Shimmering chaos, p.8
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.8

           Jessica Sorensen
 
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  See that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.

  Chapter 12

  The wind picks up as I stride across the grassy field, the chilled air nipping at my skin. I probably should’ve put on a jacket, but if I turn back now, I’ll more than likely talk myself out of doing this. So, wrapping my arms around myself, I hurry toward the forest where the trees sway with the wind.

  When I reach the border, I pause, just like Hunter and Holden did, and move to elevate my hand.

  Part of me questions if I hallucinated the rippling effect, that when I place my palm in the air, nothing will happen. But just like with Holden and Hunter, the air ripples like waves. It also feels warm against my skin, as if begging me to touch it longer.

  My insides jitter with nerves, and the sky more than notices, lighting up like the Fourth of July.

  Calm down, Sky, or you’re going to start a fire.

  Summoning a deep breath, I step forward and through the rippling, clear wall.

  Swoosh.

  The second my foot enters the trees, sparkling warmth waterfalls over me. I’d be more concerned about it, except the scene in front of me has me very distracted.

  The trees are taller than I’ve ever seen, the grass is greener than the greenest of shades, and the number of colorful flowers sprouting from everywhere is unnatural.

  When I look up, my lips part in shock. The sky is an electric blue, not a single cloud evident.

  “What is this place?” I whisper, peering around.

  A few butterflies flutter around a rose bush, but other than that, I can’t see any signs of life. Water is flowing from somewhere close by, and when I listen closer, I hear faint voices drifting through the gentle breeze. I can’t make out what they’re saying or who they belong to so, putting my guard up, I endeavor deeper into the trees.

  With each step, the colors of the forest sharpen, as if I’ve stepped into a portrait. And the voices also get louder, the faint murmurs turning into actual words.

  “Just get in the middle, okay?” Gabe sounds as if he’s losing his patience.

  A flutter of a second later, I slam to a halt as I reach the edge of a small clearing where all the Everettsons are standing in a circle. They’re dressed head to toe in black with hoods pulled over their heads, which I find odd for several different reasons, one being that Hunter and Holden weren’t wearing hoodies when they left the house.

  Before they can spot me, I hunker down behind a tree and trap my breath in my chest. I’m not even sure why my instinct is to hide, or what I’m afraid of, other than this entire situation is straight-up crazy.

  Maybe I’m crazy.

  Maybe I’m hallucinating.

  Maybe I’m still asleep in my bed, dreaming.

  I pinch my arm to check and wince. Fuck, that hurt.

  “I don’t know why we have to do this,” Foster growls out. “I’ve been getting better.”

  “We know, son, but with all the storms that have been blowing through …” Gabe gives a short pause. “I think it’s best if we practice containing your powers, okay?”

  “I already said I’m not causing those storms,” Foster bites out. “Something else is doing it.”

  Silence momentarily stills the air.

  “Sweetie, as far as everyone knows, you’re the only elemental enchanter alive right now,” Emaline says. “So, if the storms are being controlled, it’s probably your doing. Not that we’re mad at you—we know you’ve been stressed out lately. But we need to get your powers under control before you draw too much attention, which can’t happen. And while we’ll do anything to protect our secrets, I’d rather just make sure they stay secret.”

  “Fine. Whatever,” Foster grumbles. “Let’s just get this over with.”

  A quietness settles across the land.

  Wondering what they could possibly be doing, I muster up every ounce of courage I possess and peer around the tree trunk I’m hiding behind.

  Nothing could prepare me for what I see.

  Foster has moved into the center of the circle, and his hands are crackling with lightning bolts. That’s not even the strangest part. Each Everettson has their hands out in front of them, and a ray of light is streaming from their palms and toward Foster. Even crazier? The rays of light match their eye colors.

  “Holy shit,” I gasp out as I slowly back away.

  Blue and silver electricity cracks across the sky, and I tense, trying to get my breathing under control.

  Calm down. You’re going to be just fine.

  Foster’s eyes snap open, and his lightning charged gaze welds with mine. He looks possessed. Demonic.

