“Well, I am,” I assure her in a surprisingly steady voice. “And I want to take her back with me.”
“Take her back?” She throws her head back and laughs. “Oh, I’m afraid there’s no way I can do that because you yourself are never leaving.”
“No, we can leave,” I tell her. “I came here through the Ira, and you can’t keep us here—there are laws that say you can’t.”
Her grin deepens and then she swats her hand through the air. I feel a tug on my pocket and the Ira abruptly shoots out and flies across the room, smacking into the wall where it shatters. Shards of teal glass land on the floor and table and I swear I feel pieces of my own heart join them. I leap from my chair, ready to wring her neck and hopefully kill her, but Alex grabs the tail of my shirt and quickly pulls me back down.
“That’s bullshit!” I cry, flipping a piece of glass off my arm. “You can’t do that!”
“I can do whatever I want.” She smiles before motioning her hand around the room. “Now, let me welcome you to your new home.”
I want to get the hell out of here. Run. Flee. However the Ira is gone, destroyed back on the table, and I don’t know another way out of The Underworld.
The Queen locks us in a cement chamber that has a single metal-framed bed with a ratty mattress on it. There are bars on the door, which allow light to filter in. We have no water. No food. No toilet. It’s basically jail except for there aren’t any guards, only crazy Water Fey who feed off torment and fear.
After the Queen leaves, Alex and I lie down on the bed, side by side with our feet up on the wall, waiting for whatever comes next. Torture? Death? Something worse? Surprisingly, we’re both pretty calm, but I think we’ve entered some weird state were we’re too shocked to panic.
“Let me welcome you to your new home.” I mimic the Queens tone with bitterness in my voice. I kick the side if the wall. “What a bitch.”
“I’m really starting to wonder just how long the list of people who my father has pissed off is,” Alex says with an exhausted sigh as he stretches out his arms above his head.
“Probably pretty long,” I say, yawning. I’m exhausted—the energy I used to come here took a lot out of me. If it weren’t for the screams from outside, I might close my eyes and go to sleep
“We should find a way out.” He props up on his arms and looks over at me. His hair is wet from the water drizzling from the ceiling and so is the collar of his shirt
“How?” I motion at the room. “I mean, look at this place. There’s no way out except for the door.”
He lies back down on the mattress and turns his head toward me. “Do you have any idea why this didn’t work out like the vision you saw?”
I massage the sides of my temples and shut my eyes. “Because I didn’t finish seeing the vision, at least that’s what I think happened. Nicholas forced me to take us back before I saw the whole damn thing play out.” A screams echoes from close by and I shudder, opening my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I say, crossing my arms over my stomach.
“Sorry for what?”
“For messing this up.”
He shakes his head and rotates to his side, supporting his elbow against the mattress and resting his head against his hand. “You didn’t mess this up, Gemma. You were simply taking a risk to try to do something that was right and things didn’t work out.”
“Because I screwed up and didn’t plan things well enough.”
“Sometimes things are kind of out of our hands.”
I turn to my side and face him, my arm tucked under my head. Our faces are mere inches away and it’s comforting knowing he’s close. “But I do it so often and I’ve just barely started actually living my life,” I say. “Imagine how bad my screw up list is going to be in like five years… if I get that far.”
“You will,” he insists, tucking strands of my hair behind my ear. “And you’ll get better—things will get better. I promise.” Once he gets my hair out of the way, he strokes my cheeks with his fingers until I feel like I’m going to doze off.
“What will she do to us?” I murmur tucking my hands under my head.
His fingers briefly stop moving. “I’m not sure.” He’s lying. I can tell by the unevenness in his voice and the way the current of the electricity speeds up.
“Just tell me.” I yawn, forcing my eyes to stay open. “I need to know what I’m in store for.”
“You really want to know?” His fingers delicately caress my cheek in soft, consistent patterns. I nod, letting his touch calm me. “Unbearable pain,” he says.
I feel strangled, hands wrapping around my neck, suffocating me. Pain? What kind of pain? “Oh.”
It gets quiet. Water drips on the mattress and us. Alex keeps touching my face; my chin, my lips, my jawline, as if he’s worried he’ll never touch me again. I start wondering what death is like, too. Whether it’s better than getting tortured. Better than feeling unbearable pain. Better than feeling the burden of my mistakes.
“Look,” Alex says unexpectedly, rolling on top of me, his warm body flawlessly settling over mine. “No matter what happens, you try to hold on, okay? Turn it off.”
“Turn it off?” I open my eyes to find him passionately staring down at me.
“Yeah, just like you used to,” he whispers and tenderly kisses my lips. “Just turn off anything you’re feeling. They thrive on fear and the less they get from you the weaker they’ll get.” He kisses me again and again until I can barely breathe or think straight. Maybe that’s what he’s trying to do. Distract me from my worry. Or maybe he just loves kissing me.
