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Dream caster shadow, p.28
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.28

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

  She huffed and bent down. “You want to know why we were ready for you, Chas?”

  “Because you’re a crazy bitch? I really don’t care.”

  “Oh, but you do,” she said. “It’s because of…” She paused. It seemed like the world had come to a stop.

  I looked at Lord Crane. He was motionless, his one hand stilled against the file in his other.

  Guinevere’s lips were still forming the eff sound. She looked comical.

  What the fuck?

  I looked around. Everything was motionless. A moth was rigid in midair.

  A loud siren in my head went off. It was so loud, I thought my head was about to explode. Suddenly I was inside a vortex of black sand.

  I’d only experienced this once before, when Fox had tried to kill me. Only this time, I felt pure hatred. It was only then that I realized I had Guinevere in my arms and she was lifeless.

  Her head was listing to the side. Her eyes were open, but they were blank.

  I’d killed her.

  How the fuck had this happened?

  I dropped her and my sand vanished.

  What had happened in between them freezing and now?

  I couldn’t remember.

  When my sand stopped flowing, I found my mother on the chair in front of me.

  Her throat had been cut. I choked on my tears.

  I couldn’t breathe.

  I couldn’t breathe.

  “Easy, Chas,” Lord Crane got up from behind his desk. So did Alice and Sylvia.

  “You!” I screamed with rage.

  “I had to do what I needed to get your darkness out.”

  “I hate you!” I went for him when the first jolt came. This time it wasn’t just me. It was the entire laboratory.

  Objects spilled off of the desk as the ground shook, breaking with a crash. Lord Crane fell over, and as he did, a bottle tumbled off the desk. The tinkling sound of delicate glass shattering fell on my ears.

  Bright, shining liquid spilled on the floor, then became like water. The brilliance faded.

  “No!” Lord Crane yelled.

  Sylvia wailed and dived into the broken glass with her hands, cutting herself on the shards.

  I went to my mother and pulled her close to my chest, my tears pouring down my face and onto her hair.

  What had happened? Why couldn’t I remember?

  The laboratory shook violently. A strong wind pulled me toward the other side. I refused to let go of my mother. She was still tied to her chair.

  Then I saw it.

  It was a vortex of some sort, sucking everything from the laboratory—Lord Crane’s guards, Hounds, scientists.

  Maybe this wasn’t so bad.

  Lord Crane and Sylvia held each other’s hands as they got sucked into the vortex. Guinevere’s body flew into the air and disappeared right after them.

  I clutched tighter at my mother’s corpse.

  Her chair started to drag toward the vortex too.

  If she wasn’t alive anymore, I didn’t care either. I didn’t want to live.

  I felt the air around us lift the chair. I held on tighter. The pull was extremely strong.

  The last thing I remembered was the darkness of the vortex. Hopefully it would turn into my eternity.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  The HETHER

  My eyes burned. I struggled to open them. Blurred figures showed themselves when I managed to get them half-open. At length they faded into objects.

  I was in a room. Not the laboratory. It was an old room. It reminded me of the first time I came to the Outer. Max’s compound.

  The room was sparely furnished with an old dresser and cupboard. An old four-poster bed. A lantern flickered.

  Where the fuck was I?

  A lot has changed since the last time I saw you, a familiar voice said before a cat jumped onto my bed.

  My heart warmed, and if my lips weren’t this sore, they would’ve curved into a smile. “Mr. Grey, that you?”

  I told you I would find a way. I would never leave you. Sorry it took so long.

  The vortex.

  “Wait, what do you mean? Was that vortex you?”

  No, the idea was mine, though. Told you your Anitule was clever. His voice was filled with misery. He must have seen my dark sand.

  “It’s not your fault, I am what I am.”

  No, Chas, you are not. You are good, and, thank heavens, alive.

  I shook my head. I wasn’t good anymore. I had embraced my darkness—so completely that I didn’t even remember the transformation. I was a Shadow Caster. I had committed murder with my darkness.

