Shattered Promises Page 1


Why do people laugh? What makes them cry? Smile? What allows them to love? These are the questions I’ve asked myself for nearly the last twenty-one years.

What makes people feel?

I don’t understand what produces emotion and I’m supposed to be writing a paper on human emotion for my Sociology class. I’ve been camped out on a bench in the center of the campus quad, studying the interaction of nearly the entire student body that goes to the University of Wyoming, and I still don’t understand.

What is it? Why do they hold hands? Kiss? Laugh? What the hell is making them look like there are rainbows and sunshine everywhere?

It is a warm fall day and leaves are fluttering across the dry grass. The branches are bare and the air is laced with rain. My jacket is balled up on the bench beside me and ear buds are stuffed into my ears. “Wonderwall” by Oasis plays through the speakers, the lyrics trying to surface an emotion buried deep inside me, but, like usual, it’s just a spark that quickly fades.

I jot some notes about a couple making out on the steps in the front entrance of the main office, which is a large brick building that has a historical look to it. Their hands are all over each other, feeling every inch of one another’s skin, like they want each other more than anything. I don’t get it. I never have. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been able to feel any emotion. Sadness, happiness, love; they are all just words to me. They have no more meaning or importance than the shoes on my feet.

When I was younger, I never thought much about it. I moved through my life like a robot, and I was fine, but lately, at least for the last few days, questions are surfacing. Maybe it is the fact that Professor Fremont, my Sociology professor, has been on a human emotion kick lately. Most of his lectures relate to the drive behind emotion. Perhaps his words have finally stuck the pin into my thoughts.

Why have I never felt anything? Am I broken? Crazy? Or are there just some people who go through life like me—peacefully disconnected?

I scribble the thought down, shut my notebook, and get to my feet, deciding to call it quits for the day. I gather my things into my bag and head across the campus toward my parked car. I used to live in the dorm, but it’s the start of my Senior year and I made the decision to move out on my own. I’m sure it was a huge favor to the person in line to share a dorm with me. I tend to frighten people with my internal impassiveness. I was the same way in high school. Most of my life, I was the outcast weirdo with no friends. It made sense. I mean, how can I make friends when I can’t smile, laugh, or even relate to people?

As I pull my car keys out from my pocket, a nagging feeling overcomes me, like I forgot something on the bench. I glance over my shoulder, squinting against the faint stream of sunlight flowing through the air. The bench is empty. My eyes sweep through the crowd and I get the impression that someone is watching me, but everyone seems to be engulfed in their own business.

Burying the impression, I turn back around and step off the curb. That’s when the heat hits me, like a kick to the stomach. I hunch over and my keys fall to the ground. It hurts, like fire’s melting my skin and scorching my hands, however my skin looks as pale and smooth as it always has. I try to straighten back up, forcing my shoulders upward, but something stabs into the back of my neck. I reach around and feel the warmth of my skin scorching against my trembling fingers. There is something else there, though—something invisible, possessing my body, as if hot liquid spills through my veins and pools inside my heart.

I can’t breathe—can’t stand. My knees buckle and I collapse to the ground, the rocks dig through my jeans, into my skin, and my palms split open as I press them into the ground to hold my weight up. Every bone in my body feels like it is cracking open from the emotional pressure. Every hurtful word, every sad moment, every lonely second I’ve ever experienced pours through me like a rampant river and submerges my body, drowning me in my own tears. My fingers shake as I touch my wet cheeks.

I’m stunned. Shocked. Terrified. Because, for the first time in my life, I’m crying.

Chapter 1

Three months later…

I feel alive as I follow him down the slender hallway, bordered by maroon walls and lit up by antique lanterns. The way he moves with slow, confident strides is hypnotic. My heart knocks inside my chest, excited and nervous. My pulse speeds up when he glances over his shoulder at me. He is gorgeous; dark-brown tousled hair, broad shoulders, bright green eyes. I’m helpless as my legs carry me toward him. Even though I don’t know who he is, it feels like I do. I just can’t place from where.

Music plays from within the building and vibrates against the walls. There is heat in the air and it makes my skin damp beneath the short leather dress I’m wearing. It’s strange because I never wear dresses, but I never walk down empty hallways chasing strangers, either.

He turns to face me, walking backwards, and his tongue slips out of his mouth to wet his full lips. I swear to God, I almost die as the urge to lean forward and bite his lip rushes through my body. I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve never felt much of anything, until now.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asks, pausing at the door at the end of the hallway.

I nod eagerly, even though I have no idea what he wants me to do. “Yes.”

An unhurried smile curves across his lips and the muscles of his arms flex as he shoves open the door. Inside is a small room, with blood-red walls and floors the color of ash. There’s a dresser in the corner, a room divider against the back wall, along with a metal-framed bed.

I press my lips together and cross my arms over my chest, wondering if I’m getting in over my head.

