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Fighting for infinity, p.25
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.25

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  I tugged on the padlock attached to the cabinet of drugs, but it was thick and solidly locked.

  I grabbed Rina’s book from the table, lifted it over my head, took three strides toward the cabinet, and shattered the glass.

  ∞

  Dedrick would return. He had to.

  I was pretty sure I had thought of everything, right down to erasing my shoeprints from the dirt floor. My back ached form being scrunched up in the corner, and I really had to pee. I glanced at the science experiment of a toilet less than a foot away from me and clenched my thighs together. I could hold it.

  While sitting there, staring at the shower curtain and waiting, I replayed everything over and over, trying to self-induce an epiphany. How did Rina traverse? Did it have something to do with her being Nathan’s daughter?

  Eventually, the room went dark. I tried to steady my nerves. I flexed my fingers. I felt like a caged animal ready to attack.

  Instead of Dedrick’s voice, I heard River’s. “Where is she?”

  “I’ll be back soon,” Evelyn said.

  The room went dark again, and when the candle glow returned, I stood and stepped out from behind the curtain.

  River’s eyes bugged. “You’re here. All of you.”

  Not all of me. I desperately needed the old me’s memories so I could figure out how to get us out of here. “So it seems.”

  “Where’s Rina?” River asked.

  My voice came out defeated. “I don’t know. Dedrick took her away.”

  Part of me wanted to tell him how important Rina was to me. I wanted to tell him the revelation that had just rocked every fiber of my being. But it was too complicated to explain.

  “Nathan traversed you here?” River asked.

  “Yeah.”

  “You’re here because of me, you know. I helped him escape.”

  “You did?” I couldn’t picture Nathan willingly accepting help from River. “How?”

  “Evelyn had some magic potion that allowed him to traverse. I snuck it to him.”

  “Magic potion.” The words felt so unnatural on my lips. “Thanks for helping him.”

  “No problem.”

  I leaned against the wall. “Did you ever think we’d be discussing magic potions and traversing while being held captive in some hidden underworld?”

  “Never. It’s still unnerving. All of it.”

  I glanced at the shattered glass cabinet. None of the bottles had been labeled. All I knew was Dedrick used the pale yellow one to put Rina to sleep. “Can Evelyn get us more of that potion?”

  “That was all she had. She said she’d been saving it for a long time, and she was insistent that I could not spill a drop.”

  “Figures.” I slid down the wall and sat on Rina’s mattress.

  “Aren’t you worried your body will be stuck here too?”

  “It doesn’t matter. I need to be here, body and soul, if we have any chance of breaking out.”

  “We?”

  “Rina, me, and you.”

  “You’re still willing to help me?”

  “I promised you I would.”

  He sat next to me but at a respectful distance. “I figured Nathan would have talked you out of it by now.”

  “Nathan doesn’t make decisions for me. Besides, you helped him get out of here. I’d say he owes you one. A big one.”

  River raised a brow then nodded. “If we do escape, if this nightmare with Dedrick ever ends, I really hope we can stay friends.”

  I snorted with surprise. “That’s asking a little too much of me. When we get out of here, we go our separate ways, and you leave me and my kindrily alone. Forever.”

  “Right.” His shoulders slumped forward. “I understand. I’ll stay away.”

  I pulled my knees to my chest. What if he truly didn’t remember the night at Montezuma Well? I knew firsthand how frustrating it was to not remember things I had done. Nineteen lifetimes worth. I couldn’t even remember having a daughter and abandoning her.

  “We did have some good times though, right?” he asked. “Before the night in question.”

  “Yeah.” I picked at a loose thread on the mattress. “I guess so.”

  “I still remember the look on your face when I sang you that song on Valentine’s Day.”

  “That was so embarrassing.”

  River leaned his head back against the wall. “Tell me about it. I felt like such a loser when you ran out of there almost throwing up.”

