The Lost Soul (Page 17)

He’s gone and I know where he went—to the field, to Helena. I sense it in my heart, through Alex, through our undying connection. He’s in pain, hurting, and I feel every part of it. I spin for the stairs to wake Aislin and Laylen. But my legs give out and I crash to the floor. Using my weak arms, I try to heave back up. But my elbows buckle. I cough up a large puddle of blood.

“Laylen…” My voice fades as I slip into unconsciousness.

Chapter 15

“It’s starting again, isn’t it?” Alex and I are lying on a blanket underneath the night sky. The warm air is like summer sand. But I snuggle up against him, pretending I’m cold, craving his closeness.

“We’ll be fine.” He stares at the stars, one arm supporting his head, the other playing with my hair. “It’s not like last time. We have each other now.”

“I know.” I pause. “But what if we don’t? What if we lose each other somehow?”

He rolls to his side, his head relaxed in his hand, his eyes intense even through the night. “That’s not possible. Remember you and me forever.”

“Forever,” I whisper, breathless. “But how long can forever be if we’re not with each other? What if Helena gets one of us? What if she takes one of our souls?”

He bites on his bottom lip, eyes glazing with contemplation. He shifts on his hip and reaches into his pocket. “Then we’ll have to make sure we save each other.” He slides out his pocket knife.

“A Blood Promise between us can’t keep Helena from stealing our souls.” I frown at the knife.

He kneels up and switches the knife open. “I’m not saying that we’ll promise that. I’m saying we’ll promise that, no matter what, we’ll save each other. Whether we’re brainwashed, locked up to a life-sucking crystal ball, or passed out in a cabin in the middle of the mountains.” The corners of his lips quirk. “Which you know are all possible. We’ll promise to find and save our other half.”

I pin my lips together. “I’d do that anyway, even without the Blood Promise.”

“I know you would,” he says with sureness. “But this helps against outside forces.”

I consider it, but only briefly. I rise onto my knees, kneeling in front of him. “Alright, I’m in.”

His eyes never waver as he gently takes my hand and puts the blade to my palm. With a quick motion, he slices my skin. Releasing my hand for a second, he cuts his palm then returns our hands together, mixing our blood and our bond. He caresses his lips with mine, quickly kissing me.

“Spondeo non materia quod,” he whispers with a sliver of space between our lips. “Ego semper sit custos e potestate vel non. Ut haud res quis venio, ego te semper invenies.”

Before I can repeat his words, he touches his lips to mine. He coaxes my lips apart and slips his tongue inside my mouth. Distracted, I release our hands and twine my fingers through his hair. A moan escapes his lips, wanting me, needing me. It reminds me that he needs to be saved too.

I pull back, panting. “No one-sided promises.” I untangle my injured hand from his hair, hold it up, and wait. His jaw tightens as our hands link. “Now, what do I say?”

“Spondeo non materia quod,” he speaks through gritted teeth. “Ego semper sit custos e potestate vel non. Ut haud res quis venio, ego te semper invenies.”

I repeat his words carefully. When I finish, our hands slide apart. Blood filters down our wrists and forearms. “No matter what, we’re in this together,” I say. “Helena can’t win against us both.”

He stares at me, eyes skimming the lines of my lips. Without answering, he tilts his head to kiss me.

I place my hand on his chest and hold him back. “Alex, promise we’re in this together.”

“Alright, I promise.” He licks his lips as he eyes mine.

“But do his promises really mean anything if they’re not sealed by blood?” Stasha interrupts us. She flips her blond hair from her shoulder and grins. “I know he promised me multiple times we’d be together forever, but without the Blood Promise, he’s not obligated to hold out his end of the deal.”

Alex’s muscles tense as he sits up. “It’s not an obligation, Stasha. I want to be with her. Unlike you.”

“Aw, sweetie.” She kneels down in front of him, running her fingers through his hair.

I want to rip her death hands off. I want to wring her neck. But all I can do is lay motionless on the ground, trapped by an invisible force.

“Come with me,” she whispers. “I can save you.”

Alex glances at me, waiting for my response—a plea for him to stay. I twitch my lips, trying to force them apart, but they’re bound together.

Stasha helps him to his feet and sets her glove-covered hand in his. “Good boy.” She leads him away.

Alex looks over his shoulder, sadness in his eyes. “I’ll protect you forever. No matter what it takes.”

A white circle of light reveals in front of them. I inch my hand up as they dip their feet in. “Wait!” My lips break apart and my limbs are freed. But it’s too late. They’ve vanished into the light, leaving me alone with only the stars.

Just like my life used to be.

***

“Alex…” I wake up with my cheek pressed against the velvet couch cushion and the vexed voices of Laylen and Aislin.

