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Fighting for infinity, p.15
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.15

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “This is all lies!” I yelled. “I wouldn’t be with you. Ever.”

  “No?” He let go of Lexie’s and Rina’s hands then opened the book he’d brought. He flipped through the pages then slid it to the edge of the table. “Do you recognize her?” His finger landed on a dark, curly-haired girl I had seen in so many other photos. Mary. Me from my previous life. “That’s you last lifetime. I don’t look much different due to my manipulation of aging.”

  In the photo, with his arms wrapped around Mary, stood a smiling Dedrick. His hair was shorter, less greasy, and he looked happy. Not like the bitter, villain who stood before me. He and Mary stood on bright green grass in front of a castle. They looked like a couple. I cringed, realizing I had been one half of that couple.

  I rocked backward. The stone walls threatened to crumble in and suffocate me. My lungs wouldn’t work.

  Breathe, Maryah. The feeling of having a body with its physical reactions was all in my mind. I needed to pull myself together. I wanted to slam the book closed so I didn’t have to see Dedrick and me together.

  “I don’t know what they’ve told you,” Dedrick said quietly, “but it wasn’t the truth.”

  ∞

  After the curtain lifted, and Dedrick and Lexie were gone, Evelyn collapsed into a chair, sighing with relief that Dedrick didn’t discover River.

  I hovered in front of Rina. “Did you hear what Dedrick said? Did you hear our conversation?”

  River stepped out from behind the curtain. “It all makes sense!”

  Rina answered me, ignoring River. “Don’t believe a word Dedrick says. Ever.”

  The revelations, or lies, had left me shaken to my core. I wanted to believe everything my kindrily had told me was the truth, but what if it wasn’t? They wouldn’t have lied to hurt me. They would have thought they were protecting me, but what if I really had seen good in Dedrick in previous lives? Everyone kept telling me I had amazing instincts, that I saw omens and knew things about the future. Maybe I saw good in Dedrick that others couldn’t.

  Or maybe I was a naive idiot who was letting Dedrick manipulate me.

  “That was much too close,” Evelyn said.

  “Why didn’t Lexie tell on us?” I asked. “She must have heard River’s thoughts. She had to have known he was here.”

  Rina asked Evelyn my question.

  “Lexie is like me,” Evelyn explained. “We can disarm ourselves from Dedrick’s mind control while appearing to still be under the spell. He trusts her and keeps her at his side full-time.” She lowered her voice. “We keep our friends close and our enemies closer.”

  Her snake eyes flickered to a soft, normal shade of brown. They were just a disguise.

  “Are there others who pretend to be under this spell?”

  Rina repeated my question verbatim.

  Evelyn looked away. “I’m not at liberty to say.”

  “Rina,” I probed. “We need to know who we can trust. It’s important.”

  Evelyn looked appalled as Rina translated for me.

  “We?” Evelyn drawled. “We don’t even know if we can trust you.”

  “Fair enough. Why didn’t Dedrick hear River’s thoughts while he was using Lexie’s power?”

  Rina squinted then asked Evelyn my question, sounding concerned herself.

  “I wondered the same thing,” Evelyn said. “Perhaps Lexie prevented it somehow.”

  “I tried not to think,” River confessed. “Like I blanked out the best I could.”

  I knew how difficult it was to think about nothing. He would have made some kind of mental noise.

  “Besides,” River continued. “There’s no time for bickering. We need to discuss this giant revelation that my crazy ass uncle is in love with Maryah.”

  I agreed with River. “I need to talk to my kindrily.”

  “Right now?” Rina asked, shocked.

  “It’s crucial.”

  “But Dedrick might come back,” she argued.

  “He won’t come back anytime soon. I have a feeling he’d want me to be alone with my thoughts for a while. He’d want me to process everything he just told me.” He’d want me to believe him.

  “We can’t risk it.”

  “Rina, please. I’m begging you. I won’t be long. Maybe an hour at most. He won’t be back that soon, I know it.”

