The Wanderers

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chapter 25

There was an eerie stillness inside the dorms. Silence filled the long dark hallway as we made our way up the steps and down the hall to Tristan’s room. The only sound was the echo of our footsteps as we crept across the tiles. I was glad Tristan and Billy were leading us; I believe if it wasn’t for them we probably wouldn’t had found our way in the pitch black darkness.

No one said a word until we were all safely inside Tristan’s room. “Now what?” Josie asked. Billy took one look at her, smiled, and then picked her up throwing her over his shoulder. Josie squealed and giggled as he carried her out the door.

“Wait, where are you guys going?” I asked, chasing them out the door. “Guys, we should stick together,” I said voice panicked, not wanting to be left alone with Tristan.

“Relax Ella, we’ll be right down the hall,” Josie said as they disappeared into the depths of the darkness. I sighed and turned around. I knew my only options were to wait out this nightmare with Tristan or sit in a room, alone, in the dark. I contemplated for a moment before I chose. I knew it didn’t matter. Even if I chose the latter, Tristan would follow me. I accepted my fate and stepped back into the room.

“Ella?”

“Tristan, don’t,” I said, closing my eyes and trying to take a breath.

“Ella, you have to know I didn’t want to leave you like that.”

I closed the door not wanting to broadcast what I knew would be a fight. I inhaled deeply and turned around to face him. “Then why did you?” I spat, angrily. “Why did you leave me?”

“I thought it was for the best,” he sighed. “I thought if we weren’t together then he would come after me and not you.”

“You have any idea what I’ve been through this past week? You left me...and I was alone, alone to deal with all of this.” I clenched my hands into tight fist to keep them from shaking.

“I know and I’m sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. You have no idea how hard it was for me to leave you. I thought I could but I can’t and that’s why I came back.” He was in front of me, cupping the sides of my face with his hands. “It was stupid Ella, I know that now. I love you and I don’t ever want to be away from you.”

I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw myself into his arms and tell him I forgave him, but I couldn’t. He left, he chose to leave, and that hurt too much. I yanked his hands away and walked over to the other side of the room shaking my head. “No, it’s not that easy. You can’t just come back here and tell me you love me. You’re nothing but a selfish asshole and I don’t want anything to do with you!” I yelled furiously.

He was in front of me again in a flash, gripping my shoulders. I tried to pull away but he was too strong. “Ella, stop,” he pleaded. I kept fighting him refusing to give up until he let go. “Ella! I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to,” he growled, frustrated.

I stopped struggling and looked deep into his eyes when I said, “You already did.” I bit my tongue to keep the tears at bay. He lowered his head and let me go, but I didn’t move, I stayed right where I was. He raised his head just enough so I could see his eyes, see the sadness in them. I held perfectly still as I watched a single tear fall down his cheek.

“Tristan, I can’t do this right now. I can’t –”

He pulled back abruptly and groaned angrily. “Don’t you get it? Everything I’ve done I’ve done for you!” he yelled, making me flinch. “I left because I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought I could protect you.” His eyes turned dark and he turned away from me. He stood in front of the bathroom door and punched it over and over again until there was nothing left but splintered wood.

“I can’t be this perfect guy you want me to be. I tried but that’s not me,” he said with his back to me.

“I never asked you to be anyone but who you are!” I shouted, angry at him for turning this on me. “I never expected you to be perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist.”

He turned to look at me, tears streaming down his face. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how many times I can say it before you believe me, but I will tell you forever if that what it takes. I love you Ella, more than I’ve ever loved anyone and I can’t bare the pain of losing you. I will do whatever it takes to keep you.”

I needed to escape, to get out of here, but I had nowhere to go. My stand-still response gave Tristan the courage to make his next move, his final attempt to keep me by his side forever. The moment his lips hit mine I felt my insides turn to mush. I wanted to pull away, but couldn’t. All the anger and sadness was gone the moment his lips molded with mine. I still wanted to be mad at him, but I no longer had the strength. I felt everything in that kiss. I felt how much he loved me, how much it hurt him to leave me. Every agonizing day he spent without me by his side. He loved me still through it all. And I loved him too, no matter how much it hurt.

He pulled back enough to place his forehead on mine. “Ella, I made a mistake. I was an idiot. Please, forgive me.” Through the flood of our tears I no longer knew whose were whose hitting my cheeks. “I know you love me too...I can feel it. I felt it when we kissed.” I pulled back wiping the tears from his cheeks. “Ella, you are the piece to the puzzle I’ve been missing all these years. When I’m with you I feel complete.”

