The Diamond Bearers' Rising - Book six, Chapter One: New Year's Resolutions
Some changes have been made to a few side characters in the series. This is in part because of needing greater diversity with my characters, and to better reflect the ancient civilizations that Crimson and Maetha would have intervened with. These changes are in the process of being implemented in all current books. All changes will be present in the print versions of the books and subsequently changed in the ebooks.
One of the biggest changes is to Maetha's physical description. She is Egyptian, yet was portrayed as being Caucasian with blonde hair. Diamond Bearers can alter their appearance at will, true, but Maetha's regular appearance should be that of modern day Egyptians. So, Maetha's physical description has been changed.
Diamond Bearer Hannah is now named Avani, originating from India.
Diamond Bearer Dolan is now named Hasan, originating from South Africa. Even though this character is deceased, he is still referred to as a former Bearer.
Diamond Bearer Fabian now originates from Peru.
Runners' team members in book one changes:
Olivia Zimmerman's name is changed to Shanika Williams. Her ethnicity is still African-American.
Austin Berry's name and ethnicity is changed to Yang Chan, of Chinese descent.
Naturally, you won't want to continue reading unless you've read all five books in The Unaltered series.
Book 6 Chapter One: New Year's Resolutions
(This version is unedited. Final draft may contain changes.)
Am I really virtually indestructible as Crimson and Maetha said? Is that even possible?
The revelation Maetha and Crimson gave me earlier tonight has dug a deep hole in my mind, swallowing everything else. Well, almost. Nothing can overpower the irrepressible memory of being in Chris’s arms just a little while ago. Once my body healed, I healed his—an intimate process and all-consuming. A warm flutter fills my stomach followed by a quick shiver as I remember his exciting touch.
“Are you cold?” Chris asks, walking into the living room from the kitchen with two mugs of cocoa.
“A little.” I don’t want to admit what really caused my shiver.
He sets the mugs down on the coffee table in front of me and walks over to the fireplace. I admire his shape and the perfect way his body fills out his relaxed jeans. As he pulls the screen away and checks the flue, I observe his strong back and well-defined trapezius and lattisimus dorsi muscles through his snug-fitting tee shirt.
“I’m going to build a fire for us.”
“Is there any wood?” I ask.
“My dad always stocked more wood than he could burn in one winter. I’m sure there’s a couple cords out back. This is Denver, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. The run here from the mall was freezing.” A sudden realization hits me and I become a little distressed. “Chris, Marketa drove your car to the mall. It’s still there. I think Marketa had the keys in her pocket. But she’s gone . . . ”
Chris comes over and kneels in front of me. He takes both my hands in his. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I have an extra set of keys.” Looking down at our connected hands, he says, “You are cold.” He lets go and grabs the blanket off the back of the couch and wraps me up. Then hands me a mug of cocoa. “This will warm you up. I’ll be back in a minute.”
He leaves the room, and soon I hear the back door open and close.
I sip on the delicious hot drink and clear my mind. I think about the concept of being virtually indestructible. How would I be able to know for sure? Tonight would have gone a lot better if I’d been tougher. Then again, maybe not. Crimson thought I’d be able to heal myself almost instantly if I was shot with a regular bullet. Of course, I wasn’t, so that experiment went out the window. Am I going to have to be shot with a lead bullet to find out if I can heal myself quickly? I healed my burn that one time when I made tea. The rose thorn didn’t tear my skin, or if it did I healed instantly. But a teensy, tiny, bit of obsidian gets in me and I’m rendered helpless. I need to ask if I can have one of the Healer quartz from General Harding’s compound on my body at all times. I already know a charged topaz isn’t strong enough to heal major problems like my appendix, and where the Healer quartz doesn’t deplete like a topaz does, it would seem to be a good solution.
Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, the other Bearers will learn of Marketa’s death at the Diamond Bearer gathering. I’m still in shock over the whole incident. The more I think about it the more I remember. I’d rather not. I have to wonder if Marketa’s reluctance to accept younger Bearers could have been worked through eventually. How am I going to get the other Bearers to accept us? To accept me and what I’ve been chosen to do?
