I thought drowning would hurt more.
My chest and throat burn, but not as bad as I expected it to. It’s dull, barely an ache. The only thing my mind can focus on is the light shining down through the choppy water, creating intricate designs over my skin as I sink. I don’t think about my life, my problems, my friends. My mind goes blank, numb. For some reason, I’m not afraid to die.
I let my eyes fall closed as I feel the cold water invade my throat and into my lungs, soothing the burning sensation. It almost feels as if I’m falling asleep, my body going limp. The deeper I sink, the darker the water gets and the more pressure I feel on my chest. Though, it doesn’t hurt.
I can’t feel anything.
I wake to the sound of voices. Frantic, quiet. Like they don’t want me to hear them but there is important information to be told. I don’t know why they think I can hear them. I’m dead. I think.
“Is it working?” A man asks, his voice soft and deep.
“Only time will tell. It should be a matter of days before he wakes up,” A lady replies, her voice shrill and annoying. I can imagine her in a white lab coat, her hair tied back in a tight ponytail with ugly red glasses perched on the bridge of her nose.
“If he doesn’t wake?” The man persists.
“There’s nothing we can do about that. Why are you asking so many questions?” The woman’s heels click on the tile floor. Probably red too, “This is my patient, not yours. Stand aside, please.” She spits the word out as if it was an insult.
I hear the man sigh and the creak of something wooden. He probably took a seat. I listen as the lady’s heels move closer to me. I feel her energy like a vibration on my skin. I can’t see though. My eyes must be closed.
“Heart rate appears normal. Brain activity is perfect,” She murmurs to herself. I hear the scratching of pencil on paper. She’s taking notes.
“Sebastian! Didn’t I tell you to remain quiet?” The sudden sound of her voice makes me jump. I didn’t realize that I could move.
“Not specifically. You asked me to stand aside, not to remain quiet,” He replies in a calm manner. I feel a smile tug at the corner of my mouth.
“You know what i meant. Please, be quiet already. Why are you still in here?”
“I was told to be by his side.”
“By whom, may i ask?”
He sighs, and I imagine him rolling his eyes, “By father. You know how nosy he is. He asked me to keep an eye and report any significant changes.”
“If there are any changes, I would be the first to make him aware,” She says, matter of fact.
“I’m just doing as I’m told,” He mumbles.
“For once in your life, huh?”
“You didn’t tell me to remain quiet-”
“Enough already, Sebastian! I have things I have to do, alright?” She huffs. I can tell he causes her stress often by the exhausted tone of her voice.
I hear more shuffling around the room and feel the edge of my bed sink beneath someone’s weight. I take a soft breath and try to pull up some courage to open my eyes. It takes effort, but I manage. My eyelids are heavy and it takes a few tries to keep them open as the light shines in my face. The room isn’t seashell white like I imagined it would be, it’s a light gray. I survey the room quietly. I’m not even sure I’m able to speak.
My eyes land on the man first. Well, I wouldn’t call him a man now that I see him. He’s more of a young man. He’s seated in a wooden chair, his legs spread with his elbows on his knees, hunched over as his chin rests in his hands. By the stretched fabric of his black shirt across his back, I can tell he’s strong. His shoulders are wide and appear to be powerful, his biceps stretching his long sleeves. My eyes move to his face, which is half hidden by his messy dark bangs. All I can see is the sharp line of his jaw, the straight bridge of his nose, and the curve of his lower lip. I watch as he chews on his thumb nail.
I must have caught his attention, because only seconds later, his head tilts up and his caramel eyes meet mine. The intensity of them surprises me. They ponder me for a moment, as if soaking up all of my features even though his eyes never leave mine. For a fleeting moment, I thought he was going to pretend that i’m not awake. Instead, he sits up and gently rests his fingertips against something white, his gaze still on me.
I look over, noticing that he has rested his fingers on the woman’s knee, getting her attention. She’s looking at me now, her ruby red lips slightly parted as her deep brown eyes take me in. She looks flabbergasted. Opposite of what I imagined, her hair is brown and wavy, cascading down her back and over her shoulders like a dark waterfall. No glasses. At Least I got the white lab coat right.
