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       Light, p.1

           Adrienne Woods
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Light


  Dream Casters

  Shadow

  Adrienne Woods

  Copyright © 2017 Adrienne Woods

  Cover illustrated Joemel Requeza

  This is a work of fiction and by no means related to any real people, places or event.

  Fire Quill Publishing

  67 Bert Lacey

  Sunward Park

  South Africa

  1459

  Created with Vellum

  To all the Dream Caster fans, sorry for the wait,

  hope it’s worth it.

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  1. PART I

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  PART II

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  PART III

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

  WIN A MAC!!!

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  Thanks to the Lord, who gives me the stories and choosing me to tell them. I could not have done it without HIM.

  He is my inspiration, my savior and I am giving him all the honor.

  To my family, my husband for giving me the time to write, my daughters for keeping me astound at their imagination, and everyone that I call family. I couldn’t have done this without any of you.

  To my assistant Anika. Thank you for taking care of everything in my life so that I can write.

  To my editors: Monique, the content you did was amazing. You made Chastity stronger, and more human than I ever could. To Jess, thank you for that final sweep and for turning everything into a glittering final product.

  To my publishing company and the staff at FQP. I couldn’t have done any of this without you. All your support has been so appreciative.

  To Joel, my cover artist, Monique Lopez, my cover model, thanks for bringing the illustration cover alive.

  It is so much more magical.

  To my fans. Sorry for the wait. I know it’s been more than two years. Thank you for your patience and I hope that it was worth the wait.

  love

  Adrienne.

  PART I

  CHAPTER ONE

  Happily after doesn’t exist.

  It had been four months, five days, six hours, and twenty-odd minutes since the Virtual Realm was lost to us.

  Since the one person I’d looked up to betrayed us all.

  Fox.

  Fox had been a brilliant guardian who’d made a deal with the Shadow Casters. Had been being the key words in that sentence. She’d died by my hand, and I was still struggling to come to terms with that.

  The very same night, Sophie—a sweet, smart, and loyal girl—and Tom’s entire team of Seekers also perished.

  And on that same night, the one person who made this place worthwhile—the guy who was one of the reasons I dragged my ass out of bed every morning—got tossed into the unknown.

  The scientists had given upon their search for him. If there was no sign of Leigh or anything worth saving in what had been recovered of the Virtual Realm, the scientist in charge of restoring it was going to switch off the machine.

  It didn’t matter to them whether or not he still existed. But he still existed… in my dreams.

  My beautiful, colorful dreams.

  My ability to see in color still hadn’t returned, and I was starting to freak out about it. Not being able to see in color was one of the first signs that you were a Shadow Caster.

  I was lucky that Shades—or Mr. Grey as the Reverians knew him—a talking cat whom only I could hear, hadn’t died. He occasionally told me the colors if someone was having a conversation with me.

  I was glad my cat was alive, even though he was still as grumpy as ever with his snarky comebacks. He had become one of my best friends.

  Mr. Grey believed the Virtual Realm was huge, and that Lover Boy might still be alive.

  Well, as alive as he could be.

  See, Leigh was part of the Virtual Realm, but technically he didn’t exist. Like a computer program, just way more advanced.

  Reverians called his kind Jumpers—not that there were more like Leigh.

  He’d given me hope, and now they were just going to plunder it, murdering the only guy who would ever make my heart skip a beat by just being him.

  It was also four months, five days, six hours, and now seven minutes that I’d been living a lie.

  I dreamed of Leigh every night. My dreams were the only place he still existed.

  In these dreams… well, we’d gotten to know one another pretty well.

  In these dreams, we’d shared our very first kiss of many kisses. And so much more.

  Leigh knew about my mother—well, he’d always known what she was. He’d always told me to choose, and he was right.

  When I dreamed about him, we talked about almost everything except that horrific night when everything fell apart, the night Fox died. Leigh had no idea that I had given in to the darkness. And I wasn’t ready to tell him.

  He still had no idea about my father. It was strange how my father never came up in our conversations. Leigh had no idea who my dad truly was. Because I only saw him in my dreams, my time with Leigh was very limited.

  I learned as much as I could about him. Or at least, what I hoped was the truth.

  Why say hoped was the truth, you wonder? Well, this was the worst part.

  Dreams were just that: dreams. Even inside the world of Dreams, it was still only a dream. We just experienced them differently than what the Nomads on Earth did. Nomads, those humans who were not like us.

