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The fallen star (fallen.., p.29
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       The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series, Book 1), p.29

           Jessica Sorensen
“Shouldn’t we be hiding?” I asked Laylen.

  After discovering a swarm of Death Walkers marching across the desert toward the house, Laylen had grabbed me by the arm and sprinted down the hall back to the room where Alex and Aislin had transported to Afton from. Then he started throwing books off the shelves. What the purpose of this was, I didn’t know. Maybe he was having a momentary lapse in sanity—too much stress or something. I don’t know.

  “Laylen!” I hollered over the thudding of the books hitting the floor. “What are you doing?!” A book flew straight at me, and I had to dodge to the side to avoid getting smacked in the face by it.

  “There’s a key somewhere around here…” He glanced inside a book and tossed it on the floor. “To a trapdoor just below that rug.” He nodded at a black and red checkered rug on the floor. “We can hide you there until…” He chucked a book over his shoulder and it landed on the floor in front of my feet.

  “Until what?” I asked anxiously.

  He ripped an old leather-bound book from the shelf and flipped it open. “Until I can lead them away from here…get you out of dan—” His blue eyes lit up as he plucked a small silver object out of the inside of the cover. He dropped the book on the floor and hurried over to me. “Here we go.” He held up the silver object, which was a key.

  “What’s it for?” I asked, my voice taking on that high, pitchy sound that seemed to come out whenever I was in a stressful situation. I threw a quick glance at the window, wondering how close the Death walkers were, but couldn’t see anything because of the curtains. “Laylen, I really think—”

  “Just a second.” He went over to the rug and flipped it over. There was a small square carved in the hardwood floor that had a key hole and an indent for a handle. It looked like one of those trapdoors used on stages back in the olden days. He knelt down and slipped the key into the keyhole. Click. Then he raised the door up. “Hurry up and get inside.”

  I stared down at the mysterious dark hole, my feet glued to the floor. “You want me to do what?”

  “Get inside and hide.”

  I stole a glance back at the curtain-covered window. The air was getting chillier by the second. Goose bumps dotted my arms and legs. They had to be getting close.

  “Gemma!” The sound of Laylen’s angry voice snapped my attention away from the window and back to him.

  “But what are you going to do?” I asked.

  He gave me a duh look, and I understood. He was going to stay up here and fight while I hid like a coward. My gut twisted with guilt just like it had back at the Black Dungeon when Alex and I had run away and left Aislin and Laylen behind.

  I started to argue. “But I—”

  He cut me off. “Look, I know it’s hard—always being the one who has to hide. But that’s the way it has to be. You can’t change who you are no matter how much you want to. Trust me.”

  “This isn’t right,” I told him.

  Ignoring what I said, he held out the key for me to take. “This key also locks the door from the inside. Make sure you lock it when you get in.”

  Frowning, I snatched the key from him, and stomped over to the trapdoor. “I still don’t think this is right,” I said as I lowered myself down into the hole.

  It was dark inside, and the ceiling brushed the top of my head. If I was a sufferer of claustrophobia, I would have been in trouble.

  I looked up at Laylen and he reached down. In his hand was a golden-handled, silver-bladed knife.

  “If something does happen,” he said, “take this and aim it straight for their heart. It might weaken them enough to give you a chance to run away.”

  I reluctantly took the knife, the handle feeling cold against my skin. “And where exactly am I supposed to run?”

  “To the car. The key’s in the ignition. Try to find your way back to Adessa’s. She’ll be able to help you, at least until someone gets there.”

  Yeah, fat chance that was ever going to happen, seeing as how it was dark when we drove to Vegas, and I had a bad sense of direction.

  A loud thud. It sounded close—maybe even inside the house.

  “Don’t come out until you know it’s safe,” he whispered, before dropping the door shut.

  Darkness suffocated me. I reached up and fumbled around until I found the lock. It took me a minute to get the key in it, but I managed. Above me, I could hear a lot of banging. The cold had crystallized the air and was biting against my skin. I shivered and chattered and every one of my senses felt hyperaware. I couldn’t see the outcome of this situation ending well—Laylen up there alone, trying to fight who knows how many Death Walkers without the Sword of Immortality, while I hid down here, freezing to death. Even if the Death Walkers didn’t kill me, the cold probably would.