Now that they were all here, standing in front of the gate of what looked to be a fairly expansive mansion in the dark, Chloe realized exactly how wrong she might have been.
“You can still go back,” Valentina encouraged.
Chloe straightened her spine. “No. We’re here. We might as well see what they want.”
Because it didn’t matter whether Chloe left or not. Alek, Jasmine, and Valentina were still going inside. This was Chloe’s fault and she wasn’t going to let them fight her battles for her.
She pushed the buzzer and waited. Nothing happened for a second, then the gate swung open silently. Chloe’s heart thundered in her ears and she felt Alek’s hand brush across her wrist.
She lifted her chin and marched inside. She was right about this guy and she knew it.
The door to the house swung opened when they reached the threshold, Xander Harris grinning happily at her from the other side.
Chloe knew she was grinning a bit stupidly as he stepped back to let them enter, but she couldn’t help it. Her empathy really, really
liked this guy and he was just so warm and happy. She stepped into the house, Alek close on her heels, and Chloe felt this sense of safety that she’d only ever felt with her mom wrap around her; all the tension fled her body. Any house that really, truly felt
like safety couldn’t be the home of mass murders. Never mind that houses weren’t supposed to be able to feel anything.
“Mr. Harris?” Valentina said and startled Chloe out of her good vibrations-induced trance.
“Sorry,” he said and honestly seemed to mean it. “The house can kind of be overwhelming for the psychically gifted. If I’d known, I’d have warned her.”
“I’m fine,” Chloe said, trying to blink the molasses out of her brain.
Alek wrapped his hand around her wrist and she felt a little better as Mr. Harris bent to look her in the eye. “Just focus on something else,” he said, smiling a little. “I know teenagers are a mass of hormones and emotions but focus on something besides what you’re feeling.”
So Chloe focused on Alek’s fingers against her wrist and, because it was familiar, his heartbeat, which skipped a beat when she looked up at him. Her head cleared and she blinked and looked back at Mr. Harris, who nodded, straightening to his full height.
Whatever he would have said was cut off by a feminine giggle and Mr. Harris’s happiness ramped up. A leggy brunette wearing Chloe’s blue dress hurried into the room, the swishy skirt swirling around her legs as she flung herself at Mr. Harris. Paul gurgled at the pretty girl and Chloe was pretty sure Amy instantly hated her.
Then the girl turned sparkling blue eyes on Chloe and the happiness in the room ramped up to eleven. “Hi,” she chirped, thrusting out a hand in Chloe’s direction. “I didn’t realize we were having guests.”
“This is Chloe,” Mr. Harris said, one arm still looped around the girl’s waist. He felt…content. Happy, too, but mostly content. “Chloe, this is Dawn, the birthday girl.” He leaned into them a little and faux whispered, “You’re crashing her birthday party.”
And it clicked. The special dress for a special girl and Dawn in the blue dress… “Crap,” Chloe blurted, taking a step back. “We can go.”
Dawn laughed, shaking her head. “Don’t. It’s not a party unless something’s going weird. And I prefer pleasant unexpected guest to not so pleasant ones.”
Chloe thought everything was going to be alright until Alek’s hand tightened hard enough to bruise around her wrist. She looked up at him and knew something had gone terribly wrong.