Insights by Lauren Lynne - Read Online
Insights
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Summary

The adventures of Owen Ryer and friends continue in this third installment of the five book series. Dark watchers want to steal his powers and they will stop at nothing to get what they want. From kidnapping to murder - When is enough, enough? Can Owen defend the ones he loves or is all hope lost as he battles the greatest evil he has ever known?
Owen thinks he’s battle-hardened. He has firm control of his gifts and his own watcher to train, yet with two years of experience behind him things are not getting any easier. As Owen grows in experience, so does the darkness and danger. Lucie is taken, making Owen realize just how much she really means to him, but is it her the dark watchers want or is she only the bait in an elaborate trap?
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ISBN: 9781483541693
List price: $2.99
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Insights - Lauren Lynne

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enough!

ONE

BAM! I could feel my body flying backwards through the air. How had I not seen it coming? I hit the ground so hard the air blasted out of my lungs. As I struggled to catch my breath, I fully expected to be trampled, but I couldn’t move out of the way. My body felt locked to the ground as I fought for air. I started to shake with the struggle. It was only a moment, but it felt like an eternity had passed. Eyes looked down on me. Adrian’s eyes. Well, I must not be dead because Adrian wasn’t who I expected to see near death. Lucie maybe, Adrian no.

Are you all right?

My lungs finally sucked some air. Yeah, I gasped.

Adrian grabbed my arm and hauled me to my feet. I popped off my helmet and once again became aware of all the sounds around me. I could hear guys grunting, the slam of gear against gear, whistles blowing, coaches yelling and Calvin... laughing. I snapped my head around to scowl at him.

Gotcha’ good, Ryer! he guffawed loudly, his shoulders shaking with laughter as he trotted off, still enjoying his hit.

Calvin and I have come a long way since our loathing of each other in eighth grade. Now, a good year and some months later we have moved past tolerance to... what? We weren’t friends exactly; we were teammates. When he did stuff like that, coming at my blind side and loving the result - he pissed me off.

You okay, Ryer? Coach yelled.

Yeah, I said, putting my helmet back on and shaking out the kinks.

Then get back in there. Let’s see some hustle, he barked back at me.

I sighed and went back to work. Out on this field, I’m no one special. I may be a sophomore on Varsity but I’m not the number one receiver. I don’t feel particularly amazing most of the time, though some think I am extra special. Today, I sure could have used my friend Mitchell’s ability to see a glimpse of the future so that I could’ve seen Calvin coming, the big jerk. Oh well, whatever, I would get even. It’s a waste of energy to get mad.

Light glinted up in the stands, drawing my attention. Ah, Marlo and his ever-present laptop. He had opted out of sports this year. His mom had gotten even busier with her catering business and the happy result was that she could use me and my friends as servers for her events more often, putting more cash in our pockets. We all still worked at Earl White Eagle and Max Salvaltro’s pawnshop on McLoughlin. Little known to most folks, White Eagle had a room out back that was once used to repair oddball items that came into the pawnshop and now we used mainly as a gym and dojo.

In the old days, Max did nearly all of the bookkeeping and waiting on customers while White Eagle did most of the acquisitions, repairs and reconditioning of the stuff that came in. The shop was not real busy and was often dusty and smelled...well, old. Adrian, Max’s nephew, would have us guys over sometimes to hang out. Now and again we would dust, sweep or clean the windows. Once White Eagle found me, I became the number one chore boy at the shop. Today, we still do repairs in the back. We have racks for tools, one bay reserved for large items, like a car, and several built-in workbenches. White Eagle and I were both pleased that Adrian had opted to take auto maintenance at school this year. He had never shown much interest until now in things mechanical and it would be a really helpful skill. I didn’t have room in my schedule this year unfortunately, but I had learned lots from my dad and White Eagle over the years.

Marlo helped with electronics and the books at the shop. Don’t tell anyone, it’s not really allowed because he’s underage for pawnshop work, but what can I say? He has a gift for numbers, science and technology of all sorts. Lucie answered customer’s questions and cleaned. She was exceptional with people and in her spare time she was becoming an antiques expert with a passion for Depression and other fancy glassware. Adrian and I did the heavy lifting and grunt labor.

