Authors: Jessica Sorensen
Let me die. Please. I don’t want to wake up hollow and numb, a ghost of myself. I want to remember what it felt like to be touched all over by someone, be kissed like I meant something; if only for a moment. I want to remember what I went through, both the good and the bad. If I can’t, then I want to die. Please, please, let me die.
“Gemma Lucas,” a welcoming voice graces my ears. “Can you hear me?”
I blink my eyes open to wispy clouds lazily floating across a crystal blue sky. The sight is breathtaking and makes me feel calm and serene. Yet something about it is off. The clouds look almost too wispy, like a smeared watercolor painting, and the sky has jagged edges that slope in distinct directions as if it’s one gigantic, glistening crystal.
I roll to my side and through the gemstone grass,
Where am I
? “The City of Crystal,” I murmur. “What the hell?”
I quickly push to my feet. The land is paved with a winding path of shattered teal porcelain that leads to a silver throne perched on a podium. To my right is a crystal wall that fences through the grass, flashing vibrant images of people and landscapes like a television screen.
“Why am I here?” I turn in a circle, searching for life, a Foreseer, even Dyvinius.
“Gemma.” Suddenly a figure of a woman flickers across the screen then rapidly fades, lines covering the glass. “Gemma, can your hear me?” Her voice is glitched, but it’s still clear enough that I recognize the sound and pitch of it.
I race through the grass and up to the screen, panting as I tip my head back. “Mom, can you hear me?”
A woman with flowing brown hair and bright blue irises appears clearly on the screen. In the background, a circular light forms, glowing brighter and brighter until a lake forms, I’ve seen it before. The entrance to The Underworld.
“I need you,” my mom whispers, pressing her hand to the glass. Drops of water drip from her hand and down the screen. “Gemma, please help me… save me… I can help… I know about the star, you just need to save me. Please.”
I press my hand to the glass, lining our fingers up. “Mom, I don’t think I can… I think I might be gone… I think my body’s somewhere and my mind’s dying.”
She shakes her head, her hair blowing in the wind as the water starts to vibrate and ripple. “You’ll be okay… now please come help me.”
Tears burn at the corners of my eyes as I push my hand harder to the glass, as if I can go into it, however there’s resistance as the screen begins to splinter and crack. “How can I?”
“Look around you. Gemma,” she says as the water rolls closer to her, the cracks spreading and spider-webbing the glass. “You have so much power. The possibilities of what you can do are endless.”
“Is that how?” I panic as she falls back with the waves, her hand leaving the glass. “Mom, can my power save you!”
She reaches out as she’s hauled back into the lake. Seconds later, thousands of boney arms emerge from the water and pull her down beneath it. I scream, backing away as the image fades and the glass wall bursts. Sharp fragments sail through the air and claw at my skin as water rushes through the ruined screen and into the land around me. The force knocks my feet out from under me and I fall to the ground on my back. The rapids nearly slice me in half as they roll over me and I’m pulled away with the violent movement. I sink and then submerge, fighting against the water, flailing my arms and kicking my legs while trying to figure out how to swim. It’s a powerful force, though, one that I have no control over. And finally, I lose the willpower to fight and just let myself drown.
It’s an echo in my head.
How could this happen? How could Alex do what he did? How could he hurt me… there’s so much pain inside. I hate it. Hate him. Hate myself for being so stupid and trusting him. There’s so much loathing and anger inside me that I feel like I’m rotting, spoiled, decaying on the inside and turning into something morbid that no one wants. The vile feeling spreads and the weight of it crushes me. I open my mouth to scream, but my lungs burst and bleed out; at least that’s what it feels like. At least I want them to because it will take away the agonizing pain inside my heart.
I'll never trust anyone in this world again. I'll never get crushed. I'll protect myself at all costs; that is, if I ever get out of this darkness.
Then suddenly my head starts to buzz like a Goddamn bug trapped in a light, over and over again. It just about drives me crazy; it’s to the point where I feel like I’m going to gouge my ears out. I seriously consider it, too, but I can’t see past the darkness—I can’t see light.
My skin swelters with invigorating warmth, my body peacefully relaxing as the ground below me becomes soft and inviting. I feel content, blissfully and almost alarmingly content.
? What the hell… I’m supposed to be dead, or at least locked in a coffin within my own head.
My eyes shoot open as I bolt upright, but as the blood rushes from my head, I collapse back onto the mattress. I swiftly glance around and my jaw drops. After the dream I was having, I had expected to be buried in water, however I’m dry and breathing. Alive. Unlike my mom.
I try not to choke on the image of her drowning in the water, the Water Fey dragging her down, and I take in where I am. I’m lying in a bed in a room with pale purple walls and a small window that lets in minimal sunlight. The view outside is painted with colorful lights and flamboyant buildings that stretch toward the skyline.
“I know this place…” I gradually sit up, clutching my throbbing head. “Vegas… I’m in Vegas.”
“It was the safest place I could think of.” The sound of Alex’s voice sends a chill down my spine, but then electricity counteracts it and my body erupts with heat, awakening my heart from a very deep slumber.
He ambles through the doorway, taking tentative steps as he inches toward the bed. Emotions of hate mixed with lust amplify and every image of the last time we were in bed together flashes through my mind; the way he’d made me finally feel like I was breathing. Then he stole it all away, betraying me, ripping my heart out of my chest and shredding it to pieces; he probably still has my blood on his hands.
“Are you okay?” He comes to a stop at the foot of the metal-framed bed. He’s wearing a black t-shirt and a pair of loose-fitting, dark blue jeans and his brown hair is disheveled and damp. He also has a black smudge on the center of his forehead, like ash or charcoal. He almost looks like a normal guy, completely harmless, yet his welcoming demeanor is just an illusion. I know this—I’ve learned better.
