Broken visions, p.17
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       Broken Visions, p.17

         Part #3 of Shattered Promises series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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  I whirl around, relieved to see that Laylen has Stasha pinned up against the wall. He holds her there by her shoulders and she glares at him.

  "You're messing up my hair," she whines when Laylen shoves her against the wall harder.

  I hop over the unconscious Death Walker and go over to them, Stasha's eyes immediately narrowing on me. "Well look who was stupid enough to come back," she says "What? Did you not get enough of me the first time?"

  I point the tip of my knife at her throat. "You know, it really doesn't seem like you're in much of a position to be such a bitch."

  Stasha gives me a dirty look. "This is such bull shit. You have nothing over me."

  I move the knife closer until it clips her skin and draws blood.

  She winces, pressing herself closer the wall. "Fine, what do you want?"

  I raise my scarred arm. "I want you to take your death out of my arm."

  She shakes her head. "No way. You deserve it there--you deserve more pain than even I can inflict."

  The sight of Laylen's fangs descending from his blood red lips causes her eyes to nearly pop out of head. "I think you're the one who might deserve something a little more painful." He pauses. "Now I know what you're thinking. Vampire bites don't hurt, in fact they feel good. But since I can manipulate your emotions, I can make it painful for you." He grins at her, flashing his pointed fangs.

  Stasha is pissed, but I can tell he's scaring her. She leans away, turning her head to the side. "Fine. I'll remove my death from your hand," she snaps. "But you two are lucky that that stupid monster's ice froze over my plants, otherwise this would have gone down differently."

  "And if you try to kill her instead of removing the death, I'll drain you of all your blood, got it?" Laylen says with his fangs still out.

  "Got it," Stasha replies through gritted teeth.

  Laylen slightly loosens his grip so Stasha can slip off her one of her gloves. "Give me your arm," she says to me.

  Hesitantly, I extend my arm to her and she enfolds her fingers around my wrist. Within seconds, the olive-green lines fade away, until my skin is back to its normal color. I let out a breath of relief as she withdraws her hand, but then gasp as I catch sight of something on her wrist.

  A black triangle around a red symbol.

  Laylen tracks my gaze and he shoves Stasha back against the wall roughly. "Where did you get that?" he demands.

  Stasha looks down at the mark on her wrist. "This? I've always had it you dumbass."

  Laylen shakes his head. "That's not possible... I've know you for long enough to know it hasn't always been there."

  "Yes, it has," she says in a condescending tone. "I've had it since the day I was born, but apparently you're too stupid to remember."

  "Alex would have seen it when he was dating you," I say, gripping the knife in my hand, fighting the compulsion to stab her. "And he would have mentioned it by now."

  Stasha laughs sharply. "Yeah right. He's lied to me more than anyone in my life and I'm sure he's doing it to you."

  Laylen starts to say something, but then the Death Walker starts to stir, waking up.

  "We need to go," I say and reach for Laylen's hand.

  "What about her?" he asks. "What should we do to her?"

  I shrug. "Whatever you want?"

  Laylen considers this but not for very long and he knocks her out by clocking her in the head with his own. Stasha falls to the floor, her eyes rolling into the back of her head as the Death Walker charges at us. But I'm already blinking us away.

  Chapter 29

  When we get back to the house, Laylen and I decide that the best thing to do is go downstairs and simply ask Alex if he knew about the mark. We could sit there and try to figure it out ourselves but at this point I am tired of dithering around things.

  In the living room, Aislin has herbs and candles in front of her as she reads a page on her spell book. She hasn't had any luck yet getting the mark off my mother and has been burying herself in trying to solve what went wrong. It shows through her red eyes, bags under them, and, she's in her pajamas, her hair a mess. Alex is sitting beside Aleesa as she watches something on television, but it's clear he's not paying attention, gazing off into empty space.

  When he looks up at me, he sort of flinches as if seeing me is painful for him. I simply raise my arm up and show that the lines are gone, figuring that's the best way to start this conversation.

  He drops the remote onto the table, stunned. "How did you get them off?"

  I glance at Laylen beside me and he gives me an encouraging look. "We paid Stasha a little visit," I tell him.

  "What?" He's baffled and so is Aislin, who looks up at us, confounded. "When?"

  "Just barely," I explain. "I had a little hunch that if they were gone, the Purple Flame might work."

  "I wish you would have said something before you took off," he says, trying to keep his need to be dominant and controlling intact.

  "Yeah, I know, but you were talking to Aislin and I didn't want to bother you." I glance from Laylen to Aislin, who are listening intently, then back to Alex. "Can I talk to you alone for a minute?"

  He gives me a funny look, but goes into the kitchen with me without asking questions.

  "Okay, what's going on?" He reclines against counter, arms folded. "You're acting weird."

  "When Laylen and I--" I start, but a strange noise escapes his throat, like he's choking back a cough. "What was that noise you just made?" I inch toward him, attempting to pick up on his vibe.

