The summoning, p.29
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       The Summoning, p.29

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 29

 

  Did he notice how they treated him? I'm sure he did. Nothing escaped Derek, and I suspected it only reinforced that he needed to be in here.

  As the movie droned on, I fretted about him. He'd been so careful not to let Simon know he'd been sick. If Simon could tell he “wasn't feeling great,” that had to mean he was too sick to hide it.

  I slipped from the media room, got four Tylenol and a glass of water, and took it upstairs.

  I tapped on the door. No answer. Light shone under it, but he could have fallen asleep reading.

  Or be too sick to answer.

  I rapped again, a little louder.

  “Derek? It's me. I brought water and Tylenol. ”

  Still nothing. I touched the doorknob, cold under my fingertips. He was probably asleep. Or ignoring me.

  “I'll leave it here. ”

  As I bent to set the glass on the floor, the door opened, just enough for me to see Derek's bare foot. I straightened. He was in his boxers again, and my gaze shot to the safety of his face, but not before noticing the sheen of sweat on his chest. Sweat plastered his hair around his face, and his eyes were feverish, lips parted, breath coming hard, labored.

  “Are y-?you—?” I began.

  “Be fine. ”

  He ran his tongue over his parched lips and blinked hard, as if struggling to focus. When I held out the glass, he reached for it through the gap and took a long gulp.

  “Thanks. "

  I handed him the Tylenol. “Are you sure you're okay?”

  “Good enough. ”

  He braced the door with his foot and reached around his back, scratching.

  “Maybe you should take a bath,” I said. “A cold bath, for your fever. Baking soda would help the itching. I could get-”

  “Nah, I'm okay. ”

  “If you need anything…”

  “Just rest. Go on back down before someone notices. ”

  I headed for the stairs.

  “Chloe?”

  I glanced back. He was leaning out the door.

  “Nothing to Simon, okay? About how bad I am?”

  “He knows you're not feeling well. You really should tell—”

  “I'm fine. ”

  “You're not fine. He's going to figure that out—”

  “He won't. I'll take care of it. ”

  He withdrew and the door clicked shut.

  * * *

  That night in bed, Rae couldn't keep quiet. She wanted to talk about her backpack and what she'd packed and whether she'd made the right choices and should she take anything else…

  I hated to shush her. She was as excited as a kid getting ready for her first overnight camp, which was weird because after what had happened to her friend, Rae should know that life on the street wasn't going to be some fabulous, unchaperoned adventure.

  I suppose, to her, this wasn't the same thing. She was going with Simon and me, and there were few kids less likely to turn Bonnie and Clyde. This wasn't an act of delinquency; it was a mission. And, besides, like Simon and Derek said, old rules didn't apply to us anymore.

  “ 'Cause we're special. ” She gave a bubbling laugh. “That sounds so lame. But it's what everyone wants, isn't it? To be special. ”

  Do they? There were a lot of things I wanted to be. Smart, sure. Talented, definitely. Pretty? Okay, I'll admit it. But special?

  I'd spent too much of my life being special. The rich girl who lost her mother. The new kid in class. The drama major who didn't want to be an actor. For me, special meant different, and not in a good way. I'd wanted to be normal, and I guess the irony is that, the whole time I was dreaming of a normal life, I already had one . . . or a whole lot closer to it than I'd ever have again.

  But now I watched Rae lying on her stomach, matches in hand, struggling to light one with her bare fingertips, the tip of her tongue sticking through her teeth, determination bordering on desperation, and I could see how badly she wanted a supernatural power. I had one, and I cared so little for it that I'd gladly give it to her.

  It was like in school, when other girls drooled over designer jeans, counting the babysitting hours until they could buy a pair, and I sat there wearing mine, four other pairs in the closet at home, no more meaningful to me than a pair of no-?names. I felt guilty for not appreciating what I had.

  But necromancy wasn't a pair of expensive jeans, and I was pretty sure my life would be better without it. Definitely easier. And yet, if I woke tomorrow and couldn't talk to the dead, would I be disappointed?

  “I think it's getting warm,” she said, pinching the match head between her fingers.

