Gabe was wearing that face. The “you are so cute and you amuse me face” that makes me want to punch him. In the mouth.
Sadly, there was no time for that. It’s been a while since I saw him alone and I was afraid that the others would come back soon. This was a conversation that I’d rather have in private.
“You want me to do what?”
His voice was so bland, I was sure that he was going to refuse me. But I wasn’t in the mood to be refused. “Show me the Mark.”
He put the dagger he was cleaning into its sheath and laid it on the dining table, drawing out the motion before leaning back against it. My eyebrows twitched in impatience. “And how do you know about that?”
Rats. I was hoping that he wouldn’t ask about that. I suppressed the urge to shift my feet. “I’ve seen it.”
“On who?” There was a flash of something on his face that made my heart flutter. “On Justin? Well, you guys are moving along as expected, aren’t you?”
I scowled. “We were training.”
He bared his teeth in a smile. “Is that what you kids call it nowadays?”
“It’s none of your business anyway.”
“Then I can say that it’s none of your business whether I have the Mark or not.”
I took two steps forward before I stopped myself. “Let me see it.”
“Why do you want to?” He tapped his fingers against the table.
“Are you going to let me see it or not?”
He tilted his head and watched me watch him. “Fine. Let’s just get this over with.”
He reached for the buttons on his shirt and—his eyes on mine—opened them slowly, one by one. I felt my face heat up and it was hard to maintain the eye contact but I knew that was exactly what he wanted. He wanted to embarrass me, to make me scurry away with my tails tucked between my legs. Well, tough. It not like I haven’t seen his bare chest up close and personal.
He moved to part his shirt but changed his mind. Instead, he planted both his hands on the table and leaned his upper body forward, his shirt gaped open but still covering what I wanted—needed—to see so badly.
At the voiceless invitation, I glared at him.
“You’re the one who wants to see it.” The smile on his face was a challenge. A dare. And God—haha—forbid that I would ever refused both. I took a step, then three more until I stood before him. I hesitated before gripping his shirt. He stood still—too still—under my hands and my heart banged the inner side of my ribs when I finally pushed his shirt off his shoulders.
The sight of the Mark on his left pectoral made me drew in a sharp breath. And like what happened with Justin I had my hands hovering over the Mark before I was even clear of what I was seeing.
I felt a moist puff of breath, misting my neck, fluttering my hair. He smelled like spices and cinnamon this morning. And as my fingers grazed his skin, stillness floated down to drown my senses. I couldn’t help but close my eyes to savor the moment; the complete peace inside my body, inside my head. No more Angel songs, no more Demonic whispers. Just stillness.
But then, as it has before, everyday smells and sounds blasted past the stillness, the smell of Gabe’s soap and toothpaste, the smell of warm bread in the oven, the sound of soft music from a speaker somewhere in the corner of the room. The smell of metal and warm skin. The smells and sounds and feelings that I don’t usually notice because I am already overwhelm, unless I am touching him. The smells and sounds and feelings of normality, of life.
I didn’t remember stepping closer but I was in the circle of his arms. He had leaned against the table behind him and I was standing between his knees, nestled in that space like I belonged.
My fingers were still following the lines of the Mark on his chest. “Did it hurt?”
“No. I was born with it.”
I almost smiled at the irony of asking the same question and getting the same answer from two very different boys. “It look like it hurts.”
And it did. When Justin’s Mark looked like someone had pressed a hand against his chest, leaving a hand print, Gabe’s was as if someone had burned the hand print onto his skin. It was, very clearly, a scar. Not exactly ugly, but it was still a scar.
His hand stroke my back, as if asking me not to worry. “It doesn’t.”
Comparing the scars got me comparing the boys and how differently I reacted to both of them. I’ve begun to trust Justin and he was beginning to get more comfortable with me which in turn made me more comfortable with him. My memories of him when we were both kids had also warmed me towards him. I was starting to like him, most of the time. It is obvious that he cares for me and that he cares of what I think of him. He is also very patient with me even when I don’t deserve it. Yes, he has a bad habit of manipulating people in doing what he wants when he could’ve tried asking first but he is starting to learn, often times by way of my fist on his face.
And sometimes, sometimes when he just looks at me, it makes me…want to look back. If you know what I mean.
And I’ve been thinking about that. I really have.