My heart broke at the sentiment and I felt like I was falling apart into a million pieces. I fell into his arms wanting him to hold me, cradle me, and never let go. I pressed my head against his body feeling the rise and fall of his chest. The warmth of his skin, his scent, everything about him I loved so much. I pulled back and looked into his eyes ready to tell him I loved him too. “Tristan I –”

He brushed a thumb across my cheek making me pause mid-sentence. I closed my eyes and basked in the glory of his velvety touch. I opened my eyes and lightly tugged on his shirt exposing his chest and catching the smallest glimmer of a Celtic cross dangling from his neck, ready to confess my love when – “Where did you get that?” I asked, referring to the cross.

“I found it, the day I met you. So I took it as a good sign and decided to keep it. I know it’s kind of girly but –”

“But it’s mine,” I said, recognizing it.

“If you want it you can have it,” he said, not understanding.

“No. I mean it’s mine. It’s my grandmother’s cross. I lost it the night of the accident.”

“Here,” he said, reaching up to take it off.

“No, you keep it on. My grandmother gave it to me as kind of a lucky charm. So I want you to have it.”

“I promise I will take good care of it and will only take it off to return it to your family in the event that something should happen.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I said, sliding my arms around him and hugging his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart.

“No worries, I plan on being here for a really long time,” he said, kissing the top of my head.

I just held him for a while, melting into him. I loved the way I fit so perfectly inside his arms – like we were made for each other. I had no idea I could love someone so much that it hurt. I pulled back to look at him. I smiled, pushing back a few strands of hair from his face. He grabbed my hand and held it in his warming me up inside. I pushed up on my tip toes ready to give him a kiss when we heard a sudden crash from down the hall. I jumped.

Tristan spun around and stood in front of me protectively. “What was –” he turned to me telling me to be quiet.

“Stay here and lock the door behind me,” he whispered.

“But Tristan,” I begged. I was more worried about his safety than mine.

“Ella, I’ll be right back. I’m just going to check it out. So please, just stay here.” Seeing how frightened I was he pulled me into him and kissed me so forcefully I thought my knees were going to buckle. He kissed me long and hard. He kissed me as if this was the last time we would ever kiss again.

When he let go I stumbled back a bit and caught a glimpse of his cocky smile before it turned serious again. Then before I could protest he was out the door. I just stood there, still reeling from his amazing kiss. Once I found my bearings, I ran to the door and locked it just as Tristan had said to. Then I felt my way around until I found the bed. I carefully sat down and waited, in the dark.

What I was sure was only ten minutes felt like an hour had gone by. I stood up and started cautiously pacing the room, wondering what was taking so long. What happened? Why wasn’t he back yet? My mind was racing with all kinds of horrible things that could happen in that small time frame that I sat idly by.

Tired of waiting and against my better judgment, I decided to check things out for myself. I knew Tristan had told me to stay put, but I wasn’t one to listen. I slowly and cautiously unlocked the door. I stuck my head out into the hall and looked around, which did me no good because I couldn’t see anything in the dark.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. There was nothing to be afraid of I told myself. I braced myself and took a step into the hallway. I waited until my eyes adjusted to the darkness, but it was no use. I felt something vibrate inside my boot making me jump. I rolled my eyes when I realized it was my cell phone. Then I hit myself in the head. Duh, cell phone. I had forgotten I put it in there. I unzipped my boot to retrieve it only to find out my phone beeped as a warning to let me know it was dying.

Crap.

I turned on the flashlight app anyways hoping it would get me where I needed to go before it died. I shined the light down the hall. I saw and heard nothing. I proceeded in the direction of my room thinking that was probably where Billy and Josie were. I took my time looking over my shoulder at all the shadows and then chastised myself for being a big baby who was afraid of the dark.

When I finally reached my room I pressed my ear close to the door to listen for any sounds of life.

I heard nothing.

I put my hand on the doorknob and turned it slowly. “Josie?” I whispered, before I pushed the door all the way open. I couldn’t see anything so I shined my phone into the room only to have it die on me. Of course it would. I slipped the phone back into my boot seeing that it was no longer of use to me. Then I called out again. “Josie?”

Nothing.

