Deja Who (Insighter #1)(9)

The light from the lone candle is poor and guttering, but she doesn’t mind that, she never minds; what about any part of her life does she want to see clearly? It’s better like this, in the shifting shadows he could be anyone: rescuer, prince, lover, husband.

(Her father, come to save her. “What’re y’doing in this hovel, girl? C’mon home with me, now. We’ve all missed y’so much.”)

He’s quick, too, he’s in a rush and that’s fine, that’s always fine, and she tries to help him with his clothes, or at least his trousers, and he’s helping with hers, tugging in his eagerness and ah, God, it’s been a while since a man wanted her with such urgency and she responds to his desire, his need, his warmth.

He’s yanking, now, pulling hard and there’s a flash of silver and he’s—he’s cutting her clothes off her, the silver flashes so quickly it’s like she’s in the center of a pool of little silver fish and yes he wants her she’s never in her life had a man want her so badly and she’s warm, so warm, and her clothes are off and the fish are everywhere and she’s warm, she’s hot, it’s like he’s splashing hot chocolate on her it’s thick and warm and it smells it smells it smells a little like the farm

(hog day, they’re butchering the hogs today)

like home, like Limerick, the place she never should have left. It’s running from her throat, coating her breasts and dripping on the floor, and now it’s turning cold and getting tacky and sticky the way chocolate does when it spills and you don’t wipe it up right away it’s sticky everywhere she’s sticky and the fish are still darting at her and she shivers, cold again, always cold, always always always cold.


Deep in the middle of part-time job number sixteen, he watched Leah walk outside, blink up at the sun like some kind of gorgeous mole

(gorgeous mole? oh, man, you have it so bad)

and cross the street, heading into the small park where her only friend—so far as he’d been able to find out in two weeks—was waiting on one of the park’s four deep green benches.

He’d been on her for two weeks and she was probably crazy. A sweetly curvy, glum, crazy lady with no friends (except the homeless woman in the park), a job she seemed to hate, and no desire to do anything but the job she seemed to hate.

Hobbies? Nope. Parties? Nope. Work parties? More nope. Dates? Ever more nope. Family? Nada. Friends, plural? Nope. A life full of nope.

He could see her getting depressed, actually see the physical symptoms of crushing depression every time she approached her office building. In the sixty-or-so feet between her car and the building, her shoulders went lower and lower, her mouth grew tighter, her gaze shifted from straight ahead to the sidewalk. Remarkable and so, so sad.

He knew Insighters were trapped in their own world of weird, but this gal was one of a kind among one of a kind. (Would that be ones of a kind?) Normally he hated that phrase, since by definition pretty much everybody was one of a kind, but Leah really was. Back in the day, they would have yanked her eyes and burned and salted the remains. Having that prospect dangling overhead would make anyone grumpy, he was sure, even if that kind of atrocity hadn’t happened in over a century.

Her professional rep preceded her by miles—Leah had been an expert witness in a baker’s dozen of criminal trials. History-making trials; Thomas J. Kinter v. Ann Boleyn brought about legislation preventing reincarnated victims from suing reincarnated people who had wronged them in previous lives. Little old ladies spilling hot coffee on themselves and then suing McDonald’s for selling them hot coffee was nothing compared to the legal headache of suing someone who reneged on a twenty-dollar bet in 1814 (“So accumulated interest over two centuries means you owe me just under a quarter of a million dollars. So d’you want to write me a check or should I just garnish your wages for your next four lives?”).

So there were all sorts of things about Leah in her pro capacity, but nothing at all about her private life. If she even had one. Right now, he was guessing no. And he had the feeling that it was more than the caution employed by anyone whose job meant they were constantly interacting with the potentially homicidal: district attorneys, crusading journalists, loan collectors, reality show stars.

In person—or as close to that as he could get in fourteen days—she was startling. He’d never met anyone odder or more intriguing. As a different sort of freak, Archer Drake figured he ought to know. And then there was the idea that had taken root in his brain that would not leave, the distinct impression he knew her, recognized her from somewhere. Impossible, since he hadn’t officially met her. But there, always there, nipping into his brain and making him nuts, all the more so because he couldn’t just march up to her and use the lamest of lame lines: Don’t I know you from somewhere? Oh, and I’m not a creep or anything. So, no friends, huh? Hmm? Oh, I know because I’ve been following you around for days.

And that was the thing. He was dying to meet her, dying to talk to her, dying to ask a hundred questions, dying see if he could get her to flash the grin that was rare as rubies and lit up her face, turning plain to pretty and, when the grin widened, pretty to extraordinary.

He was supposed to watch her, he was supposed to take the money and keep an eye, and not for the first time he was very, very glad Insighters couldn’t see him. Because if Leah could see him, she’d see all the way into him, and how do you defend against that? With the disaster of his father’s life as the gateway to a chaotic childhood and his cousin’s Insighter entitlement, all that as the background in a world where just about everyone knew they’d lived before, his type was ignored and overlooked and invisible.

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