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Fighting for infinity, p.3
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.3

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  Faith was sitting at the island eating pickles out of the jar while Shiloh smeared peanut butter onto toast.

  Pickle juice dripped down Faith’s chin as she asked, “What’s all the commotion about?”

  “I could see his aura,” Louise said.

  “Whose aura?” Faith and I asked at the same time.

  “Dedrick’s. I’d know that murky evil energy anywhere.”

  “Dedrick?” I tensed, scanning the kitchen as if he’d actually be in our house. “Where?”

  Louise grabbed my wrists, glaring at me over her glasses. “In your room. Not his body, but it sure as hell was his spirit.”

  Faith gasped as I dissolved from Louise’s grip and traversed to the bedroom.

  Carson startled. “Everything okay?”

  “Where is she?” I yelled, circling the bed. “What have you done to her?”

  Carson stood with his hands open in front of him. “I didn’t do anything.”

  “Not you,” I barked. “Dedrick.”

  “Dedrick?”

  Louise opened the bedroom door. Faith and Shiloh stood behind her, peering in with wide eyes.

  “Where is he?” I asked Louise.

  Her jaw shifted and her nostrils flared, but she motioned toward the dresser. I realized, moments too late, that she didn’t want him to know she could see his aura. I was so angry I couldn’t think straight.

  I stomped over to the dresser. “I don’t know how you’re here, but I swear, if you hurt her, if you do anything to jeopardize Maryah’s wellbeing, I will hunt you down like the savage cretin you are, and I will torture you until you beg me to kill you.”

  Silence. It’s not like I expected Dedrick’s soul to reply. I knew how this astral traveling system worked, and astral traveling is what he must have been doing. “Louise, is he in front of me?”

  “Two steps to your left.”

  I sidestepped twice. I could feel his putrid energy tainting the room. How could I have mistaken his energy for Maryah’s? I should have known it wasn’t her, but until now, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible for Dedrick to astral travel. I raised my chin as if I could look him in the eye. My voice came out in a snarl. “Mark my words, Dedrick, you will pay dearly for this.”

  Louise walked up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder. “He’s gone.”

  I opened and closed my fists, which had been clenched at my sides. “For now.”

  I took a deep breath and turned to face the others. We were all at a loss for words. I stared at Maryah lying motionless on the bed, her soul who knows where, somehow being controlled by Dedrick. It was worse than any nightmare I could have imagined.

  “Damn,” Carson muttered. “He must be using Maryah’s power as his own.”

  “How do we stop him?” Krista asked quietly.

  “Carson,” I said, “please tell me your Scion mind has figured out a way to get her soul back into her body.”

  He opened his mouth then shut it again without saying anything. Even Carson couldn’t figure out this one.

  “Gather everyone.” Louise shooed Carson and Krista out of the room. “Immediately.”

  HAND THAT ROBS THE CRADLE

  Maryah

  After what felt like an hour of Rina’s silent head-bowing, and neither one of them answering me, Dedrick opened his eyes and stumbled backward. He looked disoriented, but then he focused on Rina. “Well done. That was nothing like I imagined it to be but still quite a rush.”

  She had let go of me. How she had touched me—my soul—was still a mystery. Keeping her focus on the floor, Rina chewed on her thumb and turned away from us.

  “Cuddling, hmm?” Dedrick said. “I never pegged you for the cuddling type.”

  Cuddling? What was he talking about? I backed as far away from him as I could.

  “And Louise,” Dedrick continued. “I didn’t realize she could see a soul’s aura even while astral traveling. Then again—” He picked something out of his teeth with his fingernail. “I didn’t know Nathaniel would be able to sense me either.”

  He had seen Nathan and Louise?

  Rina stood in the corner. I watched her for a few seconds before it all clicked together. She had put one hand on each of us. Dedrick had miraculously shut up for a while, and even though she hadn’t uttered a word so far, Rina seemed to be doing something while touching me.

  I gasped. Dedrick had astral traveled. He stomped over to me, cornering me against the glass cabinet. I wanted to get away from him, but my only escape would be through him, and the thought of my soul passing through Dedrick’s body made me feel as if my stomach heaved.