I take another sip of my cocoa and consider that most of the Bearers are still in the dark about the upcoming Elemental blast that will hit Portland, Oregon in twenty months. Chris and I have only met with Jie Wen, Chuang, Kookju, Ruth, and Marketa. The rest of the Bearers still need to be told. I sure hope things go better than at the first meeting.
My mind shifts gears to the running list of dissident Bearers. Marketa wasn’t a suspect on my list. Her mental communications were kept clean and positive, keeping her off the list. Perhaps Jie Wen, Yeok Choo, Kookju, or Chuang doesn’t belong on the list. Or maybe I’m wrong entirely. Perhaps I should suspect Fabian, Ruth, Aernoud, or any of the others, too.
The topic of capturing the Elemental blast in a diamond floats through my head. Apparently I’m supposed to be strong enough to withstand the radiation from the blast so a diamond can be charged with the power. The whole concept is confusing. No other cosmic ray has caused problems like this. Why this one?
I drink more of my cocoa.
Chris comes into the room carrying an armful of various sized logs and kindling. He’s wearing an oversized winter coat and large boots that were obviously his father’s. I have to wonder how he’s coping with the loss of his father. Or rather, has he coped yet? I think I already know the answer to that.
He bends down, gently dumping the wood onto the rock hearth in front of the metal grate. “It’s chilly out there. The thermometer said seventeen degrees.”
“Yeah. It’s silly for us not to have a fire. The power bill will be astronomical otherwise.” He piles the smallest pieces of kindling on the bottom and lights them with a long lighter. I’m surprised he’s concerned about saving money for the Bearers. After he signed the house away for the use of the Bearers, he also parted with the responsibilities associated with maintenance. His frugality is kind of endearing, honestly.
The tinder crackles and pops as it ignites and burns. Chris carefully places bigger pieces on top and nurtures the growing fire. Then he stands, sheds the coat and boots, and puts them aside. He bends down again and tends to the fire.
I want to be closer to him, near his warmth. I set my cocoa down and grab the nearby accent pillows off the couch and with my blanket move down by Chris. I say, “You’ve built a wonderful, warm fire.”
“Thanks.” He turns his head and meets my gaze. His eyes hold heat of a different kind.
“What a good idea, Chris,” Maetha says, entering the living room. “A romantic New Year’s Eve fire.”
Crimson follows her and adds, “I find it interesting, Maetha, you refer to the fire as a mood setter and not a life-sustaining element. Fire is everything. A basic elemental ingredient to support life. Without it, humans couldn’t live in extreme cold locations, cook food, or illuminate darkness to extend daily activities.”
Maetha nods. “Yes, but in this day and age, with electricity and natural gas heating homes, the fireplace becomes a mood setter and alternative heat source.”
Crimson nods. “Much has changed over the course of my existence, that’s for certain. I remember when fires were positioned in the center of the floor, with the smoke filling the room. The invention of chimneys didn’t come about till less than one-thousand years ago.”
Chris clears his throat and says, “This is all really fascinating, but could Calli and I enjoy the warmth of this romantic fire without the history lesson?”
“My apologies,” Crimson says. “We’ll retire for the night to give you privacy.” She walks over and places a hand on each of our heads and says, “No one will be able to hear you.” The glittering blue mist encircles us. Then she turns and leaves the room.
“Good night,” Maetha says, giving us a quick nod. She turns off the remaining lights and leaves the room.
Chris and I are left alone in the living room. For a brief second, the only sounds are the sizzling crackles of the burning logs. Chris pokes at the fire to re-position the flame for better efficiency. When he’s finished, he sits beside me.
Breaking the silence, I say, “You know, I kind of like hearing what those two know about the past. They’ve lived it. They’ve experienced so many changes to normal life.” I rotate on my pillow and face him. “Maybe someday in the distant future we’ll tell our descendants about how we once used fire as a mood setter.”
“Yeah. By that time they’ll say, ‘You actually got to light a fire?’ ”
I laugh and reach out and rest my hand on his thigh. His eyes drop to my hand, then travel slowly back up to my eyes. He lowers his voice and says, “I love to hear you laugh. It’s something I didn’t know if I’d ever hear again.”
