The Promise, Page 1Jessica Sorensen
I stood alone, the sky dark above me, like a rainy day, only there was no rain. The air was cold and crisp. Death was nearby; I could smell it, taste it, feel it. Through the leafless trees I spotted three figures, hovering over something with their heads bowed.
I moved for the figures, my bare feet burning against the snow. Tree branches clawed at my flesh, trying to pull me backward, warning me not to go further. But I pressed on, pushing my way there, until I stepped out into the opening.
I called out to them, but the figures didn t turn around.
Snowflakes fell from the sky, as I inched my way closer, wondering what the figures were looking at.
I can t believe she s gone,
a girl sobbed. I knew that voice, it belonged to Aislin.
She stood between Laylen and Alex, her sobs flooding the air. My heart leapt in my chest, but not out of excitement. It leapt out of fear.
I ran for them, but a flock of crows swooped from the trees and dove for me. I ducked down, shielding my head as I shooed the crows away. But they kept swirling and diving and finally I let out a scream, which sent all of them scurrying, except for one. It hovered above whatever held their attention.
I crept closer, my heart knocking in my chest. Aislin took Laylen s hand and they turned around. Both their eyes were glistened with tears as they looked right through me and headed for the forest.
I turned back to Alex, whose head was still tipped down.
I said softly.
He dragged his fingers through his hair and let out a sigh.
he whispered the words of our Forever Blood Promise and turned to leave. His body was hunched over, head tipped down, and I wanted nothing more than to make his pain go away forever.
I called out, reaching for him, but he was already gone.
All that was left was a hole in the ground. I stepped closer, looked down, and saw a black coffin. The lid was open. A girl lay inside, eyes shut, her skin as pale as snow, and her hands overlapped across her heart where a single red rose rested.
my voice trembled as I backed away.
No, this can t be happening.
Oh, but it is.
I bumped into something solid and I didn t have to turn around to know who it was.
I shook my head.
No, it s not.
A half faerie, half foreseer, and one-hundred percent dead Nicholas stepped in front of me. An evil grin spread across his face.
Yes, it is. And denial will get you nowhere.
He gestured over my shoulder at the hole that held the coffin.
Look again, Gemma. Really look this time.
I shook my head again as I stepped forward and peered down into the grave. There she was again, the dead girl resting in the coffin.
It s not me,
I swallowed hard and leaned nearer. Suddenly the girl s eyes whipped open. My own purple eyes were staring back at me.
Welcome to the Afterlife, Gemma. Where only the soul survives.
He shoved me forward, into the hole in the ground.
I landed in the coffin.
I cried, staring up at Nicholas, the crow from the field perched on his shoulder. I started to get to my feet, but the coffin lid slipped shut, sealing me in my grave, with nothing but myself.
I opened my eyes to darkness. Not a coffin, but the safety of my room. Although, I never felt safe here. The nightmare of my funeral constantly haunted my sleep. Always the same, never changing. I knew there was more meaning to it than just my death. But I had yet to discover what.
The boards on my windows blocked the outside world, but they couldn t block out the crackles of the fires and the screams that filled the air like a toxic plague, painfully reminding me of the damage I d caused.
Since shifting the vision back, the Mark of Malefiscus had taken over the streets. Fey, vampires, and witches and even a few Foreseers ran wild, tormenting and killing humans.
I flipped the lamp on, climbed out of bed, and padded over to the full-length mirror. My reflection stared back at me, pale skinned, violet eyes that had bags under them. My hair was pulled up into a tangled ponytail and on the back of my neck was the Foreseers mark: a circle enclosing an S. Just beneath it, circling my shoulder blade, was the Keepers mark: a circle traced by fiery gold flames.
Admiring your own reflection. How very vain of you.
I scowled at the ghost faerie, hovering over my shoulder.
I see enough of you in my dreams.
He pressed his hand over his heart, his golden eyes twinkling mischievously, just like always.
Wow Gemma, I m honored that you think of me so often.
I backed away through his ghostly body and climbed into bed.
So you say.
But I beg to differ. I think you secretly pine for me, otherwise you d take the ring off.
I stared down at the ring wrapping my finger. My father told me it held the answers to saving the world. But all the damn thing ever did was let me see ghosts. Well, one ghost at least. A very annoying ghost.
You know what, you have a point.
I started to slip the ring off.
I wouldn t if I were you.
I inched it closer to the end of my finger, intentionally taunting him.
Why? So you can continue to haunt me and drive me insane.
He shook his head and brushed his sandy hair away from his golden eyes.
I thought you understood there s more to everything than what meets the eye.
I ll take my chances,
I said and watched the ring fall off my finger and onto my bed.
The faerie was gone, evaporating right in front of my eyes like an apparition.
I let out a breath of relief and decided that from now on, I d only put the ring on if I needed Nicholas help, which I couldn t see happening anytime soon.
