The promise, p.5
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       The Promise, p.5

         Part #4 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 5

 

  Am I?

  She asked with a nasty grin.

  Or do I need to remind you of what happens if you back out on our little bargain.

  Dammit. I wanted to punch the grin off her face. I didn t have time for this. But I d taken that stupid pill and I was going to dropped dead the moment I backed out.

  Fine,

  I gritted through my teeth.

  I ll take you to her.

  When we settled in the living room of Gemma s house, my stomach dropped. It was strange, but I could sense her nearness, feel her in my veins like liquid fire.

  Everything looked normal, chairs upright, TV off, photos still on the wall. They d boarded up the windows, which was smart. I remembered when I d heard the news from Aislin that the world had shifted into a Mark of Malefiscus mess. The letter had arrived via her witch powers, which meant a small flaming ball of paper had landed on my head, torching some of my hair. I still had a tiny bald spot.

  I d read the letter, but never wrote back, not wanting the wrong person to find out where I was and coming looking for me. I wanted to protect Gemma in every way possible, which meant keeping her away from me, no matter how crappy I felt. I deserved to feel that way though. After all the hell I d put her through.

  But now I was back in her house, about to blow everything if she found out I was here. It was strangely quiet and my Keeper instincts went on high alert. I drew out my knife, which glinted dangerously in the light of the lamp.

  What are you doing?

  Amelia asked, gazing at the room.

  And where s the witch? The one who can remove the mark?

  Somewhere.

  I hoped, but something felt off.

  Stay here a minute. I ll go get her.

  Amelia sank down on the sofa, making herself at home.

  Don t worry, I m not going anywhere.

  She kicked her feet on the table, mud falling off her boots.

  My lip twitched and my knife itched to shut her up, but I turned my back on her and headed for the stairs. Each step creaked louder and I cringed, worried Gemma might hear me. If I worked this right, I could get in and out without her noticing. But when I reached the top of the stairs and saw that her door was cracked open, I couldn t help it. It was like my legs didn t belong to me anymore; they belonged to her. By the time I reached her door, my heart was all over the place and I wanted to choke it dead for making me so weak.

  I peeked my head inside, blinking against the grayness of the low light. She was inside, I could feel her slight current of static. But there was no noise. She had to be asleep.

  I gently pushed the door open, knowing what I was doing was wrong, but doing it anyway. I used to be more cautious about mistakes, think things through first, but that s what she did to me. She confused my head and I ended up making stupid choices.

  When I saw her lying in her bed, fast asleep, I stopped breathing. My hand fell to my side and I walked slowly across the room until I was next to her bed.

  She was resting on her side, her cheek pressed against her pillow, hair all over the place, just like it always was. I should have left right then and there. I d have been a better person if I did. But apparently, I was a selfish asshole. I let my fingers touch her hair, brushing it back and tucking it behind her ear.

  She breathed deeply soundly not feeling the electric current. Which was strange because it was making me sweat.

  I wished I could lean down and kiss her, press my lips against her cheeks. Honestly, I wished I could do a lot of things to her, things that could only be done behind closed doors. But that would never happen. Not if I couldn t stop the vision from happening the way it was supposed to.

  She let out a long sigh, like she sensed I was there. I decided it was time to go. I started to turn as she rolled over on her back. And what I saw made me sick. Her hands were tied, the rope cutting into her wrists. Blood was all over her neck and shirt and it looked like & I swept her hair back. Bite marks.

  What the?

  I fell to my knees, placing my hands on her cheeks, my skin burning from her touch.

  Gemma. Can you hear me?

  Her eyelids began to flutter open, but she looked like she was struggling. I pressed my hand to her cheek, her forehead, my jaw tightening. God, if he turned her I was going to kill him.

  Alex,

  she mumbled, her eyelids flickering open. Then she was looking at me, like she thought she was dead. Her violet eyes wide and glossed over.

  You re okay,

  I said, but I wasn t so sure.

  Chapter 9

  (Gemma)

  At first I thought I was dead, that Laylen had drained all my blood and left me to rot away in my bed. That maybe Alex was a ghost, that he d died and I d died and we d joined each other in death.

  But then I felt the dizziness, mixed with the sparkle of electricity, and my blood soared with fire.

  You re here,

  I muttered like an idiot. My forever shows up and the first thing I say is

  you re here.

  Really Gemma? I sounded like a damsel-in-distress. I moved slowly to sit and he moved back, giving me breathing room.

  I raised my tied arms, touching a finger to my neck, and then winced.

  What happened?

  he said, urgent and eager, just the same as when he left.

  I didn t want to tell him. I knew if I did he might not think rationally and end up doing something that couldn t be erased. What Laylen did it wasn t his fault. He was under the control of another.

  I can t remember.

  I played dumb.

  He cut the ropes that bound my wrists and freed me. I rubbed them, trying not to think about how the ropes got there in the first place.

  Gemma,

  he began, trying to keep control.

  Just tell me what happened.

  I thought about lying again, but realized I was probably in danger and needed to get out of the house. I jumped to my feet, surprising him and my head, the room spinning with bright colors and blurry shapes.

