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The fallen star (fallen.., p.20
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       The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series, Book 1), p.20

           Jessica Sorensen
 
When we were back inside, Alex informed us that he hadn’t been able to get a hold of anyone, which I found odd. I mean, how was it that three people wouldn’t be answering their phones at the exact same time? It couldn’t just be coincidental. There had to be more to it. And by the way Alex looked—all stressed out and confused—I was guessing he felt the same way as I did.

  I sat down at the table and watched Alex pace back and forth across the room. He continued to do so for awhile, not saying anything, and I was starting to grow restless. The silence was driving me nuts.

  Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to take matters into my own hands. “So, what are we supposed to do now?”

  Aislin, who had parked herself in the chair across from me, was tapping her cell phone anxiously on her knee—apparently, no one could sit still. “We try to find them.”

  Alex stopped pacing and shook his head. “That’s easier said than done.”

  “I’m just trying to help,” she said. “There’s no need to be rude.”

  “Did you two ever consider that maybe they don’t want you to get a hold of them?” Laylen asked.

  Alex tossed his phone down on the table. “Laylen, whatever it is you’re trying to say, just say it.”

  Laylen crossed his arms and leaned back against one of the bookshelves, the muscles of his arms flexing beneath his shirt. I had to admit, the guy was cute. I wonder if it had anything to do with him being a vampire. Vampires were supposed to be cut, weren’t they? Then again, Alex was the same way, so maybe it was a Keeper thing—being perfectly built. Because, trust me, that’s what they both were.

  My gaze wandered over to Alex. The sleeves of his long sleeve grey shirt were pushed up, the muscles of his forearms visible. I wondered what it would feel like to have those arms wrapped around me.

  Suddenly I realized Alex was staring at me. Why was he staring at me? Because I was staring at him. He cocked an eyebrow and gave me a curious look.

  I quickly looked away. I was such an idiot. Here I was, in the middle of a chaotic mess, my life in danger, and all I could do was stare at Alex’s muscles.

  “You want to know what I think?” Laylen said. “I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that Stephan, Marco, and Sophia are all unreachable at the exact time all hell breaks loose. There’s got to be more to it than that.” He moved away from the shelf and walked over to Alex. “For all we know, they could be working with Demetrius and the Death Walkers.”

  “Why would they be working with the Death Walkers?” I asked.

  “Gemma, just ignore him,” Alex said, glaring at Laylen.

  “Why should I?” I asked. “From what I know, there are two liars in this room. And he’s not one of them.”

  Laylen pressed his lips together to hold back a grin. Aislin frowned, looking hurt. And Alex sauntered over toward me, a cynical smile on his face as he leaned across the table and looked me right in the eyes. He kept his voice low, making my body hum. “I’m not sure what’s bringing on this new attitude of yours, but you know what? I think I kind of like it. It makes things more interesting.”

  He was mocking me. I got that. But I couldn’t seem to think of anything to throw back at him. My brain had spaced out on me.

  Stupid brain.

  He backed away from the table, looking disappointed.

  “Maybe we should go back to Afton and check up on things,” Aislin suggested. “There might be something back at the house that could help us figure out where they are.”

  Alex stared at her, dumfounded. “Are you crazy? There’s no way we’re taking Gemma back there. It’s too dangerous.”

  “What? Am I never going back there?” I sounded upset. But I don’t know why. Escaping the snowy mountains was what I always wanted. But I never pictured I would have to leave because my life was in danger.

  “You can’t go back. Not when the Death Walkers know what you are.” He arched an eyebrow at me. “Does that upset you or something?”

  I considered this, thinking about going back to the mountains, to the snow, to living with Marco and Sophia. I shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess not, but where am I going to go?”

  Alex dragged his fingers through his dark brown hair. “That’s a question only Stephan can answer.”

  What was it about this Stephan? And why could he make decisions about my life?

  “I don’t think—” I started.

  Alex talked over me. “We need to get a hold of them.” He picked up his cell phone and checked the screen. “Otherwise we’re lost.”

  “Well…” Aislin tapped her phone against her chin. “What we could do is leave Gemma with Laylen while you and I go back.”

  Alex scowled at her. “There’s no way in hell I’m leaving her alone with him.”

  Laylen laughed, but it was a laugh underlined with hurt. “What? Am I not even considered a person anymore?”

  Alex’s pause lasted one second too long. I could feel the tension bubbling, about to erupt.

  “That’s not what I was trying to say,” Alex said unconvincingly. “I’m just worried that something might happen while I’m gone, and you won’t be able to protect her.”

  Laylen rolled his eyes. “That’s a bunch of crap. I’m just as capable of protecting her as you are, and you know it. You just don’t trust me.” They stared at one another like two angry dogs about to break out in a fight. Then, to make things worse, Laylen added, “I just might be even more capable than you.”

