The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series) (6 page)

BOOK: The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series)
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“Continue, please,” the dark-haired man, apparently the only one who ever spoke, said as he sat next to her on the couch. Callie shifted away from him, uncomfortable with his proximity.

             
“Well, for one thing, I have a sister, who is probably wondering where I am,” she said.

             
“I can assure you that won’t be a problem,” he said darkly.

             
“What do you mean?” she asked.

             
“The errand which Alexander ran last night will prevent her worrying about you.”

             
She looked hesitantly at the blond man, then back at the other one. “What did you do?” she asked, sounding timid even to her own ears.

             
“Oh, nothing much,” the dark-haired man said. “Suffice it to say, your sister will be receiving a note today in your hand, explaining that you have had enough of being a caretaker, and are ready to strike out on your own.”

             
“You did
what?
” Callie screeched. “But I thought you said I would get to go back!”

             
“Yes, but you see, that might not be for some time. This way, you need not worry that she’ll be concerned about you.”

             
“You don’t understand,” Callie said, feeling more upset than she had since she’d been there. “Maggie needs me. If she thinks I’ve given up on her—“

             
“You will return one day and make it up to her.
If
you do as we ask,” he said pointedly.

             
She drew a deep breath, and put her hands on her hips to steady herself. “And what about school?” she asked. “Did you leave them a note, too? It’s only April. Summer break doesn’t start for another month. Someone will notice.”

             
“I’m sure your sister will explain it to them,” he said calmly. “And, as Alex tells me, you haven’t applied to any colleges. So we won’t have to worry about that.”

             
“So that’s it? You’ve just erased me from my life, with…what? A note?”

             
“Yes,” he said, his tone pensive. “Seems rather simple, doesn’t it? It’s lucky for us that you don’t have many friends.”

             
She swallowed, refusing to let him see her flinch. “What else do you want to know?” she forced out, keeping her mind on getting out of there.

             
“Have you ever been seriously ill?” the man asked. Callie was confused with the odd question. “Ever noticed anything odd about yourself? Physically, I mean.”

             
“What?” Callie asked. “No. I mean, it’s none of your business. But…no.”

             
“Callista,” he said. “This is important. Please, think. When was the last time you were sick?”

             
Callie was disturbed by the questions. Nevertheless, to appease him, she tried to think backwards. She thought of recent years, how many days she might have taken off from school. But she never had taken a sick day from school. She wouldn’t even know how to. Maggie certainly wouldn’t be around to call the nurse, and it wasn’t like she could call in for herself. They wouldn’t have believed her. It had never occurred to her before, this dilemma, because she’d never had to deal with it. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I mean, I must have been sick before. Just…not recently, I guess.”

             
“Have you ever had the chicken pox?” he asked. “Strep throat? Migraines?”

             
“No,” Callie said. “My mom had me vaccinated when I was a baby. For chicken pox, anyways. And I guess I’ve never been around kids with strep throat. And…I don’t know. I don’t get sick easily.”

             
“Easily?” he asked. “Or ever?”

             
Callie realized how odd this must have seemed to him. She thought about it again, but couldn’t recall having ever been seriously sick. “I don’t know,” she said. “Why, what does it mean? What is this?”

             
The dark-haired man looked across to the other man in the room, and Callie assumed that there was meaning behind this exchange. She was about to ask, but the dark-haired man cut in, “What about the meteor shower that fell over your town on the day you were born?”

             
Callie shrugged, annoyed at the swift change of subject. “What about it?” she asked.

             
“Do you ever find it a strange coincidence, both events occurring simultaneously?”

             
“No, not really. Should I?”

             
“Most humans would,” he reasoned.

             
“Look, all I know about that shower is that a meteorite landed on the old courthouse and left a huge crater. They made it an historic landmark,” she said, exasperated with the cryptic speech. “Other than that, the only thing it has to do with me is my name. The shower was a result of some comet breaking apart, which sent meteors down over Mill Valley. My dad was an astronomy teacher at the high school. He thought it would be a good joke to begin my name with a C, since I guess all non-periodic comets are always named with the first letter being a C. Supposedly, they were going to name me after my grandma Mary, but then the comet hit, and here we are.”

             
“Here we are,” the man said, his voice pensive. “And what about your parents? What happened after the accident?”

             
Callie felt the last ounce of patience drain from her, and she frowned. “I don’t want to talk about that,” she said.

             
“Your sister moved home from college, didn’t she?” he asked. “She became your legal guardian. But did anything else happen to you during that time?”

             
“Stop,” Callie warned.

             
“Any physical trauma? Any unexplained illness?”

             
“What are you suggesting?” Callie demanded, furious.

             
“Did you notice any strange growths at all? Particularly in the region of your back?” he persisted.

             

Stop
!” Callie cried, jumping to her feet and turning her back on him in case the tears returned. For a long moment, the room was utterly silent.