“Boy, I didn’t expect you to wake so soon,” She says softly, rising from the end of my bed and grabbing her papers, moving quickly to be by my side,”How are you feeling?”
I try to clear my throat, very aware of Sebastian’s stare, then I try to speak.
“I feel...fine,” I say, my voice scratchy.
“Does anything hurt? Your head? Your chest?”
“No. I don’t feel any pain,” I reply.
She smiles, tapping the edge of her papers with her pencil, “Fantastic! That’s fantastic!”
Sebastian grunts, sitting back in his hunched position as he watches me. My eyes shift to him for a moment, catching him still watching me. I must look like a mess. Or a zombie. I am dead, afterall.
“Where am I?” I whisper, looking at the lab coat lady again.
“You are at Journey Graves Hospital.”
I watch as she shifts on her heels, taking her papers and reaching them out to Sebastian. He rises from his seat, carefully taking them without a word.
“I thought I died,” I lift my hands and examine them, then lay them on my chest to make sure my heart is still beating. It is.
“You did die,” She says, no emotion in her tone. Then, speaking to Sebastian, “Take these to your father. Tell him the boy is awake and doing perfectly.”
Sebastian grunts his agreement, then looks over at me again, as if he’s waiting for me to explain how I just woke from the dead. They’re the ones who need to do some explaining.
“Did someone save me?” I ask, rubbing my chest with the heels of my palms.
“No. Honey, you died,” She repeats, turning to me once again. Her red lips are curled into a kind smile. “I know you don’t understand.”
“Yeah, I really don’t.”
How could I have died? I’m right here. I’m breathing. My heart is beating.
I look over to my right, noticing the absence of monitors. Didn’t she say she was taking note of my heart rate and brain activity? How can she do that without monitors?
“I see that you have a lot of questions, but now is not the time,” I watch her flip a lock of her brown hair behind her shoulder. I have to admit, she is gorgeous. I look down at her lab coat, expecting to see a name tag. Hers says Dr. Jude.
“When is the time? Because I thought I died. You told me I died. So how am I right here?” I’m starting to panic. Am I in Hell? Is this some nightmare? Did I really die?
“Relax,” She says, placing her gentle fingers on my shoulder. I feel a tingling sensation run down my arm and into my fingers. My heart warms, my pulse slowing as my mind falls from panic. I feel...relaxed.
I look at her in awe.
She smiles, “You noticed. I had a sense you could feel my power.”
“What do you mean power?” I croak, swallowing hard. This has to be a damn dream.
“You felt what I just did to you, yes? It’s called a Charm,” She explains, removing her hand. The relaxation doesn’t fade from my body. “Everyone here has a Charm. Almost everyone at least.”
“Hold on a damn second,” I move my fingers up to rub my temples, staring at her in disbelief. “This isn’t real. I’m dreaming for sure.”
“No, you aren’t. This is real,” She assures me.
“No it isn’t. There is no such thing as super powers,” I protest.
Her lips scrunch slightly in irritation, “Did you not just witness it for yourself?”
“You can witness anything in a dream.”
“This is not a dream-”
“He’s not going to understand, Mom,” Sebastian’s voice cuts our argument. We both look over to find him leaning against the door frame, his arms crossed over his chest as his calm eyes land on me once more.
Mom? Did he call her Mom?
“He has to come to understand soon enough. He can’t live in this world and not know a thing, Sebastian,” She brushes her hands down the front of her coat.
He licks his lips before he talks, “I know. He’ll understand eventually, when he doesn’t wake up from this so-called dream.”
He said it in a gentle way, but part of me took that as a threat.
“Did your father say anything?” She asks, focused on him.
His eyes move to her, “No. Only that he’s glad.”
She nods, shifting her weight to the other foot. Her heels must be hurting her.
Sebastian seems to notice as well, “Why don’t you go take a break. I’ll stay here with him so he doesn’t run off and get himself killed.”
She looks at me for a minute, taking a deep breath, “Take him out to the courtyard for a walk. We need to make sure his body is properly functioning. Then take him to your father’s office.”
