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Inspiring You, Page 5

Jessica Sorensen

  He nods. “You can come back in if you want to.”

  “Lyric, put Dr. Gardingdale on the phone,” she demands before I hang up.

  “Okay.” My fingers tremble as I hand the phone to Dr. Gardingdale. “Ayden’s mom wants to talk to you.”

  Sighing, he takes the phone and starts reassuring Aunt Lila that Ayden’s all right.

  I squeeze by him, rush into the room, and relief washes over me. “You’re awake.” Tears pour out of my eyes at the sight of him sitting on the bed as the doctor checks his heart rate.

  Ayden’s bloodshot eyes widen at the sight of my tears. “Lyric, I swear I’m fine.” He opens his arms, indicating for me to come to him. “Please, stop crying. I hate seeing you cry.”

  Against the doctor’s protests, I climb into the bed beside Ayden and rest my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. “I’m not going anywhere unless I have to,” I tell the doctor. “So you might as well continue checking him.”

  The doctor sighs. “Fine. Just take it easy on him until I can check all of his vitals.”

  I nod and press my body closer to Ayden, breathing in his scent and warmth. “I thought you weren’t going to wake up.”

  He rubs his hand up and down my back, tracing the length of my spine. “For a moment, I thought the same thing too.” His voice cracks and he clears his throat. “But I’m okay now. Everything’s okay.”

  I push to my elbows and peer up at him, trying to read his vibe. “Did it . . . Did it work?”

  His gaze welds with mine as he nods. “I saw the house . . . I saw them.”

  I suck in a sharp breath. “You saw the people who took you?”

  He nods again. “I saw the woman who . . .” He blinks down at the scars on his hands then looks back at me. “And I saw my father . . . Saw him . . .” He swallows hard. “Kill my mom.”

  I stop breathing, and for the first time in my life, I’m speechless. My poor, sweet Shy Boy. Why does he have to keep going through so much pain? He’s already been through so much already.

  He brushes my hair out of my eyes. “I’m okay. I don’t want you to worry about me . . . Everything’s going to be okay now.” He traces his fingers across my jawline. “I just really want to go talk to the detective.”

  “Your mother can drive you down there just as soon as I make sure you’re one hundred percent okay,” Dr. Gardingdale says as he enters the room, shutting the door behind him.

  “You called my mom?” Ayden’s brows knit as he stares at Dr. Gardingdale. “Why?”

  “Actually, that was me.” I pull a guilty face as Dr. Gardingdale hands me back my phone. “Sorry, I panicked.”

  “It’s fine . . . I needed to call her anyway, considering what happened.” Ayden sighs exhaustedly, his head slumping back against the bed. “I just don’t like that she’s probably worried as hell right now. I hate worrying her.”

  “I know you do, but trust me, we love that we get to worry about you.” I sit up and press my lips to his.

  I’ll kiss him over and over again

  Every second I get a chance

  After what happened

  How can I not?

  How can I ever not be with him?

  “Are you okay?” Ayden checks as he studies my face closely. “You look pale.”

  “I am now,” I say, sitting down beside him. “You might have a real problem though.”

  His head angles to the side as his face contorts in confusion. “And what’s that?”

  “That you’re never going to get rid of me.” I thread our fingers together. “I’ll never want to leave your side again after what just happened.”

  He chuckles, the tension momentarily vanishing from his eyes. “I’m perfectly okay with that problem. In fact, I think I should never, ever get rid of it.”

  “Good, because it’s not going anywhere.” I rest my head against his shoulder and close my eyes, breathing in the moment.

  It’s such a small thing, being here with him, but it feels so immensely important, because he’s still him.

  I just hope to God he stays that way.

  EVEN THOUGH IT MIGHT SOUND insane, I thought I was going to be stuck in that memory forever. Then I heard Lyric’s voice, pulling me back to her. When I opened my eyes, there she was, leaning over me with worry in her eyes.

