“I have to go… its part of the promise I made with Dyvinius… you already knew this,” he says simply.

“I know, but…” I trail off as he leans in and rests his forehead against mine.


“Whatever you do, don’t trust him,” he whispers. “He’ll stab you in the back as soon as he gets a chance.”

“You’re coming back, right?” I whisper. “You’re not leaving me forever.”

“I would never leave you forever.” He lets out a faltering breath. “Eventually I’ll be back, however I have to stay there for a while.”

Panic owns me at the moment and I can’t seem to control it. Everything else that happened between us, the good and the bad, doesn’t matter. Only this everlasting second does and the fact that I can’t let him go. “Alex, please don’t go.”

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“I have no choice… the consequences if I stay… well, lets say they’re way worse than going to the City of Crystal.” He puts a hand on the hollow of my neck right above my locket. “And never take this off. Promise me you won’t.”

My skin swelters and I’m unable to help myself when I graze my lips across his. “I won’t,” I whisper against his mouth. I’m about to pull away when he cups the back of my head, tugging gently on my hair, and kisses me hard with every ounce of passion he possesses. Again I wonder just how much control we have over our emotions and how much control the electricity has. I kiss him back with an everlasting hunger. I’m breathless by the time I pull away and I’ve completely forgotten we’re in a room full of people.

Aislin covers her mouth as Laylen clears his throat, staring at the doorway. Alex’s lips are swollen as he turns to Nicholas.

“Alright,” Nicholas says and slips a ruby-filled crystal ball from the pocket of his pants. He rises to his feet with it palmed in his hand. “Let’s go.” He winds around the apothecary table and holds it out in front of him.

Alex gives me one last kiss on the cheek and then releases my hand, getting to his feet. I want to grab onto him, pull him back to me, and hold him against me. I fight the urge to do so, trying to decide what’s right and what is wrong while fearing what’s going to happen to him when he goes. Is this what caring for someone feels like? All this worry and fear floating around inside me, only it’s not for me.

“And one last thing,” Alex says to Nicholas as he reaches for the crystal.

Nicholas sighs begrudgingly. “What now.”

“If you try anything, and I mean anything with Gemma while I’m gone.” He jabs a finger against Nicholas’s chest. “You’ll have to deal with two very powerful Witches and a Vampire who will do anything to protect her.”

“Whatever.” Nicholas rolls his eyes, though he looks a little worried.

Alex doesn’t say anything else as he places his hand on the glowing crystal ball. There’s a loud swoosh, then a blink of light and they’re gone, along with the electricity.

I miss him the second he disappears.

I miss him so much it hurts.

I’ve never missed anyone before and I’m not fully sure that I like it.

Chapter 10

I ask where Adessa is and Aislin tells me she’s tending to her store. Aislin quickly leaves the room to go find some fraxinus invisibili from Adessa’s storage room.

Once she’s gone, Laylen and I sit on the sofa and wait for Nicholas to return. There’s an awkward silence between us as the memories of bites and blood linger in our heads.

“So,” Laylen finally starts, bringing his knee up onto the spot of sofa to fill up the space between us. “How have you been feeling?” He rakes his fingers through his hair and doesn’t bother to fix it, leaving it sticking up all over the place. “God, that was a stupid question. It sounded so much better in my head.”

“I’m fine.” I pluck at a loose thread on the sofa, forcing myself to focus on the conversation and not memories of him sinking his teeth into me and blood or anything else that’s bringing me down. “And it wasn’t a stupid question. It was a much needed question… things have been really weird between us.”

“They have,” he agrees and then scoots forward on the sofa until our knees touch, invading the safe zone. I need space, otherwise I’m going to do or say something stupid; like please, pretty please bite me again. “And I don’t want them to be.”

“Neither do I,” I agree, blowing out a stressed breath. “You’re the only person I’ve ever felt normal around.”

His eyebrows lift in doubt. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” I say. “Minus what happened back with Draven, you’ve always made me feel like a person instead of a star.”

He puts a hand on my knee. “Can we forget about what happened and go back to being friends?”

I nod, relieved even though I can still feel a faint pull toward him and his fangs. “I’d like that.”

He smiles, but there’s reluctance behind it and he lacks the confidence that his words portray. “Then it’s settled. No more kissing or biting,” he jokes, but his voice is sad and full of guilt. I have a feeling that despite how nonchalant we’re both being about it, down the road sometime, it’s going to end up being a huge problem.

“I’ll never ask you to do that again,” I say and then unable to take it anymore, I lean in and give him a hug. “I’ll never make you do anything that will hurt you ever again.” God, he smells so good, I need to lean back. I give myself a few more seconds and then I pull away. I shake off the sensation to lean against him and tilt my neck to the side. It makes me feel so guilty because of Alex.

