After

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Chapter 3: Gypsy Soul

I couldn’t see the speakers face, but judging by the voice they were male. Which made his words all the more amusing. But I kept my laughter to myself, thinking that somebody who wasn’t scared to scold at Grim, probably had no problem with ripping my spine out through my nose.

Johnny, on the other hand, had no qualms with belting out his amusement. He clutched his stomach with one hand, the other slapping against Grims’ shoulder. “I have to visit more often.” He walked forward, towards the figure, his arms open to embrace him.

“I’d appreciate if you didn’t,” Grim said to Johnny’s back.

But Johnny wasn’t listening, he pulled back from embracing the man, but kept his hands on his shoulders, “Been a while, hasn’t it Chay?”

“Too long, mi amore. Hey, Rosie-girl.” The figure looped arms with Johnny and began retreating into the castle, his laughter-filled voice trailing behind him, “It’s been a bit grim.” he sniggered, “Get it? Grim is grim.”

Rose smothered her laugh with a cough as Grim stepped back and gestured for us to precede him into the castle. I followed after Rose’s floating form, risking a peek up at the reluctant host as I passed by him. His navy eyes regarded me somewhat curiously from beneath his thick lashes. Hastily, I looked away, aware that my cheeks were burning red.

Old fashioned lanterns lined the stone halls, burning in a circle only wide enough for you to reach the next lantern. No portraits or art of any kind hung on the walls, and only a long, thin, rug carpeted the hard stone floor. Other halls branched off from the one we walked, unlit and imposing. Stair cases appeared seemingly out of nowhere, presenting intriguing opportunities to go either up or down. But both directions were unlit and, admittedly, a little frightening. Instead, I followed the others, turning when they did, going up two sets of stairs when they did. I head a whooshing sound over my shoulder and when I looked I saw that the lanterns we’d passed were blowing themselves out. It was all very ... bleak.

I hadn’t had much growing up, being raised by just my father, but I’d made the most of what space we had had. My father had made enough money working as a English teacher at a high school in Toronto that we had nice things, and went on at least one trip every year or so. Mostly, he’d saved his paychecks for my college fund, saying, “Ellie, baby, your education is important. It’s okay if we don’t have much now, so long as I know that you’ll get it all when you’re grown.”

Thinking of my father caused my throat to close, my eyes to sting, so I diverted my attention back to my surroundings. It was chilly, at first, reminding me of the Sisters basement and I shivered in recollection. But as we went farther and farther into the labyrinth of the Reaper House, the temperature started to waver in spots, like there was a warm draft coming from somewhere. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, as per usual, and as a result almost slammed into the now immobile Johnny. He smiled and caught me before I fell on my face.

I mumbled a thanks and stepped back. I could see the new mans’ face now, and I was shocked by the absolute breath-taking beauty of it. It was like he wasn’t real, like he was a figment of my most creative imagination.

Lush lips, the color of the lightest pink, were curved at the corners, into a wicked smile. He had high cheek bones and graceful jaw line with perfect, porcelain skin to make him even more gorgeous. Eyes the color of the lightest green tilted up at the corners sparkled with mischief as he regarded me with a knowing light. Of course he knew that he was gorgeous, how could he not. What I didn’t understand was why he was out with others instead of locked in his room, gazing at himself in a hundred mirrors, running his hands over all that beauty. He must have awesome will power. (HAIR COLOR)

I was having trouble not running my own hands all over him.

I felt a warm body come up behind me, stopping almost close enough that it was pressed against me. Jolting out of my open-mouthed staring, I flushed. Rose covered another laugh with a cough.

“Don’t worry, darlin’, he’s used to people staring at him,” Johnny said, his arm now back to himself.

I said nothing, but I could feel the blush climbing clear into my hair line.

Chay nodded, his lips curved in a cocky smile “Nothing new, doll.”

“Open the door, Chayne.” Grim commanded in his deep baritone. I could kiss him for the save but I didn’t dare to even look back at him.

Chayne, or Chay as Johnny has called him, winked at me before turning to brush aside the tapestry covering the entire expanse of wall behind him. It was a deep red color, like blood, outlined with silver. In the middle of it, sewn in black, was a raven. The omen of death, I remembered reading somewhere. Pressing him palm flat against the wall he whispered something in a language I didn’t know. He kept the tapestry clutched in one hand as he stepped back.

