Authors: Brinda Berry
s. Berry’s clean
, engaging writing style and talent for creating characters who burst from the page are just as addicting as the deepening mystery surrounding the disappearance of Mia’s brother, Pete.”
—Sarah Ballance, Best-Selling Author
by Stephanie Meyers and Lauren DeStefano’s
The Chemical Garden
will want to get their hands on Brinda Berry’s
Whisper of Memory
—Kristen of Seeing Night Reviews
“Berry brings us colorful and unique characters...I have added Brinda Berry to my authors to watch list.”
—Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer
has become one of my favorite series this year!”
—Yiota of Splash of Our Worlds
ew Adult Novels
oung Adult Novels
The Waiting Booth (Whispering Woods #1)
Whisper of Memory (Whispering Woods #2)
Wild at Heart II (An Anthology)
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design by Jake Berry
First electronic publication: March 14, 2012 by Etopia Press
Second electronic publication by Sweet Biscuit Publishing LLC: October 16, 2014
This is dedicated to my first readers for this book, Audrey and Maddie; my technical advisor, Jake; and my inspiring niece, Lindsey.
he dead leaves
formed an ocher carpet on the ground that spoke in crunchy whispers as I backed up two steps. Watching the leaves begin to whirl like a waterspout in the ocean, I waited. I identified the spot before I heard the buzzing or saw the air lifting the leaves. Even before I saw the sienna-orange veil drape over the ground, the tingly sensation moving through me from head to toe told me it was a portal.
I smiled in anticipation of seeing Regulus today. I wanted to spend every afternoon and weekends together, but he had college classes, and I had high school. Next year would be different. We’d attend Whispering Woods U together.
Daydreaming about my boyfriend could be a dangerous mistake.
The glint of the metallic blade almost blinded me before I ducked to avoid losing my head. Most dimensional travelers carried something quite a bit smaller. More portable. The Amazon-sized woman standing in front of me carried the samurai sword like it was a Gucci purse. But I respected the blade and the woman. I never underestimate the danger of any situation. Last week, a traveler, otherwise known as a Slip, had beaned me using a weapon similar to a slingshot. It hadn’t mattered that he’d looked like a seven-year-old boy. The Slip had aimed the weapon with deadly accuracy and left me with a bruise the size of a baseball.
Now I said, “You should back up and return to your home, lair, crib…whatever you call it. You are unauthorized to travel to this area.” I thought my voice sounded firm, yet pleasant, like an airline stewardess telling an unruly passenger to return to her seat.
The woman’s eyes widened, and she tilted her head. She stopped circling me and planted her feet in a fighter’s stance. She looked to my left and right and smiled, as though realizing I was alone.
A whistling sound was followed by her surprised expression before she fell to the ground on her knees and crumpled in an unconscious heap.
My boyfriend had disabled her temporarily.
“Mia, what do you think you are doing?” Exasperation flowed from his words. Regulus walked around the body on the ground toward me. Arizona strolled two steps behind him with a carefree smile directed my way and lowered the weapon he held. The small silver box looked more like a cell phone than a tool capable of delivering deadly watts of electrical current.
“Just stalling her.” I folded my arms across my chest. “Plus, she caught me standing here. What did you expect me to do? Run and hide until you guys arrived?”
“Yes,” they both answered.
Regulus picked up the blade that the woman had dropped when the electrical shock hit her nervous system. Turning it back and forth in his hand, his gaze met mine. Looking down, he poised the blade above his arm and purposely raked the sharp edge across the top of his skin. The light hair on his arm gathered in a line at the end of the blade’s path. Regulus blew it to the ground. His dark blue eyes returned to mine.
“Did you know that a decapitated head is still cognizant for up to four seconds after its removal from the body?” He bent to roll the woman onto her back and retrieve the scabbard for the blade.
“Gross.” I involuntarily shivered. “I get it. Stop treating me like an idiot. I could feel the buzzing right after she came through, and I knew that you were behind her.” I closed the distance between us and lifted the woman’s head from the ground.
He tugged the shoulder belt of the scabbard in an effort to remove it. “You can help,” he said as he laid the weapon on the ground and held her up by the shoulders. I drew the brown leather straps holding the metal sheath from her body.
He rested his hand on my shoulder, and I lifted my head. His thumb moved to caress my chin. “You are indispensable. How many times must I tell you this?” The words came out low and intimate. He had the furrowed brow that I only saw when he was agitated.
“Lovebirds, we have to get her restrained unless—” Arizona’s amused voice was cut short when the woman on the ground grabbed his ankle and yanked him off balance. He hit the ground hard enough to make a wheezing sound as the air punched from his lungs.
