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She still felt that way.

Ted Halliwell needed to find Oliver because he wanted answers, and he wanted to go home. Julianna wanted those things as well, but what Halliwell did not understand was that, to her, finding Oliver was going home. The lunacy and horror that had intruded upon their lives had made her question her faith in Oliver, but she was beyond that now. She still had questions, but no longer had doubts.

All she really wanted was to be reunited with him. Everything else was secondary.

Halliwell had different priorities.

But to find Oliver, to survive in this place, she and the detective were going to have to work together. At first that had seemed obvious and natural, but now she had begun to grow concerned. Halliwell had cooled to her. She felt it. The truth was, they had been fellow travelers before, working together. Not friends. And Julianna was no fool. Halliwell knew where her loyalties were, and whose side she would be on if he had any conflict with Oliver when they caught up to him.

Yet they had to travel together. They had only each other to rely on.

Julianna shuddered and hugged herself tightly. The night had grown cold with the wind whipping across the top of the plateau, but there had been nothing they could do about it. She wished she had not left her jacket behind. That had been foolish.

She watched the golden light of the sun spread across the sky. Soon it would reach her, warm her, and the air would begin to heat up. Halliwell would stir.

During the night, she had woken several times and felt a rising spark of hope that she would find herself back in her world, in a place that made sense and followed the rules that she understood.

Now, with the sunrise, she realized that it had been a dangerous moment. She might have gone mad, fighting the need to accept the reality of the world around her. To accept magic and giants and rivers that spoke with human voices, and the dead things they had seen back in the real world on Canna Island.

“Real world,” she whispered. “Can’t think like that.”

This place, this world, was real. Accepting that was the only way to survive. Yet from the look in Halliwell’s eyes last night, she was not sure if he had quite accepted it. The detective was numb, moving from one place to another with the single-minded determination of an angry drunk.

Maybe he has to be that way. Maybe that’s how he needs to survive, she thought. That made sense to her. Finding Oliver was all that mattered to Halliwell. Slowing down for a moment to look too closely at the world they were traveling through would only confuse and distract him.

The more she thought about it, the more Julianna thought that was a good strategy. Full speed ahead. Don’t look too closely. And whatever you do, don’t stop to smell the roses. No telling what they might really be.

They had spent all the long afternoon of the previous day making their way up the ridgeline to the top of the cliff, following a switch-back for a while and then a steep hill. In the end, they had found themselves miles from where they had begun, but on top of the plateau, looking down into the valley as night fell.

This morning, they would strike back toward the spot where the river went into the cliff face, then follow what they hoped was the path of the river until they reached the other side of the mountain, the far end of the plateau, and then descend to the valley or basin or whatever they found there, and follow the water again.

If the river did not disappear underground forever.

In that case, they would not have a clue where to begin.

Julianna ran her fingers through her hair. Her bladder felt full and she got up, muscles popping in protest, her whole body aching, and stumbled off behind a stand of shrubbery to pee.

When she came back, the sun had just touched the edge of the plateau, nowhere near Halliwell, but the lightening of the sky must have been enough to rouse him, for he was stirring. Julianna had never asked Halliwell his age, but pegged it at early fifties. Not old, but a long way down the road from young. He was at least her father’s age, but there was something she found attractive about the detective with his gruff features and piercing blue eyes, his somber expression and more-salt-than-pepper hair in need of a cut. Halliwell could have been an actor. Not a star, perhaps, but one of those character players that people recognized right off but whose names they could never remember.

She slipped her hands into her pockets and stood a few feet away as he slowly woke. A groan escaped his lips and he opened his eyes, reaching up to scrape the remnants of sleep away.

In his age and in his eyes there was the weight of something that haunted him. Halliwell was what people called a soulful man, and she realized suddenly that this was what she liked about him.

It reminded her of Oliver.

