Shimmering chaos, p.15
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.15

           Jessica Sorensen
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  “I think my parents are planning on hiring an elf to try to track them down.”

  I blink. “Come again?”

  He chuckles. “Elves are very good at tracking things.”

  “And are very real apparently,” I mumble in shock. “Jesus, this is crazy. First, I find out there’re elemental powers. Then you start talking about gods and goddesses and elves. And then, of course there’s the faerie in your house. Which, FYI, I’m pretty sure he knows what I am.”

  He swallows audibly. “Yeah, we already figured that out when my mom went to check on him after you passed out in the living room.”

  Weight piles down on my shoulders as the severity of the situation hits me, yet I somehow feel a bit lighter. After years of keeping silent about my powers, it feels almost liberating to be speaking so openly about them. And to someone who understands it.

  Of course, that doesn’t make the dangerous world I’ve been thrown into any easier to deal with.

  “I’m assuming it’s a bad thing that he knows what I am, and it probably means I’m in danger, right?”

  “As much danger as I’m in for him knowing what I am.” He skims his finger along the back of my hand. “We can be in this together, though. You don’t have to go through it alone.”

  As much as I like his offer, I hesitate to accept. “I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but just because we’re the only two left of our kind, doesn’t mean we have to be friends. You didn’t even like me until you knew what I was. And then, the first time we met … well, I’m pretty sure you thought I was disgusting.”

  Snow lightly flutters around, the storm so calm and at ease now, despite the chill in the air. The calmness makes me wonder what kind of mood I’m in, what kind of emotions he’s feeling.

  “I didn’t—don’t think you’re disgusting,” he finally says. “I already told you that I keep my distance from people because I sort of have to.” He points back at the house where music is booming. “If I didn’t, a lot of people and creatures would end up in an even worse condition than the guy who kissed you. Not that I care about what happened to him. The asshole deserved it because you didn’t want him to.” His muscles tighten with tension, and the wind briefly roars, but he quickly collects himself and a stillness takes over the air again.

  “Grey did deserve it and everything … He’s always been an asshole to me—most people have.” I pick at my fingernails, nervous about what I’m going to say, mostly because it’ll be admitting that I was kind of trying to hit on him that day. “So, your rejection was nothing new. And I get why you did it, but maybe next time a girl approaches you like that, you could turn her down without being such a douchebag.”

  “I’ll try.” He places his other hand over mine, stopping me from picking at my fingernails. “I’m sorry for being such an asshole, but I promise it wasn’t because I think you’re disgusting.” A contemplative look crosses his face, but he swiftly erases it. “And I’m pretty sure Grey and almost every other guy doesn’t find you disgusting either … You’re very …” He dithers. “Well, you’re gorgeous.”

  I snort. “Okay.”

  “Snort all you want, but every single one of my brothers has hit on you. Even Holden, and he rarely hits on anyone.” He looks away, scratching his cheek. “But yeah, anyway, if I was a normal human guy or knew what you were that day when you walked up to my car, things would’ve gone down completely different. But unfortunately, I thought you were just a really pretty human girl that I could never date, so what was the point of even trying?”

  My cheeks warm at the compliment, my body reacting to his words. Or well, maybe my power is. But my mind isn’t completely buying it. I mean, if what he’s saying is true then why have guys avoided me like the plague? Not that it matters. It’s not like I want guys to like me simply because I’m pretty.

  “It must be lonely to live like that,” I say in a desperate attempt to steer the conversation away from me. “To have to push everyone away.” Not that my life has been full of people either. In fact, most of the time I feel lonely except maybe when I’m around Nina and Gage. But even then I feel like I have to put a wall up between us. “And the idea that I might have to … I mean, am I eventually going to hurt Nina or Gage? They’re my best friends, and we’re really close.”

  “Friendships are fine, for the most part. It has more to do with if you become … intimate with someone and get in a situation where you lose control over your emotions.” His gaze collides with mine, his cheeks flushed, but I don’t know if it’s from either the cold or embarrassment. “Our emotions have a lot of control over our powers.”

