Girl of Nightmares

Page 65


Carmel smiles and adjusts her hair, pulled into a sporty ponytail. "Nah," she says, and nudges Thomas with her shoulder. "He's too pretty for me." Thomas grins, grabs her hand, and kisses it. Since they just got back together, I'm willing to let this PDA business slide.

Jestine grins and takes a deep breath. "We may as well stay here for the night and start off in the morning. There are rooms for board upstairs and we've got a long hike tomorrow." She raises her brows at Thomas and Carmel. "How do you want to room? The two of you and the two of us? Or boys in one, girls in the other?"

"Boys in one," I say quickly.

"Right. Back in a minute." Jestine gets up to make the arrangements, leaving me with my gaping friends.

"Where'd that come from?" Carmel asks.

"Where'd what come from?"

As usual, playing dumb gets me nowhere.

"Is there something going on?" She gestures with her head toward Jestine. "No," she says, answering her own question. But she's looking at Jestine, measuring just how attractive she is.

"Of course there isn't," I say.

"Of course there isn't," Thomas echoes. "Although," he says, and narrows his eyes. "Cas does have a weakness for girls who can kick his ass."

I laugh and throw a fry at him. "Jestine did not kick my ass. And besides, like Carmel can't kick yours?" We smile and go back to eating with the mood shades lighter. But when Jestine returns to the table, I avoid looking at her, just to make a point.

* * *

My eyes are open in the dark. There isn't any real light in the room, only soft, cold blues streaming in from the window. Thomas is snoring in his bed next to mine, but not sawing logs or anything. It wasn't him that woke me. Not a nightmare, either. There's no adrenaline in my blood, no twitchy feeling in my back or legs. Whispering. I remember whispering, but I can't separate it from dream or waking sound. My eyes swivel to the window, out toward the lake. But that's not it. Of course it isn't. That lake isn't going to slither out of its banks and come up here after us, no matter how many things it has pulled under and drowned.

Probably just nerves. But even as I think so, my legs swing out of bed and I pull my jeans on, then slide the athame out from underneath the pillow. Go with your gut is the credo that has served me best, and my gut says there's a reason that I'm suddenly awake in the middle of the night . And I'm wide awake, stark f**king awake. The dry chill of the floor against my bare feet doesn't even make me flinch.

When I open the door of our room, the hallway is silent. That almost never happens; there's always a noise of some kind coming from somewhere, the creaking of the building against its foundation, the distant hum of a running refrigerator. But right now there's nothing, and it feels like a cloak.

There isn't enough light. No matter how wide I open my eyes, they can't take enough in to see much of anything, and I only vaguely remember the layout of the hall from walking up to our rooms. We took two left turns. Carmel and Jestine went farther back; the door to their room was around the corner. The athame shifts in my palm; the wood slides against my skin.

Someone screams and I bolt toward the sound. Carmel's calling me. Then all of a sudden she isn't. When her voice cuts off, my adrenaline spikes. I'm in their open doorway in two seconds, squinting against the light from Jestine's bedside lamp.

Carmel's out of bed, squeezed against the wall. Jestine's still in bed, but sitting straight up. Her eyes are fixed across the room, and her lips move rapidly in a Gaelic chant, her voice coming even and strong from her throat. There's a woman standing in the middle of the room in a long, white nightgown. A shock of white-blond hair spirals out over her shoulders and down her back. She's obviously dead, her skin more purple than white, and there are deep grooves in it, like wrinkles, except that she isn't old. It's shriveled, like she was left to rot in a bathtub.

"Carmel," I say, and hold my hand out. She hears but doesn't react; maybe she's too shocked to move. Jestine's voice gets progressively louder and the ghost rises from the floor. The yellowed teeth are bared; she's getting more pissed by the second. When she starts to thrash, she sprays putrid water everywhere. Carmel squeaks and covers her face with her arm.

"Cas! I can't hold her much longer," Jestine says, and the moment she does, the spell loses its grip and the ghost rushes the bed.


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