Boundless Page 18

I glance over my shoulder at Dad. “You don’t seem too conflicted about bearing a sword.”

He reaches down and picks up my half of the broom, holds the pieces together for a few seconds, then hands the broom back to me in one piece. My mouth drops open like a kid at a magic show. I run my fingers over the place where it was jagged, but I find it perfectly smooth. Not even the paint is marred. It’s like it was never broken.

“I’m at peace with it,” he says.

Together we turn and walk back toward the house. Somewhere off in the trees I hear a bird singing, a bright, simple call.

“Hey, I was wondering….” I stop and work up the guts to bring up something that’s been in the back of my mind ever since he mentioned the word sword. “Would it be okay if Christian trained with us?” His gaze on me is steady and curious, so I go on. “He’s having a vision of using a flaming—I mean glory—sword, and his uncle’s been training him some, but his uncle’s not going to be around much longer, and I think it would be nice—I mean, I think it would be useful for both of us—if you trained us together. Could that be part of the plan?”

He’s quiet for such a long time I’m sure he’s going to say no, but then he blinks a few times and looks at me. “Yes. Perhaps when you’re home for Christmas break, I’ll train you together.”

“Great. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he says simply.

“Do you want to come in?” I say at the edge of the porch. “I think I can scrounge up some cocoa.”

He shakes his head. “Right now it’s time for the next part of your lesson.”

“The next part?”

“You remember how to cross?”

I nod. “Call the glory, think of the place, click your heels together three times and say, ‘There’s no place like home.’”

“I’ve seen that movie,” he says. “One of your mother’s favorites. We watched it every year.”

Us too. Thinking about it makes a sudden tightness in my throat. WOO, she called it. She read the book to me out loud every night before bed when I was seven, and when we were finished, we watched it on DVD, and we sang the songs together, and we tried to do that walk they do when they’re on the yellow brick road, stepping over each other’s legs.

No more WOO with Mom, ever.

“So now what?” I ask Dad, refusing to let myself get choked up again.

He grins, a wicked grin, even though he’s an angel. “Now you get yourself home.”

And just like that, he vanishes. No glory or anything. Just fft. Gone.

He expects me to cross back to California on my own.

“Dad? Not funny,” I call.

In answer, the wind picks up and sends a bunch of red aspen leaves into my hair.

“Great. Just great,” I mutter.

I put the broom in the hallway, near the door, in case we need it again. Then I wander back into the yard and summon a circle of glory. I check my watch and determine that Wan Chen’s going to be in class for another hour, so I close my eyes and concentrate on my room, the lavender bedspread, the small desk in the corner that is always messy with papers and books, the air conditioner in the window.

I can picture it all perfectly, but when I open my eyes, I’m still in Jackson.

Dad told me to focus on something living, but we don’t even own a houseplant. Maybe this isn’t going to be so easy after all.

I close my eyes again. There’s the smell of mountain snow on the air. I shiver. I would have brought a coat if I’d known I was going to be in Wyoming today. I’m a wuss about cold.

You’re my California flower, I remember Tucker saying to me once. We were sitting on the pasture fence at the Lazy Dog, watching his dad break in a colt, the leaves in the trees red just like they are today. I started shivering so hard my teeth actually began to chatter, and Tucker laughed at me and called me that—his delicate California flower—and wrapped me in his coat.

All at once I become aware of the smell of horse manure. Hay. Diesel fuel. A hint of Oreos.

Oh no.

My eyes fly open. I’m in the barn at the Lazy Dog. I haven’t gone to my home.

I’ve gone to Tucker’s.

I’m so startled I lose the glory. And right that minute Tucker comes whistling into the barn carrying a bucket of horseshoes. He sees me, and the tune fades from his lips. He promptly drops the bucket, which lands on his foot, which makes him jerk his foot up and start hopping on the other one.

For a long minute we just stare at each other. He stops hopping and stands with his hands shoved in his pockets, wearing a flannel shirt that’s one of my favorites, blue plaid, which makes his eyes so beautiful. I flash back to the last time I saw him, almost six months ago, Yellowstone and the brink of a waterfall and a kiss that meant good-bye. It feels like it happened a lifetime ago, and at the same time like it happened yesterday. I can still taste him on my lips.

He frowns. “What are you doing here, Clara?”

Clara. Not Carrots.

I don’t know how to answer him, so I shrug. “I was in the neighborhood?”

He snorts. “Isn’t your neighborhood about a thousand miles southwest of here?”

He sounds mad. Something in my gut twists. Of course he has all sorts of reasons to be mad at me. I’d probably be furious if the situation were reversed. I hid things from him. I pushed him away when all he wanted was to be there for me. Oh yeah, and I almost got him killed, let’s not forget. And I kissed Christian. That was the kicker. Then I had to go and break his heart.

He rubs the back of his neck, still frowning deeply. “No, seriously, what are you doing here? What do you want?”

“Nothing,” I say lamely. “I … came here by accident. My dad’s teaching me how to move through time and space, something he calls crossing, which is like teleporting yourself to where you want to go. He thought it would be hilarious to leave me to get home all by myself, and when I tried, I ended up here.”

I can tell by his face that he doesn’t believe me. “Oh,” he says wryly. “Is that all? You teleported.”

“Yeah. I did.” I’m starting to get irritated, now that I’m finally over the shock of seeing him again. There’s something about his expression, a wariness that instantly rubs me the wrong way. The last time he looked at me like that was after we first kissed, right here in almost exactly this spot, when I lit up with all my happy glory and he knew I was something otherworldly. He’s looking at me like I’m some strange unearthly creature, something not human.

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