I throw the blanket off me and swing my legs over the side of the bed. I’m not wearing the same clothes; a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt that don’t belong to me have replaced them. I don’t even want to think about how I got changed while I was blacked out. One of my wrists is bandaged up... the one I had slit myself when my emotions had gotten the best of me… I can remember.
I can remember?
“Stay away from me you asshole.”
“Gemma, I’m not going to hurt you.” His voice is as smooth as silk as he winds around the bed, his radiant, green eyes fixed on me. “I promise I won’t hurt you. Everything’s okay.”
I laugh sharply as I put weight on my weak legs. “That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth, which says a lot since you’re the biggest liar I’ve ever met.”
Alex stops dead in his tracks, his skin tinting red with his anger. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
My knees shake as I square my shoulders and find my stability. “It means your promises are bullshit. At least, the ones you make to me.” I fling my arms out to my sides. “You told me once that you made me a promise that you would never to hurt me, but I’m finding that hard to believe since you keep hurting me over and over again.”
A condescending look appears in his eyes. “My promises got you to Adessa’s,
“Safe and sound doesn’t exist.” I step back toward the wall, dropping my hands to my sides. “And I’m not stupid enough to believe otherwise.”
“But it does… right now it does.” He matches my step and instantly reduces the space I put between us. “And you’ll understand why, if you just let me explain what happened.”
I dare to move forward, needing to get out of the room and away from him. “I’m leaving. I don’t know why I’m even able to walk around… why I’m alive and normal, but I’m not going to waste my time listening to your lies.”
“You’re walking around normal because of me—because of how I feel about you.” He’s coursing with infuriation as he inches to the side, obstructing my path to the doorway. “Just let me explain.”
I dodge to the right and skitter around him, however I’m like a newborn deer and my knees give out. I collapse to the floor, but before I hit, his arms encircle my waist and he catches me. Then he swiftly picks me up, slipping his arms underneath my knees, and carries me over to the bed, setting me back down before I can even conjure up a protest. I start to sit back up, but he puts his hands down on the mattress, one on each side of me, and lowers his face toward mine.
“I just need five minutes to explain,” he almost begs, and it sounds strange coming from his lips; almost as if he’s never begged for anything before. I bet he’s been begged a lot, though. “Five minutes for me to tell you what happened, and then, if you don’t like it, I’ll leave.”
I search his eyes for the person that lay with me in the bed, but I’m not sure who that is exactly —who he really is. I find myself hoping that I can find out. I hope he doesn’t crush me again. What I really want to do is run away, yet he’s got me trapped and I know how strong he is—how easily he could chase me down and hurt me if he wants to.
“Five minutes.” I push him back a little, his chest searing hot beneath my palm. “That’s all you have, and if one single thing sounds like a lie, then you leave, not just the house, but my life.”
He nods without hesitation and leans back, allowing me to sit up.
“Where are we?” I finally ask when he doesn’t say anything right away.
He sits close to me on the bed, his hands near his lap as he keeps flexing his fingers, channeling his tension there. “We’re at Adessa’s, the Witch we went to see in Vegas to get the crystal. This is her house which is attached to her store.”
“Is it safe here?” I scoot to the edge of the bed and put my feet onto the hardwood floor.
He nods. “For now. Aislin and Adessa covered the house with charms.”
I raise my eyebrows, overwhelmed already. I’m still getting used to the supernatural stuff that’s invaded my life over the last couple of weeks. “How did we get here?” I wonder. “Because the last thing I can remember…” I trail off, aiming him a dirty look. “Well, I think you can remember what happened.”
“Don’t blame me until you hear the whole story,” he says. “And we got here because Aislin transported us here. It’s a simple as that.”
“Oh, yes, super simple,” I respond in a derisive tone. He’s already getting under my skin, not just because he’s pissing me off, but because of the damn electricity. He’s sitting close to me, too close to me on a
. It’s driving me mad because my mind is begging me to let him do things to me; touch me, kiss me, fill the void within me. “Where are Laylen and Aislin?”
“It is that super simple,” he retorts. “Aislin and Laylen are downstairs and if you want the whole story then keep quiet and listen.” He watches me with challenge in his eyes and I know he’s doing it on purpose, attempting to get under my skin.
Needing to get the last word in—needing to prove that I still have some say in this—I say, “Fine, continue.”
The corners of his lips quirk, as though he’s enjoying the bantering. “After Aislin came back to get Laylen in Nevada, there was a huge ambush of Death Walkers. I guess their cold ruined Aislin’s transporting crystal so they had to bail out and come here to get another one. Then they transported to Colorado and ended up saving all of us.”
I fold my arms across my chest. “But how? I mean, if I remember correctly, which I’m pretty sure I do since I was the target of everything that was going on, then there was an ambush of Death Walkers there along with your father who was trying to kill me with that smoking rock.”
“It’s called a
,” he says flatly.
“Thanks,” I mumble. “Now if I ever have to take a test on strange crazy things that shouldn’t exist, I know I’ll pass.”
He covers his mouth with his balled fist, either pissed off or trying to hide a smile. “Well, I’m glad to see that you still have your twisted sense of humor.”
“Barely,” I retort, holding his gaze while he holds mine. “But I can already feel it fading, just like everything else inside me.” All I can feel at them moment is rage. It’s like a fire, ready to burn me to pieces. I wish I could turn it off, but I can’t seem to figure out how. Shit. What if something’s wrong with me? What if whatever did happen broke my emotions instead of getting rid of them.