Missed chapter 1? Read it here.
NOTE: The book is still going through copy edits, so please pardon any errors. :)
March 24th, 1AE
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
“Potty break,” Dani said, halting her Paint horse, Wings, in the middle of the highway just ahead of me.
I’d been riding a brown mare named Mocha since leaving the house in Colorado Springs, the others taking turns at staying close to me since I had no clue what I was doing. Tavis was my current companion, riding on my right. I liked him; he was a funny Australian man who didn’t talk much, but when he did it was playful and put me at ease. Becca, the woman who was sharing his saddle, seemed nice, though she hadn’t said much to anyone during the five plus hours we’d been on the road. She almost seemed as lost as I felt.
Dani struggled to dismount Wings using only her right arm, since her left arm was in a sling. She was obviously in a lot of pain, despite the medicine the doctor, Harper, had given her.
I glanced up ahead at Jason, assuming he’d be charging toward us to help Dani in her flailing attempt to dismount and chastising her for attempting it on her own. But he was at the head of our parade line, talking to Chris and completely oblivious to Dani’s self-dismount.
When Dani’s boots hit the ground, she glanced at Jason, then looked up at me, a sheepish grin on her face as she brought her index finger to her lips. “Don’t tell him…”
I smiled and shook my head. I liked Dani, a lot. She was fiery and peppy, and the ease with which she spoke to me made it easier to cope with what was going on, like I had a friend who would stay by my side no matter what. When she’d tried to explain to me what had happened to the world, that we’d grown up together and had spent the last three month trying to get to one another only for us to be separated by the Colony again, I’d begun to freak out. The weight of reality and my lack of memories and sense of self was all too much to bear at once.
But Chris had been quick to wrap her arms around my shoulders, telling me that it would be alright, I just needed time to readjust, and for some reason, that had made me feel better. Dani had later explained that it was because Chris had the innate ability to comfort people. Although I got the distinct impression there was more to Chris than that—a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind—I liked the way I felt in her presence and savored the reprieve of unwanted emotions when she was around me.
“Come on, Zo,” Dani said, holding her good hand up to help me climb out of Mocha’s saddle. “Let’s go pee. You never know…” She scanned the tall Aspens on either side of the road. “We might not find another woodsy spot before we stop for the night…might as well take advantage of the privacy while we have it.”
I considered the image of the two of us standing side-by-side, best friends who, I’d been told, were so completely altered from the last time we’d seen each other. Tiny little Dani with her bruised pixie face framed by wild red curls, and me, tall with an unmarred exterior yet hollow interior. I wish I could remember… But having been found inside the bedroom closet of an abandoned house the night before was as far back as my memory went.
“Zo? You okay?” Dani’s brow furrowed. “Do you need me to get Harper?”
I shook my head. I had a million and one questions, but a pee break wasn’t the time to ask them. Instead, I offered her what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “No, I was just thinking.” I waved her proffered hand away. “I got it, Dani, but thanks.” I didn’t want to hurt her by jerking her body around as I dismounted. “It’s only a couple feet.” I’d decided it was much easier getting up into the saddle than it was getting down, an art I was determined to master if this was going to be my spot during our several day journey.
While the others seemed all too excited to meet up with the rest of our group, it meant I had even more people to “reacquaint” myself with. Dani had spent part of the morning filling me in on my relationships with them. Now I just needed to remember all that she’d told me: Sarah, apparently a friend I’d traveled with from the East Coast, was pregnant; her boyfriend, Biggs, was a military man we’d met up with along the way; Mr. Grayson was my high school history teacher and had been traveling with Dani for months; and Jason’s best friend, Ky, and Ky’s older brother, Ben were waiting for us further into the mountains.
I stood up in the stirrups, prepared to fling my leg over for an awkward dismount.
“Here,” Tavis offered kindly as he strode up beside Mocha. I hadn’t even noticed him dismount his own horse. He wore an easy smile, and his blue eyes crinkled in the corners where his smile touched them. His dirty-blond hair was a little long and mussed from running his fingers through it so frequently.
