3

My stomach hurt terribly, the glow in my hands sprouted and I cried freely as I sat back from the toilet, leaning my back against the wall of the stall. Hot tears streamed down my face and my whole body twitched with heat and pain. I didn't understand what was happening to me. I was terrified, and for the first time in a while, I felt so alone.

I was hurt by Mick. They said first love was the worst. They didn't mention how bad things got. My heart felt shattered, even though I was still technically his girlfriend and I didn't love him. My heart was supposed to break after the relationship, not in the middle.

The door to the ladies room burst open like someone was going to explode if they didn't get to the bathroom in two seconds. I paused and bit my lip to hold in a sound as my stall door wiggled. "Occupied." I managed to reply shortly and easily without slipping much emotion into my voice.

"I'm here for you." I blinked. The voice wasn't feminine at all. I rubbed hastily at my eyes and scooted back, staring at the stall door. My hands throbbed and I winced.

"Who are you?"

"Does it matter?" the voice replied.

"Um, yeah. This is the girl's bathroom. If you hadn't noticed." I didn't know who was here, but it calmed me down and distracted me from thinking of all other problems in my life.

"I know." I could almost feel his eyes rolling. "I didn't miss the-um, feminine napkins thing." I sensed movement and I saw feet peek under the stall door.

"You mean tampons?"

"Yeah." It was silent for a bit. "Open the door, I need to talk to you." I scooted back further and crossed my arms over my chest.

"Excuse me?" I said, sniffling. "Who are you?"

"It's…Alex." I closed my eyes and sighed in relief.

"Alex. How did you know I was here?" I asked. The feet peeking under the stall moved back and I heard him pace around. I stood slowly, rubbing my eyes and sniffling to look somewhat presentable in front of my favorite guy friend.

"I saw you crying. And your hands were glowing. What was up with that?" I blinked and froze. Flipping my palms over, I stared as they lit up slightly, not as noticeable as before.

"Um, I don't know what you're talking about." I flushed the toilet and slid open the stall, rubbing my eyes. "I was crying because my boyfriend just cheated-" Something from the side knocked me over and sent me skidding across the room, my back hitting the wall. I screamed out of being so startled more than pain, and rushed to my feet, only to freeze and stare. Gold swirling light and fiery shadows swam towards me and turned darker to reach a pitch black until it enveloped me. I screamed my lungs out to the point where they burned, and I could've sworn I burst them. The vacuum feeling fell over me again and I saw a figure all in black come up and grab me by the arm. I screamed louder and shook out of the grasp, grabbing their hand with my own hot one. A scream from the other erupted and I kicked blindly at them until I could get away.

Without a second glance, I made a break for the doors, slamming them shut without looking back.

I ditched school for the rest of the day. I don't know what the hell just happened to me, but it shook me up-big time. I wondered if I was going crazy. I wondered if people knew they were as crazy things kept happening to them. But I actually felt things. I felt pain, I felt violated. I felt like someone was going through my mind and throwing things around, making me unsure of which way was left and right. I didn't know if that was a hallucination, but it felt too real to be a hallucination. Everything had.

I sat in my car for the rest of the day. I was huddled at the driver's seat, my knees pulled up to my chest. I felt the chilly beginning-of-autumn air brush up my arms from my window that was a peek open. It was much colder in contrast to the other day at the beach. Chicago weather was so unpredictable.

I watched quietly as students began filing out of the school. One look at the clock on my dashboard told me school was out, and I could start turning my car on to go home. I didn't want to catch any one of my friends here. In fact, I would only let myself see Amanda, because I knew she wouldn't judge me. I wasn't so sure about my other friends.

But I wasn't going to tell them, either. Not if this stopped soon. I could just go about like nothing happened. I'm sure there were a bunch of crazy people in the world who were out and fine on their own. And I wasn't even crazy.

I put my key in the ignition, staring ahead at the street in front of me. People were walking, occupying the parking lot now, weaving between cars to get to their own. My car started just as I spotted a pair of shoes. Not just any shoes. The shoes that were peeking under the bathroom stall. I really wasn't imagining it! I refused to lose the guy. My eyes scanned upwards, following the dark washed jeans and black leather jacket. It was a boy. His back was to me, and I pulled out of my parking space, gripping the steering wheel tightly. I watched carefully as I inched forward, following the boy as he walked out of the parking lot and onto a black motorcycle. I followed two cars behind him as he rode off in the opposite direction of my house.

