Read The Talents Online

Authors: Inara Scott

Tags: #Fiction - Young Adult

The Talents (20 page)

BOOK: The Talents
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He grabbed my hand and pulled me to face him. “Let's try it,” he said, looking into my eyes. “Let's see what you can do.”

I froze. My hands were wet and slippery from the dishes, and he felt warm and rough. I tried to free myself, but he wouldn't loosen his grip.

“What are you doing, Jack?”

He chuckled. “I'm taking you outside, what do you think I'm doing?”

“But we aren't moving,” I said in a strangled voice.

“Oh, right.” He still didn't move.

My pulse fluttered like the wings of a hummingbird. Jack's eyes locked on mine, and it was like that time on the porch, when I thought he was going to kiss me.

Then, for some unknown reason, I took a step forward, a step toward him. He laughed and dropped my hand, then picked up his coat and ran out the door, leaving me to stare at his back.

What had I been thinking? I couldn't let Jack kiss me. I was into Cam. CAM. Not Jack, CAM.

Argg! I grabbed my coat and followed him.

We walked into the backyard. A few old cans and some plastic bottles that should have made it into the recycling bin littered the weedy grass. Near the back of our yard was an old stump that sat in the shade of a gnarled apple tree. Jack picked up a few of the cans and set them on the edge of the stump.

He walked over to me and crossed his arms. “Push them off.”

“What?”

“Use your power. Push them off. Like the branch, or the gate. Remember the feeling of the power coming over you, and channel it. And this time try to figure out what you're doing. Focus on that force you described, and try to understand how you're using it.”

I raised one eyebrow. “Who are you, Obi-Wan Kenobi?”

He laughed. “We're in trouble if I am, because then you're Darth Vader.”

“Or Luke Skywalker,” I said indignantly. I leaned my head back and shook my hair from my face. “I guess no one would ever mistake me for Princess Leia, huh?”

The smile dropped from his face. “You know you're gorgeous, right?”

My heart did a funny little dance that made it difficult to breath. “Shut up.”

“I mean it.” He reached out to touch a long curl, his hand brushing my cheek.

I panicked. I can't describe it any other way. One long look from those gray eyes, which had gone unaccountably soft, and I got so nervous I could feel the individual beads of sweat forming on my forehead.

I pulled away. Jack opened his mouth to say something, and because I was suddenly desperate to stop him, I turned my eyes to the cans and the log and tried for the first time in my life to summon the familiar tingle of power.

Nothing happened. I tried again, thinking hard about the cans moving, just like Jack had said.

Still nothing.

I pictured the lamp that Jack had melted, and the card I'd seen him turn to smoke. If Jack could control his power, why couldn't I?

A bird chirped, and across the street, someone started their car.

The cans did not move.

I started to get mad. I'd been living with this darn power for all these years, arranging my whole life around it, and Jack comes along and, poof! I'm supposed to be able to control it?

I threw up my hands. “I'm sorry, Jack. I can't do it. You're wrong.”

“Try again,” he said, his voice gentle. Caring. “You're fighting with yourself. The power's inside you. Let it out.”

I turned back to the log, and this time, instead of trying so hard, I forced myself to relax. Instead of thinking about the cans, I thought about the force inside me. I listened, if that makes any sense, to the noises that I usually tune out.

And then, with an explosion like a gas stove lighting, a surge of prickling heat swallowed me whole, more intense than anything I had felt before. My fingers popped and sparked as I moved them, and Jack faded into a blur. I flicked my fingers, and a feeling of pain and pleasure moved through me.

I stared at the cans and imagined them, one by one, flying from the stump.

The cans stayed put.

I focused on the force and tried to figure out how to use it. I realized that the energy in my body was nothing more than a small amount of the energy all around me. I looked at the weeds and the tree, and for the first time saw sparkles and ripples of energy in everything, from the sky to the earth. The cans had forces working upon them and energy inside them, and they were all in balance. Deliberately, I stretched out a finger and pushed at those forces, knocking them momentarily out of balance.

The cans exploded into the sky like they'd been shot from a gun. It took them a long time to fall back down.

I looked at the stump and then looked at Jack, my body still tingling with the flow of power.

“That was incredible,” he said, almost reverently. “
You
are incredible.”

And before I knew what was happening, his lips touched mine.

I ADMIT
I didn't move. Not right away. I knew I should, but I didn't. Jack was right—I
could
control my power. It was amazing, incredible. And for some reason it felt natural to channel all that emotion into a kiss.

So I didn't push him away even though I knew I'd regret it later. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once. His lips were gentle but searching for something I didn't quite know how to give. At first it was like we were two pieces of a puzzle that didn't quite fit together. His teeth bumped against mine, I didn't know where to put my arms, and I wondered if maybe kissing wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But then something between us clicked, and everything else faded away. I forgot about my power, forgot to worry about whether Jack and I were meant to be, and let myself enjoy being kissed for the very first time.