  I crawled out of bed. “Let me see. ”

  “No. ” She pulled it back. “Not yet. Not until I'm sure. ”

  Was Rae half-?demon? Derek said they did burn things with their hands. By her age, Rae should have been lighting that match no problem. But then he'd never heard of a necromancer who woke up one morning and suddenly started seeing ghosts everywhere. Usually it was a gradual process.

  Wasn't that typical for development in general? A book might say “at twelve, children begin a process of puberty, ending at eighteen,” but that's a generalization. You get girls like me and guys like Derek, neither of us fitting the norm.

  Maybe Rae's supernatural powers were late blooming, like me and my period. And maybe my powers were like Derek's puberty, the changes hitting all at once.

  Apparently half-?demons had a human mother and a demon father, who'd taken human form to impregnate her. That fit Rae's history, with a mother who'd given her up at birth, no father in the picture.

  “Smoke!” she squealed before slapping a hand over her mouth. She waved the match. “I saw smoke. I swear it. Yes, I know, I need a life, but it was just so cool. Here, watch. ”

  She pulled another match from the book.

  Was Rae a half-?demon?

  I really hoped so.

  Forty

  RAE'S WATCH ALARM WAS set to go off at three. According to Derek, that was the quietest time of night, when we'd be least likely to be spotted. At 2:45 we shut the alarm off, and by 2:50 we were out of our room, backpacks in hand.

  When I eased our door shut, the hall fell to pitch-?black. The ticking of the grandfather clock guided us to the stairs.

  I swore this time every step creaked, but as hard as I strained for sounds of Tori or Mrs. Talbot stirring, I heard only the clock.

  At the bottom of the stairs, the moon peeked in around the drawn curtains, lifting the darkness just enough so I could make out chairs and tables before I crashed into them. I was turning into the hall when a dark shape stepped from the shadows. I bit back a yelp and scowled, ready to blast Derek. But it was Simon, and one look at his ashen face killed the words in my throat.

  “What's—?” I began.

  “Is Derek with you?”

  “No, wh—”

  “He's gone. ” He lifted something that glinted and it took a moment for me to recognize it as Derek's watch. “He had the alarm set for 2:45. When it went off, I woke up and found it on my pillow. His bed was empty. ”

  Rae's fingers closed on my arm. “But Derek's not coming, right? Let's just go. ”

  “Did he say anything to you last night?” I whispered.

  Simon shook his head. “He was asleep. I didn't wake him. ”

  “Maybe he's in the bathroom,” Rae whispered. “Come on, guys, we have to—”

  “I checked the bathrooms. And the spare room. And the kitchen. Something's wrong. Something happened to him. ”

  “If it did, would he have left you the watch? Maybe…” I struggled for a reasonable explanation, fighting the rising panic that said there wasn't one. “Maybe he's afraid we'll try to drag him along at the last minute and we'll wake someone up. ”

  “Speaking of which…” Rae said with a pointed look at the ceiling.

  Simon and I looked at each oth
er and I knew, as logical as my explanation was, Derek would know Simon couldn't leave without making sure he was okay.

  “Guys…” Rae said.

  “You two go,” said Simon. “I'll find—”

  “No,” I said. “I will. ”

  “But—”

  I lifted my hand to cut him short. “What good will it do if I get away and you don't? It's your dad. You know how to find him. ”

  Simon's gaze slid to the side.

  “What?” Rae turned to me. “Forget Derek, Chloe. He's not coming, remember? He'll be fine. We have to go. ”

  “I'll find him and come after you,” I said. “We'll meet behind the factory, okay?”

  Simon shook his head. “He's my responsibility—”

  “Right now, your dad is your responsibility. You can't help Derek—or me—if you can't find him. ”

  Silence.

  “Okay?”

  His brows knitted, and I could tell that it wasn't okay, that he hated to run.

  “You have to go,” I said.

  He took my hand, wrapped his fingers around it, and squeezed. I'm sure I turned as red as if he'd scooped me up in a kiss.

  “Be careful?” he said.

