Authors: E. D. Brady
E. D. Brady
Copyright © 2013 E.D.
All Rights Reserved
book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
Table of Contents
“Keep it steady!” Arturo yelled from behind. “Sebastian,
keep it steady!”
“I am trying,” Sebastian replied frantically.
Arturo looked down at the lifeless girl nestled
on the floor of the boat. “Oh, sweet blessed virgin,” he prayed, “please bring
us to safe passage.”
The boat rocked out of control. At any moment,
they would capsize and be thrown into the raging waters. What demon had
possessed them to leave the safety of their home in search of mere myths and
legends? And furthermore, what had possessed him to give in and allow Yusuf’s
sister to come along on this quest? The girl had remained unconscious since she
fell over and banged her head some twenty minutes before, due to the rocking
Rain battered them from every direction, and
Arturo tried to shield his eyes from the torrential downpour. It was useless—any
minute now, their luck would run out. This would surely be the end of them.
Yusuf looked up from his sister’s side, worry
etched in his features.
“How does she fair?” Arturo yelled over the howling
“It’s hard for me to say, my lord,” Yusuf
answered, “but she breathes easy, that is one good omen.”
The words had barely left Yusuf’s mouth when
the enormous wave hit.
The mighty crash knocked Arturo twenty feet in
the air. He hurdled down and felt his body slam against the unyielding surface
of the sea. Bones snapped, followed by the agonizing pull of muscle separating,
as he felt his arm rip from his shoulder. He was pulled under currents. He
gasped, flailed, kicked desperately to find some sort of direction upwards, but
it was useless; the raging water would show no mercy.
His lungs screamed for relief, burning as
though they had been set alight. The instinctual urge to breathe caused him to
open his mouth. He felt suffocation instantly. Many sharp pains erupted in his
head like a thousand jagged daggers tearing into the membrane.
Darkness took him—sweet oblivion. He yielded to
it, welcomed it, but it would not remain. He teetered between consciousness and
unconsciousness, wanting nothing more than to sink into the blessed void.
What time had passed, he would never know, what
minutes he’d spent wavering between the sweet peaceful nothingness and
excruciating physical torture.
Lightning crashed overhead as the violent tide
carried him further and further from his boat. As shredded as it was, it was
his only refuge.
And then, he vaguely realized that he lay on
solid ground. He tried to push himself into sitting position. Leaning on the
elbow of his uninjured arm, he saw, through his blurred vision, a ray of sun
break through the ominous and vengeful clouds. Between amber and gold specks of
sunlight glinting on the waves, he saw the wreckage of the boat, planks of wood
drifting toward the shoreline.
‘Where are my companions?’
before flopping backward and slipping into the abyss.
Layla bent over to pick her English homework off
the coffee table. “Excuse me,” she said bluntly to her mother’s boyfriend, James,
who had his feet resting carelessly on her notebook.
“Huh,” he grunted, transfixed on the
“Can I just grab that?” she said, louder.
“Oh, sorry,” he replied absentmindedly, eyes
glued to the screen.
As Layla stuffed her notebook into her
backpack, she barely registered the sound of the cable news droning in the
‘It’s been over three months since
billionaire, Arthur Vallen, CEO of Vallen pharmaceutical Enterprises and great-grandson
of its founder, mysteriously disappeared. Authorities still have no leads, but
are now convinced this is not a kidnapping for ransom. Investigators feel sure
that if this was, perpetrators would have contacted Vallen’s board of directors
at this point to demand payment for his release. Vallen was last seen by a
co-worker at his home in Greenwich…’
Layla wasn’t really interested in the story,
but James was absolutely obsessed, watching the news day and night for any
She flung her backpack over one shoulder and
breathed out an unenthusiastic ‘bye’ to James whom she knew was not paying
She stopped at the mirror by the front door, put
her backpack on the ground momentarily while she threw her long, auburn hair up
loosely in a hair-tie, and gave her reflection a once over before departing.
have to do,’
she thought, realizing that the divine Jay Logan would be
sitting in her first class, and her untimely entrance would, no doubt, make her
the center of attention for a few cringe-worthy seconds.
She walked out the front door to find Julie
already waiting for her. “Hurry up, we’re going to be late for English again,” Julie
said as Layla climbed into the front seat of her friend’s car.
“I know,” Layla mumbled under her breath. “So what’s
up?” she asked, adjusting the seatbelt around her shoulders.
“Nothing much,” Julie replied, checking her
reflection in the mirror before pulling out. “I’m just waiting to hear from my
“How’s she doing?” Layla asked.
“She went to the doctor today—” Julie’s
cellphone rang at that moment, cutting off the rest of her sentence. She picked
it up and put it to her ear. “Mom, what’s going on?”
Layla sat in silence waiting to hear the news.
When Julie hung up, she turned to Layla. “I’m
going to drop you off at school then go to the hospital to stay with my mom.
They’ve scheduled a test for her this morning.”