I put my head back into practice. There would be time to think of other things later. I don’t know about Adrian, but I was hugely relieved when practice ended. We quickly showered and dressed in pawnshop grubby clothes. Marlo and Lucie met us just outside the locker room and we headed for the pawnshop. Since it was after practice, we walked. Usually we ran to the shop to keep in shape but Adrian and I had done plenty of running today. Daily doubles were so not our favorite, but the conditioning was important. Lucie, Adrian and I kept in fighting shape year round.

Marlo wasn’t as passionate as the rest of us about keeping in shape; he ran with us some and did some martial arts. What he lacked in physical dedication he made up for by being the genius of our group. Not that the rest of us weren’t plenty smart, especially Lucie, but Marlo had a whole other kind of smart going. He could do amazing and unimaginable things with a computer. He was the best hacker I knew. Not like I was acquainted with any, but it was almost as if Marlo could talk to electronics. He seemed to have a bit of a watcher talent for it. White Eagle could see it glow softly within him but it was as yet unidentified, it was so weak. I liked to think it was electronics. I mean, who knew?

We talked football on the way to the pawnshop. Lucie talked to Marlo. The two of them were thick as thieves lately as Lucie worked out her first big case. She had helped me with my cases and I had helped her solve some of her smaller ones. She was getting better at taking care of some things on her own, but her biggest case still loomed. She had first heard a voice in the hall near our science classroom last fall. She would not confide in me and had thought she was going crazy. Her gift had awakened and she didn’t know what to do with it. By spring, she was a mess and I found her crumpled in the science hall crying. When I reached out to touch her, her gift and mine collided in an explosion of images, my gift, and sound, her gift. Together it was like experiencing a 3D movie for the first time after only seeing photographs. This is what it’s like to be a watcher. We get the dubious honor of bringing balance back to the world by righting wrongs, getting people back on the right path and ridding the world of dark watchers.

Lucie has flipped from shoving me away, totally ignoring my very existence, to treating me like I was her anchor in a fierce storm. Now she was back to pushing me away. I have liked her since sixth grade so I have a hard time shifting gears as fast as she seems to, but I’m resigned to take what she will give me. I’ve tried to have other girlfriends, but I can’t seem to get her out of my head. Just now, I was trying to decide if my life was more like Bruno Mars’ Grenade or Hinder’s Better Than Me. Maybe I was like Twilight’s Jacob Black, addicted to the pain. One of the producers had said that about Jacob’s character in an interview. Today, I could feel Jacob. How is it that you can keep on loving someone when they don’t love you back? Shouldn’t there be an off switch or something? Lucie wanted to keep our relationship work-related. I’m her mentor so she can’t ever really get rid of me. Let me tell you it’s difficult to just be friends with someone who you want so much more from.

Adrian punched my shoulder, Hey Buddy, how hard did you hit your head?

I’m fine. What are you talking about?

"Dude, we were holding a conversation and the next thing I knew, I was holding a conversation. You were watching Lucie and zoning out. At least you weren’t drooling. You get this look in your eye that kinda creeps me out, but I get it. Did you know that Lucie’s friend, Brenda, still barely talks to me? Why is that? I haven’t had a girlfriend in forever. I want to give up on Brenda, but I really like her and she pays just enough attention to hold my interest. I even asked Lucie to put in a good word for me. Do you know what she said? I was on my own - that’s what. Women!"

Adrian did know how to make me smile. It was good to know that I wasn’t suffering alone. Lucie looked back at me just then, like she could sense my thoughts. I watched the sun catch the light mist of sweat across her nose and down the front of her chest. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the moisture sparkling on her skin. The sun brought out the highlights in her long blond hair, the summer sky made her eyes a vivid deep blue. I could almost feel electricity in the air. Lucie’s lips turned up in a soft smile, then she turned her attention back to Marlo and the connection was broken.

Adrian noted my loss of attention again. She is something, I’ll give you that. She never liked me even when I pulled out all the stops and poured on all the charm. She’s tough. She also freaks me out. I mean, look at her. No makeup, hair in a ponytail, shorts, athletic shoes and a tank top. No one should look that good without help. It’s... it’s wrong. She makes us look bad.