  In Revera, dreams could be used by someone like Leigh to have a private conversation, or they could be used for a silly girl’s fantasy of a guy who was way out of her league, but real or not, you experienced the full dose and not just twenty percent.

  My mother, Vinicola Sodivic, a name the Light Casters feared and one of the best Shadow Casters who ever lived, had first shared that with me.

  So a part of me—and I still didn’t know how big that part was—had no idea whether it was my imagination or whether he was really there.

  That was why I was living a lie.

  But whichever way I looked at it, I knew it would all be over today when the scientist pulled the plug.

  Rushing footsteps clattered up the stairs. My eyes flicked to the door as a guy with scruffy blond hair peeked into my room. A huge grin adorned Max’s face.

  I couldn’t recall ever seeing Max grin like that before.

  “What’s up?” I asked.

  He stared at me with that idiotic grin on his face before answering. “They found him.”

  I sucked in a breath. “What?”

  He grinned even wider. “It’s just a voice, but they think it’s Leigh.”

  I flew out of my room and down the stairs with Max right behind me. “A voice? How? When?” I looked over my shoulder at him as we made our way out of the House of Lords.

  “They were about to exit the Virtual Realm, about to make it final and shut down the entire world, when his voice just popped through.”

  We ran
toward the science building across from the academy as fast as we could. The science building had various laboratories and was used for video streaming, audio recordings… everything one could think of. It also had living quarters that housed not just the team trying to save anything that had been destroyed inside the Virtual Realm, but all the other scientists who ran Revera’s systems—under strict supervision from the academy, of course.

  “The frequency was unclear,” Max carried on as we reached the front door. “We couldn’t make out a single word, but it’s him, Chas.”

  I pulled the door hard and slipped through. Max, now in front of me, sprinted up the steps. I gasped for breath as I took the stairs two at a time, my muscles aching from exertion.

  I had to hear Leigh’s gibberish for myself. If his voice was there, if he was fine, I would be fine too.

  It was the first non-Dream sign of his existence since he’d disappeared. A sign I’d been praying for during the past four months.

  We’d spoken about this day in my dreams so many times, I couldn’t quite believe it was finally here. Of course, each time we discussed it, I confessed my worry that the dreams were all just my imagination. Leigh would burst out laughing at me. If that had been Leigh’s voice on the audio, I could push aside my insecurities once and for all.

  Max was a few paces in front of me as we reached the second level of the science building, and he pushed open the door to a lab. We rushed down the hallway and came to a skidding stop in front of a door with a sign that said Be quiet.

  A plaque beneath the sign read Audio laboratory.

  Max opened the door softly and we walked into the gallery.

  Rows and rows of chairs, like in a movie theater, led down to the windows that overlooked the audio equipment.

  The windows were blocked by a mass of people crowding around the front to see better.

  The crackle of white noise blared through the speakers as the scientists tried to find the right frequency.

  “Leigh, can you hear me?” one of the scientists said.

  I strained my ears to hear Leigh’s voice, but there was no response. Deflated, I sank into a chair closest to the door, my legs shaking from the run. Max slid into the chair next to me, his face alert, waiting for any familiar sound to come through the horrendous crackling.

  After a while of hearing nothing other than the scientist asking the same damn question over and over, I started losing hope. I wanted to strangle Max for getting my hopes up.

  “Leigh, if you are there, say something.”

  More crackling. I was going to lose my mind if they kept this up.

  I could not do this, not again. I could not go through losing him all over again.

  Leigh wasn’t there. He was gone. I pushed up out of my chair and headed to the door.

  “Chas,” Max said softly as he grabbed my hand.

  I grabbed the doorknob without looking at him.

  Just as I was about to open the door, the crackling noise stopped and a voice finally came through. It was incomprehensible, but definitely a voice.

  My stomach flipped.

  I knew that voice. It was him. It was really him.

  I ran to the glass windows.

  I didn’t care who I had to shove aside to get a better look at the scientists, who fussed over radio equipment and computers like fastidious hens in white coats.

  Two of them were tuning, the other talking. All three of them closed their eyes and tilted their heads toward the speakers to hear better.

  One word could be heard before the crackling resumed. Another half of a word. More crackling.

  A smile broke over my face.

  Tittering fell on my ears as everyone’s faces lit up.

  Leigh.

  His words still weren’t clear, and Selene silenced everyone. In my daze, I hadn’t even noticed her presence.

  They fiddled with the frequency to hear him better one more time. But none of that mattered to me. He still exists.

  His voice echoed through the speakers again.

  “Tell Chas…” The voice disappeared, drowned out by white noise.