I tried the light switch but the power was out. I noticed a tiny light shining through the blinds from the outside. I slowly made my way over to the window to open the blinds and let in some light, but I only made it halfway. I stumbled over a big lump in the middle of the floor and fell to the ground. The lump moaned. “Billy?” I turned myself over and crawled to him.

“Ella?” he said weakly.

With the little that I could see I noticed he had a huge gash on his head and his leg was all twisted. “Billy, what happened? Where’s Josie?” I asked, panicked.

He tried to sit up, but winced from the pain. “Careful,” I said helping him sit up. “What happened?” I asked again.

“Jack,” he said, voice strained.

“Jack did this?” he nodded, holding his arm tight to his chest. “Oh God, where’s Josie,” I asked, shaking him.

He grimaced from the pain I was causing him and I quickly let go. “I don’t know...everything happened so fast.”

“Think, Billy. What happened?”

He tried to readjust himself to a more comfortable position. “He hit me from behind. I tried to fight back, I did, but he hit me so hard I had to struggle to stay conscious and before I knew it I was out.” He put his head down, ashamed. “Ella, I’m so sorry. I tried to protect her, I did, I –”

“It’s okay Billy, I know you did. We’ll find her.” I needed to find a phone. I knew if I called the guardians they would be here within a few seconds to help us find her. “Do you have your phone?”

“No,” he shook his head.

“Okay, we need to get to a phone so I can call the guardians and get you some help. Can you walk?”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s just my arm. I think it’s broken.” I helped him up and sat him on the bed. I looked around for something to stabilize his arm. I knew we had clean sheets in the closet. If I ripped one in half I could make him a sling. “I’m gonna get a sheet from the closet to help tie up your arm, but we need to hurry because if Jack has Josie, there’s no telling what he’ll do. I don’t even what to think about it,” I said, opening the closet door. Only when I opened the door I found something else.

I found Josie.

I gasped in horror and had to cover my mouth to keep from screaming out loud. Her body tumbled out onto the floor in a lifeless heap. I dropped to my knees next to her body. She was covered in blood from head to toe. Slashes all over her body and bite marks on her neck. I leaned in and put my head on her chest to see if she was still breathing, but I heard nothing. “Oh, God,” I cried out, covering my face with my hands and smearing Josie’s blood all over in the process.

Billy’s head whipped around at the sound of my cries. “What...no,” he said when he saw Josie. “NO! NO! NO!” he screamed, dropping to the floor.

“She’s not breathing,” I managed to get out through all my blubbering.

“Do you know how to do CPR?” Billy asked me. I couldn’t comprehend anything at that moment. I was too shocked. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from my friend’s bloody body. “Ella!” Billy shouted, shaking me. I looked up at him. “Do you know CPR?” I nodded. “Okay, get ready and I’ll tell you when to start with the chest compressions.” I nodded numbly.

Billy tilted her head back slightly, opened her mouth and checked for any obstructions. Then he pinched her nose and blew two heavy breaths into her mouth and pointed to me. I stood on my knees, hand over hand and pushed down on her chest repeatedly, alternating while Billy tried to breathe life back into Josie. “Is it working?” I asked, worried.

“Not yet, keep going.”

I just kept trying but she still wasn’t breathing. Billy sat back on his heels looking defeated. “What are you doing? Don’t stop!” I yelled.

“Ella,” he said softly.

“No, she’s not dead.” I pushed him out the way and continued trying to bring my friend back.

“Ella,” Billy said again. “Ella, it’s too late.”

“No it’s not! She’s not dead, you can’t just give up!”

“She’s lost too much blood, there’s nothing we can do,” he said mournfully.

“Can’t we get a full vamp to feed her their blood and just bring her back?” I asked, desperate for anything to have my friend with me.

“No, she has to still be alive. I’m sorry Ella,” he said, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“No,” I shook my head. “Oh, God,” I cried hysterically, putting my head down on her chest. Billy stood up and knelt behind me. I looked up him. He was crying now, too. I threw my arms around his neck while he wrapped his one good arm around me to keep me from falling apart.

We heard a scream from outside. I froze and looked at Billy. He got up and peered out through the blinds. “Just some kids goofing around,” he said. I let a sigh of relief. “Ella,” he said, looking at me with sad eyes. “We need to go. We have to find a phone and get help. I’m in no condition to fight and I couldn’t live with myself if I let anything else happen.”

“I know,” I said, looking back down at my friend. I leaned down close to her ear and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Josie,” I paused, fighting the urge to lose it again. I didn’t have the time grieve. “I love you,” I said, sitting up and wiping hastily at my tears.

