Remembered Kisses: Chapter 2: Dreams and Nightmares

Did the first whet your appetite?  Do you want more?  Take a look deeper inside...

(The first chapter is available here)

Chapter 2: Dreams And Nightmares

It was the same old dream.  There was the Petersons' basement, the stone walls painted with fresh blood.  There was the fiend, waiting, its eyes glowing crimson, its six-inch claws dripping with viscera.  It met Sam's eyes and rose up from Tommy's body.  It held his gaze, and slowly, languorously, it came for him.

As always, the younger Sam stood there, feet rooted, unlearned, unready, unprepared.  As always, the thing’s claws ripped into his flesh and tore into his body. Inside his head, half aware it was a dream, Sam struggled.  He was a magus. He was master of his mind.  He should be able to break out.  He should be able to break free — but he never could.

It took Sam a lifetime to die. 

When he finally woke, he was drenched in sweat, though the room was colder than it should be this time of year. He rolled over. He traced a finger across his midsection, making sure he was still whole: he could still feel the claws ripping him open.  He groaned.  “I don’t even want to know what time it is,” he murmured, and swung his legs off the bed.

Outside it was still cloudy. He could hear the pitter-patter of the rain on his window.  His shades were slightly open, and the room was cast in the half-light of New Tamsbridge’s nighttime streets.  He went to the sill and looked out.  He could make out one or two of the street lamps; as the storm had subsided to a drizzle, New Tamsbridge’s omnipresent fog had slowly crept back in, shrouding the city in grey.   He tugged on the plush blue bathrobe Audrey had gotten him for his birthday. “Always the fog,” he murmured as he tied the robe’s rope belt and turned away from the window. 

He found himself at his desk before long, flipping through a few tomes he’d set aside.  Some of Carroll’s memoirs. The Anatomy of Dream.  A copy of Grimm’s Faerie Tales in its original Frost Elven. All the books on his desk were stuffed with sheafs of notes, his own research over the past months since Eileen’s abduction. 

The research had been little to no use.  He could now identify the nightmares more clearly, sure. He knew some of how to wield the stuff they were made of, and certainly how to fight them in a dream or within the Otherworld.  “But nothing about why they’re coming through here. Or what to  do to stop an invasion.”  He shook his head. “You would think I know enough of nightmares by now to do something.  Useless mage.”  He flipped through a few more pages and stood up.  He paced around his cramped study.  Sleep was gone from him entirely, and his stomach still hurt from his nightmare evisceration.  He wracked his brain for some solution other than the one nibbling at the corner of his mind.  Eventually, he sighed.  “Going to have to do it,” he muttered. "There's nothing for it."

Pulling his robe tighter around him, Sam descended into the bookstore.  He winced when the stairs creaked, expecting Audrey to appear out of nowhere and demand to know why he wasn’t sleeping, but she never stirred from her room.

He found his way to the rare books section, fingers tracing over the familiar textures of the spines. Much of his early spell learning had been from tomes like these, once he understood the rhythms and codes of the classic and Renaissance authors. Those authors who had written before wonder had entirely fled from the world, before science taught humanity that what could not be observed wasn’t real, and before mankind forgot that there were many ways to see things. Many of those authors had coded manuals into their works. From Galileo’s Stregheria, all three cantos, to the Metamorphoses.  He smiled. These books had once been his best friends.  

His search was purely tactile.  One of the protectives he had weaved in the shop was a simple glamour in the rare books section.  There were some tomes, primarily spellwork manuals, that simply could not be seen — they could be found only by a hand that knew where they were, or by Methuselah’s active will. After a moment of searching, Sam’s fingers found the book he sought.  It had a newer spine, still mostly uncreased, with no words embossed on it.  He pulled it out and carried it back to the counter. He opened it and flipped through the pages, scanning the illuminations.  He stopped on a page near the middle, and studied the sigil he had inscribed there. It was circle of arcane symbols, intricately and painstakingly illustrated with gold and woad ink. Gold harvested from an alchemist’s lab, woad from the deepest woods in Caledonia. The symbol felt warm to his touch, and it reacted to his tracing finger. It turned suddenly brighter. Expectant.

