Remnants of Gods [Book 1 of the Remnants Trilogy]

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Chapter 3

Annabel woke up at the sound of her hellish clock alarm, which was undoubtedly used as a torture device somewhere in the world. It took her a few long seconds before she could tell where the sound was coming from. She opened her eyes and sat up, quickly regretting that rash decision.

She was in her bed, her clean bed, wearing her pajamas. Her room looked exactly as she left it yesterday, down to the pile of clothes on the chair next to her desk.

“What the hell?” she frowned. Was it all a dream? How did she get to her bed then? Why did she feel like a car had run her over a few thousand times?

Anna pushed the covers aside and slid her legs to the floor, almost falling when she shifted her weight on them. Her entire body felt alien, as if she had little to no control over it.

The alarm clock kept ringing, so she waved with her hand, expecting the device to crash into the wall and drop to the floor in pieces. To her surprise, nothing of the sort happened and the damn thing kept on making that terrible noise. She had to go all the way to the desk and turn it off herself while her panic over the total lack of control over her powers skyrocketed.

Anna looked down at her hands, her body, her pajamas — no traces of blood or any other signs that something had transpired there last night. She checked the bathroom, but the place was just as clean. Returning to the bedroom, her eyes kept searching, but found absolutely no hint of anybody else’s presence.

Just as she was going to accept that she was going crazy, her gaze caught a glimpse of something dark by the bed. She kneeled next to the wall, sliding her fingers over the edge of the wallpaper where she had fallen asleep last night. Right next to the bed frame, almost hidden by the covers, stood two small, dark red spots resembling traces of fingertips.

Relieved that she hadn’t imagined it, Anna sighed. A fresh wave of exhaustion and nausea washed over her and she swayed, leaning on the wall for support. She took a deep breath and returned to the bathroom, hoping that a cold shower would clear her head.

It did, for a time. On her way to Marcus’s office, the nausea returned with full force. She even considered asking for a day off, but that would require an explanation. A tiny voice inside her head whispered that telling anyone about last night, or the fact that she could not control her powers, was asking for trouble. She remembered her father always warned her not to compel too much energy at once, but she didn’t remember him ever telling her what the consequences would be. Being the good girl she was, she always listened to her parents, so it had never occurred to her ‌she could actually end up in such a situation.

Annabel had to stop a few times to steady herself, so when she finally reached the office, it was almost ten o’clock. She bumped into a panting Claire at the entrance, giving her a forced smile while the other girl caught her breath.

“I overslept... and… ran all the way... here,” Claire said between breaths, grimacing as she looked at Annabel’s face. “What’s your excuse?”

“Same,” she shrugged quickly.

Claire gave her a distracted nod, making her way into the office with Anna behind her. The blonde girl stepped towards the board hanging on the wall across from the door, double-checking her schedule while Annabel glanced towards the man sitting at the other end of the room.

Marcus sat bent behind his desk, his unnaturally massive body looking odd in such a setting. Anna couldn’t help but picture him as a Viking, with a big, horned helmet and round shield painted with runes, fighting a fierce battle against an archenemy.

Reality, however, was much different.

He sat stooped on a chair that seemed too small for him, balancing a pair of glasses on his wide nose and chewing on his pen like a toddler. He didn’t raise his head when they entered his office, so Anna quickly joined Claire. Her eyes searched for the list of her daily errands that should have been hanging right next to the other girl’s, but surprisingly, the space was empty. She skimmed through the rest of the papers, but she didn’t find her name on any of them. She was just turning to ask Marcus what was going on when he spoke.

“Parker, come here.” Annabel hesitantly stepped towards his desk. She waited patiently until he finally looked up. “Change of plans. East wing, the last room on the left. William Larson requested you.”

Anna blinked a few times while the words sunk in. She had never met William Larson in person, so why would he request her? Everybody knew ‌he was among Damien Blackwell’s most trusted men - his right hand, some even said. But he rarely stuck around the Compound and he never attended any common gatherings. Few had even met him, especially among the recruits.

“Why?” she frowned. Marcus threw his hands in the air.

“How the fuck should I know? Larson seldom requests a recruit for anything. I didn’t even know he was back.” His eyes returned to her, measuring her from head to toe as if he had thought of something. “Maybe he is getting lonely,” he scoffed, and Anna’s frown deepened. She decided not to dignify that with an answer, but failed to dispel the murder in her eyes. “My, you’re grumpy!” Marcus snorted. “Come on, you don’t have all day. Get out of here, both of you.”

Annabel nodded, turning around to find Claire still standing in the back of the room, mouth gaping. They left the office side by side, making their way to the kitchen.

“How did you do it?” Claire squirmed the moment they were out of earshot. “Larson requested you! William Larson! He is like, the second most powerful man in the Order. Are you sure you’re alright, Annabel? You really look pale.”

“Maybe I should say that I’m sick and I can’t do any chores today,” Anna murmured, rubbing her forehead. Claire’s expression almost made her laugh out loud.

“Are you out of your mind?” The other girl exclaimed, eyes so wide they looked like they might pop out. “If William Larson requested me and I was on my deathbed, I would spend my last breath rushing towards his room,” she sighed loudly, slicking her hair. A slight blush colored her cheeks, her face taking on a dreamy expression. “I heard he is handsome, on top of all. Play your cards right, and you may find a shortcut to success!” she chuckled. “It may turn out to be more pleasure than work, you know? I’m sure that would shut Jordan up.”

