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“Thank you,” I told her, and I used all my restraint to keep from wolfing down the soup. I didn’t think anything had ever smelled as wonderful or tasted as delicious in my life.

“You can stay here as long as you need to,” Mia told me, as I devoured the soup. “Our door is always open to you.”

I wanted to thank her for that, and tell her that I didn’t think I’d be staying here that long. I couldn’t just rest on my laurels, no matter if my body needed it or not. But I was far too famished to do anything besides eat.



Before this had become Finn and Mia’s home, it had been the house that both Finn and Ember had grown up in. Ember’s old room had become Hanna’s, but she would stay in Liam’s room tonight, so I could use her room. I’d tried to insist that they didn’t need to go to any trouble for me, but Mia just did it anyway.

Despite my exhaustion, I lay awake in Hanna’s slightly-too-small bed, my feet hanging over the end. A lighted mobile hung above the bed, casting shapes of the moon and stars over the ceiling.

The walls were a pale blue with clouds on them, and Finn had told me that Ember had been the one to paint the room this way when she’d been ten. I remembered her telling me about her childhood, when she would lay awake at night plotting her escape from this small boring house and her boring life. Ember had been determined to escape and have an adventure.

Now I couldn’t help but feel a certain kinship to her, lying awake the way she had, wishing for an escape. Of course, I would happily trade all the troubles that were stretched out before me for a boring life with my friends and family again.

As soon as I thought it, I wondered if that was entirely true. Obviously, I would gladly get rid of Mina and Viktor and all the dangers that went along with them. But would I ever be content to just settle down and lead a normal life the way Finn and Mia had?

Before everything had completely gone to hell, Ridley and I had made plans to be together when this was all over. Of course, now it seemed impossible. I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever be able to see him again.

But for a brief moment I allowed myself to fantasize about the life we might have led together. It wouldn’t be exactly like Finn and Mia’s life, since I wasn’t sold on the idea of having kids myself. Staying at home and raising a family was great for people who wanted it, the way Mia so obviously did, but I wanted something different.

I could work as a tracker for a few more years, traveling and seeing the world. When I came home, Ridley would be there waiting for me, pulling me into his arms. Sipping wine by the fireplace in the winter, and riding the horses out to the bay in the summer. Arguing about the politics in Doldastam, or what movie to watch. And falling asleep at night in each other’s arms.

We could have a life together.

Or at least we could’ve, before I’d been accused of treason.

But still, when I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but imagine the life that Ridley and I had almost had together. How we’d so nearly made it.

In the morning, I awoke to a little boy standing next to the bed, staring right at me. When I opened my eyes, there he was, and I almost screamed. Funny that after everything I’d seen lately, it was a two-year-old boy that nearly gave me a heart attack.

I wasn’t sure how Liam would react to me picking him up, but I decided to give it a go anyway. When he didn’t scream, I took that as a good sign, and proceeded to carry him out to the kitchen, where Mia was making breakfast.

She immediately apologized for him waking me, but I brushed it off. Besides, I honestly felt better than I had in a while. Getting a decent meal and a good night’s sleep did wonders for the body.

I didn’t even mind that since I’d picked Liam up, he refused to let go of me. Eventually, when he began tugging on my hair with his pudgy hands and poking me in the eyes, I realized where all his fascination came from—he hadn’t seen many people who looked like me in his life.

After breakfast, I finally managed to detangle myself from Liam and headed outside to work out. I’d been trying to work out every chance I’d gotten, but since Konstantin and I had been on the move, and I’d been starving, exhausted, and anxious the whole time, I hadn’t gotten as much done as I’d have liked.

Finn and Mia’s house sat on a plateau, with a small field of grassy flat land extending out over the bluff. A split-rail wooden fence wrapped around it, preventing any animals or small children from tumbling over the edge.

Finn and Ember’s mom used to use the land to raise angora goats, but since their parents moved, taking the goats with them, Finn hadn’t picked up the tradition. The only animal he and Mia had was a solitary pony that Finn had apparently gotten as a birthday gift for Hanna.

The pony, rather inexplicably named Calvin, came over to investigate what I was up to. It was dark gray, with a long mane and fur around his hooves, so in many ways he appeared to be a miniature version of my Tralla horse Bloom, admittedly a much stouter version. He only came up to my shoulder, and he appeared bemused behind his thick bangs as he watched me stretch.

When I started running laps along the fence, Calvin trotted along with me, his short legs hurrying to keep up. But he quickly grew bored of that and went back to nibbling at the grass and flowers.

Eventually, I’d moved on to doing burpees—which was dropping down to a squat, getting in a push-up position, and then immediately jumping back to the squatting position and standing up again. I’d done about a million of them when I’d been in tracker school, but the last few weeks had taken their toll on me, and I was going way too slow.