The Underworld, Page 34Jessica Sorensen
There was something else concerning me besides my future endeavor to The Underworld. Laylen’s moods seemed to be getting stranger. One minute he was perfectly fine, and the next minute he was upset over something. If I didn’t know any better, I would be wondering if he was experiencing a prickling sensation on the back of his neck that was releasing an abundance of his emotions. But Laylen had never previously been unemotional, so I knew he couldn’t be suffering from a soul-detaching-Keeper-gift that a certain red-headed Keeper, who had raised me, possessed.
No. Something else had to be up with him.
I was sitting out on the deck that extended out from my bedroom. The sky was a jet black, and the moonlight reflected like an orb against the dark ocean water. The stars were twinkling in their own beautiful way, and the lull of the ocean was having a calming effect over me.
If I hadn’t been sitting out there, I wouldn’t have seen him walk across the sandy beach, heading away from the house to who knows where. The light of the moon hit his blond hair making it look white, but I could tell by his height and the way that he walked that it was Laylen.
“Where is he going,” I mumbled to myself. I stood up and yelled, “Laylen!”
He turned and looked at me, and then…he ran.
“Laylen!” I shouted, causing a rising uproar amongst the neighbor’s dogs. “Where are you going?”
But he already disappeared into the darkness of the night.
“Crap. ” I went into my room, slipped on my flip flops, and ran out of the bedroom. I was so mad at myself. I knew something had been wrong with him, but I never said anything, and now he was running away.
I reached the front door and realized I had two options here. One, that I take off on foot, all by myself, in the middle of the night, and roam around a strange town, looking for a vampire who was struggling with some kind of issues. Or I could go wake up Alex, and he could drive us around in the SUV.
Even as I headed back to Alex’s room, I wasn’t sure he would help me. Yeah, Laylen and Alex had been getting along—in fact everyone had been getting along—but I was still skeptical that Alex would jump out of bed and say “yeah, let’s go find him. ”
When I got to Alex’s door, I hesitated before knocking. It took him a second to answer, but the door did swing open, and a tired-eyed, shirtless Alex, with some serious bed-head, stood in front of me.
He blinked wearily at me. “What’s up?”
“I just saw Laylen leaving. ” My words came out rushed. “Down the beach. And when I called his name, he ran. ”
His eyebrows dipped down. “Where was he going?”
“I don’t know. . . . but he’s been acting kind of weird since he…since he bit me. ”
“You’ve noticed that, too?”
“Wait, you’ve noticed it?”
He nodded. “Yeah, he’s been acting just like…” he trailed off, looking away from me.
“Like me,” I said, like it was obvious, which it was. There was no use tiptoeing around it.
“Well, I wasn’t going to put it that bluntly, but, yeah, he’s been acting like you. ” He gave me a funny look. “Or the old you. I’m not really sure about the current one. ”
“Okay. ” Let’s get off that subject. “Well, if something is wrong with him, then we need to go find him. ”
Alex nodded and walked back into his room. I tried not to stare at him too much as he slipped a black t-shirt over his head. He put his shoes on, grabbed the car keys off the dresser, and then we were heading out the door.
“Okay,” he said, once the engine was running, and we both had our seat belts buckled up. “Which direction did he head in?”
“To the left,” I told him, and he backed the SUV down the driveway. “So where do you think he’s going?” I asked Alex as we drove past the brightly painted beach houses that lined the street.
“I’m not sure,” he said a little too quickly.
My head whipped over to him. “You’re lying. I can tell. ”
He shot me a dirty look, but then erased it; I guess he changed his mind about fighting with me. “Fine…I think when he…bit you it might have awakened the blood thirst inside him. ”
I gave him an unconvinced look. “There’s no way that could be true. ” But I didn’t fully believe my words myself.
He raised his eyebrows at me questioningly. “Think about it. You were his first bite, and if anyone’s blood’s going to make a vampire go all blood crazy it’s going to be yours. ”
“Why would mine do that?” I was offended. “There’s nothing wrong with my blood. ”
“I’m not saying there’s something wrong with it, just that it’s very…energized,” he said, then quickly added, “Or at least I can imagine it is. ” His grip tightened on the steering wheel, and I stared at the hand I saw him cut in the vision—the one when we were little and we made some kind of vow to each other. Forem.
I traced the barely visible scar on my hand. “What does forem mean?”
He dropped one of his hands from the steering wheel and tucked it to the side of him. ”Why do you keep asking me that?”
“Let me see your hand. ”
“Gemma, quit being weird. ”
I looked down at my hand. The scar was so faint, I never even noticed it until I had seen the vision. “I saw a vision of us when we were little. You and I were hiding in that hideout—that’s how I knew where it was. Someone was yelling for us—I think it was you father—and I was scared to death because I didn’t want to leave, so you cut my hand and yours, and we pressed them together and said forem. ” My voice trembled. “Right after that, I saw Sophia detach my soul. ”
It went so quiet that I could hear the roar of the ocean. I wasn’t sure why I told him about the vision, I just did. I wasn’t expecting anything, but when he looked at me, his eyes were so full of sadness I thought he was going to say that he was sorry I had to see that.
