He watched her fumble , his expression sober now. "I shouldn't be here at all, is that what you mean, Savannah? I shouldn't be alive when your friend is dead."


"No." She shook her head, embarrassed that he misunderstood her clumsy choice of words. "I didn't mean that. I would never think that."


"I tried to protect her. I tried to save her, Savannah." He heaved out a deep sigh. "There was nothing I could do. I hope you believe me. I hope you can forgive me."


"Of course," she murmured. "I'm sure you did everything you could. No one could blame you for what happened to Rachel."


As she spoke to reassure him, she couldn't keep the image of the monster's face from forming in her mind's eye. The horrible fangs. The fiery coals that were its eyes. Her skin went cold at the memory, sending a bone-deep shudder racing up her spine.


And yet Keaton seemed strangely unaffected. He seemed somehow removed from the terror of what he'd endured that night. Calmly accepting of the miracle of his survival following an attack by something inhuman, hellish. Either he truly didn't know the depth of the horror he endured, or he was hiding it from her.


Unless it was Savannah's gift that couldn't be trusted. It had never been fully in her control, but maybe it was becoming unreliable. Maybe she wasn't going crazy after all. Maybe she was simply losing her grasp of the ability she'd tried for so long to keep a secret from the rest of the world.


"I can't imagine how awful the experience must've been for you, Professor Keaton. You and Rachel both." She looked at him closely, searching for any cracks in his demeanor. "When you were trying to save her life, were you able to get a look at the attacker?"


"Yes," he replied, not so much as blinking. "I got a brief look, just before I was knocked unconscious."


Savannah's breath froze in her lungs. "Have you told anyone?"


"Of course. I told the police this morning, when they came to see me in the hospital as I was being discharged."


Savannah swallowed, not at all certain she wanted to hear her terror voiced by another person. "What did you tell them, Professor Keaton?"


"I told them what I saw. A vagrant who likely wandered in off the street, looking for something of value to pawn for his drug money. Rachel and I surprised him, and he attacked us like a wild animal."


Savannah listened, unable to speak for a moment. It didn't make sense. Not that what she saw in the glimpse from Rachel's bracelet made more sense, but she could tell Keaton was lying. "Are you sure about that? You're sure it was a vagrant, not...someone else?"


Keaton laughed then, a short bark of humor. He turned the radio off abruptly, his movements too quick. "Am I sure? I was the only one there to see what happened. Of course, I'm sure. What's this all about, Savannah? What's going on with you?"


"Nothing." She shook her head. "I'm just trying to understand what happened."


"I told you." He leaned farther across the cockpit of the Firebird, reaching for the door handle on the passenger side. "Where are you heading, anyway?"


"English Department," she replied woodenly, an inexplicable sense of unease spreading through her. "I have to meet with my professor about taking some coursework home with me on my leave of absence."


"You're leaving school?" He sounded surprised, but his face remained oddly unchanged, blank and unreadable. "Is it because of what happened?"


"I just need to go." She backed away from the door, careful to keep her steps subtle and her voice light as she hurried to formulate a protective lie. "There are some problems at home right now, and my family needs me there."


"I see." Keaton nodded. "I'm sure you've heard that Rachel's funeral is in Brookline later this week. I know you're all alone in Boston, so if you'd like, I could take you--"


"No, thank you." She had heard about the service, of course, and had already given her condolences and regrets to Rachel's mother when the distraught woman called to let her know the date and time of the gathering. "I'm leaving tonight for Louisiana. I've already got my bus ticket reserved and waiting for me."


"So soon," he remarked. "Well, then, at least let me give you a ride over to the English Department now. We can talk some more about all of this on the way."


Savannah's unease around him deepened. There was no way in hell she was getting near him the way he was acting. "I'm late as it is. It'll be faster if I cut across campus on foot." She forced a casual smile. "But thanks for offering, Professor Keaton. I really gotta go now."