Billy walked over and bent down to face Josie. “I’m sorry I wasn’t the hero you deserved. I love you and will never forget you,” he said, placing a soft kiss on her lips to say goodbye. Then he closed her eyes and sent up a silent prayer. When he opened his eyes they were glowing. “Let’s go,” he growled. His eyes were growing angry with rage and I knew if I didn’t get us out of here soon he would end up doing something that might get us both killed. He helped me up and out of the room, but not before I took one last look at my friend. Then I closed the door and followed Billy down the hall.

He was right when he said he wasn’t at full strength. He was limping slightly when we walked and had to take several breaks. “Why don’t you let me help you?” I offered.

“I can do it,” he said, letting his stubborn male pride get in the way.

“Billy, you can barely walk let alone stand, here,” I said, throwing his good arm over my shoulder and putting mine around his waist. “Just put some of your weight on me.” Feeling exhausted, Billy gave in and let me help him the rest of the way. The steps seemed to take a lot out of him so I let him rest at the bottom. “I’m going to go to the front desk and use the phone,” I told him.

“No Ella, it’s not safe,” he said, while trying to stand but only succeeding in falling right back down.

“Billy, you’ll be able to see the front desk from here. It will be quicker if I go myself. I’ll be right back.” He nodded, knowing that in his condition he wouldn’t be that much help. I propped the door open with a folding chair so Billy could see me. Then I listened carefully for the sounds of someone else, but heard nothing. When I was sure it was clear, I proceeded cautiously to the front desk, looking all around for any surprises.

When I reached the desk, I picked up the closest phone but it was dead. “Shit.” I looked around the desk for something else, another phone, radio, weapon, something, anything but I found nothing.

I took a step back and slipped, falling to the floor and into a pile of something wet and dark. I looked down and lifted my hands to see what it was...blood. “Oh, God.” I followed the trail of blood with my eyes around the other side of the desk. I knew what I would find before I even looked. I threw myself back into the wall gasping when I saw him. It was George, the dorm’s security guard. I pulled my knees up and put my hand over my mouth, turning my head, not able to look at him.

I looked at Billy who still was waiting for me, unaware of what I just discovered. I knew he was depending on me to find a phone to call for help. I had to pull myself together. I had to get us out of here so this monster could be stopped. I just couldn’t sit around and wait for more innocent people to die. I managed to construct some small amount of courage and crawled my way over to George’s body. “I’m so sorry, George. You did not deserve this,” I said, closing his eyes and taking a moment to collect myself. When I was ready, as much as it pained me, I searched George for a phone or weapon of some sort. He had neither.

“Shit.”

I slowly stood up careful not to slip again. I turned back to Billy who was hunched over, propped up against the doorway to the stairs. I wiped the tears from my face and started to make my way back over to Billy. My head hung low at the loss of yet another friend. When I looked back up to meet Billy’s eyes and tell him the bad news, I stopped, frozen in place.

Billy followed the direction of my terrified stare. He looked over his shoulder and then back at me yelling, “Ella, RUN!” I watched Jack rip him back from the doorway and throw him into the stairwell. The door closed so fast Billy never had a chance. I heard grunts coming from Billy and knew he wasn’t giving up without a fight. I wanted to help, but I knew I would only get in the way and end up getting us both killed. So instead I did what he told me to. I ran.

I had no idea where to go and still didn’t know where Tristan was. Panic surged through me as I ran across the quad. I looked around everywhere for someone, anyone, but found no one. I ran to an open area that had the most light.

“Eeeellllaaaa...” I heard Jack’s voice in the breeze. I stopped and turned around, but he wasn’t there.

I looked around again looking for an emergency phone. I remembered seeing them around campus but now I couldn’t find one. “Eeeeelllaaa...” I heard him again. His voiced carried through the wind followed by a malicious laugh.

I turned again and again spinning in circles, searching and waiting for him to appear, but he didn’t show himself. Having enough of his torment I decided I was going to fight back. I was not going to just lie down and be slaughtered. I knew it wouldn’t be much of a fight, but at least I would try. I would try for all the people he took from me tonight and for all the other people he killed.

“Show yourself you coward!” I screamed into the empty air.

