Girl of Nightmares

Page 50


No thanks to you, I think, but Gideon comes around the corner and the sight of him, in the flesh for the first time in something like ten years, stops me cold.

"Theseus Cassio Lowood."


"You shouldn't have come."

I swallow. His advancing years haven't taken any of the gravity out of his voice, or any of the steel out of his spine.

"How did you know that I was?" I ask.

"The same way I know everything," he replies. "I have spies everywhere. Didn't you see the eyes moving in the paintings around your house?"

I don't know whether or not to smile. It was a joke but it didn't sound like one. I haven't been here in more than ten years, and it feels like I'm going to be kicked out.

"Uh, I'm Thomas Sabin," Thomas says. Good thinking. Gideon can only stand in the kitchen for a few seconds before his English manners overtake him. He walks over to shake hands.

"That's a dangerous one, there," the girl says from the kitchen, where she stands with her arms crossed over her chest. Now that the light is better I can see that she's about our age or slightly younger. Her eyes are quick and dark green. "Thought he was going to explode my heart. I thought you said he didn't hold with black mages."

"I'm no black mage, or whatever," Thomas says. He blushes, but at least he doesn't shuffle his feet.

Gideon finally looks at me again, and I can't keep my eyes from flicking to the ground. After what feels like hours and a tired sigh, he pulls me into a hug. The years haven't taken any strength out of his grip, either. But it's weird, being tall enough so that my head is over his shoulder rather than pressed into his stomach. It's sad, but I don't quite know why. Maybe because so much time has passed.

When he lets go, there's fondness in his eyes that the hard set of his jaw can't quite mask. But it tries.

"You look just the same," he says. "Only stretched a bit. You'll have to forgive Jessy." He half turns and gestures for the girl to come over. "She has a tendency to run in fists first." When Gideon holds his arm out, she moves lightly into the embrace. "Since I imagine she was far too rude to do so herself, I'll introduce her . Theseus, this is Jestine Rearden. My niece."

The only thing I can think to say is, "I didn't even know you had a niece."

"We haven't been close." Jestine shrugs. "Until recently." Gideon smiles at her, but the smile is like an ice pick. It's real but it's not real, and the thought crosses my mind that this Jestine person isn't Gideon's niece at all, but his girlfriend or something. But that's not right. That actually makes me want to throw up a little.

"Give us a minute, won't you, my dear? I'm sure Thomas and Theseus are in need of some rest."

Jestine nods and smiles without showing her teeth. Her eyes linger on me, amused and appraising. What is she looking at? Everybody looks this crappy after an international flight. When she leaves without saying good-bye, Thomas says, "Good night," very loudly in her wake, and rolls his eyes. Whoever she is, she's successfully made it on his shit list.

After Thomas and I take a few minutes to call Morfran and my mom to reassure them we made it safely, Gideon leads us upstairs, toward the guest room where I stayed when I was a kid and Mom and Dad and I spent the summer with him.

"That's it?" I ask. "Aren't you going to ask me why I'm here?"

"I know why you're here," Gideon says darkly. "You can sleep in the guest room. And in the morning, you're going home."

* * *

"Some goddamn welcome wagon," Thomas grumbles after we've hauled our suitcases to the second-floor guest room, and I stifle a grin. When he's upset, he sounds just like Morfran. "I didn't even know he had a niece."

"I didn't know either," I reply.

"Well, she's a real ball of sunshine." He's placed his suitcase at the foot of the better bed. The guest room, oddly enough, seems like it was outfitted just for us, with two twin beds rather than one double like one might expect in a guest room. But then, Gideon did know we were coming. Thomas pulls the quilt back and sits down, prying his shoes off with the opposing set of toes.

"What was that, anyway, that she was doing to me?" I ask.

"Some kind of curse. I don't know. You don't see it very often."


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