  Realization dawned on me. Mr. Grey was here with me. I had no idea how long I had been out, but he usually lost his strength in the Oblivion. Unless… “Where are we?”

  A place I should’ve told you about a long time ago.

  I could see the hesitation in his mind.

  I’m sorry.

  “Mr. Grey,” I said impatiently. “Where am I?”

  It’s called the Hether, Chas. It’s a place where gray exists. The safe haven I was trying to lead us to when we were ambushed.

  He wasn’t making any sense.

  You are not the only one who has both dark and gold sand. There are others. We just didn’t know how many. The Hether is a place they created. You need to rest. You are not ready for this. Sleep. You’re safe. When you wake up, all your questions will be answered.

  I didn’t want to go to sleep. I tried hard to stay awake, but I couldn’t. It was like the damn cat magicked my mind to sleep and before I knew it, I was gone.

  “How sure are you that they didn’t succeed?” An unfamiliar male voice spoke.

  Now awake yet groggy, I kept my eyes shut to eavesdrop.

  “I don’t know, Eric. All he said was that she lost it,” Ash said.

  “And you trust him?”

  “I have to.”

  “He’s not like you,” Eric said. “He’s hiding something. I can feel it.”

  “Don’t. Please. I have to believe it’s not too late.”

  Silence filled the room and I opened my eyes.

  Ash’s back was to me. His head was bowed. I couldn’t see the guy he was speaking to.

  “You know what I have to do if…”

  “You don’t have to. She is one of us. I’ll look after her. Just monitor her, please,” Ash begged.

  Monitor her? What the hell was he talking about?

  Good morning, sleepyhead, Mr. Grey said. He meowed as he jumped up on the bed. Both guys stopped talking as Mr. Grey settled on my belly.

  Had he been watching me sleep all this time?

  Yeah, I’m never letting you out of my sight again.

  “She’s awake. We’ll continue this conversation later,” the other guy said.

  “Chas!” Ash approached and touched my hand. My stomach fluttered. He had shaven his beard and cut his hair. He wore a crisp T-shirt and clean jeans.

  He looked just like Leigh now.

  “You clean up nice.” I smiled weakly.

  “How do you feel?” Ash asked

  I tried to push the ache—and the thought of Leigh—away. “I’ll live,” I said. “Where is your mom?”

  Where was my mom? Then I remembered. It was like waking up from a dream. My worst nightmare. I brought covered my eyes as my body shook with sobs.

  “I’m so sorry, Chas.”

  He rubbed my arm as I bawled. “I wish we’d gotten there sooner. I’m so sorry she died.”

  “It’s not your fault.”

  I remembered how Lord Crane and Sylvia, the guards, and a couple of Shadow Hounds had gone through the vortex first. “Lord Crane!” I pushed myself up.

  “Calm down. He’s here. He’s in custody. He’s not talking. Not having all the facts is driving Eric insane. We thought you could fill us in.”

  You don’t know? Mr. Grey asked. How, Ch
as?

  “I don’t remember.” I sniffed. “I’m sorry, I can’t help you either. I can’t remember what happened.”

  “Chas, I know your mother’s death must have taken a toll on you, but you have to…”

  “I don’t remember. One moment, my cousin was describing how they knew we were coming. The next moment, I was covered with my own sand, my black sand, Ash, with my cousin’s dead body in my arms. I don’t know anything. I blacked out. I guess I surrendered to my darkness and it overtook me.” I shook my head. “So I’m hoping you can fill me in as to what the fuck happened. How did they know we were there?”

  “I can’t help you, Chas.”

  “Then what happened when Lauderdale and Kiara showed up? Please tell me she’s still alive.”

  Mr. Grey gasped. The cat showed me two Ashtons.

  “I’m not Ash, Chas.”

  I frowned. What was he talking about?

  “I told you I was real. I just couldn’t tell you how real.”

  My heart skipped a beat. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Leigh,” I whispered and he nodded with a huge smile plastered on his gorgeous face.

