Chapter 1

How do I start…?

Where can I start?

The beginning would be best.

I can't though.

Why not?

That's the one-million-dollar question these last weeks. The only answer I can give people is one:

"I woke up in a bed I don't recognize in a house I don't remember."

My parents—at least they say they're my parents—looked freaked, so freaked the lady with the sandy hair—Mom—fainted right on the spot. The man beside—Dad—wasn't quick enough to catch her, so she woke up with quite the headache and I seriously thought she would repeat the damn act. It got me seriously edgy when they decided to show me photographs and videos of vacations and parties.

I could see myself through the years. It was me; dark sandy hair, changing from size each year, and with constant, shinning, jade eyes. I saw freckles on my nose grow little and little in number, until how they were now, only a couple on my cheeks.

I could see it was me.

My body.

It wasn't me, though. The person inside this eighteen year old body wasn't Coral Hemingway. It wasn't these people's daughter.

I couldn't be her. I knew nothing about her, her life… At the same time, I felt so bad when I watched Mom cry, I thought my heart was being torn from its spot.

That happened four days ago.

I've kept my distance from Coral's friends to avoid such reaction and I've concealed myself in her room.

I've discovered I like art; writing, painting, drawing. Coral was a soccer player in the high school's feminine team. She was good; trophies lined one of her bedroom walls. Pictures of Coral with a girl with dark, short hair were scattered on another wall; I'd discovered the girl to be Penny, Coral's best friend since second grade.

My chest ached, but aside from that I felt dead, as though I didn't belong.

That night I ate my usual. An apple and went straight to her room, locking the door behind me.

A song fluttered into my ears as I let my body crash into the not-so-soft mattress. It was pure, sad and… familiar?

For the first time since I'd woken up four days ago I knew something. Another thing was stirring inside my body; it wasn't the heart in my chest. It was something besides that, more complicated. Still I knew what it was.

My soul.

My ears were more than on alert from where the song was coming from. My legs were on the move as soon as I caught a glimpse of the faintest shimmer behind the undulating curtains.

I took one step, I stopped and my soul curled into a tight cement ball… I took another step, the ball was gone, replaced by anxiousness and happiness.

My fingers curled around the window curtain, pulling the opaque fabric backward ever so slowly, to keep my soul chanting a little more. It was like feeling for the first time, I wished to keep the emotion going.

Then it was all withdrawn.

"You finally found me."

He was gorgeous. If it wasn't for the arrogant smirk, I might actually have allowed him to pull me forward, like he wanted.

I didn't; instead, I shove his hand off, but didn't put any distance between us. He wasn't angelic; a natural arrogance didn't allow him said privilege. He was more like a wicked devil with juicy, rose, lips that could surely sweet-talk the most controlled person into committing the biggest mistake of their lives and would just laugh at the corruption he caused. A perfect nose between sculpted cheekbones, that me want to put a pencil to a paper and draw trying to achieve the perfection in front of me.

He was breathtaking. He was staring straight at me, unblinking.

And while his unblinking, cerulean iris stared into my jade ones I saw recognition in his pupils; not only that, longing was among the many others I couldn't read.

"What are you talking about?" I finally found my tongue. "You're the one who snuck into this room. I didn't find you." My arms crossed solidly.

A quirk of his lip made me frown; why was he happy with my confusion?

"You did find me." He pushed from the window frame, taking a step to me, putting us at two inches. "I've been calling out to you for five days. You've finally answered."

"What?" I asked, shocked. "I don't…" I shook my head; nothing tingled in my body now. My soul had gone dormant once more, like it had never awakened in the first place.

The guy looked like he could be in college, maybe twenty-one or twenty-two; I was madly confused and he was smirking again.

"You couldn't see me if I hadn't called to you. You needed to forget in order to remember."

That made no sense, complete crazy talk in my head.

"Remember me."

A male hand cupped my cheek or so I thought… because it went right through me and dear Lord I think I saw him flinch beneath all that though exterior, even though I didn't know him, I knew, I just did, that this guy standing in front of me wasn't the type to show weakness, at least, not in front of others.

"Damn." He cursed, voice rough, hand dropping to his side. "I thought… You can see me now. Why can't we…?" His fist coiled in shaking anger.

I felt remembrance; my soul was alive again, burning softly, weeping even, all for the unknown man.

Cerulean gaze caught up with mine.

"Do you know?" His breath didn't hit me even if he was standing an inch from my face. "My name, do you know it?"

Yes, I wanted to say, but nothing came to mind, really.

"No." I whispered hoarsely. "Are you a… a ghost?"

He leant back; a tight grin grabbed at his lips.

