Authors: M. Lathan
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance
(Hidden Series Book Two)
Text copyright © 2013 M.
All Rights Reserved
Sleep in peace as angels sing. My love,
Fear stole my breath as I plummeted into frigid water. I flailed my arms and legs, uselessly trying to swim against the current. The haunting voice of a child sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” as I sank deeper.
I fought my way to the surface only to be taken again. The little girl droned, “
And the rockets’ red glare
,” as water rushed into my lungs.
I wasn’t alone. A blurry figure struggled near me, both of us sinking, drowning in red tinted water. Blood. It swirled with the suffocating blue, an inescapable villain dragging us deeper and deeper.
We were two helpless bodies adrift in a world with no air or hope, no chance of survival. The white lights glowing beneath us looked welcoming and safe. The figure gave in. Its lifeless body sank towards the lights as the little girl sang, “
And the home of the brave
I woke up, pouring sweat, in Nathan’s bed.
With his eyes closed and mouth open, he rolled away and yanked the blanket off of me, attending to my needs in his sleep. I shrugged off the creepy dream of me drowning. Over the last three months, I’d dreamed plenty of things that hadn’t happened. Nate had held me underwater in the pool earlier. I was sure that moment had just followed me to sleep. The odds of it being a vision were low.
It had been almost two months since I stopped letting myself have them or use any of my powers. They were getting worse as I used them openly for little things. I would try to move something, and it wouldn’t just lift. It would slam into the wall before I felt it moving. I didn’t know mental powers could grow, develop even more than they already were. They were getting faster, stronger, and wilder, so I was back to suppressing them like I had at St. Catalina. Life was simpler that way, normal. Or as normal as living with three magical beings that should be extinct could get.
I closed my eyes to force myself back to sleep, and an angry snore rattled Nate’s throat. I snatched my phone from the charger quickly. He wouldn’t be able to deny this one. Another series of snores ripped through the silent pool house just as I pressed record. I laughed, and he opened his eyes.
“Smile, baby,” I said. He groaned and reached for the phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, nothing. Just collecting evidence.”
He wrestled my new phone from my hands and held it out of my reach. “How do I stop the video?”
“Like I’d tell you.”
He grunted and threw the phone to the foot of his bed. “That thing is too expensive to be so complicated,” he said.
“It’s not complicated. It’s probably just made for humans and you’re-”
He grabbed me and wedged his fingers under my arms before I could tease him about the side of him that barks. “I’m what? What am I, Chris?” I squealed, flopping around in his arms like a dying fish.
“Handsome!” I offered
to end the tickle attack.
“Smart. Kind. Loving. Sexy!” He relaxed his fingers and slid them from my armpits to my back. “Which one did it?” I asked.
“Sexy,” he whispered and kissed me. And that was really all it ever took to kick things off between us. Steamy kisses, roaming hands.
That was how we’d spent most of our time during our three-month-old relationship – in my bed, in his bed, in the common areas when we had the house to ourselves. I kept waiting for this to get old, his lips on mine, but every kiss felt like the first, and like I’d die if it were the last.
His lips slowed, and he rolled away. “Why are you all sweaty?” he asked.
“Weird dream about a pool. It’s all your fault.” I rolled on top of him and pouted. “Why did you stop kissing me?”
“Because it’s four in the morning.”
“Since when is that a problem?”
I could have answered my own question. It was a problem since now. Since tomorrow stopped being this distant day I’d feared. For a long minute, the only sound was the hum of his refrigerator, then the crackle of his
. I grabbed my phone to stop the video and lay down with my back facing him. I was hoping if I pretended to sleep we wouldn’t have to talk about him leaving me in a few hours.
We’d fallen asleep without mentioning that he, Emma, and Paul were starting a job tomorrow. And worse, in two weeks, that job would take them away from me for two whole months.
“I wish you would talk to me about it,” he whispered.
He wrapped his arms around to my stomach.
talked,” he said. “You’ve only said three words. ‘Cool’, when I told you about the job, ‘Congrats’, after my interview, and ‘Oh’, when I told you I’d accepted it.”