  She chewed on her fingers while staring at me. “If he does come back—”

  “He won’t.” Evelyn stood, fidgeting with the sleeves of her shirt. “I’ll make sure of it.”

  Rina swallowed hard and hesitantly stepped forward. Her hands lifted at her sides.

  “Don’t forget to tell them that I think we’re in Ireland,” River reminded me. “And be sure to tell them I’m the one who told you. Maybe they won’t hate me if they know I’m helping.”

  It would take more than that to change their opinion of River.

  “Thank you,” I told Rina. “I promise no more than an hour. Don’t worry.”

  She nodded then a pale blue light formed around her hands. The welcomed sensation of my soul sinking into my skin ended with me staring up at Krista reading a book beside me.

  I coughed like I had bronchitis as I reconnected with the auto-functions of my body.

  “You were right,” Krista said, still reading without even a glance in my direction. “I am swooning over Jamie. In my next life, I want to be Claire.”

  I sat up on my elbows, clearing my throat of its last cough. “You’re not the least bit excited I’m back.”

  She bit her lip, her eyes scrolling, still distracted by the words on the page. “It’s a really good part.”

  I pushed the book away. “How’d you even know it was me? It could have been Rina.”

  “You always gasp or cough. Rina fidgets.”

  “Was she here earlier?”

  “Not that I’m aware of.” She finally lowered the book. “Why?”

  “She astral travelled but wouldn’t tell me where she went.”

  “I don’t think Faith would have slacked off during her shift, but we can review the recording.”

  “Recording?”

  Krista pointed to my dresser. Hanging on the top of the mirror was a tiny camera. “Carson set it up for Nathan so he can check in on you with his cell phone, but the feed also records and automatically saves to a computer in Carson’s room.”

  “Seriously?” I smoothed my hair down, worried Nathan could see me.

  “I told Carson you wouldn’t be a fan of the idea, but Nathan was exhausting himself traversing to you every other minute. Carson programmed a motion detector so that anytime you move it alerts Nathan’s phone.”

  “I’m moving right now.” I waved my hand. “Is he watching us?”

  Krista grinned. “I disable the camera during my shifts. It creeps me out too.”

  She knew me so well. “We need to talk. Preferably somewhere that doesn’t have a camera pointing at us.”

  ∞

  She scanned through an hour of boring video footage. As we watched Faith sit beside my motionless body while talking or texting on her cell phone, I finished filling in Krista on everything Dedrick had told me.

  “It’s all crazy talk,” Krista said. “I don’t believe any of it. Not for one second. You’ve always loved Nathan.”

  “Right now, you know more about my life back then than I do. Did I ever mention anything about Dedrick?”

  She sat back in Carson’s desk chair. One of her tank tops was draped over the arm, and she fiddled with the straps as she thought about my question.

  I glanced around, noticing a few more pieces of her clothing in his hamper. What if they were sleeping together already? I cringed at the thought. I was happy for her, but I still couldn’t think of them together in that way.

  “You want the truth so I’m giving it to you.” Krista pressed her hands together in her signature prayer position. She was about to tell me something important, but I had a feeling it was something bad. “My first life, w
hen I met you in the orphanage, you saw me heal one of Sheila’s injuries.”

  “Right. I remember you telling me that.”

  “After that you were convinced I was an Element, or if not, that I was destined to be one, but you wanted confirmation.”

  “Confirmation?”

  Krista nodded. “One day you took me to see a woman who read tarot cards. You said she was the best tarot reader in existence, and she’d be able to confirm what you already knew. Sheila went with us. The lady read my cards and without any information from you, she knew I was a healer. She predicted me staying connected to you for many lifetimes to come. Then she read Sheila’s cards and said Sheila was similar to her, that she had ‘the sight.’ It’s what sparked Sheila’s interest in reading palms and tea leaves. The tarot reader told her those were the two areas where she’d excel.”

  “Great, but what does that have to do with Dedrick?”

  Krista sighed. “You took us to his house afterward.”

  I almost fell over. “What?”

