The Calling Page 34

She stalked off ahead. Daniel shrugged at me, then went back to collect Corey and Hayley. I caught up to Sam.

“Don’t,” she said. “Just don’t, okay?”

“I was only going to say that we need to head that way.” I pointed.

“Right.” A soft, choked laugh. “Kind of ruins the dramatic effect if I’m storming off in the wrong direction, doesn’t it?” She shook her head, then waited with me for the others to reach us.


DARKNESS WAS FALLING. THERE’D been no sign of our pursuers, so we finally surrendered to exhaustion and found a sheltered grove of trees for the night.

We couldn’t risk building a fire, but our clothing was long dried, and the night was warm, with the trees blocking the wind. Kenjii stretched out against my back, which was as good as a fire, and I should have dropped into an exhausted sleep. I didn’t.

About a half hour passed before I heard Daniel get up. He tried to pad silently across our sleeping area, until he stopped by my head and hunkered down.

“Yes, I can’t sleep either,” I whispered.

He motioned me up. Kenjii rolled to her feet and silently followed us. He didn’t need me to take the lead. It was a three-quarter moon in a cloudless sky.

He kept checking over his shoulder, making sure I was still there. Every time he looked ahead, again I’d watch him and remember what Sam said about Nicole. I imagined how he’d react and that crushed any concern I had about not telling him the truth.

He’d blame himself, wonder what he’d done to encourage Nicole, when the truth was that he hadn’t encouraged her. Just being himself was enough. Nicole fell for Daniel for the same reasons almost every girl at Salmon Creek had, at one time or another. He wasn’t hard to look at—wavy blond hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders, gorgeous smile… It was the smile that did it the most, because it wasn’t calculated or flirtatious—it was open and it was friendly and it told you this was, as Sam said, a good guy. A really good guy. That’s why girls fell for Daniel. He could no more stop that than he could stop the sun from coming up.

So what did he get for being a decent guy? An obsessed classmate who’d apparently killed his girlfriend, and was trying to do the same to his best friend because now she’d decided I was the one keeping them apart.

Well, unless we encountered Nicole again, he wasn’t going to find out about that. The obsessed classmate would remain a tragically kidnapped friend. The dead girlfriend would remain the victim of a freak accident no one could have foreseen. And the best friend had just panicked or been attacked by some underwater creature.

We reached an outcropping of rock far enough from the others that we could talk without disturbing them. We stretched out on our backs. Kenjii nestled down by our feet.

For a few minutes we lay in comfortable silence, enjoying the warm fall night andthe star-dotted sky.

“I’m sorry about Nicole,” he said finally.

That startled me so much I pushed up onto my elbows.

“Were you drifting off?”

“No. Just—You mean about leaving her behind? Don’t be sorry.”

Really, don’t be sorry.

“You were right,” I continued. “I was acting on emotion; you were using your head. I’m sure she’s on the mainland by now. A long way from here.” At least, I hope she is.

“I feel awful about leaving her behind.”

“Of course you do. But it was the right choice.”

“I’m really glad she’s alive.” He looked over. “That was great news. I was worried about you. Losing Rafe, and then Nicole, after you guys started being friends, and I know you weren’t over losing Serena yet.” He paused and cleared his throat. “Well, obviously. I just mean…”

“I know.” I tried to see his expression in the moonlight, but he was looking at the sky again. Thinking about Serena. After a moment, I slid my hand over his. “I know you’re not over her either.”


The word came out thick and he turned his face a little farther to the other side. I sat up, cross-legged. When he didn’t move, I touched his shoulder.

“Anytime you want to talk—”

He sat up so fast I nearly toppled off the rock. He didn’t seem to notice. He sat down again on the other side, looking the other way, feet dangling over the edge, his shoulders set.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just never know whether you want to talk or don’t want to—”

“I was going to break up with her.”

He blurted it so fast, I wasn’t sure I understood. I lowered myself to sit cross-legged beside him.

“You were…”

“I was going to break up with Serena. End it. Dump her. Right before she died.”


“Yeah, oh.” A sardonic twist of his lips. He went to stand. “Forget it. I shouldn’t have—”

I caught his hand. “Don’t. You want to talk about this, right?”

He hesitated. Then another humorless smile. “I’m not sure talk is the right word. More like confess.”

“So what happened?” I asked. “She hadn’t mentioned a fight or anything.”

“Because there wasn’t one. Because nothing happened. Nothing went wrong. It just—” He took a deep breath, then let it out, cheeks puffing. He rubbed the back of his neck and shifted, then took another breath. “We were doing fine. But it wasn’t … going anywhere. When she first asked me to that dance, I didn’t feel right saying no. She was a friend and—”

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