The Nightmare Dilemma Page 102

I smirked. ’’That might be reason enough for me to stay away forever.’’ He only grinned wider. I rolled my eyes at him, and then turned and hugged Selene. ’’See you soon. Write me lots, okay? I want to hear about your flying practices and stuff.’’

Selene laughed. ’’I\ll write you entire novels about it. And you better write, too, and send me lots of pictures.’’

’’I will.’’ I pulled back from her and moved on. Lady Elaine stood next to her, and we exchanged a quick and cordial good-bye.

’’Be sure to let your mother know if there\s anything strange with this.’’ She touched the silver band on my wrist.

I nodded, pulling my wrist away from her instinctively.

Then I walked on, coming to a stop in front of Sheriff Brackenberry. I hadn\ expected him to be here at all, but he explained his presence right away.

’’Thought you might want this.’’ He handed me a slip of paper.

I opened it and saw an unfamiliar e-mail address. I looked up at the sheriff, waiting for an explanation.

’’Don\ lose it, and don\ share it,’’ Brackenberry said. ’’But I\m sure he\d like to hear from you even if he\s not allowed to write back.’’

I swallowed as understanding dawned inside of me. He was talking about Paul. I refolded the paper and slid it into the front pocket of my jeans.

I hugged my dad good-bye next. He kissed me on the top of the head. ’’I sent your mother an entire list of all the historical sites you must visit while you\ e there. Make sure she follows it.’’

I smiled at the fierce expression on his freckled face. It would\ve been more effective minus the glasses and the tweed jacket with patches on the sleeves. There was nothing very frightening about a geeky college professor.

I reached out, and ruffled his hair. ’’You need a haircut.’’

He smiled. ’’So do you.’’

Then he kissed my head again, and I moved on to the last person in line.

The sight of Eli standing there, waiting to say good-bye to me, made my muscles feel weak. I stopped in front of him, unsure of what to do or say.

’’Well, have a good trip,’’ he said. He had his hands buried in his front pockets, making it clear that he had no intention of hugging me good-bye.

I gulped, fighting to keep my voice level. ’’Thanks. And you have a good summer.’’

’’I will.’’

I knew I should move on, but I couldn\ make my feet move.

’’We need to board soon,’’ my mother called from where she stood near the security gate.

I nodded at her, then looked back at Eli. ’’See you,’’ I said. I turned and started walking toward my mother.

’’Dusty,’’ Eli called, that familiar desperate longing in his voice.

The sound of it went right through me, and I slid the strap of my carry-on off my shoulder and let it fall to the ground. Then I spun around and came back to Eli, moving fast before I lost my nerve. I put my hands on the side of his head, even as his slid around my waist. Then I kissed him. Right there in full view of my mother and Lady Elaine. Everyone. I kissed him like it was the last time I ever would. And he kissed me, too, holding me as if he feared I would vanish any second.

Finally, Eli pulled away but only far enough to whisper in my ear, ’’I\ll be here when you get back.’’

’’I\ll hurry.’’

Then I turned and headed toward the security gate, my heart both heavy with the knowledge of the long weeks ahead, but also light with the surety of what waited when I returned.

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