Girl of Nightmares

Page 64


My mind strays to Anna, and the image of her blooms up so strong in my senses that I can almost see her reflection in the window. It takes everything I've got to blink and stop seeing it.

"Why don't you want to think about her?" Thomas asks, and I jump. He's sitting behind me now, leaned over the partition of the seats. Stupid train noise. Carmel is stretched out across the seats, and beside me Jestine is out cold too, curled up against her duffel bag.

"She's the reason for all this," he says. "So what's with the guilt?"

I squint at him. He finds his way in my head at the most inopportune times. "Carmel's going to have a very annoying life."

"Carmel's figured out how to block me, for the most part." He shrugs. "You, not so much. So?"

"I don't know." I sigh. "Because when I do, there's a lot of shit I'm forgetting."

"Like what?"

He knows that I don't really want to talk about this. I can barely get it straight in my own head.

"Can I just think the random crap that's going through my head and you can figure it out?"

"Only if you want me to get an unstoppable nosebleed." He grins. "Just … talk."

Like that's the simplest thing in the world. The words have built up in my throat, and if I open my mouth I'm going to heave for who knows how long.

"Fine. The Obeahman, for one. If I'm right, then he's there too. And we all remember how well he kicked my ass last time. Now he's even kicking hers. For two, what kind of Machiavellian shit am I going to step in with the Order? Jestine said there would be a price, and of that I have no doubt. And then there's this test that we're all running blindly into."

"We don't have a choice," Thomas says. "The clock ticks. Caution's become a luxury."

I snort. If caution is a luxury for me, that's fine. I know what I'm willing to pay. Thomas and Carmel aren't a part of it, but they might get pulled in anyway.

"Look," he says. "The situation is dark. Maybe even pitch black, if you want to get really dramatic." He smiles. "But don't feel guilty about being excited to see her again. I'm excited to see her again."

There's no doubt in his eyes. He's absolutely certain that the plan will go from A to B, and everything will work out with rainbows and pots of gold . It's like he's completely forgotten just how many people I got killed last fall.

* * *

We changed trains in Glasgow and finally disembarked at Loch Etive, a sprawling, stretching lake of blue that reflects the sky with eerie stillness. When we crossed it on the ferry to the north bank, I couldn't shake the awareness of the depth beneath the boat, the idea that the reflection of sky and clouds was masking an entire world of darkness, caves, and swimming things. I'm glad to be across, on solid ground. There's moss here, and moisture in the air, clearing my lungs. But even now I feel the lake over my shoulder, sitting still and sinister as the yawning jaws of a trap. I much prefer Superior, with her waves and rages. She doesn't keep her violence a secret.

Jestine's got her phone out. She's been periodically checking for texts from Gideon, but isn't really expecting one. "Mobile service in the north country is spotty," she said. Now she clicks her phone closed and rolls her neck back and around, stretching after sleeping in what was roughly a Q shape for hours on the train. Her hair is down and loose on her shoulders. We're all dressed comfortably, in layers and athletic shoes, backpacks affixed, looking for all the world like hikers out walking the country, which I guess is fairly common. The only things that set us apart are our pinched, nervous expressions. There is a very strong, stranger-in-a-strange-land vibe passing between us. I'm used to finding my feet fast in new places. God knows I've moved around enough. Maybe planting roots in Thunder Bay has made me soft. Having to rely on Jestine for everything doesn't sit well either, but there's no other option. At least she's doing a decent job of keeping Thomas and Carmel's minds off of what lies ahead by telling colorful local stories. She talks of ancient heroes and loyal hounds, and tells us about the dude from Braveheart and where he held his meetings. By the time she pulls us into a pub for fries and burgers, I realize she's taken my mind off everything too.

"I'm glad you two have worked things out," Jestine says, looking across the table at Carmel and Thomas. "You make a very cute couple."


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