Authors: Jus Accardo
Tags: #Romance, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #teen, #young adult, #denazen, #Speculative Fiction, #ya, #Paranormal, #touch, #toxic, #jus accardo, #tremble
“How could you let him do this?” I released her arm and took a step back to give her some room. “You know what he’s doing to these people—to us! He’s using you just like he is the rest of them. If we stick together, we can—”
She pushed away from the sink and advanced. “How could I possibly trust you? You turned on your own father!”
I blinked. “Turned on my own father? Have you met the guy? He’s a monster.”
“What he and Denazen are doing is best for all of us.” She shook her head and leaned closer. “Besides, I know you knew about me. You begged him to leave me.”
“Weren’t you there the day we met? Did I look like I had any clue you were my sister?”
“All an act.”
She’d never seen me in the school production of
. I had a bit part as an orphan and blew it when I caught sight of Uncle Mark and Brandt in the audience halfway through. I broke character and started waving like an idiot. I’d never lived it down.
“What’s going on?” someone asked from behind.
I froze. The tiny hairs along my arms and on the back of my neck jumped to attention. That voice played on repeat each time I closed my eyes. It was the soundtrack to my dreams and the thing that kept me from slipping over the edge of crazy. I almost didn’t want to turn for fear that I’d finally lost it, and the whole thing was in my head.
When I got the nerve, I turned and found myself face-to-face with the most amazing crystalline blue eyes I’d ever seen.
It was like I’d landed hard after a wipe, air knocked from my lungs and blobs dancing like a Technicolor kaleidoscope behind each eye. He stood in the doorway dressed in worn blue jeans and a long-sleeved black button-down shirt. His hair was longer than the last time I’d seen him. Shaggier in the front and reaching down just below his ears.
Our eyes met and every inch of me filled with a happiness I never expected to get back. Kale. Here. In one piece.
He stepped across the threshold, blue eyes on mine for a moment before moving to Kiernan. “Are—are you okay?”
I started to reach for him, the smile on my face going from ear to ear and probably making me look goofier than the Cheshire Cat. “I—”
“I’m fine,” Kiernan said, knocking my hand away. She shoved me aside, stepped around, and as I watched in shock, pulled him close.
With a wink, she twisted and covered his mouth with hers, and my entire world grew dark. It was like Jade all over again—only worse because of the way he responded. Fingers knotting into the back of her shirt, he dragged her tightly against him like he couldn’t bear the thought of space between them.
I wanted to move—needed to move—but it was like my feet were superglued to the tile. The feeling that built in the pit of my chest was like acid. Chipping and chewing away at the bones until it reached my heart. And it did. The burning sensation, followed by a total lack of oxygen in the room, made me dizzy. I couldn’t look away and I couldn’t breathe. This was a nightmare. That was the only explanation. At the moment, I was warm and safe in my bed, snoring softly while this horrific scene played out in my head. It couldn’t be real. I knew that for several reasons.
Kale would never be sucking face with Kiernan. She’d betrayed us all. He might want to touch her, but there sure as hell wouldn’t be kissing involved. Second—and more importantly—
suck face with Kiernan. He’d vaporize her on contact.
“What the hell, Dez? You take off like someone lit your ass on fire—” Alex rounded the corner and stopped short when he got to the doorway. “Huh. Someone slipped something into my drink. I’ve obviously entered the
…” He leaned to the side, peering around Kiernan and Kale to me. “You okay?”
“Popular question tonight,” I mumbled, still staring at them. Good. My voice. I found my voice. Maybe that meant air wasn’t far behind.
Kiernan pulled away, grinning like a cat that ate an entire flock of canaries, and hooked a finger possessively through one of the front loops of Kale’s jeans. “She’s fine and dandy as candy.”
“I was on my way back from the bar when I saw this girl run after you. Do you know her?” Kale’s gaze shifted between Alex and me, then fell back to Kiernan. “She looked angry.”
Alex let out a sharp whistle. “You’ve gotta be kidding me, brother man.”
Kale’s expression darkened. “I’m not. Who did you say you were?”
,” Alex answered, taking a step closer.
“Was there something you needed, then?” Kale growled, drawing himself up. “If not, you can leave now.”
