Darkness surrounded me. I didn’t fear it. There was nothing in the darkness that I could not defeat. I was the light, and light always overpowered the darkness, the evil. One day, we would wipe all the evil from the Earth. We were almost there. We just needed the final piece to complete the puzzle.
I stared down at that piece as she slept. She was beautiful. I’d known she would be, but I hadn’t thought she would be this beautiful. She looked like an angel as she slept peacefully in her bed. She would feel anything but peace if she knew she was being watched.
She was the key to our victory. She would end a war that had been raging on for thousands of years. There had already been so many souls lost to the darkness. For so long, it’d felt like we were fighting for nothing.
But now, I could see the light once again. She had no idea just how important she was. If she knew, she would probably try to run, but you couldn’t run from fate. You couldn’t fight Death. When her time here on Earth was up, I would make sure that she followed me to the gates of Heaven. There was no other option. If she fell into the hands of Hell, we would all be doomed. I couldn’t let that happen. No matter what I had to do, I would make sure that she ended this once and for all.
Something caught my eye in the darkness. I looked up to see a shape emerging from the shadows, encompassing her bedroom.
My stomach sank as I stared into eyes that were identical to my own.
“Brother. What a surprise.”
“What are you doing here, Cain?” I asked as I stared at my twin.
“I’m here for the girl, just like you are, Asher,” Cain said as he stared at me. A hint of a smile was playing on his lips.
I glared at him. “She’s ours.”
He laughed quietly so that he wouldn’t wake her. “You’re wrong. It’s her decision to make. We both know that.”
“I’m here to ensure she makes the right choice.”
“As am I.” He paused to grin at me again. “May the best brother win.”
I grinned back. I would.
Three months and two days—that was it. I smiled as I marked yet another day off my calendar. I could handle three more months.
It had already been six months since everything went to hell. It’d been six months since my mother lost her ever-loving mind. It’d been six months since she was forced into a mental institute. It’d been six months since I became the social leper of our hometown.
Six months ago, I had been the popular girl, the girl everyone wanted to be. All it had taken was one mental breakdown from my mother for me to become nothing more than gossip. My old friends had dropped me without a second thought. A few of them would give me pitying looks from time to time, but most of them pretended that I didn’t exist. That was fine with me. I’d rather be invisible than pitied. I didn’t want or need their pity.
My hometown, Shinnston, a small town in northern West Virginia, had just over two thousand people in it. Living in a town that small meant that everyone and their mother knew your business, so when my mother had gone crazy and decided that I needed to die to serve the Gods, everyone knew it. By the time I had been released from the hospital only a few hours later with a concussion and bruised ribs, I was the talk of the town.
I would’ve been forced into foster care if it wasn’t for my uncle. Even though I was only a few months shy of eighteen, it didn’t matter. My dad had run out on us before I was even born, leaving my mom to raise me in the town’s one and only trailer park. If it wasn’t for my uncle, we would’ve lost even that. More times than I could count, he’d helped my mom pay her bills after she’d spent her meager wages on alcohol.
Once she had been taken away, he’d stepped in and become my official guardian. Living together had been an adjustment for each of us, but we were both trying. Soon, I would turn eighteen and graduate. Then, he’d never have to worry about taking care of me again. You could bet your happy ass that I’d be running as far away from this town as I could without looking back. I’d had enough of this place to last me a lifetime.
My mom always had a drinking problem, something she blamed my nonexistent father for, but the six months leading up to her breakdown had been horrible. If she hadn’t been at work, she had been wasted. I should’ve seen the signs, but I hadn’t, and I’d almost paid with my life. But in my defense, who would have thought that they’d come home to a mother attacking them with a kitchen knife? I sure as hell hadn’t.
I shouldered my bag and headed for my bedroom door. I glanced at the mirror hanging on the wall before I left. An average girl with bright blue eyes and light-brown hair stared back at me. I wasn’t ugly by any means, but I didn’t have the look that the models in the fashion magazines did, and I was okay with that. I’d much rather have a few curves anyway. The only thing I hated about myself was my nose. In my opinion, it was far too big for my face, but there wasn’t much I could do about that.
Uncle Jack smiled at me when I walked into the kitchen. He was in his late thirties. We looked absolutely nothing alike, except for our hair color. He was well over six feet tall where I was lucky to hit five foot five inches. Where I was of average build, he was stick thin. His skin was pale, and his face was fixed in a permanent frown. It made me sad to realize that he hadn’t started to look like that until my mother went crazy. She had tried her hardest to drag us down with her.