He laughed and I turned in the direction of his voice. I saw the glow of his eyes in the distance and then they were gone. Those eyes, I knew them well. I was starting to piece everything together. It was all making sense now. “It was you, wasn’t it? You were there that night, the night of the accident.” I waited but got no response, so I continued. “You’re the reason the car flipped. You were the one standing in the middle of the road. The person Kyle swerved to avoid.”

“Give the girl a prize,” he said, clapping. The sound came from behind me and I turned, but still couldn’t see him. “Yes, poor Kyle, just another player in the game. A game that you’re about to lose.”

“I wouldn’t count on that,” I spat, trying to sound confident despite the fact I was shaking in my boots. “Why’d you do it? What did you have to gain from the accident?”

“I needed to see if you had your powers yet, but it was obvious you didn’t when you couldn’t help poor Kyle out of the car. I did enjoy sticking around and watching though. The look on your face was priceless. I didn’t plan on showing myself, but I do enjoy a good scare,” he laughed.

“You’re sick you know that!” I clenched and unclenched my fists at my side. This was what he wanted. He wanted me to get mad. He wanted to make me weak so he could pounce on me at the right second when I was most vulnerable. Well I was on to his game and wasn’t going to let him take me that easily.

I took a breath trying to release some of my anger. Then I decided to stick it to him the best way I knew how - my sarcastic wit. “You know, this hide and seek is getting old,” I said, annoyed. “So how about you face me like a man. Or are you too scared?” I laughed, trying to show him he couldn’t get to me and that I wasn’t scared of him even though I thought I might pee my pants.

I felt an icy cool breeze behind me and I knew he was there. I turned around to face him. “So, how about we just get this over with, cause frankly, I’m kind of tired of your little cat and mouse game,” I said, examining my nails like I could had cared less.

He smiled maliciously at me making my heart stop cold. I reminded myself not to show fear. I crossed my arms and waited for his retort. “Oh, but we just started,” he said, taking a step away from the tree. “You see Ella, we have a few other players and I don’t think they’re ready to call it quits yet.” I yawned, patting my hand over my mouth pretending to be bored with this little banter. “You’ll soon learn that I didn’t work alone. No, no. I couldn’t do this all on my own. I had a beautiful companion to help me out with our little game. I must say, she’s even more vicious then I am,” he smiled and stared off in to the sky as if recalling some twisted memory of his.

I tried hard not to show him how disgusted I was. “It was her idea to kill Skylar,” he continued. “You see. I didn’t really care for her much, as you know,” he said, looking at me with a smug smile. “But I didn’t plan on killing her. That was her idea, seeing how close you and Tristan were getting. She thought it would be the perfect murder to pin on him. Get you to think he was dangerous and stay away from him, but we learned you tend to lean more towards the dangerous types, don’t you,” he said, looking me up and down licking his lips.

“Please, don’t flatter yourself. I only went out with you because I felt sorry for you.”

“Say what you will,” he said, waving his hand like it was no bother to him.

“Or maybe you are jealous because you know Tristan is more of man than you will ever be.”

He laughed as if I just told a funny joke. “Oh Ella, you do have a lot of growing up to do. This little crush is just a phase. He’ll soon discard you like all the rest.”

“What’s the sudden interest in my love life? Why would you care if Tristan dumps me or not, unless…maybe you have a thing for him?” I teased. He narrowed his eyes at me not finding my joke amusing. “What does Tristan have to do with any of this anyways?” I asked curiously.

“He knows too much. Can’t risk him going around and tattling now can I?”

“Is that why you killed your roommate, too? Because he discovered what kind of monster you are,” I said, finding it hard to keep the expression of disgust from my face.

“I would have eventually, regardless. He really was a slob. But to answer your question, he was just another pawn in the plan.”

“I hate to tell, but your little plan isn’t working.”

“Isn’t it?” he said, that malicious smile returning. “I think it’s working quite well. You see, Ella, plans change. Sometimes you need to change the rules a bit in the game and you did a wonderful job of helping us do that.” I looked at him not quite clear on what he was getting at. “Say Ella, where is lover boy?”

“What did you do?” I yelled, not able to control my anger anymore.

“Oh, darling?” Jack cooed.

I turned to my right preparing myself for his mystery partner. When she stepped out from behind the tree I couldn’t hide the surprised look on my face. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She stood there, smiling as viciously as Jack. “Hello, Ella.”

“Cadence?”

She took a step closer to Jack, one arm still behind the tree holding onto something. She looked at Jack and caressed his face in a loving manner and making me want to throw up. I looked away not able to stomach watching this. “What’s the matter, Ella? I would have thought you were the romantic type.”

