The Calling Page 23

“I thought you were doing fine,” Hayley said.

“My knee’s acting up again.” He stretched his leg and mock-winced.

“No one’s taking the ride,” Daniel said. “Even if it’s still running after hitting a deer, it’s too noisy.”

“Let’s wait for them to finish searching this area and move on, like they did last night,” I said. “Then we’ll check out that building I saw. If we can’t get help there, we’ll see if the ATV still runs.”

After lying low for about twenty minutes, Daniel and I decided we should start for the cabin. We left Kenjii behind with Corey.

The cottage was a hunting lodge—a cabin lacking a single flourish that turned it from a functional building into a vacation residence. It was off-season, but these places often did double-duty as a “getaway from the kids and the missus” refuge for men. I have to admit, I don’t get that. Shouldn’t you be able to take some time to yourself without lying about “going hunting” for the weekend? Maybe my expectations for honesty are too high. I’ve been told that before.

It seemed as if the cabin owner was on such a break from domesticity, because while no smoke came from the chimney now, a massive pickup sat in the drive.

I started forward, but Daniel caught my arm and wordlessly pointed. I followed his finger to see the elongated shadow of an ATV that was parked on the other side of the cabin.

I swore.

“Ditto,” he whispered.

We backed up into the forest.

After a harder look at the pickup, I kicked myself for not making the connection. It was big and it was gleaming new, out of place beside the rundown cabin.

The truck was transportation for the ATVs. There was another vehicle on the other side of it. Transportation for the rest of the search party.

“They’re squatting in the cabin,” I said. “Using it as a base of operations. We should still get in there if we can. Not just to search for phones or radios, but to get food. Without it, we won’t be in any shape to run or fight back if we’re caught.”

Daniel looked at me.

“Yes, I know, it’s a ballsy move,” I said.

He smiled. “All right. Let’s check it out.”


DANIEL STOOD GUARD WHILE I checked out the cabin. The terrain here was rocky grassland—sparse trees, lots of bushes, sections of tall grass. So I crawled through the grassy sections to the cabin. Then, I stood and slid along the back wall until I could peek through the window.

There was a woman inside. She was drinking from a juice box and munching peanuts. Even the sight of it made my stomach growl. As she ate, she leafed through a file.

I crawled back and told Daniel that I thought the woman had just stopped for a snack before resuming her search. Wefound a good place to sit it out and watch the cabin.

After a few minutes, Daniel said, in a low voice, “So you think Sam’s right. About me.”

“I do.”

He studied my expression, then nodded. “Okay.”

“You don’t?”

“My head says it’s crazy, but my gut… It feels like when I spend all night struggling with a math problem and finally the answer comes. There’s this click, and I know it’s right even before I check my work. Lately, there’s been a bunch of things that just seem … wrong. With me. About me. When Sam explained, I felt that click.”


He nodded, but he didn’t look convinced that it was “good.” It would have been easier for him if Sam had explained that he was suffering from a hormonal imbalance or even mild mental illness. That he could believe. This was a lot harder.

“Guess now we know why my dad hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” I said.

“Maybe. He doesn’t like me much, though. He knows what I am. I think he didn’t find out until my mom left and now he suspects I’m not his kid.”

“You are. I think pretending otherwise is just … easier for him. Your mom drops this bomb before she leaves, and he doesn’t know what to make of it. He’s confused. Maybe even a little scared of you. He doesn’t like feeling that way about his son, so he tells himself you aren’t his son.” I caught his gaze. “Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with you. Not your mom leaving. Not your dad being angry. She made choices she couldn’t deal with, so she dumped them on him. He couldn’t deal with them, so he dumped them on you. They aren’t your problems. But you’re handling them just fine.”


His lips curved in a faint smile. It wasn’t enough. I wanted to make him really smile. Make him happy.

“So now do we get to talk about your problem?” he said.


“Whatever you’ve been wanting to tell me and haven’t.”


“You’ve had a lot on your mind, and you can’t seem to find the right time or the right way to say it.”

I nodded.

“It’s about these people,” he continued, waving at the cabin. “You’ve found out something else. Something about you, not me.”

“Does your new bag of tricks include mind reading?”

He laughed. “Only when it comes to you, Maya. So, do I get the story now?”

I nodded. “It’s… It’s about Rafe. Kind of. Why he came to Salmon Creek. He was looking for something. Someone. We…”

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