“What do you mean?”
He wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me next to him. “When Crimson was trying to heal you and you passed out, I thought you might die. Well, actually, Maetha gave me that idea because of how upset she became that you were injured in the first place. She said Crimson would not be able to heal you and she didn’t know if we’d get there in time. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without you.”
I sense his anxiousness and want to soothe his fears. “Everything worked out in the end.”
“Sure, you can say that now. But it doesn’t fix the way I still feel.”
I wrap my arm around his back and turn into his hug. He lays his cheek on top of my head and slides his hands up and down my back. I ask, “Have you thought about what you’re going to set for your New Year’s resolutions?”
He raises his head and cups the back of my head, gently massaging my hair. In all seriousness he says, “I want to catch that S.O.B Max Corvus. I can’t believe he shot you.”
I look up at him. “He wasn’t trying to kill me, though.”
“That doesn’t matter. The obsidian made you powerless and Marketa was able to hurt you. If he hadn’t shot you, you would have been able to defend yourself.”
“You’re forgetting that Crimson told me to let everything happen. Besides, if things hadn’t played out the way they did, you and I wouldn’t have the strong connection we now have.”
“True. But it still makes me mad.”
I go in for the hug again. I love being so close to his body and heartbeat.
He asks, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”
“I want to find out if I’m really indestructible.”
He pulls away this time. “What? What if you’re not?”
“That’s why I need to find out.”
“But Calli,” his words are slow and deliberate, “what if you’re not?”
“Well, I’m not going to purposefully put myself in a life or death situation, Chris. I just want to experiment a little to see if I’m injured or if I’m able to heal quickly.”
“Okay, that sounds better.” He relaxes and I settle my head against his shoulder. He says, “This year I definitely want to find more time to be with each other. Things are pretty hectic, but I think we can find the time to connect.”
“I’d like that.”
“I already know Crimson is sending me back to continue working at the Pentagon.”
“Do you think you’ll ever get to not be a spy?”
“This coming from the girl who will never have a normal life again,” he jokes, then his body goes rigid and he pulls back. “I’m sorry, Calli. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
I will admit his comeback made me address my reality, but I hadn’t reached the point in my mind yet where it upset me. With enough time—like, say, ten seconds—I probably would have, though. Chris has to be repeating. Somehow, he’s repeating. Instead of voicing my suspicions, I say, “Normal life has flown out the window for both of us.”
He smiles. “We’ll just have to make a new normal.” He drops his hold on me and tends to the fire, putting on another log.
“How do you think the Diamond Bearers will react when they hear about Marketa’s death?”
“I suppose they’ll be frightened. Think about it. In the last four months, Freedom, Neema, Rolf, [Dolan], and now Marketa have died. These immortals who have survived centuries and millennias are now able to be killed. That’s got to freak them out.”
I nod. “Well, learning Crimson has had the ability to remove diamonds all along is disturbing to me. Maetha didn’t even know. No one else knows this except for us.”
“Crimson is definitely a mystery.”
“Chris, Max was about to post about Jonas and me. I saw the post. He would have stated both our names which would have been devastating for both of us. Jonas’ mother thinks he’s dead and buried. If she ever found out he’s not--”
“She’d probably be very happy.”
“I don’t know about that. She wouldn’t be able to have him come home. She’d have to keep the secret he’s alive for the rest of her life or risk him being sent to jail for faking his death. It’s for the best, I suppose. Jonas was going to die from cancer, that’s for sure. I feel sorry for him.”
“Do we really need to spend our evening talking about Jonas?” Chris moves into my space and nuzzles my neck. I tilt my head to the side and close my eyes, completely delighted by his touch.
“Are you jealous of Jonas?”
He pulls away and stares me down with intensity. The blue mist reflects off his blue eyes making them seem to glow. “Should I be?”
I angle my head and lift one eyebrow. “No.”
“All right then.” He moves to kiss me but I move out the way.
His head drops and he takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “I’m sorry. I just feel like tonight should be focused on us. We don’t get much time together and if Max hadn’t come to Denver today, I wouldn’t be here at all, near you.”