But then, I would think of Gabe. I would see Gabe and just like now, I would somehow end up in his arms. And even when I know that I can’t trust him, even when I know he has his own agenda. Even when I know he’s not the same Gabe that I used to know, I couldn’t help myself. I can’t stop my heart beating faster. I can’t stop myself for finding an excuse to touch him, or see him or be with him.
I could tell myself that it’s just because he’s my Shield, because he’s the one who could give me complete silence, or because it was his job to manipulate my feelings but—
I felt his lips touch my jaw, before sliding gently down the slope of my neck. I sighed, and every logical answer I had to stop myself from melting in his arms, faded away.
Copyright © 2012 by D.F. Jules
Justin might be a pain in my, well, everywhere but he was still pretty to look at. I watched as he did his reps in long, steady motions. I didn’t even bother counting the weights on the bar he was lifting—seemingly without difficulty—and admired the way his muscles moved under his skin the way some people admire well built machines or architecture.
“Like what you see?” He asked without turning, a smile in his voice.
Since I knew that he knew I was watching, I wasn’t embarrassed that he caught me staring. I’ve accepted the fact that he was attractive in the same way I’ve accepted that the sky is blue. “You’re pretty enough to look at.”
“Gee, thanks.” He hooked the bar in place and sat up. “I’ll try not to let your overwhelming praise go to my head.”
“Please do. Hey, what’s that?”
He picked up a towel, wiped sweat off his face, neck and chest before craning his head to find what I was referring to. When he didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, he returned his eyes to me. I could tell from the warm brown color of his eyes that he was in a good mood.
“You have a scar that I haven’t seen before.”
He snagged a bottle of water off a table and shrugged. “Not surprising. I have a lot of scars.”
“It looks like a knife wound.”
“Where is it?”
“On your left scapula.”
A smirk curled his lips. “Scapula, look at you using big words.”
“Shut it. Well, is it?”
“I don’t know, what does it look like?”
“It looks like a knife wound.”
“Then it probably is.”
“I haven’t seen it before.”
“I told you, after your birthday you’re going to start to see more. Besides,” he slid me a look, “It’s not like you spend your days watching me.”
I ignored him and his laughable implication. “But why would you hide your scars?”
“Beats answering questions about them.”
I remembered the way people had stared at my scars and bruises as I grew up. “Oh, right.”
But still, something niggled at the back of my mind and I’ve learned to pay attention whenever that happened. I squinted at Justin and tried to figure out what was bothering me. I pushed against the wall and stepped closer to him. Something floated on his chest, a blurry image that was starting to get clearer the closer I got. “What is that?”
“That.” I pointed at it. “Something’s there. It looks like, like a…handprint?”
The weight of his gaze focused on my face. “You can see that?”
I narrowed my eyes and walked toward him. “It’s still a bit hazy but yeah, I can see it. What is that?”
“It’s the Mark. It’s what marks me as an AT.”
“It looks like a hand was pressed there but the flesh is all shiny, like a scar.”
He took a long pull off the bottle, not looking at all self-conscious that I was staring at his chest. But then again, I guessed he was used to being stared like that. “You can say that.”
I waited for him to explain the vague comment but he didn’t. “Did it hurt?”
“No. I was born with it.”
“Oh, like a birthmark.”
“Something like that.”
I traced the shape with my fingers, his skin was hot and smooth beneath my fingertips. The Mark felt even smoother. “Do all of you have it?”
He cleared his throat, his voice low and soft when he answered. “Yeah.”
The vibration of his voice tingled my fingertips. “The DTs?”
He was silent and it was only when I lifted my head that I noticed how close we were standing. And how closely he was watching me. The look on his face was a mix of disappointment and self-mockery. I backed away. Slowly. The green-tinted eyes followed my movements. “I’m not allowed to answer anything that involves the DT. You have to ask them yourself.” He replied softly, gently before turning away.
He picked up his towel, his shirt and then walked out of the room. And as I watched him leave, I wondered why I feel so… guilty.
Copyright © 2012 by D.F. Jules
Jong Woon pressed a code on the keypad and I watched as the huge iron gate opened up. He flashed a smile and drove the car forward. “Leah, welcome to Sanctuary.”
I watched as the road opened up to a long road, both sides were planted by trees that cast us into shadows. The thickness of the trees reminded me of home and a lumped appeared in my throat.
I cleared my throat and forced my eyes to the boy who claimed that he was related to me. “Sanctuary?”
