The Calling Page 62

He looked startled and … something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but definitely startled, like he hadn’t ever thought I’d be crying over him.

“I dreamed you were alive,” I said. “You were calling me and you needed help, and I wanted to go but…” I swallowed. “It didn’t make sense. I told myself you couldn’t be, so I didn’t, and I’m sorry if—”

“You wouldn’t have found me, Maya. If I called you, it was only in my dreams, when I was out cold. I never expected you to come after me. I should be dead.” He tugged me into his arms. “I’m just really, really glad I’m not.”

He kissed me, and it wasn’t like the other ones, all fire and emotion. This one was achingly sweet and when we separated, the look in his eyes was … almost sad.

“I—I don’t know where Annie is,” I said. “I’m sorry. I—”

“Don’t be.” Another quick kiss, then he put his arm around my waist and started leading me back toward the house. “We’ll figure all that out later. Right now—”

The sliding back door to the house squealed. Daniel stepped onto the deck. Rafe and I were still in the woods, but we could see him, through the trees, and he could see us. He stopped dead. Kenjii raced past him. She barreled down the steps toward us, and gave me a passing lick before jumping on Rafe. He pushed her down, laughing.

“See, I am real,” he said.

“Hmm, still not sure,” I said. “Dogs are supposed to be able to see ghosts, you know.”

“Maybe, but I’m sure that guy can’t.” As we stepped from the woods, he waved at Daniel, who’d come down to the bottom of the steps and was frozen again. “Though he does look as if he’s seeing one.” He raised his voice so Daniel could hear. “Yes, it’s me. Not a ghost or a zombie or a long-lost twin brother.”

“Rafe…?” Daniel started walking slowly across the yard.

“In the flesh. Battered and bruised flesh, but apparently it takes more than a fall from a helicopter to get rid of me.”

“Wow. I can’t believe it, but obviously…” He looked Rafe up and down and shook his head. “Wow.”

“Holy hell.” Now Corey stood on the back deck, staring.

He came over and we had to go through the whole thing again. Yes, it was Rafe. Not a ghost. Not a zombie. Not a long-lost twin brother. As ludicrous as all those ideas sounded, though, they seemed more likely than the truth—that a guy fell from a helicopter and survived.

“You sure about the twin thing?” Corey said when Rafe had finished.

“Yes, I don’t have a long-lost twin brother.”

“I do,” I said. “Or so I’veheard.”

Rafe grinned at me. “Yes, but I’m not him.”

“Which is good.”

“Very good.” He squeezed my hand.

“We’ll … be inside,” Daniel said.

“Uh-uh,” Corey said. “Romantic reunions are officially on hold, even for guys who’ve returned from the dead. We’re neck-deep in crap here and we need to dig our way out. Or at least come up with a plan.” He looked from me to Daniel. “Ideas?”

“I … have a couple,” Daniel said. “I just need … time to think them through.”

“Sure,” Rafe said. “While you do that, can I tell you mine? I’ve been here almost a day. Plenty of time to think as I waited for you guys to show up.”

“We should head back to Sam,” I said. “She’s at her place.”

Corey nodded. “And I want to know how in hell you not only survived the fall, but made it back here before us.”

Rafe seemed a little surprised at how quickly Daniel and Corey bought his “miracle heal” story, until I explained that they knew about the skin-walker thing. I told him briefly about benandanti and our theories of Salmon Creek, so he wouldn’t think I’d just randomly confessed to having supernatural powers. Then he gave his story.

How did Rafe make it back so fast? Same way we did. He stole a ride. A motorcycle. In his case, though, he skipped all the steps between. No tortuous trek through the woods—he’d landed relatively close to a town. No attempts to get help, because Rafe wasn’t like us. His life experience was closer to Sam’s. His mom had sheltered him as best she could from the ugliness of life on the run, but he hadn’t grown up in a world where you could stroll into town, ask strangers for help, and expect to get it.

Annie used to have a motorcycle, he said, and she’d taught him to ride it. He also knew how to hot-wire one. I wasn’t asking how. Like I said, his life experience wasn’t ours.

“And you knew we were alive?” I said as we approached the outskirts of town.

“I knew you were alive.”

That made me feel… I don’t know. There was a flutter of happiness at the thought, but some guilt, too, because I’d had the same experience. I’d known that he was alive. Yet I hadn’t trusted it.

“Are you going to even ask who else survived?” Corey said. Did I imagine the touch of sarcasm in his voice?

“Well, obviously you guys and Samantha,” Rafe said. “I’m guessing…” He shrugged. “I’m guessing, um, no one else made it. Not exactly the subject anyone wants me discussing, I’m sure.”

“Hayley and Nicole were kidnapped,” I said.

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