~joan~

Edgar gripped his cup of tea with a shaking hand. We were in the kitchen of the A-frame. Lori had been able to track down some tea when Edgar had asked for some. Lori and I sat at the kitchen table. Edgar sat across from us. “It’s worse than I thought,” he said.

Jason had run off after confronting Edgar. I didn’t know where he’d gone, and I hadn’t followed him. I was feeling more and more confused with every passing minute. One minute it had seemed Jason was trying to solve the problems he’d created. The next he’d seemed to take pleasure in pointing out to Edgar what a nasty person he was. I couldn’t shake the memory of his voice when he’d declared he didn’t care about the innocent. I knew he cared about me, but I wasn’t really sure what kind of caring it was. It seemed like it was maybe nothing more than obsession.

Edgar was still talking. “I knew things were strange here, but I hadn’t realized he was so far gone.” He gestured to me with his cup of tea. “Why are you still with him? You always struck me as a girl with better sense than that.” He considered ruefully. “But then I guess you were always devoted to him.”

Lori gave me a look. “What is he talking about? Why do both he and Jason act like they’ve known you for ages?”

“I have amnesia,” I said. “I don’t remember anything, but apparently, I’m Azazel.”

Lori was horrified. “The Witch of the OF?”

I shrugged. “I don’t remember it.”

“Amnesia?” said Edgar. “That’s odd. And what’s this OF Witch business?”

Lori and I filled him as best we could with all we knew about Azazel and the OF. I even told him about what Terry Dawson, the man who’d shot at me, had said about someone named Kieran stealing my powers and the OF trying to kill me because of that. Hopeful, I asked Edgar if he knew who Kieran was. He didn’t.

The sky was lightening outside, and the sun would be coming up soon. We’d been up all night dealing with this craziness. I felt exhausted, and I could tell Lori did too. I got up to make both of us some tea. Hopefully the caffeine would help. I busied myself boiling water on Lori’s gas stove.

Lori was completely floored by everything we’d told her. “I can’t believe you’re actually the OF Witch,” she said. “And I can’t believe Jason has a father. What are you doing here, anyway?”

Edgar sighed. “I’ve been trying to get stateside for quite some time, but I’ve been trapped in England. I don’t suppose either of you have much idea what’s going on in the rest of the world, do you?”

I set out two mugs for Lori and me and then sat back down at the table. I figured there wasn’t much point watching the pot of water, considering pots never boil when you’re watching them and all. “You know, it is strange, because I never understood why we didn’t get aid from the rest of the world when the solar flare happened. Why didn’t England help America?”

“I suppose at first it was a communication problem,” said Edgar. “There wasn’t any communication coming out of the east coast for quite some time. By the time anyone on our side of the pond figured out there was a problem, we had Sutherland to contend with.”

“Right,” said Lori. “That crazy guy who was running the west side of the country last year. He was in contact with Europe?”

“He was quite a force to be reckoned with,” said Edgar.

“But,” said Lori, “Jason stopped him last spring. So what’s been stopping you since?”

“Sometime last spring everything fell apart,” said Edgar. “There was a moment felt around the world, this kind of aching wholeness that filled everyone’s soul for several minutes. And then it cut off.”

I made a face. “That’s weird. What do you mean?”

“I felt it,” Edgar said. “I recognized the signature of it immediately. It was the same power that had destroyed the Sons. The combined power of you and Jason.”

I shook my head. “I wish I could remember what happened. Jason and I must have combined our powers. Maybe we were trying to stop that guy. What did you say his name was? Sutherland?”

“Perhaps,” said Edgar. “But this was more pointed. The power took control of each and every person on the planet and made them feel elated and peaceful. No one had felt anything like that before. When it stopped, people nearly went crazy trying to find it again. It didn’t take long for them to associate it with Jason. They could feel his pull even in England. Over the next few months, our media was flooded with videos about him, messages from him. Everyone wanted to come here, to Jasontown.”

“In England?” I said. “But I thought my power blocked Jason’s power. I thought that was why there was this sudden influx of people here. Because my power wasn’t being used anymore.”

Edgar took a drink of tea. “I can’t be sure, of course, but I think that perhaps your power only worked so close to Jasontown. You were in D.C. You stopped people from getting here. But that didn’t mean people from all over weren’t trying to get here.”

I shrugged. It was possible, I guess.

