Stay tuned for the giveaway after the excerpt…
“You have four minutes, Llona,” Liam said through a microphone in my ear. His voice, like the ringing of a great bell, pounded my already aching head.
The small plane’s engine shrieked, a high-pitched sound different from the steady hum of the last twenty minutes. Everyone had boarded a while ago. It was a silent crowd, not one likely to converse with each other.
I shifted my weight in the plane’s cramped closet. I could’ve come out as I’d just turned invisible, but I wanted to wait until the speed of the plane increased, covering any sounds the closet door might make when opened.
It was shortly after Cyrus kidnapped my aunt Sophie from Lucent academy that I taught myself to turn invisible. I’d practiced every day, sometimes for hours, until I could do it without the accompanying paralyzing weakness. And although the pain hadn’t gotten any better, I was able to increase the time I could maintain invisibility to several minutes. I’d accomplished all this in just the few short months since Christian’s death.
Just then the plane lurched forward, picking up speed on the runway. I opened the door and peered into the plane’s small kitchen. Empty. Perfect. I quietly slipped out and closed the door behind me.
The front wheels of the plane bounced. The cabin, as I suspected, was full of Vykens sitting in their seats, their backs to me, as if they were regular passengers. Most of them looked like normal humans, which meant they’d fed on Auran blood recently, but a few were in their purest form— facial features deformed and gray with moldy skin peeling back from their faces.
There was only one different from the rest. Jackson. He sat three rows up to the right of the center aisle.
With the Deific’s help, Liam had finally received a tip on Jackson’s whereabouts. It was the closest we’d come to finding out where Cyrus was keeping Sophie. I glanced to my left, to the emergency exit. By the way the plane was vibrating, it was close to taking off.
A Vyken stood and slid into the aisle. I pressed myself against a seat to keep him from bumping into me. I had yet to learn how to let matter pass through me. That may be a trick only my mother knew.
After the Vyken passed by, I went to Jackson. He was looking down at his bloodied knuckles. How did that happen? Jackson used to be a guardian. He (and a bunch of others who had followed him) had joined the Vykens against the Auras months ago. I’d been training harder than ever to stop them all and restore the Auras to their former strength. The strength only a few knew about.
The plane lifted. Still plenty of time to make my move.
I reached down, careful to avoid touching Jackson, and undid his seat belt. He glanced to his lap, brow twisted together. I smacked the back of his head, hard. He turned around and stared at the Vyken behind him.
“What’s your problem?” Jackson asked.
The Vyken ignored him.
Jackson stood and confronted the Vyken again. “Hey, I’m talking to you!”
The Vyken lifted his gaze from the sports magazine in his hand. “I know Cyrus said we can’t kill you, but he didn’t say we couldn’t hurt you. Sit down, guardian.”
Liam’s voice spoke again in my ear. “Hurry up.”
Several Vykens looked around. His voice, this close to so many of them, must have drawn attention.
Time to pay for your crimes, Jackson.
I drew my fist back and punched Jackson in the face. His hand came up to his bloodied nose. “What the . . . ?”
A few Vykens stood up.
I punched him again. He stumbled back toward the exit, arms outstretched as though to steady himself. Blood ran onto his chin.
“What’s going on?” he yelled.
I answered with a swift kick to his chest. It took just a second for him to recover before he started blindly throwing punches. “Someone help me!”
Vykens looked around as if they didn’t know what to do.
I dodged Jackson’s fist and punched him again. He was in position. I took hold of the emergency latch and pulled it as hard as I could. The door flew open, sucking air from the cabin.
Papers and all kinds of debris flew past me. Jackson scrambled backward, his eyes darting around until he was pressed against the wall separating the kitchen from the cabin.
The others stood alert, some in a fight-ready stance. But who were they going to fight? They couldn’t see me. No one could.
Grabbing Jackson, I spun him around until he was facing the open door; his clothes and hair whipped around violently. He stuttered.
His fear excited me, sending a wave of adrenaline through my blood stream.
I was about to reveal myself to him, just so I could see the surprise in his eyes, but Liam’s voice sounded in my ear. “Get out of there—now!”
Jerking into action, I wrapped my arms around Jackson’s chest and jumped from the plane, spiraling into a black abyss.
I fell through the darkness, slicing through it like a knife in water. Cold air burned my face, and the force of it made it difficult to breathe.
Jackson’s body was torn from my grip, and he was twisting and writhing as if he could somehow climb his way back into the airplane. He was probably screaming too, but I couldn’t hear over the deafening sound of the wind rushing over me.
I glanced around, my eyes wet from the air. What appeared to be streetlights were growing closer. I’d never done this before, jumped from an airplane, but I wasn’t nervous, although I should be. I wasn’t wearing a parachute.
I squinted my eyes to try to see Jackson, but he wasn’t spread eagle like me so was probably falling faster. The tree line of the forest came into view against the night sky. I was really close now. Maybe fifteen seconds before impact. I began to count.
At twelve, my body jerked as if I had been sucked into a tornado, and I had a difficult time controlling which way my body was twisting. It was like no other sensation I’d ever experienced before, and my lungs tightened and pressure built up in my ear- drums until I thought they might burst. But in no time at all, I was on the ground, my legs unsteady from the whirlwind.
Liam appeared next to me, having shifted back to his human form. It still amazed me whenever he did that.
“You okay?” he asked.
I inhaled deeply. “I think so. What a rush.”
“Sorry it took me longer than usual to catch you, but Jackson was fighting against me so I had to knock him out. I hope you weren’t scared.”
Jackson was nearby, lying on the ground, his brown hair drenched in sweat. “I wasn’t worried at all.”
“I knew you would catch me.” I went to Jackson and nudged him. “Let’s get him back before he wakes up.”
When Liam didn’t answer, I looked back at him. He was staring at me, his green eyes illuminated by the moonlight. For just a moment I was reminded of his age, over two centuries old. I often forgot this because on the outside he didn’t look much older than me, but in the right light his eyes would betray him, revealing years of inner torment.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You shouldn’t put so much trust in me.”
“Why? You’ve never let me down.”
He walked over to Jackson, picked him up, and threw him over his shoulder. “Because one day I may not be there for you.”