Fated 02: Severed, p.9Sarah Alderson
He smiled sadly at her, tracing the back of his hand along her cheekbone. ‘I’m always going to come back,’ he said, before he kissed her, sending a shiver all the way through her body that almost lifted her off the ground.
She broke away after a minute and looked up at him again. ‘What’s it like when you fade?’
He thought about it for a few seconds before he answered. ‘It’s like sheltering from a storm.’
‘Do you prefer it – being invisible?’
He studied her, his eyes narrowing slightly. ‘I used to.’
‘What happens when you die?’ The question tumbled out of her before she could stop it. She instantly regretted it and her gaze fell to the floor.
‘Hey, hey.’ His hand was under her chin, forcing it back up. His eyes were the exact same colour as an early winter sky. ‘I’m not going to die. At least,’ he smiled at her, ‘not for a while.’
‘But when you – I mean unhumans – when you die, what happens?’
‘Our bodies cross back to the Shadowlands or whichever realm we come from.’ He shrugged slightly, ‘I’m not sure where I’ll go, being half human.’
It was her turn to frown.
‘Why are we talking about this?’ he asked quickly. ‘Let’s focus on staying alive, OK? Not on dying.’ He let go of her hand and started pacing the room. ‘Cyrus’s mother, Margaret,’ he said as he walked. ‘She must have known your parents – your real parents.’
Evie tipped her head to one side. ‘My parents?’
‘Yes, in the book,’ Lucas said, stopping in front of her. ‘I remember seeing it too.’
Evie shook her head, scrunching her eyes shut. When she opened them he had started pacing once more – moving so fast he was a blur. ‘You read the book? When?’ she demanded.
Lucas stopped pacing. He looked guiltily her way. ‘I was spying on you, remember?’ he answered, giving her a tentative smile.
‘You went through my stuff?’
He weighed his answer. ‘It wasn’t like I went through your underwear drawer.’ Colour slowly infused his face. He had so been through her underwear drawer, and she knew it. That was where she’d hidden the damn book before she’d moved it under her bed for safer keeping.
‘OK,’ he admitted, ‘I went through your underwear drawer but I wasn’t looking for your underwear, I didn’t even notice your underwear.’ His head was ducked and he was looking up at her through his lashes, giving her a cheeky half smile. He had so noticed her underwear.
‘Aha,’ she said nodding. ‘What else did you spy on?’
His face turned anxious but then he saw her amused smile and his shoulders visibly relaxed.
‘Nothing,’ he answered, holding her gaze. ‘I do have some notions of chivalry. I wasn’t about to follow you into the shower.’
She raised her eyebrows at him.
‘Anyway,’ he said, clearing his throat, ‘I think you should be glad I was spying on you; otherwise you might have lost more than the tip of your ear out in that cornfield. Not to mention the fact you would have drowned if I hadn’t been at the pond.’
Her gaze dropped instantly to her left hand, on the ring finger of which was a thin gold band. Her mother’s wedding ring, which Victor had tossed into the pond and made her dive for. The ring that Lucas had gone back for, risking hypothermia to retrieve.
A silence fell. Vero’s cries seemed to grow louder to fill it, making Evie wince and her stomach squeeze tight. Suddenly she was buried against Lucas’s chest, her mouth pressed against the warm skin at the base of his throat. ‘I’m sorry,’ he murmured, his lips brushing her hair.
She rocked back on her heels and looked up at him. ‘Sorry? About what?’
‘About Issa. About what happened. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to that Scorpio first.’
Evie took hold of Lucas’s forearms and pushed him backwards. His hands fell to his sides and a look passed across his face that made her want to kiss him or, at the very least, to press her fingers to his lips and make him stop talking. There was so much guilt and pain in his expression.
‘Lucas,’ she said with a sigh, wondering if he’d ever be free of all that pain, ‘you can’t stop any of this. It’s happening. There’s nothing you or I can do about it. I’m sorry too. I hate Issa for what she did. But maybe she was right.’ She let go of Lucas’s arms and walked away, towards the bed so he wouldn’t see her face.
