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Dream caster shadow, p.26
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.26

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  Finally we pulled apart.

  “Wow,” he muttered.

  I laughed softly. “Sorry.”

  “Oh, I’m not complaining, Chas. It’s just… I’ve never felt this way about anyone. Well, another human, that is.”

  I chuckled.

  We tried to keep our hormones at bay. We lay in silence, trying to resist the desire to do more. The gentle rise and fall of his chest and the regular thunder of his heartbeat reached warm tendrils into the yawning abyss of my loneliness.

  After a while, I fell asleep next to him.

  I woke up the next day to light streaming into the cabin. Two more days before my grandfather discovered I’d betrayed him.

  I stretched my arms above my head and something caught my eyes.

  My mother lay on the couch opposite me. The fire in the fireplace was dying out, the embers glowing softly.

  Relief rushed through me. But then my mind snapped to attention. Ash, last night, that kiss. I whirled around. He wasn’t next to me on the couch.

  Mom stirred.

  Her eyes opened and met mine. A small smile tugged at her lips. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

  “I don’t know,” I said. “About what?”

  “About a certain boy with dark hair.”

  I smiled. “You caught him.”

  “You were both sleeping when I came in. Should I worry that anything other than cuddling happened?”

  “Mom, no. We just fell asleep.”

  “Okay, just asking.” She got up. “I like him, Chas. He’s a good fit for you.”

  “Okay… thank you.” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by good fit for me.

  She turned momentarily stern. “Chas, if you two decide to… you know… remember what we talked about. Be safe.”

  “Mom!” I exclaimed, scandalized. I was blushing furiously.

  “All right, just saying.” She grinned.

  What happened yesterday? Where were you? I was so worried.” I got up and pulled my blanket with me. I followed her to the kitchen and leaned against the cupboards as she prepared coffee.

  “Sorry, sweetheart,” she croaked. “It was harder than I anticipated, but nothing in this world worth fighting for is easy, and our freedom is definitely worth fighting for.”

  “Did you succeed?”

  “Is that supposed to be a trick question, or just lack of confidence in your mother?” She joked. “Of course I got what we needed.”

  “Mind sharing with me what it is?”

  “In due time. All you need to know for now is that by tomorrow night, we’ll be safe.”

  The next day, Mom spent most of the morning on the phone. I was surprised when Ash and Karin showed up.

  Did you hear? Kaleido immediately bombarded his sister. We’re coming with you.

  “You’re what?” I asked.

  “Buddy,” Ash looked at Kaleido.

  Oops, the Hound said and I shook my head.

  “He spilled the beans, didn’t he?”

  “You’re leaving with us?”

  “Mom thinks it’s time. She’s wanted to leave for a long time. And with someone like your mother around, I guess it’ll be easier. Unless you don’t want—”

  “No,” I quickly interrupted him. Blood rushed into my cheeks. His lips curled into a smile. “It’s not that. I’m glad you’re coming with, both of you.”

  “Good. You’re not getting rid of me that easily, Chas.”

  I bit my lower lip. I couldn’t believe I was being so shy and awkward around Ash.

  Ash and I took the Hounds to the backyard, where they bounded around, chasing each other. We snuck in kisses whenever our mothers weren’t in sight. He played with the Hounds as if it was all he’d ever want to do.

  I could watch him forever.

  Forever. It sparked a memory of a dream I’d had the night Fox died. I’d been walking hand-in-hand with Leigh, and I was happy.

  But now I realized it wasn’t Leigh I had seen myself with.

  It was Ash.

  When we decided to head back inside, we found my mother on the phone again. It almost sounded as if she was speaking a different language.

  She had to leave again. I didn’t like it. Kiara didn’t like it. She yelped and blocked my mother from leaving.

  “Chas, what is going on with her?” My squatted down and stroked Kiara’s head.

  “She doesn’t want you to leave, Mom. I told you, you scared us yesterday.”

  “I’m sorry, but I have to go pick up a parcel.”

