Authors: Heather Sunseri
Tags: #Romance, #Young Adult, #Adventure
This work is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Heather Sunseri
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review or article.
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream.
A dream you dream together is reality.” ~John Lennon
The day my biggest dream entered my reality—
Kentucky Derby 1995.
I wrapped my fingers around the sleek handle of the knife, not in the way I’d cut a steak or chop vegetables, but white-knuckled—as if my life depended on it.
Only I wasn’t about to defend my life. I was following orders.
That’s right, Lexi. Take the knife. And walk.
A figure hovered in my peripheral vision. His voice was deep, stern. The orange glow from the end of a cigarette brightened and quickly faded a little too close to my face. A ribbon of smoke swirled above my head and left a familiar, disgusting scent in the air.
Barefoot, I padded across the sticky kitchen linoleum and inched slowly into the hallway. I passed a living area. A mismatched sofa, a love seat, and a couple of chairs faced a flat-screen TV hanging above a gas fireplace. A lamp lit the corner of the room, casting early morning shadows on the wall.
Keep moving, Lexi. Find Jack,
the voice in my head ordered.
The bathroom in the hallway was dark. With my empty hand, I pushed open the bedroom door to my left and eased into the darkness. An outside street lamp peeked through the sheer curtains on the windows, providing minimal light.
When my eyes adjusted, I stared at the bed. Jack lay right where I had left him. The familiar sound of a flicking lighter had woken me from a deep slumber, very much like it had on the night I jumped into a freezing swimming pool. And just like I’d felt that night, I wasn’t sure if I was truly awake or if I was sleepwalking, or if I could touch the person behind me—Smoking Man.
Jack was stretched out on his side. His legs reached almost to the end of the bed. His face pointed toward me. His expression was peaceful, and his lips curved slightly.
Tears burned my eyes. I was drawn to Jack in a way I didn’t completely understand—the way a flower always faces toward the sun. But too much had happened, preventing us from living a normal life: finishing high school, applying to colleges, hanging out with friends. I hoped someday our feelings for each other would overcome the resentment I felt at being thrown into an out-of-control situation.
Walk closer to him
, the voice in my head ordered.
My grip tightened. I still wasn’t sure why I had a knife, or why this mystery person was with me, leading me to Jack. The muscles around my heart constricted. Something was wrong. I knew it. But I couldn’t seem to stop my forward motion.
Jack, wake up,
I whispered with my mind. A tear escaped the corner of my eye.
Go on, Lexi. Kneel beside him.
I climbed up on the bed, edged closer on my knees, and leaned over Jack. The panic began to build in my chest. I could hear my own labored breaths.
Jack, something’s wrong. Please wake up,
I thought to him
. Someone’s inside my head.
He was usually so in tune with my mindspeak.
Lexi, do you love Jack?
“Yes.” My voice was a hoarse whisper. The presence inside my head somehow prevented me from speaking louder. This stranger had a hold on me, controlling my movements and my words—everything but my thoughts. He stood close to me, as if we were inside a dream. And I couldn’t bring Jack into it like I so desperately wanted to do.
The lump in my throat made it difficult to breathe. I searched my mind for this person who had invaded my head and seized control. I could feel him, but for some reason, I couldn’t push him out. His ability was too strong.
But you know what he did was wrong, right?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
If it weren’t for Jack, Sandra never would have found you. He led her right to you.
“What? Sandra is lying in a coma.” I had never met Sandra. I’d only seen her briefly, two nights ago, when Jack, Kyle, and I escaped Wellington. I’d chosen to leave her—the woman I was cloned from—lying unconscious on a gurney at Wellington Boarding School.
I could have saved her, brought her out of the coma. But I was scared. We knew too little about this woman who cloned humans for some purpose that remained a secret to me even now.
He led Sandra, and therefore the IIA, to you. Jack is the reason your father was killed, Lexi. And he’s the reason you’ll have no choice but to learn to use your ability to benefit
. Or you’ll be terminated, like your father.
The word “them” rolled off his tongue like venom. Like he felt the same way I did about agents of the International Intelligence Agency.
Was he saying that the IIA killed my father? Why? For his research? For Jack’s and my abilities? “No. You’re wrong. Jack only wants to keep me safe.” He loves me. And I love him.
I’m only doing this to protect you, Lexi. To protect all of us. You need to know exactly what I’m capable of… what you’re capable of… and eventually, what the rest of us are capable of. That’s the only way we’ll be able to fight back.
