‘What has he done now? Or do you just need him here to punch? Shall I go and fetch him?’
‘You don’t have to,’ spat Cassie. ‘You just missed him, as it happens.’
Isabella’s mouth gaped, then stretched into a grin. ‘He came to see you?’
‘Yeah,’ Cassie said angrily. ‘Like I haven’t got better things to do than listen to him make excuses.’
‘Oh, Cassie.’ Isabella put an arm round her shoulder and practically squeezed the breath out of her. ‘This is good! This means he is sorry, this means he regrets what he did!’
‘What he didn’t do,’ Cassie corrected her bitterly.
‘Yes, yes, I know. But he did come to see you! At least he’s here, wanting to be with you, wanting to make amends. Not like …’ Her face fell for a moment, and she gave Cassie an imploring look. ‘You can’t give him a chance?’
No, thought Cassie, though with another pang of guilt for her friend’s misery. Ranjit was worse than Jake, much worse. Jake had his sister’s death at the hands of the Few to contend with, not to mention the fact that his girlfriend was being fed on by one of them. Ranjit’s excuses paled in comparison.
‘How many chances does he need?’ Cassie exclaimed. ‘As far as I’m concerned, Isabella, he’s run out. How could I ever trust him? Tell me that! When I was summoned to see the Elders, it was—I was terrified! He knew that! He promised to be there with me, and he knew how important it was to me. And he didn’t show up!’ Cassie bit hard on her lip, feeling the pain of the betrayal all over again.
‘Cassie,’ soothed Isabella. ‘You told me he had his reasons. That Sir Alric would have voted you into the Confine if he’d shown up. Ranjit had to do what Sir Alric told him to do. You know that.’
Cassie shook her head firmly. ‘No. He could have at least got word to me. He could have found a way around it all. I’ve had a long time to think it over. All over the holidays, when, by the way, he didn’t bother to get in touch with me. Not so much as a bloody text!’ She drew a hand down her face, feeling the dangerous heat in her eyes again, breathing deeply to calm herself. ‘Sure, he had his excuses for what he did. But he can always get his way, if he really tries! If he wants to.’
‘Cassie, you can’t say he didn’t want to—’
‘Well he can’t have wanted it very much. Except now, all of a sudden, apparently he’s got the magic solution. Well it’s too late.’
‘What?’ Isabella said, blinking in surprise.
‘Yeah. He says he’ll find a way for us to be together! Right, sure. Now he decides he’s made a mistake, so now he can find a solution. How convenient! Well, you know what? It doesn’t suit me, not any more. He had his chance to fight for this relationship. As far as I’m concerned, Ranjit’s all mouth. All talk, no action. And I can’t stand that. I’m done with him.’
Cassie stopped, catching her breath. She was annoyed that she was getting so angry about Ranjit, and his ridiculous, mysterious plans. What was all that about the Knife, anyway? It was on the tip of her tongue to mention it to Isabella, but something held her back. She didn’t want to bring Jake up again, especially not in relation to the strange, jade-hilted Few Knife. Oh, to hell with the Knife and to hell with Ranjit, Cassie thought. He was taking up space in her head again, and that was the last thing she wanted.
Isabella leaned back on her hands, watching Cassie thoughtfully. ‘Well. Maybe you’re right.’
‘I know I’m right,’ Cassie replied dully.
‘OK. So it’s time to move on!’
‘What d’you mean?’ Cassie gave her roommate a wary look as Isabella stood up and began to count on her fingers.
‘Yusuf? No, he is all right but he’s a rake and a scoundrel. Vassily? Mm, he’s quite a nice one, Cassie. He has a very fetching – what do you call it? Arse? I think it’s all that gymnastics. Or there’s Perry Hutton …?’
Cassie lurched forward, pretending to gag. ‘Besides, I highly doubt I’m his type,’ she said pointedly.
‘That’s true,’ Isabella agreed, giggling. ‘OK. Not Perry! Let me see: Bjorn Madsen? Michael Leaming? Jiri, Daniel, Kristofer? I’m running out here …’
‘Mmm, sooner the better,’ laughed Cassie. ‘Give me a break!’
‘Hang on. I’ve got it!’ Isabella paused and gave her a sly look. ‘Richard Halton-Jones!’
Cassie flung a pillow at her. ‘Get lost! No way!’
‘No …?’ Isabella nibbled her lip and eyed her closely. ‘I thought you were getting a little bit fond of him again. Just a little? He did used to like you very much. Remember how into you he was in your first term?’
‘Are you joking? Do I need to remind you where that led? Out of the question! Next?’
‘Hm. OK. I still think you protest a little too much … But fine, then I’m stuck.’ Her roommate pouted prettily.
‘Good! Anyway, enough about me. When are you going to snap out of it and hit on somebody?’
As soon as she saw the look in her friend’s eyes, Cassie regretted it. Isabella forced a laugh, but she could barely get her mouth to curve the right way. ‘You are right, Cassie. I shouldn’t make light of it. If I’m not ready, then maybe it’s not fair to think you would be.’