“You call this romance? I call it a vile display of two vulgar and perverse individuals.”

“Hmm, I think we should get a second opinion. Let’s ask lover boy what he thinks,” Cadence said, revealing what, or should I say who, she was hiding behind the tree.

“Tristan!”

I took a step forward. Cadence held up a finger. “Uh-uh,” she said, wagging it back and forth.

I looked back over at Tristan who was barely hanging on. He was covered head to toe in blood. He was beaten and bruised and not able to stand on his own. My anger was building so high I started shaking. “Why?” I cried.

“Because of you, of course. Haven’t you learned by now that all these people had to die because of you, Ella? All this could have been avoided if you simple did not exist,” she said modestly.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Of course you don’t you silly girl. This is bigger than you will ever know.”

I really wish people would stop saying that.

“Doesn’t matter, it’s nothing you need to worry you’re pretty little head about. This will all be over soon enough,” Cadence said, as she handed Tristan over to Jack. “And your powers will be mine.” Jack cleared his throat. “Sorry,” she said, rolling her eyes when he wasn’t looking. “Ours.”

“I don’t even have my powers yet.”

“You will soon.”

“Why kill anyone then? Why not just come for me?” I asked, trying to stall as much as I could.

“Just some insurance, we needed an incentive for you to give up your powers.”

“You bitch!”

“I’d be careful if I were you. You saw what happened to Skylar. She liked to mouth off, too,” Cadence warned.

I clenched my fists. “What about Josie? She didn’t do anything to you. She had nothing to do with this.”

“Please, that whiny little whore. I wanted to kill her the moment I met her. We only kept her around long enough because we knew she would eventually lead us right to you.”

“I’m going to fucking kill you,” I growled.

“Please, don’t make threats you can’t keep.”

“I will never give you my powers!”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” Cadence said, turning to Tristan, smiling. She took him from Jack, holding him by the back of his shirt. Her eyes began to glow as she exposed her fangs and sunk them into Tristan’s neck.

“No!” I screamed lunging for her, but Jack was too quick and had my arms behind my back before I could react effectively.

I watched as Cadence drained the life from Tristan. His eyes found mine and tears spilled down my cheeks. “Stop, I’ll do it. I’ll give you my powers,” I wept.

Cadence dropped Tristan to the ground. He looked up at me, voice weak, he said, “Ella...don’t.”

Cadence was at my side in an instant. “Do be a dear and hold still,” she said as she bent down to sink her teeth into my neck.

“Wait!” Jack said. “Not yet. We need her at full strength to take her powers.” Cadence paused, pulling back. She looked up at Jack and smiled. Jack loosened his grip on me when he leaned in to kiss her.

I thought I was going to be sick. Jack let go of me so he could embrace in their kiss. I fell to the ground and crawled over to Tristan. “Tristan...I’m so sorry...this is all my fault,” I said, pulling him into me.

He reached up to caress my face. “Ella, it’s not your fault,” he said, trying to smile. My lips started to quiver as he leaned in and kissed me gently.

“Enough of that,” Cadence said as Jack ripped me from Tristan’s arms. I tried to fight back but I wasn’t strong enough.

I looked at Tristan, helpless, as Cadence picked him up off the ground. Her arm was around his chest holding him up, the other around his head ready to snap his neck. “NO!” I screamed.

“Shut her up!”

Jack put his hand over my mouth. Clearly he hadn’t learned his lesson from last time. I bit down hard. “Bitch!” he yelled out in pain then smacked me, knocking me to the ground.

Tristan growled and tried to escape from Cadence’s grasp, but at the moment she was stronger. “Do I have to do everything?” Cadence growled.

“No,” Jack said, giving her a menacing look. He bent down and picked me up by the back of my neck. “Try that again and I will make you suffer,” he warned.

“Now, where was I?” Cadence said. She lifted her arms again, ready to deliver the final blow that would end Tristan’s life.

Fear and panic were rushing through my body.

I closed my eyes not able to watch. Jack shook me, forcing my eyes open. “Oh yes, you do want to watch this.”

I looked up at Tristan and deep into his eyes. He met my gaze and I watched as his eyes started to burn bright. He smiled and then snarled as he threw an elbow up breaking Cadence’s nose. She dropped him and he was instantly up knocking Cadence to the ground and holding her hands behind her back. “Let her go!” Tristan shouted.