‘About what?’ Lucas demanded, appearing in front of her again, blocking her path.
She stepped around him and sank down onto the bottom bunk, dropping her head into her hands.
‘Maybe she’s right about who I am,’ she murmured. ‘There I was thinking that my real parents were right, that I could choose who I was, that I could choose not to be a Hunter, that the whole White Light thing was just a load of crap.’ She looked up suddenly and saw he was frowning hard at her, his eyes almost black in the darkened room. ‘But who am I kidding? It is who I am. It’s exactly who I am.’ She paused.
Lucas didn’t say a word. He just continued to stare at her.
‘Anyway,’ she said, forcing lightness into her voice, ‘now you don’t have to worry about me so much. I can look after myself. I can fight.’ She pushed her hair back from her forehead where the cut had already faded to just a faint pink line. ‘Look, I’ve almost healed. Victor said I would be stronger, quicker, better able to heal.’
Lucas dropped to his knees, pulling her hand away from her forehead and taking it between both of his own. ‘Evie …’
She shook her head. ‘It’s done, Lucas. What’s the point in talking about it? I feel fine. I feel great in fact.’
She turned away so he wouldn’t see that actually she didn’t feel fine at all. She felt like she had a knife buried in her chest and that someone was slowly cranking it three sixty. She had killed someone. It didn’t matter that it was a Scorpio. She had killed someone. But having a breakdown or getting all existential about it wasn’t exactly tactful in front of someone who killed for a living. Who’d killed for her in fact – to protect her. And besides, it was better this way. She really believed that. If she was stronger, then Lucas would be safer. He wouldn’t have to watch her back all the time like he had been doing.
‘Evie, your first kill,’ Lucas said, his voice strange-sounding, ‘it does something to you.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ she said bouncing to her feet. ‘I feel amazing. It’s like I just got contacts or something after being short-sighted my whole life. And my body – it’s buzzing. I can hear everything – I can hear the fridge humming for Chrissake – I can hear the faucet dripping in the bathroom. Do you hear that?’ She left out the obvious sound of Vero’s sobs coming at them unevenly through the walls because you didn’t need supersonic hearing to hear those. ‘It’s amazing,’ she said, spinning around. ‘Victor was right. I wonder why? Why is that? Why does killing someone make you suddenly into this superhuman? That’s weird, right? Does that not strike you as a little odd? It shouldn’t endow you with power. It should take it away. It doesn’t seem right.’ She was aware she was pacing the room as she talked, could hear her voice getting shriller and shriller and wished she could shut up.
Lucas appeared in her way once more, causing her to pull up short. She trailed off, her head turning left and right as she unconsciously tried to figure out how to get around him so she could continue pacing. ‘Yeah, strange,’ she muttered to herself.
‘Evie, it’s OK,’ Lucas said gently.
‘I know it’s OK,’ she snapped at him.
His face fell.
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ she said quickly. ‘I just … I …’ She stopped and looked up at him, unable to find the words.
‘I know,’ he said softly. ‘I felt the same after my first kill.’
She tilted her head to study him better. They’d never really spoken about Lucas’s life before she met him. Now, looking up at him, she realised how completely self-centred she was being. Here she was yapping on about
She let Lucas pull her over to the bed and slumped down on it. He sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. His fingers began massaging the base of her neck, rubbing away the tension.
‘Tell me about you,’ she said after a minute or so had passed. ‘Tell me what it was like for you.’
He took a deep breath. She leant into him automatically, breathing in his smell, layered now and more complex; smoke and a faint metallic hint of blood rising over the normal, warmer summer scent of citrus. Through the thin cotton of his T-shirt she could feel the pulse of his blood beneath his ribs. Her fingertips stroked the inside of his wrist up to his elbow, feeling his skin contract in a shiver. There was a fine, almost invisible lattice of scars running over his arms that her fingers began tracing almost without thinking. She felt his heart rate increasing beneath her ear, his breath on her neck becoming shallower and faster.
