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The course of dream travel never did run smooth—at least, not in Liv Silver's experience. Able to visit other people's dreams (whether they want her to or not), Liv has solved mysteries, unearthed difficult truths, fought madmen, and escaped life-threatening peril, all from the comfort of her own bed. But Liv's troubles are just beginning...
A rocky romance, a malicious blogger with a hidden identity, a wedding, and a classmate (or two) dead-set on revenge all await Liv in this action-packed conclusion to the Silver trilogy.
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About the Author
Kerstin Gier is the bestselling author of the Ruby Red trilogy, as well as several popular novels for adults. She lives in Germany.
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The Silver Trilogy Book Three
By Kerstin Gier, Anthea Bell
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2015 Kerstin Gier
All rights reserved.
DESSERT WAS TAPIOCA pudding, which would have taken my appetite right away if the Rasmus problem hadn't done it already.
"Aren't you going to eat that, Liv?" Grayson pointed to my tapioca, pale, translucent, and wobbly in its glass dish in front of me. He'd already wolfed down his own helping of lumpy slime with pineapple jam.
I pushed the dish his way. "No, you're welcome to it. One more British tradition that hasn't swept me off my feet yet."
"Ignoramus," said Grayson with his mouth full, and Henry laughed.
It was a Tuesday at the beginning of March, and the sun shone in through the tall, poorly cleaned windows of the school cafeteria. It cast a delicate striped pattern on walls and faces, bathing everything in warm light. I even imagined I could catch the smell of spring in the air, but maybe that was just the large bunch of daffodils lying on the teachers' table, where my French teacher, Mrs. Lawrence, had just sat down. She looked as if she'd slept even worse than me.
So there was spring in the air; Grayson, Henry, and I had grabbed our favorite table in the sunny corner near the exit; and I'd heard a little while ago that there wouldn't be a history test tomorrow after all. In short, everything would have been just wonderful, if I hadn't had the aforesaid Rasmus problem on my mind.
"Sometimes tapioca pudding can be delicious." Henry, who had sensibly skipped dessert, smiled at me, and for a few seconds, I forgot our troubles and smiled back. Maybe things would turn out all right. What did Lottie always say? There are no such things as problems, only challenges.
Exactly. Think how boring life would be without any challenges. Not that it had been absolutely necessary to add an extra challenge to the pile of them already facing me, anyway. Unfortunately that was the very thing I'd done.
It had happened on the evening of the day before yesterday, and I still had no idea how I was going to wriggle out of it.
Henry and Grayson had been studying for a math test at our house, and when they'd finished, Henry had taken a little detour to my room to say good night to me on his way to the front door. It was late, and the house had been quiet for some time. Even Grayson thought Henry had already left for home.
I was genuinely surprised to see Henry, not just because it was the middle of the night, but also because we still hadn't gotten around to officially changing our relationship status from "unhappily separated" to "happily reconciled." Over the last few weeks, we had silently gone back to holding hands, and we'd also kissed a couple of times, so you could have thought everything was back to the same as before, or at least well on the way there — but that wasn't it. The experiences of recent months, and things that Grayson had told me about Henry's love life before I came on the scene, had left their mark on me in the form of a persistent inferiority complex about my sexual inexperience (or "being so backward," as my mother put it).
If I hadn't been so happy that we were close to each other again, maybe I'd have taken the trouble to analyze the feelings smoldering under my happy infatuation more closely, and if I'd done that, maybe I wouldn't have thought up Rasmus in the first place.
But as it was, I'd put my foot in it.
When Henry had looked around the door, I was just putting in the new mouth guard for my teeth. My dentist, a.k.a. Charles Spencer, had discovered that I obviously ground my teeth in my sleep (and I immediately believed him), so the mouth guard was to keep me from wearing the enamel of my teeth away at night. I couldn't tell whether it was working; mainly it seemed to make my mouth water a lot, so I thought of it as my silly drooling thingy.
At the sight of Henry, I immediately tucked it between the mattress and the bedstead, without letting him notice. It was bad enough that my pajama top and bottoms didn't match, and didn't suit me all that well either, although Henry said he thought checked flannel was amazingly sexy. Which led to me kissing him, kind of as a reward for the nice compliment, and that kiss led to the next one, which lasted rather longer, and finally (by now I'd lost some of my sense of time and place) we were lying on my bed whispering things that sounded like lines from soppy song lyrics, although right at that moment they didn't seem to me soppy at all.
So our relationship status was clearly heading for "happily in love," and I was inclined to believe that Henry really did think I looked sexy in checked flannel.
But then he stopped in the middle of what he was doing, pushed a strand of my hair back from my forehead, and said I didn't need to be afraid.
"Afraid of what?" I asked, still feeling a bit dazed from all the kissing. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that it had just happened in real life, and not, as usual, in a dream where no one could disturb us. Which was probably why it felt so much more intense than usual too.
