Shimmering chaos, p.10
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.10

           Jessica Sorensen
 
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  “How could another energy cause lightning?” Max asks, turning his back toward the trees, the light and wind around him dimming as he looks questioningly at Holden. “Only an elemental enchanter can do that.”

  So, elemental enchanters are the only ones who can create lightning?

  I gulp at the realization.

  “You guys said that Foster is the only elemental enchanter, right?” If my mouth would’ve allowed me to, I may have asked if I could be one.

  They grow extremely uneasy, shifting their weight and scratching their arms and brows.

  “Yeah, he is,” Max finally answers, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

  Great, if I am like Foster, then that means we’re the only two of our kind. I don’t want that at all. I don’t want to be stuck in a rare category with a guy who’s a fucking jerk.

  Max glances at Emaline, who chews on her bottom lip worriedly.

  “Elemental enchanters have every elemental power inside their veins, which means they’re very powerful.” She takes both my hands in hers, nervousness emitting from her. “And in our world, the more powerful you are, the more in danger you are of either someone trying to manipulate your powers or being eliminated because of them. It’s why no one can know about Foster’s powers. The only elemental protectors who do know about him are us and a few others we trust. Well, and Kash.” She must note the puzzlement on my face because she adds, “He’s the faerie you saw in my room.”

  “Is that why you have him locked up?” I ask. “Because he found out about Foster?”

  She nods. “He found out during one of our missions to the fey realm. So, I bound him to me with a binding spell, then locked him in my room.” She lets go of my hands with an exhausted sigh. “But it’s not a long-term solution.”

  Gabe places a hand on her shoulder. “Sweetie, we’ll figure something out.”

  “I know,” Emaline whispers. “I’m just worried; that’s all.” She lowers her hands. “You know as well as I do that Kash will use Foster’s powers to benefit him. And anything that benefits Kash will cause harm to our world.”

  “I promise everything will be fine.” Gabe pulls her against his chest and hugs her.

  Emaline clutches him, her eyes glazing over with ice. The temperature begins to drop, causing goosebumps to sprout on my arms.

  “Come on.” Max takes ahold of my hand. “Let’s give my parents a moment, okay?”

  I let Max lead me to the ledge of the podium. Then Holden moves up beside me and threads his fingers through my other hand while Hunter stands behind me.

  Crowded. That’s the word that comes to mine as I peer left to right then over my shoulder. When my gaze collides with Hunter’s, a smirk plays at his lips.

  “There’s no need to be nervous, little human.” He winks at me. “We’ll take good, good care of you.”

  I blink at him. Did he just call me little human?

  “Good gods, Hunter,” Holden mumbles. “You don’t need to hit on everyone.”

  “I don’t,” Hunter replies without taking his eyes off me. “I only hit on the pretty ones.”

  I roll my eyes.

  Hunter’s smirk widens. “You know, I think you have some very fun potential in you, if we could just get you to let it out a bit more.” He twirls a strand of my hair around his fingertip. “I bet it’d help if we cracked through that invisible wall you have around you. Or well, break open that tiny crack in it.”

  My brows pull together. “What wall?”

  He lifts his free hand and traces his palm in a circular motion in front of my face. “A few humans have invisible walls around them, or barriers, as I like to call them. But they’re basically invisible walls that protect creatures like me from seeing someone’s true self. A lot of creatures have them, but they’ve had them put around them purposefully and by magic, while human walls are usually created by traumatic, emotional experiences. It’s a defense mechanism that few possess. And I’d say you should be proud to have a wall around you, but I’m concerned about what experiences created it and what caused the crack in it.”

  “I really don’t know.” Sure, my life hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, but nothing traumatic happened to me. Well, except for … “Maybe it’s because my parents disappeared.”

  He shakes his head, his gaze scrolling from my feet to the top of my head. “The wall around you is very old. Maybe even as old as you are.”

  Confusion webs through me. “As far as I know, the only traumatic thing that’s happened to me is my parents disappearing.” Well, and the day I became aware that I had powers, but that part won’t pass my lips.

  Dammit, this is so frustrating! Why can’t I say anything about my powers?

  Hunter studies me closely, which causes heat to sprinkle across my skin. “Maybe you’ve forgotten what happened to you.”

  “How could I forget something traumatic?” I point out. “Those types of things usually stick with you.”

  “Not necessarily.” He contemplates something before stepping back and launching himself over the edge of the podium, landing gracefully in the grass.

  I glance between Max and Holden, who are looking at me with a hint of perplexity. “So, if Hunter can see this invisible wall around me, then I’m assuming you guys have some sort of powers not related to your elements.”

  Max and Holden trade a look then chuckle.

  Heat creeps across my cheeks. Are they making fun of me?

  “Don’t worry; we’re not making fun of you,” Max says, as if reading my mind. “We’ve just never been around a human who knows about our world, so we didn’t realize how entertaining these sorts of questions could be.” He tugs on a strand of my hair. “Don’t worry; we think it’s cute.”

  “And to answer your question,” Holden says. “Yes, we do have powers that aren’t related to our elements. We actually have a lot of different powers.”