I watched in fascination as a door slowly took form from the solid stone. It creaked and clanged at it solidified. It was made of iron, the pretty scroll work making up the doors themselves, but there was something covering them from the other side, preventing from seeing through them. An intricate brass knocker, in the shape of a raven, was located where the top of my head would reach if I were to stand right next to the door. It had two small, red rubies for eyes. At least I assumed there were rubies, they seemed to take each of us under consideration. A black metal handle formed from smoke, the sound of a lock turning echoed in the hallway.

Chay swung open the door and a blast of warm air, scented with wood-smoke, wafted out and around me.

Chay disappeared inside the door, the brightness swallowing him up. Johnny followed, Rose close on his heels. I hesitated, somehow knowing that once I went through that door things would change.

“Scared?” a voice asked at my back, not lecherously, just curiously.

“Should I be?” I asked in return.

There was a pause, then, “Probably.”

Lifting my chin, I squared my shoulders and walked through the scroll work doors.

It was amazing - the difference. While it was sterile and unwelcoming beyond the iron door, it was cozy and downright homey this side. There was a small stair case and maybe ten steps between where I was now and the place we’d all come from. I turned in a circle in the middle of the room, trying to take it all in at once. Hundreds of photographs crowded the walls, filled with laughing people. I saw Johnny in a number of them. Chay seemed to be in most, if not all, of them. There was even a few of Rose.

“Love what you’ve done with the place,” Johnny said, flopping down on a plush brown couch. He rested one booted foot on the low coffee table.

Chay smiled, “I’ve been trying to get Grim to see things my way. He’s coming around.”

Grim, who had shut and locked the door behind us, crossed the large room and pushed open another door, “Don’t count on it.” he said. His voice sounded odd, like he was up high. He must be going up to the next level, probably his bedroom was up there.

Rose wandered over to an alcove, snooping I suppose. She made a female sound of annoyance when all she found was arcade games, a pool table and a bar. I also wandered around the room, more interested in the knick-knacks and personal items that littered the waist high tables.

“Feel free to wander about,” Chay said waving us towards the opposite side of the room from where Grim had disappeared. There were two arches, leading away to unknown places and one closed door. “If you take that second archway, don’t go up that second flight of stairs.”

He didn’t give an explanation and I didn’t ask.

Looking over at Rose, I raised a brow. She crossed to me and together we walked through the second arch.

Okay, so we probably should have went through the first arch but what can I say, I was curious.

It was dark but we pressed on, willing our eyes to adjust into those of nocturnal creatures. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t. Instead, the lanterns began to light up just before we stepped in front of them. We were at an intersection, to the left was a descending staircase, to the right a dead-ended hall. In front of us was a staircase that stretched upward.

Rose shrugged and looked over at me, “Meet back here in twenty?”

I nodded and watched as she floated towards the descending staircase before beginning up the one before me.

There was no lanterns, but there was a window at the head of the stairs, the moon shining in. A red carpet draped over the stairs I was climbing, muffling the sound of my footsteps. I wasn’t far up the stairs, maybe half way when I noticed that the sounds of Johnny and Chay had vanished, the silence left over was almost eerie.

But I didn’t stop climbing the stairs. It was like something was pulling me upwards, compelling me to put one foot on the next step again and again ... and again.

Before I knew it I was on a landing that had shelves upon shelves of books. I felt the smile bloom over my face. I didn’t know what kind of books they were, I didn’t know if they were in a language I could understand but that wasn’t the point.

They were books.

They were my obsession, my escape. When my mother had died when I was five, I picked up a book and used it to escape. Ever since then I’d been daydreaming of far-away lands and tragic heroes. I stepped up to the closest shelf, running my fingers over the spines I breathed in the familiar smell of dust and old paper.

I picked a book at random and flipped it open. I didn’t realize I was moving until I’d settled into to window seat, my back pressed into one of the three sides of the window. The words on the page whispered inside my head, you soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against passion and your appetite.

My nose was so deep in the book that I wasn’t aware of the footsteps slowly coming up the stairs. Flipping to another page I skimmed over a Charlotte Bronte poem. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

When I’d been alive, I would have thought there was a draft chilling me.

But now I was dead and I knew better. I didn’t raise my eyes from the book, but I felt around with my senses until I found the intruder. It was stalking up the steps, walking along the book shelves until all that was separating us was one lone shelf.

I tensed, dropped the book onto my lap and held my breath.

Wren walked around the shelf, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth.