I called Mom and told her I was going to Amanda's for a project and made my way carefully behind the boy. He didn't look familiar at all. Not from the back, at least. I followed him into the city and finally he decided to stop about twenty minutes later, coming to a slow stop in front of a large building. It had a brick exterior, and looked like an old townhouse from the 1800s. The door creaked as the boy hopped off his motorcycle and stepped through it. I parked across the street and reached for the doors. I cursed under my breath as the door didn't budge. I was about to give up when I glanced over my shoulder and saw a fire escape latter on the building beside the one I was aiming to get in. Good enough.

I made my way to the latter, climbing up it with trembling fingers. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I had to find out who this person was. I also had to know if it had anything to do with the glowing of my hand-which I was still majorly freaked out about.

I pulled myself up onto the roof of the three-story building and glanced at the building I was aiming to get into. The roof on the other one was flat and had a fire escape door at the top. I took quick and shaky breaths as I brought myself to the opposite side of the building I was on. By looks, it was probably abandoned. But I would've also assumed the same for the other one, except that boy lived there.

I swallowed hard and counted to three in my head. I broke into a sprint across the roof that must have been twelve feet long. As I neared he edge, adrenaline made me shiver from head to toe. Determination was clear on my face as I leaped as hard as I could, easily making the gap and landing uneasily on my feet. I fell over and rolled; my run off was quicker than I needed. My cheek felt cold on the base of the roof and I wished I had on a bigger coat. The sun was setting and what was left of the heat began to vanish away, leaving my nose and cheeks rosy from the cold.

It took all of my strength to open the fire escape door. It was so rusty that it could barely budge, and when it did, a loud moan sounded that made little shivers crawl up my arms. I peeked into it and saw only a dark hallway. It was dim from lights that were only on deep inside the house. It looked like it was a rundown apartment building, with cobwebs hanging from the corners of the walls and doors lined up alone the square interior. I stuck my feet in first and landed on the floor below me. It was dark wood, that was probably rotting. It was such an ugly brown that it started looking green.

As I walked along the building, I noticed there was a path, and stairs. If I looked over the rail the whole three floors were visible. At the pit, was a fancy table with desserts of all sorts, with expensive chairs. There were eight seats, including the two head chairs at the end of the table. All were occupied.

Nobody could see me, not if they looked up. The only light was a very extremely large chandelier that hung from the ceiling of the third floor-near where I had entered. Since the inside was all open, the light illuminated the people sitting at their dining table perfectly.

I went one floor down. I was careful about the stairs; going too quickly would cause a loud noise of creaks and moans and it'd be sure to draw attention. I had to get closer though. I had to hear what was going on… I didn't understand what this was.

"I'm here, sorry I'm late." It was the boy from the bathroom earlier today. It was then that I saw his features. He had pale skin and black hair, with eyes as black as night. He dragged a chair up from a storage closet and took a seat next to the headman of the table. I could only assume he was the headman, because he looked the oldest, and the chair he sat in at the end of the table was tall and big and showed leadership. He was definitely the leader of this group.

"Dimitri. How lovely of you to finally join us." The headman smiled. I noticed something about all of these people; they looked the same. Skin pale as ice and hair black as night. Something in my gut told me this was no accident.

"Zhath. I apologize for my absence. Though I do have rather enticing news." Zhath looked to be in his late forties. He brought the word 'lean' to a whole new level. He looked like he could pass over the seven foot mark, and he was sitting. His long black hair was slicked back, the candlelight bringing a glare over the top of it.

"This had better be good." Zhath mumbled, irritation clear in his tone. I knelt on my knees and peeked through the railing to observe without standing so out in the open.

"It is," Dimitri said maliciously. "It's a matter that we shouldn't speak of so…publicly." Dimitri, who had his hair combed back neatly, shirt fitted to outline his lean muscles, gave an agitated stare to the rest of the people. They seemed to be off into their own conversations while eating their dinner.

"Nonsense. Anything you have to offer me can be spoken of in front of all of the members." Zhath gestured to his friends who were all wearing a dark red cloak, the hoods down as they ate. Their food consisted of a variety of vegetables such as corn and green beans, with potatoes and a very rare kind of meat I assumed to be steak.

"Very well. I've found another." The statement pulled Zhath into a frozen state and he smiled darkly at Dimitri.