  For a second I thought they might kill each other. I had the feeling that there was more to their fight than what was being said. Like maybe something had happened in the past. I mean, there had to be more to their little argument than who was more qualified to protect me. If they did end up fighting, considering Laylen was a vampire I would guess the odds were in his favor. As much as Alex had pissed me off, I really didn’t want to watch him get hurt. Plus, it would have been a great tragedy for that gorgeous face of his to get messed up.

  I looked at Aislin, hoping she would do something to stop it. But she was chewing on a strand of her hair, staring down at the table.

  I guess I was on my own.

  “So, do I not get a say in any of this?” I said in a voice loud enough to break the tension.

  Laylen and Alex tore their eyes away from one another, and I had to hover back from the burning anger in their faces. Losing some of my confidence, my voice quieted a little. “It’s my life, so I think I should have some say in this.”

  ”No,” Alex said. “You don’t get a say in any of this.”

  My anger boiled. So this was how it was going to be from now on? I wouldn’t get a say in anything? I clenched my hands into fists, almost regretting that I had interrupted the fight between Laylen and him.

  Shrugging off my death stare, Alex turned to Aislin. “Can you get us to Afton and back quickly?”

  She raised her chin with confidence. “Of course I can.”

  “Then fine. We’ll leave her here with Laylen.” He aimed his finger at Laylen. “But if anything happens to her, it’s on you.”

  Laylen rolled his eyes. “Nothing’s going to happen to her.”

  “I’ll believe that when I see it,” Alex said.

  Another eye roll from Laylen. “Thanks for the confidence.”

  “I have to go back into the library and grab my candle and crystal,” Aislin announced. “Then we can go.”

  I cocked my head to the side. “Crystal? What crystal?”

  “The one I used on the bus to transport us here,” she explained. “It's how I’m going to get us back to Afton.”

  “Oh.” I remembered; the purple amethyst, the burning candle, and the glowing yellow eyes. I shivered.

  She started to get to her feet, but then dropped back down in the chair, smacking her hand on her forehead. “Crap! Crap! Crap! I completely forgot that the Death Walkers’ ice ruined it. We were lucky just to make it here.”

  “There’s no way you can do it without a cryst
al?” Alex asked.

  “No.” She wrapped a strand of her hair around her finger, thinking. “Well, there are other ways, but I haven’t learned how to do them yet.”

  The room grew silent, except for the cracking sound Alex’s knuckles made as he popped them.

  Laylen twisted his lip ring from side to side. “What kind of crystal is it?”

  “It’s the one that looks like an amethyst.” She propped her elbow on the table and let her chin fall into her hand. “Now what are we going to do?”

  “Is it a Vectum Crystal?” Laylen asked.

  Aislin raised her chin out of her hand, a hopeful expression on her face. “Do you have one?”

  “No, but I know where we can get one.” He gestured over his shoulder at the window. “There’s this place in Vegas that sells things like that. I bet they have one.”

  Alex shook his head. “There is no way we’re taking Gemma into Vegas. It’s way too dangerous.”

  “So I can’t go to Vegas. And I can’t go home,” I said, counting down on my fingers. “Is there anywhere I can go?”

  “Not really.”

  I glared at him, but he didn’t even so much as blink. He placed his hands on the table, leaned toward me, and spoke in a low voice that made my body hum. “Do you have to argue about everything?”

  I ignored the flutter my heart did. “Maybe.”

  “Alex, can we please just go get the crystal and get this taken care of?” Aislin begged. “Sitting here and arguing about it isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

  He shook his head, his green eyes fixed solely on me. “I said it’s too dangerous for Gemma to go.”

  I took an exasperated breath. “Please stop say—”

  He placed his hand across my mouth. My lips sparkled underneath his warm, electric skin. God, it felt good. Mind numbingly good. I was supposed to be mad at him…wasn’t I?

  “It’s too dangerous.” His voice flowed out like velvet.

  For a brief second, I had this really strange thought. What if things were different? What if he wasn’t a Keeper and I wasn’t carrying a world saving star inside me? What if we had met under normal circumstances? What if I was allowed to have those kinds of feelings for him? The ones I was feeling right now, but knew I wasn’t supposed to be feeling. Would things have been different between us? Maybe. Or maybe I would have been just a silly girl with a crush that ended up with a broken heart. Alex really did seem like the heartbreaking type.

  Blinking myself back to reality, I shoved his hand away from my mouth. He looked momentarily stunned, blinking a few times like he was just waking up from a dream.

  “Alex, going into Vegas isn’t any more dangerous than sitting around here,” Laylen pointed out. “In fact, we’ll be on the move, so it might be safer.”

  Alex backed away from the table and turned to Laylen. “Are you sure about that?”

  Laylen shook his head and sighed. “Look, this place is very low key. We’ll go straight there and straight back. Trust me, there won’t be any problems.”

  Alex deliberated this. “You promise you won’t try to make any other stops? Just straight there and straight back?”

  Laylen stared at him incredulously. “Are you kidding me? Where else is it that you think I’m going to try and take us? McDonalds? Walmart? Oh, wait a minute, I do need to make a quick stop by the cemetery.”

