Broken visions, p.11
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       Broken Visions, p.11

         Part #3 of Shattered Promises series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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  "She's had it forever," Stephan tells me, pleased. "Sophia, Marco... Didn't you ever wonder how I got everyone to do what I asked? The only ones I didn't mark were the ones who couldn't be marked." He frowns. "The one's whose blood is pure from evil."

  I think about Alex. Aislin. Laylen. Myself. Blood pure from evil. I know I can be marked, but what about them. What if one of them is marked?

  I start to step back toward the door, needing to get the hell out of here.

  Stephan matches my step, regaining every amount of space I put between us. "Your mother's a fighter. She was always a fighter... it's her gift, you know--her Keeper's gift. She always made things difficult for me, which is part of the reason why I sent her to The Underworld. I couldn't even summon her to go--I had to threaten your wellbeing. The Underworld has weakened her, though. It's tainted her blood, which makes things less complicated for me. Getting her to come here was as easy as a master whistling to call his dog." He looks over at my mother, pride beaming as if she's something he's created. "It makes her easier to control. All I had to do was tug at the leash a little."

  "Okay, this conversation is getting a little too metaphorical for me," I say glancing at Laylen who has Aleesa now and my mother by his side. "If you want to say something," I tell Stephan. "Just say it. Quit rambling."

  He begins rolling up the sleeves of his shirt, still grinning. A small part of me wants to see how this fight will turn out, especially with my new badass fighting skills. But the other part of me knows what needs to be done. So with one swift dive, I slide across the icy floor, slipping between the Death Walkers' legs and into my mom like a baseball player glides into home plate. I snatch hold of Laylen's arm who grabs onto Aleesa and then extend a hand out to my mom. Even though she's imprinted with evil, I'm not leaving her behind.

  Stephan's elation plummets as he sees his precious star slipping through his fingers like sand. "Get her!" he orders to the Death Walkers and they begin to close in on us, sucking away any heat left in the air.

  But I blink my eyes and picture somewhere safe and moments later we're gone.

  Chapter 16

  Alex and Aislin are drinking coffee and having a heated conversation about something when the four of us fall into the living room, a pile of tangled bodies. We end up taking out the coffee table, breaking two of the legs off and cracking the top in half. Coffee spills all over the floor and Aislin gasp in alarm.

  I immediately unwind my legs and arms from Laylen and Aleesa and scramble to my feet. "We have to leave," I say. "Now." I bend down to eye level with my mom who is disoriented. "Did you tell him where we were hiding?"

  She trembles, pulling her knees against her chest. "I'm so sorry, Gemma. I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't."

  I didn't want apologies right now. I need to know we are safe. "I need to know if you told Stephan where we were hiding."

  She didn't answer, because she couldn't.

  "Shit." I start to turn to Alex for help but feel an unfamiliar sense of leadership taking control of me, coiling through my veins and colliding into my heart, thrusting a surge of energy potently through my body. "We need to leave now."

  "What the fuck is going on?" Alex rounds the broken table toward me and looks at Aleesa, cowering near the end table with her arms cradled around her head. "And who the hell is she?"

  "She's just someone we found in the basement." I know that once I say who she is, it's going to be a huge distraction. And we need to focus on getting somewhere safe first. "It's not important right now."

  He questions me with a crook of his brow. "Okay, well then explain why we need to leave in such a rush?"

  I snatch hold my mom's arm, roll her sleeve back, and give an exaggerated gesture at the mark on her wrist. "Because of that."

  His jaw nearly hits the floor. "What the... did he just do that to her?"

  I shake my head, letting go of her arm and my mom hangs her head in shame. "But I'll explain everything later, okay? I think she told him where we were hiding so we need to move before he shows up here... well, when he can. I'm not sure how long he still has to stay away from us for, but I don't want to take any chances."

  He starts ripping the place apart, pulling out weapons he hid all over the house. "Alright, everyone, we're going. Aislin, grab whatever you need to, but no clothes or stupid shit like that."

  "Any suggestions on where we should go?" I collect the mapping ball from the coffee table.

  "I'm running out of ideas," Alex replies, tucking a dagger into a sheath on his ankle. "With all the moving around we've been doing, the list of safe places is dwindling."

  I can't believe I'm about to say this. "What if we went back to Wyoming?" I ask. "Back to Marco and Sophia's home, because I'm guessing my landlord has evicted me by now from my apartment."

  "Gemma, Stephan knows where that is," Aislin tells me, like I was an idiot as she tosses herbs and candles into a large duffel bag.

  "Yeah, which means he's less likely to look for us there." I pace back and forth. "He would never think we'd go to a place he knew about, right? And I'm familiar with it and the town. There are hardly any people around so it makes the worry of someone seeing us low."

  "And what if Marco and Sophia are there?" Aislin asks, zipping up the bag. "Then what."

  "Then we take them out." Alex draws a medium size knife out from the sofa cushion and touches the tip of it with his finger. "We lock them up and see if we can get some answers from them. We should have done that a long time ago anyway."

  Aislin sighs, but doesn't protest. Laylen comes hurrying out from the bedroom with a bag on his back. "So what's the plan?" He directs the question to me.