Caught off guard, I felt my heart flutter a bit.
“Fling your leg over, and I’ll help ease you down…”
Flashing him a brief smile, I did as Tavis instructed. With one hand gripping the saddle horn and the other gripped on the edge of the saddle seat for leverage, I swung my leg over Mocha’s rump, just like Dani had shown me. As I was about to lower myself to the ground, Tavis’s hands grasped my waist, firmly but gently, and he helped lower me the rest of the way down.
“It’s not mountain climbing, so you’ll be a pro in no time,” he said as I pivoted around to face him.
“Thanks,” I chirped, and he answered with a nod before he turned and headed back for his horse.
Turning around, I found Dani eyeing me carefully. Jake, a man who hadn’t uttered a single word to me since they’d found me but had taken to watching me with unnerving intensity, sat upon his horse behind her, his gaze equally assessing.
“Jason,” she called ahead, startling me. I looked up toward the front of the caravan as Jason turned around, his gaze questioning as it shifted between us. “We’re gonna pee,” she said. “It might be difficult for you to keep nulling for a minute, but we’ll be right back.”
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “Be careful.”
“Come on, Zo,” Dani said, biting her lip. There was a hint of uncertainty in her voice. “There’s some stuff you should know.” She hooked her arm in mine, and we headed toward the tangle of leafy bushes a dozen yards away.
“Dani,” Jake said, swinging his leg over his saddle, clearly intending to come with us.
Dani shook her head at him and patted the handgun in her shoulder holster. “We’ll be fine, Jake. I need to talk to Zo for a sec.”
Although Jake didn’t seem pleased with the decision, he remained in his saddle, his gaze shifting between us as we turned away.
“Wait, Zoe—” Sam, a forward little boy I’d spoken to only a few times, called from behind us.
“We’ll be right back, Sam,” I said over my shoulder as Dani pulled me forward; I was practically stumbling as I tried to keep up with her. “What’s—”
“Zo, I know you’re probably exhausted and more than a little confused about everything that’s going on, but you’re super close to getting yourself into a mess that you’ll regret later.”
Trying to stay at least partially aware of where my feet were landing, I gave Dani a sidelong glance. Her bright green eyes were a bit glazed over in the sunlight. I could tell the pain meds were working.
“What do you mean by ‘a mess’?” I asked, near panting as we clumsily hurried through the underbrush and over uneven ground.
“You’re with Jake,” she said.
I blanched and stopped, the abrupt movement making Dani wince. “What?” A faint thrill wriggled down my spine.
“Yeah, for a few months now, I think…” She shook her head. “What’s important is that you remember that, especially when you’re chatting it up with Tavis.” She urged me toward the berry bushes a few feet away.
Falling into step behind her, I frowned. “But Jake hasn’t even talked to me.”
She snorted. “That might have something to do with the fact that you don’t even know him anymore.” Pulling a wad of tissues from her pocket, Dani handed me a couple, and then looked down at her broken arm. “This is gonna be fun,” she muttered, and I tried not to laugh, though I didn’t do a very good job.
I found that preoccupying my mind with observing Dani, her little quirks that I was still trying to understand, was a good distraction from all the things I was supposed to already know, the things that threatened to overwhelm me and bring me to tears.
As we each squatted behind our own cluster of bushes to do our business, I allowed my mind to wander, if only a little. I considered what Dani had told me about Jake and me being together. I found it impossible to picture. He seemed so quiet and capable, it was a little intimidating. I couldn’t even imagine having a conversation with him, let alone being with him. But in spite of my reservations, there was also a mysterious air about him that was intriguing, and I was curious to discover what the old me already had.
Hearing leaves crunch beneath footsteps on the other side of the shrubbery, I sighed and finished up. “Geez, you’re fast.” I assumed I’d have to help Dani, not that she would leave me in the dust. Jumping up to my feet, I zipped up my jeans and stepped out from behind the tangle of leaves and branches. I froze.
