Tessa had taken Ava to see Alex immediately. They had passed by Bridget in the hallway, and she had instantly recoiled when she saw Ava, almost like she was afraid of her.
“She’s scared,” Ava said as they were out of earshot. “Why? I didn’t do anything to her. I told you that.”
A frown pulled at Tessa’s mouth. She tried to figure out what to say. It was hard. Instead, she just put a hand on Ava’s shoulders and squeezed.
“We’re going to talk to someone who can help you.” They stopped walking and stood in front of a wooden door. It had the name ALEX KINSEY on it, and from inside they could hear someone humming.
Alex opened the door so quickly that they both jumped. He smiled.
“Come on in,” he said, moving aside. “There’s a bowl of candy on my desk if you want some, Ava. Help yourself.”
Ava looked at him, then around at the room. She had seen places like this before, in the movies. They were all the same with their desk, chairs, sofa, and plaques hanging on the wall. It really wasn’t that impressive.
“We’ll be outside,” Tessa told her. “Make yourself comfortable.”
When the door shut, he appeared.
He was sitting on the sofa, perched on the back, his feet on the cushions. He didn’t look too pleased as he gazed at her. He wasn’t wearing a hat so his dark hair was messy and he looked tired.
“Hi,” Ava murmured.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Tessa?” His blue eyes sparked with sudden anger. “I don’t like her, Ava. She’s putting all these ideas in your head. You don’t need to be here.”
“That’s not for you to decide,” Ava said, glaring at him. “It was my choice to come here, if I wanted, not yours. You’re causing trouble, Ian.”
A smirk settled across his lips and he eyed her cruelly.
“Am I?” he asked innocently. “I’m not the one who will get blamed for it. No one around you believes that I exist.”
Ava looked at him and shook her head. “That’s not true. Tessa believes me.” Her eyes filled with tears at his words. “You’re just trying to scare me.”
Ian was in front of her before she even had time to blink, his fingers clutching her chin, as he pulled her face closer to him. That hard look in his eyes never wavered.
He leaned forward, his hair brushing her cheek as he whispered into her ear, “All of this is a lie, darling. You’re strong enough to figure out what’s really going on. If you don’t, you’re going to be stuck here until you’re old and feeble.”
She was still trying to digest his words when the door opened. Nothing around her registered. Not Tessa’s voice or Alex’s hand on her shoulder. She was just frozen in place, with her hands curled out in front of her body, like she had tried to embrace someone that wasn’t there.