Shay fell back with a gasp, coughing.
It was as if she’d finally broke through the surface of the water after nearly drowning. Her thoughts were a scrambled mess.
Jessica, Avery. Oh, God. He snapped my neck. He killed me. That boy killed me.
Shay, calm down, a voice inside of her instructed. They weren’t your memories. They were Cleo’s. You weren’t killed. You’re still alive.
Something about the boy had been familiar, but the thought was swept away from her before she could grasp it. She wondered if Cleo knew who he was.
At the mention of Cleo, Shay raised her head.
The poor girl had her hands clasped over her mouth and her face was completely drained of color. Her eyes glistened, and her shoulders trembled. She was still, like an old crushed skin of herself that had been shed and left there to wither away.
“Cleo . . .” Shay reached out a hand to Cleo, and that was a mistake.
Cleo was across the room, huddled in the corner, before Shay even had the chance to blink. Shay had never seen her look more vulnerable.
The wide, shaken green eyes met Shay’s.
“I’m so sorry, Cleo. I didn’t know that would happen. I’ve never done anything like that before . . .”
“She said we hit a deer. She said she turned me because she wanted to help,” Cleo whispered. Her eyes dropped to the ground. “She lied to me.”
“She lied to all of you,” Shay said. “No one deserves to have their friends, or their memories, taken away like that.”
“Please . . . Please just stop . . . Just stop talking.”
Shay pressed her lips together in compliance.
Cleo just stood there, staring at the ground. Shay couldn’t find the words to say to comfort her, and even if she had been able to, she wouldn’t have said them anyway. Cleo was betrayed and worse than that, she was hurting.
Shay knew more than anyone what that was like.
She hoped maybe now that Cleo knew the truth, that she would help her escape and get Aubree out alive. But if there was ever a time or a place to discuss that with her, it wasn’t then.
Cleo shifted, and her foot bumped one of the glass bottles on the ground. It made a scraping noise as it rolled in a circle, and then a hollow click as it hit another bottle.
Cleo’s eyes followed the bottle, like a cat with a flash light beam just before it prepares to pounce.
She scooped up the bottle in a sudden, fluid motion and hurled it at the side wall. It smashed hard against the concrete, and shards fell, tinkling, to the floor. She grabbed another one, and the snarl of a wounded animal erupted out of her as it left her hand.
Shay watched silently from where she sat on the floor as Cleo threw bottle after bottle after bottle. Each one shattered, the broken glinting pieces landing among the last.
She reached for one that was already broken—a beaker with sharp jagged edges. Her hand closed around it, and then she hissed. It gave birth to a thousand tiny shards as it landed at her feet.
She turned over her hand, fingers clawed. Drops of blood blossomed along the deep cuts on her palm.
And then she just collapsed.
She fell back into the corner and sank to the ground. Her bleeding hand was pressed against the wall, and it left five smeared trails, bright red against the contrasting dull gray concrete.
That hand dropped beside her and the other tangled in her hair. Her knees were drawn up to her chest, and her eyes were squeezed tightly closed. Tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks like a dam that had ultimately burst.
The door banged open. Anna stood with her hands on her hips.
“What the hell is going on in here?” she demanded.
Cleo’s eyes sprung open and her face twisted into mask of hatred. She viciously bared her fangs at Anna and snarled.
Shay didn’t blame her; it had startled her, too.
Cleo leapt up without warning and tore past Anna and out the open door like—quite literally, Shay thought—a bat out of Hell. A stunned Anna and Shay gaped after her.
It took Shay a moment to recover. Anna was still staring after Cleo, distracted and exposed. In any other situation, Shay never would have attacked someone who wasn’t expecting it. But Shay wasn’t the only person whose life was at stake. She didn’t think, she just acted.
Shay pushed herself to her feet.
She raised her arms above her head, and then slammed them down hard at her sides. A wave of energy crashed into Anna like a tsunami. She hit the wall with astonishing force that disturbed the ground beneath Shay’s feet.
Anna screamed, and her legs crumpled beneath her.
“Where is Aubree?”
Anna spat at her.
Shay flung another wave of energy at her. Instead of fully releasing it though, Shay grabbed hold of it and pushed. Anna struggled to move as she was pressed back against the wall.
“Where is Aubree?”
“Safe and sound, for now. She’s going to die just like the rest of you,” Anna hissed through her teeth.
Shay applied more force to the energy. “They used to press witches to death during the Burning Times, you know. It doesn’t seem like a very pleasant way to die. You’ll have to tell me what you think.”
“Go to Hell, you psycho b****.”
A strange sizzling noise made Shay pause.
She glanced towards the ceiling where the bronze pot hung. Bluish-white smoke was curling from the open carvings in the sides of it. It wrapped around Shay like a caressing silk ribbon and stung at her eyes. A sickly sweet smell reached her nose.
Her grip on the energy was slipping away. Her head reeled. Her legs felt like rubber and the rest of her body like lead. She couldn’t hold herself up. The energy fell away, and she staggered. It was like she’d been in a contest of tug-o-war and the other contestant had suddenly let go.
Her legs gave out beneath her. At least, she thought they did. She couldn’t really feel them anymore. She just knew that one moment she was standing, and the next she was sprawled out on her stomach across the floor.
Everything was a swampy mess of smudged colors.
The smoke nestled over her and swirled around her like heavy fog. It forced its way into her lungs. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she struggled to keep them open.
Her lashes fluttered once more, and then they closed altogether.
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