“Don’t do it!” Cadence yelled.

“Do it or she dies!” he threatened.

“He’s bluffing. He doesn’t have the strength or the guts to kill me,” she smirked.

“Pretty big talk coming from the bitch on the ground,” Tristan retorted.

Jack released my neck but still held my arms tight. I heard a crunching noise, then Cadence screaming in pain. Tristan had just broken her arm. “Let. Her. Go.” I could feel Jack hesitate, debating what he should do. He stood his ground and kept his grip on me. I cringed. I thought he was going to crush my bones. “Last warning, release her or the arm comes off,” he said, tugging at the already broken arm causing Cadence to scream out in uncontrollable pain.

“Let her go,” Cadence said in between breaths.

Jack released me and I ran to Tristan. “No, Ella, get out of here!”

“I’m not leaving you.”

Jack took that moment and flew at Tristan, but he was up as quickly as Jack knocked him down. They danced around each other, waiting for the other to attack. Cadence, seeing I was defenseless, charged for me. She grabbed me and bit down hard on my neck making me yelp. Tristan growled ferociously charging at Jack knocking him into a tree. Then he grabbed Cadence and before I could blink he snapped her neck.

I fell to the ground, dizzy from the bite and blood loss. “Ella, look at me. Ella,” Tristan begged. I looked up at him and smiled, reaching for his face. I went to speak, but he told me not to. He placed his hand over the bite marks on my neck. I felt a cool, tingling sensation. Then I saw the same silvery blue light come from Tristan’s hand as it did the day he healed my shoulder in the hotel. The dizziness disappeared and the pain in my neck was gone. “You’re going to be okay,” he said, smiling at me as he helped me sit up.

We heard a cry of pain and turned to see Jack kneeling by Cadence’s body. He whipped his head around and leapt for Tristan. They tumbled a few feet away. I stood up, trying to find something, anything to help Tristan, but I was coming up empty.

It was hard to watch.

Jack was stronger and wasn’t weakened from an earlier battle. I watched as they wrestled back and forth and I knew Tristan was losing. The more I watched the more I couldn’t take it. I had to do something, but what?

All of a sudden my knees felt weak, wobbly, and could no longer hold myself up.

I fell to the ground on my hands and knees.

I felt a hot, sharp pain shoot through my hands.

I dug my fingers into the ground gripping the grass as the pain moved from hands all the way up my arms. The same silvery blue light I saw come from Tristan’s hand was now making it’s way up my arms and continued it’s way down my back through my whole body.

I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming. The pain was so agonizing. It burned so hot and felt like I was getting pricked with tiny needles everywhere.

I didn’t understand what was happening.

When the pain finally subsided, I flipped my head up and looked around. I could see...everything.

Everything was ten times clearer. And the sounds…I could hear cars, but there were none in sight.

I closed my mouth and felt two sharp points on my lip.

I felt like I had the strength of ten men.

My powers, I had just received my powers.

I stood up carefully, still feeling light headed from the pain of getting my powers. I searched the grounds for Tristan and Jack. I found them in the distance and watched as Jack threw Tristan into a flag pole knocking him unconscious.

For the first time ever, I let out a feral growl.

Jack spun around. “Well, look at who finally got their powers. Seems like I can kill two birds with one stone tonight.” He charged at me and I reacted on instinct moving out of the way in time. Jack fell, but quickly recovered. “You can’t beat me, Ella, even with your powers.”

“We’ll just see about that,” I smirked.

Jack lunged for me but this time he didn’t miss.

He pinned me down to the ground with my arms tight at my sides. “You don’t have control and therefore I will take you,” he hissed, leaning down to bite me. I jerked my knee up hitting him in the groin. He fell off, howling in pain. I stood up and smiled at him, waiting for him to attack. He was right, I didn’t have control of my powers, but I knew how to control the situation. Jack was irrational, never having a real plan of attack. He always struck first and asked questions later. I knew I had to be smarter and outwit him.

“You know Jack, it’s a shame what happened to your girlfriend.” I knew aggravating him wasn’t the best idea, but with his emotions running wild, he would be careless and I could catch him off guard. “Although, she was kind of a bitch. You know there was this guy she used to complain about all the time. She said how much of a wimp he was and she was only keeping him around to be her lackey. Come to think of it...wait...I guess that would be you,” I said with a smart ass smirk.

