Laylen contemplates while fiddling with his lip ring, twisting it back and forth. “Alex was there…” He takes a sip of his coffee, dazing off into space. “Maybe that’s where we need to start, then.”

“With Alex?” I give him a quizzical look as I take a gulp of coffee from my mug and the warm liquid spills down my throat, soothing my insides. “But he’s in the City of Crystal and I’m not sure how to get him out of there since I have no idea what he’s doing down there.”


He tenses. “Well, with what you saw, he kind of has to be here to make it happen. He also has to have that gem you saw.”

“Which, from what my memories are telling me, Alex and I had once in a hideout hidden in the forest, but I don’t know exactly where it is because my memories haven’t connected that part yet.”

“Alex should know, though,” Laylen points out. “Let’s just hope the gem’s still there.”

I frown as I set my mug on the table. “The frustrating thing is that Alex is in the City of Crystal for pretty much no reason.”

-- Advertisement --

Laylen shakes his head. “That’s not completely true. Because of Nicholas’s involvement, you now know that you need to have the Ira to get into The Underworld. It just sucks that he has it.”

“I know.” I mutter and sip on my coffee.

Laylen adds a spoonful of sugar to his coffee and stirs it. “I say we start with Alex and get him back here. Then we’ll make a plan to get the Ira and the gem. We just need to find a way to get into the City of Crystal.”

The idea of going there again doesn’t make me happy, but saving Alex does. So does the idea that he and I will be going into The Underworld to save my mother, even if she did look completely hollow, I still have hope that somehow, through all this, she’ll come back to me and be able to help figure out what Stephan’s up to. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, get the star’s energy out of me.

I set the cup down and take a deep breath. “I can probably get us into the City of Crystal, but I’ll need one of those ruby-filled crystal balls Nicholas is always using.”

Laylen cocks his head to the side. “You think you’ve learned enough about your power to be able to do that?”

I shrug, pretending to be casual, although on the inside I’m terrified that I won’t be able to do it or I’ll mess something up. If I can’t get it right, then what? My mom and Alex stay trapped wherever they are. “There’s only one way to find out.”

Laylen gets up from the chair, deeply thinking as he takes our empty mugs over to the sink. He rinses them off and turns around, leaning against the counter. “I know someone who probably has a lot of them.”

I get up from the chair. “Who?”

He gives me a small smile. “The person who owns the house we’re staying in. I think she’s got a whole room full of crystal balls.”

Laylen was right. Adessa does have a whole room full of crystal balls and she more than willingly lets us into it. I have the suspicion, though, that Laylen might be messing around with her emotions since at first Adessa seems reluctant, then suddenly she’s all too happy about the idea of taking us into the room concealed behind the shelves lining the walls of her store.

Once we’re in it she begins searching the seemingly endless amount of shelves that line the walls from front to back. Every time she dips down to look at the bottom row on the shelf her braided hair that runs halfway down her back brushes against the concrete floor. She’s also wearing heels with a patterned dress that make clicking sounds as she walks around and the noise reverberates around the room deafeningly.

“Why do you need this?” she asks, sliding a few jars and unique figurines out of the way.

I open my mouth to explain our dilemma to her, but Laylen shakes his head, exchanging a secretive glance with me as I pick up a strange looking clay eye. “Gemma just needs to look at one, for her training.”

My eyebrows dip down as I set the clay eye back on the shelf. I don’t get why he’s being so secretive with her when it’s obvious that she’s helping us.

Laylen crosses the narrow room and stops beside me. “We need to be careful who we tell,” he says. “Adessa doesn’t know about you, Stephan, or the star.”

I glance at Adessa as she wanders to the back section of the room and then I lean into Laylen. “Why does she think we’re staying with her?”

He shrugs, collecting up a two-headed horse statue from the shelf, and peeks under the bottom like he’s checking for a price sticker. “I just told her we needed help.”

“You don’t trust her?”

“No, I do, but it’s always better to be careful.”

I nod as he sets the statue down. “You know what, you’re right. I need to start working on doing the same... I let Nicholas know too much.”

“That’s because he has the power to fuck with your head,” Laylen tells me. “He’s always running around in circles and talking in vague sentences. It confuses people and makes it easy to slip up.”

“Well, I need to work on it,” I insist. “Regardless of how tricky he is.”

“I think I found it,” Adessa declares and we look in her direction as she walks toward us, carrying a miniature crystal ball with rubies floating in it. Red rays of light shimmer around the tiny storage area as the ceiling lights reflect against the glass.

Adessa offers me a small smile as she gives the crystal ball to me and I try not to grin as I take it from her because, for the first time, things actually seem like they’re going to be easy.

