Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1) (27 page)

BOOK: Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1)
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I didn’t say a word, but instead sat there and stared at Professor Woodward. He glanced back at me for a moment before continuing.

“Angels and demons were dying at almost the exact same time as their close human friends. We discovered that the mortality of our people was linked specifically to their closest, most important human companion. When the human died, the angel or demon died with them. So in actuality, being intimate erases our immortality and ties our fate with humans. The moment an angel or demon becomes mortal, their life is directly linked to a human somewhere on earth. That human becomes what is known to our world as a link.”

All of the talk about death and human links made me think about my family again. With his comments about procreation and hearing about human links, I couldn’t wait any longer to find out the truth.

“Professor, how does this relate to my family?” I asked bluntly.

Professor Woodward’s shoulders dropped immediately. I could see that he knew there was no more getting around it. He took a few deep breaths and stared directly into my eyes.

“Zoe, your situation is unique. Even though many angels and demons chose the path of life and death, there were still many unwritten rules that nobody dared to challenge. One of those rules was, for lack of a better term, cross breeding. Angels and demons never had relations with the other race, or with humans. It always stayed inside the circles. That belief continued on into the current day until-” he stopped suddenly.

“My parents?” I whispered.

He nodded once. “They were in love and everyone knew it. Remember when I told you a few weeks ago how all of their friends were against their relationship? Now you know why. It was unheard of for an angel and demon to be together.”

I couldn’t speak. It was hard enough to hear about my parents’ true past, let alone be reminded of their friends’ lack of loyalty.

“They believed that it wasn’t against the rules and that they had to stand up for true love. I’d never seen two beings more adamant about their love for one another than your parents and in the end, their love was too strong and they followed their hearts. That eventually led to not only their marriage, which was a first, but also…”

“Are you telling me that my parents were the first angels and demons ever to procreate?”

“They were the first and the only. That is the reason all of our friends abandoned them when you were conceived, because it was the first time it had ever happened. For ages, children were only conceived by either all angel or all demon families. Nobody knew what the consequences would be from such an act.”

I started to feel angry. The betrayal of my parents by their so called friends just because they loved each other was too much to handle.

“I think that’s stupid,” I shot back hotly. “You knew my parents, they were wonderful people. Everyone just ditched them because they wanted to have a baby?”

“Zoe, you must understand that it had never happened before. I told you that over the course of our history, which spans all the way back to the very beginning, nobody tested that idea. I think mostly because no one knew what the end result would be. There was no telling what would happen if one of our race possessed both angel and demon traits. The power that being could potentially possess would be immense. You were the first and only one to come from such lineage, which makes you more special, powerful and unique than any of our kind. Because of that, you’ve been watched and studied more than you know,” he finished.

My throat closed up and I swallowed hard. I didn’t care about being special or powerful. The idea that someone was watching my every move scared me. All other thoughts were pushed to the back of my mind in that moment and only one remained.

“Who’s been watching me?” I asked with great effort, my voice cracking slightly.

I hadn’t noticed but Professor Woodward all of the sudden looked very tired. His eyes had deep bags under them and he looked paler than normal. It looked like the conversation had taken a massive toll on his psyche.

He took another deep breath. “When the intimacy rule was broken, it made the other two rules insignificant. If angels and demons could violate one rule, the ones who remained immortal realized that the other rules held no more value. That led to angels and demons everywhere using their powers in front of humans and thus, separating our race even further. Since demons believed our purpose was to use our abilities to control humans; that’s what they did.  They became much more violent and self-interested over time, which led to the stereotypes that are attached to demons today.”

It started to feel like he was delaying. Even though I was scared to death that someone had been watching me, I had to know as much as possible. I sat up a little straighter and leaned forward a little bit, waiting for him to get to the point.

“In particular, there was a demon, the most powerful demon I’ve ever known, who was vehemently against anything that would ruin the status quo. For as long as I can remember, he’d always despised humans and viewed them as weak creatures that were below us. They had no power and no special abilities. To him, anyone who was mortal was weak and anyone who chose mortality was a traitor in his opinion and he took it upon himself to let them know it.”

I shuddered slightly. He hadn’t said anything directly related to me but I could feel the hairs on my neck stand up. For some reason, my hands slowly started shaking. I put one hand over the other and placed them both in my lap so Professor Woodward wouldn’t see. But his eyes were focused directly on my hands and he frowned even more.