             
“Callista, I just want you to—“

             
“Emeric,” the second man spoke, his voice breaking into the room for the first time that day. The word, a strange name, sounded as a warning, and Callie found that she was grateful. She maintained her pose for a while longer, waiting until she was sure that she had a grip on her emotions. Her hands, clenched into involuntary fists, loosened.

             
She turned, crossing her arms, facing the dark-haired man with a bravery which she didn’t really feel.

             
“Look,” she said. “I’ll help you in any way I can, so long as you bring me back to my sister. But I won’t….I won’t tell you about that. So don’t ask me again.”

             
The dark-haired man, Emeric, stared at her for a few moments, and Callie thought that she detected frustration in his eyes. But he nodded then, and the tension disappeared.

             
“Alright,” he said, standing up to face her. “Alright, that’s enough for now.”

             
Callie nodded, looking down and shuffling her feet, the familiar pain in her chest beginning to subside.

             
“So now what?” she asked the floorboards.

             
“Now,” Emeric said, “I think it’s time we begin your training.”

Chapter Four

Lesson

 

              “Alex, if yo
u
will,” Emeric said.

             
The blond man, Alex, strode swiftly across the room. He walked directly at Callie, pinning her with a steady stare. She was tempted to take a step backwards, away from his intimidating figure, but forced herself to hold her ground.

             
Suddenly, he reached forwards with a swiftness that stole her breath, grabbing her arms with a threat on his face. She put her hands up to push him away, and in that instant, she felt herself disappear again.

She opened her eyes. No longer did she stand in the room she had been in a moment ago.

              Now, she was standing on a smooth, grey surface, looking out into the forest from—what? Where was she, exactly? She stepped forwards, looking at the silver arch which fed out into the rainforest, and realized that she was looking out from the mouth of a cave. It was carved from the same smooth stone which ran below her feet, and, as she looked out over these rocks, she realized that it was settled into a plateau several stories above the forest floor.

             
“Wow,” she breathed, taking in the view. For miles, the rainforest protruded outwards. A collage of spindling tree trunks resembling knotted cords hung down from the sky, their branches rubbing against the clouds above her head. Pale green leaves adorned their branches, like ornaments perched upon withered bark. Everything she could see was covered with some form of life, vibrant with it. Even the sky seemed to move as flocks of birds soared across it, out to an unseen destination.

             
A crash sounded. Callie turned to her left to see where it was coming from, and realized there was another opening. She crossed the small cave and stopped in its other mouth, gazing outwards. She caught her breath at the beauty of the waterfall that greeted her. Far above her, the waterfall crested in a stony divot, dropping the legions of water down for miles until, just below, they splashed against a small, perfectly round pond. She saw that the pond then trickled off into a river, lazily flowing through the forest, disappearing into the trees.

             
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.

             
“Callista?”
              Callie was startled, and looked around inside the cave. Emeric’s voice seemed to echo between the stones. “Callista, can you hear me?”

             
“Where are you?” she asked, walking back into the cave. She looked around the sunny space, but all she could see were the smooth walls of rock.

             
“You are in a memory right now,” he replied, his bodiless voice drifting towards her. Callie looked back over her shoulder, wondering if he was outside. She walked out onto the rocky ledge just outside of the second mouth, looking for him.

             
She halted, startled to find that Alex, not Emeric, was seated on the ledge, staring out over the fountains. She knelt down beside him, looking at the side of his face. He didn’t seem to sense her presence. She waved a hand in front of his face, feeling foolish, unsure why he didn’t notice her.

             
“Why can’t he see me?” she asked, hoping that Emeric could hear her.

             
He did. “In a memory, the characters you meet are unable to experience your presence. Callista, can you find your way out of this memory?” he called.

             
Callie looked around, unsure what she was supposed to find. She stood again, and walked back into the cave. But all she saw, of course, were the two cave mouths. She couldn’t exit through either of them; they both stood atop significant drops.

             
“No,” she called back. “It just looks like real life. I don’t…I don’t know what you mean.”

             
“Close your eyes,” Emeric instructed.

             
She did. She heard the cries of birds overhead, and felt a moist breeze against her cheek. In this quiet space, it was easy to forget where she was. “Clear your mind,” he said. She tipped her head back, experiencing the warmth of the sunrays pouring into the cave. “Try to distance yourself from where you are right now.”

             
She frowned. “I can’t,” she replied. She opened her eyes then and looked around, but found herself in the same spot she’d been in before. “I don’t understand.”

             
“Try,” he encouraged.

             
“I
can’t
,” she huffed, frustrated. “I don’t know what you mean.”

             
She heard him sigh, and then, all at once, the world tilted off of its axis. She let out a cry of shock and felt a wave of nausea roll over her as, before she could blink, she was thrust back into the present.

             
She stumbled forward, reaching out blindly to catch her balance. But then she opened her eyes, and saw that she was standing on a wooden floor again. She blinked, and looked up. The two men stood before her once more, and now both were able to see her. Alex stood a small distance away.

BOOK: The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series)
5.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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