Maybe I hadn’t said the right thing. Offered up the proper incentive to get her to work her magic on my behalf. Fey liked to make bargains—or so I’d read—and I’d rather end up bound to Cosette than to Luciana or any of the alternatives.
As I broke away from the group and headed toward the quad, the others were making plans to go to the library. Do some more research. If I’d learned anything about Cosette in the past few months, it was that she liked being outdoors. And since coming here, she really seemed to like being around the wolves. She’d go wherever they gathered.
Going on that instinct made finding her easy. Ever since we’d gotten here, the girl had been a magnet for the wolves. She lay sprawled on a blanket in the center of the quad, wearing large headphones and tapping her fingers as she flipped through a magazine. A ray of sunlight shone down on her, creating a sparkling prism effect on her aura. It was almost blinding.
All around her, wolves prowled. Oh, they were pretending to do other things. Two guys chatted, shoving each other. One seemed to be doing some homework. A few others shared a pizza. But they all were watching her. Only half-participating in what they were doing.
So much for asking her for help in privacy. I gathered up my courage and sat on the blanket.
She slid off her headphones and then closed the magazine as she sat up. “How did it go?”
I swung my braid over my shoulder. “Not great.”
“So, what are you going to do?”
Here goes nothing. “Tia Rosa did say that some fey have the ability to—”
Wow. I hadn’t expected that much, but being shut down before I could even ask? “I understand if that’s not something you can do, but if you could point me—”
“I’m not able to help you with that right now.” She twisted the cord of her headphones so tight around her finger that the tip went red, cutting off her circulation. “And believe me when I say that’s not the answer I want to give.”
Now that I was listening for it, I could tell how carefully she’d chosen those words. She was only saying she wouldn’t help now. Not that breaking the oath was outside her power. “Let me rephrase then. Would you be able to break the oath if your circumstances were different?”
“You’re learning how this works.” Cosette perked up so quickly that a few of the wolves forgot to act and stared outright, but I was too busy concentrating on her to pay them much attention for once. “I’m not allowed to answer that question.”
But that was an answer in itself, wasn’t it? “Then you could—”
“Still no.” She gave her head a sad shake, and her voice was gentle. “I’m bound as tightly as you are, just to a queen instead of a crazy witch.”
“I thought the fey would be on our side.” She’d said as much. Unless Cosette was lying about not being able to lie? I hoped not. I was already a little hurt than none of this had come out sooner.
“So did I.” Cosette slumped back onto the blanket and her hair pooled around her in a mass of curls. “But the courts want to stay neutral. Because I’m—” Her voice choked off and she made a frustrated noise at the back of her throat. “If I did what you wanted me to do, I’d have to take a side.”
There was one more hope dashed, but I seemed to be losing them left and right today. I still couldn’t give up. “If your queen does nothing, she could be doing all of you more harm than good.”
“That’s basically what I told her.” Cosette fisted her hands in the blanket. “The battle that’s coming is about more than witches and wolves. If I step out of line now, she’ll summon me home and I’ll be no help to anyone later.”
“I see.” Except I didn’t see at all, because it sounded like she was saying she could help—she just wouldn’t where I was concerned.
“Claudia…” Cosette sat up, rubbing at her temples. “I have no intention of letting you, yours, or any of these wolves die, but I can’t act yet. And I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t ask me to if you knew what it would cost.”
I brushed my arms against the chill settling into me, trying to convince myself the feeling was just from the sunset. I understood what it was like being bound by hard rules better than anyone. Getting angry with Cosette would only make me a hypocrite.
That didn’t make her words any easier to swallow. I had a solution. Right here. But I couldn’t use it.
She glanced up at the sky and then started gathering her things. “Let’s get in before the moon comes up.”