“There are people in this world who find things out,” Sam murmured.  “And there are ways to summon them.”   His finger traced the sign again, this time moving counter clockwise, and the image seemed to move under his finger as if he were spinning a wheel.  He spoke the words of the spell, and he felt power begin to build.  He spoke a second phrase, and he felt the door to the Otherworld open in his mind.  He spoke one more time, and the wheel spun as if on its own, charged with a wind from another place… and the spell was cast.  Sam waited, watching the wheel.  It slowed to a halt and then did nothing.  A minute passed.  A second.  A third — and then it moved again, the wheel rotating so the symbol of an eye was moved to the top.  “So it will be noon.  Or midnight.  Helpful.   Well.  I’ll have company soon.”  He took a deep breath and shut the book. “But gods only know who it will be.”


Later that morning, Sam was sitting behind his counter, flipping through the New Tamsbridge Times and smirking at the funny pages. He’d dressed himself in a rugged old pair of slacks and a blue button-up shirt he’d had for as long as he could remember.  The horror of the night before had receded with the rising of the dawn and the light filtering through the dust-covered windows of the cramped bookstore. A few customers had been drifting in and out of the shop throughout the morning.

The Dusty Covers wasn’t very big.  It wasn’t much at all, really, just a bookstore Sam had bought with the money he’d inherited when he finished school. He had added a rare books dimension to it, leaning on some of the connections he’d made abroad, and developing a few more since he'd been in business.  Really, he thought.  It’s a shame that a magus has to work two jobs to make ends meet; but I wouldn’t want anything else. He loved the place.  He loved the creaky floor boards.  He loved how the doors would sometimes stick, and the lights wouldn’t always work, and even the dust that gathered in the corners faster than Audrey could sweep it away.  He loved the sweet scent of old books; he loved the way the old pages felt under his fingers, delicate and stiff at the same time.  Simply being surrounded by so much knowledge made Sam feel more powerful.  More at home. Wiser.
He was sitting in his favorite big, green, high-backed easy-chair, placed to let him watch the front of the store easily without being far from the archaic cash register.  Sam’s accountant dreamed of the day when Sam would computerize, moving out of the dark ages and ending the endless reams of poorly printed receipts that laid siege to her desk and her sanity, but Sam resisted.  The old ways were good ways, and he would not sacrifice them on the altar of convenience. He listed his books alphabetically and by category, and most prices were marked on fliers posted around the store, with notes to check with him about anything in the rare book section —  which, aside from the books he had protected magically, was freely accessible to anyone.  Another spell worked into the shelves kept the books in good repair, sturdy enough to survive handling and resistant to the assaults of time. Perhaps a cheat, but the books were meant to be handled, meant to be seen and read.  Knowledge is not something to be kept and hoarded, no matter what some of the old guard think.  How can we expect people to learn if we hide the truth?  It must be out there, at least.  Available for them to discover.  Keeping them in the dark is not the same as protecting them.  The bookshelves and the floorboards were oak and Sam’s desk was old chipped mahogany.  Much of the decor was green, and the various tapestries and curtains hanging here and there decorated the place in a riot of different visual and tactile textures.  An ancient percolator lurked behind the desk, and Sam cheerily offered Styrofoam cups full of the thick black tar whenever asked.

Audrey was home from school on fall break, and she was continuing her endless, losing struggle against the ever present dust. Her long hair, so pale it was almost white, was tied up and stuffed under a blue bandanna. Her tongue was sticking slightly out of her mouth as she worked and her pale lilac eyes were narrowed intently.  Sam could hear her muttering about the ‘dust won’t win this time if her name wasn’t Audra Blackthorne.’  Sam smirked to himself, turning the page to find another comic, and then realized there was a girl standing in front of him.

“Hello,” she said, pushing some of her neon-green braids out of her face.  “Anyone home?”
There was a snakebite piercing beneath her lower lip, and she wore a figure-hugging black tee shirt with one of those vampire smiley faces on it.  His gaze traveled slowly upward, lingering for a moment on the silver charms dangling from her exposed belly button. She flashed him a grin when he met her kohl-silhouetted eyes.  “Hello, Sam,” she said.

He blinked and his cheeks heated.  “Um.  Ah.  Hello.  Can I help you?”

She rolled her eyes.  “Figures.  Come in here for a book every week, he doesn’t even recognize me.  Whatever.  No big.  I’m Kennedy Greenborough.”  She put a book on the desk: Ghost Stories, Volume II. “The first one was pretty good.  Really really boring for a book called Ghost stories, but helpful.”

“Helpful?”  Sam asked, glancing at the book, then back up at her.  “That… it’s not the usual thing that people turn to.  Archibald’s a tough read.”

She stared at him.  “Double figures.  Come in here for a book on ghosts every week, and it’s not till I’m wearing a skirt short enough to stop traffic that he notices what I’m reading.  Men.”  She sighed.  “Anyway.  Yeah.  Helpful.  Do you actually know anything, Gandalf, or you do you just sell the books?”

