Derek nodded. "It's true. Your pattern says you're a witch."
Miranda folded her arms against her chest. "Don't you want to be a witch?" She sounded offended.
"Of course she doesn't want to be witch," Della mouthed off, still looking pissed at being woken up. "It's boring as hell. You don't do anything but throw herbs around and the only way you can fly is on a broom."
"It's not boring! And I do not fly on a broom! I swear, one witch did that and now we all get stereotyped." Miranda's eyes tightened with anger.
"Admit it," Della said. "If you had the power to change yourself, you'd be a vampire."
Miranda vehemently shook her head. "Who would want to be a bloodsucking, cold bitch with fangs!"
Kylie stared at the two of them verbally sparring, tossing insults so fast she couldn't even keep up. Then, too befuddled to intervene, she grabbed Socks before he wandered off in the woods.
Her gaze shifted back to the trees. The woods still called to her. What the hell was going on?
Her mind whirled as she headed to the cabin. Derek fell in step beside her. His shirt, left unbuttoned, fluttered open, exposing his hard abs. Not that she really noticed. Okay, so she noticed, but it didn't mean anything. Except that she was female and females found shirtless guys appealing.
"You're feeling confused," Derek stated.
"Yup." She didn't slow down. She couldn't. She was too annoyed that she found him so appealing. Too annoyed at the damn woods calling her like an old friend to come out and play. She didn't have any old friends. Not anyone looming in the woods.
"You're feeling betrayed," he said.
"Yup. Well, sort of." She continued to the cabin and snuggled her kitten to her chest. Her heart ached and the beginning of tears stung her eyes.
"And you're scared."
"Three out of three," she said. Yet all she felt now was ...
"Frustrated." Derek finished her thought for her.
She stopped and looked him dead in the eyes. "You don't have to tell me what I feel. I know what I'm feeling."
"And you're in a pissy mood," he added with a smile. When she didn't respond in kind, his humor faded. "Sorry. I'm just ... I want to understand."
"You know what I'm feeling; what more do you need to understand?" She stormed up the porch steps with Socks tucked under one arm, and yanked the door open so hard it made a loud banging sound when it hit the wall. Socks flinched. Derek followed her inside.
"I know your emotions, but I can only guess the reasons for them."
She dropped down on the sofa and held Socks in her lap. "Look, I'm in a really bad mood right now, and I suggest you might want to leave."
Derek dropped down beside her. He ignored what she said and continued, "For example, I know you're afraid, but what are you afraid of? Are you frustrated because you're a witch, or because your two best friends can't stop biting each other's heads off? And who are you feeling betrayed by right now? Is it me? Is it about..."
"No," she said before he mentioned Ellie and Kylie had to deal with those emotions as well. "It isn't you." Or maybe it was a little, she thought, remembering Miranda's comment about how she'd talked about Derek all the time.
"Is it about Lucas?" he asked. "You can tell me if it is. I want to help you and if it means listening to your issues with him, I'll do it."
She pulled Socks closer. "It isn't Lucas." But then she remembered their meeting last night, when Lucas had admitted to keeping secrets from her.
A long pause filled the room. Derek leaned in, his shoulder touched hers, and his emotional healing abilities flowed over her like a welcome breath of fresh air. Kylie had no doubt that the touch was on purpose, that he'd meant to help her.
She stared at Socks, then at Derek, trying to slow down her emotional overload. Trying not to be a bitch.
"Tell me what you're afraid of. I want to help." He stared at her forehead. "Does being a witch scare you?"
"I'm not a witch," she said before she could stop herself. Even with his warm calm flowing though her, she felt her frustrations build. Then she recalled Socks's magical transformation. Had she done that?
"At least, I don't think I am. It's not that I don't want to be a witch, it's ... Why would my father tell me I was a chameleon if it wasn't true? I don't think my grandmother would make that up. And why would Burnett have heard about the species, if they didn't exist?"
"Burnett heard about it?" Derek asked.
She nodded. "Nothing concrete, just read it in some of the reports." She touched her forehead. What did all this mean? "Is my pattern really showing that I'm a witch?"
He nodded, as if afraid to disappoint her, then asked, "What's going on? I woke up this morning after a terrible nightmare. I couldn't remember it, but the point of it was that you were in trouble. When I was alert enough, I realized that maybe you really were in trouble and I'd just dreamed what I was reading from you. Then I felt all these other emotions from you. Is this about the ghost? Holiday's ghost?"
The vision she'd had flashed in her head like a bad movie clip. She closed her eyes, trying to shut it off, and searching for what to say to Derek. Tell him, or not tell him?
