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Fighting for infinity, p.16
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.16

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “Where did she go?”

  “Wherever it is that souls go when they choose to stop living a human existence.”

  “Did she go to Meru?”

  “As infinite as this universe is,” Louise said, “we can only assume there are countless possibilities of where Emily might have gone.”

  Maryah turned and looked out the windows. She was silent, but I could see her contemplating what might exist beyond our world. “So what happened after Emily left?”

  I raked my hands through my hair. “You and I came into existence almost one year after he lost Emily. He didn’t know that when he first heard about you, but he figured it out later.” The full version of the story would take hours. I tried to summarize. The quicker I dropped the bomb, the sooner I could clean up the debris. “Long story short, his deranged mind believed, and may still believe, that you are his Emily.”

  Maryah swayed then stepped sideways. “Me? Dedrick’s soul mate? That’s disgusting.”

  “I couldn’t agree more.”

  “He came to that conclusion,” Louise explained, “based on your creation date. Your birthday has always been on the eighteenth of a month—so was Emily’s. Plus, you have the same abilities that Emily had. You and Dedrick were introduced by happenstance, but he believes it was fate bringing Emily back to him in the form of you. He believed Emily erased so they could have a fresh start and she reincarnated as you.”

  “How do you know all this?” Maryah sat beside me.

  I touched her shaking knee and let Louise answer her question.

  “Because he told you. And you told us. Long, long ago.”

  I knew more due to other circumstances, but I had vowed to keep a secret, and I couldn’t break my word.

  Maryah clamped her hand over mine. “It’s not possible, right? There’s no way this Emily person could have erased, and I’m reincarnated as her?”

  “Not that anyone has ever been able to determine,” Louise said.

  “No,” I insisted, hating that Louise’s response left room for doubt. “It’s not possible.”

  But Maryah didn’t look convinced.

  RUNNING AWAY SOLVES EVERYTHING

  Maryah

  Louise excused herself to check on Mikey while Nathan and I started another round of questions I didn’t want to ask.

  “Did I ever—” I hesitated, hating myself for needing to be assured. “Did I ever have doubts about us?”

  “No. You were mine, Maryah. And I was yours. Always. We’re soul mates.”

  “I know what we are, but every couple has problems. You cheated on me, so—”

  “I can’t believe you’re bringing that up, much less comparing that meaningless mistake to this. That was hundreds of years ago.” Nathan stood with such force the couch cushion bounced. He clasped his hands behind his head as he walked away from me. “Dedrick, of all people, is making you doubt us.”

  “I’m not doubting us right now—the us in this lifetime. I know how I currently feel about you, but I don’t remember my past and so many other people do. You have no idea how frustrating that is. I’m entitled to ask questions about my own past, and you knew me better than anyone, so I’m sorry, but I need to ask about this crappy, horrifying, makes-my-skin-crawl, Dedrick stuff.” I hung my head, rubbing my stiff neck. “I need to know the truth so I know where to go from here.”

  “Where to go from here?” He spun to face me. “What does that mean?”

  “Everyone claims to have no idea why I erased.” I didn’t want to upset Nathan even more, but I wanted answers. “Everyone except Dedrick.”

  Nathan’s nostrils flared. “What did he say?”

  I swallowed hard, knowing my words would sting both of us. “He says I erased because I wanted to be with him, but you and the kindrily wouldn’t allow it.”

  Nathan stepped back. He looked disoriented for a moment, but then he shook his head and walked away from me.

  I followed him into the kitchen, spitting out the rest as fast as I could like ripping off a Band-Aid to avoid prolonging the pain. “He said you and I had problems, that he was more ambitious than you, that he and I grew more powerful together. He said that’s when I developed my ability to see omens. He said I planned everything on the beach to make it look like I died so I could run away and be with him.”

  Nathan braced himself on the kitchen counter. He looked down, up, out the window. He looked everywhere except at me. He collapsed forward, dropping his head into his hands. He didn’t move or say anything for what felt like forever.