With the boys distracted—their dislike of each other apparently transcended memory issues—I grabbed Kiernan’s arm and spun her around. She still hadn’t lost the shit-eating grin and, more than anything, I wanted to wipe it from her face.
Possibly using an electric sander—or a cheese grater. Pavement would have worked, too.
“Told you he wasn’t the same.” She knocked my hand away and pushed back, catching me off guard. I lost my grip on the knife and it bounced across the floor, clattering loudly against the tile before landing at her feet.
It happened fast. We dove for the comb-turned-blade at the same time, but she was just a hair closer and reached it first. There was a
of air as she swung, accompanied by a glint of silver. I dodged the attack and knocked her back against the wall, still determined to get an answer. “What did you do to—”
The rest of the sentence caught in my throat. So did the airflow. Kale had me flipped and pinned against the wall in Kiernan’s place, fingers tight around my neck as she stepped to the side, smiling. Something bubbled in my stomach.
The night we’d met. Only this time the look in his eyes was different. Unapologetic and cruel.
Alex made a move to come forward, but I held up a hand to stop him. Something was wrong—obviously—but Kale was still Kale. And that meant he could flatten Alex without batting an eye, not to mention we had no idea what was going on with his ability.
“I’m asking again, Roz. Do you know this girl?”
“Kiernan,” I said, trying to pry his hands from around my neck.
His fingers relaxed a bit. “What?”
“Her name is Kiernan.” I felt his fingers twitch with each word I spoke, the vibration of my voice making their hold just a bit tighter. “Who the hell is Roz?”
The question seemed to confuse him. Good. I could work with that. Confused Kale was better than homicidal Kale any day of the week. His grip loosened, head tilting a hair to the left. The coolness in his eyes cut like a chainsaw through my core. There was absolutely no recognition there, and it was taking every ounce of my control not to break apart. “Listen to me. I don’t know what they did to you, but you know who I am. I’m
. You lo—”
Kiernan sighed and placed a hand on his shoulder, pulling back. I was tempted to hit her, but one look at Kale and I squashed the idea. Something told me that in his current state it wouldn’t go over well. “She’s right, Kale. You
know her…you just don’t remember.”
For an insane moment, I thought for sure she’d had an attack of conscience and was about to come clean. We might get this whole crazy mess sorted without any bloodshed.
I was an idiot.
“This is Kiernan McGuire, the girl Daddy told you about.”
I nearly fell over. “Are you
Kale’s eyes darkened and the right corner of his upper lip pulled back. I knew that look. It was the one he frequently wore while thinking about his years at Denazen. While thinking about the people who hurt him. At the moment, that was
’s the one responsible for my accident?”
There was the smallest twinge of doubt in his voice. I might have been able to pick at the edges and pry something free, but Kiernan jumped right in. “Think hard, Kale.
. You know the name… How does it make you feel?”
“This is crap,” I spat. “Don’t listen to her. She’s so full of shit her eyes are brown!”
“Kiernan.” He repeated the name, eyes still on mine. Falling forward, he released my throat and placed both hands against the wall on either side of my head, boxing me in. “It makes me feel angry.”
Worry bubbled, but I stuffed it down. “Of course it makes you feel angry. She screwed us all over.”
Alex moved farther into the bathroom and inched closer, but he froze when Kale turned. Alex threw up his hands in a show of surrender and nodded in my direction. “You’re confused, brother man. This is
. You don’t want to hurt her.”
“He’s right, Kale,” Kiernan said, somber. “Daddy would be pissed if something happened to her. She’s part of an earlier trial of his Supremacy project.”
Kale’s eyes traveled over me with a hint of disgust, and something inside shattered into a million tiny pieces. Seeing him kiss Kiernan had been horrible, but seeing him look at me that way was unbearable. Like I was one of
. It was one of the worst moments in my life. “She’s Supremacy?”
“I know. Makes no sense, right? But it was the test round. They weren’t picky about subjects. She lives. For now.” She waved her cell and pointed toward the door. “We have to go. Stuff to do, remember?”
