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“This coming from a boy who had to feed his girlfriend emotions in order for her to stay with him.”

He glanced around, then asked, “Where is Addie?”

“Went to stay with her dad for the holidays.”

He took a bite of his burger. “I hope I had nothing to do with that decision.”

You had everything to do with that decision, jerk. That’s what I wished I could say, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

“Why would you?”

“So why’d she go then?”

I tried to think of something that would really bother him, because I knew that despite what Addie thought, Duke still had lingering feelings for her. Once Addie let someone in, she was impossible to forget. There was something about her that crawled inside a person and built a nice comfy home there, her goodness expanding until it filled every limb. Without her, there was only hollow emptiness. And I knew Duke was feeling that. I could see it on his face when he said her name.

I also knew that Addie had feelings for him. I would not let him hurt her again. Because he would. It’s who he was. He slithered around in a person until he found what he wanted and then took it, leaving a different kind of hollowness, the kind that felt like something had been stolen. “Not that it’s any of your business, but she’s visiting a guy she knows there.”

“She is?” Even though his smile remained plastered on his face, I could see in his eyes that my statement had hit the mark.

I fished in my memory for the name of that cute cowboy she had her eye on. “Trevor.”

“Trevor? She knows Trevor?”

“They started talking after that football game.” Addie would kill me if she knew I was blatantly lying like this, but whatever, it was worth it for the new look on Duke’s face—defeat. I sighed. No, I wasn’t doing this for her, I was doing it for me.

I stood.

“Wait.”

I lifted my hand slightly. Speaking of keeping my memories to myself: A five-minute wipe should do it. Right before I sent the burst of energy his way, I remembered how my ability had failed on Connor. That worry sank in for a brief second, and then I gave a push. I felt the paths in his mind easily close and smiled. I was fine. A thrill that I had long ago come to associate with power trickled through my body. Power was an amazing feeling.

I let my hand fall limply back to my side. Maybe I was the type of person who could work for the Containment Committee. Twisted. I had about three seconds before Duke would come back to full awareness. Feeling a little sick to my stomach, I turned and left.

Just as I reached the door, Duke called, “Laila! Hey.”

I turned. “What?”

“I didn’t even see you there. Where’s Addie?”

“Not here.”

At first I didn’t notice the tugging on my emotions. I thought maybe my anger toward him was just softening to pity; that maybe I was feeling bad for just wiping our conversation from his memory. But when a surge of joy pumped through my chest, I snarled. I marched to his table. “Knock it off.”

He shrugged and held up the last bite of his burger. “I seem to be missing more of my burger than I remember eating, so turnabout’s fair play.” The smile didn’t leave his face, and again a surge of happiness shot through me. It felt so good I almost melted to the seat in front of him. It reminded me of how he had manipulated me in the first place. This feeling. I loved this feeling. And then I knew he could help me.

“I need your help.”

“Excuse me?” He popped the last bite of burger into his mouth.

“You need to convince Connor Bradshaw to tell me some things.”

“Is there a question in there somewhere?”

“No. You owe me.”

“Tell me what exactly we’re convincing Connor of and I might consider helping you.”

“You’ll see. It’s something for Addie.” It was low of me to use his feelings for Addie against him, but being low didn’t bother me. Especially if it yielded results. “Meet me in front of your house on Saturday at noon.” I stayed there for five more seconds, letting the happiness he offered snake through my arms and extend to my fingertips. Then I pushed away from the table and walked out the door. The happiness that had been dancing patterns inside my chest was gone, and I realized how seldom that feeling existed in me and why I had been so desperate to keep it.

CHAPTER 9

Addie: Is there such a thing as death by water bottle?

“Are you sure Trevor is going to be okay with you bringing me?” I sat in the passenger seat of Stephanie’s car the day after Thanksgiving, wondering if this was a good idea. Especially after the show I put on for Trevor at the bookstore. I wondered if I should tell Stephanie that I ran into him the other day. Is that what friends did? But I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I didn’t want her to think I was trying to make a play for her ex or anything, no matter how much she claimed she was done with his issues. And really, it was no big deal. We had run into each other. We barely talked.

“Trevor won’t care at all that I’m bringing you. He’s like the nicest guy ever.”

“I thought he had issues.”

“Oh, he has issues, but he keeps them to himself, remember? That was one of the issues. He doesn’t talk to anyone, really, at least not about anything deep. Not even Rowan. And speaking of Rowan . . . ,” Stephanie said. “You said you knew him.”

“Yes.”

“He’ll be here, I’m sure. But a word of warning—he’s not exactly my favorite person.”

