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Taking back forever, p.2
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       Taking Back Forever, p.2

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  His eyes darted from Harmony to me and back again. “Now isn’t the time. Maryah can look at pictures of Gregory after she has learned more about him.”

  “What more does she need to know?” Harmony flipped through her stack. “Dedrick and his mongrels kidnapped him. We have no idea where he is. This is him.”

  “No!” Nathan swiped at the photo Harmony held up, but it was too late.

  I saw him.

  I saw Gregory and I yelped. I actually yelped and started trembling like a scared three-year-old who’d just seen the boogey man. Eightball jumped off the sofa and ran to my side.

  “Damn it,” Nathan hissed, hugging me to him.

  “What?” Harmony’s eyes were wide. “What’s wrong with you two?”

  Faith jumped up and placed her hand on my back. “Jeez, she’s terrified. What is going on?”

  Keeping me wrapped in his arms, Nathan whispered in my ear. “It was him, wasn’t it?” I nodded and he took a deep breath. “Harmony, wait for me on the deck so we can discuss this matter in private after I tend to Maryah.”

  “Screw that,” Harmony said. “Tell me what’s going on right now.”

  Nathan’s chest rose and fell beneath my cheek. “I didn’t want you to find out like this, but Gregory is alive. He’s with the Nefariouns. He is the one who attacked Maryah and nearly killed her.”

  “No!” Faith gasped.

  I pulled away from Nathan to get a better view of Harmony. Her face was icy and unreadable.

  My eyes blurred with tears, but I could clearly picture the blood seeping through Mikey’s shirt, his arms and legs flailing as he tried to tear himself out of the huge man’s chokehold. Nathan and Faith stood on either side of me, holding my hands. My voice shook as I struggled to breathe. “He’s the monster who murdered my brother.”

  Faith wrapped her arm around my shoulder. Except for my heart pounding, the room was silent.

  Harmony stepped in front of me. Her face looked paler than usual. The black stone piercing her eyebrow arched into her black and purple bangs. “Your brother,” Harmony started, “is down the hall asleep in his crib. So quit the melodramatics about him.”

  My breath caught in my throat. At first I couldn’t believe she’d be so heartless while I was upset, but then I realized she was right. As horrible as Mikey’s death had been in his last life, we had been reunited. Sure, he was a baby, not my brother, and it would be years before I could talk to him about any of this kindrily stuff, or talk to him about anything for that matter, but Harmony was right; Mikey was alive and part of my life.

  “Gregory,” she continued, “has been in the grimy grasp of Dedrick and his minions for almost two decades and you...” She turned to Nathan and stood on her toes, trying to raise her face to his. “You knew about it and kept it from me?”

  Nathan backed up. Harmony moved with him. “Harmony, I apologize, but—”

  “Don’t but me!” Harmony yelled. “You knew where he was. You knew how worried, and heartbroken, and miserable I’ve been not knowing if he was alive, yet you still didn’t tell me. You filthy deceiving piece of—”

  “Harmony!” Faith interrupted. “Nathan must have had a good reason to keep this secret from you. Why don’t you two go outside and discuss it? You’re upsetting Maryah.”

  I was fine. Actually, watching Harmony and Nathan was so shocking it distracted me from thinking about the night my family was murdered. Harmony was attacking Nathan—with good reason—and I was more concerned she might murder him.

  Nathan bent his knees, so he was closer to her height. “I’m deeply sorry.”

  Harmony glared at him then turned away. She paused and clenched her fist then spun on him again, throwing a punch that probably could have knocked him out cold. I yipped a warning, but Nathan anticipated Harmony’s reaction and vanished as Harmony’s fist sailed through the empty space where his head had been.

  He reappeared by the glass door to the deck. “Shall we take this outside?”

  Harmony whipped around. “Do I get to beat you senseless outside?”

  Nathan opened the door. “We’ll see how it goes.”

  She stomped past him and out onto the deck.

  He vanished then reappeared in front of me before I could blink. “I’ll return shortly.”

