And then Ingrid had tried to prove to Emma that magic existed by holding her in front of an oncoming car and demanding she stop it. Like Harry Potter.
Emma had jerked away. And then had run. Far. From the crazy woman. It had been a nightmare.
But now…it might be very possible she’d been wrong. That magic was real. Because beside her stood someone who proved it so. Killian Jones.
Even if he hadn’t come flying through a swirling vortex, she would believe anything he said. For whatever reason, she trusted him. She knew him. Somehow.
“Are you all right?” he prodded gently.
She nodded as she studied the outside of the house, the porch and oak door flanked by windows. She remembered the night she’d shared hot cocoa with Ingrid in the living room. It had been…wonderful. They’d talked for so long.
Tears bit but she blinked them back and lifted her chin. “Let’s go.”
But Killian put out a hand to stop her. “Wait. Will this woman, Ingrid, make you live here again?”
The thought of mending fences with the woman tore at Emma’s heart. While she longed for a permanent home, right now she didn’t want to lose Killian. Knocking on Ingrid’s door, asking for her to help them, meant she’d eventually be sending Killian back to where he’d come from.
He wouldn’t want to stay with her. He had a brother. He had a life. This world was probably too odd and too much for him to want to live here. She swallowed, feeling his touch on her, his warmth moving up her arm and clutching her heart.
“Emma? If you don’t want to see this woman, we can find another way to create a portal.” Killian gently turned her to face him. “If you really have magic of your own, we may not need help.”
She didn’t know what he thought she could do, or how she would manage to send him back to where he came from. “I’m…” She let out a breath. “I’m not sure what she’ll do, or if she’d even want to see me.”
If Ingrid rejected her, she didn’t want an audience. And, if Emma were in Ingrid’s shoes, there was no way she’d grant forgiveness. Once you hurt someone, you couldn’t get them back. And she didn’t want Killian to know, to witness, the fact that she might’ve caused someone pain.
She looked deep into Killian’s eyes. “Is it all right if you wait while I talk to her? I don’t want you to get caught up in…whatever might happen.”
His brow furrowed. “Will she harm you?”
“No, no. It’s just…” She glanced toward the house. “We didn’t separate on good terms, and having you mixed in will make it more awkward.”
He studied her for a few silent moments then nodded slowly. “As you wish.”
His response sent a thrill rushing through her. How she hoped that helping him didn’t mean they had to part. She really didn’t want to lose him. Only two days with him, and she didn’t want to go through life without him. Weird. “I’ll just be…a minute.”
He nodded then moved to the side, going to stand among a copse of trees out of view of the porch.
Emma turned, took a deep breath and went up the walk. After she knocked, she only had to wait a few seconds before the door was yanked open. A boy of around twelve stood before her, smacking gum. “Hey. Who are you?”
“I’m Emma. Is Ingrid here?”
“Who?” he questioned, frowning. “Oh, you mean that lady who lived here before Misty.”
Puzzled, Emma cocked her head. “There’s a new house mother?”
“Why’re you asking these questions? You used to be in the system or something?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“You adopted now?”
The yearning in the boy’s tone sliced into her stomach, opening wounds she understood all too well. “Yes,” she managed to croak out. It was safer to lie. She couldn’t get sent back by whoever was in charge here now. “When did Ingrid leave? Did you know her at all?”
“Who you talkin’ to, Alex?”
Emma went rigid when she recognized the voice.
The boy stepped back. “It’s this girl. Emma. She’s lookin for someone.”
A shuffling sounded then Kevin, the jerk, appeared. He grinned sardonically. “Well, well, well. If ain’t the new girl.”
“Hey.” Emma lifted her chin. “Where’s Ingrid?”
“Whatcha been doin’?” he asked, ignoring her question. He was taller, of course. Beefier, too. He curled a meaty hand around the door frame as he looked her up and down. “I heard you ran away.”
“I got adopted.” The lie came out much easier this time.
“Really? Who the hell would want you?” He sneered and leaned forward.
She didn’t have time for this. “Where’s Ingrid?”
“I bet it’s some family with ten brats who need a baby sitter all the time.” He laughed. “I bet you’re somebody’s maid.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Are you gonna answer the question or not?”
“Why’re you looking for her anyway?” He pushed his hair out of his eyes. “You think she cares about you?”
“I’m not gonna tell you my business, just answer the question.”
He curled his lip. “Nobody adopted you. You’re lying. I’m gonna tell Misty, and she’ll drag you back into the system.”
Time to go. “You know, you’re a real asshole, Kevin. I just came to find Ingrid.” Emma spun on a heel and headed for the walk.
“Where you goin’?” He pounded down the steps after her.
She increased her pace. “None of your business.”
A wide hand clamped on her shoulder and twisted her around. “You aren’t getting’ away. Alex,” he called. “Go get Misty.”
Fear shot up Emma’s spine. She couldn’t go back into the system. “Let go of me.”
He laughed. “Look at how scared you are. I knew you weren’t—”
“Get your bloody hands off of her.”
The steel in Killian’s voice made Emma freeze, and Kevin flinch. A beat of silence passed, the tension thick with fury.
“You can shut the hell up,” Kevin growled.
“I say again. Take your hands off her.” The promise of punishment dripped from Killian’s tone.
Emma’s heart pounded, and she had no idea what to do. No one had even come close to defending her before.
“You’re not the boss of—”
Killian sprung. He shoved Kevin away from Emma then went after him as he stumbled backward.
“You get the hell away from me.”
But Kevin’s demand was met by Killian’s fist plowing into his jaw. Another punch to the gut then one up under the chin and Kevin sprawled on the walk, out cold.
“Oh my God,” Emma rasped. She couldn’t believe he’d protected her. When had anyone ever cared so much? Voices from the house pulled Emma out of her stupor. “Come on,” she ordered a seething Killian who still stood over Kevin.
Killian looked at her, fire blazing in his eyes. “Did he hurt you?”
She motioned for him to come. “No, and even if he did, you got him. Come on.”
He finally moved toward her. “Why do you look worried?”
After grabbing his hand, she started speed walking toward the end of the block. “Because there’s a new house mother, and if she thinks we don’t have a family to look after us, we’ll end up in the system. You, too, because you’re only seventeen.”
“I’d like to see anyone keep me somewhere I didn’t want to be.” He snorted as he increased his pace. “As long as you’re not hurt.”
“Not at all.” But she would remember this moment for the remainder of her days. Someone had been her champion, and he’d been very successful. “You gotta teach me how to fight like that.”
“I’ll teach you anything as long as you never go back to that house again.”
Once they turned the corner, she tugged him in the direction of a short cut that went through the woods. “They might’ve called the cops, and if they do, then they’ll be looking for us. We’ve got to get back to the cabin.”
“I suppose this Ingrid wasn’t there?”
As she led them onto the foot path she’d used often when she’d lived here, she said, “She’s gone. They never told me where.”
“So we’ll have to figure this out on our own, then.”
She heard the concern in his tone. “I’ll get you back to your brother, Killian. If I have magic, then I’ll just figure out how to use it.”
Somehow she would teach herself. She had to help him. She didn’t want him to be without his brother. And maybe…if she learned magic, she could conjure a portal and see Killian whenever she wanted. No matter what time period he lived in.