The lost soul, p.25
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       The Lost Soul, p.25

         Part #1 of Fallen Souls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 25

 

  He dips his lips next to my ear. “You’re really beautiful. You shouldn’t hide it. ”

  Nicholas watches us uncomfortably from the entryway. “He’s acting really weird. ”

  I consider Laylen’s behavior, and a strange tingling feeling kisses my skin. I squirm away from him. “He’s right, though. I do look like crap all the time. ” I wedge past a stupefied Nicholas. “Hold on. I think I’m going to go change first before we go. ”

  I march to my room and throw open my closet. In a nutshell, my clothes are a lost cause. But I make do; taking out a pair of denim shorts and a sleeveless black shirt Aislin gave me. I put them on, wash my hair and face. Then I twist my damp hair up, leaving a few stray pieces to frame my face, and secure it with some hairclips I stole from Aislin’s room. I trace some black eyeliner around my violet eyes and dab some dark red lipstick on my lips. When I look in the mirror again, the girl staring back at me isn’t Gemma Lucas. She’s someone more powerful. More confident. More venomous. My eyes darken as I smile, wondering just how far I could go with this new look.

  I meet Laylen and Nicholas at the bottom of the stairs. They’re arguing about something and Nicholas looks edgy. When they notice me, they stop.

  Laylen gives me an approving once over. “Nice. ”

  I stand proud. “Thank you. ”

  Laylen holds the broken Crystal of Limitation in his hand. “Well, I’ll go get this fixed and you two can go drag Romeo back here. ” He opens the door, eyes lingering on me. He lets out a low growl. “You really should keep that look. ”

  Our fiery gazes remain linked until he steps outside and shuts the door.

  “What the hell happened to you two down in The Afterlife?” Nicholas investigates my eyes. “I’d guess you are possessed, but that’s not possible. You’re a Protected One. ”

  I pat him on the head. “There’s nothing wrong with the way I’m acting. Now will you please take me to Stasha’s?”

  “There’s something going on. ” He grimaces. “And that’s saying a lot coming from me. ”

  Disregarding him, I take his hand. “To Stasha’s. ”

  He shakes his head with befuddlement. “Fine Gemma. But if you try anything tricky—if you try to attack me or something—I will hurt you. ” His hand constricts around mine. “Don’t forget who you’re dealing with here. ”

  I almost laugh at the ridiculousness. We walk hand in hand out the door and to the shore of the lake, far enough away from the praesidium. He obtains the miniature crystal ball from his pocket, giving one more protest and threat before we go. But I don’t care. Because I know he can’t hurt me—I’m much too powerful.

  Chapter 21

  Stasha’s house resides on the outskirts of town, where the neighborhoods are lowly populated and the mountains expand to the sky. The trees cast sinister shadows across the lawn and the silence of the air chills my spine. But I breezily shake off my uneasiness and stride up the rocky path toward the house. The lights are on, revealing two silhouettes inside.

  “You probably shouldn’t just walk in,” Nicholas mentions as I place my hand on the door handle. “Need I remind you Stasha can kill with a touch of her bare hands?”

  “Need I remind you I can’t die?” I kink the door handle.

  His hand zips forward and he jerks the door shut. “You may not be able to die, but you can go back to The Afterlife. And it seems like you’ve lost some of your sanity since your last visit there, so might I suggest taking a break from the whole self-death sentence thing. ”

  I lower my hand. “You make an excellent point. ” I rap on the door.

  The door swings open. Stasha narrows her eyes immediately, putting a gloved hand on her hip. “What are you doing here?” she asks with a patronizing bob of her head.

  I barge my way inside. Like her old house, the olive walls and the ceiling are garnished with lush vines and florid plants. I know from experience that she controls the plants and can turn them on me.

  Alex is seated in a cream sofa that centers the room. “Gemma. ” He bounds to his feet, his eyes browsing my new look. He doesn’t look guilty or evil, like I anticipated. He looks worn out. Dark shadows crescent below his eyes and his skin is ashen. His hair pokes up everywhere, a sign he’s been taking his stress out on it. “What are you doing here?”

  “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that question?” I wander through the room, examining the framed photos on the mantle. Stasha obviously still has a thing for Alex, since he’s in nearly every photo.

  “You’re the one that came barging into my house. ” Stasha strolls in, twisting a curl of her sunny hair. “If anyone should be asking the questions, it should be me. ” She points her finger over her shoulder at Nicholas who is invading her personal space. “So, first question. Why’d you bring him?”

  Nicholas sniffs her hair and grins. “What’s the matter Death Girl? Did you miss me?”

  “He brought me here,” I answer, running my finger along a photo of Stasha and Alex holding hands on the beach. Stasha, of course, has gloves on. I wonder if this is before or after they made the Forever Blood Promise. Hurt creeps in, but I shut it down before the emotion consumes me. “What’s the matter, Stasha? Does he make you uncomfortable?”

  She smirks, but it’s forced. “The only person who makes me uncomfortable is you. But only because you’re a freak. ”

  I tap my fingers on the mantle, torturing her with my nonchalant manner. “I’m the freak. I’m not the one whose hands have to stay covered, otherwise I’ll kill someone. Tell me, how were you and Alex even a couple. I mean, you couldn’t even touch him with your hands…” I trail off as a revelation dropkicks me in the gut. Alex and Stasha’s Blood Promise. Their hands were pressed together—their bare hands.

