Hunter took a deep breath. “Forest, I need to ask you something.”
Forest was dragged out of a complicated calculation about the expected return and feasibility of moving into a new method of black market distribution. “Huh? Sure.”
“I don’t know how to say this,” Hunter began awkwardly, “but I’ve been doing some reading at the spiritualist shop. I know you’re into some serious stuff.”
Forest started to think of how he could deny any accusation of wrongdoing. Better to let Hunter play his hand. He shrugged and smiled. “I try to keep my hands in a lot of stuff.”
“You might be the only person who can help,” Hunter said.
Forest was stunned. Help? This wasn’t where he expected the conversation to go at all. “Tell me,” he said.
“There’s this girl. Eliana. She was behind us in high school. I went over to see her last night, and…”
Out poured the description of the frightening stranger and Eliana’s contradictory behavior. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m sure it’s something supernatural. I can’t describe what it was like to be around this guy, and his eyes–“
Forest knew those eyes. Hunter didn’t need to describe them. “I’ll do what I can,” Forest said quickly.
“Thank you,” Hunter said breathlessly. “I know you’re involved in some stuff you don’t want to talk about, but do you have any idea what happened there? Is Eliana in any danger?”
Forest offered up his best comforting smile. “I’ll see what I can find out,” he said, “but you shouldn’t let yourself worry too much. She’s probably OK.”
Hunter nodded. “Let me know if you learn anything.”
“Sure,” Forest said. “Thanks.”
“For what?” Hunter asked, perplexed.
Forest kept his face unreadable. “For coming to me.”
“You’re my brother, Forest,” Hunter replied. “I trust you.”
When Hunter had gone, Forest sat back to think.
So Hunter was sweet on Eliana Baerwyn, Sean Flynn’s new personal assistant.
Flynn had hired Eliana last month, and it was obvious there was some kind of back room dealing going on, though Forest didn’t know what it was. Eliana’s father, Robbin Baerwyn, had turned up on business expenses on a regular basis. He and Flynn had some kind of pay-for-favors thing going on. But whatever deal had involved Eliana was much bigger. Now Valerie Ursine-Mentary, one of Flynn’s high-ranked minions, was meeting with Robbin regularly.
All of this would be none of Forest’s business, except for Hunter.
The next day was Snowflake Day. With a hungry baby living with them, half the household was up at dawn to the sun rise over the glittering snow. Not a bad day for a holiday.
There were citizens to protect, small creatures to hunt, and newspapers to destroy.
The whole Sample family, human and canine, packed themselves up for a day at Avalon Festival Grounds. Ghostwriter planned a holiday performance that was not to be missed.
Forest listened with half an ear. He was still mulling the problem of Hunter over in his mind.
“Adam!” she said. “I heard you were going to perform today. I can’t wait to hear you play!”
Oh. That’s why she was here. Forest should have guessed.
Forest stepped back silently as his rival drew near.
“If it was complicated, YOU made it that way!” Adam shouted. “You were everything to me, and I never even got to find out what drove you away. If you wanted to talk, you missed your chance!”
“Adam, I…” Ali almost whispered.
“I came here to make music,” Adam said. “Maybe you should go home.”
It gave him a lot of time to think, mostly about love — the joy and pain and ecstasy that it caused, the sacrifices one felt compelled to make for it.
When he looked at Ali, he felt like his heart would explode. If he never had her again, at least she had once belonged to him, and he would never forget.
And Adam. It was for this imperceptive fool that Ali had broken Forest’s spell. If Adam continued to fail to appreciate Ali now that she was free, did Forest have an opening to lure her back of her own free will? So many variables.
At the other end of the festival grounds, there was more for Forest to consider.
For Hunter and Eliana, the rest of the world might as well not exist. They were so unconsciously beautiful together. And they might not know it themselves, but they were already deeply in love.
Forest shoved his hands into his pockets. He knew what he had to do. He made quick goodbyes to his family and headed home to prepare.
Wow, when Adam walked onto the lot, Ali tried to talk to him, and he immediately started shouting at her. He even slapped her! I was so taken by surprise that I was only able to get a snap of the head-spinny aftermath.
That is one raw, heartbroken boy.