I'm not sure how long it took me to come to my senses. I must have been pretty into it, because when I finally pulled myself together enough to move, I realized we had fallen to our knees, and my jeans were damp from the ground. With strangely weak hands, I pushed against his shoulders and drew in a breath.

“We have to stop, Jack.”

He didn't protest. His arms loosened as soon as I drew back and untangled myself from his embrace. He fell back on the grass, looking at me and not saying a word.

I sucked in a deep breath and pulled my hair back from my face. My whole body prickled with heat. As I stood I kept my eyes on the imprint our knees had made in the grass.

“We shouldn't have done that.” It was the only thing I could think of to say.

“What? We shouldn't have kissed each other? It had to happen sooner or later. I'm not the only one who felt that. I know I'm not.” His voice held a hint of anger.

“But it's not right, Jack. It was just an emotional day, that's all. Neither of us really wants this.” I gestured helplessly toward the ground where the weeds had begun to spring back into place. My lips felt soft, and the skin around my mouth stung a little from where it had been rubbed by the tiny hairs above his lip.

I was fairly certain what I said was true. Not one hundred percent certain, but close.

He jumped to his feet. Jack had this way of moving that was like a cat—graceful but nonchalant, as if he refused to expend too much energy on his movements.

“You don't mean that.”

“I do mean that. I think we should just be friends.” I spit out the words fast, mustering all the confidence I had.

“Friends?” he drawled. He looked at me, his eyes difficult to read. “Didn't seem that way a few minutes ago.”

“I know. I should never have kissed you. I really just want to be friends, Jack. That's all.” I tried to speak firmly. Jack had been through a lot, and part of me wanted to be the girl who understood him and cared for him when no one else did. But at the same time I knew I couldn't take that on. Jack needed something from me, something I didn't think I could give. I couldn't make up for his dad, or his horrible childhood. I had to concentrate on getting my own head straight, and figuring out what to do with my power.

My power.

I had controlled my power. I had taken some part of the energy around me and used it to send those cans flying. The power didn't have to control me. I could control it!

A thrill raced through me, momentarily drowning out my horror over what I'd done with Jack—and what Cam would think if he ever found out.

Jack's mouth flattened into a thin, angry line. “You know Prince Charming doesn't really like you, right?”

I froze. “What's that supposed to mean?”

“He's working for them, Danny. He's only being nice so he can keep an eye on you.”

“That's ridiculous.” A knot of fear formed in my stomach. That was exactly what I had thought about Cam. That the whole thing didn't really add up. That there had to be something else going on.

“Think about it. Why is he paying so much attention to you, a freshman? I mean, you're cute and all, but look at the girls surrounding him.” In a second, Jack had changed from a cat to a snake, complete with hooded eyes and an evil, forked tongue.

“Why do you think he's always warning you to stay away from me?” he continued. “They know I'm on to them. They don't want me to lead you astray. Prince Charming's just the bait they're holding out to keep you deaf, dumb, and blind.”

Tears sprung to my eyes, and I had to stop to catch my breath. “You're a horrible person, Jack Landry,” I cried. “I can't believe I ever felt sorry for you, or let you kiss me!” I marched over and grabbed his arm, suddenly filled with righteous energy. “Get out of here. I don't want to ever speak to you again.”

Jack didn't move. When I touched him, he stared at me with eyes so full of anger and pain that I stopped, transfixed. Silence fell over us.

“What are you kids doing?”

The voice of a stranger startled us both. Jack jumped. I dropped his arm and whirled around in surprise.

It was Shelly Burker, my next door neighbor. Mrs. Burker was a solid woman of at least three hundred pounds, with an uncanny ability to move silently. Over the years I had learned the hard way not to underestimate her ability for stealth, or the enjoyment she took out of getting me into trouble. It was entirely possible that she had been watching us the whole time.

“Um, what do you mean, Mrs. Burker?” I asked warily.

She put her hands on her hips and fixed me with a cold stare. “You shooting off bottle rockets or something? I saw those cans go flying in the air.”

“I'm trying out for the football team,” Jack said. “I was working on my throwing arm. I guess I've got a lot to learn, huh?”

Mrs. Burker's small piggish eyes examined Jack carefully. “Who are you, boy? You Tom Landry's kid?”

I cringed when Jack's normally pale skin turn even whiter. “Why do you ask?” he said tightly.

“I knew the man, that's all. And you look like a carbon copy of him.” She turned back to me. “Does your grandma know you've got this boy at the house while she's away, Dancia?”

I shifted from foot to foot as I tried to meet her gaze. “He was just leaving,” I said, glancing over at Jack.

Even though I wanted to stay mad at him, I was struck by a pang of sympathy. Jack must hate hearing people talk about his father. After spending his life running away from Tom Landry and the hurt he had caused, it would be devastating to walk right back to where he once lived—where everyone recognized Jack as his son.

