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Taking back forever, p.20
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       Taking Back Forever, p.20

           Karen Amanda Hooper
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  My heart throbbed in my throat as the Mercedes turned onto Airport Drive.

  “The airport,” Faith and I both said into our phones.

  Every time Dakota pushed the end button on Shiloh’s phone, I wanted to scream. Answer your goddamn phone, Nate!

  He finally had the ability to traverse people where they needed to be and we couldn’t reach him. We needed Anthony to get there in time. We needed Carson too. Hell, we needed everyone and then some. We never knew what to expect with the Nefariouns.

  As we rounded the top of the hill on the road climbing up to the airport, it occurred to me. “We have to hide Dakota.”

  Faith’s head bobbed in agreement.

  “No!” Dakota argued. “I want to help.”

  “No,” Shiloh, Faith, and I all answered simultaneously.

  “You need to be our lookout from a hiding place,” I said, trying to give him a sense of purpose.

  “Lookout for what?” Dakota argued. “We know where they are.”

  “More might be coming. Call out like a bird or something if you see anyone else drive up the road.”

  “A bird? What—?”

  Shiloh stopped the truck behind a shed near the main gates to the airstrip. The Mercedes was still in view but way ahead of us. I removed my gun from my left boot and cocked it. Every head in the truck turned to look at me.

  Dakota was the only one to ask. “Harmony, where did you—”

  “Dakota, take this. Anthony and Carson will be here soon. If any of those bastards come after you, shoot them. Don’t hesitate, they don’t deserve to live. Be careful. It’s cocked and loaded.”

  He nodded, staring wide-eyed at the small but deadly pistol. I pulled my knife from my other boot and stuck it in my back pocket. “Get out. Hide behind that shed and do not come out until it’s over. Don’t watch us. Keep your eyes and attention focused on the road, and keep calling Nate until he answers.”

  Dakota slid out of his seat and stumbled away from the car. “I just aim and pull the trigger, right?”

  “Yes, but don’t try to be a superhero, little brother.” I reached over, slamming his door shut and pointed to the shed. Dakota scurried off and hid.

  “Go,” I commanded as Shiloh’s truck lurched forward.

  “Damn, they move fast,” Shiloh said as we pulled through the open gate to the runway. A private plane sat with its steps already lowered.

  “River,” Faith hissed.

  She was right, River walked beside one of the men with his hands cuffed behind his back. The first person of the group of five was about to step through the plane’s doorway. And that lead bastard was Dedrick.

  All three of us jumped out of the truck at once, sunglasses shielding our eyes, running as fast as we could toward them.

  Gregory was second in line. My heart and lungs felt like they were trapped in barbed wire when he stepped inside the plane.

  “Wait!” I yelled to River and the last two monsters climbing the plane steps. Their heads snapped up to look at us.

  “There’s a bomb on that plane!” I have no idea where my threat came from, but it worked. River pushed past a bald guy and a black-haired woman who looked like a witch, almost tripping down the steps. Baldy and Witchy followed him. Then the most stunning soul in the world stepped out of the plane and descended down the steps. Dedrick poked his slimy head out the door but remained on the plane.

  It didn’t take long for them to notice we were wearing sunglasses at night. But so were they. Young and non-threatening as we may have looked, they surely knew we were hiding our eyes for the same reason they were.

  River ran toward us, looking panicked, but Baldy grabbed him by his cuffed arms and held him in place. Witchy strutted over to us, clinging to Gregory’s tensed arm like a leech.

  He doesn’t like to be touched, I mentally jeered.

  “Darling,” she said in a sickening sweet voice. “These are the enemies we told you about.”

  Calling him Darling earned her first spot on my hit list.

  “Enemies?” Faith laughed. “We’re all friends here. Let’s work out a deal.”

  We stood braced and ready to fight, three against four, not counting River. Judging from the pleading look in River’s eyes and the fact they had him in handcuffs, I sensed he’d rather not be with them. And if he did put up any kind of fight, I’d snap him in two. Faith and Shiloh had trained in many parts of Asia throughout their lifetimes. They had fighting skills like ninjas and they weren’t afraid to use them.