  “I’ll go,” Ash said. “We have Kaleido; if things go wrong, he can teleport us back here.”

  “Us?” Karin said. “I’m assuming you want me to go with you?”

  He bit down on his lip and quickly shifted his eyes away from me. “Yeah, please,” his words came out in a rush.

  Mom stared at me with narrowed eyes and I shook my head, trying to suppress my laughter.

  “Okay, I’m just going to freshen up.” Karin left and Ash cussed softly.

  “How the hell does it work, the teleportation?” he muttered.

  “You need to think of nothing. Literally. First tell him where he needs to teleport you, then count to three and think of nothing, okay? Empty your mind for real. You will be okay.” I quickly kissed him before Karin got back.

  “I guess you haven’t told her yet?” my mother asked, reveling in the teasing.

  “There wasn’t a lot of time.”

  “Told me what?” Karin appeared in the doorway.

  “Oh, something for you to talk about, Ash,” my mom teased. She was so mean.

  “Uh huh.” Ash said. “Come, boy,” he called Kaleido.

  A brief goodbye was shared between Kaleido and Kiara.

  “Be safe,” I said as Ash closed the door and he winked.

  “Oh, he has it bad,” my mom sang.

  “Don’t,” I begged. I didn’t want to talk to my mother about my love life, but I did want to ask her about one boy in particular.

  The boy Kiara had been made for.

  I wanted to ask Mom so badly, but the minute her phone rang, it was over. Every time I thought she was done, someone else would phone, or she’d make another phone call. Every conversation was about us getting our asses out of here.

  Just as the daylight was fading, Ash and Karin returned. A huge backpack hung from Ash’s shoulders, and he carried a crossbow in one hand. Karin had a smaller bag slung over her shoulder. They were both ready for action.

  Finally, my mother got off the phone. I wanted to scream because I couldn’t ask her about Kiara in front of Ash and Karin. I was certain my mother would know who Kiara had been made for, because Karin was her best friend.

  They fell into conversation about getting some damn guns. How friendly, in quotation marks, Mom’s contact was. Karin had to promise him a new Hound, because his had died.

  “Ugh,” Mom grunted. “I’m so sorry.”

  “Well, I’m not going to be here to do that, now am I?”

  Mom laughed and shook her head.

  The way Kaleido and Kiara greeted each other pulled on my heartstrings. Twins. That was how a twin bond should be. Strong. Kind to one another.

  I didn’t relish that I was putting their lives in danger, but Kiara kept assuring me that she and Kaleido would gladly die for us. They were created to serve a purpose and if they had to die for their Shadow Caster, their life was fulfilled. They’d have lived their purpose.

  It was hard to accept, to think that it was the only reason why they were created. Shadow Hounds were so much more than that.

  Yet again, the phone rang. I let out a groan.

  “You okay?” Ash whispered in my ear.

  “She’s been on that phone nonstop. She makes me nervous.”

  “She’s trying her best to get all of us out of here in one piece.”

  “I know,” I mumbled as if Ash had scolded me. I knew my mother was doing her best, but I didn’t know what the plan was. Who wouldn’t be
frustrated by that?

  “No, Isaac, this was not the deal. It’s supposed to be tonight!” My mom yelled into the phone.

  We all looked up at her. She wasn’t happy about the change in plans. The expression on her face sent my nerves into overdrive.

  I was supposed to go back to the lab the next day. If I didn’t go back, Lord Crane would come looking for us. I needed to get out of here. Today.

  She slammed the phone hard on the table after a hefty goodbye and muttered a string of curses.

  Karin rubbed her shoulders.

  “What did he say?”

  “He misunderstood the timeframe and arranged safe passage for us tomorrow night. We’ll have to lay low in the morning and meet him close to my father’s corporation tomorrow at midnight.”

  “He’s going to be furious we skipped out on him, Mom. I’m supposed to be there at nine. It’s not going to be easy to hide from all his guards all day.”

  “I know,” she said.