He has a point, but he shouldn’t be jealous of Jonas. “Max was here to post about me and Jonas. I was only pointing out how disastrous it might have been.”
“What about you? How would that have affected your life?”
“It wouldn’t have been good, that’s for sure.”
He reaches with his hand and cups my cheek, his fingers extending back into my hair. With his thumb, he traces my lips. “I’m relieved the post didn’t go up and that you’re healed. I just want to be near you tonight and celebrate the countdown to the New Year by your side.”
I’m surprised by his smooth response. I haven’t seen this side of him before. I say, “Do you remember what you said to me on the plane ride back from Alaska?”
“The part where you worried we wouldn’t be able to have a life together because I’d be off saving the world all the time? Before you became a Bearer as well.”
“Well, now you’re a Bearer too and together we’ll be saving the world.”
“Interesting how things work out, isn’t it?” He brings his lips to mine and kisses me fervently.
I return the passion and soon we’re lying back on the floor. His hands move around on my shoulders and arms and under my back. Flutters, tingles, and lightning bolts race through my body all at once and I become abruptly aware of how exposed we are. Maetha and Crimson could come out of their rooms at any moment and see us.
I break the kiss and say, “It’s weird to get close when either one of them could walk out at any second.” I nod in the direction of the hallway. “I’m not comfortable with that.”
“I don’t think they would make a big deal about it. We’re both adults, clearly in love.”
“But I’m not okay.”
His hands freeze and he sits up, pulling me up too. “We don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.” He stands and helps me up off the floor. “Let’s sit on the couch and drink our cocoa before it cools down too much.”
I nod and take my place on the couch.
“Too late, the cocoa is already cold. I’ll go warm it up.” He takes both cups into the kitchen, breaking our blue mist of privacy. Chris and I will have to make sure we don’t discuss the happenings of tonight now that other Bearers could hear us if they wanted to.
Chris brings the warmed drinks in and together we sit and sip, watching the dancing fire flutter along the logs. Chris’s earlier passion feels muted and I worry I’ve upset him. He’s not acting put out, but I still worry.
“Calli, look at the clock. It’s almost midnight.”
Together we watch the second hand slowly climb to the twelve. I turn to him and say, “Happy New Year, Chris.”
He takes my drink and sets it down next to his, then cups my cheeks with his and kisses me. “Happy New Year, Calli.”
We linger in the living room for a little while longer, cuddled in each other’s space and enjoying our time together. Then Chris walks me to my bedroom.
“Goodnight, Calli.” He kisses me again and then walks away.
I’m left standing in my doorway thinking about our earlier passionate display and wondering when everything fizzled. I guess it was when I voiced concern over being exposed in the living room. I didn’t mean we couldn’t remain together and enjoy each other’s company. Chris must have taken it that way. Oh well, it’s probably for the best at this time. I close my door and get ready for bed.
* * *
I awake with a jolt, having just seen several disturbing images in a dream. Was it a dream or a vision? I can’t tell. I was positioned on top of a several story high building looking down at the streets and sidewalks. Many people of all ages were crying out in pain. Some were already dead. I ran down the stairs at Runner’s speed and frantically tried to heal as many people as possible, but as soon as I healed one, more became ill. Others died before I could get to them. There were so many affected people. Too many.
Even though I’m awake, my heart still races and beads of sweat cover my forehead. The overwhelming situation in the dream/vision is a reminder of what I’m up against. I make a mental note to make sure we have plenty of Healers in Portland when the Elemental cosmic blast hits.
I check the clock on my nightstand: 2:30 a.m. I roll over and focus on my healing power in an effort to calm my body so I can get back to sleep.
* * *
My eyes pop open and I turn my head to the window. Daylight illuminates the drapes. I get up and pull the drapes open. A thick layer of clouds blocks the sun. A man bundled in a winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves stands beside his car, scraping the heavy layer of frost off his windshield. Exhaust smoke drifts lazily through the air. I wonder fleetingly what kind of life he lives. What is his profession? What circumstances led him to live here a mile above sea level? I enter his mind and find he’s a nurse and is presently worried about being late for work. He overslept after over-partying last night.