  He kissed my forehead then traversed outside with Harmony. Her arms flailed as she screamed at him, but eventually he caught her hands and led her away and out of our view.

  “Should I be worried?” I asked Faith.

  “Nah.” Faith waved me off. “They’ll work it out.”

  “What if she really does beat him up?”

  Faith sat on the sofa, flipping through photos, not worried at all. “Krista can heal any damage she does.”

  SWEARING ON LIVES

  Harmony

  I remained motionless and speechless in a patio chair for nearly twenty minutes while Nate paced the deck confessing everything he knew—supposedly.

  He sat across from me on the end of a lounger, offering his final blow about Gregory and his whereabouts. “He goes by Argos. He’s obviously being mind-controlled, which means there is hope we can convert him back to his old self. Somehow.”

  Time ticked away on my watch. Several feet away the pond pump kicked on and hummed. I stared at Nate, wishing more than ever I had Gregory’s ability to read minds. Summaries always left out important details.

  I took off my sunglasses. “He really stabbed you?”

  “Of all things to focus on, that is the least of our concerns. Consider it a paper cut.”

  I racked my brain trying to think of ways to find him, or to find Dedrick so I could rip Gregory out of Dedrick’s vile clutches. I had just helped Maryah’s parents cross over two days ago. If their spirits were still here I could have asked them to help me search in ways much faster and far-reaching than technology or human capabilities. “Why didn’t you tell me all of this sooner?”

  “Because I didn’t want to cause you further heartache. Because I knew you would want to find him, and you can’t do that until we know more about what we’re dealing with, and hopefully after you graduate.”

  “Screw graduation.”

  “Your parents wouldn’t understand if you dropped out now. They’d feel like they failed to raise you properly.”

  “I’ll have Dylan ease their minds.” I gripped the seat cushion. “I have to find him. What the hell is he doing attacking and murdering members of his own kindrily?”

  “I don’t know. Louise has been working diligently to find out.”

  “Louise knew too?” I wanted to punch something. “Did everyone know except Faith and me?”

  “Only Louise, Anthony, and me.” He bobbed his head to the side. “And Edgar and Helen.”

  I gritted my teeth. “Dandy, only five of my kindrily members have been keeping the biggest secret of my life from me.”

  “To protect you.”

  “That’s a cop-out and you know it.”

  “We have sources all over the world helping us. As soon as we have a strong lead, we’ll begin our reconnaissance.”

  “I can’t wait that long. Who knows what Dedrick is doing to him?”

  “You have to wait. It’s a big planet and you have no idea where to look.”

  “You saw him in London.” I stood, resisting the urge to run inside and demand Anthony get the plane ready. “I’ll start there.”

  “I’m certain they fled London immediately after our encounter. Dedrick is smart. He wouldn’t hang around and wait for us to retaliate.”

  Maryah erasing screwed up everything. We depended on her for search missions like this. How could she have done this to Gregory and me? I positioned myself behind my chair, bracing my arms against its back. “What will you be doing until then? Hanging around here making out with Maryah?”

  He ignored the snide remark. “I will continue investigating as much as possible. Our contacts all across the globe are on alert and updating Louise or Edgar whenever t
hey see or hear anything that might be Nefarioun related. I promise to keep you abreast of everything from this point forward.”

  I nodded, but if he thought I was going to sit around and leave the search up to everyone else, he was an idiot. My mind raced with plans of my own.

  Nate stood, bending down and beckoning me to look at him. “We will get him back, Harmony. I swear it on my life.”

  “Swear on all of them.”

  He raised his hand. “On all of them.”

  In the short week since Maryah’s momentary remembrance of him, Nate had come alive again. He smiled all the time. His eyes were brighter. I was happy for him, but it left me feeling more alone than ever. He had been my partner in suffering over our lost soul mates. But not anymore.

  I gazed at the landscape of Sedona behind him. To myself, I could admit my jealousy of his and Maryah’s reunion, but I’d never say it out loud. “How’s it feel? To have her back after all this time?”