  I recall the screams I heard last night.

  Just who the hell are the Everettsons?

  Panicking, I reel around and run like hell in the direction I came from, not looking back, even when I hear cursing from behind me.

  When I stumble from the trees, I rush back toward the house and barrel inside. Then I sprint straight up to my room and start shoving my clothes into a backpack.

  I need to get the hell out of here. Now. I can’t be here … not after what I just saw. Not when I have no clue what they were doing. Plus, I’m worried they might hurt me for finding out their secret. After all, I heard Max, Easton, and Foster verbalizing their concern for me discovering their family’s secrets. This has to be to what they were referring. I mean, what else could it be?

  The idea that there could very well be even more to this makes me shiver.

  Grabbing my phone, I send Nina and Gage a text.

  Me: Can someone pick me up? It’s an emergency.

  I move to hit send when my phone powers down. And not because it has a dead battery.

  “Fuck. I need to get out of here.” My heart thumps in my chest as I shove my phone into my pocket, sling my bag over my shoulder, and hightail it out of the house.

  My plan is to run to town and borrow someone’s phone so I can call Nina and Gage and tell them to come get me. Where I’ll go from there, I haven’t got a clue. But I’ll figure it out.

  But what if they come looking for me? What if they find me? What will they do to me?

  I swallow hard at the many ideas flowing through my mind and accelerate from a run to a full-on sprint.

  By the time I reach the gated entrance, which is thankfully open, a hailstorm is blowing in. With how upset I am, I’m not shocked. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a blizzard soon blew in.

  Positioning my bag over my head, I squeeze through the gates and run out onto the street. Chips of ice plink against my body, pelting my arms and legs, but I continue on, my breaths fogging out in front of my face as the temperature plummets.

  I don’t make it very far before Gabe’s truck pulls up behind me, the windshield wipers moving a million miles a minute against the hail.

  I quicken my pace, refusing to slow down, and deliberate whether or not to duck into the trees lining the road to escape them.

  “Sky!” Gabe calls out over the hammering hail.

  Doors slam shut, and then footsteps thud against the asphalt behind me.

  I run faster, the sizes of the hail growing bigger.

  “Sky, wait up!” Max shouts. “Fuck, what is with this hail?”

  “You don’t need to be afraid of us,” Holden yells after me. “Please, just slow down so we can talk.”

  Jesus, are they all here?

  Daring a glance behind me, I see Gabe, Max, and Holden. That makes me feel a drop better, since the three of them have been fairly nice to me.

  “Sweetheart, just relax, okay?” Max jogs after me, the hood of his jacket pulled over his head. Hail is plinking off him, yet he appears unbothered—they all do. “We know what you saw looks really …” He wavers. “Odd.”

  “And it is odd,” Holden clarifies, jogging beside Max. He’s pulled his hood down; little drops of ice cover his hair. “But we promise we won’t hurt you.”

  As a hail pegs me straight between the eyes, I slow to a stop. “Mother e
ffer, that hurt.”

  “Are you okay?” Holden asks worriedly as he jogs up to me.

  I hold up my hand and skitter back. “Just stay away from me.”

  They all slow to a stop and cautiously raise their hands in front of them.

  “Sky, if you’ll come back to the house with us,” Gabe says, walking toward us, “we’ll explain what you just saw.”

  Max’s and Holden’s heads whip in his direction, surprise flickering across their expressions.

  They weren’t expecting him to say that.

  “Dad …” Max starts with reluctance, his eyelashes fluttering as hail pegs him in the face.

  Gabe holds his hand up in Max’s direction. “Your mother and I already talked about this and decided that we can’t keep this from her. Not when she’s going to be living with us for months.” He lowers his hand to his side. “We should’ve just told her to begin with, but we were waiting for the right time …” He presses his lips together and shakes his head. “I’m sorry you had to find out that way, Sky. I’m sure what you saw was … frightening.”

  Actually, what I saw wasn’t necessarily frightening. It was the worry of what they’d do to me if they found out I saw that sent me running.

