“You want the opportunity to explain, after you said you weren’t going to tell me?”
Silvie’s face burned red from the tip of her chin to her forehead.
Sloe withered beneath her stare. He was paler, thinner than when he’d last seen her. He fell back down on the bench and looked up at the girl through his lashes, his stomach twisting with worry.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t want you find out like this. I was going to tell you…eventually. I wasn’t sure when, exactly, or how.”
“I’m here now. Explain.”
“I never would have considered stealing anything, from anybody—especially you or your family, Silvie. But it was to protect a life.”
Emerald eyes softened enough to widen. “Those men were going to kill you?”
“No.” Sloe’s gaze shifted to Raven, who swallowed hard beneath eyes that shined with tears.
“Oh. They threatened her life,” Silvie whispered.
He nodded, seemingly occupied with how Silvie’s eyebrow pointed in a perfect arc above her left eye. It had seemed thicker, blurrier the last time he’d seen her.
He looked away. “We were attacked while out…”
“On a date,” filled in Raven.
“I see.” The tip of Silvie’s shoe, the smaller one, fluttered against the ground. “How’d they know you knew about the baglamas?” she added, her voice tart but under such control that Sloe squirmed beneath her words.
He sighed and squared his jaw. “It was the night of your grandfather’s funeral. Afterward, I told Raven about the healer and how you’d inherited the baglamas. They must have overheard us.”
“Before grabbing us.” Raven sniffled. Her tears ran freely, staining the length of her cheeks.
Something in Silvie’s gaze softened. She lowered her head and rubbed the back of her neck.
“Sloe, why didn’t you tell me what happened? I’m sure Father could have—”
“Done what? Stopped them? If I hadn’t brought them the baglamas, Raven would be dead. That would have only bought time, and I wasn’t crazy about the price!”
“The scenario’s no different than where we are now, though, is it? These men want the instrument back, and now it’s hidden. I’m not giving it to them—or you—not after all Javis and I went through to get it back!”
Sloe’s head snapped toward Raven whose shoulders shook. “I understand.”
“We didn’t tell our parents about it, either,” Raven sputtered. “We were too afraid. I—I’m sorry.”
“Why should you be sorry?” Silvie growled, her face pinched.
“It’s all my fault. I wanted to visit a new world—one I hadn’t seen before. I chose the portal at the Clock Tower that led to the cloaked men.”
“You can’t take the blame for this,” said Sloe; his usually deep voice ran an octave higher.
Ignoring him, Raven spoke to Silvie with pleading eyes and a trembling lower lip. “I wanted him to tell you about this earlier, because I know he felt really bad about it. I do, too. But please, please don’t turn me over to them.”
Silvie frowned. “Handing you over to the cloaked men will do nothing to solve this situation. They’ll still want the baglamas, and so will the man they’re working for.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’ll come after Sloe, and me, and my family—anything they need to get what they want.”
“So, what do we do?”
Silvie puckered her lips. “Like your boyfriend almost admitted earlier, we must stop them.”