Authors: Alyssa Rose Ivy
the Afterglow Trilogy
Alyssa Rose Ivy
Copyright © 2013 Alyssa Rose Ivy
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written approval of the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover Design: Once Upon a Time Covers
Other Books by Alyssa Rose Ivy
The Hazards of Skinny Dipping
Flight (The Crescent Chronicles #1)
Focus (The Crescent Chronicles #2)
Found (The Crescent Chronicles #3)
Derailed (Clayton Falls)
Veer (Clayton Falls)
Wrecked (Clayton Falls)
Beckoning Light (The Afterglow Trilogy #1)
Perilous Light (The Afterglow Trilogy #2)
To Dad, my first and favorite storyteller.
As always, this book would never have been possible without the support of my family. A special thanks to Grant, for believing in me every step of the way.
Thank you to my readers, for taking this journey with me. When I first wrote Beckoning Light, I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to share Charlotte and Kevin’s story with so many people. I am grateful that so many of you took a step through the gate into Energo with me.
Thank you to Lynn McNamee for the editing, Stephanie Nelson for the cover design, and Katy Austin for the beta reading!
A huge thank you to all of those bloggers who supported me on The Afterglow Trilogy from the very beginning.
I needed to let go, to release her hand, but first I had to release my gaze from those beautiful blue eyes. I willed her to understand, to see in my eyes the words I could not say. She needed to realize that, no matter what happened, she would never have to release my heart. I squeezed her hand one more time before letting go.
I still wasn’t used to the darkness. Back home, a hint of light always streamed through my blinds, either from another house, a street light, or the moon. No light seeped into the inside of Cason Caves.
I pulled my blanket tighter around me, trying to ward off the cold caused by the unsettling remnants of a dream. I seemed to always wake up in the middle of the night. I finally gave up on the tossing and turning and went to find some water.
“You couldn’t sleep either?”
I followed the voice and found Liam sitting at the mouth of the cave. He was using the little bit of moonlight to read a book. He looked so much older than he had the year before, when we first returned to Charleston. Maybe it was the stubble on his face, or how his hair had grown out. I wondered if I looked older, too. “Don’t you know reading in low light can hurt your eyes?”
“Don’t you know that reading is better than going crazy, rolling around in bed?”
I laughed, wondering if he had any idea of how poorly I’d been sleeping. “You may have a point there.”
He patted the space next to him. “How are you doing?”
I took a seat. “I’m all right. I’m nervous. I’m worried about James—nothing new.” What I didn’t tell him was that I’d just had a nightmare about him and Calvin. Some people had nightmares of being completely naked in front of a crowd. I dreamed about being in love with two boys. I knew how pathetic that sounded, and considering everything else going on in my life, it was, but having both Calvin and Liam with me sent my emotions out of control.
Only a few weeks had passed since the battle at Cason’s Cave, but it could have been a year for all of the plans that were already in place. We’d managed to hold off Blake, but the fight was far from over. Since we had discovered his army of the undead and his ability to use powers equal to my own, the stakes had risen even higher.
Once again, Kevin and I were going our separate ways. Liam insisted on staying with me. It was appropriate for him to insist—he was one of my Guardians after all—but the trip would be unbelievably awkward since Calvin would also be with us. I needed to stop worrying about it. I was with my Gerard, and I had far more important things to focus on.
“James is going to be okay. We’ll find a way to save him.” There was more conviction in Liam’s voice than I would have expected.
“I’m glad you’re going with me.”
“Me too.” He ran a finger over my left hand.
I wasn’t sure if I was doing something wrong by letting him touch me. I knew the gentle caress was more than a friendly gesture, but it wasn’t like we were kissing. Sometimes I was so confused I could scream.
“Do you really think Ruth left the scroll for you?” Liam asked.
I’d been mulling that question over in my head for days. After scouring every book and talking to the oldest members of the Resistance, we kept coming up with the same evidence. We needed to find a scroll written by the original Essence. Supposedly, the document contained information directly from the Source. No one knew what the scroll contained, but it was said to be intended for only the direst of circumstances. Everyone agreed that our situation qualified.
“It seems crazy that she would have left a scroll for me hundreds of years before I was born, but everything about being an Essence is crazy. All I know is that, if there’s actually something that could tell us how to defeat Blake, we need to find it.”
“And we will.”
“I just wish we could all travel together. Wouldn’t it be so much easier?” I hated that Kevin was going to Alaska instead of with us.
Liam’s arm brushed against mine. “Yeah, easier but way too time consuming. Kevin has his own job to do.”
Closing my eyes, I cleared my head. “I just hope we’re both successful, and that this actually works.”
“We don’t have any other choice right now. I guess we might as well think positive thoughts.”
“Thanks for the pep talk.”
“Well, you don’t have James to do it… since he was all about the pep talks.”