Henry propped himself on his elbows. "You know what. Afraid it might all happen too quickly. Or I might expect too much from you. Or want you to do something before you're ready for it. We truly do have as long as you like before your first time."
And then it happened. Now, in the bright light of the school cafeteria on a fine spring day, I couldn't explain it to myself ... well, I could explain it, sure, but unfortunately that made things no better. Anyway, Henry's choice of words was to blame. That infuriating your first time.
It was the cue that brought my inferiority complex into play, and it also dragged its friend, my injured pride, along with it. They were both firmly convinced that Henry was somehow sorry for me because of my inexperience, or at least the expression on his face sometimes very much resembled pity.
Like at that exact moment, for instance.
"Oh. So you think I've never ... never slept with a boy?" I sat up and wrapped the bedspread more tightly around me. "I see what you mean now." I laughed a little. "You took that virginity stuff seriously when you and the others were playing your demon game, did you?"
"Er, yes." Henry sat up as well.
"But I only said I was a virgin so that I could play the game with you." My injured pride was making me say things that surprised me as much as they surprised Henry. Meanwhile, my inferiority complex was applauding enthusiastically.
I really liked the confusion on Henry's face, and the way he raised one eyebrow. Not a trace of pity now.
"We never really talked about it before," I babbled, almost forgetting that I was telling downright lies, my voice sounded so convincing. "Of course I didn't have as many boyfriends as you've had girlfriends, but well, there was ... this boy that I went out with. In Pretoria."
Since Henry didn't respond but just looked at me expectantly, I went on. "It wasn't a great love or anything like that, and we only went out for three months, but sex with him was ..." At this point, my injured pride suddenly switched off (damn it), and I was on my own again.
And hating myself horribly. Why had I done it? Instead of using the opportunity for a genuine conversation, I was simply making everything worse. I instantly went bright red in the face because I saw no way of ending the sentence I'd just begun. Sex with him was ... hello? Only now did I notice how intently Henry was looking into my eyes all this time. "Was ... okay," I muttered with the last of my strength.
"Okay," repeated Henry slowly. "And ... what was this guy's name?"
Yes, you stupid injured pride, what was it? I ought to have thought of that before. The longer you hesitate before telling a lie, the less convincing it is. Any child knows that.
So I said, quickly, "Rasmus." Because it was the first name to occur to me when I thought of South Africa. And because I actually was a pretty good liar.
Rasmus had been the name of our neighbor's asthmatic chow. I used to dog-sit him, and for a hundred rands an hour, I took him and a pug called Sir Barksalot for walks with our own dog, Buttercup.
"Rasmus," repeated Henry, and I nodded, relieved. It sounded good. There could be worse names for imaginary ex-boyfriends. Sir Barksalot, for instance.
To my surprise, Henry changed the subject at this point, although I'd already prepared myself for an interrogation. Or to be precise, he didn't actually change the subject, he began kissing me again. As if he wanted to prove that he was better at it than Rasmus. It wouldn't have made any difference if Rasmus had been real — no Rasmus in the world could kiss better than Henry.
All that was two days ago now, and since then we hadn't mentioned my imaginary ex-boyfriend again. Okay, so my inferiority complex had enjoyed its one tiny moment of triumph, but in the long run, the Rasmus lie was not good therapy. And that was why I had to contend with a sinking feeling in my stomach, even without eating tapioca pudding, and even though Henry was smiling at me.
By now Grayson had vacuumed up my dessert and was looking hungrily around the cafeteria as if he expected to see a good fairy flying over to our table to hand out more dishes of tapioca.
Instead of the good fairy, however, Emily swept past us, casting Grayson a glance for which she certainly ought to have had a firearms license. She'd have run down poor Mr. Vanhagen if he hadn't saved himself by swerving toward the teachers' table, while Emily went on her way to the counter where they served lunch, and where Grayson's twin sister, Florence, was waiting for her.
For several weeks now, Emily had been Grayson's ex-girlfriend, and she had problems with that little syllable ex. I admired Grayson for his calm stoicism when he crossed Emily's path. Even now he was just grinning. "I thought I'd had my day's quota of scornful looks in English class."
"I think she's upped the dosage." Henry leaned forward to get a better view of Emily and Florence. "I'm no professional lip-reader, of course, but I'm just about sure she's been telling your sister what you dreamed about last night. Wait a moment ... the bunny-rabbit dream? Really?"
Because winding Grayson up was always fun, and it also took my mind off my own problems, I went along with Henry at once. "You mean the dream about the fluffy toy rabbit? Do you think Emily will give you away?" Grayson put his spoon back in the dish and favored us with a mild smile. "How often do I have to tell you two that you're wrong? Emily doesn't know anything about the dream corridor. Apart from which she'd never go poking about in other people's dreams. She's far too sensible and realistic for that."
Unimaginative was more like it, but I couldn't say so because Grayson had more to say. "I don't know why the pair of you are always going on about it. I mean, nothing at all has happened for weeks now. That stuff is over and done with."