  "You really want to know?" he asks and I nod. In three long strides, he's stolen the space between us and backed me up into the counter. An arm comes down on each side of me, trapping me between him. "My problem is that every time you have a problem, you run off with Laylen. And it's driving me crazy. After how far we've come... after the things I've shared with you... I thought by now you'd come to me when you needed help--it's what I'm good at."

  "I'm sorry, but it seemed better to take Laylen since he can't die from Stasha's touch." I suck in a loud breath. "And she's your ex-girlfriend."

  "I already told you she never meant anything to me."

  "Yeah, but you clearly meant something to her--she has pictures of you two all over her house."

  He presses his lips together. "What do you want me to do?" He pauses and I can tell the way his eyes crinkle that he's trying not to smile. "Go to her house and steal all the photos away, because I will. Just say the word."

  I shake my head, attempting to stay annoyed. "No, that'd be silly." I pause and his smile starts to break through, so I reach forward and playfully pinch him on the side. "This isn't funny."

  Now he's grinning as he touches the spot where I pinched him. "It kind of is." He brushes a strand of hair out of my face. "You're cute when you're jealous."

  "That's not what this is about," I tell him then remember what I'm really supposed to be discussing with him. "Did you know Stasha has the Mark of Malefiscus?"

  The shock on his face is too real and I know right away that he didn't. "No, she doesn't... I'd know...."

  "She does, though. I saw the mark on her wrist, and she told us she's had it since she was born."

  "That's not possible." He shakes his head, gripping onto the counter. "I'd know if she did."

  I hated that he would know. "So I'm guessing that either he recently put it on her and tampered with her mind to make her think she's had it forever, or this is another case of the butterfly effect from resetting time..." I look down at my hand and flex my fingers. "It's time for me to go see what I can do about this." I open my hand and the flame smolders.

  "You think it's going to work now?" Alex asks, the flame reflecting in his bright green eyes.

  "There's only one way to find out." I march out of the kitchen without putting the fire out and Laylen, Aislin, and Aleesa all jump back. I scoop up the mapping ball and place it in my hand as they all watch. It fits perfectly and my skin begins to sizzle. Energy torrents through me, viole
t, passionate, untamed. My eyes snap wide as searing heat spills through my veins, gives me an indescribable power, and then sucks me into the glass.

  Chapter 30

  It's so dark it makes the air thick and heavy, bearing down on me and crushing my body. I have to be dead. There's no way I could be alive with this much pain. But then I open my eyes and see the most beautiful sight I've ever seen before me, like I landed outside of the world, where the stars shine. They are everywhere. Above me. Below me. As far as my eyes can see.

  "It's so gorgeous," I whisper in wonderment. But as I start to wander across the stars, my heart sinks in despair. There is no sign of memories or anything that will lead me to it.

  But as if answering me, one of the stars just in front of my feet illuminates. I hop back as light flows out of it and casts against the darkness like a movie screen. At first it's blank, but then people appear on it. A man probably about twenty years old with dark brown hair and violet eyes--my dad. He's talking to an older woman with flowing auburn hair, wearing a pressed tan dress--Sophia.

  "Well, I don't see how that would be possible," Sophia tells my father as they hike up the grassy hill toward the grey stone castle at the top. "Jocelyn's too busy with things. And she's supposed to be taking her Keeper's test soon."

  "I understand your concern," my dad replies, attempting to dazzle her with a charming smile. "But I promise you, I won't keep her out too long."

  Sophia fixes him with a stern gaze, one that I had seen many times, not at all affected by my dad's charm. "Well, I'll have to think about it and discuss it with her father, but we'll see."

  My father stops on the hill, beaming. "That's all I'm asking for."

  Sophia gives him a curt nod and then hurries to the front door of the castle, leaving him on the hill. My father turns, picks up a rock, and chucks it into the lake, making the water ripple. He looks happy, not like someone who is about to cause the end of the world.

  "He couldn't have always been evil,' I say. "There's just no way."

  The scene swirls back into the star. Not the vision I'm looking for, but it was interesting to see my dad, just a normal guy, wanting to ask my mom out.

  Suddenly, another star lights up against the darkness just a few feet away. On the screen, my father is the main focus, about the same age as he was in the last one. He's sitting next to my mom who looks around the same age as him. Her makeup is done and her hair is curled up and they're in the corner, huddled together, with a stack of books by their feet.

  "I still don't understand why you have to help him," my mother says to my father. "It doesn't make any sense.

  My father takes her hands in his. "Everything will be okay, Jocelyn. Stephan assures me that once I help him, we can be together; that he'll make it so your parents won't have any problems with us wanting to get married."

  My mother swallows hard. "Julian, please don't do this... I'm begging you"

  "It'll be alright." My dad cups her face in his hands and leans closer. "Stephan just needs my help with something and then this will all be over. And you and I can begin our happy life together."

  She looks like she wants to say something but can't. "Help you with what? Has he even told you?"

  "He hasn't, but I'm sure it'll be fine."

  My mother itches at her wrist, right where the Mark of Malefiscus is now, but her long-sleeved shirt covers it up. She keeps scratching and scratching like she's trying to claw her skin off.

  "Please don't go, Julian," she pleads. "I'm begging you not to."

