The evanescence, p.16
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       The Evanescence, p.16

         Part #2 of Fallen Souls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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Page 16

 

  Gemma

  I’m not sure why the Lord of the Afterlife is coming for Alex, but Alex sure seems to know. I wonder if he’s been keeping things from me and then I remember that it’s Alex, so of course he is.

  “Why is he here for you?” I hiss, gripping onto his hand.

  “Because it’s time for Alex to pay a debt to me,” Draven responds in deep voice that sends a chill down my spine.

  Angling my neck back, I elevate my gaze to him. His dark eyes are cold, dark and emotionless. There’s nothing going on inside and I know we’re in some deep trouble, even if I don’t know anything about him.

  “A debt?” I ask, battling to keep my voice even. “What kind of debt?”

  “I think I’ll let Alex share that with you. ” Draven strolls over to the window and stares at the sunlight with his hands in his pocket. “I’m ready whenever you are, Alex,” he says with a wicked laugh in his tone.

  Laylen and Evan rush over to the table.

  “Okay, what the hell did you do?” Evan sounds anxious as he slides into the seat.

  Alex stares down at my hand in his with his forehead creased. “I made a deal a little while back… I thought it was the only way. ”

  “You thought it was the only way to what?” I urge him to continue with a squeeze of my hand.

  He looks at me and there is sadness in his eyes. “To save you. ”

  “What do you mean, save me? Save me from what?” I search his eyes, trying to find an answer and what he’s really feeling, because he seems so calm, but I know it’s just an act.

  He lets out a slow breath and leans back in the chair, still holding my hand. “From the star, Stephan, from everything really. I didn’t think the debt would matter. I needed to find my mother. I was told Draven would be able to give me some information on how to find her. And he did, but for a price. I thought I’d end up dying anyway, so I agreed. ” He presses his lips together, shaking his head. “I gave him one year of service from me, in exchange for what I hoped would save you from death—for what I hoped would save the world. ”

  “A year of service to him? In the Afterlife?” I gape at him incredulously. “Alex, please tell me I’m wrong. ”

  “It’s wherever I choose,” Draven interrupts our conversation.

  I glance at him and he cocks his head towards me with a curious expression on his face. “Doing what?”

  “Whatever I choose,” he says, his cold tone matching the iciness in his eyes.

  I turn my attention back to Alex. “There’s got to be a way out of this, like I can use the Serpent’s mark on him. ”

  “Good idea. ” Draven chuckles. “But I’m immune,” he says and when I target a doubtful look at him, he adds, “Go ahead and try. ”

  So I do, shutting my eyes, trying to channel the energy, but nothing. Zero. Zilch. I open my eyes and focus on Alex. “There has to be something else. ” An idea hits me and I start to close my eyes, ready to Foresee the two of us away.

  He slips his hand out of mine and moves it to his lap, like he’s already letting go and saying good-bye. “Not this time, Gemma. I can’t just disappear… There’ll be… there’ll be consequences. ”

  I look to Evan for help, refusing to give up like Alex seems to. “Can you do something?” I whisper. “With all of your…” I glance down at the marks on his arms. “Can’t you stop this?”

  Evan shakes his head sadly and Laylen swallows hard. “I’m sorry, but this is beyond my abilities,” Evan says. “A bargain with the Lord of the Afterlife is unbreakable. Alex will die if he doesn’t fulfill it. ”

  I gape at Alex, unwilling to believe it. “Tell me it’s not true. Tell me I’m just dreaming or in a vision and this isn’t happening because I can’t take it anymore. ” I’m trembling and I know it makes me look weak, but I don’t care. I’m so tired of all of this. Of everything.

  “There’s nothing I can do, Gemma. ” Alex swallows hard. “I’m sorry. ”

  A thought enters my mind. “What if Helena’s behind this? What if this is all a trick?” I lower my voice, knowing I’m searching for something that doesn’t exist, but I can’t give up. Not when I just got him back. Not after what I felt last night. “You can’t go with him, Alex. I mean, what if Helena finds out and comes after you?”

  Alex sighs, reaching for my face, and placing his hand on my cheek. He rubs his thumb across my cheekbone, looking at me like he’s never going to see me again.

  “All right, enough with the sentimental good-bye. It’s time to go. ” Draven nods curtly at Alex and calls him over like a dog. “Come. ”

  Shutting his eyes, Alex reluctantly pulls his hand away and then he gets to his feet. “Take care of her,” he says to Laylen. “Don’t let her do anything stupid. ” Then he follows Draven out the doorway. Fear, panic, and rage burst through me in an alarming combination. I jump to my feet, knocking the chair to the floor, and race after him, hot tears spilling from my eyes. I only make it two feet before long arms encircle me.

  “Let me go, Laylen,” I fume, wrestling to get my arms free. “I mean it. Let me go. ”

  He only tightens his grip, pulling me into his chest. I start hitting him, actually punching him in the chest, but he just stands there and takes it. I scream as he continues to hold me, tears pouring out, and finally I collapse, dropping to my knees. Laylen falls to the ground with me and hugs me while I cry. I let him because I know that when he lets go of me, I may never get back up.