Even though it was early, I knew there was no way I d be able to fall back asleep. So I pulled on a grey Henley and some jeans and tiptoed down stairs, the brightness of the yellow kitchen walls waking me up instantaneously. But I was surprised to find that I wasn t the only one awake at such an early hour. Laylen lay on the floor, his head tucked under the kitchen sink.
Hey, sleeping beauty,
Laylen said with a smile as he peered out. His blonde hair was damp, his long tattooed arms flexing as he twisted a wrench round a pipe.
You re up early.
So are you.
I slumped down into a kitchen chair.
What are you doing?
Fixing the faucet.
He bashed on the pipe
That stupid drip is driving me crazy.
At least you can fix the problem,
I muttered as I pictured picking up the wrench and banging Nicholas on the head with it over and over again.
What did you say & Gemma are you okay? You ve been so down lately.
I shook my head, hating my downer mood. But I couldn t help it. My guilt was eating me alive.
I m fine.
Are you sure?
You know you can talk to me about anything.
I replied softly, wanting to talk to him, but refusing to put my guilt on his shoulders.
It s nothing. Really. I promise.
He gave me a strange look and then leaned over the faucet, peering around the back.
I give up.
He stood up straight and clanked the wrench down on the counter.
I guess we re just going to have to deal with the dripping.
He pulled up a chair and sat down.
Why are you up so early? Nightmares again? Or is Nicholas bothering you?
It s the nightmare again. I can t stop dreaming about it no matter what I do.
Is it still the same one?
It s always the same one.
We sighed at the same time. Then he draped an arm around my shoulder and tugged me close to him.
I won t let it happen. You re not going to die anytime soon.
I rested my head on his shoulder, wishing he was right.
Nobody can control the future.
I gestured at the boarded back door.
Otherwise stuff like that happens.
A scream rippled from outside, adding a dramatic effect to my point.
We re going to fix it,
he said, squeezing my shoulder.
I smiled, but it was a fake smile. My heart actually hurt when I thought about it. People were dead because I d changed the world s future.
He dropped his hand and leaned back in his chair, nibbling at his lip ring.
So have you &
I fiddled with the ceramic cow in the center of the table, avoiding his gaze as thoughts of Alex swarmed my mind. The electricity was gone, but sometimes, when I thought about him, I could almost feel the sensation on my skin.
He bit at his lip and shook his head, his blue-tipped bangs falling into his eyes.
I m sure he s fine, though. He s always been good at taking care of himself.
I never said it aloud, but sometimes I thought about going to Alex, using my extraordinary power to foresee my way to wherever he was. If I closed my eyes and pictured his face, I might be able to pull it off. But deep down I knew he left for a reason. We couldn t be together. If we were, we d die. Still, occasionally my emotions got the best of me, and I d stir in anger over his abandonment.
I think we should
A bang on the back door cut me off. We were on our feet, the chairs tipping back and slamming against the tile. Laylen took a sharp knife out of the drawer while I hurried to the side of the back door and peeked out through a small gap in the board.
It looks like witches,
But I m not one-hundred percent sure. It s too dark to get a good look at their marks.
Laylen cursed under his breath and then stepped cautiously for the door, the knife gripped in his hand.
What do you think? Wait it out? Or get Aislin?
I stared at a tall woman with wavy black hair and green eyes standing on the bottom of the back porch. Witches were the worst. Their magical powers gave them the upper hand. Unlike the vampires and faeries, they didn t even have to touch you to harm you.
The witch glanced back, flittering her eyes at a group of bodies dressed in black, her hands sparkling with purple magic.
Go get Aislin,
I ordered quickly and he took off, his feet thudding up the stairs.
It was strange calling orders. I d spent so much of my life as a nobody, and now here I was a Keeper preparing to take on a group of witches. So weird.
I searched the drawers for another knife and picked up a small but razor-sharp blade. I touched the tip with my finger.
This is all your fault,
I mumbled as Laylen and Aislin came barreling down the stairs.
Aislin s golden hair was a disheveled mess, her green eyes blinking with grogginess.
How many are there?
she asked, her voice croaking.
I don t know,
I said and peeked behind the board.
Five or maybe six.
She nodded and cracked her knuckles.
Who s going to open the door?
Laylen opened his mouth, but I cut him off.
I got it.
I grabbed the doorknob, my pulse erratic and my hands a little unsteady.
On the count of three & one & two & three.
I flung the door open, catching the witch by surprise. She jumped back, but her hands were already out, her lips uttering a chant under her breath.
I wasted no time, charging out the door and ramming my body into hers. She fell to her back and we tumbled in the cold, stinging snow, Laylen and Aislin close by. My elbow and the witch s head smacked against the ice. She let out a cackle as I slammed my fist into her face.