“I can stretch and listen at the same time.” I rested my forehead on my knees.

“Right. It’s just, wow. You are really … bendy.”


“That’s what three dance classes a week will do for you. Usually, anyway. It’s been a busy week.” I shot her a look and felt very gratified when she laughed. “On with the story.”

“My parents died in an accident. To keep it short, I’ve existed in two time lines. One involves me being burned horribly in over forty percent of my body. Skin grafts to my back. Medications. Pain. Debilitating depression to the point of institutionalization.” She cleared her throat. “And then there’s the time line where Jack Landers screwed with my life.”

“I thought Jack took memories and then ran around trying to find out how to be all-powerful by using them against people.”

I stretched my neck to the right and then to the left.

“He might sound small-time, but he’s not. Jack’s time line saved me from the accident, but it was so he could use me. For his nefarious purposes.” Forced humor distorted her voice. “Nothing like owing your life to a madman.”

I stopped stretching. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry—”

“Don’t apologize, Hallie, please. I didn’t explain for sympathy; I just like people to know where I’m coming from. Keeps things from getting complicated.”

“Do you still struggle with the depression?”

“It’s manageable,” she confessed. “But I have bad days.”

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“Since we’re being honest.” I took the opportunity to lighten things up by morphing my features. First into Lily’s and then into Emerson’s, before restoring my own.

“I just saw … my face … on your face. I might … need to go throw up.”

I laughed. “I promise to never do it again. I’m just saying that I want people to know where I’m coming from, too.”

“We were all shocked when we found out you and Dune were … um, whatever it is that you are.” She took that moment to focus on a pair of Dune’s jeans on my floor.

“Uh … yeah.” I looked up at my ceiling fan.

“Right. Okay. Well. Good, then.” She cleared her throat. “I like you, and I can see why he likes you, too. He’s always been kind and smart, but, Hallie, he’s a different person around you.”

“I didn’t think good relationships were supposed to change people.” I’d never seen one make a person better. Not before I’d met the Hourglass crew.

“Who told you that? That’s their purpose. You make him strong.” She lifted her chin. “Michael does that for me.”

“What was Dune like before?” I’d been dying to ask someone, and Emerson was too honest not to dish.

“A lot like he is now, but less … in control. It’s not that he was out of control at the Hourglass—there just weren’t a lot of opportunities for him to lead. He seems older now.”

“Michael does the leading in Ivy Springs?”

“Yup.” She smiled, and I recognized pride. “He’s good at it.”

“My life has been pretty sheltered. I’ve had to learn how to be strong on my own. Dune is like … a partner. He makes it easier for me to just be.”


I frowned.

“You don’t have to explain, unless you want to.”

I couldn’t stop my smile. “I think I do.”

“Well, then.” She dropped down onto the floor and folded her legs into a pretzel shape. “Tell me all about it.”

“It was fun at first, teasing him. But he handled it, and I barely shook him. Well, maybe I did that time I almost flashed him.”

Emerson’s jaw dropped a little.

“I’d only known him for a week, so … anyway. No one’s ever been able to keep up with me. No one’s tried. Then there was Dune, and all that—presence—and then he’s so sweet, especially his—”

“Eyes! I know.” Emerson grinned. “But don’t tell Michael I know.”

“Our secret.” I grinned back at her. I could get used to a girlfriend. “He doesn’t make any demands on me. He listens, pays attention to what I’m actually saying, and responds to that. He’s amazing.”

She had a smug look on her face. “I knew it. I even told Michael.”

“Told him what?”

“This is the real thing.”

I didn’t know what to say to that or whether to address it at all, so I changed the subject. “What did Michael want to talk to Dune about?”

Em’s smugness disappeared. “He found something on the Skroll. He wouldn’t tell me what.”

“That means it’s serious,” I said.


“Then I say it’s time we crash the party.”


Hallie and Em had just come downstairs when Kaleb and Lily entered through the kitchen. They all found seats and looked at me.

“What’s going on?” Hallie asked as she looked around. “Must be pretty big if we’re about to have a group conversation.”

“It’s a group problem.” I didn’t waste any time. “It’s about the rip situation, and the fact that every time you’re possessed, you’re cycling through an enormous number of cells.”

“Supernatural exfoliation. It’s really great for the complexion,” Hallie deadpanned. She went pale when no one even cracked a smile. “Okay. Why does this nugget of information require a powwow?”

“All the energy from the cells you create is the same thing that allows you to close the rifts in time. That energy could transfer to the space time continuum. We think you can heal it.”

“I’m all in. What do I have to do?” Hallie asked.

I wished I could let the hope shining on her face last for more than thirty seconds. “It’s not that simple. So far, you’ve managed to close the rips while you were outside them.”

Anxiety clouded her expression again in the shape of a frown. “I have to go inside a rip to close it.”

“We don’t know anything for certain,” I explained. “We don’t even know if it will work.”

“But it could.” She sat on the edge of the coffee table. “If I had the power to undo all the damage that’s been done, the rip worlds would go away.”

Michael nodded. “That’s what we think.”

Footsteps thundered down the stairs. Poe swung into the living room holding a notebook, stopping in front of Hallie, his face haggard. “It’s my fault. I’m the one who activated you.”

“What are you talking about?” She stood and reached for Poe’s arm. “Sit down. You look terrible.”

“I finally found the answer on the Skroll.” He shook her off and kept talking. “At first, I thought something we stole kicked you off. Something you’d touched on a job or even someplace we’d been. But it was me. I did it. The night I pulled you into the veil and teleported you.”

“You teleported Hallie?” I asked.

“No one is supposed to go in veils but time travelers and teleporters.” Kaleb was talking to Poe without meeting his eyes. No love lost between those two.

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