Read Surrender Online

Authors: Lee Nichols

Surrender (9 page)

He laughed and struck me right in the chest with a snowball.

“Ow!”
That's it!
I told him. And I compelled him to keep his hands glued to his sides.

Coby glared at me.
Emma! Who's the cheater now?

I grinned.
What we girls lack in physical strength, we make up for with other talents
. Except I spoke too soon. Because with me distracted by Coby, Harry and Lukas
were down to two-on-two and finally able to beat the others.

Harry shouted something about how beauty always triumphs over brawn, then tackled Sara into a snowbank. Then Lukas did the same thing to Natalie, only he was gentler and less brotherly about it.

Feeling a little left out, I removed my “precious” from my neck and slipped it onto my finger. When I turned into a ghost, I took a big jump and landed sloppily next to Coby on the stone wall.

You're not getting any better at that
, he said.

No
, I admitted. I didn't say more, because when I wore Emma's ring, I sometimes got distracted by her memories and confused about how I really felt about things. Still, I laughed as I watched my friends playing in the snow, then glanced out over the harbor, just visible between the houses and leafless trees. I felt an intense love for the village across the way; I didn't know if it was Emma's feeling about Echo Point or my own.

I held Coby's hand, and while it didn't feel the same as it would if he weren't a ghost, it was better than not touching, or getting burned. I'd made the right choice, staying here instead of going to New York with my parents and Bennett. All I knew was that I was happy here.

And I wanted that happiness to last. Which meant finding the ghost who looked like Rachel, not having snowball fights with my friends.

What's wrong?
Coby asked.

I saw a ghost
, I told him.
She looked like my aunt, but I'm afraid she's something else. Maybe one of Neos's creatures, like the siren. And I think she's the key to whatever he has planned next
.

Coby squeezed my hand.
I'll help you find her
.

I squeezed back.
I was hoping you'd say that
.

Oh, and I've been meaning to give you something
.

What?
I asked.

This
, he said, and tackled me from the stone wall into a wet pile of snow.

The next day, Coby and I followed Harry's break-in instructions to the letter and spent the afternoon wandering Thatcher's grounds. We'd split the school in half, and I was checking classrooms, lounges, and the cafeteria, while he hit the libraries and the old servants' quarters.

As I passed through the front hall, I noticed the giant silk floral arrangement someone had donated. Harry had mentioned it when he told us how to switch off the alarm. “That new huge ugly bouquet? I could do something with that.” There had been an evil glint in his eye as he planned his next prank. But as I took in the fake gladiolas and long-stemmed roses, I couldn't figure out what he'd do. Although, the black vase did look big enough to hold a few baby pigs—a bouquet of pigs. I smiled at the idea.

It was my first and last smile of the day, because even though I felt the traces of ghosts extending back for centuries, I didn't find any who resembled Rachel. I did,
however, manage to summon the ghost jocks as I entered the gym. Actually, it looked more like they'd been waiting for me. They were playing one-on-one, and as I stepped onto the court, Craven bounced the basketball off my head.

“Ow!”

Score!
Moorehead called.

Gah!
I rubbed my forehead.
Can't you guys
ever
give me a break?

You want to break?
Craven threw himself to the ground and spun around on his back, while Moorehead performed the robot.

You
so
died in the '80s
, I told them. I don't know if it was them or the ball, but I was getting a headache. Or maybe I'd been concentrating too hard on summoning.
Have either of you seen a ghost that doesn't belong here? A woman or something else? I don't know, anything out of the ordinary?

Well, this emo ghostkeeper chick has been stalking us
, Craven said, eyeing me meaningfully.

I'm not emo! How do you even know the word? Shouldn't you say, like, “groovy” or “far out” or something?

Coby entered behind me, saying,
Nothing in the staff room
. He caught sight of the ghost jocks.
Hey, what's up?

Your girlfriend's angst is up
, Craven said.

Moorehead nodded.
And the stick
.

Which stick is that?
Craven asked, with exaggerated politeness.

The one that's up her—

O-kay!
I kicked the basketball at Moorehead, adding a
little compelling force so he'd feel it when it smacked him in the chest, and stalked away.

Coby followed, looking amused, but he didn't say anything as we continued searching, checking the locker rooms, teachers' lounge, and maintenance room. We stopped periodically as I tried to summon the Rachel-looking ghost, but I couldn't feel her in the Beyond.

She's probably hiding
, Coby said, as we stepped back into the main hall.
There are some pretty remote places in the Beyond
.

Maybe
, I said, crossing toward the door.
Or maybe I only imagined her in the first place
.

Coby, as always, knew exactly what I was thinking.
You don't believe that
.

No. But what am I supposed to do? I can't summon her, so that's that
.

What about the ring?
he asked.
Why can't you use that to go into the Beyond?

Because I don't know how. Maybe Simon could … wait
. I thought about how Simon realized we could reverse-engineer our powers.
What if instead of trying to summon her, I send something to her?

What? Some kind of message?
Coby asked.