  “Quickly.” Dedrick waved his hand for Rina to come back to us. “Again, but this time to someone who won’t be able to sense or see me.”

  She hesitated at first, but Dedrick harshly clapped his hands, and she rushed over.

  “No!” I begged. “Don’t help him.”

  She kept her head down like a timid, abused animal. Dedrick grabbed her arm but fixed his attention on me.

  “Gregory,” he sneered. “You know him well enough now, don’t you? Your lost kindrily member, Harmony’s big strong soul mate, the man who stabbed your brother to death right in front of you. I’m sure you can picture him with precise clarity.”

  His words sent flashes of memories rushing through my mind. The night Dedrick and Gregory attacked my family and me. When I saw Harmony’s old photo of Gregory and realized who he was. The night I walked into the Luna house and saw him restrained on the couch. The loving gleam in his eyes whenever he looked at Harmony.

  Rina pressed her hand against me again. Dedrick’s eyelids fluttered shut.

  I gaped at Rina. “You’re using my power to help him astral travel.”

  She slightly nodded as if answering me.

  “Stop it!” I had finally learned to use my own ability, and now some strange little girl was stealing it so Dedrick could spy on my kindrily. I swung at her with my free arm then tried kicking her, but she didn’t move. Her hand remained locked on my arm like some kind of supernatural glue keeping me stuck in place. “I swear, if you help him and he hurts any of my kindrily, I will destroy you.”

  Her eyes flew open, and she stared at me so intensely I felt her eerie darkness seep into my soul. Her lips slightly puckered. She made no other movement or sound but coldly and silently, she told me to shhh.

  “Like hell, I’ll shhh.”

  She was no longer a scared little girl. She radiated confidence but had the same vehement air as Dedrick. She didn’t have the snakelike eyes that were an indicator of Dedrick’s mind control, but she obviously had power and let Dedrick use it on demand.

  I assessed the room again: no doors, no windows, no rugs on the dirt floor, thick solid stone walls, a flimsy mattress on the floor with one dirty blanket spread across it, and a tattered plastic curtain that hung from the ceiling in the corner. Was it concealing a makeshift bathroom? Did the girl live here in an awful room that felt like the underground ruins of a forgotten basement?

  My attention snapped back to Rina, catching onto the fact she had shushed me seconds ago. That meant she heard me—even though I was only in spirit form. “Hey.” I leaned closer to her dirt-smudged face. “Can you hear me?”

  Her upper lip twitched, and her shoulders rolled, then Dedrick stumbled backward, gasping for air. His hand flew to his chest. Rina fell to her knees, cradling her head in her hands.

  “Why are we back so soon?” Dedrick snarled. “I wasn’t finished!”

  Rina trembled, her arms shielding her head as if she were scared Dedrick might hit her.

  Dedrick squatted beside her. “You’re weak. You better learn to last a lot longer than that or you’ll be of no use to me. And you know what happens when people are of no use to me.”

  Rina shook more visibly. Dedrick grabbed her hair, yanking her head back until her chin almost touched his. She looked on the verge of tears.

  “Do you have anything to say for yourself?” He as
ked. “Shall I fetch you a notepad?”

  She shook her head.

  “But you are very sorry, aren’t you? You will do better next time.”

  Rina nodded.

  “Good girl.” He kissed her cheek then shoved her away. She scurried to the mattress on her hands and knees. Wiping her cheek, she pulled the blanket up to her chin and wouldn’t look at him.

  I didn’t want to imagine what he had done to the poor girl. If he allowed her to live in such a pigsty, he clearly had no regard for her wellbeing. Gregory’s stories of how Dedrick had kept me tied to a bed in my last life made me cringe. What had he done to the cowering girl in the corner? I felt guilty for yelling at her.

  “We’re done here for now.” Dedrick leaned over the burning candle. “Lights out.”

  With one whoosh of breath from his despicable lips, the flame went out. A curtain of black fell around me. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear anything. I felt like I was floating in space—a space with no stars or planets, just nothingness.