“He led the charge to ignore the other rules once angels and demons gave up their eternal life. He used the changes as an opportunity to exact revenge on any traitor who turned their back on our people. Since those angels and demons chose to live like humans, the moment he discovered how to kill them, he went on a rampage. He sought out any angel or demon he felt betrayed us, and their human, and destroyed them both. To him, it was a game and because our rules no longer applied, nobody stood in his way. Even if they did, I’m not sure anyone would have succeeded because the power he possesses is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The worst part was that he had many supporters who started to help him along the way. Our world has grown darker and more dangerous ever since he came to power.”

“So, is this who has been watching me?” I swallowed, knowing the answer before he said it.

He nodded. “His name is Ignacious and he’s more dangerous than you can imagine. He has spies scattered everywhere and it’s impossible to find him. Nobody I know has seen him for a very long time, but I know he’s still out there. Too many angels and demons are still dying suspiciously,” he said, trailing off slightly.

We sat there for another minute in silence while his latest words sank in. I immediately regretted asking him about who had been watching me. Knowing that there was a brutal killer on the loose that was watching my every move made me more scared than I’d ever been before.

“Professor, am I-?” I started to ask, but he just held up a hand, stopping me dead in my tracks.

“Zoe, I hate to do this, but it’s about ten minutes to ten and your Yoga class will be over soon. You need to get back before it ends, or else we’ll have two of you walking around campus,” he smiled weakly. “Consider this your first lesson in time travel.”

All of the questions I’d had about Common Ground had vanished, only to be replaced with complete fear. I didn’t want to leave, especially after hearing about Ignacious. He could be watching me anytime, anywhere and I wouldn’t know it. Being with Professor Woodward was the only way I felt safe now. I stayed in my seat and continued to stare at him.

“Zoe,” he said apologetically. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. It wasn’t my intention.  Ignacious may have his spies everywhere, but so do I. If anyone were to attack you here, I’d know long before anything happened. This is the safest place in the world to be. It’s easier said than done, but please try to relax. Once you get back to Yoga, you’ll feel better, I promise.”

“But-” I started to say, but he had already turned his back to me and walked back behind his desk. The conversation was over.

It was then I realized that I had no idea how to get back to the yoga studio. I didn’t even know for sure exactly how I got there in the first place.

“But how?” I asked dumbfounded. Professor Woodward smiled lightly, threw his grey wool coat over his shoulders and headed towards the door.

He stopped right before he opened it and turned to face me. “It’s the same process as before; just recreate the scene with your yoga mat. Think about getting back to your class at that moment you left and you’ll be surprised how simple and easy it can be. I’ll leave you alone in here to give you a quiet arena. But before I go, I think it’s imperative you go home and digest all you’ve heard today. We accomplished quite a bit and even though your mind is stronger than a human’s, you can still only take so much. Once things have settled down, and all of this sinks in, I guarantee that everything will become much more transparent. Good luck.”

With that, he shut the door softly behind him, leaving me alone in his large and shaded office. It was one of the more uncomfortable situations I’d ever been in, and I felt ridiculous trying to figure out how exactly to do what I needed to do.

I took my yoga mat and laid it out across a big open space on his carpet, feeling extremely awkward. Part of me wanted to just run out of the door and get back to the yoga studio right when class was over. The lights would be off and if I arrived at the right time, nobody would notice my absence. But, remembering that Professor Woodward seemed to make it an unofficial assignment, I slowly closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I did everything imaginable to push our discussion to the side in order to get me back where I needed to be. Thoughts of snapping out of that nightmare and getting back to Steph sounded nice. The entire morning had been so crazy that seeing Steph’s friendly face was enough of a connection to ease my thoughts. Each breath entered and exited my body slower and slower until the comfortable air conditioning of Professor Woodward’s office disappeared in an instant.

I was shooting upwards in a dark, barely lit space. A miniscule white light shined far above my head, and it started to quickly approach my reach. The same massive wind that had struck me earlier was now underneath me, guiding me upwards at a blazing pace. As the light continued to get closer, different voices started sounding off in the darkness. The light was almost within my reach when everything went completely white.