  She rips off her gloves, ready to battle. “What were you saying about my hands?”

  I glance from Stasha, to Alex, and then my eyes land on Nicholas.

  He bites down on his lip and shrugs. “It wasn’t my fault. I had to do it. ”

  Alex’s fingers wind around my elbow. “Gemma, I need to talk to you for a minute. Alone. ”

  Stasha huffs and melodramatically stomps her foot. “Alex,” she whines. “I thought you were over her. ”

  Before anyone can respond, he escorts me out the front door, into the dusk of the night. The porch light beams down on us.

  I wrench my arm away and charge down the stairs. I cross my arms and glare at the profiles of the trees. “Having fun?”

  “No,” he says it like I’m an idiot. “Why would you think that?”

  I target my eyes at him. “Why wouldn’t I think that? You disappear in the middle of the night and end up here. ” I mitigate my tone. “I thought you were dead… there was blood everywhere. ”

  His eyes search mine. “You really don’t remember what happened?”

  “How could I? I was asleep. ” Dreaming of Helena, eating Annabella.

  He shuts his eyes, his nostrils flaring as he inhales the cool air. “Then it’s worse than I thought. She’s somehow blocked out your memories. ”

  “What are you talking about? My memories are fine. At least the ones that weren’t erased by your father. ”

  He opens his eyes and swallows hard. “Gemma, you attacked me in your sleep. ” He jerks down his shirt collar, showing me the fresh bite marks on his skin. “You bit me over and over again, like you were trying to eat me or something. ” He shudders at the memory.

  “I’m not a zombie,” I rage. “And if you don’t want to be with me, then you can just say it. Don’t feed me crappy lies. ”

  “I’m not lying. ” He steps off the porch and stands close to me. “And I’m not saying you’re a zombie. Or a vampire. Or anything else that bites. ” He sucks in a breath, like he might cry. “I think you’re possessed. ”

  I gape at him. “I can’t be possessed. Remember. I’m a Protected One. ”

  “Yeah, but protected from what?” He
sitantly, he reaches out, his fingers pursuing mine. “We hardly know anything about a Protected One, except for what Lucinda has told you. And how reliable of a source could the Queen of The Underworld be?” He motions at my body. “And look at you. You’re dressed weird and you have that crap all over your eyes. ”

  I trace my tongue on my lipstick-stained lips. “I thought you liked it when I dressed this way. You seemed to like it when I was a Black Angel. ”

  “You can dress however you want. I just want you to be you. God. ” He rubs his eyes, exhausted. “I don’t even know who you are. Are you really my Gemma Lucas, or Helena’s?”

  “I’m no one’s Gemma Lucas. ” I wave an irritated hand at Stasha’s house. “And how do I know you’re you. You’re here with Stasha. It’s like the ultimate betrayal. ”

  “Does it hurt you?” he asks, hopeful. “Does it make you feel… I don’t know, hurt or something?”

  I let my body numb. “I don’t feel anything. ”

  “Even if I told you I kissed her?”

  “Did you?” I demand. He doesn’t answer. “Tell me if you did. ”

  He remains stoic, awaiting my response.

  “I hate you. ” I storm for the forest.

  He tackles me from behind, casing an arm around my waist and bracing us as we collide with the grass. He hovers above me, his hair dangling in his lustrous eyes, fingers digging into my skin. He straddles my hips and restrains my arms above my head.

  “Gemma. ” His tone is begging. “I need to know you’re still you. ” Shifting my trapped wrists into one of his hands, he flattens his free hand on my heart, confirming it’s still alive.

  “I’m not a Lost Soul,” I respire, edging my face closer to his. “Ask Nicholas. He knows about Protected Ones. ”

  “You want me to trust Nicholas?” He laughs harshly. “There really must be something wrong with you. ”

  “How can you not believe me? How can you not see that I’m still me?” Tears pool my eyes and flood down my cheeks. But it’s an act—a brief slipup. It’s like I’m stuck behind a brick wall and part of the real me has slipped through the cracks.

  His expression softens. “Don’t cry. I hate seeing you cry. ” He kisses the tears away, his lips soft like a feather grazing my skin. “I love you. ” His lips brush mine. “I just thought… when you bit me I didn’t know what to think. ”

  “I was having a bad dream that night. ” I hold his gaze. “I could have been reenacting it in my sleep. ”

  “You’ve never been a sleepwalker before. ” His fingertips trace the corners of my eyes. “You’re usually a peaceful sleeper. ” He needs more proof that I’m still me. Or at least a distraction.

  A hollow feeling congests my chest. I sneak my legs out from under him and secure them around his hips. My arms are still confined, but I lean my head up and crush my lips into his. His lips fleetingly falter, before returning my passion equally. Loosening his grip on my wrists, his fingers travel down my arms, my shoulders, my ribs. He grabs at my hips kissing me with so much desire and passion it heats my skin. He trusts me completely. And that’s exactly how I want it.