  “I was young, so the memories are only bits and pieces, but I remember he gave us hot chocolate while you told him about Sheila and me.”

  “Why would I do that?”

  “Apparently, you trusted him.” She leaned forward. “But that doesn’t mean you loved him. Or that you were unfaithful to Nathan. Like I said, I don’t believe you loved Dedrick. You never lit up around him the way you did around Nathaniel. There was never any hint of flirting that I can remember. You considered him a friend—if that—until later when he betrayed you.”

  “Betrayed me? How?”

  “He stole a bunch of your journals.”

  “Journals?” I’d never been much of a writer. My mom had given me a journal on my thirteenth birthday, but the only things I ever wrote in it were song lyrics, favorite quotes, or birthday and Christmas lists. “Like a diary?”

  “Research notes, your thoughts and recollections of your travels and experiments, visions or messages that came to you through meditations and visualizations, that sort of stuff.”

  “Do you remember anything specific that I had written?”

  “I never read any of it. You were very protective of them, which is why you were so upset when Dedrick stole them.”

  “How did he steal them? Did he break into our house or something?”

  “No.” Krista’s eyes shifted sideways, watching the computer screen as she tried recalling details. “I don’t remember that part. Maybe Nathan remembers? You could ask him.”

  I took a deep breath. “My conversation with Nathan is going to be—”

  “Hey.” Krista grabbed the mouse and started clicking. The screen was frozen on Dakota sitting by my bed with his sketch pad on his lap. “Great. It’s stuck.”

  “Gotta love technology.”

  “All this video is probably taking up too much of the computer’s memory. I’ll have Carson fix it.” She pushed the keyboard away. “What were you saying?”

  “I was saying I need to have a really uncomfortable conversation with Nathan.”

  TAKING A VOW

  Nathaniel

  I was surprised to receive a text message from Maryah. Can u come home? We need to talk.

  I was in our living room before I finished sliding my phone into my pocket. “You returned sooner than planned.” I kissed Maryah’s cheek, but she pulled away.

  If there was any question that the look in Krista’s eyes was worry, her listless tone confirmed it. “I’ll leave you two alone.”

  As Krista left the room, I kept my focus on Maryah. She looked irritable, almost nervous.

  “What is it?” I asked. “Did something happen?”

  “I need to know the truth about Dedrick. All of it.”

  I sat on the arm of the sofa. “As I told you, it would take lifetimes to tell you everything about Dedrick.”

  “No, you said it would take lifetimes to tell me everything about everything. I’m specifically asking about Dedrick.”

  “That would still take a great deal of time.”

  “So there are things you haven’t told me?”

  “Maryah, we are on our twentieth cycle of life. You erased all knowledge of the nineteen before this one. Dedrick made appearances in more than I care to count. There are volumes I haven’t told you about our past because we haven’t had time. It will take me a dozen more lifetimes to recap everything we’ve been through, which is why I’d much rather we figure out a way to restore your memories.”

  She paced. “Were we ever together?”

  “We were always together.”

  “Not you and me.” She pivoted to face me. “Dedrick and me.”

  My heart skipped at least five beats. My eyes narrowed. “Together how?”

  “Together, together. Like a couple.”

  I was sure blood no longer pumped through my veins—only rage. “Of course not.”

  “I need to know the truth, Nathan. No matter how hard it might be, I need to know.”

  “That is the truth!” I leaned forward, bracing my hands on my knees. “What did he tell you? That you two were involved romantically?”

  She pressed her palm to her forehead. “He had a picture.”

  “A picture? Of what?”

  “Of me as Mary, and him, we were standing in front of a castle. He had his arms around me, and we looked happy.”

  My jaw shifted so hard that I probably stripped the enamel off of my clenched teeth. “He’s trying to manipulate you. To get closer to you and make you trust him.”

  “Explain the picture to me. Tell me how it could—”

  “It’s a photograph!” I stood and turned away, aghast that we were having this conversation. “He’s mind-controlling an army of people. He figured out how to trap your soul in some ethereal prison.” I whirled around to look in her eyes. “Do you honestly think simple photo manipulation would be difficult for him? The photo isn’t real, Maryah.”