  "Afton," I reply with confidence.

  "Look at you," Laylen jokes as he adjusts the handle of the bag on his shoulder. "First the ninja moves and now the awesome leadership skills. You're turning into a regular badass."

  Alex elevates his eyebrows inquisitively. "Ninja moves?"

  "I'll explain later," I say dismissively. "Now what's the best way to get there? Transport or should I use my power?"

  "Either." Alex goes over to the window and peers out of the blinds. "Driving isn't an option since the car was totaled in the accident."

  "That's too many for me to transport all at once." Aislin hitches the bag over her shoulder. "But I can make two trips."

  "No!" Alex and I shout at the same time and Aislin flinches.

  "Sorry," Alex says with limited sincerity in his tone. "But remember what happened the last time we did that? You and Laylen never made it there."

  "Yeah, I remember." Aislin shudders.

  "It's okay...I can do it." I hope the extra adrenaline pumping through my veins will give me the boost I need to do this right.

  "Are you sure?" Alex asks restlessly as he makes his way back over to me. "I don't want you over exerting yourself. You've already been passing out a lot."

  "I'll be okay." And for once, it actually feels like the truth. This unknown power pumping inside me makes me feel almost invincible.

  We all gather in the corner, in a tight huddle and then I close my eyes, picturing the high ridged mountains enclosing the town I grew up in, the red brick house, the rooms inside. When I open my eyes, I cringe. All six of us are huddled together in the center of my old living room. There are pictures on the walls that don't include me and sad memories are floating everywhere like ghosts. I stand up straight, a mixture of feelings drowning me. Everything... It's too much. My eyes roll into the back of my head and I buckle to the floor.

  Chapter 17

  When I wake up in my old bed, I flip out. For the briefest, most fearful moment I think that maybe I've dreamt the last year and have woken up to my lonely high school life, friendless, unfeeling and empty once again.

  Everything looks exactly the same as the last time I was here, back a couple of months ago. The walls are bright red and there's a single shelf in the corner that use to hold my limited collection of books and CDs but Sophia made me co
me get them because she didn't want my "junk" taking up her space anymore. The only thing that is different is the six-foot-four vampire snoring away in my computer chair, his black boots kicked up on the computer desk, his head tipped back in an awkward position.

  I find myself smiling as I get out of bed and pad over to him. I don't try to wake him right away, taking in his pale skin, the silver lip ring ornamenting his bottom lip and the mark of immortality on his arm. God, he is beautiful. He really is and honestly, I don't think he sees the beauty in himself, inside and out, which is sad.

  I lightly tap him on the shoulder, figuring I'll wake him up and see what's going on. He jumps, startled, and lets out a loud snort, his fangs descending from his mouth as if he's about to bite.

  "Sorry." I cover my mouth to stifle a laugh. "I didn't mean to scare you."

  His bright blue eyes are huge as he presses his hand to his heart. "You scared the shit out of me. Jesus, Gemma." He allows his fangs to retract as he lowers his feet to the floor.

  "Sorry." I lower my hand from my mouth. "But why are you sleeping at my computer desk?"

  "I'm on Gemma duty."

  "Gemma duty?"

  "Yeah, Gemma duty." Laylen fiddles with his lip ring, sucking it between his teeth. "You've been out for almost three days and we were getting worried about you...that maybe the rush was too much for you. You're heart's been racing way too fast so they put me in here to try to calm you."

  "With your gift?" I ask and he nods and it makes my stomach flutter just a bit. "Wait. What's a rush?"

  Laylen swivels in the chair. "It's the rush of adrenaline you get when your Keeper's mark first appears."

  My arms go limp at my side. "My Keeper's mark?"

  He offers me a smile but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "Yeah it's on your shoulder blade."

  I dash over to the mirror and yank down the upper part of my t-shirt, turning around. Circling the center of my shoulder blade is a ring of fiery-gold flames, centered by a circle. "Wait." I give him a suspicious glance. "How did you guys find the mark on me?"

  He gave me a devious smile, waggling his eyebrows. "How do you think?"

  I pick up a pillow off my bed and throw it at him, even though I wouldn't really mind if he had looked. I trust him enough.

  He catches the pillow effortlessly. "I'm joking. We just checked the obvious places--the arms, the ankles, your shoulders. If we wouldn't have been able to find it, we would have waited for you to wake up and let you check the rest of your body."

  I touch the mark on my shoulder. "God, I can't believe I'm a Keeper... I didn't even think it could happen to me."

  "You didn't think those awesome fighting moves came from nowhere, did you?" Laylen says, cocking an eyebrow at me.

  "So, you knew what was going on back at the castle?"

  "I assumed as much."

  "You seem in a good mood," I say, picking up a CD from the desk and absentmindedly turning it around in my hand, something Sophia forgot to pack up.

  He shrugs. "It's weird, but as soon as you got your mark, your blood stopped being like a drug to me."

  "So you don't crave blood anymore?" I wonder. "All because I got the mark."

  "Well I still crave blood," he says, standing up. "And yours still smells extra mouthwatering, but it's not as mind consuming as it was."

