Authors: C. J. Valles
The Ever Series, Book 3
Copyright © 2014 by C. J. Valles
Follow C. J. on Twitter @CJValles_4ever
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work.
Books and Reading Order of The Ever Series
For Ever (The Ever Series, Book 1)
Never (The Ever Series, Book 2)
Sever (The Ever Series, Book 3)
Ever (The Ever Series, Alternate Point-of-View Companion to For Ever)
To Gena, Ever’s No. 1 fan and a good friend of mine.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
, Edgar Allan Poe
nnocence. It’s something I can no longer claim as mine. I’ve kept secrets. I’ve lied to people I love. Sometimes to protect them. Sometimes to protect myself. And I will lie again.
I am human. Still. But I’m a different girl than I was when I first saw Ever. I know that now.
My cheeks are still tear-stained as I stare up at the dark ceiling and try to pretend that things are simple. I
to believe that things are simple, and that my emotions are clear-cut.
I love Ever
. Regardless of his infinite past and in spite of my own mistakes. But how can I deny my feelings for the one who sacrificed himself—Alex, whose eyes burned into mine only hours ago?
I try not to think about what lies beyond the mirror. Closing my eyes, I try not to think at all. But it’s impossible. Finally, I sit up and throw back the covers. My eyes are used to the darkness after lying awake for so many hours, and looking around, I enjoy a brief moment of pure happiness.
I’m home. In Portland, Oregon. Not Southern California. Not rural France. Not the Maldives. Not the southern tip of Argentina. Not Antarctica.
I look over at the dress I abandoned on the chair, and my mind flits across the night with Ever, causing my pulse to race. I never wanted it to end. But it did, because as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t hold time still.
Then I came home and saw Alex on the other side of the mirror.
I close my eyes to escape it, but his image tortures me. Because he paid the price for my choices, sacrificing—and redeeming—himself with one swift slice of a blade. Now, here I am, unscathed and allowed to live out my happy ending with Ever. Only I know this isn’t true. I’m not naïve enough to think that the war for this world came to an end with Alex’s sacrifice.
This is only the beginning.
efore I knew anything about him, Ever Casey was just a stranger whose beautifully unkempt honey-colored hair obscured his glowing green eyes and perfect features. He was the one person whose thoughts I couldn’t hear and whose mind I couldn’t read with a quick glance into his eyes.
That was before I knew what Ever was. Or maybe I still don’t know what Ever is—what he always will be. It’s possible that I will never truly understand. Either way, I never could have guessed that my entire concept of reality would be so irreparably severed. My new reality leaves me no choice. I have to fight. For my life. And to protect the people around me from the danger I’ve brought into their lives.
Right now, the danger is nebulous, shadowy. Thanks to Alex Rousseau, Ever’s enemy, who tore a hole in this world and gave up his freedom to cast away those who had come for me. In that moment, I was granted a reprieve, a stay of execution. But in saving me, Alex proved to me that you can draw a line in the sand, a line you swear you will never cross, but now I know that you can’t control your heart.
No one is strong enough to sever their emotions and not feel it when the blade runs clean through to the other side.
Time passed without my permission. It just happened. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months have passed with a blissful sort of normalcy that has left me aching with guilt. It’s been a year since the night of the party at Ever’s house—a year since I saw Alex, bleeding and trapped beyond the mirror.
Now, somehow, my eighteenth birthday is almost here—after I thought I wouldn’t make it to my seventeenth. With all that’s happened, I
be happy I’ve made it this far. I
be happy to be alive. I
be happy that my life has inexplicably returned to almost normal. But deep down, each time I look into the mirror, all I feel is guilt, even though nothing but my own reflection stares back at me.
Every night for the past year, with tears slipping down my cheeks, I’ve searched for Alex in the darkened glass … and found nothing but my own shadowy reflection. I haven’t told another soul about my ritual, because there is no one to confide in. My friends can never know about the world I’ve stumbled into. And Ever? How could I tell him that—during the brief moments that my thoughts remain invisible to him—I search for his enemy?
The sound of footsteps coming down the hall causes me to roll over and look at the clock. I’ve been lying in bed for way too long. On the other hand, it’s still too early for my mom to be up on a weekend after working the night shift at the hospital. I sit up, bracing myself for disaster, because I’ve known that tragedy will come to claim me someday, and
day could be today. I’ve learned to expect it, so that when it comes, I’ll be ready.
