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By Kate Oliver
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In a small college town in northern California, a lonely young man is working himself to the bone to solve a sixty-year-old problem ... a stranger with a will of iron and eyes the color of ice is searching for someone he can't identify ... and a girl who loves plants is about to grow roots of her own.
When Cara Gallagher's parents are transferred overseas again, she's off to spend her senior year of high school living with her sister, a graduate student at the famed McNair University. Cara, a girl with a passion for science and an indifference to people, hopes this move will be her first step in claiming the independence she craves. Cara has her future planned down to the letter: her college, her major, her career.
Then she saves Will Mallory's life, and both of their futures are completely rewritten. The last years of Will's life have been spent shifting from one identity to the next, dodging the FBI, and trying desperately to find a way home. But Will's home is forty-four light years away, and to reach it he'll have to outwit the man who's hunting him--and leave behind the only love he's ever known.
Will’s eyes went from mine to my hand and back again. "Damn," he said. "Damn." He grabbed my other hand and began pulling me along the path so fast we were almost running. "We have to get out of here.”
"What?" I said, keeping my voice low. "Who is he?”
"I don’t know," he said. "I haven’t got a clue. But if he’s really following you..."
I glanced back again. He was there, no longer bothering to hide. And he was gaining ground on us.
"He’s there," I whispered.
Will yanked me closer to him, and threw his arm around my waist. “We have to get out of here,” he repeated.
He pulled me onto a walkway between two buildings, which dead-ended into a brick wall. “This way,” he said, nodding toward a door in the Geology building. “We’ll go through here.”
He didn’t answer, but when he reached out to try the door, I could see fear on his face as he realized it was locked. “Damn it!”
"Are you going to tell me what this is about?" I demanded.
He let go of the door and looked back at me. “Listen to me, Cara,” he said. “That man back there―if he’s―” he trailed off and shook his head. “It would be very, very bad if he caught us together. Do you understand?”
I didn’t understand, but I nodded anyway. “But he’s coming,” I whispered.
"I know. I’m going to have to leave you.”
"No! You can’t leave me alone with him." I yanked up my sleeve, showing him the bruises that encircled my arm.
His face darkened. “He did that?”
"That’s what I've been trying to tell you.”
He let out a breath. “Okay. I’ll just …” He reached out and held his hand against my face, looking dead into my eyes. “Do you trust me?”
"I don’t even know you!”
He winced. “I know. I know you don’t. Please, trust me. Trust me, okay?”
I looked into his eyes, and his face was so earnest, so honest, that I just nodded. “Okay,” I said. “I trust you.”
His hand fell from my face, and he stepped away, lifting the cord from his neck. Attached to it was a small pouch made of dark brown fabric, like something Harry Potter would use to carry his eyes of newt. He weighed the pouch in his hand before he looked back at me.
"What the hell is that?" I asked. "Your magic crystals? Are you crazy?”
"That’s not..." he began, as I looked back over my shoulder, to see if the man in the suit was still coming. I couldn’t see him, but I heard footsteps from the side of the building, coming fast. He was running.
"I'll come back for you," he said. "Don’t tell him about me.”
I flipped my head back around to ask him where he was going, but he was already gone.
His clothes lay in a pile at my feet.
I did the first thing I thought of―I kicked the pile of clothes behind a bush. Just in time, as the man rounded the corner. I was backed against a wall, and I was alone. Was there anyone close enough to hear me scream?
I stood mutely as he approached, taking his time as he sized me up. I felt dizzy with fear, as tears began to rise in my eyes. As he saw my fear, he smiled.
He was about twenty feet from me when he stopped, and crossed his arms as if deciding what to say.
"I wanted to apologize to you for our misunderstanding the other day," he said.
"Sometimes I take my work a little too seriously. You understand.”
I stared at him silently, but he continued anyway.
"I'm doing some contract work for the Chemistry Department, to determine the source of some difficulties they're having. Do you think you'd be willing to answer a few questions for me? It won’t take more than a few minutes." He smiled warmly, and suddenly, he was just a middle-aged man. I saw no trace of the anger that had been on his face earlier. He reached out his hand for me.
"Let’s go someplace where we can talk, shall we?”
I looked at his friendly face and outstretched hand, and wondered if maybe this had just been a big misunderstanding. But just as I started to relax, I saw something familiar flash across his eyes. It was gone almost before I’d recognized it, but it was too late.
It was a gleam of rage.
Then the door next to me flew open.
I didn’t know the man who stepped through it; he had to have been at least seventy, and his polyester suit was so out of date it looked like he’d been in stasis somewhere, waiting for 1978 to come back. I was speechless as he reached out his hand for me.
"I'm available for office hours now, Miss," he said.
I looked up at him, and saw the urgency in his face. I took his hand and he pulled me through the door, locking it again behind me against the man in the suit.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Dr. Gordon," he said, dragging me up the stairs. "Head of the Geology Department. Will sent me.”
Will. I remembered the pile of clothes, and I pulled my hand away. “You saw Will?”
He hesitated. “Yes, that’s what I said.”
"Was he naked?”
He stammered for a minute. “No, of course not.”
I stopped mid-step, putting my hand down on the banister to steady myself. “What’s going on? Who are you? Where is Will?”
"Do you think that man was close enough to get a good look at him?”
I shook my head. “At Will? I don’t think so.”
"Come on, up to my office. We'll wait until he leaves.”
"Why should I trust you?”
He stopped and looked at me for a while, and then reached out for my arm. He slid my sleeve up with one finger, exposing my bruises. “Because I’ve never hurt you.”
I looked up at him for a minute, and the way he looked back at me was strange, like he knew me and was just waiting for me to realize that I knew him, too. Only I didn’t. He was right: between him and the man outside, there was no real choice. I followed him up the stairs and into his office. I flopped down into a chair next to the window.
"Are you going to start talking now?" I asked.
He rubbed his wrinkled forehead, then dropped his hand and swore.
"What?" I asked.
"Another problem," he said, pointing to the window.
I followed his gaze. The man in the suit was outside the front of the building, talking to someone.
It was Liv.
I flew out of his office and down the stairs before he could stop me. “Wait!” he called.
"I can’t! That’s my sister!”
I stopped at the front door. I could see Liv talking to the man at the bottom of the steps about fifteen feet from where I stood, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Liv, at least, didn’t look like she was about to kill anyone. I wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or not, though. I remembered that he had been trying to get me to talk to him, too.
"Don’t go out there.”
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