“Ugh!” I tossed a throw pillow at his head, “You idiot, I thought you were a stalker here to kill me.” I felt my chest tighten at my words, my stomach seemed to flinch – but I ignored it.

He regarded me in a way that said he’d be happy to help.

“Not likely, tigger.”

He cocked his head, “You know, ‘t-i-double-grr-err’?”

He looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

“Right. Guess you’ve never seen Winnie the Pooh.” I picked up the book, ignoring Wren as he wandered the room.

I tried to focus myself back on the words but I couldn’t help but watch Wren as he toured around the room, pushing his nose into boxes on the floors. Finally, he walked back over to me and sat down by my feet. He looked at where my feet rested on the window bench then back at me. “What?” I asked.

He pushed his nose against my legs impatiently.

“You’re a 300 pound panther, you’re not a lap animal.” I insisted.

He stared at me. When he realized that I wasn’t budging he huffed and wandered away, towards the other set of stairs, leading up.

He sent a look over his shoulder and began to climb them in a deliberately lazy way.

Don’t go up that second flight of stairs.

I’d dropped the book to the bench and shot after Wren before he’d gotten more than half way up.

“Wren!” I hissed, “Get back down here.”

He looked over his shoulder and went up another step.

“I mean it. We’re not supposed to go up there.”

He went up another step.

“Don’t make me come up there, mister.” I put my hands on my hips, one hip cocked to the side.

Still looking at me, he went up another step, then another and another. He turned at the landing and regarded me silently, his cat-eyes amused as I fumed.

“Dammit, Wren,” I hissed as I began to cautiously climb the steps, “If we get eaten by some freaky ghost consuming monster...” I swore under my breath when I reached the landing in time to see Wren’s tail disappear around a corner.

“Wren!” I hissed.

I heard him give an amused trill as he slipped down the hallway.

I paused, torn. Neither one of us should be up here, I knew. But I couldn’t let Wren wander about - what if he ran into something that hurt him? Or got into something he shouldn’t. This was the house of the Grim Reaper after all.

I started towards the hallway, my heart pounding erratically. This floor was dimly lit, the lanterns on their lowest setting, casting deep shadows everywhere. There were no pictures to be seen, no homey details lying about. Just tapestry after tapestry lined the walls, their images of death and the afterlife. My footsteps echoed clumsily back at me as I crept after Wren. I turned to look over my shoulder, feeling eyes on me, but nobody was there.

Rubbing my hands against my arms I turned back - to find Wren gone.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I sighed, speeding up and peeking in alcoves, “Some people lose their keys or their favorite sweater, not me, no. I manage to lose a whole damn panther!”

My foot caught on a bit of uneven stone and I flailed out as I started to go down. I bit my lip to keep from crying out, and reached out to grab one of the tapestries to keep from landing on my face. The tapestry gave away and I tumbled down anyways, biting my lip and drawing blood. I didn’t land on my face, my hands broke my fall, but it still hurt.

Flicking my hair out of my face I squinted into the darkness before me. The only sound was my breathing so it was almost startling when I heard Wrens’ footsteps reverberate back to me from further into the dark.

It was a narrow corridor, almost claustrophobic in its size, but I suppose if Wren could manage it, there was no way I’d get stuck. The hallway was so dark that I had to reach out both hands to guide my way through it, leaving a trail in the dust I couldn’t see. The sound of Wren’s footsteps grew louder and before I knew it I was bumping into his back end.

“You’re a very bad pet, you know that,” I told him. “Now, let’s go before we get eaten.”

Wren lifted one dinner-plate sized paw and scratched at the wall - or at least I thought it was a wall, until a loud click sounded and it swung open. Great, darker halls. I reached out and grabbed Wren’s tail, “No way, buddy. We’re going back downstairs.” I could feel him begin to move forward, his tail flexing in my grasp, “Wren, I mean it. Chay said we aren’t supposed to be up here.”

To my great surprise -not- he didn’t listen. Instead he continued forward, his silky tail slipping from my fingers. I stumbled after him, through the dark, my eyes straining. I could feel things around me, shapes looming just beyond my sight, my harsh breathing reverberating off them. My footsteps didn’t echo much anymore, they were muffled like I was walking on carpet.

