Seasons End (The Hemlock Bay Series Book 3)

By: Amber Jaeger

Book Three of the Hemlock Bay Series



Chapter One





The dying fire crackled in the night air as we stood near with red cheeks and glazed eyes. Jordan shifted next to me and pulled his arm tighter before softly clearing his throat. “It’s getting late and there isn’t really anything for us to do here…” his voice trailed off while he watched his uncle for a response.

David still sat on his knees in bitter smoke, his eyes red and unblinking.

The burning house before him shifted and crashed, sending out a constellation of glowing embers towards us. Most of them burned out as they floated but a few landed on David’s bare forearms. He ignored the tiny burns.

“It’s getting cold,” Martha offered, her hands shoved deep into her cardigan. Minnie stood between her and Luka, shivering as well. She looked at me and I looked at Jordan. Jordan looked at his uncle and shrugged. I scowled and elbowed him before taking a few steps closer to the giant kneeling before the ruins of the house he had kept a secret for years.

“David,” I called softly. He blinked and sighed just a bit deeper but didn’t respond.

I tried again. “They’re gone and we can’t do anything to help them from here.”

Finally, he turned his eyes away from the dying flames. The low light reflected off his one clear, blue eye and one milky eye. “I believe they are beyond any help,” he said, his voice hoarse.

“Maybe we could have helped them before,” Luka said, his voice sharp and full of accusation.

“Things will look better in the morning,” Martha offered with a wavering voice. I opened my mouth but this time Jordan jabbed me in the ribs. I folded my arms but didn’t say anything.

“Come one, Martha,” Minnie was saying as she wrapped her own scarf around her neck. “We’ll get it all sorted out.

“We’ll find them,” I added.

Luka stormed from the clearing and crashed through frost brittle undergrowth. My brother slipped away from the tree he had been leaning against to follow him. Martha’s eyes glowed in the firelight as they followed his path and her brows pulled together with worry and fear. The ring on her left hand gleamed in the firelight and she was worrying her thumb over it, back and forth, back and forth.

“She’ll be okay,” Jordan said, his voice low.

There was an edge to his voice and it was sharp with jealousy. The curse had thrown Luka and me together for a short time and Jordan was still unhappy about it. I sighed quietly but he still heard.

“Really,” he insisted.

I glanced at him, wondering how well he could see in the dark and he met my gaze with a flat one of his own. Then he offered a smile, just a twitch at the corner of his perfect mouth. I couldn’t help but return it, despite how bleak things looked.

I had thought everything was over. I thought breaking the curse would be the end of it. I had thought the Gatekeepers, all of us, would be free. I thought Luka would be free from the evil his uncle had tied to him with his dying breath.

But I hadn’t broken the curse, I had merely escaped it thanks to Jordan, so it had just continued on, selecting Martha again. I had volunteered myself the first time, to spare her, and it had been for nothing. She was still tied to Luka and he was still bound by details of the curse. As for all the girls that had come before us, the ones we had all thought dead, were now missing.

And while missing was better than dead, we had no idea who had taken them or where, even if David thought he knew why. I tried not to think of the why but his crude explanation had burned an image into my mind and I shivered.

Jordan rubbed my shoulder, mistaking my abhorrence for a chill.

The children of Gatekeepers and djinni could rip the veil between our worlds wide open. Despite Martha’s horror at the idea, I couldn’t fathom which was worse, djinni having free roam or what was being done to the missing Gatekeepers. I shivered again and prayed David was wrong.

After another quiet moment, Minnie slipped her arm through Martha’s and they followed the path the boys had taken. I glanced back at David, who still sat staring into the fire, before I pulled Jordan along with me. “Maybe he just needs a few minutes alone,” I suggested. Jordan didn’t agree or disagree but let me pull him away.

Once away from the burning ruins, the starlight filtered down through the winter bare trees and cast shadows that swayed in the wind.

“Are you alright?” Jordan asked quietly as he slowed his steps to let the others get ahead of us.

“I… fine, I guess,” I finally settled on. Branches hung low with the weight of the snow and ice and I was careful not to disturb them as we made our way down the well concealed trail.

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