Unmarked, p.25

Unmarked, page 25

 part  #2 of  The Legion Series

 

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  For the first time, I noticed how dark the shadows beneath them had become. “Okay.”

  Lukas shoved his hands in his pockets, the way Jared always did when he was nervous. “Jared and I were competitive growing up. My dad thought it was the whole twin thing—fighting to form our individual identities and all that crap—but that wasn’t it.” He studied the creed written on the floor between us. “Jared was my dad’s favorite, and everyone knew it, including me.”

  “Maybe it just felt that way.” It was a stupid comment. I’d spent enough time at Elle’s house to see the way some parents favored one child over another, and how poorly they disguised it.

  “Dad never missed an opportunity to point out the similarities between Jared and him. Both of them liked the icing but not the cake, they threw a punch the same way, had the same score on the range. Jared downplayed it, but I still wanted to prove I was better than him—stronger, faster, smarter—it didn’t matter.” Lukas scrubbed his hands over his face. “So when I figured out Jared was searching for the other Legion members, it seemed like the perfect way to make him look bad.”

  “Are you saying you knew?”

  He nodded. “But I didn’t think Jared was putting anyone in danger. I swear. Our dad was a black and white kind of guy. Things were either right or wrong; there was no gray. He did everything by the book, no exceptions. Jared and I both thought all that stuff about the Legions members not being allowed to meet was just Dad being Dad—especially since nothing bad ever happened as a result of him and our uncle working together. I wanted Jared to dig his own grave with my dad, that’s all. I never thought anyone would get hurt.”

  Andras used the list to kill Jared and Lukas’ father and his uncle… Alara’s grandmother, Priest’s granddad, and my mom. Jared hated himself because of it.

  I stood up, my legs like rubber beneath me. “You knew how guilty he felt, that it was eating him alive, and you never said a word.”

  “I would’ve stopped him if I knew what was going to happen.” Lukas pressed the heels of his hands against his forehead.

  “Priest left here hating him.”

  “I know,” he whispered. “If I could take it back—”

  “You can’t.” I looked him in the eye. “But you can help me save him.”

  35. THE VESSEL

  After Lukas’ confession, I needed to see Jared, even if he didn’t know I was there. He sat on the floor propped up like a rag doll, with the demon bones rippling around his neck.

  Gabriel had painted over the summoning circle Andras had used to call Bastiel. Nothing more than a black halo of paint remained.

  “Kennedy?” Jared whispered, his voice raw.

  I kept my distance, painfully aware of how many times I’d misjudged Andras.

  Jared’s eyelids fluttered as he struggled to keep his eyes open. “There’s something I need to tell you.” His back went rigid, and he sucked in a sharp breath.

  “Is it the collar? Are you in pain?”

  He shuddered and exhaled slowly, his breathing evened out again. “Not any more than usual. Whatever you do, don’t take it off. Promise me.”

  “I promise.” My throat burned, as I choked out the words. “What do you need to tell me?”

  I didn’t know how long the collar could keep Andras at bay.

  He studied me through heavy-lidded eyes, the color of a faded sky. “There are only three people I’ve ever loved in my whole life—my dad, my uncle, and Lukas.” He paused. “Now there are four.”

  Is he saying he loves me?

  Nothing existed in the moment except the two of us, and the meaning behind his words. It was as if they erased the bars between us and the chains binding him. I reached my hand through, offering it to him.

  He swallowed hard, his eyes flickering between my face and my outstretched hand. “I want to touch you. Just for a second. But I can’t, Kennedy. I’m terrified I’m going to hurt you.” His eyes found my neck. “Again.”

  “I trust you.”

  I trust you with my life, my body, my mind—even my heart.

  “I don’t trust myself, or the monster inside me.” His eyes glistened and he looked down at my hand. “He wants to hurt you.”

  “You are not him.” I opened my hand wider. “You’re brave and strong and you care about other people more than yourself. You’re not a monster, Jared. Because if you are, then I must be crazy because I’m falling in—” I stopped when I realized what I was about to say. Jared had that effect on me—he made me safe enough to say things that I’d always kept locked away.

  I bit the inside of my cheek and looked up at him. I didn’t know what to expect after an admission like that, but the expression on his face wasn’t it.

  Jared watched me, lips slightly parted and eyes wide, in what I could only describe as awe. “What were you going to say, Kennedy? Tell me. Please.”

  He reached out and touched my palm with his fingertips. He traced circles in the center with his index finger, and I shivered.

  “I shouldn’t have said it.” The heat rushed to my cheeks.

