The Drafter

Page 50

“This isn’t a draft fragment. It’s just forgotten,” he whispered as he saw it, too. “Peri, where are you?”

“I’m safe!” she half moaned, her chest clenching in grief as she gripped his hands. She was safe. In her lost memory, the golden light fell over her skin. Her robe was almost off and the warmth of a body she knew and loved was above her. Love and a pleasant exhaustion suffused her. It’s Jack, she groaned in her thoughts, and Jack smiled down at her, the glow in his eyes telling her that he loved her.

“Jack!” Peri cried as she jerked upright. Pain lanced through her and Silas gasped when she pushed him from her mind and she was again alone in her thoughts.

Grief-stricken, she stared at Silas as he knelt before her, seeing his pity and full understanding as the memory of Jack’s and her love came cascading back. Jack was dead. Allen had said so. Silas had said the same. She had loved him, and he was gone forever because … she’d killed him.

“Oh God …,” she moaned, pulling her feet up onto the chair and holding her knees to herself. The jolt of shoving Silas out of her mind was a bitter slap, and the black of her traveling clothes shocked through her, her thoughts expecting the white robe Jack had brought from home. Angry, she pushed Silas’s hands away, curling up in the chair and hiding her face. It had been a memory, not a draft that needed fragmenting, and it hurt.

“Shhhh,” he said, putting his arms around her anyway. “Let it go, Peri. Let it go.”

“You bastard,” she said between her gasping breaths as the scent of leather grew heady. “You knew I’d remember that.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said, and she looked up, the lump in her throat hurting. “I’m so sorry,” he added, the knowing reflected in his eyes telling her he’d seen it all, and she hated him for it. “I was trying to bring back your drafts at the airport. I had no idea this would happen. You shouldn’t be able to remember anything about Jack.”

Peri got a clean breath in, then another. “You’re an Opti psychologist,” she managed. “Are you working for them? Is this some sick way of trying to bring my three years back?”

He shook his head. “No. I really am with the alliance. I left Opti a long time ago. I don’t believe in what they do. The lies they tell you.”

Peri dropped her eyes. Her life was a misery. “They don’t allow drafters to leave. Ever.”

She felt cold when Silas pulled away. “You always have a choice,” he said, and she closed her eyes, the image of Jack swimming up anew. She had only that one memory, but tied to it was three years of emotion. I loved him.

“That was Jack?” Silas said, awkward as he knelt before her. “Blond hair? Blue eyes?”

An entire person reduced to a description of hair and eyes. She nodded, thinking it was unfair to remember love but not remember how she had found it or how it had ended.

Silas rocked to his feet. “This is incredible,” he breathed, his focus distant.

“Jack was not corrupt!” she exclaimed, not knowing why she was defending him when she herself didn’t believe his innocence.

“I don’t care,” he said, and when her eyes widened in outrage, he added, “Okay, I do, but, Peri, listen”—he dropped back down and took one of her hands—“you shouldn’t be able to remember him at all,” he said eagerly. “It was a memory knot, and you untangled it, not me.”

Memory knot! Fear pushed out the heartache. “We’re done here.”

Scared, she stood, and Silas lurched backward out of her way. Spotting her socks drying on the windowsill, she scooped them up. They were still damp, but they were all she had, and grief hammered at her as she sat on the bed and pulled them on, first one, then the other.

“You’re okay,” Silas said, shoulders hunched in excitement. “I know Opti has told you that memory knots are like rats fleeing a sinking boat, but they aren’t. It’s just your mind trying to recover something.”

“Something that might drive me to MEP,” she said, not liking the feel of damp wool.

“But it was a real memory,” he protested. “Not a draft to be fragmented or solidified.”

“I know. I was there!” she exclaimed, uncomfortable that he’d seen her depth of emotion.

“Don’t you get it?” he said, eyes bright. “It was gone. Three years, you said. But if I can help return a memory to you that I didn’t see once, I can do it again. With enough clues, I can bring back everything that happened in that office,” he said, pointing at nothing.

Peri licked her lips. Jack and she had made love and she’d been happy. One day later, she had killed him. One of them was a dirty operative. Allen said it had been Jack, but what if it had been her and they’d erased the knowledge? Would I feel better or worse if it was me? “You saw Jack. In my thoughts. What else did you see?”

His eyes dropped. “That you loved him.”

She was silent. That’s all she had seen as well—just enough to hurt her. Fingers slow, Peri reached for her boots. Silas had arranged them neatly by the edge of the bed, right where she’d look for them.

“We need to get into that office,” Silas said, his voice low but determined. “If we have something to build a memory on, we can find out the truth.”

When has truth ever meant anything? The zippers of her boots sounded loud as she pulled them up. Her toes were uncomfortable in her damp socks, and she was reluctant to put that woman’s coat on. “That isn’t normal. You being able to fix a memory you didn’t see, I mean.”

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