  Witchy snickered at Faith and they engaged in a useless exchange that I knew Faith was creating as a diversion to buy us time to give me a chance to communicate with Gregory.

  He stood directly across from me. No more than five long strides across the asphalt. His hair was longer, his bulging muscles were larger, and it didn’t make sense that he was the age he was, but I knew he could hear our thoughts. And I knew how to make mine loud.

  Hey you, beefcake, who can hear my thoughts right now. Don’t do this. Those cretins standing beside you are not your compadres. We were your family once, and they kidnapped you. I don’t know how or why you’re still with them, but this is your chance to return to where you belong.

  His sunglasses blocked his eyes but his ears pulled backed slightly. A tell-tale sign he was listening. I knew Faith and Witchy’s chitchat wouldn’t continue much longer. If the heathens had any brains at all, it wouldn’t take them long to figure out that one of us might be silently communicating with Gregory.

  You and I are soul mates, I told him. I don’t know what they’ve brain-washed you into believing, but I swear, you belong with us. I love you more than life itself and you’ll have to kill me to stop me from taking you back because I’ll be damned if these lowlifes will continue to keep you hostage.

  “Enough!” Witchy hissed. “Time for you three to depart this world.”

  All three of us crouched. Where the hell was Anthony?

  Baldy snapped his attention to Gregory. “Argos!” He shouted in a thick Scottish accent. “Which of these gangrels would you like to squash?”

  I slowly stepped sideways, hoping to lure Gregory away from the others. Argos is not your name. You are Gregory, ninth member of a kindrily of virtuous souls who love you.

  “The little dark one is mine.” Gregory sneered. He unsheathed a dagger and braced himself like a bear ready to attack.

  Damn right I’m yours! And you’re mine. We’re twin flames, Gregory. Snap out of it!

  In Japanese, Shiloh warned us that Witchy had a gun tucked in the back waistband of her pants. His new vision perspective was already being put to good use.

  Baldy whispered into River’s ear then shoved him aside. River ambled back, almost in a daze but headed for the plane.

  Baldy and Witchy jumped first, but Shiloh and Faith were faster. Faith leapt at Witchy and tackled her to the ground before she could draw her weapon. Shiloh darted side to side while advancing, confusing Baldy and avoiding every swing of his fist. I heard Shiloh’s elbow smash into Baldy’s jaw as my eyes landed on Gregory lunging at me.

  I jumped backward. He kept coming, so I kept drawing him back. For each of his steps forward I took two or three back. I planted my feet, focusing on the dagger he’d been swinging at me. On his next swipe I kicked. My boot made hard perfect contact with his wrist and the dagger went flying.

  I lunged forward and ripped his glasses from his face. His obsidian eyes were gone, replaced by something heinous. Mi vida, what happened to you?

  He tried to grab hold of me but I slipped away. He threw a punch. I bobbed. He threw another. I weaved. I knew all his moves because we had learned to fight together.

  I could hear the grunts and blows of Faith and Shiloh fighting Witchy and Baldy. Shiloh shouted out to Faith in Japanese. Faith flipped over Witchy’s head, elbowing her in the face mid-flip and grabbing the gun the instant her feet hit the ground. Faith had the gun pointed at her before Witchy could wipe blood from her nose.

  I landed a kick to the side of Gregory’s knee. His weak spot. He dropped and I took advantage of the moment by jabbing him with a right hook. His head flew sideways, but he stumbled back up to his feet. I pulled out my knife and crouched, waiting for him to come at me again.

  Shiloh had Baldy face-down on the ground with his arms locked behind him.

  Gregory shook his head like he was shaking away the pain. “Is that really you?”

  Yes. I answered.

  He stood up straight, glancing around. Beyond him I saw a red-head glide down the steps of the plane. Shit.

  Flames ignited from the ground between Witchy and Faith. Faith stepped back, gun still aimed at them. Gregory stalked closer to me, away from the flames.

  “Let him go,” Red told Shiloh in a dementedly calm tone. She waved her hand and the flames spread wider, rushing toward Shiloh and Baldy.

