Sakshi is an amateur writer and a professional dreamer. She did a short stint as an editor before getting a master’s degree in creative writing and publishing from City, University of London. She was born in Mumbai but brought up in several fantastical worlds created by her favourite authors. When she’s not writing or reading or thinking about writing and reading, she’s busy watching movies, cooking (really badly), taking long walks along the Thames and petting every dog she can get her hands on. She loves writing about characters who take on challenges, go on adventures and maybe even save the world but personally, she’d much rather stay at home, chill in her pyjamas, eat cereal and hang out with her family and friends. She currently lives in London.
Dalia was born with powers. Powers that she doesn’t understand and can’t control. One day, she snaps and almost kills the woman who’s been abusing her for years. She takes off, straight into the clutches of two people who might just be more insane than she is. She knows she has to get away – away from her psychotic kidnappers, away from her demonic aunt and away from the supernatural destiny. But what she doesn’t know is that there’s someone far more sinister hunting her – hunting them – and he won’t stop until he has them all.
Dalia felt the sharp sting against her cheek as she was flung to the ground, her palms outstretched to try and break her fall. Claire didn’t give her a moment to recover before she kicked her in the stomach, the sharp end of her pointy shoes jabbing against Dalia’s torso.
Dalia felt the rage exuding from her aunt and, not for the first time in the last three years, she wondered if this was her karma. It had to be, right? She had to pay for— for what she had done.
Maybe she’s decided not to let me attend school for the rest of the week, Dalia thought when Claire landed another blow on her face, not holding back in the slightest. It was always easier to hide bruises on the stomach or back. But on her face? Dalia would have to stay home until the discolourations faded away. The thought of that alone was more torture than anything else Claire could dole out. Her only escape from all the anguish, stolen from her for the foreseeable future.
Viciously grabbing her hair and twisting it around her palm, Claire pulled her up and shoved her face closer to Dalia’s. “Do you know how much that sodding machine costs? More than your worthless existence!”
Dalia remained silent, knowing that the beating would get worse if she mouthed off. Dalia had to focus on keeping her temper in check by tuning the other woman’s voice out. She couldn’t lose control now. She had to fight it back. It’ll be over soon, she chanted in her head.
Claire twisted her head back, forcing the girl to meet her eyes. “Look at me when I speak to you!”
The sight of her face would just make everything worse. Dalia squeezed her eyes shut, trying to focus on her breathing as she counted each inhale in her head.
In and out.
In and out.
In and out.
Claire grabbed hold of her shoulders and shook them, knocking Dalia’s teeth together. Dalia balled her fists and fought the tremors back as Claire yelled at her to open her eyes and stop disrespecting her.
“Who’s gonna pay for a new one, huh?”
“You gonna pay for it?”
“Now you wanna keep your trap shut? Answer me!”
Claire’s voice grew louder, screeching as Dalia lost count of her breaths and gritted her teeth, biting down hard on her tongue. The pain only offered a momentary distraction.
No, no, please no.
The tingling in the back of her neck was getting stronger as fury seeped into every inch of her body, flowing through her veins.
Claire slammed her head on the ground, the blow softened slightly by the thick carpet, and aimed a few more kicks at her gut. Dalia raised her arms, trying to push the other woman’s leg away from her stomach.
Just as Claire let out another string of curses, there was a loud crash and she was flung away from Dalia, towards the wall right next to the couch. The chair, that had flown through the air, taking the older woman with it, landed next to Claire’s legs.
The only sound that could be heard in the deafening silence that followed was Dalia’s rapid breathing. Her head snapped up, eyes blazing, and she got to her feet, never letting her gaze leave the shocked form of the other woman.
Claire’s eyes were wide as she stared back at her, her blonde mop of hair rumpled from the force of the crash. Claire stole a glance at the chair and looked back at Dalia’s furious face.
“Bloody hell,” she breathed, trying to hide her shivering hands behind her back and failing. She didn’t stay down for too long, watching as Dalia slowly advanced on her. Claire got to her feet unsteadily, using the arm of the couch to haul herself up.
Claire’s face blanched as the cabinet behind Dalia opened, seemingly on its own. Dalia clenched her fists, letting the power surge through her body, as it fed on her blinding rage. It was almost as if the air itself began flinging the stones from the cabinet in Claire’s direction. The woman gasped and ducked down, a large blue coral narrowly missing her head as it cracked against the wall behind her. Dalia couldn’t help but smile, it had taken Claire years to find that gem.
“What?” Claire couldn’t believe her eyes. She didn’t miss the twisted grin on Dalia’s face and raised a hand to her mouth. “How? Are you do—”
Her voice was cut off as one of the larger stones, a crystallised sherry pink topaz, lifted up from the ground and pinned her to the wall, pressing against her neck. She choked and clawed at it, her legs flailing as the stone dragged up, lifting her feet off the ground. Her face was starting to turn blue and her eyes rolled back into her head.