"Is that so?" One nod from Dimitri and Zhath was pushing away his food, dabbing his mouth with a napkin and standing up. "Everyone. Our newest member has gotten his first one." He announced. Everyone paused their eating and speaking to avert their gaze to Dimitri. He stood, flushing darkly and looking triumphant. "I thought you'd disappoint, son. Seems you've proved wrong. Bring the peasant out here." Some of the proud emotion on Dimitri's face fell, but he didn't let his father's words disrupt his pride. He disappeared out the door and brought in a boy, shivering and threw him on the floor.

"I don't know anything, I swear!" he cried. He was shriveled up and curling over on himself. He looked thin and frail and weak. I had a feeling he wouldn't leave this place alive. And neither would I, if I stayed much longer. I didn't know these people, and something in the back of my mind told me that I didn't want to, either.

"Of course you don't." Zhath said as he rose from the chair. "As far as your knowledge goes, everyone in this room is human. God is only a name you hear and choose to believe, and Satan is a fairytale gone wrong." I was following Zhath until this point. What the hell?

"W-what?" the boy sputtered.

"There are no angels as far as you can tell, there are no demons and there is only good in the world. Well little boy, how would you like to learn about the reality of this world? I could teach you as I have taught every soul in this room. You could learn the ways of life as a warrior and become the most powerful being known to man." His gaze was so impaling down at the boy, it even got me caught up in thoughts. Being so powerful, being able to have control over others-like Kimara. It sounded like the best life I could dream of.

"I-I don't understand…"

"You aren't a human, boy. You are a warrior." Zhath took the boy's hand and pulled it up, pushing up the sleeve and grasping his inner forearm. A slow orange glow formed between the two, and it looked as if it were protruding from Zhath. I watched in wonder and stared down at my palms. The boy shivered less. He sat up straighter and took deep and powerful breaths that I could hear from up here. Whoa. Could I do that?

"Everything feels…heightened…" the boy murmured. He sighed as if relishing this power Zhath was somehow giving him. I blinked and watched in wonder as he released the boy and he took a few quick breaths, as if he were out of them.

"It should, my boy. You could learn to do this yourself. To be your own leader, and lead your own cult to power. Join me, boy, and I will make you the most powerful being you've come to known." Zhath held up his hand and the boy stood. It was then, that I saw who it was. A gasp raked out of my throat before I could stop it. All eyes turned to my direction while mine stayed glued to that boy's.

It was Alex.

I screamed louder than I ever thought , everyone sitting down fled from their chairs, charging up the stairs as Zhath commanded them to seize me. I quickly rose from my sitting position and ran along the perimeter of the apartment. The group of people split in half and I knew they'd block me off in every way. I glanced over the railing and made the quickest and most stupid decision ever. I jumped the rail.

I screamed as I crashed into the table and it collapsed from under me. Half of my body crashed in the bowl of pasta, the side of my face landing in something I assumed to be mashed potatoes or grits. The table shattered to pieces and more food fell over, spreading out around me. I groaned in agony and rolled off of the wood pieces and out of the mess.

I needed more time to be able to stand. My whole body trembled with pain and I was pretty sure I had a concussion. My head had hit something hard and I was pretty sure it was bleeding. One way or another, Zhath grabbed me by the collar of my food-stained shirt and hauled me to my feet. I gave another wince and cringed away from him.

"You're like him, too." Zharth breathed in wonder. I glanced over at Alex, who wasa staring at his inner arm in wonder.

"Alex, run! Get help!" Tears built in my eyes but I willed them to go away. I would not cry. Not here. Alex looked up slowly at me, his eyes widening.

"Elena?" he asked. By the time he was actually out of his daze, the rest of the members of this cult had grabbed him by the arms and surrounded me and Zhath.

"Let us go." I said, grabbing his long and skinny hand as it gripped my throat and lifted me off my toes. I let out choking sounds, my face flashing with heat as I felt my lungs burn with the desperate need for oxygen.

"I could give you all the power you want." He whispered in a voice much gentler than I heard him speak in before. "I could give you leadership and a better life." The vacuum feeling fell over me in a manner that didn't feel as threatening as when Scott used it.

"I…"

"You can defeat your enemies. You will feel triumphant and will never need to worry about being taken over. People will worship you. Die for you." My eyes glazed with wonder. All I was thinking about was the power I could have. I could lead myself, I would have nothing to worry about. I'd have people falling at my feet. Kimara would be in hell while I could be the most popular girl in school.