  Thankfully, the longer I grasp onto her the more she settles down. If I could, I’d stay this way forever. But I know I need to get to the police station so I can tell Detective Rannali about my father and give him descriptions and a name.

  My father. I involuntarily shudder at the thought of what he did to my mother. All this time I thought she died of a drug overdose, that she did it to herself. But my father killed her, just like he probably killed my brother. What really gets to me, though, is that the entire fucking thing was planned. That my mother had us so she could give us to these horrible people. That my father actually believed I was supposed to be ready to take on his whacked out beliefs.

  I suddenly feel less guilty about what happened and really, really fucking angry. It’s hard to sort through all my emotions when I’m so fucking torn.

  Hate or not.

  Guilt or fault.

  Live or rot.

  I don’t know what to do.

  What kind of person I am.

  Who to blame.


  My mother?

  My father?

  Suddenly, the door bursts open and Lila barges inside with Ethan right behind her. Her anxiety is written all over her face, her eyes are wide, and her hair’s a mess like she ran in a windstorm to get here.

  “Ayden Gregory,” she starts as she storms toward my bedside. A scowl etches her face as her lips part, but then she whispers, “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

  Lyric scoots out of the way as Lila throws her arms around me and hugs me so tightly I can barely breathe.

  “Don’t you ever scare me like that again,” she says with a few tears dripping down her cheeks.

  Ethan gives me a pat on the shoulder and a sympathetic look as Lila continues to strangle me with her death hug. I notice Ethan’s eyes are a little red, like he was crying before he got here. It makes me feel like the world’s biggest asshole, because Ethan hardly ever gets too emotional, so he had to be extremely worried.

  “I’m sorry,” I apologize to both of them. “I just needed to do this, and I knew you’d never let me.”

  “You’re damn right we wouldn’t have.” Lila steps back and motions at the monitors around the room. “Because I knew something like this would happen.”

  “But I’m fine.” I sit up and wince as my muscles groan in pain.

  “I don’t care if you’re fine.” She wipes the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand then waves a finger at me. “You won’t do this treatment again.”

  “I don’t have to do it again.” I swing my legs over the edge of the bed. “I know who’s been after me and who has my sister. I know what they look like and know one of their names.”

  Lila’s eyes pop wide as her hand falls to the side. “The treatment worked?”

  “Well, I don’t remember everything.” And I don’t want to. After what I saw, all that pain and ugliness, I think it might be better if what happened to me is left locked in that box in my head. As long as my mind will let things be that way. “But I remembered enough.” I stand up and the blood rushes from my head. “I need to go talk to Detective Rannali.”

  Ethan steadies me by the shoulder as I teeter sideways. “Careful. The doctor said that your body went through a lot of stress today.”

  “Maybe we should wait until tomorrow to go to the police station,” Lila says, eyeing me over as if I’m going to break at any moment. “After you’ve rested.”

  “I’ll never be able to rest until I talk to him.” I force myself to straighten my stance. “Please take me there. I need to go. Now.”

  She and Ethan trade a questioning look, and then Ethan shrugs. “He’s probably right. He
’ll be able to relax more after he talks to the police. He’s been waiting a long time for this.”

  Lila shakes her head, still furious and upset, “Fine. But we’re going to make this as quick as possible. I want to get Ayden home.”

  Home. The word carries so much more meaning now.

  I’m so damn grateful to have a safe place to call home.

  After Lila is reassured again and again that my health is okay, Lila and Ethan drive me to the police station. I want Lyric to go with me, but after the whole lying ordeal, her parents told her she needed to go home. I worry she’s in trouble, but she assured me that she could handle what her parents consider punishments.

  At the police station, we’re forced to sit in the waiting area while we wait for Detective Rannali to return from a case he’s out working on. I can hardly sit still, just thinking about how this might be reaching an end. That maybe they can finally find Sadie. Make some arrests. Give my brother some justice.

