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The Struggle

The Struggle

Page 4

Gable burst out from the kitchen, his face pale. Fear pierced my heart, because he lived here—lived where the ground shook often—and if he was freaked out, we should be freaked out.

My wide gaze met Alex’s.

“Holy shit!” Deacon grabbed the banister, holding on as the entire house seemed to shake from its foundation.

Dust plumed into the air. A light above the door popped. Sparks flew. The thick, reinforced glass of the double doors slipped free and broke into pieces on the floor.

“This is bad, so bad.” Alex gripped Aiden’s arm as pieces of plaster dropped from the ceiling, smashing onto the tiles.

I darted to the side as another large chunk of the ceiling came down. The opulent, sparkling chandelier crashed into the floor and shattered.

Then the floor split right open.

Luke shouted as he hooked an arm around Deacon’s waist, yanking him away from the staircase. I swallowed a scream as a deep rift split the grand room, from the broken doors straight across the atrium, cutting through the scorched spot where Atlas was laid to waste. A chasm in the floor formed, several feet wide.

The shaking eased off and then the world stilled again.

“Gods,” muttered Aiden, keeping one hand on Alex’s shoulder as he knocked back several strands of wavy dark hair.

Heart pounding, I turned to the rift in the floor and took a slow, small step toward it.

“Be careful,” Gable warned. “The floor is unstable—this entire house is probably unstable right now.”

“Is this . . . is this normal?” I asked, lifting my gaze to his. “Earthquakes do this?”

Before I could answer, a strange scent filled the air. Not propane or the burning smell of electricity—scents that would be expected. No. I wrinkled my nose. It was a musty, damp, and dank smell. Like rich, undisturbed soil and decaying roots.

My heart tumbled over.

It reminded me of the way the shades smelled.

“I have a really bad feeling about this,” Alex said.

Aiden took a step back from the rift, pulling her with him as Deacon gasped out, “No shit.”

“I think we should leave,” Gable announced, walking backward, toward the kitchen. “I really think we should just leave.”

Movement stirred from the break in the ground. It sounded like rocks falling, bouncing off one another. Air caught in my lungs as a faint shiver skated over my skin, and instinct roared to the surface, forcing me to step back before I even realized what I was doing.

Silence fell, and the only thing I could hear was the pounding of my heart. A dirt-stained hand appeared, reaching out from the chasm and smacking down on the broken tile.

Chapter 3

Something or someone was hauling itself out of the hole in the floor and that had “nope” written all over it. Nothing good could be climbing out from deep within the ground. I’d seen enough horror films to know that.

Spinning around, I scanned the floor for the dagger I’d dropped and couldn’t see it in the mess that covered the tiles.

Crap.

Alex stepped to the side, blocking Gable, and her stance widened, shoulders squared. Even though she wore nothing more than leggings and a tank top, she looked badass and ready—prepared for anything. Alex was a demigod now, but she was first and foremost a Sentinel.

The same went for Aiden and Luke. They took up the same stance, effectively continuing to force Deacon and Gable behind them.

I saw all of this because somehow I was on the other side of the chasm.

Another hand appeared and then a head—a dirt-covered bald head broke the surface, and I distantly heard someone gag.

“Oh my gods,” I whispered, eyes widening with horror.

Ripped and flayed skin peeled back from the head. Entire chunks of skin were missing from the hollowed cheeks. The skin on the arms was no better. Strips of flesh hung from the chest. One of the eyes was nothing more than an empty, rotten socket, and some kind of cloth was wrapped around its hips, a cloth that might’ve been white and pristine at one time, but was now covered in mud and singed with soot.

The scent of sulfur misted the room.

The one good eye met mine, and its iris was a milky blue.

“Holy daimon babies,” whispered Alex. “Is that a zombie? Like a real zombie?”

“That wasn’t an earthquake.” Aiden reached to his hip, but he was empty-handed. They’d been sleeping and had come downstairs with no daggers.

“I think that’s obvious,” Deacon muttered from behind Luke.

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