"Suit yourself," he said, then turned the radio on again. "See you around, Savannah."


She gave him a bright nod as she retreated backward to the safety of the sidewalk and the hundreds of students still milling around on their lunch break. Savannah watched as Keaton drove away.


When he was out of sight, his white car disappearing around a corner onto another part of campus, she let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. Then she pivoted in the opposite direction and ran like the devil was on her heels.


Chapter 9


Savannah sat on the edge of her hardside suitcase at the South Station bus terminal, her right knee bouncing with nervous energy. Her bus was late. She'd gone to the station a couple hours ahead of time that evening, eager to be on her way back home. Desperate, even.


Her troubling encounter with Professor Keaton had her rattled enough on top of everything else, but it was her phone call to the library after she'd gotten home to her apartment that had really compounded Savannah's state of confusion and mounting unease.


Mrs. Kennefick hadn't been able to help Savannah locate Gideon. Oh, she recalled the big blond man in black leather who'd come around the other night inquiring after Savannah.


"Hard not to notice a man like him," she'd said, understatement of the year. "He's not exactly the library's typical clientele."


No, there was nothing typical about Gideon at all. Except the fact that he was male, and apparently adept at lying to a woman's face. Because when she'd asked Mrs. Kennefick if she'd told Gideon where Savannah lived, the older woman had balked at the very idea.


"No, of course not, dear. One can never be too careful these days, sad to say. But he did tell me he was a friend of yours. I hope I didn't overstep when I informed him you'd called in sick."


Savannah had reassured her kindly old supervisor that she'd done nothing wrong, but inwardly she was awash in doubt about everything. Now she had to put Gideon in that number too. If Mrs. Kennefick hadn't sent him to Savannah's apartment, how had he found her? And why did he let her think he'd come across her address through honest means?


Nothing was making sense to her anymore. She couldn't help feeling suspicious of everything and everyone, as if her entire world was veering off the path of reality.


She needed a good dose of home to set her right, put her life back together. Help her put everything in its proper place again. She was eager for Amelie's good cooking, and her warm, soft shoulder to lean on.


If only the damn bus would get here.


Twenty minutes delayed now. Night had recently fallen outside the station. Evening rush hour commuters filled the place, hurrying to their trains and buses as exhaust fumes belched in through open doorways and garbled public address announcements squawked virtually unintelligibly from the ceiling speakers overhead.


No sooner had they come, the commuters were gone again, leaving Savannah and a few straggling others to wait a seemingly indeterminable time for some sign that they might actually make it out of the station tonight. She stood up on a deep yawn, just as the station speakers crackled to life and croaked out something indecipherable about the bus to Louisiana.


Savannah picked up her suitcase and hoofed it over to one of the counter attendants. "I missed the announcement just now. Did they say how long it will be before the bus to New Orleans begins boarding?"


"Ten minutes."


Finally. Just enough time to find a restroom and then she would be on her way at last. Savannah thanked the attendant, then headed off for the ladies' room farther up the terminal, luggage in hand. The bulky suitcase made for awkward walking. So awkward, that as she neared the bank of restrooms and payphones, she nearly tripped over the big, booted foot of a homeless person seated in the shadowy alcove just outside the ladies' room door.


"Excuse me," she murmured when she realized she'd bumped him.


He didn't seem to care. Or maybe he wasn't even aware of her at all, passed out or sleeping, she couldn't tell. The man in the tattered navy hoodie sweatshirt and filthy work pants didn't even lift his head. Savannah couldn't see his face. Long, dirty hair hung over his heavy brow and down past his chin.


Savannah attempted a better hold on her suitcase and skirted around his unmoving bulk to head into the restroom.


Gideon knew Savannah wasn't home, even before he knocked on her door. No lights on inside. No sound from within. No telltale glow through the walls as he searched for her with the gift of his sight.


"Shit."


