“Concerts, huh?” He took the water bottle back from me. “What kind?”

“Symphonies for sure. But besides classical, I’m not sure. I guess I’ll see whatever comes into the town where I end up.”

He took a long drink before picking up the packs. “And what do you want to study?”

What didn’t I want to study? “Everything.”

“Everything?” He bumped his shoulder into mine. “That’s ambitious.”

“I guess. I just want to know more. See more. I feel like my life has been so contained. So limited and controlled. I know I might not get to everything I want, but I figure if I shoot for the stars, I might just land on the moon.”

“College and travel then.”

“Yeah.” I hoped that wasn’t a bad thing. If he was Alpha, that meant he’d have to stick around here. Would I also be stuck here if I was with him? It wasn’t that I didn’t like Peru, but I’d been so confined—especially the last few years—that being tied anywhere wasn’t in the least bit appealing.

Could I really give up my dreams for a guy?

I wasn’t sure that I could. I’d given everything up for everyone in my life. I’d blackened my soul and was still paying the price to make up for that. Now that I finally had hope on the horizon, I couldn’t just abandon my plans to be mated with some pack Alpha.

Even if that Alpha was Mr. July.

“A thirst for knowledge is never a bad thing,” he said, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Neither is travel. It tells me that you’re wise.”

I hoped when he found out that I wasn’t keen on giving either up, he’d still be supportive. Otherwise…

I made a face, trying to break myself out of my suddenly gloomy thoughts. “I’m not wise. I barely know anything besides what the coven taught me.”

“Which was…”

I sighed. “Nothing good.”

“That’s not true. You helped your brother with magic.” He moved a branch out of the way, and motioned me past.

“If I hadn’t learned about my magic, then Luciana wouldn’t have been able to use it. And Raphael wouldn’t have needed my help in the first place. So, nothing good.” Fathers Valentine and Albert came to my mind. “It seems like the people practicing black magic outweigh the ones practicing white by an impossible amount.”

He grunted. “No. I don’t believe that at all.”

I stopped walking for a second. “You don’t?”

“No. I think you’ve seen far too much evil for someone your age. It’s set an impression on you, but you have to separate yourself from it. Your magic is strong and good. You just need to let yourself shine.” He reached for my hand. “Aim for the stars, Claudia. If anyone can reach them, it’s you.”

The sun was setting over the mountain, spreading a mixture of oranges and pinks across the sky. It looked as if the clouds were on fire.

Lucas stopped in a clearing, and set down the backpacks. “We’ll set up camp here for the night. The mine is just a couple hours away.”

I wrung my hands together. “We’re so close and we’re going to stop?”

“It’ll get dark fast. If you twist your ankle on the way, then I really will have to carry you back to the car.” He pulled a tent out of his pack. He gave the fabric a shake and it popped up, almost on its own. “We’re going as fast as we can. You told Raphael to hang in, and he will. But if you ended up hurt again and we couldn’t complete the journey, he’d be in trouble.”

Lucas was right, but that didn’t help. I rolled my shoulders, trying to release the tension in my back. Being so close yet not actually there was frustrating. I wanted to get there.

I tapped my fingers against my leg as I contemplated going on without Lucas. He’d catch up, eventually.

“You’re making me nervous with all that tapping.”

I sighed. Realistically, I couldn’t go anywhere without him. I’d probably just get lost.

I sat down on the dirt as Lucas built a fire. He set rocks around the perimeter so the flames wouldn’t spread, and then placed some dried leaves under a teepee of sticks. I laughed when he got out a lighter.

He glanced over at me, his eyebrows raised high. “You thought I was going to rub two sticks together?”

I winced. “Kind of. I mean, the way you were going about it—” I waved to the fire. “It seemed like two sticks was the next logical step.”