For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница

calling—both with voice and telepathy—“Damon, mon poussinet, do you not want

to come in with your comrades?”

There was a long pause, and then the doors opened and a very sullen Damon

stepped in. He wouldn’t reply to Sage’s friendly, “Bienvenue,” instead saying, “I

didn’t come here to socialize. I want to see the treasures in time to save Fell’s

Church. I haven’t forgotten about the damned hick town, even if everyone else

has.”

“Alors maintenant,” Sage said, looking wounded. “You have all passed the tests

in your way and may look upon the treasures. You may even use For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница magic again,

although I am not sure that it will help you. It all depends upon which treasure you

seek. Félicitations!”

Everyone but Damon made some gesture of embarrassment.

“Now,” Sage continued, “I must show each gate to you before you can pick. I will

try to be quick, but be cautious, s’il vous plaît. Once you choose a treasure, that is

the only door that will open again for any of you.”

Elena found herself clutching at Stefan’s hand—which was already reaching for

hers—as one by one the doors shone with a faint, silvery light.

“Behind you For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница,” said Sage, “is the very gate you entered to get into this room, yes?

But next to it, ah…” A door brightened to show an impossible cavern. Impossible

because of the gems lying on the ground or sticking out of the cave walls. Rubies,

diamonds, emeralds, amethysts…each one as big as Elena’s fist, lying thick in

great piles for the taking.

“It’s beautiful, but…no, of course!” she said firmly, and reached out to put a hand

on Bonnie’s shoulder.

The next door lit up, brightened, then brightened more so that it seemed to

disappear. “And here For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница,” Sage sighed, “is the famous kitsune paradise.”

Elena could feel her eyes widen. It was a sunny day in the most beautiful park

she had ever seen. In the background a little waterfall spilled into a creek, which ran

down a green hill, while directly in front of her was a stone bench, just the size for

two, underneath a tree that looked like a cherry in full bloom.

Blossoms were flying in a breeze that rustled other cherry and peach trees

nearby—causing a rain of dawn-colored petals. Although Elena had only seen the

place for a moment, it already seemed familiar to For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница her. She could just walk into it…

“No, Stefan!” She had to touch his arm. He had been walking right into the

garden.

“What?” he said, shaking his head like someone in a dream. “I don’t know what

happened. It just seemed as if I were going to an old, old home…” His voice broke

off. “Sage, go on, please!”

The next door was already lighting, showing a scene with rack after rack of

Clarion Loess Black Magic wine. In the distance, Elena could make out a vineyard

with lush grapes hanging heavily, fruit that would never see the light of the sun until

it was For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница made into a famous liquid.

Everyone was already sipping at their glasses of Black Magic, so it was easy to

say “no” even to the luscious grapes.

As the next door brightened Elena heard herself gasp. It was brilliant midday.

Growing in a field as far as she could see were tall bushes thick with long-stemmed

roses—the blossoms of which were a velvety-looking black.

Startled, she saw that everyone was looking at Damon, who had taken a step

toward the roses as if involuntarily. Stefan put an arm out, barring his way.

“I didn’t look very closely For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница,” Damon said, “but I think these are the same as the

one I…destroyed.”

Elena turned to Sage. “They’re the same, aren’t they?”

“But yes,” Sage said, looking unhappy. “These are all Midnight roses, noir pur—

the sort in the white kitsune’s bouquet. But these are all blanks. The kitsune are the

only ones who can put spells on them—like the removal of the curse of a vampire.”

There was a general sigh of disappointment among his listeners, but Damon just

looked more sullen. Elena was about to speak up, to say that Stefan shouldn’t be

put through this For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница, when she tuned in to Sage’s words and the next gate, and felt a

surge of simple, selfish longing herself.



“I suppose you would call it ‘La Fontaine of Eternal Youth and Life,’” Sage said.

Elena could see an ornate fountain playing, the effervescent spray at the top

making a rainbow. Small butterflies of all colors flew around it, alighting on the

leaves of the bower that cradled it in greenery.

Meredith, with her cool head and straightforward logic wasn’t there, so Elena dug

her nails into her palms and cried “No! Next one!” as quickly and forcefully as For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница she

could.

