Remembrance, p.28
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       Remembrance, p.28

         Part #7 of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

  “Which I’ve always given you, Jesse,” I said. “I admit I may not always have told you things as promptly as I should have, but I’ve always told you eventually.”

  “Eventually? You mean years later, in the case of what happened between you and Slater on graduation night. And would I have even found out about your little plan for tonight if David hadn’t called?”

  “Which little plan?”

  His lips twitched cynically. “So many you can’t even keep track! The one involving the bargain you made with Slater.”

  Oh, that plan.

  “I was never actually going to go through with that bargain, Jesse. I was going to use the handcuffs and taser on him that you put in the car for Father Francisco. But then—”

  “Nombre de Dios.” He looked heavenward. “I suppose because I showed up here, you couldn’t. And it’s a good thing that I did. A man like Slater, who has no scruples about using force against a woman, would only have enjoyed—”

  “No. I used those on Delgado. Paul would have figured out what I was up to if I’d brought that bag up to his hotel room. I used the sleeping pills on him instead.”

  Jesse shook his head incredulously. “And did you see how effective they were? He takes pills like those for recreation, Susannah!”

  “I know.” My shoulders sagged. “I guess noncompliant living persons aren’t really my specialty.”

  “I wouldn’t say that. Come here.”

  I’d been studying my shoes. Now I looked up, feeling a twinge of hope. “What?”

  “I said come here. You’re shivering.”

  I took a step toward him, and he peeled off his suit jacket and laid it over my shoulders.

  He might have been angry with me—and part demon—but unlike Paul, who was all human, he was still a gentleman. The heat from his body quickly penetrated mine, warming me all over.

  More than the warmth from his jacket, however, the fresh clean scent of him and the brush of his fingers against my skin reminded me how much I loved him.

  “Oh, Jesse,” I said. “Can we not fight? It’s the worst.”

  He appeared unmoved. “No, Susannah. The worst is hearing that your future wife has volunteered to open a mediator school in her old home for the sole purpose of educating Paul Slater’s daughters.”

  “Jesse, come on. You know that it isn’t what I meant. Not a school. I was thinking of the clinic we’ve always talked about opening. You’ll look after children’s physical well-being, and I’ll look after their mental health. You should see the promo design CeeCee came up with . . .”

  “You can’t open a medical clinic in a residential neighborhood, Susannah.”

  “Oh,” I said. “Well, yeah, you’re probably right. We’ll just have to live there, then.”

  “In the house where I died?”

  “In the house where we fell in love. A house I scored for free, in case you missed that part.”

  Any couple that had spent as much time as we had in a long-distance relationship (not only because we’d been away at different colleges, but because one of us had been undead for a part of the time we’d been together) was bound to fight—us maybe even more than other couples, given our peculiar situation . . .

  But we’d never had a fight like this.

  Resolving conflicts is what I do, however. There are lots of ways to resolve conflicts. Not all of them include weapons.

  At least, not weapons that come in a sports bag.

  And from the heat that I’d seen flare in Jesse’s eyes, I was beginning to get a good idea what kind of weapon would be best used to resolve this conflict. Fortunately, it was one I had in my arsenal. I’d been trying to use it on him, to little avail, for a long, long time.

  Thanks to Paul, I now had a good idea why. It was the last thing he’d set out to do, but Paul had, in trying to split Jesse and me apart, handed me the key to finally bringing us together.

  “Come on.” I reached out to seize him by the belt and was pleased when he allowed me to tug him a few inches toward me. “The best way to resolve this issue is to prove Paul wrong.”

  The eyebrow with the crescent-shaped scar lifted. “In what way?”

  “I think if there’s even the slightest doubt that there’s something wicked still lurking inside you,” I said, pulling him even closer, “we should work on unleashing it. It’s basically my duty as a mediator, in fact.”