Yeah
. I closed my eyes, concentrating on my summoning powers, pulling them forth until I could feel a glowing ball in my chest. I infused the ball with a demand, part communication and part compelling force—
come to me
. Then I thought of Rachel, as I'd first seen her at the Knell and as the ghost that appeared outside my window, and
instead of pulling that ghost from the Beyond toward me, I pushed the ball of power into the Beyond, toward her.

I was breathing heavily and felt a little faint when I'd finished.

I hope that works
, I told Coby, because I didn't know what else to do.

6

I always thought if I had a boyfriend on New Year's Eve, then it wouldn't suck. It wouldn't matter that I didn't have the perfect party to go to, or the right outfit, or that my parents wanted me home
before
midnight. So here I was, finally with a boyfriend on New Year's Eve—only he wasn't here, so it still kind of sucked. Plus, I'd spent a totally frustrating day trying to find a ghost that maybe didn't exist, and got no closer to Neos.

On the other hand, I did have a perfect bash to go to—at Harry's house. And Sara was loaning me something to wear, and the Sterns said we didn't have to be home until 1:00. So maybe I could forget about Neos for one night. And just because Bennett wasn't here didn't mean I couldn't have fun without him.

So Lukas, Natalie, and I got ready to leave the house around 9:00 p.m., just as the Sterns were heading upstairs to bed.

“Emma,” Mr. Stern said from the top of the stairs. “I know all about the Armitage boy's parties. Bennett was involved with his sister.”

“Uh-huh.” Was there a point in there, other than reminding me about Bennett's ex-girlfriend, who they probably liked a lot better than me?

“We're counting on you not to drink and drive,” Mrs. Stern explained. She tended to be less opaque than Mr. Stern.

“Oh, of course not!” I widened my eyes and lied through my teeth. “I'm not even sure there's going to be alcohol. Or anything else.”

Mr. Stern raised an eyebrow, clearly not buying the wide-eyed expression. It didn't help that Natalie and Lukas were snorting behind me.

“Well,” I said, “Harry's not drinking, so I won't, either.”

“Thank you, Emma,” Mrs. Stern said, though they both stood there looking hesitant to let us go.

“No problem.” And I roughly shoved Natalie and Lukas out the front door before the Sterns could change their minds.

“Do you think this is Simon's idea of a joke?” Natalie asked as we piled into the electric blue Yaris.

“Maybe.” I got behind the wheel. Simon knew we were embarrassed to be seen in this ridiculous car by other Thatcher kids. So, of course, he'd left it for us.
“Either that, or he meant it as a life lesson. Probably a little of both.”

“Hey, stop complaining.” Lukas cranked the stereo. “At least now we can listen to our own tunes.”

We wound through Echo Point's narrow village streets, then took the left on Ocean that led to the Neck, the even swankier part of town. Harry's driveway was already over-flowing, so we parked in front of someone else's castle and walked the two blocks back. Inside we found Harry and Sara at the espresso machine.

“I love your coat,” Sara said when she spotted me. “Very Gwen Stefani.”

“Thanks.” I removed it to show her the black dress, short and tight with a high neck and three-quarter sleeves. “And the dress?”

“Very Sara Watson.” Because it belonged to her. She was wearing a long glittery burgundy top over black leggings and chunky heels.

“Except the boots,” Harry interjected. “I still say you're hiding cankles.”

Sara rolled her eyes. “Harry.”

“Do I need to prove it to you?” I stepped out of my boots and kicked one tight-clad leg at Harry.

He grabbed my foot and examined my ankle. “Finely turned,” he admitted.

“Thank you.”

“Pity about your toes.”

“What?” I pulled my foot from his hand, then noticed the glint in his eyes. “Oh, shut up. I'm not falling for it.”

“I'm surprised you don't fall more often with toes like that,” he mused.

I slipped my foot back into my boot, the better to kick him with. “Harry—”

Sara cut in. “Isn't Harry looking better?”

“For a demon,” I muttered.

But it was true. He'd gained some weight since rehab and looked almost European in his diagonally knit gray sweater and narrow-legged black pants.

“Shall I tell you the secret of my restored health?” he asked. “Stop pouring the liter of vodka into your body every day, and you'll stop looking like death.”

“Speaking of death,” Sara said, “Coby's not here, is he? I can usually tell.”

“Not yet,” I said, glancing around.

The kitchen was as big as most living rooms, with a Sub-Zero fridge, huge Aga range, and a rustic kitchen table that sat eight. The keg stood behind the island, with a couple of football players manning the pump.

“Are you joining us or them?” Harry nodded toward Lukas and Natalie, standing in line for the keg.

Even from across the room I could tell Natalie was flirting, her head tilted toward Lukas, a naughty glint in her eyes. Lukas had dressed up—for him, anyway—in a black long-sleeved polo and jeans, and Natalie wore a tight, dark-purple silk T-shirt with a cool chunky necklace over a black miniskirt and her leopard-print flats. Though I worried about them being together, I had to admit they'd make a gorgeous couple.

“We got you chai mix,” Sara told me. Her back was to Natalie and Lukas, as though she was trying to ignore the flirting.

“You did? That's sweet. But you know what? I want to see how many espressos I can do.”

“I can drink you under the table any day.” Harry grinned and handed me a shot.

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