I could feel no eyes on me, the hair on the back of my neck was inactive, so I took it to mean that all was well and I was not about to be eaten by a flesh-eating monster. Forcing my breath to even out, I stretched out my hands and began to feel my way around the room. To the left of the door, my fingers encountered a large wardrobe, its sleek wood cool to the touch. Trailing my fingers across its doors, I continued farther along in my snooping. A wall guided me to what I assumed was a desk, judging by the papers and writing utensils I could feel. Meeting an apex of two walls I shifted to the right and continued forward.

My legs hit a hard object and I tumbled forward. Bracing myself for a face-plant on the concrete floor I was surprised when, instead, I face-planted onto a thickly padded mattress. Yeah, I was glad to not have disfigured my face, but at the same time I was well aware that this wasn’t just a study, this was a bedroom. Somebody’s personal space and I was invading it. I pushed myself up and backtracked as fast as I could towards the door, while avoiding other shapes the jumped out at the last second.

I wasn’t fast enough.

Before I could reach it, one of the doors on the other side of the room opened, light flooding out along with the intoxicating smell of sandalwood.

And there, with a towel slung haphazardly over his lean hips, rubbing another towel through his long hair, was Grim.

This floor was off limits for a reason, and I think I just found out why.

He stopped in mid flap when he noticed me, dark eyes narrowing.

“Sorry,” I began, “I was following Wren and I told him not to go up the steps, but of course he went up the steps. I followed him down the hall,” I jerked my thumb over my shoulder and glared over at Wren, “and it was dark and I didn’t mean to snoop. I’m sorry.” I shoved my hands into my jeans pockets, my eyes on his feet. I could feel my face flaming. Jeez, I couldn’t remembering blushing so much when I’d been alive.

Grims’ feet left wet prints on the floor as he walked closer to me. I wanted to step back, but I knew showing weakness of any kind in this place wasn’t smart, so I stood my ground. Albeit with my head lowered - for his modesty, I told myself. But really it was because I would probably start drooling if I looked at his body. What can I say, I’m dead not blind.

I watched his feet come closer and closer, until he was standing a mere inches away. I felt my breath shutter and stall as he reached out and one muscled arm went around me. But he didn’t touch me in any way, instead he flipped a switch on the wall behind me and the room filled with light.

Blinking against the brightness I flicked my eyes around the room. It wasn’t homey, like the room I’d left Johnny and Chay in, but it had personal touches. Clothes strewn about, a side table with a picture frame on it - because of where I stood (with Grims’ towering frame blocking most of the room) I couldn’t see what the picture was of. A guitar rested against the far side of his bed, a pick lay discarded on his mattress.

We stood, inches separating us, in silence. He was breathing, I noticed, his large shoulders moving up and down, the hair at my temple fluttering as he exhaled. So he wasn’t governed by the same rules of the Lost?

The silence wasn’t awful, or awkward per say, but I’d had rather he’d say something to keep me occupied so that I didn’t stare. I was doing that a lot. And, fortunately, er ... unfortunately, he wasn’t speaking. Nervously, I licked my lips and said the first thing that came to mind.

“Your naked,” I don’t know why I felt compelled to say it, but it was too late to take it back.

Looking down at himself, Grim arched a brow, “I’m wearing a towel.” He pointed out.

As he spoke, a drop of water wiggled off his jaw and landed on his chest. I watched as it trailed down to his stomach ... and down ... down ... do-

“You shouldn’t be up here,” Grims’ voice broke through the fog.

Startled, I looked up at him, my mouth slightly open, mind temporarily blank, “Uh...”

With something that looked like a smile, Grim stepped backwards and turned towards his wardrobe. He had a beautiful tattoo of a pitch colored raven stretched across his back, the crimson tips of its wings reaching the wrap around the tips of his shoulders. It had eyes of the deepest blue, almost black. Like Grims’ eyes. I took a deep breath when he disappeared behind the large oak door of his wardrobe. I heard him rummaging around and suddenly the towel he’d had around his hips was slung over the top of the door. My mouth went dry. Woah.

“What were you and Rose doing at the Sisters’?”

“What?” I asked, still staring at the towel.

This time, I knew he was smiling, “You and Rose. The Sisters. Why?”

Shaking my head I tried to focus, “Oh, um, for my memories. Rose said they might have been able to help.”

“And did they?”

“Not really,” I sighed, “They made me drink spit.”

Grim snorted, poking his head around the wardrobe door, “They didn’t have to add the spit. A simple claiming spell would have sufficed.”

“What!”