‘I always knew I was half Shadow Warrior,’ he began quietly. ‘My father had to start training me young. And Flic. To make sure we didn’t make a mistake and give ourselves away. He wanted us to grow up in the human world – be human – or as human as we could be.’
‘How did he meet your mother?’ Evie asked, her head buried beneath his chin. She liked sitting like this, hearing his heart strong and loud beneath her ear and the rough texture of his voice in his chest.
‘He met her here in LA,’ he answered. ‘He was young. He was a bounty hunter at the time.’
She sat up. A bounty hunter? Images borrowed from apocalyptic films involving men with bushy beards, large motorcycles and semi-automatic weapons leapt into her mind. She didn’t think that was what he meant though. ‘What exactly is a bounty hunter?’ she asked.
He smiled at her. ‘They’re unhumans, operating outside the Brotherhood, kind of like policemen, but for our kind. They hunt down those unhumans who have broken the rules and they bring them back to face justice.’
‘There are rules? There’s a justice system where you come from?’
‘Kind of. I mean not in any sense of the word that you understand. The rules are things like: don’t eat other unhumans, don’t kill without justification, don’t let a human see you shift, Sybll aren’t allowed to interfere in others’ lives – that sort of thing. You break them, particularly the revelation law, and you have to answer to the Elders. The punishment is usually banishment to another realm. Normally the Thirster realm.’
‘What’s the revelation law?’
‘No unhuman is allowed to reveal himself to a human.’
Evie grinned. ‘Who are the Elders?’
‘The Elders are a council of older unhumans,’ Lucas continued, choosing to ignore her grin. ‘One representative from every realm. They preside over all the realms. They have done ever since the massacre of the Originals.’
‘Roughly a millennium ago the Originals tried to gain control of all the realms, including this one.’
‘They exist? Originals? I thought they were just a myth.’
‘No, they exist, but only a few of them are left. It took a whole army of Shadow Warriors and Shapeshifters to put them down. The Originals are like Thirsters, only ten times stronger. It was the first time that the realms all had to unite to fight one common enemy. After, what was left of the Originals were banished to the Thirster realm and the Elders were elected to oversee the Brotherhood, which was created to put down any threats to unhumans or to the realms – namely Hunters. Now they’re …’ he stopped suddenly.
‘They’re what?’ she asked.
‘Nothing,’ he answered quickly. ‘Just that they’re going to be looking for us.’
Evie studied him carefully, suddenly unsure. Was he hiding something from her? She looked into his eyes, searching, but all she could see was herself reflected in the grey. She put both hands on his shoulders and leaning against him pushed him backwards onto the bed. He resisted at first, shooting her a puzzled look. But she ignored it and kept pushing until he eventually gave in and lay down. She scooted over and lay down next to him, feeling his arm come automatically around her. She was struck by just how quickly and how easily they’d fallen into being with each other – completely comfortable in each other’s arms, with no inhibition or embarrassment. It was like she belonged there.
‘Tell me about when you were younger,’ she whispered. ‘What were you like?’
He laughed under his breath. ‘What was I like? A loner. I mean, my mum and dad moved us to Iowa to live with my grandmother when I was about five.’
‘Flic didn’t get on so well in school. We were living here in LA at the time. She’s a year older than me. She started school first and she’s a little hot headed – in case you hadn’t noticed. Her first week at school she managed to give another kid concussion and disappear a few times. It was a hard one for the teachers to overlook, so my parents decided to homeschool us both from that point on.’
‘Oh,’ Evie said, not knowing what else to say.
‘And homeschooling for my dad meant teaching us how to fight. My mum was all about the Shakespeare but my dad was all about the kickboxing.’
