Cursed - Page 18

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“Well, if anything does I want you to feel comfortable coming to me or another faculty member. Okay?”

The strange thing about Mr. Theo was that I did feel comfortable enough to tell him. Heck, I felt like I could confide in him. Which was odd, because who felt like they could talk—really talk—to any of their teachers? Maybe it was because he was so young, more like an older brother than an authority figure.

I shifted the backpack to my other shoulder. “Okay. Thanks again for the new locker. I really appreciate it.” Something small and shiny caught my eye—a silver coin next to his grade book. I don’t know what got into me. I never touched things on teachers’ desks; there were rules against that sort of thing, but it was like I felt compelled. I picked it up, slowly turning it over in my hand. A carousel was imprinted on one side and the words Ex mente were engraved on the other. The coin felt heavy and warm in my hand.

“My lucky charm,” Mr. Theo said, leaning back in his chair. “Not sure if it works, but I like to think it does.”

“Oh.” I flicked it over with my thumb. “What do these words mean?”

“The words are ‘from the mind’ in Latin. I believe all great things come from the mind.” He opened his schedule planner, glancing up at me. “You can keep it.”

“Oh, no.” My cheeks flushed. “I couldn’t do that. It’s your lucky charm.”

He waved his hand. “I don’t need it. Take it. Maybe you could use the good luck.”

I started to argue, but I realized I could use the luck. Hayden had said he wanted to start working with my… ability after school today.

I had no idea what he had planned, but I figured I could use all the luck in the world.

An abrupt wave of dizziness washed over me. Blinking, I took a step back and slid the coin in the pocket of my hoodie. I guess I was more freaked out about the secret training session than I realized.

“Thanks,” I mumbled.

“No problem. Just take care of it.” Then he turned back to his planner, checking off something.

I hurried to my next class, and the rest of the day kind of went like that. Every so often I’d feel dizzy and nervous. Hayden noticed, but didn’t push it. I think he knew I was worried about tonight. He had this huge faith that my “gift” could be controlled.

He had no clue.

I shuffled into bio just as the last bell rang. From his seat, Hayden watched me with raised brows as I darted to my chair. I felt my ears turn pink.

“Pop quiz,” Coach Ashford announced, handing out several sheets with the vaguest questions I’d ever seen. “Eyes on your own papers, kids.”

“Quiz on what?” Cory muttered.

“I think the cell nucleus stuff,” I said.


I pointed at the last slide that was still up from yesterday. “I’m guessing that.”

“What would I do without my new lab partner? I’d be lost.” He grinned and nudged my hand with his pencil.

I jerked back so hard the chair screeched across the floor. Coach Ashford looked up with a frown from whatever sports magazine he had his nose stuck in. So did several kids from the front of the class.

Hayden sent me a puzzled look.

“Hey. Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” Cory said.

I had to catch my breath. “Yeah, I’m a little jumpy.”

“Hey! Hey! No talking or I take the slide down,” Coach said.

Groans sounded and even a few death glares were directed at us. I started scribbling down answers as my heart thundered.

I had the gloves on, but it’d still caught me off guard. At my old school, no one casually touched me. It was like I was a carrier of the plague—at least up until the night Dustin had touched me outside the grocery store.

I shuddered.

Coach got up, walking down the aisles. “Time’s up. Pass them over.”

Cory reached over, almost brushing my arm as he grabbed my quiz. My anxiety level spiked through the roof. Clenching my hands, I glanced up and saw Hayden turned around in his seat, dark eyes fixed on me.

What? I mouthed at him.

He looked pointedly at Cory before he turned back around.

“We start a new section on Monday,” Coach announced toward the end of class. “We are moving on to human—” He paused, glancing down at his notes. “Anatomy? Yep. That’s it.”

After the bell rang, I nearly tackled Hayden outside the classroom. “What’s up with the look you gave me?”

His smile was dazzling, overly innocent. “What are you talking about?”

I struggled to keep up with his long-legged pace. “Did you think I was going to touch—?”

“More like, did I think Cory was going to touch you?” he asked as we stopped at our lockers. “Cory was getting way too friendly with those hands.”

With a decent amount of dread, I slowly opened my locker. Nothing inside. Relief coursed through me. Day four and no dead things equaled awesome. “He tapped me with his pencil. I don’t call that friendly. And I have my gloves on.” I wiggled my fingers.

“Whatever.” He slammed his locker shut, hands empty. He never took books home.

I wondered how, and if, he passed any of his classes.

* * *

Half an hour after dinner, Hayden led me outside through the garage. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“You’ll see.”

I raised my brows as he headed straight for the dense tree line. “We’re going in there?”

Hayden chuckled. “Yes.”

“Why?” I hurried to catch up with him.