“Is everything alright?” Layla asked with
“They’re sending her for a CAT scan to see if
there is a more serious reason for her dizzy spells, but her doctor assured her
it was only a precaution. He’s more than confident that the dizziness is due to
anemia. I’d rather go be with her just in case, though.”
“Okay,” Layla replied.
“So what’s new with you?” Julie asked. “Have
you talked James into buying you a car yet?”
“We’re going tomorrow to have a look,” Layla
said. “He’s not happy, but he
promise me before we moved here. I
think he just agreed so that he could watch the news in peace.”
“I’m serious,” Layla said. “All he does lately
is obsess over that missing billionaire.”
dude?” Julie asked.
“Yeah,” Layla replied. “It’s starting to get on
“I can understand it, though,” Julie answered.
“It’s on the news constantly, and besides, isn’t he in the same business?
That’s how he made his money, right?”
“Yeah, but I’d hardly considered James to have
a lot of money,” Layla explained.
“Layla, your house is huge.”
“It’s not that big,” Layla contradicted. “It’s
the smallest in our subdivision. James owned a loft in Manhattan. When he sold
it, he was able to buy the house here and still have money left over. Houses in
North Carolina are ridiculously cheap compared to New York City.”
“True…” Julie said, pulling up behind a stopped
“I’m not saying that he’s not comfortable,” Layla
continued to explain. “But his company is really pretty small in the grand scheme
“Oh, crap!” Julie blurted out. Traffic had come
to a dead standstill. “Sorry, Layla, it looks like you’re going to be walking
into Mr. Schultz’s class late again, and this time alone.”
“Wonderful,” Layla huffed under her breath.
By the time Julie pulled up in front of their
high school, Layla was already fifteen minutes late for her first class. She
hurried out of the car, wishing Julie good luck with her mother, and jogged to
the school entrance.
She opened the door to her English class apprehensively,
knowing that Mr. Schultz would have a snide comment; it was her third time late
“Ah, Ms. Sparks, you’ve decided to join us,”
Mr. Schultz said. “Perhaps the class should chip in a buy you an alarm clock.”
Layla blushed crimson.
“Take a seat,” Mr. Schultz ordered impatiently.
To make matters worse, there was only one
available seat in the class: right next to Jay Logan. Layla cringed inside and
reluctantly walked down the aisle towards him. It wasn’t that there was
anything wrong with Jay, quite the contrary; he was gorgeous. Layla had been
harboring a secret crush on him since the school year began two months ago. But
Jay was quiet, aloof, never seeming to bother with any of the other kids in
school. Layla felt for him. Just last year, she had been the new kid in town,
having moved from New York to North Carolina just before her junior year of
She slid into the seat next to him and offered
him an awkward smile. He nodded once and half smiled back. She figured that was
as good as she’d get from him.
“Now, as I was saying before we were so rudely
interrupted,” Mr. Schultz said, glaring at Layla, “one quarter of your grade
will be based on a writing assignment. You will pair up with a partner and write
an essay with opposing opinions about any work of classic literature you deem
fit. I expect at least a ten-thousand word report with a complete list of
references and research links listed at the back, double-spaced and neatly
presented in a professional manner, preferably using a spiral coil binding
machine, complete with plastic cover.” He walked down the aisle and stood in
front of Layla. “Miss Sparks, since the rest of the class have already worked
out the minor details, you and Mr. Logan here can work together on this.”
Layla wanted to die a quick, painless death
right on the spot.
“Is that okay with you, Mr. Logan?” the teacher
“You can work out your schedules together
class,” Mr. Schultz added. “You will hand in a two page summary the day after
the Thanksgiving break, with the full report due the last day of school before
Layla spent the remaining twenty-five minutes
of class barely registering anything that was being said. She couldn’t possibly
work with Jay. Sure, she thought he was great from afar, but there was no way
she could talk to him without turning into a tongue-tied fool.
When the bell rang to signal the end of class, Layla
picked up her backpack and rested it on her desk, pretending to rearrange the
contents so that she wouldn’t have to face Jay.
“So what evenings are you free?” a gruff voice
said in her ear.
She swallowed hard and turned to look at him.
“Almost all evenings,” she answered shyly. She stood and was about to pick up
her bag when Jay lifted it from the desk and flung it over his shoulder. Layla
widened her eyes in shock.
“I’ll walk you to your next class. We can make
arrangements to meet up on the way,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I’d
prefer to have this thing done and dusted as soon as possible.”
Layla nodded and walked awkwardly, desperately
trying to think of something to say.
Jay looked down at her with a cocky smirk. “So
what’s with being late for first class almost every day?”
“That’s actually my friend, Julie’s, fault,” Layla
replied. “She takes forever getting dressed every morning, apparently. She’s my
ride to school, so I really can’t complain.” She shrugged her shoulders
“No car?” Jay asked.
“Nope,” Layla replied, “although I’m supposed
to go looking this weekend. Julie had to go to the hospital with her mother, so
I’m yellow-busing it home this afternoon.”
