I MUST SAY, I THINK I RATHER LIKE THIS SLEEPING arrangement.”
I didn’t think I would ever tire of hearing Noah’s voice in the nether darkness of my bedroom. The weight of him in my bed was unfamiliar and thrilling. He leaned against two of my pillows and had me curled into his side, sharing my blanket. My head rested on his shoulder, my cheek on his chest. His heartbeat was steady. Mine was insane. I think I knew that it wasn’t safe for him here. With me. But I couldn’t bring myself to pull away.
“How did you work this out, anyway?” I still hadn’t left my room or seen my mother since she’d been in to check on me earlier that afternoon, before Noah’s confession. Before my confession. I wondered how we were getting away with this.
“Well, technically, I’m sleeping in Daniel’s room right now.”
“As we speak,” Noah said, curving his arm around my back. It rested just below the hem of my shirt. “Your mother didn’t want me driving home so late.”
“That’s a good question.”
I leaned up to see his face. It was thoughtful, serious, as he stared at my ceiling. “Whether you’ll be here tomorrow?” I kept my voice even. I knew by now that Noah didn’t play games. That if he was going to leave, he would leave, and be honest about it. But I hoped that wasn’t what he was going to say.
He smiled softly. “What happens to us tomorrow. Now that we know we’re not insane.”
It was the ultimate question, one that haunted me since last week, since I remembered. What was next? Was I supposed to do something with it? Try to ignore it? Try to stop it? Did I even have a choice? It was too much to deal with. My heart beat wildly in my chest.
“What are you thinking?” Noah shifted on to his side and tightened his grip on my back, pressing me into him, aligning us perfectly.
“What?” I whispered as my thoughts dissolved.
Noah shifted closer and tilted his head as if he was going to whisper something to me. His nose skimmed my jaw instead, until his lips found the hollow beneath my ear.
“Your heart started racing,” he said, tracing the line of my neck to my collarbone with his lips.
“I don’t remember,” I said, consumed now with the feel of Noah’s hand through the thin fabric of my pants. He slid his hand up behind my knee. My thigh. He tilted his face up to look at me, a wicked smile on his lips.
“Mara, if you’re tired, I can hear it. If you’re hurt, I can feel it. And if you lie, I will know it.”
I closed my eyes, just now beginning to fully realize what Noah’s ability meant. Every reaction I had—every reaction I had to him—he would know. And not just mine— everyone’s.
“I love not having to hide it from you,” Noah said, hooking his finger under the collar of my shirt. He pulled the fabric to the side and kissed the bare skin of my shoulder.
I pushed him back slightly so I could see his face. “How do you deal with it?”
He looked confused.
“Hearing and feeling everyone’s physical reactions around you constantly. Don’t you go crazy?”
If he didn’t, I certainly would, knowing that as long as I was near him, I had no secrets.
Noah’s eyebrows drew together. “It just becomes background noise, mostly. Until I focus on one person in particular.” His finger grazed my knee, and he drew it up the side of my leg, over my hip, and my pulse raced in response.
I smiled. “Stop it,” I said, and pushed his hand away. He grinned broadly. “You were saying?”
“I can hear everything—everyone—but I can’t feel them. Only the four I told you about, and only when they—you— were injured. You were the first one I met, actually, then Joseph. I saw you, where you were, and felt a reflection, I think, of what you both were feeling.”
“But there are a lot of injured people out there.” I stared at him. “Why us?
“I don’t know.”
“What are we going to do?”
A smile turned up the corner of Noah’s mouth as he traced mine with his thumb. “I can think of a few things.”
I grinned. “That won’t help me,” I said. And as I said it, a wave of déjà vu rolled through me. I saw myself clenching a glass bottle in a dusty shop in Little Havana.
“I’m confused,” I said to Mr. Lukumi. “I need help.”
“That won’t help you,” he said, looking at my fist.
But he had helped me remember then.
Maybe he could help me now.
I was on my feet in an instant. “We have to go back to the botanica,” I said, darting to my dresser.
Noah gave me a sideways glance. “It’s well after midnight. There won’t be anyone there now.” His eyes studied mine. “And anyway, are you even sure you want to go back? That priest wasn’t particularly pleasant the first time around.”
I remembered Mr. Lukumi’s face, the way he seemed to know me, and grew frantic.
“Noah,” I said, rounding on him. “He knows. That man— the priest—he knows about me. He knows. That’s why what he did worked.”
Noah raised an eyebrow. “But you said it didn’t work.”
“I was wrong.” My voice sounded strange, and the quiet room swallowed my words. “We have to go back there.” Gooseflesh pebbled my arms.
Noah came over to where I stood, pulled me close, and stroked my hair until my breathing slowed, watching my eyes as I calmed down. My arms hung limp at my sides.
“Isn’t it possible that you would have remembered that night anyway?” he asked quietly.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “If you have a better idea, let’s hear it.”
Noah took my hand and laced his fingers in mine. “All right,” he said, as he led me back to bed. “You win.”
But it felt, somehow, like I had already lost.