Shimmering chaos, p.16
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.16

           Jessica Sorensen
 
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  “Let me see that.” Max takes the card from me, reads it over, then swallows hard. “It sounds like they’re trying to use Sky to get information on us.”

  “How did they even find out she was moving in with us?” Easton questions then gives me an accusing look. “Have you been talking to people about us?”

  I scowl at him. “Who the fuck would I tell? I have, like, two friends. And besides, up until you showed up on my doorstep, I didn’t even realize I’d be living with a family of eight. All I knew was your last name. I didn’t even realize Foster was an Everettson when I …” I bite down on my lip before I say something that is definitely going to embarrass me.

  But maybe Foster already told everyone about when I tried to hit on him?

  “When you what?” Easton presses with intrigue.

  “Nothing.” I sneak a look in Foster’s direction, only to find him focusing solely on the road.

  Huh. Now I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell them. That’s a surprise, but one I’m relieved about.

  “It still doesn’t make sense that they targeted you,” Max mumbles distractedly. “Unless they’ve been watching you for a while. But hunters don’t usually watch humans, so maybe they know what you are.”

  “If that’s the case, why aren’t they trying harder to get to her? And her wall makes it really complicated to see what she really is,” Foster points out, but worry rings in his tone. “My bet is they found out she was moving in with us and are trying to recruit her into helping them.”

  Unsettling silence passes between them.

  “I think we need to do something about this,” Max says with an edge in his tone.

  The tension in the air crushes against my lungs, and I nearly dive out of the car. I would have if we weren’t driving. If I tried now, I’d probably hurt myself pretty badly. Then again, from what I’ve learned about the Everettsons, they’ll do a lot to keep their family secrets a secret, which leaves me a bit worried that maybe I’ll get hurt no matter what.

  Chapter 20

  I don’t jump out of the car. I want to. Fuck, do I want to. But as the storm picks up, probably because of the worry seeping out between Foster and me, I decide against it.

  No one says much of anything for the rest of the drive home. Although, I do notice everyone gives edgy glances at the forest lining the road, as if they expect a bunch of hunters to jump out at any minute. Fortunately, that never happens and we make it home safely.

  Before we head inside, Foster digs a small vial filled with a clear, glittery liquid from out of the glove box. The eye changing drops, I’m assuming.

  “Put a couple of drops of this in each of your eyes while thinking about your eyes being less bloodshot, and it should clear the red out of it,” he says, handing me the vial.

  “Okay.” But I make no effort to do so.

  “It won’t hurt,” Foster promises. “It just feels sort of sparkly.”

  “It’s not pain I’m worried about.” I scratch my eye. “I just don’t like putting things in my eyes.”

  Foster rubs his lips together. “You want me to help you?”

  I nod eagerly. “Yes, please.” I give him back the vial.

  He pats the console. “Rest your head on this and try to keep your eyes open, okay?”

  I obey, resting my head on the console. But as soon as he positions the vial over my eye, I start blinking like crazy.

  “Try not to blink, okay?” He waits for me to nod then moves the vial over my eye again.

  I blink.

  He sighs, but a trace of an amused smile tugs at his lips. “Okay, I’m going to have East hold your eye open.”

  I pull a face but don’t argue.

  Easton grins as he leans over me, reaching for my eye.

  “I have a feeling you’re enjoying this way too much,” I remark as Easton holds my eye open.

  His grin broadens. “Now, why would you think that?” Then he moves his fingers closer together, making my eye close then open again. “Look, she’s winking at me.”

  “Good gods, East, you can be so annoying sometimes.” Max nudges him out of the way and offers me an apologetic look before holding my eye open.

  Foster hurries and applies the drops in one eye then the other before sitting back and putting the cap back on the vial.

  I sit up, blinking, my eyeballs feeling weirdly sparkly. “This feels so weird.”

  Foster scans my face over, his gaze lingering on my eyes. “Your eyes aren’t red anymore, though.”