  He was now leaning against me, pressing me back against Jake’s car. I could feel the steady drum of his heartbeat through the material of his suit coat, along with the muscles of his thighs against mine. The heat he was giving off made it hard for me to believe there was any part of him at all that might possibly still be in the grave. But you never know.

  His mouth twisted. “Susannah—”

  “Shhh. I’ve been training for this for a long time.” I was still holding on to his belt buckle. “I’m ready to take on this very important mission.”

  “Susannah.” He had a hand on either side of the car, trapping me within his long, muscular arms. “I know you’re joking, but this is serious. You wouldn’t have gone through all this if you didn’t at least partly believe—”

  “I’m not joking, and it doesn’t matter what I believe.” I fiddled with his belt buckle. “What do you believe? If the real reason you’ve put off our making love for so long is fear that it might release something unholy, then I think we have an obligation to find out.” I kept my gaze on his, my fingers locked on his belt buckle. “The truth is, Jesse, I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”

  He looked down at me with dark eyes that were filled with something unreadable.

  “Perhaps,” he said, dropping his hands to my waist, “you’re right.”

  My pulse gave an unsteady lurch.

  “What I prescribe is that we both go back to the Crossing tonight,” I said, my voice suddenly a little hoarse, “and split a bottle of wine, and discuss how disappointing I’ve been, in great detail, in your bedroom. For therapeutic purposes I think we should do this unclothed.”

  His response was the lopsided grin that I’d missed so much—no trace of cynicism in it this time.

  “We could try that,” he said, ducking his head to press a kiss along my throat. “Or we could discuss some of your less disappointing qualities.”

  I feigned shock. “Wait . . . I have some?”

  “I can think of a few.” One of his hands had risen from my waist to linger dangerously close to my left breast.

  “Name one. Let’s see what it unleashes.”

  “Hmmm. Strong-willed?”

  “Not very flattering. Try again.”

  “Witty.”

  “Oh, good.” The hand drifted closer to my breast as his lips traveled closer to my mouth. “How about another?”

  “Beautiful.”

  “I like it. What else?”

  He said something unintelligible. As he’d continued to kiss me—one kiss for each word—I’d felt something through the front of his suit trousers that proved at least one part of him was decidedly not disappointed in me.

  “We could discuss those things, too,” I said as both his hands now cupped my breasts, and his lips pressed hungrily against mine. “I’m open to winging it.”

  “Susannah, Susannah, Susannah,” he whispered after a little while. “Te amo.”

  “Me, too,” I whispered back, slipping my arms around his neck. The best part of fighting was always the making up afterward. “Back at you.”

  He’d just given me one of those long, simmering kisses that, in my experience with him, generally led to even more long, simmering kisses, when the sound of someone clapping caused us both to start and turn around.

  There was no telling how long he’d been standing there beneath the porte cochere, silently eavesdropping. The wind from the ocean was blowing the smoke from the cigar he was smoking in the opposite direction, which was why I hadn’t noticed it. I’m usually more sensitive to those kinds of things.

  “Brilliant,” Paul said, still applauding, the cigar clenched between his teeth. “A stunning tour de force. I haven’t seen a performance that entertaining since . . . well, the porn in my room upstairs.”

 


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  I felt every one of Jesse’s muscles tense. I grasped the shoulders of his jacket beneath my fingers, knowing exactly what was about to happen.

  “Jesse, don’t,” I warned, fear clenching my stomach. “He’s not worth—”

  But it was too late.

  He was on Paul in three strides. The sound of bone thudding against bone was sickening, almost the same sound the rifle butt had made as it connected with Delgado’s skull.

  It’s odd what your consciousness focuses on in moments like that. Mine was seized by the cigar as it went flying from Paul’s mouth into the night air—sending a shower of red sparks after it—only to land on the concrete at my high-heeled feet, followed, a few seconds later, by Paul’s face, in a shower of equally red blood droplets.

  “I warned you,” Jesse said to Paul, breathing heavily as he stepped over his inert body to take me by the arm and steer me away from the carnage. “But you wouldn’t listen.”

