The Hidden (The Hidden Trilogy) (2 page)

BOOK: The Hidden (The Hidden Trilogy)
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A few seconds later, I heard Emily bound down the steps. She appeared in the doorway of the clubhouse with the backpack slung across one shoulder, holding the teapot with both hands.

She set it down on the table and handed me the backpack. “Here.”

Setting Buttons aside, I took the bag and peered in it, cocking an eyebrow at what I found. “What’s this?”

“I got you some stuff,” she said, pouring clear liquid from the teapot into all the teacups.

I reached into the small bag and took out a wet washcloth, a gray t-shirt (with a big wet mark from said washcloth), a pair of black flip-flops, a brush, and a package of chocolate chip cookies.

She came over and took the cookies. “These are our biscuits. You’re ’sposed to have them with tea.”

“Tea?” I asked, eyeing the clear liquid in the little teacups.

She nodded. “We’re gonna have a tea party.”

I stared blankly at her, trying to wrap my head around her words. “You want me to have a tea party…with your stuffed animals.”

She grinned and nodded.

Well, this is a first.

Dumbfounded, I picked up the washcloth to start cleaning myself.

I’d been on this earth over two-hundred and eighty years, spending most of it as a soldier and killer. So…how the hell did I end up in this situation?

After I was free of dirt and my hair had been brushed, I slipped on the shirt she’d brought me. It was about three sizes too small and barely reached my belly button. It probably looked ridiculous on me.

A few seconds later and Emily’s snickers confirmed my suspicion. “Here you go,” she said, handing me one of the blue plastic teacups.

I took it and looked at the half inch of water she’d poured into it. “This isn’t tea.”

She frowned as she poured more water into her own cup. “It’s
pretend
, silly.”

“Oh.” I raised the cup to my lips and took a sip.

She’s having a tea party with inanimate objects and
I’m
the silly one?

“No, like this.” She wiggled her pinkie to emphasize that it was supposed to be pointed up while you drank.

“Excuse me,” I said, sticking out my pinkie. “I wasn’t aware of proper tea etiquette.”

That’s when I noticed her staring at me again. Was I still not extending my pinkie properly? “What?” I asked, taking another sip.

“Your eyes are a pretty color.” She looked at me thoughtfully and set her plastic teacup down with as much grace as if she were handling fine china. “You’re real pretty for a boy.”

I choked on the “tea” I was sipping, spewing droplets of water down my chin. I set my cup down, wiped the water off my face, and cleared my throat. “Thank you.”

I think.

“And your hair is really long for a boy.” She reached out and grazed her fingertips along the ends. “I like it. It’s like a princess’s hair.”

I laughed, though I made a mental note that a haircut was sorely overdue. “That’s exactly what a boy wants to hear–that his hair looks like a princess’s.”

She giggled. “Well, it does. It’s long and straight and blond. Like Sleeping Beauty.”

“That may be, but I happen to like
your
hair better.”

She frowned and pulled her hair to the side, inspecting her long, dark curls. “You do?” On the side of her exposed neck, just under her ear, was a small, heart-shaped birthmark.

“Yes, I do. It suits you. Don’t ever change it, okay?”

She dropped her hair and shrugged. “Okay…” Her eyes lit up as she grabbed the brush. “Can I braid your hair?”

 

Several cups of tea and several hairstyles later, Emily’s grandmother called for her. “Emily! Time for dinner!”

Dread seized my chest, making it tight. I didn’t want this to end. I’d had more fun this afternoon with this little human girl than I’d had in the last two decades. But as I looked around, noticing the glow of the setting sun and the blinking neon green of the surrounding fireflies, I knew our time was up.

“Coming!” Emily called back. “I hafta go.” She grabbed Buttons and held him to her chest, ducking to go out the front door of her plastic house. She paused and turned to face me. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

I dropped my eyes and shook my head.

“You’re not ever coming back, are you?”

I shook my head again. “It’s best if I didn’t. Your parents, your grandma…they wouldn’t understand our friendship.”

“Why not?”

How could I put this so she’d understand? “I’m afraid I’m too old to be your friend.”

She frowned. “How old are you?”

I saw no point in lying to her, so I was truthful. “Two-hundred and eighty-two.”

She smiled and rolled her eyes, clearly not buying it, but the smile didn’t last long. “Do you live out there? In the woods?”

