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Fighting for infinity, p.24
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.24

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  “She said you’d need to drink all of it.”

  “Just pour half in and shut up.”

  River did what I said then stood and backed away. I licked my lips, wondering what the horrendous tasting liquid really contained. I half-expected to seize and die right there on the spot, but if Evelyn truly was the Emily I had met long ago then I was in good hands.

  River leaned over me. “Well, how do you feel?”

  I waited for the sensation of having control over my cells again, but it was too weak. “Nothing so far.”

  “I’m telling you, she said to drink the whole thing.”

  Light glistened in my peripheral vision, but it wasn’t in the room. It was my energy strengthening. “It’s working.”

  The connection clicked on like a light switch.

  I traversed out of my constraints and reappeared in front of River. “Tell her I’m grateful beyond words.”

  I snatched the bottle out of his hand and traversed to Sedona.

  ∞

  Krista and Louise told me what happened, but it didn’t make sense.

  I covered Maryah with the quilt and sat beside her on our bed. “She didn’t say one word before she went back?”

  Louise shook her head, worried. “We thought she and Krista fell asleep. They’d both been drinking Helen’s tea.”

  “And you don’t remember anything?” I asked Krista again.

  “She asked Anthony if he could rewind time. He told her no, said the plane would be leaving soon, and then I fell asleep.” She pressed her hand to her forehead. “But I do feel kind of spacey.”

  “Come.” Louise helped Krista out of the bedside chair. “You haven’t had much to eat.”

  Louise guided Krista out of the bedroom while I tried making sense of everything.

  Several minutes later, Maryah’s foot bounced, then her nose twitched. Her eyes opened, but I was staring into the soul of the enemy.

  My body shook, not out of fear, but rage. Eightball growled.

  “Hello, Nathaniel.” The scratchy words were spoken with Maryah’s voice, but it wasn’t her or Rina.

  “Dedrick,” I snarled.

  Eightball barked ferociously and lunged at him. Awkwardly, kicking off balance, Maryah’s foot clipped Eightball in the face. He yelped, and I scooped him up.

  I had never struggled so hard to keep my composure. I tried not to speak, not to give him the satisfaction, but I failed. “Get out of her body or I swear, when I kill you, I will make it extra excruciatingly painful.”

  Dedrick smiled using Maryah’s lips. It was the most conflicting feeling I’d ever experienced, wanting to rip him to shreds, to somehow squelch his soul from this earth, but not being able to lay a finger on him because he possessed Maryah’s body.

  “How did you manage to traverse back here? I’m quite intrigued.”

  I kept my mouth shut. The muscles in my jaw and neck were so tense I thought they’d snap.

  “Not revealing your secret? Fine then, how about another question? How does it feel to know I’m inside of her?”

  I balled my fists tighter.

  He walked away, flexing Maryah’s fingers and running her hands down her waist. “Such subtle curves and soft skin.” He looked up at me and laughed. “You really should work on your poker face, Nathaniel. If you keep bottling up all that anger, you’ll give yourself an aneurysm.”

  “I will savor torturing you, Dedrick.”

  “You’ll never touch me. Don’t you see how much smarter I am than you? How much more powerful I am and always have been? I’m right here, Nathaniel, using her body as my own, and there’s nothing you can do about it. There is nothing you will ever be able to do about anything I do because you have always been inferior to me.”

  “We’ll see about that.”

  “Yes, we will see. At least I will see. You won’t live to see Maryah and me live happily ever after because you’ll be banished from this planet forever. Your soul won’t be allowed reentry. And do you know why? Because I won’t allow it.”

  “She’s not Emily.”

  “You have your beliefs, and I have mine.”

  I wanted to tell him about Evelyn, but I had made a vow long, long ago. Revealing her identity would cause me to lose everyone I loved. I had never forgotten her words, and given the circumstances, her warning could come true too easily if I didn’t keep my promise.

  Eightball kept struggling to leap out of my arms so I set him in the hallway and shut the door. He barked and pawed, but I returned my attention to Dedrick. “Maryah will never love you whether I exist or not. She will never, ever love you.”

  “Ah, but you’re wrong. Mary did love me, and so will Maryah.”

  “You’re delusional.”

  “Interesting. Her actions said otherwise, considering how many times she passionately made love to me.”

  I lurched forward, fists clenched. “That never happened.”

  “And yet your body language reflects that you believe it, and it clearly upsets you.” He sat on the bed, crossing Maryah’s legs and looking down at them. “Such a young, tight little body she has.” He used her hands to touch her thighs. “I eagerly look forward to ravishing every inch of it.”

  I yanked her hands away. He was violating her, and I wanted to kill him for it. I gripped her wrists and shook him. “I’ll find a way to permanently end your existence if it’s the last thing I do.”

  “Oww,” he cooed. “You’re hurting Maryah. I didn’t peg you for the abusive boyfriend type.”

  I released my grip, cursing him and myself. “Set her free before you make things much harder for yourself.”

  “Set her free?” He chuckled. “Why would I do that? And even if I did, which I won’t, admit it, you’d never be able to look at her the same.” Her fingers trailed across her breasts. Even masked with Maryah’s innocent face, his wickedness shone through. “Now that I’ve been inside of her.”

  I wanted to break his fingers, but they were her fingers. “If you think possessing her body as a temporary vessel for your dejected soul is in any way an act of intimacy, you’re a bigger fool than I thought.”

  “And yet she feels so delectable.” He stood and ambled to the mirror. “Could you please leave the room so I can properly enjoy exploring every inch of her?” He traced her reflection. “I assume you wouldn’t enjoy watching. Or maybe you would?”

  Anthony was in the hangar, so I yelled for Carson. He blurred into the room a second later.

  “Get Anthony,” I demanded.

  Carson asked no questions. He was gone as quickly as he came.

  Maryah’s head tilted. “Ahh, so you can’t traverse after all. The mystery deepens.”

  “Your drugs will wear off soon, and when they do, fair warning, I’m coming for you.” I stepped closer, staring past Maryah’s face and into the hellish abyss of Dedrick’s soul. “And I will be merciless.”

  Carson returned, setting Anthony down beside me.

  “Freeze time,” I demanded, “including Maryah.”

  Maryah’s lips parted to say something. Anthony barely waved his hand, and her body froze.

  “What’s going on?” Anthony asked me.

  “Dedrick,” I hissed. “He’s in Maryah’s body.”

  “What?” Anthony circled her, running his hand through his hair. “This takes bedeviling to a new level.”

  “Wait here.” I ran to the guest room and shook Dylan awake from his nap. “I need you to come with me.”

  He rubbed his eyes while scrambling to his feet. “Time to go already?”

  On our way to the bedroom, I updated him.

  “This might work to our advantage,” I explained. “Persuade him to stop all of this. To return the stones, to leave Maryah alone, and to free Rina.”

  Dylan squinted at Maryah’s frozen form. “What makes you think it will work this time? I tried to stop him last lifetime at our wedding, and it didn’t work.”

  “He was in his own body then. Maybe he was pro
tected. Now he’s in Maryah’s body. Please try.”

  Dylan nodded at Anthony to release his hold on time.

  Maryah stumbled forward, but Dylan was already speaking in his distinctive, persuasive tone. “Dedrick, you are finished with this battle now and forever. You will free Rina and never speak to or think about Maryah or any member of our kindrily or any other ever again. You will return all the element stones and cease and desist with any and all plans you had to control people or energy.”

  Maryah’s lips curled upward, but it was Dedrick’s darkness staring back at us. “For a moment, I contemplated pretending your useless power worked on me, but I simply couldn’t keep a straight face.” He spoke in a low grumble that didn’t sound anything like Maryah. “I am so far above you pathetic Elements that I need a telescope to see down to your level.”

  Anthony froze time again, and Maryah’s legs stopped mid-stride.

  “Go get Louise,” Anthony said. “She can tell us when his soul leaves her body.”

