Last Light(8)

By: Dean Koontz

She glanced at nearby diners and said, “Quieter, okay? Maybe they’re children by comparison, but children can be as mean as snakes, and they way outnumber us.”

Adopting a stage whisper that probably carried as far as his normal voice, Rainer said, “I’ll be as discreet as a confessor.”

She glared at him. “I’m serious.”

“I know. It’s real cute.” Leaning forward, dropping the stage whisper, but speaking no more discreetly than before, he said, “What exactly does your touch bring you?”

She dared not say that she saw the wickedness in people, their darker and darkest secrets. Because she had read him so completely in mere seconds, she claimed that her gift was what she knew his to be. She spoke softly as she lied. “I see whatever their biggest problem is at the moment, what worries and frustrates them.”

“With that, you could make yourself everyone’s best friend.”

She smiled. “They think I’m way sensitive and caring.”

“You look the sensitive and caring type.”

“Screw them,” she said.

“You have a huge advantage in any relationship—especially if in fact you don’t give a shit about them. Sweet, isn’t it?”

“Sweet,” she agreed. She felt increasingly confident that he didn’t know how profoundly she had read him, and that he had not read her as deeply as he’d been read.

The waitress returned with two cold beers and frosted glasses. “Ready to order dinner yet?” she asked.

“Not yet,” Makani said. “Give us ten minutes.”

“Oh, sure, take your time.”

“And you?” Makani asked Rainer when the waitress had gone. “What comes to you with a touch?”

“Same as you. Their biggest problem, the thing obsessing them. Maybe she has a filthy-rich husband she despises, she needs him gone forever. Or maybe it’s the rich husband, he has this much younger wife who was a mistake, and she pumped out a baby he never wanted, and a divorce will cost too much. I’m their problem solver.” As he tipped his bottle and poured beer into the glass, he said, “What’s my biggest problem, Makani? What did you see when you took my hand?”

She told part of the truth now that it served her to do so. “You’re unique. You have no problem. At least I didn’t see anything that’s troubling or frustrating you.”

“And you saw that I have the power.”

“Felt it, knew it, more than saw it. Almost like an electrical shock. It would’ve knocked me down if I’d been standing. Like you, I always thought there was…only me.”

“Neither of us should ever have a problem, a frustration,” he said. “With the power, I’m king of the world. You’re a queen among billions of clueless commoners.” He leaned forward, regarding her with desire that earlier she had welcomed and that now sickened her. “Before you took my hand, before we touched, I asked if you believed in destiny. You said sometimes you wonder. Well, now you know. That we should meet, that we should want each other even before we knew we were alike…that’s the very definition of destiny.”

She would have to kill him. She was shaken by the realization. Sickened. But she would not bed him, could not abide him. Seduction was quickening toward consummation. If her previous interest in him did not gain heat, even as his was going from embers to full flame, he would suspect that she was deceiving him. She didn’t have a gun. He was bigger than she was, stronger. When they were alone, while he still thought their kingdoms would combine, she would need a knife and a moment when he turned his back.

Makani was surprised that she could conjure a lascivious smile. “What will it be like, us two, all your power in all of mine?”

“We’ll shake the walls,” he said. “But one thing worries me. I have no problem, but you do. And your problem, as I saw it, is that you hate the power you’ve been given.”

“But I don’t,” she lied.

“But you do.” Sadness was not in his nature, so he had to craft a sad smile. “With the touch, I read you no less than you read me. I know what I saw. And I know what you saw. So many murders. And so many more to come—starting with you.”

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