“It has another name but it’s what we call it.”
I couldn’t help but look back at the gate, closing silently, blocking out the outside world. My hand started to sweat as I noted how heavy the security was, the guards that didn’t look at all like rent-a-cops, the security cameras—and the heavy presence of Touched-both sides of them all around me. My body didn’t like it but I noticed the change that came over Justin’s team. Their shoulders relaxed, the tension that had filled their bodies lessen. Some of them even cracked a smile.
To them, it was a safe place and since they’ve been fanatically paranoid over the last few weeks, I guess that it was okay to put my guard down, just a little.
“What is this place?”
“Like I said, you’re not the only one with special powers. Our family line is riddled with them so our ancestors decided that we need a safe place. If not for them, for their children. Sanctuary started small, just a few families and their houses, but as our numbers grew, our influence did also and now, everything you see here is ours. It’s a closed community, we have our own schools, our own market, our own police force. Everything the outside world has, we also have it, just in a smaller scale so we rarely go out at all.”
That made me nervous. “Are you allowed to go out?”
“Of course, but we need to have permission and there’s a curfew. But for people like us, getting permission would be difficult.” He tilted his head and checked the rear view window. “And getting permission for you, in the current condition, is impossible.”
“Wait, so, do you mean that everybody here has powers?”
“If they don’t have powers then they either are related or work for us. It’s not like we can run this place on our own but we do extensive background checks and re-do it once a month.”
“Once a month? You’re strict.”
“Well, every one of us costs a pretty penny in the black market. We never know when one of them would snap and figured we would make a fine meal ticket.”
Jong Woon smirked, as if he found my surprise amusing. “You don’t actually think that our presence-people who are able to do what we do-is much of a secret anymore are you? Certain branches of governments—foreign and domestic-know about us, they’ve used people like us. How do you think we are able to afford this place? How do you think we are allowed to have this place?”
I knew my mouth was hanging open but for the life of me, I couldn’t help it. “You work for the government?”
“Some of us, we help from behind the scene mostly.”
“When you say government—”
“I meant governments. We don’t do exclusive and we reserve the right to choose. Given the price is right.”
“And the price is big gobs of money.”
He shrugged. “Sometime it’s a favor.”
Since I couldn’t wrap my head around what kind of situation does one could possibly need a favor from a government for, I left that alone. I think it’s safe to think that it wouldn’t be to take care of a parking ticket.
“So, the Family is basically a group of private troubleshooters for anyone who need them and could pay the price.”
“Something like that.”
“And this place is like a bigger and more complicated version of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.”
A smile quirked his smile. “You’re catching on. Nice X-Men reference btw.”
“Well, it’s either that or a cult.”
He laughed, as if he thought I was joking.
Trust me, I wasn’t.
Copyright © 2012 by D.F. Jules
From my position on the floor I saw what stopped my ass-whoppin’. Or more precisely, who.
Gabe’s feet caused dust to float up my face.
Gee, thanks. Why don’t you kick dirt on my face while you’re at it?
I stifled a sneeze for fear of making my broken nose even worse. Besides, I didn’t fancy splattering blood everywhere, that would just be insult to injury.
I thought about looking up but I took the time to get my breath and take note of my injuries. Nose? Definitely broken. My left eye was definitely swollen, one of my ears were ringing. Ribs? I think some of them were crack.
It’s nothing that I’ve never had before and rather than worry me,it was pissing me off. I could take the big bully blindfolded, with two hands tied behind my back but Gabe and Justin made me promise not to show off. And because of it, I’m lying here, battered and bloody, like a stupid damsel in distress.
I grit my teeth when Justin’s voice floated inside my head. Are you all right?
Shut up. This is all your fault.
Didn’t I tell you not to provoke them?
I didn’t do anything. If you haven’t noticed I’m wearing pajamas. Where were you when they dragged me out of bed?
Resignation filled his voice as he said, we were busy. At least this make things easier.
As usual, he disappeared from my head after leaving a vague comment. It took me a while to realize that Gabe was talking, probably because the ringing in one ear. I shook my head a little to clear it. It also helped that the crowd had fallen silent when they realized Gabe and his team were present.
“Are you sure you want to continue this?” Gabe’s voice was calm, almost bored. Like he had better things to do than playing referee to a bunch of teenagers determined to kick each other’s ass. And, considering who and what he was, he most definitely had.
