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Dream caster shadow, p.20
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.20

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  I shook my head.

  “Then why did you volunteer?”

  “It’s what we do for family, Ash. We give our lives to them. She’s my mother.”

  He looked skeptical.

  “You’d do the same if it was your mother. I know you would.”

  He shook his head at me, seemingly in awe.

  Kaleido and Kiara lay in front of the fire.

  Their smoke was fading little by little, but I had grown used to that happening whenever Kiara fell asleep. The smoke would dissipate as she slumbered. The shadow would hover slightly behind her, bursting into full force the second she awoke.

  I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I had a Shadow Hound… and that I loved her.

  My mom beamed at us as we entered the kitchen, and she handed me a large casserole dish to put on the table. Ash grabbed some plates and cutlery, and we got to work setting the table.

  Mom opened a bottle of wine for her and Karin and a bottle of Coke for Ash and me. We settled down to a delicious dinner with amazing company.

  For a while, I was oblivious to the fact that I was in the Oblivion.

  When Ash, Kaleido, and Karin left, my mother went to the kitchen to make us some cocoa. I settled on the couch and waited for her.

  “So, how’s everyone in the Domain?” I called from the sofa.

  “I don’t know. I never went back.”

  “You never went back to Tim?” It didn’t sound like my mother at all.

  “Sweetheart, you were my life, not Tim. How would I explain to him that I’d lost you, or where you were?”

  I rolled my eyes but didn’t say anything. I doubted very much that my militaristic stepdad gave a damn where I was.

  Mom continued, not sensing my reaction. “No, I couldn’t go back to him. What happened, Chas? What did you mean when you said there were dark people in Revera?”

  I heard liquid being poured into two cups, and a moment later she was in front of me, handing me a cup. She sat down next to me.

  “I was fine. Everything was fine in the beginning.” I told her about my first days in Revera. How I’d stuck to the story that the woman how had raised me wasn’t actually my mother but just some kidnapper. When I told her I was a Tula, like my father, shock crossed her face. I told her all about Mr. Grey. About his plan to get me out of the Oblivion. How the Celestial hadn’t worked, but that at least Max and Mr. Grey had managed to get out.

  Then I told her how Selene found out I couldn’t see color, and the torture I had to endure when I didn’t show her my dark sand.

  At this, even though I kept the details to myself, she darkened considerably. Her face contorted with a mixture of rage and guilt.

  I described the way my dark sand only made an appearance when I really needed it, and that my golden sand always returned. I recapped everything that happened from the moment I had last seen her, up until now. Everything except anything about Leigh. It took hours.

  Mom listened eagerly, without interruptions. When my story ended, she gazed blankly at the wall.

  “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. If I’d known what would happen, I’d have run with you until they couldn’t find us anymore.”

  “There’s no way you could’ve known. But I keep wondering about what Fox had said to me… That things aren’t what they are to be. That there was a huge misunderstanding about Light and Shadow Casters. I thought she was crazy, that her mind has been manipulated. Now I wasn’t so sure anymore. What if she was right about Revera.”

  “Chas, the Shadow Casters were going to destroy Revera. You did the right thing.”

  “I just feel that all isn’t well with Revera. Sure, it seems perfect, but Mr. Grey told me not to trust someone just because they were a Light Caster. And he kept telling me I could choose. He knew exactly what I had been hiding all that time, and he tried to keep it a secret. It didn’t make any sense.”

  “He’s your Anitule. Your father’s Anitule kept his secrets too. He knew about me, and he never told a soul about me.”

  “You sure about that?”

  “What are you implying?”

  “Dad died, Mom. How did they know?”

  “Sweetheart, it was Shadow Casters attacking us that night. Not Light Casters. Your father’s Anitule would’ve never betrayed him.”

  “I guess.”

  “And now… you have a Shadow Hound and you can hear not just her voice, but all of them.”

  “I know, it’s freaky, right?”

  She smiled. “Not at all. I would’ve given anything to hear Thea’s voice. Anything.” Thea had been my mother’s Shadow Hound. Lord Crane had ordered her to be killed, just to teach my mother a lesson.

  I blurted, “Why is Lord Crane so cruel?”

  “It’s the way he was raised. The Oblivion didn’t become the land of ruin and despair for nothing. The people here are cruel.”

  “Mom, I know you know.”

  “Know what?”

  “Why he kidnaps the Light Casters. What does he want with us?”

  She sighed.

  “You should’ve never volunteered, Chas. It’s something my family has tried to accomplish for as long as I remember.”

  “What is it?”

  “I don’t know if what I’m thinking of is the reason why he wants you. The best thing you can do is wait and see, sweetheart. Let sleeping Hounds lie, if you know what I mean.”

  I smiled and nodded. But fear pricked at me. None of the prisoners had ever returned once they were taken for the experiments, whatever they were. “Is it bad?”

  My mother pulled me into her arms and I reveled in the feeling. “I would never let him hurt you, got it?”

  I nodded. “I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.”

  The corner of her lips curved upward. “Sweetheart, you need to do me a favor.”

  “Sure, anything.”