  Dylan sunk into the chair. “How can his soul travel anywhere if you’re freezing time?”

  “He might be immune to our powers,” Anthony explained, “but Maryah’s body is not. Eventually he’ll grow bored and go back to where he came from.”

  Or he’ll inhabit someone else. I didn’t express that concern out loud because I didn’t want to give Dedrick any ideas. Dedrick’s body-snatching power meant he could be anyone. We had to be extremely cautious.

  ∞

  Dedrick grew bored of our stalemate within minutes. Louise verified that his filthy aura had departed. She didn’t see any trace of him anywhere, in anyone.

  “If Maryah’s soul were in her body,” I asked Carson, “Do you think Dedrick would be able to possess it?”

  “I’m not sure. I’m still unclear on how he and Rina accomplished that feat to begin with.”

  “Are you thinking of agreeing to Maryah’s plan?” Krista asked. “Traversing her body to where her soul is?”

  “Maybe. I couldn’t ignore River’s warning—or rather Evelyn’s—that Maryah needed her body to survive this. “Dedrick might keep possessing her. Eventually, Anthony won’t have enough strength to keep time frozen.”

  “What if he traps her body there too?” Carson asked.

  “Maryah said she and Rina had a plan. I need to trust that she knows what she’s doing.”

  I stared down at her. Maryah told me this needed to happen in order to save everyone and stop Dedrick. If it were Mary, I wouldn’t have had a choice but to follow her demands. But this was inexperienced and vulnerable Maryah. She was asking me to directly put her in harm’s way.

  I breathed deeply and caressed her cheek. She was asking me to have faith in her.

  Krista touched my arm. “Go with your gut.”

  Carson tucked his hair behind his ears. “Don’t look at me. Even I don’t have the answer to this one.”

  I walked to the dresser and pulled out a pair of leggings, a fleece, and socks then selected the most durable shoes in her closet. Krista helped me dress her. I was sliding her shoe onto her foot when Harmony tapped my shoulder.

  “Screw sneakers. She can borrow these.” She shoved her combat boots at me. “We’re nothing alike except for our foot size.”

  I looked down at her black socks. “Won’t you need them?”

  “I have several pair.”

  “Thank you, Harmony.”

  Krista and I finagled Maryah’s feet into Harmony’s boots and laced them tight.

  I removed Evelyn’s potion from my pocket. I hoped half of the elixir would be enough to travel there and back again. I swallowed the last of it then scooped Maryah’s body into my arms.

  Harmony gave an approving nod, but then her eyes flew open wide. “Nate, wait!”

  We were already gone.

  I landed less than a foot away from Maryah’s radiant soul. She pulsed brightly when she saw me, even brighter when she realized her body was in my arms.

  “You said you needed to physically be here, so here you are.”

  For a moment she stared down at herself like she wasn’t sure how to join herself together, but then her light spiraled into her body. She took in a deep breath, and when I was sure she was whole again, I set her down on her feet.

  “It worked.” She patted her chest and face. “I’m here.”

  “I hope we’re doing the right thing.”

  “Nathan.” She clutched my forearms. “I need to tell you something, but I don’t know how much time we have. Dedrick could come in at any second. If he does, traverse immediately. No matter what we’re talking about. No matter how shocking or unbelievable it is. ”

  “No.”

  “What?”

  “I’m staying.”

  She squeezed my arms tighter. “You can’t!”

  “I can and I am. I’m not leaving you.”

  “That’s not how it works. Rina said you can’t be here.”

  I rolled my shoulders and stood up straight. “Rina is part of the reason I need to be here.”

  She stepped back and searched my eyes. I wasn’t certain of my suspicion until Maryah’s mouth twisted, struggling to find words for such a difficult conversation. Her shoulders slumped with shame, but then she stood tall, already accepting her new responsibility. “You know, don’t you?”

  “I didn’t know when she was visiting us in your body, but the moment I traversed here and saw her for the first time.” I exhaled. I’d been trying to keep my emotions tamed, not knowing whether I wanted it to be true or not. Complications, heartache, blame: Rina’s existence raised so many questions and opened so many old scars. “She’s so much like you. Like you were last lifetime.”

