The Shadow Prince Page 97

“This was your plan.”

She groans, but I know she wants to sing.

“Go,” I say. “Before the judges put a stop to it.”

Daphne hugs me. She pulls away too quickly and heads for the stage, stopping only to beg a guitar off a guy who all too willingly hands it over.

She stands on the stage, adjusting the guitar over her shoulder. I can’t help thinking she looks as bright and intangible as a ray of sunshine, standing in the spotlight. She leans into the microphone. “This is a song that I wrote with my dad. You may have heard it before.” She looks in the direction of where she left me standing. “For you, Haden.”

She strums the first few notes on the guitar and then starts singing. “Shadow of a star …”

Her voice echoes out from the speakers, filling the club. The entire room comes to a standstill. All other sounds, voices, movements stop. Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the one who stops, everything else disappearing. Nothing else exists. I can’t even breathe, for fear of missing a single note of her song. Watching her is like staring into the sun, but I can’t look away.

When she finishes, the room remains frozen for a full three seconds, then explodes into cheers and applause. The judges hold up their cards. I can’t see what they say from here, but they make Daphne happy. She throws her hands up in the air and curtseys at the same time. I’ve never seen anyone look so alive.

And that’s when it strikes me. How can I take Daphne away from this world? How can I take sunshine and life into a place of shadow and death?

For the first time, I hope more than anything that the Oracle will tell me I am wrong. If my god were still alive, if I could pray, I’d send down a prayer. I’d beg him to tell the Oracle another way. I’d cry to him for another choice.

Because Hades help me, I’m falling for this girl.

Daphne runs toward me from the stage, the biggest smile on her face. I want nothing more than for her to throw her arms around me. If she doesn’t do it, then I will.

“Are you Joe Vince’s daughter?” a large man asks, stepping between us.

Daphne stops short. “Yes.”

“Ah. I thought so. Do you mind if I get a picture of you for our ‘before they were stars’ wall? We’ve got a picture of your dad up there,” he says, pointing to a wall of framed photographs. “You’re going places, kiddo. I’ll be kicking myself if I don’t get a picture now.”

“Um, yes,” she says, but her gaze flits to me.

She smiles at the man as he takes a picture with his camera. “Someday, we’ll hang this right next to the picture of Joe!”

When the man leaves, Daphne goes to the wall of photos. I follow her. There, right in the center of the wall, in a big black frame, is a picture of a much younger-looking Joe Vince. He poses for the photo with his arm around a girl who looks very much like Daphne.

“Is that …?”

“My mom,” she says. “Wow. This must have been taken the night they met. They were only together for a few days, you know.”

“I didn’t know.… Who’s that with your mom?” I point to a second woman in the photo, standing off to the side a bit. She and Daphne’s mom wear matching silver bracelets that look oddly familiar to me. Like the one Brim wears as her collar.

“Oh,” Daphne says. “That must have been Kayla.”

That name strikes me so hard, I feel like the wind has been knocked out of my chest.

“She and my mom were best friends until Kayla took off. I think that’s one of the reasons my mother never let me leave Ellis. Her one trip outside town—spring break, her senior year—didn’t exactly go as she’d planned. She ended up with a one-week marriage, a surprise pregnancy, and Kayla ended up running off with some guy to New York or something.”

I stare into the eyes of the woman in the photograph. Jade green eyes just like mine. Kayla hadn’t gone off to New York with some guy; she’d gone to the Underrealm. And I know exactly who she went with.

I search the faces in the background of the photograph and find the one I’m looking for: Ren. My father. He looks smaller than I remember in the picture, less regal, wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt. This is almost eighteen years ago. Back when he was a Champion. Perhaps only hours or days before he returned to the Underrealm. It’s obvious he’s watching the three main people in the photograph, but his eyes aren’t locked on my mother like I’d expect. The person he’s intently staring at is Daphne’s mom.

“Come on,” Daphne says. “Let’s go.”

“Don’t you want to stick around to see if you won?”

She shakes her head. “Singing was prize enough. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair if I took home the trophy, since you bought my way into the competition.”

Chapter fifty-two


“Tonight was fun. Thank you,” I say with a yawn as Haden slides the key card through the door lock. We’d stopped at an ice-cream parlor in the hotel and I’d forced him to try a scoop of mint chocolate chip. Despite his protests at first, he’d gone back for a second helping. “I think you’ve got a sweet tooth.”

He gives me a small smile and pushes open the door.

Garrick is out cold on the couch, Lexie is tucked away in the king room, with the door shut and the TV on a low murmur, and Tobin is asleep, sprawled in the middle of one of the queen-sized beds, with a few empty bottles from the minibar scattered around him. He looks like such a mess that I am happy Haden stopped me from taking that shot at the club. If I’d been able to stomach it, I know I wouldn’t have stopped until I was completely hammered.

Haden pulls the latch on the lock and stands behind me. My arms prickle with static energy as I become aware of the electric current that surrounds him. I also become very aware of the fact that there is only one bed left, and two of us.

I had wanted a distraction when I was in the club, and Haden had given me one—but not in the way he’d expected.

He was the distraction.

He’d known what I wanted—no, needed—before I even knew that I needed it. He’d been in tune with me in the same way I could discern the emotions of others.

A lesser guy would have let me get drunk, maybe even tried to hook up.

But Haden had stopped me from making a mistake, and helped me in the best way possible. What he’d done is unselfish and so surprising that it makes me see him in a new way—and not at all like the person Garrick had tried to convince me he is.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

Prev Next