The Calling Page 35

He swallowed. Rubbed his neck again. Looked around. Then he motioned at the rock. “Can we lie down again? I think I’ll do this better…”

“If you’re talking to the sky?”

A half laugh, half snort. “Yeah. Lame, I know, but—”

I stretched out on my back. He did the same.

“So you went to the dance…” I prompted.

“Right. And it was fine. I liked Serena. She was fun to be around, and easy to get along with and … well, you know. There was no reason not to go out with her, since that’s what she wanted and…” He paused. “But that’s not really a good enough reason to go out with someone either. I started figuring that out. Mostly because of the summer boys.”

“Her flirting with them? She—”

“She didn’t mean anything by it, I know. And I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t the least bit jealous or insulted and I started to realize that I should be. Even if I trusted her, I should have felt something when she flirted with other guys. Instead, I’d almost hope…”

He rubbed his mouth. Blurted the words again. “I almost hoped she’d meet someone else. I played the whole thing out in my head. I’d tell her it was okay, and we could still be friends. That’s when I realized I wasn’t being fair, letting her think things were fine and keeping her from finding someone else. I had to end it.”

I nodded.

“Only doing it wasn’t easy. I was close, really close when…”

“She drowned.”

He nodded.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “That must have been—”

“Hell.” He spat the word. “It was hell. I felt like the biggest phony ever. The grieving boyfriend who hadn’t even wanted to be her boyfriend anymore.”

He sat up then. After a moment, he looked at me.

“I did grieve. I missed her. I really did.”

“Like me. A grieving friend.”

He nodded. “Only no one would let me be that. It felt like everyone wanted me to be heartbroken, and when I wasn’t…”

“You felt guilty.”

“It was like they went back and rewrote our history. Sure, we’d been going out for almost a year, but it … it wasn’t serious, you know? Not like Brooke and Alan, crazy about each other, can’t keep their hands off each other, and everyone knows they’re going to get married and grow old together. With Seri and me, it was more like you and your summer boys. Just fun. No one expected it to be a forever thing. Then she died, and it was as if … as if people wanted it to be more. More tragic. More romantic.”

“I don’t think they meant that,” I said. “If I ever made you feel—”

“You didn’t. With you, Icould just be the guy who lost a good friend. Until…”

“Until I started worrying about you not dating. Started thinking you and Serena had been more serious than I realized.”

“All I had to do was tell you the truth. Only I couldn’t. At first, it felt like I’d be dumping on you for no reason. By the time you started worrying about me, it was too late. I couldn’t figure out how to say it.”

“Kind of like me and this skin-walker business?”

A faint smile. “I guess so.”

“I wish you’d told me.”

He met my gaze then. “So do I.”

I paused, then said, “She was happy. Serena. If you had broken it off, she’d have understood. She was—” Crazy about you. I couldn’t say that, of course. It wouldn’t make this easier. “That last year… She was really happy.”


More silence. Less comfortable now. I glanced over at him. Time to change the subject.

“So, you were going to tell me about your powers. Still up for it?”

“If you are.”


Daniel said he first noticed changes in the boxing ring—getting faster and sharper, sensing blows before he even saw them coming. The persuasion, too. He’d always found it easy to persuade people to listen to him. Simple skills like paying attention, looking them in the eye and being firm when he spoke. Lately, though, it seemed … too easy. Like with the tattoo artist’s aunt—he’d been able to get her to talk after she refused to.

“You gotta admit, that’s one sweet power,” I said.

“You think so?”

“Um, yeah. Duh.”

He glanced over. “Well, I think being able to change into a cougar is cool, which you obviously aren’t so sure of. Maybe we can switch.”

I laughed. “I wish. Shape-shifting will probably be cool, eventually, but changing from human to cat? I don’t think that’s going to tickle. Persuasion, though? I don’t see the downside.”

“No? So if I have this power, how do I know why people agree with me? Was I right when I persuaded the others not to go back for Nicole? Or did Hayley and Sam just agree because of my power?”

“No, you were right. And even if you did use your mojo, it obviously didn’t work on me.”

“That’s good.” He looked at me. “If I do have this power, I hope it never works on you. I wouldn’t want that.”

“Don’t worry. You can count on me to keep telling you you’re full of crap. And in this case, I’m not sure it was working on anyone. Corey stayed undecided. I think you have to switch it on, like you do sometimes.”

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