[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]
J.T. sighed, still staring at the fire, the look on his face dubious, clearly not buying what Phelan was trying to sell. “Even if that’s true—and I’m not saying that it is—I still feel like an utter failure.”
“That coffee smells incredible,” Marin’s voice said from nearby. “And why are you feeling like a failure, Jay?”
Phelan glanced at Jacqueline who blew out a silent breath in relief. He had to grin and she grinned back. Her look said everything. It was all he could do not to breathe a sigh of relief.
The cavalry was in the form of Marin and Hecate, who both appeared out of the tent’s gloom and into the circle of warm firelight. J.T. took one look at Hecate and his face fell.
She frowned at him, brows knitting. “What’s wrong?”
“I haven’t done anything,” he said quietly. “She’s still out there.”
Hecate took a quiet breath and Marin reached to touch her arm. Hecate glanced at her and managed a weak smile, shaking her head. “I’m okay,” she told her sister-in-law before she turned to J.T. “Jay, I know she is. It’s okay. We’ll help her. You made a promise but I made one a long time ago. If there’s one person who should be feeling guilty about not helping her yet, it’s me, not you.”
She went to sit beside him, drawing one knee up to her chest as she settled, setting her sketchbook and pencils next to her. She leaned a shoulder into his, watching him carefully. “Don’t let it eat you,” she whispered. “I let so much eat me up inside over the years it left me hollow. It’s not worth it. She’d tell you that, too. It’s okay. We’ll keep the promise. Sometimes it just takes time.”