  I peek up at the snowy sky. “Yeah, I’ve noticed.” I lower my gaze back to him. “Every time I get angry or too sad, I either flood the streets or send a storm through town. I’ve even started a couple of fires. Thankfully, no one’s gotten hurt from it.”

  “Did you ever consider telling your parents?”

  “No. I thought if I told anyone, they’d lock me up in a psych ward or something. Of course, if I’d known they knew about elemental protectors, my life would’ve been a hell of a lot easier, and there’d still be a grocery store on Main and Peach Fall Lane.”

  He frowns. “What happened to the grocery store?”

  “When I was about twelve, Grey and some of his friends where there, making fun of me loud enough for me to hear. I was really hormonal at the time.” I had just started my period, but I’m not about to say that aloud. “I was so upset that I ended up starting a fire.” My gaze drops to the ground as shame builds in me. “Thankfully, everyone got out, but the firefighters couldn’t put the fire out in time, so the place burned to the ground.” Even now, just talking about it makes me feel awful. If only I’d known about my powers all along, then the store would still be around.

  He fixes a finger under my chin, forcing me to meet his gaze. “When I was six and still learning how to control my powers, I flooded my grandparents’ house. It ruined the entire foundation and cost them thousands of dollars to fix. Plus, my grandma’s cat died.” A gradual exhale eases from his lips. “I felt awful about it. And guilty. I even cried for hours, calling myself a cat killer.”

  “Aw, that’s so sad. You must’ve been a very sweet boy.” To lighten the mood, I grin. “Too bad that didn’t stick.”

  He narrows his eyes at me, but the corners of his lips twitch. “My point is that, even with all the training I had, I still fucked up. And I still do fuck up. All elemental protectors and enchanters do at some point or another. It comes with having power. But our powers can do a lot of good things, too.”

  “Like what?” I ask, genuinely intrigued.

  “Like protect our worlds from certain evils. Some of us can heal the sick. Some of us can stop droughts. We can create energy.” He opens his free hand in front of us and sparks of blue emit from his palm. “The possibilities are endless when you really think about it, and elemental enchanters in particular have helped stop many wars over the course of history.” He folds his fingers inward, smothering the light.

  Snow lazily descends to the ground as I attempt to process everything he said.

  “Shit,” he abruptly mutters.

  “What is it?” I ask as he retrieves his phone from his pocket.

  He glances at the screen. “It’s my mom. She’s wondering if we’re close to being home. She also wants to make sure we have you with us.”

  “Is everything okay?”

  “Yeah, she’s just worried about how you’re handling this. Plus, she doesn’t like us out this late.”

  “The concept of that is sort of lost on me,” I admit. “I’ve always done what I want whenever I want.”

  “We kind of assumed that when we showed up to move you out of your house and you didn’t bother cleaning up all the beer bottles off the floor,” he says with a smile.

  “Yeah, I think your dad wasn’t too happy about that.”

  “It’s not a bad thing, though, for parents to care.”

I opt to say nothing, feeling like, if I did agree with him, I’d be betraying my parents. Then again, they knew about this entire world and never told me. If they did, my life would’ve been much simpler.

  “We should probably get going.” He stands up, and since he’s holding my hand, I stand up with him, dusting the snow off the back of my pants. “Before we go, though, I want to show you something.” His grip on my hand constricts.

  “What …?” My words fade as his eyes illuminate, casting an eerie glow around us, and bright images pierce through my thoughts. Images connected to memories, but not mine.

  No, what I’m seeing are Foster’s memories, bits and pieces of how he struggled to control his powers while growing up. How he used to start fires, floods, and lightning storms all the time. How he struggled with being the only one of his kind. How lonely he felt when he realized he’d never be able to get close to anyone. But as the memories drift closer to the present, his feelings and isolation begin to shift. He became more comfortable with what he is as he accepted his fate of being alone, of never being with anyone, of knowing that his power could do good one day, of—

  For a flame flicker of a second, an image of me approaching his car that awful day ghosts through me, along with a tremendous amount of fear. But it hastily fades as he jerks his hand away from mine and breaks the connection between us.