"Ghost?" He chuckled at the word, finding in it some funny detail I didn't. "I guess to you I am, aren't I?"

Did this guy run away from a Looney-bin?

"I don't understand."

"Shame for you and me, spitfire."

I blinked the slowest I ever had and a taunting grin spread on those luscious lips of his.

"Spitfire is a hot-headed person when it comes to emot—"

"I know what it is!"

What I was going to say next never came out because I'd just answered myself with the outburst. Still a doubt remained. How did he know I was a hot-headed person, if even I hadn't known until… Well, right now!

"What's your name?" He turned silently to the window, leaving me to face his ample shoulder blades that stuck out under his tight T-shirt. "See something you like?" It came when I didn't respond after one minute of long silence, and yeah, I did see something I liked, but his cockiness ruined it. "If you remembered then it'd be all yours."

All mine? Was he… Was he talking about his body? My mind worked out the cobwebs focusing on what was really important or at least what I deemed important.

"You keep talking about remembering… What's up with that?"

"Answer me." He muttered lowly as if losing patience. "Your name?"

My name.

All I had to give was Coral Hemingway and it was not my name. Not my true one.

"I'm…" I didn't want to lie, I couldn't; a stab was delivered to my soul when I even considered lying to this guy. "I don't know; it's supposed to be Coral Hemingway, I'm supposed to be her. But… I'm not."

That sounded crazy said out loud, I was glad I just told "my" parents I didn't remember anything. If I thought my explanation was crazy then what I got in response was even more: A satisfied look.

I wanted to hit him; he was enjoying the fact I knew nothing of who I was? Why I'd woken up with no memory? And I was certain he had something to do with my blank memory.

"That's progress, I guess. You don't think you're her anymore."

"You make no sense." I whispered taking a few backward steps to sit down on a chair. "I don't even get how you got in…"

"All in due time, that's what I'm always told."

He was coming towards me, advancing in a prideful manner with the snarky, arrogant mask placed on his face—he halted passing in front of a mirror. He gazed into it.

I could add vanity at the list of adjectives to describe him. He was staring for so long I finally drove my eyes to the mirror…

Nothing could prepare me for what I saw. If I thought he was gorgeous before—I certainly didn't doubt now. In the wall mirror his image was reflected a bit differently than his real self. His skin was completely fair, onyx hair, not only dark but pitch-black; the cerulean eyes kept their intensity but their pupils emitted a freezing glare, I wondered if people would turn into popsicles if those eyes stared at them too long.

That reflection was one of a complete ice-prince. Everything about it was gelid, but beautiful… and dangerous.

"Don't stare for too long, darling," He came alive, face turning from the mirror to me. "It will pull you right in as you are now, and then where would we be?"

"Why is your reflection different? Why can't I stare?"

He waved my questions away with the shake of his head; outside of the mirror his hair wasn't raven black. It reminded me of hot chocolate and I wondered if it smelled like it, too or if it was as creamy as it looked once you touched it.

"I can't give you those answers." He sat on the desk, his feet barely dangled in the air.

I grunted some curse, he smiled.

"What's your name, can you tell me that?"

I must have touched a sore spot because a cutting flash of pain took over his face. My hand lashed forward but never made contact; it went through his. My soul tingled.

He wasn't transparent, I couldn't see through him, so why couldn't I touch this boy?

"I can't give you my real name; I wish I could, but I can't. You have to remember that on your own." He laughed darkly then. "I think I broke the rules by making you forget in order to remember…" His blue eyes, not nearly as chilling as the ones in the mirror, took my pinched face in. "It will make sense one day…" Then he muttered under his breath something I didn't make out.

"Then what am I going to call you?"

I didn't even know why I promptly assumed I was going to keep seeing him around, I just got a feeling…

He cocked his head, watching me like a curious bird; at that little thing my soul seemed to jump with recognition… and something warm spread over me.

"You can choose a name."

He fished me out of my thoughts.

"I can?" He nodded.

Well, I wasn't expecting that. I didn't think I could choose his name, it seemed wrong not to know his true one… like I couldn't call him by any other.

"It feels wrong." I admitted his eyebrows quirked. "Giving you a name, calling you by a name that isn't your real one… It doesn't like something I can do."

A turn of his lips made me go warmer on the inside.

"It won't be forever, keep that in mind."

I nodded, still a little disappointed.

"Besides, I'll have to give you a name too."

I frowned; who said he could name me?

Wait; did this mean…?

"Do you know my real name?" The corners of his mouth didn't form a smile; instead, it was a grimace. "You do…" I whispered.