“Thing is, they aren’t witches. Or even voodoo priestesses. They can’t do magic.” He disappeared around the door again.

“Dammit,” I crossed my arms and frowned, “I cannot believe I actually drank spit.” I felt my stomach churn and quickly changed the subject before I could dry heave again, “Johnny tried to get to my memories too. But we both ended up on our asses.”

Grim stepped back from behind the door, black sweats in place and pulled a long sleeved black shirt over his head, “Must have a strong mind.”

I nodded, “At one point I think I would have been proud of that. Not so much now.”

“It’s a good thing you have a strong mind. Here, having a strong mind means you stay yourself longer.” He walked over to his desk and pulled the chair over to his bed. Motioning for me to take the chair he sat on the edge of his bed. “I take it Johnny was bringing you to me so I could try as well?”

I nodded, even though I suspected that he already knew. I sat down at the edge of the chair, my hands twisting in my lap. I didn’t know how my mind would rebel this time, what if he got more than just zapped? I don’t think it’d be appreciated if I killed The Grim Reaper.

Grim reached for me and I sprang to my feet, “I don’t think this is a good idea.” I backed away, my hands tucked safely in my pockets.

He stayed on the bed, his elbows resting on his knees, “Why not? Don’t you want to remember?”

“Yes. No. Maybe? But that’s not the point.”

He stood up now, but didn’t come closer, “What is the point?”

“I could hurt you.”

There was a pause, then to my shock, Grim laughed. Full out, clutching his belly laugh. He had dimples. “You’re joking, right?” he gasped between chuckles.

“No.” I glared at him, “I am not joking. I damn near fried Johnny, I could hurt you too.”

He shook his head, wiping his eyes, “I know you think Johnny is powerful because of his ability to hold his emotions, because he went Rogue so soon. But he is a baby to me. His powers aren’t even one hundredth of mine.” he paused, his eyes serious, “I was bred for this role, Esmeralda.” My stomach fluttered at the use of my name. “You cannot harm me.”

I kept my hands in my pockets, “You can’t be sure.”

“I can. I can prove it to you.” Before I could blink he was standing in front of me, wrapping his arms around me. Before I could take a breath to scream at him, I felt him invade my mind. It was uncomfortable at first, but he adjusted to my thoughts, my way of thinking and it was like he was part of me.

Breathe. Relax and clear your mind.” Grims’ voice echoed in my mind, his tone soothing.

“Get out of me!” I demanded, only to blush the color of tomatoes when I realized what I’d said. “You know what I mean.”

Grims’ deep chuckle vibrated through me, “Relax,” he demanded again, “this will only work if you relax.”

“A little warning would have been nice, you know.” I wiggled in his arms, only to stop abruptly when he locked down my motor skills, “How am I supposed to calm down if you’re suffocating me!?” I demanded.

My head was resting against his chest, his heart beat steady in my ear. A bit slower than a regular person’s heart, but there was something almost hypnotic about it. I felt my pulse slow to match it. My muscles relaxed, my body leaning against Grims’.

That’s the way,” I heard Grim say, but I was falling already, a dark void sucked me under. It was real, like they were memories, like I was living it but I was removed, watching the scene unfold before me.

A young woman, around twenty, and an elder man, around forty, walked through the forest. The girl had thick black hair to her knees, braded over her shoulders. Large emerald eyes, thickly lashed, blinked up at the man accusingly, her plump lips opened and closed, before she finally pushed words through numb lips.

“But father, we have never met,” Her lyrical voice whispered in the darkness. It was a shock. It was mine, but ... not.

“Irrelevant, child. You will do as your told.” a harsh voice replied.

“Father, please-“

A slap sounded, echoing through the recesses of the dark forest, “Do not question me, Nadyia. You will do as you are told.”

Her cheek tingled, her breath harsh. “I am not a child anymore, Father. I can leave.”

I felt my own cheek throb in sympathy.

A mocking laugh cracked from the man, “You have no spine. You would not last a day on your own even if you were a man. Now, walk. We don’t want to be late for-“

The vision faded into another. A hand was wrapped around Nadyia’s wrist as she struggled to free herself. Her father tugged her along, deaf to her tears and please. She used her nails to scratch at her father, but it was no use, he was too strong.

“Father, please! I cannot-“

“This is her, then?” a cold voice rang out over her cries.

The elder man and Nadyia froze. Her father smiled and pushed Nadyia hard enough for her to fall to her knees before the newcomer.