Rudy smiled, showing that blood had slicked over every crook and cranny of his teeth. Lovely. “I was hoping you’d come to help her.”
Sloths had more enthusiasm than Gabe’s voice as drawled, “Always happy to oblige.” he sighed. “You’re going to insist on continuing this, aren’t you?”
“Are you going to kick my ass for hurting your precious Sword?”
Gabe tilted his head, a peculiar smile bloomed on his face; a smile that always gave me—and the people who knew him-pause.
“I’ve sparred with her half my life.”
“Good for you.”
If he wasn’t so keen on beating the crap out of me, I might’ve like him. Okay, maybe not.
“You know what I’ve learned?” Gabe shifted, sending more dust to my face.”
“That she sucks?”
Ha, if it wasn’t for the promise he’d be the one sucking. Literally. As in sucking his food through a straw. ‘Cause all his teeth would be gone. Shoved down his throat. I tried to move my torso and a shot of pain crawled up my spine. Rats!
“That you never, ever, kick her when she’s down.” Gabe looked down just as I looked up and gave me a slight nod.
In the same moment Justin’s voice pierce through my head. Hurt him. Don’t kill him.
I rolled my eyes at Gabe and in my mind snapped, so glad I have your permission.
Adrenalin is a miraculous thing. My body still hurt but I was used to pain and the adrenalin numbed me for most of it. Which is why it’s always misleading in a fight.
Thankfully, I grew up with adrenalin and pain, so I knew that it’s effect wouldn’t last long. I would have to make it quick. I didn’t bother with talking, or quipping or taunting. I didn’t try to impress him with flashy movements, spinning kicks or flying leaps.
In short, I fought dirty.
I could see Rudy’s eyes flared when he saw me rise to my feet and they bugged out even more when within three moves, I had him on his knees, his arm tangled with mine in an arm lock.
Gabe crouched in front of Rudy, ever so pleasant. “So, lesson number one was—what was it again, Casey?”
Casey—with a completely straight face—recited. “Never, ever kick Leah when she’s down.”
“Excellent.” Gabe’s voice rose and it seemed as if it filled the night air. “As you can see, she gets a little vengeful when she’s bloodied. Lesson number 2, and this one is very, very important.” Gabe’s eyes glanced at me, his green eyes reflecting sparks from the bonfires around us. “She never make empty threats.”
Taking that as my cue, I tightened my grip on Rudy’s arm, bending over to whisper in his ear, “I told you, if you ever touched me again, I’d break your arm in three places.”
He made a sound deep in his throat, his body tensing but he didn’t respond. He didn’t acknowledge me. His mouth clamped into a tight line and nervous sweat beaded on his temples and upper lip. I could see the vein on his neck flutter. His breath sped up.
In hindsight, maybe I should’ve just let him go, maybe I should be more merciful or understanding. But then again, I had to make a point, I have to show that I wasn’t a doormat and that they couldn’t just walk over me. I had to make my power play and show them what I was made of, especially to people like Rudy who beat people down just because he could, because he had a bad day, because he had a hangnail, because he just felt like it.
My actions were justified, but you know what?
It wasn’t because of all those reasons. It was because he had hurt me, he had humiliated me, and because, in the split second that I was pulled out of sleep, I had felt fear.
He had frightened me, he had stolen from me the most precious thing that a human being could have; a feeling of safety.
So it was without remorse that I strengthened my hold on his arm and I did not hesitate.
I twisted his arm and pulled.
I felt the bone shift under his skin, moving in ways that it shouldn’t.
I heard the bones crack.
Copyright © 2011 by D.F. Jules
…ha, how’s that for a snippet?
Sorry it took so long for me to give you guys a snippet, it’s just that, my writing process was very different on this second book.
When in book one, I outlined my ideas very carefully and I started by writing per chapter.
I write book two sort of haphazardly and move from one scene to another. So currently book 2 is compiled out of scenes.
I guess I kind of learned my lesson from trying to control my characters since they always change themselves. By writing in scenes, I could take my cue from how they react in them then bridge one scene to another without having to think about how I’m going to do that while at the same time make them stay in character.
I’ll be back with a new snippet soon!!
“You couldn’t possibly be that dense. You did this on purpose, didn’t you? To see how Gabe would react?”
“I have no idea what you guys are talking about. Would somebody just fill me in?”