And none of those times had he asked me if I approved of him leaving for two months. Like it didn’t matter. Like he’d do it anyway, even if it were killing me. So I’d decided to ignore it altogether.
“What other words would you like me to say?” I asked.
“How about words like … St. Catalina, or try a phrase like … my boyfriend and my friends are leaving me alone again.”
I shifted uncomfortably in his arms. Those were the exact words I didn’t want to say, along with –
things are changing, the fun times are over, and you guys are moving on with your lives without me
Their new job was with The Peace Group, a charity that served magical kind. They would be helping their people find food and shelter on a two month long mission trip while I sat in the house alone. I’d offered to donate money in lieu of their time, but Sophia wouldn’t allow it.
“I’m not talking about the job because it doesn’t matter. People without trust funds go to work,” I said, quoting Sophia like I usually did when I didn’t know what to say, or rather, when I couldn’t say what was on my mind. “I get it.”
“Babe, it matters to you. Emma told me about the application that Sophia ripped up.” I rolled my eyes. My second favorite witch in the world had tried to help me apply, even though it wasn’t a job for humans. Especially not the kind of human I was – technically the enemy of the poor creatures they would be helping. Sophia had murdered that plan. And that was the end of my solutions that didn’t involve bribery.
“So … I tried to apply, but Sophia wouldn’t let me. Whatever. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“She said you cried for an hour straight.” I needed to remember to strangle Emma later. “I know you’re upset. Just talk to me.”
He forced me to turn in his arms and pulled my face to his, nose to nose, waiting for me to say what he already knew. His magic allowed him to smell my moods. At times, he knew me better than I knew myself. He just wanted me to be honest and open up to him, but I couldn’t. Soon, he wouldn’t be here to close me up.
“You’re right,” I said. He smiled with one corner of his mouth, celebrating too soon. “It’s four in the morning. I should go to my room and let you rest.” He sighed and pecked my nose. “And Sophia said she was coming to make breakfast. We don’t know how early she’ll get here. I shouldn’t be in your bed when she does.”
“Good idea. If she finds us together one more time, I think she’s going to skin me alive. And she’ll just kiss you and ask you if you need anything with my blood still on her hands.”
I laughed, but it wouldn’t shock me if that were to actually happen. I could do no wrong in the eyes of our pretend grandmother. Several mornings, she’d barged in on us knocked out in bed together, and
it was always Nate’s fault. His ear would probably be perpetually sore from her yanking it so much.
“Or she’ll yell at you until she loses her voice again like she did on
de Mayo,” I said.
He threw a pillow over his head and groaned, probably remembering what he now called the worst day of his life.
de Mayo, Emma and Paul had finally persuaded us to party with them by the pool. Nate had taken one sip of beer and exploded out of his clothes and into his fur. None of them knew of any other magical creature that couldn’t stomach alcohol. Apparently, it was unique to my boyfriend, adding more mystery to the past he didn’t want to explore.
After he’d shifted back, I took my first sip. It wasn’t so bad.
was trying to keep up with Emma and taking four too many shots of tequila. I ended up hanging over his toilet for hours, and Sophia found me sick and drunk in his bed. She freaked out and gave him a week of hard labor re-shingling the roof. I pledged to never drink again, and he’d become hypersensitive to sounds mimicking the soft steps of sweet old ladies.
“Now she thinks I’m a predator trying to liquor up her angel to deflower her,” he groaned.
“I’m sorry. I told her you’re a perfect gentleman, but Sophia is weird about me and sex … because of my mom, I think.”
I chuckled. Nate and I had nothing on CC. I’d avoided the sexual exploits she’d written about in her diary, but Sophia had told me an awful story of when she got to know my parents way better than she wanted to.
I knew it would gross me out, but I wanted to read the diary again without skipping anything. But Sophia was holding it hostage, fearing it would combat my progress out of depression. I still wanted to read it. Those words were all that was left of my parents.
