The Calling Page 15


I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and apologize.

I’m sorry, Daniel. I should have told you earlier. I screwed up and I think I’m still screwing up.

He hugged me and whispered, “It’s okay. We’ll figure it out.”

I pulled away. “I … I think I might have figured it out already. This isn’t the time to explain but… I think Sam might be right about you and her, and I think there’s more to it, and that’s why they’re after us, so you need to be careful.”

“We’ll both be careful,” he said. “We’ll have each other’s back. As always.”

As always.

“We’ll find Corey, then we’ll get out of here,” Daniel continued. “Get to a phone. Call our parents. Go home.”

I’m not sure we can do that. I’m not sure Salmon Creek is still there, and if it is, I’m not sure it’s safe. I’m not sure we can get Corey. I’m not sure he’s still—

“Corey’s fine,” Daniel said, as if reading my thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m not holding up very well.”

“Yes, you are. We just need to get this done, then you can have a breakdown. I’ll join you.”

I smiled. “Thanks.”

“Anytime. Now, let’s go.”

Like a cougar with a cache, I knew where we’d left Corey. Hayley said they’d moved a little, but he’d be close enough for me to find him.

The three searchers were still at work, but they seemed to be employing a grid pattern, like when a little boy in a neighboring town had gone missing and we’d all joined the hunt, systematically scouring the forest until we found him, scared and exhausted. Once we realized that these searchers were walking a grid, it was a simple matter of waiting until they’d passed the area where we’d left Corey so we could sneak in.

Still they’d abandon the grid if they heard something. So Daniel stood guard with Kenjii, and I got down on all fours and crawled.

When I saw a white shoe peeking from under a bush, I crept closer and whispered, “It’s me.” Corey started at the sound of my voice, then caught himself.

“You guys shouldn’t have come back.”

“We did. Now, shhh, before I regret it.”

I crawled under the branches and gave him a quick, one-armed hug. I whispered that we’d wait a minute to make sure all was clear. Then I said, “We’re going to crawl out of here until we get to Daniel, so he can help you walk.”

“I can walk—”

“Don’t play the hero or you’ll get us captured.”

“That’s so sweet. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

“Hey, I hugged you, didn’t I? Now follow me and try not to make any noise.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He leaned downtoward my ear. “I like it when you order me around. It’s really hot.”

I stifled a laugh, and for the first time since we’d gotten in that helicopter, I felt a little more like myself.

With his wounded knee, crawling wasn’t easy for Corey. It was more of a half-crawl, half-drag. When we reached Daniel and Kenjii, Corey shakily got to his feet, tested his knee, then slung an arm over each of us. We made our way through the forest, avoiding the flashlights. It was slow. Excruciatingly slow.

When we finally got back to Hayley and Sam, we sat Corey down and I took another look at his knee. It had scabbed over and was bruising. I touched it, gently, pretending to check it out, as I closed my eyes and concentrated on fixing it.

That was supposed to be one of my powers—healing. It worked with animals, but I didn’t know how it worked or if it would work on people at all. I tried anyway, focusing and brushing my fingertips over his knee, willing it to heal.

There was no way of telling whether it helped. With animals, it was never an instantaneous cure. They just seemed to get better strangely fast. I hoped for the same with Corey.

When I finished rewrapping Corey’s knee, Daniel said, “I know we’re all ready to drop. But if there’s any chance we can put a little more distance between us and them…”

“We should,” I finished.

Sam and Hayley struggled to their feet. I could tell they were exhausted, but they didn’t complain. Maybe they were beyond that.

Daniel put Corey’s arm over his shoulders and we set off again.


WE HEADED FARTHER INLAND, not really going anywhere, just going. No one talked. No one even asked what was going on, why were these people after us, why had they shot Nicole. Reasons weren’t important.

We trudged through the woods, Kenjii and I in the lead. After a while, I let her go ahead and pick the clearest path. The shock of Nicole’s death had dulled my senses. I didn’t see the beautifully gnarled old trees and the delicate new ones. I just saw trees. Endless trees. When I heard the mournful hoot of owls or the staccato patter of paws, I didn’t stop to listen. Even the smell of cedar seemed too sharp, acidic, as I strained to pick up every smell I usually hated on my forest walks—the stink of gas or diesel fumes, the acrid scent of smoke. Signs of life. Human life. There were none.

Even when I managed to pull my thoughts away from Nicole’s and Rafe’s deaths, I still found plenty to dwell on. I thought about Annie and wondered where she was, if she was alive, if she was safe. Could she take care of herself? She was nineteen, but since she began shape-shifting, she’d started regressing intellectually. Reverting to a more animal-like state. That’s why Rafe had been so determined to find the scientists who’d reactivated our skin-walker gene. Because he hoped they could help Annie. Would the same thing happen to me?

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