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Chapter Twenty-Six

We waited for Flynn and Krews, but they never came back. After two hours of sitting around, making ourselves comfortable, we decided it was time to explore a little. Victor and Fox had headed to the beach to go mussel hunting while Hunter and I chose to head into the tropical forest for coconuts and mangos. Rooi and Cat decided they would take inventory of the cabin’s household supplies before stacking the books onto shelves.

“You feeling better since this morning?” Turning my head to Hunter, I watched as his head lowered, hand squeezing mine as I waited.

“I guess so. Seeing and talking to Damian, just took a bit out of me. I actually willingly sat next to him without him telling or making me do so, I think I used up all my confidence for the year.” Hunter chuckled at his own words before giving me a toothy grin. “But maybe you can help me get some more?”

“Depending on what kind of recharge you want because I have a couple of ideas in mind.” Smirking, I watched as Hunter’s face turned a light shade of red. He tried to mask it by humming, swinging our arms as he studied our surroundings. Compared to the other times Damian had shown up in his dreams, he seemed calm, stronger. My own nightmares linking to the guy made me on edge afterwards and want to hold Hunter closer to me. The nights he had run into the bathroom were the ones I woke up thinking that Damian had finally snatched him away, but when he came back, he snuggled into my side, kissing my neck and burrowing close.

“Hey, Hunter?”
“I love you.”

He stopped, pulling on my arm. Glancing back, his face had gone a deep red, eyes wide and focused intensely on me.

“You aren’t kidding right?” He took hesitant steps forward, hand letting go of mine. Smirking, I held my arms open for a hug.

“I promise you I am not; I love you Hunter so come here so I can hug you.” The fragile expression on his face cracked as he jumped forward, burying his face against my neck, holding me tightly as he cried. Kissing the top of his head, I rubbed his back.

Back at the cabin, Victor and Fox worked on boiling the mussels and cutting up the mango and coconuts we had managed to find. They chatted as they worked, bantering about how they had never cooked together at the base and how they should have done it sooner.

Hunter and I had chosen to sit on the largest couch as we waited. Hunter was lying between my legs, his back pressed against my chest, my chin on his shoulder as he read one of the books, we had taken with us. I rubbed his arms before kissing his neck and hugging him, arms coming down to his waist. He chuckled, turning his head to peck my cheek then went back to his book. Humming in content, I closed my eyes.

“Foods ready, Rooi get your ass in here,” Fox called, dishes clinking onto the island counter. Stretching, I gently pushed Hunter forward so I could slip off the couch as he hurriedly placed a leaf in his book, marking his position as he got up. Rooi came from her room wearing one of her new graphic t-shirts walking past us and sitting down on one of the stools, red hair held back by two clips. Cat came from outside, pink hair windblown, taking a seat next to Victor.

“Thanks, you guys,” Rooi said, taking her share and digging into the mango slices. We sat down next to her, doing the same but going for the mussels instead. Cat watched before sighing and copying us.

“How was exploring?” Victor asked, eating chopped-up coconut with a fork.

“Quiet. You would expect birdsong and insect clicking but there was nothing,” Hunter explained, glancing at me with a frown. “It’s like this place is dead yet flowers and fruits are growing but there are no bees.”

“Maybe the work the scientists do are linked to it? But to add to that, what happened to the supply crates, surely we should have been given our share by now...” Fox commented, turning his gaze to the door. “Something just does not feel right.”

“You feeling like we are being watched?” Victor placed his fork down, expression serious. Fox nodded, shifting his weight on his stool. Before any more questions could be asked, all hell let loose.

Men stormed in through the doors, down the hallway with batons in their hands as they aimed to attack. In the corner of my eye, in the small calm before the storm, I saw the shock collars on their belts, some already holding them in their free hands. Twelve men, ready to hurt, accelerated into movement. Hands tried to grab me but instinct had me teleported away, flipping another onto his back. Glancing up, Hunter was tackled off his chair, struggling against the man on top of him as the collar was forced around his neck. Rooi was pulled roughly off her chair, Fox following her as Victor used the island counter as leverage while summoning water out of the sink tap. Cat had knives floating by her sides, points lined up with the men’s throats around her as she stood next to Victor.

Being too busy trying to keep up with what was happening, I did not sense the man behind me until my legs were swept out from under me and I hit the floor hard. The man rolled me onto my stomach, latching the collar tightly around my neck as he sat on my back. Struggling, I stopped instantly when agonized screaming pierced my ears. Between the men’s legs, I glimpsed Rooi thrashing around, her limbs seizing and veins sticking out in her neck.

“Take it off her, get that thing off!” Fox’s scream caught the men off guard as they stilled where they stood, even the man on top of me stopped pressing down on my head.

“You’re hurting her, take the fucking thing off,” Victor’s shout came next from where he still stood, spiked water keeping the men away from him as Cat’s knives moved closer to the men facing them. The animalistic rage in his eyes made me begin to struggle again. “Her power doesn’t switch off!”

Hunter began screaming too, the man on him yelping as flames erupted on Hunter’s back, moving to his torso as he stood. Electrical sparks jumped off the plastic collar before it fell to the floor. Throwing caution to the wind, I ignored the electricity burning through my veins as I prepared to teleport to his side. The pulse before I materialized beside Hunter was like being hit by a truck. Gasping, I glared at the men, instantly dropping the temperature in the room.

“You messed with the wrong fucking Gifted,” Hunter growled, flicking his fingers in Rooi and Fox’s direction, their collars dropping to the floor. Fox did not waste a beat. He clambered to his sister’s unconscious body, holding her face in his hands before letting her head rest on his thigh.

“What is wrong with you?” Victor, voice devoid of any emotion, moved to stand on the other side of Hunter, the water following him. Taking his lead, I started to ice their boots to the floor, rising up their pant legs. “How could you do this to kids?”

“You are no longer children,” One man spat, tugging on his leg in vain. Clearly, he was the leader of this lot.

“Then what are we?” Growling, I slammed my hand on the counter, two men flinching with the loud bang. “Just because we have these so-called gifts does not mean we are no longer teenagers, no longer human. We are and you, you are monsters for treating us like animals.”

“You are wrong-”

“Shut the fuck up!” Flames started to drip off Hunter, dying on the floor. “We did not ask for this but you act like we had a choice to become freaks. I bet you even think some of us jumped at the idea of working for someone of power yet the reality is we were sold to them, made helpless because of these collars. You lot and your mindsets will be the death of us.”

“You all should leave before any more regrettable things are said from your side. Echo, that’s enough,” Victor sighed, crossing his arms as the water dispersed into thin air, a trick he had worked on weeks after we were at the army base. Gritting my teeth, I let the ice melt away, allowing the men to leave hurriedly. One man turned around, his blue eyes glancing over us.

“I’m sorry for the trouble. I will make sure the supplies from the drop is brought here.” With a nod and pursed lips, the man left.

Hunter immediately sagged to his knees, Victor leaning back onto the island while Fox picked up his sister and walked out of the room. Glancing over the spoiled food, I shook my head as I slipped down to the ground next to Hunter, checking his neck for burns.

“You okay?”

He moved so he could lean his head against my shoulder, shaking. Only an hour before he was safe, confident. Now, we were questioned again if we were really safe on this island...

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