I REMEMBERED BLOOD AS I ALWAYS DID WHEN I DREAM.
Why was there so much?
Lots of it running down my arms. Darkness wrapping itself around me like a blanket of comfort from whatever pain must have come after I blacked out. It was all I saw every time I tried to withdraw back into my memories. Or were they nightmares? I couldn't decide the difference.
Both felt too real.
I was trapped in a treasure box of the Lost and Found, searching for answers that never seem to come. So what was I supposed to do? I wasn't strong enough to continue on like this. Aimlessly wandering in and out of countless doors with hope one might give me back the truth about my mother's disappearance, unclutching what pieces remained lost in the deep recesses of my mind.
Why was there so much of my mother's blood smothered all over my clothes? Why was I found asleep in my own bed with the murder weapon? Why had Hannibal been there and what happened during that duration of his visit?
So many questions. Not enough answers.
"Do you believe the dreams are real? That these figments in your dreams may have some sort of meaning to your mother's death?" Dr. Graves responded calmly to my vent.
Did I? Was there a possibility these memories might hold importance?
I wrinkled the cuff of my collared, long sleeve shirt. The urge to itch the scars underneath threatened to overcome me, but I pushed it back down and stared out the window of her office, taking in the architecture of tall buildings beside us before replying, "At first I didn't. I thought they were nightmares of guilt. I blamed myself for what happened to my mother, even if I can't remember it all."
Her pen scribbled on the surface of her notepad for notes. The soft action echoed in the solemn atmosphere which encased the pale and colorless room. She wore a black, pencil skirt and peach blouse with nude pumps. Waves of brown wrapped in a loose bun atop her head and light makeup enhanced beautiful features and exotic blue eyes.
Dr. Graves paused her scripture. "Do you still blame yourself?"
"I don't know," I said with a unsure shrug.
That truth was I wasn't sure if I could blame myself for something that may have never happened. How could I after Tobias and Aydin came into my life and shoved so much confusion at me. So much undecided truth that Charlotte Monroe was still alive? They made me question a lot about the past over the summer despite our anomalous introduction to each other forged by a chain of cryptic riddles dressed in murder and words stained with innocent blood.
Above it all I couldn't squander the feeling in my gut that believed them.
Maybe that made me stupid. Or insane.
I never proved to be otherwise.
Monster was my twin. The other half of my soul who recognized me. We were connected through blood whether I wanted to be or not, and yet none of that unnerved me. Quite the opposite. I felt oddly comfortable- as if I had always known Monster was my brother. That should scare me to be linked to someone who has hurt people. Poisoned my friends. Kidnapped me. But somehow I wasn't afraid, because like a wounded angel he steadied my fall from grace, carrying the weight of judgement and shielding the world away with a pair of majestic wings. But for how much longer?
I rejected him. Threw his offer to be a family back in his face like the idea repelled me, when in fact that was my weakness. To belong somewhere.
Dr. Graves studied me a moment. "Then what is troubling you, Madelyn?"
I bit my lip. "Too many things. My life before I came to the city wasn't this complicated. I had a mother who loved me. My uncle. And even though he bullied me; I had Hannibal too."
"Now you feel as if all of that is gone?" she guessed.
I shrugged, scratching at my sleeve again because that question revolved too close to home. I wasn't here to tell complete truths to her.
"After my mother's disappearance a lot changed. I thought it would all end after the trial, and coming to live with Morris would help me, but my brain refuses to cooperate. I haven't regained those memories and now I feel I never might."
Sympathy sparked in her pretty blues. Or was that all an act too?
"Why don't you try a journal?" she suggested.
"A journal?" I echoed.
Dr. Graves smiled at my naivety. "Yes. A sort of diary for yourself. No one else will read it. No one can be aware of what is written inside those pages. It is solely for your thoughts to be expressed, and eliminate any stress you may keep buried." That didn't sound too unappealing. In a lot of ways I always wanted to put my thoughts to paper, but feared someone finding out how messed up my life really was. Particularly, Hannibal, who was my biggest crush turned nemesis at the time.