“Gemma, I’m-I’m—” His eyes widened, and he was no longer looking at me, but to the side of me, out the window.
I followed his gaze, and saw Laylen rounding the corner of a bar, the flashing neon signs glowing against his pale skin as he walked by them. He was not alone, either. He was with a woman. Her long hair was tied up in a ponytail, and her tan skin was like a shadow against the night.
Alex made a sharp turn and ramped the SUV over the curb.
“Who’s that he’s with?” I asked, clicking my seat belt loose as the car came to a stop.
“I have no idea. ” He turned off the engine, and we both hopped out.
There were a group of men loitering at the entrance of the bar, and the smell of their cigarette smoke stunk up the air. They made catcalls as we walked across the parking lot, and I moved around to the other side of Alex, putting him between the rough looking men and myself.
One of them made a very inappropriate comment—which I will not repeat—and Alex’s eyes lit with rage. He started to move toward the men, but I grabbed his arm.
“Now is not the time. ” I tugged at his arm. “Come on. ”
He actually listened, but his eyes did glint murderously when one of the men shouted something about him being a wussy boy.
Those men should really consider themselves lucky, seeing how I’m pretty sure Alex could beat the crap out of all of them without even getting a scratch. (He is a Keeper after all).
But all thoughts of those men immediately exited my mind when we rounded toward the back of the bar, and standing underneath the back light, right next to the dumpster, was Laylen.
And he was biting the woman.
“Laylen,” I called out and he immediately let go of the woman. Her limp body hit the asphalt with a thumping noise that shot goose bumps all over my skin.
Laylen’s blue eyes were wide and he looked horrified as he glanced down at the lifeless body of the woman and then bac
k at us. Alex stepped toward him, but Laylen put up a hand, his fangs gleaming in the light.
“Stay away from me,” he hissed.
Alex pointed down at the woman. “I’m just going to check to see if she’s okay?” He took a step forward again, making sure to move cautiously.
Laylen didn’t protest. He sunk to the ground and cradled his head in his hands. While Alex made sure the woman was okay, I carefully made my way over to Laylen. He looked so broken that I wasn’t sure if I could handle this or not. I was no pro in dealing with human emotions—heck, I could barely deal with my own most of the time. So as I knelt down on the asphalt beside him, I tried to will the prickle to show up and release some kind of emotion that would let me know what to do.
It never came, though, so I guess I would have to figure out this one on my own.
“Laylen,” I said, gently touching his arm. “Are you okay?”
He pulled away. “Don’t touch me. ”
“She’s okay,” Alex said and he came over and stood behind me. “She’s just unconscious. ”
“See, she’s okay,” I told Laylen.
Laylen raised his head, and I almost shrank back from the anger in his eyes. “It doesn’t matter. It’s still there. ”
“What’s still there?”
“The…the hunger. ”
I glanced up at Alex, my eyes pleading with him to help me out. I didn’t know what to do.
He gave me this look, and I thought he wasn’t going to help me, but then he knelt down on the ground next me and said. “Look, she’s not hurt, okay. So let’s just go back to the house and forget this ever happened. ”
Laylen glared at him with his fangs out. I had to admit he looked terrifying. But for his sake, I made sure to stay calm.
“Hey,” I said, telling myself I could do this. I could be sympathetic and make him feel better. “It’s going to be okay. She’s not dead, only passed out, and when she wakes she’ll probably feel really…” I searched for a word that would describe what I felt when he bit me. “Euphoric. ”
“It doesn’t matter how she feels,” he said, his voice pained. “I bit her, which is something I’ve spent the last few years trying not to do. ”
God, this was all my fault. “Laylen, this isn’t your fault. Please just come back to the house with us—we’ll figure something out, okay?”
Honestly, I didn’t think my little speech was that persuasive, but apparently he thought it was, which was all that matter. He got to his feet and then all three of us went back and climbed into the SUV. We drove back to the beach house in silence. I made sure to keep an eye on Laylen, fearing he might freak out and try to run away again.
He seemed calm, though, but still not his normal self, which had me worried.
What if Laylen, the only person who’d ever told me the truth—who was always there for me—was gone?
When we arrived back at the beach house, Laylen went straight into his room and said he was going to bed. I was afraid he might leave again, but Alex promised he would watch him. We had woken up Aislin, not intentionally, but nonetheless we had to explain to her what had just happened. Then I sat on the couch, listening to Alex and Aislin argue over what to do with “him. ” I didn’t like how they were talking about Laylen, like they feared he might go off the deep end and kill us all. I, in no way, believed this could ever be possible. And when they started talking about leaving him behind—going someplace else without him—I lost it.