My eyes shot open in a flash and the bright lights of the yoga studio burned my vision. Girls were scampering all around, packing up bags and leaving the room. I slowly looked over to Steph, who was rolling up her mat with precision.

“Have a good rest?” she asked casually.

“Wha?” I asked in a hoarse voice, hardly able to speak. “Is class over?”

“Yeah, Himani just turned the lights on. I looked over and you were out cold, it was pretty funny,” she chuckled.

“So I was lying here sleeping? That’s it?” I asked.

I needed some type of confirmation that everything was back to normal. It felt right but until Steph confirmed it, I didn’t know what to believe.

“Yeah,” she said with a suspicious glance. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” I breathed. “Just struggling to wake up.”

“Well, why don’t you get up so we can grab some breakfast? I’m starving!” she responded, lowering her gaze.

Mirroring Steph, I rolled up my mat for the second time that day and jammed it into my bag, which had reappeared back in its regular place. Slowly, I started to feel normal again, but in the back of my mind, there was a growing fear. Within the course of an hour, Professor Woodward had revealed not only the origins and history of an entire secret world, but also told me that I was being watched… or hunted by some ancient, murderous demon just because of my parents. If what he said was true, and I really was some unique hybrid of angel and demon, everything in my life was about to change.


Chapter 12: Confrontation

The walk home found me shifting my thoughts and priorities. My abilities, and even all of the questions I hadn’t asked about Liam, took a back seat to the connection my parents and I had to Common Ground. The three rules Professor Woodward described clearly applied to them and their actions, which made me start to wonder how significant I really was in the world. While I gazed around at the growing crowds bustling into campus, the eerie feeling that some of them might be angels or demons swept over me.

After such a rough and longer than usual morning, the only place I really wanted to be was home. Luckily, the small break I had between classes would give me enough time to regroup at home before my busy afternoon. Steph walked along in silence, continually glancing over at me with a concerned look on her face. When we approached the large fountain that gave the option of either heading back to our apartments or into the heart of campus, Steph reached out and grabbed my arm.

“Don’t you have that meeting with your Professor now?” she asked with a penetrating gaze.

“Oh, yeah,” I stuttered, trying to think of any believable excuses. “I just remembered that he said if it would be cutting things too close, I could just come by in the afternoon. We did get out a little late and I’m not sure we’d have enough time to go over all my questions.”

‘You just remembered that?” she responded suspiciously. “That’s not like you.”

“I told you earlier this morning that it was a long weekend. I’m still trying to recoup from it.”

“Yeah, I know, but you dominated in Yoga. I thought that would maybe give you a pick-me-up. It usually does for me when I’m feeling down.”

“So did I,” I said lazily, feigning a yawn. “But I’m still pretty tired. I think I’m just going to go home and get a small nap in before classes this afternoon.”

Her face finally relaxed a little before she replied. “Ok, but you’re sure everything else is alright?”

“Positive,” I smiled. “I need a quick cat nap and everything will be fine. Trust me.”

With that, I gave her a reassuring hug and continued on in the opposite direction, back towards the apartment. Steph’s concern was a welcomed distraction from the burdens that were quickly piling onto my shoulders. Knowing that there was still an innocent and oblivious world that existed calmed me down a little bit. My friends were lucky to be clueless about my unnatural path. It shook me to the core to think about any of them possibly being hurt because of me.

The sun continued to race higher in the sky when I finally reached the front door.  I took out my keys and attempted to unlock it, only to find that the door was already open. Slowly I walked inside and looked around. It was quiet and deserted, with no signs of Annie anywhere. Right when I started down the hallway, a dark figured appeared at the corner of my eye in the living room.

“What are you doing here?” I sneered, narrowing my eyes.

“Oh, just enjoying the view,” Liam said with a smile, glaring out of the sliding glass door. The TV was off and he was lying on the futon, feet up, staring blankly outside.

“Could you please take your feet off my futon?” I said angrily.

“Our futon,” a shrill voice came from the kitchen.

My gaze shifted to the kitchen door and fell upon Annie, who glared back at me with a look of agitation. It was the first time we’d seen each other since the mugging, and her expression was not what I expected.

“Oh, hey,” I said timidly.

“We just stopped by so I can get a few things and then we’re out of here,” Annie said shortly, walking straight past me towards her bedroom.