The unfamiliar voice made Dalia gasp as she snapped her head back, wildly looking around for the source. Was someone else in the house?The man’s voice was echoing in her ears, almost as if it was in her head. Had she imagined that?
Claire dropped to the floor, as the stone lay immobile at her feet. She didn’t get back up.
Dalia’s anger began melting away, replaced by panic. She had just attempted to kill her aunt.
She would’ve done it too, if the voice hadn’t snapped her out of it. She only felt a fleeting sense of relief when she noticed Claire’s chest moving slightly. The woman was still breathing.
What do I do now? Dalia was staring down at her hands, as the tingling receded, travelling down to her fingertips and out. She waited for the wave of dizziness to pass, feeling like she had just run a marathon. Clutching the back of the couch in front of her, she was hit by a horrible realisation.
Claire was going to tell. She would tell the police. She would tell everyone. Dalia knew she had to leave, she had to get out.
“Pack a bag. Come with us.”
Dalia’s already racing pulse jumped wildly. She moved her head from side to side and backed up against the wall. “What the hell?” she muttered under her breath. “I’ve lost my bloody mind.” Her body was already moving when the voice echoed in her head again.
“Dalia, you need help. Pack a bag and come outside.”
Like hell, she thought before she ran to her room, taking the stairs two at a time. The adrenaline pumping through her veins was allowing her to momentarily ignore her fatigue and her pain. Pulling a few clothes out of her closet, she stuffed them in a backpack before grabbing her wallet. She rushed into Claire’s room across the hall and without hesitation, pulled down the brown purse that was hanging on the hook behind her door. She took whatever money she could find and grabbed the pepper spray she had seen her aunt stuff in the side pocket.
Shoving the money in her wallet and the spray in her bag, she ran down to the kitchen and yanked out a large knife from the kitchen drawer. Wrapping a small cloth around the hilt, she put the knife in the pocket of her jumper. She noticed some cash in the key bowl, next to the coat rack and stuffed it in her bra. With her coat wrapped around her, she moved back into the kitchen, putting on a pair of gloves as she walked.
Instead of going to the front porch, she had decided to take the door leading out of the kitchen and into the garden. She had only taken one step into the kitchen when she froze, her feet glued to the tiled floor. She brought her hand up to her mouth as her breathing grew louder and out of control. She felt the tears building up and couldn’t hold back as her head snapped down and the bag slipped out of her hands.
What have I done?
She’d never felt fear like this before.
What do I do now?
Her body shook with sobs as she slid to the ground, landing on her knees. She’d been lonely for a long time, but it wasn’t until that moment that she truly felt like she was alone. She only allowed another moment to feel sorry for herself before she took a deep breath.
She was breathing loudly and slowly, closing her eyes as she felt her racing heart slow down. Determinedly, she wiped the tears off her face and rose to her feet. She grabbed the backpack and tugged it on her shoulder.
Shaken at first, then steadier, she walked ahead and refused to take a last look at what she was leaving behind. She might never see her home again. But she had to keep going. She had wasted enough time being weak.
Stepping outside, she heard some noises coming from the Thompsons’ deck and knew she couldn’t risk drawing attention there. She could scale the wall on her left and jump into Mrs. Bennet’s garden. The lady lived alone and usually took a pill to help her sleep at night, she wouldn’t notice Dalia loitering behind her house.
Dalia made her way to wall and tossed her bag on the other side before placing her hands on the edge to lift herself off the ground. Before she could jump up, she felt a sharp prick against her neck and her legs gave out from under her, strong hands catching her from behind before she fell on her face.
She glimpsed a shadow moving towards her before her head rolled down and she passed out.
“She’s going to be difficult.” Weston noted.
He stole a glance at the unconscious girl lying in the backseat before focusing on the road, his hands loosely gripping the steering wheel. They’d been driving for a couple of hours now.
“And you weren’t?” Harper chose to speak out loud, arching one perfectly-shaped eyebrow.
He rolled his eyes.
“I may not have been on my best behaviour in the beginning, but I never doubted you. I always knew you were telling me the truth,” he told her, pointedly.
She turned her face away, sighing as she thought about the task that lay ahead. She wasn’t one to shy away from challenges, Harper reminded herself. And what choice did she have? She hadn’t foreseen that things would turn out this way. She’d had a plan. She always had a plan.
But she couldn’t have allowed the girl to kill her aunt, no matter how much the woman deserved it. It was obvious the girl hadn’t learnt how to control her gift yet. If she killed someone, there would be no coming back. She’d never embrace her power, never embrace her fate. She would have been a lost cause, easy pickings.
And Harper couldn’t lose this one. Her gift was too powerful, she was too important.
