‘That’s all very—’ Cassie began, but Ranjit took a step forward, as if to seize her, only controlling himself at the last moment.
‘I don’t care what Sir Alric says. And I don’t give a damn about the Council of Elders either …’ He paused.
‘What are you—’
‘I love you. I love you, Cassie.’
Cassie froze. OK, the boy knew how to get her attention.
‘Listen to me. I love you. I have done since the moment I laid eyes on you. And it’s not about our bloody spirits.’ Cassie heard Estelle protest faintly in the background of her spinning mind. Ranjit continued. ‘The fact that we’re Few – or part Few – that’s all irrelevant. I don’t care what’s between our spirits. I love you.’
She must have looked like a gobsmacked fish, but as his eyes bored inside her soul Cassie couldn’t think of anything to say. How could she? He’d never said anything like it when he had the proper chance. He’d never said all of that when he could have. When it would have mattered, when they were together …
Ranjit leaned a little towards her, smiling wryly. ‘I’m glad I finally shut you up.’
She shook her head violently, as much to clear her brain as to reject him. ‘Ranjit – no.’ She spoke through clenched teeth. ‘It’s no good. It’s too late. We can’t be together, you said so. And you tell me now you don’t care about Sir Alric, but look what happened. As soon as he clicked his fingers, you let me down. You left me alone, Ranjit! You left me alone to face the Elders, and I’ve never been so scared in my life.’
Damn, damn. Her eyes stung, and she hadn’t wanted that to happen. It made her angry. So angry, in fact, that there was suddenly more than a tear in her eye. Her vision was reddening, reddening … No. She blinked back the fury. He wouldn’t make her lose control. Never again.
‘I know I let you down, Cassie, and believe me, I’ve never stopped tormenting myself.’ His voice was so beautiful, so intense. And his golden eyes were tinged with redness, too. Not anger, though: passion. ‘I will make that up to you. I’ll make amends for what I did, Cassie. I’ve found a way.’ He stepped back from her, clenching his fists. ‘I’ve found a way for us to be together.’
‘Oh, you have? That’s a turnaround since—’
‘Sh!’ He put a finger against her lips, and the electric shock of his touch shut her up once more. She stepped back to a safer distance.
‘What do you want, Ranjit?’
‘I want us to be together.’ He smiled, his eyes intense. ‘I’ve found something that’s going to solve our problem. I just need a little more time.’
Cassie let out a short laugh at that. ‘Of course. I knew it. Well, Ranjit, I’ll believe that when I see it. And when pigs fly over the Bosphorus.’
He ignored her. ‘Listen, Cassie. I’ll leave you alone for now … But just one more thing – the Knife. Do you have it?’
‘The Knife! I know you took it from Keiko and I—’
‘What? No. I had dropped it in Central Park after … after the fight with Katerina and her mother. I’m pretty sure Jake has it now.’ As soon as it was out of her mouth, she wished she hadn’t said it, but she folded her arms defiantly.
‘Jake?’ Ranjit’s face darkened and he frowned, but then he bit his lip and nodded to himself.
‘Yes, Jake. Why?’ she said.
Ranjit shook his head. Meeting Cassie’s eyes once more, he smiled broadly. ‘Never mind. We’ll be together. I promise you that.’
He turned on his heel.
Cassie couldn’t say a word. Her throat was clogged with rage, and disbelief, and unbearable desire, and she could barely even breathe. She could only watch as he walked away, boots clicking on ancient tiles, as he moved beneath the archway and vanished from sight.
‘THIS BUILDING IS AN ANCIENT MONUMENT!’
Isabella screamed above the music from the open doorway, hands clamped over her ears, but Cassie ignored her. Sure, the Bose sound system was cranked up to full volume, but she didn’t care. She needed to blast Ranjit-bloody-Singh right out of her system.
‘THIS WING IS SIX HUNDRED YEARS OLD, YOU VANDAL!’
‘WHAT’S THAT GOT TO DO WITH ANYTHING?’ Cassie yelled back, annoyed.
‘THE VIBRATIONS WILL DAMAGE THE MOSAIC TILES IF YOU CARRY ON! TURN THAT DOWN!’
Isabella stormed across to the stereo, making a dramatic show of battling the sound waves, and clicked the mute. The silence that fell was like a wet blanket.
Cassie scowled. ‘Spoilsport.’
Scowling right back, Isabella tilted her head to one side, banging her ear as if to loosen music that was lodged in it. ‘And now, you can tell me what’s wrong. I was right, wasn’t I? You’re pining!’
‘Trust me, I’m not!’
‘Cassie Bell, nobody plays that kind of music unless they are slitting their wrists over some boy, even if they are ready to kill him to boot! Out with it, girl!’ Isabella plonked down on to the bed beside her. Cassie sighed.
‘Ranjit bloody Singh—’
‘I happen to know,’ said Isabella primly, ‘that that is not his middle name. However much you wish to make it so.’
Cassie sighed. ‘Ranjit, then. Ranjit!’