“At any rate,” Edgar continued, “there were mobs trying to get to Jasontown. But there was no way to get here. The OF was adamant about no one from outside of the country getting in. They communicated to our government that they had far too many problems as it was without letting anyone in. The airports were closed. The docks patrolled. America was cut off from the rest of the world, and everyone was going vaguely insane from their desire to be close to Jason. There were riots and mobs. Things were breaking down. So I made it my mission to get here, so that I could help Jason stop the OF’s ridiculous embargo and get everyone together. I assumed that if Jason were in charge, everything would be okay.”

The water was boiling. I got up and poured it over the tea bags in the mugs I’d set out. Bringing them to the table, I said, “So, you’re here to help Jason destroy the OF, so that he can rule the world?”

Lori took the mug from me. “That sounds wonderful, Mr. Weem. I can’t think of anything more perfect.”

Edgar and I both looked at her like she was crazy.

“I don’t think Jason should rule the world,” I said. “He’s kind of unbalanced.”

Lori dunked her tea bag in and out of the boiling water. “I admit he’s not perfect. But I believe in what he’s doing. I believe in him.”

“I do too,” said Edgar. “At least I thought I did. But he’s so angry. I hadn’t expected that. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps I didn’t realize that what I’d put him through had damaged him so deeply.”

“What did you put him through?” I asked. “Why does he hate you so much?”

Edgar sighed. He made a tent of his fingers and rested the bridge of his nose against it. “I couldn’t allow Jason to ever feel safe. I couldn’t let him believe that there was anyone to take care of him besides himself. So I wasn’t present in his life when he was growing up. I knew I’d want to help him and save him, and I knew that if I did that, he would only learn to turn to me. So, instead, I kept him on the run. I hired people to shoot at him. I sent him on tactical missions in which his goal was to destroy every threat. I made sure he had the training to kill and to protect himself. I made sure he relied on his wits and his abilities. At the time, I thought it was necessary.” He gestured at me. “I hadn’t counted on you.”

“Me?”

“The counter-balance,” he said. “The shadow. The twin. The consort. You completed Jason and perfectly complemented him. But I’d taught him to be alone and not to trust anyone. If I hadn’t done that, maybe things would have worked out differently.”

I took a sip of my tea. It was hot, but I liked the way it scalded its way into my belly. It felt like fiery energy, waking me up. “Well, he doesn’t trust anyone, even me. He’s kept us all here under mind control. And he won’t let us leave. He says things sometimes about liking to pretend that people actually care about him, but that he realizes that in reality he has to force people to care about him.”

“I care about Jason!” said Lori. “He doesn’t have to force me.”

“I know that,” I said. “But he doesn’t.”

Edgar peered into his tea cup. “This is my fault. I’ve done this. And I don’t know how I’m going to fix it.”

I bit my lip. “Maybe more tea?”

Right then there was a banging noise as the front door to the A-frame was thrust open. We all stood up, our chairs scraping against the kitchen floor, and ran out to the living area to see what had happened.

Garth and Tessa were in the foyer. Garth had Tessa in a headlock. “Take me to see Jason,” he growled.

***

~kieran~

I felt awkward around Eve that morning, and she must have too, because we spent breakfast barely saying anything. There was no sound but the clatter of silverware on plates and Chance yelling, “Duh-duh-duh-duh!” After we ate, I helped with the dishes, but we didn’t do much talking then, either. It was too silent and strained to hang out after eating, so I took Chance for a walk in the neighborhood. We said hi to the other nice Satanists (such a weird concept for me) and watched some wild rabbits hopping around in the yard. I tried to get Chance to say bunny, but with no success. Around that point, Chance started to get cranky, so I took him back to the house and put him down for a nap. I ran into Eve in the hallway afterwards.

She twisted her fingers together in front of her body and stared at them. “We can’t avoid each other, you know. If what happened last night was weird, we should figure out how to get over it.”

I felt bad about how nervous she seemed. “Come on, Eve. So things got a little out of hand last night. We’re adults. We can handle it.”

“Exactly,” she said. “No big deal.” She took a deep breath.

“It’s not like I’m not attracted to you. It’s just that—”

“You have a girlfriend,” she said. “I get it.” She patted me on the shoulder and pushed past me, heading down the steps to the lower level of the house.