He was tall, impossibly pale and had hair the color of the brightest silver. But his eyes were black, lifeless. He sneered down at Nadyia and reached out to tap her chin, forcing her to look at him, “Ah, yes, Mithai, she is a beauty. I’d bet that none could resist her.” a cold smile curled his too thin lips, “We must go. He is waiting.”

“No, I will not-“

“Shut her up, Mithai, or I will. And I can promise you, she will be useless. You will not be paid if she is useless to my cause.” The silver-haired bastard said over his shoulder, his dead eyes roaming over Nadyia in a way that made her cringe.

Again, the vision changed. This time, there was a large Gothic stone church before them, lights shone through the windows on the bottom floor, illuminating the path that the silver-haired man led Mithai and the now docile and trembling Nadyia up.

Just as they reached the door, they swung open and there stood-

Unlike the way I’d gone into the trance, I was ripped brutally from it. Grims’ hands weren’t there to catch me, so I fell limp to the floor. I laid there shivering, my body aching.

I heard harsh breathing, and it took me a minute to realize that it wasn’t all mine. Grim was on his knees beside me, his head in his hands. I lay on my stomach, staring at his knee, for who knows how long. Eventually, my breathing evened out, my stomach stopped feeling like it was going to come up my esophagus and I body stopped throbbing. Though when I moved to sit up, it still hurt.

“Are you okay?” I asked Grim, not managing to get my voice any higher than a whisper because of the pulsing pain in my jaw. What in the world...?

He shook his head, his head still in his hands.

“Is this the part where I say, I told you so?” I asked in an attempt at humor.

He just shook his head again.

I was stumped. As far as I could tell, there had been no surging of power, no flash of lightning that could have harmed Grim. But he just sat there on his knees, curled into himself like he’d seen a ghost (or whatever scared The Grim Reaper).

“Grim?” I asked, reached out to comfort him.

He raised his head before I could make contact with his shoulder. His navy eyes were red rimmed, his normal caramel skin was chalky. “It’s not possible,” he told my collarbones.

“What isn’t?” He shook his head again, and when I reached out to shake him in frustration, he vaulted to his feet, his eyes wild. But he stopped suddenly when his eyes raised to my face. Not my eyes, no. My cheek. Moving forward, he dropped once more to his knees, this time in front of me. He reached out, hesitated and then continued forward until his fingers brushed my cheek. It stung.

“It can’t be,” he whispered, mostly to himself.

“Grim?” I asked, reaching up myself and feeling the swelling that had begun. It was my turn to spring to my feet, running over to his wardrobe, I took a guess and found a mirror on the inside of the door.

There, rapidly forming, on my cheek was a bruise. Which would have been odd enough ... except it was in the shape of a hand print. I prodded at the bruise, wincing when it sent a bolt of pain through my jaw. I looked over my shoulder in the mirror and saw Grim still on the floor, “Did you hit me?”

He shook his head. He stood up and paced the room, running his hands through his tangled hair. I didn’t notice the scratches and rivulets of blood on his wrists and forearms until he passed close to me.

“What happened?” I asked. When he shook his head I grabbed his wrist, “What. Happened.”

He looked at me, finally meeting my eyes. The pain I saw in his broke my heart. Suddenly, his wrist turned, trapping mine in his big hand. He pulled me to the door, dragged me down the hall, the stairs and through the library.

“What are you doing?” I gasped.

He didn’t reply. Instead he tugged me down the stairs, catching my when I almost fell, and into the large room that I’d last seen Chayne and Johnny. Rose was there, pacing back and forth just inside the arch way. She had to jump out of the way when Grim barrelled through it. Johnny and Chayne both looked up at the commotion. As one their eyes widened and their jaws’ dropped as they saw my cheek and Grims’ arms.

Before they could say anything he spoke, “No. We didn’t fight. It was from the memory recovery. She wasn’t killed but you have to leave now. The Overseer is aware of her presence. He comes now. If you don’t make it back to the Gate before he finds you, you will all perish.”

Rose nodded, “Let’s go.”

Johnny jumped up from the couch, hurriedly pulling his leather jacket back on, “Thank you, Grim.”

“Go.”

“Really-”

Go.

Rose took one of my arms as Johnny and Wren led the way from the House. I looked over my shoulder as we raced down the cold hallways, only to see Grim standing in the doorway, staring after us. Chayne was beside him, a frown on his pretty face.


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