Entropy (The Countenance Trilogy 3) (4 page)

BOOK: Entropy (The Countenance Trilogy 3)
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I pull back and take in her sheer beauty. Laken illuminates the dull night like a beacon, warning ships not to venture too close, or they’ll run aground. Coop ventured too close, and it’s evident he’s run aground, his heart already bleeding for hers.

“Can I kiss you?” I whisper, losing myself in her luminous stare. Laken has the most amazing eyes. I remember the first moment I realized I was in love with her, it was the dead of winter, and I was walking her home on a night much like this, and I fell into her glowing eyes. I knew right then I never wanted to evict myself from her presence, that the rest of my days would be spent loving her whether she realized it or not. Then again we were just kids—doesn’t matter, though. When the right person comes along, you just know it

and I’ve known it ever since.

She gives the slight hint of a nod, so I go for it. I lower my lips to hers, trying to block out the fact I saw Flanders doing exactly this as I came upon them. This is my time to shine, my time with Laken, whether he likes it or not.

Her lips feel soft, far more erotic than I remember.
My love burns bright for you, Laken Stewart

A dull laugh gets locked in her throat as she wraps her arms around me firm and purposeful. Her tongue swipes over mine, and her heart drills against me until our bodies pulsate as one.

God, I’ve missed you, Wes. Thank you for coming back to me

Laken pulls away far sooner than I want her to.

“Let’s take a walk.” We head off, hand-in-hand, and I relay every single memory I can think of that involves the two of us.

“Remember how ticked Fletch was when he found out we were dating?” Laken laughs as she drinks down the memory.

“I got an insane beating for that, so excuse me for not laughing it off.”

We come upon a sign that reads
Rockaway Beach
and follow the trail down to the shoreline of a black sandy beach.

“It all feels like a dream.” Laken wraps an arm around my waist as we take off our shoes and walk along the cool shore.

“It’s not a dream.” Both Coop, and the fact we’ve both essentially been kidnaped spring to mind. “It’s more of a nightmare.”

“Agree, but you’re back, and now all we have to do is beat the Counts at their game.”

I point over to a small thatched structure underneath a coral tree, and we make our way toward it.

“I think it’s a little more complicated than beating them at their own game,” I say, pulling her into the protective shelter with me as we face the roaring ocean with its pearl whitewash spilling over the shore.

“No, Wes.” Laken says it as if she’s holding back a laugh. “It really is just that easy.”

We take a seat, and I pull her over into my lap. “It feels so good to hold you. It’s as if everything is new again. It’s like—”

“You got your life back?” She twists into me until we’re facing one another. “Exactly that. You always knew how to finish my sentences.” My heart breaks a little as I take her in with the moonlight washing the color from her face. “I’m sorry for everything I put you through these last few months. I swear I’m going to have Edinger’s ass on a stick because there’s not a doubt in my mind he’s behind this.”

“But Edinger is just a Fem.” She dismisses my theory with a shake of her head. “He’s nothing but a minion of the Counts. There’s someone else, Wes. You must know who it is. Who is it that you report to?”

Without trying, that granite wall hikes up removing the possibility of Laken listening in on my thoughts. The only person I report to is Jones, and outside of that it’s Edinger. I’m still not counting the rotten Fem out of the equation. This is far too wicked and twisted a scheme, and if Edinger is anything, he’s wicked and twisted.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this.” I bury a kiss in her neck. “Do you still love me?” I don’t mean to sound like some insecure teenage girl, but I want to know where I stand. That kiss she shared with Coop had enough sparks flying off it to burn down the entire island.

“Hell, yes, I still love you.” Her arms wriggle around my waist, and she gives me a tight squeeze. “I’m so relieved you’re back, Wes. For a while there…” Tears spring to her eyes, and she swallows hard. “All that’s important is that you’ve made your way back to me.”

“We’ve made our way back to each other, Laken.” A part of me wants to ask about Flanders, but I don’t want to waste a second of my time with Laken discussing him, so I shelf it for now.

“So we’re a team now?” She nods as if begging me to agree.

“Of course, we’re a team. It’s Laken and Wes just like the old days.”

Her eyes close a moment. Her entire body sags with relief. “Then let’s go right now. We have to go and free my mom and Lacey from the tunnels.” She starts to pull me up, and I hold her back.

“Your mom and Lacey?” I ask, stunned as shit. I love little Lacey as if she were my own kid sister. I can’t imagine either one of them down there.

“Coop’s Mom, too, and Casper. That’s where she went when she disappeared, but you probably already know that.” Laken looks down a moment as if I’ve intentionally been keeping these things from her.

“Casper?” Flynn’s ditz of a sister who everyone thinks ran off to Texas? “I swear on all that is holy, I did not know that.” My heart sinks because I have a feeling I know what she’s about to ask next, and it’s impossible for me to pull off.

“Let’s get the hell down there, Wes. We can free them tonight, and this entire nightmare will be over.” There’s so much hope in her eyes, I’m afraid to crush it.

“We can do that, Laken,” I assure, pulling her in close, afraid that if I loosen my grip she’ll float away like a butterfly. “But we can’t go in haste, or we’ll get both ourselves and the people we want to save, killed.” In the most barbaric fashion, but I leave that part out. The Counts are beasts. I should know—I am one. “Let me devise a way. We need an intricate plan. I can get us in, but our every move is watched. They’ll let us get so far, and we might even believe we’re about to pull it off, but they’ll drop the guillotine over our necks before we ever get close to being free. The Tenebrous Woods are nothing to mess with—neither are the Counts.”

