“There you are,” Humphrey May said, sitting in the armchair by the window, sipping a mug of steaming coffee, as Thea and her friends blinked into existence in the middle of the Professor’s study. Rafe, engrossed in perusing the Professor’s bookshelves, turned and gave them a grin and a small wave. Tess dug Thea in the ribs with an elbow.
“And who’s he?” she whispered into Thea’s ear. “You didn’t mention there’d be perks.”
Thea glared at her, and Tess dropped her eyes, a smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
“Mrs. Chen just stepped out for a moment, but she’ll be right back,” Humphrey said, putting aside his coffee and getting up. “In the meantime…”
“Is that the cube, sir?” Terry asked, eyeing the briefcase on the Professor’s desk.
“Yes, do come and have a closer look. Thea, how did you want to play this?”
“By ear,” she said. “Literally. Can I…”
“Pick it up, it isn’t as fragile as it appears,” Humphrey said.
Thea lifted the cube out of its nest again, her touch gentle. She turned it over a couple of times until she found the blank face, and then took the cube between her two hands, one palm flat against the bottom face, the blank face, and the other laid across the top face, the one with the star, which immediately brightened into a white glow at her touch.
Magpie sucked in her breath briefly.
“What do you want us to do?” Terry asked, craning his neck.
“There’s four faces. There’s four of you,” Thea said. “Back in the rain forest that first time, remember, each of you brought in one of the physical senses—Terry, sound; Magpie, touch; Tess, taste; Ben, scent. I have no real clue which sense fits best with which of the Elemental faces, but I have a feeling it isn’t fixed and immutable—it’s a question of… finding… the face, the Element, that best matches your own contribution. I know I heard a sound the last time I held it, Terry; you go first. Hold your hand over each face. When you find the one you think responds best to you, lay your hand on it. Open-palm, like mine.”
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Ben said, watching Terry begin to circle the white cube in Thea’s hands as though he were stalking it.
“She’s the only Elemental in the room,” Humphrey said laconically.
“But will you be able to stop things if stuff goes wrong…” Ben began, but then Terry halted abruptly, his hand hovering over the face with the fire symbol on it.
“Wait,” he said, “I think I know what you mean. I can hear… stuff. There’s a crackle to it… and a hum, something that sounds rather like distant city traffic… and someone’s singing…”
“Wow,” Tess breathed, as Terry’s hand made contact with the cube, and the fire face shaded marginally deeper into a tinge that was almost pink
“Your turn,” Thea said. “Same thing. Find the face that speaks to you.”
Tess reached out for the cube, in the same way that Terry had done.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I think I can taste something, right at the back of my throat, over by the water face—but it’s faint, so faint…”
“Water is usually associated with sight,” said Mrs. Chen, who had slipped back into the room. “Usually. But I think from what you’ve told me, Thea, you were the sight component of this grouping—but you’ve chosen to attach yourself to that unknown symbol instead. So that sense might have migrated.”
“But it was Fire and Air that lit up for me, before,” Thea said. “Not water.”
“As I said,” Mrs. Chen said, lifting her hands in a small gesture of resignation. “It isn’t an exact science. Tess, if that seems the best fit…”
“No, wait,” Thea said. “If she’s unsure, let’s see if the other two have a stronger reaction to anything. Magpie…?”
Magpie reached out with her right hand, biting her lower lip. “I’m not sure I know what… oh!”
“What is it?”
Magpie stood transfixed, her eyes wide, her hand hovering just above the earth-elemental face of the cube. “I can feel… it feels like… tree bark, under my fingers,” she said. “And…silk. And… and… feathers?”
She touched the face, and it too changed colour, very subtly, shading into a creamier, pale brown, coffee-with-a-lot-of-milk shade of white.
“Between you and Tess, Ben,” Thea said.
“I so don’t want to do this,” Ben said, staring at the cube. He had wrinkled his nose several times already, as though in anticipation of a sneeze that never came, his usual allergic reaction to the faintest whiff of magic. He did so again as he spoke, scrunching up his face into a grimace and shaking his head. “It’s like that infernal feeling when there’s a sneeze just hovering in the back of your nose, tickling, but you never quite sneeze and it drives you bananas.”
“Try it. I think yours is the stronger link,” Thea said.
Ben drew a deep, ragged sigh and reached out for the cube. His hand hovered briefly over the water face, but then he shook his head and glanced back at Tess over his shoulder.
