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The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series Book 1), Page 19

Jessica Sorensen
Alex led me down a hallway lined with doors. He finally came to a stop in front of a closed door at the very end of the hall. My head was hurting so terribly, and my ribs were aching big time. I felt more empty and alone than I had ever felt in my life. Although Marco and Sophia had never been that great of grandparents, they were still my grandparents. And what they had done to me felt like the ultimate betrayal.

  Alex didn’t open the door right away. He just stood there, staring at it as if he were trying to compel it to open with his mind. Needless to say, it didn’t open. Then, unexpectedly, he whirled around to face me.

  “There’s something else I need to tell you before we go in here,” he blurted out.

  I sighed, “What now?”

  “Relax, it’s not about you. It’s about Laylen, the guy who lives here.” He leaned against the door and crossed his arms. “He’s not exactly human.”

  “What does that even mean?” I asked. “If he’s not human, then, what is he?”

  “Well,” he wavered, “a few years ago he was bitten by a...vampire.”

  I gaped at him. “So you’re saying he’s a vampire?” Was he kidding?

  He moved away from the door and stepped toward me. “I know what you’re thinking: that there’s no way vampires are real. But they’re about as real as the Death Walkers.”

  I pressed my lips together and stared down at the opposite end of the hallway, at a door with a small stained glass window on it. Light spilled through the glass, casting misshapen reflections across the floor and walls. It had to be the front door. And just on the other side of it was the warm and sandy desert. The complete opposite of where I had been no more than a few hours ago.

  “You’re not thinking about running away again?” Alex’s voice tore through my thoughts.

  I turned my head back to him. “No.”

  He cocked an eyebrow. “Are you sure about that?”

  “Yeah, I’m sure,” I said, sounding unconvincing.

  He opened his mouth and started to say something but, changing his mind, clamped it closed again. He had been doing that a lot over the last few hours—starting to say something then stopping. Who did that remind me of? Hmm…Let me think. How about Marco and Sophia? Coincidence? Who knew?

  “Do I have to worry about him biting me?” I asked tensely.

  He laughed. “No, you don’t have to worry about him biting you. Since he was a Keeper before he was changed, things work a little differently. He’s more in control of his blood lust.”

  “And what about vampires that aren’t Keepers to begin with? What are they like?”

  He hesitated. “Let’s just hope you don’t ever have to find out.”

  And with that, he opened the door.

  On the other side was a room that had the same red walls and ash-black hardwood flooring as the room we just left. There were bookshelves everywhere. The only noticeable difference was a long mahogany table that trailed down the middle of the room. In one of the eight chairs bordering the table, Aislin sat, staring down at her cell phone.

  She immediately jumped to her feet when she saw us. “Oh, good. I was just about to come get you.” She hurried over to Alex and asked in a barely audible voice, “Did you get everything taken care of?”

  “Yeah.” Alex’s bright green eyes flicked in my direction. “I did.”

  Aislin gave me a wary look before returning her attention back to Alex. “I can’t get a hold of Stephan.” She tapped her cell phone in the palm of her hand. “It goes straight to his voicemail.”

  “That’s odd,” Alex mumbled. “Did you try Marco and Sophia?”

  The mentioning of Marco and Sophia made my stomach ping.

  Aislin nodded. “They didn’t answer either.”

  “Where the heck could they be?” he asked. “They weren’t going anywhere, were they?”

  Aislin shook her head. “Not that I know.”

  “Do you know if Marco and Sophia were going somewhere?” Alex asked me.

  I gave him an are-you-kidding-me look. “Yeah, because they tell me what they’re doing.”

  Alex frowned. “Gemma, this isn’t a joke. It’s important.”

  “Oh, I know it’s not,” I assured him. “I was being very, very serious.”

  He stared at me, clearly irritated. I held his stare until the buzzing became too intense, and I had to turn my head away or else I might explode. “Stare all you want, but I still don’t know where they are.”

  He heaved a frustrated sigh and looked back at Aislin. “Why would all of them not answer their phones? It doesn’t make any sense.”

  “I don’t know.” Aislin twirled a strand of her golden blonde hair around her finger. “You don’t think that something happened to them, do you? Like maybe the Death Walkers showed up at the house or something.”

  “I highly doubt it. The Death Walkers have no reason to go after them. They want Gemma.”

  I rolled my eyes. Lucky me.

  “And even if they did go to the house,” Alex said, starting to pace back and forth across the floor. “Stephan can take care of himself.”

  “Of course he can.” A voice floated up behind me. It was a guy’s voice and he sounded about as resentful as I felt. “Because we all know Stephan can do anything.”

