No. No, I would not.

If he let himself love Carrow and she forsook him again, he would not go on. So to trust her in this would be to trust her with his very life.

Now the situation was even more complicated. He was growing to care for the witch's adopted one, too. If Carrow forsook him, she'd take the child with her.

Which was unacceptable. He'd already decided that if Carrow could adopt Ruby, then he could as well. If the girl needed a mother to love her, then she also needed a father to protect her.

Father. A new purpose for him, a new name. Something to take the place of bastard, slave, murderer. A whore's get...

When he didn't respond, she asked, "And what about Ruby? Her friends and school are back home."

"The girl will adjust. Just as I've had to do again and again."

"I want more for her. I thought you would, too."

"Tell me how I can trust this next world you want me to go to. The last time I trusted you to take me to a new place, I did not fare well."

"But you're better off now, aren't you?"

"If I am, I've certainly earned my good fortune," he said, recalling his capture and Chase's torture. Reminded of that man's disgust, Malkom said, "In your world, would your people accept what I am?"


She gazed away. "Your kind isn't ... well, there are those who'll want to make you an enemy just because of what you are. But we won't know if they can be made to see differently, not until we try it."

"Your home cannot possibly be better than this." The blinding lights, the sounds, her behavior...

"Maybe not better, but different. We belong to a coven there, and Ruby needs to learn from them. Malkom, she could grow up to be dangerous. The Sorceri showed a disturbing interest in her," she said. "And I have a bad feeling about this place. A sense of something coming. More mortals will return here. And the dangers on this island are greater than there could ever be at home."

"Ah, you have a sense, then?"

"So you're not going to believe that either?" Her cheeks flushed with anger. "If you think I'd lie about a potential danger, then I'm beginning to wonder if we truly can come back from this."

" 'Tis convenient. Your sense."

"La Dorada could still be out here. Remember her? That ghastly woman who crept through the ward, wreaking havoc?"

"She did not bother me. Aided me, in fact. She is not a concern."

Carrow narrowed her eyes. "You seem utterly convinced that this island is better than my home. Have you dreamed my memories?"

"Yes," he answered shamelessly.

Her lips parted, but she "uickly collected herself. "What have you seen?"

You, dancing upon tables. "Glimpses of your world. Cars and gadgets. Enough to know I'd prefer it here."

"What have you seen of my life?"

Why not tell her? "I saw your wars. Saw you fighting recklessly."

"There aren't that many wars, Malkom."

"I saw you disrobing for strangers."

She didn't even have the grace to flush. "Have you seen me with another man?"

Malkom dreaded that possibility. "No, I have not. But what I have seen is damning enough. Why would you behave like that?"

She shrugged casually. "A lot of reasons. I was single - unbound - and it was exciting. I'm not shy, and our culture is fun-loving and free. Plus, I get power from it."

Now it was his turn to be shocked. "That is your source?"

She nodded. "Happiness. Revelry. They give me power." She tilted her head at him, her green eyes appraising. "Malkom, I'm not going to apologize for that, or for anything I've done."

When his scowl deepened, she said, "You're four hundred years old. I'm not yet fifty. So don't judge me for having fun when I was young and single. And don't judge me for securing power that's there for the taking."

Don't judge her? Who the hell was he to ever judge another? "Would you intend to continue doing that?"

"Only the week directly before Ash Wednesday." At his frown, she explained, "It's a citywide celebration. Wild revelry. And I'd hope you'd be right there with me." She eased in closer to him. "If you've seen my memories, then it's only fair that you tell me about yours." She traced her fingers over the scars on his wrists.

When he recoiled, she drew her hand away. "You will never learn to trust me, will you?" Her expression grew saddened. "So it's not that you assume this island is a better place to live - it's because you're afraid I'll betray you once we get back? You had no intention of ever going to search, did you? No intention of ever helping us off this island?"

"No. I did not."

She gasped. "Do you expect me to keep this tor"ue on forever? To live helpless and vulnerable without any magic? I am a witch, Malkom!"

"Vulnerable? You have my protection - I pledged it. And no matter what, you would be in less danger here than in your world, amidst your wars."

"Will you ever move past this anger?"

He shrugged.

"Damn it, demon, tell me. Will you ever trust me again?"

"I do not know."

"Just answer me!" she cried. "Yes or no?"

Old fears died hard. "No."

Her hand flitted to her forehead. "Then you're going to continue to freeze me out? Distance yourself? You're treating me like my parents did." She gave a bitter laugh. "At least I've given you reason to."

So that's how she viewed his behavior? Likening it to her cold and haughty parents? His first impulse was to deny being anything like them. But hadn't he been cold?

At least I've given you reason to. ... He was treating her as they had. How could he, when he knew firsthand how heartsick their neglect had made her?

What was his neglect doing to her now?

She'd done nothing wrong with them, nor was she truly culpable for what she'd done to Malkom. She'd sought only to save an innocent child, the little girl he too wanted to call his own.

"We can't be trapped here because you fear I'll leave you once we return home," she said. "Did you never think I could leave you here?"

His body tensed, and he bared his fangs. "Try it, witch. Always I will come for you. For you both. Nothing will stop me!"

She dropped her face into her hands. "What is wrong with me?" He barely heard her mutter, "Falling for someone who can't love me back."

"Love?" he spat. "You want that from me?" His heart seemed to stop.

Maybe he should tell her everything. If he dreaded her reaction, then he should just get this out of the way. She was going to forsake him eventually. And I will not care because she has already betrayed my trust.

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