light from his window stretched over his bed. He was sleeping on his back. His mouth was open, his hair splayed on his pillow. She needed to go back to her room. Now. She didn’t even think she’d gotten that glass of water she wanted.

Just a few more minutes. Reese was sleeping. He didn’t know she was here. And he was so beautiful, snug in his bed. So vulnerable and gorgeous. The perfect man. And so unfair that the queen should have both him and the king.

Meaghan shook herself. Thoughts like that kept wandering into her brain. It wasn’t like the vision before. This time it was different. It was her, but she was also the woman from the vision. Things were starting to blur. She didn’t think she liked it. She wanted it to stop. She’d go back to her room and go to sleep and in the morning–

The queen shouldn’t be allowed to claim this warrior as well. What did the queen need with him? She was married to the most desirable man in the land. How the townsfolk swooned when the king had ridden through town years ago. She had been younger, but she’d been able to see that he was a finely put-together man. Of course, he didn’t hold a candle to the one sleeping in front of her.

Could it hurt if she just took a few more minutes here? She could climb into bed next to him. He had mistaken her for the queen before. If he woke and thought she was the queen again, what was the harm? She wanted to taste what the queen tasted. She wanted this man with her entire being.

Tentatively, she lifted the covers of the bed. He didn’t stir. She slid in under the blankets, next to his warm body.

He didn’t react to her movement at first. Then he turned and rolled in the bed, pulling her into a tight embrace. “You should go back to Gavin,”he mumbled.

Gavin? Who was Gavin?

He was raving in his fever, undoubtedly. She stroked his brow and whispered reassurances to him. It felt good to be so close to him. His lips sought hers, and she surrendered them willingly. And as he kissed her, her soul soared.

* * *

Gavin was buttoning his pants. Wyn was sitting on her bed, her covers pulled up to her chin. She looked terrified.

Gavin started for the door. This was the second time something like this had happened to him. Was he destined, for the rest of his life, to have this crazy spirit riding his body to take over him and make him have sex with women? He wanted to have sex as himself, for God’s sake!

“Don’t leave me,”Wyn said.

“You want me to stay?”He thought she’d be disgusted with him. He thought she’d want him gone.

“They stole it from us, didn’t they?”said Wyn. “The spirits. They stole our first time.”

Gavin shook his head. He didn’t know what to say to her.

“This isn’t fair,”said Wyn. “I want it back. I want it to be us. I want us back.”She started to cry.

“Don’t cry,”Gavin said. One thing he couldn’t stand was Wyn crying. He went to her and tried to hold her, but she wouldn’t relax in his arms. She cried into her covers. She hugged her covers tight against her own body.

“They didn’t steal it,”said Gavin finally. “We still haven’t had our first time. We just had their…fortieth time.”

“They can’t,”said Wyn. “They can’t have our bodies. They can’t just use us like this. We have to do something.”

She was right. But what were they going to do? They didn’t even know what was going on. “I want it to stop too.”

“Let’s go wake up Reese and Meaghan,”said Wyn.

But at that moment, they heard shouts from the hallway.

“You were in my bed!”yelled Reese.

“You kissed me first,”said Meaghan’s voice.

“Only because I thought you were–“

Gavin flung open the door to Wyn’s room, and Reese broke off. Which was just as well. Gavin didn’t think he wanted to hear Reese finish that sentence. Not when some part of him knew exactly who Reese was talking about.

“Calm down,”said Gavin.

“She ambushed me in my own bed,”Reese said.

“I didn’t mean to,”said Meaghan. “I was trying to get water. I just ended up–“

“Save it,”said Reese. “You’ve been all over me since the minute I got here, and you just can’t get it through your stupid skull that I don’t want you.”

Meaghan’s face crumpled. “I told you, I didn’t mean to.”

“It’s okay,”said Wyn, coming to the door still wrapped in her sheets and blankets, “something happened to us too.”

Reese took in Wyn, who clearly wasn’t wearing any clothes. His eyes darted from Wyn to Gavin, whose shirt was still unbuttoned. He looked stricken. Without a word, he went back into his room, closing the door behind him.

“Reese, wait!”Wyn called after him.

“Let him go,”said Gavin. He still remembered what he’d said to Wyn when he was the king. “It’s him, isn’t it?”

Meaghan rubbed at her tears with the heel of her hand. “I’m going to bed,”she said.

Luke came up the steps. He surveyed the scene. “Why’s everyone crying?”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Forget about it, Luke.”He guessed Madame Braith and everyone else were back from town.

Luke shrugged. “I finally got my hunting shotgun while we were in town. Anyone want to see?”

Luke had been waiting for his gun permit for weeks now. Gavin was happy for him, but he didn’t feel like looking at guns right now.

Wyn retreated into her room and pulled the door closed. Meaghan skulked back the hall. Gavin just stood in the hallway, wondering how the hell everything had gotten so screwed up.

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