“And do not fool around, Sebastian Jude! Straight to the courtyard, then right to your father’s office, understood?” She jabs a perfectly painted fingernail at his chest.
“Yes, Mom. I know,” He laughs under his breath, uncrossing his arms as he moves his weight off of the door frame.
“This is very important. You know that,” She says softly to him, “Don’t mess this up.”
He nods, his eyes downcast as she rests her hand briefly on his bicep. Then we both watch as she leaves the room, walking stiffly in her uncomfortable heels.
I hear him sigh, then I watch as he brushes his hands down the front of his washed out jeans. Our eyes meet again.
“Don’t mind her. She’s usually like this,” He says, moving to the right side of my bed. He sticks out his hand, looking expectantly at me. I stare at him in confusion for a moment. “Take my hand,” He says.
I blink once, then feel the heat rise to my face. I’m such an idiot. I take his hand and sit up, letting him balance me as I swing my feet over the side of the bed. He grips my elbow with his other hand, pulling me to my feet. I use him to hold my weight as I test the strength of my legs. They seem to be working fine, just a little weak in the knees. He lets go of my elbow but keeps hold of my hand just in case.
“How do you feel?” He asks.
“I think I can walk fine. I just feel weak,” I brush my fingers through my hair, thinking about how wickedly hideous I must look.
“You look fine, don’t worry about it,” He mumbles, shooting me a small smile before pulling me forward by the hand. I look at him in awe, just like I looked at his Mom.
“How did you-”
“It’s my Charm,” He raises one shoulder, then lets it fall in a soft shrug.
“Reading my mind?” I ask, my eyes wide.
“Not specifically. I can’t hear your thoughts,” He opens the door and walks me out into the hallway, which is the same pale gray is the room I woke up in. “I can sense them though. Anticipate your next move and feel your emotions.”
“So, you sort of tell the future?”
“Kind of. It’s complicated,” He laughs, “It’s cute watching a Mortal try to figure this out.”
“Why do you say Mortal like I’m some other creature?” I say, slightly offended.
“Because you kind of are. We look the same, yes, but our bodies function differently.”
I’m speechless for a moment, letting Sebastian lead me down the hallway and through a set of double doors. They open to a large room with windows lining two of the four walls, tables filling the middle. The cafeteria I’m guessing. To the left is another set of double doors, which we walk towards calmly.
“Hold on. Just hold on,” I plant my feet firmly, pulling my hand from Sebastian’s grip. He stops walking, turning to look at me with a surprised expression.
“Hm?” He hums, like he’s frustrated with me. Though, there is a gleam of curiosity in his eyes.
“Where am I?”
“Journey Graves Hospital.”
“No,” I shake my head. “This place. This world. Where am I?”
“You’re still on Earth. You’re just on the other side of it,” He says, very nonchalant. “Think of it as the underworld.”
“So I did die, and I’m in Hell now,” I nod.
He laughs. A very charming laugh. “No, you aren’t in Hell. It’s another dimension.You aren’t with the Mortals anymore. When you died, Father took you. He brought you here, to Journey Graves Hospital, and revived you.”
“So I’m not dead?” This is so confusing.
“Well, you’re dead in the Mortal world. Not here though,” He reaches his hand out to me, wanting me to take it. I don’t.
“Why was I brought here?”
“Listen, I’m not my father. I don’t know why he chose you, or what your purpose is here. All I know is that he found a boy and I have to protect that boy. That boy being you. Now,” He wiggles his fingers, gesturing for me to take his hand, “Let’s go out to the courtyard.”
I hesitate. There are so many more questions that I have, but if Sebastian is telling me the truth then he isn’t the person I should be asking for the answers. It should be his father. I slip my hand back into his and he smiles, pulling me alongside him.
“Is holding hands really necessary?” I murmur, looking down at his hand holding mine.
“It’s so I can get a feel of your emotions. Track them in case you get the nerve to run away from me,” He looks sideways at me. “Don’t make me run after you.”
I feel a chill down my spine, “I won’t be running. I have no idea where I am.”
He pushes the double doors open with his shoulder and I feel a warm breeze hit my face, making me squint my eyes. The sun isn’t extremely bright, but it’s not exactly pleasant when I’ve had my eyes closed for god knows how long.