He motions for me to step in as he holds the door open. “Ladies first.”

I enter, fiddling with the bottom of my dress and struggling to keep my balance in my high-heeled boots. “Are you sure they won’t find us here?” I ask, turning in a circle to examine the room.

He closes the door and turns around to face me with his hands behind his back. He studies me intensely and it makes me squirm. “You know, you’re not like I thought you’d be,” he says, taking a step forward. “Yet, at the same time you are.”

“That makes no sense.” I take a step back, trying to blink away from his gaze, but I am trapped by feelings I can’t control.

“It makes perfect sense.” He takes another step and then another. I match his moves until my back brushes the wall. He places a hand on each side of my head, pinning me between his arms and leans forward until there is hardly any space between our lips, our bodies are aligned. “You just don’t know it yet.”

I can smell the faint scent of his cologne and feel the heat emitting from his body. “Are you sure we shouldn’t be running? They won’t stop until they find me.”

He shakes his head with his eyes focused on me. Up close, I can see little specks of blue inside the green and the largeness of his pupils. “We’ll be fine. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Conflicted with whether or not I believe him, I swallow hard. “Are you sure, because…”

He places a finger across my lips. “Shh… When I promise something, I mean it.”

I nod my head and my eyelids flutter from the feel of his skin on my mouth.

“I won’t let anything happen to you.” His finger trails down the front of my neck to my chest and I shiver as he inches closer, closing his eyes.

The first touch of his lips brings an uproar of heat to my skin that surges down my neck and my chest before hitting me straight in the stomach and coiling downward, causing me to let out an embarrassing moan. I start to recoil, but he only seems more eager to kiss me as his tongue slips deep inside my mouth.

The taste of him is familiar and comforting, yet full of danger, want, and need. I feel the back of my neck grow hot with a fire that rips through my body as a hunger possesses me. My head races a million miles a minute with thoughts of getting closer to him. I clutch onto his arms, digging my nails into his skin, drawing a line of blood as I press my body against his. What the hell is happening to me? I’ve never felt this way before. I need to breathe—I need to run… God, but I want to stay.

His hands wander down my body; across my breast to the bottom of my dress. As his fingers graze my bare thigh, he sucks on my tongue and pulls me closer. Gripping my legs, he scoops me up and urges them around his waist. The feel of him pressed up against me makes the fire burn hotter. I’m burning up. I swear I'm literally on fire.

He groans against my mouth, biting at my bottom lip as his hands roam upward beneath my dress and cup my ass. My legs constrict in response and tighten around his hips. His muscles tighten, but his tongue continues to explore my mouth, entangling with my tongue, tasting me, turning me on in ways I don’t understand. God, I want to understand, though. So badly.

“Gemma,” he breathes as his lips kiss a path down my jawline to my neck, where he sucks on my skin, nearly driving me crazy.

“How do you know my name?” I ask as my fingers tangle through his soft hair and my head falls back.

He shakes his head, pulling away for just a second, and his eyes are glazed over. “I don’t.”

I don’t understand what he means, but as his fingers move between my legs, I forget about everything. The spark of his touch causes me to suck in a sharp breath. My chest heaves as I shut my eyes and dig my fingernails into his shoulder blades as more intense emotions emerge. I slide my hands underneath his shirt, feeling the lines of his muscles and the smoothness of his skin.

He laughs against my lips and then his tongue slips back inside my mouth, but it feels different. His lips… they don’t feel the same and there is something on them that feels like cold metal.

I open my eyes and my breath catches in my throat. He’s changed into someone else. His brown hair is now blond with blue tips and a silver ring is looped through his bottom lip. His eyes are bright blue, like the sky, and his skin is as pale as snow.

“Who are you…” I breathe, but I think I know.

The stranger stays silent and leans forward to kiss me. I wonder if there is something wrong with me as his tongue encourages my lips apart and I only clutch onto his lean arms, instead of pulling away. His skin is like ice and he tastes different and exciting. My body feels like it’s going to explode from the torridness. His hands grip my waist, his nails digging into my skin as he draws me closer, crushing my body against his, and my skin beads with sweat. He mutters my name, threading his fingers through my hair and tugging at the roots until my head is tipped back. Then, his mouth moves for my neck. His teeth gently nick at my skin and it stings a little, but feels amazingly good at the same time; like some kind of euphoric venom dancing threw my veins.

As his hands search my body, the warmth of his touch gradually decreases. Instead of heat, I feel cold. His hands wander up the front of my dress, his palms gliding against the leather until he is cupping my breasts. I let out a moan, but numbness consumes me. And the cold. Why am I so cold?

My eyes snap open. Towering behind him is a figure wearing a black cloak with the hood pulled over its head. The eyes are yellow and flash fiercely as it steps forward with its bony hand stretched outward.

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