“And what about you?” I say between his breathless kisses. “What will you do?”
He pauses, offering me a sad smile. “You remember all those times I was around you and I was a douche?”
I roll my eyes. “How could I forget? I hated you because you were an ass, but the damn electricity made it impossible to actually hate you for real.”
His smile turns to a real one. “That entire time I hated doing that to you. In fact, I swear to God it killed me, but I did it because I had to.” He slants closer to me, so we strategically touch in all the right places. “I can control what I feel, Gemma. It’s what I’ve been taught to do. The only exception to this is you.”
“Then how can anyone know what you’re really feeling?” I question, gripping his lean arms. “If you’re shutting it off and saying contradicting things.”
He considers what I said then leans down and covers his lips over mine. He kisses me until I’m desperately gasping for air, until my heart’s pumping blood at an unhealthy rate.
“Do you feel that?” he whispers against my lips. “Do you feel how I make you feel inside?”
I blink dazedly through emotions of yearning, elation, and contentment. “Yeah.”
“Well that’s exactly how you make me feel inside.” He looks me in the eyes and I can almost see my reflection in his overly large pupils.
He could be lying, but he might not be. Maybe I do make him feel the same as I do inside. Maybe he’s just as confused as me. Maybe he’s erratic on the inside, unstable. Perhaps it’s the hardest thing in the world not to be close to me. I choose to believe that he’s being genuinely honest because it’d be the perfect ending to my sad story. The one where the guy falls in love with the girl and the girl falls equally in love with the guy. The flaw to this story, however, is that at the moment, there’s no prickle on the back of my neck confirming I’ve felt love before, so in the end it’s only a story.
“You know it’s going to happen,” Stephan says, propping a hand on each side of my head.
Alex is gone and I don’t know where he is. He left me. No he wouldn’t do that.
“You’ve already felt the evil and you’re going to change,” Stephan says, his black eyes glinting wickedly.
I try to sit up, but I’m glued to the mattress by an unseen force, my arms kinked to the side and my legs stuck together like melting wax. “I’m not evil! I’m good! I know I am!”
“You about beat Nicholas to death,” he reminds. “How does it feel to have blood on your hands?”
“Terrible,” I say, but the red and black triangle singes onto my upper arm, revealing the lie. I can smell the scent of burning flesh and feel the good in me dissolving “I hated every second of it.”
He leans back and sits down on the mattress, “Now we know that’s a lie. You loved it and we both know it.”
I shake my head, denying what lies deep inside me; darkness, a shadow opposing the good. “No, I didn’t.”
He grins as he elevates his hand and a razor-sharp knife appears in it. “If that’s true, then I guess I have no use for you.” He moves to swing the knife down.
I scream as it dives for my heart. As it plummets closer, I shut my eyes and picture the blue beach house while I channel my Foreseer power. As the blade grazes my skin, almost splitting my heart open, I blink myself away from this place.
My eyelids spring open. “Holy shit!” I gasp. “I know how to get us out of here.”
Alex is lying on his side, watching me with his arm draped across my stomach. “How?” he asks and we both sit up on the bed. “Gemma, what are you talking about?”
I catch my breath, wiping the sweat from my forehead. “I can use my power to get us out of here.”
He shakes his head, looking lost. “But you don’t have a crystal ball.”
“But I’ve gone into visions without them before.”
“Yeah, but those are visions, not present time.”
“I know that,” I say, sitting up. “But I can try. It pretty much works the same way. I just need to feel enough emotion and try to remember things… memories seem to get it going pretty well.”
He opens his mouth to protest as he sits up. “I don’t—” His eyes dodge do the door and he quickly stands to his feet, grabbing my hand and pulling me behind him.
A Water Fey watches us from the open doorway, interweaving through the ceiling vines as it heads toward us. It stops when it’s about to reach the bed and seconds later the Queen appears behind it. She’s changed into a black, mermaid-shaped dress that has red roses growing on vines, which trim the bottom half. Her frosty hair has been braided up on the top of her head and is woven with black ribbons and her lips are tinted purple.
“It’s time,” she says and snaps her fingers. “Both of you, follow me.”
Alex and I trade a look and then we follow the Queen out of the cell. We quietly walk just behind her as she struts down the tunnel lined with jail doors. Water Fey enclose us, floating in curving paths. I consider shutting my eyes and seeing if I can really pull it off—take us out of this place in the blink of an eye—but I can’t just yet, not until I find my mom. As I glance over at Alex, however, guilt begins to rot in my stomach. I drag him into this mess and look where it gets him. Now what’s going to happen to us? Will we get tortured until we go insane?