  “Your grandfather…” She shook her head. “My father has the ability to pull someone in. It’s something you share with him.”

  “What?”

  She let out a puff of air, her smile frozen on her face. “Don’t trust him. He’s not a good person. Don’t ever get familiar with him. He’ll only end up disappointing you.”

  I was shocked that she would even think I’d fall for whatever tricks he had up his sleeve.

  “He’s really good at getting the things he wants,” She insisted. “Don’t underestimate his charisma. But he’d go to the moon and back to gain someone’s trust in order to get what he needed. And he wouldn’t think twice about breaking your trust. Promise me you’ll always remember that.”

  I nodded.

  She looked down at her watch. “You should get some rest. Something tells me tomorrow is going to be a long day.”

  PART III

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  STUPID EXPERIMENTS

  At half-past eight the next morning, I was sitting in Lord Crane’s white living room.

  My eyes were scratchy and bleary. I hadn’t gotten much sleep. It had been two in the morning before Mom and I finally went to bed. Even without knowing what doom awaited me today, last night I had felt semi-normal again. Just a daughter catching up with her mother.

  No amount of rest, medicine, or food came close to equaling the healing power of one night showered with my mom’s company and love.

  Mom didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t accompany me. But it was better this way. She would only feel the need to protect me from whatever Lord Crane had planned, and I didn’t look forward to having them fighting and bickering among each other.

  Whatever was to happen today, I hoped it wasn’t worse than I had already endured.

  Kiara had also wanted to come. She had trudged along behind me until I told her to stay with my mother. She needed to protect her if anyone decided to come after her.

  Of course, she saw straight through me, that being one of the downsides of her being able to read my thoughts. She knew the truth, knew I didn’t want to put her in danger.
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  Even so, she offered to teleport me. In fact, she had been adamant, not wanting to risk my being late and having the poison injected into my veins. She hadn’t wanted to leave me in front of Lord Crane’s loft. She projected her fear into my mind. I assured her with empty promises that I’d be okay.

  Hence the reason I was now waiting in his too-white living room. Early and uncomfortable.

  The brightness was overwhelming; it almost give me a headache. My foot tapped against the tiled floor in a fast rhythm, bobbing my knee up and down. It was my nervous tick.

  Not that I didn’t have reason to be nervous. In twenty minutes, the ticking time bomb around my wrist would kill me, and there was no sign of the keeper of the key.

  And I’d be foolish not to be nervous about what I had volunteered for. Hadn’t Max told me all the Light Casters had died after having gone through it?

  And then, none of the members of this family seemed to be overly fond of my mother. I doubted they’d taken a liking to me either. In a matter of minutes, I had exposed Briggs to be a liar in front of the whole village. Plus I’d gotten his Shadow Hound released into my care, I’d revealed that my uncle had played a part in my mother’s disappearance, and insulted both Guinevere and her Shadow Hound. Not quite the best first impression to be in their good books.

  Luckily, I hadn’t seen any of them yet. The maid had opened the door for me, told me to wait, then disappeared.

  I looked at the clock on the wall again. Fifteen more minutes. I pulled at the bracelet. It wouldn’t come off.

  I took a deep breath to calm my heart. I leaned over, resting my elbows on my knees. It’s going to be okay, Chas. It was Leigh’s voice in my imagination. I pictured him rubbing my back through the panic attack like he used to do. At length the anxiety lessened to a more-normal level—which was to say, still crazy high. It’s going to be okay.

  It had to be.

  I forced myself to think about mom and imagine what she been through in the Domain the past year.

  Who told her that I wasn’t in Revera anymore? I didn’t realize she had any contacts in Revera.

  How was my stepfather? It was wild to think that they weren’t together anymore. I’d known him as I long as I could remember. He’d always been a jerk to me, but his relationship with Mom had been special.

  I wondered what had been going through his mind when we disappeared. Had he tried to find us, or did he just think my mother had decided to leave him? It was like my mother didn’t care about him at all, but that couldn’t be right. They’d been together since I was four years old. She had to have loved him in her own way.

  I was sure he hadn’t taken her leaving him well.

  The whole situation made me feel terrible. Well, and a little relieved, too. My mother hadn’t returned to him because she couldn’t come up with a plausible reason for my disappearance. It was all my fault. I had stolen that source of joy from her.

  A throat cleared and pulled me out of my dreary thoughts.

  Lord Crane, dressed in dark gray pants and a white shirt, stood regally in the doorway. His gray hair was combed back and his blue eyes pierced me.

  Thank goodness.

  “Good morning, Chastity. I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” He produced a key from his pocket and unlocked my bracelet as I eyed the clock again.

  Five minutes to spare. He sure relished making people worry.

  “Are you ready?”

  I nodded and took a discreet breath. I wanted to convey courage and confidence, not weakness and worry.

  I could feel his eyes on me again, but I averted my gaze. The bracelet had been tighter than I realized; the marks it had indented on my skin ached. I stroked my wrist to get the blood flowing.

  He led me down a long white hallway to an elevator all the way at the back. He pressed the button and we waited in silence for the elevator to arrive.

  A bell announced the arrival of the elevator, and we both stepped inside once the doors opened.

