Chapter 28

For the next week my life was a blur of emotion. Gifts arrived daily from Manfred, each more lavish than the last. I always seemed to be arguing or making snarky comments to Alex. I refused to think of him as my dad. My mom pretended like everything was okay, and she mad tons of food; none of which I ate. Sleep wasn't possible for me, instead I spent nights cleaning and organizing everything in the house. I gave in and asked Alex to train me; I couldn't just assume that I knew everything about my gift.

It was late Friday night; we had just finished training, with my mother as my target, when an urgent knock sounded on the door. My mom excused herself to go answer it. I disappeared down to my room, intent on organizing my closet; a task I've certainly put off. I was tossing clothes out of my closet when my door opened. I turned to see Tancred standing awkwardly in my doorway, his face tight. My heart sank; it pained me to see him so comfortable here.

"Hello." I said softly, my eyes never leaving his.

"Hello, Athena. I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing here?" His voice matched his face, tight and formal. He stood against the wall, by the door, which no intention of coming closer.

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.

"It was decided that I come talk to you. Charlie believes that you have some sort of plan."

I shook my head, "Not really." I told him truthfully. His response was unexpected, pain flashed across his face. I quickly added, "I had one, but I'm not so sure I believe it's going to work anymore."

"Was that why you broke up with me?" His voice cracked, he looked surprised, like the words had slipped out.

"Yes. But there is so much more to the story." I said hanging my head, I turned away from him.

"Do you have feelings for Manfred?"

I considered it; it was a very real possibility that I did have feeling s for Manfred. But I knew in my heart that I loved Tancred, I always had, and I probably always will.

"No."

"Then I can wait until you are ready to tell me. But we need to come up with a plan for this ball. We need to know what they are planning, are you willing to help us?" Tancred asked his eyes slid shut. I tried to memorize each crease in his hard face. His hair crackled with electricity.

"I'm willing to do whatever's necessary. I think someone else should be in the room too, the ball is too big to have one person monitor the whole thing." I turned back to my closet, not seeing why I couldn't accomplish both things at once.

"Already taken care of. Asa invited Emma, and Charlie plans to be there. We also are sending in Billy Raven, though were not sure he can be trusted. With you on our side, we'll have the whole ball covered. We're going to have you guys outfitted with camera's and voice recorders. So I'm going to need your dress." He moved to my bed and sat down. For a second my room looked normal, like everything was okay again, the next second the feeling was gone. Tancred was not my boyfriend, everything was not okay.

I nodded, thinking how wonderful it would be to have Emma breathing down my neck during the ball. "Sure, not a problem." I pulled the dress off the hook in the closet and placed it on the bed next to Tancred.

"I'll be sure to get this back to you ASAP. When do you plan on returning to Bloor's?" He eyed the dress with contempt.

"Monday."

"You make up with Manfred and act like everything's normal. We can't have him suspecting anything. Sunday evening after the ball, I need you to meet everyone at Emma's aunt's bookstore. You remember where that is?"

I nodded. There was so much I wanted to say, I was afraid to open my mouth for I knew what would come pouring out. "Tancred." The weight of his name sat there. Tancred's eyes locked with mine and he waited, giving me the permission I needed. "I love you, always have and I always will. Please don't forget that." I found myself sitting on the bed across from him.

"Oh, Athena. I'm supposed to believe that? After everything? You're dating Manfred!" A clap of sudden thunder made me jump.

"But I don't love him." I leaned in closer to him, his lips crashed against mine. We fought for dominance as my hand locked in his hair and the other encircled his back. His one hand rested on the side of my neck, caressing my face, the other he used to bring me closer to him. My knees wobbled and shook as I tried to calm my thumping heart-I was sure Tancred could hear it beating wildly in my chest. He broke our kiss, but did not pull away, our faces were inches from each other, and his breath tickled my face, "Good."