  “That wasn’t the only time I almost threw up. How about on my birthday when you tried kissing me right after that slutty redhead left your house?”

  His smile vanished and he squinted. “What redhead?”

  “You know, the day I came over and confided in you about my kindrily. You were hungover but not that hungover.”

  He studied the section of blanket between us then his eyes lifted to meet mine. “Maryah, I have never tried to kiss you.”

  “Liar. You tried the day we ditched school too. In your car, you said you wanted to spoil me rotten. And the morning after your drunk escapade with Little Red Riding Whore, your lips actually made contact.” I shoved his shoulder. “You tasted like beer. It was right before I fell asleep, and when I woke up, you took me to...” I gulped. “Montezuma Well.”

  River stared at me, biting his lip. He shifted so he was facing me. “No.”

  “You’re denying it?”

  “I’m telling you I never tried to kiss you.”

  “Is this part of your mental problems? I thought you said you were just playing along with the doctor.” The serious look on his face made me stop smiling. “Okay, if it wasn’t you, who was it?”

  His eyes blazed with anger. “Exactly.”

  My breath caught in my throat. “You’re saying you think it could have been Dedrick?”

  “It all makes sense!” River jumped to his feet. “That’s why I don’t remember anything the cops told me. If you asked me to swear on a Bible, I’d swear that I wasn’t at Montezuma Well with you that night. I have no memory of any of it, Maryah. None. And shouldn’t I? I mean, even if I totally snapped like that doctor said, wouldn’t almost killing one of my best friends stick in my mind at least a tiny bit?” He paced, but he paused to look at me. “And I can tell you another thing. If we had ever kissed, I would remember it.”

  “You think Dedrick took over your body?” Dedrick used River’s body the same way Rina used mine. Why hadn’t I thought of it sooner?

  “It’s the only explanation. I knew it!” River clasped his hands behind his head and sighed with relief. “While I was in jail, I mentally tortured myself wondering how I could have ever hurt you. But it wasn’t me!”

  So many conversations and events with River poured through my mind. Which parts were River and which were Dedrick?

  “April,” I murmured, “Why did you break up with April?”

  Sadness glistened in his eyes. “That’s another thing. I could never remember actually breaking up with her. I called her on New Year’s Day, thinking everything was fine, and she yelled at me. I drank a lot the night before, and I was really hungover. I told her I didn’t remember breaking up. She asked how I could have forgotten that I told her I was in love with you. I was so confused.”

  “He broke up with her. Dedrick. It wasn’t you?”

  River’s head dropped into his hands. “What a mess. I felt so insane. I was almost convinced I was losing it. I’d have spells where people swore I had said or done something that I didn’t remember. Like the thing about you. I thought maybe it was one of those times where the truth comes out because you’re drunk. Like maybe I really did have feelings for you, but I didn’t admit it until I was wasted.” He lifted his head. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think I ever wanted anything more than a friendship with you.”

  “But that song you sang to me on Valentine’s Day. You remember that. That was you at the restaurant, right?”

  “I do remember that, but—” H
e paused. “I don’t remember writing that song, which has always freaked me out, because I don’t forget anything when it comes to my music.”

  More moments with River popped into my head. “The first day of school. In music class. You sat in front of me and told me something about how my eyes haunted you or something like that.”

  River nodded. “I saw a video clip of it.”

  “You or him?”

  River took a ragged breath. “That’s when it started. That’s when I assumed the drinking and drugs had finally killed too many brain cells. I couldn’t remember anything that happened in that video. I even searched the Internet to see if too much tequila caused long-term memory loss.”

  I was dumbfounded. How many times had I been with Dedrick when I thought it was River?

  My head snapped up. “The night you came to my house. Nathan and I were in my driveway. He had just given me my Desoto. You kicked the candles away and were really possessive of me and rude to him.”

  River was silent for only a moment, but that moment seemed to stretch out like poisoned taffy. “Not me.”

