“You’ll find a way.”


“What makes you so sure?” Hallie asked.

“Because … you’re challenging.” I paused to rephrase when she frowned. “Let me explain. Poe told me before I met you that you were smart. A genius. That’s true.”

“What else did he tell you?”

“That you were … ah … sexy.”

She pulled her hand away and her eyes went wide. “Did he—”

“He told me that whatever happened between you didn’t work out, and that he cares about you and considers you to be one of his best friends. That’s all I need to know.”

“Oh. Okay. I didn’t realize you were that close,” she said.

“It was a debriefing.” I kept going, hoping she wouldn’t dig deeper into my connection with Poe. “He also told me that you know what you want and how to get it. I haven’t seen anything that tells me differently. Whatever you decide to do with your life, you’ll do.”

“You’re one of the few who knows non-Chronos Hallie. I was frustrated upstairs, and I’m sorry I took it out on you. But you need to know that I like you.” She lifted her hands and let them flutter to her lap. “I think … you’re solid. You’re pretty. In a very manly way, of course.”

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“Have you noticed how often you render me speechless?”

“It’s not purposeful, I swear. My brain overloads my senses sometimes.”

“I have a friend who says her edit button is broken.”

“I never installed mine.” She smiled.

“If you like me, why were you so … combative today?”

She exhaled. “Because I’m pretty sure you like girls, and I keep flirting with you, and so far, you’ve responded with a really, really terrible mullet reference and those nice things you said a minute ago. But you could have said those in friendship.”

“I said them because I believe them. I’m trying to keep things friendly because my purpose is to help you find out what being the Infinityglass means. But …”

“But?” She sounded hopeful.

I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to take her face in my hands, thread my fingers through her hair, and kiss her until neither one of us could see or breathe or worry about what was coming next. Then I wanted to go back to the room and … yeah.

“But maybe my purpose has skewed a little.”

“Why did the Hourglass send you?” She looked up into my eyes. “Why not someone else?”

“My knowledge base is broadest.” I was quiet for a minute. “And I’m glad, because I wouldn’t want anyone to be here but me.”

“Why?” She leaned in, and her eyes were on my lips.

“Because I wouldn’t have met you. The Infinityglass would’ve been cold and impersonal to me, and I needed it to have a face.”

Because now that it did, everything had changed.

“I’m glad you’re here, too.” She stopped for a moment, thinking. “What you did in the lobby was so amazing. I know you don’t like to use it, but you can control it.”

“Just the small things.”

“Then you practice with the big things. It’s a gift, Dune, not something you can shove in between your mattress and box spring like a diary. You can’t lock it up and forget about it. There could come a time when you need it.”

I ran my thumb over the smooth skin on top of her hand. “I’m afraid of losing control. The very last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt someone, even a stranger.”

“I understand control. I never feel like I have it, except when I dance.”

“I wish I could see you.” I pressed my lips together right after I said it. “I mean …”

“The Samoan boy blushes. You want to see me dance?”

I searched her face. “I do.”

She nodded slowly. “Then follow me.”

From the landing where we sat, I followed her up to the second-story lobby. A tapestry hung on one wall above a huge wooden cabinet. Ornate golden carvings on the door displayed a roaring lion with a flowing mane. The more I looked at it, the more it seemed to be a warrior wearing a mask. Two sets of double doors were across from it.

“Locked.” Hallie looked around before stepping in front of the lock. I heard a swish and then a little click as she pulled one of the doors open.

“What did you do?”

“You don’t want to know.” She tucked her hand in her pocket. “Come on.”

She let the door close behind us, and we stood in silence as I took it all in.

A ballroom. A row of windows dressed in golden velvet draperies was divided by a small, simple staircase with four steps. The late afternoon sunlight blurred the edges of a windowed doorway that led to a wide gallery overlooking Orleans Street.

Hallie couldn’t take her eyes away from the chandelier hanging in the center of the room.

“Are you going to stare, or dance?” I asked.

“Only if I dance with you.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal.” I felt a little hectic.

“If you want to see me dance, I’m going to do it in your arms.”

“Too shy to dance by yourself?” I said. “Afraid, maybe?”

“No. Why?” She raised one eyebrow. “Are you going to double-dog dare me?”

“If I have to.”

“Dance is personal.” Hallie always had excellent posture, but when she straightened her spine and squared her shoulders, the dancer in her took over. Breathtakingly beautiful. “It’s the only time I get to be free. I don’t perform very often, and a cage or a stage in a dance club doesn’t count.”

“You … wear clothes when you do that?”

“You’re really dropping judgment on me right now?” She knew I was teasing. I could tell by her smile.

“No. I’m doing everything in my power not to picture it.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You should,” I said. “I could pass out. That would be embarrassing.”

“You’re a terrible tease.”

“I know. I’m not sure how to approach this.” I’d have been more comfortable trying to figure out how to hack into the pope’s e-mail.

“You can start by shutting up and putting your arms around me. Take my hand in yours. Put the other one on the small of my back.”

“According to online surveys, the small of a woman’s back is one of the places she most wants to be touched.”

“You touch me there all the time. Do you read a lot of surveys about where women like to be touched?”


“Where are some of the other places?” She met my eyes dead on. “If you think I’m going to let this go, you’re so, so wrong.”



“Crooks of elbows. Backs of knees. Nape of neck.”

“You’re leaving out some really obvi—”


She grinned and batted her lashes. “Yes.”

“Maybe we should just dance.” My palm met hers while my other hand settled on her waist.

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