  “You’d do anything to protect her, right?”

  “Of course.”

  “Then go. I’m begging you. It’s the one thing I know has to happen. It’s not that you can’t be here. It’s that we’re going to need you to be somewhere else.”

  “Where?”

  “I don’t know. That part of my intuition isn’t clear.”

  “I won’t be able to traverse to you again. Whatever Dedrick injected me with, it prevents me from traversing. I came here on a limited ticket. I’m not even sure I can traverse again.”

  “Go. Now. Please. Before it’s too late. For Rina.”

  “Do whatever it is you need to do to get out of here.” I stepped closer, staring into her eyes. “We’re on our way. We won’t stop searching until we find you.” She laced her fingers with mine. “I believe in you, Maryah. I’ll see you soon.”

  I used my depleting energy to traverse back to our kindrily.

  They all stood in the weapon room, gathered around the oblong table as if awaiting my return.

  Harmony was sharpening a knife. “We should have hidden a couple of these in my boots for her. I thought of it at the last second.”

  I rubbed my head, cursing myself for not thinking of it myself. I left her there unarmed, and she didn’t need to be. “Maybe I have enough time left to get back to her.”

  Harmony handed me the knife. I clutched it to my chest and closed my eyes. A few sparks of light momentarily blurred my vision, but I didn’t go anywhere.

  “Damn it.” I tossed the knife on the table. “Is the plane ready?”

  Anthony gave one firm nod and handed me my bulletproof vest. I pulled it over my head and tightened the side straps.

  “Weapons are packed too,” Gregory said.

  I glanced at the cabinets lining each wall. The doors had already been closed, but through the fogged glass, I saw silhouettes of guns. I placed my hand in the reader on the wall, and after a few beeps, the fog turned to clear glass, and the locks clicked open. Each cabinet was only half empty.

  “Is the plane at maximum weight capacity?” I asked Anthony.

  “She could hold another few hundred pounds.”

  I threw open the cabinet doors. “Take all you can carry.”

  “Now we’re talking.” Carson rubbe
d his hands together and grabbed two more guns.

  Faith opened the adjacent cabinet and removed her wind-and-fire wheels from their pegs. “Here.” She handed them to Shiloh. “Take these.”

  “Those are your favorite.” He held up his hands, stepping away from her. “You told me I’m never allowed to touch them.”

  “This is a special occasion.”

  “Uh uh, no way. This is just your hormones causing a generous moment. I might lose them, and then I’ll never hear the end of it.”

  Faith grinned. “If you lose them while slicing open Dedrick’s jugular, you will be excused.”

  I loaded a shoulder harness with a Swiss dagger and throwing knife. “I take it you won’t be joining us, Faith?”

  She patted her stomach. “Not with baby Sheila on board.”

  Helen handed me a bottle of cloudy brown water. I didn’t ask what it was, just took a gulp and screwed the cap back on.

  Dylan opened the door to the hangar tunnel.

  “Let’s go, “I said. “One way or another, this ends today.”

  SHATTERING THE GLASS

  Maryah

  It was a confusing thing to hate a part of myself I could barely remember existed, but the self-loathing was still there. I had a child. And I abandoned her, knowing she’d be a prisoner. I wanted to travel back to my previous life and beat some sense into myself.

  I circled the room—my anger, confusion, and regret building with every step.

  I stopped in front of the cabinet, bracing my hands against the frame. I stared at my reflection. “You did this,” I growled. “You got everyone into this mess so you get them out.”

  I felt a little schizo, talking to myself as if I were two people, but whether I was addressing past me or present me, it was still me.

  “Fix it!” I shouted while trying to shake the cabinet, but it was anchored in place. I punched my own palm. I refused to cry. Crying would not help save Rina. Or myself.

  I turned away from my reflection and stared at Harmony’s boots, kicking my heel into the floor over and over. Think, think, come up with something.

  And finally, an idea hit me.

 
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