Sam gave her a small shrug.  “I know a bit,” he said, carefully.  “Why?”

She pushed one of the braids behind her ear, watching him through big honey-brown eyes.  “Because,” she said. “I’m hearing things.  And I think they’re the dead.”

“The dead?”

“Bloody wanking hell. Did I stutter?”  She asked.  “Yes, the dead.” A matronly woman, round and kindly, looked up, then quickly looked back down at her browsing in the cook book aisle. The girl touched her tongue to the silver ball below her lip, then looked back at Sam. “I’m pretty sure, at least,” she amended.

Sam ran a hand through his hair. “What… what makes you think you’re hearing ghosts?”

“Well I don’t know, mister,” she said, putting a hand on her hip and popping it to the side.  “Gee willikers, there are voices coming from nowhere, going on and on about frozen nights and ice-cold hands and flashing knives in the dark.  And those gosh-darn voices only come out at night, and only in my attic! And wouldn't you know, the way the bead curtain ripples as the spirits pass through aligns perfectly with Archibald's observations…”  She shrugged.  “Well, mister, I don’t know. I guess I’m just taking the piss, or playing a hunch.  Maybe I should go get the bloody mystery van, because it’s probably an old man with a phonograph just trying to scare me.”

Sam stared.

“What?  I told you.  I’ve been buying a book from you every week. I’ve learned some things.  My dad thinks I’m crazy, but… well, I was hoping that  you could help with it.”


“I don’t know!”  She said.  “There are ghosts talking to me in my attic. I have no idea what to do.  I want to help them, but... why the bloody hell are they coming to me?  I’m nineteen years old and still living with my dad, for Christ’s sake.”

Sam sighed.  “I see your point. Here.”  He took out a piece of paper and scribbled some information on it.  “This is Professor Ling.  She’s an expert on apparitions and shades, and even dabbles in ghost lore when the moon is right.  Find her.  Tell her Professor Lawrence sent you.  She’ll help.”

The girl frowned.  “Professor Ling,” she said, uncertainly.

Sam nodded.  “Do it.  I’ll check up with her in a few days.  If she hasn’t been able to help you, I’ll do what I can.  But she’s the expert.”

The girl nodded, paid for her book, and drifted out.  Sam tried not to look, but… she was right about the skirt.  Sam bit the bottom of his lip and forced himself to look back down into his paper.

“Well, she looks a bit of a tart,” Audrey said.

Sam sputtered a bit as he looked back up.  “You weren’t there a moment ago!”

“Sam, I’ve been here the whole time,” she said.  “Do you really think I was going to leave you alone to talk to that strumpet?  You’ll go to jail.”

“She’s of age!”  He insisted.  “And it’s not like that!”

Audrey rolled her eyes.  “Well, at least you didn’t go home with her.  Honestly.” Her voice rose to a falsetto. “Oh, Sam, there are ghosts in my attic!  Can’t you come upstairs and help me with them? Oh, Sam, they only show up when I’m laying sprawled on my bed looking desperate and lonely.  I can’t believe you don’t see these things, Sam.” She snorted.  “She’s not even English.  Those are our words.”

“She might honestly have a problem,” he said.  “She has been buying books for weeks.”

“So you have noticed,” Audrey crowed triumphantly.

“There are many things that your guardian and teacher has noticed, child,” said the matronly woman, walking over with a gentle smile and a French recipe book.

“Lady,” Sam said, warmly, inclining his head.  “Audrey, this is… the mother. She speaks for the Keeper of the Crossroads. She is sort of a spiritual adviser and cryptic prophetess for the Collegium.”

“Spiritual adviser?  Keeper of the Crossroads?”  Audrey’s eyebrows furrowed as she thought. “Hecate?  You’re a priestess of Hecate?  Advising the Collegium?” Her voice was incredulous.

“You’ve taught her some of the kennings.  Well done, Sam.  And yes, girl.  I find it hard to believe as well.”  She chuckled.  “Difficult to imagine a group of studious, serious, young experts listening to a daft old lady, but there it is.  Miracles happen.”

“Appearances aren’t everything,” Sam said.  “And yes, Audrey.  Each of the various colleges has their patron. But while many of them pay homage to the key-keeper, New Tamsbridge’s Arcane Collegium marks her as their particular favorite.”

“Smart chickadees,” the woman said. “They know what side their toast is buttered on, don’t they?  Dear little lambs.  The girl isn’t wrong, though.”

