I don’t take the locket right away. Can I trust Alex to help me instead of harm me? Is he finally telling the truth? Considering his track record, my initial instinct is to scream no! However, there’s something else inside me that’s conflicting. My emotions. Those Goddamn tingling and fluttering sensations in my heart that are fucking with my head.
“You can have it back.” He urges his hand at me. “I want you to wear it again, so you’ll be protected.”
I still don’t take the necklace. “I don’t understand why you took it off me to begin with.”
“Because Aislin had to use magic to get us out of the cabin,” he explains, slipping his hand under mine and forcing me to open my palm. “And if you would have had it on it would have hurt her.”
He lifts the necklace above my hand and releases it from his fingers, allowing it to fall into my palm. The metal is cold, yet his touch brings warmth. He chews on his bottom lip as he studies me while I put the necklace around my neck and secure the clasp. I feel weirdly better now that it’s back on, so I release a stressed breath, shutting my eyes for a moment, taking everything in. I don’t know what to do. What to believe. I know what I want to do and that’s pretend that Alex is a trustworthy person, but things aren’t that simple.
I open my eyes. “Alex?”
“Hmm…?” He looks distracted in his thoughts.
“What happened to the memoria extracto?” I ask.
He snaps back to reality and shifts uncomfortably on the bed. “Aislin and Adessa destroyed it with a spell.”
“And what about your father?”
“What about him?” he asks, his tone clipped. “I already told you I don’t know where he is.”
I observe his reaction closely. He’s upset about something. “But you said he’s immortal? And that the sword won’t even kill him.”
He presses his lips together. “Yeah.”
“That’s all you have to say?” I’m baffled. “Is yeah.”
He shrugs. “What else do you want me to say besides the fact that he is?"
“How about explaining why you never mentioned this and how we’re supposed to get rid of him if he can’t die.” I clutch onto the locket, wishing it could make me feel safe, too, rather than so vulnerable.
His expression hardens as he inclines back, putting space between us. “Even though he seems like he’s working for the bad side, he’s still my father and I don’t want to kill him.”
“Seems like he’s working for the bad side?” I fume. “Try is working for them. In fact, I’m pretty sure he might be the leader.”
“Of who exactly?” he counters heatedly. “The Death Walkers? Demetrius?”
“How the hell should I know? I never know half the shit that’s going on.”
“Exactly.” He stands to his feet, towering over me. “Which is why you have no right to make accusations.”
“I have the right to do whatever I want.” I rise to my feet very unsteadily and brace my hand on the bedpost to keep my balance. “Besides, the reason why I don’t know things is because you keep half the shit to yourself.”
“And now we’re back to where we started,” he snaps hotly, stepping closer. Even though I’m tall, he’s much taller and I have to tip my chin up to meet his beautiful, yet heated eyes. “No matter what I say, you never trust me.”
I point my finger at the door, ignoring the electric current boiling in my blood and dampening my skin with sweat. “Which means you can leave. That was the deal, right?”
His gaze darkens as he slants closer to me, stopping only inches from my face. I can feel my heart thrashing in my chest and I’m almost certain I can hear his as well, erratic and pounding. At first I think he’s going to kiss me and I wonder how I’ll react if he does. The need spiraling inside my body makes me speculate if I’ll make a dumb choice, one based solely on my hormones.
But then he steps back and raises his hands in front of him, surrendering. “Fine, you want me gone, then I’ll leave.” He storms to the door, pausing just in front of it to call over his shoulder, “Aislin put some clothes in the dresser if you want to get dressed.” He jerks open the door and steps out in the hallway.
“Where are you going?” I ask, but he slams the door shut, cutting me off and leaving me alone in an unfamiliar room with my thoughts and confusion.
I stare at the door for an eternity, trying to decide what to do. There’s no way he would really leave, is there? I doubt it, though I’m still not simply going to sit around and wonder.
I stumble over to the window, dizzy and kind of nauseous. How long have I been out? I glance outside at the city and the sun setting. Hours? Days? Weeks? I have no idea. The last thing I can remember is Alex holding the rock in front of me and then seeing images of what I’d be missing out on, or what I thought I’d be missing out on. Then I blacked out and saw my mom begging me to help her. The question is: was that a dream or something more?
Moving away from the window, I open the top dresser drawer and find a few clothes folded up inside. I take out a pair of very small, black shorts and a tight, maroon tank top that has a black ribbon lacing the front. Definitely not my style, but everything else in the drawer resembles the slutty gothic look so I slip them on anyway. There’s some sort of elastic in the shirt that pushes my breasts up and I feel fully exposed as I pull my tangled, long, brown hair up into a ponytail and secure it with an elastic that I find on top of the nightstand next to the bed. I carefully peel back the bandage on my wrist, wincing as the tender wound hits the air. It’s still fairly fresh, which means too much time couldn’t have gone by since I’d cut it open.