At least his evening was a party. I bet he didn’t have any idea that across the road an attempted murder was taking place.
I get dressed and put on my lucky necklace Uncle Don gave me.
Walking out into the living room, I find Maetha sitting on the couch with a laptop computer and headphones. She has a plate of cut-up vegetables and fruits on the side table. Chris is bent down in front of the fireplace, adding a log to the fire. He stands and greets me.
“Good morning. Sleep well?”
“More or less.” I walk over and give him a hug. “Thanks for a wonderful evening last night.”
“What’s for breakfast?”
“Crimson food.” He points to Maetha’s plate. Then lowers his voice and says, “I could really go for a breakfast sandwich or a whole stack of hotcakes. This whole ‘Unaltered’ thing has increased my appetite.”
I flash a grin. “For food?”
“Yeah. Come on.” He takes me by the hand and we walk into the kitchen.
Crimson greets us and we dish up some fruit and nuts and take our plates out to the dining room table. Before we can sit down, Brand and Beth arrive.
Brand walks directly to me and gives me a big hug, saying, “I’m so glad Max didn’t post about you yesterday. That would have been horrible.”
I pull back, but still embraced. “For Jonas, too.”
“Well, yeah. So what ended up happening?”
Chris clears his throat, pulling my attention to the fact Brand and I are still in a half-hug. We let go of each other and take a step back. Brand puts his arm around Beth’s shoulders.
I say, “Max shot me.”
“What?” Brand and Beth exclaim together.
Crimson walks out of the kitchen holding her plate of food. “We will discuss what happened when the rest of the Bearers get here at noon. Understood?” Her statement is more of an order and not a question.
We nod our heads.
Crimson walks over to Maetha.
I say to Beth and Brand, “Have you two eaten breakfast? There’s some food in the kitchen.”
Brand looks at our plates. “That’s not breakfast, sorry. Maybe there’s some real food in the fridge. Come on, Beth.” Brand leads her into the kitchen.
Before Beth walks through the door she turns to Chris and me. “Happy New Year,” she says.
“Yeah, you too.” I smile. She looks confident and happy today. I don’t know that I would be so upbeat following the holidays without my parents.
My thoughts go to my parents. I should call them.
Chris and I sit down. He hands me his cell phone says, “Here Calli.”
“Did you read my mind?”
“Yeah. Give them a call.”
I sit back in my chair and dial their number. My mother answers.
“Hi, Mom. It’s Calli. Happy New Year.”
“Allan, it’s Calli.” My mother’s voice sounds frantic as she hollers for my father.
I hear the other line pick up and my father says, “Calli?”
“Hi, Dad. Happy New Year.”
My mother asks, “Are you all right?” I can tell she’s incredibly worried.
“Are you in Denver?”
She lets out a sigh of relief. “I just got off the phone with Mable. She said you’re on the news and you were shot. I tried to call your phone but I couldn’t get through.”
“I’m fine, Mom.” I was on the news?
My father asks with deep concern in his voice, “What happened, Calli?”
“I can’t really talk about it over the phone. You understand.”
My mother’s voice rises, “You’re too young to be going through this. I want to talk to Maetha.”
“Charlotte,” my father says, “let Calli do her job. You don’t need to talk to Maetha.”
“I want to know why my daughter is being subjected to this kind of danger. She’s too young.”
“Mom, I’m all right. Honestly. My arm is all healed. I’ll come visit you soon and tell you all about it. Maybe by then I’ll have an update, too.”
“Are you with Chris at least?” my mom asks.
“Yes, but why does that matter?”
“He can protect you.”
“Mom, I can protect myself. Besides, he wasn’t with me last night when it happened.”
“Well, that’s probably why you were shot.”
I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose. All I wanted to do was wish my parents a Happy New Year, instead I’m having to hear my mother’s lack of trust in my abilities. “Mom, I’ll tell you about it when I come to visit.”
“Allan, I think we should hire that bodyguard for Calli.”
“What?” I exclaim.