Jack started to say something else, but the roar of Grandma's Volvo drowned out his words. She pulled slowly into the driveway, barely missing Mrs. Burker's wide bulk.

“Is that you, Shelly?” Grandma called.

“Yes, I was just talking to Dancia and her little friend.” She looked at me with a triumphant gleam in her eye.

“What's that?” Grandma shoved the door open and got out leg by leg. With a great sigh, she heaved herself out of the seat. A scarf with blue and red flowers covered her white curls, and she wore a matching American flag sweatshirt and pants and her old purple rain parka. “Oh, Jack!” Her watery blue eyes turned up in a smile. “How nice to see you again. Are you staying for supper?”

He gave Grandma a little bow. “Thanks, Mrs. Lewis. It's nice to see you too. But I think I better go. Lots of homework, you know.” He extended his hand to Mrs. Burker. “Lovely to meet you, ma'am.”

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “If you say so.”

They shook hands, and he raised hers up to kiss the back of it. She jerked it away, but a little gleam of pleasure shone in her eyes.

She watched as he walked down the driveway. “Impudent boy,” she said, “but I think I like him.” She put her hands back on her prodigious hips. “That doesn't mean I believe a word he said.”

I wiped my hands nervously on my jeans, then appealed directly to Grandma. “Jack and I were messing around in the backyard. He threw some cans in the air. Mrs. Burker thought we were setting off firecrackers. But we weren't, I promise.”

“Hmm.” Grandma turned to Mrs. Burker. “They weren't bothering you, were they, Shelly?”

“I suppose not,” she admitted.

“Well, not much more to say, is there?”

Mrs. Burker sniffed but didn't argue. “I'll be getting along home, then.”

Grandma gave me a sharp look as Mrs. Burker sauntered away. “You two weren't in the house alone, were you? I may like the boy, but I never said you could be taking up together when I wasn't here.”

“Taking up together?” I played indignant, hoping my lips didn't somehow give away what had been going on only minutes before. “Grandma, he gave me a ride home and I gave him a soda. I am almost fifteen, you know. Old enough to be in a house with a boy.”

She didn't fall for my wounded-innocence routine. “I don't care if he gave you a diamond ring. No boys in the house when I'm not around.”

I rolled my eyes and huffed, though I was just as happy to have an excuse never to let Jack in the house again. My lips felt swollen and tender when I ran my tongue over them. Grandma stared at me with a vaguely suspicious expression as I started inching toward the back door.

“I better get started on my homework.” I gave a forced laugh. “They really laid it on thick this week.”

Grandma studied me over the top of her glasses. “I'm sorry I couldn't pick you up from school. Is everything okay? You look like something's bothering you.”

I took a few steps back. “School was fine. Nothing's bothering me.”

She chuckled. “You would say that if they had jabbed needles under your fingernails.”

“That's ridiculous.” I had to suppress a smile. “It really is fine.”

“If you say so.” She shuffled over to the car and opened the trunk. “How does chicken sound for dinner?”

“Great.” My shoulders dropped with relief at the change of subject, and I hurried around the back of the car to pull out the grocery bags.

A tiny part of me actually wanted to tell Grandma what had happened, just so I could figure out if I had done the right thing by pushing Jack away. I was still smarting from the things he'd said about Cam, but I knew I'd hurt him as well, and that made it hard to stay mad.

I just couldn't get my head around how quickly things between us had changed. I thought Jack knew how I felt about Cam, so I was safe. I thought we could just be friends, and not worry about all that boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. But now I'd done something I couldn't undo. And I had a horrible feeling I'd regret it for a long time.

“You and Jack didn't get into a fight, did you?” Grandma asked. “He looked a bit odd when I drove up.”

“Jack and I are pretty different,” I said, throwing the bags onto the counter as we entered the kitchen. “He's had a hard life, Grandma. I'm not sure what to think about him.”

She sighed. “I wondered what had happened when Jack and his mama left the house. I think Tom was rough on that boy. He always struck me as an unreliable character.”

“Yeah.” I wasn't sure what I could tell Grandma without breaking Jack's confidence. “I think you're right.”

“Well, you can't fix that, Danny. You can't turn back the clock.”

“I know.” It all seemed terribly sad. Jack and his mom, Jack and me. Nothing working out like it should. “He scares me a little, that's all. Like he doesn't worry about things he should, or doesn't care about things the rest of us do.” I thought about it as I spoke. “It isn't that I feel sorry for him, exactly. I just wish life could be different.”

“No sense wishing for something that will never be,” Grandma said, unexpectedly stern. “You take what life gives you and you do something good with it.”

Grandma did that sometimes. When you wanted answers, she forgot the question. When you wanted sympathy, she'd tell you to quit feeling sorry for yourself.

I knew better than to argue. “Sure, Grandma. Whatever you say.”

BOOK: The Talents
9.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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