Jay chuckled and rolled his eyes. “A riveting
experience,” he said sarcastically.
“Tell me about it,” Layla huffed.
“So what evening do you want to get together to
start this stupid project?” he asked, sounding none too thrilled by the
“I’m free tomorrow night,” she replied, then
instantly regretted it. The following night was Friday, and she felt sure that
a guy as cute as Jay would have a well-rounded social life, unlike her.
“Sounds good, Layla,” he said.
They stopped in front of the door to her
history class. Layla grabbed a pen and paper from her book bag, after Jay had
handed it to her, and wrote down her address.
“Nice neighborhood,” he said, reading from the
“Can you come by around seven-thirty?” she
“Sure thing,” he replied. “I’ll catch you
later.” He walked away leaving Layla staring after him momentarily.
She walked into her history class and plopped
her backpack on the first desk she reached before letting out a loud, hard
breath. Holy God, did that really just happen? She had been pining over Jay
secretly for over a month and a half, and now she would be spending a Friday
night with him. She wasn’t sure if she was ecstatic or horrified. What would
she even wear?
She barely managed to pay attention during the
following two classes.
Sitting in the cafeteria alone during her
scheduled lunchtime, she pictured every glorious detail of Jay Logan. He was
tall and fit with dark eyes, dark-brown, thick hair that seemed stylish in its
perpetual messiness. No matter how many times Layla had watched him flick it
back, one strand seemed to constantly plop back over his left eye. He reminded
her of the dreamy models that she would catch a glimpse of on the side of buses,
serious and unsmiling in black-and-white ads. He was swarthy and had an almost
dangerous look, especially on the days that he hadn’t shaved before school and
his face was all stubbly, but when he smiled, which wasn’t often, it was nearly
impossible to look away. She couldn’t understand why the popular girls hadn’t
fallen all over him yet. Maybe it was his aloof attitude, which should only
have served as fuel for their predatory behavior in regards to the school’s
list of eye-candy. Or maybe he intimidated
as much as he intimidated
Her phone rang, drawing her out of her reverie.
“Hey,” she said, seeing Julie’s name on front. “How’s your mother?”
“She’s fine, it seems. The doctors are now
thinking that it could be her eyes or ears, so there are more tests being
scheduled. We’re going to go to lunch and spend the day together, celebrate
that it’s not something more serious. Listen, I’ll call you later this evening,
“Alright then,” Layla replied before hanging
She was just finishing her horrid, school
cafeteria, cardboard-like pizza when Kevin Hartley pulled out a chair facing
her and sat down. “Hey, Layla, What’s up?” he asked.
“Nothing much, Kev,” she replied, hoping he’d
make it quick then move on to greener pastures. Kevin had taken an annoying
interest in her lately. While she was mildly flattered, Kevin was one of those
popular guys who had way too much self-confidence, very convinced that he was
the greatest thing since sliced bread. Blonde, broad-shouldered, and a star
athlete on the school football team, Kevin was treated like a celebrity, and
the attention had certainly gone straight to his head. He was good-looking in
that obvious, vanilla sort of way, but just not what Layla would consider
attractive, though she seemed to be alone in that opinion.
“So have you thought about who you’d like to go
to the Thanksgiving dance with yet?” he asked, leaning over with a smirk on his
“Well, considering no one has asked me yet…”
Layla shook her head.
“Really?” Kevin questioned, raising his
eyebrows. “Maybe I could help to rectify that.”
‘Please don’t ask,’
thought. She had just admitted that no one had asked her yet so how could she
tell him otherwise now? “Actually, my mom and I were thinking of going to her
sister’s in New York for Thanksgiving,” she said, which wasn’t exactly a lie;
her mother had mentioned it once or twice. “If we go, we’ll leave on the Friday
night. I’m guessing I won’t miss much school the following Monday or Tuesday.”
“Please take me with you,” Kevin replied with a
pouty lip. “I’d love to go to New York.”
“Yeah, it’s cool,” Layla responded, “but it’s
home to me, so I don’t really see the big pull that others do.”
“You still consider New York home?” he asked.
“Haven’t you settled here yet?”
“No, that’s not it at all. I like it here well
enough. I meant home in the sense of where I was born, where I grew up most of
Born and raised in Queens, Layla spent her
whole young life riding the subways, hailing cabs, and walking whenever possible.
She missed the accessibility of things in New York, but was coming more and
more to consider Cary home.
When her father went missing over four years
ago, James was all too quick to step in and fill his place. Layla understood
that her mother didn’t really love James, at least not in the way one should
love a boyfriend, but he was a distraction from the pain and loneliness. Her
mother, Cheryl, and James had been friends for some years before the accident,
and they always had an easy, comfortable relationship with each other. When
Layla’s father was no longer around, they seemed to cling to each other, to
lean on each other to fill the void. Layla considered their relationship a
little strange, but who was she to judge? Grief has a way of doing strange
things to people.