Ryan seemed to have aged ten years in the last half hour, but there was still a little bit of the sparkle I knew in his eyes as he shrugged and said, “I just know.”
That taken care of, we moved to the last task.
All of the girls were gathered back in the bedroom. Their white dresses were streaked with sweat and punch and blood, but they were all yammering excitedly, a couple of them practicing flips and spin-kicks.
“You’re sure you can do this?” I asked David, and he nodded, flexing his fingers. A shower of golden light raced along the backs of them.
“Yeah. I hate to, though. I mean, for one thing, it would take some of the Paladin pressure off of you. For another, they just . . . they look really happy.”
They did look happy. Happier than they’d looked in all of the months prepping for Cotillion. But I couldn’t risk Blythe having ten girls—eleven, I thought, my heart aching for Bee—who were willing to fight and die for her.
One by one, David drew the power back from them, until his eyes were bright gold again and he was shaking. That done, Ryan moved down the line with the lip balm, erasing their memories of this night. When he got to Mary Beth, I saw the saw the way his finger didn’t so much smudge the balm on as caress her palm, and something in me eased. Maybe Mary Beth would be good for him. And—I glanced at David—hopefully, uncomplicated.
Eventually, they all lay slumped on the bedroom floor, and the three of us stood over them, watching.
“So are we done?” Ryan asked, and it was so close to the words he’d used breaking up with me that I wanted to laugh.
“We haven’t even really started,” David told him. “The three of us, we’re . . . connected. We will be forever, and—”
Ryan held up his hands. “Whoa, what do you mean forever?”
I was exhausted and heartsick and wrung out, and I wanted Saylor here so badly I ached. But she was gone. There was no one left to explain things, to offer guidance. We only had each other.
David reached out and squeezed my hand, and I saw Ryan’s gaze drop to it. “That was . . . fast,” he said, and David dropped my hand like it was on fire.
“It’s not like that,” he said, but I shook my head.
Taking David’s hand in mine, I held it tightly and faced Ryan. “Actually, it kind of is. And if the three of us are going to work together, Ryan needs to know that.”
Ryan looked between the two of us before heaving a sigh that seemed to come from his toes. “I can’t,” he finally said. “I can’t deal with any of this. Superpowers, and Brandon murdering old ladies, and the two of you, I . . .”
He pushed past us. I went to grab his arm, but David stopped me. “Let him go,” he said. “Give him time.”
I didn’t want to. Blythe and the Ephors had Bee, and we had to get her back somehow. We’d need all three of us, working together. But Saylor had let me go once. I had to do the same for Ryan.
The earthquake that hit Pine Grove the night of Cotillion was destined to be a legend. It almost destroyed Magnolia House, and nearly everyone there had some kind of injury, from scrapes, to bruises, to a couple of broken bones. Luckily, no one died. But the house would probably have to be torn down, and no one who was there that night had an especially clear memory of what happened. They all agreed the trauma had probably rattled them all.
Bee’s parents were glad Bee had decided to go to cheerleading camp instead of participating in Cotillion this year. No, they weren’t sure when she’d be back. Soon. They knew it was soon.
The Aunts mourned the loss of their mother’s punch bowl, damaged by falling plaster that night, and Aunt Martha blamed Aunt May for not putting it in a more secure location. Aunt Jewel only knew she never wanted to make punch for Cotillion again, but she didn’t know why.
And that Monday, I went to school like nothing had happened. I wasn’t surprised to find David in the newspaper room. No one else was in there, and I stood in the door for awhile, watching his back as he sat at the computer, typing. “I know you’re there, Pres,” he said at last.
Smiling, I leaned against the door jamb. “Could you sense me with your awesome new superpowers?”
He snorted, but didn’t turn around. “No, I could actually feel you staring at me.”
Wheeling around in his chair, he gave me a truly sad excuse of a grin. “No one’s stare is quite as piercing as yours.”
When I folded my arms and gave him a look, he sighed. “I knew you’d come. And not because I saw it. I mean, I did see it, but . . . ,” he trailed off, tugging at his hair.
I walked across the room and covered his hands with mine, gently pulling his loose from the top of his head. As I did, he watched me very carefully, and I felt that same fire, the one from the Cotillion, curl in my belly. We held each other’s gaze, our hands still tangled up as I stood in front of him.
“You know what’s awkward?” David asked, the corner of his mouth lifting.
