“What makes you say that?” She was trying to sound calm, but I knew I had gotten to her.

I ran my hands down her arms and loosely grasped her around the wrists, holding on. “The other day here, when I first got into my hotel room, someone had written something on the bathroom mirror with red lipstick. It said ‘be careful what she wished for.’” Her face paled. “I complained to the manager with Jacob, and the manager said it must have been a housekeeper who had apparently done this before, or something like it, once upon a time. It made me remember something…what Alva yelled at us on Lake Shasta as we were escaping. She said—”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Dawn said absently, her eyes quivering. “I remember. I thought I was the only one who’d heard it.”

“There was so much going on that I didn’t think it meant something…not until now.” I squeezed her wrists lightly. “And that wasn’t it. The housekeeper? I saw her today. In the hotel. She had a message for me.”

I told her what had happened in the hall earlier, the hair on my arms standing up as I recalled the woman.

“The man in black with the white face,” Dawn said, shuddering. “I’d know if I met someone like that.”

“And let’s hope you never have to. Is there anything to what she’s saying? Did you ever make a deal?”

“You asked me this once,” she said, shaking her head. “I told you…” she trailed off, her mind going elsewhere, eyes focusing on nothing. “I don’t remember. Once…when I was younger and I couldn’t handle my dad and Eric and was just going crazy, I ran out into the field, wanting to escape it all. I was so low, so lost, so—angry. I started crying, wanting everything to change. I wished…I wished out loud…that my father would stop drinking. I wished for Eric to be normal, to lose his disease.” Tears pooled at the edges of her eyes.

“Was that it?” I asked in barely a whisper. I wanted to pull her into me, to console her, to shelter her from her own pain. I wanted to make her stop reliving it. But we had to know.

She shook her head, and quickly wiped away a tear finding its way down her cheek. She sniffed. “No. I wished I’d see my mother again.”

The woman’s words rang through my head. “And has any of this…been fulfilled?”

She bit her lip and glanced up at me, a look of utter despair. “Yes. I haven’t been able to tell you, but my brother, Eric, he’s totally cured of his Tourette’s now. Like, he’s completely normal, just changed out of the blue. And my dad…my dad hasn’t had a drink in so long.” She burst into a heartbreaking smile. “Since it all happened, he’s been sober.” Her chin trembled. “And I’m so afraid of what that means. I’m so afraid I’ve done something.”

“And what about your mother?” I asked, my tongue feeling thick, my throat too small. “Have you seen her?”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “No.”

“Not yet,” I filled in. She shot me a fearful look. “The woman today, the housekeeper…Tatiana said ‘it will all end when she appears.’ Do you think that she could mean your mother?”

Dawn shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know.”

“‘He will find her once she’s been given everything she wants, and it will all start all over again,’” I repeated. “What we went through before will start all over again.”

She sniffed harder and threw back her shoulders, putting on a brave face. “Nothing is starting yet. And if it does start…I don’t remember making any deal. Remember how literal the demons are? This couldn’t stand in a court of law.”

I mulled that over. “As ridiculous as this sounds—as I know this all sounds, but shit—if you were drunk and you signed a contract and you didn’t remember it, you’d have a hard time proving in a court of law that you were not yourself or acting on your own will.”

She glared at me. “I wasn’t drunk. I told you, I was young. I just blacked out, I don’t remember shaking on anything or making any deal. And you’re making it worse.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I just want to help.”

“And I don’t think you can.”

We stood there staring at each other, weighing the uncertainty of this supernatural threat. It was funny, but nothing to laugh about, that we both knew how crazy everything sounded yet how real it all was. People died because of me. People could die because of her, because of something she didn’t even remember doing.

“We need to talk to Jacob,” I said. I had a feeling my rogue manager knew more than he let on, but it didn’t mean he could necessarily help us, either.

She nodded just as Tricky came out from around the corner. “Hey, Sage,” he said hesitantly, knowing he was intruding.

Dawn stepped back from me, as if she didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. I felt the coldness come back.

I eyed Tricky carefully, unsure if he heard what we were talking about. He had a different kind of worry on his face. “What?”

“Jacob found us at the café down the street.” He jerked his thumb in the opposite direction. “He told us to come back and continue rehearsing or he’d all have us killed. He really scared the keyboardist.”

I let out a puff of air from my lips and nodded. “Okay, we’ll get back to it.” I looked at Dawn. “Things will be fine. We’ll just get the opening night out of the way, and then we’ll talk to Jacob and learn all we can, okay?”

