Read Mind Magic Online

Authors: Eileen Wilks

Tags: #Fantasy

Mind Magic (3 page)

BOOK: Mind Magic
5.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

It felt so odd to walk inside the Refuge . . . and that’s what it had been when she first came here. Not a home, but a refuge. The place looked like it always had—the same scuffed floorboards, with one that squeaked three steps inside the entry hall. The big, square living room on her right still had that squishy couch where she’d liked to curl up with a book. The TV was new, but she’d bet they still weren’t allowed to turn it on until after supper.

Three kids were in the living room playing some kind of board game. She knew two of them because she’d found them. Adrian was fourteen—two years younger than her—and a strong farseer. Susan was fourteen and a Finder. The other boy, the one she didn’t know, looked about twelve.

All three were staring at her. She looked away.

“He’s upstairs,” Mr. Smith said. “Second bedroom on the right.”

Not in the new wing, then. The only way into that was down the hall on her left. Demi’s heart pounded as she started up the stairs. Mr. Smith came up behind her. “Adrian and Susan and that other kid aren’t on the field trip.”

“I’m afraid they’re grounded. Minor infractions, but the rules exist for a reason. I’ve always thought you agreed with that.”

It was true that Demi liked rules. Rules kept things fair and orderly. Because she followed most rules scrupulously, everyone thought she was a good girl, not the sort to cause problems. It had never occurred to Dan and Sharon that she might sneak out sometimes at night. But Demi had needed time alone more than she’d needed to follow the house rules. To her surprise, she’d turned out to be good at sneaking.

Not good enough, apparently. She paused at the top of the stairs. “Why isn’t Amanda on the field trip?”

“A stomach virus. Please keep moving, Demi.”

A virus?

Her heartbeat picked up, but not with fear this time—with that little thrill she got when she found the answer to a hard problem. It wasn’t Amanda with the virus. It was Demi’s phone. Her phone must be infected with a virus that made it ping the cell towers even when it was in airplane mode. That’s how Mr. Smith had known she was coming here. He must have them tracking her phone. That wouldn’t be hard for him to arrange. He’d had more distance to travel than she had, but he hadn’t had to travel by bus and bicycle. He’d had time to figure out where she was going and get here before she did.

All of a sudden she was at the door. Second bedroom on the right, Mr. Smith had said. This used to be Laura’s room. “Where’s Laura?”

“California. She’s twenty now, so she isn’t with us anymore.”

“Nicky’s twenty.”

“Nick has made different decisions than Laura did. Do you want to see him or not?”

Mr. Smith was so sure of himself. Demi was so . . . not. Her mouth was dry. Her hand shook a little when she raised it to knock.

TWO

NICKY
sat at the desk with a laptop in front of him. There was at least three days’ worth of bristles on his pale skin; his hair had needed a trim two months ago; his jeans were ragged, his feet bare. He wore the same black-framed glasses he always did. She’d seen that T-shirt dozens of times. On it, a cartoon cow and chicken held out a plate piled high with green peas.

All in all, he looked scruffy, malnourished, and one step away from homeless. That was normal. The stony face he turned toward her with was not.

Her gaze skittered away from that unwelcoming face to take in the room. It was barely big enough to hold the bed, the desk, and a chest of drawers, which was why it was one of the private bedrooms. It didn’t look like Nicky, either. None of his stuff was here. It couldn’t be, because everything was back at college or at his parents’ house.

Almost everything. She still had his copy of
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
. He’d loaned it to her, and she hadn’t been able to bring herself to give it to his parents like she should have. “Nicky?” Her throat closed up. She couldn’t get another word out.

“Shit.” He shoved back his chair and stood. “I should’ve known you’d pull something like this.”

She felt worse than she had since Mama died.

