"Okay. I will." He rose, picked up the kitchen phone.
"Do you trust Flynn with Simon?"
"Of course I do," she said as he dialed. "But he shouldn't have to leave his own house and come baby-sit."
Brad merely lifted a brow. "Flynn, can you come over to Zoe's and stay with Simon? We've got to run up and see Rowena and Pitte. I'll fill you in on that later. Great. See you and Malory." He hung up the phone. "Ten minutes. That's what friends do, Zoe."
"I know that." Agitated, she pushed at her hair. "I just don't like putting people out because I've got the jitters."
"A woman who walks into a mirror shouldn't get the jitters driving up to the Peak."
"I guess not."
Maybe it wasn't the jitters so much as anticipation, she decided as they drove throu
gh the gates at the Peak. There was a new sense of urgency now that she, in some very real way, had been inside the skin of the woman in the portrait.
The girl, she corrected herself. She'd felt all that innocence and hope and courage—the sheer youth of it. For that time in the mirror, she'd known the goddess, heart and soul.
And her own heart ached from it.
She glanced up at the moon as she got out of the car. It was their hourglass, she thought. And time trickled steadily away while they waited.
It was Pitte who came to the door, opening it before they'd crossed the portico. He looked relaxed, Zoe noted, and less formal than usual, in a stone-gray sweater.
"I'm sorry to come by so late," she began.
"Is it?" He took her hand and had her flushing by bringing it to his lips. "There's no hour you're not welcome here."
"Oh." Flustered, she looked at Brad to see him watching Pitte steadily. "That's very nice of you. But still, we'll try not to keep you long."
"As long as you like." He kept her hand in his and drew her inside. "The nights grow cold. We've a fire in the parlor. Your son is well?"
"Yes." Had she ever had a real conversation with Pitte before? Zoe wondered. "He's sleeping. Flynn and Malory are with him. Bradley drove me up because… I have some questions about things that have happened."
"She was attacked," Brad said flatly as they stepped into the parlor.
Rowena rose quickly. "Are you injured?"
"No. No, I'm fine. Bradley, you shouldn't scare people that way."
"She was attacked," Brad repeated. "And though she got off with scrapes and bruises, it could've been considerably worse."
"You're angry," Pitte acknowledged. "So would I be, if she were mine. Even a warrior," he said to Zoe before she could speak, "should appreciate having a champion."
"Sit, please." Rowena gestured to the sofa. "Tea, I think. Something soothing. I'll arrange it." But she went to Zoe first, cupped Zoe's face in her hand and kissed her cheeks. "I'm in your debt," she said softly. "And there is no payment full enough."
Staggered, Zoe simply stood as Rowena glided from the room. Then she looked at Pitte. "It was you. In the woods. The buck in the woods. It was you."
He touched her again, just a skim of fingertips over her cheek. "Why didn't you run, little mother?"
"I couldn't. You were hurt." Her legs trembled, so she lowered to the couch. "I was too scared, and too mad to run. And you were hurt."
"She rushed him, with a tree branch for a club," he told Brad. "And she was magnificent. You are a fortunate man."
"She's not as convinced of that as I am. Yet."