Laughter bubbled up. Adrian was so right. It was unfair and should be illegal. Lucie turned back to see what was so funny. I wasn’t going to tell her. When we got to the pawnshop we each set to work on our assigned tasks for the day. Lucie and I looked over the new inventory, which Marlo then recorded. Adrian got started cleaning the items once they were logged into the computer. As soon as we were done Lucie took over in the main shop area, dusting and answering questions so that White Eagle was freed up. Marlo went to work on the books and Adrian and I cleaned the rest of the shop and backroom. It was my turn to clean the bathroom. Yay, my favorite. Not.

White Eagle wandered over to the bathroom doorway, as I was finishing. What? I asked playfully, Did I miss a spot?

I need to talk to you, he said in a grave tone.

Uh-oh, not a good way to start a conversation. What’s up?

I’m worried. You’ve been working on Lucie’s problem, case, whatever, all summer. I know you have building schematics. I know that you have blueprints and that Marlo has researched the alarm company. Employees have been interviewed for a phony school project. I know you are close to ready, but I still think this is a bad, epically bad, idea. If you get caught it will ruin everything we have worked so hard for.

"We’re not ready to go in yet. Marlo is still trying to work on the employee’s schedules. We’ve been watching people come and go. We’re thinking of going in when most people are gone but before the alarms are turned on for the night. We’ll be fully prepared before we go in. Don’t worry so much. Lucie is okay with waiting until we’re ready. She does waiting a lot better than I do."

Owen, you are not a police officer. You are not a licensed private investigator. You can’t get a search warrant for this one. Breaking and entering brings this to a whole new and dangerous level. Surely you can see why I’m concerned. I hope you are doing this for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

"White Eagle, I have been able to finish every case I ever started. Lucie has to finish this one. It’s important to her and to her life as a watcher. If we don’t resolve it – it will always eat at her. Because she is a location-oriented watcher, school will be hell for her if we don’t fix this soon. She will hear her victim crying in the hall again - every single time we have a class there... I need her to be able to focus on the next thing, whatever it is. It’s enough that we’re all distracted worrying about when the mysterious dark watchers will drop in at Lucie’s house and when Stephan Kraeghton will show up again, because you and I know both are inevitable."

Okay Owen, you win. How can I help? I guess I haven’t been very supportive. I just... I guess I see more and more Miles in you every day and it scares me sometimes.

"Miles is in me. It took some time after I picked up the watch, but I told you last year that I thought the watch had shared all it had to give. Miles lives in me now or at least the part of Miles’ life – the part that happened while he owned the watch. Did you know that would happen when the right person came along?"

"Miles and I experimented with holding memories in objects. We thought it would help to train new watchers. It was something my grandmother knew about, but did not know how to do herself. Obviously we were successful. Miles could see things a little bit, but not like you can. More importantly Miles could feel the darkness around him. I believe that it was the right combination. I think that if – say, Lucie had picked up the watch, the outcome would have been very different. You have your own gift of vision and a bit of your mom’s gift of understanding people. Now you have added Miles’ gift. If that didn’t make you extraordinary enough, you also can connect to other watchers to expand both your skills into a neat package. I have said it before, but I have never seen anyone like you – ever. No wonder Kraeghton wants you and wants to turn you to his side. You will become the most powerful force of good we have ever known."

I wish you wouldn’t say stuff like that. I don’t feel special.

"Don’t you see – that’s part of what makes you special. I think too, that with your mother’s gift and Miles’ gift being so similar those two abilities almost reached for each other. I can’t think how else to explain it. It almost seems like you have picked up all the abilities that are around you. No... No, that’s not possible. You don’t have Mitchell’s ability and you are definitely not locational like Lucie. Suffice it to say that you continue to fascinate me. You teach me new things every day. Lucie is beginning to scare me too. She seems to have some mentor ability or maybe her connection to you is just so strong... She will also be amazing when she is a fully developed watcher. Together you will do things that no one has ever seen."

I snorted with suppressed laughter as White Eagle drifted off, lost in his thoughts. My snort drew him back. You beg to differ?