It wasn’t that simple. Yeah, there was Zaza to think about. I really cared about her. I was devoted to her. I kept telling myself that. And I guessed it was natural to have little tingles for hot blondes when I hadn’t seen Zaza in a long time. But if it was only that, I was sure I could have handled it. I would have been able to explain away what I was feeling for Eve and move forward. The problem was that I felt like my relationship with Zaza had been over for a long time. Maybe since last year in Columbus, in fact, which was funny, because that was when it started. Now that I knew everything that Azazel had ever felt for me, I felt sort of cheated. I wanted a girlfriend who wanted me as much as I wanted her. And knowing how little she wanted me sort of made me want her less. It was confusing. “I might never see her again,” I called after Eve, who was heading down the stairs to the lower level of the house.

She paused on the steps, one foot lower than the other, and looked back at me. “So, out of sight, out of mind? That’s what you’re saying?”

I caught up with her on the steps. “No. I’m saying that I’m in kind of a strange situation here. If Zaza were here, and I could give her back her memories, I can guarantee that she and I would be reevaluating a lot of things. But she’s not here. And no one you’ve sent looking for her has been able to find her. So I can’t exactly reevaluate anything with her. You know?”

Eve started back down the steps. “Not really, Kieran. Are you saying that you want to break up with her, but you can’t? Because forgive me if that sounds like the same kind of line married men use on their mistresses.”

Was that what I was saying? When she put it like that, it sounded so final. I started down the steps after her. “I’m not trying to feed you lines at all. I’m not that kind of guy.”

Eve laughed. “When it comes to getting laid, there’s only one kind of guy.” She walked into the living room.

I stood in the doorway. “That’s not true.”

Eve spread her hands. “It’s not a big deal, Kieran. I want you to be straight with me. You want some company. You don’t think it means anything. That’s fine. You don’t have to lie to me about trying to leave your girlfriend.”

“That is not what I’m saying.” I strode into the living room and faced her. “I’m not saying I’ve never had no-strings-attached sex, but I’m not the kind of person who’d do something like that when I’m in a relationship.”

Eve folded her arms over her chest. “You were just saying that your relationship is kind of on the weird side lately.”

I sighed. “Look, all I’m saying is that I’m not trying to get in your pants.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Right.” Eve crossed the distance between us in two steps. She ran her hands over my chest and stomach, letting one hand trail lower. She arched an eyebrow. “Not trying to get in my pants, huh?”

I snatched her hand away. “That is not fair. If you come up to me and start doing… I mean, of course, I’m going to…” I turned away from her. “What is it with you, anyway? Why are you convinced that I couldn’t, you know, like you?”

“I think you like me. I like you too. All I’ve been trying to say is that it doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can just be fun.”

I turned back to her. “You keep saying stuff about how guys aren’t into you and how it’s okay for things not to mean anything. What if I wanted things to mean something?”

She flounced away from me and sat down on the couch. “You’re a guy. Get real.”

“That’s not fair.”

She sighed, inspecting her fingernails. “It’s just that in my experience, guys are only interested in one thing, and it’s not having a big, meaningful relationship.”

“Is that what happened with Cameron? Did you guys have a one-night stand that went badly?”

Eve didn’t look at me. “Cameron’s, um, gay.”

I sat down on the couch next to her. “What?” Here I thought she was really into him.

“Yeah,” she said. “Really gay.” She sank further into the couch. “And even after I found that out, I still wanted him. Couldn’t stop thinking about him. I’m pathetic.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not a big deal,” she said. “Look, ever since my high school boyfriend Darius turned out to be a cheating bastard, I’ve had a string of bad relationships. Okay, most of them weren’t exactly relationships. I kept hoping they’d turn into relationships, but the guys were always into keeping things ‘casual.'” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, when I met Cameron, he seemed so different. He was considerate and polite and nice. So, I let him move in here. I thought things were maybe going someplace. And then he told me he was gay.”

I tried to reconcile this new knowledge with Azazel’s memories of Cameron. “Cameron never seemed gay.”

She gave me a strange look for a minute, and then understanding flooded her features. “I forgot that you have all of Azazel’s memories for a minute. I couldn’t figure out how you knew him. Anyway, I think he was trying to hide it in high school. I don’t think he even wanted to admit it to himself. I mean, this is West Virginia, after all. People around here would not have been cool. Heck, most of the coven doesn’t even know. Cameron kind of liked letting them think we were together.”

“You’d think Satanists would be cool with homosexuality.”