“You were right, I think. This one does nothing for me.” He shifted his hand over the air-face, and then, suddenly, finally let go of an explosive sneeze that made Rafe, halfway across the room, jump and jolt a book off the Professor’s shelf. “Oh, yes, I think this one’s mine,” Ben said, after he sniffed a few times and rubbed at his watering eyes with his free hand. His fingers touched the air-face, and it, too, changed colour—into something that was a pale, pale, pale blue. “I can smell ozone,” he whispered. “Like you sometimes can in a thunderstorm. And… and… apples. Yes, apples.”
“I think that’s the taste I had,” Tess said, reaching out resolutely towards the water face, which began to shade into a pale green as her fingers got closer, the colour of shallow water over white sand. “Apples…”
She touched the water-face.
And everything went away.
Thea found herself standing alone in a thick roiling white fog. She looked down at her hands, but she wasn’t holding the cube, not in this place, wherever it was. But the new gadget, the wrist-computer that Humphrey had given her, was still on her arm—she squinted at it through the drifting mist, flicked it on, and typed Cube 1: white fog, starting place. She didn’t have a clue where she was or what had happened, but it was obvious that she was no longer in the Professor’s office holding an Elemental cube with her friends…
…speaking of whom…
“Marco!” Thea called out experimentally. Her voice sounded muffled by the fog, trammelled, unable to carry very far. But almost instantly there were several responses.
“Polo!” Magpie called out from somewhere to her left.
“Likewise,” Tess’s voice came floating from somewhere behind Thea.
“Where are we?” Terry asked.
“What did you do?” said Ben at the same moment.
“Oh, great, you instantly assume it was me,” Thea said, pitching her voice to carry.
“Your idea,” Ben said.
“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence…”
“Seriously,’ Terry said, “where are we? I can’t actually see my hand in front of my face in this fog.”
“Don’t move, let me find you,” Thea said. “Whatever else happened, I’m still the anchor—don’t drift off by yourselves. One at a time. Terry, keep talking.”
“I think your voice comes from somewhere over to the right of me, and you also sound in front of me, you sound muffled, like I’m hearing you speaking over your shoulder… I’m babbling…” Terry said.
“This fog muffles everything,” Tess said. “Feels like cotton wool. I can’t see anything past my nose…”
Magpie suddenly yelped sharply. Thea froze in place, whipping her head around, trying to place the sound.
“Magpie? Say something! What’s the matter? Are you okay?”
“Sorry,” Magpie’s voice came back from the fog, sounding shaken. “Something brushed past my face. Like wings. I couldn’t make out what it was. Could you hurry up?”
“Don’t move,” Thea said. “Terry, talk to me.”
“No, I think I see him,” Ben’s voice said. “Remember the colors that cube turned? I see a reddish area… it’s just off to the left and the back of me, if I turn my head ever so slightly—I think that might be where he is. Terry, look to the right and ahead—can you see anything other than white?”
“Not…really… wait… yes, I think so…. There’s a greenish…”
“That would be me,” Tess said. “I got green. Ben was blue. Magpie was… brownish, cream, beige, whatever. That would be hard to see in this white mess.”
“I have no color, I’m white on white,” Thea said. “Stay put. I think I see that pink tinge, Terry. Keep talking. Put out both your hands, I’ll see if I can’t see something sticking out of the fog when I get closer.”
“Thea,” said Magpie, and her voice quavered, “there’s something out there, it’s brushing past me, constantly, and I can’t see… I can’t see anything…”
“Hold it together,” Thea said. “I’m closest to Terry. We’ll head your way as soon as we hook up…”
She suddenly gasped as her outstretched hand brushed past something solid in the mist which was shading into a pale pink around her, but the touch was instantly followed by a familiar voice.
And fingers closed about hers, Terry’s hand.
They clung together for a moment, and then Thea shifted her grip so that she held Terry’s hand in a firmer grasp and stepped closer into the mist. Terry’s physical form materialized as the mist seemed to shred from around him; he looked reassuringly solid, real, familiar.
“Are you all right?” Terry asked, squeezing her hand.
“I think so. I think… I don’t know…” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I was expecting. Not this. Magpie, chatter at me. I’ve got Terry, we’re coming to get you.”
“Hurry up,’ Magpie said, and this time Thea could hear tears in her voice.