“Wren? Are you up?” my mom calls through the door.
“Sort of,” I mumble.
I sit up just as my mom walks in. Turning on the light, she shakes her head at me like I’ve committed an egregious sin by sleeping in until nine. I smirk and throw back the covers.
“Still sleeping?” she asks.
“You do realize that if I were the leader of the free world, I would make sleeping in mandatory on weekends, right?”
What I can’t mention is that, if I do become like Ever someday, I’ll never sleep again.
“Besides,” I continue. “When I get to college, I’m making it my life’s goal never to take a class before noon.”
During the summer, while I was visiting my dad—and Jessica, my stereotypically evil stepmother—he had offered to let me live with them if I attended UC Irvine. I had smiled and thanked him, not having the nerve to tell him that I have absolutely no intention of returning to California. Instead, I spent all of last summer applying—late—to schools in Oregon while keeping my acceptance letters from California schools tucked in a shoebox. None of the California schools was my dream school, mostly because I’ve never had a dream school. And I’m definitely not one of those people who would have an epic hissy fit if I didn’t get accepted to a particular school. Getting to college is good enough for me.
Stretching, I roll out of bed and go over to the dresser. I’ve pulled out a pair of jeans and a shirt before it dawns on me that my mom is not only awake before ten, but fully dressed and watching me with an anxious expression. My stomach flips.
“Mom?” I laugh. “You okay?”
“I just wanted to see if you were interested in coming to brunch with us.”
part of her sentence that stops me.
“Us?” I repeat, trying not to frown.
“Richard and me.” She smiles nervously. “You’ll really like him, sweetie.”
Uh oh. New guy. Right before I had gone on the attack and abandoned my life here for a week in Southern California—a week that had culminated in me racing around the globe with Alex to escape the four terrible and unearthly beings that he saved me from—my mom had been dating
, someone she never mentioned again after I got back, which has left me feeling guilty. Because it makes me think that even though Ever altered her memory, somewhere in the back of her mind, she still remembers the awful things I said to her before leaving. A year later, I still feel guilty for it.
After I had been back for months and finally worked up the nerve, I had asked Ever: Why had he refused to alter my memory when he had been perfectly willing to mess with my mom’s? His answer had been simple:
As in my brain is different. From other humans.
So it was Alex, not Ever, who had managed to suppress my memory without destroying my mind.
. The one I’m supposed to pretend never existed. Like I can erase my memory of him the same way he erased my memory of Ever for that week.
Suddenly the image of Alex standing on the beach at West Street hits me full force, sending the air whooshing from my lungs. Most days, I’m able to keep his image firmly locked away in my subconscious. Other days? Not so much.
Over and over, I’ve tried to will him out of my consciousness. Because he’s gone, trapped in Ever’s dimension and never coming back. The problem is I can’t forget him. He saved me. And during that week in Southern California, I fell in love with him. I can’t deny that.
Smiling at my mom, I pretend I’m not having a mini immortal-related meltdown. She’s dating, which is good. Still, for the longest time I had seen my mom and me as an invincible team. Just the two of us. Now, in the oddest way, I feel like a parent having to let go of her child. Still, whatever my own insecurities are, I don’t want my mom to be alone, especially after I leave—whether for college or to wage immortal warfare. On the other hand, I’m not brave enough to meet her new boyfriend without backup.
“Ever’s coming over. Is it okay if he comes with?” I ask with an innocent expression.
My mom’s forehead crinkles. Apparently she hadn’t anticipated
possibility. But the way I figure it, if she’s bringing a date, then I should be allowed the same privilege—even if I am her kid.
“Sure,” she sighs. “Why not? I’ll see if they can change the reservation.”
My eyebrow arches. Reservation? That means my mom’s been working up the nerve to tell me about this guy. Tucking my clothes under my arm, I kiss her on the cheek before hurrying past her into the hall. As soon as I reach the bathroom, I close and lock the door behind me. Then, even though I’ve only seen his image in the antique mirror on the landing, I still search the bathroom mirror for any sign of Alex or the inky blackness I’ve seen before.
“Alex,” I whisper.
Like every other day, it’s just my reflection staring back at me. Embarrassed, I start the water and watch as the mirror begins to fog up before stripping out of my pajamas. Stepping under the spray, I allow my tears mix with the hot water.