“Not redneck Satanists,” said Eve.

I considered what she’d told me. “Well, that sucks. I’m sorry. But at least I know that you’re not just trying to use me to distract yourself from Cameron.”

“How do you know I’m not?” she said. “I still have a crush on him.”

“Okay,” I said. “But he’s not into you for obvious reasons, so it’s not really a conflict of interest for me.”

She smiled tightly. “You and Zaza, however…”

I looked away. “You’re right. The whole thing is complicated.”

She put her hand on my knee. “It doesn’t have to be complicated.”

I turned back to gaze into her blue eyes. She was so stunning. I hesitated there for a minute. Then I got up. “But it is complicated.” I left the living room.

***

~joan~

I felt like I’d been searching for Jason for hours. I really didn’t know how long it had been. It was midmorning, I thought. The sun was climbing into the sky. Garth had gone completely insane. He was demanding to see Jason. The only problem was that we didn’t know where Jason was. I’d been through every room of his house. There was no sign of him. I’d searched the river bank and the fields. No Jason. I was currently crashing through the woods behind Jasontown, screaming Jason’s name over and over, and hoping he’d hear me. But I was beginning to suspect that he didn’t want to be found.

I leaned against the trunk of a tree, feeling defeated. God knew what Garth was going to do to Tessa. I couldn’t figure out what had come over him, but it had to have something to do with being locked up in that basement for so long. He’d come mentally unhinged. I needed to find Jason, because he was the only person who could stop Garth and make things right. But I was going to have to face the facts. I didn’t know where he was. I was going to have to go back to the A-frame and tell everyone that Jason was gone.

I threw my head back and yelled his name one last time.

There was a slight stirring in the underbrush behind me. I turned, expecting to see a small animal, but instead Jason was walking towards me. “All right, already. I’m here.”

I was so relieved that I threw my arms around him. “You’re here. I’m so glad.”

He didn’t hug me back. “I’m here. What’s going on?”

“It’s Garth,” I said, pulling away from him.

He gave me a blank look.

“The guy who I had you release from the basement underneath the guard’s quarters,” I said. “He’s gone nuts. He’s demanding to see you.”

Jason didn’t appear very concerned. “Maybe he went nuts. Or maybe he was working for the OF all along, and I was right to lock him up.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “He seems really off balance. He’s trying to hurt his sister, Tessa.”

Jason shrugged.

“Jason, you have to stop him!” I said.

Jason pulled a leaf off of one of the trees surrounding us and studied it. “I don’t have to do anything.”

“He’s going to hurt Tessa.”

“So?” said Jason, still looking at the leaf.

“So, she’s my friend.”

Jason tossed the leaf on the ground. “I think you have me mixed up with someone who gives a damn.” He started past me, walking deeper into the forest. “Leave me alone.”

He was just going to leave? No. I wouldn’t let him. “Jason!” I shrieked. “If you don’t come with me now, I will leave you, and I will never speak to you again.”

He stopped walking. I could see his shoulders heave as he took a huge breath. He turned around. “Okay, okay. Take me to see this Garth guy.”

Garth met us at the doorway to the A-frame. Tessa was still with him, only now he’d managed to get a gun from one of the guards. Several of them were lying on the ground bleeding. I didn’t think they were dead, but I couldn’t be sure.

I expected Jason to register some kind of emotion at the sight of his wounded guards, but he didn’t. Instead, he folded his arms over his chest. “You’re Garth, I guess.”

Garth shoved Tessa away from him. He leveled his gun at Jason. “Guess again.”

Jason shot me a look. “You did say his name was Garth, right?”

Garth grinned. He looked absolutely insane. “It’s a body, Jason. Practically nothing more than a husk. It wasn’t hard for me to take over.”

So wait. Someone else was controlling Garth’s body? What?

Garth used the gun to scratch his head. “You know,” he said to Jason and me, “I never really did get the chance to thank the two of you for ruining my life.”

Jason and I exchanged a glance, both of us confused.

“So,” said Garth. “Thanks. Thanks for getting my foster parents killed and unleashing me back into the system and taking me away from the only family I ever knew.” He smiled at me. “Especially you, sis.”

Jason cocked his head to the side. “Cameron?”

This book is being posted on Mondays and Thursdays between 7/4/2011 and 9/5/2011. To access other chapters, check out the Between Posts Archive, here.