Authors: Lauren Barnholdt,Aaron Gorvine
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Girls & Women, #Paranormal, #One Hour (33-43 Pages), #Paranormal & Fantasy, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Young Adult
(The Witches of Santa Anna, Book Nineteen)
by Lauren Barnholdt & Aaron Gorvine
Copyright 2012, Lauren Barnholdt and Aaron Gorvine, all rights
reserved. This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Reed’s voice sends cold shivers of fear down my spine. I don’t want to turn around, don’t want to look at him, but I know that showing any kind of weakness will not be good for me.
So I force myself to meet his gaze. “Yes, I’m Natalia,” I say, moving my lips into a friendly smile. “You must be the guy who found the car.”
He nods. “I’m Reed.” He holds his hand out to me, and it’s subtle, but I can see the look on his face – he’s daring me to take it, waiting to see what I’m going to do. I let him touch me, even though every nerve in my body wants to recoil. His hand is cold but firm, and he grips my fingers longer and harder than is really necessary.
“Thanks for bringing the car back,” I say.
“Wasn’t that so nice of him?” My mom looks at Reed adoringly. “He just took it upon himself to drive it all the way back here.”
Reed looks at the ground, like he’s being bashful. “I told you, ma’am, I’m moving to Santa Anna. So I need to come to the area anyway.”
My stomach turns, but I keep the smile on my face. “Well,” I say. “Let me know if you need someone to show you around.”
“Thanks,” he says. “I just might take you up on that.”
“So I guess we’re done here,” Office Peabody says. He rips a page off his notebook and hands it to my mom. “Here’s a copy of the report,” he says. “We’ll call you if we get any leads, but I have to be honest when I say that most of these cases go unsolved.” He shakes his head. “And this one is pretty strange, since nothing was stolen from the car.”
He looks at me for a moment when he says this last part, like he wants to accuse me of something. But what could he accuse me of? Leaving my car in Maine, and it being recovered a little while later, totally unmarked? It’s completely ridiculous. More likely he thinks I’m covering up for Cam.
“Thank you, Officer,” my mom says.
We watch as the policeman heads toward his cruiser, gets inside, and pulls away.
As soon as he’s gone, my mom turns to Reed.
“Reed,” she says, “you can’t go back to Maine without letting me feed you lunch.
I have some chicken salad that’s to die for, let me make you a sandwich.”
“Don’t you have to get back to work?” I ask her quickly. It’s bad enough she let Reed in our house to use the bathroom, if that’s what he was even doing. He was probably going through my stuff, looking for something that could aid him in hurting Cam. I say a quick prayer of thanks that the iPad was with me the whole time. I pat my bag, feeling the comforting, heavy weight.
“I took the rest of the day off,” my mom says, like it’s nothing, like she’s always taking the rest of the day off, when in reality, I can’t remember the last time my mom even took part of a day off.
“I’m sure Reed has to leave,” I say coolly.
“I’d like to talk to you for a little bit, actually,” he says to me. His face is like a statue, his eyes cold, a smile playing on his lips.
“I don’t have anything to say to you.”
“What’s going on?” my mom asks. She frowns, and the wrinkle on her forehead deepens. “What are you talking about?”
“Mom – ” I start, but before I can tell her to go inside, Reed takes care of it.
“You’re very tired,” he tells her. “You need to take a nap, you need to get some sleep, don’t you?”
“I’m not – ” she starts. But then her face goes slack, and she beings to walk toward the house listlessly, like some kind of zombie. The fact that he’s using mind control on my mom makes me want to scream. But what can I do about it? What choice do I have?
Once she’s inside and the door shuts behind her, I turn and start to follow her.
“I’m not talking to you,” I call over my shoulder to Reed. “So whatever it is you came here to say, you can forget it. I’m done with all of you.”
He lets me walk up the path until I’m almost at the front door. “You need to talk to me, Natalia. I have things to tell you. Things that are going to change your mind.”
“Nothing will change my mind,” I say. But I’m slowing down. I turn around, and Reed’s sliding his hand over the front of my mom’s car, all the way down the hood and over the bumper.
“Looks like new, doesn’t it?” he says when he sees me looking. “I even remembered the McDonald’s bags in the back.”
“Yeah, congratulations,” I say sarcastically. “You brought my mom’s car back to life, good for you. You win…. oh yeah, that’s right, nothing.”
He grins and shakes his head fondly, like he can’t believe he forgot how amusing I was. “That’s where you’re wrong, Natalia,” he says. “My prize was coming back here and getting to see you.”
I cross my arms over my chest. “You’re moving to Santa Anna?”
“It seems like it, yes.”
“It seems like it or you are?”
“It seems like I am. Of course, a lot of that depends on you.”
“I told you, I’m out.”
He shakes his head. “And I told you, that wouldn’t be wise.” He’s around to the other side of the car now, and he leans against the driver’s side door.
Neither one of us say anything. I’m waiting for him to go away, he’s waiting to see if I mean what I say, if I’m going to go inside and refuse to talk to him. As much as I hate to do it, I blink first.
“If I talk to you, will you leave?” I ask.
“Leave your house, or Santa Anna in general?”
“I can’t leave Santa Anna. But if you talk to me, Natalia, things will be a lot easier. For both you and Cam. And your mom.”
I take in a sharp breath. “My mom has nothing to do with this.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
I think about how Samara told me she was Raine’s mom, and my heart catches in my throat. Is my mom not who she says she is? Or, even worse, is Reed planning on using my mom to get closer to me, to threaten her in an effort to pull me back in?
I walk back over toward the car. “So what do you want?”
He cocks his head. “Go for a ride with me.”
