Darkness falls, p.22
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       Darkness Falls, p.22

         Part #1 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
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Page 22


  A long pause and the sound of the vampires’ shrieks is maddening, almost driving me to the point that I fling myself over the edge, ready to take them all on and see if I can make them scurry.

  But instead I whisper, “Can you get back up?”

  Moments tick by.

  “I think I’m stuck,” he finally hisses. “I caught on to the side of the rock before I hit the ground, but my foot is wedged between two rocks and it’s not budging. ”

  I squint through the dark. “I can’t see you. How far down are you?”

  “Not too far, I don’t think” he says, keeping his voice quiet. “Look to your left a little. ”

  I follow his instruction and spot him, not too far below, just like he said. But it’s too dark to see the situation he’s in, just how badly he’s stuck. I shuck off my jacket and bag, so it won’t make noise when I move. Then I scoot my feet over the edge, turn, and back down, praying that the vampires don’t spot me—or worse, spot him. Gradually, I maneuver my way down to him. Instantly, I realize that he’s in a much worse situation than he let on. He’s dangling upside down, blood rushing to his head, stealing circulation from his legs. The only thing that’s keeping him from nose-diving to the ground—to the vampires—is his leg, which is wedged awkwardly between a fracture in the rock.

  “Can you get yourself turned upward?” I ask, bracing myself on the rock beside him.

  He tries to lift himself up and moans in pain. “I think my leg might be broken. ”

  I shift my weight silently. “Broken?”

  “Yeah, bones broken,” he moans. “Never mind. I’ll explain later. Just help me get my leg unstuck. ”

  I scale up above him, positioning myself so that I can gently grab hold of his leg without falling to the ground. Warm liquid seeps through my fingers and drips down the back of my hand. “Are you bleeding?”

  He responds with a groan.

  “Why isn’t it healing?” I wonder.

  He only groans again and I rush to free his leg, knowing if the vampires smell the blood, they’ll turn him into one of them. And even I won’t be able to stop them all.

  “Okay, grab onto something,” I instruct, one hand on his bleeding leg, the other securing me from falling.

  Rocks tumble to the ground. “There’s nothing to hold onto. ”

  I extend my leg down to him. “Okay, so hold onto my leg. ”

  “Are you crazy?” He says. “I’ll yank you down with me. ”

  “You’re underestimating my strength,” I say, hoping I’m not overestimating it.

  A pause, then he gently takes my leg, his weak pulse beating through his fingertips. I inch my hand under his injured leg and carefully give it a soft tug. He yells out in pain and the sound carries for miles. This time I’m not as gentle. I yank on it and when it slips loose, the weight of him jolts me down. I clamber to snag my fingers onto the rock, my hands getting scraped raw as we tumble toward the ground.

  Just before we hit bottom, I manage to hitch my fingers onto a rough ledge. The force of the stop almost tears my body in half, my bones snapping, my muscles stretching. But I pull through, thrusting myself onto the ledge with every ounce of my strength, dragging Aiden up with me. He rolls onto his back, groaning.

  “Are you okay?” I whisper, rushing to his side.

  “I’m fine. ” He turns onto his stomach and glances over the ledge. “I think we’re fine. ”

  He’s lying. I lie down, staring up at the cliff, wondering how in the world I’m going to get him back up to the top. He crawls over to me and lies breathlessly beside me, so we’re head to head, arm to arm, leg to leg. I don’t ask him what he saw over the ledge or what we should do. Because I know all we can do is wait until morning.

  And hope none of them smell the blood before then.

  I’m still awake when the sky starts to shift from black to gray and then vampires start to flee for the caves, out of sight, out of mind, at least for now. The ash and smoke is growing thicker and seems to be traveling from the direction we’re heading, so that means the city has to be getting closer. Aiden’s fast asleep, curled up, his head resting on my lap. He’s not afraid of dying, but afraid I’m already dead. But his fear is twisted because his heart rate is steadily decreasing with every passing minute and his leg is bleeding, his skin turning a ghastly shade of white. I’ve been watching him for a while, waiting for the wound to heal. Whenever someone is hurt, they heal within a few minutes. So why isn’t he healing? I think about how exhausted he was while we were running and worry there might be something wrong with him.

  “Aiden. ” I give him a soft shake. “Can you hear me? Are you awake?”

  His eyelids flutter open, honey eyes glossed with pain, lips dry and cracked, voice nothing but air.

  “Why aren’t you healing?” I ask. “Your leg—it’s still bleeding. ”

  His eyes roll shut and he wraps his arms around him. “Because I’m human,” he mutters.

  “Everyone’s human. ” I trace my fingers along the rim of his wound. “And we’re supposed to heal on our own. ”

  “Not always. ” He lets out a sigh. “The only reason I ever did before was because of The Colony … they pump us up with a bunch of this medicine crap that accelerates the healing process. ”

  “I don’t remember this,” I tell him, brushing back his hair from his forehead. His skin’s beading with sweat and I wonder if the pain is making him delusional.

