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Eternal

Page 20

   


“Do you want to keep the box?” he asked, obviously understanding that she’d decided not to look at Chan.
“No,” Della said, and the one word sounded so heavy, like the weight in her heart. “It belongs with Chan.” She reached for the lid and placed it on top. When she stood to pass it to him, the lid flew off.
Burnett and Della both let out a surprised gasp. “Just the wind,” Della said, even when she didn’t believe it.
“I wish.” Burnett glanced around.
“Is he here?” Della asked, feeling the cold, but not sure if it was Chan.
“Someone is,” Burnett said. “Do you think maybe he wants you to keep the box?”
She internalized the question, and found the answer quickly. “No, they’re his things.” She handed Burnett the box. Then realizing the agents waited on her, she reached down for the lid. Before she could fit the lid on top, a photo fluttered out, spiraled in the air for a second, and then landed on her shoe.
She picked it up and glanced at the photo. It was Chan, his mom, and … and another girl. She looked older than Chan by a year or so. Della looked closer at the image. The girl kind of looked like Della and her sister. A mix of Asian and American.
Again telling herself it was just the wind, she set the photo on top. But it flew out to land at her feet again.
Burnett’s eyes rounded. “I think someone wants you to keep that.”
Della nodded, swallowing a tickle of unease down her throat. She picked up the photo and slowly put the lid on the box. Both she and Burnett stood there under the silver moonlight waiting to see if the lid popped off. It didn’t.
Burnett’s gaze, filled with empathy, met hers and then he turned and walked back to the gravesite. With the picture in her hand, she watched him kneel down and put the box in the casket. Then he stood up and closed the lid.
The sound of the heavy top closing echoed in the night. Part of her wanted to scream for them to stop. Should she have forced herself to look at him, to say good-bye to his face?
But if she saw him, she’d have wanted to touch him, and she didn’t want to feel him dead.
Holding back her tears, she watched as they lowered the casket. The motor of the backhoe and squeak of the chains sounded loud and sad.
She knew Chan wasn’t really in that box. His spirit was in the clouds, in the happy place.
But it was still wrong. He should have lived.
A cold chill came again. Maybe Chan wasn’t in the clouds; was he back here? Had he been the one who wanted her to keep the picture?
She looked at it again, but through her watery vision, all she could see was Chan. “I’m gonna miss you,” Della whispered and dropped back to the ground, fighting the need to sob. As she watched the heavy piece of machinery shovel dirt over Chan’s casket, she hugged her knees and swallowed back the tears.
Her chest felt hollow, yet heavy at the same time. The agents and Burnett stood only fifty feet away, yet loneliness crept in. Then the chill surrounded her like an invisible cloud, and she knew she wasn’t alone. Someone was here with her. But who?
“Chan?” Della whispered, shifting her gaze left and then right. She saw nothing, but felt plenty.
But it didn’t feel like Chan. She recalled Holiday saying there was probably a connection between her and the ghost who wanted her to find Natasha.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
Then the realization hit. She was in a freaking graveyard. She looked out at the hundreds of tombstones. If she really could feel ghosts as Holiday suspected, this cold could be anybody, or a bunch of somebodies.
There could be hundreds of souls standing beside her. The thought made even her bones shiver. If she didn’t owe this to Chan, she’d be hightailing it out of here so fast, even the wind would be envious.
*   *   *
A few minutes later, Burnett came and sat beside her on the soft manicured grass. The cold had faded away. If he or she or the several someones had left, or just backed away, she didn’t know. But she appreciated it.
Burnett dropped his palm on her shoulder. It wasn’t warm, or tight, but the soft touch came with an emotional charge.
“You okay?” he asked.
Della had moved away from fear and back to grief. “I’m sure I will be sooner or later, but right now, I hurt like hell. He was … he was family.”
Burnett’s palm tightened, making the touch almost as emotionally stimulating as a hug, but not quite.
“I know you’re hurting. Family is…” He paused, and then started talking. “A little over a year ago, I would have shunned the idea of having a family. And look at me now.”
Della nodded, pushing her grief aside to think of little Hannah. “You three make a perfect family.”
“Three?” Burnett chuckled. “Hell, when I fell in love with Holiday, I fell in love with Shadow Falls and all of you. We’re not blood, Della, but you are part of our family, and don’t you ever forget that.”
Emotion tightened her lungs. And God help her, but she wanted to lean over and rest her head on his shoulder. Maybe even ask him to wrap his arms around her.
Perhaps she should have brought Miranda and Kylie with her after all. Hell, were hugs addicting? Was there a pill to help you get over needing them? An anti-hug pill?
Chapter Ten
“I’m going to go dismiss the other agents,” Burnett said.
Della nodded and blinked away the threatening tears.
When he walked away, she studied the picture again. The girl. Who was she? She turned the picture over and saw nothing on the back.