“How long was I,” I ponder my choice of words. “Asleep?”
“For three days,” He replies, keeping a firm hold of my hand as he takes me down the sidewalk. I watch his expression as he takes in the view of the yellow rose bushes. He seems intrigued by them.
“My Mom planted these,” He reaches to touch one of the roses, making it bounce lightly when he lifts his finger from the petals.
“Do you like roses?” I ask, looking down at them. They look soft, but the vines are laced with thorns. A mix of good and evil.
“I do,” He moves his gaze to me. “Do you?”
“I do too,” I look away from him. His eyes are super intimidating, and I don’t like the thought of him seeing my expression while my emotions flood into him. Or however that works.
“Why are you anxious?” He asks, on cue.
I feel my cheeks get warm, “I don’t know, maybe because I died and then woke up in some strange place with a lady in my face and a boy I’ve never met holding my hand while telling me all about how I died and got ressurected.” I look up at him.
I watch as amusement gleams in his eyes, his lips curving into a slight smile, “Fair point.”
I huff softly, ignoring his abnormal amount of charm.
“I never did get your name,” He says, squeezing my hand to get my attention.
“In the whole three days I slept in that bed, you never once thought to figure out my name?”
He purses his lips,”You’re sassy.”
“I’m scared,” I correct him.
He nods, “Well, no. I never asked what your name was. I had a feeling you weren’t going to wake up.”
A chill runs up my arms, “Why is that?”
“Because you aren’t the first person my feather tried to bring back to life.”
I let that soak in, not sure how to feel. His father sounds like Frankenstein’s creator.
“So, What’s your name?”
I shift my gaze to the blue roses as we approach them, “August.”
He raises an eyebrow, “August? That’s interesting.”
I sniffle, trying to fill the awkward silence.
“Well, I’m Sebastian. I bet you already know that because of how much my Mom yelled at me since you woke.” He laughs.
I smile a little, “You look a lot like her.”
“Yeah. I inherited her good looks and impeccable manners,” He smiles at me. I notice how much lighter his eyes are than his Mom’s.
“I’m guessing you got your eye color from your Dad then?”
“No, actually,” He says, as if proud of himself. “My father has dark brown eyes as well. They didn’t give me my golden eyes.”
“Is that normal around here? Abnormal eye color?”
“No. A lot of folks around here have dark brown, green, or blue eyes,” He replies softly, still smiling. “I think of myself as a work of art.”
He truly is charming. I laugh, silently taking note of the dimple in his left cheek when he smiles.
“All of us have something unique about us though,” He continues. “I have a deep connection with emotions, therefore my eyes reflect my unique ability to see into someone’s soul. My mother, she has persuasion and influence. Her lips are red naturally.”
“Oh wow,” I nod along as he talks.
“My father’s is harder to notice. His Charm is the ability to memorize anything set in front of him. He never forgets.”
“Like a photographic memory?”
“Exactly,” He nods. “His unique feature is his brain. He’s incredibly smart.”
“That must be nice.”
“I can only imagine. My intelligence is lacking in many areas,” He laughs.
“So…” I trail off, my mind flooded with questions. “This is really happening? I really died and then got resurrected into another supernatural dimension.”
“And I’m the only Mortal here?”
“And you have absolutely no idea how this is possible?”
“What the hell,” I rub my eye with my hand, the feeling of confusion not fading. This has to be a joke. An elaborate prank or something.
“August,” He squeezes my hand and stops walking, trying to get my attention. I stop walking too, turning to face him. He can see my confusion and the questions in my eyes. I can’t expect answers from him though. We just met, so if he had any answers, I doubt he’d trust me enough to tell me. Though, he said he doesn’t know anything about this. His job is to protect me.
“I know that none of this makes sense to you, but it’s all true. I need you to get it through your head,” He tells me in a quiet voice, like he’s trying not to scare me. But i’m already scared. I have no idea where I am, or why I’m here, or who these people are. Every second I stop to think about it, panic floods my veins and I’m unsure of myself. Can I trust Sebastian?
