The Shadow

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The Temple

Caeli

I paced the room, still in the bloody dress from the auction and a bandage around my shoulder. I couldn’t feel the pain from the wound over my anger, it was the most explicit emotion I could feel, it almost felt like it was all I could sense at that point.

“Who shot at us?” I asked, since I hadn’t been able to get a clear look at who it had been since I had been facing away from whoever had taken those shots. But they had known what we were after. There was a reason they shot the statue first. To keep it from me, from us.

“None of us saw.” Vince pointed out, but that wasn’t good enough. How could they have gotten away with shooting at us? Without being seen by one of us?

“There are four of us, and presumably one of them. How the hell did none of us see who it was?” I wasn’t sure why I was getting so angry about it, but it was taking everything in me to not shout at the three of them.

“I didn’t get a good look… they were wearing a cloak, it had a hood, and I couldn’t see their face. They were too far away to get much else.” Nylah stated quickly and quietly, I froze my pacing and turned to look at the girl.

Don’t shout, Caeli. Don’t shout.

“Why didn’t you say anything before?” I kept myself from shouting, but my anger still came out in the bitter toxicity of my tone. It was enough to make the young girl shy away from me and my irritation. It was enough to put the other two on edge, to raise the tension in the room.

“Hey…” Syrus warned, standing and moving to stand between his sister and me. Like I would hurt her… how dare he think that? How could he think I could do that? My fists clenched as my anger continued to grow.

“Caeli, back off,” Vince said calmly. He knew better than to retaliate with anger. It would only make me worse, would increase my rage and potentially tip me over the edge, to use violence instead of words. The man knew it was because of my past, that it was something I was still trying to get better at. So far it hadn’t worked. Especially since I found the Dawsons rather challenging to deal with.

I took a deep breath, tightened my fists once more and then let them relax before I pulled the bun out of my hair. This felt ridiculous, to still in this idiotic dress and makeup. I hadn’t had time to change between checking the hotel’s perimeter and immediately wanting to process what had happened at the auction.

All of my enemies, and the handful of allies I have, knew I was back for business. Dallas had spoken to Syrus, which didn’t bode well for the future. They had shot at us, and they rendered the one thing we had gone for useless. To top it all off, we still didn’t know who had shot at us. No pros could outweigh the cons, the danger I had put us all in because I wanted to test the Dawsons. It weighed heavily on my shoulders, but I had to keep that to myself and not take it out on the Dawsons. That wasn’t fair.

“What kind of cloak?” I asked, and I made sure my voice was calm and collected, my eyes diverted from the Dawsons as I took a step away from them. I was doing my best not to intimidate them, I didn’t feel great about how I reacted, but I had toned down what I had wanted to do. I had thought before I acted, and then Syrus had moved to protect Nylah like I would-

“Black, or dark grey, it had some kind of marking on it… almost shaped like a ‘T’.” Nylah said, quietly, moving out from behind Syrus but staying close to her brother. A dark cloak, a ‘T’ on it…

“Shit,” I swore, letting my head fall back as I realised what that meant. “The hood, was it tapered to a point over the head as well?” I asked next, letting my eyes carefully fall onto the girl. She was still afraid of me… but she nodded. “Shit,” I swore again, running a hand through my hair. It couldn’t be them, could it? That made little sense.

“I told you that the auction would be dangerous, kid, we should have gone with your-”

“Wow Sinclair, could you tell me how you thought I was in the mood for one of your lectures right now? Did something on my face tell you that?” I asked, letting out a little of my anger. He took it for me. I would apologise later. “This auction heist was a good idea until Dallas turned up and then the Temple followed. Of all the people to turn up at that bloody auction, it had to be the Temple.” I growled the words, trying to ignore the thoughts running through my head at the notion of the organisation.

“Why does everyone keep saying things like we know what they mean?” Syrus asked under his breath, although all of us could hear what he had said. “What the hell is ‘Temple’?”

The Temple is an association of assassins, they work predominately for religious organisations to eliminate threats or to get rid of artefacts or documents that contradict their religion or prove it false. They can help direct religions towards higher power over the weak and make sure it stays that way.” I explained, moving the skirt of the inane dress so I could sit down on my mattress.

“A league of assassins?” Nylah asked, and I looked at the girl.