Crying in the shower. It’s been another twisted ritual of mine for the past year.
Most days I’m okay, but others I’m acutely aware that things were irrevocably altered that day when Alex sacrificed himself for me. Things I thought I understood—loyalty and love—changed forever. I thought I knew myself. And I thought I understood Alex. Now I question everything. Well, everything except Ever.
I hate myself for feeling so torn. What I feel for Ever hasn’t changed. It’s my feelings about Alex—and myself—that have evolved without my permission. I wish I could make my feelings for Alex untrue, change things back to the way they were—to the way I understood them. I can’t, though. Turning off the water, I step out and wrap my towel around myself. My entire body freezes when I see the writing scrawled into the fog of the mirror.
I stare into the misty glass. Other than my name, there’s nothing there but my own blurred image. I think back to the first time I had looked into the mirror on the landing and seen the blackness. I had been so sure it was my imagination—or that I had just gone completely crazy. The same way I had felt when I first realized that I could hear people’s thoughts.
Now I know better. I’m not crazy; the world is just bigger, scarier, and crazier than I ever imagined possible. Wiping away the writing, I bury my thoughts before my mind can betray me to Ever. As soon as I’m dressed and my hair is wound up in a bun, I join my mom downstairs in the kitchen.
“Honey, were you crying?” she asks.
I look down and frown. My eyes give me away every time—turning from olive-colored to a bright dragon green. Shaking my head, I smile.
“Allergies. And a really hot shower. It’s freezing in this house!”
“You’ve never had allergies.”
“I do in Oregon.”
“Look at us two Southern California girls!” she laughs. “I keep waiting … and waiting for the weather to warm up. And it hasn’t happened yet!”
She holds out her phone and shows me the weather in Topanga. Eight-four degrees. Of course it’s warm in Southern California. It’s the beginning of June. I sigh. Last year it didn’t get warm in Portland until at least mid-July.
“You think we’re going to get a summer this year?” I ask. “’Cause last year’s was about two weeks long …”
“According to the weather people—yes, we are going to get a summer.”
“And you believe them?”
I take out a yogurt. The last thing I want is to be crazed with hunger when I meet my mom’s new boyfriend for the first time. My mom, Caroline Sullivan, who’s sipping black coffee, has already learned the hard way how psycho I get when I’m hungry. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t question my pre-brunch snack.
“Isn’t Ever going to be disappointed when he shows up and finds out he’s been roped into brunch with your mom?” she asks in a hopeful tone.
The doorbell rings the second I finish my yogurt, and I smile.
“I texted him before I got in the shower. He’s fine.”
Actually, I’m sure Ever knew about my mom’s brunch plans before I did. Because, unlike me, she can’t shield her thoughts from him. And, thinking about it, suddenly I’m a little annoyed that he didn’t clue me in—until I remember that he doesn’t like spoiling surprises for me, no matter how many times I tell him that I hate surprises.
“And you guys don’t want to ride with me, I take it?” she says with a wry smile as we approach the front door.
I smirk as I think of Ever crammed into my mom’s aging copper coupe.
Seeing Ever’s tall frame and golden halo of hair through the glass, I speed up and beat my mom to the front door. As soon as I swing open the door, he smiles, which makes my heart race just like it did the first time I saw him. He’s wearing jeans and a black shirt, but he still looks like he just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. He is unreasonably perfect. Staring up at him, I have to restrain myself from jumping into his arms, and his preternaturally green eyes gleam with amusement as my mom picks up her car keys.
“How are classes, Ever?”
Now that Ever, Audra, and Chasen have “graduated” from high school, Ever is “attending” Reed College in Portland proper.
“Same as they were yesterday when you asked him. Right, Ever?” I smile.
My mom blushes a little. It freaks her out that I’m dating a college guy, but I assume she’d be even more freaked out if she knew that my boyfriend was actually an inter-dimensional immortal.
“The place is on 23
. You guys can find it?” she asks.
can get lost just about anywhere; it’s Ever I have complete faith in.
“And Ever? You’re okay with Wren here commandeering your weekend?”
“Perfectly,” he smiles.
With a stern look, I point my mom toward the door.
“Go. We’ll meet you there.”
“You’re not leaving now?” she frets.
“We’ll be right behind you, Mom,” I sigh in exasperation. “I’ve gotta grab my jacket and put on shoes.”