“Hey,” He speaks softly again, his golden eyes staring directly into mine. “I’m on your side, August. You can trust me, I promise.”
Even though that gives me some comfort, I’m still afraid. I’m sure he would be too if he died and then woke up in some dream land with supernatural creatures.
I bite my lip to hold back tears and his expression softens.
“Listen,” He steps closer to me, his grip on my hand not faltering, as if he was still holding on to my sanity for me. “I’m going to be by your side wherever you go. I know we just met and you aren’t sure if you can trust me, but I’m sure we both feel the same way about each other right now. I have no clue why my father brought you here, or what his plans are. I’m not sure if I can trust you to follow my word when I tell you not to do something. I need you to know that everything I tell you is for your safety, okay?”
I nod, unsure of how I’m supposed to respond.
“I know you’re scared,” He squeezes my hand again. No buts this time.
I swallow back my fear and look away from him, feeling vulnerable. If he’s not trustworthy, I don’t want him to see me like this. He could use it to his advantage. For now, I’ll trust him, but only a little.
I sniffle to signal the end of this conversation and Sebastian nods, understanding. He looks away from me and tugs on my hand, pulling me to his side once again. We fall into step.
“I’m guessing my father will brief you later, when I take you to his office,” He says. “Until then, I can tell you a little bit about this place.”
“Sure,” I murmur, my eyes focused on the massive marble water fountain in the center of the courtyard.
“The city you are in right now is called Labrynth. It’s the capital of this district,” He explains. “The district we are in is called District Ten. We are considered the wealthy district.”
“How many districts are there?”
“Fourteen,” He says. “Outside of the fourteen districts, there’s not much. Barren land and thick forests. No Man’s Land, as we call it.”
“Why do you call it that?”
His eyes shift to the fountain as well, and he walks me towards it. “Every person who has gone beyond the districts has never returned. Even the most powerful people. We aren’t sure if it was their goal to go off the grid, they just vanished one day.”
I eye the fountain as we get closer, noticing how the water flows still, as if it’s trapped in time. It looks like a fountain of glass flowing down the white marble. In the middle, a tall porcelain angel is perched on a sphere, it’s wings spread wide like it’s ready for flight. Sebastian sits on the lip of the fountain, gesturing for me to sit beside him. I do.
“This fountain is called The Well,” He moves his leg to rest on the marble, his body turning to face me as he looks down into the still water. “It was built by the creator of District Ten, Timothy Zorander. He said it’s purpose is to give hope. Citizens use it to make wishes.”
“So, a wishing fountain,” I study the water, seeing what appears to be silver coins in the bottom of the fountain.
“Exactly. Legend says that if you make a wish in this fountain, it really comes true,” He takes his free hand and dips it into the fountain, disturbing the still water as it moves out of his way. It parts and flows around his fingers without ever touching them.
“Have you ever made a wish?” I ask, looking up at him. His eyes are sparkling, a smile on his face.
“No,” He says softly. “I don’t believe in wishful thinking.”
“Why not?” I laugh. “Everything here seems to be possible.”
He removes his hand, turning to me. “It may seem that way to an outsider. You can wish all you want, but it takes action to make things happen.”
He’s not wrong. I inhale deeply and look away from him, letting my breath out slowly.
“So, you don’t believe in this fountain’s power?” I ask.
“No,” He states simply.
“Maybe it won’t work for those who don’t believe,” I reply, transfixed on the water once again.
“Then go ahead and fool yourself,” He laughs. “I have no time for things such as this.”
“Oh yeah? What are you so busy doing all day long?” I laugh too.
“Before you came, I worked on the field for my father,” He smirks, his dimple popping up.
“I call it the field. I was a farmer, believe it or not,” He nods his head.
“I figured he would have made you a counselor or something, since you have a deep connection with emotions and all.”
“I’m not old enough to be a counselor.”
I tilt my head, realizing that I never did ask his age. “How old are you?”
“Nineteen,” He says. “Yes, our years work the same here as they do in the Mortal world.”
“Oh,” I chew my lip. “I’m eighteen.”
“I know,” He laughs. “Too bad you didn’t get to live a little longer.”