He turned his face away from me slightly, but I had a feeling Liam was smiling. He knew that talking about James usually motivated me to action. I played with the fabric of my dress. Pajamas weren’t something I had at the moment. “I miss him.”
“Do you want to go see him?”
I stretched out my legs. “How’d you know?”
“From the look in your eyes.”
I rested my back against the cool rock. “Am I that obvious?”
“When you feel strongly enough about something, your eyes always give it away.” He dropped my hand.
“True.” I tried not to think about what other thoughts might be clear on my face. “You think it’s okay if we go?”
He leaned back. “Why not? It’s not like he’ll mind the late visit.”
I stood up. “So not funny.”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist.” He pushed my leg playfully. “Aren’t you going to help me up?”
“Sure.” I held out a hand, but when he took it, he pulled, and I ended up half in his lap. “So not funny again.”
“Where’s your sense of humor?”
“I think it’s sleeping.”
He laughed. “Maybe it can share its secret with us.”
For a moment, our lips were so close they could have been touching. The near electricity shooting between us made everything even worse. I quickly got to my feet. He joined me a moment later.
We moved through the darkness. It hadn’t taken long to memorize the passages of the cave, even though they all seemed exactly alike when we first arrived. We quickly found the small enclave where James was sleeping.
He lay on a cot—the same kind we all slept on. It was wood, and made for portability. Comfort wasn’t one of its features, and the thin mattress didn’t help. A lantern lit the entrance of his room.
Liam leaned against the wall. “I’ll wait for you out here.”
“Thanks.” I was glad he was giving me space. I wanted to see James alone.
I walked into James’s room and knelt at his bedside. After a moment’s hesitation, I picked up his limp hand. “Hey.” I knew he couldn’t respond, but part of me believed he could hear me. “You really picked a bad time to check out on us. I’m heading off with Calvin, Liam, and Henry to find a way to make you better and to defeat Blake once and for all. I wish you were coming, too. Who’s going to make fun of me?”
After brushing his blond hair off his forehead, I looked at his face. His expression wasn’t peaceful. I hoped he wasn’t in some sort of pain. I still couldn’t believe a father could do that to his son. But we were talking about Blake.
I concentrated on James’s mind. There had to be some way I could break in. I pushed as hard as I could, but it might as well have been an impenetrable wall. I got nothing.
“Charlotte?” The low voice felt like a caress. Calvin and I were so connected now.
I dropped James’s hand as I turned to face Calvin, who stood in the doorway. His dark hair fell slightly over his eyes, and he looked exhausted. He’d been training people day and night.
He rested a hand on the rock wall. “Any change?”
“No. I just keep thinking I’ll find a way in.”
Calvin walked over and kneeled down beside me. “We’ll find a way to save him.”
“You and Liam both think so.” I sat back on my heels. “I wish I had that confidence.”
He kissed the top of my head. “We think it because we know how strong you are.”
“At least the training with Mom has been going well. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned so quickly.” She’d been pushing me hard. Every time I thought I’d mastered a task, she made it more difficult. The hardest part for me was concentration. My mind tended to wander at the worst possible times.
“What do I keep telling you? You are a natural.”
I smiled. “I’m kind of the queen of being natural. Isn’t that part of being an Essence?”
“You certainly are
“So there are queens here?”
“Not in Energo, but several Pact nations have monarchs with those terms. Here, we have the Essence and Gerard.”
“I like our names.” They were different and so much more than just titles.
He squeezed my hand. “Me too.”
A thought suddenly occurred to me. “Where’s Liam? He’s supposed to be waiting.”
“I told him to go back to sleep. I will walk you back to your bed.” There was definitely an edge to his voice. I didn’t blame him. I wouldn’t have liked him slinking through the night with a girl—and we both knew Liam wasn’t just any boy.
I turned back to James, kissed his forehead, and whispered, “We’ll be back soon.” The nearly threadbare blanket didn’t seem like enough to keep him warm, but Mom thought his body was in a state that made him impervious to cold or heat.
I let Calvin pull me into his arms. Everything felt better when he held me. All of the confusion melted away.
“This journey will not be easy, but at least we will be able to sleep side by side. It is torture having you so far away.” Calvin understood that I felt uncomfortable sleeping next to him with my mom around, but that didn’t make him like it.
“It’s better than being in different worlds.” Our year apart had been torture for my heart.
He smiled. “That is true.”
He led me through the still corridors of the cave. We stopped at my bed, which was next to Kevin’s, and he waited for me to get in.
“Sleep well, my Essence.” He kissed me gently on the lips. The look of longing in his eyes made me wish I could curl up in his arms. He touched my hand again one more time before walking away.
Warm and recharged from spending time with Calvin, I snuggled down under my covers. Just before I closed my eyes, I sensed someone watching me in the darkness. Liam. I turned over and went to sleep.