If Vito got his hands on her…
Harper leaned her head against the car window, closing her eyes and listening to the sound of the rain hitting the glass. It was sheer luck that they’d already been driving back to the girl’s house when Harper saw what was going to happen. They’d been watching her for weeks, trying to figure out the best way to approach her. Deep down, Harper knew they’d waited so long because Wes wasn’t completely sure about the girl. She didn’t blame him. In the weeks that preceded tonight, Dalia hadn’t displayed a single hint that she was gifted in any way. If Harper didn’t know it beyond a shadow of doubt, she would have been apprehensive, too.
She couldn’t ponder on what had already happened. She had to focus on the future. She took a long look at the girl, her body rocking slightly with the movement of the car. Harper turned her gaze ahead, to the road and settled in for the ride.
Dalia was shaking. No, that wasn’t right. Her bed was shaking.
When the memories from last night flooded back, she realised she wasn’t in her bed. She wasn’t in her house. She had no fucking clue where she was.
Her head was pounding. And the rocking motion of the surface underneath her was only making it worse, forcing bile to rise up in her throat. She swallowed it down, which was wise because there was something covering her mouth at that moment.
When she opened her eyes, it took a few seconds for them to focus, for everything to stop spinning. She blinked, trying to take in her surroundings. She was in a car, lying down on the backseat and she could see the profile of the driver from her vantage point. Even sitting down, she could tell he was tall. She couldn’t get a very good look at him, but she knew one thing – he was a stranger.
Trying to quell her panic so she didn’t alert that man to her conscious state, she shifted slightly and instantly froze. Not only was her mouth taped up, her arms and legs were tied with some kind of plastic straps, probably zip ties.
Dalia knew she had to stay calm and find a way to escape, she couldn’t draw attention to herself in that moment or they’d knock her out again. But she couldn’t help the fear that was ruling her emotions, forcing her breaths to come out in a pant. She could hear her own heartbeats, the sound growing louder in her head. She’d been bloody kidnapped! Who was that man? And what was he planning to do with her?
She began hyperventilating, imagining horrible scenarios in her head as tears filled her eyes. Just then, the man turned slightly, his dark eyes meeting her wide terrified ones.
“Calm down,” she heard the slightly familiar voice say. “No one’s going to hurt you.” She knew he was the one speaking but his lips hadn’t moved. Once again, the voice was in her head.
She couldn’t hold back the terrified shriek, muffled against the tape as she scrambled to sit up in the seat. She tried to squeeze herself against the door behind the passenger seat, putting as much distance as she could between herself and the man.
“Wes, stop terrifying the poor girl!” she heard a female voice snap, and Dalia realised there was another person in the car with them. She shifted her wide-eyed look to the woman in the passenger seat who had turned around in her chair to look at Dalia. Dalia didn’t relax in the slightest, her gaze rapidly moving between the two individuals. Who the hell were these two?
The woman looked calm, strangely calm, which amplified Dalia’s distress. Noting her reaction, the woman spoke in a soothing tone.
“Don’t be afraid. You’re safe now. We don’t want to harm you.”
Dalia tried to scream at her, yell profanities but the sound that came out of her mouth was incomprehensible.
“I’ll take off that tape if you stop yelling and calm down,” the older woman responded, and Dalia realised she had an American accent.
Disbelief replacing the fear in her eyes, Dalia continued yelling as she struggled against the ties that were binding her limbs. She grunted as the plastic began digging into her skin but didn’t stop in her pursuit to free herself.
“Dalia,” the woman said. “Stop. You’ll only hurt yourself.”
She froze, her gaze fixated on the woman. She narrowed her eyes while trying not to heave her chest with each breath. How do you know my name? she wanted to ask but only managed a muted grumble.
“I know a lot more about you than your name. If you calm down, I’ll explain,” the woman said after a brief pause.
Dalia began shrieking again, her mind churning. She had no idea how the two of them were doing this. Maybe it was her, she was bonkers. Yeah, all those years of abuse had finally taken their toll and she’d officially lost her marbles.
The man drew her attention as he let out a soft laugh and muttered, “Gotta admit, this is more fun than I thought it was going to be.”
Dalia changed her mind. Maybe they had lost their marbles. She was in a car with two nutjobs and she had to get out, now.
The woman shot the man – actually, compared to the older woman, he looked more like a boy – a nasty look. “You’re not helping!”
Dalia closed her eyes and did something she’d vowed never to voluntarily do again. She called out to that tingle inside of her, willing it spread the familiar warmth throughout her body. Desperate times called for desperate measures. She felt the sweat rolling down her back as she grunted with effort, tuning out the woman’s voice. Slowly but surely, she pulled the tape off her mouth and left it hanging from the corner of her lip.
“—Don’t have to do this! Stop, just stop, we don’t mean you any harm!” The woman had brought her hands up, palms towards Dalia as she attempted to look harmless.
Dalia was panting with effort, still focused on freeing her hands while she shouted, “Who the hell are you people? What do you want from me?!”
The hands were proving to be harder than she’d anticipated, and she was already low on energy. She paused for a moment, trying to regain her strength as she waited for one of them to answer her question.
“We want to help you.”