  I stepped closer to him, reaching my hand out but then pulling it away. “Nathan?”

  He lifted his head and stared at me. “I failed you once already in this life. I didn’t have faith that you would remember who you were. I let my heartache consume me. Just weeks ago, after the miracle of holding you in my arms and feeling your lips against mine, I vowed to never fail you again. I will not break that vow.” He stood up straight. His voice was stern. “Dedrick is a liar. He is smart, cunning, and manipulative, and he’s twisting facts, but I swear to you on all my lives that it was you and me since the very beginning up until right now at this very moment.” He held my hands and pressed them to his chest. “Only you and me—always. Deep down, you know that’s the truth.”

  Did I know that was the truth? My world felt so upside down. I wanted Dedrick’s story to not make sense. I wanted there to be a different explanation. “Then why did I erase?”

  Nathan’s confidence crumbled. “I wish with all my being that I could give you that answer.” The pain in his voice made me want to retract my question, but it was already out there, tormenting us like always. “But I truly love you, Maryah; therefore, I don’t pretend to know why. I don’t lie to you, or manipulate you, or create fictitious stories. Dedrick does that. Not me. I am your twin flame. Not him.”

  I kissed him. Because I loved him. Because I was so sorry for all the suffering I caused him and kept causing him. I kissed him to remind myself what his kisses did to me. No one—in this lifetime or any other—could ever give me the earth-shattering, stars-igniting, souls-colliding, warming-every-fiber-of-my-being kisses that Nathaniel Luna gave me.

  And he knew it.

  He returned my kiss so confidently and passionately, but with a natural ease that only my soul mate of twenty lifetimes could pull off. He lifted my legs and I wrapped them around his waist. My back pressed against the refrigerator as we devoured each other. I was a fool for ever thinking I could have strayed from the one person meant for only me.

  His lips trailed down my jaw and neck. “Let’s leave.”

  “Leave?”

  “Leave all of this,” he said, his voice raspy. “Leave it all behind us.”

  The cloud I’d been floating on fell out from under me. “Leave our kindrily?”

  “They’ll understand.”

  I pressed against his chest, pushing him back so I could read his facial expression. I planted my feet on the floor. “Where would we go?”

  “Anywhere.” He was serious. “Somewhere Dedrick would never look for us.”

  “We can’t just abandon them.”

  “Everyone has been so focused on you regaining your memories. Even me. But all of this—Dedrick trapping you, almost losing you again—it made me realize that the past is just that, the past. I want to focus on the present.” He cupped my face in his hands. “I love you. The you who you are right now. I don’t want to change you or trade you in for the previous model. You should be free to live this life exactly as you are without others expecting you to act a certain way. No one should expect you to know everything. I want to be with you. And if you’ll have me, we can start a new chapter and see where it leads us.”

  I shook my head. “But knowing we lived so many lives together, I’ll always want to remember. I can’t just ignore that.”

  “Why not? There is so much you’re better off not remembering. So many illnesses, wars, deaths of people we loved. Billions of people on thi
s planet can’t remember anything from their past lives for good reason. Those that erase are relieved of so many painful memories. Allow yourself to be washed clean of all of it.”

  “But there were good times too. I want to remember all the people we knew and loved.”

  “Please, I’m begging you.” He held my hand and kissed my wrist. “Don’t go back to Dedrick’s torture chamber. Every minute you spend with him is tainting you and us.”

  “I have to—”

  “I know you want to help Rina. And we will. We’ll figure out where she is, and we’ll help her break free.”

  “How?”

  “We’ll figure out a way.”

  I almost told him about River suspecting we were in Ireland, but I stopped myself. What happened with Dedrick and Lexie had me perplexed. Dedrick must have known River was hiding in that room. He had to have heard his thoughts. But Dedrick didn’t do anything about it, which led me to suspect that River was helping set a trap. If I told Nathan about Ireland, the whole kindrily would come running to the rescue. And what if the Nefariouns were waiting? I couldn’t chance it. Not until I did more investigating.