  "I have to otherwise, I'll never have this." And then he kisses her.

  I let out a shaky breath as the picture fades back into the star. They seemed so normal and in love, not evil or marked, not about to end the world.

  I move to the next star and wait for it to light up, wondering what I'm going to see next. When the screen shines across the blackness, my body tenses. Stephan is sitting at a long mahogany table, dressed in black, his hair slicked to the side, and he's grinning. Across from him, is my dad with his arms on the table, the sleeves of his blue shirt rolled up revealing that his arms are mark free.

  "I have to say, Julian, I'm surprised you showed up." Stephan says. "Jocelyn must mean a lot to you."

  My dad shifts in the chair and then tucks his arms underneath the table, anxious. "Is it true you can create marks? Can you really mark me as a Keeper?"

  I nearly fall to the ground. That's what he wanted? He wanted Stephan to make him a Keeper?

  "Hmmm..." Stephan grazes his finger across the scar on his cheekbone, musing. "Is it true there's a way for a Foreseer to change a vision?"

  My dad's expression plummets. "I--I don't think so."

  Stephan slants forward in his chair toward my father. "You know what I hate more than anything, Julian?" he asks in an icy tone, his eyes darkening. "People who lie. I can't stand fucking liars."

  "I'm not lying, sir," my dad says, his voice faltering. "I swear, I'm not."

  Stephan digs his fingernails into the wood of the table, as if channeling his anger there. "I understand there are rules that the Foreseers have that forbid you to tell me." He scoots back and then rounds the table, halting in front of my father. "Give me your arm, Julian."

  "What?" My dad gapes up at Stephan. "Why?"

  "Give. Me. Your. Arm," Stephan repeats in a firm tone.

  My dad exhales loudly then extends out his arm. Stephan retrieves a knife from the table and without warning, plunges it into my father's forearm. "Vos es venalicium!"

  My dad whimpers out in pain, his fingers moving for the knife. But it's too late. A mark appears on his wrist as blood seeps out of his skin and dribbles onto the floor. "Why did you... I don't understand," my father stammers, pressing his hand to the wound.

  Stephan tosses the knife onto the table, grinning. "Now you have no choice but to help me."

  My father removes his hand from his arm and gasps in horror. Along his forearm, there's a black triangle outlining a red symbol.

  "But you said you would give me the Keeper's mark." My father turns his arm toward Stephan. "What the hell is this?"

  "Oh, you'll soon find out," Stephan says darkly.

  The light diminishes into the star as my knees give out and I sink onto the starry ground. My mother lied. My father didn't want power. He wanted to be with her. He thought he was becoming a Keeper. Why did my mom lie about this? Or didn't she know the truth? Was the only story she knew from Stephan's point of view?

  But then Stephan had told me that a person had to possess evil blood for the mark to work, so either my father has some sort of evil hidden in him, or Stephan was lying about that and he can put the mark on anyone. Both scenarios make me shiver.

  The man has ruined too many lives and it's time to stop him. Filled with determination, I push to my feet. I need a way to find out a way to figure out which star held the right memory. I sort through my memories, trying to think of something that may have been mentioned in the past. Nicholas and my dad both said something about my mind having the answers. If I could just see which one holds the right memory... I get an idea as I think of the Foreseer book and concentrate on not seeing the stars, but seeing the one that carries the memory of my dad when he altered the vision that will lead to the destruction of earth. The stars begin to glimmer, playing a melody of color, and then a silver cloud rises from the ground. I move back as it slithers across the stars like a snake and into the darkness and I chase after it, weaving around stars, until it finally comes to a stop above a lavender one that shines brighter than all the others. The magical cloud swoops into the air and then swan-dives down into the star. I stop and wait for the screen to light up, but no light or movie clip appears so I lean over and peer into it. There's a faint light emitting from the center and hesitantly, I bend down and brush my fingers against it. Energy jolts through my body and the ground trembles. The ground below my feet cracks and then begins to break. I let out a scream as the entire starry area around me crumbles, taking me wi
th it.

  Chapter 31

  When I land, it's soft and I'm breathless. I'm on a hill with my back to the Keeper's castle, and in front of me, the lake and the trees, crisp with ice and frost, the water frozen, the sky cloudy and grey. And Death Walkers are everywhere.

  My dad comes walking down the hill toward the lake. He's still around twenty but he's wearing the same silver robe he was wearing in the Room of Forbidden. His face is solemn, his violet eyes fixed on the lake with worry shadowing them. He doesn't seem to notice me as he passes by, so I follow after him, figuring I'm in vision form.

  "Where is it?" he mutters as he halts at the icy shore of the lake.

  Death Walkers creep out from the trees, their black cloaks dragging across the snow, their yellow eyes reflecting against the ice. I shiver as the ground quivers with the beat of their march and when Stephan emerges from the forest, not too far off from where we stand. He has on a black cloak with the hood over his head and his eyes seem to light up in delight as he takes in the winter wonderland. He motions at someone behind him and out steps a man, much shorter than Stephan, wearing a cloak.

 
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