“Hang on, we’re coming. Keep talking. Keep talking! Your color is the hardest to find!”
Magpie started singing instead—something slow and sad, in a language none of the others knew. It was the song that led them to her in the end; they practically tripped over her. She had not held out her hands, as Terry had done—she had crouched down into a tight little ball, hugging her shoulders with her hands, her head laid across her folded arms.
Without letting go of Terry with her left hand, Thea dropped down on one knee beside Magpie.
“What is it? What did you see?”
“Birds,” Magpie whispered. “I think there’s birds. Can you hear it? I think it’s cooing. Like a pigeon. And that rustle of wings…”
“Hey. Sound’s my province,” Terry said, trying to lighten the mood.
“I felt them brush past me,” Magpie whispered. “Wings. Like they were… looking for something. Lost birds.”
“Magpie.” Thea shook her shoulder gently. “Come on. We need to get the others. Come on. Look, there’s no birds here now.”
“Is everyone all right?” Tess called out, her own voice developing an edge.
“Yes, we’re coming. Just keep talking.”
“Oh, fine,” Ben said, off in his own pocket of mist. “Leave me till last.”
“I need you to bring up the rear,” Thea said. “You think the fastest of all of us.”
“Survival tactic,” Ben said, “except that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be surviving. “Hurry up, would you?”
“Tess is over there,” Terry said, nodding in what seemed to be an arbitrary direction in the white mist.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Twins count for something,” Terry said. “Magpie, take my other hand. Thea, go forward… left… left…left…”
Tess stepped out to meet them from her own island of greenish mist as they came close enough for the mist to change color.
“I told you not to move,” Thea said.
“Twins,” Tess said, shrugging.
“Grab Magpie’s other hand. We can’t let go of each other. Ben? You said you could see the greenish mist pocket—can you still?”
“No… yes… well, it’s green and all other stuff… I guess you’re all there… should I just…”
“No!” squawked Terry and Thea at once.
“Stay put. We’ll come and get you. Tess, stick out a hand, grab him,” Thea said. “Don’t let any of you let go, or we’ll just lose each other again…”
“Got him,” Tess said after a moment.
“About time,” Ben said. “Stuck in this completely impenetrable…”
“Actually,” Terry said, “I think it’s lifting. I can see all of you now; when Thea first approached me I couldn’t see her before our hands actually touched. It was as good as a brick wall even a few moments ago. But now…”
“I think you’re right,” Tess said, looking around. “I think… I actually grabbed Ben’s hand, and that’s when it started to…”
“Somehow we got split,” Ben said. “Even if we’re all still holding on to the cube, back in the Professor’s office, here we got scattered—and just as it took all of us to get through the first barrier of that thing, it took all of us to get through the second. Some defenses, this thing’s got. Are you any closer to a theory on what it’s supposed to be or do or represent, Thea?”
“Terry,” Thea said. “Does it feel anything like the Twitterpat holo to you?”
Terry turned a startled look on her. “It’s nothing of the sort—whatever made you ask that?”
“I don’t know. All of this is weirding me out a little.”
Terry sniffed. “If that’s what this is, it is several orders of magnitude more sophisticated a mechanism than Twitterpat used for his little toy,” he said. “That was built to interact with our own world on our terms. It isn’t real, our world is. This actually feels almost the exact opposite. Almost what the Twitterpat hologram might perceive us as. That’s an interesting idea, actually.”
“Never mind what it is right now. What I’d like to know is where…” Ben began, but then Magpie, who hadn’t raised her head and whose eyes were still on what remained of the fog roiling about their feet, suddenly gasped.
“Look,” she whispered. “Look down. Look!”
It was becoming obvious, as the fog thinned from around them, that they hadn’t been so much in it as on it, inside a cloud, perhaps—because what revealed itself underneath their feet was… a whole lot of nothing, and then what looked like the surface of the Earth, a very very long way down.
Tess let out a small shriek, but that was all anyone had time to do because all of a sudden they weren’t standing still any more but flying, or more precisely plummetting, down towards that distant ground.
“Dooooo somethiiiiiing!” yelled Ben, the last in the chain, flailing uselessly around with his free hand as though he were trying to flap a non-existent wing.
“I’m open to ideas!” Thea flung back over her shoulder, instinctively trying to balance herself with her own free hand, the other clutching Terry’s in a convulsive grip.