  “I don’t have her back. She hardly remembers anything. But I don’t have to hide who and what I am anymore, or that I love her. She knows who she was and where she belongs. I’m patiently waiting for her to figure out who she is now, and what she’s capable of.”

  “She loves you. I can see it.”

  “I am ecstatically grateful for that. But I still feel the loss of her, of all the time we shared together. It’s like we’re getting to know each other for the first time all over again. We haven’t had to do that for hundreds of years.” His head drooped. “What if she doesn’t like what she discovers?”

  “Oh, please. You two light up around each other. That girl is smitten, and so are you.”

  His cheeks flushed. “It’s amazing how much more you appreciate someone after you’ve lost them. Her happiness means everything to me. I want to give her the world, the magical and beautiful one she can no longer see, but I worry that’s no longer possible.”

  “Give it time. If there’s one thing Mary proved over and over, it’s that anything is possible.”

  His lips pressed together and he slightly nodded.

  “Okay, enough of the sappy Hallmark moment.” I put on my sunglasses, and turned to go back in the house, but I paused at the patio door. “Gregory really hasn’t aged at all?”

  “Not one day.”

  Despite my anger, a grin slipped through. “He still has his long hair?”

  “Wears it in a ponytail.”

  “Good. That’ll come in handy when I drag his ass back here and beat him within an inch of his life for what he did to Maryah and her family.”

  With that final vow I opened the door and went inside.

  ∞

  I knocked on Carson’s door. Two taps and a fist thump, like always, so he would know it was me.

  “Enter,” he called out.

  He had an electronic device disassembled on his desk and he was hunched over it with a screwdriver in his hand.

  “How’s it going?” I asked him.

  “I showed Maryah the snow globe.”

  I grinned. I’m sure she wasn’t nearly as amused as the rest of us. “We need to talk.”

  He set down the screwdriver and swiveled in his chair to face me. “Uh oh. You only say that when it’s something bad.”

  I sat on the edge of his bed and rested my elbows on my knees. Saying it out loud made it hit me that much harder. “Gregory is with Dedrick. He’s using some awful alias name. He stabbed Nate. He’s working with the Nefariouns.”

  Carson slumped back in his chair looking shocked.

  We stared at each other until Carson lowered his eyes.

  “Aren’t you going to say anything?” I asked.

  “Give me a minute to recover. Your delivery wasn’t exactly gentle.”

  Gentleness had never been a quality of mine. Standing, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a photo I had put aside for Carson. “Here.”

  He reached forward and took it, squinting at the image of himself at age three with Gregory and me in our previous life. His grin deepened the dimple in his chin.

  “You had that same dimple last go-round,” I said.

  He held the photo closer to his face. “I did. Gregory had one too. Or has?” He dropped the photo into his lap. “This sucks. Not the update I was hoping for.”

  “Me either.” I rolled my eyebrow ring between my fingers, trying to find something comforting or assuring to say. “He was an amazing father, much better at the parenting thing than I was. Don’t forget that.”

  Carson’s eyes met mine. “I remember some stuff from our last life. You were a great mom.”

  I smirked. “You were four years old when we died, what could you possibly remember?”

  He reached for his Howlite necklace and fingered the stone. “I remember a party in a cemetery.”

  “Dia de los Muertos. Day of the Dead. My favorite holiday.”

  “Morbid much?”

  “Actually, it’s a celebration of life, but that’s not the point. What do you remember?”

  “I remember you in a dress with flowers in your hair, which is so far from who you are now. Sometimes I think I must have imagined that part.”

  “Nah, I did wear dresses. And flowers.” I used to be so happy. I hoped Carson remembered that too. “Continue.”

  “Your face was painted like a skeleton, but a pretty skeleton, with colorful sparkles and maybe more flowers or something.”

  “I’m impressed. That’s all accurate.”

