Pandora put her cup down. “Can I make a suggestion?”
“Can I stop you?” Willa smiled, teasing.
Pandora snorted. “You have to see him at the sheriff’s office, right? So why not at least hear him out? Especially if you really do like him. Give him the opportunity to explain himself, and then, if what he says sounds good, give him a chance to make things right.”
“How do you mean, make things right?”
“You know, a little groveling, a little probationary relationship time. Make him work to get back into your good graces.” She pursed her lips. “You let him off the hook too easily, and you set a bad precedent for the future.”
“You’re assuming there is a future.”
Pandora’s eyes took on a mischievous glint. “Jasper needs a daddy.”
Willa rolled her eyes but laughed anyway. “You’re one to talk. When’s the last time you had a date?”
“I’m married to the market, baby.” But Pandora’s smile faded. “I feel like most of the good men in this town are taken or not my type. Being a witch makes things a little trickier, you know? Probably my standards are too high. I want hot, smart, and owns his own place.”
“Nick is all those things.”
“He is. But he’s a little too…rugged for me. I mean, rugged is good. But I don’t need a guy who looks like he could bench press me. And besides, you’ve got him locked up now anyway.”
“I don’t know about locked up.” She wasn’t sure about all the good men in town being taken, either.
“Look,” Pandora said as she shifted to tuck one leg under her. “You’re a great judge of character. When you see him, you’ll get a vibe. He’s either going to be past caring what happens between you two, or apologetic and wanting to fix things. I think I already know which one he’s going to be, but see for yourself.”
“I guess.” Willa took one last bite of eggs.
Pandora shook her head, a sad light in her eyes. “Time is fleeting, Willa. I thought by now I’d be married and have kids, but…the fates didn’t have that plan for me.”
Willa put her hand over Pandora’s. Pandora’s high school sweetheart had been killed in a car accident and the witch blamed herself even though everyone close to her knew it wasn’t her fault. Willa hoped she’d realize that, too, and finally give some guy a chance. “It’s never too late, you know.”
“I know.” But Pandora’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. “So give him a chance.”
Willa’s heart broke for her friend and made her realize she didn’t want Nick to be one more regret in her life. She nodded. “I will.”
Nick leaned against the wall of Merrow’s office, too tense to sit. This mess with Willa was his fault. He should have said something about who he was. Should have known she wasn’t up to anything shady. Things had gone FUBAR fast. And he needed to make it right.
Merrow gave him the side-eye. “You going to stand the whole time?”
A loud cry of concern erupted from the reception area. “Willa, you poor dear, I heard all about what happened.”
Birdie. And apparently, Willa had arrived. Her answers were too quiet for Nick to make out clearly, but she sounded sad to him and that cut, because that sadness was his fault.
She walked into Merrow’s office a minute later, her gaze flicking from the sheriff to Nick, but the frustration in those aqua depths remained the same. “Sheriff, I know you need my statement, but I’d like to speak privately with Nick first.”
That surprised him. Actually, he was surprised she was talking to him at all.
Merrow got up. “Use the office. I have some paperwork to file. Birdie’s lousy at it.” He took his coffee cup and left, shutting the door behind him.
Willa’s hands twisted. “We need to talk this out.”
“Agreed,” Nick said. “And I should go first. I’m sorry. I never intended to hurt you. I should have been up front with you right away. Blame it on old instincts and too much training—no.” He shook his head. “Blame it on me for not trusting you to begin with. What happened in the past is ancient history. Let’s leave it like that.”
“Thank you.” She stared at the ground. “I am sorry about what my people did to your people. I really had no idea.”
“I know that now. And it wasn’t your fault anyway. It was unfair of me to hold it against you.”
“I hope you know I would never force someone to do something they didn’t want to.” She glanced at the door. “That’s the whole reason I ran away from home in the first place. The kind of fae I am—”
She nodded. “We’re rare. Most fae have enough power to do basic parlor tricks—bend metal, levitate stones, that sort of thing—but always one or the other, never both. My parents figured out pretty quickly that my gifts were much bigger than that and much more complex. I was tested when I was seven—all fae are—and that confirmed I was lapidus.”
“And that’s when things went south.”
She nodded, took a seat in one of the two chairs across from the sheriff’s desk and folded her hands in her lap. He sat beside her, but she didn’t look at him. “As soon as I was pronounced lapidus, my life changed instantly. I was taken out of school and put into a special training program. I was forced to leave all my friends behind. I saw my parents only during selected times. It was made very clear to me that my life had one purpose—to serve in the court of the fae king and do his bidding.”