He rubbed his forehead. “Muraco is always tight-lipped, but I feel like he’s left out some need-to-know details this time. Fill me in. What are you up against?”
This wasn’t the time to be shy. I wasn’t sure why I felt comfortable spilling my guts to him, but it felt like if I left anything out, something bad would happen. I hadn’t told everyone all of it. Not ever. But I told Lucas. About my family. About how my parents left. How things got bad with Luciana and she started draining my power. And finally, how I manipulated Teresa and then left the coven. I even spilled about Matt.
Lucas was kind as I spoke. He was a total stranger, but he was outraged at all the right parts. He stayed quiet during the hard parts, and in the end, I didn’t think he judged me as anything less.
“You’ve been through a lot for someone so young.”
I sighed. “I’m twenty now, but I feel older. I’m exhausted, and I feel like this fight is only just beginning. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the light at the end, you know?”
“It’s there. I promise.”
“Hmmm.” I wasn’t sure I believed him.
“Thank you for being so honest with me. I know that can’t have been easy.”
I gave him my best semblance of a smile. “Thanks for listening.” I held my breath for a moment before asking the question that was burning at the back of my mind. “So, now that you know everything, what do you think my chances are? Am I on a wild goose chase? Should I go home?”
“I don’t think I can answer that. Just because these mages haven’t been around for a while, doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Or that something of their magic isn’t in these forests. I can guide you to places that used to have spiritual meaning—that still do, just not as much as they used to—and maybe your abilities will lead you to what you need.”
I sighed. “That’s not very reassuring.”
“Nothing about what you have going on is good. Let me at least try to help with the search. If we come up empty, I’ll take you to the village elders. Muraco wasn’t lying there. Wolves and witches have mixed a lot over the years, and some of ours are so old they have a unique magic all their own.” He reached over and squeezed my hand. A shiver ran through my body at the contact. His fingers were rough and calloused, and the feel of them against my skin heated me through. “Don’t give up before we’ve even started. We’ll find something.” The road started getting a bit treacherous, and he let go to hold onto the wheel with both hands.
An hour later and I had a death grip on the “oh shit” bar in the van. My jaw was clenched so tightly that my face was starting to hurt. Relaxing would be good, but that was impossible. The “road” we were on—and I used that term loosely because this was so not a road—dropped off on my side. Straight down. The ground had to be a million miles below us. Half the tire wasn’t even on the path as we bounced over potholes so deep someone could practically live there.
“You okay over there, princess?” Lucas’s gravely voice drew my attention away from the steep edge.
“No. We’re going to die.” I let go of the bar for a second and we hit another bump. I reached right back up and held on for dear life.
Lucas chuckled. “We’re not going to die.”
He was nuts. This path clearly wasn’t meant for cars. Not that he had much to worry about regardless of the drop-off. “You might survive the fall. You’re a wolf. You heal fast. But I won’t. I’m essentially human. I’ll be worm food.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve done this drive a million times. I’m not going over the edge.”
I glanced down again, against my better judgment. “Looks like you already are from here,” I said softly, but he heard me anyhow.
“I promise. You’re not going to die. I won’t let you. Not today. Not for a long while. So you can loosen your death grip on that handle.”
I tore my gaze away from the edge, and took him in as he concentrated on the road ahead. “I don’t like heights.”
“I can tell. But don’t worry. I’ve lived in this part of the country off and on most of my life.” Lucas paused as he went over another hole in the ground and the van bottomed out. “Believe it or not, the road used to be much worse.”
“Worse than this?” Not possible. Not in a million years.
“Yup.” He nodded with certainty.
I couldn’t imagine worse conditions. “It’s a miracle you’re still alive, then.”