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He hated her and didn’t want me to have anything to do with her. I’d used persuasion on him, even though I’d felt guilty about it, but it was the only way I could talk to her.

“You did that?” The shock and hurt in his eyes was instantly replaced by anger. He looked like he’d been slapped in the face. I lowered my eyes and turned away. “You tricked me? How could you do that, Wendy? You always say you never lie to me, then you go and do something like that!”

“It wasn’t a lie,” I said sheepishly.

“No, it’s worse!” Matt shook his head and stepped away from me, as if he couldn’t stand to be near me. “I can’t believe you did that. How often did you do that?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “For a long time, I didn’t know I was doing it. But once I figured it out, I tried not to do it at all. I don’t like doing it, especially to you. It’s not fair, and I know it.”

“Damn right it’s not fair!” Matt snapped. “It’s cruel and manipulative!”

“I’m really sorry.” I met his eyes, and the hurt in them stung painfully. “I promise I won’t ever do it again, not to you.”

“I hate to break up this moment, but we need to figure a way out of here,” Rhys interrupted. “So what is the plan?”

“We call someone,” I said, happy for the reprieve from thinking about how much Matt must hate me.

“What do you mean, ‘call someone’? Do you have your cell phone?” Rhys asked excitedly.

“No, I mean, summon someone. The way Matt did before.” I pointed to the door behind me. “Knock on the door, say we’re hungry or cold or dead or whatever. When they come, I can use my persuasion on them to get them to let us out.”

“You think that will really work?” Matt asked, but the disbelief had dropped from his voice. He was only asking my opinion now.

“Maybe.” I looked at Rhys. “But I have a favor to ask. Can I practice on you?”

“Sure.” Rhys shrugged, trusting me immediately.

“What do you mean, ‘practice’?” Matt asked with a concerned edge.

He moved a bit closer to Rhys, and I realized with some surprise that he finally believed Rhys was his brother. He wanted to protect Rhys from me. I felt some relief and happiness knowing that he’d started accepting him, but it hurt a little—okay, a lot—to know that Matt thought of me as a threat.

“I haven’t done it very much.” I didn’t like the way Matt scrutinized me with his gaze, so I paced the room, as if that could deflect his attention somehow. “And it’s been a while since I’ve done it at all.”

That last part wasn’t entirely true, since I’d just used it on Rhys the day before, but I didn’t want him reacting the way Matt had. This whole process would go a lot easier the less people hated me.

“So what do you want to do?” Matt asked.

“I don’t know yet.” I shrugged. “But I just need to practice. It’s the only way I can get stronger.”

Despite Matt’s obvious reservations, Rhys went along with it. It felt very odd to have someone witnessing persuasion, especially someone clearly against it, but I had no choice. It wasn’t like I could send Matt into the next room or something.

I could see Matt watching me intently out of the corner of my eye. It was distracting, but that was probably better practice for me. I doubted I could get any of the Vittra to step aside to a quiet place while I tried to use a bit of mind control on the guard.

I decided to start simple. Rhys and I were standing, facing each other, so I started repeating in my head, Sit down. I want you to sit down.

His blue eyes met mine evenly at first, then a fog passed over them. His face seemed to slacken, and his expression went completely blank. Without a word, he sat down on the floor.

“Is he okay?” Matt asked nervously.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Rhys sounded like he’d just woken up. He looked up at me, his eyes dazed. “So, are you gonna do it or what?”

“I already did it.” I had never talked to anybody about it after using persuasion on them, and it felt strange to be open about it.

“What are you talking about?” Rhys’s brow furrowed, and he looked back and forth between Matt and me, trying to understand.

“You got all spaced out, then you sat on the floor,” Matt said.

“Why did you sit down?” I asked.

“I…” His face scrunched up in concentration. “I don’t know. I just … I sat down.” He shook his head and looked up at me. “You did that?”

“Yeah. You didn’t feel anything or sense anything?” I asked.

I had never known if what I did hurt people. They never complained of pain or anything, but maybe they couldn’t because they didn’t understand what was happening.

“No. I didn’t even…” He shook his head again, unable to articulate what he meant. “I expected there to be a blackout or something. But … I knew that I was sitting. It was more like a reflex. Like, I breathe all the time, but I don’t think about it. This was the same.”

“Hmm.” I looked at him thoughtfully. “Stand up.”

“What?” Rhys asked.

“Stand up,” I repeated. He stared up at me for a second, then looked around. His eyes hardened and his eyebrows pinched up.