“What, is this an intervention?” I laughed.
Neither of them joined me.
“When you first got the House back I know there was a ton of work you had to catch up on,” Felix said. “But it’s been weeks. You shouldn’t have to do work every second of the day anymore.”
“I don’t do work every second,” I argued. “I eat and hang out with everyone!”
“You do. You make sure you talk to everyone in the House so no one feels left out, and you’ve worked hard to welcome the new wizards. But.” Momoko pressed her steepled fingers against her chin. “The second no one is bothering you, you run off and do more work. It’s like you’re scared of being left alone with your thoughts.”
“There’s a lot of work that still has to be done.” I set the monthly budget down again—having it sitting on my lap wasn’t going to help my argument. “And I’ll admit some of it is self-inflicted—like torturing the Wizard Council—but I want some clear-cut laws in place about House inheritance so this doesn’t happen again.”
Felix pressed his lips into a thin line, his angelic looks making him appear beautifully determined. “Let me rephrase what Momoko said. We know you’re not acting like a crazed workaholic because you feel like you have to get everything done, but because you’re trying to avoid thinking about Killian and the Drake Family.”
Dratted childhood friends—I’d forgotten that they could see all of my tells, too! “I am not trying to avoid thinking about them.” I sounded so fake, canned cheese seemed more genuine.
“Avoidance is your primary coping technique,” Momoko said. “You did it all the time as a kid, and I know you did it some with your parents. You would have avoided Mason if he’d only gone after you, but since he involved all of us he riled up your endless honor and virtue so you were going to face him sooner or later.”
I forcibly kept my expression blank—Momoko almost sounded like Killian. His favorite pet name for me was the Virtuous Idiot. Don’t think of Killian.
“There—right now!” Felix crowded Momoko so he could poke my cheek. “You avoided thinking of the Drake vampires right then!”
“I was not—”
“There’s a muscle under your eye that twitches just a little bit.” Momoko joined Felix in poking me. “Which proves our point. Hazel, you’ve got to let yourself come to terms with the Drakes.”
“There’s nothing to come to terms with,” I stiffly said. “Killian drew a line. I’m choosing to honor it.”
“Oh, yeah, he drew a line alright. That’s why we’ve got vampires loitering on our street!” Felix pointed to the shadowy figure standing on the street corner.
Since I had human eyes I couldn’t tell which Drake vampire it was. I suspected it was Julianne—she was sent to watch us most frequently—but I hadn’t paid much attention because I figured I’d wait to shoo her away until I finished my practice session with the House.
“You can’t live like this forever,” Momoko said. “You’ll die of overworking yourself. You either need to forgive him, or let the Drakes go entirely.”
“I’m not totally avoiding him, or I wouldn’t be going to the meeting Elite Bellus invited me to,” I pointed out.
“Or you’re just shifty enough to know this will put the Elite in your debt, and you’re going to use that to push for an inheritance law, which is really important to you,” Felix said dryly.
“You two are horrible,” I complained.
“We’re concerned,” Momoko corrected. “And besides Great Aunt Marraine and us, I don’t think there’s anyone in the House that can confront you. Even our parents feel like you’re untouchable and some kind of perfect Adept since you freed us. Everyone loves you—they adore you. But they don’t feel like it’s their place to offer help.”
“We don’t care,” Felix added. “Because we know you ate crayons in elementary school.”
“That was an off year for me!”
Momoko grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “Just think about it. We’re not saying you should call up Killian—we don’t want you to call him up, actually.”
“He scares the magic straight out of me,” Felix grumbled.
“Just do whatever you have to do so you can live and be happy again,” Momoko said.
I stared out at the front lawn. I couldn’t really reply because they were right. I didn’t like thinking about the Drake vampires and the mix of emotions it revived. I was still angry Killian felt he couldn’t trust me, and his underlings’ utter rejection of me after he’d sent me off had been a slug to my gut. I hadn’t thought they’d cut me out so easily—particularly Josh and Celestina. We’d had so much fun together…
But I didn’t want to think about it just then, so I did what I do best and changed the topic. “Maybe you’re right, but regardless of how I felt about Killian, I’d still be out here doing maneuvers with the House.”
