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“You’re right. He would, if he thought it was what’s best for me,” I admitted. “Which is why I have to stay.”

“Well, I want what’s best for you too. That’s why I found you, and why I’ve been trying to bring you home.” The underlying affection in his voice shivered through me. “Do you really believe I would encourage you to return home if it would adversely affect you?”

“I don’t think you know what’s best for me,” I replied as evenly as I could.

He had thrown me off guard by hinting at caring about me, and I had to remind myself that that was part of his job. All of this was. He needed to make sure I was safe and convince me to return home. That wasn’t the same as actually caring about me.

“You’re sure this is what you want?” Finn asked gently.

“Absolutely.” But I sounded more confident than I really was.

“I’d like to say that I understand, but I don’t.” Finn sighed resignedly. “I can say that I’m disappointed.”

“I’m sorry,” I said meekly.

“You shouldn’t be sorry.” He ran a hand through his black hair and looked at me again. “I won’t be going to school anymore. It seems unnecessary, and I don’t want to disturb your studies. You should at least get an education.”

“What? Don’t you need one?” My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach as I realized that this might be the last time I saw Finn.

“Wendy.” Finn gave a small humorless laugh. “I thought you knew. I’m twenty years old. I’m done with my education.”

“Why were you . . .” I said, already figuring out the answer to my question.

“I was only there to keep track of you, and I have.” Finn dropped his eyes and sighed. “When you change your mind . . .” He hesitated for a moment. “I’ll find you.”

“You’re leaving?” I asked, trying to keep the disappointment from my voice.

“You’re still here, so I am too. At least for a while,” Finn explained.

“How long?”

“It depends on . . . things.” Finn shook his head. “Everything about your situation is so different. It’s hard to say anything with certainty.”

“You keep saying that I’m different. What does that mean? What are you talking about?”

“We usually wait until changelings are a few years older, and by then you’ve already figured out that you’re not human,” Finn explained. “When the tracker comes to find you, you’re relieved and eager to go.”

“So why did you come for me now?” I asked.

“You moved so much.” Finn gestured to the house. “We were afraid that something might be the matter. So I was here monitoring you until you were ready, and I thought you might be.” He exhaled deeply. “I guess I was wrong.”

“Can’t you just ‘persuade’ me to go along?” I asked, and some part of me that wanted to go with him hoped he could.

“I can’t.” Finn shook his head. “I can’t force you to come with me. If this is your decision, then I’ll have to respect it.”

I nodded, knowing full well that I was turning down any chance of getting to know my real parents, my family history, and spending more time with Finn. Not to mention my abilities, like persuasion, which Finn had promised there would be more of as I got older. On my own, I’m sure I’d never be able to master or understand them.

We looked at each other, and I wished he wasn’t so far away from me. I was wondering if it would be appropriate if we hugged when the door to my bedroom opened.

Matt had come in to check on me. As soon as he saw Finn, his eyes burned. Quickly I jumped up, moving in front of Finn to block any attempts by Matt to kill him.

“Matt! It’s okay!” I held up my hands.

“It is not okay!” Matt growled. “Who the hell is this?”

“Matt, please!” I put my hands on his chest, trying to push him away from Finn, but it was like trying to push a brick wall. I glanced back at Finn, and he just stared blankly at my brother.

“You have some nerve!” Matt reached over my shoulder, pointing at Finn as he yelled. “She is seventeen years old! I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing in her room, but you’re never doing anything with her again!”

“Matt, please, stop,” I begged. “He was just saying good-bye! Please!”

“Perhaps you should listen to her,” Finn offered calmly.

I knew his composure must be pissing off Matt even more. Matt’s day had been horrible too, and the last thing he needed was some kid in here defiling me. Finn’s only reaction was to stand there, cool and collected, and Matt would want him too scared to ever come near me again.

Matt actually knocked me out of the way, and I fell backward onto the floor. Finn’s eyes flashed darkly at that, and when Matt pushed him, Finn didn’t move an inch. He just glared down at my brother, and I knew that if they fought, Matt would be the one with a serious injury.

“Matt!” I jumped to my feet.

Already I had started chanting, Leave my room. Leave my room. You need to calm down and get out of my room. Please. I wasn’t sure how effective it was without eye contact, so I grabbed his arm and forced him to turn to me.

He tried to look away instantly, but I caught him. I kept my eyes focused and just kept repeating it over and over in my head. Finally, his expression softened and his eyes glazed.

“I’m going to leave your room now,” Matt said robotically.

Much to my relief, he actually turned and walked out into the hall, closing the door behind him. I’m not sure if he walked any farther than that, or how much time I had, so I turned to Finn.

“You have to leave,” I insisted breathlessly, but his expression had changed to one of concern.

“Does he do that often?” Finn asked.

“Do what?”

“He pushed you. He clearly has an anger problem.” Finn glared at the door Matt had left through. “He’s unstable. You shouldn’t stay here with him.”

“Yeah, well, you guys should be more careful who you leave babies with,” I muttered and went to the window. “I don’t know how much time we have, so you need to go.”

“He probably shouldn’t ever be able to come into your room again,” Finn said absently. “I’m serious, Wendy. I don’t want to leave you with him.”

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