  “What’s going on?” Louise asked, easing into the room.

  “Dedrick is feeding Maryah lies and trying to make her doubt us,” I snapped. “And very sadly, it seems to be working.”

  “I didn’t say I believed him,” Maryah argued. “I just want answers.”

  “To be honest,” Louise said, “I overheard the last bit of your conversation, and I feel it’s time we told Maryah how deep her past runs with Dedrick.”

  I blew out the breath I’d been holding in an attempt to calm myself. I despised Dedrick with everything inside of me. I despised him for making us have this conversation.

  “How deep my past runs with him.” Maryah glanced between Louise and me. “What does that mean?”

  “Have a seat.” Louise patted the couch.

  “I’d rather stand.”

  “All right then.” Louise turned to me. “Would you like to do the honors, or should I?”

  Maryah would think I had kept this information from her on purpose. She was going to throw a fit, and we didn’t have time for one of her fits. I plowed right in, wanting to get the train wreck over as soon as possible.

  “He was obsessed with you,” I said. “Not just your power, but you.”

  “He loved you,” Louise added.

  Maryah gasped. “What?”

  “He did not and does not love her,” I argued. “He is not capable of love.”

  “He loved her in his own way.” Louise’s head bobbed. “Twisted as his way might be.”

  “Why didn’t you tell me?” Maryah gaped at us.

  I parted my lips to say I had lived with his vile, psychotic obsession with her for several lifetimes, that I had already endured it too long and it was infuriating that he still found her even after she erased, but I settled for, “The time never seemed right.”

  “The time never seemed right?” Maryah’s voice grew shrill. “The maniac who killed my family and tried to kill me was obsessed with me in my previous lives and supposedly loved me, but you didn’t think I should know about it?” She advanced on me
with anger flaring in her eyes. “How about the time I astral traveled to him and was terrified? Or when I told you I was going to spy on him even though it felt dangerous? Neither of those seemed like good times to enlighten me?”

  “I never would have guessed he could confine your soul. I thought you were safe.”

  “Well, I wasn’t safe. And now he has me, Nathan.” Her words hurt worse than being nailed to the pillory by my ears.

  “He doesn’t have you. You’re right here. You don’t have to go back there.”

  “It’s not just me he’s keeping prisoner.” Her hands flailed in every direction. “I can’t leave Rina.”

  “You’re risking your soul for a stranger who could very well be a Nefarioun!”

  She shook her head. “You aren’t there. You don’t see or hear them. That poor girl. Dedrick hurts her and uses her, and who knows what he’d do to her if I escaped. I’ve gotten to know her. I feel a strong connection with her. How could I ever live with myself if I don’t help her?”

  I could never stop her from trying to save someone. I had never been able to in the past, and it wouldn’t change in the present.

  “Start with Emily,” Louise suggested, attempting to refocus the conversation.

  Maryah’s head snapped around to Louise like she forgot she was in the room. “Emily?”

  My mind raced with so many thoughts and emotions that I wouldn’t have known where to start. I sat down and rested my elbows on my knees, clasping my hands together. Some knowledge would be better left erased, but just because Maryah didn’t remember it, that didn’t stop it from being true. “Emily was Dedrick’s soul mate. Keep in mind, Dedrick used to be an Element, but he abused his power so he became an outcast.”

  Maryah nodded. “That part I know.”

  “Emily did not abuse her ability,” I continued. “She grew more powerful than him, and he resented her for it. Emily was a seer. She could see the future. She also developed the ability to astral travel.”

  Maryah’s chin lifted. “Like me.”

  I glanced at Louise. She nodded for me to proceed. As much as I didn’t want to, there was no way around it. “The Akashic Records state that Emily foresaw Dedrick’s downward spiral. She didn’t want to live to see him become something so ugly. She blamed herself for not being able to stop him, so she abandoned the cycle of reincarnation and resigned from our world.”

 
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