"I had a vision," she finally said, needing to confide in someone-needing to filter though everything she'd learned from the vision. "There were three bodies in a grave."
"Three? So it's like a serial killer?"
Socks moved from her lap and tucked his face into the curve of her arm, almost as if he understood what Derek had said. Kylie brushed her hand down his soft black feline fur. Feline. Had she done this? Had she changed him back?
"I think so." Kylie bit down on her lip and pushed those questions away to concentrate on something more important. "Holiday, or the one who looks like Holiday, was one of them." She recalled all the things her gut insisted might be important. "They were buried below some kind of an old cabin." Her chest tightened. "Seeing Holiday like that was ... hard."
"I can imagine," Derek said. "Didn't you tell me that the visions were like puzzles to help you figure things out?"
She nodded. "But it wasn't the one who looked like Holiday that brought me into the vision. It was one of the other girls. I think she wants to be found, so they can leave the makeshift grave. So I'm still not sure if the vision is going to help me. Or maybe it can. I don't know." Her chest clutched. "Why can't they just tell me what they need?"
"Maybe if you tell me about it, I can help figure it out."
She looked at Derek. "How?"
"I worked for a PI. I sort of know how to dig things up. I'm good at it."
Kylie scratched Socks under his kitty chin as she tried to think of anything that might help them understand the vision. "One of the girls had on a waitress uniform. Like from a diner or something. For some reason, the uniform looked familiar. And she had a name tag on that said 'Cara M.' The others even called her Cara M., not just Cara, as if they didn't really know her but were calling her that because of her name tag."
"That's good," Derek said. "Maybe you should make a list of all the dinerlike restaurants you've been to lately. I'll go online and see if I can find what their uniforms look like."
As Kylie's mind tried to latch on to any other details that might help, she recalled the spirit's visit right before she'd gone outside to bring Socks to Miranda.
"What's puzzling you?" he asked, sensing her emotions.
Kylie watched her kitten-still finding it hard to believe that he wasn't a skunk anymore-leap down from the sofa. "The spirit told me that Socks wanted to be changed back into a cat. When I asked how she knew that, she said that she could communicate with animals."
"Holiday can't read animals." Derek's eyes widened. "Wait. She can't, but she knows someone ... someone close to her that is full fairy and actually had a little of the ability to do so."
"Are you sure?" Kylie asked.
"She told me during one of our counseling sessions."
"Did she say who it was?"
"No, but ... I got the feeling it was someone close. I also got the feeling that it was someone who'd hurt her, because I felt her emotions when she talked about her. And then she changed the subject."
Kylie nodded. Holiday was good at changing the subject when it came to something personal. "So, if this person was close to Holiday, then it would be understandable why she would take on Holiday's appearance as a ghost." Kylie chewed on that thought for a moment, feeling some relief. And it gave her the first real hope that Holiday wasn't in danger.
Kylie sighed. The early morning sun must have risen higher, because she watched as the first gold rays spilled through the window and cast shadows on the wood floor. "So how do we find out who this person is?"
"I can bring it up again in our next counseling session with Holiday. It's this afternoon. Like I said, she didn't want to talk about it, but maybe I can sneak it into the conversation."
Derek's words pulled Kylie away from the problem at hand. "You get counseling sessions from Holiday?"
He frowned. "Not counseling like my-head's-messed-up counseling. We just chat ... like you two do."
"I didn't mean it was a bad thing. I just didn't know you met with her regularly."
"I have since I came here."
"I knew you were in the beginning, but I didn't think you still did."
"I didn't for a while. But since I've been back ... I see her now."
Before Kylie could stop herself, the question slipped out. "Do you talk about me?"
"Some," he admitted, looking guilty.
She almost asked for details, but wisdom slipped in. She didn't need to know. Especially if it was about his feelings for her. The less she heard, or even thought, about his confession of love, the better off she'd be.
Her gaze, as if it had a mind of its own, lowered again to his bare chest. Reprimanding herself, she popped off the sofa. "I think I'll go talk to Holiday now about this whole witch issue."
"Are you going to mention the vision?"
She considered the question, but her heart said no. The message came with such certainty that she wondered if she wasn't getting some divine advice. "Not yet. If I don't get anything in a day or so, I think I should."
He nodded. "I'll get busy later trying to figure out what I can." He stood up. "Let's go." The sun spilling though the window hit his chest, making his bare skin look even more golden.
"That's okay," she sputtered. "You don't have to ... tag along."
Disappointment flashed in his green eyes. "Yes, I do. I'm your shadow until after breakfast."