  “Like what?” I cross my fingers, hoping they can’t actually read minds. Although, there have been a couple of times when I wondered that, so …

  Shit. What if they can?

  “Like being able to create portals.” Holden hitches his thumb at the rainbow portal.

  “Or like being extremely graceful and strong.” To prove his point, Max picks me up and leaps off the edge of the podium before I can even take my next breath.

  I barely feel the impact as he lands weightlessly in the grass.

  “Wow,” I breathe out, clutching the front of his shirt.

  Grinning, he lowers my feet to the ground. “And there’s plenty more where that came from.” He spins on his heels and starts across the field in the direction Easton, Foster, and Hunter took off in, light orbs twirling around him.

  I start to follow him when Holden drops down beside me.

  “Are you okay?” he asks.

  I nod, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. “Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”

  “Because this—this world, our powers—it can be a lot to take in.”

  “I’m fine,” I assure him. But, am I? I’m not sure I know the answer to that.

  Offering me a small smile, he entwines his fingers through mine and pulls me with him as he starts across the field. “My brothers and I haven’t ever been around a human who knows about our powers, so I’m guessing there’s going to be a lot of showing off.” The orbs of light magnetize toward him, but he doesn’t seem to notice, his gaze welded to mine. “If you get uncomfortable at any time, just say so, okay? Don’t let them do things to you that make you uncomfortable.”

  Worry crawls through me. Just what sort of things does he think they’re going to do to me?

  “They’d never hurt you,” he promises, as if sensing my dread. “That I can promise you.”

  I hate to ask, but I need to know. “Does that statement apply to Foster, too?”

  He nods with zero hesitation. “Foster is complicated, but he’d never hurt you. In fact, I think if he could, he’d like you.”

  “You make it
sound like he has to hate me.”

  “He doesn’t have to, but it’s probably for the better. It always is.” He doesn’t elaborate, leaving me to wonder what he meant.

  Leaving me to wonder a lot of things.

  Chapter 14

  “So, what exactly is this place called?” I ask after a few minutes of silence have drifted by between Holden and me.

  Max is walking farther ahead, playing with the orbs of light. And, by playing, I mean that, every so often, he plucks a green one from the air and tosses it around like a baseball.

  Green, just like his eyes and his magical light powers. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

  “We call this place The In-Between,” Holden says as a golden orb of light lands on his shoulder. “But it’s basically the place that links all the worlds.”

  It takes me a gulp or two to process his words. “So, what world are we going to now?”

  “Our world.” He pets the light with his fingertips. “Also known as Elemental.”

  “Just how many worlds are there?”

  “More than even I know about.” He gives me a sidelong glance. “I know it’s a little overwhelming, but when you start going to the academy, you’ll learn all about our world.”

  “Are all humans that go there aware of your powers?”

  He shakes his head, collecting the light in his hand. “No. Actually, most of them don’t know about us.”

  “But, how do you keep it a secret from them?”

  He winks at me. “With magic.”

  “Oh.”

  God, this is so much to take in. Powers. Worlds. Orbs of light that act like pets.

  “What are these light thingies anyway?” I point at the ball of light in his hand.

  Smiling, he sticks his hand out toward me with the light resting in his palm. “This is what we refer to as essences. They exist only in The In-Between and, like our eyes, their color represents their power.”

  “So, they have the same powers as you guys?”

  “Yes. Only, they never connected to a body.”

  “Connected to a body …?” My confusion morphs into shock. “Wait. Are you saying these things are what create people …? Creatures like you?”

  He nods, somewhat amused. “Although, not all of them will connect to a body. Some will always just roam The In-Between. Those we refer to as wild essences.”

  I glance curiously at the wild essence in his hand. “What does it feel like when you hold it?”

  Pressing his lips together, he moves his hand in my direction again. “Touch it and find out.”

  “Will it …? Can it hurt me?”

  “No. Wild essences are as pure as untainted souls. I’m not sure if you’ll actually feel anything since you’re human, but I’m curious to find out.”

  It seems as if I should be afraid, but every single part of me is begging to touch the orb of light. So, like a magnet to metal, my fingers drift forward, the tips slipping through the light. A wave of heat and iciness courses through me, then a gust of wind kicks up, blowing through my hair and across my skin. Seconds later, the clouds begin to shower rain as lightning bolts zap and thunder booms, rumbling the ground.

  “What the hell?” Holden peers up at the sky.

  I gasp as electric energy surges through my veins, and Holden’s attention whips to me as rays of light swarm around me, like a multicolored tornado.

  “Hold perfectly still,” Holden whispers as the rays of light eddy around me.

  “Are they going to hurt me?” I whisper, my voice shaky.

  “No, they’re drawn to you.” A crease forms at his brows. “Sky, is there any way you could have powers?”

  I swallow hard, willing the words to leave my lips. But again, I remain silent.

  The crease between his brows deepens. “Sky, can you hear me?”

  I nod. “Yeah.”

  He surveys me over. “Can you not talk about something?” When I say nothing, he nibbles on his bottom lip. “If you think you have some sort of powers, nod your head.”

  I attempt to do just that, but my head won’t budge. Frustrated, I ball my hands into fists. The movement captures his attention.

