The Calling Page 44

I’d sent Daniel along the road, which seemed to be slowly veering inland. I stuck to a direct route south, through the woods. Soon I found an even narrower dirt road.

It was dusk when I came across a couple of cottages. They were little more than shacks. Both uninhabited. One was completely empty. The other had furniture. So I broke in and, no, I didn’t feel guilty about that. Couldn’t.

As I discovered, though, the only thing in that cabin was the furniture. No phone. No canned food. I had pop and energy bars from the store, though, so I decided to eat them at the table, which felt oddly comforting. I shared with Kenjii, as I’d done with all my rations.

By the time I finished eating, night had fallen. I considered spending it on the double bed. It was just a bare mattress—a stained and soiled one—but my muscles ached from sleeping on the cold ground, and I’d be better able to escape pursuers with a decent sleep. So I gingerly stretched out, using Kenjii as a pillow.

As everything got quiet, there was only one thing left to do. Think about what happened at the store today. Think about what that man said.

Calvin Antone. My father. I hated the sound of that. Even “biological father” wasn’t much better. As for “bio father,” I’d never used the term, even in my mind. Probably because I never thought about the man who’d fathered me.

I did think about the woman who’d given birth to me. I couldn’t help it. She’d abandoned me. Now, I’d learned that I had a twin brother, and she’d kept him. It didn’t matter if Rafe was right and she’d split us up for our own safety. She’d still chosen which child she wanted to keep, and there had to be a reason—maybe I cried more, maybe I fussed more, maybe she decided she’d rather have a son—but some thought process must have gone into it. She’d chosen him and rejected me.

I flipped onto my stomach and made a noise in my throat that sounded a lot like a growl.

I didn’t want to feel anything toward my biological parents, positive or negative. I remember once my mom showed me an online forum for adopted kids. If I wouldn’t share my angst with her and I wouldn’t share it with a counselor, maybe I’d be comfortable with this. What she couldn’t seem to understand was that I had no angst. On those forums I saw kids bitching about their adoptive parents and how much better their biological ones might have been, and I realized I had nothing in common with them.

I was sure there were others like me—who wouldn’t trade their adoptive parents for anything—but those kids were doing fine, living their lives, just like me. They weren’t complaining on Internet forums.

Now I had angst. Not only had my biological mother rejected me, but Rafe also said she had light hair and hazel eyes, even if she had to be at least part-Native because of the skin-walker blood. I’d grown upthinking I was one-hundred-percent Native, and finding out I wasn’t threw me off balance.

Then I’d met my biological father and he wasn’t just the sperm donor I’d imagined. Apparently, he was the parent who hadn’t rejected me. He said he’d been searching for me since I’d been born. Then he found me, and he’d been there ever since, somewhere, watching me grow up.

Did I believe his story? I didn’t want to. I wanted him to be lying, to be evil. Otherwise, he really had wanted me and when we finally got a chance to meet, he was on the side of the people chasing me. He was my father, and he was my enemy. He claimed to care for me, and he killed the guy I cared about. He wanted to give me a better life, and he seemed hell-bent on destroying the great one I already had.

So yes, I had angst.

More than angst, because when I thought about my biological parents, it forced me to think of the one thing that worried me more than anything else. The one thing I’d been struggling so hard not to think about. My mom and dad.

They thought I was dead. Dead. What were they going through? How were they coping? Were they safe?

Angst. Fear. Stark, gut-twisting terror. It didn’t make for an easy sleep.

I tried to clear my head, but when I did, I realized how horrible this cabin was. Even Kenjii’s dog smell wasn’t enough to mask the stench of the mattress.

There was no place better to sleep inside. I left the cabin and walked until I was so exhausted that I didn’t care how hard the ground was. Then I curled up with my dog and fell asleep.


MY DREAMS STARTED INNOCENTLY enough. I was at home, undressing for the night, then I collapsed into bed. I didn’t stay there for long. The next thing I knew, I was in a medieval torture chamber, roped to the rack, being stretched until I screamed with… I wasn’t sure how to describe it. Not pain. It was like stretching for a run, only it felt wrong, like I was overdoing it, my brain screeching for me to stop before I tore something, only I couldn’t stop, because I wasn’t in control. The ropes pulled tighter and tighter, until I was covered in sweat, gasping for breath.

I didn’t know what my tormenters wanted from me, but apparently “screaming like a girl” wasn’t it, because they ramped it up to a form of torture seen only in sci-fi movies—injecting bugs under my skin. I didn’t actually feel the injections. But I felt the bugs. They crawled all over my body and burrowed into my flesh. That led to more screaming.

I lay there feeling my body being stretched beyond its limits, watching it writhe and contort as bugs skittered beneath my skin. And then, with no warning, the ropes were cut and the beetles vanished, and I was left panting with exertion and exhaustion, eyes squeezed shut until I dared to open them and—

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