  If my grandfather knew we betrayed him, if he suspected… My chest tightened and I gasped for breath.

  “Easy.” My mother hugged me and kissed the top of my head. “I have a plan. Do you trust me, Chas?”

  I didn’t know what sort of a question that was. “Do I trust you?” I repeated. “With my life.”

  Mom smiled as she squeezed me tighter. “You have to go back tomorrow. I’ll come with you, but Kiara needs to go with her brother. I’ll tell my father you need another day to rest, and that the tests can start back up the next day. We’ll set his mind at ease and help him trust you more. Then tomorrow night, I’ll make sure that everything goes smoothly with our escape. I promise, nothing is going to happen to you.”

  “I know, Mom.” I smiled. I felt both dread and relief over this plan. Dread because I had no idea what it entailed, relief because it was my mother’s plan and she would never let any harm come to me. No matter what.

  We ate lunch as mom laid out instructions for Karin and Ash.

  It was amazing how her mind worked. She’d planned everything to a T for tonight’s escape, but now had to reroute everything for tomorrow night.

  I headed to my room as they hashed out the details. I climbed out through the window and sat down on the roof.

  I tried to fill my lungs with as much air as I could. The sky was just as gray as ever and I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen.

  What if my grandfather wouldn’t listen to my mother tomorrow? What if he insisted on commencing the testing the minute I stepped foot inside the building? What was she going to tell him? Would she let me in on it too?

  I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that was going to happen tomorrow night, including Magdalena or what was left of her.

  For some reason, the Guile was haunting me. I was certain now it was Magdalena begging me for help, not some random woman.

  I heard my door open and close through my open window. A few seconds later, Ash climbed out my window.

  “Your mom said I would find you here.”

  I smiled as he walked very delicately on the roof.

  “You like sitting on roofs?”

  “Yeah, you don’t?”

  He smiled and took a seat behind me, his legs caging me in.

  I used to sit like this with Leigh.

  His arms wrapped around my waist and his chin rested on my shoulder. He smelled amazing.

  “So what is the plan? Has she at least told you?”

  “Yeah. We have to lay low until ten-ish tomorrow night, then meet her at one of the factories near Lord Crane’s lab.”

  “And then?”

  “You know a place called the Hether, Chas?”

  “I’ve never been there, but I have heard of it. It, like, a gray space, right? Why?”

  “That’s where we are going. Apparently she knows someone there who will help us resettle in the Domain.

  “So, back to the Domain?”

  “Your mother says we are safest there.”

  “And what about the Hounds?”

  “She said they can be alternate. Or my mom said she will try.”

  “Alternate?”

  “Yeah, to take on the form of a breed of regular dogs. I can’t remember the name. It’s very hard one.”

  “Rottweiler.”

  “That, yes. You know it?”

  “She’s going to disguise a Shadow Hound in the form of a Rottweiler?” I said incredulously.

  He shifted. “You don’t think they’ll blend in.”

  “No, it’s brilliant. Can she even do that?”

  “She thinks she can. Let’s hope so.”

  “So, where is this Hether?”

  “She said it’s like the Outer, but different. Was set up for… something or the other. To be honest, that part didn’t make any sense to me, but she made it clear that they help guys like us. They assisted her and your father in their escape. And apparently the Outer can’t get into the Hether, so we’ll be safe.”

  “And how is this Isaac going to get us there? Why isn’t he in the Hether?”

  “From what I gathered, Isaac has the same ability my uncle had. He’s a mapmaker.”

  “Mapmaker?”

  He chuckled. “They don’t really make maps, Chas, they just have the ability to enter Revera and the Outer. Not all the Shadow Casters and Light Casters can do that. You have to be special.”

  “Seekers,” I said.

  “What?”

  “Light Casters are called Seekers and Retrievers. It’s all very confusing. So, you call them mapmakers?”

  His chuckle rumbled against me. “Seekers sounds so much cooler, though.”

  I laughed again. I loved his sense of humor. “I guess my mom knows this Isaac pretty well.”

