“Subsisto,” Adessa screams with her hands out in front of her. Sparks shower from her fingertips and soar across the room toward Alex and Laylen.
They fly away from each other, Alex landing by Aislin’s bare feet and Laylen beside mine. He smacks his head on the floor and I peer down at him as he blinks up at me. There’s a moment that passes between us, a need that wants to be fed, but there’s still a part of me that rebels against the urge. I won’t let it happen right now; not in front of an audience.
“What the hell are you two doing?” Aislin asks as Alex stands up, dusting wood chips and glass out of his hair. He’s dressed in the same t-shirt and jeans as when I saw him last, only now the jeans are torn at the knee.
Alex wipes his bleeding lip with his arm and then shakes his head. “He fucking bit her.” His voice trembles and he lacks his usual composure, alarmingly so.
Laylen gets up, brushing his hair out of his eyes, and Alex instantly moves toward him like he can’t control himself.
Aislin grabs the back of Alex’s shirt and holds him back. “Laylen bit Gemma?”
He motions his hand at us. “Obviously. Look at her... And him.”
“Oh my God. I thought another Vampire did that.” However she lacks the confidence to be believable, as if she’s in denial.
I could try to lie, but everyone in the room knows what happened. It’s written all over the both of us in blood and the euphoric state in our eyes.
“Laylen,” Aislin whispers, tucking strands of her golden brown hair behind her ears. “Is it… is it true? Did you bite her?”
Laylen looks away to the wall and I become hyperaware of how much of a mess we’re really in. Not only is Alex pissed off because I’ve been bit, but Aislin looks as if her heart has been crushed.
Aislin releases Alex’s shirt and steps back with her chin tipped toward the floor. “Oh.”
Laylen drags his fingers through his hair and then, staring down at the floor, hurries out of the room. Aislin chases after Laylen, or maybe just runs off in the same direction, about to burst into tears. Adessa takes one look at Alex and me, then turns around and walks out of the room.
Smart woman. I envy her at the moment.
I’m highly aware that Alex is right behind me, standing only inches away from me. The sparks rise and then diminish as if they’re trying to breathe again yet can’t quite get enough air. I wonder what caused the sensation to fade; what’s the reason it’s barely there when they’ve been so strong before?
Finally, I turn around and face Alex. He’s already watching me, his hands in his pockets, and he looks strangely uncomfortable.
“Why?” he finally says, then he waits, for what I’m not sure. An explanation. For me to deny it. For me to say I’m sorry and that I hated it. None of those would fit, though, because all of them would be a lie.
I sink down on the remaining upturned sofa, my legs unable to bear my weight. “I needed to find out if my mother was still alive and if she was in The Underworld.”
With a pucker at his brow he sits down on the other end of the sofa as far away from me as he can get. “Where did you go?”
I shake my head and shrug. “Some place where Vampires feed on willing humans.”
“So who bit you?” he asks through gritted teeth.
I’m not even sure why he’s asking. “I think you know who it is already, since you just tried to kick his ass.”
His muscles spasm as he works to stay calm, finally getting up and pacing in front of me. “I know, but I needed to hear you say it.”
“Because I do.”
“He only did it because I told him to,” I say quietly, scraping some of the dried blood off my arm with my fingernails. “It was the only way Draven would tell us about my mother.”
“Draven” he says tightly, stopping in front of me. “That’s who you went to see?”
I nod once. “I guess he can see stuff in different realms.”
“I know that.” His voice is clipped as he drops back down onto the sofa, leaning against the armrest. “But what I don’t get is why you two would act so stupidly.”
“It wasn’t stupid,” I retort, my head snapping in his direction. “I was just trying to find out about my mom… and she could help us, you know. She could know things, since your father put her there for a reason.”
“So what,” he snaps, scooting closer to me. “Find another way, then. Don’t go to some sketchy Vampire and Lord of the Afterlife to get your answers. Jesus, do you know how dangerous that is, especially if he figured out who you are.”
“So what if he does,” I say. “He gave me the answer I wanted. She’s alive, Alex. My mom’s alive.”
“That doesn’t matter at the moment,” he says and fury storms through my body. “We don’t know for sure what the star’s power is for, and until we do, we need to be careful. The more people who know about you, the easier it’ll be for my father and the Death Walkers to find you. Not to mention people like Draven would love to get ahold of the power you have in you.” He reaches to take my hands, but then spots the blood on my fingers and pulls away. “Do you know what people would do to get ahold of that kind of power? What they would do to you?”
I tap my finger against my chin, bitterness seeping into my voice. “Hmm… I bet I can guess. How about break my soul, my heart, my memories—my whole freaking life—and also ruin everyone whoever mattered to me.”