Maybe he should have tried the library first, instead of checking for her at home. But even as he considered how quickly he could make it across town to look for her there, he was gripped with a sinking feeling of dread.


Savannah wouldn't have left Boston...would she?


That had been her intent last night, after all. He thought he might have convinced her to stay and let him help her, but what had he given her to hold on to? A heated kiss and a vague promise that he could somehow, miraculously, make everything better?


Fuck. He was an idiot to think she'd stick around on that flimsy incentive. He couldn't blame her if she finished packing her bag and took off for Louisiana as soon as he crept out of her bed twelve hours ago.


He couldn't have lost her so easily.


He wouldn't let her go so easily, damn it. And that claim had less to do with the Order's objectives or Darkhaven protocol than he cared to admit, even to himself.


If Savannah left, he was going after her.


Gideon took hold of the doorknob in death grip. Locked.


He was strong enough; he could have torn the damn thing off in his fist. But he was also Breed, and that meant he didn't have to resort to caveman tactics when he had more stealth tools at his command.


He mentally freed the two deadbolts from their tumblers. The door sprang open, and Gideon slipped inside the apartment. A quick scan of her bedroom told him his worst suspicions were correct.


Savannah's suitcase was gone. In the cramped little closet, a bunch of empty hangers.


"Damn it," he growled, stalking out to the living room where he'd kissed her just last night, held her in his arms while she slept against him on the sofa. He sent his gaze all over the place, looking for anything--a clue that might lead him to her.


He zeroed in on a memo pad lying next to the kitchen phone. He flashed across the room, more than walked, to pick up the note. In loopy, vibrant cursive handwriting, someone had jotted down South Station, followed by a number and a time. A bus schedule.


Savannah's departure for New Orleans.


She was leaving.


And if the schedule was accurate, she was already on her way.


Gone, more than twenty minutes ago.


Gideon flew out of there anyway, determined to catch her. He took off on foot, his Breed genetics carrying him much faster than any manmade vehicle could.


He was nothing but cold air on the humans he passed, his feet flying over pavement and through clogged traffic in the streets, speeding toward South Station.


Savannah parked her suitcase next to the paper towel dispenser in the empty restroom and stepped into the middle stall. She slid the wobbly lock into place, hearing the soft whoosh of the swinging entry door as someone came into the ladies' room a few seconds behind her. Hopefully someone who wouldn't think her battered American Tourister suitcase looked worthwhile to steal.


She was about to unzip her jeans, until the room echoed with the sudden sound of metal scraping heavily on concrete. As though someone were dragging the overflowing trash bin across the restroom floor. Was it the janitor coming in to clean?


"Hello? Someone's in here right now," she called out.


And then wished she'd kept her mouth shut because no one answered.


The room went very still, nothing but the soft trickle of water dripping into one of the clogged white sinks outside the stalls. Savannah froze, every animal instinct she had going taut with alarm.


She listened, hoping for the sound of someone's voice--an awkward apology for the intrusion, a request that she leave soon so the restroom could be maintained. She heard nothing. She was in there alone.


No, not alone.


There was a rasp of open-mouthed breathing from somewhere on the other side of the shaky metal door. Heavy boots scuffed on the filthy concrete floor. They stopped in front of her stall.


Savannah recognized them instantly.


It was the homeless man who'd been sleeping in the terminal outside.


A wash of fear swept over her, leaving her skin prickled with goosebumps, but she summoned the most threatening tone of voice she possessed. "You'd better get out of here right now, asshole, unless you want to spend the night in jail."


Through the soughing of his breath, a chuckle. Low and malicious. Not quite sane. Maybe not quite human.


Oh, God.


Savannah swallowed hard. She was trapped in the stall, didn't know whether to scream and bring someone else into her nightmare, or remain silent and pray that this was just another trick of her fracturing mind.


At least the threat was on the other side of the door. The metal panel wasn't the most sturdy, but it was locked from the inside. So long as she kept that door barred between them, she was safe.

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