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Hidden Moon (Chapter 25)

"What the hell is that?"

My voice was so loud I brought Edana out of her trance.

"What?" She shook her head as if to clear it.

"In there." I pointed.

The crystal was empty.

She peered at me curiously. "You saw something?"

"Didn't you?"

"I…" She paused and rubbed her eyes. "Don't remember."

" 'Beware the devil who is a shape-shifter,'" I recited.

Her hands fell down her eyebrows flew up. "I said that?"

She glanced uneasily behind me. I did, too. Nothing was there.

"You did. There were shadows, everywhere; then a wolf appeared in the damn ball." I yanked up the tablecloth, peering beneath the table. "How did you do that?"

There was nothing under the table but Edana's skirt-shrouded legs.

I stared at the ceiling, searching for a camera or a projector; then I stalked to the drapes and yanked them aside. All that lay behind them was a beach-type lounge chair, which had seen better days, and a cooler full of water and Gatorade.

Gatorade?

I returned to the front of the tent. "What's going on?"

"My magic is seeing the future and the past. I cannot make things appear that don't exist."

I had my doubts about that. I also had my doubts about her sight. Before, I hadn't thought she had any; now I wasn't so sure. Which meant that all she'd told me might be true.

"What do you know about the wolf in the mountains?"

She lifted her hands, lowered them again. "I know only what the cards, the palms, the ball, tell me."

"Yet you don't recall what appeared in the crystal or what you said?"

"I'm an old woman; sometimes I don't recall my name."

I narrowed my eyes. She was lying, but why? Did she truly know nothing? Or was she afraid? Either way, I doubted I'd get any more info from her.

Questioning Gypsies was like trying to catch a floating feather. You kept snatching and snatching at the air, and the thing floated higher, remaining just out of your reach.

"Edana?" The tent flap rattled. "I have your supper."

I untied the entrance, and a young woman entered carrying a tray. I hadn't seen her before. Her hair was an interesting combination of blond and light brown, a shade that should be dishwater yet glowed tawny in the light of the oil lamp. Her eyes were light, more green than blue, and tilted up at the corners. The more I saw of these Gypsies, the more I thought they'd fraternized early and often with their Irish neighbors, despite any taboos to the contrary.

The girl gave me a quick, somewhat harried nod and crossed the tent to set the plates in front of Edana. "I'm sorry to be late."

The old woman waved away her apology. "Understandable, child."

I slipped outside; the show was over. People streamed away from the bleachers toward their cars. A few stopped at the trinket tables, a few more bought popcorn and cotton candy, while several formed a line in front of Edana's place.

Mal was on the other side of the camp astride Benjamin. His head lifted; our eyes met, and he turned the horse toward me.

Mal was only a few feet away when the girl ducked out of Edana's tent. Her sudden appearance must have startled the animal, because he threw up his head, nostrils flaring.

Malachi's forearms bulged as he attempted to control the horse, but the horse's eyes rolled wildly and he began to buck. Everyone in the immediate vicinity scattered. Then Benjamin reared, and when his hooves met the ground again, he galloped for the trees.

The girl stood rooted to the spot, face white. I ran after Mal, though I had no hope of catching him.

Just before the two would have disappeared into the forest, the horse suddenly stopped, planted his front feet, lifted his hindquarters, and sent Malachi sailing over his head to smack against the nearest tree trunk with a bone-crunching thud before sliding to the ground. Then Benjamin lowered his head and nudged his master's still form.

I reached Mal first. He was already sitting up, patting the horse's nose, and murmuring in both Rom and Gaelic.

I fell to my knees, my hands fluttering over Mal, though what I expected to do I wasn't certain. I wouldn't know what a broken bone felt like if I touched one.

"Are you okay?" I asked, my voice unsteady.

He contemplated me with a confused expression. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"You went flying into the – " I waved my hand vaguely.

His eyes softened. "I can't count the number of times I've been thrown from a horse. I know how to fall. I assure you, that looked much worse than it was."

It looked like he'd broken his neck, yet he climbed to his feet easily, then held out his hand to me.

I laid my palm against his; just the touch of skin on skin made me want to go into his arms and remain there while he murmured soothing words in another language until my heart stopped racing.

However, when I reached my feet, he let me go and stepped back. I frowned at his withdrawal, then noticed we'd drawn a crowd.

Someone is watching you, Edana had warned.

Make that a whole lot of someones.

When everyone realized that Malachi was fine and the horse, too, they drifted away.

"What got into him?" I asked.

Mal's gaze went past me and I turned. The young woman who'd brought Edana her supper still stood outside the tent.

"He's never liked Molly," Mal murmured. "I'm not sure why."

Malachi was called back to whatever he'd been doing; Molly disappeared into the crowd, head hanging.

Poor kid.

I returned to my car, which by now was one of the last left, and started the engine. Sabina appeared in the glare of my headlights.

I got out. "Hi."

She lifted her good hand.

"Did you want to tell me something?" I wasn't sure how she might do that.

She shook her head. Her eyes, intent on mine, caused an odd tingle of recognition.

"Sabina!"

The girl, who'd been coining toward me with a quick, determined gait, stopped. I turned and, at the sight of Edana, understood why I'd had that weird tingle. They had the same eyes.

"You're her – "

"Grandmother," Edana interrupted. "And all she has since her parents… died."

I frowned at the hesitation on the word. Had they died or hadn't they?

I recalled Mal saying they'd wanted to drown their daughter and he'd stopped them. But how had he stopped them?

"Come along, child," Edana ordered.

Sabina shuffled toward her grandmother. Her long, dark hair shrouded her face so that when she moved past me, she bumped into me.

I reached out to steady her, shocked at how cold her arms were despite the heat of the summer night.

"She's lonely," Edana said when Sabina had passed out of earshot. "She knows she isn't supposed to consort with the gadje, but there's no one here her age."

Sabina was the youngest Gypsy I'd seen, and she had to be in her late teens or early twenties.

People lived, loved, married, and procreated. It was what people did. So what had happened to the children?

Before I could ask Edana, she walked away. All of the tourists and locals had gone; the Gypsies bustled about cleaning up. I went home. What else was there to do?

As soon as I got there, I checked the windows and doors. Josh was still on the loose, though I doubted, after last night, he'd come back here. However, one never could tell.

Then I wandered around the house unable to settle down, waiting, watching, wondering. Would he come or wouldn't he?

Midnight had arrived when a sharp rap drew me into the kitchen. Malachi stood framed in the clear pane of the sliding glass doors.

He must have taken another dip in the lake, or maybe just a shower, because his hair was slicked against his head, making the spike of his cheekbones more pronounced and his eyes blacker than polished ebony.

He wore black, too, though he'd only buttoned two buttons near the bottom of his shirt and a long, supple slice of his chest glistened beneath the light of the moon.

I crossed the room and opened the door.

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