A thought suddenly occurs to me. I died when I was eighteen, but what was I doing? I feel Sebastian’s eyes on me as I try to think this over.
“I can almost see the smoke blowing from your ears,” He interrupts my train of thought. “What are you thinking about?”
“I can’t remember how I died,” I tell him, furrowing my eyebrows in an attempt to concentrate.
“You drowned,” He says simply, as if I asked him what two-plus-two was.
I purse my lips, “But how? What was I doing?”
“My father said you were swimming or something,” He shrugs.
Why Can’t I remember anything?
I take my hand away from his and rub my temples with my fingers, closing my eyes. I can still feel his stare even when I open my eyes again, looking down at the water. I sigh.
“I figure you’ve already had enough of today,” He says quietly, still watching me.
I laugh. “Yeah, you think?”
He bites down on his lower lip and looks to his right, his gaze not focusing on anything in particular. “Maybe tomorrow my Mom will allow me to take you into the city. It’s very beautiful.”
“That would be nice,” I exhale heavily. Maybe getting out of this hospital for a day would be a good thing. It could help the fact that this is real get through my head, because it still feels like a dream.
“Though,” He continues. “The city has its risks. Not everyone there is kind and charming like I am.” He smirks and looks at me again.
I roll my eyes, but I can’t hide the smile that curves my lips. “I’m willing to take that risk. I need away from these gray walls for a day.”
He nods, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a smartphone. “I will message her and ask, but it’s no guarantee.”
“I’m guessing you’re a problem child?” I raise an eyebrow at him.
He chuckles. “Possibly.”
“It’s your job to keep me out of trouble,” I remind him.
“I know, I know,” He puts his phone back in his pocket. “Old habits are old habits.”
“What are your old habits?”
“I liked to sneak off. Well, I still do. Being under the watchful eye of my parents isn’t exactly comforting,” He laughs. “I like to do things on my own sometimes. Another old habit is that I liked to sneak people in.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
I make gagging noises and he laughs again, then shakes his head.
“Not like that,” He assures me. “I like to spy on my parents sometimes. Don’t tell them that.”
“But the thing I get into trouble for most of the time is starting fights,” He raises his hands as if to surrender. “Some people just don’t know how to keep their mouths shut.”
“Oh, I see,” I scoff. “Mister bad boy.”
He snorts. I have to admit, it’s cute. “I’m not a bad boy, but I do defend my friends.”
“Good. Then maybe I’ll trust you to defend me if something evil tries to rip my throat open,” I squint my eyes at him.
He smiles, squinting his eyes at me in return. “Of course I would. You’re like a helpless little deer, learning how to walk.”
I squint harder at the insult.
He laughs, “I’m joking, but you can trust me. I know you can’t protect yourself here. I hope you know that too.”
“I know,” I mutter. It’s painful how well I know this. If all of this is real like he insists, then I’m not safe on my own. “But what if something more powerful than you comes for me, hm?” I challenge him.
“Then I’ll pick you up fireman style and haul ass,” He laughs. I laugh too, noticing how easy it is to talk to him. There’s a sense of comfort I get being around him. He makes me feel safe. Then again, I could just be yearning for some sort of connection in this crazy place. Something to make me feel alive.
“Let’s hope it never comes to that,” He says finally, getting up and brushing his hands down his jeans like he did earlier. He takes a deep breath and reaches his hand out to me. I take it and stand up as well. “Let’s get you over to my father’s office.”
“Will you be in the room with me?” I ask. I don’t want to seem clingy, but Sebastian is the only person I know here, besides his mother. I don’t really know her though, and I don’t like the thought of being alone with his father. He gives me weird vibes and I haven’t even met the guy.
“Yes. As your guardian it’s my job to know about you as well. In case I need to make any important decisions.” He nods, walking me back the way we came.
“What about at night?” I push for more answers. “I’ll be alone then. What if someone comes to kill me in my sleep?”
He looks over at me, amused. “Not like you would know, but you haven’t been alone. I sleep in the same room as you.”
“Oh,” I look away, embarrassed. Does he really?
“I sit on a chair at the end of your bed and watch over you.”
