Authors: Jus Accardo
Tags: #Romance, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #teen, #young adult, #denazen, #Speculative Fiction, #ya, #Paranormal, #touch, #toxic, #jus accardo, #tremble
“Is this blood?” Mom had my T-shirt in her hand. I’d caught the sleeve on the way out Conny’s garage, gashing my shoulder in the process. Alex and I had gone straight back to the cabin after leaving Kale—something I felt horrible about doing. I’d hit him hard, and I had no way of knowing if he was all right.
“Figures. One of my favorite shirts, too.” I pulled a clean shirt over my head and turned back to Mom. She stood in the doorway, the ruined shirt still in hand, and looked uncomfortable. It was easy to forget sometimes—especially lately—that she, too, had been a prisoner of Denazen. She had been there just slightly less time than Kale, having been imprisoned after becoming pregnant with me. “I don’t suppose we’ve gotten any leads on that Penny chick, huh?”
“Nothing solid,” she said. “But Dax and I did manage to find one of the Supremacy kids.”
This was the first I’d heard. “And by find you mean—”
“Alive,” she confirmed with a smile. “We convinced her to come back with us, too.”
“Seriously?” Maybe Alex was right and I’d been too aggressive with Ashley. Dax had mellowed her out a lot, but Mom still tended to be on the scary side if you didn’t know her. If
’d managed to talk someone into coming back, I’d screwed up big time. “Who did you find?”
“Her name is LuAnn Moore. Ginger has her in the new wing—on the other side of the pool. She’s keeping that area reserved for any of the Supremacy kids we find and bring back.”
. Meaning quarantined in case they went bonkers. I wondered how long before they suggested a change of address for Brandt and me.
Mom hesitated, then said, “How…how are
“What you’re really asking is if I’ve started seeing any signs, right?”
She kept her expression neutral, but I did catch a small twitch of her lip. For Mom, that was equal to an emotional outburst. She wasn’t the most touchy-feely person out there—unless of course you were Dax. I still hadn’t figured that one out. “That, and how are you taking the Kale situation?”
I pulled a hoodie over my T-shirt and sank onto the bed. “There’s nothing yet,” I said in response to the Supremacy question, even though I was pretty sure it was a lie. I’d stubbed my toe that morning and screamed like a baby because it’d hurt so badly, but the other night when Kiernan slashed me, I hadn’t felt a thing. It seemed to be sporadic—and I didn’t know if that was good or bad. “As for Kale, I’m dealing. It hurt seeing him like that. The way he was talking—it was hard. But I’m going to fix it. He’s in there—I know it. I’ll make this right.”
She tossed the shirt into the pile of dirty clothes on the floor. “And if you can’t?”
I lifted my head and met her gaze head-on. “That’s just not an option for me.”
A small smile tugged at the edges of her lips. She nodded, and right before she turned, said, “That’s my girl.”
“Hey,” I called as she disappeared around the corner. I’d almost forgotten the reason I’d called her in.
“That list. The one Brandt gave us with the Supremacy names. Where is it?”
I shrugged and tried to play it cool. “No reason. Thought maybe I could take a peek. See what’s ahead. Might help to get an idea of who else is still out there and what we’ll be up against.”
And just like someone flipped a switch, Mom’s demeanor changed. She went from normal Mom to I-have-a-secret Mom. It’d taken me a while, but I finally had her moods down—not that there were many. “Ginger has it. She’s keeping the names a secret for now.”
“Really,” I said, folding my arms.
She started inching to the right. “I have to find Dax. I promised I’d spar with him.” If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. She was gone.
“You’d think she’d know better by now,” I said to myself. I mean, she’d basically
me to go find the thing. If Ginger was keeping the names a secret, then there had to be a reason. I had a duty to myself—and to the other Supremacy kids—to find out what that reason was.
I waited a few minutes to be sure Mom was gone before heading out of my room and down the main hall.
Dax was our own resident Bruce Wayne Six, and he had financed the entire underground community to keep us safe. I didn’t know it when I first met him, but apparently Dax had money.
of it. And at the rate we brought in new blood, we’d have to expand soon. That is, unless some of us started dropping off.
