The Drafter Page 91

“I’m still hallucinating,” Peri whispered, and Jack popped his cheek with a finger. She hated it when he did that, but she wasn’t going to look at him.

Silas flushed as the woman cleared her throat in rebuke. “Yes, I know,” he said, rubbing a hand over his stubble. Turning to the door, he said, “Can we have a few minutes? Get your stuff ready. We’ll be leaving within the hour.”

Taf gave Peri a thumbs-up, her relief obvious. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Me too,” Howard said, then yelped when Taf yanked him into the hallway. Their voices grew faint, and the confusion of last night whispered at the edges of her awareness. She frowned at Silas, knowing he’d done something, judging by his tension and Karley’s impatience.

It must be her house, Peri thought, wishing someone would introduce them.

Silas gave Karley a look as if asking her to leave, but she shut the door, feet planted firmly on the white throw rug. “I want to know if it worked,” she said.

“What worked?” Peri asked suspiciously, and Jack blew her a kiss.

“I’m your bag of magic rocks, babe,” Jack said, and she stifled her pique that he’d use a phrase from their past so glibly.

The woman arched her eyebrows mockingly, and when Silas remained uncomfortably silent, she said, “Hi, I’m Karley. Silas’s ex-wife. Silas was part of an experimental Opti program whose goal was creating fake memories for drafters.”

Peri looked at Silas. “What did you do to me?” Seeing his guilt, Peri turned to Karley. “What did he do to me?” she said, louder.

From the corner, Jack said, “I’m going to keep you sane, Peri.”

Silas gingerly sat at the foot of the bed. “The idea was to provide drafters with a cushion when they lost large chunks of their lives,” he said. “Give them temporary memories until they’d built up enough new ones to feel comfortable again. I quit when Opti began experimenting with giving drafters memories designed to make them react in a specific way.”

“As in making them corrupt,” Peri accused.

“I did say I quit.” A flicker of anger crossed him. “It was only supposed to help.”

It would explain how he’d helped her rebuild a memory he’d never witnessed. At least her hallucinations weren’t bleeding anymore. “What did you do to me?”

Silas looked at Karley, then her. “Why don’t you ask Jack?”

She hesitated as Jack stood, stretched, and ambled forward, a grin on his face as he tightened his tie as if getting ready for work.

“He’s here, isn’t he?” Silas said, his eyes wide. “Damn it. If he’s not, it didn’t work.”

“Jack is dead,” Peri said, stifling a shiver when Jack leaned close, blowing onthe skin below her ear.

“What is real, anyway, babe?”

Okay, she was filled with feelings of betrayal, but how could she be angry at a hallucination in John Lobb shoes and an Armani suit?

Karley shifted her weight and looked at her watch, impatient in her makeup, heels, and dress jacket. “Peri, will you just ask Jack? I have to be at work in forty minutes, and I want all of you out of here before I leave.”

Jack gestured as if in invitation, and at Silas’s encouraging nod, Peri cautiously faced Jack, not liking that no one else could see him but they all knew he was there … leaning casually against the dresser, perfect in the sun and dancing motes of dust. And I killed him.

“Jack?” she said, feeling stupid. “What’s going on?”

Jack beamed, but his bad-boy charms that had probably once attracted her felt tired. “I’m a spitball of psychiatric bullshit. Silas melded me to your intuition so that any time you begin thinking about those twin timelines he left crashing about in your skull, I can distract you.” He leaned close, and she froze as the scent of his aftershave sifted through her. “But, like your intuition, I will show up any … time … I want,” he whispered.

Fear spun her to Silas. “You left twin timelines in me!”

“Peri, it’s okay,” Silas soothed as he reached out.

“Fragment them!” Frantic, she pushed his hands away. “Fragment them now!”

But he caught her wrists, bringing her to a frightened stillness. “If I do, everything we’ve worked to achieve for the last five years is gone. We need what’s in your head to clear your name and bring Opti down. You’re okay. Just relax and breathe. You’re not insane.”

Not yet, anyway. Peri looked down at his grip around her wrists. “I can’t believe you did this,” she said. But he was right. The confusion was gone. The conflict of emotions she’d been dealing with the last few days had settled into a faint ember burn. She hated Jack, enough to kill him, apparently. Sandy, Bill, and Frank, too, were on her new shit list. But when she tried to remember why, she was … distracted before her mind could … circle back and recollect.

It was the oddest sensation, and Peri pulled out of Silas’s hold. “Well, I guess Jack’s right then,” she muttered, and Silas nervously stood.

“About what?” he asked.

“That he’s a spitball of psychiatric bullshit.”

Karley laughed long and loud, and somehow it made Peri feel better. “Oh, I like that,” the polished woman said as she glanced at her watch. “Nicely done,” she added as she gave Silas a peck on the cheek. “I didn’t think it was possible. Now, get out of my house.”

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