Regulus scrambled to seize her arm, but with lightning speed, the woman wrapped both her legs around his waist. She snared his wrist and shoved his head underneath her shoulder. The woman’s legs swept up to encircle his neck.
I screamed and tugged at her arms while pulling to loosen the hold. She had drawn her knees forward and tight to her body. I heard Regulus gasp for air and saw him twist, trying to find a way to release himself.
Arizona crouched on his hands and knees looking for something. He swept his hand back and forth underneath the crackling piles of leaves.
“Do something.” My frantic voice cut through the woods and stopped him in his search. I realized that he was searching for his weapon.
Arizona picked up the blade that lay atop the fallen leaves. The woman had wielded the weapon with ease, but he held it with both hands. He shook his blond hair out of his eyes and gave me a disarming smile that was totally inappropriate in the circumstances. Circling the two on the ground, he jabbed the end of the blade to her side. “Release him slowly. I wouldn’t want to accidentally cut off your arm or disembowel you. You know the sharpness of your blade, and I mean you no mortal harm.”
Regulus coughed, and he moved his head out of her chokehold. He crawled away backward to distance himself while I searched the ground for Arizona’s weapon. The shiny box sat inches from Arizona’s boot, and I retrieved it to hand to Regulus.
My fingers brushed his, and I looked into his eyes to see anger. The expression made me think he was mad at himself, but I wasn’t sure. Without a word, he moved to stand at the other side of the woman and pointed the stunner I had handed him. A sharp sound preceded the blank look on the woman’s face. She slumped into unconsciousness.
“Are you OK?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking although I knew it was exactly the wrong thing to say. The wind made leaves dance in surreal slow motion across the clearing. I waited for him to turn and answer, but he ignored me. I moved toward him.
Arizona took my wrist to stop me. He shook his head back and forth as he draped the strap of the scabbard over his head. “We have to take the woman to the Vault at headquarters. We’ll see you later.”
“No, I’ll take her,” Regulus said. He didn’t turn to look at me. “Please make sure Mia gets home safely.”
“Regulus, why won’t…” I hated whiners and clingers. I trailed off before I could completely embarrass myself. I never cried. Even when my cat Dudley was killed by a coyote and I had to bury her, I hadn’t cried. My eyes pricked with the threat of tears, and I turned to walk home.
Arizona followed a couple of steps behind me, saying nothing until we walked a half mile. “He cares a lot for you.”
“Yeah, yeah. He shows it well.” I shoved my hands into my pockets and shrugged. “He acts like that was my fault. And it wasn’t.”
“No, he knows. When Regulus isn’t perfect, he gets upset. He let his guard down because he’s so in lust with you he can’t think about his job.” Arizona laughed softly. “And don’t get mad at me for telling you the truth.”
My mouth dropped open. “I can’t believe you just said that.” I grinned at his mischievous expression. “Yes, you always tell the truth whether I want to hear it or not.”
I wondered why I didn’t have a crush on Arizona. It would be a much easier relationship. Especially since Regulus was my first boyfriend. And this was my first year of being a gatekeeper for the agency monitoring dimensional travel. My senior year of high school was turning into a real doozy.
“Maybe it is a little my fault.” I smiled. “If I wouldn’t look all starry-eyed every time I see him, he could concentrate.”
“Oh, come on. Now you’re trying to make excuses for him. What about me letting her grab my ankle? Whose fault is that? Is that your fault too?”
“I think it’s because the woman couldn’t keep her hands off me, obviously.” His grin didn’t match his serious tone.
“Of course.” I answered with the same degree of seriousness.
“If I could only get your friend Emily to see what all the others see.”
“Good luck with that.”
“I don’t need luck. She only needs to open her eyes.”
At first Em had talked about how cute she thought both Arizona and Regulus were. The minute Arizona had started paying attention to her, she’d backed away like a scared rabbit.
Arizona slowed his pace. The path through the woods exited onto a dirt road. We walked in the middle of it since no cars were in sight. Whispering Woods, Arkansas had a hundred back roads exactly like this one, deserted and rarely used. Wildflowers that would soon die lined the ditches on both sides.
He cleared his throat. “Does Emily have a boyfriend? She’s a very pretty girl. It wouldn’t surprise me and would explain her attitude.”
“No. Quit trying so hard.” I tried to be gentle because I could tell his feelings were hurt. Or maybe it was his ego. “She might come around. I know she thinks you’re really cute. And she thinks you’re funny.” I could tell the last comment made him happy because he smiled. His expression quickly changed as if the light bulb had clicked on.
