Broken visions, p.16
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       Broken Visions, p.16

         Part #3 of Shattered Promises series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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  "Thank you," I tell him, choking back an emotion fighting to be revealed. "Not just for telling me the truth, but for giving me back my soul and emotions."

  The corners of his lips tug upward, but it's barely a smile. "Don't thank me. They never should have been stolen to begin with."

  Chapter 26

  I try not to think about what Alex showed me, but it's difficult. All this time, he'd been the one that freed me. It was amazing and yet at the same time, heartbreaking.

  After we leave the vision, we go back to the house, landing in the living room quietly. I refuse to let go of his hand, even when he walks over to the sofa and flops down. He doesn't seem to mind though, sketching his fingers lightly across my knuckles as he stares out fingers entangled together.

  "I want you to be careful when you do this," he says. "When you go into the mapping ball. And prepare yourself for the worst case scenario."

  "I will," I promise him. "And I promise I won't alter any visions unless I think it's the right thing to do." I pause. "I'm hoping, though, if I do, it'll realign everything else and maybe things won't be so out of whack."

  He looks up at me. "You mean with the section of time your father reset?" he asks and I nod. He contemplates something. "Maybe you should put that one back too, just so everything is back to the way it was."

  I shake my head swiftly, my hand tightening on his. "No way."

  "Gemma, I--"

  "I won't do it," I cut him off, maintaining his gaze. "I won't do anything where you die. And besides, if I change my father's vision that stuff might never happen anyway."

  We both grow silent, realizing that if I change it, what we have right now might be lost.

  "Be careful," he says in a hoarse whisper, cupping the back of my head. "Please, just don't do anything that'll hurt yourself."

  I nod and then he kisses me, in a way he's never kissed me before. Slow and sensual, with meaning behind it, flooding me with tingles and butterflies and causing my pulse to throb under my flesh. It's like he's saying good-bye to whatever we have now, in case it disappears. I wish the kiss could go on forever, life would be so easy if it could, but it ends, way too soon in my opinion.

  "Should we wake everyone up?" I ask Alex as I lean forward and collect the mapping ball from the coffee table.

  "That's up to you," he says, drawing a line up and down the back of my neck.

  It sounds like a simple question, yet it's not. To say good-bye is painful and will probably upset everyone, but what I might end up doing in the mapping ball could potentially erase everything we have and I might not even know who they are in the end.

  "I'm going to be an optimist for once." I cup the crystal ball in my hand and it illuminates vibrantly. "And not say good-bye so I can tell myself that this is all going to work out.... This will all be fine."

  It has to be. I have a mom upstairs, branded by the mark of evil, a beautiful vampire friend, who is so sad my heart breaks for him, a witch friend who is afraid to show who she really is, and a gorgeous guy I feel so much for yet if those emotions get too strong, we could die. But hopefully, I have the power to remove the pain and give them a future without death, loneliness, and despair.

  So squaring my shoulders, I walk to the middle of the living room. I open my hand and let the Purple Flame erupt from my palm. Alex's eyes light up with worry and I can sense a panicked protest coming.

  "Don't worry." I give him a small smile. "This is what I was made to do."

  And with those last words, I place the mapping ball in my hand into the Purple Flame. It flashes, shaking the walls and the floor as the light ripples around the room. My whole body flares up into flames and then I'm being tugged inside the ball.

  Chapter 27

  When I open my eyes, I'm still in the living room, the Purple Flame burning from my hand as the mapping ball sparkles in it, hissing and crackling as if it's a hollow log.

  "It didn't work." Alex frowns disappointed, yet relieved.

  I frown, too. "But I felt it work."

  Alex leans closer to inspect the mapping ball without touching it. "Maybe the Purple Flame wasn't what we needed. You did get the idea from a random note left on your bed. And we don't even know who left the note."

  Someone who smells an awful lot like Nicholas, I want to say, but don't want to look insane. "Yeah, but, the Purple Flame existed like the note said." I glance at the flame in my hand, dancing and swaying, fueling my body with power I can't figure out how to use. "It's got to be used for it."

  We stare at the flame, trying to put the missing pieces together. Finally, I sigh, remove the mapping ball from my hand, and smother the Purple Flame out. "Dammit, I thought I had it."

  "Maybe that's the problem," Alex states as I put the mapping ball down on the coffee table, frustrated. "Maybe you're trying too hard. Sometimes your power doesn't work when you drain yourself." He delicately grazes his finger across my jawline and I shiver. "Maybe you should go lie down and try to sleep for a bit, and then try again when you wake up."

  I want to protest because sleeping feels like the last thing I need to do, but I nod, deciding I'm going to try something else, something I'm not ready to share with him. "Okay, give me like a few hours."

  He turns to me as I'm walking out, his lips quirking with amusement, something I haven't seen in a few days. "You want some company?"

  I shake my head and make myself disregard the hurt that flashes across his face at my rejection. "Sorry, but I won't sleep if you're in there." I force a smile and he relaxes slightly.

  I dash up the stairs and into my room, locking the door behind me, not believing what I'm about to do because it makes it seem like I might be losing my mind.

