Henry looked at me, his expression still void of any trace of the humanity I’d seen the night before. “What do you think?”
I swallowed, feeling as if I’d suddenly dived headfirst into the middle of a deep lake, the surface nowhere within sight. “I think I need to talk to Ava.”
Henry let me go into the room alone, although he and two guards stood immediately outside the door, undoubtedly able to hear everything we said. I didn’t care though—getting the truth out of Ava was my top priority, not her privacy. If Theo was being honest, then she hadn’t really done anything wrong, had she? But Xander was gone, and that was something that couldn’t be ignored.
She lay in the middle of a large bed, her knees drawn to her chest. I gingerly sat on the edge of the mattress, reaching out to touch her hand.
“Are you okay?” The answer was obvious, but it was the only thing I could think of to say.
“No,” she said in a choked voice. “Xander’s dead.”
“He was already dead,” I said as gently as I could. “He just passed into the next level of things, that’s all.”
Ava was silent. I ran my fingers through her wheat-colored hair, still damp from washing out the blood. “Did they hurt you at all? Do you need to see a doctor?”
“No,” she mumbled. “I’m fine.”
It was clear that she was anything but, but the pain of losing Xander didn’t negate the possibility that she had something more to do with it. “What happened?”
She hesitated, and for a second, I didn’t expect her to say anything. When she did, she spoke so softly that I had to strain to hear her, even though the room was silent. “I don’t know. I just—woke up, and Theo was there, staring at me and Xander like—I don’t know.”
I bit my lip. “Was Theo the one to attack Xander, or did Xander attack Theo?”
“I don’t know. I woke up, saw a sword, screamed and ran into the corner. I wasn’t looking. I just—” She rolled over onto her back and stared up at me, her eyes red and full of tears. “There was blood and I was screaming and they were swearing and I don’t know what happened, all right?”
I nodded. My fists were clenched, and my nails dug painfully into my palms. “Is there anything else you can tell me? Anything else you saw or heard or—”
“No.” She rolled away from me. “It doesn’t matter anyway, does it?”
I wasn’t sure what happened, but something inside of me must’ve snapped. I’d spent months—years trying to stop the people I cared about from dying, and Ava couldn’t muster up enough compassion about someone she claimed to love to figure out what had happened.
I stood quickly, and suddenly the room seemed much smaller than before. “Don’t you get it, Ava? Xander is dead. Really, truly, never coming back here dead. And right now, everything points to Theo murdering him because he caught you in bed with him.”
That got her attention. Twisting around, she stared at me, her mouth open.
“Here’s how it goes,” I said heatedly. “Either Theo is innocent and Xander was the one who attacked him, or Theo is guilty and Xander was defending himself. Do you even care, or are you just upset because you lost a toy?”
Seething, I began to pace up and down the room. I couldn’t remember ever being this angry in my life.
“I get it, you’re dead, your life is over and you’re having fun while you can. But this isn’t fun anymore, not for anyone but you—you’re playing with these guys like they’re only here to entertain you. You act like no one else matters except in relation to you getting what you want, and now Xander is dead because of you.”
“You’re blaming me?” she said. “But I didn’t kill him—”
“You didn’t hack him into little pieces, but you’re the reason it happened.” I stopped in front of the bed, running my fingers through my hair. “Ella wants you gone. Frankly, if all you’re going to do is waste your time sleeping with every guy in the manor and acting like the world revolves around you, then so do I. You’re useless here. The only things you’ve done are bicker with Ella and get Xander killed.”
The moment I said it, I regretted it, but I couldn’t take it back. It was the truth, or at least an exaggeration of it. But when I looked at Ava, I saw a scared girl who was my friend, not the heinous, selfish whore I’d painted her as. My stomach twisted, and guilt flooded through me so fast that I felt like I was choking.
“Henry let you stay here because we’re friends,” I managed to say, and while I was calmer, my voice held the chill of accusation. “And we are, Ava, or at least I thought we were. But he risked that for me, and all you’ve done is get one of his men killed and the other branded a murderer. Do you have any idea how awful that makes me feel?”
Ava stared at me, her lower lip trembling. “You’re just jealous,” she whispered. “You’re stuck with Henry your whole life while I get to be with anyone I want. Admit it—the only reason you’re acting like this is because I get a choice and you don’t.”
I glowered at her, trying to ignore the way her words echoed through my mind. Hadn’t I been thinking the same thing a few months before? But I wasn’t going to give Ava the satisfaction of thinking she was right. She wasn’t, not anymore. “Don’t try to turn this back on me,” I said. “I had a choice, and I made it. More important, I’m happy with my decision, and I’m doing everything I possibly can to live up to it. I’m not jealous of you, Ava. I’m ashamed.”