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   Chapter 17 Quickening Cassie Wilson Book 1

Quickening By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 27769

Updated: 2018-03-14 10:49


Chapter 17

Cassie lay awake in bed staring at the ceiling and wondering about her dream. Was it a dream? Normally, she would say it was a dream and think nothing of it. However in the past few days, lots of things that seemed vaguely dream-like actually occurred in her reality.

The things you see are real.

Her grandfather's note warned her. 'He also said the things I saw in the next few weeks would be strange.' She thought. 'That dream sure counted as strange.' She yawned, feeling even more tired than when she went to sleep. She closed her eyes and curled onto her side, snuggling beneath the covers and counting slowly in her head, trying to push away the thoughts of the dream and strange events until she woke.

'I'll be better rested, ' she thought groggily, already drifting back to sleep. 'Think better then.'

The morning light filtering in through her windows was feeble and gray making it seemed earlier than it was according to the clock. It was close enough to her normal waking time to get up and Cassie slid out of bed. Her muscles were sore and her eyes felt gritty. She knew she could place the blame for her sore muscles on her own activities. Somehow knowing she was responsible for her own misery didn't make her feel any better.

'It'll fade as I get used to the extra activity, ' she thought. She stumbled to the bathroom, uncertain who she could blame for the tiredness she felt behind her eyes. She didn't stay up terribly late and slept tolerably well. 'Except for that weird dream, ' she mentally reminded herself. In the daylight, however wan and feeble that daylight was, the idea that her dreams had some basis in reality seemed exceedingly far-fetched.

Deciding that she would feel better, less hollow and more awake, with breakfast in her stomach, Cassie decided that her practice exercises could wait for a bit. Still in her pajamas, Cassie unlocked her bedroom door and went into the kitchen. As soon as she entered the open space of the main living area, Cassie felt her skin prickle. The feeling of being watched returned. She tried to ignore it, instead moving to the back door and shifting the curtain to the side to peer out of the small window as though studying the weather. There was a fine trembling in her fingers that she hoped no one noticed.

Outside the sky was gunmetal gray and fat drops of rain were just beginning to plop onto the stones of the garden pathways. Cassie glanced down at the door lock and was unsurprised to see the back door unlocked, despite locking it when she came in from her running and archery practice and checking it before bed. She left the lock alone and moved away from the door.

"Good day for oatmeal, " she told herself, ignoring the prickling sensation and the hairs lifting on the back of her neck. She pulled the container of oats from the cabinet and set it on the counter. She gathered the pot she wanted and began to set the oats onto the stove. Today she made the oatmeal with milk instead of water. Once it was set up, she moved to the fridge to take out her jar of apple compote. Opening the jar filled the kitchen with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg. Cassie took a deep sniff and set the jar on the counter. She placed an empty bowl beside it and stirred her slowly cooking oatmeal.

As she stirred, Cassie thought of Enki and how in class he claimed that offerings of cinnamon helped to call him and others like him. She thought it strange. She was willing to admit she liked cinnamon as much as the next person, but she didn't see how it would call someone who thought he was some sort of ancient god. That was just strange.

'Of course he sniffed Sarah in the store, ' Cassie remembered. She thought of his scrunched up face of disgust. 'Skadi asked him if I smelled of the gates. Maybe he's got a thing for smells.' She thought, slowly stirring the pot. Her thoughts bounced to her dream. 'If it was real, ' she thought, dismissing how ridiculous the thought made her feel. 'Maybe that's why they are here. If the concession stand was a gate and I opened it, then I would smell like the gates. Except that I wasn't actually there.' She wondered if her body would smell like the gates if only her mind was there. 'Because even if the dream was real I didn't physically leave the house.'

When the oatmeal was ready, Cassie scooped it into a bowl and wondered if even now someone was sniffing her the way she sniffed the compote. The thought made her queasy. Cassie fixed her bowl and moved to the breakfast bar to eat. The feeling of being watched was an almost physical pressure on her skin. She wondered where they were, but dared not look around to see if she could spot foot prints in the carpet pile. She wondered how many there were, but again without seeing the foot prints, she couldn't tell. She tried not to think about what would happen if they decided she smelled of the gates. Instead Cassie, calmly and quietly ate her breakfast, forcing it past the lump of dread in her belly.

When she was done, Cassie moved to the sink, washed out her bowl, spoon and all cooking utensils. She put everything away and wiped down the counter. While she ate and then tidied, she plotted out her next moves. Satisfied everything was in its place, Cassie walked back to the bedroom. She left her bedroom door open and moved to her closet. She retrieved a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a sweater along with clean underwear and thick socks. She then took a deep steadying breath and stepped out of the closet. She turned and spotted three sets of foot shaped indentations in her carpet. She ignored them trying not to think about who the third person could be, moved to the bathroom, stepped inside and closed and locked her bathroom door.

Even though the bathroom floor was tiled and therefore no footprints could be seen, the sense of being watched faded and Cassie was almost positive she was alone. Despite that, it took every ounce of courage she had to turn on the shower and strip off her pajamas. Cassie tried to steady her breathing as she took the fastest shower she could, hating being naked with other not so friendly people in the house. She just hoped that her shampoo and body wash rinsed off any possible scent of the gates she might have remaining from her dream.

Once clean, she dressed quickly and wrapped her wet hair up in a towel. She felt infinitely better with her clothes back on. Somehow, even knowing she was alone, she expected someone to attack her once she was naked and clearly defenseless. Cassie towel dried her hair and hung the damp towel on the hook on the back of the door. She flipped her head back and her wet hair slapped her back.