With the throbbing in her head increasing, Anna decided that listening to any more of Claire’s wisdom would be worse than meeting William Larson in person.

“I’m not really hungry. I’ll get his breakfast and go. Keep this between us, please,” Anna told her and before the other girl could say anything, she was already rushing towards the kitchen.

The cook gave her a curious look as she asked for Larson’s breakfast, but nodded silently and returned in a few minutes with a silver platter with a lid on top of it. She thanked him and left the kitchen, slowly heading towards the east wing.

She seldom visited that side of the Compound aside from occasional errands for Erika Princeton. It was separated from the other part of the mansion, and its residents usually wanted to avoid the noisy recruits and deal with their work in private.

‘Larson seldom requests a recruit for anything.’ Marcus’s words echoed in her head. As concerned as she was, she was twice as curious. Her head pounded and her body shook even more than before, but she wanted to see for herself what William Larson looked like.

Damien Blackwell was the face of the Order, but William Larson was something else entirely. Some of the human leaders reasoned ‌he was the actual brains of the whole Ascendant movement, but nobody could place a face next to the name and one couldn’t fight an invisible foe. That left Damien Blackwell at the top of their most-wanted list.

Anna also remembered what her sister used to say about Larson - that he was among the most powerful Ascendants she had met in her life and that he was as deadly as Death itself. Growing up, Annabel had thought she had been exaggerating just to make him sound cool, but considering how everybody whispered his name around the Compound, she was not sure anymore.

But what would he want with her? And why her, of all people?

Her head was throbbing so much, even her ideas were hard to grasp.

She reached the last door in the corridor and stopped, trying to balance the tray in one hand while placing the other on the door. She felt no barrier, not even one that would alert him if somebody entered his room. He was either waiting for her or he didn’t care if anyone came in.

Anna pushed the door.

“Hello?” she called. The spacious accommodation was nothing like her room. It held a big double bed situated opposite the door, with a low coffee table and a few comfortable-looking couches in between them. Lush carpet covered the floor while a long, shiny cupboard was lined by one of the walls. Everything was so tidy and clean that she wondered if she hadn’t mistaken the room.

“William Larson?” Annabel called a bit louder, scolding herself for how shaky her voice sounded. A movement caught her eyes, and she focused on the figure that stepped through the door on the right side of the bed.

The heavy curtains covering the only window pulled back abruptly, letting the morning light in. It was a cold, rainy day again, but the light from the stormy sky was still plenty.

“My name is Annabel Parker. I was told I…”

He moved further into the room and Anna gasped in surprise. She took a step back and bumped into one of the sofas, dropping the tray. The silver crashed on the tiled floor with a loud clatter.

“Y-y-you!” she stuttered as she recognized him. She tried to keep calm, telling herself that she was safe - he could have hurt her last night if he wanted to, but he didn’t. She saved his life, he wasn’t going to hurt her. Yet the moment she met his cold blue eyes, the image of the young boy invaded her mind and she shivered.

“Did you tell anyone?” His voice sounded different from last night. Stronger, firmer. And much more threatening.

“Tell them what? That somebody almost bled to death in my arms, but when I woke up, they were gone without a trace?” she snapped, trying to collect herself. She had saved him, he owed her. Maybe he called for her to repay the favor.

“Answer my question. Did you tell anybody about what happened?” he insisted, taking a few more steps toward her.

“I didn’t,” she said through gritted teeth. “Why did you call me here?”

He continued towards her, watching her carefully, as if expecting a surprise attack. She didn’t know why, but the look in his eyes was making her nervous.

“That’s close enough,” she said, raising her hands in a position she would allow her to defend herself. She was terrified that her powers would fail her again just when it really mattered, but the least she could do was bluff to death. There was no logical reason for him to attack her, but her mind was already too foggy from the pain and her sister’s stories.

William Larson paused for a moment, then continued towards her.

“Hey!” Annabel shouted, motioning with her hand. The silver tray flew towards his head. He made it halt in front of him with a lazy movement of his fingers. “I said stop!” she shouted. The satisfaction that came from her powers obeying her disappeared as the unpleasant throbbing turned into a vicious jab.

“Believe it or not, but I’m trying to help you,” he said as he took one more step. Annabel circled the couch, putting it between them. Larson stopped with a sigh, resting his hands on his hips. “Do you want to die?”

The blood drained from Anna’s face, her heart racing so fast that her head spun. Her expression might have shown her thoughts because Larson let out another sigh, letting his hands fall by his side.

“I’m not threatening you,” he said, meeting her eyes. The coldness from before was gone, and a new expression softened his sharp, handsome features. Her vision turned black, the pressure on her temples growing so intense that all thoughts about William Larson disappeared, replaced by a single one.

It hurt.

It hurt so much that she was surely going to die.

A pair of cold hands cupped her face, and she shuddered, her body instinctively trying to pull away. He held her firmly in place.

“Stop resisting. I’m trying to save your life.” His words barely reached her. All she could feel besides the pain were his fingers on her face, holding it surprisingly gently.

It seemed like a whole eternity passed before the piercing pain disappeared, giving place to a painless bliss. Her sight slowly cleared, and her body turned lighter, like a feather that could be blown away by the faintest wind.

She stared at his face as his energy danced over her skin, imbuing her body with a power she so clearly lacked. His eyes snapped back into focus, meeting her gaze as she fought to keep her eyelids open.

“It’s almost over. You can relax now.”

As if released from a spell, her body grew so heavy that she lost control over it. Darkness swept over and she toppled off, drowning in a sea of silence.

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