Months ago, Sophia helped their trapped spirits pass on in a quick ceremony. I wasn’t allowed to ask them anything, so the goodbye was not enough. The only way to contact them now was through
séance, and Sophia refused to do one with me. She wanted me to let them go, not care, but my heart wasn’t as calloused as it was when I met her.
If hiding my mother’s diary wasn’t enough, she’d also banned me from my house in New Orleans. Apparently, Kamon visited there frequently, hoping to find me, lock me up, and control the powers I didn’t use.
I gave Nate a peck on the cheek and slid out of his bed. I looked around for my shoes then remembered I hadn’t been wearing any.
“I’ll walk you,” he said.
I shook my head. “Stay in bed. It’s late.”
He got up anyway. “That’s exactly why I’m going to walk you.” He patted around on his nightstand, his bed, then on the counter of his mini-kitchen. “I think my keys are in your room.”
I groaned. “Mine too. And I’m sure they’ve locked the doors by now.”
“Sophia is going to wring my neck.” He fell backwards onto his bed and clutched his throat.
“I’ll just call Em,” I said. “No, she also has to go somewhere in the morning.”
“We could try to break in,” he said. I didn’t bother answering him. We both knew Sophia had enough magic swarming our house that no one could get in without a key or the right spell.
The only solution made my heart race.
“I guess I’ll have to bypass the door,” I said.
“You don’t have to use your powers, babe. Let’s just wake one of them up. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
And I didn’t want to have a nosebleed or seizure either. That was the biggest reason why I’d decided not to use them. But I’d moved myself from classrooms to my dorm room on accident for years without bleeding.
“It should be fine,” I said. “Just this once.”
He kissed me and stepped away. I pictured my room, how the carpet felt under my toes, how the fan made a constant whooshing sound, how it smelled like lemons more than any other room in the house.
I’d forgotten how fast it happened, yanking myself from one room and seamlessly landing in another. I couldn’t deny how exhilarating it felt. Freeing. My blood soared through my veins, leaving me aching for more.
I had to stop myself and ignore how alive I felt. Even though I knew my powers had nothing to do with the devil now, they were still dangerous. I’d almost slit Emma’s throat a few months ago while trying to butter toast from across the room.
Psychic powers definitely weren’t meant to play with.
When I came to my senses and shoved the desire to be more than human back inside of me, I opened my eyes in front of my sofa. I scrambled to find the remote. The news flashed on the screen instead of the music videos I remembered being on when I’d turned the television off before dinner. Either way, the flashing colors soothed the panic the moment in darkness had caused. Even as a child, I wasn’t particularly afraid of the dark, but now that a sick hunter wanted to capture me, I required either company or a light at all times.
My heart jumped for the girl who wasn’t lucky enough to escape from Kamon like the rest of us. I thought about Remi constantly. A sickening feeling burned my chest each time someone said her name. I pictured her in Kamon’s chapel, worshiping him like a god. I prayed every night that she hadn’t been bred.
I’d discovered the heinous truth about the hunters who enforce the rules magical kind lived by from my mother’s diary. Psychic powers took years of training the human brain to do extraordinary things. Some hunters don’t like to wait. Some hunters like to breed copies – children with inherited powers and a desire to use them to harm. And they did so at the expense of female hunters.
Remi was psychotic, but she didn’t deserve to be treated like an animal, which she wasn’t anymore. She’d been changed from a shape shifting panther into one of Kamon’s brainwashed followers. I hated him for what he was doing to those people. I hated him more for what his dead master, Julian, had done to my family.
He was the reason my mother’s art studio felt like a bloody and terrible death. I’d sensed that my parents were brutally murdered in there. I wished he wasn’t dead so I could watch the light leave his eyes as I…
!” I said. I unclenched my fists. My nails had left a line of
moons across my palms. This was the kind of thing Sophia would want me to call her about, times when my anger boiled over. But the skin was barely broken and would probably be fine in the morning. No need to bother her at four a. m. for nothing.
I took a deep breath and counted to ten. I exhaled slowly and willed myself to put hunters and the hateful thoughts they spurred out of my mind.