The Underworld Page 2

My bare feet hammered against the stairs as I charged down them. There was a door just at the bottom, and the sunlight spilled through a small window at the top of it. If I could just make it outside, then I could run away to…Well, I really hadn’t gotten that far in my escape plan. All I knew was that I was going to run away from this madness. I was sick of the lies and the secrets. I was sick of monsters and people trying to harm me.

I reached the bottom of the stairs, my hand extended out to the doorknob. Just a few steps and I’d be overtaken with the warm Vegas air and sunshine.

“Gemma,” a voice said from beside of me.

I jumped, my heart racing. For a split second I thought I was dead. That the person who’d said my name would be Stephan.

But, thankfully, it wasn’t.

“What the heck?” Laylen said breathlessly, his hand pressed over his heart. “You scared the heck out of me.”

“You scared the heck out of me,” I told him, equally as breathless.

His bright blue eyes stared at me in astonishment, almost as if he couldn’t quite believe I was standing here.

Trust me, I felt the very same way.

For a moment, I just stood there, taking in the sight of him. His blonde hair, the tips dyed a bright blue. The dark red shade of his lips with a silver ring looped through the bottom. The mark of immortality tattooing across the pale skin of his forearm. It was such a relief to see him. I had so much I wanted to tell him and so many questions I wanted to ask.

“Are you alright?” He eyed me over as if he were checking to see if I was broken. “What were you running from?”

“I was—”

“From me,” Alex’s voice drifted up from behind me.

I spun around and scooted closer to Laylen.

Alex, in typical Alex style, strolled lazily down the stairs, as if he had thought I’d never actually run away. “I don’t understand why you have to be so difficult,” he said, his eyes locked on me like a target, the sparks reacting with such eagerness that my legs felt a little weak. “I told you I’d tell you what was going on. There’s no reason to try and run away.”

“There’s no reason to try and run away,” I said exasperatedly. “Are you kidding me?”

He frowned as he reached the bottom of the stairs. As he walked closer to me, I inched myself closer to Laylen. So close in fact that my shoulder bumped into his.

Alex’s eyebrows dipped down as he stopped just short of me. “What do you think I’m going to do to you, Gemma? Hurt you?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I never know anything when it comes to you.”

He glowered at me, and I glowered right back, the electricity heating hotter and hotter the longer our eyes stayed on one another.

“Gemma,” Laylen said, and for the second time in just a few short minutes I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Everything’s okay. No one here’s going to hurt you.”

I looked up at him. And I mean it, I really had to look up because Laylen is like six foot four. “Everything’s okay?” I asked with skepticism. “Really?”

He nodded. “Yeah, let’s go sit down, and Alex and I will explain everything that’s happened.”

I casted a quick glance at Alex, and then looked back at Laylen. “I want you to explain it to me.”

“Gemma, I already said I’d tell you the truth.” Alex sounded irritated.

I opened my mouth to tell him that I really didn’t care what he said he’d do. And that he was a liar. But Laylen spoke before I got the chance.

“Alex, you really can’t blame her for not trusting you.” He paused, deliberating something very charily. “After what you did.”

That, of course, pissed Alex off. “I didn’t do anything. And you have some nerve for saying that I did.”

Laylen got this look on his face that I could tell meant he was about to say something that might start a fight. And Alex looked completely ready to fight back. That’s what these two did sometimes; they got into arguments that became more heated the more they opened their mouths.

But I didn’t have time for this right now. I needed to know what went on back at the cabin, after I’d…blacked out?

“Can’t you just tell me what happened?” I begged Laylen. “Please. I trust you more than I trust him.” In fact, I don’t trust him at all.

Laylen glanced at Alex, who shot him a dirty look, and returned his bright blue eyes on me. “Yeah, okay. I’ll tell you what I know.”

“Thank you,” I said, feeling slightly less anxious. But still anxious enough that my legs were wobbly.

Laylen motioned for me to follow him as he swept through a beaded-curtain doorway, which led us into a living room with dark blue walls that were decorated with shelves holding odd looking knickknacks. Black and white tile checkerboarded the floor, and a set of purple velvet couches centered the room, along with an apothecary table topped with black candles.

Hmm…I was getting a weird sense of déjà vu with this room. Then it dawned on me. “Is this Adessa’s house?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Laylen took a seat on one of the purple velvet sofas. “Which is actually attached to her store.”

I sat down next to him, and Alex, looking annoyed, dropped down in the chair across from us.

“So where do you want me to begin?” Laylen asked me. And I liked that he asked, instead of trying to evade my questions, like a certain someone with bright green eyes would’ve done.