“Which one?”  Audrey said.  “Me?  No, I’m never wrong.”

“Oh dear child.  Sweet pomegranate.  Not you.  The other one.  Kennedy, daughter of the Green Burrows.   There are things moving through the dark.  The nightmares grow bolder.”

Sam glanced at the door.  “Should I have gone after her?”

“No.  Perhaps.  I cannot tell you these things.  But you have other matters, both related and more pressing, Professor Samuel Lawrence.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, waiting.  “So, you’re the informant, then?  Funny.  I wasn't expecting it to be someone I knew.”

The older woman glanced back at him.  “What’s that, kitten?”

“The informant.  I cast a spell last night, for information? You know, the usual formula, Inquisitive Mind, Willing to pay a Finder?”

She shook her head sadly.  “No, little lamb.  I’m not the one you called. But I am here with a message.”

Sam’s dark eyebrows rose.  “You are?” He asked.  “From… from her?”

She nodded gravely.  “Aye.  She knows your name, Samuel, and so do I.  And don’t think she has forgotten what kind of man you are, or what you are capable of.”

Sam’s own expression grew grave.  Her diction had changed; there was more gravity in each of her words.

“The Prince of Winters is coming,” the matronly woman said, flashing Sam a smile of yellowed teeth.  “The Prince of Winters waits beneath this world, and waits for the gate to open, and when it does, he will come.  You watch, you’ll see him.”  She wheezed a laugh.

“The Prince of Winters?”  Sam asked, confused, looking back from the door.  “Who is that, mother?”
The woman giggled.  “Oh, you know better, Samuel, beloved of the three in one.  When is it ever that easy?  She never gives me all the answers.  You have to find some for yourself.”

“Of course.  Shall it be the usual offering?”

“If you would, Samuel.  A bit of goat would suit me just fine too, if you don’t mind.”

“We don’t have any goat,” Audrey said cheerily, wheeling up one of the book carts.  “But I have some lamb stew I made yesterday, if you like, mum.”

The woman wheezed another laugh.  “What’s this? Young Miss Blackthorne, serving old Betty a bowl of stew?  That sounds delicious, child, thank you.  You are a credit to your name, and I will bless your sweet giving heart if there’s something sweet to finish it.”

“I have some stone fruit pie left, too,” Audrey said.  “I’ll bring some down for Sam and you.  You watch him and make sure he eats!  He won’t unless he’s reminded.”

“I will, dearie.  My lady has too much hope for this one for me to let him to waste away. Yet.”

“And on that creepy note,” Audrey said, ”I’m off.”

“Charming girl,” the old woman said, watching Audrey flee up the stairs, and looked back at Samuel.  “You did a good thing, taking her in.  Not many would have.”

“She needed me.  She needed someone to care. Someone who didn’t care who her great-grandfather was.”

“You don’t care about Cornelius Blackthorne?”  The woman said, laughing.  “Now that’s strange of you, my boy.  Now that was a man that knew the power of secrets.  Knew how to use his fingers, too. Why…”

Sam held up a hand.  “Stop,” he said, both amused and horrified. “Please stop.  Oh gods above, stop.”

“Sort of the opposite of what I told him, sweet duckling, but there you go.  I’ll mind you. You know enough?”


“Good.  I can’t wait for some of that stew.”  She sat down heavily in a padded easy chair and looked him over. The mirth fled from the corners of her eyes, and when she spoke next her voice was full of concern and worry.  “Nothing but trouble coming, Sam,” she said at last.  “Forces you don’t yet understand.  But knowing you, I expect you’ll be seeking them out, running off into danger, like you do, no thought for your own blessed health.”

Sam smiled a little, his eyes twinkling as he handed her her cup of coffee.  “Something like that,” he murmured.  “It’s my role, isn’t it?”

“Seems to be.  Makes you unique in her service.  Most of the Collegium, here… they study.  They observe. They let things happen, and only guide them a little, from the back.  You, my partridge, you have to do.  It’s a charming thing.  You know what it will lead to, of course”

“Better things, I hope,” Sam said. He was comfortable with Betty. She had always seemed so motherly, yet smug,  as if she always new some secret she wouldn’t share.  But now, she was almost charming.  Warm.  “Someone has to do something, right?  There’s so much bad here.”

She sipped from the chipped mug, and then met his eyes.  “Your death.”


“Your death, dear frog.  That’s where this road leads.”  She set her cup on the armrest of the chair.