Sam was standing a few yards away, his bow drawn and an arrow aimed at the figure of a small girl standing between us. Her back was to me, her blonde hair hanging in a knotted mess.
Sam’s expression was horror-stricken—his pale eyes wide and his nostril flaring—but his stance and aim were unwavering.
“What the hell are you doing, Sam?” I screeched.
“What’s wrong, Zo?” Dani called from behind the bushes. But I was too focused on Sam and the little girl he was prepared to shoot an arrow through to answer.
“Sam,” I said again. “She’s just a little girl, put your bow down.”
Dark brown hair hung in his eyes, but he stared, unblinking at her, and I could see his uncertainty.
As if hearing my voice had brought the little girl to life, she slowly turned around. At the sight of her, my heart nearly stopped. The front of her nightgown was covered in dried blood, as were her arms and neck. Her face was doll-like with eyes wide and gleaming in the sunlight, and her porcelain skin was hidden beneath what looked like weeks’ worth of layers of dirt and blood.
“Mommy?” The haunting pitch of her voice sent chills up my spine.
“Jesus,” I breathed. “Are you alright?” Although I had the innate urge to run away from the little girl, I took a hesitant step toward her, wondering what the poor child had been through.
“Zoe, get away from her!” Dani said from behind me.
The little girl took a step closer to me, her eyes narrowing and her lip curling into a snarl. Her body was suddenly trembling, like her muscles were coiling to strike. Gritting her teeth, she growled, “Are you my mommy?”
As she lunged forward, an ear-piercing crack resounded through the air. The little girl fell to a crumpled heap on the ground. A single crimson patch blossomed on her nightgown, spreading across her chest.
My hands flew to my mouth and I screamed, tears trickling down my face. “Oh my God.” Turning around, I found Dani, handgun drawn and still pointed where the little girl lay. Dani’s eyes were wide, her face ashen, and her mouth was hanging open. “What have you done?”
Dani blinked several times, and her gaze slowly shifted from the small body to me. Her eyes were filled with shock and horror. “She was a Crazy,” she said, lowering her gun. “She was a Crazy.” I wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince me, or herself. “I—I had to…she was a Crazy…”
“A what?” Turning back to the little girl, I stared down at her. I was suddenly shaking uncontrollably. “What the hell just happened?” I asked no one in particular. “She’s just a little girl.”
I heard a rush of footsteps and calling voices, but I couldn’t focus on anyone but the dead child lying horrifyingly still on the ground. Her eyes were open and staring directly at me. She asked me if I was her mother…
“I’ve never seen a kid one before,” Sam said, and I looked at him. “I tried to warn you.”
“Sorry, Baby Girl, but I just want to check one more time…”
Still trying to understand the whole Ability thing Sam had explained during the last stretch of our journey, I decided now was as good a time as any to start asking more questions, especially since I knew Sam was probably getting tired of being the one having to answer them all. “Harper?”
“Were you a doctor before, or is this, you know, just part of your Ability?” I had no idea what counted as an “Ability,” only that Sam had said everyone who survived the Virus had one, at least those who weren’t “Crazies.”
Harper He smiled. “This doctor stuff is all training, Baby Girl. I was a medic in the Army. My Ability has to do with visions and seeing things that haven’t happened yet.”
I snorted, determined not to cry out in confusion and disbelief.
“I know it’s a lot to take in, especially all in one day, but we can’t risk another incident like earlier today.”
I shrugged, figuring the more answers I had the easier it would be for me to fit in. “Yeah, Sam said he has heightened senses, that he can hear, smell, and see things that other’s can’t.” I shook my head.
“Try not to move, Baby Girl.”
Harper shifted his hand down to my chin, gently gripping it while he moved my head from side to side in tandem with the flashlight he waved in front of my face.
“What are some of the others’ Abilities?”