"Here." She stood up and walked behind her desk, rumbling around several cabinets until finding what she was looking for. Coming back Dr. Graves handed me a dark brown book.
I look it. The hardcover felt rugged, the surface sketched with owls staring back as I held it in my hands.
"I have more than enough. This will help you once you to start to use it. You'll see."
The grandfather clock chimed the new hour like London's Big Ben.
Dr. Graves peered down at her watch. "Time's up. You are free to leave, but I will see you again once your new schedule is assorted and faxed to my assistant."
Leaping to my feet I didn't stick around and nearly stumbled into the hall, rushing outside and taking a deep breath of the brisk Washington weather. I tried to steal lungfuls, suddenly lightheaded as a rush of emotions washed over me. Falling against the rail my weight pushed to floor on the small steps in front of the building, no longer able to keep standing. Clinging to the ramp as if it were a liferaft, I battled maintaining control of each wheezing sound slipping from my throat.
I reached around for my Rucksack, and dug inside the small pocket for my Inhaler. Pressed it to my lips.
Squeeze. Inhale. Squeeze. Inhale. Once air filled my lungs steadily again, I closed my eyes. Head lifted skyward. Footsteps approached then, skipping across the sidewalk with haste until I felt the shadow of his presence hover above me. With brute strength I was lifted from the cold floor and embraced in the warm security of lean arms, a woodsy aroma, and the calm beat of his heart where my head laid; then altogether it vanished and was replaced by a leather seat.
"Poe! Open your eyes, babe."
I slowly blinked back into existence. Beaded eyes stared down at me full of concern, whiched sagged in reassurance when I regained my senses. "Kieran."
His scanned over me. "I saw you collapse. What happened?"
I sat up in the passenger seat of his Rover. Taking deep breaths as I explained to him, "I don't know. This isn't the first time. It happens a lot after I leave her office. Almost as if I can't seem to stand being there. Or something is warning me to get out."
Kieran pushed a layer of hair back from my face, cupping my cheek. "I told you not to come back to this place until we discovered what methods the doctor used on you. You didn't have to put yourself in such a state of discomfort. We could have handled this without your sacrifice, love."
I shook my head. "No. I wanted to do this. Phoenix and Ridley would never have gotten inside to access the system like we need, if I wasn't here to distract her for that hour. She's not stupid like you might think. If she did mess up my memories, then it is most likely she has spoken to Charlie about our sessions. And even more likely the two are still in contact with each other." The pressure on my lungs expanded as I sat straighter, and a huge weight lifted from my chest, allowing me to pace my breaths evenly now as we waited for Phoenix and Ridley to return before we were all caught. "It will be more believable if I come to her without looking too suspicious of what they'd done to my brain. That way we stay ahead of them."
He sighed deep under his breath. "I concede. You make a fair point. I still detest what you went through to distract her. There is something not quite mundane about that woman."
I raised a brow at him. "Are you trying to call her an alien?" I teased.
He studied me as if I had grown two heads. "What on earth gave you that idea? I simply believe there are a several screws loose underneath that skull of hers. Metaphorically speaking, I might add."
I bit back a chuckle.
He was too cute. Leave it to Kieran to be factual while you try to lighten the mood with a joke.
"Interrupting something?" Phoenix said, unexpectedly.
He waltzed towards us from the same doors I escaped through with a sling bag over his shoulder where I knew he stored his laptop and other important tech stuff I had no idea to name. Fitted into a dark, leather motorcycle jacket he was the perfect image of a punk rockstar riding out to a concert. Dressed in all black- minus the white V neck -Cargo skinnies with belt ribbons hanging down the sides like suspenders, clinging low on his hips, was enough to warrant any female's attention.
"No," I said, trying hard not to stare at him.
"We should head out," Ridley said.