"I'd like th-" I never finished my sentence. The doors of the abandoned apartment burst inwards and I was thrown down, finally catching my breath and suddenly all of the terrible thoughts dawned on me. I wasn't thinking about how dangerous of a situation I was in. All I had been thinking about was the fame and glory I could have. It was as if Zhath had me under some sort of spell. I didn't even pay mind to the fact that he'd been choking me.

I had barely any time to register any of this. The cult members began rushing towards the door as a bunch of people in vests and belts with weapons and swords taped all over them marched in. A grenade was thrown on the far side, that let a small explosion ring out and I felt debris of the stairs and walls fall over my head. I had no idea what was going on, only that I had to get Alex out of here.

"Out the back! Stop fighting and get out!" Zhath screamed, weaving behind his members and using them as a shield as the warrior-looking people threw daggers, wiping out at least fifteen of the fifty members that had all somehow gathered. I'd assumed they'd been in these rooms the apartment had. There were only ten people at the dinner table, and the others just followed their leader. Zhath completely forgot about his two new specimens-Alex and I-and everyone who got away went out the back doors, leaving me to gasp at the sight of people before me.

I didn't recognize any of them. They held guns and a blue sort of glow echoed off their bodies like a sort of aura. I watched in wonder as three adults began inspecting the broken table, scattering food and items around as if there might be clues there. Others rushed out the back doors, running after Zhath and his men while another few people inspected Alex and began questioning him.

By now I had my breath back, but I still felt weak and I'd appreciate the help getting to my feet. Something about these people made me feel safe. I felt as though they weren't there for me, nor hurt me. They were there for Zhath. Gut instincts told me he was a bad guy I didn't want to get mixed up with.

"Is she dead?" I heard a voice whisper. By sounds, it was coming from someone in front of me. I was too weak, too tired to open my eyes. Exhaustion was dragging me down and I knew I'd crash in a few minutes.

"I don't know. Her head's bleeding." Two hands grabbed the lapels on my jacket and pulled me up into a sitting position. I moaned in agony, blinking slowly and opening my eyes. My eyes widened, and my blurry vision made me think it was tricking me.

"She's alive." Two boys stood in front of me, both in their vests and thick black pants. Weapons were pocketed in every inch of their belts. One had blond hair and bright green eyes like seaweed. He had a very angular jaw and he was packed to the rim with muscle. He was gorgeous. And the other boy? Well, when I fixated my gaze to his, focusing so I can see details I wanted to squirm away and get someone else's help. To my great misfortune and dismay, it was Scott.

"Scott…" I managed, bringing my hand slowly to the back of my head. It came down bloody and I rubbed it on my pants. The green-eyed boy gave me a look of confusion. He nudged his buddy.

"Who's she talking about? Who the hell is Scott?" I blinked slowly, watching the both of them. Scott only smirked.

"That's me." He knelt down and extended his arm out to me. I shook my head, except it hurt so much. When his hand fastened around my neck I shrieked with fear and kicked out at him.

"No!" Tears made their way up quickly to the corners of my eyes and a few toppled over.

"Nick-"

"Shh. I'm not going to hurt you." Scott/Nick rested his other hand on my knee. His touch sent shocks up my leg and I was pretty sure that wasn't normal. "I promise." His voice was low and sexy and assuring. I didn't trust it-sexy voices were dangerous.

"Don't fucking touch m-" a feeling fell over me and I gasped, the lids of my eyes flying open. I felt like a vampire drinking fresh human blood. I felt like I was part of one of two magnets that were so attracted to each other. Nick's hand gave me a power that gave me such a high that I just wanted more. It was opposite of the vacuum feeling. I felt like power was being pushed into me, being pumped through my veins. My vision grew brighter, the fuzziness in my head left and I felt like I could take on a raging bull. I brought my hand up over his, staring into his eyes that were so addicting. The fiery orange was slowly fading and I wondered what was happening. But the effects of this high took over suspicions and I didn't care what it was, only that I wanted more. More, and more, and more and-

He pulled his hand from my neck and I made a sound of disappointment. I stared at the both of them in shock, waiting for an explanation. "You okay? I don't think anyone saw you." Green Eyes asked Nick. Nick rested a hand on his shoulder and nodded.

"Mm. Yeah." I stood up slowly, touching my neck with my fingertips and looking over the two boys' shoulders at Alex, who was still being consoled by people. They began to walk him slowly out the doors, giving him assuring pats on the shoulder and I began to follow. "Excuse me, where the hell are you going?" I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around. Nick was staring at me, giving an expectant look.