.” Laken buries her face in my neck a moment, and I drink down the sensation of her skin heating mine. I missed this on a deeper level, all these months, and now I know why. She pulls back and inhales sharply. “I’m not giving up. It’s not hopeless. I swear to you, even if it kills me, I’m getting my family the hell out of there. They’ve got,
.” She says her sister’s name as a last minute appeal.

Lacey’s tiny face stains my heart, and my gut pinches with grief.

“I promise you, Laken, we will bring her home. I’ll talk to Edinger and make sure your family walks.” Not so sure about Coop’s mother, though, or Casper. I’m already pushing it. It goes strictly against Count code, and something tells me this is going to put my balls on the line as it is.

She doesn’t bother to hide her disappointment. “So it’s me and you against the Counts, right?” Her eyes widen like flares, alive with anger, a riot in each one for the very beings we’ve become—that we’ve always been.

“We’ll get them out. I’m on your side, I swear it.”

Laken swallows hard. Her discomfort rises exponentially and heats the tiny shelter we’re in until it feels like a sauna.

How do I tell her that I just had the world thrust onto my shoulders? That there are people I need to shake the shit out of to make me fully understand what exactly is happening here. That I’m still not sure if this is all some mind fuck designed by the Counts and that Cider Plains and all these new memories aren’t just some manufactured element to throw me off—to punish me for wanting to believe Laken on some level.

There are a lot of questions to ask—questions building like an avalanche, but this isn’t the time or place to roll any of that crap around. It’s Laken and me on a black-sand beach with no sign of Flanders in the vicinity, and so I do the only thing I want to. I lean in and land my lips softly over hers, and Laken doesn’t resist.

A heated moan escapes her throat. My name echoes in her mind like a boomerang, like a seaside echo—like a memory.

I’m more in love with Laken tonight than I’ve ever been before. This is every good feeling, every lusty appeal I’ve ever felt for her rolled into one. I wish the sun would never come up—that tonight would last forever.

My hands ride up and down her back, wild and free as her fingers float inside my shirt. We’re miles away from Connecticut, from Ephemeral, from anything or anyone who could ever stand in our way.

It’s just Laken and me, the first girl I kissed—the first girl who drove me to the brink of bodily insanity, still does.

It feels as if we’ve waited a lifetime for this very kiss—two lifetimes.

We have.

If anyone thinks they’re going to pull us apart they’re wrong.

And if he tries, Cooper Flanders is a dead man.

He might be already.





In too Deep




The dove grey clouds remain resilient to the sun’s silent plea to break through as Wes walks me back to my dorm in the morning.

“Do me a favor.” He lends me a kiss before pulling back with his eyes half-closed. Wesley is a god during waking hours but this sleepy version of him is sexier than hell, and my stomach pinches with grief because I think so—because I stayed up half the night telling him how much I care about him with the kisses that poured from my mouth. And then there is Coop. My heart mourns for both him and who I had become overnight. Here I am, the girl who kissed two boys and I hate her. I need to stop her and settle my heart before it ever happens again.

“What’s the favor?” I cut a quick glance toward Austen House and note one of the front doors is slightly ajar. A part of me wonders if I’ll find Coop in my room wanting an account of where I’ve been and what we’ve been doing. But that’s not his style. I feel like an ass for everything that’s transpired over the last twenty-four hours. Maybe I can tell him I’m whoring myself out to Wes to get our families out of hock?  I look up at Wes and lock eyes. Maybe I am.

He squints. “Don’t tell Jen or Fletch anything just yet.”

And there it is. Why do I get the feeling Wes is already looking for a way to contain the situation—that me and my newfound knowledge have somehow become a threat to more than just the Counts, but to Wes himself? I had become the grassfire, and he’s the kindling.

“I’ll wait.” I offer a chaste peck and wave as he heads towards Henderson Hall.

I step into Austen House to find Jen, Grayson, and Kresley huddled in the common room as I quietly make my way up the stairs.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Jen’s voice cuts across the expanse like a chainsaw. “Get right back down here, young lady. And don’t think I didn’t notice you’ve been missing all night.”

Perfect. After everything that’s happened, it’s going to be Jen and her militant supervision that’s going to push me to stab my eye out with the first pointy object I see. Grayson’s stilettos stare back at me as if volunteering, and I let out a breath.

Kresley narrows her puke-green eyes on me. “So who was the flavor of the night? Wes or Coop? Let me guess—
.” Her makeup has run down her cheeks. She looks puffy and red eyed as if she’s been crying. Her hair is unusually messy. It’s only then I notice both she and Grayson are still wearing the same skanky costumes from last night.

“None of your business.” I plop next to Jen and wait for the lecture to ensue, so I can get the hell upstairs and get some serious shuteye. Time travel and dueling boyfriends has left me tired as shit.

“Well, it’s my business,” Jen spits it out like a threat. “And you’d damn well pony up the truth.”

I swallow hard because Jen just let an expletive fly, and I happen to know that this version of my sister, who also happens to be the biologically correct one, rarely ever lets a four-letter word rip from her mouth.

“I was with Wes.”

“But you left with Cooper.” Grayson opens those magenta pillows she calls lips, and swear to God, I expect a bat to fly out, or at least a new strain of herpes. Grayson is Ephemeral’s own budding porn star. She starred in a low budget action flick last month,
Power Position
. It’s already out on DVD and heavily discounted, and, sadly, a petty part of me finds mild satisfaction in this.

BOOK: Entropy (The Countenance Trilogy 3)
8.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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