Chapter 31

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"Just walk close to them, I'll hang back and see what I can feel," Evelyn whispered to Brandon.

"Why do I feel like some sort of experiment?"

"Because you are," Evelyn said simply. "I should be able to get a pretty good idea about them without much trouble, but only if you cooperate. I just want to make sure Puck didn't do anything permanent, because if he did I'm going to have to make sure he fixes it."

"Really?" Brandon sounded surprised. "How's he supposed to fix something like that? Isn't that like, a mental thing?"

"He has his ways, trust me," Evelyn replied, scanning the crowd for signs of either Jessica or Derek. She could see a few of the other football players along with one or two of Jessica's friends, no sign of the couple themselves. Evelyn closed her eyes and reached out with her own feelings, imagining them as an invisible mist that spread throughout the hallways, engulfing and merging with each person's individual emotions in turn. The flood of emotions was all at once nauseating and invigorating, as if her mind and body couldn't decide whether to embrace or reject the assault of sensations.

But it was getting easier. Unlike with the police officer, Evelyn's efforts to push herself outward weren't threatening to send her to her knees. It was becoming almost effortless, as if she were doing nothing more than breathing. Evelyn's hand came up, instinctively covering the lightly vibrating gem as if to focus herself. One by one Evelyn reached into the hearts of her fellow students, gathering just enough from each person to garner a rough idea of who they were.

Finally she found them, together but separate from the main throng of students. No concentration was needed for Evelyn to understand what the couple was feeling. They were scared. Pulling herself away from the crowd, Evelyn focused on Jessica. After spending so much time sensitive to Jessica's intentions against her, Evelyn found it easy to distinguish her from the pair. She was clinging to Derek with determination, as if his protection were the only thing capable of sedating her fears. Evelyn pulled herself back, she had felt enough.

"They're not far, and they're terrified," Evelyn whispered to Brandon. "I really only got a read on Jessica, but I think she's scared something's going to come after her."

"Understandable, no telling what the little guy put them through," Brandon remarked. "So why would they be acting that way around me? Not like I've given either of them any reason to think I'd do something."

"I don't know," Evelyn said thoughtfully. She took him by the hand. "Come on, let's go find them, I want to see if it's really you they're afraid of or if they're just scared in general."

Though Evelyn couldn't sense exactly where they were, it didn't take long to find them. The couple had found a quiet corner away from the suffocating atmosphere of the crowds not far from the boy's locker rooms. Huddled together, Jessica leaned tightly into Derek, her arms wrapped protectively against her own sides. They whispered like conspirers, eyes darting back and forth to nervously scan any passing faces. Brandon saw them the same moment as Evelyn, and with a confident wink he let go of her hand and slipped ahead, making sure to walk at such an angle in front of them that he would be impossible to miss.

Evelyn opened herself to them, monitoring their feelings closely as Brandon closed the narrow distance. Fear emanated from them in powerful waves, so powerful it tasted like copper in Evelyn's mouth. But it wasn't all. Behind that fear, mixed in like a subtle poison, was anger. Powerful, animalistic anger. It reminded Evelyn of a cornered animal ready to fight for its very life. A sudden chill ran down her spine as it shot to the surface of their emotions, exploding outward the instant they laid eyes on Brandon. All that rage, all that fear and hatred, was instantly directed at him and him alone.

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