Looking over my shoulder I kept running. I didn’t see anyone following me, but I wasn’t taking any chances. For two weeks I’d watched, waited and planned for the opportunity to get off this island. It was now or never. I couldn’t be here another minute.
I pulled at the hard, red cuff around my wrist, trying, yet again, to pull it off. If I could access my abilities I might have a better chance. It was seamless, I’d spent the last two weeks trying to get it off. Stumbling over a branch, I looked back up and tried to figure out where I was headed. There was no path, and. they never patrolled this way, ever. I didn’t know why, but I intended to find out.
My lungs screamed at me to slow down, but my mind told me go, so I kept going. At any moment I expected to hit another invisible wall. I’d encountered more than one as I tried to discover how well they covered the island. I knew hitting one at this speed would probably knock me unconscious, but I had to try.
I ducked around low branches as I tried to keep going in a straight line. It scraped across my cheek. Shaking off the sting, I glanced over my shoulder when my footing slipped. I slid across the ground on my hip and landed, stunned and panting. The ground dropped off suddenly.
Getting to my hands and knees, I crawled toward the edge. Reaching it, I put my hand out looking for the barrier I couldn’t see. My hand wasn’t stopped by anything.
Inching forward, I leaned over and looked down. It was a straight drop into the water. It had to be at least a hundred-foot drop, from my estimate. Now I knew why no one came this way. There was nowhere to go.
Arms shaking, heart pounding I leaned over to see if there was a way to climb down. Shaking my head in disgust, I sat back on my heels. Even with ropes and a harness, there’s no way I’d try climbing down that.
Now what? I looked behind me and held my breath, listening. I still heard no one. I looked around the edge of the drop off. If I took the time to look further for a way to climb down, it would give them more time to realize I was gone.
Leaning over again, I looked down. Could I jump? I was a good swimmer; I just wasn’t sure I was brave enough to jump. A barrier could also be an unknown factor. If I could find the courage to jump, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t hit a barrier on the way down, or in the water. I could literally be plunging to my death in so many ways.
“There’s nowhere else to go this way. Head back and check in the bushes, she’s hiding somewhere.”
I lay flat on the ground. They knew I was missing. My heart was beating in my throat as I tried to keep my breathing quiet. I looked out over the water. It was quite a distance to the nearest land.
“Told them they needed to put trackers on them. I’m sick of wandering around here with the damn insects looking for women that think they can get off the island.”
I nodded my head, I could do this. Had to do this. Getting up slowly, I stayed low and looked through the trees to see if my location was visible. I didn’t see anyone. I straightened and backed up a few feet. Leaning over on my knees with shaking hands I swallowed the fear lodged in my throat.
“Fuck, I’m getting eaten alive here.”
I leaned toward the edge and launched myself over the side, hoping I’d clear any rocks near the shore. I’d like to say the descent was long enough that I had time to look, but it was over in a flash. Icy water closed over me as I dropped into the depths.
The shock spurred me into kicking toward the top as quickly as I could. When my head broke the surface, I gulped in the fresh air. I’d done it! I was off the island. Bobbing around I turned to look in all directions. There were rocks sticking out, marked so boats would see them. I could rest on the other side of them so no one looking from the island would see me.
Treading water, I debated taking off my shoes, but decided when I made it to land I’d need them to put as much distance between me and these insane people. Kicking was hindered, but I started toward the rocks as fast as I could manage.
The water was much colder than I’d imagined it would be. I was already feeling my muscles start to cramp. Turning, I laid on my back for a moment to check the distance from the island. It wasn’t as far as I’d hoped. I rested it for a bit longer, hoping to catch my breath, while scanning along the shore to see if anyone was looking there yet. I didn’t spot anyone.
Flipping back over, I pushed my body further. The shoes had to go, they felt like cement weights. . I tried to keep my head above the surface to take them off. The laces were wet and wouldn’t untie, so I bobbed up and down, sputtering for air several times, trying to free my feet.