He leapt for me but I blocked him. He was being careless and not thinking straight. We battled it out, each getting equal hits in. I kept up with the banter, knowing he’d slip up and give me the opportunity to take him down. “Jack, you had to know she was only using you for her dirty work.”

“No, she loved me!” he spat.

He was letting his emotions get the best of him allowing me to get the upper hand. “Please, the only thing Cadence loved more than herself was that football player she was messing around with.”

“You’re lying!”

“Am I?” He paused for a slight second, giving me an advantage. I took it and knocked him down.

Now I had him pinned. “I know you’re lying,” he said between breaths.

“And why is that?”

“Because, we were always together and besides she was always too busy taking out the threats,” he smiled. “You should have seen the way she cut into Skylar.” His eyes glazed over with the look of admiration. I gripped him harder smashing his head into the ground. “Did I hit a nerve?” He laughed, exposing his blood stained teeth. “Now Josie, that was a team effort. Didn’t plan to kill her at first, but mmm,” he licked his lips. “She tasted so good.”

My rage grew and I let go of his arms so I could smash his head into the ground. I struck only once before he was knocking me off of him. He picked me up by the neck and slammed my body into a tree knocking the wind out of me and rendering me defenseless.

For a brief moment I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe.

His hands gripped my throat, squeezing the life out of me. I clawed, punched, scratched at his hands, arms, but it was no use.

I truly thought this was it, this was end. Jack had won.

Just when I thought I was about to black out I was dropped to the ground and Jack’s body went sailing in the air, landing off in the distance in a crumbled heap. “Ella?”

I blinked a few times, adjusting my eyes, trying to catch my breath. “Tristan, you’re alive?” He smiled weakly. “Jack!” I said, trying to get up, but Tristan held me down.

“He’s knocked out.”

I followed Tristan’s eyes to see Jack lying still on the grass. “We need to get him. He won’t stay down for long,” I said, managing to stand and then only to have Tristan pull me back down.

He pulled out a cell phone from his pocket and handed it to me. “Call the guardians.”

“It will take too long for them to get here, I can –” I looked up.

Jack was gone.

“Where is he?” I asked, looking all around.

“He’s gone,” Tristan said, growing weak.

“You don’t know that, he could be anywhere.” I said, still searching, waiting.

“Ella, he’s too weak. He needs to regain his strength and he can’t do that here.”

I looked back down at Tristan who was fading in and out of consciousness. “We need to get you to a hospital,” I said, trying to help him up.

He winced at the movement and fell back against the tree. “Ella, I can’t.”

“Then I’ll call the guardians and they’ll –”

He reached up and took my hand. “No Ella, it’s too late,” he coughed, spitting up blood.

“What are you saying?” I asked, blinking back the tears.

“It’s okay. I kept you safe, for now at least. That’s one promise I can say I kept,” he said, flashing me his cocky smile.

“Tristan, you’re not going to die. I’m not going to let that happen.” I stood up and tried to dial for the guardians but I had no reception. I screamed frustrated and then yelled for help. “HELP! SOMEONE HELP US!”

“Ella...Ella,” Tristan called. I knelt down next to him. He wiped a tear from my cheek making me cry even harder. He took my hand and held it to his chest. “It’s okay,” he said, squeezing my hand tightly while he went into a coughing fit.

“Stop it. You can’t leave, you can’t leave me now.”

“You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can go knowing I felt true happiness.”

“I know now. I know it was you who saved me that night of the accident. I remember. I thought it was just a dream, but I remember,” I said. I didn’t understand at first when he said he found the necklace the first night we met, but now I did. Tristan was the man who pushed me out of the way of the fire.

He smiled. “That was when I knew, you were the one. I never thought I’d see you again,” he paused to take a breath. “But then you showed up here and you turned my whole world upside down.”

“Tristan,” the tears were now pouring down my face.

He reached up and touched the star necklace he gave me. The one I forgot I was wearing. “La mia bella stella,” he whispered.

“My beautiful star,” I said, closing my eyes, finally understanding what it meant. I opened my eyes to look at his beautiful face, his eyes. I held his hand over my heart. With his other hand he reached up and touched my face, smiling, and with his last breath he whispered, “I love you...”

His hand fell by his side, his head lolled, and he was no longer moving. “Tristan?” I shook him. “Tristan?” I closed my eyes and leaned in to kiss him goodbye. “I love you, too,” I said, as I lay my head on his chest and cried...

To be continued...

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