Authors: Jus Accardo
Tags: #Romance, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #teen, #young adult, #denazen, #Speculative Fiction, #ya, #Paranormal, #touch, #toxic, #jus accardo, #tremble
The difference in skill wasn’t the only noteworthy thing about the drawing. One of the people in it was of interest.
. “Able,” I whispered. She had the details down so perfectly. I could see the subtle shift in his nose—one of the only ways I could tell apart him and his twin brother, Aubrey. From the picture, it looked as though he stood at her front door talking to a man I guessed was her father. “When did you draw this? When did it happen?”
“That’s where things get even weirder. I did this drawing two days before it happened—”
“Before it happened?” Alex asked. “But you said—”
He was hung up on the
, which was stupid. Wasn’t it obvious? It was the Supremacy side effects kicking in. A surge in ability right before we went over the deep end. I was more interested in the
. “When did this guy come here? Do you have any idea what they said?”
She shook her head and took the drawing, returning it to the safety of her pack. “I only caught enough of a glimpse to know it was the same as my drawing. I was too freaked to stick around.”
“The guy in that picture is dangerous.” Alex lost his grin. “You’re in a lot of trouble. You’ve got to let us help.”
She hesitated before coming back and settling next to Alex on the couch. “I know something’s not right. I’ve had a feeling for a while now…” She turned to me. “But my parents love me. They’re not going to let anything happen. Before I do anything I need to talk to them.”
“That’s a bad idea,” Alex said, standing. “They could—”
I grabbed his arm and reached past her to rip off the corner of the newspaper on the coffee table. Snagging the pen beside it, I jotted down both our cell numbers—Alex’s and mine—and handed her the piece of paper. “Like Alex said, we’re not here to force you into anything, but I strongly suggest you think about this—fast. These are our cells. If you change your mind or need anything, call.”
Then without looking back, I walked out the door.
After Alex and I made it back to the cabin, Ginger gave us the next name. Conny Delgeto. The information said the girl could manipulate sound—which I thought was kind of vague. Did that mean she could throw her voice? Or possibly mimic someone else’s? Was she just really good at animal calls? I found it annoying, not to mention dangerous, not knowing exactly what we were walking into. Just because Ginger had an inside line to the future didn’t mean I wanted to stumble around blind.
Brandt was awake, and I suggested he come with me instead of Alex, but Ginger insisted she had something else for him to do. I didn’t buy it. The old woman seemed to live to make me miserable.
Conny’s house was several towns over, and it ended up taking us almost three hours to get there because about twenty minutes after we left the cabin, it started sleeting. After he’d gotten his license in ninth grade, Alex had a pretty nasty accident in the snow. Ever since, wintertime driving was something he approached with the utmost caution, which was funny, since he was hell on wheels the rest of the year. There was a growing collection of tickets threatening to overflow the glove box, and I was certain that somewhere out there was an officer with a bench warrant for his arrest.
“Please try and be a little less aggressive with this one,” Alex said, slamming the driver’s side door. He’d been quiet since we left Ashley’s this morning, and I knew he was annoyed with how I’d handled things.
I didn’t answer. I hadn’t been aggressive; I’d been honest. If I were her, I would appreciate not having the whole thing sugarcoated.
Then again, not many people were like me.
We stopped at the foot of the driveway. The Delgeto house was a sprawling Victorian with a perfectly manicured lawn riddled with holly bushes. There was a large pine in the middle decorated with red and blue balls and sporadic tufts of tinsel, topped with a gaudy angel dressed in gold. “No cars. Maybe no one’s home?”
“Place does look deserted, but it’s almost four. They’re probably still at work.” The house was dark, the only source of light coming from a single bulb above the front door. Alex inclined his head toward the garage and stuffed his cell into his back pocket. The door sat off the ground several inches. “Shall we?”
“And if someone
He shrugged and shuffled down the drive. “We’ll deal.”
The door opened with a shrill squeal, gears in desperate need of oiling announcing our presence like a fire siren in a library. There were no cars in the garage, but it wasn’t empty. On the far wall there was a series of shelves, each stacked with cardboard boxes of varying sizes and colors. Some were labeled in black marker, noting kitchen or bedroom, others said living room—one simply had a smiley face with its tongue sticking out.
On the floor against the walls were various types of yard equipment. A lawn mower, weed wacker, shovels, and other assorted gardening tools. Pretty much your typical variety of garage inhabitants.