  "Is it normal for you not to crave a Keepers blood as much?"

  He nods. "Yeah, it's one of their many defense mechanisms."

  I set the CD case down. "So you're happy I'm one then?"

  His happiness diminishes. "I never said that." He scratches the back of his neck. "Honestly, I was kind of hoping it'd skip over you. But not because I don't like you now... I just really liked you before and sometimes getting the mark changes people."

  "I still feel like the same person," I tell him. "Just stronger."

  He smiles again, nudging my foot with his. "I'm sure you'll stay the clumsy, emotional, caring Gemma I first met."

  "I hope so." And I really do, but I can't help but think of Stephan and wonder what he was like before he got his Keeper mark. Perhaps he was once good, too. "So what's been going on for the last few days while I was out?" I ask, changing the subject.

  "Not much." He tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he sits down on the edge of my bed. "In fact, it's been pretty quiet."

  "What about my mom?" I ask, taking a seat beside him. "How's she doing?"

  He hesitates, plucking a loose string on one of the throw pillows. "Everyone thought it would be best, including her, if we locked her up until we can figure out what to do with her. We don't want her sneaking off and doing something like what she just did."

  "It wasn't her fault. It's the mark's fault. She can't help what she does. Trust me, I know what it feels like." I touch the spot on my arm where the mark once was. "Even though I erased the vision, I can still feel what I felt like while I was possessed."

  Laylen sets the pillow aside. "I know it's not her fault, but we have to be careful. And Aislin's trying to figure out a spell to remove the mark," he says. "She's been searching the internet like crazy for the last few days, but no luck yet. The problem is we don't know who to trust to go to for information. She can't just go walking into a witch store and ask how to remove the Mark of Malefiscus. Aislin also went pretty spell crazy; she put like a ton of spells all over the house, trying to keep us protected from unannounced visitors. And thankfully there are no signs that Marco and Sophia have been here in a while. The mail and newspapers are piling up. Aislin tried to do a Tracker Spell and either they have a protection charm on them or... or they've died because they're not showing up anywhere."

  "Died?" I'm not sure how I feel about that.

  He sighs and comes over to me. "Are you going to be okay?"

  I shrug. "I'm not sure, I think so, but..." The prickle is erratic on the back of my neck, but I don't know what it's telling me. To be sad? If it's that, it's not working because I just feel numb. All those years of living with them, but practically invisible. The emotional bond never formed and now I can barely remember them at all.

  "What's wrong?" He puts a finger under my chin and angles my head up so I'm looking at him.

  "It's just that it's so weird to be in here again," I say, glancing around the bare room. "Nothing about this room feels like me, yet it's the room I grew up in."

  He takes in the bareness of my room. "Maybe that's because this room isn't you. I mean, all those years you spent living here you weren't really you." He gives me a hug and then we leave the room and go downstairs. On our way down, he tells me how Aleesa is recovering and that Alex and Aislin seem to be reacting to her okay.

  "What about marks?" I ask. "Does she have any on her?"

  "You mean, the Mark of Malefiscus?" he checks.

  I nod. "Stephan said he'd been putting it on everyone who didn't have pure blood." I bite my lip, hating myself for wondering if Aislin, Alex, and even Laylen have one.

  "Aislin came up with a spell for that too." He takes my hand in his. "Come on and I'll have her show you."

  In the living room, Aislin is sitting cross-legged on the floor squinting at a computer screen that's on the coffee table in front of her. Alex is on the sofa, watching TV with his feet kicked up and a glass in his hand that's filled with a golden liquid, probably tequila or something similar. It's weird to see because... well, because everything appears so ordinary and it feels so unnatural.

  But then I notice Aislin is searching the web for mark removal spells, and Alex is also sharpening a sword and everything feels right in the world again.

  "Oh, thank God," Aislin says, relaxing when she sees me. "I thought you weren't going to wake up."

  "You guys always think that," I say, letting go of Laylen's hand when I notice her gaze drifting to it. "Yet I always do." There's a lightness in my tone, one I've never heard before.

  Aislin clicks the computer mouse. "You seem in a good mood." There's speculation in her voice as if she's wonder
ing what Laylen and I were up to before we came down here.

  "It's because of the lingering adrenaline from the rush." Alex eyes leisurely travel up my legs, across my midsection and chest, and ultimately land on my eyes.

  God, he's so intense that I want to lean down, run my hands through his messy hair while I feel the softness of his lips against mine. I'm not sure how long we stare at each other like that, but eventually Laylen clears his throat, something I'm realizing he has to do a lot when Alex and I are near each other.

  "What's our next move?" Laylen sits down and I follow, tucking my legs under my ass. Alex remains staring at me with way too much heat in his eyes. If he keeps it up, I'm going to drop dead right here on the sofa in front of everyone.

  "Has anyone talked to my mother yet?" I ask. "Or is it pointless because of the mark?"

  "After we made the same Blood Promise with her as we did with Nicholas, then we got some information out of her." Alex lifts his hand, showing me a healing cut on his palm.

  "What did she tell you?" I ask. "Did she say how she ended up at the Keeper's Castle?"

 
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