Darkness breaks, p.19
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       Darkness Breaks, p.19

         Part #2 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 19

 

  “We need to get you cleaned up,” I tell him. “Otherwise there are going to be huge problems with Ryder and Aiden. ”

  He rubs a smudge of blood off my forehead. “Like we don’t already have problems with them. ”

  “I know. ” I take his hand and drip droplets of water across his skin. “But if I’m going to figure out what he’s hiding, he has to trust me. ”

  “That’s going to be difficult. ” He rubs his hands together, scrubbing the blood off. The cuts have already healed, which is a good sign. “Since you two are the biggest liars there are. ”

  I puddle my hand with water and gently drip it across his forehead. “It comes in handy sometimes, though. ”

  His intense gaze bores into me as I clean away the blood. “So is that your plan? To use your manipulating ways to play him?”

  “You got a better idea?” I ask, scrubbing a cut on his cheek, which is already starting to heal.

  He shakes his head, eyes still glued to me. “I like your idea. ” He catches my hand as I pull back and traps it against his cheek. “Just as long as you’re pretending to care for him. ”

  His gaze makes me nervous. I’m dumbstruck. “Sylas I…” I brush his hair back. Along his hairline are jagged tooth marks and blood bubbles. “How many times did he bite you?”

  Sylas tugs his sleeves down, leans back, and adjusts his hair to hide the bite “I can handle some bites. It’s no big deal, Kayla. ”

  “We don’t even know what kind of breed Dominic was,” I remind him.

  “He was a foul creature who wanted to kill us. Just like the vamps. ”

  “No, the vamps don’t want to kill me, but Dominic did. ”

  He dumps some water on his hands and scrubs away the blood. “Okay, that’s one thing they don’t have in common. But the rest is all the same. ”

  My lips part as I start to speak, but he cuts me off.

  “What’s the matter?” He steps away, toward the hillside. “You’re not worried about me, are you? Because that would mean you care about me. ”

  I don’t say anything and he doesn’t expect me to. He turns his back on me and strolls for the crook of the hill. I shut my eyes and tip my head back, washing the blood and dirt from my face. Then I twist my hair up and run after him.

  “So after you manipulate the secrets out of Aiden,” Sylas fixates his gaze on the ground, “Then what?”

  “Depends on what he’s hiding. ” I pat my pocket. “Do you know how to read a map?”

  “I can figure it out. ” Sylas kicks a rock and it zooms across the land. “You know, we could just leave, go to the park, find this Cell 7 and see if it holds the answers to a cure. ”

  “I have to go to the cave first,” I say. “I need to know what he’s hiding before I can move on. ”

  “Why? Who cares if he is hiding something? We’re all hiding something, Juniper. ” He uses my second name to prove some underlining point.

  “I know,” I agree. “But I can’t explain it… it’s like I have to know because it’s a secret. It’s like it was what I was built to do…And besides, I need to get my memories back. ”

  “Even if we can figure it out without them?” he asks. “I mean, we figured out how to get to the tunnels without the aid of your brilliant mind. ”

  I stare at the sky, clouded with smoke. “I need to know about my life. Who I am—what I am. And why Monarch chose me. ”

  “Even if it’s painful to know?” He inquires. “Even if it means you have to see horrible things done by your own hands?”

  “Whatever it is, I need to know,” I convince myself and pause. “Besides, I want to check up on Maci. ”

  Sylas let out a laugh, shaking his head. “Oh, Kayla. ” He sighs. “When are you going to realize that things like that make you weak? You have to start worrying about yourself. You can only rely on yourself. ”

  “You and you alone, Kayla,” Monarch says. “That’s how it’s got to be in the end. ”

  “I do understand that,” I say. “More than you know. ”

  ***

  Ryder and Aiden are waiting for us on the other side of the hill. Aiden is bursting with anxiety and fear. When he spots us, these feelings only intensify.

  He frenzies up to me, confines my face between his hands, and inspects my scraped skin. “What happened to you?”

  I play it cool, placing my hands over his. “A vampire was hanging around in the entrance of the hillside. I thought it’d be good slaying practice, but things got a little ugly. ”

  He rubs his thumb across my face. “Why on earth are you trying to slay? You’re not a Bellator anymore. You’re human—you can die. ”

  “I understand that. ” I caress the sensitive spots between his fingers. “But I’m also the only one who can hunt them without being hunted. ”

  He shivers from my touch and releases my face, the lie he’s hiding is swelling in his body. “We should get going, before darkness falls. ”

  We walk the rest of the way in silence. Everyone pitter-patters through their troubles and fears. Ryder doesn’t want to give my memories back and wishes I was gone because she fears I’ll steal Aiden from her. Aiden fears I’ll discover a secret he’s withholding and frets I’ll never love him like I used to. And Sylas, well he worries the monster ripped out some of his hair. He’s fiddling with his hair, his hand under his hood, as he feels for a bald spot.

