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  MEG CABOT

  the

  mediator

  Darkest Hour

  In memory of

  Marcia Mounsey

  I don’t even really know how it happened. I was being way careful, you know? Careful not to fall in love with Jesse, I mean.

  And I’d been doing a really good job. I mean, I was getting out and meeting new people and doing new things, just like it says to do in Cosmo. I certainly wasn’t sitting around mooning over him or anything.

  And yeah, okay, the majority of guys I have met since moving to California have turned out either to have psychopathic killers stalking them, or were actually psychopathic killers themselves. But that’s really not a very good excuse for falling in love with a ghost. It really isn’t.

  But that’s what happened.

  CONTENTS

  “I don’t even really know how it happened.”

  CHAPTERS

  ONE

  Summer. Season of long, slow days and short…

  TWO

  I swear that’s what he said.

  THREE

  I don’t even really know how it happened. I was…

  FOUR

  Being a mediator, I am not unaccustomed to…

  FIVE

  God, I hate crying. It’s so humiliating. And I…

  SIX

  “Susannah!” Jesse cried from where he’d leaped…

  SEVEN

  My day pretty much went downhill from there.

  EIGHT

  Okay, so I went out with him.

  NINE

  Ghost busting is a tricky business.

  TEN

  Here’s the thing about mediators:

  ELEVEN

  I sank down onto the window seat.

  TWELVE

  “For the last time, Susannah,” Father Dominic…

  THIRTEEN

  He wasn’t in the pool.

  FOURTEEN

  If you ask me, Father D. way overreacted.

  FIFTEEN

  Father Dominic looks funny, I thought. Why does…

  SIXTEEN

  I stared down at the end of the rope in horror.

  SEVENTEEN

  How it all ended that day was with Jack and Jesse…

  Excerpt: Haunted

  Read all the Mediator books

  About the Author

  By Meg Cabot

  But wait! There’s more by Meg…

  For more about Meg…

  Credits

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  chapter

  one

  Summer. Season of long, slow days and short, hot nights.

  Back in Brooklyn, where I spent my first fifteen of them, summer—when it hadn’t meant camp—had meant hanging out on the stoop with my best friend, Gina, and her brothers, waiting for the ice-cream truck to come by. When it wasn’t too hot, we played a game called War, dividing into teams with the other kids in the neighborhood and shooting each other with imaginary guns.

  When we got older, of course, we quit playing War. Gina and I also started laying off the ice cream.

  Not that it mattered. None of the neighborhood guys, the ones we used to play with, wanted anything to do with us. Well, with me, anyway. I don’t think they’d have minded renewing acquaintances with Gina, but by the time they finally noticed what a babe she’d grown into, she’d set her sights way higher than guys from the ’hood.

  I don’t know what I expected from my sixteenth summer, my first since moving to California to live with my mom and her new husband…and, oh, yeah, his sons. I guess I envisioned the same long, slow days. Only these, in my mind, would be spent at the beach rather than on an apartment building’s front stoop.

  And as for those short, hot nights, well, I had plans for those, as well. All I needed was a boyfriend.

  But as it happened, neither the beach nor the boyfriend materialized, the latter because the guy I liked? Yeah, he so wasn’t interested. At least, as far as I could tell. And the former because…

  Well, because I was forced to get a job.

  That’s right: A job.

  I was horrified when one night at dinner, around the beginning of May, my stepfather, Andy, asked me if I’d put in any summer employment applications anywhere. I was all, “What are you talking about?”

  But it soon became clear that, like the many other sacrifices I’d been asked to make since my mother met, fell in love with, and married Andy Ackerman—host of a popular cable television home improvement program, native Californian, and father of three—my long hot summer lazing at the beach with my friends was not to be.

  In the Ackerman household, it soon unfolded, you had two alternatives for how you spent your summer break: a job, or remedial tutoring. Only Doc, my youngest stepbrother—known as David to everyone but me—was exempt from either of these, as he was too young to work, and he had made good enough grades that he’d been accepted into a month-long computer camp, at which he was presumably learning skills that would make him the next Bill Gates—only hopefully without the bad haircut and Wal-Mart-y sweaters.

  My second-youngest stepbrother, Dopey (also known as Brad) was not so lucky. Dopey had managed to flunk both English and Spanish—an astounding feat, in my opinion, English being his native language—and so was being forced by his father to attend summer school five days a week…when he wasn’t being used as unpaid slave labor on the project Andy had undertaken while his TV show was on summer hiatus: tearing down a large portion of our house’s backyard deck and installing a hot tub.

  Given the alternatives—employment or summer school—I chose to seek employment.

  I got a job at the same place my oldest stepbrother, Sleepy, works every summer. He, in fact, recommended me, an act which, at the time, simultaneously stunned and touched me. It wasn’t until later that I found out that he had received a small bonus for every person he recommended who was later hired.

  Whatever. What it actually boils down to is this: Sleepy—Jake, as he is known to his friends and the rest of the family—and I are now proud employees of the Pebble Beach Hotel and Golf Resort, Sleepy as a lifeguard at one of the resort’s many pools, and me as…

  Well, I signed away my summer to become a hotel staff babysitter.

  Okay. You can stop laughing now.

  Even I will admit that it’s not the kind of job I ever thought I’d be suited for, since I am not long on patience and am certainly not overly fond of having my hair spat up in. But allow me to point out that it does pay ten dollars an hour, and that that does not include tips.

  And let me just say that the people who stay at the Pebble Beach Hotel and Golf Resort? Yeah, they are the kind of people who tend to tip. Generously.

  The money, I must say, has gone a long way toward healing my wounded pride. If I have to spend my summer in mindless drudgery, earning a hundred bucks a day—and frequently more—amply compensates for it. Because by the time the summer is over, I should have, without question, the most stunning fall wardrobe of anyone entering the junior class of the Junipero Serra Mission Academy.

  So think about that, Kelly Prescott, while you spend your summer lounging by your father’s pool. I’ve already got four pairs of Jimmy Choos, paid for with my own money.

  What do you think about that, Little Miss Daddy’s AmEx?

  The only real problem with my summer job—besides the whiny children and their equally whiny, but loaded, parents, of course—is the fact that I am expected to report there at 8:00 in the morning every day.

  That’s right. 8:00 A.M. No sleeping in for old Suze this summer.

  I must say I find this a bit excessive. And believe me, I’ve complained. And yet the management staff at the Pebble Beach Hotel and Golf Resort have remained st