  I pull the visor down and look at my reflection in the mirror. Sure enough, my eyes are completely bloodshot free. “Man, if Gage knew this shit existed, he’d be all over it.”

  A muscle in Foster’s jaw ticks. “Gage, your friend, right?”

  I nod, giving him a perplexed look. “Yeah, the guy you met just barely.” Not that I believe he’s forgotten who Gage is. I just don’t understand why he’s double-checking.

  Nodding, Foster climbs out of the car, while Easton snickers and Max sighs.

  Sighing myself, I hop out of the car and follow Foster out the garage and up the path to the front door of the house.

  “So, how much trouble am I going to be in?” I ask Foster as we enter the foyer.

  “Well, since it’s your first offense, not too much.” He aims for a teasing tone but misses the mark. “Honestly, after we tell my parents that a hunter has contacted you, I think they’re probably going to forget about you taking off tonight.”

  “Good. Well, I don’t mean that it’s good a hunter contacted me, but I’m glad I’m probably not going to get in too much trouble tonight,” I nervously ramble.

  A ghost of a smile touches his lips, but then it fades as he frowns. “They’re still going to have to do something about the hunter being in contact with you. They need to make sure our family’s secrets stay secret.”

  Nervousness creeps through me, but before I can ask what his parents are going to do to me, Emaline appears at the top of the stairs.

  “Oh, thank gods you’re back.” She hurries down the stairs and rushes up to me, wrapping her arms around me.

  So not the reaction I was expecting, but I awkwardly hug her back anyway.

  “I’m so sorry we freaked you out, but you can never run off like that again, okay?” She pulls back and waits for me to answer, but Foster speaks first.

  “Actually, she had a good reason to take off.” He massages the back of his neck tensely, staring at the floor. “She overheard us talking about what it means to be an elemental enchanter, particularly about how I—we can’t be with anyone else…” He trails off, scratching his cheek and looking away

  “Oh.” Her expression plummets as she stares at me with concern. “I’m so sorry you had to find out that way. We were going to tell you, but …”

  “It’s a lot to take in.” Foster briefly meets my gaze, his pupils sparking. Then he blinks and looks at Emaline. “Mom, you don’t have to worry. I explained a lot of it to her.”

  Emaline’s brows rise in surprise, but then a knowing smile pulls at her lips. That smile dissipates, though, when Easton and Max enter the house and Max announces, “A hunter has been in contact with her.”

  More fear than I’ve ever seen in anyone’s face consumes Emaline’s expression, and suddenly, I find myself wishing I’d chosen to dive out of the car when I had the chance.

  Chapter 21

  “So, what are we going to do?” Holden asks, glancing apprehensively at Gabe.

  After Emaline found out a hunter had been in contact with me, all the Everettsons and I piled into the living room so we could discuss what happened. By the time Max, Easton, Foster, and I finished explaining the card and how a hunter approached me, fear had swept across everyone’s faces. I felt afraid, too, but mostly over what they’re going to do with me.

  I’m nervous. I’m not going to lie. I wish I’d taken a seat closer to the exit. You know so I can take off if I need to. Instead, I’m sitting on the sofa in the center of the room.
Max and Porter are beside me, Foster, Easton, and Hunter are seated on the sofa across from me, Holden is perched on the coffee table close to the doorway, and Emaline and Gabe are seated in chairs beside the fireplace where a fire is crackling, remnants of the portal no longer evident.

  “We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Gabe answers Holden after a quietness haunts the room for an unnerving amount of time. “We’ll keep our walls up around us and the protection spells around the house and yard. We can also retouch the protection spells on everyone, and make sure our powers are at full strength, which means extra practice sessions.”

  Another drop of silence skips by, and it’s hard not to be aware of how shifty everyone has gotten. No one is directly making eye contact with me, either staring at the fire, the doorway, or each other. Honestly, hardly anyone has said anything to me at this point, but I guess that’s typical. Well, it was up until yesterday when I moved in with them. They’ve paid more attention to me than anyone has in a long time. I’m not sure how I feel about that, just like I’m unsure how I feel about their lack of attention now.