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the key to my mom’s car. The afternoon sun glints off the metal. “She never asked for it back,” he says, like it’s not his fault he still has it.
“Give it to me.” I hold my hand out, but he ignores me.
“It’s weird, keys,” he says thoughtfully. “I mean, when you really think about how much power they have.” He shakes his head. “Anyway, will you come with me, Natalia?”
“No.” I’m not getting into a car with a psycho.
He sighs and then moves his head back and forth slowly, stretching his neck.
“Very well then,” he says. “We’ll have to do this the hard way.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He mumbles something I can’t quite decipher, and then, before I know what’s happening, there’s a weird numbness flowing through my body. It feels almost like a warm liquid is being poured through my skin. Then there’s the sensation of pins and needles, like my whole body has fallen asleep.
There’s a flash of light, then darkness, and when my vision illuminates again, I’m standing in front of my school.
Reed is standing next to me.
“What the fuck?” I ask. “Are you fucking kidding me? You had no right to do that.”
“Do you know where we are, Natalia?” he asks calmly.
“Of course I know where we are. We’re at my school.”
He nods. “Yes, that’s true. But do you know what else this land represents, Natalia?”
I shake my head. “No,” I say. “And I don’t want to know.” I hate the way he keeps saying my name, hate that he was able to bring me here without my consent. I want to walk away from him, but I’m not sure he would let me. He would probably just transport me back here again, and when he got sick of doing that, he might resort to doing something even worse.
“This is the place where the past will become the present, Natalia,” he says. He starts to walk toward the front doors, and he motions me to follow him.
“You can’t go in there,” I say. “It’s Sunday. The school’s locked.”
Of course, that doesn’t make any difference to Reed. He points his finger at the door and then opens it.
“I’m not going in there with you,” I say.
“Natalia,” he says. “You have no choice.”
He’s right. He’s proven he can move me wherever he wants. And so against my better judgment, I follow him inside.
It’s weird being inside the school on a weekend. There’s no one around, the halls are empty, and everything is quiet.
Reed leads me down to the junior hall, where he stands in front of my locker.
“This place,” he says, “is special.”
“The junior hall is special? Doubtful.” Obviously he doesn’t know the kind of ridiculousness that goes on in this hall – kids making out, fighting, yelling, screaming, swearing, running. There’s nothing special about any of those things.
“Yes, now it’s the junior hall.” He runs his fingers over the lockers, touching them almost lovingly. “But hundreds of years ago, this land was where the first members of our clan were born.”
“Great,” I say. “So what do you want me to do about it?” I’m being flippant, but inside, adrenaline is pounding through my body so hard I’m afraid I’m going to jump out of my skin. I’m alone, at the school, with Reed. No one knows where I am or who I’m with.
“They were born here,” Reed goes on, “five hundred years ago. And they were peaceful for most of those years. Until the clan split into two factions.”
“I don’t need a history lesson.”
He stares at me, his eyes sad. “Natalia,” he says. “You have no idea what’s about to happen, do you?”
“I know you’re about to take me home.” I cross my arms.
“Fine,” he says.
“Fine.” He shrugs. “I’ll take you home. On one condition.”
“What is it?” I ask warily.
“That you listen to my story. Listen to what I have to say, Natalia, and then if you still want to go home, I’ll let you go, no questions asked.”
I don’t really have a choice, and so when he heads down the junior hall, I follow him, past Adrianna’s locker, past Cam’s locker, past my homeroom, my study hall, everything. Finally, when we get to the big floor to ceiling windows at the end of the hall, he points outside to the courtyard.
“There,” he said. “That’s where the battle took place.”
He nods. “When our clan split, the rebels began trying to take over the land.
There were battles, lots of them.” He has a faraway look in his eye, the kind of look that normally I would think meant he was trying to cast a spell or mind control someone. But now I just get the feeling that he’s remembering something, that he’s sad.
“They were fighting over the land?”
He nods. “The land was what they wanted control of, yes.”
“What’s so special about it?” I try to imagine why anyone would want to kill someone over land.
“It’s sacred,” Reed says. “It’s where our first king was born.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “Okay,” I say, shrugging. “So there was a war and a bunch of people died a long time ago. Is that all you wanted to tell me?”
“The past will become the present,” Reed says again. “Do you understand what that means, Natalia?”
“That there’s going to be a war? Isn’t that what you guys have been claiming this whole time?”
He gives me a wry smile. “You say it like you don’t believe me.”
I shake my head. “I don’t, really. You people keep talking about this war that’s going to happen, and so far, nothing.”
“The past is going to become the present, Natalia,” he says. “Things are already playing out that way, things have already begun happening. And when it’s all over, Santa Anna will be destroyed. Your school, your house, Cam, your family… they’re all in danger.”
The image of Santa Anna as a smoldering fireball burns against my brain, and I swallow hard.
“You have to fight,” Reed says. “Otherwise you will die. And so will everyone and everything you care about.”
“I want to go home,” I say. “You said I could go home if I listened to you. And so I want to go home.”
He stares at me for a long moment, his face serious. I can tell what he’s doing.
He’s giving me a chance to take it back, a chance to tell him that I want more information, that I want to fight, that I want to save Santa Anna from destruction.
But I don’t say any of that.
Instead, I hold his gaze.
“Fine,” he says after a moment. “I’m a man of my word, Natalia. I’ll take you home now.”
“Good.” When I said I was done playing their games, I was serious. I’m not getting caught back up in this. And if that means Santa Anna will be destroyed, then so be it.
I drive Aidan home from the police station, neither of us saying much, both of us seemingly lost in our own thoughts.
As I pull up in front of his house to let him out, Aidan turns to me. “Cam, I swear I’m telling the truth.”