It was what you said about Lucie’s connection to me. I think she would be happier if I quietly disappeared.

Mmmm, he breathed, nodding his head.

What? I asked defensively.

White Eagle smiled and patted me on the shoulder. You’ll figure it out and so will she.

Great. I loved it when he was cryptic, I thought sarcastically. Yes, sarcasm, one of my many gifts. Part of me admired White Eagle for his sage advice and his ability to know how and when to answer. Then there was the part of me that found his way of teaching me... frustrating. I loved him like a favorite uncle, but I hated when he left me hanging to figure out things on my own.

I finished the bathroom, moved the load of work rags from the washer to the dryer, and got out the practice gear. One sure cure to my Lucie-induced frustration was a good workout. I turned on some music and stretched. I ran through some Tai Chi movements to relax my mind and body. I was so focused that I didn’t realize I wasn’t alone until I turned as part of the sequence. White Eagle and Lucie had moved in silently and seamlessly to join the movements. I kept going and they followed – smoothly – like one person instead of three. I turned again and Marlo was with us. Next thing I knew Adrian had also joined in. It must be close to six o’clock. I ended the sequence and began our first karate kata. We worked through several levels. Part of me thought it would be fun to compete, but I knew that we had to be careful about how we were known. It was why Lucie quit modeling. Our job as watchers needed to remain a secret. If people knew what we did, it would put them and us in more danger than we already were in. It’s best to lay low and not draw too much attention. I wondered if football was a mistake, but we needed to look normal too.

I broke formation and moved over to change the music to a faster tempo. I pulled on some gloves and nodded at Lucie, pointing a glove at her at the same time. She pinched up her eyes a bit, but she didn’t complain. I was working her harder than anybody. I still had nightmares about Kraeghton nearly drowning her back in May. I’d been there to save her that time, but what if I wasn’t there the next time? I couldn’t afford to think that way, but I would be prepared. I couldn’t lose her.

Lucie gloved up and put in her mouth guard. She moved into a defensive posture and waved me forward with a glove. Come get me, she mumbled around her mouthpiece.

She didn’t know how much I would love to. Instead I moved in to attack. I stomped heavily between her feet to startle her and quickly hopped back. She barely flinched and followed with a quick snap kick to my knee as I moved back from her. In return, I tried a spin kick to her chest but barely touched her. I still worry about hurting her, so I hold back. Lucie stepped away with the light tap to her chest, then leapt at me with another front kick, this time to my chest. She followed immediately with an elbow to my jaw. She snapped my head back but she didn’t move my body. She was now standing too close. Before she could move, I put a palm to her chin, shoving her backwards instead of really hitting her. She surprised me by using the momentum to change it into a back flip. She was making good use of her gymnastics training. I paused to compliment her. Good job, Lucie! Really good!

She smiled and front flipped back toward me twisting in the air to kick at my shoulder on the way past. She was a little slow. As she connected with my shoulder I grabbed her leg, dumping her on the mat. I dove at her. We didn’t wrestle often, but she needed to be able to defend herself in any situation. I smashed her to the mat and flipped her. She squeaked as I sat on her. You have to be quicker than that, I said with a smile to soften my words. I knew that she knew.

I don’t want to hurt you. I want you to see it coming, she said in her own defense.

Let’s agree that if you hurt me, it’s my fault not yours. I hold back – you don’t. Don’t fight fair – your enemies won’t.

Lucie struggled to free herself. I moved forward and pressed her arms to the mat above her head. I smiled at her. I also underestimated her. She sent an impressive knee to my left kidney. Oomph, I groaned and rolled off of her, mentally giving her a point for creativity.

Lucie laughed and leapt to her feet. Like that?

I nodded and started to rise. Lucie twisted and let loose a back-kick aimed at my belly before I was completely on my feet. She barely tapped me, but I rolled to the side and stood all in one motion. I tried a spinning kick in her direction, landed close and put an elbow against her chin. I swung up with my free arm to the side of her head, again not connecting. Lucie grabbed my arm and used me for leverage to apply an excellent sidekick. I put my hands to her waist and shoved her away from me. Lucie slid into a low crouch, then ran right at me putting her shoulder to my belly. As I bent from the impact she dropped and lifted my legs, sending me over her back. She leapt on top of me and tried to keep me down. I quickly rolled so I was sitting on her again. Luce, you know the law of gross tonnage. You need to strike and move away. Don’t let them get in close and don’t try to wrestle. You want to avoid that.