I had to pause between shoes. I was wasting valuable energy doing this. Taking a deep breath, I sunk beneath the surface and fought to get the second shoe off.
Hands grabbed me, I gulped in water, trying to struggle out of their hold. Kicking out against them, I reached the surface and started swimming with all my strength. I was not going back.
I heard someone say something but wasn’t about to stop and see. The sound of a boat registered, and I swam faster. My side was hurting, my legs felt like they were moving slower and slower. I went under again, and had to fight to not gasp for air while under the surface. Kicking, I managed to get my head above the surface. I didn’t know how much longer I could do this.
A hand touched me again. I kicked out and connected with a body. I heard a man swear as I dropped below the water once more. He pulled me up and held me firmly with his arm wrapped around me. His grip was tight. He was swimming and dragging me. I fought, coughing and swallowing more water than air.
I held onto his arm, trying to rid my lungs of the liquid, gasping for air. He turned, and I found myself at the rock I’d been heading for. I clung to it, still trying to breathe, gathering the strength so I could get away. Large arms surrounded me, his body pressed me against the rough surface.
“I’m not here to hurt you.” He said between breaths against my ear, “you’re safe. We’re here to get you to safety.”
I turned to see a boat coming toward us. “Safe to where?” I coughed when water filled my mouth again as a wave hit the rock.
“Away from that island.” He said calmly, his uneven breathing against my cheek.
I rested my face against the rock, drained, I couldn’t swim any more.
“Arius, let me coast as close as I can.” Another man called out.
I heard the motor of the boat stop.
“Thought she was going to out-swim you.” A third male said.
He lifted his head away from me, “it was close.” He huffed out a breath.
“I brought a blanket.” It was a woman’s voice.
I didn’t know if this was another lie, or a scheme to get me back on the island. My body was numb, I was shaking from the exertion and had no more fight left.
I felt myself being pulled through the water and lifted up.
A woman’s face was in front of mine. “I saw you. You are so brave.” She nodded and wrapped something warm around me. “You’re safe now.”
That was the last thing I heard, just before I closed my eyes.
I opened my eyes, bolted upright, ready to run. I stumbled, then looked down. I was wrapped in a thick white robe.
“It’s okay. You’re safe.”
I looked to see a tall man with long black hair and a towel wrapped around his neck, standing at the end of a large bed. He had his hands out to his side, showing they were empty.
“Where am I?” I looked around. The room was huge.
“You’re` safe now.” A small, red-headed woman came over and sat on the bed. “I’m Bethany.”
I looked around, there were four more large men in the room and two women. The women were dressed in normal clothes, not grey jumpsuits. I looked down and lifted the edge of the robe.
“I tossed the coveralls you were wearing.” A blonde woman told me. “Once you’re warmed up, we’ll find you something else to wear.”
My legs were shaking. I watched as the man that had pulled me out of the water crossed his arms over his bare chest and looked at me. I should probably thank him. “Thank you.” I said in a rough voice. My throat hurt, reminding me how much water I’d tried to breathe.
He inclined his head and walked over to stand with the other men.
“I’ll be right back.” Bethany said and walked out of the room quickly.
The door was left open.
I knew this was not the island obviously, or the women wouldn’t be in here, dressed that way and free to leave. And there was no room that looked like this on that chunk of land filled with lunatics.
The males stood off to the side talking, I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but every few seconds one of them would look at me. Except the one with the long black hair and towel wrapped around his neck, his eyes hadn’t left me. Then again, he probably thought he’d jumped in to save an insane woman swimming in the bay.
The blonde motioned to the bed. “You’re still shaking.”
I hesitated for a moment, then decided to sit down on the edge of the bed. I turned so I could see everyone and pulled up my legs to tuck into the robe.
She sat on the end. “I’m Daxx. What’s your name?”
I looked to the males, then back to her. They definitely weren’t with the bunch from the island or they’d know my name. “Paisley,” I said quietly, “Roan.”