  “What was that?” I breathe out, the air between us electrified.

  “That was one of my gifts.” He slips his hands into his pockets and kicks at the snow with the tip of his boot. “I can project my thoughts and emotions to others.”

  “Wow.” I shake my head in astonishment. “That’s seriously crazy. Crazy cool, but still crazy.

  “Yeah, but it’s usually pretty useless.”

  “No way. You should use that power all the time.”

  He shakes his head. “Why would I want to share my feelings and thoughts with others? It’s … personal.”

  I rub my hands up and down my arms as the cold air finally begins to wear on me. “Then, why did you share them with me?”

  He gives a nonchalant shrug. “Because you need reassurance that things won’t be so hard to deal with in the future.”

  “Well, thanks, I guess.” I pause. “I saw the memory of when I approached you that day, and I’m trying to figure out how that helped you deal with your gift easier.”

  He stiffens. “Yeah, I didn’t mean to show you that memory.”

  I want to ask him why he felt so afraid that day, but he doesn’t give me the opportunity.

  “We should get going,” he mumbles then hurries for the car, his boots crunching the snow.

  As I silently trail after him, I can almost feel the wall go up between us, whatever connection we felt in those bushes dissolving like the snow underneath my boots, leaving me to wonder what started the connection to begin with.

  Chapter 19

  “You two have fun playing hide and seek in the bushes?” Easton teases after Foster and I climb in the car.

  Foster looks at me and rolls his eyes.

  Despite everything that’s happened, I can’t help smiling at the fact that we get to share a private look instead of the other way around.

  “Actually, we did,” Foster replies, starting up the engine.

  “It took Foster a while to find me,” I play along. “And then I spent, like, five minutes trying to explain to him the concept that it was his turn to hide.”

  Foster smiles as he straps on his seatbelt, and I do the same.

  “Aw, look at you two, being all BFFs.” Easton scoots forward and rests his arms on the console. “Makes me really wonder, though, what happened in those bushes.” He waggles his eyebrows at me.

  I pinch his arm in response, and Max chuckles from behind me when Easton winces.

  “So vicious,” Easton mutters with a smirk, sliding back in the seat.

  We grow quiet as Foster pulls out onto the street, driving slow because of the ice glazing the asphalt.

  “I can’t believe we caused all this,” I mutter as I eyeball the frosted trees around us. “Although, it does make it feel more like the holidays. You know, if we wanted to, we could probably cause a big enough snowstorm that they will have to cancel school for at least a few weeks.”

  Foster and Easton chuckle, while Max says observingly, “She’s speaking more openly about her powers, yet that damn wall is still up around her. It makes no sense.” He leans around the headrest and studies me with a crinkle at his brow. “Although, the crack is a little bit bigger now. My bet is the wall is really strong so it might take us some time and quite a few more attempts before we can get it down.”

  “I’m not going to pass out every time you try to get it down, am I?” I shudder, recalling how the darkness called to me when I passed out.

  Foster shakes his head. “Now that I know what to expect from your powers, I should be able to stabilize us better.”

  I nod in relief. “Good.”

  My phone buzzes from inside my bag, and I reach in to dig it out, figuring it’s Nina. But as I’m pulling it out, the card that weird guy gave me falls onto my lap.

  “What’s that?” Foster wonders, giving a nod at the card.

  “Oh.” I pick up the card, noting it’s still blank. “It’s actually a weird story. Yesterday, when you guys moved my stuff out of my house, when I left for lunch with my friends, this guy came up to me and warned me about you guys. Said you weren’t who I thought you were, and that, when I wanted to know the truth, to call him.” I hold up the card. “He gave me this, but there isn’t anything on it.”

  “Let me see it.” Max takes the card from me and glances at the front and back with a worried look on his face.

