Darkness breaks, p.23
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       Darkness Breaks, p.23

         Part #2 of Darkness Falls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 23

 

  “Oh yes, and you. ” His eyes dagger at Sylas. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. The one who kept sneaking into my Colony, thinking he was invincible, when you aren’t even supposed to be alive. ” There’s a shift in Gabrielle’s eyes and it’s the same look I wore when I killed the girl. Fangs slip from his lips and his eyes glimmer red.

  Sylas’ eyes widen and he leaps back, shocked. “What are you…”

  The Higher moves without a sound and stabs his teeth into Sylas’ neck. Blood soaks Sylas’ neck, shirt, and arms. He stumbles back, blood pouring all over his body.

  Gabrielle backs away and dabs the blood from his lips. An eruption of anger consumes me and I launch for him. For a moment, he’s afraid. But when I hit the end of the chains, I’m jolted back and the metal punctures my skin. Gabrielle vanishes beneath the archway and the fire roars higher. Aiden jumps back to avoid being burned.

  “Do you have the key to the cuffs?” I ask hastily. “Aiden please tell me you have the key. ”

  He coughs coarsely as the smoke infests his lungs. “I’m so sorry, Juniper. ”

  A line of fire blazes across the cave. Sylas huddles back, protecting his bitten neck, hacking from the smoke. “Well, somebody better do something, or we’re all screwed. ”

  Aiden takes my hand, his skin hot and sweaty. “I’m so sorry,” he whispers again. “This is all my fault. ”

  “Quit saying you’re sorry and do something!” I yell, wrenching my hand from his. “Don’t just give up!”

  He looks at me like I’ve slapped him. I shake my head and whirl toward the wall. Winding the chains up my arms, I force them taut. I put one foot on the cave wall and plant the other on the ground. I close my eyes, calming my heart, and pull with all my might. The metal slashes my skin and every muscle in my body protests against the heat. I jerk harder.

  “Come on,” I whisper. “Please. ” Blood is dripping everywhere, but the cave wall starts to surrender. I skid back a little as the hooks begin to give, finally breaking from the wall. The force of their release sends me backward. I plummet on my back and the flames singe my hair. The chains and cuffs are still attached to my arms and when I stand, they drag across the ground. Aiden’s at my side and directs me for the archway. But I shrug him off and back to the wall, eyes targeted on the flames.

  “Kayla,” Aiden runs for me. “Don’t. ”

  “Just get the others out!”

  He reaches for me, but I sprint for the fire and spring on my toes. As I fly through the air, with heat melting my shoes, I tell myself I’m not afraid of death. I’m afraid of living with the heavy burdens of the “what if’s?”

  What if I would have gone home that day? What if Monarch didn’t choose me? What if I walked away and I let Sylas burn? The last one I won’t live with.

  I land with a heavy thud and roll my ankle. Shaking off the pain, I shield my eyes and feel my way to him through the smoke. “Sylas!” I cough.

  He’s right in front of me. “That was a stupid move,” he jokes. “You should have just left. It’s what I would have done,” he lies.

  I grab hold of his chains, the links scorching hot. “Just shut up and help me. ”

  He takes the other chain, breathing through his nose as the silver dissolves his skin. We both throw our weight into it. Our skin beads with sweat and flames crackle at our backs. The silver creaks, swaying and bending, before the links snap just below the cuffs. We’re flung backward, landing near the flames. Sylas’ sleeve catches on fire and he rolls in the dirt until it burns out.

  He struggles to his feet, the small amount of silver on his wrists draining his energy. I put his arm around my neck and duck my head down as I head for the archway. The whole room ignites behind us and the smoke chases us into the next room. Everything’s clouded, but I hear coughing and panicked voices.

  “Where are you guys!” I scream, shaking off the potency of their fears.

  “Kayla. ” Maci’s hand slips into mine. “We can’t get out. The rock’s in the way. ”

  Sylas’ feet slip from under him and he flops to the ground, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.

  “Stay with him,” I tell Maci. I weave through the smoke, searching for the exit. When I reach it, Aiden, Cedrix, and Greyson are there, pushing with all their strength. Greyson carries a long silver-bladed sword with a razor-sharp tip. I briefly think of the damage I could have caused to Gabrielle, if I was the fighter I used to be. I squeeze between Cedrix and Aiden, who fears I’ll never forgive him for this.

  “It’s not your fault,” I tell him. “Now quit worrying about whether or not I’m mad at you and push. ”

  It relieves some of the pressure he’s feeling, and that’s exactly what we need—it will make him stronger.

  “On the count of three,” Greyson hollers. He turns his head to his shoulder and coughs. “One, two, three!”

  We shove, but the massive rock doesn’t dislodge, scrapping our hands bare.

  “He was really trying to keep us in here,” Greyson remarks, with a nervous laugh as he peeks back at the fire and smoke. “I don’t think this rock’s going anywhere. ”

  I glance over my shoulder. The flames are scorching almost every inch of the cave. I rub my eyes from the sting of the smoke.

  “Push again,” I order, refusing to give up.

  They press their hands against the rock, with a heavy amount of hopelessness pumping through their bodies. We shove hard, faces growing red, joints popping, and Cedrix slips to the floor. He turns over and leans against the rock.