  “I wish he’d hurry up.” Lila bounces her foot up and down as she scans the busy room. “I want to get Ayden home.”

  “I know, but you need to relax.” Ethan places his hand on her knee to settle her down. “Try to stay calm for him, okay?”

  “I’m fine,” I say, picking at a hole in my jeans.

  “Don’t say that,” she says, startling me. “I know you can’t be fine, not after what you must have . . .” She sucks in a breath as her eyes water up again. “After what you saw.”

  “It wasn’t that bad,” I lie with my head tipped down. I shut my eyes and take a deep breath as the images try to resurface. “I didn’t see that much.”

  She wraps an arm around me. “That might be true, but I know seeing any of it has to be difficult.”

  She keeps trying to console me until Detective Rannali finally shows up. His blue shirt has a coffee stain on it, his silver tie is loose, and his hair is disheveled. “I came here as soon as I could.” He seems eager as he nods his head at his office door. “Come inside please. I’d really like to hear what happened with the session today.”

  The three of us rise to our feet, file into his office, and take a seat in front of his desk. Once everyone is settled, he opens a folder that contains the information and details of the stuff that’s been going on over the last couple of years.

  “I didn’t know you were going through with the session,” he starts as he searches his desk drawer for a pen. “But I’m glad you did. And I’m glad it worked.”

  “Don’t treat this situation like it’s a good thing,” Lila snaps, being protective of me like she usually is whenever we’re talking to the detective. “He could’ve been seriously hurt.”

  The detective clicks the pen and presses the tip to a yellow notepad. “I understand that. I’m just glad this all worked out.”

  “I didn’t remember everything,” I chime in as Lila grows more irritated by the second. “But I did remember some of the faces and a name.”

  He jots down a few notes, nodding. “How about you recount the details to me, and then we’ll start going through some photos of possible suspects. If we can’t get anywhere with that, we’ll start working on a composite sketch.”

  I shudder at the idea of seeing my dad or the woman with red hair again, even if it’s just in photos. But I nod, knowing I have to do this. Knowing this could be the lead they need.

  I hurry and give him an account of what I saw while I was under. When I get to the part about my father killing my mother, the room grows so quiet you can hear everyone’s heavy breathing.

  “Ayden, I don’t even know what to say.” The detective shows the slightest bit of compassion. “This must be so hard for you.”

  “Say you’re going to find him.” I curl my fingers inward, balling my hands into fists, battling back the tears burning in my eyes. “Say you’ll find him before he tries to cleanse his soul with Sadie’s life, or whatever the hell he has planned for her. Then when you find him, you’ll make him pay for everything he’s done.”

  “I’ll do everything in my power to make that happen,” he assures me.

  “Did you know about this cleansing soul thing?” I ask, gripping the armrests. “Did you know he—that the Soulless Mileas wanted to sacrifice someone they loved because they believe it’ll cleanse their souls?”

  His prolonged silence answers my question.

  “You knew, didn’t you?” I shake my head, struggling to keep my cool. But I hate how much I’ve been lied to throughout this investigation, how much they’ve left me in the dark.

  “Over the last couple of months, I’ve learned enough about these people that I’ve had a hunch for a while what they’re intentions have been,” the detective says, setting his pen down on his desk.

  “Do you think that could be why my brother was murdered?” My voice comes out off pitch, wavering, jam packed with the sadness and anger I’m carrying inside me. “Do you think he was one of my dad’s sacrifices?”

  “At first I wasn’t sure, but over the last couple of weeks we’ve stumbled onto some evidence that opens that possibility,” he explains. “But Ayden, that’s about all the details I can give you right now about your brother’s case.”

  “And what about Sadie?” My tone is clipped. But I don’t give a shit. I’m so sick of him not telling me what’s going on. “Is she going to be next?”

  He doesn’t answer, instead pushing to his feet. “I’m going to need some more information from you, but I’d like to get you started on looking through some photos.”

