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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.13
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.13

           Jessica Sorensen
 
We make it through the rest of the night without any more vampire incidents, like every one of them has vanished into thin air, never to return. But I’m sure the silence is misleading. I know without a doubt that I’ll see a vampire again.

  When the sky starts to grey with morning, I can finally breathe. My clothes are caked in a thick layer of dirt that I work to chip off with my knife.

  “You need a shower,” Bernard remarks, scrapping some dirt off his sleeve.

  I pull a chunk of mud out of my hair. “Yeah, I’ll get right on it.”

  Maci’s fast asleep, curled up in the cubby of the rock. I owe the kid my life and vow to keep her as safe as I can from now on.

  After I’ve gotten most of the dirt off my clothes and face, I get to my feet and stretch my hands above my head, blinking the morning from my eyes.

  “You’re alive.” Maci crawls out, her hands and hair covered with a red layer of dust from the rock. “I’m so glad you made it.”

  “Well, I wouldn’t have,” I say, “if you hadn’t sent Bernard to help me.” I wipe the blade of my knife and tuck it away. “How did you know I was going to drown?”

  She smiles. “Because I can see things in my head sometimes—before they’re gonna happen.”

  “I’d say she was crazy,” Bernard says stepping beside me. “But after what happened last night …”

  “How long have you been able to see things?” I ask curiously.

  “Since I came out from behind the red door,” she replies.

  I smile, but a shudder crawls through my body as I remember the red door and how it sent a surge of fear through me, one so strong it kept me from opening it.

  “We should get going.” I pick up my jacket I had left draped over the rock so it could dry out. The fabric is crusty and stiff and I ball it up, deciding to carry it, and then start over the rocks.

  “Go where?” Bernard follows after me, gracefully climbing over the rock. His clumsiness has seemed to shift over night, but I’m glad. “I mean, where the heck are we supposed to go? There’s nothing around.”

  “I know that.” I give Maci a hand getting down. “But we need to go somewhere—find some food and water so we don’t starve to death.”

  “There are puddles everywhere.” Bernard points to the ground. “We could drink from them.”

  “But they’re gross.” Maci makes a face. “And there’s bugs in them.”

  “It might be our only choice.” I kneel down beside a puddle, picking out a fly floating in it. Then I scoop a handful and holding my breath, take a sip.

  “Ew,” Maci whispers.

  “How’s it taste?” Bernard asks derisively.

  “Not that bad,” I lie and take another sip, trying not to gag. Survival is survival and humans need water to survive. “You should all drink up before it evaporates.”

  “No thanks,” Bernard says. “I’m good.”

  Maci looks disgusted, but leans down and cups a handful of dirty water. Then she takes a sip, a sour expression twisting on her face, but she doesn’t complain.

  I drink a few more handfuls, but Bernard refuses. “You’re going to get dehydrated,” I warn.

  He shrugs, brushing his hair out of his eyes. “Then I guess I’ll get dehydrated.”

  His moodiness is starting to wear on my nerves. I take him by the arm and pull him aside. “Look, I understand how hard this is, but being a jerk isn’t going to help. So can you just drink some water so I don’t have to worry about you dying from dehydration?”

  He smirks. “Nah, I’d rather not.” He gives me a mocking pat on the back. “Oh yeah, and you’re welcome for me saving you last night.” He lowers his voice. “I could have easily just let the water take you away, and then I would have been the one calling all the shots.”

  What concerns me more than his words is that he’s not afraid anymore. The once erratic and terrified boy has suddenly vanished.

  We head across the desert, whereabouts and destination unknown. Bellies grumble, lips crack, bodies ache. Even through the smoke and clouds, the sun’s heat manages to gleam down.

  “I’m tired,” Maci says after a while. “I need a break.”

  Bernard’s got the hood of his jacket tugged over his head, his hands up in his sleeves.

  “Aren’t you hot?” I ask. “And thirsty.”

  He shakes his head. “Nope.”

  But I am and so is Maci. The puddles are becoming scarcer and I decide it’s time to take a break. We move into the shadows of the rocks, concealing ourselves in the shade, and drink from the puddles. All except Bernard.

  I wipe the water from my chin. “Do you have a death wish?”

  He only smiles through his hood. “Death doesn’t seem so bad, really.” He turns his back on me, hikes off to a cluster of rocks, and sits down.

  “Don’t worry, Kayla,” Maci whispers, wiping the water dripping from her lips. “He won’t die without water ‘cause he’s already dead.”

  My hands slip apart and water spills to the ground. “Bernard’s going to die … did you see that?”

  She shakes her head. “No, he’s already dead. He stole one of those vials of medicine last night and injected it into himself, so now he’s dead forever.”

  I quickly check my pockets and only find two black vials and two syringes. “Maci, you have to try and remember what’s in these. Did the Angel say anything about what would happen when we injected it into us?”

  She nods. “He said it’d save us.”

  “Save us from what?” I pause as I hear it.

  A heartbeat.

  My ability has returned. At first I think the heartbeat’s either mine or Maci’s, but when I realize it’s not, I turn to Bernard. But he’s gone.

  “Did you see where he went?” I ask and she shakes her head. I scoot her up against the rock. “Don’t move until I get back, okay?”

  Drawing my knife out of my jacket, I walk vigilantly toward the collection of rocks where I last saw Bernard. The heartbeat knocks louder. I hold my breath as I climb onto the rocks and peek down the other side. But it’s empty. And the heartbeat’s vanished.

  “I don’t get it,” I mumble and turn to Maci. “Are you sure you didn’t see where he went?”