  “Hello?” My voice was absorbed by the stillness. Then as quickly as the dark had enveloped me, it lifted. The candle flickered to life, but Dedrick was gone.

  Rina still sat on the mattress in the corner. She wasn’t shaking anymore.

  I inched toward the glass cabinet, studying my glowing reflection more closely. Every curve and feature of my body—even the curved lines of my lips—were blurry but visible. I looked like a hologram of myself. Turning away, I lifted my hands, spreading my shimmering fingers apart. Through them, I could see the flickering candle on the table.

  The candle had remained the same height since I arrived. I floated over to it, noticing the wax never dripped onto its holder. Beads of melting wax ran down the side but then dissolved before gathering on the ring of brass. Where were we, and how was any of this possible?

  I could feel Rina watching every move I made.

  “We’re trapped, aren’t we?” I asked her. “You’re trapped here too.”

  She pressed the ends of her tangled hair to her lips. She didn’t look at me as she leaned forward and used her finger to write something in the dirt floor. She waved me over and pointed at what she had written. You have to get out of here.

  SPIRITING AWAY

  Nathaniel

  Shiloh’s brown eyes changed to a lucent copper as he used the recent enhancement of his ability to scan the house, room by room, for any sign of Dedrick. He massaged his temples, blinked hard, and then shook his head. “Nothing. I don’t see anything suspicious.”

  “Did you check outside?” Faith asked him.

  “Yes, and Edgar and Helen’s cottage. Helen is drying herbs like her usual self.”

  Louise also assured me she didn’t see Dedrick’s aura anywhere, but I was still reeling.

  “How did he pull this off?” I asked Edgar and Louise.

  Edgar tapped his bifocals against his lip while he studied Maryah lying motionless on the bed. “As Carson surmised, it seems he may have harnessed Maryah’s ability.”

  Faith sat at the foot of the bed and rubbed Maryah’s foot through the blanket. “How could he use her power? It’s unheard of.”

  “We can’t be certain that’s what’s happening,” Edgar said. “But it’s the only possibility I can think of. And if that is the case, at least he doesn’t have her body. He can’t physically harm her.”

  “He has her soul,” I argued. That was as equally disturbing, if not more so. “What if she’s trapped? We have no idea where she is, or where Dedrick is. We have to get her back into her body.”

  “Yes,” Edgar agreed. “The looming question is how do we do that?”

  We all glanced at each other, silent because we had no answers. I expressed my next concern. “How long can her body last without her soul in it?”

  Edgar shook his head. “I wish I had an answer for that as well.”

  My stomach lurched. I felt feverish. Dedrick had Maryah again. He was using her power to spy on us. The nightmare of losing Maryah for nearly two decades had just ended, but a new nightmare had begun.

  Krista’s hands stopped hovering over Maryah. “The good news is her body is perfectly fine.”

  “Her body is not fine,” I grumbled. “It’s missing her soul.”

  Harmony stomped into the room with Gregory, Carson, and Dakota trailing behind her.

  “Carson just told us,” Harmony said. “What the hell?”

  Gregory hung back, standing in the threshold of the doorway. His odd stance and the way he kept glancing down the hall captured my attention. I jerked my head, motioning for Harmony to look at him.

  “What is it, Gregory?” she asked.

  His ears pulled back, and he narrowed his eyes. “I think I heard Dedrick.”

  I stiffened. So did everyone else.

  Harmony walked over to Gregory and lowered her voice, but I heard her. “You’re hearing his thoughts right now?”

  “No, earlier, just before Carson came to get us. He said we were reunited love birds that belong in a cage.”

  “Is he still here?” I asked Louise.

  “I wouldn’t have let this conversation continue if he were.”

  Harmony smacked Gregory’s chest. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”

  “I thought maybe I imagined it. I was listening to see if I heard him again. If it was real, I didn’t want him to know I heard him.”

  “We have to gather everyone and warn them to be on high alert,” Carson said.

  “Louise can see his aura,” Edgar noted. “That’s our safety net.”

