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"Why do you like Fitz?" Keefe asked her. "What's so special about him?"
Sophie considered this. Why did she like Fitz, besides the fact that he was so insanely good-looking? "Well, he's kind. He's always thinking of little things to do for me. He's responsible and trustworthy and—"
"Ridiculously handsome?" Keefe smirked, but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
She blushed. "Yeah, I guess there's that, too," she mumbled. "But I think the main thing is, I trust him. He cares about me."
" 'He cares about me,' " Keefe said in a voice that sounded uncannily like Sophie's. "But does he care enough to not get mad at you when it's not your fault? Enough to keep his distance when you need it? Enough to follow you into danger not because you ask him to but because he wants to help you? To want to help you even when you don't ask for it or even want it?" Keefe's voice was bitter. "Does he care about you enough to keep his distance or at least notice that his best friend—" He cut off suddenly as if realizing he had said too much.
Sophie's breath caught. Keefe was right, at least a little. Fitz did get angry at her when it wasn't her fault, but he always apologized. And he was always quick to forgive her. Fitz wasn't always the first to jump at a chance to help Sophie, but he was always there for her. She thought for a moment. Fitz was always willing to be there for her, right? Of course, he was.
She thought about Keefe. He cared. A lot more than she realized, now that she thought about it. Keefe had gone with her to the scary island on Silveny when the Black Swan had needed to heal Sophie's mind. Silveny loved Keefe. She had trusted him before anyone else, and that meant something, especially for Sophie.
Keefe hadn't turned away from Sophie when he found out that his mother was part of the Neverseen. Keefe had been willing to sneak into Ravagog—alone—for Sophie. Keefe had joined the Neverseen for Sophie—not because he was evil, but because he was good. Because he cared.
Keefe had been there for Sophie when one of the Mr. Forkles had died. Keefe had helped Sophie negotiate with his mother—someone he hadn't ever wanted to speak to again. Keefe had fought a fully grown ogre for Sophie. . .and won. Keefe had let her search his broken memories, but the answers they were looking for were all for Sophie.
What had Fitz done?
Fitz had found Sophie and brought her to the Lost Cities. Fitz had saved her from almost fading away after she had been kidnapped. Fitz had joined the Black Swan for Sophie. Fitz had been impaled by a giant bug. She and Fitz were Cognates, for heaven's sakes! And he had been there for her during the devastating birth of Silveny's twins, Wynn and Luna. And. . .
Now that Sophie thought about it, that was about it.
Or at least notice when his best friend—. That his best friend what?
Then she realized what he was talking about.
Keefe likes me, she realized.
He must've felt her mood shift, because he snorted. "Took you long enough to figure it out." But his voice was sad. It was worse than when she had found out that Dex had liked her, because this time she already had someone.
Keefe liked Sophie for Sophie. He liked her for her mysteriousness and her kindness and the way she blushed when she was embarrassed. And he had that connection with her, the one where he could feel her feelings from far away. And he was the mastermind behind the Great Gulon Incident, which was supposed to have been epic, but that Sophie had yet to learn about.
Fitz liked Sophie because she was special. Because he found her and because she was different. Because she was cute and because she liked him back. He was just perfect. And yet, recent events had shown that maybe he wasn't as perfect as she had originally thought. When things got hard, so did Fitz. But Keefe didn't hide or get angry when faced with trials. He tried to fix them. And he tried to help others as well.
But Fitz was the one Sophie had chosen.
"Keefe, I. . ." She swallowed. She didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry."
He looked away. "Me too," he whispered.
Guilt bloomed inside her. How long had he liked her? If she continued her relationship with Fitz, how would Keefe feel? Keefe was strong. She knew that. But was he strong enough to deal with the. . .situation she had caused?
She stepped toward him, taking his hand. He looked at her, and their eyes met. His expression was sad, but slightly hopeful, too. And when she looked deep into his ice-blue eyes, she saw something else.
Something that made her heart flutter.
He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Sophie, I—I'm happy for you two. I really am. But. . ." Keefe trailed off, unable to voice his feelings, which was surprising, considering he was an Empath.
"But you wish it was you," she whispered, saying the thing both of them had been dreading.
Sophie's heart pounded. She realized that even though Fitz was handsome and kind and so incredibly perfect, maybe, just maybe, he was a little too perfect. And as she looked into Keefe's eyes, she realized that not only did Keefe like her, but deep down. . .
Sophie liked him back.
Sophie opened her mouth, then closed it again. Could she tell Keefe? She suddenly became very interested in her shoes.
"You okay, Foster? I'm feeling some pretty intense emotions right now."
"What if I changed my mind?" she mumbled.
His brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
She tugged out an eyelash. "What if I decided that—that I don't want. . ." No. She couldn't say it.
Realization dawned on Keefe's face. "That. . .you don't want to be with him?"
"Yeah," Sophie whispered. She couldn't look at Keefe. How would he respond?
Keefe smiled slightly. "Do we need to do a trust exercise?"
Sophie's heart beat faster when she realized what he meant. Did she want this? Even though she'd made things official with Fitz, was she still willing to turn back?
She nodded. If it didn't work out, then no one had to know. She still had Fitz.
Keefe took her other hand, stepping closer. Her heart pounded as he slid one hand up her arm and over her shoulder to cup her neck. She could feel his breath on her cheeks as he whispered, "Are you sure this is what you want? It's not too late to change your mind, you know."
She closed her eyes. No. She needed to do this. She needed to know. Opening her eyes, she whispered, "Yes."
Nodding, Keefe closed his eyes, pulled her head closer, and touched his lips to hers.
It was nothing like Sophie's kiss with Dex. Their noses didn't bonk, and Keefe wasn't nearly as awkward as he somehow managed to tug her gloves off without his lips leaving hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her hands found the skin just below his hair. Cool blue breezes danced through her head, making her feel light-headed and giddy. Keefe wrapped one arm around her waist and buried the other in her hair, pulling her closer as he kissed her.
He was kissing her. And she was kissing him back. And it felt right.
Also unlike when Sophie had kissed Dex was the fact that there was a spark. It felt good to kiss Keefe, and so much different than how she had imagined kissing Fitz would be like.
Almost. . .better.
Keefe pulled away, a smile on his face. "How was that?" he asked softly.
Sophie didn't know how to answer. "I—I don't know," she said breathlessly.
He cocked an eyebrow. His artfully disheveled hair had never looked so amazing. Or was that just Sophie? "Do you want to do it again, so you can decide?" He grinned impishly.
"If—if you want to." Her heart flipped to hummingbird mode as she realized he was going to kiss her again. His hands moved to cup her cheeks, and his lips touched hers gently.
It was amazing.
She was just about to kiss him back when suddenly a voice filled both of their minds.
A crisp, accented voice that Sophie didn't know could hold so much anger.