  “I will. I'll find him, then I'll find you. ”

  “I'll be waiting. ”

  * * *

  Simon took my backpack. It'd be a dead giveaway if I was caught carrying it. If I stashed it someplace, I might not get a chance to retrieve it.

  We had the security code—Derek had written it out for us, together with instructions and hand-?drawn maps. I could take that as proof that he hadn't planned to be here when we left, but I knew it was just Derek being Derek, leaving nothing to chance.

  So why take off and risk Simon not going? My last memory of Derek flashed past—standing in his bedroom doorway, bathed in sweat, barely able to focus—and I knew what had happened.

  If Simon saw him like that, he'd know how sick Derek was. If Simon knew, Simon would stay. No question. So Derek had done the only thing he could—holed up someplace, left the alarm on, and prayed Simon would go. A slim chance versus no chance.

  So where was he? I headed to the basement first. The door was closed, light off, but he wouldn't leave any sign if he was hiding. The laundry room was empty. The door to the closet was locked.

  Last night, when we'd gone on our walk, he'd gulped down the cold air. When we'd returned, his fever seemed gone and I'd chalked it up to the Tylenol kicking in, but maybe the cold air had been enough. If he was desperate for a quick fix, he'd go outside, in hopes of cooling down enough to see Simon off.

  I stepped onto the back porch. The quarter moon had slid behind clouds and it was as dark as the upstairs hall. I could make out the glimmer of lights at a neighbor's, but the towering trees blocked all but that faint glow.

  My gaze swept the black yard, seeing only the pale box that I knew was the shed. It was colder than the night before, and my breath hung in the air. The only sound was the creak of branches, as steady and monotonous as the ticking of the grandfather clock.

  I took three tentative strides across the deck. By the time I climbed down the steps to the concrete pad, I could make out more pale shapes in the yard—the bench, a lawn chair, the garden angel, and a soccer-?ball-?sized blob near the shed.

  An engine revved and I froze, but it was only a car passing. Another two slow steps. I glanced over my shoulder and considered dashing back in for a flashlight, but Simon had taken the only one I knew about.

  I peered around. My lips parted to whisper Derek's name, then closed. Would he answer? Or hide?

  When I drew closer to the presumed ball, I saw it was a big white sneaker. Derek's. I scooped it up, looking about wildly now.

  A blast of wind struck me, so cold it made my eyes water. I rubbed the icy tip of my nose as the wind moaned through the trees. Then the wind died down… and the moaning continued, a long, low sound that made the back of my neck prickle.

  I turned slowly. The sound stopped. Then came a stifled cough, and as I wheeled toward it, I saw a white sock peeking from behind the shed.

  I dashed over. Derek was there, deep in the shadows, on all fours, his head and upper body barely visible. The stink of sweat rolled off him, and the breeze brought a sharp, bitter smell that made the back of my throat constrict, reflexively gagging.

  His body tensed as he retched, a dry, ragged heave.

  “Derek?” I whispered. “It's Chloe. ”

  He went rigid. “Go away. ” The words were a guttural growl, barely intelligible.

  I stepped closer, dropping my voice another notch. “Simon's gone. I convinced him to go on ahead while I found you. ”

  His back arched, arms stretched out, pale fingers digging into the soil. A low moan, cut short by a grunt.

  “You found me. Now go. ”

  “Do you really think I'd leave you like this?” I took another step forward. The stink of vomit made me clap my hand to my nose. I switched to breathing through my mouth. “If you're throwing up, that's more than a fever. You need—”

  “Go!” The word was a snarl and I staggered back.

  His head dropped. Another moan, this one ending in a high-?pitched sound, almost like a whimper. He wore a T-?shirt, bare muscles bunching as he gripped the ground again. His arms darkened, as if a shadow passed over them, then reappeared, pale against the surrounding shadow.

  “Derek, I—”

  His back arched, stretching so high I could see the rigid line of his spine, T-?shirt pulled tight, muscles writhing and rippling. Then he sagged, his panting breaths as ragged as the rustling leaves.

  “Please. Go. ” The words were a deep mumble, like he wasn't opening his mouth.
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