“Well, that depends on where one gets it, right?” I said, injecting a healthy dose of innuendo into my voice.
Kate flagged her hand as if going into more detail would be wasted on me. “At any rate,” she continued, “the Professor is getting in touch with some of his Oxford connections about the music aspect and going to keep researching here as well. And Zacharyâ”
Selena cut her off. “I know where this is going. Annie and I get the joy of babysitting Zachary while everyone else does interesting stuff.”
I nodded my agreement. Selena's little brother, Zachary, was seven years younger than her. I liked him. He was super smart for an eleven-year-old, like Mensa-smartâwhich was why the Professor was tutoring him. Still, Selena was right, we deserved to have a more important role than glorified babysitters.
Glancing up, Kate hesitated as if thinking. “Babysitting, that's not a half-bad idea.” Her gaze came back to us. “But this time Zachary will be helping the Professor.”
“Really?” Selena grinned.
I met Kate's eyes. “So what are we doing, then?”
She rested her elbows on the desk and steepled her fingers. “There's a bone flute at the old Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.”
“Bar Harbor?” Selena's grin widened.
Kate scowled. “This is not a shopping trip. We've already used photos to study the flute, but images are never the same as seeing something in person. We'd like you to make sure we didn't miss a detail, and also double-check the other exhibits and the museum's downtown location, look for anything that could represent opening the veil between realmsâspecifically with the music produced by a flute. We've long suspected that some otherworldly beings in Native American mythology are likely genies of one variety or another. But it's an area that hasn't been thoroughly explored.”
“AhâI hate to ask this,” I said. “Why are they going all the way to Slovenia to acquire a flute? Couldn't you figure out how to get access to the Abbe flute? You could use a 3-D printer to make a reproduction. It isn't like the flute has to be old to work, right? I mean, when the original shaman made and used the flute, it would have been new then.”
Selena grabbed my arm, her white-tipped nails digging in a little. “That's a great idea. The printer in the research room's really good. Super advanced.”
“In theory, it's a sound idea”âKate looked down her nose at meâ“but it has one insurmountable flaw. The Abbe flute is made from a swan's bone. The one the men have gone after was created from a cave bear femur. It's our belief that man's ability to force the veil open died with the cave bears' extinction. However, we could be wrong. That's part of the reason for your trip.”
My mind raced as I flipped through the millions of tales Dad had made up and told me since I was little, looking for one involving a flute. As wild as Dad's home-brewed stories were, coming to Moonhill had made me realize they were more fact than fictionâalmost pure fact for that matter. But there weren't any that involved a flute.
Kate's eyes homed in on mine. She rubbed her fingers across her bandaged neck for a long moment. Finally she said, “I'm asking Chase to go with you since he's more familiar with the veil and genies than either of you are. This is not an excuse for monkey business.”
My cheeks warmed. God, I wished they wouldn't do that.
I straightened my spine and took a deep breath. “I'm not an idiot, Kate. And I have more reasons to want this plan to succeed than you do.”
Her voice lowered, sending a foreboding chill across my skin. “Just don't forget that.”
A rose petal for each eyelid, a thorn for your mouth,
and a whisper in your ear. “There are no rules here,
only my desire and your obedience.”
âDream spell attributed to Malphic, Warlord of Blackspire
wo hours later, we headed to Bar Harbor and the Abbe Museums. Since we'd taken my dad's Mercedes, I got to drive while Chase rode shotgun with his elbow resting on the edge of the open window, his eyes trained on the road ahead. Selena was camped out in the back, totally focused on her phone. Most likely she was texting her boyfriend, Newt. Her parents had banned her from seeing him after she'd been arrested for underage drinking. Well, actually, they'd never allowed her to date or go out to start with, which was stupid since she was eighteen. They claimed she wasn't mature enough to handle that kind of relationshipâthat was sort of true, but the no-social-life thing was ridiculous.
“Is there anything else you want to do while we're in town?” I asked Chase.
He didn't answer. Instead he shifted away, all his attention focused out the passenger-side window.
For a second I was pissed by his seemingly rude response; then I realized he hadn't heard me. His mind was elsewhere, his eyes trained on the edge of the road as he watched for a street that I knew was just ahead. Harbor View Lane: where his mom lived.
A couple of weeks agoâright after the battle with the genies when I'd almost lost my dad forever and Kate had gotten hurtâChase had told me his mom was still alive. It seemed weird that he hadn't tried to contact her. After all, he had been back in the human world for five years. But he was afraid he'd only remind her of the horrific events that had led up to his being kidnapped, and he was certain she'd be ashamed of what he'd become, a man trained to be a killer. My grandfather and Aunt Kate agreed with this. I disagreed, especially after I learned his mom and stepfather lived a short distance from Moonhillâand, even more so, when I found out about Chase's nightmares.
