Chapter II

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Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, Present Day

IT WAS A CIRCUS at the hospital when I came to. I was pulling tubes and wires from my body as I jumped from the bed. My first thought, when I recognized the room, was Mom.

"Where is my mom?"

A nurse came in, a big dude with dark skin dressed in powder-blue scrubs. "Whoa, little lady. You need to sit back down here." He was the first one to see me post coma, and his eyes betrayed more than a little surprise.

"Where is my mom?"

The nurse put his hands on my shoulders and tried to force me back toward the bed. "Sit, little lady."

I wasn't thinking. I shrugged his hands off me, kneed him in the solar plexus, and when he doubled over, I turned him around and put him in an arm bar hold. "Where. Is. My. Mom?" I whispered into his ear.

"Ow," he said. "Hold on, little lady. Just let me go. You musta been having one trippy nightmare. Justin ain't gon' hurt you. Just let me go."

So I did.

Then there were doctors and specialists, pouring in and swarming me like demons. One wanted to check my vitals. Another had a stethoscope. Still another was trying to get me to lie back down on the bed. All of them were using the language of health professionals, full of jargon and professional interest.

I'd had enough of this crap. "Listen up," I said, giving all of them a violent shove and transitioning into a low hover, only half a foot above the floor, the blue light of my wake glowing beneath my feet. "One of you is going to tell me where my mom is." I noticed I was wearing only a hospital gown. "And then I'm going to get my clothes on and get out of here. Understood?"

Stark fear. They all scrambled to their feet and ran out of the room, except one. Big Justin, in the powder-blue scrubs.

Fear was there in his big brown eyes, but it was mixed with so much compassion, I knew what he was about to say next. "Yo momma's dead, little lady. She is dead. I'm so sorry."

I came back to earth.

"And my dad? Michael? Ellie?"

"Nobody's here for you, miss. I'm so sorry." He looked down. "Please don't hurt me."

"I won't hurt you. I'm sorry if I did."

I found my clothes and gathered them up. "Hey, Justin, do you mind, uh, standing guard for me?" I motioned to the door.

He blushed, which, for a black man as dark as he was, astounded me. I smiled my first smile at that. He beat feet, the door slamming behind him, and I got dressed as fast as I could.

I looked out the window and saw that my room was up on the eighth floor. I opened it wide. "This would have been a problem not too long ago," I said, spying the stunned look on Justin's face through the opening door over my shoulder. "But it's simple now." I stepped out into nothing. "And it's the only way."

I headed for the only place I knew was safe anymore.

The house of Kreios.

I reached out with my mind and called for Ellie, for Kreios.

Nothing.

I flew like a rocket, my blue contrail of light behind me, a blur in the sulfuric night skies, confused and scared. I'd never felt so alone and yet never felt so sure—sure of who I was and what I was supposed to do now.

My mom was dead. My sweet, innocent mother, the woman who raised me, the sensitive eccentric of the family, the lady whose chair in the living room was always reserved for her alone, the woman who dug in the dirt of the garden and made everything grow bright and beautiful. She was gone forever now. And I didn't know what to do about it, much less what to think or how to feel.

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