The men all turned to look at me. The one with the long blond hair cocked his head. “Did you say Roan?”
I nodded, not sure why that mattered.
“Troy?” Daxx turned to look at him.
He raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Giving the other men a brief glance, then he pulled out his phone.
I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but the other men watched him. The two women in the room didn’t seem to care what he said. I turned to look at the young one standing in the corner.
When she saw me look at her she smiled, “It’s okay now.” She nodded. “I’m so glad I saw you.” She bit her lip then looked like she was focusing on the space above my head. Her eyes moved over my face, and she nodded again and sat down on the floor.
The petite redhead came back in carrying a tray. “I’ve brought you some tea, to try and take the chill off.” She seemed concerned and sincere. With an understanding smile, she set it beside the bed and stood there. “I know you’re probably very confused and scared right now, but it’s going to be all right.”
“Yes. We’ll eventually get on that damn island and annihilate every one of those sick bastards.” The blonde woman nodded abruptly then frowned. “Troy, she’s wearing a red cuff.”
Troy and the redheaded man came over.
I moved over on the bed to put more space between us. They stopped.
“It can’t be ours…”
“It’s not one of mine.” The man that rescued me said. “But if they’re illegally making those as well, then she must have some gift they don’t want her using.”
I looked at my wrist then covered my hand with it. Was that why I couldn’t use my powers? “I can’t get it off.”
Bethany picked up a cup on the tray. “Try to sip this, your throat must hurt.
I took it and sniffed. It smelled good, so I took a small sip. The warm liquid felt good on my throat. “Thank you.”
Troy stepped back. “I agree with Arius, if they were afraid of her…”
The small one that had been sitting in the corner jumped up. “She could use it against them. She could use it against us, but I don’t think she will. There’s good all around her.” She nodded and sat back down.
The blond woman shrugged. “Crissy did see her and usually when she sees…”
“Where is she?” A man that looked identical to Troy, except with a goatee, came running in. He was barefoot, clad in dark jeans with a white dress shirt hanging open, his hair looking like he just climbed out of bed. He ran toward me then stopped at the end of the bed. Squinting his eyes, he studied me for a moment.
“Chase.” A tall woman with black hair ran in the room. She stopped and huffed out a breath. “He ran all the way here.” She held her hand over her chest and tried to catch her breath.
“I don’t see it.” Chase waved a hand erratically toward me. “No resemblance whatsoever.” He snorted, “Which is a blessing for her, he’s ugly as…” the hand waved some more, “just ugly.” Moving to the side of the bed, he bent down and looked at me with a strange look on his face. “What-what is your name?”
Hesitating, I looked around, no one seemed concerned with this strung out man standing there. “Paisley Roan.” I said slowly.
“Roan! Yes.” He spun around and went toward his twin. “The fates wouldn’t be so cruel as to bring her here and it not mean something.” He nodded and then pointed to the woman in the corner, Crissy, I think someone called her. “She saw it. She saw it. So it must be…” Jolting, he paced away then paused and looked at the man with the towel around his neck. “Arius why are you standing there dripping wet?”
The serious grey eyes finally moved from me to look at this Chase man. With a jerk of his head he motioned to me. “I pulled her out of the bay. She jumped off the cliff to get off the island.”
“Right.” He rushed over and grabbed his face between two hands. “Bless you.” When the grey eyes glared at him, Chase jerked his hands away then he spun and came back toward me. “Do you know your parents? Uncles? Aunts?”
“My parents died.” I glanced around the room and all eyes were on him, not me.
“Oh.” His face briefly showed sadness. “That’s—I’m sorry.” Jerking, he paced to the end of the bed. “When?”
Scowling at him, I pulled the large robe tighter around me. “When I was a baby. My grandmother raised me until she passed away.” I looked at Bethany, hoping she’d offer some insight as to what was wrong with this man. She stood there with her eyes wide staring at him.
“Your grandmother.” He moved quickly to the other side of the bed and leaned down. “What was her name?” He waved a hand at me, “other than gramma, or granny or whatever?”