His lips part in shock. “I don’t…” he trails off, shaking his head.
I push to my feet. “Besides, that’s not even what you’re mad about. You’re pissed off because Laylen drank my blood and now I’m going to be addicted to getting my blood drunk.” I back toward the door, shaking with rage, but I’m not quite sure where it stems from. “Well, you know what. It was worth it because I know my mom’s still alive and that’s all that matters to me.”
He rises from the couch, and I turn to run. I think about running out the front door, running away from this mess—my feelings—because there’s too many of them inside me. I feel so much right now, I swear I’m going to explode.
The problem is that my emotions are strongly linked to people in this house and it makes running away impossible, so I do the only thing that I can. I race upstairs, lock myself in my room, and cry as confusion takes over my heart.
Alex takes my hands in his. “Tell me you want me.”
We’re standing in front of the lake, the moon reflecting in the dark, still water. The chilled wind smells mossy and the water softly lulls. “Tell me I’m the only one you love.”
“I don’t even know what love is,” I reply, staring out at the water.
He frees one of my hands, fixes a finger under my chin, and angles my face toward him. “Tell me you love me, please,” he begs.
I open my mouth to speak, but then someone walks up behind me and I turn around, briefly breaking Alex and mine’s connection.
Laylen hikes up the shore toward us, bare foot and shirtless. “Gemma, I need you,” he says as he reaches us. “Please, come with me.”
He holds out his hand and I want to take it, but I also don’t want to let go of Alex’s hand. With my free hand I reach for him, but Alex tightens his hold on my other hand and pulls me away
“No, please don’t,” he pleads. “I need you.”
I glance back and forth between them as Laylen slips his fingers through mine. I hold onto both of them, knowing I’m going to have to choose, knowing that I can’t have both—that I don’t have the right to.
I stay in my room for two days. I don’t shower. I barely move, only getting out of bed to stare out the window and watch the city move through the time. Adessa brings me food, which I barely eat. Other than that, no one else comes to see me, although I sense both Alex and Laylen walk by a few times. The strange connection I have with them thrives the second they get close, but neither ever enters. It’s like I’m back to the old Gemma, the lonely, isolated one, and for the moment it’s what I need because I don’t know how to deal with everything inside me.
I watch the sun rise and set. The more time goes by, the calmer I get and I wonder if I should just stay in bed forever. Eventually, though, I start to stink and the grossness of the dried blood coating my clothes and skin gets to me.
As the sun descends behind the hills, marking the second day to pass since Laylen bit me, I climb out of bed. The lights of Vegas vibrantly sparkle through the window, lighting up the room, but it’s still dark enough that it’s hard to see so I flip the light on. I take a thin-strapped, black shirt from the dresser along with a cream and black striped skirt, and then I make my way out into the quiet hallway.
I’m not sure which door belongs to the bathroom, but I luck out and it’s the first one I open. I peel off my clothes, wincing at my stiff muscles, then turn on the water. As I wait for it to heat up, I look at my reflection.
My violet eyes are bloodshot and, even though the holes in my neck have began to heal, there’s dried blood all over it. My shirt is torn, exposing more of my breast than I’m comfortable with and my brown hair is tangled around my face. The only thing that is somewhat comforting is that the scratches on my neck, from where Laylen’s fangs scrapped me, are almost invisible. Still, I look hideous. It’s a simple as that.
I climb into the shower and scrub the blood off my body with a loofa. I scrub so hard my skin hurts. I scrub and scrub, the water beneath my feet tinting red as it whirls down the drain. I want to scrub everything off my body, including how I feel. Because, through my erratic, perplexed, emotions, I feel dirty and wrong and I want to feel right again, or as right as I’ve ever felt anyway. What I want is to feel the void inside my body shrinking. I want someone to comfort me, hold me, and hug me. God, when did I get so needy? I never needed anyone before, although I also never felt so bruised and emotionally torn up, either.
Hot tears spill out of my eyes as I rinse my face off and then sink down into the tub. I hug my legs against my chest, letting the showerhead pour water on me, wishing it had the power to erase my misery—erase me.
I sob into my knees, my body shaking and shivering as I try to sift through the last couple of days. I let Laylen bite me merely so I could get something I wanted. I hurt Laylen and Aislin and pissed off Alex by doing it. Am I that bad of a person? Completely greedy and selfish. Who am I? I don’t know.
My head suddenly shoots up when I hear the bathroom door open. I tense as a shadow forms on the other side of the shower curtain.
“Gemma,” Alex says.
I try to shut off my tears, but tears never want to seem to turn off when you want them to, so instead I work to maintain a balanced voice. “Yes.”
He hesitates and I can see his shadow moving, his hand rising in front of him. “Are you okay?”