Home > The Strange Power (Dark Visions #1)(9)

The Strange Power (Dark Visions #1)(9)
Author: L.J. Smith

As if he weren't quite canny, her mind supplied. At least, that's the phrase people back home used to use about you, isn't it?

The van was driving off. Mr. Zetes and the dark-haired boy were walking up to the door.

"Looks like we've got a new housemate," Lewis said under his breath. "Oh, boy."

Mr. Zetes gave a courtly nod to the group on the porch. "I see you're here. I believe everyone has arrived now-if you'll come inside, we can commence with the introductions." He went in, and the two dogs followed him. They were rottweilers, Kaitlyn noted, and rather fierce-looking.

Anna and Lewis stepped back silently as the new boy approached, but Kaitlyn held her ground. She knew what it was like to have people step back when you walked near them. The boy passed very close to her, and turned to give her a direct look as he did. Kaitlyn saw that his eyes weren't black, but a very dark gray. She had the distinct feeling that he wanted to unsettle her, to make her look down.

I wonder what he did to get in prison, she thought, feeling chilled again. She followed the others into the house.

"Mr. Zetes!" Joyce said happily from the living room. She caught the old man's arm, smiling and gesturing with enthusiasm as she spoke to him.

Kait's attention was caught by a blond head near the stairs. Rob Kessler had a duffel bag-her duffel bag-slung over his shoulder. He saw the group that had just come in, and started toward them . . . and then he stopped.

His entire body had stiffened. Kaitlyn followed his gaze down the foyer-to the new boy.

Who was equally stiff. His dark gray eyes were fixed on Rob with complete attention and icy hatred. His body was held as if ready for an attack as Rob came closer.

One of the two rottweilers by Mr. Zetes began to growl.

"Good dog, Carl," Lewis said nervously.

"You," the new boy said to Rob.

"You," Rob said to the new boy.

"You two know each other?" Kaitlyn said to both of them.

Rob spoke without looking away from the other boy's pale, wary face. "From a ways back," he said. He let the duffel bag down with a thump.

"Not a long enough ways," the other boy said. In contrast to Rob's soft southern tones, his voice was harsh and clipped.

Both dogs were growling now.

Well, there goes any chance of harmony between housemates, Kaitlyn thought. She noticed that Mr. Zetes and Joyce had broken off talking and were looking at the students.

"We all seem to be together," Mr. Zetes said rather dryly, and Joyce said, "Come over here, everybody! This is the moment I've been waiting for."

Rob and the new boy slowly turned away from each other. Joyce gave the group a brilliant smile as they gathered around. Her aquamarine eyes were sparkling.

"Kids, it's an honor and a privilege to introduce you to the man who brought you all here-the man who's responsible for this project. This is Mr. Zetes."

Kaitlyn felt for a moment as if she ought to applaud. Instead, she murmured "Hello" with the others. Mr. Zetes bent his head in recognition, and Joyce went on.

"Mr. Zetes, these are the troops. Anna Whiteraven, from Washington." The old man shook hands with her, and with each of them as Joyce introduced them. "Lewis Chao from California. Kaitlyn Fairchild from Ohio. Rob Kessler from North Carolina. And Gabriel Wolfe from . . . here and there."

"Yeah, depending on where the charges are pending," Rob drawled, not quite aloud. Mr. Zetes gave him a piercing look.

"Gabriel has been released into my custody," he said. "His parole allows him to go to school; for the rest of the time, he's confined to this house. He knows what will happen if he tries to violate those conditions -don't you, Gabriel?"

Gabriel's dark gray eyes moved from Rob to Mr. Zetes. He said one word, expressionlessly. "Yes."

"Good." Mr. Zetes looked at the rest of the group. "While you're here, I expect you all to try to get along. I don't think any of you can realize, at your age, just how great a gift has been given to you. "Your one job here is to see that you use that gift wisely, and make the most of it."

Now for the pep talk, Kait thought, studying Mr. Zetes. He had an impressive shock of white hair on his handsome old head and a broad and benevolent brow. Kaitlyn thought suddenly, I know what he looks like. He looks like Little Lord Fauntleroy's grandfather, the earl.

But the earl wasn't giving any ordinary pep talk. "One thing you need to realize from the start is that you're different from the rest of humanity. You've been . . . chosen. Branded. You'll never be like other people, so there's no reason even to try. You follow different laws."

Kaitlyn felt her eyebrows pull together. Joyce had said similar things, but somehow Mr. Zetes's words had another tone. She wasn't sure she liked it.

"You have something inside you that won't be repressed. A hidden power that burns like a flame," he went on. "You're superior to the rest of humanity- don't ever forget that."

Is he trying to flatter us? Kait wondered. Because if he is, it isn't working. It all sounds . . . hollow, somehow.

"You are the pioneers in an exploration that has infinite possibilities. The work you do here may change the way the entire world looks at psychic powers-it may change the way the human race looks at itself. You young people are actually in a position to benefit all humankind."

Suddenly Kait felt the need to draw.

Not the ordinary need, like the desire she'd had to draw Lewis and Anna. This was the need that came with an itch in her hand-and the internal shiver that meant a premonition.

But she couldn't just walk away while Mr. Zetes was talking. She glanced around the room in distraction- and met Gabriel's eyes.

Right now those eyes looked dark and wicked, as if something in Mr. Zetes's speech amused him. Amused him in a cynical way.

With a shock, Kaitlyn realized that he looked as if he also found Mr. Zetes's words hollow. And the way he was gazing at her seemed to show that he knew she did, too.

Kaitlyn felt herself flushing. She looked quickly back at Mr. Zetes, freezing her face into an interested, deferential expression. After all, he was the one paying her scholarship. He might be a little eccentric, but he obviously had a good heart.

By the time the speech was over, her need to draw was gone.

After Mr. Zetes was finished, Joyce said a few words about how she wanted them to do their best in the next year. "I'll be living at the Institute with you," she added. "My room is back there"-she pointed to a set of French doors beyond the living room that looked as if they led outside-"and you can feel free to come to me at any time, day or night. Oh, and here's someone else you'll be working with."

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