Vinnia's heart was pounding, and she could only pray that her emotions were not betrayed by her face.
Too late. Vinnia could feel her color drain away.
Casady, who coughed nervously, shifted from foot to foot. Poor boy. Vinnia would tell him what was going on...once she recovered her voice, of course. Easier said than done.
Finally, Vinnia cleared her throat. "You rendered me speechless, Casady Conlin."
Casady said nothing, but his eyes shone a little more brightly.
"I want you to know something. I want you to know something, but to never repeat what I'm saying. Do you hear me?" Once she received Casady's serious nod, Vinnia continued. "You have the ability to beat all this, Casady. And not just the competition."
Silence held her breath.
"Your voice implies the meanings that not even the words, not even the notes, can portray. It's your voice, Casady, your very essence, that lends such chill to the song. When I say that you have the ability to beat all this, I mean it. I mean it with every fiber of my being."
"But can I?'
Vinnia felt her heart pound with the passion she somehow couldn't express. "I am fully convinced," she said, voice trembling with meaning.
Casady looked straight into Vinnia's eyes and didn't blink. "What must I do, then?"
"You must Sing, Casady. You must Sing and never give up. They'll try to take away your voice. They'll try to silence you. They'll try to break your spirit and steal your passion. But you must not let it happen." Vinnia's voice dropped to an impassioned whisper. "You must not let it happen."
Clearly, Casady was frightened by Vinnia's words, for he took a step back. "What do you mean, exactly?" he whispered back.
"They know your weakness, Casady. They see the relationship developing between you and Brookie. It's a sure bet they'll try to break that. And your friendship with Rune and Morgance - they'll try to take that, too. Take my word for it, Casady. Once you open your mouth to Sing at the festival, you'll never be safe again."
"Why must I be the chosen one?"
Vinnia took a step forward. "The chosen ones never have any choice in the matter. You've been specially picked out. Why, I don't know. What I do know is that there's no going back."