  She shakes her head, but then her eyes snap wide. “Kayla, look out!”

  The heart strikes deafeningly against my eardrums as a pair of hands wrap themselves around my waist and jerk me back. I slam my head back, knocking it against the persons face and we both tumble off the rocks, hitting the bottom hard. I’m on my feet in a matter of seconds, but I’ve lost my knife. Where is my knife?

  “Looking for this?”

  My eyes rise to the unfamiliar voice. His eyes are the color of honey. His dark hair sweeps across his forehead and runs scraggly down his ears and neck. He’s tall and lean and has this funny white line running below his eye and down his left cheek. I’m not sure what it is, but it has me curious. So does the feeling that I know him.

  He’s holding my knife and I don’t like it. “You dropped this,” he says and tosses it to me.

  I catch it effortlessly, without taking my eyes off him.

  “You seem confused,” he says with a sparkle in his honey eyes.

  I wrap my fingers around the handle of my knife. “Who are you?”

  “Well that’s a weird coincidence,” he says with a smile. “Because I was thinking the same thing.”

  I eye him over. “You’re unarmed.”

  He spreads his arms out to the side of him. “Which gives you all the power.”

  “You knocked me to the ground,” I say.

  “You slammed me in the head.” He touches his forehead. “You’ve got a tough head, you know that?”

  I step to the side, keeping my eyes on him and my knife out. “You’re the one who grabbed me first.”

  “Only to protect you.” His pulse is consistent, never faltering, never wavering, which would indicate he’s telling the truth. But my thoughts whisper otherwise.

/>   “Where did you come from?”

  “Did you find them yet?” A girl jumps down into the rocks, sees me, and sighs. “Thank God. I thought we were going to be tracking them down forever.” Her blue eyes measure me. They’re traced with this black stuff and colorful pictures trace up and down her arms. Her dark hair is matted in thick wisps. She’s tall and looks tough on the outside, but on the inside she’s scared of me.

  I make a mental note of this.

  “Who are you?” I point my knife at the girl.

  She gapes at the guy. “Were we this ridiculously jumpy when we first got out?”

  He shrugs, never taking his eyes of me. “I’m sure we were.”

  She fiddles with a ring in her nose. “Where’s the other two?”

  He points over his shoulder. “The little one’s over there by the cliffs, but I don’t know where the other one went.”

  The girl starts over the rocks and I move to step in front of her, but the guy intervenes.

  “Easy, okay,” he says, his hand on my shoulder holding me back. “We’re not going to hurt you. We’re here to help.”

  I poke the tip of my knife against his chest. “How do I know you’re not lying?”

  He smiles cleverly. “I’m sure you have your ways.”

  My wrist stiffens and I feel exposed, like I’ve been stripped down and everyone can see my secrets. I try to think of something clever to say that will throw him off, but the girl ascends back over the rocks, with Maci skipping happily beside her.

  “Kayla, we’re saved!” she exclaims, hopping down the rocks.

  “She’s a cheerful little one,” the girl says with an eye roll.

  “Good,” the guy answers. “Maybe some of it will rub off on you.”

  She pulls a face and he grins. “Cheer up,” he says. “We found them and now we can go home.”

  “I’m sorry,” I interrupt. “But who the hell are you?”

  “I thought you said she knew things?” the girl says to Maci.

  “No, I do,” Maci says. “But it doesn’t always work.”

  I shoot Maci a warning look, while the girl and the guy exchange a look. Then he directs his honey eyes on me.

  “This is Ryder.” He nods at the girl. “And I’m Aiden.”

  “Aiden.” I don’t even know why I say his name aloud, but he seems thrilled that I did. I frown. “Why are you out here?”

  “For the same reason you are.” Ryder crosses her arms and stares me down. “But where’s your third?”

  “Third?” I ask.

  “Yeah, we’re dumped in groups of three.” She waves her finger back and forth between Maci and I. “But there are only two of you here, so where’d the third go?”

  Bernard. “I couldn’t tell you.”

  Her expression twists. “You don’t know or there isn’t another one?”

  I shrug, not wanting to divulge more information. These two already know too much about me and I know nothing about them. Plus, their hearts are as steady as they come, so I can’t sense if they’re lying or not and that makes me uneasy.

  I take Maci’s hand and back away. “Listen, I don’t know who you are, but we need to get going.”

  “No way. You’re not going anywhere.” Ryder seizes Maci‘s arm.

  With one fast movement, I’ve pried her hand off and shoved her to the ground.

  “Why you little—” Ryder jumps to her feet and charges at me. I drop Maci’s arm and swing to the side.

  “Ryder, knock it off, “Aiden warns, but Ryder ignores him, coming at me again.

  I ram the tip of my boot into her shin and she buckles back, falling on her butt.

  “Easy.” Aiden helps her to her feet, but she shucks him off. “You know they’re a lot stronger than you right now. And unstable.”

  “Only if they’ve gone through with it,” she shouts in his face. “And I’m really curious to find out, after all that talk about how great she is.”

  I don’t get scared, but this is pushing me to the limits. They know me somehow, but I don’t know them. Spinning, I grab Maci’s hand and lift her with me as I spring onto the rocks. Fingers dig into my ankle and I’m jerked back down to the ground, but land on my feet.

  “Easy, Kayla,” Aiden breathes in my ear. “It’s always hard the first time, but it gets better.”

  I’m about to kick him where the sun doesn’t shine, when we’re both hurled to the ground. My neck burns as something sharp stabs into it. I roll on my back, seeing stars amongst the clouds. But that can’t be right. Because the stars no longer come out.