This time I was smarter; I sat on her hips so that she had no leverage to kick. She struggled and twisted. I had more practice and almost fifty pounds on her. She wasn’t going anywhere. Okay, I give. How do I get out of this? she finally gasped.

Many thoughts flashed through my mind. Stay on topic, I reminded myself firmly. She deserved a serious answer. Don’t let yourself get in this situation if you can help it. Fight dirty if you do. Go for the eyes, nose or groin but not on me, thanks. Lucie rolled her eyes and struggled some more. Luce, if you’re fighting for your life, I want you to win.

I heard clapping and looked up to see Marlo. Lucie, you are getting lots better! You two almost look like you’re dancing.

If we look choreographed then I need to pair her up with someone else to learn other skills.

Lucie pounded her gloves on to my thighs, Okay, enough. Let me up.

I rolled off and pulled her to her feet. More?

Heck no, I want dinner. I’m starving! You have to feed me or I won’t have the energy to fight.

I threw back my head and laughed. I love it! Lucie, you’re an original! Let’s go eat. I’ve owed Adrian pizza for a while now. I figured Lucie was probably free. Her parents had been busy getting her brother ready for Stanford and had even driven down with him to transport all his junk. As usual she was virtually ignored. It still made me mad, but I worked hard at disguising the fact. I was also working hard at treating Lucie like one of the guys. The four of us had done all kinds of fun stuff together over the summer. We did simple things, cheap or free things. We were never alone or at least Lucie never was. If she so much as needed a haircut one of us was with her. She hated it, but she understood the necessity.

We had hiked up Multnomah Falls, visited Crown Point, the fish hatchery and Bonneville Dam. We had gone to the beach and back up to Mt. Hood for some hiking, rafting and canoeing. We had gone to movies and walked along the waterfront and all around downtown Portland. We had even tried fishing and panning for gold with our friends from the local clubs. Our mission was to have fun and stay in shape. Mostly we were looking for creative ways to watch Lucie without her feeling like she was being watched. We even went camping with White Eagle and taught Lucie some survival skills. She was a good sport.

Can we get take and bake and have it at your house? Lucie asked as she cleaned her gloves and mouth guard for storage.

I was honestly surprised. Maybe Lucie was in an I need you or an I need to be near you phase. I raised my eyebrows at her.

What? she asked, sounding defensive.

I’m sure we can meet at our house. I’m surprised you would want to. You’ve kinda been... well... My house has not been your favorite place to hang lately. On the weekends your parents went down to Stanford you stayed with Sarah.

"I’m sorry, Owen. You’re right. We end up spending so much time together that I just thought... I don’t know... like I’m intruding or... You deserve to have a separate life. I just miss... Your mom is so nice. Your brothers are cute and friendly and your house always smells... like home. My house smells like... cleaner. No one cooks there; they reheat, if they even eat there at all. If I want to cook, I get fussed at. It’s either, don’t make a mess or your brother can’t eat that. I don’t know if I feel worse for me or for him. I’m so surprised he didn’t go to a school on the east coast. I can only assume that my parents wouldn’t let him. They are so in his business. You know if they split the time equally it would be about right. Instead they ignore me and put it all on him. He’s finally about sick of it. I bet he’s glad knowing that he won’t have to see them every day. Well, at least until Thanksgiving."

If you need cooking smells, you could come to my house, Marlo offered. Marla’s cooking did always smell fantastic. Her cooking was fantastic, thus the catering business. It was also why Marlo used to be... well... wider than he is now. Marlo has become a pretty great cook himself but his focus on healthy eating and working out with us is keeping him slim these days.

Thanks Marlo. I guess Owen’s house is the whole package. It feels right and it smells right. It’s noisy and people are generally happy there. Your house is good too, it’s just not the same. No offense, ‘kay?

