Taken (Breaking the Darkness) (8 page)

 

I HAD MORE to say, but just the thought of being back in that dark room seemed to zip me there faster than I could stop myself. With a full breath of air, I hit my body and my head shot up to look around the room I couldn’t see.

I had to know if it was still on me. I reached up to my chest and I knew the amulet was there before I even touched it. It would have been nice if the necklace helped me see in the dark. Not that there was much of anything to see in there. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I wasn’t able to have astral escapes. Had I not been able to find reprieve, my mind may have been taken by the darkness. At least while I was projecting I could see everything around me. It was amazing how we took such basic things like sight and light for granted.

I hadn’t removed the pendant since Gram died. It was the last thing she gave me. In a silly way, it made me feel connected to her. I did have other pieces of jewelry she made for me, but this one always felt right.

She did tell me to make sure I kept it with me when her spirit visited me. I wondered if there was a way for me to contact her. There were so many questions I needed her to answer. Where would I even start? All I could do was hope she was watching and would come to me soon. She didn’t seem to think it was safe for her. I forgot what it felt like to be safe.

The rumble in my belly made it hard to remain on the floor. I needed to walk, to move; my body was sore and tight from scarcity of activity. Getting up, my nerves and the lack of answers had me pacing the little bit of floor space I had. How many times could I walk back and forth? Counting my steps was so not helping. The seconds felt like minutes.

I never knew my father. At the earliest of ages, I never thought anything about it; Mom and Gram were always there. My life was full of everything I needed. I wasn’t one of those kids to question things. Nothing felt like it was missing. After Mom disappeared, I asked Gram a few times, but she said Mom never talked about it, and I never pushed.

I wondered if Mom was just human. I don’t remember anything unusual about her. Maybe she was a hybrid, and her special ability was her vanishing act. Gram told me she was in a dark place; when the time was right, she would find her way. Too much time had passed and I had given up on that idea. Gram would sometimes whisper to me, “Never doubt your mother’s love. It is forever a part of you.”

Gram always said wonky stuff. I was starting to understand why. Her riddles, I think, had more hidden meaning than I ever could’ve imagined.

I really hoped Patience and her sister—
wow, sister
—could find out more information about my amulet and about Ziona. I don’t know why I never pictured her having a sister.

My pacing was starting to make me dizzy. It suddenly dawned on me that I shouldn’t be wasting the little bit of energy I received from that candy bar, so I plopped back on the bed.

Some less crazy and serious thoughts could relax my mind. I eased back and bent up my knees. Of course, my loneliness brought my thoughts back to one of the few humans I hoped to see again.

I speculated about projecting myself to this Kaden guy. Patience said I could focus my thoughts on Ziona to follow her. Maybe if I did the same with Kaden, I could see him. Only I didn’t really know anything about him. I didn’t even know completely what he looked like in real life. His voice did still dance in my ears. That wouldn’t be hard to focus on, or his broad shoulders that stretched across his muscular back. I never realized how much I could enjoy the thoughts of a man made of muscles. I never dated enough to consider what my type might be.

Decidedly, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. I needed to be able to shift into astral mode quickly if Ziona came back, so it would be good practice. Since I had success projecting myself while I was meditating and chanting some oms, that was as good as any a place to start relaxing my mind.

I placed my hands on my belly and focused on the rise and fall of my breath. Om in and om out. The sound of my breath against my throat helped calm my nerves. Focusing on Kaden’s voice and what little of him I saw helped my mind let go. I hoped for that tingling sensation to start tickling my scalp.

Lying with my eyes closed, thinking about Kaden and his soft supple lips, I breathed in and out. Sharing that breath with him and thoughts of him on the beach in my dream kept clouding my mind. Picturing walking along with my feet in the surf standing beside one of the hottest men I’ve ever been around, my mind just drifted off to sleep.

Looking around, I was strangely aware that I was dreaming. Not enough to be an active participant, but I just had that feeling. It was just in the back of my mind for a brief moment.

I was surrounded by well-aged trees towering over me high in the sky. The air was pretty dry and so was the ground beneath my feet. Careful, I started to walk. I had to take care not to twist my ankle on all the round pebbles and rocks. It looked like a dried-up riverbed. The sun was flowing down in streams of liquid gold, sneaking through the trees’ protective covering. There was nothing but pure nature around me. I had a feeling I’d been there before, but I couldn’t put my finger on the location.

By the looks of my purple and grey hiking boots, it was the place for a hike. It was always a safe bet to follow the river if you didn’t know where you were going. Maybe it would lead to water or a landmark that could spark a memory. Nervous about twisting my ankle, I decided it would be good to find a walking stick of some sort.

My trek through the woods was relaxing. There was just enough sun filtering down to light the way and keep me a bit more than warm. Luckily, the canopy kept it cool enough that I wasn’t uncomfortable.

The path I followed finally met up with a small stream. I found some nice large rocks along the edge to sit upon and take a break. I rested my rump to remove my boots and socks. With my love of water, how could I resist sticking in my toes?

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

If I didn’t love the sound of his voice so much, I might have been startled. I turned to face him and gifted him a soft smile. “And why wouldn’t I want to?”

“Darling, something might jump up and bite those cute little toes of yours. We wouldn’t want that now.”

“I’m not sure there’s anything big enough in this trickling stream to bite anything, let alone my toes. Ignoring his warning, I enjoyed the cool tickle of the quick flowing stream across my feet. “What are you doing out here?”

“Hiking and, of course, looking for you. I brought you lunch.” From behind, he pulled a picnic basket out of nowhere.

“Oh yeah? What do you have in there? I could use a snack.” My stomach’s growls were loud enough to scare away any wildlife.