  I felt dizzy. Dedrick had stood face to face with Nathan. He clutched his shoulder at one point, asked him to carry my roses into the house. Dedrick had been there, right in front of him, interacting with both of us, and Nathan didn’t know it.

  “Why didn’t he know?” I mumbled, still shook up by how deceived we had been. He was so close to us so many times, and none of us knew it. “Nathan said they can tell who a soul is by looking into their eyes. It’s why we wear sunglasses everywhere. He looked right at you—at Dedrick. Why didn’t he know it wasn’t your soul in your body?”

  River touched his temples. “My contacts.”

  “Contacts? That shouldn’t make a difference.”

  River’s gaze met mine. “They’d make a difference if they were supplied to me by Dedrick.”

  “You wear them all the time?”

  He nodded. “I have to. I’m practically blind without them.”

  “Holy hell,” I said.

  River nodded in agreement.

  “Dedrick could be anyone.” I had to warn the others. Dedrick might possess someone else’s body, throw in some soul-shielding contacts, and pretend to be them. Or worse yet, physically harm them. “I have to tell my kindrily.”

  I stretched out on the mattress. River stood above me, his head tilting as his brow wrinkled. “How will you tell them?”

  “I’ll only be a few minutes.”

  “But—?”

  I envisioned Nathan’s green eyes and ended up on the plane. I glanced around. Almost everyone was on board. I was practically sitting on Gregory’s lap. Nathan sat across from us. “Nathan, Dedrick can possess other people’s bodies.”

  He stared out the window, not acknowledging me at all.

  He couldn’t hear me. No one could. I had left my body.

  What was I doing? I had become so used to astral traveling back to my body to relay messages that I confused the two.

  I sailed through the cabin toward the front of the plane where Louise was sitting. Her hands were folded in her lap, and her eyes were closed. “Louise?” I waved my hands in front of her. “Open your eyes. See my aura. Realize something is wrong.”

  I tried shoving her, patting her cheek, but my efforts had no effect. “This sucks so bad.”

  I went back to Nathan and yelled his name as loud as I could. My voice was swallowed by the roar of the jet’s engines. I turned around to face Gregory. He said he could hear my thoughts from a distance; maybe he could hear my soul too.

  I leaned down, almost butting my nose against his. “Gregory! Can you hear me?”

  He reached next to him and held Harmony’s hand but showed no sign of hearing me.

  I’d have to figure out another way to tell them. I reconnected to my body and traveled back to River.

  He was squatting over me, shaking my arm. “About time! Come on. We only have a few minutes.”

  “A few minutes for what?”

  He yanked me to my feet. “To find Rina and get out of here.”

  “Rina? Where is she?” I froze when a wooden door opened to a hallway. “Where did the door come from?”

  “Apparently, it’s been there the whole time. Evelyn creates illusions.”

  He ran ahead, practically dragging me behind him at first, but then my adrenaline pumped to full blast, and my feet wouldn’t move fast enough.

  “Where’s Rina?” I whispered as we raced down a dim hall.

  “There’s a steel cage down this corridor and to the left.”

  “A cage?” A real cage?

  We turned left and continued down an even darker hallway. There was a cage—with Rina passed out inside. Just weeks ago Harmony had described how she felt about Dedrick having Gregory as his prisoner. Now I understood what she meant.

  “How will we get her out?”

  River pulled out an old key and grinned.

  “Wow,” I said. “Evelyn thought of everything.”

  His brows furrowed like maybe he was upset that I was giving Evelyn all the credit instead of him.

  “Go on,” I urged. “Unlock it.”

  STICKS AND STONES

  Maryah

  The lock opened with a deafening click. I swung the steel door open and ran inside, struggling to lift her limp body into my arms.

  “This way.” River waved me down a hall. “It’s the only way out.”

  Rina was heavier than she looked, or maybe my muscles weren’t as strong because I hadn’t been using my body much. I had trouble keeping up with River.

