Invidious, страница 1
THE MARKED BOOK 2
Copyright © 2016 Bianca Scardoni
All rights reserved. No part of this ebook may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without express written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in an article or book review.
Thank you for purchasing this ebook and for respecting the hard work of this author.
All characters and events depicted in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
ISBN: 978-0-9948651-6-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9948651-4-4 (kindle)
For my little one, Jaxon
So that, you too, might dare to dream big some day
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. THIS MEANS WAR
2. TO NIKKI, WITH LOVE
3. THE PURGE
4. A GIFT FROM JUDAS
5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS
6. A TRIP TO THE DARK SIDE
8. MEAN GIRL
9. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
10. GAME CHANGER
11. RAISING THE DEAD
13. EYES WIDE SHUT
14. THE TIME TRAVELER
15. DEAD GIRL WALKING
17. SEARCH PARTY
18. GRUDGE MATCH
19. THE BREAKFAST CLUB
20. DEATH WISH
21. LOVE BITES
22. HEART TO HEART
23. RUNNING SCARED
25. THE PLAN
26. DANCE OF THE DEAD
27. DRAGON’S BLOOD
29. A TIME TO KILL
30. INDECENT PROPOSAL
31. THE GIFT OF GONE
32. AND SO IT GOES
34. GREAT TEMPTATIONS
35. HIGHWAY TO HELL
36. NO WAY OUT
37. THE DEVIL INSIDE
38. WHISPERS IN THE DARK
39. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
40. SEASON OF THE WITCH
41. AS I LAY ME DOWN
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The steep descent into Hell
is always paved with good intentions.
Truth fluttered in and out of my life like a butterfly, taunting me with its beauty—with its endless possibilities of change and triumph. No matter how hard I tried to catch it, to trap it inside my heart and own it, it evaded me at every turn.
Like my destiny, my truth had been written in my blood long before I was born, guided and misguided by those who sought to destroy me. I thought knowing the truth would give me power over it—over my destiny—allow me to shape it and bend it to my will. I thought I would be safe there inside the light.
I was wrong.
There was no light to be found.
Only darkness rising.
1. THIS MEANS WAR
Thick, heady coils of fog moved with intention, slithering methodically around my legs as I stared up at the starless sky from my bedroom balcony. The events of last night were on constant replay in my mind, racing through it like some death wish I couldn’t remember making. Some ritual sacrifice I never signed up for. One minute I was at Spring Fling, dancing with the boy from my dreams, and the next I was fighting for my life in a burnt down church. My own personal hell where everything was a lie and everyone was in on it.
Everyone but me.
The betrayal clawed languidly at my insides, burrowing itself inside my soul as it fought to find a home in the agony. I wanted so bad to let the darkness take me in. To let it consume my shattered being and devour whatever was left of me. To erase everything that happened and make it inconsequential.
It was easier that way. Easier to give up. Easier to walk away and never look back. But easier wasn’t always that simple.
My best friend, Taylor, was still out there—powerless in the hands of an omnipotent Revenant who was hell-bent on winning the grand prize. Her life was sitting in the palm of my hands, and walking away from this meant walking away from her; leaving her to the wolf the way I was left to mine. I couldn’t do that to her, no matter how bad I wanted this all to disappear.
An awful heaviness pressed in over me like a gavel, cementing my sentence in stone. I had less than two weeks to fix this mess—to get the Amulet back and make everything right again. Unfortunately, I had no idea how I was going to do that. The only thing I knew for sure was that it would all come down to one person—the one responsible for all of this.
The beautiful boy from my dreams turned out to be nothing more than a trickster. An illusion I was too blind to see through. He played me right from the start, used me for his own personal gain, and then threw me down to the Gates of Hell when he was done with me, never bothering to look back once. Not even to see if I had stuck the landing.
I’d spent the last twenty-four hours inventing a million different ways to make him pay for what he did. To make him suffer the way he made me suffer. Unfortunately, all of that amounted to nothing because the fact of the matter was I needed him. I needed to get close to him again and gain his trust. Only then would I be able to get the Amulet back—to swipe it out from under his nose the way he swiped it from me.
Of course, in order to do any of that, I would first have to see him. I would have to look him right in the eye and finally see him for the fraud that he always was. Because that’s all that he was—a fraud, a calculating liar since kickoff. Everything that came out of his cunning mouth was designed to deceive, and I lined right up, eager to buy every word of it.
Visions of his mouth pressed up against mine cut through my mind, puncturing the shaky barricade around my subconscious as I relived the scenes I didn’t want to see anymore. My heart throbbed with pain, with a brand of heartache I never knew existed, and I hated him more for making me feel it.
He was going to get what was coming to him. I was going to make sure of that. But, right now, I had to stay focused on what was most important and that was getting Taylor back.