Alex. I should be thinking of Alex, shouldn’t I? I have no idea anymore. Alex or Laylen? How about both? What the hell is wrong with me?

As I sift through my thoughts of what’s right and what’s wrong, images begin to flicker through my mind as the prickle lightly begins to poke at the back of my neck At first it’s stuff I can already remember, but then suddenly they start to reveal lost thoughts from a place and time I once was forced to forget.

Alex and me picking lilacs in a field; watching other Keepers practice sword fighting in the castle; playing, having fun, smiling.

“Gemma, what’s wrong?” Laylen’s voice is far away as I begin to feel disembodied.

“I think I can remember some stuff…about my childhood…about Alex and I being friends.”

“You remember?” he asks. “Like actually remember?”

I nod as my vision goes in and out of focus. “They’re real memories... And I can feel how I felt when I was there… God, this is so strange….”

The emotions I experienced during each memory link to my heart, mind, body, and conclusively my soul, the most important part. In the end, it’s just Alex and me. Together. Like we were never supposed to be apart and all I can do is drift into the memory, letting it take me over.

When my sight returns to me, I’m no longer at Adessa’s. I panic as I look around at the trees of a forest even though this has happened before. I’ve gone into a vision without a crystal. But how? How is this even possible?

Thick trees enclose me from every side and a grey stone castle peeks through the top while, far in the distance, the sun shines behind it. It has to be the forest near the lake—the entrance to The Underworld. I can feel it in the air, in my mind, in my body.

The sky is a clear blue and the air smells like earth and musk. Not knowing what else to do, I head for the castle, wondering why I’m here. What am I supposed to see exactly?

I’m about halfway there when a cool breeze sweeps through my hair and kisses at my cheeks. The impulse to go to the castle floats away. Suddenly, I’m turning around, heading in the opposite direction, and going deeper into the forest, my feet moving as if they have their own mind.

I hike for what seems like forever, stumbling over fallen tree trunks and fighting against the unruly, blooming branches. Finally, I come to a stop in front of a steep hill. I need to go up it, yet I don’t understand why. Obeying, I move to the side and start searching for something I know is hidden on the hill. After a while, I get frustrated because I have no clue what I’m looking for or how long I’m going to have to keep looking, but then I spot something that makes me pause. A bush budding with violet flowers, growing out of the middle of the hill. I hike up to it, my boots battling the loose, rocky dirt, and then I pick one of the violet flowers. The smell is intoxicating and causes more images of my past to spin in my head. I’ve been to this place before and picked these flowers… I remember the flower in Alex’s car and how he told me I used to pick them for him when we were younger.

I squat down and start digging through the damp soil as I inch around to the back of the bush. Behind it is a small hole in the ground. I hoist myself up to it and peer down. There’s a ladder that leads to a bottom where a light filters from somewhere.

I take a deep breath and lower my feet to the top step of the ladder. Then I start to climb down, my hands sweating against the cool metal until my feet reach the floor. I immediately spin around, fearing what I’m going to see. Visions have never been kind to me and I half expect Stephan to come charging out to stab me.

I’m standing in a hollowed out room, made of dirt as well as the roots of a tree. There’s a rustic wooden table against the back wall where a candle is burning. Next to the table is a metal trunk, and in front of the trunk is a young girl with long, brown hair, violet eyes, and wearing a purple dress. It’s me, the younger version anyway. I’m probably around four years old, which means there’s a good chance that my soul and memories are still intact.

Sitting across from me is a little boy with his legs crisscrossed and a pocketknife in his hand. He has dark brown hair and bright green eyes that shine like emeralds. It’s Alex when he was younger. Alex and me. Together.

“So, what do you think’s going to happen?” the younger version of me asks as she plays with a large sapphire, rolling it in the dirt. “After they take me away?”

Alex shakes his head and gently takes the sapphire from her, tossing it across the room into the trunk in the corner. It lands inside, making a soft thud as it hits the bottom. “I don’t know, Gemma. I really don’t.”

“Do you think we’ll ever see each other again?” she asks, tracing circles in the dirt with her fingers.

He nods, scraping the blade of the pocketknife into the dirt. “I promise we will, no matter what anyone says.”

Tears bubble in the corner of her eyes, and I can actually feel her fear, worry, and sadness stirring with in me as I remember this exact moment. “Do you think Marco and Sophia will be nice to me?” she asks.

“How could they not be nice to you?” Alex says. “No one could ever be mean to you, Gemma.”

My mouth turns downward at his words. It’s such a nice, free moment between us and I’m a little shocked. This is what we were like together? So comfortable. I almost feel sorry for us, we were too naïve to see what was going to happen to us.

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