  Aislin’s gaze shot over my head. “Laylen, please don’t start. That’s the last thing we need right now.”

  I froze. Laylen, the vampire, was standing right behind me. Slowly, I turned around, my stomach rolling with nervousness.

  He was about five or six inches taller than me, which meant he was really tall—six foot four at least. His blond hair swept across his forehead, the tips dyed a bright blue that matched the shade of his eyes. A silver ring hooped the bottom of his dark red lips. He wore a grey t-shirt, black jeans, and biker boots. Black symbols tattooed his forearm. They looked like a foreign language of some kind. Greek maybe?

  His gaze dragged up me and came to a stop at my eyes. “You know, the last time I saw you, you were maybe about four years old. You’ve grown up a lot since then.”

  I scrunched my forehead. “Do I know you?”

  He laughed a very gentle, non-vampire sort of laugh. “Yeah, kind of.”

  I forced a small smile. Okay?

  “So,” he said, directing his attention to Alex, “Aislin said you got yourself into some trouble?”

  “I didn’t get us into any trouble,” Alex corrected him. “So don’t get too excited.”

  “That’s not what I was told.” The smug look Laylen was giving Alex made me wonder if there was some kind of bad history between them. “From what Aislin said you,—”

  “Laylen,” Aislin hissed. “Shut up.”

  Alex folded his arms, and his glare sliced into Aislin. “Alright, so what have you been saying?”

  She bit her lip, looking guilty as charged. “Well, it’s just that I think…maybe the little thing that happened between you and Gemma on the bus was what helped the Death Walkers discover that the energy is hidden in her.”

  Alex shook his head. “There’s no way that could have been the reason.”

  Ailsin raised her eyebrows. “How can you be so sure?”

  “Because I can,” Alex said easily. “There’s no reason that could have given her away.”

  By “that”, did he mean when we barely kissed? I had to wonder since he said it with such regret.

  Well, guess what? I regretted it too. I swear I did. Well, okay, whatever. It was kind of a lie. But I wished I was capable of regretting it, and that had to count for something, right?

  “Alex, you didn’t see it from my point of view,” Aislin said. “From what I saw, it was far from ordinary. The lights were flashing on and off while you two—”

  “Alright, I get it,” Alex snapped.

  “Wait a minute.” Laylen held his hands in front of him. “What exactly did you two do?”

  Was he joking? I didn’t know him at all, so I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not. Bu
t it almost seemed like he was purposefully trying to cause trouble; like he was trying to embarrass us. And let me tell you, if that’s what he was doing, then it was working. I have never been one to get embarrassed easily, but I could feel my cheeks getting warm. I squirmed around uncomfortably and fixed my gaze on the floor.

  “It was nothing important.” Alex’s tone was flat. “So you don’t need to worry about it.”

  A lump swelled in my throat. It felt like my heart had been ripped out and stomped on. I wished it didn’t feel that way though. But despite how much I wanted to hate Alex—because, let’s face it, nine times out of ten he was a Class A jerk—I couldn’t.

  “I need a break,” I announced. “I’m going outside.”

  “Like hell you are,” Alex said.

  “I’m not a little kid.” I stood up straight and raised my chin, hoping I appeared more confident than I felt. “If I want to go outside then I will. I need some fresh air.”

  Alex started toward me. “Gemma—”

  Laylen stepped between us, creating a barrier. “How about I go out with her? That way she won’t be alone.” His bright blue eyes locked on me. “That is, if you don’t mind?”

  Did I mind? He was a vampire, at least according to Alex. It seemed like I should have felt untrusting toward him. But honestly, at the moment I couldn’t have cared less what he was or wasn’t. I couldn’t see any blood thirst burning in his eyes or anything.

  I shrugged. “Nope. I don’t mind.”

  “Fine. Do whatever you want.” Alex waved his hand, dismissing us, and turned back to Aislin. “Let’s keep trying to get a hold of someone. We really need to know what’s going on.”

  I heard Aislin mutter something in reply, but didn’t hear exactly what because I was already out the door.

  Outside, the deliciously warm desert air dusted my cheeks and swept through my hair. The sky had shifted grey and the stars sparkled across it. The sandy desert drifted aimlessly in front of me, shadowed by the nightfall. It was a relief not to have goose bumps speckling my skin. It was nice to be able to breathe without seeing it cloud out in front of me. It was so nice to be warm. So, deciding I might as well enjoy the warmth, I shoved the reason I was here far back into my mind and tried to let myself relax.

  I sat down on the cement steps and stretched my legs out in front of me. The warm cement pressed through my jeans. The porch light shined from behind me and cast my shadows across the stairs below. Laylen seated himself beside me and leaned back on his elbows.