“Oh, God, now with the puppy dog eyes.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Listen, Demi, I’m fine, okay? I changed my mind about some stuff. No biggie. Mr. Smith told me you were out there trying to sneak in. What did you think, that I needed to be rescued?” He snorted. “If I had, you wouldn’t be my first pick. A team of commandos maybe—”

“What are you talking about?” she burst out. “Your parents are worried sick! You just vanished without a word to anyone. Your advisor didn’t know where you were, and neither did Mike or Sean. You stopped coming to classes, and you left all your stuff, and—”

“For crying out loud—look at my T-shirt! I wasn’t wearing it when I—when I left. And here. Look here.” He strode to the closet and threw open the door. “There’s my stuff.”

Demi took a few stiff steps toward the closet. She knew that dark blue T-shirt. It said,
I SUPPORT HABITAT FOR A MANATEE.
And the gray one next to it—that’s the one she’d given him that said,
STOP MAKING CHEMISTRY JOKES. ALL THE GOOD ONES ARGON
. She got it because his dad was a chemist and a punster and he’d always been really nice when he and Nicky’s mom came up to campus to visit and . . .

“My folks boxed everything up and sent it to me,” Nicky said.

Bewildered, she shook her head. “Your folks didn’t know where you were. They asked me if I knew.” They hadn’t liked her answer, but they’d asked.

“I didn’t handle it very well, all right? I should’ve told them right away, but I knew how they’d react. I knew. And I was right. They don’t want anything to do with me now.”

Slowly she turned around. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re just going to keep poking and poking, aren’t you?” Abruptly he turned away. “My Gift got away from me.”

“Oh, no, Nicky!” Instinctively she moved closer and reached out—then paused, her hand hovering uncertainly in the air between them. “What happened?”

“It was that damn Wayne Diamond. He was talking—bragging!—about this girl that he got drunk and I told him that was rape, and it was, but he just laughed, and when I said I was going to report him, he hit me, and he kept hitting me, and . . . and that’s no excuse. I know that, but . . .” She heard him swallow.

She vaguely remembered hearing something about Wayne Diamond getting hurt. He was a jock, a football player, and she never paid attention to them, so she didn’t remember what had happened to him. “I’m pretty sure,” she said cautiously, “that he didn’t die.”

“No.” He still wouldn’t look at her. “Your Mr. Smith was on campus that day. He’d come to see you, but you were out. When he saw the EMTs, he . . . we talked.”

“I assume,” Mr. Smith said dryly, “that’s why Demi decided I’d abducted you. She knew I was on campus and yet I didn’t talk to her, so I must have been there to kidnap you.”

“But—but Nicky, you don’t want to work for the NSA! You always said—”

Now he looked at her. Glared at her, really. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you’d throw that in my face. I changed my mind, okay? Mr. Smith is helping me get my Gift under control, and I need that.”

“But—”

“Geez, Demi, can’t you take ‘you were right’ for an answer? You told me Mr. Smith was different and I should trust him.”

No, she hadn’t. She hadn’t said anything like that. She opened her mouth to remind him of what she’d really said—that Mr. Smith had helped her a lot and she thought he was helping the others, but she wasn’t sure anymore, not since he broke his promise about Amanda.

“I don’t want to hear ‘I told you so,’” he said quickly. He took two steps and closed his hands around her arms. That startled her as much as all the odd, angry things he’d said. “Look, we had a good thing going, the two of us, but everything’s changed now. Though I should’ve known you couldn’t take a hint.” His mouth cocked up on one side, and for a moment he looked like the Nicky she’d known. “Hints just blow right on past you. And I guess you deserved to hear from me in person, so here it is. I’m breaking up with you, Demi. I like you. I think you’re a great girl. But we aren’t a couple anymore.”

Nicky had lost his mind. Had he gone crazy when he lost control of his Gift and hurt someone? He couldn’t break up with her because they’d never been a couple. They’d been friends, and that was better than—

He bent and brushed her mouth with his, shocking her into utter stillness. “There’s your good-bye kiss,” he said firmly. And then, with his face still close to hers, he looked at her and suddenly his eyes were wild. And he whispered very softly, “Run.”

*   *   *

THE
other thing Demi had figured out about disproportionate force was that no one ever expected it. If someone was selling his car, he didn’t expect anyone to offer him twice as much as he was asking. If a woman was rude to a clerk at the store, she didn’t expect the clerk to shoot her in return.