My chest tightened and dampness formed at the corners of my eyes. I took my hand off the wheel, wiping away the moisture before anyone could notice.
Yeah, Chase had nightmares, really bad ones. I'd discovered it the first time we'd spent the whole night together. His twitching and thrashing had woken me. His body was soaked with sweat. He'd curled up and whimpered, “
Mommy, don't let them take me. Mommy. No.
When he'd gotten up and left the bed for a few minutes, I'd pretended to be asleep, that I hadn't noticed anything. I didn't want to embarrass him. Chase was such a strong guy, physically powerful and determined to take care of any person or animal that was a part of his life. I wasn't surprised he had nightmares, after being raised as a warrior slave. But the panic in his voice and those words echoed in my heart. Maybe Grandfather and Kate thought it was better if he didn't see his mom. I didn't think he'd ever make peace with his past and break free from the nightmares until he did.
Chase's head lifted, his neck craning as we passed Harbor View.
I slowed the car. “I can turn around if you want. We could drive past, just check out the house.”
“No. That's okay,” he said, still watching out the window.
Selena leaned forward. “Aren't you at all curious? If it were me, I'd be dying to see it.”
“We don't have time right now.” He said it with finality, but there was a catch in his voice that made me wonder what he'd really prefer to do.
I glanced toward him and then looked back at the road ahead. What was it he'd said this morning . . .
focus and control?
Perhaps he was right about not stopping today. Visiting his childhood home undoubtedly fell squarely in the middle of
. Still, was there a better way to not feel distracted than to come to terms with things that gave you nightmares?
“Are you sure?” I said. “It would only take a minute, if you want to.”
He folded his arms across his chest.
Okay. That message was clear.
For the rest of the trip, Selena chattered about the time she'd gone to Slovenia and how we needed to hurry at the Abbe Museum's older location so we could get lunch in town. I barely listened to her. I longed to know what Chase was thinking as he stared out the open window at the houses and shops, the breakwaters and ocean, or whatever he was looking at. Actually I suspected he wasn't seeing any of that. His fingers pulled at a loose thread on his T-shirt's hem, his chest rising and falling as he took deep breaths. I suspected he was lost in the past, another nightmare or perhaps a good memory, something I might have asked him about if we'd been alone.
As I pulled into the entrance of Acadia National Park where the older museum was, Chase sat up straighter. “Looks busy,” he said.
He wasn't kidding. The parking lot was packed with cars, no surprise since it was the beginning of August and the peak of the tourist season. However, everyone must have been off hiking or having picnics because there were hardly any people around.
“It shouldn't take us more than fifteen minutes,” Selena said as we left the parking lot and started up the sidewalk toward the tiny trailside museum. “I'll show you the flute and stuff, then we can head downtown.”
Chase's mouth twitched, like he was fighting back a smile. “Is there a reason you're in a hurry?”
“What do you think?” She flipped her hair over her shoulder and flounced into the museum.
“Newt, what else?” I grumbled under my breath. Normally I wouldn't have cared if she met up with him, but what we were doing was important and we needed her help. After all, she knew about a zillion times more about supernatural things than I did.
Goose bumps prickled my sun-warmed skin as I stepped into the museum's cool air. The place was charming and eccentric, more like a private collection than a fancy modern museum. I guess technically it
one man's collection, so my impression made sense.
My mind went to Slovenia and Dad. Hopefully, the private party they were meeting was like the person who had discovered and collected these artifacts, not some dangerous black-market dealer.
Selena grabbed my arm and tugged me to a display. “There it is,” she said, pointing to a gray bone flute.
It was about a foot long and the diameter of my middle finger. Some people might have walked right past it without a second glance. But to me, it was amazing, cool as hell, especially considering it was thousands of years old. I leaned closer, studying it carefully from one end to the other. I sighed. Unfortunately there wasn't anything about it that Kate couldn't have seen in a photo.
We moved on to the next display, pottery shards from local excavations. Interesting, but the designs were basic, nothing odd or anything that hinted at crossing between realms.
Selena flopped an arm over my shoulders and rested her head against mine. “This is the same stuff they had the last time I was here. We might as well go to the downtown museum.”
Wriggling free, I gave her a hard look. “Last time you were here, you probably weren't looking for anything specific,” I said, though I kind of agreed with her. It seemed like Grandfather or Kate or someone would have noticed ages ago if there was something unusual.
She took her sunglasses out of her bag and shoved them on. “I'm going outside to do something exciting, like watch traffic.”
As she stomped to the exit, I noticed a poster depicting a special exhibit at the downtown location.
SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY EXPLORERS: WRITTEN HISTORY AND THE ART OF MAPMAKING
. In the middle of the poster were photos of pages from an explorer's journal including smaller sketches of animals and plantsâand of Native Americans dancing around a fire.