  I can’t help but laugh at his vain attitude. There’s just something about him that amuses me occasionally.

  As we weave around a long, smooth hill, the cave elevates into view. Rocks stack the path that leads us to the top and it takes a while to climb up it. Cedrix, Greyson, and Maci’s fears wait for me at the entrance; they’re scared of being alone, scared no one will come back, scared the world will end and they won’t have any warning.

  Aiden taps his fist on the fiery-red boulder shut over the entrance. “Greyson, open up! It’s us!”

  Greyson struggles to move the rock, the edges grinding and refusing to budge. Sylas steps up, rolling his eyes.

  “God, how do you guys survive?” He rotates the rock out of the way easily and it crashes to the side.

  I’m two steps inside when Maci runs up to me, her heart leaping with excitement. She throws her arms around my waist. “Kayla! You came back!”

  I pat the red-headed girl on the head. “Yeah, I came back. ”

  Sylas slides his hood off and watches me with amusement. “Is she your pet or something?”

  Maci blinks up at him and her eyes widen. “You’re the Angel. The one who tried to save us. But you were hurt. ”

  Sylas stares at her with curiosity. “Kid, I think you’re remembering it wrong. ”

  She shakes her head. “No, I’m not. And I’d give you a hug,” she smiles brightly, “but you won’t like it. ”

  Sylas’ lips quirks up. “You’re a smart girl. ”

  I kneel down to Maci’s eyelevel. “You’re okay, right? They’ve been taking good care of you?”

  She nods, her eyes lit with excitement. “I’m so glad you came back for me. I told Aiden that I knew you would come back, but that you needed his help. ”

  Sylas arches his eyebrow and I shrug. “Technically I did. I mean, we were looking for him. ”

  “You were looking for him,” Sylas points out. “I was just along for the ride. ”

  “What’s the Day Taker doing here?” Greyson intervenes from the shadowed nook of the cave. He sits on a crate, chiseling away at a long piece of wood. His red hair is sticking up and there are bags under his green eyes.

  Aiden shakes his head, trudges to the corner, and takes a drink from a water bottle. “He followed us here. ”

  “I didn’t follow you,” Sylas says, his hands in his pockets as he turns in a circle, taking in the low cave, the few sparse lanterns on the floor, and a stack of blankets at the back. “So this is where you live?”

  “This is not where we live,” Ryder
snaps, slouching in the corner and resting her head back exhaustedly. “This is where we are forced to live because someone ruined our old home. ”

  “Yeah, the hillside. ” He scratches the back of his neck. “I never understood the appeal of that place. ”

  “That’s because you were changing by the time we got there,” she sneers and looks at me. “Dominic said it was the quickest he’d ever seen anyone make the decision. ”

  “There wasn’t a decision to make,” Sylas says straightforwardly. “I had to do it. ”

  “No, you were just afraid of the consequences if you didn’t. ” Aiden picks up a tattered bag. “Some of us are willing to live with them. ”

  “Just you,” Sylas mutters to himself. “Brother. ”

  Cedrix emerges from the back of the cave, looking tired. His head nearly touches the ceiling, and his brown hair has grown out a little. He stretches his arms above his head, his one hand missing, something which he refers to as his freedom. His eyes take us in and his arms drop to his side.

  “What happened while I was out?” he asks and then he smiles at me. “You made it back. ”

  I nod, grinning a big plastic grin. Secrets swarm the over-crowded cave. “Yeah, I made it back. ”

  He picks up a lantern. “Who’s hungry? We don’t have much, but I can find something for… almost everyone. ” His eyes roam to Sylas.

  “Don’t worry about me,” Sylas tells him with a grind of his teeth. “I can handle getting food on my own. ”

  “I’m sure you can,” Greyson mutters and goes to a small stack of cans at the back of the cave. He rummages around, knocking over boxes, terrified that Sylas is going to eat him.

  “Wow, I can feel the love in here,” Sylas smirks, placing his hand over his heart.

  “They don’t hate you. ” Maci gently touches his hand. “They just fear you because you’re different and they don’t understand you. ”

  Sylas is alarmed by her touch and he tucks his hands in his pockets. “I’m sure that’s it,” he says sarcastically.

  Aiden hands me a bottle of water. “Here, you’ve got to be dying of thirst. ” He’s still suspicious that I’m a Day Taker, even if I look like crap.

  I take a swig and hand the bottle back to him. “Thanks. Um, can I talk to you for a second…in private?”

  He nods and tosses the bottle of water to Ryder. “Yeah, let’s step outside and take a little breather. ”

  “Try not to kill anyone while I’m gone,” I tell Sylas and duck out of the cave after Aiden.

  The sky is fading swiftly and the sand is deepening from gold to brown. Aiden sits on the side of the hill, with his legs dangling over the edge.

  He smoothes the wrinkles on his torn jeans. “So what’s up, Juniper? Did you bring me out here to tell me the real reason why you and Sylas showed up looking like crap?”