  Lila turns to me, her skin pale. She seemed like she was going to faint when I told everyone my mother had us for these people and their sacrifice. I’ll admit, telling that part hurt worse than nail scratches, broken bones, and wounded souls.

  “Ayden, I can’t believe . . . I don’t know what to . . .” She struggles for words. “Sweetie, I’m so sorry.”

  “You don’t need to say sorry. This isn’t your fault.” My voice is strained. “What’s done is done and I just want to forget about it and move on. But after I help find my sister.”

  She nods, covering her hand over mine. “You can move on from this. In fact, I promise you that you will.”

  “I hope so.” God, I hope so. Hope my sister’s alive. Hope that through all the darkness, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

  I’m fucking restless as I get situated in front of the computer to scroll through photos. Blood roars in my eardrums as I wrap my fingers around the mouse. Lila is just as anxious, pacing the floor behind me while Ethan tries to get her to relax.

  “Honey, you need to calm down,” he says, wrapping an arm around her and steering her toward a chair.

  “I’m trying.” She bites her nails, looking at me. “Do you need anything? Water? A snack.”

  I’m not hungry but clearly she wants to help me. “Water sounds good.”

  Nodding, she springs to her feet and hurries off toward the vending machines just outside the room.

  Ethan slumps back in the chair, letting his head rest against the wall. “I love that woman to death, but she doesn’t handle stress very well,” he mutters.

  “I’m sorry,” I say, knowing it’s my fault. “For putting you guys through this.”

  “Stop apologizing, Ayden.” He raises his head to look at me. “We’re glad we get to be here for you. We just want you to be safe.”

  Nodding, I focus back to the computer. One photo after another, I sort through so many they all start to blur together. I’m there for so long that I worry maybe I won’t find them.

  But then my heart slams to a stop.

  “That’s him.” I point at the photo on the screen of a man with the same eyes and hair color as mine.

  “Are you sure?” the detective asks, leaning over my shoulder to look at the screen.

  He looks younger in the picture, but I can still tell it’s him. “Yes, I’m positive.” My heart goes from a complete standstill to beating uncontrollably. “That’s the man who killed my mot
her. That’s my father.”

  See his face.

  It’s branded in my mind

  Like the tattoo on my side

  Put there to remember.

  You never wanted me to forget.

  Guess what. I didn’t.

  IT’S BEEN A COUPLE OF days since Ayden did the treatment. For the most part, everything’s been quiet in our lives. There hasn’t been much drama, and we weren’t even grounded for sneaking off to the therapy session. But Ayden is getting restless, waiting for something to happen with the case, although he won’t say much about it.

  I spend a lot of time trying to cheer him up, and from the outside it seems like it’s working. But in the back of my mind, I worry he might not be dealing with stuff. It has to be hard for him. After finding out all those things about his parents. After seeing what they did. Finding out that his father paid his mother to have him.

  My heart breaks for him and the pain he has to be going through.

  “Did you hear anything I just said?” my friend, Maggie, asks me.

  We’re sitting in front of the school beneath the tree, lounging in the sun. We’re supposed to be in class, but since it’s the final day of school, and then I’ll officially be a high school graduate, my English teacher let us have a free period.

  “Not really,” I answer truthfully, stretching my legs across the grass. “Sorry, I’m just a little distracted.”

  “You’re always a little distracted.” She rolls up her shirt to the bottom of her bra so the sun hits her stomach. “And I think I know why.”

  “Really?” I ask with skepticism. There’s no way she could possibly know.

  “Yep. It has something to do with a certain sexy Goth boy you can’t keep your hands off of.” She rests back on her hands, smiling smugly.

  I relax against the tree behind me. “Okay, enlighten me then. Because I have no clue what you’re talking about.”

  “Oh, you so do.” She pulls her glasses down, looking at me from over the top of them. “I can see it in your eyes every time the two of you are within a mile of each other.”