"We're supposed to watch you." Green Eyes said, stepping up to me and taking my arm. I refused his touch and weaved around him.

"Um, I need to get to my friend." I sputtered. My vision was so pristine. I did a double-take around the building. It was a real pile of junk. "I need to get my friend and go home." I rejected Green Eyes as he tried to follow me.

"No, no. You're lucky he's being this easy with you right now. If you don't let us speak with you-" A hand clenched around the back of my jacket and jerked me backwards. I gasped and spun around. It had taken Nick two seconds to yank me back close to him, and my spinning around to look who had done it made my chest bump against his. The closeness was as thrilling as it was terrifying. This was the man at the bonfire. The man I hallucinated coming into my home. The man I thought to be a stalker-"Too late." Green Eyes whispered.

"I just saved your damn life and you walk away like it's nothin'?" Nick's voice was still that dark sexy one I heard moments ago, and the fact that it was angry made it even harder to resist smooching on his beautifully shaped lips. I still had to remind myself of the dangers. I wasn't safe with these people; not if he was here.

"I didn't ask you to." I snapped. "And I could've saved myself. And him." I jerked my chin towards Alex's direction.

Nick only let out a hearty laugh. "Do you hear that, Ty? Weak little girl could take those hellbound immortals herself." Ty only looked pained and frustrated as he sighed and rubbed his forehead with a callused hand.

"Nick…" Ty gave me a sympathetic look.

"You know," Nick said, his gaze falling to mine, his eyes so enticing. "I'd like to see her spend just a day in my shoes." He leaned forward-so close I felt his breath tickle the tip of my nose. "Get a taste of the real world."

"Are you trying to intimidate me?" I asked in a tone much braver than one that could've ever belonged to me.

"Depends. Is it working?" I gave an audible huff of breath and rolled my eyes. I pressed a hand to his chest and pushed him away from me. He stepped back as if dizzy, and he pressed a hand to his forehead. It took me a moment to put the two ends together that whatever he did to me took a miraculous amount of energy out of him.

"Uh, not a chance." I retorted harshly. I was pretty sure, though, that he saw right through that lie. My cheeks were burning slowly to a bright ted.

"Then no, I wasn't." Nick crossed his arms. He opened his mouth as if to give another cocky remark but Ty interrupted him before he spoke.

"Our orders were to bring her to the University. Not to…provoke her." He stepped up to me and took my arm, guiding me to the doors. I stumbled uneasily, my stomach feeling queasy.

"I wasn't provoking her." Nick said, feigning innocence. "I was…messing with her a little."

"So provoking."

"Basically."

"I'm going home." I spoke. I tried to pull from his grip but this time he didn't release me. In fact, he barely budged. "I need to-need to process what just happened."

"We're here to explain it to you. We're not going to hurt you." Ty said reassuringly. I shook my head, squeezing my eyes shut and taking a shaky breath. This small talk distracted me for the timespan of about thirty seconds. Now fear crept inside me. What had happened? What had this world come to?

"You aren't safe." I whispered, my hands trembling. I felt my body shake out of my control and I desperately tried harder to pull away from Ty. "You killed people-"

"They weren't people. Please come back with us so we can explain." Ty said. Tears wedged themselves inside my eyes and my breaths shook uncertainly.

"They were living human beings with beating hearts and families." I cried, shoving harder from Ty. "They didn't want harm. They didn't bring harm to me." I sniffled and glanced over at the bodies that had been killed while Zhath was trying to escape.

"No, no-" Ty was broken off by the adults who had chased after Zhath and his men returning through the back doors. All three of them were covered in their ripped vests and scratches all over. They looked angry, and I had a feeling the anger was aimed at me.

"Where are they?" The adult in the middle demanded. Her voice was so loud it echoed off the scratchy walls of the apartment building and made every nerve in my body shake with fear. "Where are the two scoundrels that ruined our whole investigation?" She had graying hair that used to be blond, with cold, hard hazel eyes. When her gaze fell on my I visibly shuddered and recoiled.

"Mistress Farah, wait-" But it had been too late. She grabbed the collar of Alex's shirt, half dragging him as he groaned, probably in pain. She marched past Ty to me, grabbing me no gentler. She jerked us in the direction of the doors. I heard Ty's protests but they were quickly drowned out by the slamming shut of the apartment building as both Alex and I were dragged outside and to a large van.