Home > Scattered Ashes (Shattered Promises #4)

Scattered Ashes (Shattered Promises #4)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

GEMMA

The sky is dark like a rainstorm; only, no rain is falling from the clouds. The air is cold and crisp, and I can smell death, taste it, feel it through the humidity seeping into my skin.

I’m standing alone in a forest just at the edge of a field. Through the thick tree branches, I can see where three human figures are leaning over something with their heads bowed.

I slowly walk toward them, my bare feet burning against the snow with each step. Tree branches scratch at my face, my arms, my legs, trying to hold me back, a warning not to go any farther. Still, I press on, shoving them out of my way, until I finally trip into a flat opening where the trees part.

“Hello!” I call out, but they don’t turn around.

Snowflakes float from the sky and melt against my flesh as I inch closer. Who are they, and what are they looking at?

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” one of them sobs.

Wait. I know that voice.

Aislin.

She's standing between two people who I recognize are Laylen and Alex. My heart leaps in my chest as fear pulsates through me.

Something’s wrong.

I race for them, but a flock of crows swoop from the trees and dive for me. I hunker down, shielding my head with my arms as they circle me, pecking at my skin. Finally, I let out a scream, and they scurry away. But one remains, flying above Aislin, Laylen, and Alex.

I straighten an inch closer, my heart knocking in my chest as I approach them.

Aislin slips her fingers through Laylen’s, and they turn from whatever they were looking at. Their eyes glisten with tears as they look through me and walk toward the forest.

I twist back to look at Alex. His head is still tipped down, his body still.

“Alex,” I utter softly.

He rakes his fingers through his hair. “Forem,” he whispers the words of our Forever Blood Promise then turns to leave. His shoulders are hunched, his eyes are red from tears, and he looks so heartbroken, so in pain.

And I want nothing more than to make it all go away.

Forever.

“Wait.” I reach for him, but he vanishes in a heartbeat.

“No!” I cry out, my voice echoing around the forest.

Turning back to where the three of them were standing, I finally see what they were looking at. On the ground is a black coffin with the lid open. Inside, a girl lies with eyes shut, her skin as pale as snow, and her hands are overlapped across her heart.

“No.” My voice trembles as I trip back. “No, this can’t be happening. I’m not dead.”

“Oh, but you are,” someone says from directly behind me.

My back bumps into something solid and cold, and I don’t have to turn around to know who it is.

I shake my head. “No, I’m not. I’m not dead. You’re lying . . . this . . . This isn’t real.”

Suddenly, the half faerie, half Foreseer, and one-hundred percent dead Nicholas emerges in front of me.

An evil grin spreads across his face. “Yes, you are. And denial isn’t going to get you anywhere.” He gestures over my shoulder at the coffin. “Look again, Gemma. And I mean really look this time.”

My eyes burn as I lean forward and look into the coffin.

“It’s not me,” I stammer, shaking my head.

“Look closer,” Nicholas purrs, “and you’ll see it.”

Suddenly, the girl’s eyelids lift open, and I find my own violet eyes staring back at me.

“No!” I scream, stumbling back.

Nicholas chortles. “Welcome to the Afterlife, Gemma, where only the soul survives.”

He shoves me forward, and I fall into the coffin.

“No!” I cry out again, scrambling to get up, but an invisible force holds me down.

Nicholas peers down at me with a crow perched on his shoulder. I start to get to my feet, but the coffin lid slams shut, sealing me inside with nothing but myself.

Forever.

 

 

GEMMA

I open my eyes and breathe easy again when I realize I’m not inside a coffin, but in the safety of my room. The nightmare of my funeral has constantly haunted my sleep for the last few weeks now. It’s always the same, never changing no matter how much I want it to. I know it has more meaning to it than just showing me my death, that it might be my inner conscious showing me what I fear the most—my approaching, unavoidable death.

I try to settle back to sleep, but now that I’m awake, I’m hyperaware of everything going on around me. My boarded up window may block the outside world from me visually, but it can’t conceal the horrible sounds of the crackling fires and screams that plague the air like a toxin. They’re always there, painfully reminding me of the damage I’ve caused by messing around with visions.

Ever since I shifted the vision back to what it originally was before my father tampered with it, the Mark of Malefiscus has taken over the streets of the human world. Fey, vampires, witches, and even a few Foreseers run wild, tormenting and killing innocent people. And nobody can seem to stop them.

After tossing and turning for a half an hour, I flip on the lamp, climb out of bed, and then pad over to the mirror hanging on my door. My reflection stares back at me; only, I look more tired than I remember, more worn out. My skin is even paler than normal, almost sickly; my violet eyes have shadows under them; and my brown hair is a tangled mess.

Shaking my head at my appearance, I sweep my hair to the side and catch sight of the circle enclosing an “S” tattooed on the back of my neck—the Foreseer’s mark. Just beneath it, a circle traced by fiery gold flames brands my skin—the Keeper’s mark.

“Admiring your own reflection,” Nicholas says. “How very vain of you.”

I scowl at the ghost faerie that suddenly materializes behind me. “Go away. I see enough of you in my dreams.”

He presses his hand over his heart, his golden eyes twinkling mischievously. “Wow, Gemma, I’m honored that you think of me so often. But what I’d really like to know is what exactly happens in these dreams?” An impish grin curls his lips. “Are they naughty dreams, Gemma?” He reaches for me. “I bet they are. I bet you let me touch you because, secretly, that’s what you want.”

“I think those are your dreams.” I dodge out of his reach and spin around to face him. “And I don’t dream of you, Nicholas. I have nightmares of you.” I back away from him and onto the bed. “Always nightmares.”

“So you say.” He smirks, stepping toward me. “But deep down, we both know your words don’t match your thoughts, that really, you want me just as bad as I want you.” His eyes scroll across my body, lingering on my chest before dropping to my hand. “Otherwise, you’d take the ring off.”

I glance down at the ring on my finger. My father told me it holds the answers to saving the world, but all the damn thing has done is given me the gift—the curse of seeing one very obnoxious ghost.

“You know what? You actually have a point.” I start to slip the ring off.

“Gemma,” Nicholas warns, his body tensing, “I wouldn’t if I were you.”

I inch the ring toward my fingertip. “Why? So you can keep driving me insane, make your perverted remarks when you shouldn’t?” I wrap my arm around my stomach to emphasize my point, even though it really does make me feel ill.

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