“Yes.”

“Does your family live there, too?”

I cleared my throat, uncomfortable with the topic. “No. It’s just me.”

“Do you miss them?”

I shrugged. “Sometimes… We’ve been apart for a very long time now.”

She looked down at Buttons, toying with his matted fur. “What about your friends?”

“I– I don’t have any.” Why was I embarrassed to admit this to the tiny creature?

She took a step towards me, holding out her teddy bear. “I want you to take Buttons.”

My eyes widened before I shook my head. “Emily, I can’t take your teddy bear.”

“Why not? Everybody needs a friend.” She pushed the bear into my arms. “Buttons can be your friend. He’s a good one, I promise.”

I opened my mouth to protest again, but quickly shut it. This human girl was willing to give up her “bestest friend” just so I wouldn’t be alone in the world. Who was I to turn down a gift like that?

I took the bear and held it against me. “I’ll take good care of him.”

She looked at Buttons, the gravity of what she’d given away settling on her little features. Her hazel eyes grew shiny, tears threatening to spill onto her porcelain cheeks. “Promise?”

I held my hand over my heart. “I promise.”

She leapt forward and wrapped her arms around me. “Bye, Thomas,” she whispered in my ear.

I held her to me as tightly as I could without hurting her. “Goodbye, Emily.” I released her and she took off, running towards her grandmother’s house without a second glance back.

 

PART II

Chapter One

Monday, August 17
th,
 This Year

Dallas, TX

 

EMILY

Summer heat smacked me in the face as the grocery store’s automatic doors slid open. The heat tightened my skin, making my face feel shrink-wrapped to my skull. I grimaced and shifted the bajillion grocery bags in my hands, continuing my trek through the parking lot to my car, which was still–

Damn it.
Like a thousand miles away.

My eyes caught someone’s cart starting to roll down the gentle slope of the parking lot’s pavement up ahead. Bent over and buried in the trunk of his shiny black luxury car, the owner of the runaway cart was oblivious.

“Hey!” I called out.

He didn’t hear me.

The cart picked up speed, its front wheel wobbling inconsistently as it zoomed down the row, heading for a group of parked cars. And of course,
my
car was on the very end, sticking out like a giant fucking bullseye.

Shit.

I dropped my bags and took off running, my feet pounding on the pavement. I caught the front end of the cart just as it was about to slam into my driver’s side door. My body was all jittery from the sudden adrenaline rush, and I exhaled a shaky breath.

“I’m
so
sorry.”

My head jerked back, seeing Mr. Oblivious jog up to me, carrying my abandoned grocery bags. He stepped into the shade of my parking spot and asked, “Are you okay?” as he set the sacks down.

I scowled and pushed his cart to him. “I’m
fine
, but maybe next time you should pay more attention.”

He smiled, revealing a set of pearly whites that would be any dentist’s dream, and said, “Again, I’m really sorry.” He set his black aviator sunglasses atop his artfully messy dark hair, and I nearly died.

Spectacular golden-green eyes stared back at me under long dark lashes that, honestly, I was kinda jealous of. Large chunks of gold dotted his green irises, and they seemed to glow softly, as if backlit by a candle.

Holy damn. I’d been talking to a
god
this whole flippin’ time! Shit, how was my hair? Did I sweat all my makeup off?

I dropped my eyes and looked past him, to his car. Doing a double take, I squinted at his Virginia license plate. “You’re a long way from home.”

“Yeah, I go to school up there,” he said. “I’m home for the summer right now.” He picked up my bags and nodded to my trunk.

I pulled out my keys and unlocked it, lifting the lid for him. “I actually start college next week in Virginia,” I said.

His brows lifted, and he paused loading groceries into my car. “Really?”

I nodded, watching his well-defined forearms as he worked. Boy was
built
. I fought the urge to fan myself, and it had nothing to do with the heat.

“Maybe we’re not too far away from each other,” he said. “I’m at Potomac Ridge University. Where’re you going?”

I laughed and shook my head in disbelief. “No way. This is too weird.”

“What?”

“That’s my school. That’s where I start on Monday.”

He cocked an eyebrow as he put the last two bags in my trunk and shut the lid. “You’re pulling my leg, right? There’s no way the world is that small.”

“No, I swear.”