  For awhile we just sat there, gazing out at the desert, listening to the crickets chirping in the distance. The stars were really dancing tonight, and I could clearly make out the constellation of Cassiopeia. I wondered if that’s where my fascination with stars came from. Perhaps, deep down inside me, I knew what I really was and that some bits and pieces of me belonged up in the sky with them, not down here where I never felt like I belonged.

  “So,” Laylen’s deep voice rang through the silence, “how’s life been with Marco and Sophia?”

  “Oh, just great,” I replied, my tone sarcastic. “It’s been a real blast.”

  He laughed. “They never have been the most pleasant people to be around.”

  I swatted at a bug that landed on my elbow. Gross. “So you know them then?”

  “Yeah, but I haven’t seen them in a really long time.” He stared off in the distance, looking like he was lost in a painful memory. “I haven’t seen any of the Keepers since….” He trailed off and looked at me. “Alex told you what I was, didn’t he?”

  I nodded. “But it’s kind of hard to believe. All of this is kind of hard to believe.”

  “I imagine it would be.” His voice was sympathetic. His blue eyes held such loneliness in them.

  I propped my elbow on my knee and rested my chin in my hand. “So….what exactly is it that makes you a vampire?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Well…” What was the correct way to ask someone how they were considered a creature of the night; the living undead; a blood thirsty monster? “I’ve read a lot of books and everything. Nothing that was actually factual, though. They all say different things about vampires, and I was just wondering which—or if any—had some truth to them.”

  He rubbed his hand along his jawline. “You want to know what it is that makes me a monster? Whether I bite, kill, or drink blood? If I can run at an inhuman speed or if I have super strength?”

  It sounded like such a stupid question when he put it that way. “I guess that’s what I’m trying to ask. Well, minus the whole monster thing, because I don’t think that about you.”

  He cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t think that I’m a monster?”

  I shook my head. I didn’t know him or anything, but he definitely wasn’t sending out an I’m-a-demon-and-I’m-going-to-kill-you vibe.

  He pressed his deep red lips together. “If that’s true then you’re probably the first person to ever think that.” He gave a pause. “The whole hungry-for-blood thing doesn’t apply to me. I don’t drink blood. I don’t kill.”

  “But it applies to other vampires?”

  He nodded. “Other vampires are probably a lot like what you’ve read. And I’m not talking about the ones who drink blood, and do it by killing animals. They like to kill.”

  A chill crept down my spine. “Why haven’t I heard anything about them existing?” I mean, if people were dying because their blood was being drained, wouldn’t the news have mentioned something about it?

  “For the same reason you didn’t know what you were. People are excellent at keeping secrets.”

  “Yes, they are,” I agreed.

  He brushed his blue-tipped bangs away from his forehead. “I do have some traits that normal vampires have. I’m immortal. I’m stronger than the average person. I have fangs.”

  I gaped at him. “You have fangs.”

  He nodded. “They’re retractable and I don’t use them. Ever.”

  I couldn’t help but stare at his mouth. I know staring is rude and everything, but I just couldn’t seem to look away. The guy just told me he had retractable fangs, for crying out loud.

  He laughed, and I got a full view of his flat, white teeth. “Staring at them isn’t going to bring them out.”

  I quickly turned my head away, feeling stupid. Could I really be sitting in the desert next to a vampire, all while harboring the energy of a fallen star inside me? There was so much wrong with that statement, yet, in a bizarre, twisted way, it felt right.

  It felt true.

  The howl of a coyote cut through the air, and I jumped.

  “I can also sense when a person’s afraid,” Laylen remarked.

  “I’m not afraid,” I told him.

  “I know.” He stood up and dusted off his jeans. “Which makes you kind of weird.”

  I sighed. “Weird seems to be my middle name.”

  He chuckled. “So it does.”

  Everything seemed strange. Here I was, having barely discovered my life was a web of lies, and yet I still found myself able to laugh. A quiet laugh, but nonetheless still a laugh.

  I heard the front door creak open, and Alex stepped out with a displeased expression on his face. “Are you two having fun?”

  What? I wasn’t allowed to laugh? Well, I guess technically laughing was an emotion, but, whatever.

  I looked up at Laylen, who winked at me before extending his hand out to me. His hand felt cold against mine as he helped me to my feet. Truth to another myth, I wondered.

  I let go of his hand and followed him up the stairs, where Alex was waiting impatiently for us. He shot Laylen a glare as he walked by, but didn’t even so much as give me the benefit of a scowl, staring out into the darkness as I stepped by him.

  Chapter 16