  I hadn’t known I could move this fast, but my arms grabbed him around the neck and I squeezed as tight as I could.

  He felt real. He was real.

  “Wait, your brother? Ash is your brother.”

  “My twin. It’s a long story and one I’ll gladly tell you about but you…” he sucked in his lower lip.

  “What is it?”

  “You don’t remember,” he said. “How is that possible, Chas?”

  “I don’t know, but I know someone who does. Lord Crane.”

  CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

  THE TRUTH OR A VERSION OF IT

  “I just need to know what happened.”

  “You were there,” Lord Crane said.

  “No, you did something to me,” I roared. “One minute everything froze and the next I was killing my cousin. How did that happen?”

  His eyebrows knitted together thoughtfully. “Easy, she killed your mother because your mother killed her father.”

  “What?” I asked.

  “You know this. You were there.”

  I shook my head. Guinevere had killed my mother. She’d slit her throat. I remembered Lord Crane letting her in.

  I didn’t think. I just jumped on him, wrapping my hands around his throat, squeezing as tight as I could.

  A pair of arms grabbed me from behind.

  “You killed her!” I screeched and cried at the same time. “You summoned that psychopath! You!” I screamed through snot and tears. “She was your daughter and you killed her.”

  Leigh took me out of the room.

  I convulsed and wailed as he led me back to my quarters. Sobs coursed through my body as I climbed into my bed.

  I cried for five solid hours.

  She was his daughter, I kept thinking over and over.

  Mr. Grey tried to calm me down, but after a while, the cat couldn’t stay in the same room as me. My grief was debilitating for him.

  My mother was dead.

  Leigh stayed, apologizing over and over again.

  It wasn’t his fault. It was my cousin’s, and that of the sadistic evil son of a bitch who was my grandfather. No, he was nothing to me. Nothing. He could rot in that cell.

  Guinevere had killed my mother.

  Leigh held me tight as I cried. Eventually I passed out from emotional exhaustion.

  I found myself at a very familiar place. A weird place.

  On my left side, everything was pitch black. It frightened me. That black wasn’t normal. On my right side, the opposite. I couldn’t look at it properly. It was too white.

  A blurry figure walked toward me.

  I’d been here before.

  The figure grew and grew to an unfathomable size.

  Then the figure split in two.

  The one of the right became clear first. It was an Asian man, with the friendliest face and brightest smile.

  Then the figure on the left became clear. It was a woman. My mother.

  Tears poured down my cheeks in a river of grief.

  I ran to her and hugged her tight. She felt so real. “Am I dead?”

  She giggled. “Sorry, sweetheart. Not yet.”

  “You are, though?” I asked.

  She nodded and embraced me again. “I know it wasn’t the plan, honey, but it’s how it is.”

  My face was buried in her neck. My eyes fell on the Asian man.

  My father. The one I used to think was some drug lord and that was the reason my mother never spoke of him.

  He smiled at me softly and came over to hug my mother from behind. I could smell his essence. It was like a breeze of fresh air mixed with summer flowers, but it was a manly scent.

  His lips zinged on my head.

  Both my parents had sacrificed their lives for me. My father died to get my mother and me to safety, and now my mother had died to get me to safety.

  Both had been killed to save me.

  Emotion threatened to consume me. “I’m so sorry.”

  “Shh.” Mom smiled. “For what can you possibly be sorry?”

  “Dad died before I was even born and now you. If it wasn’t for me—”

  She put her finger on my lips.

  “Don’t you dare think that. You were the best thing that ever happened to me. Your father brought me to life, but you kept me alive.” A tear rolled down her face and she hugged me tight again. “And one day, we will be together again, where there isn’t black or white. We are all alike on this side. Until then, I’m going to miss you so much, and I promise, I won’t be far. Whenever you feel lost,” she touched my heart, “we will be right here, guiding you, showing you the way.”

  I hugged her again. I didn’t want to let go.

  “I love you, sweetheart. And don’t be too hard on Ash.”

  Ash?

  “What do you mean by that, Mom?” I yelled, but her touch became softer until everything disappeared.