I spoke too soon. Way too soon. Yes, we got the crystal ball, but using it is turning out to be a pain in the ass. After Adessa gives us the crystal, Laylen and I return to the living. We ask Aislin to join us, figuring we all should go to The Underworld together because there’s power in numbers.

“I don’t get it.” I shake the crystal ball like a magic eight ball and on the inside the rubies swirl in a funnel. “I’ve gone into a crystal ball completely by accident, but this feels impossible.”

Aislin flips the page of the book she has opened up on her lap and tucks a strand of her golden brown hair behind her ear. “You know, there’s a lot more marks that I’m sure a lot of people would want to remove. However, there’s nothing on this mysterious triangular symbol.”

“I know,” Laylen agrees. “I can’t even think of one off the top of my head. Usually they appear later in life or something happens and they…” He drifts off, stretching his arm out on his lap and staring down at the Mark of Immortality.

Aislin glances up from the book and gives a fleeting glance at the mark. Then, looking guilty, she quickly sets the book down on the table between the three of us. “I’m going to go up to the library and get another book.” She stands to her feet. “This one’s getting me nowhere.”

“Adessa has a library?” I ask after Aislin leaves.

Laylen bends his arm back and wraps it around his stomach so his mark is hidden. “Yeah, it’s up in the attic. Nothing too fancy, but there’s a lot of books. The problem is that most of them stick strictly to the Wiccan history and there’s not much about other marks in there.”

“What kind of book do you think you’d need for something like that?”

“Honestly, I’d go with a Keeper’s book, since Stephan’s a Keeper and a lot of the Keepers’ history is mixed with other marks. In fact, there was once a mark of evil. It had a different name, but that’s pretty much what it stood for. It was directly related to the Keepers’ blood. I think the man who had it, though, died or something and it killed all the bloodlines linked to it.”

“So you think it’s extinct?” I ask.

He nods. “Yeah, from what I’ve been taught it is.”

I set the crystal ball down on the apothecary table and give it a good spin, causing the rubies to clink against the glass. “I can’t even feel any energy from it.”

Laylen reaches for the crystal ball. “Did Nicholas say anything while he was training you?” He scoops it up and turns it in his hand. “Like maybe there’s some magic words,” he teases, but he looks sullen, which is exactly how I feel. The more time we’re up here messing around with this thing, the more time everyone stays trapped. It’s also more time that the star remains inside me, which means the more time the Death Walkers and Stephan remain at our heels.

“When he was training me with the regular Foreseer crystal ball, he said something about channeling emotions,” I say. “That it would help.”

Laylen encounters my gaze and we exchange a penetrating look before our concentration focuses on the crystal in his hand.

“It doesn’t hurt to try, right?” he asks, peering up at me.

I waver because it might not hurt to try, but it could hurt for me to channel up certain emotions around him. Sure, things have been okay lately, but I’m still concerned that the tie I felt with him will surface.

He pats the sofa. “Come sit down by me. Let’s see if we can try something.”

I’m nervous, but I still get up and meander around the table to the couch, dropping down beside him. “What emotion should we aim for?”

I tuck my hands underneath my legs and shrug, anxious over how many ideas pop into my mind, ranging from an orgasmic feeling to an idyllic state of rapture. “You pick one.”

He dithers, his eyes all over me, then ultimately he sweeps my hair off my shoulder. “We could go for calm because I really do think you need it, but I don’t think that’s going to channel up much energy.”

I tense as he inclines inward toward me until his chin lightly grazes my shoulder. “I agree…” I lose my voice as his lips gently caress my skin.

“I really tried,” he whispers hoarsely. “I know I should stay away… and there’s Aislin… and so many other reason, but God you smell so good… I haven’t been able to stop thinking about your scent since I tasted your blood.” He breathes a path up my shoulder, heading toward my neck.

My head falls to the side. All this time I’ve been so curious to know what it feels like to be bit and now, well, I sort of regret it. Yet I can’t go back from what’s already happened.

I slip my hands out from under my legs and grip onto his legs as his lips move across my skin, hardly touching yet it’s enough to send flutters throughout my body. It feels so wonderful, to the point that it steals my breath away, and I end up gasping for air.

He groans and then drops the crystal ball onto my lap so his fingers can find my waist. “We should stop…” he trails off as he presses his nose into the arch of my neck.

My eyes slip shut and I start to helplessly fall into his arms. “We should….” I agree, telling my body to move away, but I feel the prickle poke at the back and I know I need to let whatever’s emerging make an appearance.

I hold my breath and wait as Laylen’s fingers reach my rib cage.

-- Advertisement --