“Well,” he began, “let’s see…I’m not sure what Tavis or Daniel can do, but Carlos can control electricity, Dani can communicate with animals, Sanchez is telepathic, Jake can regenerate…Chris and your brother, well, they’re the reason you’re dealing with things as well as you are; Chris is keeping you calm, and you’re brother is keeping your Ability at bay. He can actually nullify or amplify other people’s Abilities.”
Regeneration? Communicating with animals? Telepathy? Controlling electricity? I was almost afraid to ask… “What’s my Ability?” I placed my hand on Harper’s, gently pushing the pen light down so I could look him in the eyes. “What’s Jason protecting me from?”
Harper gave me a sympathetic smile. “You can see people’s memories. You can feel what they’re feeling. On top of everything that’s happened today, we didn’t think it was a good idea to add your Ability into the mix, too.”
Jason and Chris had been shadowing me pretty closely all day. Part of me wondered if I should be offended that they hadn’t told me about this sooner. But then again, the idea of having an Ability, one that was so intrusive, didn’t seem like something I could handle on top of everything else.
Harper clicked the light on, blinding me once more.
“Is there something wrong with my eyes?” I asked a bit tersely. The more he wanted to check them, the more concerned I became.
“No. Sorry to scare you. There’s nothing wrong, I just”—he gave me another sympathetic smile as he clicked the light off—“I was just making sure there’s no brain damage or…I just want to make sure I’m not missing anything that might help us figure out exactly what she did to you, or tell us how bad it is.” He sighed. “But I don’t see anything, and I doubt I will without doing an MRI or—”
“It’s only been a day,” Dani said as she walked by. It was the first time I’d heard her speak since the incident with the little girl…the Crazy. Dani stopped in the narrow clearing where everyone was setting up their tents for the night. “You might be back to your old self by tomorrow, Zo. Could be all you need is a good night’s sleep.”
Dani fought to keep a nylon sleeping bag from slipping out from under her good arm. Although she flashed me a smile over her shoulder, I could tell it was weak and forced. I could picture a real Dani smile brightening her face to glowing, nothing like the half-hearted smile that quickly faded.
I watched as she struggled to open a tent bag. “I’m sure you’re right,” I said and glanced up at Harper. “Tomorrow will be better. Can I be done?” I felt like I needed to be doing something to help Dani since I was otherwise useless and she was having such a hard time after such a crappy day.
Harper nodded absently, not really staring at me so much as staring through me. He rubbed his jaw and took another deep breath.
I stepped toward Dani but hesitated the moment Jason appeared beside her, crouching to help. He muttered something I couldn’t hear.
“Yeah…I just want to go to sleep,” Dani said.
“This isn’t even our tent, and you shouldn’t be doing this on your own, Red. You’ll just make your arm worse. Please…just ask me for help next time.” Jason, a man of words that were few and to the point, continued to grumble as he pulled the tent out of its bag and unrolled it like doing so was second nature.
“I didn’t want to bother you.” Dani rested her hand on his shoulder, his body tensed and stilled. “I was thinking Zo and I could share a tent tonight. You know, since it would be weird for her…” Dani’s gaze drifted to Jake.
Hurt flashed in Jason’s eyes.
“It’s alright,” I rushed to say. The last thing I wanted to be was more of an inconvenience than I already was.
Jason and Dani both looked at me.
“I don’t mind having my own tent. You guys share, really.”
“I don’t think you should be alone tonight, Zo. What if something happens?” I noticed Dani’s eyes skirt to Jake again; he’d just dropped his own tent on the ground on the other side of the fire.
Briefly, I thought about what Harper had told me, that Jake could “regenerate,” and I wondered what exactly that meant.
“What if your memory comes back and you’re all alone?” Dani said, bringing my attention back to her. “I should be with you…unless…” Again, her eyes drifted to Jake.
A rush of anxiety filled me as I thought about sleeping in the same tent as him. Dani might’ve told me that Jake and I were together, but she hadn't given me any of the details, and I wasn’t ready for that yet.
