Star Cursed - Page 31/73

Finn runs his hand over my hair. “I have. Nine of them now.”

One more since Cora’s report.

“I don’t know what to do,” I confess. “Maura and Tess are here now. Maura’s blaming Sister Cora for not doing more to protect the girls, and Brenna for telling the Brothers the oracle’s here in New London. She thinks we ought to assassinate Brenna before she can say anything else to implicate us.”

“What do you think?” Finn asks, drawing back so he can see me.

I am so glad to have him here to talk to. With him, I don’t feel guilty for not having all the answers yet. “I don’t want to consider it. But if she knows it’s one of us, she could lead them here. I don’t know how to stop that. I don’t know how to stop any of it.”

Finn sets his jaw. “I’m half tempted to spirit you away from here right now. Some remote place where no one would ever find us. If I thought you’d go—”

I squeeze my eyes shut against the temptation. “I can’t. I have to look after Maura and Tess. What if it’s not me? What if it’s actually one of them?”

“That would be a grand relief for me.” Finn’s voice dips low. “You worry about what the prophecy means for them, but I worry about you, Cate. Someone’s got to. You’d sacrifice yourself in a second to keep them safe. You’d sacrifice us.”

His words hang there between us, a reminder that I already have.

“I don’t know if I could do it again,” I say truthfully. “I know being here is dangerous for you. I should send you away, but I don’t want to give you up. It’s selfish of me.”

“Good. Be selfish.” Finn’s mouth claims mine in a searing kiss, and my mind empties of everything except his hands, his lips, his tongue.

He pulls away to shrug off his cloak. Beneath it, he’s wearing a crisp white linen shirt, gray vest, and matching gray linen trousers. He looks fashionable. Handsome. But he doesn’t look quite like my Finn, rumpled and awkward and scholarly.

I start with his hair, running my fingers through the thick strands. I slip my fingers beneath his collar, undoing the top button as my mouth moves to his throat. His hands clutch reflexively at my back, anchoring me against him. Without my heavy corset between us, the buttons of his vest press into my stomach.

I fumble with the top button of his vest and, when it comes undone, tug at the next one. Finn catches my earlobe between his teeth. “Are you undressing me?”

I shiver at his breath against my ear, achieving a third button. “Do you object?”

“No.” His voice is a little hoarse as I remove his vest and toss it onto the floor along with his cloak. My arms wind around his neck again; the sinewy muscles of his shoulders bunch beneath my fingertips.

I wonder what he’d look like without this shirt on.

I wonder what he looks like with nothing on at all.

If I’d stayed in Chatham, refused the Sisters, would we be married by now and sharing a bed every night? I press tighter against him as his hands slip beneath my cloak, stroking my sides. I blush to think how much I want that.

Then the door slams open, and we spring apart.

Maura stands in the doorway, snow drifting in behind her. “I’d ask what you’re doing, but that’s fairly obvious,” she snaps.

I pat my disheveled hair back into place, blushing furiously. Finn turns away, snatching up his vest.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I was watching the snow. I saw you out my window—but this is worse than I imagined! What are you thinking, Cate? Anyone could have seen you!”

She needn’t look so scandalized. “I’m fine, Maura. Go back to bed.”

“You expect me to leave you here to carry on like this? With him?” Maura sputters, outraged, and I realize it’s not my virtue she’s concerned about. “Haven’t you any sense at all? Any pride?”

Finn shoots me a wounded look as he struggles into his cloak. “You didn’t tell your sisters?”

“I didn’t tell anyone,” I explain.

“I understand how this must look,” he says, “but I assure you, Maura, I have only the most honorable intentions toward your sister.”

“Well, my sister may be fool enough to believe that, but I’m not. Cate, he broke whatever vow he made to you. He’s a Brother now!” The door bangs shut behind her as she stalks closer, pointing at the silver ring on his finger.

Finn whirls on Maura, the black cloak flaring out around him. How he can make a symbol I’ve hated all my life look almost dashing, I don’t know.

I daresay he could make anything look dashing to me.

“I only joined the Brothers to help Cate. To be able to support a wife,” he insists.

Maura laughs. “Please tell me you don’t believe this nonsense, Cate. When he’s ruined you, what then? Sisters are meant to be chaste; you’d be arrested if anyone found out! You’re putting yourself in danger for a few kisses, and that puts all of us in danger. Don’t you ever think of anyone but yourself?”

“Don’t I—?” Finn is the one part of my life that is mine, and she wants to shame me for it? Dismiss it as meaningless? She is always so quick to assume the worst of me.

Anger and embarrassment clash inside me, and my magic rises, inextricably linked to my emotions. I send Maura flying back several paces, flinging her against the glass wall. Not hard enough to hurt her, but sudden enough to surprise her.

I’ve never used magic against her before, but I want her to know that I’m serious. “Shut up, Maura, and give us a chance to explain.”

“What are you doing?” she shrieks. Her red hair is tumbling out of its loose braid; her boots are leaving puddles across the floor.

“He already knows I’m a witch. He knows everything. I would trust Finn with my life. More than that, I’d trust him with yours.”

Maura gasps. “Are you mad? He could be a spy!”

Finn takes my hand in his. “I am a spy. For the Sisterhood.”

“What?” Her blue eyes go wide.

I tug away from him. “Are you sure? What about the job at the Archives?”

“I’m sure,” Finn says, running a hand through his hair. “I’ll apply for the other position, if that’s where I’ll be most useful to the Sisterhood. What does Sister Inez need to know?”

“Sister Inez knows that you’re seeing Finn? She approves?” Maura slumps back against the wall. The wet, blue cotton hem of her nightgown peeks out beneath her new black cloak.

“She thinks Finn could be a valuable ally,” I explain.

“And you’re in love with her,” she says to Finn. All the fight has drained out of her. She looks very young suddenly, with wisps of red hair curling around her pale face. “You’re willing to risk your life for her.”

“Yes.” Finn turns all his earnestness on Maura. It’s impressive, as I know full well. “It’s important to me to do something. Even before I fell in love with Cate, I disagreed with the Brothers’ policies. I see it every day, how much contempt the men around me have for witches, how little regard for women. They talk of what they’d do to witches if they caught them, if there weren’t laws in place to stop it.” His face darkens. “If I don’t do something to fight on the right side, what kind of man am I?”