Having options, though, was kind of confusing me. “So…um…what happened?” I shook my head at the ridiculousness of my own question. “I mean, what happened back in Colorado? And how did we end up in Vegas?”

Laylen stayed quiet for a second, and I started to wonder if he even knew the answers to my questions. Alex had made it clear that, because Laylen was a vampire, he was no longer part of the Keepers’ world anymore, making Laylen a little out of the loop on things.

Laylen brushed his blue-tipped bangs away from his forehead.  “Well, I guess I’ll answer the easy question first. You’re here at Adessa’s because Aislin transported us here.”

“What?!” I exclaimed, making Laylen flinch. I lowered my voice. “Sorry. But how? I mean the last thing I can remember is being surrounded by a ton of Death Walkers, and Stephan trying to use some creepy smoking rock to try and take my mind away.”

“The rock’s called the memoria extraho,” Alex interrupted.

“Well, you’d know since you were going to let him use it on me,” I snapped.

A condescending look rose on his face. “If you’d just listen to me explain, then you’d realize you’re wrong.”

“I said I want Laylen to tell me,” I told him firmly.

He shrugged and leaned back in the chair, resting his hands behind his head all casual and everything. “Fine. Whatever you want.”

I stared at him, entirely taken off-guard. Huh? Did he just say whatever you want? To me?

“What,” Alex said, with a blasé attitude. “I was planning on telling you the truth, but if you’re more likely to believe it from Laylen’s mouth, then it’s better that he tells you. That way you won’t have any doubts.”

I shook my head, wondering why he was acting so cooperative, but figured I would worry about it later, so I returned my attention back to Laylen. “So how did you and Aislin end up in Colorado?”

“Well…I guess to make a long story short, after Aislin came back to get me in Nevada, those Death Walkers you and I saw marching through the desert had reached the house. They ambushed us, but after a big struggle, Aislin and I managed to escape in the car. But the Death Walkers cold ruined Aislin’s crystal again so we had to come here to Adessa’s to get another one. Then we transported to Colorado.”

“So how did you guys not get attacked by the Death Walkers when you showed up in Colorado?” I asked. “And by Stephan? Because the last thing I can remember was that there were a ton of Death Walkers around, watching Stephan try to erase my mind.”

Laylen glanced over at Alex, and they both exchanged a look I couldn’t quite figure out. My muscles tensed up as the idea that maybe Laylen was keeping secrets from me flashed through my mind. Would he? I mean I barely knew him. But from the moment I’d met him, my instincts told me I could trust him. Although I sometimes wondered how much I could trust my own instincts.

“When Aislin and I showed up there,” Laylen’s bright blue eyes focused back on me, “Stephan and the Death Walkers were gone.”

“What,” I said, baffled.  “Why would they just leave?”

Laylen looked at Alex again, and I grew even more uneasy. Something was up. I could feel it through the sudden heaviness in the air.

“I think maybe you should explain that part to her,” Laylen told Alex. “It’s more your story to tell, anyway.”

“No,” I protested, shaking my head. “I want you to tell me.”

Laylen shifted uncomfortably in the sofa. “Look Gemma, I understand why you want me to tell you. But I really think Alex should tell you the rest because I wasn’t even there for most of it.”

This was so weird. I mean, the last time I’d talked to Laylen, back when we were at his house, he’d warned me to be careful when it came to trusting Alex. And now here he was telling me trust him.

It didn’t make any sense.

“I…um…” I trailed off, staring confusedly at Laylen.

“Gemma, relax. It’ll be alright.” Laylen got to his feet, and gave me a pat on the shoulder, which puzzled me even more. No one’s ever gave me a pat on the shoulder before. “Everything will be okay. Alex will tell you what happened.”

And with that, he left, the beaded curtains clinking together as he ducked through them.

I watched the beaded curtains sway back and forth, feeling so lost. My mind was racing wildly with ideas of what could be going on; ideas ranging from Laylen being brainwashed to Laylen not being Laylen at all, but a body snatcher that had possessed his body.

“Gemma,” Alex voice pulled me out of my own head.

Slowly, I turned and looked at him. My emotions were all over the place, and the electricity was sparking like a firecracker.  Part of me was saying run, that something was off and I needed to get away. But the other part of me held me to the sofa, wanting to hear what Alex had to say.

“So are you going to listen to what I have to say,” he asked, his eyebrow arching upward. “Or do you want to try and run again.”

“I don’t know….” And yes, I understood how dumb my answer was, but it was the truth so…

Alex sighed. “Why do you always have to be so difficult?”

“How do you expect me to be?” I asked, staring incredulously at him. “You were going to let your father erase my mind.”

“No, I wasn’t.” He was losing his cool. “And if you’d just quit being stubborn and listen, you’d know what really went on.”

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