Us? This person… the presence inside my head… was one of
. He was controlling my mind. And why? He wanted me to fight back? Why couldn’t I see who he was? He was only a greyed-out figure to me. A shadow. “What are you going to make me do?”
! I pleaded.
Eventually, you will discover that I did this for your own good. For the safety of us all.
The figure lifted his cigarette to his mouth and inhaled. After, he blew rings of smoke that dissipated as they drifted toward the ceiling. I knew that if I could wake from this strange unconscious state, his physical presence would fade like a bad dream. But I wasn’t so sure about the voice, or the hold he had on my mind.
I want you to grab hold of the knife with both hands.
My free hand joined the other, both trembling.
Raise the knife, Lexi.
I raised it, slowly, until I held the knife firmly over my head, shaking uncontrollably. I stared down at my target.
This time, I screamed with my mind.
He sucked in a deep breath and rolled over onto his back, but still slept. The scent of his shower gel reached my nose, and I craved his closeness.
Do it, Lexi. Plant that knife deep in his chest.
I shook my head from side to side. My arms strained against my own mental resistance.
Jack, I’m so sorry.
A sob leaked from my throat. Every muscle from my stomach to my chest and through both arms tightened as I prepared to do exactly what the voice in my head ordered: drive the knife into the one I loved.
As if moved by a sixth sense, Jack shifted his hand just slightly to rest it at the base of my knee. The presence inside my head suddenly disappeared; I dropped the knife off the side of the bed, and Jack’s eyes fluttered open.
Jack peered up at me through thick lashes. His just-woke-up, lazy grin faded. “Lexi? What are you doing?”
I shifted off my knees and sat back. My heart raced. Jack’s sandy hair lay haphazardly across his forehead, messy in a good-looking sort of way, from a night of sleep. The realization that only moments earlier I had held a knife above my head pointed at his chest caused a shudder to move through my entire body.
“Hey.” He sat up and cupped my cheek. “You okay? What's wrong?”
“I just…” I glanced around the room for the person who had guided me to Jack with a knife—not expecting to find him of course—then back at Jack and his dark blue eyes. “Nothing. Nothing happened. I just couldn’t sleep.”
Jack lay back, breaking the physical contact I craved with him.
Very good, Lexi.
The voice was back inside my head, or maybe it had never left. I didn’t know anymore. I could feel the unwanted presence just hanging out in my periphery.
You cannot tell him I’m in your head. I can force you to hurt him. I will if I have to. Let’s keep this our little secret.
I massaged the pressure point in the webbing between my thumb and index finger. It was a method I used to relieve headaches, and this presence was definitely a headache. I would find a way to tell Jack, but first I’d figure out who the voice was.
Jack smiled. “Come here.” He slid his arm around me, and pulled me down to lie beside him, my back to his chest. His hand rested across my stomach. “You’ve been through so much.” He smoothed my hair back out of my face.
been through so much
I grabbed onto his arm and squeezed it. How could I possibly hurt the one person who had saved me time and time again?
I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.
Lying there, I glanced down at the floor. The knife lay there, taunting me and my weak mind. I wanted to put a face with the voice that drifted into my mind like smoke. But the image wouldn’t form.
Minutes passed. My mind spun while concentrating on the voice that had entered my head and forced me to do something I would never choose to do consciously. Jack and I
been through so much, and he had stuck by me when he could have run. But how could he continue to stick by someone who practically murdered him in his sleep?
He wouldn’t. I wouldn’t let him.
Jack pressed on my stomach, tightening his hold on me. “What are you thinking so hard about?” he whispered into my hair, his voice groggy. “I can’t hear your thoughts, but I know you’re tossing something around. You still afraid someone is getting inside your head?”
I sat up, turned toward him, and nodded.
He pushed himself up. His face inches from mine.
I won’t let anyone hurt you.
Reaching my hand to trace an imaginary line from his temple to his jawbone, I said, “I’m more afraid
The smell of coffee greeted me when I walked into the kitchen after showering. Not my drink of choice, but desperate times called for whatever caffeine option was available.
Sitting at the kitchen table, Jack held Kyle’s arm out, twisting and turning it, examining it. Kyle winced from Jack’s not-so-gentle touch. I looked closer, and saw that Kyle’s hand and forearm were red and blistered.