  “You said you have faith in me,” I reminded him. “Have faith that I can do this. Believe that I’m strong enough and smart enough to bring down Dedrick and save Rina.”

  Nathan’s eyes glistened with sadness but also love as he studied my face. He touched my cheek. “I do believe in you. But you can’t do this alone. You have to let us help you.”

  I pressed my hand over his. “You are helping.”

  “We’re sitting around here not doing much of anything while you voluntarily subject yourself to Dedrick’s mind games and risk your soul.”

  “I’m sure everyone’s abilities will be put to good use but only when the time is right.”

  Gregory opened the kitchen door, letting in a warm breeze. “Maryah, may I speak with you for a moment?”

  I peered up at Nathan, silently asking if we were okay. I didn’t want to desert him during such an important conversation.

  He kissed my forehead. “Gregory doesn’t ask to speak with anyone unless it’s important.”

  I was still a little uncomfortable around Gregory. The physical similarities between Dedrick and him rattled me. They both had dark shoulder-length hair they’d sometimes wear in a ponytail, they were both over six feet tall, and let’s face facts, they killed my parents. Mind-controlled or not, Gregory stabbed Mikey while I watched, and then Dedrick ordered him to beat me to death.

  “Maybe you should come with me,” I whispered to Nathan.

  He glanced at Gregory then smiled. He leaned down, pressing his warm lips to my ear. “Whispering is useless. Gregory can hear your thoughts.”

  Warmth flooded my cheeks. Gregory shut the door, and I watched through the window as he sat on a deck chair across from Harmony. His lips moved, and she burst out laughing. Most likely he had told her about my whispering blunder.

  I was getting used to embarrassing myself in front of kindrily members. My recovery time was improving. “Guess I’ll go see what he wants.”

  Nathan nodded, still grinning.

  I stepped out onto the deck, and Harmony stood. I stared at her bare feet, shocked to see her not wearing her combat boots. “You have feet.”

  She lowered her sunglasses and squinted at me. “Did you think I had hooves?”

  “No, it’s just I’ve never seen you without boots, and your feet, they’re so pretty.”

  All three of us looked down. Harmony really did have pretty feet: high arches, toes that weren’t too long or too short, even purple-painted nails.

  “I agree,” Gregory said.

  Harmony’s black eyebrow ring lifted as she smiled. “I’ll leave you and Gregory alone to talk.”

  I practically stuttered. “Uh, no, you don’t have to.”

  She either sensed my nervousness or Gregory had read my thoughts and told her I wasn’t comfortable around him, because she nudged my arm and said, “Don’t be afraid. He only bites me, and that’s because I like it.”

  She giggled then went inside.

  Gregory’s head was bowed, his sunglasses dangled from his fingers. His eyes lifted to meet mine. “Harmony and the others have been catching me up on all I’ve missed, but the one detail I’d like to discuss with you is how most everyone’s ability seems to be strengthening.”

  I nodded and sat down.

  “Well.” He cleared his throat. “Evidently mine is strengthening too, but it seems to be specific to you.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I read minds by making eye contact with a person. At times, I still hear some thoughts even if the person looks away, but that only lasts for a couple seconds at most, like their thoughts are smoke that quickly dissipates. Out of respect for our members, I never listen to anyone’s thoughts without permission unless it’s an emergency of some sort.”

  “I remember. Very noble of you.”

  He slid to the front of his chair. “Recently, it seems no matter what I do to block you out of my head, your thoughts are leaking in.”

  “Leaking in?”

  “Yes, which wouldn’t be a problem if my usual method of not looking at you worked in this situation, but it doesn’t.” His broad shoulders slumped forward. “I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve overheard some of your thoughts in the last few days.”