  Easy.

  He wrapped his arm around my back, crossing a deadly line as he steadied me.

  Did Laylen do this to you?

  he asked, like he already knew the answer.

  I blinked the dizziness away.

  He couldn t help it & it was the mark.

  The Mark of Malefiscus.

  He ran a hand through his messy dark hair, letting out a long breath.

  How did he get it

  Then his knuckles tightened as he raised his knife, ready to stab whoever walked through the door.

  Is he still here? And where s Aislin and Aleesa?

  I frowned, not wanting to be the one to break it to him.

  They & umm & they all have the mark.

  He was already shaking his head.

  How did that happen? I thought Stephan had to put the mark on them directly. And if he was here, I m sure you wouldn t be.

  I shrugged.

  I have no clue. I mean, one minute the house is quiet and the next,

  I gestured at my neck, feeling a lump rise in my throat.

  Laylen freaked out and bit me.

  His jaw went taut.

  Where is he are they still here?

  I shrugged again.

  I don t know. They tied me up and the house has been quiet ever since.

  A boom from downstairs sent me leaping toward him like a skittish cat.

  Someone s here.

  He took my hand, holding the knife out as he guided me to the stairs. We peered down, but there was only darkness.

  Stay here,

  he whispered, but I was already scooting past him.

  No way,

  I whispered.

  You don t just get to show up and take over. I m going down with you.

  Then I headed down the stairs, moving quietly through the dark, cupping my hand over my bleeding neck as my he
art drummed in my chest.

  But he beat me to the bottom, squeezing by at the very last step, giving my skin a good zap. Another bang and we tiptoed for the living room. I found myself wishing we hadn t put praesidium all around the house. Sure, it kept the Foreseers out, but it also kept this Foreseer in.

  We were greeted by a woman in the living room doorway. Not just a woman, but a witch, dressed in black and hair to match. I moved to kick her and take her down, but Alex stuck his arm out, holding me back.

  Easy Tiger.

  He was trying not to smile.

  This is Amelia.

  My eyebrows knitted together.

  You brought a witch into the house?

  She s helping me with & something,

  he said.

  Is she the witch?

  Amelia stared hypnotically at my eyes.

  I shook my head, rolling my eyes.

  Just because I have violet eyes doesn t mean I m a witch.

  Her eyes lit up with hunger.

  But you have so much power flowing off you. Both of you do.

  That s because we stuck our finger in a socket,

  Alex replied expressionlessly.

  Don t be cute with me little boy.

  Amelia narrowed her eyes, jabbing a finger at his chest.

  Where s the witch? You promised me the witch that could remove the mark of evil?

  You did what?

  My jaw nearly hit the floor.

  Why would you do that?

  Alex waved me off.

  She just needs Aislin s help taking the mark off her daughter. That s all.

  Amelia laughed harshly.

  That s all. Do I need to remind you again what s at stake here?

  I crossed my arms and waited for Alex to explain. But, like always, he didn t.

  Look,

  he said to Amelia.

  Aislin s gone over to the Malefiscus side. She s no longer going to be able to help you.

  Her eyes burnt with rage and she lifted her hands above her head, wiggling her fingers until they glistened.

  Well then, I guess it s time for you to die.

  My head almost snapped off as I did a double-take at Amelia.

  What? You can t kill him just for that.

  We can try and find her.

  The nervousness in Alex s voice made my heart skip a beat.

  Maybe you could use a Tracker Spell on her or something.

  But Amelia only shook her head.

  If that were possible, I d have done it already. But she s off the map no one can find her.

  Then without another warning, the sparks sizzled.

  I let out a breath, reaching for her hands, but Alex collapsed to the floor, hitting it like a bag of bricks.

  You killed him!

  I screamed, eyes wide as I stared at Alex.

  You stupid witch.

  She d already moved over to the coffee table, a black candle lit, an amethyst clutched in her hand. I stormed toward her, fury sweltering like a wildfire. She must have seen it in my eyes too, because she freaked out, chanting magic words under her breath. Then she plunged the amethyst into the flame, right as I snatched hold of her sleeve. But her magic was too strong and I had to let go or be tugged away with her.

  Bumping my knee on the corner of the table, I scurried back to Alex.

  Please, don t be dead. Please don t be dead

  But he wasn t breathing and the electricity was as lifeless as the house. I sucked back the tears, touching my hand to his chest, feeling for a heartbeat.

  You can t be dead.

  Tears started to slip from my eyes.

  Nicholas said you couldn t & not without me.

  But only the sound of my own tears.

  Chapter 10

  (Alex)

  I could hear her flipping out as she searched for my pulse. Sharp breathes. Humming skin. Part of me wished I was dead and this was all over. She could go on living her life, happy and free. But then, so could my father.

  I forced my eyes open, meeting hers, beautiful and wildly insane. The first thing that came to my mind was to pull her down and kiss her. Which was stupid. But that was what she did to me. She made me crazy and out of control. But after a life controlled by my father, feeling insane and out-of-control was kind of a good thing.

  But now wasn t the time.

  Am I dead?

  I joked because it was obvious I wasn t.