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You don’t know what anger is until you’ve spent time with a mare in a truly foul mood.
Shadow is livid.
I’ve been back for two days now but she’s still mad at me—and determined to let me know it. Usually I can sense what she’s feeling by intuition. No need for that right now, with the tantrum she’s throwing. Twelve hundred pounds of black mare ripping the earth open with her hooves isn’t exactly tough to read.
As Jode would say if he were here, Shadow’s off her trolley.
She rounds the far side of the enclosure and loops back, breaking into another charge and coming right at me. In the stormy afternoon light she almost looks like a normal horse. If you didn’t know her, you might look past the unusual blackness of her coat and the smoky wisps that trail behind her lean body. You might not even notice that she’s too fast, and just a little too elegant. But the prolonged eye contact she makes with me and the intelligence in her eyes? Total giveaway.
As she closes in, she lowers her head and shows no sign of slowing down. I brace my feet and prepare to jump back behind the fence. Shadow would never hurt me intentionally, but then I never meant to hurt Gideon and Sebastian.
Sometimes you hurt people even when it’s the last thing you want to do.
With only a few feet left between us, she stops suddenly, her hooves gouging the mud, kicking up a wave of wet spatter that flies right at me.
“Wow.” I wipe my face, spitting out bits of mud. “Thanks, girl!”
Her level stare makes it clear she’s in no mood to joke around.
Do you see? Do you see how scared I was when you left me? Do you see how you upset me?
“I know, Shadow. You’re furious and you have every right to be. Tell me all about it. I’m listening.”
I hope she senses how sorry I am. I hated leaving her for a week, knowing how much she’s suffered after we lost Sebastian. She went from being totally confident and calm to sensitive about almost everything. Other people can set her off. So can airplanes and cars. Fortunately there’s almost none of that out here in Wyoming.
I’m the only one she trusts—and I left her. But my road trip to Georgia gave me the answer I needed. After so many months of indecision, I know what I need to do. When you’re putting your life in danger, it’s only right to be positive about it.
Shadow snorts. I expect her to kick into another rampage but she looks past me just as I hear the screen door bang closed behind me. Turning, I see Isabel. My friend, roommate, mentor, and fellow Seeker steps off the porch of the cabin we’ve been renting.
I’ve been here eight months. You’d think I could call it that by now.
Isabel lifts the edges of her wool poncho to keep them from dragging in the mud as she walks over. She takes her time, choosing her steps around the puddles with care. Iz never rushes through anything. Behind her the line of smoke struggling up from the chimney is erased by a storm gust, only to struggle up again. We’ll get either snow or freezing rain tonight. Again. As far as I can tell, spring in Wyoming is a misnomer.
“This looks promising,” Isabel says. “Have you two made up?” She props her arms on the fence beside me and smiles, her broad cheeks like rising mountains. She has a face for looking into sunsets and windstorms and futures—which she does as a Seeker. Which I used to do too, until everything changed after my epic fail last fall.
“I think we’re getting there.” Shadow has backed up and turned toward the river, striking a pose like we’ll be sketching her, rant concluded for now. I stuff my cold hands into my pockets and make myself ask the question I’ve been holding all day. “What about you? Have you forgiven me?”
I left Isabel for a week, too. She’s not my mother. I didn’t need to ask her permission. But I could’ve run it by her.
“I was never angry with you, Daryn.” Isabel brushes a lock of her hair behind her ear, most of it having already escaped from the bun she swept back before her morning shift at Franklin Ranch, where we both work. She regards me with bright eyes, goldish green at the edges and warm brown at the very center. “I was worried. There’s a big difference. And the note you left helped.”
I wonder how much good it really did. I didn’t tell her where I was going or how long I’d be gone—only that I needed to figure something out. I still haven’t told her anything, but I should. After all she’s done for me, I owe her some answers. As long as they don’t give away too much.
“So…” Where to begin? How far back does my regret extend?
Isabel’s eyebrows lift. “So…?”
“I was on the computer at the ranch about two weeks ago doing some research.”
“On the friends I used to have until I disappointed them horribly? Gideon, Jode, and Marcus? I wanted to see how they’re doing. Whether they’re okay.” And hopefully not as miserable as I am, I add silently. “I came across an announcement. An event where I knew they’d all be, and I couldn’t resist. I had to go see them in, um…” On three, Daryn. One, two, three. “In Georgia.”
Saying it out loud makes it sound even more extreme and I almost wince, but Isabel doesn’t react.
“Why Georgia?” she asks, like she’s not at all surprised that I drove four thousand miles in nine days.
“Marcus enlisted. It was a graduation celebration for him from the Ranger program—the one Gideon was in, too. I knew Gideon and Jode would be there for it. They’d never miss something that important.”
I couldn’t miss it, either. For several reasons.
“And how was it? Did you get a chance to talk through everything? Were they angry with you?”