Sage was speaking again. She made herself listen. “The Royal Radhika Flower,

which legends say was stolen from the Celestial Court many millennia ago. It

changes shape.”

A simple enough thing to say…but actually to see it…

Elena watched in astonishment as a dozen or so thick, twining stems, topped by

gorgeous white calla lily blossoms, trembled slightly. The next instant she was

looking at a cluster of violets with velvet leaves and a drop of dew shining on a

petal. A moment later, the stems were topped with radiant mauve snapdragons—

with the dewdrop still in place. Before she could For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница remember not to reach out and

touch them, the snapdragons had become deep, fully open red roses. When the

roses became some exotic golden flower that Elena had never seen, she had to

turn her back.

She found herself bumping into a hard, masculine, bare chest while forcing

herself to think realistically. Midnight was coming—and not in the form of a rose.

Fell’s Church needed all the help it could get and here she was staring at flowers.

Abruptly, Sage swung her off her feet and said, “What a temptation, especially

for a lover of la beauté like you, belle madame For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница. What a foolish rule to keep you

from taking just a bud! But there is something even higher and more pure than

beauty, Elena. You, you are named for it. In old Greek, Elena means ‘light’! The

darkness is coming fast—the Last, Everlasting Midnight! Beauty will not hold it

back; it is a bagatelle, a trinket, useless in times of disaster. But light, Elena, light

will conquer the darkness! I believe this as I believe in your courage, your honesty,

and your gentle, loving heart.”

With that, he kissed her on the forehead and set her down.

Elena was dazed. Of all the For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница things she knew, she knew best that she could not

defeat the darkness that was coming—not alone.

“But you’re not alone,” Stefan whispered, and she realized that he was right

beside her, and that she must be wide open, projecting her thoughts as clearly as if

she were speaking.

“We’re all here with you,” Bonnie said in a voice twice her size. “We’re not afraid

of the dark.”

There was a pause while everyone tried not to look at Damon. At last he said,

“Somehow I got talked into this insanity—I’m still wondering how it happened. But

I’ve come For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница this far and I’m not going to turn around now.”

Sage turned toward the final door and it brightened. Not by much, however. It

looked like the shady underside of a very large tree. What was odd, though, was

that there was nothing at all growing under it. No ferns or bushes or seedlings, not

even the normally ever-present creepers and weeds. There were a few dead

leaves on the ground, but otherwise it was just dirt.

Sage said, “A planet with only one corporeal form of life upon it. The Great Tree

that covers an entire world. The crown For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница covers all but the natural freshwater lakes it

needs to survive.”

Elena looked into the heart of the twilit world. “We’ve come so far, and maybe

together—maybe we can find the star ball that will save our town.”

“This is the door you pick?” asked Sage.

Elena looked at the rest of the group. They all seemed to be waiting for her

confirmation. “Yes—and right now. We have to hurry.” She made a motion as if to

put her cup down and it disappeared. She smiled thanks at Sage.

“Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t give you any help,” he said. “But For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница if you have a

compass…”

Elena had one. It was always dangling from her backpack because she was

always trying to read it.

Sage took the compass in his hand and lightly traced a line on it. He gave the

compass back to Elena and she found that the needle no longer pointed to the

north, but at an angle northeast. “Follow the arrow,” he said. “It will take you to the

trunk of the Great Tree. If I had to guess at where to find the largest star ball, I

would go this way. But be wary! Others have tried this path. Their bodies For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница have

nourished the Great Tree—as fertilizer.”

Elena scarcely heard the words. She had been terrified at the thought of

searching an entire planet for a star ball. Of course, it might be a very small world,

like…like…

Like the little diamond moon you saw over the Nether World?

The voice in Elena’s mind was both familiar and not. She glanced at Sage, who

smiled. Then she looked around the room. Everyone seemed to be waiting for her

to take the first step.

She took it.

“You’ve been fed and taken care of as best as we can manage,” Meredith For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница said,

looking at all the taut, frightened young faces turned toward her in the basement.