Becca walked past, startling me. Her face was soft and glowing in the building flames. “We can share a tent tonight, if you would like,” she said. I hadn’t talked to her much since we’d left Colorado Springs, so I was surprised she’d even offered.
I flashed her a grateful smile. “Thanks, Becca.” Looking at Dani, I asked, “Do you mind?”
Dani shrugged and shook her head. “Only if you’re sure, Zo.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“You can use this tent,” Jason offered, prepared to pull out the tent poles.
“That’s okay, Jason. I can finish. You guys can set up your stuff. Can you just point me to my things?” I hadn’t needed them for anything yet since we’d been riding all day. “I do have things, right?”
Jason nodded to Dani, and with a willing smile she picked up the flashlight he’d set on the ground and walked with me over to Mocha.
As I trudged along behind her, I noticed how many people were bustling around, chatting while they set up for the night. Our cramped little camp was in a wooded area off the highway, out of sight but not so far away from the road that I couldn’t hear one of the horses clip-clopping lazily on the asphalt.
Stepping up to Mocha, Dani started untying the two long stuff sacks secured behind the saddle with one hand, tossing me each as she freed them. Both were black with a purple Celtic knot painted on the side.
“That’s your sleeping bag and sleeping pad,” she said, pointing to each before she peeked into one of the saddlebags, which were still on the horse. “Yep, your clothes and whatnot are in here. Give me a sec and I’ll have these down for you.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get them,” I said, not wanting her to struggle needlessly. As I fumbled to loosen the saddlebag, I stared at the knot painted on it. I had no idea what the heck it meant. “Apparently I really like this symbol,” I said. “It’s all over my stuff.”
Finally unfastening the bag, I turned around. Dani eyed me a moment, her face cast in shadows; obviously it meant something important to her, too. I glanced back down at the bag, the knot glaring at me.
Assuming it was my confusion that made her expel a tiny sigh of sadness, I released a sigh of my own. “I’m sorry, Dani. I wish I could remember…”
She stepped closer and nudged my arm with her good shoulder, offering me a reassuring smile that didn’t touch her eyes. “It’s okay, Zo. We’ll figure it out tomorrow. It’s been a long day, and we all need our rest.”
I nodded and turned to tug the leather bags off of Mocha’s back, but grunted when they were heavier than I’d expected.
“Here.” A deep rumble came from behind me, and an arm reached over my shoulder and grabbed the cross strap of the saddlebags. Effortlessly, Jake pulled them off the horse and asked me where I wanted them.
“Over by Becca,” I said, pointing dumbly. I’d decided Jake was intimidating—alluring but intimidating—and it prevented me from putting on a show of calmness around him, unlike I could around everyone else.
A pained expression pinched his features, but without another word, he headed to the other side of camp, toward Becca.
Dani was watching me, idly patting Jack, his tongue hanging out of his mouth. She gave me a reassuring nod—the nod that I’d grown used to over the past twelve hours—before I followed quickly after Jake.
Feeling inadequate in our silence, I occupied my mind with observations of the rest of the campers, busy in their various stages of getting situated.
Chris, just finished setting up a tent for Camille and Mase, was pulling her blonde hair up into a ponytail, while Mase, huge, dark, and intimidating, stood in front of the tent with Camille in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder. They’d been inseparable since she’d awoken right before we stopped for the day, and despite being unconscious since before they’d found me, she still looked exhausted. Mase stared at the nylon dome like it was from another dimension. He seemed constantly confused, even more than me, which I thought a little strange, but after a brief moment of hesitation, he ducked inside the tent with Camille.
Gabe, the tall, blond man, who seemed to keep to himself, was setting up another tent beside theirs.
“What’s his Ability?” I asked Jake. When he peered back at me, I pointed to Gabe.
Jake’s jaw clenched, and I immediately regretted asking him. “He can manipulate people’s dreams,” he said. I didn’t need to know the history between them to know it wasn’t a good one.
