THE PHOTO TRAVELER

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CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER FORTY

I feel sick. Betrayal has stained my life, a staple of the last eighteen years. The distinct taste of hate and humiliation that I felt with Mel is burning on the tip on my tongue, bubbling in my throat like acid. I can’t believe how much of a fool I’ve been. I have to dig my feet into the dirt to hold myself from running over and strangling Yogi, wiping the stupid smug smile of her face as she holds the vials in her hands.

I can’t afford to be careless. So against every beating urge, I go back to Estelle.

When I slam back into our home, she eyes me uneasily. I can feel my cheeks, burning red with rage. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“Nothing. I thought I’d find something, but no.” I do my best to look disappointed.

“Oh no, you don’t. Don’t you try that with me. Just because Bud’s not around doesn’t mean you’re going to hold back with me. Tell me what you saw.” She grabs my chin and pulls my face down to hers. “Come on, out with it.”

I’m going to have to tell her the truth. After all, I’m the one who’s been ranting about them being honest with me. I turn my eyes away. “I’ve really messed up.”

I’ve already rehearsed my story more than enough in the past 12 hours that I can tell her without a hitch—everything that’s been happening, from my love affair with a dead girl from the past, my current daddy status, and my secret friendship with another photo traveler who has turned out to be the source of the stalking. Even as I say it, I want to slam my head against the railing of the stairs.

“She’s a Photo Traveler, too. I let her become my friend. And I didn’t want to worry you. I guess I needed someone to talk to...”

Estelle steps back from me in shock. “Gavin, why haven’t you told me about this before? This is bad. This is not good at all.”

“I know, I know. I didn’t want to worry you. You were going through so much as it is. She gave me this story that she was from the Pashner family that died in the first fire. I believed her. I didn’t think she was capable.”

“You didn’t tell her where our vials are, did you?”

I shake my head.

“Oh, thank God!”

“Yeah, really. At least I had that much sense.” I can’t stop talking about how stupid I feel. “I mean, I thought it was weird when she kept randomly finding me, but it was so great to know someone else who was like me that. I can’t believe she made me believe she was a friend.” Anger is coursing through me. Anger at myself, anger at Yogi, anger at everyone. “So, what are we supposed to do now? I told her about Edwin. She kept asking about what he looked like and how she wanted to see him. She’s coming here from New York tomorrow.”

Estelle thinks for several moments, her face dripping with worry and concern. “We need a plan. We’re all in danger, especially Edwin.”

When she says “especially Edwin,” something clicks. It’s as if an appendix of feelings and instincts I skimmed past come crashing into me.

“I know exactly what we’ve gotta do.”

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