  “You can’t talk about it, can you?” he asks, frowning.

  “I … Why … can’t I?” I manage to strain out.

  “I’m not sure.” He taps his finger against his lips. “There’ve been a couple of instances when elemental protectors had spells cast on them to keep their identity and powers hidden. Usually, though, it’s because they did something illegal and wanted to hide from the council. I know my grandparents did it once when they were younger, but that was to conceal that they were elemental enchanters …” His eyes abruptly widen. Then his gaze travels across all the orbs of light whirling around me in a colorful stream. “Oh fuck.” He snatches ahold of my hand and drags me back in the direction we just came from.

  “What’s going on?” I ask as I stumble after him.

  He doesn’t answer, taking longer strides, and I damn near eat dirt as I struggle to keep up with him. Finally, he scoops me up in his arms, and then we’re moving so fast that the sky, trees, and light around us become nothing but blurs of colors.

  Before I know it, we’re back on the podium. Emaline and Gabe are still there but look as if they were about to leave.

  “What’s wrong?” Gabe asks immediately as Holden rushes up with me in his arms.

  “All the essences are drawn to her,” Holden hisses. “I think she might be an elemental enchanter.”

  Hearing him say the words aloud causes adrenaline to soar through me.

  “What?” they simultaneously say, their eyes bulging as they gape at me.

  “And she can’t talk about it,” Holden adds, “which means someone went through an awful lot of trouble to keep her powers a secret.”

  “But,” Emaline sputters, “it can’t be possible. Her parents are human.”

  “Unless they’re not her real parents,” Gabe states, avoiding my gaze.

  Wait. What?

  “Th-They’re my parents,” I sputter. “I know they are.”

  His eyes convey pity. “I know you’ve been through a lot lately, and this is probably the last thing you want to deal with, but humans can’t have children with elemental powers. It’s just not possible. And an elemental enchanter …” He shakes his head. “They almost always come from a line of very powerful elemental protectors.”

  “Maybe my parents had powers and you just didn’t know it?” I say. “I mean, no one knows about me … Well, until now.”

  Gabe and Emaline exchange an unreadable look, then Gabe cautiously says, “Maybe.” But I can tell he doesn’t believe it.

  My heart sinks in my chest. What if what they’re saying is true? What if my entire life has been a lie?

  “We need to get her out of here.” Holden says with urgency.

  “Why? Foster’s here, and he’s one, so …” I’m so lost.

  “It was odd enough that headquarters requested you come with us today,” Holden tells me cautiously.

  “Which means if someone knows what she is, this could be a setup.” Gabe shakes his head with his jaw set tight. “I should’ve suspected it the moment I got the message.”

  Emaline places her hand on his arm. “Honey, you couldn’t have known. None of us suspected she had powers.”

  “All the extra storms make sense now.” Holden stares down at me with the strangest look on his face.

  I become hyperaware he’s still carrying me. “You can put me down if you want.”

  Strands of hair fall into his eyes as he shakes his head. “Nah, I’ll carry you through the portal.” He looks at Gabe. “So, what’re we going to do?”

  Gabe glances at the trees, the portal, me, then at Holden. “Take her back to the house. We’ll find your brothers and send them back. Then your mother and I will go to headquarters.”

  “You think it’s safe?” Holden asks, his arms tensing around me.

  Gabe wavers. “
I’m not sure, which is why we’ll go to Gabby first. She’ll be able to give us a sense of what’s going on. We’ll make our next decision based on that.”

  Worry crams Holden’s expression. “Just be safe, okay?”

  “Of course.” Gabe forces a smile.

  Holden sighs, striding across the podium toward the rainbow portal.

  Guilt weighs down on my chest. If something happens to them, it’ll be my fault.

  Before I can verbalize my feelings, though, Holden jumps into the portal and rainbow light swallows us up.

  Chapter 15

  After Holden transports us through the portal and back to the Everettsons’ living room, he sets me down on the sofa. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.” Then he spins on his heels and strides out of the room.

  My palms are sweating and my pulse is soaring as I process everything I discovered over the last day. Powers. Paranormals. Me being some rare creature. That my parents might not actually be my real parents. How is this possible?

  I’d probably be more in shock if I hadn’t already been dealing with my powers for most of my life. While some of what I just learned is frightening—and frustrating, if it turns out my parents aren’t my real parents—I also feel a trace of relief that, after all these years, I’m finally starting to understand why I can make lightning and fires ignite from out of nowhere, why I can sometimes start flashfloods, why light bulbs burst when I get angry. I’ve spent years believing I was crazy. Years thinking, if I really did have powers, I was the only one in the world who did.

  “All right, I want to try a couple of things,” Holden announces as he returns to the room. He has a small, leather bag in his hand and his sleeves are rolled up.

  “What sort of things?” I dubiously eyeball the leather bag that looks an awful lot like an old-school doctor bag.

  “Nothing bad. I promise.” He sinks down onto the edge of the coffee table and opens the bag. “I want to see if I can get that invisible wall around you down. If I can, it might allow you to talk about your powers. It’s got a tiny crack in it already, but we can use that to our advantage. Although, I’m curious what caused the crack.”

 
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