“Not like that. I usually rest my head in my arms and lean on the bed. It’s easy for me to fall asleep,” He laughs and touches the blue roses as we pass them. I watch them bounce the same way the yellow ones did.
“That sounds uncomfortable. Why don’t you have a bed?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I never thought about it.”
“You’re going to have back pain if you keep sleeping like that,” I mutter. I can’t hide the fact that I’m genuinely worried for his health. He’s been really kind to me so far.
He smiles down at me as we make it to the yellow roses, “It’s nice that you care.”
“Psh,” I purse my lips, looking away. I hate how charming he is sometimes.
“I’ll talk to my Mom about it, but I don’t think we’ll be staying in that hospital room for long since you’ve woke,” He looks away from me.
“Are your parents rich?”
“Yes. They own Journey Graves Hospital now, and several other wings in other cities here. They have a large influence on our district,” He explains. “All of the money usually goes into their research or into paying the bills. They have nice cars though,” He laughs. “And I’m decently spoiled, as you probably will be too.”
“Am I like, adopted or something?” I chew my lip, watching the double doors as we approach them.
“I guess, maybe,” He murmurs. “I’m not sure.”
“Hm,” I hum. This really is a lot to take in on the first day. If this is real, I might throw up. I glance down at our hands briefly. His hand definitely feels real to me. I can feel the warmth of his skin and the heat of the sun shining down on us. I can feel the breeze and smell the roses. All of the colors are clear and vibrant. If this is a dream, this is the most realistic dream I’ve ever had.
He shoulder bumps the doors open again and walks me through, “The best thing to do with my father is to sit and listen. He likes to hear himself talk and it’s best not to interrupt.”
“Is he mean?”
“He can be, but not usually,” He smiles a little. “With me in the room, he might show off a bit. Act all genius.”
“I thought he is genius,” I laugh, looking up at him. Our eyes meet again. I stare at him for a moment, thinking of how warm and kind his eyes are. Like an ocean of caramel. He looks away.
“He is and he’ll make you very aware of it,” He chuckles under his breath. “He’s a show off. Don’t be surprised if he goes on some sort of scientific rant, talking about the Barrier or the Fifth Wall.”
“What? What’s the ‘Barrier’ and the ‘Fifth Wall’?” I ask, intrigued.
He clears his throat, his eyes shifting to the floor as he falls quiet, “Snow White, twelve o’clock.”
I’m about to ask what he means by that when I hear a man’s voice ahead of us, calling Sebastian’s name. I notice the contrast between Sebastian and this guy immediately. Sebastian gives off a dark and cozy vibe, and this guy is bright and outgoing.
The guy smiles broadly as he approaches us, his arms stretched out wide like he’s going to embrace. But he stops walking and drops his arms once he’s within a foot, still grinning.
“Where have you been? We’ve needed you on the field,” He tries to catch his breath as he looks over at me, his blue eyes blazing. I’m astonished by his beauty. His hair is snow white, as are his eyebrows and eyelashes. His skin is smooth and copper colored, making his snowy features stand out even more. He’s as tall as Sebastian, with shoulders just as wide and arms just as powerful.
“Sorry,” Sebastian lifts his free hand to rub the back of his neck. “My father put me on an assignment elsewhere.”
The guy grinned harder, his eyes moving from me to Sebastian, then back to me, “I’m guessing this boy is the assignment?”
Sebastian laughs, “Don’t get any weird ideas.”
“My head is already flowing with strange things, Sebby,” The guy leans down and smiles crookedly, his eyes meeting mine. “Hello there.” He says sweetly.
I blush a little and look over at Sebastian, wanting out of this situation. Sebastian stifles a laugh.
“August, this is Rome. Rome, this is the boy that I’m assigned to protect,” Sebastian explains.
Rome stands up straight again and extends his hand, “Pleasure to meet you, August.”
I take his hand and shake it, “You too. If you don’t mind me asking…”
He smiles and lets go of my hand, moving them to rest on his hips, “Ask away.”
“What is your power? Your features are incredible,” I whisper, unable to keep myself from staring at him.
He squints his eyes and smirks, looking at Sebastian with a devious glint in his eyes. He looks back at me, “I’m handsome, aren’t I?”