“Yeah, everyone knows you want to turn this place into a fortress,” Felix said. “Do you think one of the other wizard Houses will retaliate, or something? I mean, Mason’s dead. There’s not much of a point.”
“It’s not the wizards I’m afraid of,” I said grimly. “It’s the Night Court.”
Whatever emotion it was that had Momoko puffed up, collapsed. She hunched her shoulders and sank in on herself. “You think they’ll attack us? But Felix is right, Mason is dead. And fae aren’t known for their unending loyalty—just the opposite, really.”
“They hadn’t been Mason’s allies for very long, either,” Felix added.
“Yeah, but there’s still a chance they might come after me because of my association with Killian.” I flexed my hands and resisted pulling on my magic, liking the hot, electrical burst of energy magic always brought along for the ride. “I met the Night Court Queen and her consort, and let’s just say I wasn’t particularly respectful to either of them. I want to be prepared.”
Momoko cocked her head. “That’s why you keep practicing with the House?”
“I should be practicing with House Medeis regardless. It’s important to—”
“Hazel,” Felix said.
I sighed. “Yeah. The fae might become a problem. I want to be ready if that happens.”
We sat in silence, shivering in our jackets from the cold night air as the wind scattered some of the dead leaves on the lawn.
“Well.” Momoko stuffed her hands in the pockets of her coat. “Now I feel like a jerk.”
“She’s still avoiding the Drakes,” Felix drawled. “She just had a ready excuse for this particular instance.”
“I told you we should have cornered her at breakfast,” Momoko said.
“You only suggested that because you thought you’d be able to eat extra bacon since we figured this was going to be a long conversation.”
Momoko sniffed and shoved her nose high in the air. “You never know, Hazel might have dropped her guard if she got to eat a lot of bacon, too!”
Felix bumped Momoko, but peered over her head so he could meet my gaze. “Look, we get it, Hazel. Your concern about the fae is probably a smart idea. We’ll do anything you want to help you—and don’t try to shoulder it all as your duty. We belong to House Medeis, too. It’s our duty as well.”
“But,” Momoko held a finger up. “Please consider what we said, and see if you can sort your feelings out about the Drakes. We don’t want you to keep going like this.”
I tipped backwards, resting my shoulders against the glass pane of the window. “Fine,” I agreed. “I’ll think about it.” Eventually.
The truth was, I didn’t know exactly how I felt about everything. Right after I Ascended, I would have said I was ready to cut ties forever. But as much as I hated it, there was something reassuring about seeing the vampires lingering around our street.
I had to face Mason alone—or everyone would have doubted I ruled House Medeis by myself. But I was sick of our House being the only one pushing for change. I was tired of fighting alone.
Still. That didn’t mean I was willing to renew my friendship with Killian. Oh heck no. Right now, I mostly wanted to strangle him with his stupid, expensive tie made to match one of his stupid, expensive suits. His actions still made me grind my teeth, and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to look at Celestina and Josh the same again.
I let out a puff of air that turned into a cloud of mist in the chilly fall night. “Do you guys wanna watch me go tell a vampire to scram?” I asked.
“Yes!” Momoko popped to her feet. “It’s always hilarious. You’re so tiny, and an angry squeak from you sends those big, armed, deadly vampires running!”
“It’s always a great sight for House Medeis’s morale,” Felix added. He struggled to open the door and slide through without bumping into Momoko. “Why do they leave? Franco said when he went with you once they bowed to you a little bit and called you Miss Hazel.”
“Who knows?” I evasively said. I hid my face—and my tells, dang you childhood friends—by stooping over to pick up the abandoned monthly budget before I joined them inside.
I wasn’t about to tell them that after my magic was unsealed, Celestina and Josh pitted me against the other Drake vampires in daily battles, and that the title and bow were probably hangers-on from when I beat them. (Most of them, anyway. I thankfully never had to face Celestina or Josh.)
“Whatever. Vampires are weird,” Momoko grunted.
“They are,” I confirmed. “So let’s go shoo off whatever spy Killian has planted outside.”
“As you command, Adept!”
I groaned. “Seriously, you guys really are the worst!”