I looked down at my phone and contemplated my options. Nikki Parker’s last-minute e-vite glared back up at me like an unspoken dare. I knew there was only one reason she would have a sudden change of heart and extend an invitation to me. She was with Trace and she wanted me to know it. She wanted to revel in her conquest, bury me deeper in the wreckage that was now my life. Well, that was just fine by me. Kismet even.
And lucky for her, I already had a shovel.
Nikki’s house was exactly what I expected from yet another upper-crust resident of Hollow Hills. Bloated and over the top with all the fixings of a glamorous life and none of the sustenance to carry it. A short drive from the bordering street took us up to a one-floor glass house that overlooked the town like an empress sitting on her throne.
I thanked Henry for the ride and then hopped out of the car, straightening out my skinny jeans and black halter-top. Cold droplets of rain dotted my shoulders like falling tears as my heart began to race in my chest, reaffirming the fact that this was the very last place on earth I wanted to be tonight. I wanted to be back home—back in Florida, living out my old life, with my old friends, where everything was simple and easy.
That life is gone, Jemma. Get the hell over it, I told myself as I pulled in a lungful of air and made a push for the door before my nerve had a chance to bail out on me
Inside, the house was crammed with wall-to-wall students from both Weston and Easton Prep alike. Despite the history, the room mixed together like oil and vinegar, two rival schools blending over the promise of alcohol and a good time. Somewhere through the noise, I heard a girl call out my name as I forced my way through the crowd, but I didn’t bother stopping to see who it was. I was here for one reason and she didn’t sound anything like him.
Rounding the corner, I walked into what appeared to be the living room, though it was hard to tell since I couldn’t see any of the furniture with all the half-dressed, gyrating bodies in the way. The air was thick with pheromones and perfume, and it was making the inside of my nose sting. It was hardly their fault though; they were here for a good time. I, on the other hand, was not.
I pushed up onto my toes and craned my neck, scanning the room for any Adonis-like liars I recognized. Before my eyes made it halfway around the room, I felt someone brush up against me from behind.
“What’s up, Blackburn,” said Caleb, his hot breath in my ear. He took a step forward and lined his shoulders up with mine. His chestnut hair was pointing skyward and had that messy-with-a-purpose look to it.
“Hey, Caleb.” There was no point in wasting time with idle chitchat, so I didn't. “Have you seen Trace?” I asked him over the bone-rattling music.
He took a sip of his drink and ticked his chin towards the back corner of the room. It only took me two flat seconds to spot them. Trace and Nikki.
My stomach bottomed out as I watched them from the doorway. He was leaning back against the wall, wearing jeans and a fitted white t-shirt that hugged him in all the right places, while Nikki was tipping into him, wolfing up all his personal space with her runway-ready body. She was all dolled up with a skin-tight pink dress and a pair of matching heels that looked like they belonged on a stage. And not the theater kind.
“That didn’t take long,” I muttered bitterly.
“It never does,” said Caleb. His irritation was evident in both his tone and sour facial expression.
At least I wasn’t alone in this. Maybe his fixation with Nikki was a good thing. Maybe we could team up and take the two of them down together. You know, like Bonnie and Clyde, minus the murder and romance.
“Why don’t you do something about it?” It came out unexpected; frantic.
“Why would I do something?”
“Because you like her.” I watched his back stiffen at my unexpected accusation. “Why don’t you make a move? Stake your claim, get in the race—do something!”
“Easy, Blackburn.” He started laughing but there was definitely a nervous pitch to it. “It’s not like that.”
God, he was useless. “Forget it. Just forget it.”
“Bad day?” he quipped.
“You want something to drink?”
I shook my head, still staring forward at the real-life nightmare unfolding before me.
I felt Caleb’s eyes on me, assessing me as I watched them.
“You really like him, don’t you?” It came out like an afterthought; a passing observation that had just occurred to him. “I mean, I knew you were into him, but it’s more than that.” He looked down at me in a pensive way.
“I don’t like him,” I said, watching Trace as he leaned into Nikki and whispered something in her ear. My heart sank all the way down to my feet, taking my stomach right along with it. “Not anymore anyway.”
“Don’t take it personal,” he said, taking another sip of his drink as he watched the happy couple from afar. “You’re not the first girl he did this to.”
“Did what to?”
“You know” —he lowered his voice and leaned in closer— “hit it and quit it.”
My ears damn-near melted off. “You can’t be serious right now.” Is that what he thought happened between us? What people thought? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry about it.
“Come on, Blackburn. I’m not as dumb as I look.” He took another sip of his drink and focused back on Nikki and Trace. “One minute I’m getting you a drink at Spring Fling and the next you’re on the dance-floor with Trace. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you both disappeared.”
