He was examining his fingernails, bored, but when he realized I was there, his face brightened. "Hullo, Isolde. Pleasant day at school?"

"Not really," I told him. "But I needed to ask you something."

Torin folded his arms. "I'm not in much of a prophecy- spouting mood today, to be honest."

"I don't need to know the future. I need to know... I don't know, the present, I guess. I met this boy today, and he's...I don't know, he's something."

"Something as in he is handsome and you fancy him, or something as in he's one of my kind?"

Scowling, I replied, "He's Prodigium. I think. I don't know He felt strange when I touched him."

The second the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. Torin's sly grin only intensified that regret.

"This is why I told Aislinn she should have more blokes around. A boy touches you, and you mistake hormones for magic."

I wanted to shake the frame, but I crossed my arms, mimicking his pose. "It wasn't hormones. It was magic. Or some kind of power. But not like any power I've felt before. It's...I don't know, really weak."

Finally, the grin slipped and Torin managed to look a little serious. "Weaker than mine?"

Even trapped in the mirror, Torin radiated power, and I nodded. "Yeah. I can usually pick up on a Prodigium within a few feet. But this guy, I didn't get it until he shook my hand. Could he just be...like, a really, really bad warlock?" But then I shook my head. "No, wait. He had asthma. If he were a warlock, he would've cured that." One of the benefits to being a magical being was that they almost never get sick.

Torin gave an elegant shrug. "Perhaps he's faking it. And something could be diluting his power. A counterspell or a binding charm. Did he seem odd?"

I thought back to Dex, to his weird, formal way of talking, and strangely old-fashioned, if stylish, outfit. "Yeah, but I'm not sure that's magic."

"If you find out where he lives, I can always slip into his mirror, find out for certain," Torin offered. "It would be, as you like to say, a gigantic pain in my backside, but I could try."

Torin moved pretty easily through the mirrors in our house because his original mirror was housed here. Getting into mirrors in other locations was tough for him, but I'd seen him do it before. And I'm not going to lie, the idea of sending Torin to check up on Dex was tempting. What if Dex was something dangerous? Okay, so maybe an asthmatic guy rocking a cravat didn't seem all the threatening, but what did I know? And I was here to investigate supernatural shenanigans.

But I couldn't get over the feeling that sending my pet warlock into a dude's mirror to spy on him was...well, icky. Especially when he was one of the few people at school who'd been nice to me today. So I shook my head. "No, let's not go that far. I'll work it out on my own."

"As you like," Torin said, going back to studying his cuticles. "But the offer stands."

I leaned back on the bed, bracing my arms on the footboard. In the mirror, it looked like we were standing practically on top of each other. "You just want me to owe you a favor."

"There is but one favor you can do for me, Isolde, and that is to release me from this prison."

The words sent a shiver through me. "That's never going to happen."

He glanced up, raising an eyebrow. "Oh, so now it's you with the gift of prophecy, is it? I know what I've seen. You are my key and my salvation."

Without answering, I got up and went to cover the mirror. His voice sounded muffled behind the canvas as he called, "Remember, a favor for a favor, Isolde. I can be very useful."

He could be. He had been. But his visions never came when we most needed them, and from everything Mom had told me, Torin had a way of twisting words and promises so that he got more than you were willing to give, and always gave you less than you wanted.

In other words, it wasn't worth it.

Sighing, I opened the door and walked into the hallway.

"What are you doing?"

I jumped as Mom's voice rang out in the quiet house. She was standing just inside the front door, frowning. "Isolde?" she asked, her body stiff.

I froze, a million lies rushing to my lips. But Mom always saw through those, and all lying did was piss her off. "I was talking to Torin."

"About what?"

"Just my day at school." That wasn't technically a lie, but Mom still frowned.

"Well, why don't you tell me about your day." Her expression hardened. "Specifically the part where you hurt some boy in your P.E. class?"

Ugh. So that's why she was so pissed. "It was an accident," I said for what felt like the millionth time that day, but Mom gave a frustrated sigh as she tossed her bag onto the hall table. "Damn it, Izzy, I told you, keeping a low profile is an essential part of every job."

"I was trying!"

"And breaking someone's arm by second period? That was your attempt at trying?"

"It was only a dislocated shoulder," I muttered, sounding sullen even to my own ears. "And he was a jerk who purposely hurt this girl I think can help me with the ghost thing."

Mom gave a frustrated sigh, but then what I had said dawned. "What does that mean?"

Briefly, I told her about the Paranormal Management Society and Romy. As soon as I said the words "teenage ghost hunters," she sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Damn it. You know if there is a legitimate haunting happening here, they'll probably end up making things worse. Those types of kids always do."