I wanted to ask him so badly what it was—my name—but I couldn't. An emotion stirred, a new one, empathy I think it's called. It was like I understood his pain, and didn't want to cause him anymore of it, so I didn't push.

"Alright; what am I going to call you?" I tapped a finger to my chin.

It was so wrong saying that, like he was some pet I was naming, when I didn't even know this person… not that I recalled, anyway. He made a face at first, and then leant his face closer to mine, like an eager child waiting for their birthday present.

I smiled.

"I like Aaron."

"Aaron?" He repeated. "Aaron…" It was like he was testing it out. "I can live with that."

"Not forever." I reminded urgently.

Something close to gentleness graced his arrogant face.

"Not forever." Aaron assured. "Now it's my turn to give you a name."

I couldn't say I wasn't happy with that, because I was sick of not having a name and, though, it wouldn't be my true name, it would be something.


"Excuse me…?"

What kind of name was that? I'd never heard it.

"It's the name that gave origin to 'Carissa' in the modern day, but I always liked the original names better. I think it holds all their meaning."

"Oh." I was sort of speechless to that. "What does it mean then?" I placed my head in my palm, looking up into his eyes.

His lips moved upward.

"It means kindness."

I thought I'd blush, since it was clearly an indirect way of him calling me kind. I didn't blush, though. My cheeks weren't burning under his gaze.

My soul was a whole different story; it was light up and exploding like fireworks, just hearing the word.

A full smile took up my face.

"You like it?" Aaron asked knowingly.

"I do."

"I knew it." That arrogant smirk returned, but this time, there was no urge to hit him. "I'll be going now." Aaron lifted himself off the desk, my eyes following him. "Can't keep my eyes off me, huh?"

I blushed this time.

"You can't be modest, can you?"

Aaron looked over his shoulder.

"Modesty is a virtue, darling, I don't have those."

With a wink that got me sighing there was no trace of him.

"Aaron?" A voice called from the shadowy territory. "She's calling you Aaron?"

I spun on my hill, flashing Julian a glare.

"What's wrong with 'Aaron'?" I muttered, tension rising in my soul.

He held up his hands knowing not to aggravate me in my current state.

"I just thought you'd want something a little more important, like… Your highness?"

He was joking now; I couldn't believe this, the one time I could freeze his ass on spot was one of the times he was being funny. That was Talon's turf, the funny part, not Julian's.

"I could freeze your lazy ass right now…" I began to threat when he lazily shook his head.

"Alright I'll drop it." He got closer to me. "I know it didn't work like you wanted, but it's a start, Kole."

My name coming from Julian's lips was something I heard every day, for as long as I was created, but from her lips… It was so long ago.

"The damn flute was supposed to make her forget this mortal life, which it did, but it didn't bring back her memories."

Julian scratched his blond head.

"But her soul allows her to see and hear you now. It's progress."

He was right; but it wasn't enough. After so long, so many centuries of looking for a way to break the curse I'd gotten my hopes so high… only to watch them crumble the minute my hand went through her. Her soul had been emptied of mortal memories, all the lives she'd had as a human which allowed her to see and hear me, like Julian had so kindly pointed out, but her soul still hadn't recognized mine. Until then, we couldn't touch, even if my soul had never forgotten hers.

Julian set his back against a tree like the lazy person he is and a flood of anger spread in my veins.

"Why can't you just go back in time and stop the curse? You time travelled to get the flute."

"Exactly, big brother, that's what I did. Isn't it enough?" He stretched himself like a lazy cat. "Besides, you know it's against the rules for me to change events."

Yeah I knew, but it didn't stop me from trying.

"You have to keep patience." Julian smirked. "It may be hard, I know, it's a virtue…" He shrugged closing his eyes.

"Where's Theo he called me."

I wanted to grit my teeth at the bastard, calling me like I was his lap dog. He deserved his tongue frozen and broken off, though, along the years I've thought of worse punishment for my older brother this last one would be the most satisfying. Theo loved to hear himself talk just as much as I loved staring myself in the mirror.

Julian cracked an eye open, and for the briefest seconds I saw pity for me and despised it, but at the same time my soul quieted knowing I could always count on my baby brother. He'd always followed me around like a puppy… When he wasn't busy sleeping, that is. Julian's job seemed the easiest, being the Sin of Sloth or Prince of Sloth all he had to do was go around telling people they should just sit back and relax, work could wait, and humans loved my brother's philosophy; most of them.

"He wants you in his domain; he's waiting for you there."

I left with a silent nod; walking as prideful I'd ever walked, shaking my raven hair away. I couldn't think of her name; with her name came the memories, the pain… the love. I couldn't be overcome by those feelings; Theo would smell them in my soul and take advantage that was the last thing I needed.