  “Dad, humans can’t understand.” Max presses, crossing his arms. “You of all people should know that.”

  Humans? So, they aren’t human? I guess, when I really think about it, I’m not that surprised.

  “Actually, they can.” Gabe looks at me while wiping melted hail from his face. “Skylin’s father and mother knew about us.”

  My jaw drops. “They did?”

  He nods, inching toward me, ice crunching underneath his boots. “I was once captured by some hunters who wanted to do experiments on me. Their experiments almost killed me, and probably would’ve, if your father hadn’t rescued me.”

  Hearing his story makes me relax enough that the hail shifts to rain.

  My dad and mom knew about this? He saved Gabe and kept Gabe’s secret? That means they won’t hurt me … I hope.

  I lower my bag from my head, and raindrops dot my skin. “And, what are you exactly?”

  Gabe glances at Holden and Max, who are bursting with tension, then redirects his attention back to me. “We’re elemental protectors. Max is wind, Porter and my wife are ice, Easton and I are water, Holden and Hunter are fire, and Foster is … well, he’s complicated, but I’ll explain that later.”

  “You’re the only elemental enchanter alive right now,” Emaline had said to Foster in the forest.

  They had also blamed the storms on him. Could it be that Foster controls storms? Could I be like Foster? Do the Everettsons know about my ability? Doubtful since, not only did they just refer to me as human, but they think Foster is responsible for all the storms.

  “Foster really needs to practice controlling his abilities more,” Max utters as he peers up at the cloudy sky.

  Yeah, they definitely don’t know about me. I could tell them, but something holds me back. I’m not even sure what. Years of silence? The fear of knowing the truth about myself? The fear of finding out I’m not like them and am a freak of nature?

  One thing is certain; I have a choice to make right now. I can run away from them and the truth, or trust Gabe and find out what exactly it is that I saw in the forest.

  Part of me wants to keep on running, but deep down, I know that isn’t what I’m going to do. I need to trust Gabe and go back with him. After all, if my dad knew about his powers, then he can’t be too horrible. Plus, maybe I can find out more about my ability. That is, if I’m like the Everettsons.

  “All right, I’ll go back with you.” I sling the handle of my bag over my shoulder and walk toward them.

  Fog laces from their lips as they exhale in relief then turn back for the truck. Me? I’m a nervous fucking wreck as I climb into the truck with them.

  All these years, I believed I was the only one with strange powers. Now, come to find out, I’m not. It’s a lot to take in. All of this is.

  We remain silent for the short ride home. Max and Holden keep throwing worried glances at me, as if expecting me to dive out of the truck or something. Their attention makes me feel squirmy inside, for several different reasons, some of which are for similar reasons as to why I blushed earlier today around Hunter.

  By the time we pull up into the driveway, I’m a jumble of nerves, and my skin is sparkling with warmth.

  I wonder if one of them is making me feel this way.

  When Gabe parks the truck, everyone hops out and hikes up the pathway toward the front door, boots splashing in puddles.

  Holden slows down when he nears the steps and waits for me to catch up.

  “Are you okay?” he whispers lowly.

  Max pauses by the front door and glances over his shoulder at me, waiting for my answer, I’m assuming.

  I shrug as the image of them in the forest with their hands lit up flashes through my mind. “I’m really not sure.”

  Holden squeezes my hand. “Everything’s going to be okay, Sky.” Despite his words, the hesitancy in his expression has me questioning if he believes his own words. But I don’t get too much time to stress about it as he folds his hand around mine and glittery warmth kisses my fingertips.

  I bite down on my tongue to keep a gasp from fumbling past my lips.

  I don’t … What is that?

  Holden doesn’t seem to notice my reaction, holding my hand as he steers me past Max.

  Gabe pushes the doors open then ushers us through the foyer and into the massive living room where the rest of the Everettsons are waiting. A fire is crackling in the fireplace, and the air smells of hot chocolate and cinnamon. The scene would feel homey, except for the nervousness trickling through the air.

