“Kate…” James started, but I turned away again. We were past the school now.
“Just drive, James. Please.”
“Where are we going?”
“If he brought her back to life once, he can do it again.”
James sighed and said in a voice so soft I wasn’t positive I’d heard him right, “I’m not sure it works that way.”
I swallowed thickly. “If you ever want to see Ava again, you’d better hope it does.”
We arrived at the gate ten minutes later. By that time I was shaking, caught between despair and fury. How dare Henry do this? He had to have known that I hadn’t understood or believed in the sorts of things he was talking about, and he’d done it anyway.
He had to bring her back. No matter what it took, I would make him do that much.
Instead of the gates being locked, as they had been when my mother and I had driven past, they were cracked open wide enough for me to slip through on foot. I glanced at James, not knowing what to say.
“You shouldn’t do this,” he said. “There’s no guarantee he can bring Ava back, and once you go in there, you might not come back out.”
“I don’t care. I’ll make him fix her.”
“Kate, you know that’s impossible.”
I gritted my teeth. “I have to try. I can’t let her die, James. I can’t.”
“She isn’t your mother,” said James gently. “No matter how hard you fight for Ava’s life, it won’t change what’s already happened. It won’t save her, and it won’t save your mother, either.”
“I know that,” I choked, though a small part of me wondered if I really did. But I’d already seen Henry perform the impossible once. He could do it again, I was sure of it—and maybe if I did what he wanted, he could save more than Ava this time. “This is my choice, and if there’s even a chance this can be changed, I’m going to figure out how. Please,” I said, my voice faltering. “Please let me do this.”
James was quiet for a moment, but at last he nodded, no longer looking at me. “Do whatever you have to do.”
My hands shook as I tried to unfasten my seat belt. James reached over and did it for me. “But what if he’s serious?” he said. “What if he wants you to stay for six months?”
“Then I’ll do it,” I said, staring up at the giant gates as a sense of foreboding filled me. I would stay all year if it meant he would save her. Save them. “Six months isn’t the end of the world. I’ll do what I have to do.”
He nodded once, a distant look in his eyes. “I’ll be here waiting then. But Kate…” He hesitated. “Do you really think he’s what he says he is?”
My heart pounded. “I don’t think he’s said what he is.”
James sighed. I was hurting him by doing this, but I had no choice. “What do you think he is?”
I frowned, remembering Ava’s words. “A very lonely guy.” Chances were if Henry was going to kill me, he’d have already done it. I knew a way out if he really did try to keep me hostage, but if he was going to force me into it, he’d have done that the day before. He really had given me a choice, and so far all I’d done was make the wrong one. I could either accept Ava’s death or do something about it—and frankly, I’d had enough of people dying. I wasn’t going to let it happen again.
Remembering all of the promises I’d made to my mother, I sucked in a deep breath, wishing I could talk to her. She’d know what to do. “You’ll take care of my mom, won’t you?”
He apparently knew better than to insist she’d still be there when I returned, whenever that might’ve been. “I promise. I’ll let school know you won’t be coming back, too.”
“Thanks,” I said. One less thing to worry about.
The steps from the car to the gate were the hardest ones I’d ever taken, but if it meant bringing Ava back, I would surrender my freedom to Henry. He’d been right; I had nothing else in my life except my mother. Once she was gone, I would be empty. But now I had a chance to trade what was left of my shell of a life for someone who would make the most of it. Ava’s life had barely begun. All the best parts of mine were already behind me. My mother wanted me to go out and find happiness, but I couldn’t, not without her. At least this way what was left of me wouldn’t go to waste.
I walked through the gate and on to the grounds, and immediately the atmosphere changed. It was warmer here, and there was a sort of electricity in the air that I couldn’t identify. As I took another few steps, I heard the gate clang shut behind me, and I jumped. Turning around, I saw James standing next to the car, his eyes on me. I waved, and he flashed a pained smile.
The road was lined with trees that were evenly spaced, and it sloped upward. It took me a few minutes to walk over the hill, but when I did, I stopped, my mouth agape. Whatever I’d expected, it wasn’t this.
A huge manor sat sprawled across the grounds, so large that I couldn’t see what lay behind it even from the top of the hill. The road I was on became paved, and it circled around to the front of the manor, forming a perfect oval.
I’d only seen buildings like these in pictures of European palaces, and I was sure that nowhere else in the Upper Peninsula—maybe even the entire state—did a place like this exist. It gleamed white and gold, and everything about it looked majestic.