  Paul’s only response was a groan as he struggled to sit up.

  “Jesse.” I was completely shocked by the violence of what I’d just witnessed, and I’d witnessed quite a lot of violence that evening. It wasn’t hard for me to believe, in that moment, that Jesse did have a demon within him. He’d just unleashed it on the person he hated most, instead of those he loved. “You didn’t have to—”

  “Yes,” he said in a voice that chilled me with its iciness. “I did.”

  Then he pressed something into my hand. When I looked down to see what it was, I was surprised, in some dim part of my brain, to see the keys to the BMW.

  “Go home.” Jesse was holding on to my shoulders and giving me careful verbal instructions. “Your home. Hurry. It will be better if you leave now.”

  “Why?” I asked stupidly. “Where are you going?”

  “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right. I’ll call you when I can.”

  “Call me? I don’t understand. Where are you going?”

  But then I saw the valets come bursting out from the lobby, speaking rapidly and ex
citedly to Jesse in Spanish, and I heard the siren in the distance, and I saw the slow, evil smile on Paul’s face through all the blood as he sat up.

  Suddenly I understood exactly why Jesse had given me his keys, and knew precisely where he was going.

  All I could do was get into his car and drive home.

  treinta y uno

  David wouldn’t stop apologizing. He sounded like he was crying, practically, over the phone.

  And I was making things worse by saying all the wrong things.

  “Well, it’s true Jesse probably never would have gotten arrested for assaulting Paul Slater if it weren’t for you spilling the beans about the curse to him,” I said. “Which just goes to show some things really are better kept secret.”

  “I’m so sorry, Suze! I was just really worried. When you didn’t return any of my messages—”

  “Oh, my God, David, I was kidding.” I hadn’t been kidding, actually, but after the day I’d had, I was too tired to think before I spoke.

  I grabbed a beer and a carrot from the fridge, dropped the carrot into Romeo’s cage, then went to sit by Gina on my futon couch. I’d found her watching television when I got home, though she’d muted the show, deciding my phone calls were more interesting than her recorded episodes of The Bachelor.

  “He’s only going to have to spend one night in jail,” I assured David. There, that sounded better. “At least according to his lawyer.”

  This failed to reassure David, however.

  Jake had already contacted one of his high-powered attorneys (when you’re in a business like my oldest stepbrother’s, you keep legal counsel on retainer. I tried not to feel nervous that Jake called his “DUI Guy”) and sent him down to the jail to ensure that Dr. Hector de Silva received the finest possible treatment until his arraignment (which wasn’t scheduled until early tomorrow morning).

  The Monterey County Jail was actually supposed to be one of the better correctional facilities in the state—not that any of them were that great—so Jesse had lucked out in that regard. Like so many buildings in Northern California, it was on the National Registry of Historic Places. Cesar Chavez had been imprisoned there during the Salinas Valley lettuce boycott. Both Brad and Jake had spent time in what some referred to as “The Bay Area’s Most Affordable B and B” for various small scuffles and infractions.

  “Jake says the food leaves something to be desired,” I told David over the phone. “But you get to meet a lot of interesting people.”

  “This isn’t making me feel better, Suze,” David said. “What about Jesse’s job? Is he going to lose it?”

  I tried not to allow the unease I felt about this show in my voice. “I’m sure he’ll be able to keep his job. Everyone at the hospital loves Jesse. And this whole thing was just a misunderstanding that happened while Jesse was off-duty. The charges against him are being dropped.” I swigged from my beer. “Everything’s going to be fine. You’ll see.”

  “How did you accomplish that?”

  “Let’s just say Paul was more than happy to cooperate.”

  Paul’s actual response—or I should say, responses—to my text telling him that he’d better drop the charges, or I’d tell the Mercedes King the truth about him and Debbie, had been less gracious than that.

  El Diablo Fine. But I want you to know that animal cracked my jaw in two places.

