Girl of Nightmares

Page 79


"Did you talk to the Order about being in the ritual?" I ask.

"Yes," Carmel replies. "They'll make sure we're ready. But I don't know how much good I'll do. I've been a little busy for extra witchcraft lessons."

"Witch or not, you've got blood," Gideon pipes up. "And when the Order readies the door tomorrow, it's going to be the strongest spell anyone has attempted in perhaps the last fifty years. Every one of us will have to pay in, not just Theseus and Jestine."

"You're going," Thomas says to me, sort of dazedly. "I guess I hadn't thought of that. I thought we'd just pull her back. That you'd stay here. That we'd be there."

I smile. "Get that guilty look off your face. A corpse just tried to eat you. You've done enough." It doesn't do any good, though; I can see it behind his eyes. He's still trying to think of more.

They all look at me. There's fear in them, but not terror. And there's no reservation. Part of me wants to smack them upside their heads, call them lemmings and adrenaline junkies. But that isn't it. Not a single one of them would be here if not for me, and I don't know whether that's right or wrong. All I know is that I'm grateful. It's almost impossible to think that less than a year ago, I might've been alone.

* * *

Gideon said it would be a good idea to get some sleep, but none of us really listened. Not even him. He spent most of the night in the same wingback chair, dozing uneasily, on and off, jerking awake every time the fire crackled too loudly. The rest of us lay where we could without leaving the room, on one of the sofas, or curled up in a chair. The night passed quietly, all of us staying in our own heads. I think I passed out for a few hours around three or four in the morning. When I woke up it felt like the very next moment, except the fire was dead and pale, and misty light was drifting in through the line of windows near the ceiling.

"We should eat something," Jestine suggests. "I'll be too nervous later on, and I don't fancy being bled dry on an empty stomach." She stretches, and the joints of her neck crack in a long string of pops. "Not a comfy chair. So, do you want to go find the kitchen?"

"The chef might not be there this early," Gideon says .

"Chef?" Carmel exclaims. "I could give a shit about a chef. I'm going to find the most expensive thing in that kitchen, eat one bite, and throw the rest on the floor. Then I'm going to break some plates."

"Carmel," Thomas starts. He stops when she fixes her eyes on him, and I know he's reading her mind. "Don't waste the food, at least," he mumbles finally, and smiles.

"You three go ahead," says Gideon, taking me by the arm. "We'll catch up shortly."

They nod and head for the door. When they turn into the hall, I hear Carmel mutter about how much she hates this place, and that she hopes Anna can somehow get it to implode like she did with the Victorian. It makes me smile. Then Gideon clears his throat.

"What is it?" I ask.

"It's the things that Colin didn't tell you. Things that you might not have considered." He shrugs. "Maybe just the useless hunches of an old man."

"Dad always trusted your hunches," I say. "You always seemed to help him out."

"Right until I couldn't," he says. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that he still carries that around, even though what happened wasn't his fault. He'll feel the same way about me if I don't make it back. Maybe Thomas and Carmel will too, and it won't be their fault either.

"It's about Anna," he says suddenly. "Something that I've been pondering."

"What is it?" I ask, and he doesn't reply. "Come on, Gideon. You're the one who kept me back."

He takes a deep breath and rubs his fingers along his forehead. He's trying to decide how, or where, to start. He's going to tell me again that I shouldn't be doing this, that she's where she should be, and I'm going to tell him again that I am doing it, and he should butt out.

"I don't think that Anna is in the right place," he says. "Or at least, not exactly."

"What do you mean, exactly? Do you think she belongs on the other side, in Hell, or not?"

Gideon shakes his head, a frustrated gesture. "The only thing anyone knows about the other side is that they know nothing. Listen. Anna opened a door to the other side and dragged the Obeahman down. To where? You said it seemed like they were trapped there, together.


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