“No, it doesn’t mean that,” Aislin snaps. “We can’t assume anything until we know for sure.”

“Aislin, you saw exactly what I saw.” Laylen’s voice is quiet. “The blood… it was everywhere.”

“He’s not dead,” Aislin breathes, sobs interlacing her voice. “He’s fine. Helena wouldn’t kill him—she needs him to much.”

“You know as well as I do that in order to go to The Afterlife, you have to be dead,” Laylen replies softly.

“That’s not true.” I sit up and lower my feet down until they touch the floor. My thigh muscles ache and my toes are coated with Alex’s dried blood. Their eyes bore into me, waiting for an explanation. I stare at the red flakes on my pale skin. “I can go to The Afterlife whenever I want—I can’t die. Well, I can, but I revive.”

Laylen crouches in front of me. “Gemma, what happened? How did it… why is there blood everywhere?”

“It’s Alex’s.” Lifting my chin, I meet his eyes. “I woke up and he was gone.”

“You didn’t see him leave, though?” Aislin sits on the coffee table. Her hair is pulled into a messy bun and she’s wearing a pink hoodie. Her pinstriped pajamas pants are ringed with mud, along with her slippers.

I shake my head slowly. “Did you go outside?”

She exchanges a look with Laylen. “I went looking for Alex… out in the field.” she tells me and I swallow hard. She puts her hands firmly on my shoulders. “Gemma, we need to know what happened.”

My gut infests with knots. “I was having this dream… about Helena. She ate Annabella and then went after the Essences. When I woke up, Alex was gone. There was blood all over the bed and on the floor. I tracked it to the front door and then…” I inhale slowly, forcing the tears back. “And then I could feel pain. It was so bad that I passed out.” I pause. “I think I was feeling Alex’s pain.”

“You think Helena was hurting him?” Her bottom lip quivers. “Is that why you had the dream about her? Was it a vision?”

I cup the back of my neck. “I don’t have my power anymore… and it was weird anyway. Usually, I’m part of the vision or dream I’m having. But in this one I was just a silent observer.” I pause. “Aislin, what happened in the field?”

Tears escape her eyes and she looks away. “His car was there. One second there’s a blood trail leading to the center of the field and the next, it just ends. It’s like he was sucked into the ground or something. But that’s not possible…” More tears stream her pale cheeks. “I don’t know what happened to him.”

“I do.” It feels like I’ve been hit by a truck, the wind knocked out of me, my legs paralyzed. “I think Helena took him to The Afterlife, just like she did in my dream. Although, if it did happen then it was more of an omen than anything.”

Covering her face, Aislin sobs, “How do you know for sure? Everything you see doesn’t happen the same way. Like when you went to The Afterlife. The dream and the real event were different—you weren’t even in a coffin.”

“You said it was like he was sucked into the ground.” My voice sounds strangled, like an injured cat. “In the dream, that’s how he went—with Helena and the willow tree by his side.” I pause, pushing back my emotional breakdown. You have to keep it together.

Aislin’s eyes are like two large emeralds, wide and glossy. “What do we do?”

I clear my emotions clumping my throat. “We go get him.”

Laylen shifts to the coffee table, rubs Aislin’s back consolingly, and narrows his eyes at me. “I know what you’re thinking and the answer’s no. I said no more dying.”

“I have to.” I return his glare. “Unless you can think of a different way to get someone out of The Afterlife.”

Aislin leans her head against his shoulder. “Gemma, if you go down there, you’re basically giving Helena what she wants—you. And if she’s planning on using your soul to free her Lost Souls, then that can’t happen.”

“We don’t know for sure if that’s why she wants me,” I say. “Lucinda made it sound like it was partially a pride thing or something. That because I got away, she wants me—or my soul anyway.”

“You’re stretching the truth,” Laylen calls me out. “And you know it. Helena wants you for more than that.”

“I…” I can’t deny it. Alex told me if Helena gets me, the world’s as good as dead.

“You’re not going to die.” Laylen’s tone spears like knives. “I let you try it once and I’m not going to do it again. If I have to lock you up in your room and throw away the key, you’ll do what I say.”

Aislin and I gape at him, thinking the same thing.

“What’s the matter with you?” she questions. “You’re starting to sound a lot like…” Her gaze flits to me.

“Alex,” I finish for her and point an accusing finger at Laylen. “Have you two been making Blood Promises again?”

“No, the only thing going on here is that I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go wandering around in The Afterlife,” he insists with a firm look. “It’s like a mouse throwing themself into a snake pit. And after the dream you saw, Annabella might not be around to save you again.”

“That was just a dream,” I contend. “I don’t really think Helena ate Annabella. Why would she? And why would she go after the Essences?”