  “And I remember Gregory dressed up too. He was wearing a fancy velvet sombrero and he picked me up and lifted me into the air. I knocked his sombrero off and you put it on my head. Music was playing. I think we were all dancing.”

  I pictured the moment like it was yesterday. Two lives ago, Gregory and I had lived a long life in Mexico. That’s when Dia de los Muertos became a cherished holiday for us. But last life, in Peru, we also celebrated the transition between lives. In Peru, parties were held in cemeteries so the dead could celebrate with the living. Most of the time my interactions with spirits were annoying because they badgered me for favors, but during Dia de los Muertos I was just another face in the crowd believing in their existence.”

  “We really whooped it up in a cemetery with a bunch of family and strangers?”

  “Yup.”

  “Wasn’t that overwhelming for you considering your gift?”

  “Nah, I actually looked forward to it every year. The dead would sing and dance all around us. So many times I wanted to tell a member of the living that their loved one’s spirit was at their side, having the time of their live—well, deaths. But admitting I could communicate with spirits would kill the buzz. Not to mention I’d be mobbed by spirits all wanting me to communicate everything they’d wished they’d said before they passed. Still, it was fun to be part of the celebration.”

  “So cool,” Carson muttered. “Anyway, I remember being happy. I remember Gregory spinning me around, singing to me, and you doing the same. You were awesome parents.”

  He remembered all of us being happy. Success. “You were an awesome kid. Still are.”

  Carson’s olive cheeks blushed with pink. “I’m not exactly a kid anymore.”

  “Oh, excuse me. I didn’t mean to imply you were, Mr. Maturity.”

  He tugged at the strings of his sweatshirt. “I’m going with you.”

  “Going with me where?”

  “To find Gregory.”

  “I’m not going anywhere yet.” I wasn’t sure if that was a lie or not. I hadn’t created a solid game plan yet.

  “I know you too well. You’ll go searching for him now that you know who he’s with. Just promise you won’t go without me.”

  I rubbed my lips together. “I’ll let you know when I figure out my next step.”

  “That wasn’t a promise.”

  “You know I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”

  Carson stood and walked over to me. “But you promise you’ll find him, right? You’ll bring him ba
ck to us?”

  “That I can promise.”

  His dark brown eyes softened. “And promise me we won’t lose you too.”

  I pulled his hood up over his head and flicked his chin dimple. “I swear it on all my lives.”

  SPARKING OLD FLAMES

  Maryah

  Faith sat on the counter, kicking her legs against the cabinet doors. Her over-excited energy made me want to slip her some of Helen’s calming herbs.

  “This isn’t all bad news.” Faith, forever the optimist. “Now we know Maryah has seen Gregory’s eyes in this lifetime. True, he was murdering her brother and beating her to a pulp, but maybe that will make his eyes stand out even more vividly in her memory. If she can master her ability then she can locate Gregory much more easily than if she had never had any contact with him.”

  Gregory’s dark eyes stared back at me from a photograph. Physically, he looked almost identical to the man who murdered my family and tried to kill me, but when I studied his eyes, it was clear the picture showed a completely different person. No question, the smiling guy in the photo looked like a kind, good soul. The hellion who I had the nightmare encounter with was evil. How could they be the same person?

  I felt horrible for calling Gregory a monster when I first found out who he was, but Harmony stormed out of the house before I could apologize.

  “She’s been trying,” Krista said, “but Maryah hasn’t astral traveled in days, and whenever she did in the past, it was by accident.”

  I was glad Krista and Sheila had returned. Having them around always made me feel better.

  “Except at Montezuma Well,” I added. “I intentionally traveled to Nathan that time.” I ran my finger over my ring, wishing it would work again. I wished I could rub it and the tiny peacock feather inside would light up and whisk me off to wherever I wanted.

  “Again,” Faith chirped, “she was on drugs. I still think drugging her is worth a shot.”

  “We aren’t drugging her,” Nathan said.

  I flashed him an appreciative nod while Faith whined, “Fiiine.”

 
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