Alex snags me by the arm and drags me back to him. I fight to get away, but he cradles me against his frozen wet chest and I bury my face into it listening to his heart as I feel my own heart pleading to stop beating. Not Laylen. This can’t be happening. He means too much to me. So much and I need him.
“He tried to attack me first.” Nicholas snaps and it’s overlapped by the sound of the crisp raindrops. “It was self-defense. Besides, you would have frozen him to death anyway.”
There’s a pause and it becomes pretty clear that Nicholas can be verbal with the Death Walkers. The only other person I’ve seen do this is Stephan and it makes me wonder why? Why can they communicate with them and the rest of us can’t?
“So what if Stephan created Laylen?” Nicholas growls venomously. “Creating another Vampire isn’t that complicated.”
My head snaps up to Alex and he looks down at me. Sympathy and confusion float between us as we try to figure out what to do and what this all could mean.
“I’m not messing around,” Nicholas insists. “I know what has to be done…. I know, but it might be a little difficult to find her. She’s powerful and getting more powerful by the day. She can do things normal Foreseers can’t… Fine, whatever. Let’s go back and I’ll see what I can do.”
There’s a faint swoosh and I swear I can feel energy building and then dissipating before the ice droplets turn back to rain. Minutes later, Alex peers around the corner of the tree trunk as he lets go of me.
Unable to stand it any longer, I shove my way past him and run out into the open.
“Gemma wait!” he calls out, following after me.
I sprint through the rain, splashing puddles and breaking the ice apart on the ground as I run toward a figure lying on the ground. I think I know who it is before I get there, but the irrational side of my mind is telling me I’m wrong
As I approach the lifeless body, Laylen’s blond hair comes into view, and I slam to a stop beside him, dropping to my knees in the mud while Alex stops just behind me.
“He’s not… he’s not dead…” Tears sting at my eyes as I press a hand to Laylen’s heart where a small, wooden stick is lodged. His arms and legs are sprawled out and he looks pallid. Rain soaks his shirt along with blood, and the harder it pours, the further his body sinks into the unstable ground, almost as if it’s quicksand. The prickle gnaws at the back of my neck and I start to sink, too. I beg for it to simply take us because feeling this massive hole burrowing into my heart is exceedingly painful, too painful for me to be able to bear life anymore.
Alex crouches down and examines Laylen’s body. “He’s not dead,” Alex says, putting his hands on the stick, and wrapping his fingers around it. “Not yet anyway.”
“Not yet anyway,” I repeat, horrified, shielding my eyes from the rain as I gape at him. “Does that mean he’s going to die?”
“Not if we can get him some…” Alex’s face contorts as he yanks the stick out of Laylen’s chest and tosses it aside into the wet grass
It leaves behind a gaping hole in his chest and I swear to God my own chest—or at least heart—is working to match it. Alex presses his hand over the wound, putting pressure on it as blood gushes out.
“How do we heal him?” I ask, touching Laylen’s forehead. His eyes are shut and his skin is icy cold, more than it normally is
“We need blood,” Alex states without looking at me.
I glance down at my wrist, rubbing my thumb across my vein. “I can do it,” I say softly.
I expect him to argue, but he only nods, pushing to his feet. “Fine.” He heads for the trees and I turn my head to look at him.
“Where are you going!” I call out.
He pauses with his back to me, rain showering down his body, droplets beading across his back muscles. “I…I can’t watch you like that… with him…” He hikes through the mud and vanishes into the trees.
I turn back to Laylen, feeling the slightest pang of guilt, but then I jump back, startled. Laylen’s eyes are open and he doesn’t say anything as he reaches for my arm. His body’s need to feed and rejuvenate his frail state is overcoming everything else. His fangs immediately slip out from his mouth. He doesn’t speak as he lifts his head up, parts his lips, and lets out a weak growl before his fangs plunge into the vein on my wrist. I feel the jolt to my heart instantly and the need to be with him only moments later. I want him to feed off me, need him to do it. His eyes lock on mine as he drinks my blood, savoring the taste of it. His skin looks less and less pale, his blue eyes regaining some of their luster with each swallow and his chest stiches back up. Eventually, I lie down on top of him and let myself head to a place that’s only going to bring heartbreak.
A place where I’ll eventually have to make a choice about what I want.
Once we’re finished, we lay side by side in the mud, gathering our strength while we sink further into the forest ground.
“I’m sorry,” he says, staring up at the sky, his eyelids blinking against the drizzle of the rain. “I know this has to be hard for you.”
I find his hand and place mine over it, watching the lightening in the sky. “It’s not your fault.”
“But it is,” he insists. “I should have been stronger than to let some stupid Faerie stake me… the Death Walkers threw me off, though.”