“And now there’s just one thing I want to ask of you in return.” She made an effort

and steadied her voice. “I want to know if anybody knows of a mobile phone that

connects to the Internet, or a computer that is still working. Please, please—if you

even think you know where one might be, tell me.”

The tension was like a thick rubber cord, dragging Meredith toward each of the

pale, strained faces, dragging them to her.

It was just as well that Meredith was For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница essentially well-balanced. About twelve

hands went up immediately, and their lone five-year-old whispered, “My mommy

has one. And my daddy.”

There was a pause before Meredith could say, “Does anybody know this kid?”

and an older girl spoke up before she could.

“She just means they had them before the Burning Man.”

“Is the Burning Man called Shinichi?” Meredith asked.

“’Course. Sometimes he would make the red parts of his hair burn up way over

his head.”

Meredith filed that little fact away under Things I do not want to see, honest,

cross my heart, ever.

Then she shook For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница herself free from the image.

“You guys and girls, please, please think. I only need one, one mobile phone with

Internet access that still has power right now. One laptop or computer that is still

working now, maybe because of a generator still making electricity. Just one family

with a home generator still working. Anybody?”

The hands were down now. A boy she thought she recognized as being one of

the Loring siblings, maybe age ten or eleven, said, “The Burning Man told us that

mobile phones and computers were bad. That was why my brother got in a fistfight

with my dad For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница. He threw all the mobiles at home in the toilet.”

“Okay. Okay, thanks. But anybody who’s seen a working mobile or computer? Or

a home generator—”

“Why, yes, my dear, I’ve got one.” The voice came from the top of the stairs.

Mrs. Flowers was standing there, dressed in a fresh sweat suit. Strangely, she had

her voluminous purse in her hand.

“You had—have a generator?” Meredith asked, her heart sinking. What a waste!

And if disaster came all because she, Meredith, hadn’t finished reading over her

own research! The minutes were ticking away, and if everyone in For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница Fell’s Church

died, it would be her fault. Her fault. She didn’t think she could live with that.

Meredith had tried, all her life, to reach the state of calm, concentration, and

balance that was the other side of the coin from the fighting skills her various

disciplines had taught her. And she had become good at it, a good observer, a

good daughter, even a good student for all that she was in Elena’s fast-paced,

high-flying clique. The four of them: Elena, Meredith, Caroline, and Bonnie had fit

together like four pieces of a puzzle, and Meredith still sometimes For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница missed the old

days and their daring, dominating pseudo-sophisticated capers that never really

hurt anyone—except the silly boys who had milled around them like ants at a picnic.

But now, looking at herself, she was puzzled. Who was she? A Hispanic girl

named for her mother’s Welsh best friend in college. A hunter-slayer of vampires

who had kitten canines, a vampire twin, and whose group of friends included

Stefan, a vampire; Elena, an ex-vampire—and possibly another vampire, although

she was extremely hesitant to call Damon a “friend.”

What did that all add up to?

A girl trying to do For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница her best to keep her balance and concentration, in a world that

had gone insane. A girl still reeling from what she’d learned about her own family,

and now tottering from the need to confirm a dreadful suspicion.

Stop thinking. Stop! You have to tell Mrs. Flowers that her boardinghouse has

been destroyed.

“Mrs. Flowers—about the boardinghouse—I have to talk to you…”

“Why don’t you use my BlackBerry first?” Mrs. Flowers came down the

basement stairs carefully, watching her feet, and then the children parted before

her like waves on the Red Sea.

“Your…?” Meredith stared, choked up. Mrs For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница. Flowers had opened her enormous

purse and was now proffering a rather thick all-black object to her.

“It still has power,” the old lady explained as Meredith took the thing in two

shaking hands, as if receiving a holy object. “I just turned it on and it was working.

And now I’m on the Internet!”—proudly.

Meredith’s world had been swallowed up by the small, grayish, antiquated screen.

She was so amazed and excited at seeing this that she almost forgot why she

needed it. But her body knew. Her fingers clutched; her thumbs danced over the

mini-keyboard For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница. She went to her favorite search page and entered the word

“Orime.” She got pages of hits—most in Japanese. Then feeling a trembling in her

knees, she typed in “Inari.”