Typical…except for the blond girl hanging from the door track in the middle of the room.
“Shit,” Alex cursed, taking two steps inside.
I turned away, not wanting to see the vacant, dead look in the girl’s sallow eyes, but it was too late. I’d seen it—and it was something I’d never forget. “We can’t just leave her like this. You have your cell?”
He hesitated, looking from the girl to me, then back again. “It’s in the car.”
“I’ll wait here. Go call Ginger. See what she wants us to do.”
He stepped in front of me, strong hands latching onto my shoulders and holding tight. “We knew we weren’t going to get them all, Dez. Why don’t I wait here and you go back to the—”
“I’m fine,” I snapped, pulling away. I didn’t need to be babied. He should know that. “Just go call Ginger. I’ll be out in a sec. I just—I just need a minute alone.”
He hesitated but knew better than to argue. With one last look, he ducked back under the door, leaving Conny and me alone.
One dead Supremacy girl to another.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get here in time,” I said, turning back to face her. Whoever she’d been, she deserved that much. I didn’t know if she’d done this herself or if someone helped her to her end, but either way, this wasn’t her fault.
She had short blond hair and a pixie-like face, and I found myself imagining what her laugh might have sounded like and what kind of jokes she thought were funny. Her eyes, wide and unseeing, were a vibrant green. Had she been the popular girl? The loner? Maybe she was the quiet, artistic type with a small, close circle of friends that had been together since kindergarten. The kind who expected to grow up and old together, neighbors until they were wrinkled and gray.
That would never happen now.
I dragged over a large crate, climbed up so we were eye level, and ran my hand along her forehead and over her eyelids to close them. She was ice cold, indicating she’d been like this a while. Even if we’d gotten here sooner, she probably would have been gone already. “Whoever you were, you didn’t deserve this. None of us do…”
I heard the door connecting the garage to the house open as I stepped down from the crate. “She can’t hear you.”
I didn’t bother turning around. Looking in his eyes would only make this ten times harder than speaking the words. “Did you do this?”
His footsteps echoed against the concrete, the sound bouncing off the garage walls as he came around to stand between Conny and me. “No.”
Today Kale was dressed in black jeans and a dark purple T-shirt. He was wearing a leather jacket and for some reason, the sight of him almost sent me into hysterical giggles. I’d seen Kale in a leather jacket once. For the costume party at Sumrun. It was a good look for him, but now it looked wrong. So out of place…
I knew I should be afraid of him after what I’d seen at the Nix rave, but the idea that Kale could—
—hurt me seemed so absurd. Even now, with his movements stiff and expression so cold. “But you came here to kill her?”
“If the opportunity presented itself, I was supposed to take her out. Obviously I wasn’t needed.” His tone was neutral. Not angry or aggressive. If one were to ignore the actual words, someone would simply see two people casually talking.
“And how many have you killed so far?” I took a deep breath. “How many innocent lives have you taken?”
“The Supremacy experiments are not innocent.”
And that’s where my control started to slip. “Do you even hear yourself? They’re people, Kale. Not experiments.” There was a lump forming in my throat. The guy in front of me was wearing Kale’s face. He had Kale’s voice and his amazing blue eyes, but everything else was alien. “This isn’t you.”
“How do you know?” He stepped forward. There was something in his eyes that screamed of eerie familiarity. Something dark that reminded me of the day we first met. Kiernan and Samsen attacked us at the amusement park. Kale tried to hide it, ashamed over his lack of regret for Samsen’s fate, but that look was in his eyes again. Back then, I’d seen it—and hadn’t cared. I had a fairly good idea what he went through at Denazen—feeling anger and wanting revenge was only natural. But now? It scared me because the good parts of Kale seemed to be buried and I wondered what that left exposed.
“I know more about the real you than you do,” I whispered. A spark of boldness washed through me and I stepped forward. Closer to him. Closer to danger. “They’re lying to you. Everything they’ve filled your head with isn’t real.”
“And you want to set me straight. Is that right?”
I didn’t miss the hint of mockery in his voice. It was the same tone I’d heard him use a thousand times when ribbing Alex. I ignored it. A seed. That was all I needed. Enough of a seed to get him thinking. I was sure once I started the ball rolling, his mind would do the rest.
It had to, right? This was Kale.
I squared my shoulders and sucked in a breath. “That’s right.”
He stepped back and folded his arms, expression amused. “Go ahead. I’m listening.”