“Morning, Ella,” he said.
I walked toward the front door. “Morning. I’m off to school. I’ll see you later.” I waved as I grabbed my keys, and then I headed outside.
That was our usual morning routine.
I never had my own car when I lived with my mom. Since Uncle Jack had taken me in, he’d let me use his spare car whenever I needed it. It was nice to know that I had my own transportation instead of relying on others to get me to where I needed to go—not that I had anyone else to rely on anymore, but still.
The drive to school would take me exactly six minutes. Over the last few months, I had figured out exactly how long it would take for me to get from my uncle’s house to school. I always arrived just as the bell rang every day, so I wouldn’t have to awkwardly stand around while everyone either stared at me or pretended I didn’t exist.
Today was no different. I heard the bell ring just as I reached the front doors of my school.
I hurried inside and up the stairs to my locker. No one even noticed me as I passed by them. My ex-best friend, Jenny, walked by without even glancing in my direction. Her minions—Anna, Rose, and Megan—followed close behind her. I let myself miss my old life for a split second before mentally slapping myself. It was stupid to miss something that I never really had. If those girls really cared about me, they never would’ve abandoned me, and they sure as hell wouldn’t have spread rumors about me and how I’d caught the crazy from my mom.
Forget them all. I didn’t need them.
I shoved my bag into my locker and grabbed my binder and book for first period. I slammed my locker shut harder than I’d meant to, but no one seemed to notice my obvious aggression. I was one of the first to arrive in my history class. It was by far my favorite class. I loved learning how our ancestors had screwed up over and over, yet we’d still survived their stupidity. It was a miracle.
A group of girls walked into the room and sat down in front of me. I tried to ignore their conversation, but they made it almost impossible. From the sound of it, something major was happening.
“Oh my God! Did you see them? I think I’m in love!” a blonde, Stacey, said as she fanned herself.
“I know what you mean. And there are two of them. I wouldn’t mind spending some alone time with both of them—at once.” Stacey’s friend added.
They burst out into laughter just as our teacher walked into the room. She glared at them, and they quickly quieted their giggles. I tried to listen to their whispers as Mrs. Carpenter took attendance, but it was no use. I shrugged as I opened my history book.
Oh well, it doesn’t really matter anyway.
The rest of class was uneventful.
Once the bell rang and Mrs. Carpenter dismissed us, I walked back down the hall to my locker. After trading out books, I headed toward my second period class—math. Just as I was about to walk into class, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I stop dead and looked around the hall. I could have sworn that I’d felt someone watching me, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to me at all.
Still feeling like I was being watched, I hurried into my class and took my seat. Amanda, the one friend I did have, was already waiting for me. I wasn’t sure how it had happened, but after everyone else had ditched me, I’d ended up talking with Amanda. She was as much of a social leper as I was, so we fit together nicely. No one paid any attention to us, and I liked it that way.
Amanda could be pretty if she tried. Her hair was dark brown, and she had the prettiest brown eyes I’d ever seen. Unfortunately, she normally pulled her hair back into a messy bun and wore clothes that were two sizes too big for her. Overall, she looked sloppy and unkempt. It didn’t bother me in the least, but it seemed to keep the other kids away from her.
“Have you heard the news?” she asked sarcastically.
I shook my head. “Nope. What’s going on?”
“Apparently, we have two new students—twin brothers. I haven’t seen them yet, but from what I’ve heard, they’re hot—like, super melt-your-panties hot.”
So, that was what the girls from my first period had been talking about. Nothing exciting ever happened around here, so two new students was a big deal, especially twins.
“Have you seen them yet?”
She shook her head. “Nope, and I really don’t care to. If they’re as hot as everyone says, I’m sure Jenny and her minions will swoop in and snatch them up before the day is over.”
“You’re probably right.”
Amanda liked Jenny and her friends even less than I did. I wasn’t sure what had happened between them to cause Amanda to hate them so much.
I really hated Jenny. We’d been best friends since middle school, yet she had been the first person to drop me when everything happened. I’d missed a week of school as I tried to cope with what my mother had done to me. When I had come back, Jenny had pretended that I didn’t exist. I’d been crushed at the time. I’d lost everything at that point, and all I’d wanted was my best friend to comfort me. I should’ve known something was up when she wouldn’t answer my calls, but I’d refused to see the truth.
