The Calling Page 61


Fresh tears. I tried to blink them back, but it was no use. I looked at this place, this tree, and I saw Rafe. Heard his laugh. Felt his kiss. Even smelled him. I closed my eyes and the feeling was so vivid I swore I could just reach out and…

But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t ever again, and as I sat there crying, I didn’t think about what I’d felt for him and what might have been. I thought about him. The person, not the guy in my life.

I thought about everything he’d told me about his past, and I wished he’d told me more. I thought of what he’d said to me about his dreams for the future, what he wanted in life, and I realized how little of that I knew. He wanted to fix Annie. Beyond that? I had no idea. Was there a future he’d wanted? One he’d imagined? Or had he just concentrated on the present and getting through it?

Only he hadn’t gotten through it. He hadn’t fixed Annie. He’d come to Salmon Creek to find me for answers, and I’d gotten him killed. No future. Not for Rafe. Just … gone.

I looked down at the leather band on my wrist—his bracelet—and thought, I don’t deserve this. I was ready to pull it off, climb a tree, and leave it there, in his memory. Then I stopped.

I didn’t deserve his bracelet, but maybe I still could earn it. Find Annie, if she was still alive. Help her. Finish what he started.

I took a deep breath and touched the bracelet’s cat’s-eye stone. I’m going to fix this. I know I can’t—my breath caught—can’t fix it all, but I’ll do what I can. I promise.

I squeezed my eyes shut and I sent out the promise again, fingers on the stone. I sensed him close by. Felt him, smelled him—

“I knew I’d find you here,” a voice said behind me. “Sooner or later.”

My heart stopped and I knew I was hearing wrong, that it must be Daniel, come to find me, but my mind was still fixed on—

“Rafe,” I whispered.

I turned. He was walking out of the forest and he was grinning and … and there was no “and” because that was all I could think.

My eyes shut. I didn’t want them to. I didn’t care if it was an illusion, I wanted to see him one more time before the vision disappeared and I was left with that last horrible memory of him falling from the helicopter.

“I know I’m looking a little rough,” he said. “But I didn’t think it was that bad.”

His voice came closer. “Open your eyes, Maya,” he whispered. “It’s me.”


I OPENED MY EYES and when I did, he was right there, and all I could see was his eyes, those amazing amber eyes that I could fall into and—

I stumbled back. “You’re not real.”

“Mmm, actually, I am. Not aghost.” He brushed his hand over the tops of the tall grasses, making them sway. “Not a zombie either, or I’d smell even worse by now. Not a ghost, not a zombie, just a freaking insanely lucky guy.”

“I saw you fall.”

“The fall isn’t the problem. It’s the sudden stop at the end. Avoid that and…” He waved his hands down his body. “Apparently, you can survive.”

“That’s not… You can’t…”

“Did I mention the insanely lucky part? Great thing about this island? Really big trees. Gotta love those redwoods, especially when they break your fall. Still it was a helluva hit and I’ve got the war wounds to show for it.”

He held out his bare arms, covered in healing scratches. There were more on his face. I looked at him then, my first good look, as hope started to flutter in my chest.

Except for the scratches and a purpled bruise on his chin, he looked exactly as I remembered. Blue jeans, tank top, faded denim jacket, boots. Black hair curling over his collar. Brown eyes flecked with gold. Crooked smile threatening to burst into a grin.

“Got impaled, too.” He lifted his shirt and turned around to show me what looked like a scabbed-over stab wound in his side. “Dislocated my shoulder. Passed out from the pain. When I woke up, the shoulder was fixed—one of the benefits of being a shape-shifter I guess—and the rest was healing. I was unconscious for a while, apparently.”

“I … I still—”

“Can’t believe it?” Rafe shrugged. “I’m guessing a regular person wouldn’t have survived. But we’re part cat so maybe falls aren’t so bad. I think I lost one of my nine lives though.” He twisted to look at the stab wound. “Maybe two.”

I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him, and when I did, I knew he was real—the heat of him, the smell of him, the feel of him, the taste of him so incredibly real that it surpassed anything my memory could conjure up. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me back, and it was like every other amazing kiss he’d given me, multiplied ten-fold. I kissed him until I couldn’t breathe, and then I kissed him a little more, until I had to pull back, gasping.

“I have got to die more often,” he said. And he grinned, that incredible blaze of a grin that made me kiss him again.

When we finally pulled apart, he brushed his palm over my still-damp cheeks.

“Your parents are okay, Maya,” he murmured. “They’ve just left. The whole town left.”

“I know. That’s not…” I stepped back, out of his arms, and looked over at the fallen tree. “I came out here and I saw that, and I remembered us… You…”

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