  Trying to choke back a laugh, I ended up letting out a snort. I had to give the guy props. He was pretty funny.

  Alex shot me a dirty look. “What? You think this is funny?”

  I choked back another laugh, luckily without snorting this time, and shook my head.

  Laylen did laugh, though. And Aislin sighed, dropping her head down on the table in an I-am-so-over-this way.

  “Well, I’m glad you two find this so funny.” Alex grabbed the back of a chair, his gaze pressing into me. “Don’t underestimate the Death Walkers, Gemma. They will kill you if they get the chance.”

  I swallowed the huge lump that had wiggled its way up my throat. A blanket of fear wrapped its way around my body. He was right. It wasn’t funny.

  “Alex, knock it off,” Aislin warned. “You’re scaring her.”

  “Good,” he said. “She should be scared.”

  After that, all arguments came to a halt. The decision to go to Vegas was made with the stipulation that there would be no stopping except to get the crystal.

  Because of the whole glass-stabbing-into-my-side thing, Ailsin insisted I needed to change before we left. Apparently, there was no way I could go anywhere with blood all over my shirt. It was a fairly small spot, but whatever. I was tired of arguing.

  I guess Alex and Aislin used to make frequent visits to Laylen’s house, and Aislin had a room packed with a bunch of her stuff, including clothes. I was skeptical about wearing anything that belonged to Aislin. I mean, her whole wardrobe was so…pink. But right now, I guess fashion wasn’t important.

  Then again, was it ever?

  The room she took me back to looked just like a normal girl’s room should look; pink floral wallpaper, rose colored carpet, a white four post bed covered with tons of fluffy pillows.

  Aislin marched up to an armoire in the corner and threw open the doors. “The only problem is you’re about five inches taller than me,” she said, assessing the selection of clothes hanging up. “But I guess we’ll just have to make something work.”

  I dropped down on the bed. “So, you guys used to come here a lot?”

  She took out a pink t-shirt and tossed it on the bed beside me. “Yeah, this house actually used to belong to Laylen’s parents, and we used to come up here to take a break from everything.” She threw a glittery scarf onto the bed. A scarf? We were in the desert, for crying out loud. “Things change though.” She sighed, staring down at the pair of jeans she was holding in her hand. “We haven’t been up here in a really long time.”

  There was such sadness in the way she said it, and it made me wonder why they stopped coming up here. But I didn’t ask.

  She started rummaging through the clothes again, every once in awhile tossing something onto the bed. Covering the walls was an array of photos. I got up and walked around, looking at them. One in particular caught my attention. It was of Laylen, standing out in the desert, his arm wrapped around Aislin’s shoulder in an affectionate way that gave the impression they might have been a couple once. Next to Laylen stood Alex, and cuddling next to him was a pretty blonde-haired girl. All of them were smiling. They looked so happy. It made my heart hurt a little. Happy. Had I ever been happy?

  “That was taken a couple of years ago,” Ailsin said.

  I tore my eyes off the photo and found her watching me.

  “I think I was about fourteen or so,” she said. “So about five years ago.”

  I did the math and something didn’t add up. “Wait. How old are you?”

  “Nineteen.” She tossed a skirt onto the bed. “Alex is actually twenty. We lied about our ages so we could enroll in school.”

  “Oh.” The saying liar, liar, pants on fire ran through my head. Even something as simple as their age was a lie. It made me question how many more lies I was in store for. “What about Laylen? How old is he?”

  “Well, he would’ve been twenty-two, but after he got…um….” She trailed off and then shook her head. But I knew what she was going to say: before he was bitten. “But yeah, he’s stuck at nineteen now, so...” She tossed a shirt onto the bed, then came over and stared down at the pile of clothes with a look of sheer determination on her face. “Okay, let’s see if any of these fit you.”

  Spotting a black t-shirt at the top of the pile, I snatched it up immediately.

  Aislin sighed. “Gemma, would it kill you to wear colors that aren’t so depressing?”

  “It might.”

  She sighed again. “Fine. But could you at least wear a skirt or something?”

  I shook my head. “I hate skirts.”

&nbs
p; “You know, when you were little, you used to run around in dresses all the time.”

  I stared at her, confused. “I don’t remember this.”

  Her bright green eyes went wide. She just said something she wasn’t supposed to.

  “What?” I asked. “What is it?”

  “Nothing.” She quickly shook her head. “It’s nothing.” She started to search through the pile of clothes again.

  “It’s something.” I stood up, hugging the black t-shirt to my chest. “Whatever it is, you need to tell me. It’s not fair that—”

  She cut me off, shoving a pair of denim shorts at me. “Gemma. Please just drop it.”

  “How do you expect me to—?”

  “Please,” she said in a quiet but firm voice.

  I grinded my teeth and snatched the pair of shorts out of her hand. “Fine.” I turned for the door. “Where should I change?”

  “There’s a bathroom down the hallway. It’s the third door on the right.”