Sighing, I wrap it back up and search the room for my shoes. I find a pair of black combat boots next to the foot of the bed and quickly put them on.
I feel almost naked with the way my ass hangs out of the shorts and I wonder why on earth Aislin would put this outfit in there for me. It’s definitely not her style, either.
I go out into the hall, wondering where I’m supposed to be going. There’s a line of doors on my one side and a spiral stairway to my other. I turn for the stairway, when arms slip around my waist. I open my mouth to scream when a hand clamps down over my mouth. There’s no electricity, no sign that it’s Alex and all I can think is that I’m in deep shit.
“Gemma,” someone whispers in my ear. “Relax. It’s just me.”
I try to twist my arms free as I squirm against the stranger. Yet they easily haul me back into the room as if I weigh nothing.
“Jesus Christ, Gemma. Calm down,” Laylen says in a sultry voice as he loosens his grip on me. “It’s me. It’s Laylen.” He lets me go and I reel around, panting with my hand over my heart as he shuts the bedroom door.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I pant profusely as I work to slow down my rapid heartbeat. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Shhh…” Laylen puts his finger up to his deep red lips that are ornamented with a silver loop. He glances around the room and then at the window. “Keep your voice down.”
I take in the sight of him, insanely tall, at least a few inches taller than Alex with striking blue eyes and skin as pale as snow. Wisps of his blonde hair hang down his forehead, the tips dyed blue. He’s dressed head to toe in black, very gothic, very sexy, in a way that sends me yearning for things it really shouldn’t. I remember how I used to dream about Laylen, back before I met him, or re-met him anyway. The dreams were erotic and would alternate between Alex and Laylen. I wonder if they mean anything. If down the road, I could end up doing something with Laylen. The idea is exciting and unsettling at the same time, considering I have feelings for Alex and Aislin has feelings for Laylen, yet I also have feelings for Laylen, too; I merely can’t quite decipher what kind yet.
“Why do I have to be quiet?” I hiss, standing up straight and stepping toward him. “What’s going on?”
He glances nervously around the room again and then locks the door. “So what do you think about what Alex told you?” He rests back against the door, his gaze flickering to the top of the shirt that I’m pretty much bulging out of.
“I’m not sure.” I fold my arms over my chest self-consciously. “Some of it seems plausible, but it seems like he’s still keeping a lot from me. Like the fact that his father just disappeared along with the Death Walkers and just left us all behind.”
He rakes his fingers through his hair, leaving his hand on the back of his neck, his elbow bent upward. “I’m unsure about that part, too… I’m hesitant about a lot of things.”
I sink down on the foot of the bed. “When you guys came back from Nevada, how did everything seem? Was it only Alex and me inside that mess of a cabin?”
He takes a seat beside me, sitting near enough that our legs press together. I can’t help thinking about how he can manipulate emotions and, for a second, I contemplate telling him to give me a moment of solace, anything to make the pain go away.
“Pretty much,” he says. “Alex was just sitting there, holding you. He looked like he was freaking out, but then when he saw us, he went completely calm.”
It’s so confusing, a tangled mess of wires that need to be unwound. I ask him a few more questions about what Alex has told him so we can compare stories. For the most part, everything adds up, nearly matching. Maybe a little too much, as if Alex’s story was rehearsed. I think about all the times he lied to me; how he pretended he didn’t know me when he did, how he knew my memories had been erased, yet only divulged the information when I asked him. He’s extremely good at keeping secrets, what's not to say he doesn’t have more locked away inside him?
“So do you believe him?” I ask. “When he says he has no clue where the Death Walkers and Stephan went or why they ran off?”
He stretches out his legs in front of him and crosses them at the ankles. “I have no idea what the hell to believe.” He leans in, his shoulder brushing against mine as he lowers his voice. “What I do know is that there’s a slim to none chance that the Death Walkers are just going to leave when they know you have the star’s energy in you. Plus, if Stephan’s in on it with Demetrius and the Death Walkers, which I’m sure he is, then he’s the kind of person that’ll do anything to get what he wants. So walking away from you is pretty much impossible if what he wants is the star.”
“From what I saw that’s what he wants,” I tell him. “I mean, he showed up with a herd of Death Walkers.”
“I wonder why, though. I wonder if it’s for the same reason as Demetrius… if he wants to open the portal… or he has other plans for you and the star.”
“Laylen did you… do you know that Stephan is Immortal?”
With a clenched jaw, Laylen nods. “Not until yesterday, though… when we got you here. Alex explained some things that apparently he’s been keeping from everyone—even Aislin. Like the fact that his asshole of a father pretty much can’t be killed.”