“I hate heights!” Magpie wailed, further back in the line. “I’m closing my eyes now! Someone let me know when we smash into the ground!”
“Oh, I think you’ll know…” Ben started to say, and then fell quiet as their descent assumed quite a different aspect. All of a sudden they weren’t falling like a stone but gliding in a manner that almost felt controlled—although none of the five of them was aware of controlling anything. They actually began to angle and turn as they descended, in the manner of a raptor riding thermals.
After a moment, Thea, who had stopped feeling terrified and was now peering down to what seemed to be their destination with rapt interest, shook her head in puzzlement.
“That’s New York,” she said. “At least, I think it’s New York. It doesn’t quite look right, but I’m not sure why…”
“It isn’t New York,” Ben said quietly. “It was New York. It must have looked like that a long time ago. Turn of the century. The last century, I mean. If you’re right and this whole thing is Nikola Tesla’s work, then that’s New York, in the 1880s. I kind of read up a little about him, after last summer. He came to New York from Europe around 1885, or something like that.”
“Wow,” Tess said, craning her neck this way and that for a better view as they approached the city laid out beneath them, a gridwork of streets and docks and bridges. “Look at those ships!”
“I’m not looking at anything!” Magpie squeaked. “Are we down yet?”
They swept closer into the city, still banking sharply, and entered precisely into one of streets—and then flew down the street at the height, perhaps, of the first or second storey windows, straight out towards the docks and the harbour area. There seemed to be a lot of noise, and wires, and people, and steam, and smoke.
“Oh! The gloves!” Tess exclaimed, looking down at the people scurrying beneath them in the crowded streets. “And my word, the hats! It’s so weird. I mean, I know people used to wear that stuff but can you imagine getting up in the morning, it had to take you an hour to get dressed and properly turned out for the street!”
“Watch out, you’re going to kick someone’s hat off with your feet if you aren’t careful,” Terry said.
“Are we low enough for that?” Magpie said, finally opening her eyes. What she saw just underneath her own feet startled her so much that she gasped and instinctively relaxed her hold on the hands that were holding her own; if Tess and Terry hadn’t just as instinctively strengthened their own grips to compensate, Magpie would have slipped out of their grasp and tumbled down into the street below.
“Don’t do that,” Terry said sharply, sounding unnerved. “I nearly dropped you!”
“What do you think would have happened? I don’t think they can see us or anything—wouldn’t you look up if you heard something whooshing past you, and people apparently chattering just above your head?” Tess said.
“Oh, don’t be silly—we aren’t actually here,” Terry said. “We can’t have just hopped off back the 1880’s. Not just like that. All of this, it’s probably a memory projection, something that…”
“You can too go back to whenever you want,” Thea said. “I’m living proof of that. Cheveyo, remember?… And besides…”
“Look,” Ben, the last in the line, uninvolved in the middle-of-the-daisy-chain near-fiasco, suddenly said and pointed with his own free hand. “We’re coming up to the docks—and look there, right by that ship, just stepping off the gangplank…”
“That’s Tesla, isn’t it…? It looks like Tesla, anyway,” Terry said. “I’ve seen pictures…”
And then the city beneath them, so thoroughly three-dimensional and real, full of its own smells and sounds and a vivid sense of being alive and teeming with humanity, suddenly and shockingly flattened into what looked like a grainy black-and-white photograph, and then the photograph winked out as though it was shuffled away into a deck of cards. They were briefly stationary, a thin film of fog or cloud roiling around their feet, and then it cleared again—but this time something quite different was underneath them.
“Aaaaiieee!” Magpie wailed, closing her eyes again.
They were up again, high up, like they had been above the New-York-that-was—except that this time they appeared to be above a different city, one built in a far more baroque way, straddling a river that snaked between two banks with what appeared to be majestic architecture—and then they were falling towards it again, just as they had done the first time. But now they knew what to expect, they weren’t quite so startled, and all of them, with the exception of Magpie who still had her eyes resolutely closed, were examining the new city with great interest.
“Thea?” Terry said. “Clues?”
“Haven’t the foggiest,” Thea said. “Europe, obviously. But that means it’s before New York, if these are Tesla’s thoughts, or memories, or video mind-tapes, or whatever. I don’t know—where was he before he came to New York? Paris, France? That isn’t Paris down there.”
“How do you know? It’s got a river, doesn’t it?”