'Make bread and cake, ' Cassie reminded herself of her plan as she combed out her wet locks and left them to dry. 'Then read or watch television or something until they are gone. If they are just here to sniff me, it can't take long.' Cassie swallowed her own fear. If they did smell the gates on her, Cassie had the feeling she wouldn't get through her cake or her bread recipe, let alone anything else. She remembered the look of rage on Enki's face in her dream and began to shake.

'Stop it, ' she ordered herself. 'They didn't attack during breakfast and they had ample time to study and smell me then. I just have to play normal and they'll go away.' Her quivering subsided, at least externally. Cassie reached for the doorknob and opened the bathroom door. 'I also need to stay away from my parent's side of the house, ' she reminded herself remembering their collection made Enki and Skadi wonder about her.

She took a deep breath like a diver about to submerge and stepped into her bedroom. She moved her pajamas to her clothes hamper. "Need to do laundry later, " she said to herself, adding it to her, 'normal things to do on a Sunday, ' list. Cassie walked to her armoire and pulled out her cake book and her bread book. She closed the armoire and moved back to the kitchen with her books. The prickling sensation returned as soon as she stepped out of the bathroom and Cassie tried to ignore it.

"Need sandwich bread for the week, " Cassie told herself, and whoever was listening as she set her books on the kitchen island. She opened the bread book, the book fallin

pted her plans for the weekend. By contrast, Enki had a look of intense study on his face. It wasn't as dark and twisted as the rage she saw in her dream, but it was still frightening. There was nothing remaining of the teasing flirt. His black eyes were hard and cold, more like coal than chocolate. The third visitor made her sag with relief. Her greatest fear, the one she wouldn't even let herself think about, was that the third set of prints belonged to Erra and that once Enki smelled the gates on her, Erra would be set loose to finish what he started in the parking lot.

It wasn't Erra.

It was Oliver Dana.

Unlike the other two, he looked amused and not the least bit put out.

Cassie sank down onto the bed and studied the picture, her thoughts swirling wildly. Why was Oliver Dana with the other two? She tried to work it out, speaking softly so she wouldn't be overheard, even though she didn't think anyone else was in the house with her.

"If the dream was real then all of those dreams like that were real; Skadi and Enki with his minions, the barroom and the lamp posts. If it's real, then I opened a gate. So even if they don't like each other, it might affect them all. And if it affects them all, then they might team up. Maybe." Cassie didn't like where this was going, but forced herself to continue drawing out the logic.

"If there are opposing sides and this was that important to them, Mr. Dana might be some sort of representative from the other side to make sure no one was lying." From what she learned, trust didn't seem to really exist between them. Skadi and Enki seemed to be more in the group with Mr. Babbin and most everyone, Skadi and Enki included, believed he was a liar.

"At least they didn't look like they were getting ready to attack, " she mused. Cassie looked at her phone.

Thinking the audio, if it was recorded, might actually be easier to hear with her earphones on, she retrieved her mp3 player and took the headphones from them, inserting it into the headset jack in her phone.

'Plus this way, I'm the only one who'll hear it.' Somehow she didn't think that people who went to all that trouble to conceal themselves would like the thought of an eavesdropper to their conversations. Cassie took a deep breath to steady herself and pressed play. Her own voice boomed out and she winced. She listed to the sounds of running water and dishes being washed. She heard nothing out of the ordinary and, as the camera was pointed at the ceiling, the view was no more enlightening. She heard herself debating about whether to eat the cake or wait and heard a low chuckle of amusement as one of the watchers laughed. She thought it might be Oliver Dana.

Cassie sucked in a breath and waited as she heard her own footsteps receding.

"Well, that settles it then, " Dana said. "It wasn't her." The voice was soft and Cassie cranked up the volume as much as she was able.

"Because she wants to enter a cake baking competition?" Skadi replied scornfully, apparently forgetting she mocked Cassie for liking cupcakes a week earlier.

"It could be her, " Enki said. His voice was flatly serious, causing Cassie to shiver and wrap her arms around herself for comfort.

"Did she smell of the gates?" Dana asked.

"No, " Enki replied sullenly.

"She wasn't in the district last night." Dana said. His voice was flat, matter of fact.

"You can't be sure of that, " Enki replied, but didn't sound terribly certain.

There was a heavy sigh she thought might have come from Dana.

"If she was and managed to elude your search, racing home to reach here before we came to check, jumping into bed to fool us into thinking she was asleep the whole time, she would have needed her vehicle. When we got here the vehicle's hood was cold and it was clear it hadn't been driven in the last few hours." Dana pointed out. "We all checked."

"True, " Enki agreed grudgingly. "But there were Walkers who could trigger the gates remotely."

"There were, " Dana replied, conceding the point. "But they were few and far between, and those with the skill developed it after years of discipline and walking the gates. Our Cassandra isn't old enough to enter an adult baking competition and, I think we can all agree, she's had no training let alone years of practice and discipline."

"That's true, " Skadi said sounding thoughtful. "She's too young."

Cassie frowned as Skadi said something that wasn't in English. She thought it might be some sort of swear word and wondered if it was ancient Norse profanity.

"We've been looking in the wrong place, " Skadi continued in English sounding annoyed. "If she's in her final year of school, we need to look at those who left school last year or even the year before." She made a sound of disgust. "What a waste of time."

With the volume turned all the way up, the scrape of the back door opening was almost deafening and Cassie winced. "Does this mean I get to play with college girls?" Enki asked, his tone once again teasing, seriousness dismissed. The door closed. The metal latch clicking sounded like a gunshot. Cassie turned the volume down and pulled the ear phones off, ending the video. From the sound of things, they decided she wasn't a Walker and wasn't responsible for the opening of the gate the night before. It sounded like they planned to look elsewhere.

"I don't care what the book says about balancing all three spheres, " Cassie said still shivering. "I'm not harmonizing any resonance for a while."

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