Sam stared at her, transfixed.  “I. Um.  I thought… I thought you couldn’t… I mean, aren’t there rules about speaking to mortals of their death?”

“I can,” she said.  “The lady has permitted it. You are one of hers.  She loves you, in her way.  And that means so do I, sweet dove.”

Sam swallowed hard, meeting her kindly brown eyes.  “Is there anything that can be done?”

“No.  Well, yes.  There is.”  Her gaze was steady, but the corners of her eyes crinkled in worry.  “You can change your course.  Do not pursue the Prince of Winters.   Let events happen as they will happen.  You do not need to save everyone.”

“But I wouldn’t have even known about the Prince of Winters without you telling me!  Just five minutes ago!”

“That’s true."  She sighed.  "But you had to be told.  Our mother’s children must have their choice.”

Sam brooded.  “If I hold back, if I don’t follow, if he steps through this gate... the nightmares will get worse, won’t they?”

“They may get worse regardless of what you do, Samuel,” she said gently.  “The world does not turn on you alone.”

“But there’s a chance I can help.”

“There is… there is a chance, yes.”

“And if he… gets through.  Comes to this world, from the underworld.  That will be bad?”

“Should he and his queen set foot upon this Earth, the suffering will be immense.”

“His queen…?”

The woman just looked at him. Saying nothing.  Sam sighed.

“But if I pursue… my death.”

“It is as sure as Pluto guards his own.  As sure as dark gives way to light.  As sure as love loves most what’s lost.”

“Three assurances,” Sam muttered.  “True as truth then.”

“True as truth, kitten,” she answered, not unkindly.  She watched him, then added, quietly, “It doesn’t change your mind, does it?”

“No,” he said.  “I’ve… well.  I always known I’m in danger.  It doesn’t change what I’ll do.”

The look she gave him was unreadable.  At length, she spoke again.  “You are the man we thought you were, Samuel.”   There were footsteps down the stair.  She rose, surprisingly sprightly for an older woman. “Enjoy your stew, Samuel. My own appetite has fled… think on what I have said?”

“I will, mother,” Sam said, and he gave her a quick hug.  “Thank you.”

“Of course, partridge,” she said. Sam could have sworn there were tears in her voice as she said it, but her cheeks were dry.
The door opened. Audrey came down the stairs with two bowls of stew, but the woman was gone. 


The afternoon was not as grey as the morning.  The sun was starting to peek out from the clouds above, its radiance warming the late autumn afternoon, yet even its glow had little success fighting the fog's creeping gloom.  Sam sat at one of the picnic tables in the quad between the New Tamsbridge Community College’s four main buildings, waiting for his five o’clock class.  There were a few outlying sections of campus, but this quad was the center of activity.  There was a fountain, and some statuary, and carefully tended shrubs as well, all remnants from when this had been the manor grounds of the old British Governor. Sam took a sip of his coffee and looked down at the stack of papers before him.  Papers I should have had graded last week. Or the week before.  Good lord, I’m behind. He took out his red pen and started to read.

Then he saw them.

She wasn’t a tall girl by any means, but she was somehow larger than the very life she was brimming with.  Five feet tall, if that.  Brown hair that could have been called mousy if it hadn’t been in a pixie cut.  Dark green eyes that absolutely glowed when she giggled. Sam might not have noticed her in the low key chaos of the quad if not for the familiar shape of Marcus walking beside her. Marcus's hand was wrapped around hers, and the smile the two were sharing was twice as warm any sun ever was.
Sam watched as they walked through the grass together, smiling as they eschewed the usual pathways.  He remembered when he and Sofia had been like that.  The world was ours, and nothing could stop us.  Hard to believe I thought like that.  Hard to believe where things went. But dark memories were hard to dwell on, here under the sun, with the halo of joy that surrounded those two. It seems Marcus has already forgotten about last night.  Sam’s smile grew.  Good for him.

“Good for who?”  A smiling man settled on the bench across from Sam. He was scruffy looking, with one eye and lank blonde hair; his hands were stuffed into the pockets of an old leather bomber jacket and he wore a matching trilby on his head.  Sam could smell cheap tobacco and cheaper bourbon from across the table.

Sam blinked.  He didn’t realize he’d spoken aloud.  “For my student.  Young love.”

The man turned, looking right at Marcus and the girl.  Sam saw his smile grow. “Yeah,” the man said, his accent a strange mix of both Boston and Ireland.  “He’s got it good for her, doesn’t he?  Good thing she feels it, too.  A bond they have, stronger than steel or spell or death itself: and so must come to ruin in the end.”