“What I have here is what you want.” He gave me a little eyebrow wiggle and a big fat smile. Kaden knew that as hungry as my belly was, my loins were even hungrier for him, and he gloated in it.

He moved in slow and found a flat spot just off to the side of the small boulder I sat on. He opened the basket and pulled out a red-and-white checkered blanket and laid it on the ground. He continued to empty the contents of the basket.

I wasn’t sure how it all fit in there. Wine glasses, a bottle of white wine, a hot thermos, and two ceramic coffee mugs—like the ones from my favorite café—and two bottles of water. Then came the food. A loaf of crusty fresh baked yeasty bread, an assortment of meats and cheeses, and some kind of pie.

“Is that pie?” My mouth watered under my tongue.

“What picnic would be complete without pie? This one is like the one my baba used to make. Cherry blueberry with a brown sugar crust. It has just the right amount of tartness but sweet enough to have you licking your lips, wanting more.” And with that his tongue glided across his upper lip just before he sucked in his fat bottom lip. “Mmmm,” he moaned just loud enough for me to hear.

I hoped I wasn’t drooling. I needed to force my mouth shut even if it was only for a second. “That looks real good. I can almost taste it.”

I played into his flirtatious double meaning banter. Something I would probably never have the guts to do in the real world.

“I bet you can. We can always be naughty and work our way backward if you want. Why not just dive into dessert first?” He suggested.

His eyes showed me he meant business. They appeared darker at that moment than I remembered from the beach. They seemed to blend in with the colors of the forest behind him. The pie wasn’t the dessert either of us had on our minds.

“No, I want to enjoy this beautiful lunch you brought me. I like the idea of having something to look forward to.”

I turned and climbed over my resting place and then hopped over to the blanket. I didn’t feel like putting my shoes back on just yet. A bit more earth stuck to the bottoms of my feet than I preferred, but I dusted them off and tucked them under me as I made myself comfortable.

After filling my wine glass, Kaden took out a large knife from the basket. Wielding it like an extension of his arm, he carved the bread with ease and sliced up some of the cheeses as I sipped on my drink.

I took in as much of the multicolored ramparts that surrounded me as I could. The trees started to stand out as individual species to me, and I got lost in thoughts of Gram teaching me the names of these trees. A velvet ash and a big tooth maple were happy being friends in this forest. There were many trees that had great things to offer us, a lot more than just maple syrup.

Kaden redirected my attention, handing me a plate and napkin. Just before he took his hand away, he made sure it caressed mine in its withdrawal. He divvied up some of the food. I watched him, not realizing I’d sipped my way through the entire glass of wine, helping amp up my appetite.

“This is a rocking picnic. After my energy’s boosted, I’m looking forward to continuing on this hike to figure out where we are. But not before I get a taste of your pie.”

“I can assure you, you will not forget
this
pie.” He sucked the purple fruit from his fingertip. His full lips expanded as they slid off his finger. “We are in Boynton Canyon. Do you remember the last time you were here?” he asked in such a subtle way, but it felt strange for him to ask.

“Not exactly. I do recognize some of the trees and it feels familiar. Today will be hard to forget, though.” I still didn’t hesitate answering him.

“Kasha, what is it that you recognize about the trees?”

“Well, Gram always taught me about botany. You’d be surprised at all the uses there are for plants you might otherwise ignore. I must have been somewhere with her that had these trees. We traveled a lot and moved way too often. I have a wealth of knowledge about plants from many regions.”

“Why was your gram so interested in plants? Was she a botanist or a florist?”

I chuckled. “No, she was kind of an herbalist. She believed in holistic remedies. I was never really interested, but much of what she showed me stuck with me. I guess it’s fun knowing about nature. Most people take their surroundings for granted. They have no idea the power Mother Earth has to offer.”

Kaden perked up at something I said. I personally didn’t see what a guy like him would find so interesting. It got me thinking more about where we were. After we ate, I wanted to see what other plants I could identify.

Kaden fed me a bite of candied walnuts I missed on my plate. “Tell me about the power of Mother Earth? That seems a bit hokey.”

“I’ll tell you anything you want to know.
After
I get some of that sweet pie you’ve promised me.”

I reached over to grab the coffee thermos. Suddenly there was a rustling noise from behind me. I turned to see what it could be. Hopefully not a coyote. Kaden’s gaze drifted in the same direction. When I looked back, everything went grey to black. I still heard the noise but rolled over back in my dreadful prison.

 

 

 

 

“I THINK YOUR special power might be sleeping.”

The sound of the crisp snap of an apple enticed my eyes open. Ziona was leaning against the wall, crunching on a juicy bite. One of her legs was bent back with her foot pressed up behind her.

“You know, Kasha, anyone could come in here and do ungodly things to you. How do you sleep so much? Every time I come in here, you’re sleeping.” She tossed the apple at me. “Things don’t have to be this way. Don’t you want to get out of here? I can help, you know.”

I scrambled to fetch the apple. My attempt to not seem desperate was foiled by my uncontrollable hunger. I thrust the half-eaten apple into my mouth and I might have just groaned a little as my teeth sank into it. Ziona expected an answer, but I was sure she was quite aware how long it had been since I last ate anything.

I got a piece of improperly chewed apple stuck in my throat. I knew I shouldn’t try to speak while I was scarfing down that tiny bit of food. After choking and coughing, I wished I had a drink to soothe my throat.

“Why shouldn’t I sleep? What else am I supposed to do?” I slammed what was left of the apple core onto the ground. “I don’t know what you want from me.”

Without moving a muscle, I could feel Ziona’s gaze shift from the apple back up to me. It actually felt like it was burrowing into me. Her eyes were like black daggers that she wasn’t quite ready to throw.

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