  “I should also probably point out that, when I accidentally made the lights flicker on and off, he glanced up, almost like he knew I had powers—” I startle as Foster and Easton let out a string of curses. “What’s wrong?” I glance at them both.

  Foster’s grip on the wheel tightens. “Sky, this is very important. Did this guy have any strange markings on him?”

  “Like tattoos,” Easton adds.

  I nod. “He had them all over his neck.”

  Foster swallows hard while Easton mutters, “Fucking hunters.”

  Panic flares through me, and the ground ripples, jolting the car.

  “Easy, Sky.” Foster reaches across the console and brushes his fingers along the back of my hand. “Nothing bad’s going to happen, okay?”

  While it’s nice to be able to be comforted when my powers are going crazy, they look too worried for me to calm down.

  I chew on my fingernail. “The guy who gave me the card … he’s a hunter?”

  Foster gives a wavering nod, skimming his finger along the back of my hand again. “It sounds like it.”

  “And hunters are the ones who captured your dad and tried to do experiments on him?” I ask, and Foster nods again. “But, why did this hunter approach me then?”

  “I’m not sure.” Foster throws a glance at Max. “Can you figure out what’s on that card?”

  Max turns the card over in his hand. “I think it has a see-the-truth spell on it.”

  “What the hell is that?” I ask, twisting around in the seat to look at him.

  “It’s basically a spell that can only be seen through if you want to see the truth.” He hands me back the card, and I hesitantly take it. “So, I think, if you focus on wanting to see the truth, a message will appear.”

  I stare down at the card in my hand. “But, what truth am I even going to see?”

  “The truth about whatever that hunter wanted you to see.” Max gives a considering pause. “I’m guessing it’s about us since he mentioned us.”

  “Either that or he knows about her and was trying to set a trap to catch her,” Easton mutters from the back seat.

  I swallow shakily. “But then, why didn’t he just take me?”

  “Hunters are weak when it comes to powers,” Easton says.
If you really wanted to, you could probably take down at least a dozen of them simply by calling out to the sky.”

  “Yeah, but I didn’t know that at the time he gave me the card,” I point out.

  “Maybe he didn’t know that, though,” Easton says. “Of course, if you can see past the spell on that card, we might have the answer.”

  I glance down at the card again. “If hunters aren’t powerful, then how did this guy put a spell on the card?”

  Easton dismisses me with a flick of his wrist. “That’s merely a party trick. Almost anyone can do that.”

  “Anyone can do magic?” I ask in disbelief.

  He lifts a shoulder. “Party trick magic, sure. You just need the right ingredients.”

  “So, hunters are human?” I ask, trying to make sure I’m following.

  Easton wavers. “It all depends on if you believe humans without souls are still human.”

  I gape at him. “They don’t have souls?”

  Easton gives an uneven nod. “They trade their souls in order to work for the labs.”

  “But, what do they get out of it?” I wonder, my heart thudding in my chest. “And why do they have to give up their souls?”

  “No one’s really sure,” Max answers. “But my dad has a theory that the labs are trying to extract the powers out of elementals, so maybe the hunters get promised those powers. He’s not sure why they have to give up their souls, though, other than maybe they won’t have a conscience and will be okay with what they do.”

  When I shiver, Foster reaches out to crank up the heat.

  “You’re fine,” he says. “No one’s going to get ahold of you.”

  If that’s even what the hunters want. When the guy approached me in the diner, it seemed as if he was trying to warn me of the Everettsons, not take me to some lab.

  Deciding to find out the answer, I let my gaze burn into the card while trying to focus on seeing past the magic, seeing the truth. And after a minute or two passes, words begin to appear. I read them to myself then aloud.

  “If you’re reading this note, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the Everettson family isn’t your ordinary family. If you’d like answers and someone to talk to, please contact me at the following number. Whatever you tell me about them, I won’t think you’re crazy. I understand that strange things exist, more than most people do.”

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