"Did I hear pizza?" Adrian asked as he burst into the back room.

White Eagle rolled his eyes. With all the eye rolling, someone was bound to fall over! I guess this means I’m stopping for pizza on the way to your house?

Guess so, I grinned.

Yay! Lucie added, then she turned to hug Marlo and say something to him I couldn’t hear. It was weird but I never felt jealous when Lucie was around Marlo or Adrian. I guess I could almost feel the friend thing they had going. They treated each other like family. As much as I liked Mitchell I hoped that his mentor Emiline would make it through to the end of his training and that he would never have to come here. I wasn’t excited to have him around Lucie. The two of them had struck up a fast friendship that made me uncomfortable. Lucie wouldn’t date me but what about him?

I pulled out my cell and texted my mom. She would love to have us all over and I do mean love. My mom appreciates happy activity. She’s happiest when she knows we’re all safe under her roof. I nodded the all clear to White Eagle and noted that Marlo and Lucie were still talking. Adrian was hanging on the edge of their conversation, clearly welcome but not participating. I felt like an outsider. It hurt but then I guess I was different. I wasn’t just one of the guys anymore – I was truly the leader now. I cleaned off my gear and collected my stuff. Today I would shower at home. I was hungry too.

Lucie bounced over to me, clearly exuberant. I couldn’t help but smile. It was awesome when she looked at me that way.

Guess what? she asked, excitement clear in her tone, but she didn’t wait for me to answer. "Marlo arranged for a meeting with Bettylou McMurtry tomorrow. You know that she ended up dedicating her life to helping other young girls in similar situations. Over the years she has been quite the advocate. Anyway Marlo arranged an interview for the school paper. He’s on the staff this year as a reporter, to keep us out of the paper by the way, but it gives the perfect cover. He’s also part of the journalism club and the club met yesterday and... well you get it," she finished as she ran out of breath.

That’s wonderful news, Lucie. It feels good to move forward doesn’t it?

Yeah, come on, let’s go. I’m starving.

Lucie and I took turns in the shower at my house. I let her go first of course. Maybe I was a gentleman and maybe I just liked to smell her shampoo. We all carried extra clothes around for emergencies. We either needed to change after working out or our adventures got messy. Everyone was eating by the time I got downstairs. I started with a huge glass of milk before I dove into the pizza.

It was a happy gathering. Well, everyone except for my dad. He... tolerated us. He had finally agreed that I had a job to do. He understood, but he hated it and still blamed me for everything that had happened to him leading up to and in Florida. He refused to place the blame where it really belonged – on my grandfather. He did recognize that I had gotten us out of it – with help of course. That was why he accepted our neighbor, Sarah Lando and Earl White Eagle. They had been my help. Ten of us around our table were quite a squeeze, so my dad quickly excused himself. He figured the less he knew about what we did the better.

I zoned out and just enjoyed the simple happiness around the table. Lucie had chosen to sit by me. Sometimes she just needed my presence. This was one of those times. When Lucie was worried or scared she found that being near me helped her find her center of calm. She had once told me that she felt I was like her personal sun. As I slid further from the conversation and it became a senseless buzz, Lucie slid nearer and rested her head on my shoulder like the old days. I felt peace wash over me and I was out.

A burst of laughter woke me up. I looked around startled. Lucie bristled next to me. She was sitting really close in our classic knee to knee and hip to hip pose like the old days, except I was leaning back in my chair and she was leaning forward now. Don’t laugh, she practically snarled, He had a hard day. He had two football practices, walked to the shop, cleaned the shop, went through inventory, ran us through Tai Chi and our karate katas and then worked just with me. He’s beat, give him a break.

Easy, Lucie, it’s okay. We know he works hard. We love him or we wouldn’t pick on him. Look he’s awake and can defend himself, White Eagle soothed.

Lucie’s head spun back to look at me. A blush bloomed on her cheeks. She quickly turned her head back around and let her hair cover her face. I rested a hand on the back of her neck and sat up. What did I miss? I asked the group at large.

Just the planning for our interview tomorrow, Marlo answered.

