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       Light, p.27

           Adrienne Woods
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  I followed her on the path that led to the village. “Do you think it’s going to work?”

  “It has to. It cannot go wrong.”

  “You sound so sure. You really have a lot of faith, Mom.”

  She stopped so suddenly, I nearly bumped into her. She tucked a strand of my hair back in place. “Oh, it’s not faith, sweetheart. It’s just a matter of life and death. We have to make it. And I will do everything in my power, just like the first time, to get you to safety.”

  She smiled, and kept walking.

  I just stood there and watched her walk on. I didn’t like how she said “get you back to safety” as if she didn’t care about herself at all.

  I didn’t like it one bit.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  FAMILY, DON’T YOU JUST HATE THEM SOMETIMES

  Without the ability to teleport, it took us three hours to reach the loft.

  I pinched my nose as we walked, in order to get the inflammation that would make it seem like I had the flu.

  “Remember to speak through your nose, Chas,” my mother kept reminding me.

  I hoped it would work. Fooling someone like Lord Crane wouldn’t be easy.

  Lord Crane was quite surprised when he opened the door. It was as if he knew something was up, that we were planning something dangerous.

  “Sorry we’re late,” my mother apologized.

  “Not at all. You are just on time.” He stepped out of the way and let us enter.

  “What’s wrong with Chastity?”

  “She’s got a cold,” my mother answered on my behalf. “It doesn’t surprise me. She was dead on her feet after what you put her through,” my mother raised her voice.

  “Mom,” I spoke through my nose and it sounded more like Bob than Mom. “I’m fine.” I played my part well.

  “No, you are not. If he wants to succeed he has to give you time to recover.”

  Lord Crane looked at me with a furrow creasing in between his eyebrows. “Chastity, how do you feel?”

  I shrugged, not wanting to speak too much in case I slipped up.

  “Would you like another day?” he asked again.

  “She needs another few days,” my mother hissed angrily.

  “I am speaking to your daughter, Vinicola, not you.”

  “You might not know what it means to be a real parent, so I’m going—”

  A crack sounded as his hand connected with her cheek. I stared in shock, frozen in fear.

  “You will speak to me with respect under my roof. It’s always been like that, Vinicola. Nothing has changed in that department.”

  My mother laughed mirthlessly as she rubbed at her cheek. “Oh, you’re right about that. You’ll never change. You always will be the sadistic asshole you’ve always been.”

  “Get the hell out of my house!”

  “You can’t make me leave!”

  “I said, get out!” Out of nowhere, two of his guards came into the room.

  “Mom,” I spoke. This wasn’t part of the plan. If she got locked up, we’d never get out of here tonight. “I will be okay,” I said, still speaking through my nose.

  “I’m not leaving you here, Chastity.”

  “I will be okay. Go, please,” I begged.

  She turned to my grandfather, pointing at him. “I swear to you, old man, if you kill my only reason for living, you’re going to wish you never sired me.”

  Lord Crane’s nostrils flared, and for a moment all I heard was their heavy breathing. One of the guards went to grab my mother’s arm to escort her out, but she pushed him hard, and then grabbed his arm and threw him over her shoulder.

  The guard thudded to the floor.

  She let go of his arm. The guard groaned in anguish.

  “I can find my own way out.” She shot a piercing glare at the other guard, and then stalked away, her heels stomping on the floor.

  “So, Chastity,” Lord Crane said as my mother’s footsteps disappeared. “What will it be?”

  I stuck with Mom’s plan. Pretended that I need a day before he tried to get me to give in to my darkness.

  He led me down to the lab and back to the room I’d been kept in three days ago. Lord Crane boosted my immune system with vitamins so I could get better faster.

  Sylvia came in to check on me regularly. I pretended to be asleep half the time, so she could just leave without trying to take my vitals. She was far too clever and would discover something was up.

  People streamed in and out of the lab the entire day, readying things for tomorrow.