Sanchez, who seemed to be leading the group with Jason, was stacking wood next to the campfire, while Sam and easy going Tavis hauled over bunches of kindling. I enjoyed watching Sam and Tavis interact; they acted more like brothers than father and son—though I’d been told they were neither—and they laughed more than the others, which I found comforting.
But as much as everyone seemed to coexist easily enough, a cloud of tension hung over the group. I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn the cause yet. Trying to remember everyone’s names, their Abilities, and my relationship with each of them was chore enough.
Jake stopped short in front of me, and I ran into the back of him.
“Sorry,” I said, unable to stop a nervous laugh from bubbling out of me. “I got distracted.” I dropped the load in my arms on the ground near Becca.
Jake set my saddlebags down as well. “I’ll be right back,” he said and headed back toward the horses.
I watched him for a moment—watched the way he rubbed the back of his neck and the way his shoulders relaxed the further he was from me.
I turned to Becca, who was attempting to finish setting up our tent. “Thank you, Becca. I appreciate you offering to stay with me tonight.”
When I realized she was practically wrestling with the tent poles, I crouched beside her and started to show her how they worked. “It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it,” I said. I was surprised I remembered silly things like that—how to set up a tent, how to excuse myself when I sneezed and cover my mouth when I coughed. Why can I remember those things but not others?
“You have done this before,” Becca said quietly, watching the way my fingers moved and how I maneuvered the fabric of the tent as I pushed the poles through the red nylon loops.
“Yeah, I guess I have. You’ve never been camping?” Slowly, I forced one end of the pole into the corner of the tent, and watched as Becca mimicked what I was doing.
“Not that I remember, no.” Her voice was distant, as if her mind was somewhere else.
“Yeah, me neither…at least, not that I can remember.”
Jake returned, dropping two more stuff sacks on the ground, what appeared to be another sleeping bag and pad. He looked at Becca. “Those are mine, but you use them tonight. We’ll stop somewhere on the way to get you your own gear.” Becca watched Jake, her mouth pulling into a barely there smile. “Thank you, Jake.” The way she spoke to him seemed deliberate, like she meant more than what she said.
Jake watched her for a moment, his head tilting slightly to the side before he nodded. When his stare shifted to me, he appeared uncertain and regretful, though I wasn’t sure why. There was a long, awkward silence before he said, “Will you please let me know if you need anything else?” His tone was soft, beseeching even. There was something warm and inviting about his deep, velvety voice. “Anything,” he repeated, his eyes filled with a sadness I didn’t understand.
“Yes, I promise. Thank you,” I said. I watched him walk back toward his tent, which he had yet to finish setting up.
Becca unzipped the tent door behind me, and I turned around, ready to follow her inside. But she just stood there.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, stepping up beside her. The light from the fire danced around inside, illuminating the tent enough to know there was nothing wrong with it.
“I guess I will sleep in my clothes,” she said so quietly I almost didn’t hear her.
“Is that all?” I asked and snatched up my saddlebags before sidestepping her and heading inside. “I’m sure I have something you can borrow.”
Becca followed me in, bringing the sleeping bags and pads in with her.
Fiddling with the ends of my hair, which were draped over my shoulder, I watched Becca as she just stood there. “Have a seat,” I said and opened my bag. I rummaged through the haphazardly folded clothes tucked inside, trying to find something for the both of us to sleep in. “Here,” I finally said, handing her a long sleeve thermal shirt and a pair of sweatpants. “These look comfy, and it looks like I packed…yep, two of each.”
Becca smiled, or at least I thought it was a smile; it was the first time I’d seen her be very expressive at all. “Thank you, Zoe.”
“Why don’t you have any clothes?” I asked, zipping up the tent to change.
Slowly, Becca peeled her clothes off one-by-one, until her ensemble was piled on the floor of the tent. “I have only just joined the group, along with Gabe, Mase, and Camille. We were unexpected, so we are relying on your friends’ kindness to take us in…Dani and the clothes on our backs were all we brought with us.”