The rumors had been rampant when I returned. I’d barely made it through my first day back. By lunchtime, I’d deserted all attempts to act like nothing was wrong. Instead, I’d hidden inside the first-floor restroom and bawled my eyes out.
I never cried again after that day. I refused to let Jenny or anyone else get to me. Soon, I would escape this school, this town, and I could start over fresh. I would find new friends who didn’t know my history, and I would survive. I’d thrive. Then, when I came back for our ten-year reunion, I could tell them all to take a flying leap off a tall bridge. I’d show them just how strong Ella Wilkins was.
Amanda and I compared our homework to see if we had the same answers until our teacher, Mrs. Snow, walked in. She actually shuffled more than walked. The poor woman had to be pushing eighty, but she refused to retire. I had no idea why she would want to spend her golden years trapped in a high school, but whatever.
Just as she started to take attendance, a knock sounded at the door. A second later, it opened, and a boy walked in. My mouth dropped open as Amanda gave a low whistle. This had to be one of the new twins.
Sweet baby monkeys.
I pulled my eyes away from him long enough to see that he was having the same effect on every single girl in my class. We were all staring at him with our mouths hanging open. I swore, a few girls had drool dripping down their chins.
My eyes automatically went back to him.
Jesus. How is it possible for one guy to look that good?
I watched as he approached Mrs. Snow’s desk, taking in every little detail about him. His hair was dark brown, almost dark enough to be considered black. It was just long enough that it fell across his forehead. It was shaggy but definitely in a good way. His eyes were the brightest emerald green I had ever seen. He wore a plain white shirt that hid nothing. The muscles in his arms and stomach were apparent through the thin material. He had muscles that no high school guy should possess. His nose was small, feminine even, but it only enhanced his looks. I mentally traced his strong jawline with my eyes. I had never seen a man quite as beautiful as he was.
And there are two of them.
He was too beautiful. While my eyes refused to look away, my mind told me that something about him wasn’t right. His beauty was almost otherworldly. I pushed the thought away as I stared at him. I didn’t care where he was from as long as he hung around long enough for me to ogle him.
No one said a word as he spoke quietly with Mrs. Snow.
After a moment, she smiled at him and turned her attention to the rest of the class. “Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to our new student, Asher. He just transferred here from Colorado.”
Colorado? It was obvious that I’d need to move there if all the guys in Colorado looked like Asher.
“Asher, why don’t you take the empty seat next to Gabriella?” Mrs. Snow pointed at me.
I winced at my full name. I hated it. No one, except for Mrs. Snow, called me Gabriella.
Asher looked up to see where he was supposed to sit. His eyes found the empty chair beside me, and then he looked directly at me. My eyes widened as he grinned like he’d just won the lottery. Without another word, he walked over to where I was sitting. I stared straight ahead, refusing to glance over at him. If I did, I knew I wouldn’t be able to look away.
Mrs. Snow continued with taking attendance and then asked for our homework assignments. After we passed them up to her, she instructed us to open our books to page two hundred twenty. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I felt someone poke my arm.
I looked over to see Asher staring at me. “What?” I whispered.
“Can you share your book with me? She forgot to give me one, and I really don’t want to ask for it in the middle of class. I hate to draw attention to myself.”
I almost snorted. He hates attention? Well, he’d better get used to it because every female at our school was going to give him plenty of it.
“Uh, sure,” I mumbled.
“Thanks.” He smiled as he scooted his chair closer to mine.
I caught a whiff of his cologne and sighed.
Jesus, I need to get a life.
Despite how good he smelled and how good he looked, he was just a guy—a guy who would soon learn that I was an outcast, and then he’d run away from me, screaming. With that in mind, I frowned and forced myself to pay attention to Mrs. Snow.
Class dragged by. Every time Asher accidentally brushed against me, heat would rush to my cheeks. I tried to ignore him as much as possible, only speaking when he would ask something about what the teacher was saying. When the bell rang, I almost cried in relief.
As soon as Asher scooted away from me, I grabbed my things and all but ran from the room. I didn’t stop running until I made it to my locker. After tossing my math book inside and grabbing my science book, I rested my forehead against the locker beside mine.
I needed to get my act together. No boy should make me that nervous. The fact that there was another guy here who looked just like him made me shudder. I hoped that I never saw the two of them together. If I did, I might melt into a puddle at the sight.
I stepped away from the lockers and made my way toward my science class. The entire way there, I couldn’t help but think about how pretty Asher’s eyes were.