“It’s not your fault,” I press, slanting my head to the side to look at him.
He refuses to look at me, however, fixated on the raindrops falling down to the earth instead. “Where’s Alex.”
I let out a faltering breath. “He wandered off… said he couldn’t watch.”
He squeezes my hand. “It’ll be okay,” he says, but I’m not sure who he’s trying to convince. Him or me. Regardless, the invisible, magnetic connection that I felt with him the last time he bit me is twice as powerful now and I can only feel it growing with each beat of my heart.
The weight of the rain and my guilt pile on me more and I just keep thinking: if only I could shut it off. I try a few times, very pathetically, but give up when the feeling almost builds. Rain crashes down and thunder booms as I keep sinking further and further into the ground.
I’m just about to let it bury me when I realize that it actually is. I’m being buried alive by the mud and rain. Laylen rolls to his side and I hear him say something, but his voice is muddled with the mud oozing into my ears.
“Laylen!” I cry and I feel him grab onto my arm, but the ground only opens up and swallows me whole.
“Feel it, Gemma,” someone whispers. “Feel what you really are…”
“No, Gemma, don’t…” a soft voice whispers. I know that voice. It’s my mother’s.
I open my eyes to the yard covered with metal objects surrounding me. “I don’t feel anything.”
“That’s because you’re cold,” someone says as I sit up and glance around the junkyard. “And heartless.”
“No, she’s not,” my mother says and she emerges out from behind some metal crates. “She’s good and that’s why you’re so worried.”
“Yes, she is,” the voice purrs. “She’s bad and you’ll soon see that I’m right.”
“I am not,” I argue as ravens flock around my head. “I’m just confused.”
“Confused.” The voice grows louder and then laughs. “You’re messing with everyone’s head and playing with their emotions. You’re downright evil, which is good… it’s what I want.”
I suddenly recognize the voice. “Stephan.”
“Gemma, don’t listen to him,” my mom begs, not moving toward me, reaching out to me instead. “Please.”
“You know you never seem to learn from your mistakes,” Stephan talks over my mom as he steps out into the open. “You repeat them…which is beneficial for me and what I have planned. It’ll make it easier to turn you.”
“Turn me,” I say. “As in evil? Because that’ll never happen.”
“You’ll see,” he states with confidence as my upper arm begins to burn. “I know you have it in you. That’s why I chose you.”
My head is throbbing and I could swear my skull has been cracked open. When I open my eyes, I expect to be buried in the mud, but instead I’m in a small room with sunshine yellow walls, which is decorated with masks, pictures, and a colorful rain stick. The air smells lavishly of rain and forest.
I quickly start to sit up, but I’m jerked back down. I bounce against the mattress, restricted by metal cuffs and chains that are secured to my wrists and legs and tied to the bedposts.
“Shit,” I curse. My legs are spread out and my arms are above my head, locked and losing circulation. My clothes are caked in mud and my hair feels crusty.
Where am I? And how the hell did I get here? I don’t have an answer for either since the last thing I can remember is sinking into the dirt.
The crystal ball is still in my pocket and I close my eyes to try to Foresee my way out of here, but I can’t even so much as feel a charge of energy; despite how much I let my emotions own me. I give up and start jerking on my arms and legs, but the cuffs only bite at my skin. I use every ounce of my energy, trying to get away, until my wrist and ankles rupture open and bleed all over the bed.
“There’s no use trying to get away.” Nicholas’s face appears above me. His arms are crossed, the sleeves of his red shirt shoved up to his elbows, and he has a cut just above his right eyebrow as well as a bruise on his cheek bone.
“What happened to your face?” I ask derisively. “Did one of the Death Walkers beat you up?”
He makes sure to keep his distance from me, leaving just enough room that I can’t slam my head against his. “Watch what you say. Remember, I’ve got all the control here.”
I let out an unsteady breath. “Where am I?” I aim for a composed voice, however the fact that he has all the power at the moment makes me extremely nervous. Nicholas is the kind of guy who will do things to me.
“My house,” he says simple, motioning at a nightstand beside the bed and an antique oval mirror on the door. There’s also a window, but the curtain blocks my view to the outside. I wonder where his home is? In the City of Crystal? The Kingdom of Fey? Somewhere else?
“How did I get here?” I ask. “How did you drag me through the mud like that?”
“I already explained this to you,” he says. “It’s called mind manipulation, Gemma. You could do it too—make people see things that aren’t really there—if you’d just train as a Foreseer.”
I swallow hard. I’d almost forgotten how Nicholas could make me see things that weren’t real. “But I blocked your mirage power.”
“That wasn’t my mirage power. God, you know nothing about what you can do.” He fakes a pout. “It’s quite tragic, really.”