I had sensed that from our last conversation about him. I tried to remember Rowan’s personality from the football game. He seemed nice enough, maybe a little hyper. Laila liked him a lot. “Why?”

“Let’s just say that when Trevor and I were together, Rowan didn’t want us to be. He constantly sabotaged our relationship. I think he was jealous.”

“Why?”

“He was mad I took Trevor away from guy dates.”

“I see.”

“So anyway, if my witchy-ness comes out around him, I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.”

I laughed. “I completely understand.”

We weren’t the first ones to arrive. Several cars were parked in front of his house, which was good. The more people, the less I had to talk. Stephanie had to park a few houses down. She cut the engine, smoothed her hair, straightened her skirt, reapplied her lip gloss, and then got out of the car. It was a lot of primping for someone who claimed to be over the person we were about to see.

We walked up the path, and the sun reflected off something in the tree, catching my eye. At first I thought it was a bird, but that made no sense considering birds weren’t metallic, and when I looked again, it was gone. Stephanie knocked on the door.

Trevor answered. “Hey, Stephanie,” he said, and then looked over at me, his eyes widening slightly in surprise. “Oh, Addison. Hi.”

My cheeks warmed. “I hope it’s okay that I came.”

“Of course.”

“I didn’t realize you two knew each other already,” Stephanie said, an edginess to her voice.

“We don’t, really,” I answered quickly. “We have a mutual acquaintance. Duke Rivers.”

“Come in.” He stepped aside, and we walked into the house. The smells of nutmeg and cinnamon hung in the air as Trevor led us down the stairs into a large rec room. The smells reminded me of the sorry attempt my dad and I had made at Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.

“Steph!” Rowan called out from where he sat in a beanbag. He did a back roll out of it and came rushing over. “Hey.”

He stuck his hand out to me. “I’m Rowan.”

I shook his hand. “Yeah, we met at a football game a couple weeks ago.”

He looked confused. I rolled my eyes, knowing he probably only remembered one thing about that night. “I was with my friend Laila.”

“Laila . . .” He trailed off, obviously coming up empty.

What the . . . ? Hadn’t he kissed Laila all night? I didn’t think that was easy to forget.

I tried to give Stephanie a look that would say, Maybe he is a little weird, but she had already slipped away. I assumed it was because she didn’t want to hang out with Rowan.

Trevor pointed. “We’re getting ready to start the movie. You can go get some food and then pick a seat.”

“Is there water somewhere?”

“There’s a fridge right outside that door, in the garage. It’s full of water and Coke and stuff.”

“Thanks.”

I walked into the garage, and the heavy door automatically shut behind me. I waited for the lights to come on with my movement but then remembered they didn’t have sensors here. It was pitch-black, and I couldn’t see a thing. I kneed a few solid objects before I finally thought to pull out my phone for the light. I found the wall and flipped on the switch. With the lights now on, and my phone out, I dialed Laila’s number.

“Are you dying without me?” she answered on the second ring.

“What have you done?”

“You’re going to have to give me a time range, because I’ve done a lot of things.”

“You Erased his memory, didn’t you?”

“How did you find out?”

“I just talked to him.”

She grunted. “I don’t believe he told you. Why were you talking to him, anyway?”

“Because he’s at this party. Wait, who are you talking about?” I asked at the same exact time she did.

“The fact that you have to ask, Laila, really scares me. How many memories have you Erased? I’m talking about Rowan.”

She gave a little laugh. “Oh yeah. Rowan. How is he?”

“Clueless. Who were you talking about?”

“Maybe Duke.”

“You Erased Duke’s memory?” I tried not to register the tiny bit of hope that sprang up inside me over that thought. If he couldn’t remember me, I didn’t have to feel like such a fool every time I saw him. Instead I concentrated on the overwhelming amount of indignation I felt about it.

“Just five minutes of them.”

“Why, Laila? Why would you do that to someone without their permission? That is so wrong on so many levels.”

“Duke deserved it. And as far as Rowan goes, it was the humane thing to do. I couldn’t leave his memories of kissing me intact, or he would’ve searched the world and come up empty. No girl would’ve ever lived up to me. It would’ve been tragic. This way he has a chance at happiness.”

“There is something very wrong with you.”

She laughed.

“Stop Erasing memories.”

“You’re no fun.”

“I better go. I’m at this lame party.”

Laila blew air between her lips. “You think all parties are lame.”

“Exactly.” I smiled and hung up. When I turned around, my breath caught in my throat because Trevor stood just inside the door. His face was relaxed, so I wasn’t sure if he’d heard my conversation, including the part about Erasing memories, or if he had just walked in.

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