Lightning Game (GhostWalkers #17) -Christine Feehan Page 0,1

that any enemy would never find out that he had such an ability. As far as they knew, only two people in the world had the gift of being a psychic surgeon. He was one of the two. The team tended to hover until sometimes he felt he couldn’t breathe.

Diego sent him a small grin. He got what Rubin meant without a huge explanation. “There’s nothing like the fireflies in the spring, is there?”

Rubin referred to the fireflies as lightning bugs, and he always looked forward to dusk. The setting of the sun brought that first note in the beautiful melody, as the fireflies rose up to dance in harmony along the edges of the grass. He used to sit with his sisters and whisper to them of fairies and fey creatures, telling them stories he made up to entertain them. He knew Diego listened just as raptly as his sisters did.

The lightning bugs represented peace to him. Magic. Their world was one of survival and grim reality. But in the spring, when the fireflies came out at the setting of the sun to dance and provide their spellbinding performance, Rubin took his sisters outside and would sit with them in spite of his mother’s forbidding silence. He would spin tales for them to go along with the glowing dips and spins of the fairy-ike lightning bugs.

A traveling man had once told stories to them when he had stopped by, trying to get their mother to purchase cloth from him. They had no money. They made their own clothes from hand-me-downs. Most were too small or too big because they traded with other families from farms. Rubin and Diego had kept a rifle on the man the entire time he was near them. He never saw it. They concealed their weapons under a blanket. Rubin had followed him off the property while Diego had gone up into the trees to cover Rubin. Rubin hadn’t liked the man, but he liked the stories.

“I miss the lightning bugs when we’re in the swamp,” Rubin conceded. His throat closed at the memories welling up. His sisters. Lucy, Jayne and the twins, Ruby and Star. They would sit so still when he told them stories, rapt attention on their faces.

Rubin and Diego were ten when they managed to find a way to get in the old mining shaft, found the equipment and stripped it. They figured out how to make a generator after taking apart the one at the mine. It was the first time their mother ever had hot water and electricity. That winter was a good one. They were able to keep food on the table. Their mother didn’t smile, but she participated a bit in the conversations.

That next summer, four men hiked the Appalachian Trail and camped just past their land. Lucy, their twelve-year-old sister, had gone night-fishing with eight-year-old Jayne. It wasn’t uncommon for them to be gone most of the night, but when they didn’t come home in the morning, Rubin and Diego went looking for them. They found Lucy’s body half in and half out of the stream, her clothes ripped off her and blood under her fingernails. Little Jayne lay beside her, drooling, clothes torn, head bleeding from where someone had struck her a terrible blow. She screamed and screamed when she saw her brothers, not making any sense at all.

Rubin carried Jayne home while Diego carried Lucy’s body. They left both to be looked after by their mother and Ruby and Star, the thirteen-year-old twins, while they collected their rifles and went back to look for tracks. They caught up with the four men the second night. The men had camped up by a little waterfall and were laughing and talking like they didn’t have a care in the world. The boys each chose a target, took careful aim and shot them through the heart. Two shots. Two kills. Just like they’d been taught from the time they were toddlers. They couldn’t afford to waste ammunition.

The other two men took to cover, hiding. Scared. It didn’t matter. They were varmints. And they were being hunted by experts. They might be boys, but they were elite trackers already. They both could call on animals to hunt with them, usually raptors. They knew the land. This was their world, and they were merciless when they had to be. By early the next morning, the other two men were dead as well.

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