“Two sets of eyes are better than one,” I said. Truthfully, four. I was going to put Liam and Michael on it, too. I’d uploaded the Skroll to a highly protected server. The same kind the CIA used.

“Lay it on me,” Poe said, throwing the wooden stick in the trash. “Everything.”


Chapter 8


When I got ready to leave for work that afternoon, Poe had his computer and a ton of index cards out, already searching through the information I’d given him.

He wore a huge pair of wayfarer glasses, and was so Anthony Head, circa Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that it was all I could do not to call him Giles.

“Anything you want me to look for besides the possession connection?”

“Possession connection. That sounds like a really screwed-up PBS kids’ show.” I grabbed my own computer. “Just that I’m still looking for the thing that kicked Hallie into overdrive. Whatever the genetic stressor was. Maybe keep an eye out for that, too.”

He nodded and dropped his eyes to focus on his computer. “Will do.”

I took the trolley down Saint Charles, even though the walk would’ve helped clear my head. Hallie had said she wanted me to come back today, but if she’d changed her mind, told her father that I’d blown my cover … I’d be screwed. Possibly dead. I had a brief vision of Paul Girard and his gun holster.

I jumped off at my trolley stop and approached the side entrance to the Girard house slowly. No attempts were made on my life, so I checked in with Carl, the head of security, made my way to Hallie’s room, and knocked on her door. It flew open.

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“You. You’re here.”

“I’m here.” I scanned the hallway to the right and left of her bedroom door. “Were you expecting someone else?”

“No. I just …”

“You thought I wouldn’t come back.”

“It crossed my mind. I wondered if what happened last night freaked you out enough to make you cut and run. If the nice-guy stuff was for real.”

“It is, just like my fear that your dad would be waiting for me at the front door.” I grinned. “Did you reach a verdict on my nice-guy status?”

“Still out.” She tilted her head and paused. “Hung jury.”

I nodded. “If the jury reaches a decision, I’ll be out here. Doing something bodyguardlike.”

The left corner of her mouth tipped up a fraction of an inch. “But you aren’t a fake bodyguard anymore.”

“I am to your dad.”

She grinned.

“You told him? And I’m still breathing?”

“I can be very persuasive.”

I had no doubt about that. “Okay. I guess I’ll just … stand here until you make a decision.”

“I was thinking.” She opened her door wider. “Maybe we need to spend some quality time together.”

I started backing up. “I’m not coming in your room. No need to give your dad more reasons to come after me with a shotgun, even if we are just talking about science.”

“He leans more toward the smaller firearms. Besides, I have an idea.”

“Which is?” I asked cautiously.

“If we’re going to get to know each other—well, what each of us knows about this situation, anyway—how about we play a game of either-or?”

It seemed innocent, but I knew Hallie had a penchant for being tricky, and I liked being alive. “What are the terms of this particular game? Are we talking personal or professional questions?”

“Both.” She gave me the once-over. “I’d like to know who I’m getting in bed with. So to speak.”

God, the girl was wicked. I was probably in trouble. “Fine. Books or movies?”

She raised one eyebrow, surprised that I was willing to dive right in. “Movies.”

“Downloads or CDs?”

“Records,” she answered in a drawn-out voice, like I was an imbecile.

I continued. “Vanilla or chocolate?”

“Strawberry.” She turned it around. “What about you?”

“Butter pecan.”

“Boxers or briefs?” This came with a grin.


I watched as her eyes wandered in the direction of my waistband. When she knew she’d been busted, her cheeks got a little pink.

Clearing her throat, she asked, “Beach or mountains?”

I blanched. She caught it.

“You have an immediate comeback for your underwear choice, but beach or mountains stumps you.” She tapped her lips with one finger and studied me. “Why is it a hard question?”


“No.” She leaned against her door frame. “I asked you why that’s hard to answer.”

“I don’t think you know how to play either-or. There aren’t supposed to be explanations, just one-word answers.”

“My house,” she said. “My rules. Tell me why you’re avoiding.”

I straightened my shoulders. “It has to do with my special brand of magical powers.”

“Which are?” When I didn’t respond, she said, “You don’t have to tell me, Dune. But I’d like to know.”

I sensed we’d reached the tipping point of our tentative alliance.

I answered because she gave me the opportunity not to, and because her authenticity peeked out from behind her curiosity. “Tides. I can control the tides. Water in its many forms. We think that I can affect moon phases as well, but it’s not the kind of thing you can test.”

“That’s … wow. That’s pretty serious.”

“It’s okay on a small scale, because I understand how to control it, even though I rarely let other people see me do it. Tiny things like plumbing leaks or condensation, not a problem at all. Ponds, contained bodies of water that I can see end to end—wide open and easy to handle, as long as they’re people free. Streams, creeks—those are doable, but aren’t ideal. Lakes and rivers. Possible, but also possibly catastrophic. I avoid them altogether. And oceans … well. I haven’t been to the ocean since I was eleven.”

“Why? Same offer stands. You don’t have to tell me.”

Growing up in American Samoa had its advantages. For me, it was the Pacific Ocean. I used to race over the dunes to get to the water when I was a kid—hence my nickname. The moon’s gravitational force drew the tide, and the tide drew me, pulling me to the ocean over and over again.

When I was eleven, I pulled back.

“I was at the beach, on a picnic with my family. Understand, in Samoa, everyone is family. That’s just the way villages work.

Warm sun, cool breeze, good food. We laughed a lot. Anytime we were all together, there was music.”

Such a simple thing, my hands in the water. The rush that ran through my extremities, the way my pulse tuned itself to the crashing of the waves. The water became an extension of my fingers; when I waved them to the left, the fish swam that direction. When I moved them to the right, they followed.

“I’d been able to manipulate the current ever since I was little. I always wanted to see fish up close. Not the tiny minnows that were always by the shoreline, but the big kind fishermen would bring back from excursions and hold up to have their pictures taken.” I knew most of those were eventually stuffed, and probably left to gather dust while hanging on a wall somewhere in Middle America. “I didn’t want to turn the fish into trophies. I just wanted to see them.”

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