  “Sometimes you have to accept the inevitable,” he says to no one in particular.

  “Like hell I will. ” I crash my shoulder into the rock repeatedly. My skin bruises and welts. “Damn it!”

  Aiden touches my arm, trying to turn me to him. “Kayla, stop. You’re only hurting yourself. ”

  I shuck him off and ram my body into the rock. I slip in the dirt and give the rock a hard kick. I want to cry, but I won’t. It’s not my time to go yet. I still have to save the world.

  A hand extends above me. “Need help?” Sylas asks with hilarity, which is completely unfitting for the situation.

  I take his hand and let him pull me up. He’s weak, but refuses to let it get the best of him.

  “On the count of three?” he asks with a cock of his eyebrow.

  I nod and rest my hands against the rock.

  “One, two, three,” he says and gives it everything he has left in him.

  My feet lose traction against the dirt as I push on the boulder with more strength than I own. Cedrix, Greyson, and Aiden join in. Even Maci throws her best effort into it. The whole cave is about to erupt in flames when the rock finally glides, jarring our bodies forward. It builds us with enough hope that it reboots our adrenaline and we thrust it the rest of the way. It crashes down the hill. Rocks shoot in the air and a cloud of dust and smoke flares behind. We barrel out, hacking, coughing, and falling to the rocky ground.

  I sink to my knees, inhaling the fresh air. My skin is charred with ash and chains dangle from my wrists. But relaxation mellows my body. We made it. We all survived.

  My eyes sting when I look up, but not because of the smoke. Because darkness has fell and vampires have taken over the night.

  Chapter 18

  Maci screams. The noise shockwaves through the night and instigates mayhem amongst the vampires. Their eyes dart to the hill and their mouths salivate. With Sylas hurt and the rest of us spent, we are easy prey.

  “Well, if they didn’t know we were here before,” Sylas says, dropping to the side of me, “they sure as hell do now. ”

  Maci’s fear blasts me brutally and I falter to the rocks, splitting my palm open. Cupping the blood in my hand, I glance at the cave engulfed in flames. My eyes rise to the top of the cliff, the only way to go.

  “We have to climb up!” I shout. My feet blunder against the rocks as I take Maci’s hand.


  She coughs and clutches on as we head to the top. Sylas lags behind us, desperately trying to break the silver cuffs from his wrists. Cedrix struggles to brace his weight at the hill’s sharp incline, which slopes even steeper at the top.

  I pause, taking in the severity of the situation. Then I let go of Maci’s hand. “Keep going,” I tell her. “Follow Sylas to the top. ”

  Sylas freezes, sucking on his burnt finger “What are you going to do?”

  “Just keep going,” I say and face the bottom.

  Aiden and Greyson are just to my left. Greyson grasps the sword as he fights to walk up the rocks. Aiden starts for me, but I shake my head. He needs to stop trying to save me, whether it be from the decisions I make or from the vampires.

  I point my finger to the top of the cliffs, my eyes pressing. “Keep going. ”

  He slows down, shaking his head. “Don’t even think about it. You’ve got blood all over you. ”

  “I’ll be fine,” I say. “I’m immune. Remember?”

  His eyes plead for me to stay, but when he realizes this isn’t going to happen, he steals the sword from Greyson. Hesitating briefly, he tosses it to me. I extend my arm out and catch it. But I lose my balance, step on the chains, and trip. I tumble down the hill, hit mid-center and flip forward, summersaulting toward the bottom. Rocks stab at my knees. I stick my feet out, digging my boots into the dirt. I skid to a rough stop and let out a groan.

  Blood oozes from my knees and hands, but when I look back at the hill, I feel satisfied in a strange way. Everyone is still climbing up and that’s what I want.

  An eerie feeling consumes me as I take in how many there are.

  “This isn’t going to end well, is it?” I say to myself, twirling the blade awkwardly in my hands.

  The vampires half-circle me. They inhale my scent and it drives them mad. Their heads shake frenetically as they determine whether to run, or eat me. Then their eyes bleed and I have my answer. They stalk inward, some roaming to the back. I turn in a circle, towing the chains, and holding the blade out. An average height vampire, with thin lips and large beady eyes, leans forward to get a whiff of me. I bring the knife down on him, but his arm shoots up and blocks it effortlessly. It tips its scabbed chin back and howls at the smoky sky. The others follow, spitting blood and saliva all over my boots.

  Then they charge. I switch the sword around, my movements lethargic and sloppy. I keep faltering over the chains. The blade nicks a chunk of skin off a vampire without a nose. I’m about to internally celebrate when one sinks its teeth into my neck. My hand shoots to the bite and I hunch over, grunting from the burn. It spits my blood back out like it’s potent. But vampires are not bright creatures and it bores its fangs into my neck again and again. I’m taken down in a sea of fleshless beasts that reek of death. I grip my sword tightly, attempting to stab anything that moves as bite marks cover my skin. Their weight becomes too much and I feel my bones breaking.

  Dizziness incapacitates me. So this is how I die? Smashed and bitten to death by vampires? It’s not how I pictured it. Through a small gap, I see the sky and wish I could have seen the stars just once. Perhaps, in one of my memories I do.