  “It was done daily,” he answers, squirming and wincing. “At least to anyone who was a Bellator. ”

  My daily injection. “I thought that was only done to me—and that I’d die without it. ”

  “You might have,” he murmurs. “If you’d gotten hurt bad enough. ” Then he stills, soft breathing as his heart fails.

  I think about my shots. Every day Monarch would give them to me, saying it was saving my life. Which it was, I guess, but then why did he stop? Why did he skip the shot right before The Gathering?

  I glance down at my arm, blood pumping strong, skin free of cuts even after the horrific fall. Medicine remains in the bloodstream for a certain amount of time, but is my blood still concentrated enough to save Aiden? Probably not, but I have to try.

  I adjust my weight, carefully sliding Aiden’s head off my lap and onto the ground. He winces from the firmness but doesn’t’ wake. I wipe my hands on my torn jeans and start up the rock, my body waking up the higher I climb.

  When I reach the top, I grab my jacket and backpack and quickly put them on. Then I scrabble back down to Aiden. He doesn’t stir when I kneel beside his head, but his heart still thrums, so I have some time. Removing a syringe from the bag and crossing my fingers that this will work, I bite the lid of the needle off and stab it into my forearm. Once it’s full of my blood, I pull out the needle and watch my skin stitch itself up. This boosts my hopes that it’ll work. I move the knife to Aiden’s leg and inject it right above his wound. Then I wait for my blood to pump through his blood, hoping it works, but not expecting—I never expect anything. Slowly, but surely, the bloody hole on his leg starts to shrink as the skin cells and muscles rebuild and reconnect. Once the skin has sewn back together, the rhythm of his heart becomes sturdier—stronger. His eyes open and I know that he’s going to be all right.

  I breathe relief, relaxing back and letting him sit up.

  He stares through the slash in his jeans, at his skin, where the wound has healed, but the stain of blood still remains. “What’d you do to me?” He says it like he’s angry and I don’t understand.

  “My blood was still carrying the healing medicine, so I injected some of it into you,” I explain. “But why do you sound upset. ”

  He shakes his head and touches the tip of his finger to the bottom of his eye, running it down his cheek.

  “Where’d it go?” I ask, noticing the white line’s missing—his freedom.

  He doesn’t answer, getting to his feet and stretching
out his legs and arms. “We should get going. If we hurry, we may still be able to reach the outskirts of the city before nightfall. ” And without saying anything else, he starts down the rock.

  It’s not that far of a fall, so I opt to jump and wait for him at the bottom. Then we set across the desert, the soft breeze blowing around as neither one of us utters a word. I don’t mind the silence, but the fear lashing off of him eats away at me. He’s afraid of turning into me. I don’t understand.

  “Are you mad at me?” I ask. “For saving you?”

  He gives me a confounding look. “Why would I be mad at you for saving me?”

  “I don’t know,” I say. “That’s why I’m asking you. ”

  He sighs, kicking at the rocks. “You’re misinterpreting my fear, Juniper. I’m not afraid of turning out like you. I’m afraid of turning back into one of them. ”

  “One of who?”

  “A Bellator,” he says. “It took forever for all that medicine to clear out of my system, so I could be free and human again. ”

  “I’m human,” I say. When he doesn’t say anything, I continue, “I’m human, just as much as you are. ” I pause. “You should have told me about the healing thing before. Why didn’t you?”

  “For the same reason you don’t share everything with me,” he challenges. “Tell me Kayla, what did you see in the memories—what had you so afraid?”

  I blink the red away. “Nothing I want to talk about. ”

  “Why?’ He asks a simple question and yet I can’t answer. “Because you’re afraid of it?”

  “No, because I just can’t. ” The truth is, I’m not really sure what’s stopping me: my initial reaction to lie and keep things to myself or that the fact that what I saw does scare me.

  He scratches at his eye, where the white line used to be.

  “What was it?” I reach out, letting my fingers brush his cheek.

  His heart rushes with my touch. “It’s what happens when you’re not doped up on medicine … and it’s also called as a scar. It’s what’s left over when a deep injury has to heal on its own. And I liked it there. It reminded me of how fake my life used to be, when I was controlled by the Highers. And how I never want to go back to that again. ”

  I tug my hand away and fold my arms, shivering at the reminder of what Dominic thought I was. And what if it turns out that I am—the thing that he and I hate the most?

  Then what?

  Chapter 29

  When the twisted metal buildings of the city finally peak over the horizon, I feel a small weight lifted from my shoulders. Judging from the distance, we should be able to make it there before darkness completely sets in. The smoke rises, twisting up to the sky and polluting the air with ash and debris.

  “Should we run the rest of the way?” Aiden asks.

  I eye his leg, jeans torn, but the skin as smooth as porcelain. “Do you think you can?”

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