6,530,298 results.

She went to the very first hit and saw a web page with a definition. Key words

seemed to rush out at her like vultures.

Inari is the Japanese Shinto deity of rice…and…foxes. At the entrance to an Inari

shrine are…statues of two kitsune…one male and one female…each with a key or

jewel carried in mouth or paw…These fox-spirits are the servants and messengers

of Inari. They carry For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница out Inari’s orders….

There was also a picture of a pair of kitsune statues, in their fox forms. Each had

a front paw resting on a star ball.

Three years ago, Meredith had fractured her leg when she was on a skiing trip

with her cousins in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She had run straight into a small

tree. No martial arts skills could save her at the last minute; she knew she was

skiing off the groomed areas, where she could run into anything: powder, crud, or

iced-over ruts. And, of course, trees. Lots of trees. She was an advanced skier,

but For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница she had been going too fast, looking in the wrong direction, and the next thing

she knew, she was skiing into the tree instead of around it.

Now she had the same sensation of waking up after a head-on into wood. The

shock, the dizziness and nausea that were, initially, worse than the pain. Meredith

could take pain. But the pounding in her head, the sickening awareness that she

had made a big mistake and that she was going to have to pay for it were

unbearable. Plus there was a curious horror about the knowledge that her own legs

wouldn’t hold her For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница up. Even the same useless questions ran through her

subconscious, like: How could I be so stupid? Is this possibly a dream? and,

Please, God, can I hit the Undo button?

Meredith suddenly realized that she was being supported on either side by Mrs.

Flowers and their sixteen-year-old, Ava Wakefield. The mobile was on the cement

floor of the basement. She must have actually started to black out. Several of the

younger kids were screaming Matt’s name.

“No—I—I can stand up alone…” All she wanted in the world was to go into the

darkness and get away For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница from this horror. She wanted to let her legs go slack and

her mind go blank, to flee…

But she couldn’t run away. She had taken the stave; she had taken the Duty from

her grandfather. Anything supernatural that was out to harm Fell’s Church on her

watch was her problem. And the problem was that her watch never ended.

Matt came clattering down the stairs, carrying their seven-year-old, Hailey, who

continually shook with petit mal seizures.

“Meredith!” She could hear the incredulity in his voice. “What is it? What did you

find, for God’s sake?”

“Come…look For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница.” Meredith was remembering detail after detail that should have set

off warning bells in her mind. Matt was somehow already beside her, even as she

remembered Bonnie’s very first description of Isobel Saitou.

“The quiet type. Hard to get to know. Shy. And…nice.”

And that first visit to the Saitou house. The horror that quiet, shy, nice Isobel

Saitou had become: the Goddess of Piercing, blood and pus oozing from every

hole. And when they had tried to carry dinner to her old, old grandmother, Meredith

had noticed absently that Isobel’s room was right under the doll-like old lady’s For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница. After

seeing Isobel pierced and clearly unbalanced, Meredith had assumed that any evil

influence must be trying to travel up, and had worried in the back of her mind about

the poor, old, doll-sized grandmother. But the evil could just as easily have traveled

down. Maybe Jim Bryce hadn’t given Isobel the malach madness after all. Maybe

she had given it to him, and he had given it to Caroline and to his sister.

And that children’s game! The cruel, cruel song that Obaasan—that Inari-

Obaasan had crooned. “Fox and turtle had a race…” And her words: “There’s a

kitsune For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница involved in this somewhere.” She’d been laughing at them, amusing

herself! Come to that, it was from Inari-Obaasan that Meredith had first heard the

word “kitsune.”

And one more additional cruelty, that Meredith had only been able to excuse

before by assuming Obaasan had very poor sight. That night, Meredith had had her

back to the door and so had Bonnie—they had both been concentrating on “poor

decrepit old Grandma.” But Obaasan had been facing the door, and she was the

only one who could have seen—must have seen—Isobel sneaking up behind

Bonnie. And then, just as the cruel game song For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница told Bonnie to look behind her…

Isobel had been crouching there, ready to lick Bonnie’s forehead with a forked pink

tongue…

“Why?” Meredith could hear her own voice saying. “Why was I so stupid? How

could I not have seen from the beginning?”