“I’ve been to Paris,” Thea said. “There’s no island down below. No cathedral. No Eiffel Tower.”
“Yeah, but when was that built? Would there be an Eiffel Tower in this time?” Tess said.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t look like Paris, anyway.”
They had dropped down low, again, skimming the ground at barely twice the height of a tall man—and they were rapidly coming up behind a dapper gentleman walking in a park. He was wearing a hat and they could not see his face, but Terry nodded.
“Tesla,” he said. “No mistaking that frame. They said he was really tall. Look at that guy.”
“He still can’t see us,” Ben said. “Oh, open your eyes, Magpie, nothing bad is going to happen and looking at you is making me dizzy. What’s he doing now?”
“I haven’t a clue, but he looks like he’s in pain,” said Magpie, who had opened her eyes at this trenchant command.
She had barely finished speaking when Tesla looked up, straight up, straight at the five of them.
“He can see us,” Thea gasped.
But that was all there was time for—the picture underneath them went two-dimensional again, just like New York had done, with Tesla apparently doubling over in what seemed to be agony, his hands over his ears as though he had been assaulted by a sudden cacophony of noise, falling onto his knees as though the weight of sunlight was too much for him to bear.
“Oh, God, was that our fault…?” Thea said, appalled, as they found themselves standing ankle-deep in white mist one more time.
“He did see us,” Terry said. “We might have triggered something… or…”
“Did he see us, back in New York?”
“I don’t think so—I don’t remember if he even looked up or not—aw, dammit, here we go again…” Magpie said.
They swooped one more time, and this time there was no city at all—just an open field with a barn-like object in the midst of it, a strange tower with a bulbous top protruding from the middle of it like an antenna. The field was surrounded by mountains, and the house or barn on the field was surrounded by a wire fence. The five of them skimmed over the fence, so low that they could read a sign tacked onto it: ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.
“Oh, lovely,” said Ben.
“Shut up,” said Terry, his eyes suddenly alight. “I know what this is. It’s Tesla’s laboratory in Colorado. This is where he did some of his most amazing work. Are we going to be able to see inside that…”
The building had a roof that gaped open underneath the tower antenna—and for a moment it looked as though they might swoop right underneath the tower and slip through that gap, but just as they banked towards the side the onion-shaped bulbous covering on top of the tower suddenly woke with a crackle and a bolt of bright blue-white lightning whipped around the outside of the bulb with a sizzling sound and then snapped together into a column of fire as thick as Thea’s wrist, shooting off sparks, reaching straight from the top of the antenna into the sky.
The friends veered away abruptly, as though this lightning had been accidental and unplanned for, and circled the building slowly until they came to a half-open barn-like door on the side. They—or whatever force was guiding them—slipped in through the opening, and hovered just inside the door, gaping with their mouths open at what was going on inside.
Tesla, bareheaded, his hair in wild disarray, stood with one hand stuck straight into the pillar of fire which must have been the root of the lightning bolt they had seen outside.
As they watched, a bird circled in through the gap in the roof, just barely sidling between the lightning bolt and the edge of the roof beam, and dropped inside into the room where Tesla’s apparatus stood. Having made the effort to avoid the fire as it entered, it then apparently decided that it needed the most direct line to Tesla himself… and flew straight into the pillar of flame.
They all saw Tesla recoil, as though he had been given a shock; they saw his eyes widen as he stared into the fiery circle before him; they saw his other hand rise, as though reaching for a switch.
Then they saw him freeze and the bird reappeared in the fire. No, two birds.
“What’s going on?” Ben whispered.
Both birds hung suspended in the fiery circle for a moment, and then they both vanished one more time.
Tesla appeared to be saying something, his mouth moving, but the only soundtrack available to the five witnesses was the snap and crackle of the pillar of flame, and they could not make out what he was saying.
The two birds reappeared.
And then vanished again.
Tesla’s hand was inching upwards, towards the switch, as though he were fighting a great resistance—but before he had a chance to reach the switch he was apparently increasingly desperate to throw the birds were back.
Four of them.
Tesla, with a superhuman effort, touched the switch. The pillar of fire instantly died.
Where it had been, in the midst of where it had been, a bird lay on the ground, on its back, its feet in the air. Quite dead.