  “What about Sky?” Holden breaks the silence, avoiding my questioning gaze and looking directly at Gabe. “She’s … Well, she’s weak controlling her powers, and it’ll take her years to be able to get them to full strength.”

  Shock courses through me, and I cringe as the lights flicker on and off, announcing my hurt. But, out of all of them, Holden seemed like the nicest. Then again, he’s only saying the truth. The truth sort of hurts like a bitch, though.

  “I can go back to live in Honeyton,” I offer quietly, folding my arms around myself. “I’m sure I can crash with Nina or Gage, just as long as you guys don’t report me as a runaway or anything.”

  Emaline shakes her head but doesn’t utter a word, looking at Gabe. Their silent exchange goes on for an unsettling amount of time, and everyone begins to grow fidgety.

  I’m not going to lie. It hurts when no one protests for me to stay. But it’s fine. I’m fine. I’m always fine.

  You’re such a liar.

  When my heart starts to do weird things, I decide it’s time to say peace out and go pack my shit.

  Sucking in a breath, I push to my feet and step toward the doorway.

  “Where are you going?” Max jumps up in front of me and snags ahold of my arm.

  In the blink of an eye, all of them are standing up.

  Panic rushes through me, making my heart pound and the house rattle as spurts of lightning vibrate from outside.

  Emaline glances at the chandelier clinking above our heads, then her gaze lands on me. “Sky, sweetie, I know this situation is scary, but you need to calm down.”

  “I’m trying.” But, as they all take a step toward me, my adrenaline soars and lightning streaks across the ceiling and thunder booms from inside, shaking everything.

  “Holy shit,” Porter murmurs, looking from the ceiling to me. “Oh honey, you’ve got some wicked power in you.” The lightning lights up the delight in his eyes.

  Delight that I don’t understand.

  I gulp, looking around at the eight of them. All of them have their eyes fixed on me. But it’s not comforting. In fact, I think it might be worse than when they wouldn’t look at me.

  “Look, I promise I won’t tell anyone any of your secrets. Honestly, I don’t really know a lot of your secrets, other than what everyone is, but I swear I won’t say a word,” I ramble, loathing the trembling in my tone. “Just please don’t hurt me.”

  Max’s brows pull together. “Hurt you?” He glances at Emaline, whose eyes are wide with horror.

  “Sweetie, we’re not going to hurt you.” She steps toward me and takes my hands in hers. “We’re just trying to decide something.”

  “Something that might need to be done, not only to protect our family and our secrets,” Gabe adds, “but to protect you as well.”

  “Oh.” Okay, now I just feel stupid, but the feeling isn’t new to me. “You just all seemed so nervous, and I thought you guys might …” I stop myself, feeling awful for having the thoughts I was having.

  “You thought what?” Easton asks, his lips quirking. “Come on; finish that sentence, because I’m dying to know what you think about us.”

  “I think she thought we were going to kill her.” Hunter appears way too amused by the fact.

  “No,” I lie. “I just thought you might … I don’t know.” I sit back down, feeling like an idiot. “I’m just a little freaked out. I’m sorry.” It probably doesn’t help that not all the alcohol and weed has worn out of my system and my head feels a bit foggy.

  Easton snickers. “Well, at least she’s entertaining.”

  That gets everyone to crack a smile. Even Foster. Although, he’s been smiling more by the hour. But I’m trying not to focus on the reason for that.

  I clear my throat as my cheeks start to warm. “So, what’s this thing you guys think might need to be done? Because it seems like you’re a bit hesitant about it.”

  “We are,” Emaline says. “Not because it’s dangerous. It’s just very … permanent.”

  They sink into silence again as they sit back down.

  “I think we should do it,” Hunter utters, staring down at the backs of his hands. “If she’s going to be living with us for the next six months, and a hunter has been in contact with her, it’s the best way not only to keep her from being on their radar, but it’ll also give us peace of mind that our secrets won’t get out.”