Matt had retrieved the BlackBerry and read the web page. Then he just stood,

fixed, his blue eyes wide. “You were right,” he said, after a long moment.

“I want so much to be wrong…”

“Meredith—Shinichi and Misao are Inari’s servants…If that old lady is Inari we’ve

been running around like crazy after the wrong people For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница, the hired muscle…”

“The damn note cards,” Meredith choked out. “The ones done by Obaasan.

They’re useless, flawed. All those bullets she blessed should have been no good—

but maybe she did bless them—as a game. Isobel even came to me and changed

all the characters the old lady had done for the jars to hold Shinichi and Misao. She

said that Obaasan was almost blind. She left a tear on my car seat. I couldn’t

understand why she should be crying.”

“I still can’t. She’s the granddaughter—probably the third generation of a

monster!” Matt For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница exploded. “Why should she cry? And why do the Post-it Notes

work?”

“Because they’re done by Isobel’s mother,” Mrs. Flowers said quietly. “Dear

Matt, I truly doubt that the old woman is related to the Saitous at all. As a deity—or

even a powerful magic-user named after a deity—and undoubtedly a kitsune

herself, she surely just moved in with them and used them. Isobel’s mother and

Isobel had no choice but to carry on the charade for fear of what she’d do to them

if they didn’t.”

“But Mrs. Flowers, when Tyrone and I pulled For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница that leg bone out of the thicket, didn’t

you say that the Saitou women made such excellent amulets? And didn’t you say

that we could get the Saitou women to help translate the words on the clay jars

when Alaric sent the pictures of them from that Japanese Island?”

As for my belief in the Saitou women, well, I’ll have to quibble a little here,” Mrs.

Flowers said. “I couldn’t know that this Obaasan was evil, and there are still two of

them who are gentle and good, and who have helped us tremendously—and at

great risk to themselves.”

Meredith For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница could taste the bitterness of bile in her mouth. “Isobel could have saved

us. She could have said ‘My fake grandmother is really a demon.’”

“Oh, my dear Meredith, the young are so unforgiving. This Inari was probably

installed in her house when she was a child. All she knows at first is that the old

woman is a tyrant, with a god’s name. Then perhaps some demonstration of power

—what happened to Orime’s husband, I wonder, to make him go back to Japan—if

indeed he went there? He may well be dead. And then Isobel is growing up: shy,

quiet For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница, introverted—frightened. This is not Japan; there are no other priestesses

here to confide in. And you saw the consequences when Isobel reached out to

someone outside of the family—to her boyfriend, Jim Bryce.”

“And to us—well, to you and Bonnie,” Matt said to Meredith. “She sicced

Caroline on you.”

Scarcely knowing what they were doing, they were talking faster and faster.

“We have to go there right now,” said Meredith. “Shinichi and Misao may be the

ones bringing on the Last Midnight, but it’s Inari who gives the orders. And who

knows? She may dole out the punishments as well. We For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница don’t know how big her star

ball is.”

“Or where,” said the old woman.

“Mrs. Flowers,” Matt said hastily, “you’d better stay here with the kids. Ava, here,

is reliable, and where’s Jacob Lagherty?”

“Here,” said a boy who looked older than fifteen. He was as tall as Matt was, but

gangly.

“Okay. Ava, Jake, you’re in charge under Mrs. Flowers. We’ll leave Saber with

you too.” The dog was a big hit among the kids, on his best behavior, even when

the younger ones chewed his tail. “You two just listen to Mrs. Flowers, and For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница—”

“Matt, dear, I won’t be here. But the animals will surely help to protect them.”

Matt stared at her. Meredith knew what he was thinking. Was Mrs. Flowers, so

reliable up until now, going somewhere to hide alone? Was she abandoning them?

“And I’ll need one of you to drive me to the Saitou house—quickly!—but the other

can stay and protect the children as well.”

Meredith was both relieved and worried, and clearly Matt was too.

