The Calling Page 17

Not that Rafe would really be calling for me. As that cold dawn light hit, I realized how silly it seemed, Rafe just lying there, yelling for me. If he could move, he’d be moving.

But if it had been a vision, that could mean Rafe really was out there. Really hurt. Really trying to find me.

I pulled away from Daniel and turned to Sam.

“Do you know where Rafe fell?” I asked. “Where the helicopter was?”

Her lips parted as if to ask why. Then she gave a soft, “Oh.”

“I don’t mean exactly,” I said. “Obviously, you can’t tell that. But do you have any idea? We were over the island, right? To the south of here? West? Southwest? Did you notice any landmarks?”

“Maya…” Daniel said.

I turned to meet his gaze. “I know I was sleepwalking, but it might have meant something.” I lowered my voice so the others wouldn’t hear. “A vision. Like the one I had with the marten.” I’d had a vision of one of my recuperating animals, telling me how it had been injured.

“That wasn’t—”

Daniel stopped himself. I knew he’d been about to say that it wasn’t the same. He was right. It wasn’t. But when he saw my expression, he couldn’t finish, and when I saw his, I wished I hadn’t said anything.

He looked as if he was in pain. Real pain. Wanting to give me hope. Knowing he couldn’t, and that it wasn’t right to try, wasn’t fair.

“We were too high,” Corey said, his voice uncharacteristically soft. “He…”

“He couldn’t have survived,” Sam finished.

A normal person couldn’t have survived. But Rafe was a skin-walker. Part cat.

When I looked at Daniel, though, I knew I couldn’t say that. The more I clung to impossible hopes, the more I hurt him.

And we had been too high. I could argue and bluster and tell myself maybe, just maybe he’d survived, but I knew better.

Rafe was dead and if I was dreaming of him, that was my guilt talking. He was dead and I felt responsible.

“I—I’m sorry,” I said. “Just… I need to sit down.”

Daniel took a tentative step toward me.

“I’m okay,” I said. “Just give me a minute on my own. Then we’ll go.”

I found a quiet spot where I could sit on a log and recover. Kenjii followed and sat with her head on my lap, dark eyes troubled.

A few minutes later, I heard someone looking for me, and I knew it wouldn’t be Daniel. If I said I needed to be alone, he’d give me that space. When Hayley stepped around a tree, I stood.

“Sorry,” I said. “You guys want to get going, right?”

She shook her head and came to sit beside me on the log. I hesitated, then lowered myself to it again.

“I think we should try to find Rafe,” she said.

I took a deepbreath. “I know he didn’t make it.”

“But you’ll feel better if we look. We might as well go in the direction the helicopter came from. Just in case.”

She had a point. We had to walk. Why not walk that way?

I shook my head. “If we’re going back for anyone, it should be Nicole. If there’s a chance she’s alive—”

“There isn’t. Not from what I saw. And if she did survive, that means they want her alive, which means she’s safe enough for now. I think we should try to find Rafe.”

I turned to her. “I know you liked him. Everyone’s focusing on me, but you lost him, too.”

“No, I didn’t. He was yours.”

“He didn’t belong to any—”

“I only started flirting with him to make Corey jealous. Then I guess I did kind of fall for him. But the guy I was crushing on wasn’t Rafe Martinez. Not the real one, anyway. I get that now. He was showing me someone else. He was showing us all someone else. Everyone except you.”

“That’s not—”

“Corey told me what Rafe did on the helicopter. How he let go so he wouldn’t pull you and Daniel out. The Rafe I knew wouldn’t have done that. Wouldn’t even have thought of it.”

“He didn’t mean to trick you,” I said. “He was looking for something in Salmon Creek. Something he really needed to find, to help his sister. He didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

He didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Not Hayley and the other girls he’d chased and cut loose. Not me, the one he’d finally caught, only to admit he’d pursued me for a reason.

I understood that now. I wished I could have understood it then. I wished I could have said something in that last moment, before he let go.

He’d told me it was okay. His last words to me.

Why couldn’t they have been my last words to him?


IT WASN’T EASY SETTING out again. We were tired and aching from sleeping on the cold ground. Even Sam complained. Everyone’s jeans were still damp. My sneakers squirted water with every step from sleepwalking into the creek. The clothing that had dried stunk of mildew and felt stiff and scratchy. And we were hungry. I took them back to the creek for washing and drinking. It would keep us alive until we found food. We drank enough to fill our stomachs temporarily, and we headed out.

Once we were walking, I started feeling more myself. I seemed to be establishing a pattern here. Muster my strength and charge forward. Collapse in a puddle of grief and guilt. Charge forward. Collapse again.

I said as much to Daniel and the others chimed in, making mock bets on who would spend the most time in therapy after this, and whether we could get group discounts. The joking was strained, though, and the more we walked, the less we talked.

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