  Chapter 20

  Alex

  When I made the deal with Draven I really didn’t think there would be a chance I’d ever have to repay the debt. I didn’t think I’d live long enough for him to collect it. I’d either die from the Star or the portal. That obviously didn’t happen and even though, deep down, I knew he’d eventually show up, I was hoping it’d be when I was old and had lived my life.

  I follow him outside, wanting to reach inside my pocket and stab him, yet knowing that he would neither die nor get hurt and would probably end up killing me. I shut the door and halt on the step.

  A woman dressed in a long, black dress with turquoise eyes and blond hair stands at the bottom of the porch.

  “Who the hell are you?” I ask.

  A slow smile spreads across Draven’s face. “This is Marissa. She’ll be transporting us. ”

  I note the crescent moon and star mark on her arm as she rolls up her sleeve. “She’s a Witch. ”

  “Obviously. ” Draven trots down the stairs.

  I hesitantly follow after him, my knife feeling like lead inside my pocket. My Keepers’ instincts want me to put up a fight, even if I end up getting killed.

  “And don’t try anything stupid,” Draven says, stopping beside the witch, who stands there, staring at me mutely. He turns around with a wicked glint in his eye and I nearly explode on the inside with the urge to knock it off his face. “Or I’ll slit your throat. ”

  The witch—Marissa—smiles and extends her hand out to me. In her hand is a golden Crystal with jagged edges and a pointed tip. She doesn’t say anything as she holds out her other hand, opening her fingers, and a flame ignites in the center. She dips the crystal into the flame, and she’s mesmerized by the flickering as she chants under her breath. I shut my eyes because I don’t want to watch. I want to save Gemma from going to the Fey Realm. I start to panic thinking about it and suddenly I don’t care if I get killed.

  I open my eyes, ready to fight, but the foul odor of rotting banana peels and musty socks surrounds me. I’m standing in an alleyway between tall metal buildings that are lined by large metal dumpsters which are overflowing with stale food, rotting wood, old clothes, trash bags, and more trash bags leaking out onto the asphalt. I’ve been here before, when I originally met Draven, when I made the stupid deal.

  Marissa is standing next to me, clutching onto the Crystal and staring at Draven with a silent begging in her eyes.

  “You can go,” Draven orders a
nd relief washes over her face.

  Letting out a noisy breath, she snaps her fingers and vanishes in a cloud of smoke that snakes over to me and stings my eyes.

  Draven steps back and I fan the smoke from my face, coughing. He crooks his finger at me, stepping backward down the alley. “You, come with me. ”

  I glare at the back of his head when he turns around. As I follow him, I calculate everything; from the garbage on the ground to how many steps we take until we stop—ninety-eight.

  He stops in front of a dumpster, barely grabbing onto it, he wheels it to the side, revealing a door hidden behind it. Then, he pulls out a silver key, shoves it into the lock, and pulls the door open. He steps aside, motioning me to go first, and I obey because I have to; otherwise, I’ll die.

  As soon as we’re in, he shuts the door and darkness suffocates our surroundings. Part of me wishes that’s how things would stay because then I would never have to find out what I have to do. I hear the sound of a key scraping in a lock and then some squeaking, like a rusty latch being slid over and locked.

  “This way,” he says and brushes past me.

  I can barely make out his silhouette as he walks down a dark, cement tunnel and I follow with my eyes locked on him, forcing myself not to try and stab him in the back. He can’t die. The air is musty and smells like decaying corpses. There’s a light up ahead and we head towards it. When we step out of the tunnel, we’re in the room where I first met Draven. Lanterns hang from the red walls by metal loops and an oval table circles the center. There’s a cage in the corner, but it’s empty.

  Draven pulls a chair out and takes a seat at the end of the table, then gestures for me to sit in the empty chair next to him. I obey, but only because I have to. It’s a rule now that I’m paying my debt. Do whatever he says, or I’ll drop dead.

  “Why did you bring me here?” I ask. “I know I owe you, but there has to be a reason why you’re collecting now. ”

  He thrums his fingers on top of the table, deliberating. “There’s been a fight going on between Helena and me for quite a while… Even though I’m Lord of the Afterlife, she has it so I can’t enter the Afterlife. ” He waves his arm around at the room. “I have to live here, in this filthy place, with a bunch of rodents and garbage, but I’m still able to keep up with what’s going on in the Afterlife. ”

  Well, this is news to me. “I’ve never heard any of this before,” I say. “From what I understood, you’re pretty much out of the loop. ”

  He leans over the table, reaching for a wooden cigar box. “You will never repeat what I just told you. To anyone. ” He opens the lid to the cigar box and takes out a cigar. “You know the rules about your debt. ” He pops the cigar in his mouth and reaches for a silver lighter next to the box. “If you don’t obey, you die. ” He lights the end, puffing smoke while he turns the cigar. “Or, if I really want to be cruel…” He lets out a breath of smoke as he leans back and crosses his leg over his knee. “…I’ll send you to the Afterlife. ”

 
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