“All right,” she said. She opened her mouth to say something else but then eyed Tricky and stopped. She gave me a casual wave. “Talk to you after the show. Good luck.”

I watched her leave, her tight ass rocking in those jeans, as Tricky punched me in the shoulder to get my attention.

“You gotta give me the skinny on what that was about,” Tricky said.

“None of your business.”

“Sounded like serious business to me, and everybody knows that Tricky loves the serious.” He looked so earnest I had to laugh. It sounded empty.

“We have…” I tried to think of the right word, “issues at the moment. And for the record, please refrain from telling her what drugs I’ve done or girls I’ve screwed. She already knows about Angeline.”

“Well, that’s no problem, man. I’ve already screwed her, too.”

“Figures,” I muttered.

“You know Tricky don’t mind the seconds, especially when they look like her. How tight was her pussy, right? French pussy—meow, meow. Wait, what sound does a cat make in French?”

I sighed, ignoring him, and walked over to midstage to get my guitar just as my bandmates were picking up their instruments and plugging in. I could see Dawn sitting down beside Max in the empty rows and making small talk. I wondered if she would ever confide in him what she had just confided in me, and I imagined how empty that would make me feel.

We played through three songs before Max finished taking his pictures and Dawn stopped writing. She stared off into space until Max put his damn hand on her and shook her to attention. To his credit, he did look concerned—but I should have been the one taking her outside and trying to make her feel better.

It should have been me.

But it wasn’t.

And the music played on.

Chapter Seven

Dawn

I could only make it through three of Sage’s songs before I felt like the walls of the theater were suffocating me. It wasn’t that the music was bad—in fact, it was powerful, cutting me to the core. But what Sage sung about, the loss and the guilt, was suddenly thrust into my life.

The fact that he was singing them only made it worse, his raw but deep voice reaching deep into my heart and squeezing it. Seeing this live was everything I’d dreamed of, but suddenly it was too much to handle.

I needed space to breathe, to think, to understand the implications of what he had told me.

How could it be possible that I made a deal and not even remember it?

“You’re looking a little green there, little lamb,” Max said beside me. I was grateful for his presence. I didn’t think he could be someone I’d confide in, but he was tall and seemingly strong, and at the moment, I was very fearful of what could be out there.

I hadn’t seen my mother. I never made any deal. Just because I’d felt guilty for the last few months over my family’s improvement didn’t mean this was happening. Just because I feared it didn’t make it true. I was paranoid, delusional—why wouldn’t that be it?

“Are you okay?” Max asked. “Dawn?” It was then that I realized he’d been shaking me, his hand on my shoulder.

I slowly brought my eyes to him and tried to speak. My mouth was so dry.

“I think you need some fresh air,” he said, getting to his feet, wrapping his hands around my arms, and pulling me up beside him. The ground felt unsteady.

He led me outside, tucking my notepad and pen into the back pocket of my jeans, a gesture that was more paternal than anything else.

Outside, life was going on as normal. We walked over to a small park and sat on a bench across from a water spigot shaped like a gargoyle head. We sat in silence for a while, watching the cars go by and the vendors across from the theater trying to sell antiques and used books. It was brighter than yesterday and warmer, too, with the sun trying to break through the thick puffs of clouds. It didn’t matter where I was, though—my head was too scary a place, the doom and possibilities threatening my thoughts at every turn.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Max asked, leaning forward with elbows on knees, his hands clasped. “Or is that asking too much?”

I rubbed my fingers on my lips and stared into space. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me. I reckon I might.”

I thought back to what he said to me on the airplane about my story, how disappointed he looked when I told him it had all been a metaphor. I looked at him, at his sun-kissed face, ageless and young, and at the heavy application of gel, which made his hair swoop up off his forehead and glint dark red and gold. I wondered if I would trust him and realized I probably could. Whether Max was here to babysit me or not, he certainly meant me no harm.

“Well,” I said carefully. “Remember the story I wrote about Hybrid? Let’s just say there were no metaphors and everything I wrote was true. Everything.”

He blinked and his lips twisted into a lopsided smile. “Everything? You never wrote about you and Sage getting it on.”

“That wasn’t anyone’s business. And I just told you that I think—that I know—that he basically signed a lease with the Devil for his career and his fame, and you’re thinking of the fact that I never disclosed we were having sex?”

“I’m usually more interested in the story not being told,” he said, leaning back on the bench and patting his camera bag. “That’s why I became a photographer.”

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