I hurried through the pool room, pinching my nose against the stench—I’d never liked the smell of chlorine—and made my way toward Ginger’s room. She was at the end of the hall, away from everyone else. She said it was because she liked the quiet, but if you asked Dax, he put her there because she snored loudly enough to wake the entire complex.
When I got to Ginger’s door, I leaned close and held my breath, pressing my ear up against the wood. I counted to ten and waited. Nothing. The room was empty. Good. Next step—getting inside. The door was locked, of course, but something as silly as a lock hadn’t stopped me since my ability surged.
Truthfully, a locked door had never stopped me.
I whirled around, guilty, and found myself face-to-face with a brunette girl. “Um, hello, person who I’ve never met. I’m not doing anything wrong.”
She extended her hand, smiling. “Oookay. I’m LuAnn—call me Lu, though. I saw you come down this way and I wanted to say hello. Your mama just brought me in. She was with that really handsome man.”
“Dax.” I nodded. “But hands off. They’re kind of a thing.” A quick glance over my shoulder told me the coast was still clear, but standing here out in the hallway—in front of Ginger’s room—probably wasn’t the best idea. “So how did you know who I was?”
“You look just like your mama. She told me all about you on the drive over.” She had on a baggy green sweatshirt with a picture of a snowman—Frosty if I had to guess—roasting over an open fire and a small pin of a Christmas tree with flashing lights on her right shoulder. Long, straight hair with no real shape, no makeup, and odd fuchsia jeans. She was the kind of girl the guys at school would have made fun of—slightly overweight, with a quirky fashion sense and a thick accent.
Me? I thought she was kind of awesome.
Taking her hand, I returned the warm smile, and in an attempt to get her to move along, said, “Well, welcome to the funny farm. Lemme know if you need anything.”
But she didn’t take the hint. “So I know I just got here, but I wanted to see how you were. Your mama said we were in the same boat. This whole thing is a little—”
“Crazed?” There was a noise at the other end of the hall. Someone was coming. My time was up. “Lu, is it? Let’s get to know each other.” I placed my hand over Ginger’s door and instead of the brass handle pictured one made of Nerf. The texture changed—and unfortunately so did the color. I’d been thinking of Alex’s old Nerf ball. The damn thing had been neon yellow.
“Holy hound dogs. Did you just—”
I pushed open the door and tugged her inside. “Nothing says bonding like a little breaking and entering.”
“Whoa,” she breathed as I closed the door behind us. “Do y’all do stuff like this often?”
I shrugged, made a beeline for Ginger’s desk, and pulled open the top drawer, yanking things out one by one. “Depends on the day.”
Lu stood by the door and shuffled from foot to foot. “Mind if I ask you a question?”
Bank statements, an ancient-looking address book, and about a hundred old food store flyers—but no file folder. On to the next drawer. “Go for it.”
“When do you turn eighteen?”
“My ticker is up on February first.” Crap. Nothing in the second, either. “What about you?”
“My birthday is on March sixteenth.”
“Bites the big one, eh?” I slammed the third drawer closed and dove for the fourth—the last. “So how did they convince you to come back here?”
“No convincing needed.” She stepped farther into the room, seeming to relax a little. “I knew they’d be coming. Six perk. I was all packed when they showed up this mornin’.”
“What about your parents?”
“They won’t miss me. I wasn’t theirs, after all.”
That made me stop and look up. She was still smiling, but it was sad somehow. “So you knew? For how long?”
“I’ve known about it since I was twelve. We lived in Kansas most of my life, but last week we moved here.”
“I don’t understand… If you knew, why stay? Why come with them to Parkview at all?”
She smiled. “I knew your mother and her friend would come for me.”
“If it’d been me, I would have jumped ship and run as far away as possible.”
She shook her head and stepped around the desk. “No you wouldn’t have.” Shifting the contents of Ginger’s desktop around, she uncovered a yellow folder. “Is that what yer lookin’ for?”
In her hand was the yellow folder Ginger had earlier in the common room. “You are the very definition of awesome, Lu!” I dove for the folder and yanked it open. Several sheets in, I found what I was looking for. “Gotcha.”
Lu leaned over my shoulder. “Who’re all those people?”
I tapped the page, flipping through a few more. “They’re like us. The rest of the Supremacy kids.”
“There are so many.”