  “Sounds like it.”

  I didn’t want to speak about escaping the Oblivion anymore, so we drifted into a comfortable silence. Just being in each other’s presence was enough.

  That night, I struggled to fall asleep again. Mom had explained the plan in detail to me after Ash and Karin left. Tomorrow’s plan seemed stupid, but she seemed to believe it would work.

  I had to pretend I had the flu—sniffle, rub my nose, speak nasally, cough, and anything else to be convincing. “Let’s just ask him for another day,” I whined.

  “He won’t just give it to you. Pretend to be sick, Chas. Trust me.”

  She kept telling me to trust her, as if she doubted I did.

  Lord Crane would never perform tests on sickly patients. It was already a risk to begin with. It would be deadly and a waste of, and my mother was positive that it would buy us enough time. Too much depended on me, his only subject who had progressed this far without perishing.

  Ash and Karin and the two Shadow Hounds were going to go to Isaac and wait for us. Mom wouldn’t leave my sight. She’d help me escape my grandfather’s lab, with the help of Isaac and his team, and then we’d head straight to Isaac’s a few blocks away.

  The more the time ticked away, the more anxious I became.

  Who is he” Kiara suddenly asked.

  “Who?”

  The boy. You were thinking about him yesterday in the woods and this afternoon again. Who is he and why does he look like Ash? Why do you keep saying he doesn’t exist?

  I took a deep sigh. Nothing escaped Kiara. She was too attentive. Very observant.

  “His name was Leigh. He lived a long time ago and became a figment of Selene’s imagination. She created him for the Virtual Realm. And I…” I didn’t want to think about it anymore. It was too painful.

  You loved him. That’s why you hurt so much every time Ash walks into the cabin.

  “You picked up on that, huh?”

  Very observant, like you said.

  I huffed.

  What was that dream about?

  I sighed again. “It was just a dream I had while Selene tortured me. He wanted to meet me—it’s what we did in our dreams—but he wasn’t real. Or that was what I believed. I don’t know anymore. Who w
ere you made for, Kiara?”

  You think I was created for this Leigh. No, Chas. I was created for a boy, but I don’t know who. One day he was there, and the next he was gone. It’s hard to explain.

  “Was he Ash’s brother? Like Kaleido is yours? Did they share a bond like that?”

  I don’t know. She was starting to freak out because she couldn’t remember much.

  “It’s okay. I’m sorry I pushed too hard. I didn’t mean to. It’s just that Selene lied about so many things. She might have lied about Leigh as well.”

  You think he was Ash’s brother?

  “I don’t know. Karin would’ve said something to Ash, don’t you think?”

  She would’ve.

  The next morning, I said a teary goodbye to Kiara. Ash promised me he’d take good care of her, then he kissed me in full view of our mothers, who immediately started whispering among themselves.

  “Take care. We’ll see you tonight,” Ash said, resting his forehead against mine.

  I nodded.

  “Okay, Lover Boy,” Karin teased. This gave me a pang of homesickness for Mr. Grey, who used to call Leigh that. Where was Mr. Grey? Was he safe from Selene back in Revera? Was he trying to enter the Oblivion and find me, like he always promised?

  “Time to go.” Karin pulled Ash away from me and my mother gave a belly laugh.

  I will see you tonight, Chas, Kiara said gravely.

  I nodded and they disappeared.

  “She’s grown very fond of you. It’s not normal for a Hound who was created for someone else to feel this attached to another.”

  “Well, the feeling is mutual. We’ve been through a lot together.”

  It was the perfect time to ask Mom about who she was created for, but for some reason I wasn’t all that curious now.

  “I would’ve given anything to hear Thea’s voice,” Mom mused wistfully. “To know what was going through her mind. You have a gift, Chas.”

  “Why do you think I hear them?”

  “I don’t know, baby, but treasure it.” She touched my cheek and smiled. “We really should be going. It’s a long way without Kiara’s shortcut.”

 
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