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Can it wait?

It shouldn’t. It could help us with the black holes. But I want you to take it. I’m not the one to use it.

He inclined his head in assent.

If something goes wrong…I told him where to find it, figuring him finding my journals, too, would no longer matter to me if the worst happened tonight.

Nothing will go wrong.

Easy for him to say. My Book had been far too quiet lately.

I closed my eyes and pretended to be sinking inside, questing for my inner lake, beneath which gleamed a monster. Recalling the first time I’d discovered the place, the dark chamber, the freedom and power I’d sensed in it. Before I’d known how corrupted it was.

I’d once loved having that inner lake. Now I despised it.

A flood of water exploded inside me, gushing up, icy and black. I choked and sputtered and my eyes shot open.

“What is it,” Ryodan demanded.

I swallowed surprisingly dryly, for all the water inside me. “Indigestion,” I said. “I don’t think this is going to work.”

Ryodan said, “We’ve got all night.”

And I had no doubt he would sit here all night with me, and make sure I sat here, too.

I closed my eyes again and sat very still, not reaching, merely feeling tentatively. What was going on? My lake had never exploded up to meet me like that, nearly drowning me.

Waters rippled and stirred. Deep down, carving chasms in my soul, there was a rapid, rushing current. I didn’t like it. I’d never felt it before. My lake had always been still, serene, glassy, disturbed only when things of enormous power floated to its surface.

Yet now I felt as if there was something in there that contained a vicious undertow. And I might get swept away by it if I wasn’t careful.

I opened my eyes. “Just exactly how do you think the Book could possibly be of any use to us?”

“We’ve been through this.”

“I can’t read it. I won’t open it.”

“Fear of a thing,” Barrons said, “is often bigger than the thing.”

“And if the damn ‘thing’ is even a tenth the size of my fear of it, that’s bad enough,” I retorted. “You stood in the street with me and watched what it did to Derek O’Bannion. It came after you, too. You sensed its power. And you’re the one that told me if I took even one spell from it, I wouldn’t ever be the same.”

“I said if you ‘took’ a spell. It’s possible there’s a way to access information without taking one. It’s conceivable you could read it without utilizing an ounce of magic. Like Cruce. You know the First Language.”

Was it possible? His contention didn’t sound entirely implausible. I did know the First Language, there inside me in the tatters of the king’s memory. But those memories were part of the Book itself. If I reached for my knowledge of the First Language without it being offered, did that mean I was opening the Book? “I’ve always felt that simply opening it of my own will would doom me.”

“It’s already been open. You closed it.”

I hadn’t thought about any of this in months. I’d shoved every memory of the Sinsar Dubh into a far, dark corner of my mind. He was right. The Book had been open inside me that afternoon when he found me staring sightlessly outside BB&B, lost in my own head, debating whether I dare risk taking a spell from the Sinsar Dubh to free his son.

But I hadn’t opened it. It had been open, the Book offering. Big difference.

Might I have read the spell to save his son, scanning only the words without disturbing the magic, without getting turned into a soulless, evil psychopath? Books could be read. Spells had to be worked. Was information one thing and magic entirely another? I wasn’t sure I could split hairs that finely. I wasn’t sure the Book would either.

Still, Barrons had a point. Fear of a thing was often worse than the thing itself. I’d been afraid of him once. Now, I couldn’t even conceive of such a reaction to this man.

I wanted desperately to believe the Book wasn’t the great, all-knowing, all-spying evil I’d been assuming it was.

Unfortunately, I’d have to face it to find out.

Maybe it was silent because it was gone. Maybe my lake had swallowed and neutralized it. I was inundated with maybes lately. Limp noodley things you could do nothing with.

I sighed and closed my eyes, no longer pretending. I wanted to know. What was at the bottom now? What was going on in the vacuum of dread I carried in my gut every blasted day?

I dove deep, kicked in hard, rejecting fear. I had Barrons and Ryodan in the room with me. What more could I ask as I faced my inner demon?

I swam, holding my breath at first, diving into one towering wave after the next, getting drenched by violently churning water capped by thick foamy brine. I ran out of breath and started struggling against the sensation of suffocation. I forced myself to relax like I had the day I stepped through the Unseelie king’s great mirror in their boudoir and my lungs froze, knowing I had to breathe differently there. Now, I drew the water into my lungs, became one with it.

The waves fought me, buffeted me, as if trying to expel me, but it only strengthened my resolve. Was this why I’d nearly drowned when I first sought it? Because the Book no longer had all that much power—perhaps never had—and didn’t want me to figure that out? And it was throwing up some huge, watery smoke screen to keep me from discovering the truth? Maybe my adamant rejection of it the night it turned me invisible had weakened it somehow. That was, after all, the night it had ceased speaking. And maybe I’d turned visible again because the single spell it offered had been a temporary one, with a finite, albeit damned convenient end date.

I dove deeper, inhaling my icy lake, felt it rushing through my body, filling me with sidhe-seer power. I kicked and thrust and swam, following a gold beacon, forced my way through the chilling undertow and finally drifted lightly down into a dark, shadowy cavern.

Last time I’d been here, the Sinsar Dubh had been crooning to me like a lover, welcoming me, inviting me in.

A towering wall exploded in front of me.

I shattered it with a fist.


I kicked through it, swinging and cursing.

Wall after wall sprung up and I blasted through them as if my life depended on it.

Whatever the Book didn’t want me to see, I was going to see.

This was ending.

Here, tonight.