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Cade turned to her. “I take it you had no hints of your true identity.”
“None. I was just getting used to the idea that Pterons existed when I found out I was one.”
“I’m sure it was quite a shock. I still remember the first time I transformed. It was intense, and I’d been raised around Pterons.”
“I bet it’s always a crazy feeling.” She gazed at some spot on the wall. I wished I knew what she was thinking about. Did she wish her life could go back to the way it was?
“But a cool one.” Jared stretched out his legs in front of him. “The older I get, the more natural it is. Sometimes I’d prefer to always have my wings.”
“Wow. Jared Florence waxing philosophical.” Cade grinned. “And I thought I’d seen everything.”
“I’m just saying. It’s something that grows stronger.” Jared looked at Casey. “One day, you’ll stop viewing your Pteron form as different from who you are. They blend together.”
“I can see that, but I’m not there yet.” She still didn’t look right at him. She avoided his eyes.
“You don’t have to be.” I put an arm behind her. “You’re doing great.”
“Thanks.” She smiled and relaxed into my side. At least I knew I made her comfortable. I had a feeling she’d need all the comfort she could get over the next few days.
She looked scared. Casey looked terrified of me and that sent a shot of agony through me. It was obviously my fault. What with telling her she didn’t exist to me and then showing up on Toby’s plane. I didn’t want her to be scared.
The more time that passed, the clearer everything was becoming. I needed to talk to her. I waited until Toby and Cade were occupied to take my chance. I walked over to where she sat gazing out the window. “Hey.”
“Hi.” There was absolutely no excitement in her voice.
“Can we talk?” I pressed as hard as I could without frightening her more.
“Okay.” She made no move to leave her seat.
“Alone.” That was the only way this was going to work.
“Absolutely not.” Toby chose that moment to butt in.
“Since when are you making Casey’s decisions for her?” I knew that line of insinuations would get the result I wanted.
“Haven’t you caused enough harm already?” Toby frowned. “You’re here to discuss strategy, not to torture her.”
I ignored his obvious problem with me. His opinion wasn’t the one I cared about. “We just have some things to discuss.”
“Fine.” Casey stood up. “Let’s talk.”
She took off down the aisle, and I followed. She stopped short in front of a door. I assumed it led to a bedroom, but I didn’t suggest we go inside. “Listen, I need to ask you something.”
“Ask.” She frowned.
“Did Nelly talk to you in New Orleans?”
“Yeah.” She watched me nervously. “Right before we went to the prison.”
“What did she say to you?”
“Why does it matter?” She crossed her arms over her chest protectively. I was hit by another jolt of pain.
“I just need to know.”
Casey sighed. “She told me Toby wasn’t over Allie, and that he only liked me because I reminded him of her. At least that’s the gist of it.”
“Was that it?”
“Why do you care so much?” She uncrossed her arms.
“I’m just trying to figure a few things out.” I took another look at her face. I needed to put her at ease. “You can stop hating yourself.”
“Who says I hate myself?”
“Says me. Says Allie.” Her words had stuck with me.
“Allie told you I felt that way?” A look of hurt crossed her face.
“Don’t get mad. I pulled it out of her.”
“No matter what she said, I still wanted to, uh, sleep with you.” She looked down at the floor. I hated that she was embarrassed. Why did I have to take things so far? I’d hurt her, and there was no going back to smooth over the past.
“You weren’t the only one. I was surprised you moved on from Toby that quickly, and I should have assumed something was going on. I guess I just wanted you and didn’t bother to ask questions. Freaking out on you was even worse. I knew it wasn’t your fault, I just couldn’t handle you looking at me like you still liked me.” I let out a deep breath. That was harder than I expected.
“You don’t apologize much, do you?” Her lips twisted into a small smile.
“Is it that obvious?”
“Yes, but I’m not great at it either.”
“This is going to sound lame in every possible way, but is there a chance we can try the friend thing? We’re probably going to be seeing a lot of each other.”
“Friend thing? Have you ever been friends with a girl you’ve had sex with?” She watched me expectantly.
“I’ve only had one female friend, and I’d be dead right now if I’d slept with her.”
She laughed. “I take it you mean Allie, but does this friend thing mean you’re cool if I date Toby?”
“Surprisingly, I am. Am I a little jealous? Yeah, but that’s also a new experience for me.”
She laughed again. It was nice to see her relax around me a little. “Is that all we needed to chat about?”
“Oh? There’s more?”
“I’m going to help you.” There. I’d put it out there in person. I wondered if she’d notice that I hadn’t phrased it as a question.
“Help me how?”
“Teaching you how to use your new strength and abilities, and by helping you find Vera.”
She inhaled a sharp breath. “You know where Vera is?”
“I think so. I’ll know for sure in a few days.” We were getting closer to moving in, but I had to get through the wedding before we could do more.
“You have to tell me.” She grabbed my shirt, pulling me into her. Casey really needed someone to help her understand her strength. As I suspected, Hailey wasn’t cutting it. The other possibility was that Casey wasn’t listening to her.
“Calm down.” I looked around her and noticed Toby walking down the aisle. “I already told you I’m going to help.”
“Help with what?” Toby asked. “You still haven’t told us why you’re here.”