Something struck me as odd about the fire. I squinted and leaned closer. In the middle of it, the smoke parted, revealing flames that twisted into an almost human shape. Genies were supposedly made of smokeless fire, like the way God had made mankind out of clay. Maybe that was partly myth. But when I'd first asked Chase about his aura, he'd said it was smokeless fire. I had to show this to him.
I glanced to see where he'd gone. He was staring as if hypnotized at a display of stone knives and hatchets, completely oblivious that only a dozen yards away from him a petite Native American girl about my age stood fingering her lip ring as she gave him a heavy-duty body scan. She had a kind of hippie-waif look to her: purple wrap pants and a boho-style shirt that was short enough to show off her belly button piercing. Her complexion and black-brown eyes were much darker than mine, with high cheekbones and thick black hair worn in a fishtail braid.
She licked her lips, then started toward Chase.
I dashed to him, rested my hand on the small of his back, then let it slide down and over his butt. Snuggling in even closer, I gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I found something interesting,” I whispered.
He slipped his hand around my waist. “Great. What?”
For a second, I hesitated, waiting until her footsteps whisked off toward the front door before I glanced at her again. Her interest in Chase had been palpable, but it seemed strange. She looked like a girl who would be into skinny vegan guys or musicians with dreadlocks or maybe she preferred girls. Either way, not guys like Chase with a military-tough vibe.
Once she'd gone outside, I led Chase to the poster and pointed at the image of the people dancing around the fire. “It's only a copy of a drawing. But it made me think about the smokeless-fire thing. It reminds me of that book back in Moonhill's library, too. Remember the one with the genie and the lamp, the book you showed me when we were trying to figure out how to free my dad from being possessed?”
“Interesting.” Chase bent closer. “Does the guy in the back have a flute?”
I took another look. “I'm not sure, maybe.” Between the image being a reproduction and the original being faded, it was impossible to tell.
The front door to the museum slammed and I swiveled to see what was going on. Selena was marching toward us, her eyes narrowed. “Are you guys ready to goâyet? It's almost one o'clock.” She glanced at the poster. “That's cool. But, seeâthe full exhibit is at the downtown location. That's like the universe telling us to leave.”
Chase chuckled. “One o'clock, huh?”
Selena's hands went to her hips. “Let's just get going.”
A tour bus must have rolled in because the front door opened and a herd of people flooded inside, their voices echoing off the walls.
“Maybe Selena's right,” I relented. “We can always come back here later.” Butâas we headed against the tide of people and out the doorâI moved close to Selena and added, “You do know meeting up with Newt right now is a stupid idea. We have stuff to doâstuff he can't know about.”
Her eyes nailed me, and her voice toughened. “I'm really tired of people treating me like an idiotâand I'm done with not being able to spend time with Newt.”
“Sorry. It's justâ”
“Just nothing.” She stormed off toward the car.
I clamped my mouth shut and resisted the urge to run after her. The first night I'd met Newt something about him had set off a warning bell in my head. But, since then, I'd decided any ulterior motives he had were solely focused on getting laid and having his ego stroked, and had nothing to do with our family's money or secrets. Still, only time would tell if their romance was the real thing or just her first heartache in the making.
“She'll be fine,” Chase said.
I meshed my fingers with his. “I know.”
When we got to downtown Bar Harbor, I found a great parking space by the village green, not far at all from the museum. The park itself was beautiful with trees and a picture-perfect gazebo.
Selena nodded at the farther side of the park where two guys were unloading what looked like a supersize wok from the back of a pickup. “Cool. Drummers. We should check it out later.”
“I thought you were going to spend time with Newt,” Chase said.
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than Selena let out a squeal and waved her arms. “There he is!”
Blond, preppy, and yacht-club tan, Newt was climbing out of his black Mustang just a few cars ahead of us. He flashed a smile at her and she made a mad dash down the sidewalk, between a bunch of tourists loaded down with shopping bags and around a woman pushing a stroller. She flung her arms around his neck and they kissedâa pretty passionate kiss that was still going on when we finally reached them.
“How about we meet you guys a little later, like back here at three?” I suggested.
“Sounds perfect.” Newt waggled his eyebrows at Selena. “Want to go for a ride?”
“Hell, yeah,” she said, bolting for the passenger door.
Chase touched my shoulder. “Come on. Let's go.”
Leaving them behind, Chase and I hurried down the street to the museum. We could have used Selena's help, but it wasn't like we could wander through the exhibits chitchatting about genies and magic with Newt listening in.
The Seventeenth-Century Explore exhibit was fairly extensive; still it didn't take us long to find the original journal. But the journal was closed, not a single page or drawing visible. Over it hung another reproduction of the drawing with the fire, dancers, and what clearly looked like a man playing a flute.
“Excuse me.” I snagged the attention of a passing employee. “Are there any clearer images of that drawing or someplace where I can read the entire text of the journal, or download it?”