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       The Vision, p.26

         Part #3 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 26


  He calmed down when he saw it was me. “Gemma, what the heck?”

  I pulled an ‘I-m-sorry face’, but my cheeks heated as I realized he was not decent. He only had on a pair of boxers and I quickly turned around to hide my blushing face.

  “I’m sorry. ” I shook my head at myself. “I should have knocked first. ”

  “It’s okay,” he said, moving around, hopefully putting on a pair of pants. “But what exactly are you doing. ”

  I heard the sound of a zipper shutting, but I didn’t dare turn around until he gave me the okay. “I need your help with something,” I explained, my eyes glued to the door.

  The jingling of a belt buckle. “Okay, you can turn around. ”

  I waited a second longer before I turned around and I was relieved to find that he now had pants on, but he was still shirtless and I couldn’t help but be dazzled by the sight. I bit at my bottom lip, trying not to stare as he slipped on a black t-shirt, covering up both his Keeper mark cupping his shoulder and his muscles.

  “You good?” He asked. “Because you look a little flushed. ”

  “I’m fine,” I assured him, but my skin was betraying me.

  “That’s what you get for barging in on people while they’re sleeping,” he teased making me blush even more.

  Pull yourself together. I cleared my throat, trying to clear out any embarrassment still lingering inside me. “So, yeah, I need your help with something. ”

  He raised his eyebrows at me curiously. “Oh yeah, with what?”

  “With paying a visit to Stasha. ”

  His expression fell flat. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. ” He glanced at my olive-green scared arm. “Considering what happened the last time you went there. ”

  “But I need to,” I said. “The Purple Flame won’t work unless I do. ”

  “Wait, you got the Purple Flame…when?”

  I guess I needed to back up a few steps and tell him what happened.

  “So you think the scars on your arms are what’s stopping the Purple Flame from working?” he asked after I finished telling him what was going on. Well, minus the details of how I had gotten the information about the scars. I mean, Laylen was understanding and everything, but telling him that a talk-show-host voice told me I needed to visit Stasha…I even thought I sounded crazy.

  I nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure. ”

  “But how?” He swept his blue-tipped bangs away from his forehead. “How do you know?”

  Crap. “Would you believe me if I said that a little birdie told me?"

  He gave me a look like he thought I was insane, but Laylen being Laylen did not press further. “Okay, if that’s what you think, then let’s go to Stasha’s to get the marks removed from your arm. ” He rubbed his jawline with a thoughtful expression. “But if she tries to kill you again, I might have to use some violence. ”

  “And that’s okay with me. ” I got to my feet and took his hand. “Are you ready?”

  “I’m ready,” he replied, standing to his feet, towering over me.

  I shut my eyes and moments later, we were being swept away.

  Chapter 27

  The plants. How could I forget about the plants? Yet I did, not remembering until I was standing under them as they hung from the olive-green ceiling of Stasha’s living room.

  “Careful,” I told Laylen, pointing up at the ceiling. “They come alive. ”

  He glanced up at the vines warily. “They do?”

  I nodded. “They attacked me the last time I was here. ”

  Laylen pulled a disgusted face at the vines and then we crept through the house to find Stasha. But we found the house empty.

  “I don’t think she’s here,” I said, announcing the obvious.

  “Good observation,” he joked and I pulled a face at him. “But that just means we can take her by surprise. ”

  I pointed a finger at him. “I like the way you think. ” But, then, I grew serious. “You seem better…a little bit anyway with the whole,” I pointed at my teeth, “thing. ”

  He flopped down on the living room couch and rested his arms across the top of it. “I am doing a little bit better…but I mean, it’s still there. ” He furrowed his eyebrows. “Did you know Aislin came to me and said she was sorry for everything…it was really weird. ”

  “Really weird,” I said, wondering if it had anything to do with the talk we had about Laylen and me being just friends. I roamed around the room, glancing at the photos’ hanging on the walls. One photo in particular, resting on the shelf, made me stop in my tracks. It was a picture of Stasha and Alex, smiling as the sunlight sparkled in their hair. I picked up the picture and stared down at it, thinking about Alex’s and my “future talk. ” Would we ever have pictures like this? Ones of smiles and happiness?

  I hoped so.

  I put the picture back on the shelf and moved along to the next shelf, which had a collection of leaves on it.

  “What is her deal with plants?” I muttered. “I mean, I know it’s good for her gift but…it’s still weird. ” I glanced up at the ceiling. “And I wonder how she makes them come to—”

  “Shhh. ” Laylen hissed, jumping up from the couch. “I think I hear something. ”

  We stood silent, listening as the sound of footsteps moved toward the door. Laylen and I skittered to the hallway, ducking down, waiting to attack. We heard the jingling of keys and then the door creaked open.