“Dani was with you?”
Becca made a noncommittal noise and pulled the sweatpants on. They were too long and very baggy on her, but I figured that meant they were perfect for sleeping. “Yes,” she said. “Dani was with Gabe and Dr. Wesley…in the Colony.” Becca’s voice was distant, her demeanor instantly shifting from open to hesitant.
I peeled my long-sleeve v-neck on over my head. “Did you not want to leave the Colony with Dani?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking. The more complicated things became, the more my curiosity amplified. “You don’t seem happy to be here…” I glanced over at Becca in time to see the bruises on the side of her body before she pulled her borrowed shirt down.
“I am happy to be away from there. It is just that things are not simple for me.” She looked at me. “Or for you.”
I shrugged. “Hopefully my memory will come back tomorrow.”
The look Becca gave me made me feel nauseous.
“You don’t think it will?” I asked.
“I do not know everything,” she said, offering me the slightest of smiles.
“Only some things?” I asked wryly.
Without hesitation, she said, “I have the gift of prophecy.”
Still unable to fully process the whole “Abilities” thing, I paused.
Becca bent down and began folding her clothes so meticulously that I thought she might be in the military. I looked over at my saddlebags and almost laughed. The clothes I’d changed out of were tossed on top, no rhyme or reason or organization. Feeling self-conscious, I gathered up my dirty socks, jeans, and shirt, and after unwadding them, I folded them as neatly as I could. My attempt was pathetic compared to Becca’s, but it sufficed. Apparently neatness isn’t my forte.
Becca must’ve been watching me because when I looked up at her, her smile turned genuine. “You are very different from the last time I saw you.”
My eyes widened. “How so?” I unrolled my sleeping pad, then pulled my sleeping bag out of its stuff sack and laid it out on top. Unzipping it, I crawled inside to keep my feet warm.
Becca studied me and did the same with Jake’s sleeping gear. “You and Jake were fighting.”
“Really?” I hadn’t been expecting that. “We were fighting?”
She nodded, her eyes fixed on mine like she was gauging my reaction. “He was going to leave you and your people and take me away, he said it was not safe. But Father sent a team to retrieve me, and I escaped during the gunfire.” Becca looked down at her fingers, which were laced on her knees. “I had to return to the Colony…Jake did not understand.”
“Did Father do that to you?” I asked, pointing to the bruised side of her body.
After contemplating my question for a moment, Becca nodded. “I had to get them out of there,” she said to herself, and I assumed she was talking about Dani and the others she’d escaped with.
My mind filled with images of a distraught Mase and unconscious Camille. “The others are like you, too,” I said, suddenly feeling an intense desire to know what had happened in the hours I’d lost my memory. “Mase and Camille, they’re…different, like you. The way you speak and how you see things like it’s for the first time…they’re the same.”
Becca nodded. “Yes. We are called Re-gens at the Colony, though Jake says I am his sister as well.”
My brow furrowed at yet another surprising truth. Jake didn’t treat her like a sister, but then, Jason didn’t treat me like one either, at least not how I thought a brother should treat a sister. I was beginning to think that whatever remaining perception of reality I had was both a misleading and impractical one.
“I saw things,” Becca continued, her voice a panicked whisper. “Horrible things. Things that I could not let come to pass. I had to tell them. I had to get away from there.” Becca continued to stare down at her hands. “I am not sure what to think anymore.”
After a depleted sigh, she said, “No.”
Pulling the rubber band from my hair and letting it fall around my shoulders, I ran my fingers through the dark strands, wading through my limited memories, trying to determine how I felt…what I thought.
All I remembered were strange voices and surprised faces staring down at me when I’d been huddling inside the closet. Did I really forget all that Becca had just described? It seemed impossible, and a ravenous emptiness drained any optimism and hope I had left. A sick feeling settled in my stomach as it dawned on me: every single moment that shaped me into Zoe was gone. I am no one.
