Broken visions, p.12
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       Broken Visions, p.12

         Part #3 of Shattered Promises series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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  Alex grows grave. "He called her," he says tightly. "As in he summoned her there by the mark. Apparently, Stephan can summon people with the Mark of Malefiscus."

  I can't help but think of the mark again, hidden on her flesh out of sight. "How do we know he's not going to summon her right now?"

  "We don't," Alex says straightforwardly, putting the sword he was sharpening down on the coffee table. "But we've got her locked up and we took away her Key of Malefiscus so that might help."

  My mouth curves downward into a frown. "Great. He has his own key now."

  "He's had one all along apparently," Alex explains bitterly. "I guess as he marked each one of the Keepers with the Mark of Malefiscus, he also gave them a key, so when he touches his mark, they can take the key, trace a door wherever they are and it takes them straight to the castle."

  "So Nicholas had one of these too, I'm guessing. And Marco and Sophia?" I say in astonishment.

  "Nicholas didn't have one, I don't think," Alex says. "Jocelyn said that Stephan gave them only to the Keepers he marked."

  "Do any of you have one?" I don't want to say it but I need to know.

  "Oh yeah," Laylen says, shifting his legs out in front of them to stretch. "Aislin, show Gemma the spell you came up with to know when people nearby have the mark."

  Aislin's eyes light up as she pops her knuckles. "All right, Gemma, here goes nothing."

  ***

  About a half of an hour later, I'm convinced none of them have marks. Aislin does a spell that shows my mother's mark and lights it up, then does it on the rest of them including Aleesa, and it shows all three of them are mark free. She also does it on me, so they'll know that I'm free of evil at the moment. Then I go upstairs to talk with my mom in private because it seems like we have a lot to talk about.

  Sophia's room is the same, white linens, walls, and curtains. Everything is clean and tidy, the bed made, clothes tucked away.

  My mom looks miserable lying on the floor, bound to the wall by chains fastened to her wrists. Her head is resting on a pillow, her brown hair a halo around her head, and her eyes are shut as if she's sleeping.

  I close the door behind me and her eyes open as she sits up. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up," I say, lingering near the doorway. Finally I dare to sit in front of her, leaving just enough room so that she can't reach me with the chains, just in case. "I don't know what to say," I tell her honestly, fidgeting with the leather band on my wrist.

  "I'm sorry, Gemma," she says, although there's emptiness in her eyes, reminding me that deep down this isn't my mother.

  "It's okay. I get that you couldn't say anything about the mark." I pause. "But there's one thing I don't understand.... How is it that you're marked and yet you could tell us all those things that day--about the ending of the world? And Stephen's plan?"

  "There are always loopholes, Gemma."

  "You keep saying that, but it doesn't make sense to me yet."

  "I know. Some things are hard to understand and even harder to explain." She scoots back and rests her head against the wall. "Sometimes my mind gets cloudy as if it doesn't belong to me, and I say words that aren't my own but it's not cloudy right now, because of the Blood Promise. But that won't last forever... I won't last forever."

  Panic claws up my throat. "You're not leaving me again, are you?"

  She doesn't answer right away. "Remember how you told me that you saw the vision of Stephan forcing me into the lake? Well, you don't understand the vision completely. There were things that happened that confused you. Stephan didn't force me into the lake, like he--you--thought," she says quietly, almost remorseful. "I went in there on my own... I chose to go to The Underworld on my own."

  I pull my legs up and rest my chin on my knee. "No you didn't... I saw him force you to go in there."

  She crawls toward me, reaching for my hand, dragging the chains across the floor with her. "No, you didn't. That's what it may have looked like, but that's not what happened," she says, frowning when I slide back out of her reach. "I've always had this gift... kind of like super willpower, and for the longest time, even after Stephan marked me, it stayed with me--made me strong against his attempted tries at making me evil."

  "When did he mark you? Didn't you fight back?"

  "That's hard to do when there are Death Walkers. He created his army of death and picked us off one by one. Some didn't make it out alive like Laylen's parents."

  "I--I--But he told me his parents died in a car accident right after you were sent to The Underworld?"

  "No, they died putting up a fight when Stephan ambushed them."

  A massive lump lodges in my throat. "Does Laylen know this?"

  She shakes her head, kneeling in front of me. "There is a lot of memory tampering that's gone on throughout the years, including with Laylen."

  I remember Laylen mentioning memory loss once, when he was turned into a vampire. "But then why did you choose to go to The Underworld?" I ask, fearing her answer. "Why would you ever want to go to a place like that? So full of death and torture?"

  "Because I could feel Stephan gaining control over me," she whispers, her eyes wide as she gazes off. "I was the hardest to gain control over. Even after he marked me, he still couldn't get me to do the things he wanted, especially when it came to you. But he kept working and breaking me down and finally I felt my willpower diminishing. I knew it wouldn't be long before I wouldn't have power over my actions and I just couldn't do it--I couldn't stand around and watch them detach your soul and ruin your life."

  "So you decided just to leave me then?" I'm trying very hard not to get angry, but it's difficult and I can feel aggravation simmering under my skin. "Even though you knew they would still take away my soul?"