“Twelve of us total,” I said. Names, addresses—some sheets had pictures. Some didn’t. Nothing struck me as super secret and I couldn’t imagine why Ginger wanted to keep this hidden—until I got to the fifth page and it all made sense. “Holy shit.”
Lu jumped and spun for the door. “What? What’s wrong?”
“This is why they didn’t want me to see the list.” I pulled my cell from my back pocket and snapped a few pictures.
“Ben Simmons,” Lu read aloud. “Who’s he?”
I e-mailed the pictures to my account and pocketed the cell. “It’s not so much who he is but what he can do.” I tapped the page again. “It says he’s a memory thief. If he can steal memories, maybe he can fix broken ones.”
Her expression turned sympathetic, and she reached across, awkwardly patting me on the shoulder. “Did you lose a memory?”
I closed the file and pushed it back underneath the stack of papers. “Not me. My boyfriend. These guys who did this to us? They took him. Messed with his head. He doesn’t know me anymore…”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s cool. If anyone can beat this, it’s him and me.” The words came out strong and sure, but deep down I still had my doubts. Every time I remembered the way Kale looked at me in Conny Delgeto’s garage, my fragile hope slipped just a little. But maybe I didn’t have to wonder. Knowing what she could do, I couldn’t resist. “I don’t suppose you know how this is all gonna turn out?”
“My gift only allows me to see things about my own life. I wish I could tell you what you want to know, but I only know what’s going to happen to me. Moments I’m in, events in my life. It’s sadly limited.”
“And it’s always been like that?”
She turned eighteen in about three months. Maybe there was hope for her. If nothing had changed, maybe her body wasn’t rejecting the drug. “You might be all right, then. One of the earliest signs the body is starting to reject the drug is a noticeable change in your ability. If there hasn’t been any change, and you’re this close, then you might be okay. My ability changed back in the beginning of summer.”
I had what I’d come for. Staying longer would be pushing my luck. As I started for the door, I turned back and asked, “You said you knew how it was going to turn out for you. Are you going to start showing side effects?”
She shrugged and, with a sad smile, followed me out of the room. As I changed the knob back to its normal metal state, she said, “I’m not sure. I don’t make it long enough to find out.”
Lu’s confession haunted me the rest of the night. I was tempted to tell someone but decided it wasn’t my place. Her future. Her choice. That was my new motto.
I lay in bed, brain whirring two million miles a minute as I tried to come up with a plan of attack. Somehow, I needed to get to Ben Simmons. The address in his file was just over the Connecticut border, but getting there without letting the others know would be tricky. With the word out to terminate the Supremacy kids, the chances of Mom and Ginger letting me skip around on my own were slim.
I knew Ginger would send someone to get him, but she wouldn’t make it a priority, which seemed stupid. Denazen had the same list we did. If Ben were still alive, Denazen would make it its business to get to him ASAP to keep him from reversing what was done to Kale—unless they knew it couldn’t be done.
I’d almost slipped into dreamland, thinking about Kale and our last trip to Gino’s—a little Italian restaurant several towns over we liked to sneak out to—when something shook the bed. Without rolling over, I swatted the air. Ginger had taken in a stray cat and the damn thing, for some reason, loved my room. More specifically, my bed. I warned her that the first time I found a dead animal of any kind between my sheets, the cat was history.
“Stupid cat. Go away,” I mumbled into my pillow.
“Dez?” Huh. Cats didn’t talk. It took a second to shake the impending sleep from my brain before I figured out who it was.
“Alex? What the hell—”
“Dez, we don’t have time. Wake up.”
“Time?” I untangled myself from the covers and twisted to see the clock. Two a.m. “You realize it’s the ass-crack of sleepy time, right?”
“We need to go. Now.”
I bolted upright and threw off the covers, sliding my feet into the sneakers at the base of my bed while flipping on the lamp. “What happened?”
“Ashley. She called my cell. After we left, she did a drawing. It showed her parents—”
A rush of guilt crashed through the room. “Where is she? Is she someplace safe?”
“She called from her room. She was close to hysterical, Dez. Kept going on about how sorry she was for not coming with us earlier.”
She was sorry? Great. Now I felt worse, if that were even possible. “Even if we leave now and with no traffic, it’ll still take almost an hour. And that’s doesn’t include waking everyone—”
“There’s no time. It’s just you and me. We’re the cavalry.”