She knows this is my greatest fear. That Gideon, Marcus, and Jode will blame me for what happened to Sebastian. I mean, I blame me. Why shouldn’t they? It’s a fear that’s kept me immobilized here for more than half a year. That, and no longer having visions to tell me where I’m needed.
Right after the battle against the Kindred, aka my epic fail, they completely stopped. I’ve been totally cut off from the future. Without visions, I’ve felt incomplete. I’ve felt this constant quiet dread, like I’ve forgotten something important. Except it’s not that I can’t remember what I should know. It’s that I can’t foresee it.
“No, they weren’t angry with me.”
“That’s good,” Iz says, brightly.
“Not really. It’s not anything.” Isabel’s smile fades. I can’t look at her anymore, so I look at Shadow. With the daylight fading and the darkness reaching for her, anxiety curls low in my stomach. Her coat is so black, so deeply black, I’ve always had an irrational terror of losing her at night. “I didn’t talk to them.”
My words sound confessional and they hang in the stormy silence. A cold breeze sweeps across our property, stirring the trees at the edges of the field and lifting a lone hawk into the unsettled sky.
“Daryn … You went all that way and you didn’t speak to them?”
“I chickened out, Isabel! I couldn’t figure out what to say! ‘Sorry’? What good would that do? I’m the one with the Sight. Was the one. I knew we’d have that showdown with the Kindred. I should’ve had a better plan. I should’ve anticipated every outcome. But I didn’t and Gideon lost his hand because of me and Sebastian’s hurt or possibly dead but definitely trapped in a realm with a demon. A realm I opened. How do you apologize for that? For making a mistake that big? What could I have said to make any kind of difference?”
Isabel carries a meditative quiet about her. I love it. I used to try to emulate it. She taught me that the quieter you are, the more you hear and see and understand and even feel. Quiet lets you fill yourself up. There’s wisdom to be found in listening, in silence. But since my screwup, I’m not always quiet. I have a new volume, a yelling volume. It comes out of nowhere too, like those air horns people bring to sporting events. Just hit the right nerve and WAAHHHH!
It’s awful. Isabel doesn’t deserve it. Neither does Shadow. She takes a few steps toward me before she realizes I’m fine. Mostly fine.
My throat feels raw and I’m biting down so hard I may crack my own teeth. Isabel reaches over and squeezes my wrist with her strong potter’s hand. I watch the hawk riding the storm winds as I wait for the tears that have welled up to be reabsorbed into my eyes. To the west the clouds have broken and are spilling themselves open. Unlike me.
“This is as close as I got.” I slip my phone out of my pocket and pull up the only photo I took during my week away. I’ve looked at it five hundred times and every time it hits me with a different feeling. This time it triggers an aching, wishing feeling, like I want to be that hawk up there, gliding through a storm like fear is just a myth.
Isabel takes the phone. “Is this Gideon?” She must see the answer on my face, because she turns back to the phone and studies the photo. I wonder if she’s looking for his prosthetic hand. You can’t see it in the photo. I could barely see it in real life. “He’s handsome.”
“It’s a picture of his back.” He was turned away and standing in a crowd about forty feet away from where I lurked like a stalker. Which I technically was.
“Yes, but I can tell.”
A smile rises inside me. This should be good. “How can you tell, Iz?” I waggle my eyebrows. “Does he have a handsome back? Do you think his butt is handsome?”
She rolls her eyes. “If you must know, he has a handsome bearing. He holds himself like he’s comfortable with the moment. I extrapolated from that.” She hands the phone back. “And I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Kind of. ‘Hot’ fits him better than ‘handsome’ does, but … whatever.” Appreciating Gideon’s handsomeness is like standing in front of a bakery window full of the most delicious things I’ve ever seen—then trying the door and realizing it’s locked. And realizing I’m the one who locked it.
“I know this has been hard for you, Daryn.”
“I only wish I hadn’t sucked you down with me.” I’ve wondered if I’m her current mission as a Seeker. Maybe her Sight told her how much I’d need her?
“Well, regardless, thanks. For everything. For being marooned here with me.” I scan the vastness that’s all around me. So beautiful and isolating.
“You don’t have to thank me, you know that,” she says easily, but there’s a rare intensity in her gaze. She pats my arm, glancing toward the cabin. “It’s getting dark and I’ve got soup on the stove. Come inside? We’ll talk some more over dinner.”
“I’ll be right in.” I listen to her trudge away, the bang of the screen door telling me she’s inside.
Shadow moves closer, bobbing her head, her eyes never leaving me. Somehow I can feel that she knows more, senses more, than even Isabel.
What aren’t you saying? What are you planning?
I climb off the fence and sweep my hand down her strong neck. The curls of her darkness wrap around my fingers, following my movement. She feels like sun-warmed silk. Like steadiness.
“We’re going after Sebastian tonight, girl,” I tell her. “It’s time to make things right.”
Copyright © 2017 by Veronica Rossi