  I was taken aback. It was hard enough getting used to the idea that Gregory could hear my thoughts when he intended to, but now he had no control over it? “What thoughts of mine have you heard?”

  His tan cheeks blushed, and he smoothed back his ponytail. “Please know that no matter what I’ve heard, I don’t judge in the slightest. Trust me, I’ve heard things you wouldn’t believe throughout my lifetimes. None of your thoughts were shocking or ultra-personal. I’ll try my best to gain control over this new development, but until then I wanted you to be aware of it.”

  What if Gregory’s ability wasn’t getting stronger? What if he was losing control over it?

  “No, it’s not like that,” he said. I flinched at him responding to my thoughts, but he continued. “It’s more like my range with you has expanded. Twice now, I’ve known your soul was back in your body before you or anyone else came out of your room. Your thoughts invaded my mind.”

  “When?”

  “Once I was out here eating breakfast with Harmony and Carson. The second time I was showering.”

  I fidgeted, uncomfortable with the mental image of Gregory naked while hearing my thoughts.

  He laughed. “It was awkward for me too, but as I said, this is all new to me, and I haven’t figured out how to manage it yet.”

  “You’re saying you could be listening in on my thoughts or conversations at any given time no matter where I am in the house?”

  “You don’t have to be in the house. My range seems to extend pretty far.”

  “How far?”

  “One day, you and Nathaniel went for a walk. I overheard you talking about Meru and William Shakespeare.”

  “What?” I gasped. “We had that conversation out on the cliffs. That’s like a mile from here.”

  “As I said, my range with you has increased significantly.”

  I sat back, gripping the plastic arms of my chair. “This is so intrusive.”

  “I’m sorry. I don’t like it any more than you do. I don’t like not having total control of my ability.”

  I thought of Rina and how easily she could control whether or not I astral traveled, how she could use my ability as her own without my permission. “I know the feeling.”

  ∞

  When I went back inside, Krista and Louise were in the kitchen making cookies. I didn’t expect everyone to put their lives on hold because of all the drama with Rina and Dedrick, but I was a little surprised to see Louise baking like it was just another day.

  “Everything okay?” Louise asked.

  I sat at the island across from her, tracing the veins of
the granite countertop. “Just the usual. Dealing with psycho mind tricks and finding out life-altering secrets from past lives that make me fight with my boyfriend of nine hundred or so years. Oh, and dealing with the fact that I’m being video monitored, and my parents’ killer can hear my thoughts at any given time. You know, the usual teen drama.”

  Krista sympathetically grunted.

  Louise grinned. “You’re coping exceptionally well, all things considered.”

  Nathan stood on the deck talking to Gregory. We were separated by nothing but glass windows, but he felt so far away. Why couldn’t I be a normal girl with normal boyfriend problems? “I’m looking into joining a support group tomorrow so I can meet others going through the same thing.”

  Louise poured sugar into measuring cups. “Sarcasm and humor to mask your true feelings, I like it. Carson is rubbing off on you.”

  Krista giggled as she grabbed a handful of chocolate chips.

  I stole a couple from her before she swatted me away. “I figured sarcasm would be a nice change from stress, worry, and wanting to throw myself off of the highest cliff in Sedona.”

  “Oh, stop.” Krista pinched my arm. “You’d just be back in nine months or so, and you’d still have to deal with the mess you left behind. Why prolong it?”

  She had a valid point. Even death wouldn’t end my problems.

  “Anything you’d like to talk to me about?” Louise asked me.

  “How many centuries do you have?”

  “As far as I know, my time is unlimited.”

  I watched Nathan again. He was absorbed in his conversation with Gregory. He ran his hand over his hair and then over his jaw. He stared at the ground then Gregory stood and clasped his shoulder. Gregory’s lips moved enough to say only a few words. Nathan turned, and our eyes met. He grimaced, and I expected him to come inside and talk to me about whatever was bothering him, but then he vanished.

 
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