  "Nicholas," I whisper as I trail around my room, glancing in all the nooks and corners. "Are you in here?" I anticipate a response, but all I can hear is the wind howling outside. "If you can hear me, please say something... I have questions about the note I think you left on my bed."

  Nothing. I surrender from talking to the dead, flopping down onto the bed on my back and staring up at the ceiling, just like I used to do when I was emotionally numb, only this time my mind is racing. "I must really be getting desperate," I mutter.

  "The answers to your problems aren't in your ceiling," a low pitch voice suddenly says.

  My eyes widen as I hastily sit up, skimming my room for whoever spoke to me, but I don't see anyone. "Who's there... Nicholas, is that you?" It doesn't sound like him, but I'm not discounting the idea just yet.

  "That's not the question you should be asking." The voice tsks. "You're not focusing on the problem."

  I lower my feet to the floor, looking everywhere when I speak because I'm not sure where to focus--the voice seems like it's encompassing me. "Are you the one who left the note?"

  They make this buzzer sound. "Wrong question again."

  I climb off my bed, on guard. "Why does it sound like you're disguising your voice like a game show host?"

  "Gemma." They sound so disheartened. "You need to stop focusing on other things and start focusing on saving the world."

  "That's kind of what I've been doing." I move over to my closet and threw it open, but it's vacant.

  "Come on, Gemma, ask me the right question."

  "Okay." I shut the closet door, turn around, and lean against it. "How can I get into the mapping ball?"

  "Ding. Ding. We have a winner." A pause. "With the Purple Flame."

  "I already have the Purple Flame." I draw back the curtain and peer out the window. It's raining outside, puddles and mud covering the grass, sidewalks, and streets. "It didn't work."

  Silence.

  I sigh, turning away from the window and checking under my bed. "Okay, how do I get the Purple Flame to work with the mapping ball?"

  "Ding, ding, there you go," they say with exaggerated cheerfulness. "Now look at your arm."

  I kneel up and elevate my arm in front of me. "Okay... it looks like an arm, except for the ugly olive-green lines
tracing my skin..." I flip my hand over and look at the hideous lines Stasha's death left on my flesh. "Wait, is that what's causing it not to work?"

  "You can't restore life with death in your hand," they tell me in a serious tone.

  "Strangely enough, that actually makes sense. But the death in my skin is permanent, so how can I make it go away?"

  "Go back and ask her to take it away." The voice is fading.

  "Are you crazy?" I ask. "Stasha will kill me."

  No response. No annoying ding, dings.

  I sigh begrudgingly. I guess I'm going to Stasha's.

  ***

  Paying a visit to a girl who tried to murder me makes me a little bit edgy so I decide I need backup. The best person for the job is Laylen because a) unlike Alex, he's never dated Stasha, therefore his presence will keep jealous fits to a bare minimum, and b) Laylen is immortal so Stasha's touch can't kill him.

  It's still early as I tiptoe down the hallway to the room Laylen sleeps in. Alex is downstairs talking to Aislin about Aleesa, they're newfound sister, and I decide to let them be for now, let them have their moment where they're not worrying about the end of the world.

  I crack open the door and peek my head into Laylen's room. "Laylen," I whisper as I turn the light on and rap my hand on the doorway. "I need your help."

  He jumps out of the bed, arms flailing, ready to attack, but calms down when he sees it's me. "Fuck, Gemma. What the hell are you doing?" He exhales, unstiffening. "You really have an act for sneaking up on me when I'm asleep, don't you?"

  As the blanket falls from my body, my eyes travel across his lean chest and carved muscles, the side decorated with a black ink tattoo of symbols running vertical. "I'm sorry," I say, blinking my gaze off his body. "I should have knocked first."

  "It's okay," he says as he gets out of his bed, wearing only his boxers. I'll admit he's sexy as hell. Long legs, tattoos hidden in places I'd never thought of--I want to touch them all, but the thing that stops me is Alex and how I feel for him, which is mind-blowingly terrifying. "Did you need something?" He grabs a pair of jeans off the floor and puts them on.

  "Yeah, I need your help with... something."

  He buckles the studded belt around his pants. "With what?"

  "I need you to come with me to Stasha's," I say, watching him tug a black shirt over his head.

  "I don't think that's such a good idea." He looks down at the olive-green lines scarring my arm as he ruffles his hair into place. "Considering what happened the last time you went there."

  "But I need to. The Purple Flame won't work unless I do."

  "Wait, you got the Purple Flame? When?"

  "Oh, I guess I need to back up a few steps, don't I?"

  He nods and we sit down on the bed. I start from the beginning, telling him what's happened while he's been napping.

  "So you think the scars on your arms are what's stopping the Purple Flame from working?" he asks after I finish explaining. I exclude the details of how I received the information about the scars. Laylen is understanding, but telling him that a talk-show-host voice told me about it and that I'm pretty sure it was Nicholas disguising his voice is something I don't want to share with anyone ever.

  I nod. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure."

