Darkness falls, p.12
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       Darkness Falls, p.12

         Part #1 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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Page 12

 

  I trace my thumb along the silver handle. “Who’s behind the door?”

  “No one dangerous,” he says. “I just want you to trust me. That’s all. ”

  I eye him warily and slide the knife into my back pocket.

  He gives a small smile and raps on the door, this weird rhythm. Then a guy, a few years older than me, glides the door open. He has green eyes and hair as red as the rocks outside. There’s this strange sharp thing poking out from the side of his eyebrow.

  “Aiden what’s up?” he says. “I didn’t think you were gonna show up tonight. ” They slap hands and pat each other on the back. “So did everything go okay yesterday?” He asks.

  “As okay as it ever does. ” Aiden says and both their eyes land on me. “This is Kayla,” Aiden tells him.

  The red-headed guy sticks out his hand. “Kayla, huh?” He looks like he’s trying to figure out something, but then gives up. “I’m Greyson. ”

  “Greyson,” I say, holding my breath as I shake his hand. Fear. He fears I’ll discover something downstairs, his heart drumming as though it’s hiding dangerous secrets. Five more seconds and I might have pulled my knife out and forced him to divulge them.

  But Aiden interrupts. “So are you going to let us in? Or make us stand out here all night?”

  Greyson blinks and steps aside. “Yeah, sorry man. Come on in. ”

  I’m always prepared for the worst, prepared to attack at any moment, kill with the swing of my blade. But what’s just beyond the door is nothing I can be prepared for, because it’s nothing I’ve known before. A stairway spirals down into to a large room, packed with people—more people than the hillside. Tables, and chairs are dotted around and noisy chatter and music flurries the air, excited and eager and without restraint. I’ve never seen so much disorder. It’s mind blowing. And there’s no fear that someone will show up and bust them for being so free.

  “What are you thinking?” Aiden whispers in my ear.

  I flinch, surprised by his sudden closeness—surprised by how my body reacts. “That it’s amazing,” I finally say, as truthful as I’ve ever been. “But I don’t get it. Who are all these people? And why do they live separately from you?”

  Aiden moves back and meets my eyes. “These are more of the previous Gathering members,” he says.

  “But there’s so many of them,” I say, still mind blown.

  “That’s because The Gathering happens more than you realize,” he explains. “Which is part of the reason why we live separately—there’s not enough space for everyone. Plus, these guys like things a little more noisy than we do over on the hillside. ”

  I shake my head, my lips parted. “But I don’t remember any of them getting chosen. ” My gaze scans the crowd searching for any sort of familiarity to any of their faces. But I come up blank.

  “Do you remember anyone getting chosen?” Aiden starts down the stairs, the steps shaking under his movement.

  “No. ” I follow, hand trailing down the railing, knowing I’ve thought this before.

  “Do you want to know why?” he asks, reaching the bottom. “And I want you to consider your answer very carefully because once you say yes there’s no turning back, even if you want to. ”

  “Once you give in Kayla, there’s no going back,” Monarch says. “You have to make sure you really want it. ”

  “Want what?” I ask.

  “The truth,” he says and something clanks in the distance.

  “But you told me never to ask for the truth,” I reply, feeling the nervous energy bubble around us.

  “Always ask for the truth, Kayla. ” His words are soft, distant. “Just make sure the time is right. ”

  I blink away the forgotten memory. “Yes. I want to know, whatever it is. ”

  He nods, not happy with my answer, nor sad. He takes my hand again and pushes us through the crowd. Some of their fears sneak up on me, but they’re mild, compared to what I’m used to. Fears of snakes, vampires, of being alone.

  “Are you okay?” Aiden hollers over the noise and I catch a few people eyeballing us, fixated with me.

  I nod, my shoulder knocking into a large guy, holding a cup. He shoots me a glare, but then, once taking me in, smiles. “Is there something I’m missing?” I ask Aiden as we reach the end of the crowd.

  “There are a lot of things you’re missing. ” He winks at me, like we’re sharing a private joke.

  But I don’t get the joke and when he sees that, he frowns. “Sorry,” he mutters.

  When we reach a doorway, guarded by two men, dressed in black with knives strapped to their belts, Aiden stops. Even though I can see their faces, my mind flashes back to The Colony—to the guards. To the bright red door.

  “They’re not Watchers,” Aiden quickly assures me, noticing my hand drifting toward my pocket, where my knife rests.

  I drop my hand to my side, but carry skepticism, which only expands as we descend down the hall, passing shut door after shut door that have people inside them—I know because I can hear their hearts. We halt in front of the very last door. Behind this one, there isn’t a heart beating. There are no sounds or signs of human life.

  He turns to me, blocking the door. “How much do you trust me?”

  “I barely know you,” I say.

  He brushes the hair from his honey eyes, frustration tensing in his jawline. “I get that, but I’m asking you,” he squeeze my hand gently, his heart pumping, “Do you trust me?”