  Jared’s face fell and his broad shoulders sagged. He let his shackled hands fall in front of him. “Because you didn’t mean it?” The pain in his voice made my heart ache.

  I brought my hand back through the bars, gripping the cold iron.

  Jared looked so broken.

  “No. Because I did.” I gathered all the courage I had left. “And it scares me. I’m terrified of losing you.”

  Jared approached cell door slowly and placed his hands on top of mine. His fingers curled around the bars, mine creating a barrier between his skin and the wet bars.

  “I just want to hear you say it one time,” he whispered.

  I knew I loved him, but I didn’t know if I could say it out loud.

  “Please. Just once before I die.”

  It felt like someone sucked all the air out of the room.

  Before I die…

  Jared caught my wrists and rubbed the smooth skin with his thumbs.

  Without warning, his body seized. He stumbled back, grabbing at the collar. The bones screamed, and I covered my ears. His neck jerked, and when he opened his eyes, they had turned to coal.

  “Your boyfriend is dying. And you’re next, you little bitch. When I open the Gates, this world is going to be my playground. My legions will use your body like a puppet, and I will become the maker of all your nightmares.”

  I didn’t need Andras to bring any of my nightmares to life. This was my nightmare—losing the only boy I’d ever loved.

  And I can’t even tell you.

  Jared was in there somewhere, waiting for me. “Jared, listen to me. You can fight him.”

  “There are—” Jared’s body twitched and slid to the floor. He reached toward me, the wings of the black dove tattoo on his arm spreading open. “—Some battles you can’t win.”

  This was not how things were going to end for us, or for him. “But you still fight. You still hope. Because there’s a chance you might win. And even if you don’t—you fight for the people you love, especially when they can’t fight for themselves.” My voice cracked, and I took a deep breath. I had to be strong for him. “You can do this. Don’t let him win.”

  “Shut your mouth, or I’ll—” Jared’s neck jerked. The darkness pulled in toward his pupils, as though they were sucking Andras in along with them. Jared’s chest heaved, and he struggled to catch his breath.

  “Don’t have much time.” Jared winced and squeezed his eyes shut. “Something he doesn’t want you to know. A secret.”

  The cell door rattled by itself.

  Jared’s eyes flew open. His back slid up the wall, while the rest of his body remained completely still. I reached for his leg.

  “No,” he mouthed. His body continued to rise.

  “What doesn’t he want us to know?”

  “He thinks you’ll never figure it out.” Jared sucked in a labored breath. “The—” All of a sudden, the invisible
hand that had been holding him let go. Jared’s body dropped, the chain acting like an anchor. He hit the ground hard, and crumpled into a heap on the floor.

  Jared opened his eyes and stared back at me. “The white dove is the vessel.”

  36. WHITE DOVE

  I wanted to be a black dove, but it turns out I’m a white dove.

  I’m also the Vessel.

  A cage for a demon.

  The only person capable of holding Andras.

  The truth sank in slowly, one word at a time. I should’ve been shocked or terrified—emotionally devastated and changed in an irrevocable way. Instead, an overwhelming sense of calm enveloped me.

  I am the Vessel.

  The only person capable of saving Jared. I wasn’t ready to think about what it involved, not yet. The verses in Faith’s diary were cryptic.

  An angel’s blood.

  A demon’s bone.

  A passing shadow.

  A dragon stone.

  Heaven and hell, darkness and light.

  Caged in the Vessel, as they wage their eternal fight.

  Even though I hadn’t figured out the details, there was a way to stop Andras and save Jared’s life. The possibility existed and today, it was enough.

  It was too late for Faith and the seventeen dead girls, and for all the murdered people, including our family members. I couldn’t take any of it back, but maybe I could finally make it right.

  I remembered the night at West Virginia State Penitentiary, lying in the mud with my legs tangled in razor wire. After I forced Jared to leave me behind in the rain, I made him a silent promise: I’ll find you.

  Instead of keeping it, I lost myself in a storm of emotions that almost destroyed me. But now I’d need them all—heartbreak and loneliness, pain and rejection, rage and sorrow—to survive what lay ahead.

  The white dove is the Vessel.

  I stood outside the cell door, watching Jared’s chest rise and fall. The boy I loved was lost somewhere inside the body he was sharing with a monster.

  I’ll find you.

  This time I would keep that promise, not only to Jared but also to myself.

  If I was the white dove, I would find a way to carry the people I loved. And set myself free.

 


 

  Kami Garcia, Unmarked

  (Series: The Legion # 2)

 

 


 

 
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