  Shiloh shoved off Baldy and jumped back as the fire nearly singed the front of him. Baldy crawled forward and stood. He, Witchy, and Red stood on the other side of a growing wall of flames.

  “I never thought I’d see you again,” Gregory said as if unaware of the fire raging higher behind him. His words jumpstarted my mind back into action. He closed the space between us in two long strides, his arms opened at his sides. My grip on my knife loosened as Gregory wrapped his huge arms around me. I inhaled. His familiar coconut scent was gone.

  Eighteen years I had longed to feel his arms around me. Two, maybe three seconds of ecstatic bliss, rushed through me as I rested my head against his muscular chest and listened to his strong heartbeat. I didn’t care about the raging flames. I didn’t care about anything except feeling him again. God, I’ve missed you.

  Gunshots fired. Faith shot at the wall of fire but the three Nefariouns were gone.

  When Gregory’s arm moved, I expected to feel his fingers run through my hair, or the familiar pull of his hand to raise my chin so he could kiss me. That’s how it always was with us, and that’s how I thought it was going to be again. I never felt him take the knife out of my hand. So the whopping thud in my upper back was a shock.

  The hot searing pain and the surge of adrenaline ripped through me at the same time. I sucked in a breath through my teeth. Stabbed in the back by my own soul mate, with my own knife, how poetic. How stupid could I have been?

  I should have realized he was playing me, that he was still being mind-controlled, but logic had been pushed aside for a more important matter, love.

  Many things happened around me simultaneously, but my mind processed it all with great clarity. The plane rolled forward with its engines roaring. To my left, over Gregory’s shoulder, the event I feared would happen became a reality.

  I tried shouting, but my words came out quiet and ragged. “Don’t be a hero!”

  It was too late to remind Dakota of that. He ran toward us, yelling, with my gun pointed at Gregory’s back. Faith shouted something and I was sure she was running toward us, but my focus was glued on my little brother. Dakota’s wide eyes met mine for half a breath as Gregory stabbed me again under my left breast.

  The knife thrusting into me didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the panic and horror on Dakota’s face.

  The gunshot sounded muffled, like it was farther away than it actually was. From previous deaths I knew that meant I was losing too much blood. My senses were distorting. Witchy appeared out of thin air behind Gregory and launched herself at Dakota.

  I sneered with satisfaction when a bullet hit her. But she continued barreling through the air and into my little brother. He fought her off like a true superhero.

  I gasped as my lung collapsed. My wind pipe felt like the size of a cocktail straw. I wheezed out the only words my deoxygenated brain could think of. “I love you, Gregory.”

  Visions of our previous life in Peru flashed through my mind. Did he still know Spanish? If he did, it would be the version he heard at least a million times.

  “Te amo, Gregory…” I tried to look up at him one last time but my lids were too heavy.

  Witchy had Dakota’s head clamped between her hands. I tried to scream out and warn him, but she was so fast.

  She snapped his neck like he was a rag doll.

  “No,” I murmured, reaching out for him.

  Faith pounced on Gregory like a tiger. Gregory let go of me to fend her off and I slid to the ground.

  Radiant yellow, blue, and orange light seeped out of Dakota, hovering above his contorted body as his spirit continued calling out my name.

  I crawled to him. Hang on Dakota. I’m coming.

  Witchy staggered sideways. Dakota’s shot had hit her, and judging from her swaying body and the blood dripping from her mouth, it was a kill shot. She fell to her knees right in front of me. Her sunglasses slid off her face and onto the asphalt. Her eyes matched Gregory’s—just like a snake’s. She coughed up more blood and toppled forward, her eyes changed to a brilliant blue. They darted around then landed on me.

  She was fading away faster than I was, but we were both still coherent enough to see into the windows of each other’s souls.

  “No!” I gasped when I realized who she was. “Josephine.”

  “Where am I?” she whispered. “What happened?”

  Her light faded from her eyes too fast. She was gone. Her spirit expanded like a prism of light over her useless body. Over my lifetimes I had learned to appreciate the uniqueness of every spirit, but Josephine was an ancient icon of this world. Her incandescent light was like nothing I’d ever seen. I had so many questions to ask her, but I couldn’t utter a sound.