“Very,” I admit.
“I have the power of ice,” He tells me excitedly, like a child that’s proud to show off his new toy. “I have glands in my palms that allow me to create ice crystals from my sweat.”
“So, You’re some sort of ice prince?” I ask.
He grins harder, “Prince, huh? I like that. We’ll go with that.”
Sebastian laughs, “Anyways, August, you can trust him. He’s a good friend of mine and he will always have your back. If I ever happen to not be around and you need something, go to Rome.”
“Go to Rome,” Rome repeats, nodding his head in satisfaction. “That sounds like the title or a good book. I need to get a shirt that says that.”
I crack a smile. Besides being absolutely obsessed with himself, Rome seems like a great guy.
“And we need to get Auggie here a shirt that says-”
“That’s enough of that,” Sebastian busts out laughing, interrupting Rome. Rome smirks and reaches his hand out to do some secret hand shake with him. They pull each other in to bump shoulders.
“So, where are you two headed off to now?” Rome asks, his hands moving back to his hips.
“I’m taking August to my father’s office,” Sebastian explains. “For some kind of briefing, I’m guessing.”
“Ah, I see,” He nods his head. “Well, you two have fun. If your wretch of a mother lets you come out later, bring Auggie with you. We’re having a party tonight,” He grins.
Sebastian laughs, “Yeah, I doubt I’ll be allowed out. What’s the party for?”
He shrugs, “Celebration for Livia. She’s mated.”
“What? Since when?”
I tilt my head, confused. “What-”
“Since three days ago. You didn’t hear?” Rome laughs. “All she’s been doing is talking about it.”
“Oh. Who was she mated with?” Sebastian asks.
“Some guy named Jules. I met him yesterday and he seems pretty cool. Has a nice Charm too,” Rome shifts his weight to his left foot. “Apparently they’ve known each other for a while.”
“Well, that’s good for her,” Sebastian smiles and looks down at me. “Being mated is a very good thing. It’s like finding your soulmate.”
“It is finding your soulmate,” Rome corrects him, pointing a finger.
“You don’t get to choose your own love?” I ask, feeling bad for whoever Livia is. I’d hate to not have a choice who I ended up with.
“Well, the universe kind of chooses for you, but it’s a good thing. It’s your true love. A lot of people don’t realize the bond they have with their soulmate until they spend more time with them,” Rome explains. “It’s like, you’ve been missing something in your soul for a long time, and then you see that person and you’ve found what’s been missing.”
“Wow,” Sebastian puts his hand on his chest, a touched expression on his face. “That was very meaningful, Rome. Are you on medication?”
Rome laughs and punches Sebastian’s shoulder, “No, I’m capable of emotions too!”
“Oh okay, I wasn’t sure until now,” Sebastian grins.
Rome grins back at him just as evilly, speaking to me. “Sebastian and I have been close friends since we were young.”
“You mean, since I saved your ass from those assholes in middle school,” Sebasian laughs.
“Oh please! I was doing just fine!” Rome scoffs, feigning irritation. “I didn’t need you to step in!”
“They were beating you to a pulp,” He snorts. “I saved you, admit it.”
“I don’t admit to lies!” Rome laughs.
“So,” I cut in. “This world has school like the Mortal world?”
“Yeah. We spend our time learning normal stuff, as well as how to control our powers.” Sebastian explains. “It’s like those classes that you get in middle school when you’re about to hit puberty.”
Rome nods. “Once we hit maturity, our powers begin to develop quickly, so they like to have us prepared.”
“Your Mom said that not everyone gets powers,” I say. “Is that true?”
“Yes. Not everyone will get powers. It all depends on your genetics,” Rome says. “If your parents have weak powers, it’s likely that you won’t have any at all. But the mating thing is what helps strengthen your child’s possibilities of having a strong power.”
“To keep the line going.” I nod.
Sebastian lifts his wrist and checks the time. “We should get going. I’ll see you around Rome.”
Rome nods and lifts his hand in a subtle wave, walking past us. “See ya, Sebby. Bye Auggie!” He gestures his good-bye wave at me vigorously.
I laugh, waving back. “Bye.”