  Like everything in the Oblivion, the elevator creeped me out. Gray velvet lined the walls all the way up to the ceiling. The railing against the wall was rusted, which made me think of dried blood. The air around us was stale.

  It felt like the descent took an eternity. The instrumental music playing through the elevator’s speakers was obviously meant to instill peace. Ironically, the music was going to drive me insane. Just as I started to consider knocking myself out, the bell dinged and the doors opened.

  I took a huge breath.

  Lord Crane smiled at me.

  I didn’t return his smile. After all, he didn’t really care about me. He just wanted me to be his guinea pig.

  I stepped out of the elevator and came face-to-face with a metal wall. The air around me was cold. I could only assume this was going to be the hellhole I’d be stuck inside for heaven knew how long.

  I followed him, rubbing my arms as an icy shiver ran down my spine. I didn’t like this place. Too many deaths had happened here.

  We walked down a hallway lined with rubber flooring. It reminded me of an asylum, and not some laboratory where I’d be experimented on.

  When I’d first found out about all this sandman crap, I’d been worried that I’d be chucked into an asylum. Now, I wished that were the case.

  A strong chemical smell burned my nostrils. I let out a hacking cough. I cleared my throat and Lord Crane turned his attention to me. I ignored him.

  We reached a door, and halted. He took a small disk from his pocket and laid it on the piece of metal protruding from the door. The light above the entryway went from red to green and he opened the door.

  He retrieved the disk and gestured at me with his free hand to go ahead. I obeyed.

  I swallowed hard. I wanted to take a few calming breaths, but that would make me look weak, and that was the last thing I wanted. I’d volunteered for this; I didn’t want to look scared.

  The hallway ended and my grandfather took a left. The door opened without security measures this time, and I found myself in an office.

  His office, I assumed. The office looked nothing like his loft. A grand piano dominated one corner. Huge paintings of forests hung on the wall. Without being able to see in color, I wondered if they were painted with greens and blues, or the never-ending gray of the oblivion.

  A large mahogany desk had been placed in front of a row of blinds, which were only there to give the illusion of a window. We were definitely underground after that long descent.

  The walls were a dark shade. Okay, my theory about his preference for light was wrong; he clearly had a fondness for dark colors in his décor here. The carpet was lush, and a huge bookcase with rows of books perched on the shelves stood against the far wall.

  Two chairs were in front of his desk and a big leather one behind the desk, more a throne than a chair. There was a comfortable-looking sofa against the nearest wall.

  He waved at me to take a seat in one of the chairs, then walked around the desk and plunged down onto the throne-like seat.

  My gaze was drawn back to the piano.

  “You play?” he asked.

  I shook my head. When my mom had wanted me to take lessons, Tim had assured her there wasn’t enough money for it.

  “A pity.” He folded his hands in front of him on the desk. He was a very neat person.

  “The reason we are in my office and not in one of the rooms at the lab is because I’ve never had a volunteer before, Chastity.”

  I nodded.

  “I think you have the right to know what I’m doing, why I strongly believe that I need a Light Caster to succeed. If it is indeed true that you own both light and darkness, then I am certain we can succeed this time. Last night when you spewed on about free will and the power it holds, I took your words to heart.” He lifted a warning finger. “However, I promise you, if you break my trust the way your mother did, I will hunt you down, I will hunt your Hound, I will hunt everyone close to you, including your mother, and kill you all without
a thought.”

  He leaned back into his throne, his hands pressing against each other as his fingers touched his lips. He stared at me with intent, like he was waiting for a retort. I didn’t know what he wanted from me. Did he want me to protest? Want me to assure him he could trust me and that I wouldn’t break his trust? I sighed. I just wanted him to get on with whatever it was he did.

  “I think it’s better to show you first.”

  I arched an eyebrow as he got up from his chair and walked to the largest painting in the room. It was an abstract.

  He lifted the painting and revealed a safe built into the wall behind it. He pressed a combination and my eyes flicked over the numbers he pressed. Five-four-six-six-eight.

  He glanced over his shoulder at me and I quickly trained my gaze on the rest of the paintings in the room.

  The safe swung open and a panel shifted toward him. A brightly glowing light moved toward the safe’s door, captivating my attention.

  I gaped as he took it out of the safe. The round bottle carried the brightest liquid I had ever seen. Like light in fluid form.

  A part of me was mesmerized. Another part of me was scared to death.

  Something told me that I shouldn’t be too curious about the liquid. I had a niggling feeling that somehow it was what had caused all those Light Casters to scream in agony.

  He picked it up like a delicate flower and walked back to his desk.

  I didn’t want to look at it anymore. Its brightness was making my vision splotchy whenever I blinked.

  Lord Crane sat back down, keeping the bottle firmly in his hands. He gazed at it with admiration and awe.

  “This here, is the reason Light Casters have perished. I know you must think me a monster, granddaughter, but I’m not as bad you think.”

  I grimaced at the word “granddaughter”. You would kill your daughter with a wink, not to mention me.

  “I know that look. Your mother used to give it to me all the time. She isn’t that different from me, you know.”

 
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