  A pair of arms were still around me, but not my mother’s. His scent was familiar and strong, and it felt as if I was waking up in a dream. “Am I dreaming?”

  Leigh chuckled, his lips lingering on my head. “Nope, you are wide awake.”

  It was silent for a while.

  The past few hours sped through my mind like a Charlie Chaplin movie. But tears didn’t come this time.

  The only good that came out of this was Leigh.

  “Selene told me that you were a figment of her imagination. That she was supposed to marry you but chose otherwise.” My voice wavered. “I’m sorry that I believed her.”

  “Shh, Chas. You didn’t know, and I couldn’t tell you either, as we are not supposed to exist.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  He opened his hand and a tiny tornado of bright shimmering gray sand twirled in his palm. It was mesmerizing. It then turned a shade darker and slowly changed into dark, black sand.

  I stared at it, my mouth agape. “You’re a Shadow Caster?”

  “No, I’m like you, Chas. Half and half. They call us Milleus. We don’t know how many of us there are, but we are searching for them. The Hether is created just for us.”

  I shook my head. “The Hether?”

  “Remember the Outer? The old compounds that got ruined by the Shadow Casters? Eric found a way to harness their solitude and turned it into the Hether. He can shield the Hether from the Casters living in the Outer, Revera, and the Oblivion. Selene knows about us, and she tried to find our location for a long time. It’s why Eric thought it best I kept an eye on her, so he created—”

  “We created,” a male voice interrupted.

  Leigh stopped. He smiled for a second and corrected himself. “We created the Virtual Realm. Chas, this is Eric. Eric, the famous Chastity Blake.”

  He had friendly eyes with a few laughing pleads, a stern jaw with stables, either an attempt to grow a beard or just didn’t have the time to sha
ve properly with all the action of the past few days. But overall he was a looker for someone his age. He walked toward me and stretched out his hand. I shook it.

  “Nice to finally meet you, Chas. It feels like I know you so well. I’ve been monitoring you for a very long time.”

  I frowned. “Monitoring me?”

  I glanced at Leigh. He smiled again. “Like I said, we are trying to find the Milleus, Chas. Selene kills them, and you saw what Lord Crane does to them.”

  “Well, at least one of them is contained now,” Eric said. “I’m sorry about your mother.”

  Tears pricked my eyes, but I blinked them away. I knew she was peaceful at last. She was with my father and both had promised to watch over me.

  “I should’ve picked up the signs earlier,” Leigh said. “But I didn’t know the outcome of that night. We never really spoke about your sand, about whether it changed. I didn’t know about your colorblindness either. If I knew you couldn’t see color, Chas, I would’ve picked everything up so much faster.”

  “So Milleus can’t see color either.”

  “For a while.” He smiled. “We are half and half, Chas. After a while, one eye will still see black and white, and the other the most vivid colors.”

  That gave me some modicum of comfort.

  “We still didn’t know what you were when I discovered Selene wanted to kill you,” Leigh continued speaking. “And then Eric got word from St. Phillipus that they were going to rescue you. He wanted to tell us more, Selene interrupted the connection, and Eric destroyed the phone. So we still had no idea what you were when you got chucked off that cliff. My father tried to catch you before the darkness could get to you, but he was too late. Then we sent in Mr. Grey.” Leigh ruffled the cat’s head. “He was eager to help and he did. We gave him a Celestial that would only allow Light Casters through. When you didn’t come through with it… Max told me that your sand was still gold, he told me everything what happened that night.”

  He paused, fondness in his eyes as he tucked my hair behind my right ear. “Your gold came back after the dark sand destroyed Fox,” he finally continued. “The Celestial didn’t want you to come through because you weren’t a Light Caster anymore. It didn’t want you to come through because of the dark sand in you. After that, we tried everything. Kiara tried too, but she was so out of it when we found her. She hardly gave me consent, but I could see bits and pieces through her eyes and that was how we knew to unleash the vortex. It was through her.”

 
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