“Melissa Roan.” I said with hesitation.
“Roan! Yes.” He straightened and crossed his arms over his chest. “Did you know your grandfather?”
I shook my head, hoping if I answered his strange questions he’d go away, and I could figure out how to get out of here. “He disappeared before I was born.”
“Disappeared.” He threw his hands up in the air and looked at his twin. “Vanished!”
“Chase…” Troy stepped toward him.
Chase waved it off then went toward him. “For two hundred and sixty years he’s looked at me—us, like we were some sort of parasite.” He turned and gave me a stern look. “King not bug!”
He laughed and went to the red headed man with the soft brown eyes— that were filled with shock right now.
“And now—now I have something to jam in his face that will knock him off his Elder-high-horse-never-stepped-out-of-line-in-his-perfect-life. Ha!” Pulling his phone out, he waved it around then spun back to me and shook it. “Now here she is in all her beautifully splendid existence-ness.” He smiled at me. “His…great, great…I don’t know.” He turned and looked around at the others. “I need a mathematician.” Tapping his screen, he continued to pace. “Michael. I need a genealogist and one of our historians.” He paused. “Do we have a historian genealogist? I need one of those. Now.” He waved his hand around. “In the girls’ room.” With a sound that was close to a growl he looked around the room. “In recent months whenever one of us have referenced the girls’ room, which room did we mean?” He shook his head. “The Huntress’s room. No. Not Troy’s!” He spun around and pointed to a door. “The one with the mall closet—just get here.” Hanging up he turned around, looking very excited then turned again and ran out the door.
“Alona…” Troy looked at the tall woman with the black hair.
She had her hands over her mouth, her eyes huge and was shaking her head. Dropping her hands, she backed toward the door. “I’m sorry.” She looked at me. “So, so sorry.” Her eyes moved over everyone standing there gaping at her. “I’m afraid this is my fault.” She looked back to me. “I’m an empath—he’s an emotion feeder,” she shook her head, her face blushing, “we were experimenting—he’s a little excitable right now.” She grinned, “Sorry.” Turning she ran into another large man with short black hair and a scar down his face.
“Alona, what the hell is wrong with Chase?” He dropped his hands from her arms. “He orders me here and now he’s running down the hall with his arms in the air doing a victory lap?”
“Where is my queen?” Chase’s voice boomed from the hallway.
Laughing the Alona woman ran out after him.
The dark-haired man looked around. “What did I miss?”
Troy shook his head and looked at me. “I apologize for that—whatever that was.” He smirked, “even though I’m going to play it on a loop in my head, over and over, for the rest of my life.” He turned his hand slowly beside his head.
The less serious looking redhead hugged Bethany. “I don’t know what he had, but I’ll take two.” He laughed, and she smacked him. “Sorry, but that was funnier than the time we tried…”
Troy cleared his throat.
“Never mind.” He finished.
“You men are all ridiculous.” The blonde woman said. “As if Paisley isn’t traumatized enough after what she’s been through.” She pointed to the door. “Out. All of you! Out.” She looked at the one with the towel around his neck. “You too Arius, before your eyes get stuck in that position from staring at her.”
The men gave them a look, then started for the door. Definitely not associated with those people on the island.
“We’ll talk shortly.” Troy smiled at me. “Rest and warm up.”
Arius watched the others leave, then came over and stood at the end of the bed. “I will be back to take the cuff off.” His haunting grey eyes moved over my face for a moment, then he held my look with a harsh gaze. “As long as you assure me my family is safe with your abilities free.”
I nodded. “They’re safe. I never use it to harm anyone, but as a short cut or to defend myself, yes. Never to hurt anyone.”
He nodded slowly, the harsh look still on his face. “I’ll return shortly.” He gave Daxx an abrupt tilt of his chin and turned and walked out, closing the door behind him.
I sat there, the silence heavy in the room.
“Do you need anything?” Bethany sat on the end of the bed.