He held my gaze, and for a second—just a second—I could have sworn I saw something spark in his eyes. Recognition? A feeling? Maybe a flash of something familiar. But it didn’t matter. Whatever it was disappeared within a half beat of my heart, leaving his stare cold and empty. He turned and crossed the threshold without a word, Kiernan following close behind.
As she stepped into the hall, just before rounding the corner, she turned back to me, smiling. “Did you know the first
stage of the Supremacy decline is loss of the ability to feel pain?”
And then she was gone.
“Dez, your arm.” Alex grabbed my hand and twisted. The sleeve of my new green sweater was ripped and oozing red.
“Crap,” I hissed, wrapping my hand tight to stop the bleeding.
“You don’t feel it?”
“Of course I feel it!” I lied. Did it with a straight face, too. Pretty impressive considering the raging storm of
holy freaking crap
brewing in my chest. “Hurts like hell.” I nodded to the door. I could freak later. The Supremacy thing would still be waiting—unfortunately—but Kale wouldn’t. “Hurry. We can’t lose them.”
We charged from the bathroom and into the hall, taking the steps two at a time. It took a minute, but I finally spotted Kiernan’s newly blond head bobbing through the crowd, Kale at her side. We needed to move faster. They were already across the room and by the door. Another few seconds and they’d be out of sight.
The party had gotten even more crowded in the time we’d been gone. An unending sea of bodies stood between us and them, making it impossible to cut fast through the middle of the room. “Shit! We’re gonna lose them.”
Alex took my hand. He stopped short and tugged me to the side, jaw set in determination. “No we
We’d talked about Alex using his abilities in public. More specifically, around our friends. He’d grown a little careless, and in an epically weird turn of events, I found myself being the voice of reason. It was one thing to make a napkin float across the room in a crowd of drunken people. It was another to make said napkin conveniently dive into the cleavage of the hot foreign exchange student.
This was an exception. With the smallest flick of his fingers, he parted the crowd down the middle, allowing for a narrow, straight path between them and us. There was a little confusion, and a few people yelped, but no one seemed to realize what had happened. It was like a handful of people inexplicably tripped backward at the same time.
With a grin, Alex propelled me through the middle of the newly separated crowd and right out the front door. Easy peasy. We made it onto the lawn in time to see Kiernan and Kale reach the sidewalk. They stopped, and Kiernan pointed to a couple standing a few feet away. I didn’t recognize either of them, but that didn’t mean anything. Parkview had one hell of a reputation. Kids came from neighboring towns just to party.
We ducked behind a tree and I sucked in a deep breath, trying to process everything that had happened. “He had no memory of either of us. He touched me and nothing happened… He
“He did a little more than touch—”
I glared, daring him to finish the sentence.
“Sorry. Old habit. The guy brings out the worst in me.” He leaned forward and cursed. “Oh, wow… The memory and touching? Yeah, that’s not the only thing that’s different.”
I pushed him aside and peered around the large tree trunk to see Kale bent low to the ground just beneath a streetlamp, hand flat against the sidewalk. The concrete in front of him shimmered and twitched as something dark—like a thousand tiny shadows clustered together and churning like chaos—gathered. The mass of black convulsed twice, then sank into the ground.
It moved like a snake, skating not along the ground but
it. Just under the surface, bouncing back and forth between the edge of the lawn and the curb, and then heading straight toward the couple. When it reached them, there was a surge of darkness beneath the guy’s feet and, within seconds, he exploded into a million dustlike particles that were carried away on the breeze.
“Holy shit!” Alex stumbled back behind the tree as the girl’s hysterical screams cut through the night, drawing people out from inside the house. He tried to drag me with him as a crowd started to gather on the sidewalk but I resisted, too sick to peel my eyes from the sight.
I covered my mouth to keep from screaming.
A small pile of dust remained in front of the girl. She’d fallen to her knees, uncontrollably sobbing while rocking steadily back and forth. Seeing something like that—even when you knew these things existed—could mess you up. I wondered if she’d ever be the same. I wasn’t sure
When I finally managed to tear my gaze away from the girl, I found Kale staring at me. Kiernan noticed, too. She hooked her arm around his shoulder and blew me a kiss before leading him away as sirens split the air.
“She knew we were standing here,” I breathed, finally letting Alex tug me around to the other side of the tree. “She wanted us to see that…”