  My mom was right about one thing: Lord Crane didn’t give a damn whether or not I’d be ready. He’d go ahead and do it now if he didn’t think illness would alter his results.

  I really didn’t want to stick around to find out how he planned on getting my dark sand to show.

  None of the methods I was imagining were at all appealing.

  He’d murdered my mother’s Shadow Hound to teach her a lesson. I dreaded that he’d do the same to Kiara. She was safe with Kaleido and Ash. They wouldn’t let them take her. Ash had promised he’d take care of her.

  I only had to worry about Kiara, Ash, Karin, my mom, and Kaleido. Everyone else I cared about safely in Revera or the Domain. Out of his reach, or so I hoped.

  If anything happened to the people I cared about here in the Oblivion…

  Relax, Chas. You won’t be here tomorrow. The voice at the back of my head sounded more and more like my mother, and probably because she was the only one who could truly calm me down. Well, her and Leigh. And Ash, now.

  Around eight that evening, Lord Crane popped in again as I ate a bland, vitamin-infused dinner of chicken soup.

  “May I?” He was smiling kindly again.

  I nodded and he entered my room. He dragged the chair against the wall next to my bed. “How do you feel, Chastity?”

  “Better,” I kept my voice sick-sounding.

  “Do you think you’ll be up for some tests tomorrow?”

  “What sort of tests?” I had to play my part.

  “To produce more of your dark sand.”

  I nodded. “Yeah, sure. Why not?” My voice lacked enthusiasm. “I know we have to get to fifty-fifty. I’m committed.”

  “Good.” He got up to leave.

  “Can I ask you a question?”

  He turned back around and nodded.

  “How do you intend to get my dark sand equal to my gold sand?”

  “Well, there are ways to do those sort of things, Chas. Exercises to clear the mind.” He smiled again, but it never reached his eyes. Why hadn’t I noticed how fake his smile was before? It was as if he was always hiding something. “But best leave it for tomorrow. Sweet dreams,” he said as he closed the door.

  I spooned more of my soup into my mouth, nauseated. Today’s worries churned in my gut, and the food wasn’t mixing so well. I set the bowl on my nightstand and switched off the light, and listening to the scientists working in the lab finished up and said their goodbyes to each other.

  I knew Lord Crane would probably be in his office, or somewhere close by tonight. My mother was counting on that.

  She knew her father well. I wish I had known the Vinicola who had once loved her father dearly. Where had it all changed? The day he killed her Shadow Hound, or the day he ordered his son to kill my father?

  I’d never been so worried about anyone or anything. Her safety was the most important thing to me. She couldn’t be trapped in the Oblivion again.

  We had to get out. Both of us.

  We had no choice.

  I woke with a hand smothering my mouth.

  How the hell had I fallen asleep? I remembered being awake one minute, listening to everyone shutting down the lab, and the next minute… this.

  “It’s just me,” said my mother, and I stopped struggling. “It’s time. We have to go.” Her whisper was frantic in my ear.

  I grabbed her around the neck and hugged her. I had a horrible feeling in my stomach, pulling ev
erything tight. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

  “How did you get in?”

  Hi, Chas, I heard Kiara’s voice.

  “You didn’t.”

  “Baby, I had no choice. Getting out is one thing but getting in, it couldn’t have been done. I tried all the angles. Without that security disk, it’s useless. I’m sorry. Kiara was the only way.”

  “Fine,” I mumbled. I got up and pulled on my shoes.

  “Let’s go, Chas,” Mom whispered.

  “Where is Kiara?” I asked.

  “Safe for now. I told her to come back in fifteen minutes. You still have the combination of that safe?”

  I nodded. If he hadn’t changed it, that was.

  We had to get Magdalena; otherwise Lord Crane would just keep hunting Light Casters. No more. No more Casters were going to die.

  I felt bad for Magdalena, but it had to stop. All of it. Her essence was not worth dozens, hundreds, of innocent lives.

  “Where is he?” I referred to Lord Crane.