“Oh, inner monologue fails again?”  The man turned back to Sam and offered him his hand.  “Sorry.  It’s nothing.  A will o’ the wisp.  My name’s Saul, Sam.  Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you,” Sam said, a little stunned still. “I… how… how do you know my…”  he took the hand, and his eyes widened. It was rare that Sam was surprised by how someone felt. He could tell something eldritch from a hundred yards off, no problem. But this guy.  His touch was pure Otherworld: there was flesh there, but it was soaked in the other side.  This guy had snuck right up on him.  “Impressive,” he muttered.

“What is?”  The man said, flashing an innocent smile that Sam could almost believe.

“Your ability to hide.” Sam stared at the man hard. “What are you?”

The man grinned.  “Here to help you, Sammy,” he said.  “And that ought to be enough.  You have to watch out for your boy and his lady, you know.  That story never ends well.  There’s a reason paternal protection is sought, in some circles, and… well, nevermind.”

“What is it?”

“Things you can’t know.  Things I can’t put into words.” He shrugged and looked back at Sam with his one blue eye.  “It’s a curse.”

“What are you, some kind of prophet?”

The man stared back at him.  “Sure, you can call me that. If that helps you sleep or helps it all make sense.  A prophet of… well, all sorts of things, really.  What would you like today?”

“Answers,” Sam replied.  He pointed a finger at the man. “Straight answers.”

“Oh,” Saul said, and now his eye gleamed like a grinning cat’s.  “That will cost you.”

At the edge of Sam’s gaze, he saw Kendra and Marcus move into one of the school buildings. He turned to focus his attention on the stranger in front of him.

“Saul, is it?”  He asked.

The other man nodded.  “So I said.”

Sam met his gaze and held it for a time. “What do you charge?”

“The usual,” the man replied, waving vaguely.  “No firstborn or anything like that.  Too messy. I trade in power.  Favors. Knowledge.”  He flashed another grin.  “Nothing you can’t afford, Professor Samuel Lawrence. You asked for me, after all. I wouldn’t have come if you didn’t have the coin I wanted.”

“I thought as much, “ Sam muttered.  “You’re the finder, then.  A bloody prophet.” He snorted.  “That makes everything easier, doesn’t it?”

“Something like that, professor.”  The man shrugged again.  “What do you want to know?”

“About the nightmares,” Sam said.  “What they want.  Who’s bringing- or sending- them here. And who the Prince of Winters is.”

The man nodded, his one eye staring for a moment.  “Important answers.  Some of them dangerous.  The cost is high.”

Sam nodded, not surprised.  “I figured as much.  How much?”

The man was silent for a moment.  “A memory,” he said at last.  “A remembrance.  Not yours, necessarily, but that would be easier for me.  A book.  And One.  Large.  Favor.”

“One Large Favor?”

“Yes.  Bigger than a regular favor, but not quite a huge favor.  You’ll be fine. That’s not the life-threatening level.  Usually.  Probably.  You’re a capable boy.”


The man waved it off.  “Girl.  Whatever you want me to call you, Sammy, it’s yours. I don’t judge.”
“And the memory?”

The man smiled.  “I have so many of them, you see… it’d be nice to know for sure where one came from.  But this one… this one…”  He closed his eye.  “Her. "

Chills ran up and down Sam's arms. "Her?"

 You know the one.  The one you were thinking about before I sat here.  The one with the hair like sunset and the eyes like diamonds.”

Sam stared, “How…?”

“That’s my business,” the man said.  “Not yours.  But I will take your first kiss.  The memory of it, I mean.”

There was a sinking feeling in the pit of Sam’s stomach.  He had been afraid of something like this. Everything of value has a cost, but to give to give her up? Could I do that?  This information is important.  Too important for half-measures, but… Sofia. “That was my very first kiss,” he said, at last, slowly. “Years ago.”

“For something precious to be learned, something precious must be lost. And there are few things as precious as remembered kisses,” Saul replied, watching him.  “But I won’t push.  You have the book I want.  I will point it out at your store, soon.  And the favor.  You will pay it?”

Sam nodded.

“Then the deal is struck.  But you get what you pay for, Sammy.  You’re sure?”

Sam nodded again.

“Right.  I’ll see you soon.”  The man rose.  “I have things to learn.”

Sam watched him leave.  He looked back down at the papers he had been grading.  He took a deep breath, let it out, packed them into his briefcase and headed to class.

(want more?  The next section is Here!)


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