He grunted as he sat up, then slowly climbed to his feet. Halliwell stretched his back and arms and neck with a groan of protest; his bones popped loudly as he moved. He took a deep breath and gazed at the sunrise, rubbing the back of his neck. All of this was done without a single glance at Julianna, as though he had forgotten she was there.

“I feel a hundred years old,” he said, without turning to her.

“You look it,” she replied.

Brows knitted, he turned and stared at her. Then his mouth twisted up into a smile and he chuckled softly. Some of the weight seemed to lift from him.

“I’ll bet I do.”

Julianna walked over and stood beside Halliwell, staring at the eastern horizon with him. “We’re really here.”

Halliwell paused, exhaled, and then nodded. “Yeah.”

“I have a weird question for you. I wouldn’t even ask it, but you seem a little less…freaked out…than you were yesterday.”

“Appearances are deceiving—” The detective turned to look at her and she saw the years in his blue eyes. “But what’s your question?”

“Like I said, it’s weird. But…okay, look, something has happened to us. We’re lost, somewhere so far from what we know that we might as well be stranded on the moon. For me, the urge to find Oliver is even more powerful than the need to get home; he’s the only man I’ve ever really loved.”

She thrust her hands deeper in her pockets, shifting her weight awkwardly. “I want to go home, Ted. Desperately. But not as desperately as you do. I can’t help thinking there’s more to it than just going home for you.”

Halliwell crossed his arms. “So what’s your question?”

Julianna shrugged. “Just what it is, I guess. What’s back there that’s got you frayed so badly? I’ve got my parents, my work, my friends, everything. My whole life. What is it that’s waiting for you back there that makes the thought of not getting home so terrifying for you?”

His blue eyes were cold. His nostrils flared in anger.

“We’re wasting daylight,” he said, staring at her, daring her to push it or contradict him. “If we have any hope of catching up to Oliver, we’ve got to move, find that river.”

Her throat dry, Julianna almost asked him again. The thought that they might not get home panicked her, but it was obvious that it affected Halliwell far more, fraying at his spirit.

But all she did was nod.

Halliwell turned his back on her, studying the sky. “Give me a minute? I’ve just got to—”

Gruff as he was, he didn’t want to talk about the need to relieve his bladder in front of her. The guy was an enigma. Julianna smiled and let out a breath.

“Sure. I’ll start walking. You can catch up. Due west, right?”

“No. We’ve lost too much time. I think we need to go northwest, try to gauge where we might intersect with the river, and then turn north until we come to the other side of the plateau. If we haven’t hit another valley first.”

Julianna pushed her fingers through her hair again. “All right.”

She started walking. Her feet ached from all the walking that they had done the previous day, but that was just the beginning. Somehow she doubted there would be a bus to carry them to their destination. Her shoes were comfortable, hiking boots that doubled for her as winter footwear. But this was no ordinary hike.

The sun had spread across the plateau, and as she set out, it began to warm her at last.

After several minutes, Halliwell caught up, not even winded. For his age, he was in pretty good shape. That was good. If he had been out of shape, they’d likely be dead by now.

In silence—the space of words unspoken between them—they walked across the plateau. Halliwell had been a Boy Scout as a child, which came as no surprise to Julianna. She herself had been forced into the Brownies, the junior Girl Scouts, but by the time she could have joined the older girls, she refused to have anything further to do with it. Hallie Terheune had by then become queen bitch of all Brownies, and she’d be going into Girl Scouts as well. But even now, Julianna remembered well enough how to navigate by the sun, and Halliwell had not forgotten much of his childhood love of the woods either. Growing up in midcoastal Maine, it was just the sort of thing children learned.

Time had passed, of course, and scouting wasn’t exactly like riding a bike. Some things did fade. Yet Julianna felt sure they were on the right track.

The landscape reminded her of Arizona: dry and rocky with stretches of scrub grass. Not desert, certainly, but not exactly lush. Small ridges of rock jutted up from the earth as though carved out by ancient glaciers, and there were small, thin trees here and there—wiry things that resembled nothing at all familiar.