"Yeah," I said, going to sit next to her. "But it's some- thing. If nothing else, maybe they'll have information. Either about Mr. Snyder himself, or who could be haunting the school. Save me the hassle of going to the library."

Mom looked up, and something very close to a smile flickered on her face. "So you'd actually go to a library instead of plugging everything into the Google?"

Now I smiled. "Mom, it's just Google. And yeah, you always said books were the best for research. Even the Internet can't know everything."

"I know I said that; I'm just surprised you listened."

"I do that sometimes," I told her, and she reached out and patted my knee. Then, clearing her throat, she rose to her feet and headed for the door.

"Well, it's a start," she said, her voice slightly gruff. "Probably won't lead to much, but better than nothing. Now, come on. I don't like you spending too much time in here."

Swallowing my disappointment, I stood up, too. I had always been proud of my mom. So she'd never bake cookies, or sew a Halloween costume, but she could fight monsters. She was tough and smart, and maybe she didn't read bedtime stories, but she had taught me to defend myself against the things that lurked under beds.

But in that moment, I didn't want a smart, tough mother who kicked supernatural ass. I wanted to sit on the couch with her and tell her about my crappy day. And maybe about Dex, leaving out the possible magical powers part.

I wanted to tell her that I missed Finley, too.

Instead, I followed her out the door and said, "So, I... I guess I'll go do homework now."

"Right," Mom said with a brusque nod. "And I'll go, uh, clean up the kitchen. See you at six for dinner?"

"Sure," I said, turning to jog up the stairs.

When I was halfway up, Mom called, "Izzy?"


"I'm...you're doing good work," she said haltingly. "Other than the dislocated shoulder."

It wasn't exactly "Oh, Izzy, I am so proud of you, and I was wrong to ever give you such lame job."

But I'd take it.


I sat up, confused. I was moving, and overhead, birds were chirping, and the scent of flowers was so heavy in the air, it made me feel a little light-headed. Sunlight sparkled on dark green water. When I threw up my hand to ward off the glare, I saw that once again, I was wearing a ton of rings that I had never owned.

Groaning, I sank back against silken pillows. "Why are we on a boat?"

At the other end of the little rowboat, Torin grinned at me, his long arms pulling the oars. "Thought a change of scenery might be nice."

"You know what would be nice? Not having you invade my dreams with these"-I waved my hand-"whatever this is."

"It's an outing, Isolde. And quite a nice one, too."

Much as I hated that, I couldn't argue. The sun felt good on my face, and there was something undeniably pleasant about drifting down a stream flanked with flower bushes and weeping willows. "Where is this?" I asked. "Someplace you knew?"

Torin abandoned the oars and leaned back, closing his eyes and lifting his face to the sun. "You know the answer."

"Set you free and I'll find out," I muttered.

He nodded, replying, "Even so."

"Since that's not going to happen, any other reason you decided we should row our boat merrily down the stream?"

"You were grinding your teeth as you slept. It was both annoying and concerning, so I thought an outing would do you some good."

"First off, don't watch me sleep, and secondly-"

"Oh, hush," Torin said with no real heat. "Can't you just lie back on your pillows and enjoy this lovely summer's day?"

"It's February, and I am lying back," I reminded him.

"In the outside world," Torin said. "But in here, it can be whatever we want."

That was a dangerous line of thought. Torin was good at this kind of thing; offering dreams and wishes and perfect days. But none of it was real, and none of it was free.

Still, it was nice to feel warm and drowsy in the sunshine, not worrying about Finley or Mom or ghosts or-shudder-high school.

Leaning over the side of the boat, I let my fingers trail in the cool water. It took me a second to realize I didn't have a reflection. Sitting up, I squinted at Torin. "I get the no-mirrors thing, but even water is unreflective?"

"My rules," he said easily.

There was a flash of movement on the far bank, and I lifted my head to see a woman moving along the shore. She was wearing a heavy dress of purple brocade, the sunlight picking up hints of blue in her black hair. "Who's that?"

"Hmm?" Torin turned his head, and seeing the woman, he scowled. "What is she doing here?"

A flick of his wrist, and the woman vanished; but Torin kept scowling. "That's odd. I didn't invite Rowena here." He squinted at me. "Did you?"

"Since I don't even know who Rowena is, no."

Torin turned his gaze back to the spot where she'd been. "Rowena was a member-" He broke off, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "No matter."

I sat there waiting for him to say more, but Torin simply closed his eyes, tilting his face to the sun. I didn't know much about the life he'd lived pre-mirror, and sometimes I wondered if that was for the best. It was too weird to think of Torin as just a normal guy-a normal boy, really-wandering around in the world.

We were quiet for a long time, and I might have dozed off. Was that even possible? Sleeping inside of a dream? With Torin, who knew? Still, I was startled when he suddenly said, "You should just be yourself."