“Yes, a very dangerous one,” I answered, instinctively rubbing the scar on the palm of my left hand. I stopped myself as soon as I realised what I was doing, why I was doing it. “These people are the best at what they do, you get scouted by their assassins and hired to be a part of their ranks. Once you join, you go through an intense training period that can go for two years before you see the field again.”

“How do you know this?” Syrus asked a very relevant question, but one that I didn’t want to answer fully just yet.

“It has to do with my past…” I stated, and I could see the annoyance on his face and tried my best to ignore it. Easier said than done when he liked to state his opinion incessantly.

“Your past that we still don’t know about? It’s starting to get old, Caeli. I would have thought you could trust us with it by now.” Syrus snapped, still angry about what I had said to Nylah, or more accurately how I had spoken to her. I didn’t blame his anger, it was a justified reaction. I had meant to tell them… but it was such a big part of who I was. I still felt closed off to them because of it, but I knew that as soon as they knew they would act differently around me, treat me differently. It was selfish of me, but I liked the respect I had from them now without them knowing everything else. My past was why everyone else feared and respected me, but not with the Dawsons.

So, all I could do was ignore the question he had asked. Doing so made my chest tighten, but it wasn’t right to tell them at that moment, not with all the anger in the air.

“Okay, well if that’s everything for tonight then we’re going to go to bed,” Syrus stated, putting an arm around his sister’s shoulders and going to walk out the door.

“Syrus…” I trailed off, and he turned to look back at me. There was a conflicting confusion in his eyes, something that I couldn’t quite understand. I didn’t know why I had said his name, what I had wanted to say from there… I didn’t want to apologise, but I felt like I had to say something, anything to ease the tension.

“What?” He asked sharply, I looked at my hands.

“Sleep well,” I said, realising how stupid I sounded and probably looked since I couldn’t even meet his eyes. He didn’t respond. Instead, he closed the door harshly behind himself and Nylah. Once he did, I dropped my head into my hands.

“You have to tell them, kid,” Vince stated.

“I am aware of that, I just don’t know how to do it without them changing how they think about me, Vince,” I said in response, I knew that was my fear about it, I’d known it for a while now. “They know me for who I am, not what I’m supposed to be. They haven’t used my past against me, haven’t hired me because of it, they haven’t abused my past… it’s the same reason I didn’t tell you for months after we met. I have to protect all of us because as soon as they know, then they’ll be at risk.”

“They’re already at risk by just being around you and deserve to know that, and why, and what they should look out for. They need to know what kind of danger they’re in so they can make a sound decision over whether they stick around us or leave.” Vince said, and I hated the fact he made a valid point. I couldn’t argue with logic, he knew that.

“Us?” I asked, a lopsided smile on my face as I lifted my head from my hands to look him in the eyes.

“You know I’m not leaving you alone, kid.” The man smiled in response, I laughed to keep my eyes from watering, but I could still feel them stinging. “Tell them soon.”

“After Plan B, I’ll tell them,” I said, my tone steady as my eyes stopped stinging.

“You’re going to go ahead with Plan B then?” Vince asked as I stood up, grabbing a change of clothes from my bag.

“Obviously, the auction didn’t work and Plan B is how we’re going to get that damned statue,” I told the man. He didn’t seem happy with that idea.

“Caeli, we’re talking about the bloody Temple-”

“I know. I am acutely aware of how dangerous they are, Vince. They tried to buy me when I was a child.” I told him. He froze at my words. He knew why that was important, after everything the people who raised me had done to make me a killer, for the Temple to want me was… “They were going to pay five million dollars for me when I was seven years old, and they still have the same Priest as back then. This statue… if I get it, can give me two things. There is enough power with this statue to topple a religion; otherwise, the Temple wouldn’t be going after it, I like the sound of that power. Aside from that…” I trailed off, I knew very well that what was about to come out of my mouth sounded even more selfish than anything else I might have said before.

“You want to know why they wanted you, why they would pay that much money for you,” Vincent said for me, I nodded in reply. I wanted to know why I was so valuable all those years ago. Why would they pay five million dollars for me? Why didn’t the deal go through? I had never understood; why the expense for me?

“If we get our hands on this statue, I could get an audience with the Priest. I will have an answer to one of the many questions I have about my childhood. Besides, the only other way to know is to go back to…” I couldn’t even finish my sentence, the idea itself was ridiculous. While stuck in thought about it, Vincent seemed to have the bright idea to bring up what had happened over a year ago.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have worked with them-”

“You’re lucky they didn’t kill you,” I whispered harshly. This wasn’t what I wanted to talk about, but I guess here we are.

