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“Simon shouldn’t have shown you that,” Lee said as we sat at his table. It had taken a while for him to calm me down enough that I could explain what had happened. Now, we sat across from each other, staring at the table, neither able to look at the other.
“I have a right to the truth, even if it’s painful.”
“I was supposed to protect you.”
“You did protect me.” I clenched my hands into fists. “You suffered so much protecting me, more than you should have.”
“Do you know what would have happened if they’d found out about you?” He finally looked at me. “You have more spiritual power than anyone I’ve ever met. There’s no way the organization would have let someone like you go, especially after an accident like that. They would have used it to control you. They would have used everything they could to keep you under their power. You would have become a weapon for them and little else. Belle never even wanted you to become Kamali. Can you imagine what she would have done if you became their puppet?”
I stared at him with wide eyes. “I thought the organization served the Kamali.”
“Theoretically, yes, but they can get pretty crafty with the definition of serving us. They use people with abilities to help with our work. If I’d asked them for an assistant, I would have gotten someone trained by them for the job. They don’t care about us. Kamali has more power than most and is expected to keep spirits under control in their area, but we only have so much say in how the organization itself is run.”
“And they stuck you in purgatory for something you didn’t do.”
“I was responsible. I knew about your powers and what a great risk they could be. I should have taken you away more quickly, but I was weak. I wanted to give your parents time to say goodbye and that sentimentality got them killed.”
“I killed them.”
“You were two years old. It wasn’t your fault. You shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. If I had done my job as the Kamali’s successor and as your uncle, you wouldn’t have been.”
“I was prepared to hate you, you know,” I told him. “I thought you were responsible for their deaths and planned to be angry at you about that for the rest of my life.”
“You think I could hate you when you sacrificed so much to protect me?”
“Do you hate yourself?”
I looked down at my lap. “I did kill my parents. A bit of self-loathing wouldn’t be unreasonable.”
“And that’s why I didn’t want you to know.”
“You wanted to be my sin-eater?”
He sighed. “Simon’s been running his mouth an awful lot, hasn’t he? I wonder what’s gotten into him. I’ll ask him when he comes out of hiding, I suppose.”
“I’m not hiding,” Simon assured him, coming into the room. “I was just giving you a moment of privacy to sort yourselves out.” He looked at me. “I feel the need to concur with our Kamali, though. You can’t blame yourself for what happened.”
“Why did you tell him?” Lee wondered. “You were under strict orders to keep that a secret.”
“Ah, well, I suppose this is as good a time as any to tender my resignation, then.”
Lee blinked in confusion. “Resignation?”
Simon nodded. “I’m not going to leave immediately, but the truth is that I don’t plan to remain here much longer. That’s why I was in a hurry to see this matter settled.”
“What are you saying?” Lee demanded, standing up. “Why would you leave?”
“Ben is dying.”
The words hung heavy in the air, silencing any arguments Lee might have had for him to stay.
“How?” Lee asked, at last.
“Tumor.” Simon tapped his temple. “Right here. It’s inoperable. He has a few months, at best, possibly a few weeks.”
“Simon,” I began, but I had no idea how to continue the sentence.
“It’s okay,” he assured me. “I’ve existed like this long enough. I protected Lee while he was trapped in purgatory. Before that, I helped his predecessor. I knew Belle and Alex.” He looked at Lee. “I loved you all like family. You, Belle and Haven were like the children I never had in life.” His gaze fell on me. “I’m glad I got to help you, too. What more could I wish to do on this plane of existence? It’s time for me to move on, now. When Ben passes, I will follow him into the next life.”