  Faith and Shiloh grappled with Gregory beside me, but I couldn’t turn my head.

  “Harmony?” Dakota’s soul desperately shouted beside me. “Harmony, are you okay?”

  Another death had arrived for me. After a few times, you get used to dying, but this was one for the memory books. Gregory had never killed me before. What would his warped mind think when all this was over? Because it wasn’t over. It would never be over.

  Even if he stayed with Dedrick for centuries, and killed me over and over, I would always find him again. He could kill me as many times as Dedrick’s evil forces made him, but he would never kill my love for him.

  My spirit hovered above my body. Shiloh held Gregory’s arms behind him while Faith delivered a mid-air roundhouse kick to Gregory’s temple.

  The plane took off down the runway.

  Carson’s Mustang squealed to a halt and he jumped out. He blurred toward Gregory so fast that no one could have stopped him. The anger radiated off him, leaving a vapor trail, and all that rage went into the uppercut punch Carson blasted Gregory with.

  Gregory was knocked out the moment Carson’s supersonic fist made contact with his face, but his body still flew up into the air. He landed flat and unconscious on the asphalt.

  Carson leaned over him and spat. “Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you, Dad?”

  Mine and Gregory’s relationship had always been the epitome of tough love. And it appeared Carson inherited the trait from us.

  The Higher Realm tugged at me, but so did Dakota’s pleading spirit.

  Just like Dakota and me, the flames were dying on the asphalt, leaving nothing but smoke drifting up into the black sky.



  Nathan and I had been lost in an ebb and flow of each other. We’d let our desire build up until one of us almost couldn’t take it anymore, then we’d try to calm down by cuddling or talking about the past or future, or whatever. But the touching and kissing had always reignited somehow.

  “We should go home,” I told Nathan. “We’ve been gone a long time. It’s getting cold, and I keep getting bit by mosquitoes.” I slapped my leg, trying to kill the bloodsucker that bit my shin, but I missed. “Can you traverse us back to our bug-free room, please?”

  “Your wish is my command.” He wrapped the blanket around us and seconds later we were back in bed.

  “That will
never get old.”

  He didn’t let go of me. “Would you like me to find some of Helen’s oils to rub on your bug bites?”

  “Yes, please. And you should give me a full rubdown to make sure you don’t miss any.”

  He kissed me. His kisses would never get old either.

  After only a few seconds, Nathan moaned with irritation and rolled off the bed.

  “Why’d you stop?”

  “My phone keeps ringing.”

  “I didn’t hear either of our phones.”

  “That’s because they’re buried at the bottom of your purse on vibrate.” He strolled over to my desk, glancing back at me with a cocky I-hear-much-better-than-you smirk. He held up my purse. “May I?”

  “Of course.”

  He walked back to the bed while digging. He tossed me my phone first, but I didn’t look at it. I rarely ever received calls or texts. He pulled out his own phone.

  “Oh no,” Nathan said with borderline panic in his voice.

  “What?” I asked, sitting up straight.

  “I’ll be right back.”

  And then he was gone. I grabbed my phone and saw I’d missed two calls from Louise and Amber. I had one text. From April:

  All over the news...River busted out of jail. Be careful!

  I jumped to my feet, not so patiently waiting for Nathan to return. How could he say something like, “Oh, no,” then vanish without telling me what was wrong. Why didn’t he take me with him? My stomach churned with a mixture of nerves and worry. What if River showed up here while Nathan was gone? Was anyone else even home? I stared at our locked bedroom door and considered checking the house, but decided to call Louise instead.

  I scrolled to her name just as Nathan reappeared.

  The sight of him made my knees weak, but not in a good way. He looked like he had seen a ghost.

  “Oh god, what happened?” I shouted.

  There was an excruciating expression on his face. “It’s not good.”

  “What’s not good? What happened?”

  He wrapped his arms around me. “It won’t hurt any less if I tell you beforehand.”

  I held onto him tightly. With one blur of light we were gone from our room and standing on a stretch of open blacktop in the dark. I heard the sobbing before I saw her. Once my brain registered the reality of the situation, I begged for it to be a nightmare.

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