“I thought we’d moved on from this, Caeli,” he said, I just shook my head.

“Vince…” I was shaking. Dealing with emotions was always the hardest thing for me to do without spiralling to anger and lashing out physically. “I don’t know why you took that job, why you lied to me about it. I’m still angry because if something had gone wrong… how was I supposed to help? What was I going to do if you got into that kind of danger with them? What if I never heard from you again because they killed you? What the hell am I supposed to do if you die, Vince?!” I shouted so quickly it was out of character for me.

My breathing… I couldn’t breathe as tears sat in my eyes. I covered my mouth with my hand as my body shook so badly that I dropped the clothes I had been holding.

I always felt terrified about our safety, I may not show it but… that fear was still there. Always there.

Vince immediately stood up and quickly covered the ground between us as I couldn’t get any air into my lungs.

It hurt, it hurt so much, but I couldn’t breathe.

My entire body was tense, I couldn’t move by choice, but my knees buckled, Vince’s arms around me as he held me close to his body, as support to keep me from falling to the ground and losing any dignity I had left.

My muscles were hurting, my chest feeling like it had daggers in my lungs… air.

I needed air.

But I couldn’t…

“Caeli, breathe, you need to breathe.” I heard Vince tell me, but the words were far too quiet for his proximity.

I wasn’t in my body. I still couldn’t breathe.

“What if I can’t…” I trailed off, my voice shaking as I couldn’t stop the thoughts running through my head. What if I couldn’t save him? What if I couldn’t protect him?

“What if you…” I couldn’t get a single sentence out, not as thoughts of him dying kept playing in my mind. My chest tightened even further, the fight I had against my body to breathe got harder.

“Caeli, breathe in…” I tried my hardest to do what Vince told me.

“Now breathe out…” I hardly did, there was nothing to let out.

“Don’t think about anything else, just listen to me. Just breathe in.” Vince told me, I closed my eyes as I sucked in a minuscule amount of air.

“We’re going to be okay, now breathe out.” He told me. A little more air came out than before.

“We have each other and the Dawsons, and we’re going to be fine. Breathe in.” I took a shaky breath in, I could feel the air enter my lungs, a welcome feeling. He kept telling me the same things, that we would be okay, telling me when to breathe so I didn’t have to think for a few minutes. I’d had panic attacks before, for someone unable to express emotions they were more frequent than they should be, but it meant Vince had worked out how to calm me down. He also knew that I hated pity, hated him for changing what we were talking about after I had one.

“I think we need to promise to never lie to each other again, nothing but truth between us, all of us.” He said as he still held me against his chest, rubbing my shoulder to keep me calm.

“Okay…” I trailed off, hugging him back before I pulled away from him and picked my clothes up off the floor. “Pure honesty starts after Plan B.”

“I didn’t mean that you get to choose-”

“We need to focus on Plan B. You and the Dawsons can go to my storage container and get whatever we’re going to need to fund this thing, keeping in mind the number of weapons we’re going to need since we’re dealing with the Temple. I’ll steal this statue so we can move ahead.” I told him, taking a deep breath and shifting back to my emotionless self. It was comfortable, less vulnerable, this facade.

“You aren’t doing it by yourself, one of us is going with you,” Vince told me, I went to argue, but he cut me off before I could start. “You just had a panic attack about our safety, and believe it or not, I worry about you too, kid.” He pointed out, I nodded slowly.

“Well, you have to go to the container since you know where it is, and I have to do the heist because I’m suited to the target and Nylah is too young… so, which Dawson do you want?” I asked, I didn’t really care either way, but I really should have known which Dawson he would choose, for no other reason than he still wanted me to get along with Syrus.

“Nylah is too young for what you’ve planned, even as a backup you probably won’t need. You can take Syrus, he will be of some use to you.” Vince told me, I sighed but nodded in reply. “As soon as you’re done, you tell him about your past, everything about you.” I processed the instruction in my head and looked Vince in the eyes.

“Okay. You can tell Nylah once you two have grabbed what we need. I’ll get changed, and then I’ll make some calls to get this plan into action.” I said, going to walk into the bathroom, but the man gave me a pointed look.

“Promise me you’ll tell him,” Vince said, his voice gentle, and I sighed again.

“Fine, I promise.”

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