I knew he was just playing with me, but a small voice inside my head begged me to try anyway. “That girl you keep calling Roz—
Kiernan McGuire. She and Marshal Cross are using you.”
He didn’t say anything, so I took it as a good sign and kept going, hopeful and on a roll. “You’re not the monster they’re trying to make you think you are.”
“Or,” he said, taking another step closer, “you’re Kiernan McGuire—the girl who tried to kill me, resulting in the loss of my memory.” He poked me hard in the shoulder. “My family, my friends—
—all gone because of you. Roz and Marshal are trying to help me. I love her.”
His statement pushed the limits of my control. It was one thing to see the lip lock—but to hear him profess his love for her? I couldn’t deal. “You love me!” I screamed. Even stomped my foot for dramatic effect. It didn’t make a difference.
Kale threw himself forward, knocking us both back against the wall. “I
you,” he breathed, face inches from mine. In his eyes was all the rage and anger he had for Denazen. All channeled at me. “You
Tears stung the corners of my eyes, and for once, I didn’t care. The weight of his words came close to suffocating me. “I
your life,” I managed. “And you saved mine.”
“Dez?” Alex called from the other side of the garage door. “You okay?”
Kale looked from me to the door. For a second his brow furrowed, almost as though he recognized the voice and was trying hard to place it. When he turned back, his expression was different. Not warm, but not the same kind of cold, either. This was something else. Uncertainty. War. A thought or feeling—something—was fighting for his attention. I could see it in his eyes. He was in there. My Kale wasn’t lost.
I just had to find a way to pry him loose.
He shook his head as if to clear away the cobwebs. “You’re…on my list.”
My arm was pinned awkwardly between my back and the shelf. Fingers splayed, I felt around for something—anything—I could use as a weapon if need be.
This is Kale
, that small voice inside said, horrified.
He’d never hurt you
. While another voice disagreed.
No. It’s not
Not really. Be smart. Be ready for anything.
“On your list?”
He opened his mouth, then closed it. “They want me to bring you in,” he said, voice barely a whisper. “To question. And test…”
“Then get on with it.” I leaned closer than any sane person would have.
I was an adrenaline junkie by nature. But this was different. Taking risks for a cheap thrill was one thing. Standing in front of a ravenous bear with no place to run was something else. Courting death, Brandt called this. Fitting, considering Ginger, long before he was born, had dubbed Kale the Reaper. So here I stood. In front of Death, daring it to take me.
“Do it. If I’m on your list, then go for it.”
“I…” He brought his hand up, running a finger along my cheek from chin to ear. His touch, so soft, sent goose bumps dancing across my skin. I’d missed it so much and found my dreams hadn’t done it justice. It was far better than I remembered, the slightly calloused tip of his finger skimming my skin and leaving a trail of longing in its wake. Even like this, with him crushing me to the wall, possibly contemplating my death, I couldn’t get enough.
There was something seriously wrong with the way I was wired.
“Dez?” Alex called. “You coming out?”
“Kale?” a voice yelled from inside the house. Kiernan.
At the sound of her voice, he shook his head and backed away a few inches. I could see his entire face now. Beautiful but deadly. He watched me with a curious expression, eyes never leaving mine. For an insane moment, I was sure he’d lean down and kiss me—but he didn’t.
“There’s no one here.” Kiernan was getting closer. “Kale? Where’d you go?”
He opened his mouth to answer, but I interrupted. “Don’t. Please. Just let me slip out the door…”
“I… Roz will… No. I can’t.”
“Kale?” Kiernan was starting to panic. Inside, I could hear doors opening and slamming closed again.
“Please,” I said again, begging.
“NO!” he screamed and one word came to mind. Unstable. My Kale would never have such an emotional reaction. Anger was something he learned to keep in check at a very young age in order to survive. Whatever they’d done to him, it had shaken something lose. “No,” he repeated, calmer. “No. I’ll save you for last. I owe you for what you did to me. I’ll make you suffer like I did, then I’ll bring you in.”
And just like that, the fragile patchwork of hope shattered, stealing my breath and bleeding me dry. My hand closed around something—I had no idea what, but it was heavy. That was all I cared about. “Good,” I said, resigned. I loved Kale and I’d do anything to get him back, but I wasn’t stupid. “Then that gives me time.”
I whipped the object—it turned out to be a wrench—around and slammed it into the side of Kale’s head as Alex yanked up the garage door. “To knock some frigging sense into you.”
I raced toward Alex as Kale went down and Kiernan burst through the door.