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She took off, her last words repeating in her head. I’ll call him. I’ll call him. And she would, just as soon as she figured out how the heck to explain why she hadn’t gone to see him.
*   *   *
Della got halfway to her cabin then shifted off the trail and hid behind a clump of trees. She pulled out her phone. She had to make this right. Staring at her cell, she suddenly found it odd that he hadn’t called her. If he knew she’d buried Chan, he’d have called to check on her. Not calling wasn’t like Steve.
Was he already mad? Mad because she hadn’t called him and told him she was burying her cousin? Or did he guess she’d been with Chase? I didn’t do anything! She started preparing her not-guilty speech.
Dread built up in her chest when she realized that even if she hadn’t done anything, the simple fact that she’d relied on Chase instead of Steve was still going to hurt him.
Her head told her what she needed to do—to let him go—but her heart refused to accept it.
She swallowed a knot of pain and it fell like a lump of dough in her stomach.
Taking a deep breath, her mind still dithering, she dialed his number.
It rang once.
Three times.
Then it went to voice mail.
“Hey … I’m at Shadow Falls … Burnett said he called you and … Call me, okay?”
She shut her phone and closed her eyes for a second. Steve always answered her calls.
Maybe he was busy with a client. An emergency of some sort. A dog who’d swallowed a sock, a werewolf with a thorn in his paw. That’s what she wanted to believe. What she would believe until … until she knew differently. She simply had too many real issues to start imagining one.
*   *   *
“Crappers! What did Burnett say?” Kylie asked.
“What did he say before or after he gave us royal hell?” Della asked, appreciating that her two roomies and best friends had skipped lunch to chat with her. Their sympathy and understanding was the only thing keeping her together sometimes.
“Yikes,” Miranda said. “Burnett’s hell reminds me of my mother’s pot roast, tough and hard to swallow.”
Della picked up her empty Diet Coke can and squeezed it into a little ball. She’d tried to sleep as Burnett ordered but had failed. In spite of feeling like an emotional wreck, she’d told them almost everything—about the werewolves at the graveyard, the vibrating box, the picture incident. She’d told them about Chase showing up, against Burnett’s orders, and about her going to see the files at his cabin.
The thing she hadn’t mentioned yet was all the Reborn stuff—that would have to wait for another day—too much spilling at one time could cripple a vampire.
She saw her phone sitting on the table and remembered she hadn’t told them about Steve, either. But that was because there was nothing to tell. And yet the fact that several hours had passed and he hadn’t called now pressed hard and heavy on her heart.
“So the names just completely disappeared?” Kylie asked, stuck on that, and with good reason—ghosts were Kylie’s thing.
“Yeah,” Della said.
Kylie contemplated it. “I don’t think they were ever really there.”
“I saw them,” Della insisted, thinking Kylie would be the last person to question this.
“I’m not saying you’re lying, just that the ghost made you think you saw them. Like a vision of sorts. Were you feeling the ghost when you saw the names?”
Della remembered feeling the cold off and on while at the graveyard.
“Yeah.” She chewed on that a moment. “Does that make what I saw … less true?”
“Nah,” Kylie said. “Ghosts don’t normally lie. Is Burnett going to let you go visit the parents?”
“As soon as he gets the okay from the FRU for us to work the case. He was supposed to call, but that was hours ago.” She glanced at her phone again and her mind went to the other call she waited on. The one from Steve.
Feeling her own heartache reminded her of hearing Miranda crying in the predawn hours.
Glancing at the witch, she asked, “Did you rescind your promise so you could tell us what’s up?”
“Rescind what promise?” Kylie asked.
Della, all too willing to get the topic off of her issues and onto someone else’s, focused on Kylie. “Our little witch is holding back.”
With them zeroing in on her, Miranda slunk down in her chair guiltily.
Della pointed at the witch. “She was up crying at three this morning, but said she couldn’t spill what was wrong because she promised someone she wouldn’t tell.”
“What’s wrong, Miranda?” Concern laced Kylie’s three words.
“I still can’t talk about it. Not until…”
“Until what?” Della asked.
“Until someone else says something.” Miranda cut her eyes to Della.
And, just like that, Della got the crazy feeling that this was about her.
“You know we won’t say anything,” Kylie offered.
“I know that.” After staring at her hands, Miranda glanced back up at Della.
“Is this about me?” Della asked, hoping she was wrong, because then she’d really be pissed.
Her focus on Miranda came to a quick halt when she heard footsteps heading up to the cabin. She tilted her head to the side to listen to the cadence, and immediately she knew who it was.