  “But it can’t be undone,” Holden reminds him. “You can’t unmerge a merging enchantment.”

  “Merging enchantment?” I scrunch my nose. “That sounds very … merge-y.”

  Foster snorts a laugh.

  “Stop laughing at my words,” I protest, though I can’t help smiling.

  “I will when your words stop being amusing,” Foster quips with a grin.

  “Well, aren’t you two just utterly adorable,” Hunter remarks with a devious smirk.

  Easton snickers, and then they fist bump.

  Talk about two peas in a pod, or I guess two element protectors in an overly crowded living room.

  Shaking his head, Foster lightly punches Hunter’s arm. “Shut the hell up, man.”

  Hunter shakes his head, his eyes glinting wickedly. “Payback’s a bitch, little bro.”

  “All right, that’s enough.” Gabe claps his hands and rises to his feet again. “Everettsons, we need to make a choice. Either you can do a merging enchantment with Sky, or we can take the risk and simply keep an extra eye on her. If we choose the latter, we can do shifts so she’s never alone, and we’ll have to try to go to Spellbinding world so we can get a few protection spells cast on her. But with what she is, we’ll have to be careful taking her to other worlds without her being merged to us due to the danger.” Tension pours off him as he shifts his weight and rubs the back of his neck. “Or you can choose the first one and … Well, you guys know how that works.”

  “But Sky doesn’t,” Hunter points out. “She should probably be told first before we even consider going there, because it’s a big decision for everyone.”

  Okay, seriously, what’s the big deal with this merging enchantment?

  “Yeah, you’re probably right,” Gabe says with a sigh. “How about this? All of you go discuss this in the kitchen while me and your mother explain things to Sky. Then we’ll regroup and make a decision.”

  They all nod in agreement then get to their feet, filing out of the room.

  The second they’re all gone, Gabe lets out a deafening breath and slumps onto his chair. “I love our kids to death, but sometimes dealing with the six of them can be overwhelming,” he murmurs, causing Emaline to smile, but her smile falters when she looks at me, worry taking over her face.

  “I’m so sorry about this.” She gets up and sits down beside me. “I’m sure you’re probably beyond confused at this point.”

  I give a nod. “A little bit, but that’s okay.”

&
nbsp; She smiles at me. “You’re a very understanding girl.”

  “You think that, even though I took off tonight?” I wonder skeptically.

  “If I overheard what you did, I would’ve done the exact same thing when I was your age,” she tells me. “But I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to text my mom and tell her I took off. Thank you for doing that, by the way. I just hope that, the next time you get scared like that, you’ll stay and talk to me instead of running off.”

  I nod, even though nervousness pulsates through me. Next time? Just how many times am I going to get scared?

  As if reading the worry on my face, she says, “We need to explain this merging enchantment to you, and I need you to try not to panic, okay? Because it might be the best choice in this situation, even if it seems a bit extreme.”

  I nod again, but holy hell am I freaking out. “Okay, I can do that.”

  “Good.” She looks at Gabe then returns her attention back to me. “Our family has a lot of secrets—important secrets—which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now. And it’s important that the hunters don’t find out. And not just about our secrets, but about Foster. Because, if they do find out about him—find out he’s an elemental enchanter—they will try to use his power for terrible things.”

  “Which is why, a long time ago, we put a merging enchantment on all our boys.” Gabe slides forward in his chair and rests his arms on his knees. “So we can protect, not only Foster, but all of them from the harshness of this world and of other worlds.”

  “Okay.” I anxiously bite my lip. “So, what exactly is a merging enchantment?”

  Emaline glances at Gabe again before looking back at me. “It’s a spell that links them with each other, so they’re all very in tune with one another.” Emaline explains. “It bonds them so they can feel when one of them is in trouble, when they need help—stuff like that, And it swears them to secrecy so they all have to keep each other’s secrets.”

 
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