“Um, okay,” I mumbled.

Annie’s bitterness brought me back to reality while the dreamlike state that consumed me from the intense morning quickly dissolved. Her boorish behavior caught me off guard and I stood there feeling uneasy. I glanced down at the only possible source of Annie’s discontent, who looked utterly pleased.

“What are you smiling at?”

Liam stood up briskly and walked towards the glass door that overlooked campus. He stared out for a moment and started shaking his head. He then turned and gave me a very pitiful look.

“Don’t you remember what I told you?” he finally asked me.

A sinking feeling brewed in my gut while the memory of that night came back to me. Liam’s actions that night had caught me off guard, but I finally understood exactly how he did what he did. He was a demon. I just didn’t know his role in it all, or the extent of his powers.

“Yes,” I said sharply. “What about it?”

Liam slowly started to glide towards me, moving in perfect rhythm. There was something about the way he walked that made my skin tingle. Butterflies floated in my stomach as he slowly approached me. For a split second, I felt frozen, attuned to every movement his perfect body made. His eyes were locked onto mine and I helplessly stared back.

“I had to be absolutely sure she wouldn’t remember any of it,” he countered smoothly, stopping about a foot away from my face.

All of a sudden, I knew what he was talking about. He had warned me that Annie wouldn’t remember any of it, but I didn’t want to believe that.

“That was a very important night to us. Why would you do that?”

“Just one of the added bonuses of being who I am,” he sighed jokingly, still smiling widely. He took another step towards me and I could smell the familiar rosy scented cologne fill the miniscule space between us.

“But-“I wearily replied.

“Huh, figures,” Annie abruptly scoffed from behind me.

In an instant, I tumbled directly into Liam’s chest and felt a jolt of electricity dash through me. A sudden desire to keep holding him overtook me and I grasped his arms for an extra second longer, unsure of what to do. He didn’t push me away immediately and it wasn’t until Annie spoke again that the feeling began to subside.

“Can you give us a minute?” she asked Liam.

“I’ll be outside,” he responded coolly, finally pushing me away.

His gaze didn’t fall away from me until he turned around the corner and out of sight. Hearing the door shut brought a feeling of both relief and dread. Having him gone broke whatever spell he put on me, but he also left me alone with Annie, something I was unprepared to deal with.

“So,” Annie said, folding her arms after an awkward moment of silence.

“Annie look-” I started.

“Don’t,” she snapped back. “I don’t want to hear any more of your excuses. I’m tired of it. You thought I’d just forget that you stood me up on Friday night? I thought we were supposed to work things out. But no, you ditched me for that bitch Simi.”

I couldn’t think straight. Every word was like poison in my veins, burning my heart. None of it made sense.

“What are you talking about?” I asked innocently. “I didn’t stand you up!”

“Oh don’t play stupid Zoe. I remember everything. You wanted to meet here at 6:00 and I was here, waiting at 6:00 and you never showed up. Next thing I know, there you are with her, eating dinner at The Pit. I saw you two when I walked back to the Beta house.”

I’d never felt more angry at Liam than I did at that moment. Making sure Annie didn’t remember almost dying was one thing, replacing her memories with lies was another.

“Annie, that didn’t really happen. You have to believe me,” I begged.

“I don’t,” she said coldly.

She then bent down, picked up her overflowing gym bag and spoke again. “My parents wanted me to remind you about our trip home for Thanksgiving in two weeks. Try not to stand me up for that one too, okay?”

What originally sounded like a great vacation didn’t seem so appealing anymore. Being at home for a long weekend, not talking to Annie was worse than any other possible scenario. There was no doubt that Marie would pick up on the tension.

“Great,” I mumbled, looking away from her while tears started to well up in my eyes. “Four days of us not talking around your parents should make for a fun holiday.”

Annie gave a little half smile. “Actually, you won’t have to worry because it’s not just the two of us going.”

My head jerked back in surprise at her comment. For years, our Thanksgivings included only her family and mine. I’d never even met any of her extended family. An uncomfortable anticipation grew inside at the possibilities.

“Steph?” I asked hopefully.

She shook her head, holding her half smile.

“Liam was invited also,” she said, filling in the last half of her smile.