  He sweeps his blue-tipped bangs away from his forehead. "How do you know that's what's wrong? I mean, it could be a thousand different things." He eyes me over with skepticism. "Why do I get the feeling you're keeping something from me? Something about how you got the information?"

  "Would you believe me if I said that a little birdie told me?"

  "Gemma," he starts, but I stop him.

  "Look, I get that you want to know, but I just need you to trust me." I carry his gaze. "It's for the best that you don't know."

  I feel a splash of emotion current through me and for the briefest second I feel like tearing off Laylen's clothes and touching him all over. But I'm not sure if it's stemming from myself or if Laylen is feeling something at the moment and his emotion manipulation gift is accidentally seeping into me, and it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, if he feels something for me as more than a friend. Could that be possible?

  "Okay, if that's what you think needs to be done, then let's go to Stasha's." He rubs his jawline with a thoughtful expression "But if she tries to kill you again, I might have to resort to violence."

  "And that's perfectly okay with me." I grab his hand, tugging him up as I stand. He towers above me as I shut my eyes and moments later we are being swept away.

  Chapter 28

  We land in Stasha's living room between the two floral sofas and the brick fireplace, surrounded by the creepy vines growing along the walls and the ceiling.

  "Careful." I point up at the vines dangling above us. "They come alive. They attacked me the last time I was here."

  Laylen pulls a disgusted face. "Leave it to Alex to date such a weirdo."

  "Hey," I say, offended, but then realized Alex and I have never officially dated.

  Laylen waits for me to say something, but when I don't, he lets go of my hand and we wander around the house. We check every room and the kitchen, but Stasha is nowhere.

  "I don't think she's here," I say as we return to the living room.

  "Good observation," he jokes and I stick out my tongue amazed at how the tension has crumbled between us. I'm beginning to see that kind of up and down pattern between Laylen and me and wonder what it could lead to in the future, good or bad. "But that just means we can take her by surprise."

  "I like the way you think."

  He flops down on the sofa and gets comfortable as he stretches his arms out on the back. "So did you know Aislin came to me and said she was sorry for everything?"

  "That's a little weird." I'm not surprised, after the talk we had on our way to the cemetery. "But good, right?"

  He wavers, gaze fixed on me as I stroll around the living room looking at photos, some of which are of Alex and Stasha and they make me feel ill to my stomach because they actually look happy together. "Yeah, but I was wondering where it all of a sudden came from?" He pauses. "Did you have anything to do with it?"

  I shrug, keeping my back at to him as I stare at one picture in particular of Stasha kissing Alex on the cheek. He's rolling his eyes but he looks content and it kind of gets under my skin a little. "Does it really--"

  "Shhh..." Laylen hisses, leaping up from the sofa. "I think I hear something."

  We freeze, listening to the sound of footsteps heading toward the front door. Then we run down the hallway, making it just in time as the front door swings open. I crouch behind Laylen who hunkers down at the edge of the wall.

  "I don't know why he made me take one of you stupid things." Stasha slams the door and I hear her keys land on the table. "I mean, it's not like you do any good. And I can't even hear what you're saying. And don't ruin my plants," she snaps at someone, clearly not alone. "I need them to keep me alive." There's a pause and then she says, "This is ridiculous. Do you leak ice or something?"

  Laylen's head whips in my direction. Ice, he mouths as the temperature drops and frost begins to glaze the floor around us. I'd be afraid, but after taking so many of them down at the castle, it doesn't seem as terrifying.

  "Do you want to take down Stasha or the Death Walker?" I whisper in Laylen's ear as the ice slips under our feet and along the wall behind us.

  "I'll take death girl, since you've proven you can handle a Death Walker," he whispers back. "Besides, her touch won't kill me."

  I nod and then take out a knife from my pocket. Then Laylen peeks around the corner and looks back at me. "Okay... the Death Walker's on the couch. And Stasha's watering her plants."

  I poise the knife in front of me and Laylen lifts his hand, counting down on his fingers... three... two... one...

  We jump out from the hallway and take them by surprise. The Death Walker's eyes flash yellow as it towers to its feet. Stasha drops her pail she has in her hand and water spills on the floo
r. "What the hell?" she says, her face reddening with anger.

  The Death Walker instantly marches toward me as I step forward with the knife out in front of me while Laylen goes for Stasha. The Death Walker's eyes flash murderously as pieces of its rotting flesh fall from its face. As it approaches me, it throws back its head and lets out a shriek before charging. Like at the castle I feel in control and powerful as I dodge out of its way. But it turns around and circles back. So I stop moving and its eyes flicker as I lunge for it. Its hands shoot out toward my neck, but I duck and evade it, skidding on my knees across the floor. Then it backs up, trying to get out of my reach. I get to my feet and swing the knife at it, but miss and cut its cloak.

  I don't give up, swinging back around and as it lets out another wail, I stab the knife into its chest and drop low to the ground as its breath puffs through the air while its body sways to the side. Then its eyes burn out and it tips over, hitting the floor with a thunderous boom. But I know it's not dead, just passed out, because it's Immortal and I don't have the Sword of Immortality.

 
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