Within a quarter of an hour after setting out, Julianna was wetting her lips with her tongue, mouth parched. It was warm, but not uncomfortably so, and there was a breeze that brought a dry, sweet smell, like pressed flowers. But she was thirsty. Hunger had not begun to rumble her belly yet, but she was certain it would begin soon enough. She could do without the food for a while, but the water was going to be a problem. The river was important to them for more reasons than one.

The stale smell of her own body and the unpleasant way her dirty clothes clung to her reminded Julianna of mornings in college when she had woken after long, regrettable nights. But despite it all, she had none of the dullness of a hangover. The scent on the breeze, the feel of the sun, the colors of this world were all too vibrant to allow it.

Halliwell limped a bit as he walked. She was not even sure he noticed it, but he favored his left leg. A selfish twinge went through her when she noticed, and she hoped it was just sleeping out on the ground that had given him a kink, not something permanent. Something that was going to be a problem down the line.

Her shoelace came loose.

“Hang on,” she said, as she knelt to retie it.

Halliwell paused and stood above her. As she finished, he spoke in a voice that was barely a rasp.

“We’re not alone.”

Outside Oliver’s window, dawn’s light was reaching down into Twillig’s Gorge. Morning came later in the Gorge, the sunlight creeping down along the western wall as it rose. The Nagas had given them specific instructions to be gone by dawn, but Oliver could not move. He sat on the edge of the bed in his room at the inn and stared at Kitsune.

“That’s insane.”

Kitsune’s eyes were always so wild, but not now. In this moment, they were rock steady. She leaned forward, silken hair hanging in black curtains on either side of her face.

“You think I don’t know how it sounds?” she asked, an edge in her voice. Kitsune glanced around the room, hands fluttering, as though trying to search for some explanation for the inexplicable. “I am used to being on my own, Oliver. Solitary. Tricksters nearly always are. But when I learned that the Borderkind were being killed, I thought perhaps it would be best not to be alone for a while.”

“And then you met Frost and me in the Oldwood,” Oliver said.

The fox-woman nodded. Her hood was thrown back, the fur soft. Vulnerable. Oliver had never thought of her that way before.

“I thought I had found trustworthy companions whose goals were my own. To survive. To uncover terrible secrets. But there were more secrets than I ever imagined—”

Oliver held up a hand. “Wait. Just…just stop, okay? I get that you were just as much in the dark as I was, so can we focus for a minute? Does any of what Frost and Smith were saying sound familiar to you? Do you have any idea what he was talking about?”

Kitsune took a breath. “Not at all. It was clear he believes that you and your sister are somehow important to this world, that if the truth about you were to come out, it would be even more dangerous to you than the death warrant.”

“How can that be?” Oliver shot to his feet. “What is more dangerous than someone ordering your execution?”

He searched her eyes for answers but found only confusion that mirrored his own, and sympathy. Oliver put a hand over his eyes and sighed. Could it be that Frost was not his friend, that the winter man had been lying to him all along?

“Jesus,” he whispered, dropping his hand. “All right. So the Falconer…wasn’t hunting Frost. He was sent after me and Collette, and Frost was wounded trying to stop him. That’s what you’re saying?”

Kitsune opened her hands. “I have told you what I heard.”

“Why us? What is it about us?”

“This is not the first time we’ve asked that question, Oliver. The Sandman wants your life so badly that he is holding your sister as bait. It is you he wants, not Frost. Not any Borderkind. You. And now we know that Collette is only still alive because the Sandman has not caught you yet.”

Oliver narrowed his eyes. “The Sandman? Or whoever woke him up? Whoever sent the Falconer?”

Kitsune turned her back on the window. Slowly, she raised her hood, jade-green eyes staring out from the shadows beneath. When she spoke, he could see the points of her tiny, sharp teeth.

“Your questions might be better put to another.”

Anger and confusion roiled in him. He nodded, staring at Kitsune. “I want to trust you. But I’m beginning to wonder if there’s anyone I can trust.”