“I’ll fill you in.” Gabe seemed to appear out of nowhere. There was a cut above his left eye and his knuckles were bruise, but I wasn’t worried about those, it would heal in seconds. What did worry me though was the ravaged look on his face. The barely cloaked violence in his voice. His eyes darkened even more as he reached me, ignoring the way Mina tried to grab to his arm.
He stood before me and then just stared. I stared back. Something about the way he looked at me, put my back up. “What?”
The smile that curved on his lips made my heart jerk tightly in my chest. “Is this payback?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Did he tell you to come here like this? To rub it in my face?”
“Okay, once again. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Now somebody tell me what’s going on.”
The hand that circled my neck was rough and hot. I would’ve fought his hold but something in his face made me pause, besides, he seemed to be calmer that he was touching me. Apparently, I did something wrong or as Mina said, insane. And maybe, the smart thing to do was to run and hide out like she said, but…if they didn’t explain it to me, I’d probably do it again. And things between us were already tense.
The hand around my neck tightened. “You really don’t know, do you?”
I blinked at him, trying to appear as honest as possible. And just because Gabe sounded so logical and calm didn’t mean that he actually was logical and calm. I could see the tightness around his eyes, see the tension in the way he stood before me. He was holding himself in check and his control was very, very thin. “No, I don’t. Are you guys sensitive to Justin in particular or—“
“Throwing his name in my face is not helping.” His voice was soft. So soft that he was making me nervous, especially since his eyes were the only thing from him that was moving. I think he was also holding his breath. Like he was trying very hard to hold something in.
“Gabe, I honestly don’t know what I did wrong.”
“You smell like him. You feel like him. It’s like he’s the one standing in front of me right now and not you.”
“And that—what—offends you or something? That it feels like he’s here?”
“It offends me that he’s on you. In you.” His nose wrinkled. “Like a tick that’s found its perfect sweet spot.”
Copyright © 2011 by D.F. Jules
I leaned back on my chair and just looked at the boy in front of me. “You really have no conscience at all, do you?”
Shay meshed two pieces of bread together and smothered it with jam. “Is that the little voice inside that nags, nags, nags?”
“So, you do have one?”
“Nope. It died a silent death a couple of years back.”
I chewed my own sandwich before shrugging. “At least you’re familiar with the concept.”
His blue eyes latched on to my face in a way that made the small hairs on the back of my neck rose. “It doesn’t bother you?”
“Not right now.”
“Since I’m on your side?”
“Since harming me wouldn’t give you anything.”
I nodded. “Yet.”
“Just so we’re clear.”
I let out a small laugh. “Oh, we’ve been clear since day one.”
Copyright © 2011 by D.F. Jules
Nakamura sensei said that there are three types of people that we will meet in our lifetime;
The one who stands before us, a reminder of who we want to be.
The one who stands beside us, a reminder of who we are.
The one who stands behind us, a reminder of who we were.
To me, Gabe was all three and in a way, he still was.
In short, as things were, I was so screwed.
and something about Leah and Shay:
I played fast and loose with consciousness and in the short moments I’ve surfaced from the black peaceful place I was in, I saw Shay, sitting in a corner with his two blades in hand. Moonlight washed away all the color from his hair, his face, making him look like a creature made of marble and stone and other cold and heartless things.
His blue eyes were closed, his face slack and relaxed as if in sleep but it didn’t fool me. If anyone who was a threat came through that door, he wouldn’t bother with questions, he would just kill.
No remorse. No regret.
What does it say about me that I find that comforting?
and something about Leah and William:
William was always quiet, always calm. In a way it’s what makes him so deadly, the way he calculate and weigh options logically and always with a cool head. He would’ve been the most dangerous of them all if not for his fierce dedication to Aspaya who treats him like a son. William, despite his black lustruos hair, his perfect chiseled looks, tended to pale into the background…and he preferred it that way.
He did everything he was ordered to do without fuss and did what needed to be done with even less fuss. It amused me, how everybody would bicker and fight and duel and then have William loitering on the background doing…whatever. Picking flowers, throwing out trash. Sunning on the deck.
I found him very peaceful to be around. I considered the time where I cleaned, sharpened and oiled the numerous blades and swords and daggers with him a kind of therapy, even though we didn’t talk to each other.
Maybe it was because of that. I didn’t have to prove anything to him and he didn’t expect anything from me. He was just there, like a really comfortable lived in sofa.
Copyright © 2011 by D.F. Jules