  I looked at Max, who squinted back at me. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. I noticed everyone was staring at me.

  My eyes found Margot.

  Her stare wasn’t one of surprise like Max’s. No, hers was a downright hostile glare. My gaze lingered on her for a few seconds. I didn’t like her look at all. Her lips thinned and the muscles in her face tightened as she clenched her jaw.

  I forced myself to look away and back to the technicians.

  Tell me what?

  They fine-tuned the frequency, trying not to lose him. My heart hammered in my ears so loudly, I was afraid I wouldn’t hear his next words.

  Tell me what?

  His voice came again. “…cat is always right.”

  I froze. The cat is always right.

  My stomach fluttered as a soft laugh escaped my lips.

  I knew what he meant. Mr. Grey had told me so many times that dreaming about him was real.

  The cat is always right. But how would Leigh know that? I shoved the question from my mind.

  My dreams hadn’t been a figment of my imagination. Neither was the time we’d spent together. He was really there. The past four months had been real, even though they were only in my dreams.

  It had been real. He really did feel the same for me. My heart surged with joy.

  Now we just had to find him. Easier said than done.

  Involuntarily, my gaze flitted over to Margot’s again. Her eyes were twitching and she was biting on the inside of her cheek.

  It was the same expression she got whenever she was thinking hard and trying to piece things together. She wasn’t really one to give away her tells, but I’d seen that same expression the night we had to work together to save Revera. The night she discovered that I was a Shadow Caster.

  When she realized I was watching her, she shifted her stance and shoved her hands in her pockets, turning around and walking toward the exit.

  I kept my eyes trained on her back as she walked away, but she didn’t look back.

  I sighed as Max bumped me on my shoulder.

  “What’s Mr. Grey right about now?”

  I huffed. A small smile tugged at my lips. “So many things,” I lied. “It’s hard to keep track.”

  He chuckled. “You’re really happy he’s alive, aren’t you?”

  “Max, it’s Leigh. If they’d shut down the Virtual Realm, he would’ve been lost to all of us.”

  Max laughed, but it was the kind of laugh that made me narrow my eyes. Max had a range of laughs This particular laugh was the one he used for dissent.

  “You don’t agree.”

  “I didn’t say that. It just reminds me of a time when Margot…” he drifted off and I glared at him.

  He stared at the scientists fine-tuning the frequency to hear Leigh better. His arms were folded across his chest, and he was clearly deep in thought. He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago.”

  I huffed at his dismissal of the subject.

  Max didn’t have to finish the sentence. I knew what he was getting at . . . and it wasn’t that long ago.

  Margot still had feelings for Leigh and she hated—despised—the fact that the first words we had heard from him in four months were directed at me.

  Margot was smart. I was sure she knew there was something more between me and Leigh.

  I sighed.

  If it had been anyone else, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but this was Margot, the girl who helped me save Revera from the Shadow Casters. She was one of the few people who knew what I truly was—what I hid beneath the surface.

  She knew my deepest secret, knew I technically didn’t belong in Revera.

  She’d promised Max she would never tell another soul about me.

  But did that deal still stand now that she saw me as a threat?

  Max joked beside me, “I’m pretty s
ure Leigh is making life very hard for the essence around him.”

  “Or trying to negotiate with it,” another voice said.

  Laughter tinkled through the crowd around us, but I wasn’t feeling the same lightness.

  My stomach twisted and churned as a strange feeling of unease settled over me. I gulped down the rising bile that accompanied this feeling of unease.

  She promised…

  Then why did I have a sinking feeling that something was about to go horribly wrong?

  CHAPTER TWO

  WHAT WILL BE WILL BE

  That night, I waited for Mr. Grey to come back so I could tell him about Leigh and Margot.

  I tried not to think about the consequences, about how much Margot really liked Leigh and what type of person she really was.

  To be honest, I didn’t know Margot or Max that well.

  Would she keep all the promises she’d made? What if she was with Selene right now, telling her what I was? What then? What would Selene do? Would she chuck me out of Revera immediately, or was there a procedure to follow?

  There was still so much to learn about everything and everyone in this world.

  One thing was for sure: I couldn’t end up inside the Oblivion.

  Margot needed to keep her mouth shut like she’d promised.

  And so she will, Mr. Grey’s voice popped into my head.

  I looked back at the window. Mr. Grey was pulling himself up through my open window, half his body securely on the windowsill, the other half still hanging outside. With one last stretch of his limbs, he pulled himself up, settled on the sill, and started to clean himself vigorously.

 
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