“You’re way off, Caleb. Like on another planet. I didn’t leave the dance to hit it or whatever you called it.”
He shrugged his shoulders like it didn’t matter either way.
“What about you?” I shot back accusingly. “I saw you that day in the locker room with Nikki. You obviously have a thing for her. Are you just going to let her play you like that?” I goaded.
“I don’t have a problem with it if she doesn’t.”
“So you don’t care that she’s just using you? Why don’t you go over there and tell Trace?”
He laughed as though I’d just dropped the punch line to some silly, little kid's joke.
“What? Are you afraid of him or something?” I couldn’t believe how low I was stooping.
“I’m not afraid of that half-blood pretty boy,” said Caleb. Despite his protest, I could tell his feathers were getting ruffled. “Besides, he thinks Nikki can do no harm. He wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“No harm, huh? What a total crock.” My anger notched up to volcanic temperatures.
They were so perfect for each other, it was sickening.
“Whatever,” he said and tipped his head back as he polished off the remnants of whatever it was he was drinking. “It’s not like she’s the only game in town.” He took a step towards me but I was too consumed with my own thoughts to pay it any attention.
“Look at them just standing there.” I could feel the rage boiling inside of me, rolling through my blood like an inferno.
Caleb said something back to me but it didn’t register.
“Someone needs to knock them off their pedestals,” I said and then stormed off into the room.
Apparently that someone was me.
2. TO NIKKI, WITH LOVE
I kept my eyes fixed on Trace as I maneuvered my way through the room. As much as I hated to admit it, it hurt to look at him—to see him going on with his life as if nothing happened. As if I never happened. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I needed to stay focused on my plan, on getting the Amulet back, but it was quickly being swallowed up by the burning desire to make him hurt the way he was hurting me.
He looked up just as I stepped around a couple. His eyes immediately found me as though magnetized to my being, and I faltered because they were even more beautiful than I wanted to remember them being. Even in the dimly lit room, they glowed like two sapphires that spiked my temperature to unimaginable heights. Heights that I no longer wanted any part of.
“Jemma.” His voice was deep yet strangely soothing. For a split second, I thought I detected a tinge of relief in there but I quickly batted the fantasy away.
“It’s so big of you to come,” said Nikki, stepping in front of him and then leaning back against him as though she were his own personal dump truck. “No hard feelings, kay?”
Every fiber of my being wanted to slap the lipstick right off of her condescending mouth. With fingernails digging into my palm, I fought down the urge and held on to my composure. I needed to hit her where it hurt; not claw her eyes out. I squared my shoulders and plastered on the biggest, fakest smile I could muster. “Oh, yeah. Totally. I mean, if Trace could forgive you for messing around with one of his best friends, who am I to hold a grudge?”
Nikki’s eyes doubled in size.
“Sloppy seconds aren’t for everyone,” I went on, turning my attention to Trace, “But some people aren’t that picky. Right, Trace?”
He stared back at me expressionless, his eyes giving nothing away.
“Well, technically, Caleb had the sloppy seconds,” I continued, anger stinging the corner of my eyes. “So I guess this makes it sloppy-thirds, right? But who’s counting?”
“You bitch.” Nikki tried to
The sight of it made my stomach turn.
“Happy fucking birthday,” I said and walked off without bothering to stick around for the shit-storm that was undoubtedly about to start pouring.
“What did you say to them?” asked Caleb, grabbing my arm as I shot by him on my way to the nearest exit.
“What does it matter?” I shook my head, forcing away the budding tears I couldn’t seem to shake. Tears that I refused to let fall in front of any of them. “He isn’t going to believe it anyway, right?”
He paused, thinking about it. “Have a drink with me.”
“No thanks,” I said, staring at the front door. “I need to get out of here.”
“One drink. Come on, Blackburn. You owe me for ditching me last night.” He tilted his head to the side, letting the dim overhead light catch the copper highlights in his hair.
“Fine. One drink.” I nodded, feeling a tinge of guilt for agreeing to go to the dance with him in the first place. I should have been doing my research on Trace. I should have been seeing through his phony facade.
“You got it.” He snagged my hand and led us through the glass-endowed hallway and into an industrial-sized kitchen almost as big as the one at All Saints.
Apart from the stainless-steel appliances, everything else in the room was paper-white, right down to the glossy countertops and matching marble floor. I felt as though I’d just walked into some sterile plastic surgery office in the middle of Beverly Hills.
“You’re going to love this,” said Caleb, pulling me forward so that I was shoulder to shoulder with him.
A mammoth-sized plastic container sat on the kitchen island, nearly covering it from corner to corner. It was filled to the top with some brown-colored liquid and thick slices of lemon that floated around the surface like tiny life preservers.
Clearly, Caleb didn’t know me nearly enough to be a competent judge of what I would or wouldn’t love.