  "I'm so sorry." She reaches for me again, her blue irises begging for me to understand. "But even if I stayed, it would have happened still."

  So my mom never sacrificed her life to try and save mine. She sacrificed it so she wouldn't have to watch my life get ruined. That was the real reason and it hurt, like a knife lodged in my heart.

  "So you wish I never went and saved you from The Underworld?" My anger rises through my voice as I scoot away from her.

  She shakes her head erratically. "No. I understand now that running away doesn't solve anything. Everything still happened to you, and instead of trying to fight, I gave up. I'll never give up again. We'll figure out a way to fix this."

  "And how are we supposed to fix it?" I snap. "Do you know how to work a fucking mapping ball? Because I sure as hell don't."

  "Alex told me about that." Her eyes flash cold. "So you saw your father?"

  "Yeah, I saw him. And thanks for telling me he's still alive."

  "Did he tell you what he did?" she asks harshly. "Did he tell you how he ended the world?"

  "He said he made some mistakes and changed and recreated a vision so the world would end," I tell her. "But he didn't explain why."

  "He changed the vision because he wanted one of these." She shoves up the sleeve of her shirt and extends her arm out, showing me the Mark of Malefiscus on her wrist just below the cuff on the chain.

  I recoil away from her, shaking my head "No, I don't believe you."

  She carries my gaze steadily. "Yes, he did. He wanted the mark. He wanted it."

  "Why!?" I cry, tears stinging the corners of my eyes.

  "For power--he wanted to be powerful, just like Stephan."

  I leap to my feet, trembling with rage, fists clenched, adrenalin soaring so violently I feel like I'm getting whiplash. "You're lying. He wouldn't be trying to fix it, if that's the truth." My feelings don't match my words, though. I've wondered this myself. But what she's saying is making me furious for some reason, perhaps because she's confirming what everyone else has been worried about--that my father is evil.

  "Time changes people's minds." She tries to get to her feet, but the weight of the chains drags her back to the floor. "And he's been locked up alone in the Room of Fo
rbidden for so long, I'm sure he's had time to clear all the power hunger out of his head."

  "No, you're lying!" I shout. "My father didn't make this mess because he wanted to be powerful like Stephan, because he wanted the Mark of Malefiscus. There's no way." But a voice whispers in my head, telling me maybe she's right.

  "You barely know him," she says sadly. "You have no idea what he would or wouldn't do."

  I storm out of the room, slamming the door shut behind me. My mother calls out my name, but I hurry down the hall and burst into my room. All that time invested in wondering about my parents, only to find out that one wants to be evil and one is imprinted with evil.

  I snatch a brush off my dresser and chuck it across the room. It makes a loud thump as it dents the wall, and bits and pieces of paint and drywall crumble to the floor. Then I slump to the ground and lean back against the door. What am I supposed to do? Try to get back to where my dad is--to the Room of Forbidden--and get some more details on how to fix his mistakes? I'm not sure I want to do that. Not after what I was just told.

  "What am I going to do?" I whisper.

  Just then, the sunlight hits my window and filters through my room, onto my bed and rays of maroon reflect across my walls and ceiling. I get to my feet and inch toward my bed cautiously and see a small crystal ball filled with rubies on one of my pillows. I look around my room for someone but it's empty. With an unsteady hand, I pick up the crystal and discover a piece of paper tucked beneath it.

  "Go to the City of Crystal and get the Purple Flame. Sincerely, a friend," I read aloud.

  I flip the paper over, but there's nothing on the back. I go over to the window, push it open, and look down at the driveway and I catch a hint of a flowery scent. But it's probably just my imagination.

  Chapter 18

  "The Purple Flame?" Aislin pulls a face at the paper. She's still sitting on the floor of the living room with the laptop opened up on the coffee table and the note I found in my room in her hand. "I think it's a Foreseer term."

  "Does anyone know what it is?" I take the note from her hand and read it over again, pondering whose handwriting it could be.

  "No," Alex says, absentmindedly playing with my hair as he sits next to me, mulling it over. "We're all just as lost as you."

  "Well, does anyone know how to find out what it is?" I ask, knowing I should go sit somewhere else, but I can't seem to will myself to give up the comfort he's instilling in me. And after the thing with my mom, I really need some comfort. "Is there a book or something? Or can we search it out on the Internet?"

  Alex and Aislin exchange a look of inquiry. "What do you think?" Alex asks her. "Would it say anything about it?"

  "I don't know...maybe," Aislin deliberates as she clicks a few keys on the computer and then shuts it down. "But it would be extremely risky, especially if he's at our house."

  My eyes blink incredulously. "You want to go to your house--to Stephan's house?"

  "Maybe. I mean he has a book." Aislin scoots the laptop to the side and crosses her arms on the table.

  "A history book," Alex adds. "That outlines the history of the Foreseers. And it's probably our best bet on figuring this out since we don't have a Foreseer around to help us anymore."

  My stomach churns as I think of Nicholas and the floral scent I detected only moments ago when I looked outside my window. But there's no way... Nicholas was dead.