I couldn’t find the right words to tell her how stupid that sounded. Just the idea of Liam being in the same house as Mark made it even more ridiculous.

“No way, your dad would never allow it,” I rebuked immediately. “He’s never liked any guy you’ve brought home, and the fact he’d be staying at the house? I don’t believe it.”

Annie shook her head slowly and gave me a look of antagonizing sympathy. She appeared to be enjoying every moment because her anger from the false memory had finally been released.  With each passing second, her nonchalant attitude started to eerily resemble Liam’s.

“Oh, it wasn’t hard to persuade them. I just told them that Liam doesn’t have any family and spends his holidays at school. My mom felt so bad for him, she invited him up before I could even ask. And my dad had to accept, you know how quickly he folds,” she said victoriously.

Without a response, my legs carried me to the futon where I collapsed in stunned silence. Annie’s blatant joy from my misery was the hardest feeling to stomach. She was getting pleasure from my gloom and there was no way to fix things. My best friend was being brainwashed and I was helpless to stop it. In a last ditch effort, I tried to repair as much damage as possible.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked dejectedly.

Annie leaned against the wall, still keeping her arms crossed. It looked like her rough, aggressive expression had lessened somewhat.

“Zoe, this is hard for me to say but I’m gonna say it anyway,” she started. My body stiffened up and I braced for the worst. “I’ve realized that I can’t be around you as long as Liam and I are together. The way you two act around each other scares me. Call it jealousy if you want, but I finally found someone who really likes me and I’ll be damned if you steal him away!”

The last part of her repeated monologue made me jump when her voice got aggressive again. My depressed mood was immediately replaced by an untraceable anger. Annie’s cluelessness, although not her fault, was starting to get annoying.

“Oh geez, Annie,” I sighed. “You really don’t remember anything from our time together on Friday night?”

“I don’t know what you’re on Zoe, but there was no trip on Friday night,” she said. “Maybe it was another one of your stupid dreams.”

“Look!” I bellowed, popping up from the futon so fast that Annie jumped back. “Last Friday, you and I went to the Strip to reconnect. We went to dinner and talked about everything. You brought up these same fears to me then. I told you then and I’ll tell you now, there is NOTHING going on between Liam and me and there will never be anything. You seem very happy, why would I want to ruin that?”

I realized that there was nothing else I could say or do that would be able to convince her. At that moment, Annie’s defenses lowered and it appeared that something I said had gotten through. She stared at me with a look of fear in her eyes.

“I’ve…I’ve gotta go, Liam’s waiting for me,” Annie mumbled, taking a few steps back. She looked uncomfortable and confused.

“Oh please Annie, put your arms down, I’m not going to hurt you,” I said, slowly walking towards her.

“I’ll see ya later,” she said. She then turned on the spot and sprinted out the door without another word.

For a moment, I stood in the middle of the living room and stared at the front door. My heart was pounding and my body shook with rage. There wasn’t a time I could remember ever getting that upset at Annie or in general for that matter, and it was all because of him. Liam was gradually destroying my life and yet I couldn’t get him off my mind. I couldn’t help but think that if he had the power to alter her memory from that night, maybe he modified some of her older, happier ones of us too? I didn’t know what was going on, but Liam was the key to it all. His apparent ability to alter minds had me thinking that maybe he was hiding something powerful, something we both shared. Shaking the horrifying thought from my mind, I retreated back to my bedroom. The confrontation had gotten me so upset that the thought of sleep seemed pointless. I took out a few books and started to study in a vain attempt to clear my head of the growing craziness that was becoming my life.


The next week dragged on painfully slowly. Annie was practically invisible, except for the brief hour we saw each other in Perspectives class every other day. She continued to ignore my existence and her attitude reminded me of my high school life. Being disregarded was something I had gotten used to, but not by my best friend.  My loneliness had gotten so bad that if it wasn’t for Hope, I would have considered packing up and leaving Las Vegas.

“Maybe today will be the day,” Hope said optimistically when we left the Pit the following Friday and headed towards our own Perspectives classes.

BOOK: Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1)
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The King's Diamond by Will Whitaker
The Vivisector by WHITE, PATRICK
The Wolfs Maine by James, Jinni
It Lives Again by James Dixon
A Natural Born Submissive by Victoria Winters
Cockroach by Rawi Hage