  “I don’t know why he made me take one of you stupid things,” Stasha said, slamming the door. “I mean, it’s not like you do any good. And I can’t even hear what you’re saying. ”

  I tensed up. She was not alone. This was going to make things a little complicated.

  “And don’t ruin my plants,” she snapped. “I need them to keep me alive. ”

  Ah, so that’s why she needed the plants. An image of me destroying all her plants popped into my mind, but I shook it away. I needed her alive, otherwise these marks on my arm were here to stay.

  “This is ridiculous. ” Stasha sounded furious and I was starting to wonder who she was having a rude one-sided conversation with. “Do you leak ice or something?”

  Laylen’s head whipped in my direction and my eyes widened. Did she just say ice?

  My heart sped up as the realization that the air had drastically dropped in temperature smacked me in the face. How had I not felt it until now? Usually I could feel their cold from a mile away. Perhaps it had something to do with me being a Keeper now.

  “So, do you want to take down Stasha or the Death Walker?” I whispered in Laylen’s ear.

  He considered this. “I’ll take death girl, since you’ve proven you can handle a Death Walker…besides, her touch won’t kill me. ”

  I nodded and he handed me a knife from his pocket.

  “We’ll have to make it quick, though. ” I clutched the small knife in my hand. “This thing won’t kill it. ”

  Laylen peeked around the corner and then glanced back at me. “Okay, the Death Walker’s on the couch. ” We exchanged a peculiar look. “And Stasha’s watering her plants. ”

  I rolled my eyes and held the knife in the perfect attack position. Laylen nodded and raised his hand, counting down on his fingers. . . three…two…one.

  We leapt out form the hallway and took them both by surprise. The Death Walker’s eyes lit up. Stasha dropped her pail and water puddled across the floor. The chill of the room immediately froze the water over and ice crackled all over the walls and vines, freezing everything in its place. The Death Walker’s yellow eyes lit up with rage beneath the hood of its black cloak. Laylen darted toward Stasha and she picked up a ceramic rose and chucked at him. It hit him in the shoulder and scattered across the floor.

  I turned my attention away from them and focused on the death monster, hovering toward me, thirsty to kill. But, like at the castle, I felt in control, knowing I could take the evil ice-machine down. I star
ted to circle it and it followed my movement, circling me back. It yellow-eyes were locked on me, waiting to attack. I held the knife out in front of me, the sharp point glinting in the light. It was now or never. So, with one quick movement, I lunged forward and stabbed the sword into its chest and then ducked for cover because I knew what was coming—the Chill of Death. Its death breath puffed through the air as its body rocked and swayed, before tipping over and hitting the floor with a loud crash. I whirled around, relieved to see that Laylen had gotten Stasha pinned up against the wall.

  She looked furious, her blue eyes glaring ferociously at Laylen. “You’re messing up my hair,” she whined.

  I hopped over the Death Walker and moved over beside Laylen.

  Stasha’s eyes instantly narrowed on me. “Well, well, look who was stupid enough to come back. ” She smirked. “What? Was my trying to kill you not enough of a warning that you should never be around me?”

  “You, know, it really doesn’t seem like you’re in much of a position to be such a…”

  “Bitch,” Laylen finished for me.

  “Exactly. ”

  Stasha shot me a dirty look, but winced as Laylen pushed her harder against the wall.

  “Fine, what do you want?” she asked.

  I held up my olive-green scarred arm. “I want you to take your death out of my arm. ”

  She shook head. “No way. ”

  Laylen and I looked at each other with devious expressions on our faces.

  “What do you think we should do?” he asked me.

  I glanced back at the unconscious Death Walker slumped on the floor and pointed at the knife sticking out of its chest. “Well, we could always use that on her. ”

  Stasha let out a loud snort. “This is hilarious. I mean, here you are a vampire who won’t feed. Oooh, scary. And you,” she shot me a malicious look, “You’re the pathetic girl who can’t feel anything. ”

  “Couldn’t,” I corrected her. “I’m perfectly capable of feelings now. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have enough anger in me right now that I might just have to…” The sight of Laylen’s fangs descending made me trail off.

  Stasha’s eyes widened as he moved his fangs toward her neck.

  “I am not the same vampire you once knew Stasha,” Laylen hissed through his fangs and I shuddered. “I’m perfectly capable of feeding now. ”

  Stasha was terrified and I had to say that the look was not a good one for her.

  “Fine. I’ll remove my death from your hand. ” She gritted through her teeth. “But you two are lucky that that stupid monster’s ice froze over my plants, otherwise this would have gone down differently. ”

  “And if you try to kill her instead of removing the death, I’ll drain you of all you blood, got it?” Laylen said, his fangs still pointing sharply from his mouth.

  “Got it. ” Stasha said with attitude.

  Laylen slightly loosened his grip so Stasha could slip off her gloves.