The Calling Page 36

He nodded.

Another quiet moment. Then, “So you can tell when I switch it on?”

“I can.”

“Good. If I ever do it with you, accidentally, stop me, okay?”

“You think I wouldn’t?” I knocked his shoulder. “Believe me, you are not using any of that mojo on me. Ever. You want to convince me of anything, you gotta be you.”

“Good.” He caught my gaze and held it for a moment, then looked away quickly and said again, “Good. Still up for talking about your powers? What you’ve been feeling?”


Unfortunately, any discussion of my powers led to thoughts of shape-shifting, which led to thoughts of Annie, which led to worry. Worry? Hell, no. Let’s call it what it really was. Outright panic. If I even started thinking of it, my heart pounded and my mouth went dry.

When I tried to skate over the subject, Daniel brought me back, and we hashed it out. Turning out like Annie wasn’t a certainty—she was the only subject we knew who’d begun to shift. Growing up in a medical research town meant we knew all about side effects and outliers. Her case might be a one-off.

And if it wasn’t? Then we knew where to find the scientists who’d done this to us. We didn’t trust them. We didn’t want anything to do with them. Still…

“If that happens to you, we’re getting their help,” Daniel said.


He put his hand over my mouth. “No buts. If it happens to you, we go to them. We’ll force them to fix you on our terms.” A wry smile. “I can make people do things, remember?”

I was sure it wouldn’t be that easy. But having him say it? Be willing to take that risk for me? It meant a lot.

We talked until … well, until we weren’t talking anymore. I suppose I fell asleep first. I dreamed of Rafe. I dreamed he was out there, in the forest, lost and hurt and calling me. Needing me. This time, though, I didn’t bolt awake thinking it was real. Maybe I was just too tired. Or maybe, finally, I knew it wasn’t real, couldn’t be real, however much I ached to believe it.

Next thing I knew, I was waking to Kenjii licking my face and Corey saying, “Now this is when I really need a camera.”

I’m sure that when I fell asleep, I’d been lying on my back, looking up at the sky as I talked to Daniel. But when I woke up, I was on my side, nestled with my back against him, his arm over me. I jumped up so fast I kicked him in the shins and he let out an “Oomph.”

Corey’s laugh rang out through the silent forest. “Oh, come on. You guys looked so cute.”

“Cold,” I muttered. “It got cold.”

“Then let’s hit the trail and warm up,” Corey said.


AFTER ABOUT AN HOUR of walking, I started thinking maybe I’d cuddle up with Daniel again, just to make Corey laugh. The morning had started on a light note, but it darkened fast. The sky darkened too. We’d escaped the threat of rain on our first night, but now the black clouds gathering overhead said it had only been a temporary reprieve.

The rain began as a light drizzle. Being part cat, I’m not keen on rain, but I’ve always liked a light one, especially on a hot summer’s day, tramping through the woods or rock climbing, enjoying the cool mist on my face, the sweet fresh smell of it, the inevitable rainbow afterward. But this wasn’t a refreshing mist on a hot summer’s day. It was an icy drizzle that slid down the backs of our necks and plopped off the end of branches and froze our ears and soaked our shoes.

“Can we stop?” Hayley asked.

“If I see a sheltered spot, we’ll hole up for a while.”

“Can we look for one? I have a blister—”

“We all have blisters,” Sam said.

“We need to keep going,” Daniel said. “We lost a lot of time yesterday.”

“What? Are we on a schedule?” Hayley said. “Is there a bus waiting to pick us up somewhere?” She sighed, then said, “I hate complaining.”

“So don’t do it,” Sam said.

Hayley glowered at her. “You think I like being the whiner? If Nicole was here, she’d be complaining just as much. We’re tired and wet and miserable, but I’m stuck being the one who says it while everyone else just hopes I whine loud enough so we all get to stop and rest. Maya and Daniel can’t complain. They need to set an example. Unless Corey’s in enough pain that he snaps again, he’s going to tough it out. And Sam? Well, she’s not even human, so she doesn’t count.”

“Excuse me?” Sam said.

“Face it, you’re not one of those bendo-things. You’re a robot. A cyborg. Probably an evil one, programmed to murder us all in our sleep.”

Corey snickered.

“Yeah?” Sam lifted a fist to Hayley. “You want to try that one again, blondie?”

Hayley looked at Daniel and me. “I rest my case.”

“Hayley’s right,” I said. “About the complaining part. We’re not on a schedule and the harder we push, the more exhausted we’ll get.” I waved to the west. “The redwoods seem to thin over there. We might find a grove of ferns for some shelter.”

We tramped over, and as we stepped from the thick trees, we all stopped and stared. Then Corey raced forward, arms raised.

“It’s a road. Oh my God. A road!” He dropped to his knees by the roadside. “Oww.”

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