The Calling Page 28

“So when did you make it?”

“I came close to a conclusion when I sent that helicopter pilot flying, but I wasn’t really ready to commit until Sam’s story sank in. With you? I wasn’t sure until that Moreno guy mentioned Annie. Rafe’s sister. I remembered the signs of a cougar around their cabin. I was worried. You brushed it off. Then Rafe freaked out about her going missing, and you two were whispering. When Moreno mentioned her, I flashed back to the cougar who appeared at your party. The young female with a mark on her flank. Annie’s a skin-walker, isn’t she? She changes into a cougar.”


“That’s what the mark means. Her mark and yours.”


I told him the story. About Annie. About Rafe. About why Rafe came to Salmon Creek. About what he found there: me. What he told me about us, about my mother, about the experiment.

Then, slowly, I crawled out of the dead brush until I could see him sitting there, arms wrapped around his knees, listening. Just listening.

“So that’s why Rafe came to Salmon Creek,” I said. “He was looking for the skin-walker. That’s why he was going through the girls. That’s why he focused on me. He figured it out.”

Daniel shifted over until he was kneeling, his face a foot from mine.

“He did like you,” he said softly. “That wasn’t an act. I’m sure of it.”

And I’d liked him. Really liked him. I realized that now. Too late, I realized that.

When I’d first felt an attraction to Rafe, I told myself it was just that. Attraction. Then I discovered we were both skin-walkers and that seemed to explain it. I’d probably have felt the same for any skin-walker guy who showed up, and he’d have felt the same for any skin-walker girl.

That made it easier. Easier than admitting I’d fallen for a guy who’d conned me. For a guy who might not really like me back. But now I realized how wrong I’d been.

When I thought of Rafe, I did remember his touch, his kiss. But what I thought about most of all was him. Just him. His laugh. His eyes. His serious side. His fears for his sister. His worries for her, for himself, for me. His honesty that night on the roof, when he’d opened up. Wanting me to get to know him better.

Now I never would get to know him better, and that’s what really hurt. Too much pride. Too few opportunities.

I rubbed my face.

“It’s back to normal,” Daniel said.

“What?” I peered at him through my fingers.

“Your face. It looks normal, so you can stop rubbing. It wasn’t bad before anyway. Just a little … different.”

He reached to pull one hand from my face. “I know you’re worried about what happened to Annie and whether it will happen toyou. You’re probably worried about the whole ‘changing into a cat’ part, too. But it’s going to be okay. We’ll figure this out and we’ll find help and it’ll be okay. I promise.”

I nodded.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“About what?”

“Yesterday. I made that bone-headed comment about werewolves, and you decided not to tell me yet.”

“No, that’s not—”

“Liar. It was a dumb thing to say.”

“Um, no, I’m pretty sure that changing into an animal does qualify as a crazy idea.”

“Sure, but in a crazy cool way. I’m jealous. What do I get? Some kind of sonic boom shout? As superpowers go, very lame.” He settled in beside me. “So tell me everything else. Have you ever started changing like that before?”

I smiled. “Later. Let’s start with you. You mentioned dreams and other things. Tell me what’s been happening.”

He leaned back. I looked over at him, his face turned up to catch a few rays of sun streaming through the treetops.

“The dreams started a few months ago,” he said. “Dreams of fields. Fields of grapes and olives, which is weird enough. I’m not even sure if I knew how olives grow, but in the dream, I knew that’s what they were. I—”

“Daniel?” Sam’s voice.

We could hear all three of them tramping through the bushes. Kenjii got up, growling.

“You tell them, girl,” Daniel muttered. “No rest for the weary.”

“No,” I said. “No rest for the endangered. We have to—” I stopped. “Nicole. Oh my God, I forgot about Nicole.”

“What about Nicole?” Sam asked as they came into view.

They were still eyeing me warily, but I ignored it. Explanations later. Right now, I had to tell them what Moreno had said about Nicole. And, admittedly, I was happy for the diversion.

“So Nicole’s alive,” Sam said after I finished talking.

“Somewhere.” Daniel’s look said he knew exactly where this was headed. “They won’t be holding her around here.”

“Why not?” I said. “She’s their best source of information about us. And she’d be the perfect lure.”

“Which is exactly why we can’t try to rescue her. It’s a setup.”

As Daniel and I argued, the others were quiet, still assimilating the news.

Corey spoke first. “Okay, it’s freaking amazing that Nic is alive. I have no idea whether we should look for her or not, but I’m pretty sure we need to discuss a few other things. Like what the hell happened to Maya back there.”

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