  Trust. “I guess so,” I say, giving him the best answer I can.

  He’s saddened with it, and turns his back to me, giving three firm knocks on the door. “Just try to stay calm, okay. ”

  “I always am,” I let it slip out. My secret.

  But he doesn’t seem to care. A window slides open and another guard stands on the inside, with cautious eyes.

  “I got a new one. ” Aiden nods at me.

  This seems to be the right words for the guard. He slams the window shut and the door swings open.

  “Prepare yourself,” Aiden warns and steps back, letting me walk in first.

  But nothing could prepare me for what’s behind that door. It’s a cemented room, but the walls shine silver. A single chair is all that occupies it. In the chair, sits a tall white figure, with its head hung, snow-white hair spilling over.

  My boot scrapes the floor and it raises its head, staring at me with pale eyes.

  A Higher.

  Chapter 17

  I almost bolt, pull out my knife, stab Aiden and the guard and run like hell. Because nothing can explain this—nothing good anyway.

  “You said this wasn’t a Colony. You said there weren’t any Highers around. ” My voice is calm, but carries a hint of warning. “You said I could trust you. ”

  “You can,” he answers, just as calm. “That’s why I brought you here—to show you the truth. ”

  “How did you get it?”

  “It came from one of The Gatherings. ” He moves next to me, reaching for my hand, but I pull away. “Usually there are three Bellators dumped out into the dessert. But there was one specific time where one of these showed up in a body bag. ” He points his finger sharply at the Higher. “No one wanted to bring it back,” he says. “But Dominic insisted we had to, so we did, but trapped it in here, so it wouldn’t try to overtake things. ”

  I tilt my head. “Who’s Dominic?”

  “You’ll meet him soon,” he says. “He’s one of the original Gathering members—one of the first ones who was ever dumped and who built all of this. ”

  “But why keep it alive?” I gaze the silver-lined room. “Why not just kill it and be done with it? I mean, is there really a point in keeping it?”

  As if hearing my harsh words, the Higher lifts its head, its eyes pale and tired. “Ajuta-ma,” he says weakly.

  “What’s wrong with him?” I ask. “Why is it so weak?”

  Aiden scuffs his boot agains
t the cement floor. “It’s the silver. It weakens them. ”

  “How do you know all this?” I ask.

  He shrugs, holding a secret back he never wants me to find out.

  “You’re hiding something,” I say. “What is it?”

  “Maybe I should be asking you the same thing. ” He steps for me, getting in my face. “You’re hiding something from me, Juniper, I can tell. ”

  I freeze at the sound of my second name. “What did you just call me?”

  “Kayla. I called you Kayla. ” His voice suggests composure, but the fear emitting from him tells me different. He’s afraid of me finding out the truth from him.

  I back for the door. “Who are you really? And why do you know that name? No one calls me that but Tristan. ”

  I watch to see if he recognizes Tristan’s name. He does. His face reddens and he lowers his voice, breathing hotly against my cheek. “Does Tristan know about this?” He touches my arm, pouring his fear through me. “Or that you’re never afraid. ”

  I’m gone, out the door before he can utter more words that don’t make sense. I smack the guard down that blocks my way and run down the hall, fast, knocking down people as I push through the crowd and dash up the stairs. I draw my knife out as I reach the exit door.

  The red-headed guy—Greyson steps in my way. “Nuh uh. You can’t go out—it’s dark. ”

  “I don’t care,” I say. “Let me out. ”

  “Hey, take it easy. ” He holds up his hands. “No one’s here to hurt you, Kayla. ”

  Something about the way he says my name sends me over the edge. It’s like I’m back in The Colony, facing Gabrielle as he taunts me with things he knows, but won’t tell.

  “Get out of my way. ” I reach for the doorknob.

  He snatches my hand. “I said you can’t go out right now. ”

  With one swift swing of my fist, he crumples to the ground, unconscious. I step over him and jerk the door open, sprinting out onto the metal platform. A deep breath and then I’m running up the pipe, water splashing underneath my boots as I climb higher. My fingers slide against the water and so do my shoes, but eventually I break through to higher ground, knowing he’s following not too far behind.

  I burst through the top and slip into the water. “Dammit. ” I splash forward, but pause at the sight of them. While I was down there, darkness fell and the vampires woke up. Worse, they all seemed to migrate here, surrounding the water, outlines of shadows, snapping their fangs viciously.

  Even after what happened last night, I have to be reluctant. Because if something’s changed—if they’ve suddenly decided they like the taste of me—then I’m dead. I wait, testing their reactions as they sniff the air.

  “Kayla, back up slowly. ” It’s Aiden’s voice, trying to lure me back into the pipe.

  When the vampires hear him, their eyes rain blood, little drops of red, bleeding into the water I’m standing in.

 
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