  “We waited for him to go to bed. It’s confirmed. The less attention we attract to ourselves, the better.”

  I nodded.

  I pulled on my hoodie before creeping toward the door.

  My mother opened it an inch to peek through. She gave a signal and we left the room.

  We waited in the hallway that passed a room where the scientists frequently worked.

  I took another deep breath to calm my heart. Why was I so scared? I was with the meanest Shadow Caster out there. Okay, not the meanest anymore, but the most badass and legendary. Sometimes I had to remind myself that most of the inhabitants of the Oblivion regarded her with absolute terror.

  I hoped she’d taken care of everything, including the possibility of an alarm going off somewhere.

  She gave the signal again—a short wave of her arm—and I stayed close as we tiptoed toward the office.

  When we arrived, Mom worked on picking the door lock on the door with a small tool she pulled from her hair. Finally, she opened the door and we entered. She shut it behind us.

  A dim light shone in his office.

  “Okay, Chas,” Mom said. “Do your thing.”

  I rushed to the abstract painting and moved it aside. Please work, please. I took a deep breath before I entered the combination: five-four-six-six-eight.

  The light went from red to green and the safe opened with a whooshing sound. A bright light shone at the back of the safe. I couldn’t believe I was doing this, but I had no choice.

  This was the only way to make the kidnappings stop.

  He’d never forgive me or my mother.

  I put the blinding liquid in a padded safety box and then in my mother’s bag.

  The plan wasn’t to destroy Magdalena. She’d get her chance to tell the truth, but it wasn’t going to be through me or anyone else. She was a Somnium. She’d be going into another Somnium.

  We slipped out the door again and Mom looked at her watch.

  “Three more minutes. Kiara will be here in three minutes, Chas, then we’ll be home free.”

  My heart rammed against my ribcage. My senses were on alert. We were halfway to the entrance where Kiara had teleported her in.

  I kept checking over my shoulders, certain we were being followed. I kept seeing shadows behind me.

  I slammed into my mother’s back.

  “What is it?”

  I shook my head.

  “Chas, tell me what you’re seeing.”

  “It’s my imagination. I just want…”

  She put her finger on my lips and looked the same direction I kept staring at.

  My heart was really pounding now. What the hell was she hearing? Was the shadow something watching us?

  A figure jumped toward my mother. A Hound. A bloodthirsty one going straight for her throat.

  Mom had nowhere to go. She shoved me out of the way and I skidded on the floor.

  A puff of black smoke appeared. Mom’s sand, wielded into a dagger like the ones we’d learned to make at the Institute. The Hound attacking Mom careened away.

  I heard a couple of letters in my mind. CKOFF. It was Kiara. She’d teleported just in time.

  Run, Chas, now! she shrieked as I helped Mom get back up. We had no choice but to go the way we’d come—deeper into the laboratory. We were blocked form the entrance and there was no chance of truly emptying our minds to teleport while were fighting for our lives.

  The other Hound laughed. Kiara, Kiara, Kiara. It was Lauderdale. Guinevere’s stupid Hound.

  “Who is it?”

  “Lauderdale.” I told my mother as we kept running to find another way out of the laboratory.

  Another figure attacked from the side. Mom took a beating straight in the face. I ran to protect her.

  “If it isn’t my little niece,” her brother said. His long platinum hair hung in his face.

  “Just let us go, please.”

  “Let you go? I should’ve killed you the minute I found you in the desert.”

  “That was you?”

  He smirked. “Yeah.”

  “You kick like a girl,” I said, even though it was far from the truth.

  He lunged at me.

  I got ready to fight back, but Mom wouldn’t let me. She was waking up from her semi-blackout and conjured a big ball of black sand. She hit her brother right in his abdomen. He flew into the air and crashed against the wall.

  “Go, Chas. Hide. I’ll find you. I promise. But I need to deal with this once and for all.”

  “Mom, he’s your twin.”

  “I know. Just go!”

  I gave her a quick hug and looked back at Sebastian. But he was missing.