“You are not ‘no one’,” Becca said, and I stirred, not realizing I’d been thinking aloud. She rested her hand on my shoulder. “You are important.”
“You’ve seen this?” My sudden curiosity to know more of what she’d seen was making me antsy.
Becca shook her head. “No, I haven’t seen your future, nor do I know your purpose, but your mother is Dr. Wesley, I know that much. If you are her daughter, you are important.” She paused in thought. “Jake loves you, and he is important…I know that as well. So, you must be, too.”
Jake loves me? I wasn’t sure why I was surprised, Dani had told me much the same earlier. “He’s barely talked to me all day,” I said.
“All day, I have thought about two things,” Becca began, her voice a bit softer than before. “I considered what I might do now that I no longer have a home, a place I belong. And I thought about Jake. If what he says is true, if I am his sister, then he has lost both his sister and the woman he loves. Now, here we are again, and neither of us remembers him. I cannot imagine how he might feel.” Becca frowned. “I generally am not so…reflective, I think is the word, but much is changing…” She stretched out in her sleeping bag, staring up at the bouncing shadows on the nylon overhead.
We were quiet for a while, and I nearly allowed the crackling fire outside and the sound of crickets in the woods beyond our tent to lull me to sleep. But before I was out completely, I heard low voices by the fire.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to fix her,” Harper said.
“It’s not like there are rules to any of this shit,” Jason grumbled.
“There has to be a way,” Jake said, and then I heard retreating footsteps.
I glanced over at Becca to see if she was awake, but her back was to me, and all I could see was the outline of her torso rising and falling with each breath. I lay there, listening to my “friends” discuss my condition like it was simply an infection needing proper treatment. My mind reeled with questions and mounting fear until their voices fell silent, and I eventually drifted to sleep.
A slight breeze caressed my skin as I sat on a dock, gazing out at a lake—its glassy surface was illuminated with pinks and oranges, like it was set aflame by the sun sinking behind the rolling hills.
My chest grew heavier, and I was nearly suffocating under the weight of too many emotions.
“I know what I want,” said a deep, rumbling voice.
I spun around to find Jake standing beside me, his luminous, amber eyes peering into the depths of my soul. He knew me, I could see it in the way he looked at me, those eyes filled with longing and uncertainty and need.
Like his emotions sparked my own, I felt the need to weep from the inexplicable love I felt for him.
“Jake, I—” I didn’t have time to think, to say anything.
In seconds his lips were pressed against mine, his kiss fierce and blazing. My hands moved of their own accord, grabbing a handful of his jacket and pulling him closer to me as his fingers tightened in my hair. An overwhelming, frenzied greed consumed us both as my arms snaked around his neck and his hands explored my body.
We were panting, and a low groan resonated deep inside Jake’s chest. My body throbbed with a pleasurable ache I wanted to both last forever and go away, ending me of my torment.
Jake froze, sending an unnatural anger and despondency simmering through me. He stepped away, leaving me to stand there alone, the cool breeze turning icy against my exposed skin. Panic riddled my nerves, and I tried fervently to grasp hold of him.
He was pulling away from me…
He was leaving me…alone…
As I lay there, my heart still pounding from the dream, I felt completely lost and alone. I didn’t like the dangerous intoxication that settled over me as I remembered Jake’s hot breath…the thrill that sang through me as I recalled the feeling of his fingers pressing against my skin…
“Zoe? Are you alright?” Becca asked quietly.
I nodded, not feeling comfortable talking to her about it.
“Are you sure?”
“I just had a strange dream. I’ll be fine.”
Becca was quiet for a moment. “Was it a dream or a memory?”
Rolling over, I studied her darkened outline. “A dream…at least, I think it was…”
“Do not fight it,” she said. “If it is your memory, you should not fight it.”
Had it been a memory? It had been so vivid, so charged with emotions I couldn’t remember ever feeling before, that part of me doubted it was even possible.
Keep an eye out for chapter 3 coming Friday, August 8!