Boundless Page 38

I look around. I’m in a barn. A very familiar barn.

Crap.

I head for the door, passing the horse stalls on the way out. Midas nickers a greeting at me, his ears tilted forward, his eyes on me and the glowing ball in my hand, strangely unafraid of my light. Maybe he thinks he’s seen it all already.

“Hi, handsome,” I say to him, reaching with my free hand and stroking his velvety nose. “How are you, big boy? Do you miss me?”

He leans down and blows a wet, hay-scented breath onto my neck, then gently nips my shoulder.

“Hey, cut it out,” I laugh.

Suddenly the barn floods with light. Midas backs away from me and whinnies in alarm. I spin around to find myself at the business end of a shotgun. I yelp and lift my hands in immediate surrender, my glory ball instantly dissipating.

It’s Tucker.

He blows out an exasperated breath. “Good grief, Clara! You scared me!”

“I scared you?”

He lowers the gun. “That’s what you get for sneaking into people’s barns in the middle of the night. You’re lucky it was me that heard you and not my dad; otherwise you might be missing your head about now.”

“I’m sorry,” I blurt out. “I didn’t mean to come here.”

He’s still wearing his flannel pajama bottoms under an oversize tan work coat. He sets the gun against the wall and goes to Midas, who’s throwing his head back and kicking at the door.

“Horses don’t like surprises,” he says.

“Obviously.”

“It’s okay, buddy,” he says, and reaches in the coat pocket and produces a handful of what look to be candies. Midas immediately steps forward, snuffling, and Tucker feeds them to him.

“Do you always carry candy around with you in case of emergencies?” I ask.

“He likes jelly beans,” he says with a shrug. “We’ve kind of been letting him have as many as he wants, too. He’s getting chubby.” He strokes Midas’s neck, then looks over at me. “You want to feed him?”

“Sure,” I say, and he hands me some.

“Keep your hand flat,” Tucker instructs. “Or you might lose a finger.”

Midas jerks his head up and moves around impatiently as I step forward. Then he drops his nose into my palm and slurps the jelly beans right up, munching them noisily.

“It tickles,” I laugh.

Tucker smiles, and I reach for another handful in his pocket, and for a minute things feel normal between us, like we haven’t had all that sniping and awkwardness and telling each other good-bye.

“You look nice,” he says, looking at me appraisingly, at my curled hair and makeup, his gaze flickering over the hemline of my little black dress, my pretty sandals and painted nails, up to the black fleece jacket, which I’m still wearing around my shoulders. “Not a funeral, this time.”

“No.” I don’t know what else to say.

“A date.”

I’m tempted to lie, to say that I was out with a bunch of people, no biggie, nothing special, but I’m bad at lying, and Tucker’s really good at spotting a fib. “Yeah. A date.”

“With Prescott,” he concludes.

“Does it matter?”

“I guess not.” He pats Midas on the nose, then turns and scuffles away a few steps. The look on his face is killing me, like he’s trying so hard to act like he doesn’t care, but I know him.

“Tucker—”

“Nah, it’s all right,” he says. “I guess I should have expected him to make his move, now that we’re over and done. So how’d it go?”

I stare at him wordlessly.

“Well, it can’t have gone too well, or you wouldn’t have ended up here at the end of the night.”

“That,” I say carefully, “is none of your beeswax, Tucker Avery.”

“Well, you’re right about that,” he says. “We’ve got to move on, don’t we? But the way I see it, there’s one big thing getting in the way of us doing that.”

My breath catches. “Oh yeah? What?”

He looks at me coolly. “You keep showing up.”

He has a point.

“Look—” we say at the same time. He sighs.

“You go,” I say.

He scratches at the back of his neck. “I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry I’ve been so testy with you. You were right. I’ve been a jerk.”

“You were surprised. And you’re right. I’m invading your space.”

He nods. “Still, it’s no excuse. You’re not the worst thing that could pop up unexpectedly into my life.”

“Oh great. I’m not the worst thing.”

“Nope.”

We laugh, and it feels good, laughing. It feels like old times. But then I think, Maybe I am the worst thing that could pop up in his life. He’s looking at me with a flicker of longing in his eyes that I recognize all too well, and it sends a dart of fear for him all though me. I can’t let myself get close to him. I’m not good for him. Plus, I might not even make it through this year.

“Your turn,” he says.

“Oh.” I find I can’t tell him what I was thinking. I point my thumb behind me at the open barn door. “I was going to say that I should go.”

“Okay.”

He looks confused when I don’t move. Then amused. “Oh, right. You want me to leave.”

“You can stay. Only, the glory …”

“That’s all right.” He smiles with his dimples, then moseys past me toward the door. “Maybe I’ll see you around, Carrots.”

No, you won’t, I think grimly. I have to stop this. I can’t keep coming here. I have to stay away.

He called me Carrots.

Angela’s still in the same position she was in when I left her, scribbling away on Wan Chen’s bed. She stares at me for a minute after I materialize in the room.

“Wow,” she says. “You were right when you said it was like beaming yourself in Star Trek. That is pretty cool.”

“I’m getting better at it,” I admit.

“How did your date—” she starts to ask, then gets a look at my face. “Oh. It didn’t go well.”

“No, it didn’t go well,” I say, kicking off my shoes and lying on my back on my bed.

She shrugs. “Men.”

“Men.”

“If we can send one man to the moon, why can’t we send them all there?” she says.

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