I shook my head. “The tea is fine, thank you.”
“I can get cookies.” The one in the corner said.
Daxx grinned. “I’m sure she’s a little too shell-shocked right now for cookies, Crissy.”
Crissy gave her an odd look. “Cookies help everything.”
I smiled at that. She wasn’t wrong. “My throat is sore. I think I breathed more water than air.”
“How did you know that side of the island wasn’t warded?” Daxx asked.
I looked to her. “I didn’t.” I took another sip. “For the last week I’ve been checking in all directions, that was the only one left.” I set the cup down. “Did you say warded?”
She nodded. “They have mages and witches that have made barriers that act as an alarm, all around the island.”
“I don’t know about mages and witches…”
“They have purple eyes. I don’t like purple eyes.” Crissy said.
I’d seen a few like that. I still didn’t understand the various eye colors, but I knew enough to know they weren’t average people. “Okay. Then yes, they have those there. But these barriers actually stop anyone from crossing, or at least any of us girls.”
“You’re taking this very well.” Bethany said. “When I started to discover things, I wasn’t nearly as calm.”
I blew out a breath and looked at them. They knew what the red thing on my arm was, and mages and witches… I looked at my hands. “I’m not exactly an average girl, so just knowing that there are others out there that aren’t—makes me feel less like a freak.”
Bethany nodded and held up her palm. There were sparks and streaks that looked like flames around it. She gave me a slight shrug.
“What is your ability?” Daxx asked quietly.
That was a question that had never quite worked out for me when I answered it. “I manipulate time.” I shook my head. “Not like time travel, I can stop people, objects, slow time around me.”
“The frozen clocks!” Crissy jumped up. She looked so excited. “You’re the frozen clocks.”
I looked from her to the other two.
Daxx smiled. “Crissy has visions. That’s how we knew you were in trouble.”
I gave Crissy a wide-eyed look. “I thought you meant you saw me in the water.”
Crissy nodded. “I did,” she tapped her head, “here, and then when we were in the boat.”
I sat back and wrapped my arms around my waist. “I would have drowned if you hadn’t.” I shook my head. “I knew it was a long shot, but I was out of options.” I looked to Bethany then Daxx again. “A few of the girls were taken off the island and didn’t come back. I didn’t want to wait and see if I was next and if where we’d be taken was worse.”
The soft look she’d had hardened, and in it’s place was anger.
“We’ve been trying to find a way on the island.” She shook her head. “With no luck.”
“You know what’s going on there? Those people on it?”
She shook her head again. “We have an idea and have been trying to stop them.” She sighed. “It’s a lot to explain.” She waved her hand around. “All of this, and what’s going on.”
Bethany held out a phone. “First, do you have anyone to call and let them know you’re all right?”
I looked at the phone. “No. There’s no one.” The expressions on their faces told me they understood all too well. “I don’t even know if I still have a place to live.”
Daxx stood up. “We’ll worry about that after you rest.”
I nodded. “Is there a bathroom?”
She motioned to the door.
I stood up and walked slowly toward it. The muscles in my legs were still shaky. I went in a started to close the door.
I looked to Daxx.
“There’s no windows in there to escape through, and even if there was, you’re not where you think you are.”
I paused and gave her a confused look.
She smirked. “I just know the look of someone about to run.”
I didn’t say anything, just turned and closed the door.
The bathroom was larger than my room. I didn’t know where I was, but everything here was expensive and matched. I went over and looked at the tub. It was huge, like a baby hippo could hang out kind of huge.
Shaking my head, I paced a moment, then stopped and stared at myself in the mirror. I had definitely looked better. My short dark hair that usually fell in place was standing straight on end. Showering with strange men wandering around had been a real concern for me. I looked like a mad scientist. Stepping closer, I touched the bags under my eyes. I hadn’t slept much in the past few weeks.
Turning away from that sad image, I spotted the shower stall in the corner. Did I want more water? I touched my dirty hair.