“Charlotte, we’ll discuss it later with Calli.”
“Mom, you are not hiring me a bodyguard.”
Chris’s head perks up and he looks at me with a “say what?” kind of expression.
“Besides,” I add, “I’d end up protecting the bodyguard. I don’t need the added responsibility.” Not to mention we’re not about to bring in someone who doesn’t know anything about this world of powers, abilities, and diamonds. “Look, I’ve got to go now. I love you both, very much.”
“We love you too,” my father says.
“I’ll talk to you later.”
We end our call and I hand the phone back to Chris. My exasperated eyes meet his and all I can do is blink repeatedly and shake my head.
Crimson comes over and sits across from me with her plate of food. She picks up a raw almond and says, “I want you to lead the Bearer gathering, Calli.”
“Me?” What? “Why? I mean wouldn’t the news of Marketa’s death be better delivered if it was coming from Maetha?”
“Maetha wasn’t here. She only has hearsay to offer.”
“I could project my memory to the others,” I suggest.
“No. I don’t want everyone knowing I can use telekinetic powers in the presence of obsidian.”
“Are you hoping to expose the other dissenters by having me lead the gathering?”
“No, that’s not the reason. I want you to take charge and let the others know you are more than capable of handling this position.”
“What if I don’t feel that way myself?”
“But you do feel that way, Calli,” she says. “You’re conversation with your mother just now proves it. You know you’re more than capable of holding your own and you wish she’d be able to see that.”
“That was kind of a different topic.”
“It’s all the same. Remember what I said about not revealing you have the Blue Diamond’s powers, and don’t lose your cool with the other Bearers.” She pauses, then looks beyond me with an unfocused gaze. “The news of Marketa’s death will be disturbing to all.”
We sit in silence for a few moments, picking at our food, but mostly just pushing it around.
Brand and Beth return with their plates of food. Brand managed to find bread and, from the smell of it, strawberry jelly.
Chris glances at Brand’s plate and lets out a whine as he turns his gaze to me. “No fair.”
I appreciate his attempt to lighten the somber mood.
Beth’s chosen selection of food is consistent with a Runner’s diet.
After Brand and Beth sit down, Crimson says, “Anika will arrive tomorrow.”
“Do you have something to add, Brand?” she asks him.
“No, sorry,” he states, slouching forward.
“I think you do. Let’s get this settled, shall we. Anika does not grunt when she hears your name, Brand. Why do you?”
Brand’s cheeks turn red. “I’m not religious. And if I was I wouldn’t push it on anyone else.”
“You allow yourself to be bothered by her opinions.”
Brand waves his hand in front of him. “She firmly believes she’s right and everyone else is wrong. And she’s always going on about God’s will.”
Crimson pauses a moment. “I will say this to all four of you. Anika has an important role to fill, one that will save thousands of lives. It is in her ability to feel confident in expressing her religious opinion that will be key. Do not squash her gift.”
Brand bends his neck forward. “That’s a gift?”
“Yes. It is, Brand. I have yet to hear you speak so devotedly about anything important in your life.” Crimson turns to Beth. “You chose Anika for your team. Why?
Beth replies matter-of-factly, “She is dependable and honest.”
“Exactly. She doesn’t try to trick you or play games to get her way. She does what she says she’ll do and when she says she’ll do it. And she holds firmly to her values. Religion or not, those traits are what make her special and of use in our cause.”
Brand looks down at his plate with a blank face.
I ask, “What do you recommend we say to Anika when her ideals clash with ours?”
Crimson looks around the table at each of us before speaking. “Every situation is different. There is no one answer to that question, Calli. But consider the possibility that the five of you--should you all choose to become Bearers--might be around each other for hundreds or thousands of years and bickering with each other is not going to help you follow nature’s will. When Bearers quarrel, humanity suffers. However, communication and calm discussions that allow both parties to fully express themselves help everyone appreciate and understand the unique perspective of each individual. Moreover, the choice to become a Bearer comes with it the understanding to put aside your pettiness. That goes for Anika, too.”
Maetha comes over to the table. With a grimace, she says, “The bookstore shooting is all over the news. Calli will need to go to the police and clear her name.”