Oh, great. Her gaze slipped down to his open shirt again. Was she going to have to look, or try not to look, at his chest all morning? "Then at least button your shirt." The words were out before she realized how that sounded.
The disappointment in his eyes vanished and a sexy twinkle took its place. The twinkle brought out the gold flecks in his irises, which she used to admire so much.
"Why?" he asked. "Does it bother you?"
She glared at him. "Don't go there." Then to make her point even clearer, she held up her pinky at him. "I might have powers you don't want to mess with. And since I don't know how to use them, I could really mess a person up. By accident, of course."
He held up his hands in complete submission. "I won't go there. I swear." But the sexy grin on his lips remained as he started buttoning his shirt.
Freaking great, Kylie thought. He'd probably read her emotions and assumed she still found him attractive. Which she did, but not in the way he thought. Okay, so it was in the way he thought but it didn't mean anything. Or so she tried to tell herself as she took off for the front door.
Derek followed right behind her.
When they walked past her two roommates still tossing threats at each other, Kylie didn't even look back. If they were really going to tear each other's body parts off, they would have done it by now. Right?
"Don't panic," Holiday said after Kylie walked in, pointed to her forehead, and explained she might have pulled off a bit of abracadabra and changed Socks back into a kitten.
"Panicking is never good." But she couldn't stop staring at Kylie's pattern.
It might not be good, but Kylie could see panic in Holiday's eyes. Well, maybe it wasn't so much panic as it was sheer befuddlement. No doubt Kylie shared the same expression. Though hers probably was panic. And not all because she'd turned into a witch. It was more about seeing Holiday, and the images of the vision that were now popping up like flash cards in her mind. The vision Kylie still sensed she didn't need to share with the camp leader.
"Okay, exactly what happened?" Holiday asked.
"Just what I said." Kylie plopped down in the chair across her desk. "Miranda was trying to change him back with all these fancy spells, but not having any luck. I was concerned about Socks; he didn't want to be there. So I pointed my pinky at him and blurted out something like, 'Why can't you just say, change back into a kitten.' And it happened."
Holiday nodded and continued to stare at Kylie's pattern as if she expected it to change.
"Am I really a witch?"
The fae's brow puckered. "Yes. But ... yesterday you were a human and before that you were ... a pattern no one could recognize."
"So you think it'll go away?"
Holiday looked apologetic before she even spoke. "I don't know for sure but ... more than likely, you're a witch. I mean, if you really have powers."
"But the powers could go away, too." Kylie sighed.
"But ... if you have powers then you obviously have the witch DNA. Unlike a pattern, DNA is pretty permanent," Holiday said, but she didn't sound sure of anything. "Then again, witches don't have speed the way you have when you run, or sensitive hearing. Most wouldn't have the type of healing gifts you have, either. And very few of them dreamscape." Now Holiday was thinking out loud more than talking to Kylie. "Of course, it could all be related to you being a protector. Or it might be because of the hybrid mix. Some hybrid mixes have-"
"How about ghost whispering? Do witches have that?" Kylie asked.
"A few have it, but not all." Holiday touched her chin, as though completely puzzled. "But what's really odd is that you're appearing to be a hundred percent witch now. But I guess your being a protector could maybe ... affect that."
She slumped back in her chair as if stumped. "Have you tried to see if you could do anything else?"
"Do what?" Kylie asked.
"No," Kylie said. "What if I screw something up? Like Miranda does. I could turn someone into a kangaroo or even something worse."
"I doubt you would do that. Why don't you just try to move something?" Holiday pushed a leather, heart-shaped, sand-filled paperweight to the edge of her desk.
"I don't know." Kylie bit down on her lip. "It's totally freaky."
"Not really. Just try." She made a funny face. "And be prepared to duck if we have to."
"Oh, that makes me feel so much better," Kylie said.
Holiday grinned. "Try it."
Kylie took in a deep breath. Then, pointing her pinky at the red heart, she said, "Move."
Nothing happened. Kylie exhaled and grinned. "See, I'm not a witch."
Then the paperweight started to jiggle ... or beat. At least that's what it looked like it was doing. Beating, pumping, as if it were a real heart.
"Shit!" Kylie said, and either there was an echo in the room or Holiday spurted out the same word. "Did I make it come alive?"
Holiday didn't answer; she was too busy watching the throbbing heart. Then the thing floated up and shot across the room. "Duck!" Holiday screamed.
Kylie dropped to the floor just as the paperweight whizzed past.
Unfortunately, Burnett walked into the room.
The heart went right for him.