  Louise took a deep breath and stood up straight. “It looks as though our kindrily will be spending plenty of quality time together. Carson, call Dylan and Amber and tell them to pack their bags. Make sure they don’t speak a word about any of this until they get here. Dedrick could be spying on any of us at any time.”

  Carson’s cell phone was already pressed to his ear.

  Edgar slid his glasses on. “I’ll walk down to the cottage and bring Helen back here for the meeting.”

  Louise sat in the chair beside the bed. “Don’t worry, Nathan, we’ll be on twenty-four-hour watch until Maryah has safely returned.”

  As everyone else scrambled around or out of the room, Dakota sat on the floor, hunched over his sketch pad, drawing furiously. Louise and I exchanged worried glances, but Dakota’s drawing-the-future delusion was the least of our worries.

  ∞

  The candle chandelier burned brightly above the round table. The only kindrily member not present, besides Maryah, was Krista. She stayed in the bedroom on guard duty.

  Twelve sets of eyes had been belting me with pity and concern for over an hour, even Mikey seemed worried. I wanted the meeting to be over. I couldn’t think of anything except getting Maryah home, back into her body. She belonged in her seat beside me, far away from Dedrick.

  “Amber’s right,” Louise said to Dylan. “Dedrick doesn’t need to see a new baby in the family. God only knows what he might do, especially if he finds out Mikey is an Element. You three will stay at your house. The chances of Dedrick spying on you are slim compared to the chance of him seeing Mikey if you’re here.”

  My gaze lingered on Maryah’s empty chair for the hundredth time. I lowered my chin and dug my nails into the table. Where the hell was she and how could we have lost her again?

  “Nathan,” Dylan asked. “You all right?”

  “Nate, we’ll get her back,” Harmony said.

  I exhaled long and purposefully, trying to calm myself, but it didn’t help.

  “Nathan, please say something,” Faith urged.

  Pushing my chair backward, I braced my arms on the table while glowering at Gregory. “Where is she?”

  “I honestly don’t know,” Gregory replied.

  I slammed my fist against the wood surface between us. “You were with Dedrick for two decades! How can you have no idea, not even a hunch, of where he might be?”

  Gregory turned i
n his seat to face me. Harmony grabbed his arm.

  “I’m not going to fight with him,” Gregory told her over his shoulder. “You know me better than that.”

  “Actually,” Harmony muttered. “It’s him I’m worried about.”

  I stepped back, shaking my head and trying to regain my composure. “I’m sorry for punching the table. I’m infuriated, but I shouldn’t take it out on you.”

  “We understand,” Gregory said. “But truly, Nathaniel, I’ve been trying my best to remember a location, any hint of where we lived or might have stayed. I can’t even remember where I slept. The memories of it all have vanished.”

  “Even when he first returned,” Edgar chimed in, “he couldn’t give any specifics of where he had been. I asked every possible trigger question: scenery, smells, sounds, if they’d stayed in a house, a castle, an abandoned warehouse, anything. It was almost as if those details had been purposefully removed from his mind.”

  I sat down, dropping my head into my hands. “How can Dedrick control her soul? If he can pull this off, what else is he capable of?”

  “That’s the frightening part,” Louise said poignantly. “Maryah was our best chance at figuring out what he was up to, and unfortunately he was up to something more powerful than any of us could have guessed.”

  “She didn’t want to find him,” I recalled. “The first time she did, she was terrified. I should have realized her instincts were warning her to stay away from him. This is my fault.”

  Faith slid into Maryah’s empty chair and rubbed my back. “Don’t blame yourself. It’s not true, and your guilt is so strong it’s going to make you sick. We need you to stay strong and healthy.”

  “Let’s brainstorm,” Carson suggested. “There has to be something we haven’t thought of yet.”

  If Carson, the superior intelligent Scion of our kindrily hadn’t thought of anything, then we had no hope. The kindrily’s replies muffled as my temples throbbed. I needed to get away, not run away, I wanted nothing more than to stay by Maryah’s side until she woke up, but I needed air—a serious rush of it.

 
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