I ask, “Are the news reports saying anything about Max or his blog?”
Maetha says, “No. The reports are based on cell phone footage caught at the scene. It’s being described as an argument that escalated into a shooting. Basically, there isn’t anything else for reporters to scoop right now, so, you’ve made the headlines.”
Brand takes a big bite of his bread, a splotch of jelly sticks to the corner of his mouth. “You’re famous, Calli. Can I have your autograph?”
I close my eyes and shake my head. “Splendid! I just got off the police radar.”
Crimson adds, “They’ll be looking for Marketa, too.”
“What about Max?” Beth asks Crimson.
“Him too, of course.”
Beth looks around the room and asks, “Where’s Marketa?”
Not missing a beat, Maetha points to me and says, “You’ll need to appear wounded. They have footage of you bleeding on the floor. Your shoulder should be bandaged up. They also have witnesses who saw you take the flash drive.”
Chris says, “We’d better make a clone of the flash drive in case they want it.”
Crimson nods her head. “We’ll do that before you go, Calli.”
Chris reaches his hand out and covers mine. “I wish I could go with you, Calli. But I can’t. We’re not supposed to be on speaking terms, let alone friendly or intimate.”
“I know, but like I told my mom, I can handle this, Chris.”
Crimson wiggles a finger back and forth between Brand and me. “Actually, I want you to take Brand along. He can help you avoid bad situations.”
“I could just give her my quartz and she could do it herself,” he jests, but I know he’s joking.
I roll a grape between my fingers. “I don’t know how to use it, Brand. I suppose I’ll just have to take you.”
Jie Wen’s bi-located form appears near Maetha. He addresses Crimson. “I need to speak with you in private.”
Crimson nods her head, gets up from the table and walks over to him. She walks around his form, leaving blue fog as she privatizes the conversation.
Brand leans in and with raised eyebrows and a big grin says, “So you and Chris are on intimate terms?”
Beth smacks his shoulder. “That’s rude.”
I don’t give him any attention. My eyes are focused on the fact Maetha has been left out of the blue circle. I hear Beth ask again about Marketa and hear Maetha respond with a terse, “She’s not here.” Maetha’s expression remains unchanged, unaffected as she walks away and into the kitchen. I can’t help but wonder what she feels right now. I look back at Crimson and Jie Wen and spy on their conversation by reading Jie Wen’s lips. His positioning behind Crimson makes it difficult for me to have a consistently clear view of his mouth, but I don’t want to move or it might be obvious I’m watching them.
He says, “Doctor and his family . . . informant hasn’t checked in . . . remote location. China.”
He pauses while Crimson says something, then he continues. “The location . . . near my place.” Jie Wen stops, listens to Crimson, then his eyes shift over Crimson’s shoulder and connect with mine. His glare turns dark. I can feel his angry frustration as he asks, “Why does she need to be involved? She doesn’t know anything about this. I want Brand.” Crimson says something else. Jie Wen adds, with his nostrils flaring, “They could be dead in four days!” Jie Wen glares at me a moment, then disappears.
The blue fog dissipates and Crimson walks into the kitchen without looking in my direction. I let out my pent-up breath and try to refocus on the upcoming gathering.
Chris’s hand covers mine as it lays motionless on the table. He gently squeezes my hand. I look over to him and find he’s studying me intensely. “What’s going on?” he whispers.
Using mindspeak, I say, I think I’m going to China. I intertwine my fingers with his, appreciating his attentiveness. His eyes reveal the deep level of concern he has for me.
With Jie Wen? Why?
Someone needs to be rescued. Crimson must have told him she wants me to go. He’s not excited about it.
Go figure. When?
Well, I’ll be leaving as soon as the gathering is over. I have to get back to D.C. by tomorrow.
My heart feels incredibly heavy. Are we ever going to get the chance to grow our relationship?
I hope you enjoyed the SNEAK PEEK. Stay tuned for the release date and cover reveal.
Have you joined the Launch Team for book six? Read about it HERE.
Have you joined the Launch Team for book six? Read about it HERE.