Charis—I chanted to myself that for now that was her name—was different this time around.

Completely changed.

Along her soul's lives her body had been, in some, nearly identical to her true one, in others there were a few traits, but this one… It was nothing like the original body, nor did it detain any similarity, small as it may be.

Her hair was sandy, with curls cascading down her shoulders, no longer pale silver straight. Her eyes were jade and shining, not the darkest blue. She wasn't my height anymore like she'd been once many centuries ago, her lips were plump, not thin… On the outside there wasn't a shred of the woman I'd loved and still did, but on the inside—a chill ran along my spine—she was in there.

The outside didn't matter to me. I laughed hard at that; to the ones who knew me that would be the biggest joke or lie ever.

I, the Prince of Pride, didn't care about looks. Pft.

I was best known for the following traits: Arrogance, Coldness and Vanity.

I cared about looks, but not when it came to her. I used to, but that changed.

Walking into my eldest brother's domain I vanquished thoughts of warmth, care and love, adopting the cold façade I wore normally. It sat well with my icy glare.

Each Sin has its own domain and each is different; mine for starters, has a ground made out of ice. In Theo's domain the ground was hard wood, all of it, but that wasn't all; since he's the Prince of Envy my brother is a complete narcissist, he thinks he's the highest order—it the doesn't help that from the seven of us he's the oldest—Theo had the ground written upon. His name was written in every language numerous times.

It was annoying, really.

In a domain its Prince or Princess lived and so do our sinners, they are souls we've collected after their deaths having followed a life of sin.

Reaching my brother's home I felt the scent of his soul, the normal jealousy was in place, then came contentment, which I'm sure was from when he felt me.

One of the sinners came forward, I didn't see through him, souls weren't opaque but from around them a faint glow radiated; the color was different for each Sin. The glow around this one was green.

He bowed letting me pass, I was kind of hoping he didn't, for a minute.

"You called me?"

I had to do all I could not to spat in his face as he met my gaze with his burning green eyes; a slow grin itched as he cleared his throat.

That was enough for my body to succumb like a puppet; I fell to one knee, head forcefully bowed.

"You called for me, my Lord?"

My voice was hollow, if I was in control of my body it wouldn't happen; I would never say these words, but I didn't have control.

It was humiliating for me, I don't bow to anyone or call someone 'my Lord' it was like I was owned, it felt degrading. My brother loved that, though, making others feel small, so he'd feel big and full of himself. I swear, he was even worse than me sometimes.

"Indeed, I did." My jaw ticked at the sound of the pompous tone. "Get up, Kole."

Like invisible strings had been pulled, I stood up fast as lighting he cracked a laugh.

"So eager to please," He mocked. "What's with that face, little brother? You're not happy to be here?"

Theo's cooing tone made my soul flare with hot anger.

"What do you want, Theo?" I asked once his hold had faded.

"Be polite." He ordered with a sly smile.

"What do you wish from me, my Lord?" I cringed with despair; he played with me like a kid did with a toy.

All the present sinners snickered at my predicament, this only fueled his fun. Theo waved a hand after a while and the room quieted, then he made for me to advance and I did like some robot.

"Where were you?"

I waited to make him impatient, before he could force it out of me, I answered.

"With Julian."

He nodded.

"Before that?"

"Earth." I crossed my arms and set my jaw in the cheekiest manner I knew how. "Before you ask, I was doing my job; you know, spreading my seeds of evil like you should be doing, instead of playing with me."

Theo wasn't taller than me, he was two inches, maybe three shorter, that had always ticked him off and as we stood now face to face I had an unnerving want to grin because he had to look up to me. I didn't push it, though; kneeling once was enough for me.

"You belong to me, little brother." He sneered. "Don't you remember the deal you made to save—"

"Don't say her name." I growled, drawing my hands into fists.

Theo was laughing at me visibly.

"When you made the deal to save her, you offered yourself to me; I can do whatever I want with you."

It was true, but that Contract, like all things…

"Its ending, Theo; soon our contract will cease, two more human days and it's over."

The scorn glowed in his green eyes, making every soul back away from the room.

"Two days in the Human world are two weeks in our realm, Kole." I felt a sting in my legs, like they'd gone numb. "I'll make these two weeks unforgettable for you."

I shoved down the panic, refusing to let him see the wisp of fear in my eyes; I looked down. My legs were being turned into stone, soon it was at my hips; I hated that he could turn anyone and anything into stone, but I'd made the mistake of staring into his eyes… Myths about Medusa were real, only it wasn't a woman with a head filled with snakes; it was an envious Prince with silky looking hair.

I swallowed before my shoulders turned into stone and lastly my head.