  "I'll go get it," Alex announces, getting up to head to the foyer. "My father was never home anyway, so I doubt he'll be hanging around now, but if he is, I can handle it."

  I want to grab him and refuse to let him go, but deep down I know someone has to do it and I've already talked him into letting me do things by myself once before, when I was going to the castle, and since it didn't turn out so great, I know convincing him of such again would be even more difficult. "At least let me foresee us there."

  He shakes his head, lingering in the doorway. "You can't. There's Praesidium everywhere in the yard and basement, and besides, you don't know what my place looks like."

  I motion at Aislin. "Well, let her transport you ..."

  "No one can use magic in the house," he explains, leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded.

  "Why?"

  He shrugs. "Since we knew about all the things that go bump in the night, we wanted to be protected."

  "So you're just going to drive there?" It seems like such a normal thing to do which makes it seem odd.

  "Basically, yeah. But don't worry, I'll be okay," he promises. "There's like a one percent chance he'll be there. He was never even there while we were growing up--he never was anywhere we were unless it was convenient for him."

  "Can you at least wait until dark, so he doesn't see you coming if he's there? Plus, there'll be lights on in the house if someone's home so you'll know," I point out, walking toward him.

  He winks at me. "Alright, but only because you asked me to."

  Unsure how to respond to his composed demeanor, I smile tightly. But it feels wrong because I'm afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. Of not being able to fix the world's outcome. And the scariest one of all, losing him.

  ***

  For the rest of the day, we keep to ourselves, getting lost in our own worry. Aleesa comes downstairs eventually, looking better than when I first met her. Her tangles are tamed, her skin isn't so pale, and she has on clean clothes. Aislin takes her into the kitchen to feed her. She's almost like a child, unable to take care of herself and I feel sorry for her, realizing that there are so many people's lives that have been ruined by Stephan and I wonder how many more there are.

  I'm sitting on the couch, trying to watch the television and not think about all the danger I'm faced with, but all I can do is focus on Alex and think about how I don't want him to go. He seems content, however, humming a song under his breath as he laces his boots.

  "I don't think you should go alone," I finally say, turning off the television. "I should go with you. I'm a Keeper now, so I'm not completely useless."

  He puts a knife into the pocket of his jeans and rolls up the sleeves of his long-sleeve shirt, giving me a good glimpse of his lean muscles. "No way."

  "You didn't see me at the castle." I position myself in front of him as he's walking out of the room. "I kicked some major Death Walker ass."

  He eyes me over from head to toe. "You know what, you can go if you want. You're a Keeper now, and this will be good practice for you. You can be my lookout, even though I'm sure my father won't show up. But better safe than sorry, right? And besides, I want you near me at all times. I'm not sure I'll have a clear head if you're not there."

  "You're always saying that," I tell him, fighting the urge to kiss him. It's been almost four days since I was graced with his mouth and being this close to him is causing the sparks to attack me and make me want to attack him.

  "That's because it's true." He reaches out to touch me, but pulls away. I've been noticing how much easier it is for him not to touch me. Ever since the mark showed up, he seems to have regained some control over his emotions. Maybe they've fizzled or something.

  The sparks however, have not. I can feel them dancing across my skin, taunting me. "Is there something wrong?"

  "Why would there be something wrong?"

  "I don't know..." I feel embarrassed to ask him if he's lost interest in me and even more embarrassed that it's so important to me. "Nothing. Never mind."

  "Gemma, just say it. You don't need to sensor yourself with me."

  "Are you about ready to go?" Aislin announces as she enters the room, stopping our conversation, probably for the better. "Because it's getting late."

  "Gemma's going with me." Alex picks up a slender sword from off the table, tosses it to me, and I surprisingly catch it effortlessly.

  "I don't think that's such a good idea," Aislin protests. "In fact, I think it's a really stupid idea."

  "We'll be fine," Alex assures her. "I really don't think Stephan will be there."
>
  Aislin shakes her head. "That's not what I'm worried about. I don't think he'll be there either." She pauses, glancing back and forth between us. "What I'm worried about is you two being alone together in an empty house ... you've already been pushing the boundaries and I'm worried you're going to end up killing each other here soon."

  "Wow. Way to put it out there," I say sarcastically.

  "Sorry," she tells me unapologetically. "But I have to be blunt because it's serious stuff, you know."

  "We'll be fine." Alex rolls his eyes and again I wonder if something has changed between us since he seems so convinced he'll be able to stay away from me. "We won't do anything we wouldn't do here." He presses back a smile as he pretends to examine the sword.

  Aislin sighs. "Fine, but please hurry."

  We nod and then head out the door.

  ***

  For most of the drive, we're quiet, the sparks heating the longer we're in trapped in the confinements of the car, but they only seem to bother me. Alex seems fully comfortable being in the car with me, driving down the road with the music blasting. Eventually he turns down a side road that goes up into the foothills of the mountains. Not too far up the road, he makes a sudden veer to the left, dipping my old Mazda I used to drive to school into the trees and bushes.

 
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