He stuck his hands in his pockets and stepped closer. “I never got your name.”

How
did I get here, again? My mom sent me out to buy groceries, and I ended up talking with a guy who should be half-naked on a billboard in Times Square…

So far, my day wasn’t half bad.

“I’m Emily.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Emily.” He smiled. “I’m Gabriel.”

Tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, I gave him my best flirty smile.

“I’ve actually got to run right now,” he said as he checked his watch. “We should get together in Virginia. You heading up there soon?”

I nodded. “At the end of the week.”

“Me, too. Hey, why don’t you give me your number and I’ll give you a call when I get up there,” he said, pulling out his phone.

I bit my lip. This guy was smooth, I’d give him that. So I flashed Gabriel a polite smile and recited my phone number.

 

Chapter Two

Monday, August 24
th

Potomac Ridge, VA

 

EMILY

What the hell?

My nose scrunched up as I stared at myself in the mirror, my hazel eyes glaring back at me. I ran my fingers over my hair–big and wavy from the humidity–as I tried to smooth it down. It didn’t work, though. It still looked like a long, dark mess. 

Maybe I should shave it off and be done with it.

Laughter broke through my train of thought. I turned to find my new roommate, Beth, standing in the doorway of the bathroom, laughing at me. 

She stepped in, rummaged through her makeup bag on the counter, and pulled out a tube of pink lip gloss. “Jesus, Em, what crawled up your ass?” She smacked her lips together as she tried to spread the pink gunk evenly.

I glared at Beth’s shoulder-length brown hair, pin-straight and not at all affected by the humidity. “I don’t know how you get your hair to stay so straight in this kind of weather,” I mumbled, grabbing my brush off the bathroom counter and wincing as it got caught in the tangles of my hair. I sighed and set the brush back down. It was only making my hair look worse. “This is ridiculous. I look like a fucking poodle.” 

Beth laughed again. “Is it wrong that I’m kind of enjoying this?” Looking back and forth between her reflection and mine, she smirked. “So this is what it feels like to finally be the hot one. I gotta say, it feels pretty good.” 

I rolled my eyes. “Are you done?”

“All right, all right, I’ll help you.” She patted the countertop. “Sit.” She reached into her toiletry bag and pulled out a small red bottle.

I hopped up onto the countertop, watching as she squeezed a small amount of clear liquid into her palm. She rubbed it between her hands and worked it into my hair. “You nervous?”

Yes.

I shrugged, aiming for indifference. “Not really. You?”

“Not so much nervous. More like dread.”

My brows pulled together as I watched her work. She didn’t meet my eyes. “Why are you dreading today? You were so excited last night, and all, ‘First day of college,
woo-hoo
!’ ” I did a fist-pump into the air, completing my impression of Beth from last night.

She fought the smile tugging on her lips and stepped back a little, her green eyes looking over her work. She made another couple adjustments, fluffing my hair as she said, “I was also mildly intoxicated last night, so excuse me if I got a little
too
happy. I would’ve been equally as excited about a bug or the moon.”

“Is this about Josh?”

Her eyes grew wide. “What?
No
.” 

I rolled my eyes. “Look, I know we’ve only known each other for a couple days, but…it’s really obvious you’re into him.”

She winced. “It is?”

I nodded. “Sorry.”


Ugh
, this is exactly why I didn’t want to go to an in-state school!”

I frowned, thinking back to what she’d said last night. “I thought you liked having some friends here.”

“Yeah,
some
friends,” she mumbled as she left the bathroom. “
Not
Josh,” she called from the living room. “You’re so lucky you get to go to school halfway across the country. And I’m stuck here, an hour away from where I grew up, because my parents couldn’t afford out-of-state tuition.” 

I felt for her, I really did. I couldn’t wait to get out of Dallas and live someplace new and exciting… Well,
new
at least. Coming from Dallas, I wouldn’t exactly call Potomac Ridge “exciting.” But it was only an hour and a half away from Washington, DC, so I didn’t think it was too far in the boonies. Plus, it snowed here in the winter.
Real
snow that stuck to the ground until it reached several feet high, not an occasional five-minute flurry that turned to slush as soon as it hit the ground. What
was
exciting about this place was its freedom. I was on my own here, for the first time in my life.

BOOK: The Hidden (The Hidden Trilogy)
9.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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