“Let it out.”
At first his scowl didn’t register, his outline a smudge beneath misty eyes and sweat. And then the sweat pouring from my neck and hands began to freeze, each drop burning my skin like the hot end of a cigarette. The last time my past had haunted me I’d been searching the corridors of Anso’s prison for Bryn. My mother had stopped me with just the sound of her voice. She’d called me a killer. She’d told me that I should have died the night of the car accident. That it should have been me instead of Bryn…
She was right.
Not because she was real—I knew the vision I’d seen wasn’t my mother—but because the only reason I existed at all was to keep Bryn safe. And I’d failed. If anyone should have been lost in Anso’s destruction it should have been me doing what I was made for—protecting Bryn. With my last breath.
The second I thought the word, my ghost snatched the air from my lungs, forcing me to meet his eyes. “Let me out.”
Six months ago he’d pleaded with me to let him in. He’d pleaded with Carlisle too, taking on Cassie’s face and carving into his skin until he’d finally relented. For me there’d been no moment of surrender because the darkness wearing my face had been there all along. Still was if I dug deep enough into those parts of me I hated, that hated everything and everyone too. I couldn’t let him out. Not after what I almost did to Drew. Not after everything I’d done to my father. Not after ending Carlisle’s life. But I also wondered what would happen if I held him in. Would he claw his way out? Would he destroy me in the process?
My mind raced, memories yanking me back and forth between Drew’s blood quenching something awful in me and Carlisle’s floating body, black trailing from the gash I’d carved into his forehead. My heart yanked me somewhere else—to the fist I’d hurled in my father’s direction, to the hole in the wall that matched the one inside me, to the way my father had held me after I found out that Bryn had slipped into a coma. To the way he’d forgiven me before I’d even mustered the courage to tell him I was sorry.
My weight shifted and so did the walls, my ghost dragging me to Bryn’s bedside.
“No…” I strained from the sight, sick. “I—” don’t want to look. I can’t.
Something pinned my gaze, forcing my eyes to scale Bryn an inch at a time. The blood was barely drying near her lips, red still lining her fingernails where Dani and Celia’s scrubbing hadn’t reached.
“I’m…sorry…I’m…” This time there wasn’t a word strong enough for what I was feeling. It was probably on purpose, the human race deciding somewhere along the way that it was a hopelessness too dangerous to name. I was glad for it. I didn’t want to name this thing inside me. I didn’t want to make it real.
My ghost wrenched my face, blue fingers stinging my skin as he forced me to look closer. So close I could smell the memory of her skin. “Let it in.”
Heat swirled at the base of my stomach, thickening until I felt like I was going to be sick. The smoke slithered up my throat, singeing my tongue. I clenched my jaw, fighting the flames that wanted to incinerate everything in sight.
“Let me in…” My reflection trembled and I thought he was about to disappear. But then I felt his cold breath against my face, more real than I’d ever felt him, and I realized he was pleading. “Don’t you want to be with her?” His words burrowed inside me, chipping away until I was an open wound. Until I wanted to say yes.
“No.” The word barely escaped before the eruption. My mouth unhinged, flames leaping out and strangling my ghost. But he didn’t flinch. The flames tore at his false flesh while he looked at me with the most miserable…pity.
*This excerpt is from a WIP and is subject to change*