  NOV 19 12:40 AM

  El Diablo And now you’ve seen it with your own eyes, Simon. He’s not the saintly good doctor he pretends to be. There’s a devil inside him.

  NOV 19 12:41 AM

  El Diablo When you need to be rescued from him, call me. I MIGHT come get you.

  NOV 19 12:42 AM

  El Diablo But probably I’ll just let him crack YOUR jaw so you can see what this feels like.

  NOV 19 12:43 AM

  Harsh. But very Paul-like. I thought it was interesting that he considered Jesse the devil when it was very clear to me, between the two of them, who was the real prince of darkness.

  Of course I didn’t share the details of Paul’s texts with David, but what little I did say alarmed him anyway.

  “Suze! Isn’t that intimidating a victim? You could get in trouble.”

  I had a nice laugh at the idea of Paul being a victim, though truthfully I wasn’t finding anything about the situation too funny.

  “David, you have no idea of the stuff I’ve done this week alone that I could get in way worse trouble for.”

  “Well, what about the house? And the curse? I’ve been talking to Shahbaz—we’ve met a couple times, actually—and it really doesn’t look like there’s any way to break it. At least, not any way written about in ancient Near East culture. I’ve read about a few Wiccan curse removal practices that you could try, though. I know Father Dominic wouldn’t approve, but—”

  “David,” I said, pausing with my beer midway to my lips. “You haven’t told this Shahbaz guy anything about my gift, have you?”

  “No,” David said, in a voice that sounded so guilt-stricken I knew he was lying. “Well, not in so many words. But I think he’d understand if I did. He’s actually very astute, and he’s really concerned about our old house being torn down. He understands how unsettling it might be for someone to see their childhood home destroyed to make way for a subdivision, regardless of whether or not there’s a curse involved.”

  “Aw,” I said, touched by the wistful note in David’s voice. “That’s really sweet of him. But I think the house is going to be saved.”

  “Really? How?” David was so surprised his voice cracked.

  No way was I going to tell David about Paul being the true father of his nieces—especially if he was that upset about the house—so I said only, “It looks like the demo plans have been delayed. So we’ve got time to work on some alternative strategies.”

  “How did you manage that, Suze?”

  “David, it’s really late here, so it must be even later there. Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

  “I told you before, Suze, I’m not a child anymore. I want to help!”

  “I think you’ve helped enough,” I said. “And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Really, David, I don’t know what I’d do without you. But I’ve got to go to bed. Good night.” I hung up before he could say another word.

  “God.” Gina passed me the bowl of buttered popcorn that had been sitting on her lap. “It sounds like you’ve had a spectacularly shitty night.”

  “Tell me about it.” I shoved a handful of popcorn into my mouth. It tasted like salty ash, but that was due to the day’s events, not Gina’s popping skills. “I just need to decompress for, like, an hour.”

  “Fine.” She lifted the remote. “What do you want to watch?”

  “Anything but The Bachelor. I’ve had enough of bachelors for one night.”

  “Your wish is my command.” She aimed the remote at the screen and flicked through the channel guide. “Uh, looks like our only palatable choices are your favorite, Ghost Mediator, or one of those budget bridal gown shows.”

  “Good God. Budget bridal gowns, please.”

  She grinned. “I thought so. Budget bridal gowns it is.”

  We watched until we fell asleep—well, one of us, anyway. I got up quietly so as not to disturb her, then padded to my bed . . .

  . . .but was still wide awake an hour later, unable to get one image out of my mind:

  Stop. Wait. Don’t.

  There was a lot of blame to go around for the evening’s events, but Jimmy Delgado’s death was squarely on me. That was one soul I’d failed to save . . . not that it had been a soul worth saving.

  Jesse, though. What was he doing now? Was he, too, lying awake in his cell, thinking of me? Was he warm enough? What if he didn’t have a blanket? Was he getting along with the other prisoners? What if Paul did not, in fact, drop the charges like he said he was going to? Could I really tell anyone the truth about the triplets?

 
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