He appeared from behind Phoenix with a frown etched upon his lips and a ballcap dipped over his wild, blue hair. The color was similar to last year, but tinted with deeper hues at the top of his new undercut. A white baseball T-shirt fell loose down ripped jeans and showcased defining muscles from underneath the visible fabric.
I shut my door as the pair hopped into the backseat and Kieran climbed in the driver's seat to start the engine. We pulled out away from the building at top speed.
Once far away, I turned to face the white hacker focused steadily on his laptop. "Did you get anything?"
"Not sure, yet. One hundred percent of the files we downloaded to my USB were stored onto a private folder. I'm transferring the data to my cloud to backup the flash drive," he informed. Without looking up he continued on while fingertips tapped proficiently over his keyboard. "I'll need some time to bypass the firewall blocking me. The good doctor put up some heavy security to avoid anyone from looking into her shit. Makes this more intriguing to find what she has to hide."
"Can you break through it?" Kieran said, taking his eyes off the road a moment to share a look with his friend.
Phoenix nodded, curtly. "Thirty minutes."
Kieran accepted Phoenix's word and switched onto the highway back toward the Pier. "Make it twenty. We have matters to attend to with the new freshman class and foreign exchange students enrolling this year. The Headmaster insisted- as student council members -we will chaperone the lot. He wants to meet with us personally to discuss the situation further."
"Fuck." Ridley tossed his head back against the headrest. "You know I hate that shit. Cara was always the one to remind me about it when she was our assistant."
The car fell silent for a moment.
So I was right. Mallory was just a sex toy to get them off whenever they wanted.
I wasn't surpised. Nor was I jealous. I'd come later in their lives, so there was place for me to judge when our relationship hadn't been specified.
Looking over at Kieran, I noticed tension seeped into his muscles at the mention of their previous lover; whereas Phoenix flipped out the beautiful blade I repeatedly seen him fiddle with- callously -shifting the silver between rugged fingers while staring out his window pane.
A sore spot was touched.
Whenever the name Carnation, or Cara, entered a conversation each of these boys revealed different emotions. Mostly, longing. I couldn't decide if that was a bad sign, because of their unforgotten feelings for a dead girl who once claimed their hearts. Including Beau.
"I've been thinking about switching Mallory out," said Kieran, a slight growl hinted at the end. "With everything going on I suugest we replace her with Madelyn."
"What for?" Ridley and I exclaimed in confusion, although his tone was more volatile than mine.
"We need to keep an eye on you at all times. Or have you both forgotten? We have multiple enemies now. They no longer walk with us, but against us. We cannot be sure they won't strike while our wings have been clipped, and the press hound your father for what transpired last semester." Dark eyes darted to the rearview mirror, meeting Ridley's narrowed clouds of gray, before returning to the road again. "Madelyn is not their only target. Whatever game Monster started is not over. This is a chessboard to him. He played his first hand, so now we play ours."
If only he knew the extent of who Monster and Tobias was to me. He'd think twice about making me their personal assistant.
Phoenix lifted his head with question marks in his eyes. "Why else do you think he wants besides getting his hands on Madelyn?"
I shared a look of surprise with the others. "Revenge? For what?"
Kieran pulled the car to a stop as the streetlight skipped from yellow to red. "Is it not obvious?"
Ridley sat straighter to glare at Kieran like he wanted to throttle him. "If it were obvious I wouldn't have asked. Don't be daft. Tell us what the fuck you mean?"
The light turned green.
"Monster wants revenge for Carnation."
Finally back! Pardon me for the long wait, but I hope all of my readers are ready to dive back into this mystery/romance/crime/ reverse harem book. I know I am!
What do you think is the connection between Carnation and Monster? Why does Kieran believe he wants revenge for Ridley's sister? Will they find anything on Dr. Grave? Do you have any ideas on what secrets she may be keeping?
Next chapter tomorrow. Will be the same as before.
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