‘Because I guess he saw that one day we’d need it. Your dad did the same, right? Taught you self-defence?’
‘Yes, but not because he thought one day I might need to protect myself from unhumans.’
‘No, just from boys with less than honourable intentions.’
Evie smiled against his shoulder, ‘You better watch out then,’ she whispered.
Lucas laughed under his breath. ‘My intentions are fully honourable,’ he answered, his lips pressed to the top of her ear.
‘And your mum? How did she feel about it?’ Evie asked, trying to suppress the shivers riding up her spine. Now was really not the time.
Lucas sighed, ‘She wasn’t happy. I mean, who would be? We were kids and he was teaching us how to fight. But I think she understood that he was just trying to keep us safe. You see, he’d broken the rules by marrying a human. And by having us they broke another rule. No cross-breeding with humans. It’s absolutely forbidden.’
‘Wow,’ Evie said, ‘that’s a liberal and progressive bunch of Elders you’ve got there.’
She felt Lucas shrug. ‘It’s not just the Elders. The Hunters too forbid it.’
Evie took a deep breath in. Lucky she was no longer a Hunter then.
‘I think my father knew that one day the Elders would catch up with him,’ Lucas continued, ‘but in the end it was the Hunters who found us first. Victor. And he didn’t kill my father – not then, at least. He killed my mother.’
Evie tried to keep her breathing steady. ‘Is that why your father joined the Brotherhood?’ she asked. ‘To get revenge?’
‘Yes. And no. I think he was torn between going off and trying to hunt Victor down and staying with us and trying to protect us. But then the Elders found out about us …’ Lucas paused.
‘What happened?’ Evie asked after a few moments of silence.
‘Instead of punishing my dad for breaking the rules – which would have been banishment for him and God knows what for us – they gave him the choice to join the Brotherhood. They needed a Shadow Warrior and with him they had a Shadow Warrior with a cause. He left Flic and me in Iowa with my grandmother and he went off to fight. Then he got killed too.’ Evie heard the catch in his voice but he moved quickly on. ‘Flic and I moved to LA as soon as we could. She wanted to come here and I didn’t want her to be by herself. I finished High School here.’
Evie smiled to herself at the thought of Lucas in High School. She could just imagine the stir he must have caused among the entire female student body.
There was a long pause before Evie spoke. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. It was the only thing she could think to say.
‘There’s nothing for you to be sorry about,’ Lucas said, clasping her fingers in his own. ‘Sometimes in life you have to choose one path over another. The hard path over the easy one. And the hard one leads us past places we don’t necessarily want to go. But at the end, you realise that if you hadn’t taken that path, past the bad stuff, you’d never have got to the point you’re at. To the place where you’re supposed to be.’ He took a breath, rolling onto his side to look at her. ‘And right here, with you, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.’
Evie pressed her lips together and took in the expression on his face, the sadness buried deep in his eyes, but the layers of warmth on the surface. Then her gaze tracked to his lips and lingered there. She let out a long, slow breath. ‘So, who’s on top?’ she asked.
Evie padded her way down the hallway towards the kitchen, stepping between the squares of sunlight thrown onto the floor. Judging from the shortness of the shadows and the white glare of the light it was late morning already. She’d left Lucas sleeping, had uncurled herself from his arms and prised herself off the bed. She’d never before seen him sleep. Watching him unobserved felt like she was stealing something from him. There was an innocence about Lucas when he slept. He seemed like a child – his brow smooth, his breathing regular, his lips parted ever so slightly. Though when she swept her eyes over the rest of him, Evie decided that there was also something languorous and fully adult about him as well. The way his body lay when fully relaxed, one arm flung across his chest, the other dangling over the side of the bed, his legs kicked out, one bent at the knee. When he was awake he was always so fully alert, the lines of his body locked rigid and taut, his eyes always darting this way and that, watchful and suspicious.
Fated 02: Severed by Sarah Alderson / Romance & Love / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes