Alva woke me the next morning. Her expression told me Malcolm had told her what we had spoken of. I washed quickly in the bathroom and went down to breakfast. I didn’t want to, but I also didn’t want to be thought a sulk. And I didn’t like leaving Kevin in Elsie’s power.
Scowling as my face heated, I paused a moment outside the kitchen to gather my thoughts. Will power, Malcolm had said. Well, I’d show them what will power could do.
Kevin eyed me warily as I entered and sat across from him. He was eating a bowl of oatmeal.
“Morning,” he said cautiously.
“Good morning,” I returned pleasantly. He winced.
Alva plunked a bowl in front of me and dumped a mound of steaming cereal in it. All the usual accoutrements for oatmeal were laid out on the table. Grabbing the milk and the brown sugar, I prepared my breakfast.
Alva went out. Kevin’s hand closed around my wrist.
“What did Malcolm say to you?” he hissed, his fingers tight. He gave me a shake before I could dissemble. “You’re angry. Why?”
I couldn’t look at him. “It’s nothing.”
He swore and jerked back. He slammed his spoon to the table and stood.
“He won’t tell you,” I said as Kevin made for the door.
“Like hell he won’t,” Kevin growled.
Of course Elsie was the next person to enter. I shot her back a glare of loathing as she fetched a bowl from the cupboard.
“Where’s Kevin?” she asked me, also eying me warily.
I shrugged. “He left.”
She made half a grunt and tucked into her food. Raised voices down the hall betrayed his location.
Alva poked her head into the kitchen. “Who’s yelling at Malcolm?”
“Kevin,” I said. Torn between laughter and sheer fury, I smiled.
Alva rolled her eyes. “Not even twenty-four hours. Those two…” she shook her head. I wondered if her act was all for Elsie or if she meant to try to fool me as well. But I caught her sharp looks as she bustled around the kitchen.
“Why don’t you use magic?” I asked as she measured things into a bowl.
“To cook. It would be easier.”
She nodded. “Yes. But I like to cook. And when the children are gone, I only have to cook for a few.”
Kevin came back. He didn’t look angry at all. He grinned boyishly at Alva. “Any more oatmeal?”
She sighed and ladled him out another glob. Elsie immediately launched into conversation. I listened absently.
“Becca.” I blinked, broken from my preoccupied stare at the wall.
“I want to talk to you about your Quest.” Kevin stood, gesturing for me to follow. I followed, keeping my face in a mildly interested expression. Kevin glanced back to look at me and grimaced, but said nothing. We went into Malcolm’s office again, but the man wasn’t there. At least, I hoped he wasn’t there. Maybe he could turn invisible or something.
“Can you turn invisible?” I asked Kevin.
“Can I what?”
He frowned. “I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”
“Why not?” It seemed like the first thing I would learn, if I was magic. Which I wasn’t, I thought fiercely.
He shrugged. “Never had a reason to, I suppose.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I left it up to him to break it. He did, by shifting in his chair and clearing his throat. “Look, Becca.”
I frowned in a confused fashion. “What about her?”
Kevin’s eyes moved over my face. “We’re friends.”
I nodded. “Yes, I know.”
I looked at him blankly. “So?”
He frowned then, too. “So…I just wanted to tell you.”
I laughed a little. “Obvious isn’t it? She hasn’t stopped talking to you or about you since she got here.” I sent him a sly look. “Maybe she’s got a crush on you.”
He was perplexed now and angry about it. “Becca!”
I shrugged. “She did kiss you yesterday. Is that a magic thing? Because I’m punching anyone who tries to kiss me.” I kept my smile in place, reveling in his frustration with my obtuseness.
He took a slow, self-control inducing breath and changed the subject. “Though I know you sent us after Strenton for a reason, I don’t know what it is.”
I nodded. “Me, neither.”
“And,” he continued. “Until we do know, I think we should focus on finding a way to stop this curse. I know…” his voice broke a little and I had a pang of guilt for taunting him a moment ago. “I know that you think you’re going to have to die to stop it.”
I nodded again, slower. “I do.”
“The problem with that,” he said, not meeting my eyes. “Is that you can’t be killed. I can’t hurt you. I…” he hesitated again. “I don’t think I could.”
I understood. “I wouldn’t ask it of you. You’re my friend.”
Something flashed across his face, darkening his eyes. “You’d have to kill yourself.”
“I know.” The weight I was already feeling on my shoulders intensified.
Kevin leaned forward, staring at his hands resting palm up on his knees. “Here’s the problem, Becca. I will not help you find a way to kill yourself.”
I stared at the crown of his head. “You mean, you’re not going to help me anymore?”
He swore. “No!” he snapped. “I mean, yes, I’ll help. But there has to be a way to lift your curse, to stop it. Someway other than you dying.”
I smiled sadly, forgetting our quarrel as I reached for his hand. He closed his fingers around mine, squeezing them tightly.
“Kevin,” I began gently.
“No,” he repeated stubbornly. “We have time. Give me time. We’ll find a way. There has to be a way.”
“And if there isn’t?”
“Give me time,” he said fiercely, jerking his head up to glare at me. “We have time. I will find a way to stop it.”
I sighed. “Yes, Kevin.”
Some of the tension left his face, his shoulders relaxing. We sat and simply looked at each other for a moment, his glowing eyes on mine.
The door opened.
“Oh!” Elsie exclaimed, coming to a halt. “Sorry,” she said, ginning at us.
“What is it?” Kevin asked smoothly, letting my hand go. We both sat back.
“Malcolm would like to do some testing on Becca,” she told him, ignoring me as I expected.
“Sounds like a good idea,” I said, standing. “Where is he?”
“Outside,” she waved in the direction of the front lawn. I went out without looking back.