My ears buzzed as I put one foot in front of the other. A numbness settled over me as I stepped out on the porch.
Luc didn’t say a word, but I could still feel the immense power building behind me, stretching the seams of the house.
Three more men waited there. One stepped forward, taking ahold of my other arm in a tight, biting grip. I wanted to say something snarky as I was dragged off the porch. I wanted to prove that I was brave and I wasn’t scared, but I was trembling so badly I couldn’t form words.
Rain drenched my hair, tugging the strands free as I walked on weak legs. This was really happening, and I knew what was coming. They weren’t taking me outside to have a chat with me. They weren’t leading me across the driveway, pushing me through the thick line of trees to take me to a picnic.
“Stop,” a man barked.
Soaked and shivering, I obeyed, staring straight ahead. Under the heavy trees, the rain didn’t fall as heavily, but the tree trunks blurred in front of me. I’m going to die. I couldn’t get enough air in. I was going to die before I even got to live my life, before I even knew what my life really was—who I really was.
“On your knees,” the man ordered.
My body reacted on instinct, starting to follow the command, but I stopped myself. “No,” I whispered.
“What did you say?”
“I’m not going to make this easy for you,” I said, my breath catching and releasing. I started to face him, because I’d be damned if I let them shoot me in the back of the head. “I’m—”
Pain burst across my jaw, stunning me. Swaying, I almost went down as I lifted my hand to my throbbing jaw. I tasted blood in my mouth.
A hand slammed into my back, shoving me forward. “Don’t let her turn around. She can’t see it coming, or it won’t work.”
Another hand landed on my shoulder, forcing me down on my knees. Eyes wide, I fell forward, my fingers digging into the wet, loose soil. I opened my mouth. Blood dripped out, smacking off my hand.
It was red. Plain, normal blood.
A flare of dull pain lanced across the back of my skull as I saw myself again, standing in a white room, surrounded by men.
Show them before they hurt you, the man’s voice whispered in my ear, and they had hurt me, over and over. I had the bruises to prove that, the aches that went beyond bone deep. Show them what you’re capable of. Prove to me you’re worth this gift of life. Show them! the voice screamed in my memories.
It was like a switch being flipped somewhere deep inside my subconscious.
Fear turned to rage, and it was red hot and powerful as it surged through me and then outward, a shock wave that rippled out.
“Shit,” someone said. “Put her down. Put her down now—”
I lifted my head to the man who stood in front of me, rifle in hand. I felt the ground under my hands sink and give way. The ground rumbled as I pictured the man before me being swallowed up by earth and rain. I wanted him gone.
Rich, dark soil rippled out from my fingertips like a thousand snakes. It reached his booted feet in seconds, forming clumpy, thick vines. He shouted, jerking the barrel of the rifle up as he was yanked backward. The gun fired, shooting into the sky as the ground collapsed underneath him, sucking him up.
And then he was gone.
I rose, whipping around to the masked man behind me. I lifted my hand. “Fly.”
A rush of burning wind lifted him up and up, above the trees and higher still, until he was lost in the thick clouds. I lowered my hand. The man followed, slamming into the wet soil with a fleshy smack.
I turned toward a man backing up as he lowered his rifle, and I raised my hand.
“No,” he said, holding up his hand. “No—”
I curled my fingers into my palm.
His head jerked to the right, and his shoulders caved. His chest crunched, and his legs folded as his arms broke and twisted. He was nothing more than a crumpled mess.
A gun fired, and I whirled. The bullet didn’t strike me. Brilliant white light lit up the clearing. A cry of pain split the air. A rush of wind hit the clearing, and the man across from me fell forward, collapsing onto the ground. The gun was still clutched in his hand.
The man’s body smoked, and that hadn’t been me.
My head cocked to the side as I waited.
Another shot rang out, a flash of blue, and the ground trembled. I saw the guns fly upward, ripped out of the men’s hands. They disappeared into the trees.