Mr. Smith hadn’t hurt her. He hadn’t locked her up. He hadn’t even forced her to return to the Refuge to live where she’d be more under his control, and he could have. She was underage and Bright Haven Refuge for Gifted Young People was her legal guardian—which was the same as him being her guardian, because they did whatever he said. No, he’d used what he considered the minimum force necessary to get Demi to stop making trouble. He wanted her to keep working for him. He even said something about it.

But he didn’t say one word about her back door. Not one. He didn’t know. She was ninety-five percent sure of that.

So Demi did what he expected. He expected her to be upset about Nicky, and she was. She was upset all the way down. When she refused his offer of a ride back to school, he looked sorrowful and disappointed, but not surprised. Then he took away everything she had with her except for her phone and ten dollars for Cokes and snacks. That was supposed to show that he was being strict but not mean. He gave her bus ticket to one of the soldiers and sent the man with her to return the bicycle and wait with her at the bus stop. The soldier handed over her ticket and watched as she got on the bus, but he couldn’t buy a ticket there, so he didn’t come with her.

And at the first stop, she quit doing the minimum necessary. She got off the bus and started walking. She had a ten-dollar bill in her pocket. She left her phone and her life behind.

Nicky had said “run.” She did.

W
HITE
H
OUSE
D
ENIES
V
IOLATION
OF
D
RAGON
A
CCORDS
Term in Accords Allows for Dragon “Sabbatical”
By GORDON SHELLEY and JENNIFER MARKUM
JUNE 22
In an effort to refute claims made by some on Capitol Hill that the apparent absence of Mika, Washington, D.C.’s dragon, constitutes a breach of the Dragon Accords, administration officials made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. U.N. Ambassador Harvey Farrow, appearing on
Face the Nation
, downplayed the idea that the dragon is missing. “Just because we haven’t seen Mika for a while doesn’t mean he’s gone. Dragons have ways of going unseen. New Yorkers rarely see their dragon—standoffish fellow, apparently. Won’t even tell them his name. More importantly, the ambient magic level here in the capitol remains low. Our tech’s not in any danger.” Asked why Mika, who is considered one of the more approachable of the world’s twenty-three dragons, might have started masking his presence, Farrow shrugged. “I’m no expert on dragon psychology. Maybe he’s having a bad hair month.”
On
Meet the Press
, Secretary of State Amanda McCutcheon also pointed out that there was no evidence that Washington’s resident dragon had in fact abandoned his lair, adding that, “Even if he is temporarily gone, there is no violation of the Accords. Per that treaty, dragons may absent themselves briefly from their assigned cities for communal or personal reasons.” Asked if a month’s absence could be considered brief, McCutcheon said there was also a provision in the treaty providing for a more extended absence due to “de’zell afianim ayi’ah veeshun.” McCutcheon was unable to define this term or identify the language used. She said that Sun Mzao, the black dragon who negotiated the Accords, had insisted on its inclusion, although he refused to provide a translation. “I believe it refers to a sabbatical related to their spiritual practices,” she said. The provision, which appears in Article IV of the Accords, allows each dragon to vacate his post for an indefinite period once every forty-two years.
Efforts to contact Sun Mzao outside his lair near San Diego were unsuccessful. None of the reporters involved in the attempt were injured, and all but one have woken from their magically induced sleep. A shaman and physician connected to the Nokolai lupus clan, Dr. Nettie Two Horses, offered a firm assurance that the man’s health was not affected and that he would wake eventually. “I’m told he actually tried to enter Sam’s lair,” Dr. Two Horses said. “Under the circumstances, Sam showed great restraint.” “Sam” is the nickname bestowed on Sun Mzao by some members of Nokolai Clan, which has close ties to the black dragon.
BOOK: Mind Magic
5.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford
The Folding Knife by Parker, K. J.
THE GIFT: A Highland Novella by MARGARET MALLORY
Visions of Peace by Matthew Sprange
Sidelined by Emma Hart
The Gargoyle Overhead by Philippa Dowding