And now, suddenly, the sound came back into the scene. They saw Tesla fall to his knees, reach forward with both hands, take the bird into his cupped palms with infinite gentleness; he lifted it up towards his face, and they could see his expression now, see that his blue eyes were full of tears. His lips were moving, but only the faintest of sounds came out—a whisper, barely a whisper, which might have been, “Please… oh, please…”
And then he threw his head back and screamed, a cry of such inconsolable loss, of devastating pain, of something too deep to be put into words.
“It’s a pigeon,” Magpie said, staring at the bird cradled between Tesla’s hands. “It’s dead.”
This time, the scene didn’t fade into a two-dimensional image of itself, as the previous ones had done. It shredded, as though something had clawed through a piece of tissue paper and sent ribbons of it flying into a sudden high wind that whipped through the place.
The wind exploded like a tornado, slamming into the five of them with unexpected force. They were torn apart by the force of the gale that buffeted them, scattered like autumn leaves, whirled away from one another, even as the wind dropped and the solid white fog descended on them all. The same impenetrable fog that had been there at the beginning.
“Where are you guys? Hey? Anybody…?” Thea called out after a moment of breathless silence.
There was no reply. It was as though they were far apart now, too far apart to gather themselves up again as they had done the first time round.
Suddenly afraid, Thea glanced at her wrist—she had to bring it practically up to her nose before she could see the keypad and the tiny screen of her new gadget clearly enough for it to be useful.
The Professor’s office, she typed in as fast as she could, with a hand that was trembling. All of us. Back in the office. Right now.
Something changed in the fog around her—it began to grow damper, more solid, as though she were pushing her way through something that was more water than air—and then she was lifted off her feet as if something had kicked her, and flung.
She landed against something hard, and heard her head crack against a solid object. Pain flooded her consciousness; she realized her eyes were closed, and made herself open them.
She was lying against the Professor’s bookshelves, with a couple of books scattered on the floor around her. Mrs. Chen swiftly crossed the room and knelt beside Thea.
“Are you all right?” Mrs. Chen demanded, reaching to touch Thea’s temple, slipping her hand to the back of Thea’s head. “I don’t think you broke anything, but you… you flew over here as though you’d been kicked by a horse…”
“The others…?” Thea began, trying to struggle upright.
“They’re fine. They’re here. Sit quiet for a moment.”
“Thea?” Humphrey May, looking very white, loomed over Mrs. Chen and then came down into a half-crouch on Thea’s other side. “What happened? We saw you get inside. And then—you suddenly—you… are you sure you are all right?”
“Now you ask,” Mrs. Chen muttered.
“I’m fine. Really. Where are the rest of them?”
“Everybody is here,” Humphrey said, mystified. “They’re all…”
“We’re okay,” Terry called from across the room.
“I’ve got such a headache,” Thea said, reaching to rub her temples with both hands.
“I don’t doubt it,” Mrs. Chen said, eyeing the bookshelf behind her. “You’re lucky you didn’t crack your skull open. Do you need a glass of water?”
“No. I think… let me sit up…”
The two adults moved back, allowed her to get into a sitting position; Thea blinked, trying to get her eyes to focus properly.
“Thea…” Humphrey said, and there was a tone in his voice that was almost pleading.
“Will you let the child have some air?” Mrs. Chen snapped. “Perhaps you’d better get her that glass of water. And let’s get her to that armchair.”
“I feel as though it’s all my fault,” Humphrey said, scooping Thea up and carrying her over to the armchair which Mrs. Chen had specified.
“You don’t say,” Mrs. Chen muttered.
The twins came hurrying around the great desk to the armchair in the window; Magpie followed, and Ben brought up the rear. Rafe materialized from somewhere else with a glass of cool water in his hand.
“Here,” he said, bending over to hand it to Thea, “I’ve got hot tea coming. With plenty of sugar. In the meantime, take a sip of that, and take a deep breath.”
Thea flushed as her fingers brushed Rafe’s; he didn’t notice, or pretended not to. Thea took several large gulps of the water, dropping her eyes from the concerned expression on Rafe’s face. She caught Terry’s eye, saw him biting his lip; glanced at Magpie, who had tears in her eyes; saw the apprehension that hovered on Tess’s and Ben’s faces—saw the concern, the fear, the open questions in both Humphrey May’s expression and Mrs. Chen’s.
She drew a deep breath, her hands tightening on the armrests of the chair.
“Something’s very wrong,” she said.
Order it now