“Our entire existences?”
Now the grin was real. “That,” he acknowledged. “And when you make a big, dramatic gesture because you think you’re going to die, and then you—”
“Don’t die,” I finished for him, and he nodded.
“Exactly. Not that I’m not one hundred percent psyched that we didn’t die, but . . .”
“I get it,” I told him. “So . . . that’s why you kissed me, then? Because you thought we might die?”
“More or less,” he said, dropping my hands and turning back to the computer. “It was a heat of the moment thing. I mean . . . you and me, as a couple? Could that even work?”
He typed for a few more seconds, and when I didn’t answer, he turned around. There was still the teeniest speck of gold in his eyes, but you had to look for it to know it was there. “Do you . . . Pres, do you want it to work?”
Saylor had said that Blythe’s spell could make David dangerous. It could mean I’d have to kill him for his own sake. But he’d controlled it the night of Cotillion. He’d used incredible amounts of power, and he was still here, still David.
The gold dot in his eye seemed to flame brighter for a second, and I felt a little shiver.
Still, I straightened my shoulders and looked into his eyes. “I’d like to try.”
David sat in his chair, staring at me for the space of two heartbeats. And then he was on his feet, and his mouth was on mine. It wasn’t as intense as the kiss at Cotillion, but it had the exact same effect on me. In fact, kissing David in the newspaper room at seven-thirty in the morning, I could almost forget I hated PDA.
He pulled back, giving a breathless laugh. “We’re so stupid for doing this.”
“It will probably end in murder,” I agreed, but we were both grinning. Then David’s smile faded. “Have you talked to Ryan?”
I sighed, moving back against a desk. Brushing a few waddedup pieces of paper off its surface, I perched on top. “No. He’s not returning my texts or calls.”
“It’s a lot to deal with, Pres. Suddenly having superpowers forced on you is rough.”
“Is it?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. “I had no idea. Please tell me more, and let me subscribe to your newsletter.”
At that, David gave a real laugh, sinking back into his chair. “Okay, now this is the Harper Price I’m more familiar with.”
I smiled back at him before looking around the classroom. “So . . . what now?”
David turned around again, propping his head on the back of his chair. “Are you asking me what I’ve seen?”
“I was actually wondering if you’d had any ideas,” I said, shaking my head. “I know this sounds totally stupid, but . . . it’s like I keep forgetting you can fully see the future now. That is totally stupid, isn’t it?”
Still studying the ceiling, David said, “No. Because I keep forgetting, too. I’ll have a dream, and wake up thinking, ‘Huh, weird dream.’ You know, like I have every day of my life. And then suddenly I have to remember that no, it might not have been a weird dream. It might have been a-a vision.”
“But not everything you see will come true,” I said. We were fighting, but we weren’t angry. We were sad. You killed me. The words spun in my mind.
“That’s the whole thing.” David dropped his head, looking at me. “The worst part. If not everything you see will come true, how do you know what to do? What’s the point of even having your head full of all this . . . this stuff?” He ran a hand over his eyes, and I saw that it was shaking.
Now it was Saylor’s words looping through my mind. That much power, it will burn him up and eat him alive until he’s not David anymore.
I’d spent the past seventeen years thinking David was annoying and mean, but he wasn’t. He was smart, and dedicated, and loyal, and completely him. The thought of his powers turning him into someone else, of killing him, hurt too much to even think about.
But I wouldn’t let that happen. I knew what Saylor had said, but hey, I was a Paladin. My job was to protect the Oracle and I’d do that, even if it meant protecting him from himself.
“Anyway,” David said, closing the laptop and wheeling his chair over to me, “as for what comes next, Saylor had some kind of in case of emergency spell set up. As far as I can tell, everyone in town thinks she’s gone on some kind of extended vacation, and I’m totally fine here by myself.”
He didn’t sound totally fine, and I took his hand again. “I miss her, too.”
David just nodded, pressing his lips together, and I squeezed his fingers. “I don’t like the idea of you in that house by yourself.”
“It’ll be okay,” he said. He was wearing a ketchup-red sweater and houndstooth pants. When I glanced down, I saw that, sure enough, he had one brown sock and one black. He could not have looked any less like someone who would be okay on his own.
I stepped closer, our joined hands between us. “Are you saying that in your usual patronizing sense, or in the ‘I can see the future and know how this all turns out’ way?”