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Darkness falls (darkness.., p.20
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       Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls, Book 1), p.20

           Jessica Sorensen
 
Chapter 19

  “Feeling better?” he asks me.

  I nod, setting the cup on the table.

  We’re out in the main room, the one everyone crowds. When we first came in, I endured a lot of stares. Aiden says it’s because I’m new and they’ll get over it eventually.

  “You know we all saw things we didn’t want to see,” Aiden calls to me over the crowd.

  I nod, taking a sip of the cherry red drink that tastes sweeter than anything else that’s ever touched my lips.

  “But you’ll get over it and learn to move on,” he adds and then pauses. “Do you want to talk about it?”

  I shake my head, staring into the cup. “Why did I scratch my arms like that?”

  “I don’t know.” And he really doesn’t. “But don’t worry. It’ll get easier. Everything does.”

  I give him a fake smile from across the table.

  “Don’t do that.” He frowns. “Don’t put up a wall.”

  “I’m not.” I lie.

  Abruptly, he’s on his feet and leading me to a dark corner, away from the ears of everyone.

  “Are you sure you want to talk about it?” he asks softly. “Maybe I can help you deal with it.”

  “You could help by telling me some things about me,” I suggest, not wanting to taste the potent taste of the clear liquid ever again.

  He shakes his head, his dark bangs falling into his eyes. “If I did, then you might not remember things at all. It’s how it works. If I tell you stuff that I know it could interfere with the things you know.”

  “Oh.” I frown at my cup.

  “Kayla,” he says. “Whatever you saw—no matter how bad it is—there’s still good things. I promise.” His honey eyes sparkle in the faint light. He leans in, his lips so close and his breath tickles my ear. “I can’t talk about it with you, but can I suggest that maybe next time you should be thinking of me before you go under.”

  I lean back, exploring his eyes, wondering just how good of friends we were back inside The Colony.

  “It’ll get better.” He winks at me. “Juniper.”

  The sound of my nickname rolling off his tongue causes my body to shiver. “Do I frighten you?”

  His expression twists in confusion. “What?”

  My grip tightens around the cup. “Do you ever think I’ll hurt you?”

  He spits out his drink, red liquid splattering all over the floor and dirt walls. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Frighten me? Are you joking?”

  “So I take it that’s a no?” I take another sip of my drink, slowly, breathing in the sweet scent, trying to forget all the blood I saw all over my hands.

  He sets his cup down on a chair and wipes his hands on his jeans. “Yeah, that’s a no.”

  “Has anyone ever remembered things wrong?” I ask. “Or have they not understood what they were seeing?”

  He has no idea what I’m talking about. “I don’t think so.”

  I’m yanked back to my lying ways, not wanting to reveal what I saw—not wanting him to know I’m different. “Never mind.” I glance around, avoiding his questioning gaze. “So what do we do now? Just wait until morning then go back to the hillside? I’m really eager to check up on Maci.”

  “Maci’s fine,” he says, his gaze burning into the back of my head. “And we need to go see Cedrix before we leave.”

  “And when will that be?”

  “He’ll let us know when he’s ready.” He pauses, sliding his hand across the table and entwining our fingers. “I have an idea.” He lifts me to my feet and leads me across the room. I still carry my cup, some of it spilling on the floor. This time instead of going up, we go down, taking a flight of stairs that dips us deeper underground. The air is heavier and damper, but it’s far enough that it shuts away the noise and fear pulsating from people and my head feels clearer.

  “Who built this place?” I ask as we wind down the long, narrow tunnel lit up by the same lanterns as the hillside.

  He lets go of my hand, but only to pick up a lantern. “I think it was originally an old shelter where people hid from the vampires when the disease first started to spread.”

  “How did it end up empty?” I wonder. “Did they all die?”

  He shrugs, his head bumping the ceiling and he brushes the dirt from his hair. “The first Gathering members made it bigger and turned it into all this.” He gestures at the walls and ground.

  “So who built your place then?” I ask.

  “It was just there,” he says. “There are actually a lot of places like that burrowed into the hillsides and I’m sure they’ll start to fill up with more ex-colony members the more time goes by.”

  The tunnel opens into a small, rounded room. The floor is carved with brick and the walls with rocks, which have chains twisting from them. Lanterns swing from ceiling, giving the room an eerie glow.

  “What is this room used for?” I jingle one of the chains. “To lock people up after you stab them in the neck with a needle.”

  He walks around the edge of the room, touching the chains as he passes them. “I already told you, I didn’t stab you in the neck with a needle.”

  I touch the spot on my neck where the needle sunk in. “Yeah, you never did explain what happened. Or why I blacked out.” I pause. “You didn’t dope me up with that radieră, did you?”

  He shakes his head, fiddling with the chain. “We don’t dope people up with radieră here.”

  “You say it like you use something else.” I set the cup on the ground, spouts of lightheadedness rushing through me. “Do you dope them up with some else?” I inch toward him, not even sure what I’m doing “Tell me what you’re hiding,” I whisper in his ear, running my hands through his hair. “What’d you stab me in the neck with?”

  His heart rate speeds up and shortly after, his breath matches it. He’s scared of losing me, scared that I’ll stop touching him, but at the same time is scared that I am.

  I start to pull away, but he catches my hands. “Don’t,” he breathes in my ear, the sound of his voice quivering down my spine. His eyes are a blur, his lips melting. Then he brushes them against my neck and I shiver, understanding what Nina was talking about. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I melt my body into his, wanting to be closer to him.

  “Juniper.” His voice is hoarse and I love that it is. His lips touch my cheek.

  I stop breathing. Or was I even breathing to being with. Who am I really? Then the walls start to bleed and that’s when I know, none of this is real.

  “What’s happening to me?” My voice droops.

  “I’m sorry.” His voice fades like my mind. I try to move back, but he stops me.

  “You put something in that drink,” I murmur. “Didn’t you?” His silence is the only answer I need. “You told me I could trust you.” My voice falls away from my lips as my limbs grow heavy.

  He catches me, preventing me from slamming into the floor. “I’m sorry,” he says again as the lanterns flickers in and out of focus. “But we have to know. We just have to.”