  “Let me take her.”

  “No.” I adjusted my arms to shift her weight. “I’ve got her.”

  He turned and proceeded down the hall. We came to a wooden door, and he pushed it open. “In there.”

  He practically shoved me inside. I stumbled, but regained my footing and set Rina on the floor as he pulled the door closed behind us. The room was too dark to see anything.

  “I thought you said this was the way out.”

  “It is, but shhh,” River hushed me. “I heard someone coming down the hall.”

  My heart sped up at the thought of getting caught. We couldn’t get caught. This was our only chance to escape. If Dedrick found out we’d come this close, he’d figure out a way to trap us with an even tighter rein.

  A small light clicked on, illuminating the room. River pointed a flashlight at me, and I swatted it away. “Are you trying to blind me?”

  “Sorry.”

  I adjusted Rina so her head was resting on my thighs and smoothed her hair from her face.

  “Is someone out there?” I asked River. My pulse hammered so loud in my ears I wouldn’t have been able to hear a parade outside.

  He pressed his ear to the door. “I can’t hear anything, but we should wait a minute or two to be safe.”

  I gazed down at poor Rina. She was breathing, thank the heavens, but how long would she be out? She told me we needed to work together to escape, and working together would be tough with her unconscious.

  “What else did Evelyn say?” River shined the flashlight in my face.

  I shielded my eyes. “How would I know? She told you way more than she ever told me.”

  “But she didn’t tell me everything.” He crouched beside me. “This has been stressful, hasn’t it? All this drama and not knowing who to trust.”

  “Stressful doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

  “May I point out an obvious fact that you may not have considered?”

  “Sure.”

  “Nathaniel isn’t here. He’s not coming to your rescue like a real man would.”

  “What?” I gaped at him. “He tried to be here. I made him leave.”

  He hesitated then brushed something off my shoulder. “Have you asked yourself why you didn’t want him here?”

  I leaned away as far as I could while still watching Rina for any signs of waking up. “Because I didn’t want him to get
hurt or trapped again.”

  River took my hand then flipped it over. “I can give you so much more than he ever could.” He traced a heart on my palm.

  The bottom dropped out of my stomach. Flashbacks of the all too familiar night at Montezuma Well washed over me. River had traced a heart on my palm. Only it wasn’t River then, and it wasn’t River now. The walls closed in around me as I struggled to breathe. “Dedrick.”

  “Why such contempt when you speak my name?”

  “Because I despise you.”

  He gripped my hand so hard it hurt. “I’ve explained our history. You’ve seen the lengths I have gone to be with you. All of your animosity for me is built on lies your kindrily told you. Long ago, I was your true love, and I always will be.”

  I yanked my hand free. “You are delusional.”

  “I don’t care how many times you erase, or what name you go by, my soul recognizes and loves your soul as it always has. This—” He motioned to River’s body. “It’s just a vessel. I realize it’s hard for you to look at me and not see the man who was present the night your parents were killed. I can continue inhabiting River’s body to make it easier on you.”

  “Are you insane? You can’t just steal people’s bodies. And you tried to kill me while in River’s body too.” I squinted, trying to see any difference in River’s eyes now that Dedrick’s soul was present. “You claim you love me, that you believe I’m Emily reincarnated, so why did you try to kill me at Montezuma Well.”

  Pure evil stared back at me. “I told you, I realized I no longer needed your body. If you kept running back to your pathetic Nathaniel it would only make using your power more difficult. I was so close to capturing your soul that night. Your irksome kindrily would have believed you were dead and left us alone, but as always, Nathaniel ruined everything.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Once you came to your senses, we would have found you a new body, preferably one taller and darker. I always did prefer brunettes.”

  I shook my head, disgusted. “You’re a monster no matter what form you take.”

  “Monster is a term mistakenly given to unique and powerful beings. Can’t you see how powerful I am? The world was mine for the taking, and I took it.”

 
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