As always when he said that — and he said it fairly often, to convince himself that it was true — a part of me (the trusting part that liked a quiet life) hoped he was right. In fact, it was true that peace and calm had reigned in the dream corridors for weeks.
"Arthur has learned his lesson. He'll leave us alone now," said Grayson firmly, and the trusting part of me that liked a quiet life immediately played the same tune: Right, we don't always have to assume the worst! And people change. There's some good in everyone. Even Arthur.
"Yes, sure, Grayson." Henry frowned mockingly. "And of course he forgave you, ages ago, for breaking into his house while he was asleep and punching his nose. Very nice of him."
Arthur was sitting not far away from us, right behind the teachers' table, where Mr. Vanhagen was talking excitedly to Mrs. Cook, the headmistress, while Mrs. Lawrence, her eyes drooping, seemed about to lower her head into her soup bowl. Arthur was laughing at something that Gabriel had said, and showing his perfect teeth. There was no sign now of the injuries inflicted on him by Grayson; his face was as angelic as ever. He seemed relaxed and self-confident. I immediately regretted looking his way. The sight of him always made me furious all over again, and so did the fact that the others had no idea what kind of person was really sharing a table with them.
"Well, he may still be angry with me," Grayson conceded. "But he's bright enough to know when he has to give up." He energetically collected his assorted empty plates and dishes. "No one would give it another thought if you two would stop going through dream doors that shouldn't really exist." The doubtful expression on our faces obviously annoyed him because he looked away, but he added, thrusting out his chin defiantly, "Everything's just fine."
The trusting part of me that liked a quiet life had finally fallen silent.
"Sure, it's fine and dandy." My eyes flashed at Grayson. "Aside from a few minor details, like the fact that Arthur swore he'd get his revenge on us after he failed to murder my little sister. Or the fact that bloodthirsty Anabel has put her psychiatrist into some horrible kind of coma while she's on the loose again. Or that your supersensible, morally impeccable ex-girlfriend slinks into your dreams by night. But like I said, those are only minor details. Everything is just fine."
"That's not true." Although I had mentioned only a fraction of our problems in my list, Grayson picked on only the comparatively harmless bit about his exgirlfriend. "Even if it was really Emily that you two saw in the dream corridor, which isn't likely, it will have been a one-off incident." He slammed a used spoon down on the pile of dishes on his tray. "Never mind the fact that she's guaranteed to take no interest in my dreams — she could never get past my new security precautions. Nor could you," he added in a grim undertone.
"Oh, is Frightful Freddy going to make people spell tapioca pudding backward?" I was about to ask, but I got no farther than Freddy because at that moment Mrs. Lawrence jumped up and climbed on the teachers' table.
And we were soon to discover that we'd been like people having a comfortable picnic on the crater of a volcano. They know the volcano could erupt any moment, but they keep saying how terribly dangerous it is, and arguing, and only when the earth shakes underneath them and lava shoots up do they realize that the situation is really serious. And that it's too late to do anything to save themselves.
Having knocked several glasses over, Mrs. Lawrence had attracted the attention of everyone present. Some of the teachers jumped up because their juice or water was dripping over their clothes. Mrs. Cook, with great presence of mind, picked up the vase of daffodils and got it to safety, and all the students sitting near us started whispering.
Mrs. Lawrence was around forty, and with her finely drawn features, dark hair, and long, graceful neck, she reminded me of that French movie star with the long bangs — Sophie Someone. She liked to wear pale blouses, Chanel suits, and high-heeled shoes in which she could move amazingly fast. Her hair was pinned up in a style that was elegant but still looked casual, and she could glare at you quite sternly if you hadn't done your French homework. In general, she looked the very image of the ideal French teacher, and we'd always felt as if Mrs. Cook hadn't appointed her in the normal way but had hired her straight from a movie set.
But that image had taken a bad knock now. Totally unfazed by the chaos around her, she stood on the teachers' table surrounded by the used dishes and overturned glasses and flung out her arms in a dramatic gesture.
At first I thought she might be going to make some kind of Dead Poets Society speech, quoting Walt Whitman, which would have been odd enough, anyway, since English poetry wasn't her subject, but unfortunately I was wrong.
"As you may know, because anyone could have read it in the blog of some little tart calling herself Secrecy, Giles Vanhagen here and I have been having an affair for the last two school years," she announced in the clear voice that usually made her students tremble, and not only the younger ones. Mr. Vanhagen, who had just been trying to mop up the contents of the spilled glasses with a napkin, froze rigid, and all the color drained out of his face.
You could have heard a pin drop in the cafeteria.
"An affair," repeated Mrs. Lawrence, turning the corners of her mouth down scornfully. "I hate that word. It makes everything so shabby, so petty and despicable, when it seemed to me so pure, wonderful, and sweet. I was so in love, so happy, and so sure that we had been made for each other."
Excerpted from Just Dreaming by Kerstin Gier, Anthea Bell. Copyright © 2015 Kerstin Gier. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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