“Mrs. Flowers, this is going to be a battle. You could get hurt or be taken hostage

so easily—”

“Dear Matt, this is For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница my battle. My family has lived in Fell’s Church for generations,

all the way back to the pioneering times. I believe this is the battle for which I was

born. Certainly the last of my old age.”

Meredith stared. In the dim light of the basement, Mrs. Flowers seemed suddenly

different somehow. Her voice was changing. Even her small body seemed to be

changing, steadying, standing tall.

“But how will you fight?” Matt asked, sounding dazed.

“With this. That nice young man, Sage, left it for me with a note apologizing for

using Misao’s star ball. I used to be quite good For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница with these when I was young.” From

her capacious purse, Mrs. Flowers pulled out something pale and long and thin as it

unwound and Mrs. Flowers whirled it and snapped it with a loud crack at the empty

half of the basement. It hit a Ping-Pong ball, curled around it, and brought it back to

Mrs. Flowers’s open hand.

A bullwhip. Made of some silvery material. Undoubtedly magical. Even Matt

looked scared of it.

“Why don’t Ava and Jake teach the children to play Ping-Pong while we’re gone

—and we really must go, my dears. There’s not a minute For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница to waste. A terrible

tragedy is coming, Mama says.”

Meredith had been watching—feeling as dazed as Matt looked. But now she

said, “I have a weapon too.” She picked up the stave and said, “I’m fighting, Matt.

Ava, the children are yours to care for.”

“And mine,” Jacob said, and immediately proved his usefulness by adding, “Isn’t

that an axe hanging back there near the furnace?”

Matt ran and snatched it up. Meredith could see from his expression what he

was thinking: Yes! One heavy axe, a tiny bit rusty, but still plenty sharp enough.

Now if the For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница kitsune sent plants or wood against them, he was armed.

Mrs. Flowers was already going up the basement stairs. Meredith and Matt

exchanged one quick glance and then they were running to catch up with her.

“You drive your mom’s SUV. I’ll sit in back. I’m still a little bit…well, dizzy, I guess.”

Meredith didn’t like to admit to a personal weakness, but better that than crashing

the vehicle.

Matt nodded and was good enough not to comment on why she felt so dizzy. She

still couldn’t believe her own stupidity.

Mrs. Flowers said only one For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница thing. “Matt, dear, break traffic laws.”

Elena felt as if she had been doing nothing in all her life except walk under a shady

canopy of high branches. It wasn’t cold here, but it was cool. It wasn’t dark, but it

was dim. Instead of the constant crimson sunlight from the bloated red sun in the

first Dark Dimension, they were walking in a constant dusk. It was unnerving,

always looking up for the sky and never seeing the moon—or moons—or the planet

—that might well be up there. Rather than sky, there was nothing but tangled tree

branches, clearly heavy and so For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница intricately entwined as to take up every bit of space

above.

Was she crazy, thinking that maybe they were on that moon, the diamond bright

tiny moon that you could see from the outside of the Nether World Gatehouse?

Was it too tiny to have an atmosphere? Too small for proper gravity? She had

noticed that she felt lighter here and that even Bonnie’s steps seemed quite long.

Could she…? She tensed her legs, let go of Stefan’s hand, and jumped.

It was a long jump, but it hadn’t taken her anywhere near the canopy of woven

branches above. And For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница she didn’t land neatly on her toes, either. Her feet flew out

from under her on millennia of leaf mold and she skidded on her rear end for

maybe three feet, before she could dig her fingers and feet in and stop.

“Elena! Are you all right?” She could hear Stefan and Bonnie calling from behind

her, and a quick, impatient: Are you crazy? from Damon.

“I was trying to figure out where we were by testing the gravity,” she said,

standing up on her own and brushing leaves off the seat of her jeans, mortified.

Damn! Those leaves had For Anne, the animal-whisperer 20 страница gone up the back of her T-shirt, had even gotten inside

her camisole. The group had left most of their furs behind at the Gatehouse, where

Sage could guard them, and Elena didn’t even have spare clothes. That had been

stupid, she told herself angrily now. Embarrassed, she tried to walk and shimmy at

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