  “Just go,” Mom said.

  I left. I ran down the hall as the fight broke out behind me.

  Had Lord Crane ordered a Hound to guard me? Or had that been my stupid cousin’s doing?

  He’d known something was off. We’d been naïve to think we’d have the upper hand tonight. It was just too easy gaining access to his office and retrieving the essence. No alarms, no guards.

  A horrible scream echoed through the laboratory.

  I halted.

  No, it wasn’t echoing in the lab. It was in my mind.

  Kiara!

  She grunted and cried out in pain.

  You are a traitor to your kind. I banish you to death. Lauderdale bit into her.

  “No!” I ran toward the spot I saw in my mind, but Kiara disappeared. She’d teleported with Lauderdale.

  Ash would deal with him.

  I ducked inside first open door and found myself in a bathroom. I rushed into a stall as I heard footsteps approaching. The door slammed against the wall and I stilled.

  “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” a voice sang.

  Guinevere.

  The first bathroom stall door slammed against the wall.

  I flinched. I flicked my hand and tried to produce my golden sand, but the only type that came was my dark sand.

  The second door hit the wall. Two more doors before she’d find me. I climbed onto the toilet.

  If my gold sand wasn’t going to protect me against her, then I’d wait for her and strike when she really didn’t expect it. I didn’t trust my dark sand or even know how to manipulate it.

  The third door banged open.

  “Chastity,” she sang. She was getting close. “I know you’re in here.”

  At the last second, I changed my mind. My dark sand was my only chance of survival. She stopped right in front of the stall I was in. My hands were already forming a big ball of black sand.

  The door flew open.

  I let go of my sand and she ducked.

  She came for me.

  I kicked as she launched herself in my direction.

  She gave me an uppercut jab and brought her fist down against my face.

  For a moment, I saw stars and thought I was going to pass out.

  She aimed a kick at my stomach and I fell backward, hitt
ing my head hard against the wall.

  I blinked in pain, my eyes watery and blurry. The last thing I saw before blackness overcame me was the bottom of a shoe hurtling at my face.

  When I came to, my hands were tied behind my back and I was in agony.

  I opened my eyes and found Lord Crane with Magdalena’s bottle in his hand. It shone so brightly. His face was blank, expressionless.

  My mother tied to a chair nearby. Her eye was swollen, her lip split open. Blood dripped down her face, pooling in the skin around her neck. Her black jacket was shredded and blood stained her shirt.

  My lip trembled. What a mess. How had it gone wrong so quickly?

  “Good,” Lord Crane said. “You’re finally awake.” He set the blue bottle on the counter. “I tried, Chastity. Why?”

  “I’m not like you. I can’t give in to my dark sand.”

  Disappointment infused his tone. “You are such a racist.”

  “No, I’m not. I know there are good people down here. I have Sodivic blood inside me. But can you imagine if I give in to my darkness? I’d become evil. I’d lose all the good that I am.”

  “You could’ve tried.”

  “You would’ve killed me,” I said wearily. “Let her go. I’ll stay.”

  He laughed. “No, no more bargains, no more deals, Chas. We are past negotiating. That’s what happens when you break someone’s trust.”

  A tear escaped through my uninjured eye. My mother was hanging on by a thread. “She’s your daughter.”

  “I have no daughter. My daughter died nineteen years ago when she tried to leave me.”

  “She’s not dead. She’s sitting right there.”

  “That traitor is not my daughter.” He waved his hand for the guard to open the door.

  Guinevere walked in. Her face carried a gleefully cruel sneer. “You have no chance against me, Chastity.” Her lips curled. “You should be glad my grandfather found me. Otherwise you would already be dead.”

  “Fuck you.” I spat blood in her face.

  She closed her eyes and wiped her face clean. She drew her arm back and put the full weight of her body into the slap. My head swung to the left, pain ringing in my skull.

  “Enough,” Lord Crane said. “You have my permission, Guinevere. Make it fast.”

 
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