Luce and Mars are going tomorrow, while we’re at practice, Adrian tossed in. I’m going home to hit the sack. I’m beat too. See you at first practice tomorrow.

Sarah stood with Adrian. I’ll take you. I have some work to finish at home anyway.

Hugs and goodnight wishes were spread around. Marlo took off with Sarah and Adrian but Lucie remained behind. It was unusual for her, but I never turned down Lucie time. White Eagle and Mom herded my brothers back into the kitchen to clean it up, so it was ready for breakfast, leaving us alone in the entryway. The hall light caught on Lucie’s necklace causing it to sparkle. She was wearing her birthday present. What would I give her this year to beat that? Without thinking I reached out to capture the flying bird in my hand. I felt the usual light electric tingle as I touched her skin.

Lucie cleared her throat nervously. I shifted my gaze from her necklace to her face. Her eyes looked into mine, flitted away and came back. She was nervous. I, um, think it’s best if just Marlo and I go tomorrow. I hope you’re not mad. It just worked out that she could see us while you were at practice. Lucie looked at me expectantly.

Lucie, if you think that’s best then I trust you. Surprise flashed through her eyes and then something else.

Well, good, she said. I could tell she wasn’t done. Lucie reached out and touched my arm. I... um... need a favor.

What do you need, Luce? I said in a steady, calm voice. I knew she needed me to be strong and understanding – I could see it in her face and read it in her body language.

I found out from Adrian that you don’t have official practice next week before Friday’s game. So I need you to... I’m having... I need to have my wisdom teeth out. They have to put me under and I need for you to be there. Lucie ended in a rush, like she was afraid I would say no.

No problem, Luce. What day and time?

I know it’s stupid but I’m kinda scared. I’m sorry.

Luce, it’s okay. You don’t have to be brave all the time.

It’s Tuesday at eight in the morning. We’ll pick you up at seven-thirty, okay?

Sure. Now, what aren’t you telling me?

Lucie pressed her lips together like she wanted to hold back the thing she knew she should tell me. You’ll have to wait with... my mom. Please, say you’ll still come. I need you. She won’t... help. She has no patience for me. She’s irritated that I have to have them out. She and my dad are leaving on a business trip the same day. They’ll be gone for about a week. So can I...

Do you want to stay here Luce, so we can take care of you?

She just nodded, like the whole thing exhausted her. She dropped her head, looking at her feet. I reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear and then put my hand under her chin to force her to look at me. Luce, it’s okay. I told you before; I’m always here for you. What would make you think that had changed?

Well, I... never mind, you’re right. You have always been there for me, no matter what. Thank you. I... thank you.

I could tell that she was struggling with what she was feeling and with what she was asking, so I changed the subject. Have you talked to my mom yet?

No, not really.

Let’s go. I took Lucie’s hand and led her into the kitchen.

Mom, warm and gracious as ever, wrapped Lucie in a hug and told her of course we would keep her here. Mom gave me an ugly scowl over Lucie’s shoulder. I knew just what she meant and I agreed fully. Lucie’s parents sucked. She released Luce and we helped finish cleaning up. Why she wasn’t staying with Sarah I didn’t know, but I would not turn her away.

White Eagle pulled Lucie aside and talked to her quietly while I settled my brothers in with a movie and Mom went to talk to my dad. I hoped I wasn’t starting World War III. He didn’t like having Lucie stay with us but he did understand that we needed to keep her safe. I was sure he would cave.

Lucie and White Eagle wandered in and took seats in the living room. Lucas moved right over and snuggled up against Lucie. She was one of his favorite people. Lucie was always patient with my brothers. She wrapped an arm around Lucas and smiled at him. Who picked the movie?

I did, Alex said, smiling at her.

Good choice, my man! It’s one of my favorites.

Alex beamed at her. I knew when I wasn’t wanted so I settled in on the love seat with White Eagle and left Mom’s chair for her. I did it again. The next thing I knew White Eagle was shaking my shoulder. Wake up, Sleeping Beauty, it’s time to take Lucie home.

Oh, White Eagle, don’t wake him up, Lucie pleaded. He looks so peaceful.