“Clowns are funny. I’m no clown.” His eyebrows lowered.
“Oh no. Clowns are definitely not funny. They’re extremely weird and scary.”
“Hmm. Maybe I should work on being less funny. She’s not taking me seriously.”
I switched to a more pressing topic. “Will Regulus take long? I thought I’d get to see him tonight. My dad is home and said he could come over.”
Arizona looked behind him and turned back to me. “He’ll be along soon. I have orders to get you home.”
“And you always follow orders, right?”
“Yes, that’s what makes us a good team. Regulus is in charge and that means you should do what he says also.”
I saluted him. “Yes, sir. Any more orders, sir?”
“Fix me up with Emily.”
I giggled. “You’re on your own, buddy.”
The log house where my dad and I lived came into view. We stood in silence at the end of the long, winding driveway. I looked over at the wooden shelter that stood at the intersection of the main road and my driveway.
“Wanna sit at the waiting booth and see if Regulus catches up?” I hoped he would agree. My cell vibrated in the pocket of my jeans. I glanced at the cell display before answering. “Hi, Austin.”
“Hey, Mia,” the deep voice on the other end answered. “Listen, Tiny called me and told me about something. I need to come over. And I’m picking up Em to come with me.”
“It’s not a good time, Austin.” I shifted from foot to foot. “I mean you’re always welcome, but Regulus is probably coming over in a little while.” I watched Arizona fiddling with the sword that he still held.
“Your brother’s in a video online. It’s Pete, all right. I’m coming.”
I felt the blood rush from my face. Austin had already clicked off.
“What is it, Mia, what’s wrong? Are you all right?”
“We have a lead on my missing brother.” I ran toward the house.
.” The word lingered on Austin’s lips while I anxiously watched the video on the computer monitor.
“I don’t care about this. Where’s the part with Pete?” The video camera was pointed at conference participants walking in the exhibit hall from booth to booth. With five people crowded into the space between my bed and the desk, it was unbearably stuffy. I jockeyed for the best spot directly in front of the monitor. The blinds and curtains were closed to minimize the light in the room. I’d have cleaned if I’d known I would have guests. I wasn’t allowed to have Regulus alone upstairs, so he was getting a rare peek at the slob I tried to hide.
“I think it’s important to watch the entire thing so we don’t miss something important,” Em said reasonably. Leave it to Miss Attention-to-Detail to give that word of advice. But she was right.
The video from our recent trip to GameCon had been uploaded by a guy named Tiny, who was the opposite of what his name implied. The hulking giant had become a loyal friend of mine ever since he had pulled off a flash mob at the gaming conference. If it weren’t for that distraction, I’m not sure what would have happened.
Em twisted her hair around her finger and nodded at me. “We’re gonna find him.” She moved a couple of inches away from Arizona who had somehow found a way to stand next to her. He had kicked a pile of my dirty clothes out of the space to be able to stand there.
The music started on the video, and the teens and adults of the flash mob began to swing the fake light sabers at one another in a flurry of choreographed activity. The music filled my head with a deluge of color. It was the hardest and most beautiful part of being a synesthete.
But the best part was being able to locate portals since that talent had brought Regulus into my life.
I concentrated on the screen and blocked my other senses as much as a person can. It’s like telling someone to taste the chocolate chip cookie, but don’t smell the vanilla and cocoa that makes your mouth water.
“Look, here.” Austin pointed to the far right corner of the screen. “See this guy wearing the dark hoodie?”
“Yeah. What’s he doing?” I bent closer to the screen. “I can’t see his face.”
“No, you can’t here. But he’s going to turn in a minute, and you’ll get a full face shot,” Austin said. He had moved to sit on the edge of the desk chair and patted it for me to sit with him.
I sat immediately in my eagerness to see better. The players in the flash mob kept time with the music. The figure in the black hooded sweatshirt drifted unobtrusively between the flash mob figures, sliding in and out of the crowd.
The face in the hoodie turned toward the video camera.
“Freeze it.” Em leaned forward and squinted. “I don’t know.”
“It’s him,” I said.
“Yeah, I’m sure too.” Austin never took his eyes off the screen. “I believed you, Mia, but it’s just weird to see him after so long. And he’s looking around for something right here. For someone.”
“You?” Regulus directed the question at me. He had arrived at my house only minutes after we did. I would never get used to the nonlinear time element of traveling between dimensions. “He told you to be there, correct?” He put his hand on my shoulder, and Austin scooted away slightly in the chair we shared.