THE SECOND SUMMONING
The finest in Fantasy and Science Fiction
by TANYA HUFF from DAW Books:
THE ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM
THE WILD WAYS
The Confederation Novels:
A CONFEDERATION OF VALOR
Valor’s Choice/The Better Part of Valor
THE HEART OF VALOR (#3)
VALOR’S TRIAL (#4)
THE TRUTH OF VALOR (#5)
SMOKE AND SHADOWS (#1)
SMOKE AND MIRRORS (#2)
SMOKE AND ASHES (#3)
BLOOD PRICE (#1)
BLOOD TRAIL (#2)
BLOOD LINES (#3)
BLOOD PACT (#4)
BLOOD DEBT (#5)
BLOOD BANK (#6)
The Keeper’s Chronicles:
SUMMON THE KEEPER (#1)
THE SECOND SUMMONING (#2)
LONG HOT SUMMONING (#3)
THE QUARTERS NOVELS, Volume 1:
Sing the Four Quarters/Fifth Quarter
THE QUARTERS NOVELS, Volume 2:
No Quarter/The Quartered Sea
WIZARD OF THE GROVE
Child of the Grove/The Last Wizard
OF DARKNESS, LIGHT, AND FIRE
Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light/The Fire’s Stone
THE SECOND SUMMONING
The Keeper Chronicles #2
Copyright © 2001 by Tanya Huff.
All Rights Reserved.
Cover art by Paul Youll.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1178.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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First Printing, March 2001
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES—MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN U.S.A.
For Meg, who helped keep the teenagers
sounding like they were seventeen, not forty.
Table of Contents
FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES, the motel room was dark and quiet. The only light came intermittently through a crack in the curtains as the revolving sign by the road spun around so fast it caught up to its afterimages and appeared to read Motel 666. The only sound came from the rectangular bulk of the heating unit under the window that roared out warmth at a decibel level somewhere between a DC9 at takeoff and a Nirvana concert—although it was considerably more melodic than either. The smell emanating from the pizza box—crushed to fit neatly into a too-small wastebasket—blended with the lingering smell of the previous inhabitants, some of whom hadn’t been particularly attentive to personal hygiene.
The radio alarm clock between the beds read eleven forty squiggle where the squiggle would have been a five had the entire number been illuminated.
Both of the double beds were occupied.
The bed closest to the bathroom held the shape of two bodies—one large, one small—stretched out beneath the covers.
The bed closest to the window held one long, lean, black-and-white shape that seemed to be taking up more room than was physically possible.
The light flickered. The heater roared. The long, lean shape contracted and became a cat. It walked to the edge of the mattress and crouched, tail lashing.
“This is pathetic,” it announced, leaping upon the smaller of the two figures in the other bed. “Even for you.”
Claire Hansen stretched out her arm, turned on the bedside lamp, and found herself face-to-face with an indignant one-eyed cat. “Austin, if you don’t mind, we’re waiting for a manifestation.”
He lay down on her chest, assuming a sphinxlike position that suggested he wasn’t planning on moving any time soon. “It’s been a week.”
Twisting her head around, Claire peered at the clock radio. The squiggle changed shape. “It’s been forty-six minutes.”
“It’s been a week,” Austin repeated, “since we left the Elysian Fields Guest House. A week since you and young Mr. McIssac here started keeping company.”
The other figure stirred, but the cat continued.
“For the first time in that week, you two are actually in the same bed and what are you doing? You’re waiting for a manifestation!”
Claire blinked. “Keeping company?” she repeated.
“For lack of a more descriptive phrase, which, I might add, is my point—there’s a distinct lack of more descriptive phrases being applied here. You could cut the unresolved sexual tension between you two with a knife, and I, personally,” he declared, whiskers bristling, “am tired of it.”
“Just pretending for a moment that this is any of your business,” Claire told him tightly, “a week isn’t that long…”
“You knew each other for almost two months before that.”
“…we’re in one bed now because the site requires a male and a female component…”
“You’re saying you had no control over the last seven days?”
“…and did it ever occur to you that things haven’t progressed because there’s been an audience perpetually in attendance?”
“Oh, sure. Blame me.”
“Could I say something here?” Rolling toward the center of the bed, Dean McIssac rose up on one elbow, blue eyes squinting a little behind wire-frame glasses as he came into the light from the bedside table. “I’m thinking this isn’t the time or the place to talk about, you know, stuff.”
“Talk?” Austin snorted. “You’re missing my point.”
The young man’s cheeks flushed slightly. “Well, it sure as scrod isn’t the time or the place to do anything.”
“Because there’s a dead…lady standing at the foot of the bed.”
Claire craned her neck to see around the cat.
Arms folded over a turquoise sweater, her weight on one spandex-covered hip, the ghost raised an artificially arched ectoplasmic eyebrow. “Boo,” she suggested.
“Boo yourself,” Claire sighed.
Cheryl Poropat, or rather the ghost of Cheryl Poropat, hovered above the X marked on the carpet with ashes and dust, the scuffed heels of her ankle boots about two inches from the floor. “So, you’re here to send me on?”