“We need somewhere private, where we don’t have to worry about anyone walking in on us.”

My stomach went all fluttery. “There’s, like, a hundred rooms in that house.”

“There aren’t a hundred rooms, and I don’t want someone busting in on us.”

The fluttering went up a notch. “We aren’t going to get caught out here?” I shivered in my sweater while Hayden, in only a thin shirt, seemed unfazed by the brisk air. “Or attacked by Bigfoot?”

He laughed. “We aren’t staying in the woods, Ember. We’re going to the hunting cabin.”

“Hunting cabin?”

“Yep. Some of the others use it, but I’ve pretty much taken it over. It’s a good place to get away from stuff.”

“Oh, well that—shit!” Not paying attention to where I was walking, I stumbled, my foot getting snagged in a gnarled tree root.

Hayden spun around and caught my shoulders before I ate dirt. He got me standing on my feet again, an uneven grin on his face.

“Thanks,” I mumbled.

“You’ve got to be careful. There are a lot of holes and upturned roots in the ground.”

“Now you tell me.”

His grin spread, and I noticed then that Hayden was still holding me. And we stood so close my sneakers brushed his shoes. I lifted my head, bewildered by the sudden desire for him to pull me against him again. Our eyes met. There was a long stretch of silence as we stared at each other. What was I thinking?

And why wasn’t I moving away?

A wild sort of smile appeared for a moment before he dropped his hands and backed off. “Come on. We just have a little bit more to go. I think you’ll like it. No one but us knows it’s even out here.”

I shoved my hands in my hoodie, my fingers immediately finding the odd coin. I clenched it and ignored how fast my heart pounded. A good twenty minutes later, a cozy-looking log cabin came into view. Surrounded by tall trees and thick brushes, the cabin was even more isolated than the house.

Grinning, Hayden dug his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door. A musty smell that reminded me of family camping trips and the aroma of coffee beans greeted me as I followed him in. He dropped the keys on a small table and started lighting candles with a lighter he pulled from his pocket.

“The cabin hasn’t had electricity for a while.” Hayden explained as the flame danced across his face. “I use the pellet stove if I’m here in the winter.”

“Do you come here a lot?”

“Not that much lately, but I used to. It’s quiet out here.” He paused. “Anyway, what do you think of it?”

When he was done, soft light ate away at the darkness and revealed a rather large room outfitted with a small kitchen, an antique-looking couch, and a… a bed. Nervously, I turned away and folded my arms. The place reminded me more of a love-nest than anything else. Then again, the stockpile of rifles hanging on the wall kind of ruined the cozy feel.

“It’s nice.”

“Strange,” Hayden moved past me, toward the bed.

My heart flip-flopped. “What?”

“Someone’s been here.” He stopped at the bed, frowning.

I didn’t know what he’d seen that gave it away, but whatever. “Do you think someone will find us here?”

He glanced up. “No. Parker’s the only one who ever really comes down here. Cabins aren’t Phoebe’s thing.”

“What about Gabe?”

“No television means no Gabe.” His eyes met mine. Midnight had nothing on them; they were that dark.

I bit my lip. “So what do you have in mind?”

His eyes still held mine. “I have a lot of things in mind.”

All the air left my lungs. I felt dizzy. “Really?”

A wolfish grin flashed across his striking face before he turned and grabbed a potted plant. “Training, Ember. Grab a seat.”

Feeling like an idiot, I opted for the couch while Hayden grabbed a wooden chair from the small table and placed it in front of me. Then he sat down, knees pressed again mine, plant in his lap.

“Take off the gloves.”

I didn’t want to, but I did. Taking a deep breath, I laid them next to me. “What do you expect me to do?”

“Just touch it.”

Leaning back, I met his dark gaze. “Why?”

“Are you going to give me a hard time?” He sighed. “Ember, if we have any hope of getting this to work, you have to do what I say.”

“You hope this is going to work. Not me. I deal in reality.”

Hayden arched a brow. “Ember, you don’t even know what reality is. You know nothing about gifts.”

I rolled my eyes, but didn’t say anything.

He looked sort of smug.

“Fine, then educate me. How are you the way you are—what makes you gifted?”

Hayden slid his palms over the ceramic pot. “A normal person uses only a small portion of the brain at any given time. We use all of our brain at once. Hook any of us up to an MRI machine when we are using our gifts, and it’s like the Fourth of July. It’s not the best evidence, but it’s all they’ve ever been able to find. It’s the only thing different between us and outsiders.”

“Who’s ‘they’?”

The look on his face grew distant and cold—shuttered. “The Facility has searched for years to find out why we’re gifted. So has my father, and even though the twins are both gifted, Cromwell has said it isn’t typically hereditary.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Fantasy