It’s okay, I’m up, I mumbled sleepily. I’ll sleep later. I want you safe. Are your folks home?

Yes, Mother. My mom’s home and my dad’s on his way. Relax, would you?

"Yeah sure, Luce. I’ll do that when we get Kraeghton and find out which dark watcher broke into your house awhile back."

Owen, there will just be another one. You know that, right?

White Eagle and I started to speak at the same time. I relented and let him go first. You’re probably right, but let’s not borrow trouble.

Yes, White Eagle.

Lucie looked at me but I shook my head and shrugged. I agreed with White Eagle. I reached for Lucie’s hand but she immediately untwined our fingers. It’s cool tonight, so may I please borrow another of your shirts?

So, you admit you still have the other one? I asked playfully.

I’ll give it back, she said as I turned for the stairs. I swear I heard her add, It doesn’t smell like you anymore anyway.

I turned back around but she was not looking in my direction. Maybe I was just tired. Lucie had kept my shirt since I had wrapped her in it after she nearly drowned in May. At the time she said it made her feel better. I wondered if that was still true as I quietly jogged up the stairs. My parents were softly talking in their room, Lucas was sleeping and Alex was brushing his teeth. I told Alex where we were off to and then I ran downstairs with a hoodie I seldom wore. I found it too warm, but it would be great for Lucie. She put it on. The sleeves were too long and the body came past her hips. The look made me smile, but she seemed happy.

We headed out and loaded up in White Eagle’s truck. He didn’t even ask me to drive. He knew how tired I was. Lucie snuggled up to my side, much as Lucas had done to her. I thought it was kinda strange. She wouldn’t hold my hand, but whatever. My bed was calling and my head was starting to ache. I almost fell asleep again with Lucie curled into my side. Today, our roles felt reversed and she was making me feel better. I was sad a few minutes later when we pulled up in front of her house. I let her out and walked her to her door. She unlocked it and called out to her mother. When she didn’t answer right away, I pushed her behind me and stepped into the entry. I heard a truck door open and knew White Eagle was getting out.

I only made it a few steps when Lucie’s mom peered over the railing. Lucie, I’m working! Oh, hello Owen. Thanks for bringing her home. She turned and was gone.

Well, goodnight Owen. Thank you. Friends, right? Lucie asked as she hugged me quickly.

Yeah, absolutely, I said as I moved out the door. I waited for the sound of the lock, then jogged to the truck. "Who am I kidding?" I mumbled to myself as I loaded up. Being the smart man he was White Eagle said nothing. I thanked him when we pulled into my driveway. I swear I heard him chuckle under his breath. I locked the front door behind me, brushed my teeth and fell into oblivion without even getting undressed.

TWO

Practice was grueling. I kept worrying about Lucie and Marlo. I didn’t know what time they were meeting with Bettylou McMurtry, but I tried to keep my head in the game and the sweat out of my eyes. Adrian was looking really good and I came across as merely mediocre. My dad would hate that, but it did fit in better with my fly under the radar motto. I ate, drank a ton of water and rested between practices and then was right back at it. I returned to practice for the second half and was much more focused once I saw Lucie and Marlo up in the stands.

The coach pulled me aside and gave me the talking to I deserved. He was right; my head wasn’t one hundred percent on football. No, I didn’t want to talk about it, but I would try to do better. He was concerned too because I was taller yet weighed less than I had last year. He wanted me eating more and lifting weights. I told him that I would make an effort to improve myself. He said he expected me in the weight room at least three days next week so I promised I would go. The other two days he wanted me to do some receiver work. I asked if I could double up on Monday because I couldn’t come in on Tuesday. Then he questioned my commitment all over again. I simply said that I had to work but I still wanted to play. He let it go for now, though he was very clear that he had his eye on me. Super.

I was the last one out of the showers. The gang met me at the door to the locker-room and we headed for the pawnshop. As soon as we were clear of people, I had to have the scoop. As Lucie’s mentor it was hard to let her work on this stuff without me, but I knew that it would make her a better watcher if she had to make more decisions on her own.

Lucie told me that it felt really strange to meet in person the Bettylou of today and yet see the shadowy heart-broken,