  “Go ahead and have a seat,” Gabe tells me while shucking off his jacket.

  Swallowing nervously, I peer inside the room.

  Easton and Foster are sitting on a sectional sofa, along with Emaline, and Hunter is lounging in a chair, his boots kicked off and his feet kicked up on an ottoman. Mugs are on the coffee table, along with a plate of cookies. And all their gazes are fixed on me. Well, not me per se, but mine and Holden’s interlocked fingers.

  Shit, I forgot we were holding hands. Probably because the warmth of his touch makes me feel so relaxed.

  I wiggle my hand from his grip and stuff my hands into the pockets of my jacket to hide how bad I’m trembling.

  “Oh, sweetie.” Emaline rises to her feet, whisks across the room, and wraps her arms around me. “I’m so sorry you had to find out this way. We should’ve told you the moment you came to our home.” She hugs me tightly. “I just hope we didn’t scare you too badly.”

  “It’s fine.” A partial lie, but what else am I supposed to say? “I just …” I sigh as she pulls back and looks me directly in the eye. “I just don’t understand why my parents never mentioned stuff like … well, whatever you were doing in those trees.” If they had said something, maybe I would’ve told them about my ability a long time ago. Not that we spent a lot of time talking to each other, but we did speak about important stuff sometimes. Now I can’t even tell them anything at all.

  “They probably didn’t mention it because we asked them not to.” She smooths my hair out of my eyes. “It’s very important that no one finds out about us. If the wrong people did, we could end up experiments in some lab.”

  “Like Gabe was?” I slip my hands out of my pockets.

  Her wide eyes land on Gabe. “You told her that part already?”

  He ruffles his damp hair into place. “I thought, if she knew what her father did for me, it’d help her feel a bit better about this.”

  Emaline nods, her gaze traveling back to me. “So, you understand what’s at stake if anyone finds out about us?”

  I nod, even though I don’t know all the details about what happened to Gabe or who these scientists are. But I’ve felt that fear myself of someone finding out about me, so I understan
d where they’re coming from.

  “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.” It’s the truth. I have no plans of telling anyone about what I saw in the woods. If I did, people would think I was insane.

  She smiles. “Thank you. You don’t know how much we appreciate this.”

  Foster glares at me. “Yeah, if she keeps her word.” His eyes have returned to their normal shade of sky blue, but his gaze is still piercing.

  “Foster,” Gabe warns in a cold tone. “I trust that Skylin will keep her word, and you will, too.”

  “Why should we trust her?” Easton asks his dad. “We don’t even know her.”

  “But your mother and I knew her parents, and they’ve kept our secret for decades.” Gabe hangs up his jacket on a nearby coatrack, walks into the room, and then sinks into a chair with his shoulders slumped. “Scott, Skylin’s father, was the man who rescued me from the hunters.” He rubs his hand across his head. “He saved my life and was—is the most trustworthy person I know. Her mother is equally as trustworthy, and I have no doubt that their daughter is the same way.”

  The room grows so quiet I can hear the embers in the fire hissing.

  “I trust her,” Holden utters from beside me.

  “Me, too,” Max says with his eyes trained on me.

  “I really don’t know her.” Porter shrugs. “However, she let the whole eyeballs-in-the-fridge thing drop pretty easily, even though I could tell she was freaked out by it.”

  “And the screaming last night,” Max adds. “She didn’t question that too much.”

  Yeah, speaking of which, I really want to find out what that was because I’m starting to question if it was because Easton was pranked.

  “Maybe she’s insane then.” Easton smirks at me as he reclines back in the chair with his hands tucked behind his head.

  I’ve seriously had enough of his crap, and with the day I’ve had …

  Anger bursts through like a zap of lightning.

  “You know, you’ve smirked at me so many times that, at this point, I’m actually starting to wonder if it’s just how your face looks. Perhaps you did it so many times that your lips just got stuck in that stupid position. Well, either that or you secretly want to look like the Cheshire Cat. Which, if you do, good job. You’re almost there.” I bite down on my tongue to stop myself from saying anything else.

 
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