Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Twenty-Six
On her second inspection of the room, Paige realized other kids that she didn’t recognize were also there. Probably shipped from some other place, she reasoned, but clearly equally affected. It was sad to see so many victims of this never-ending virus.
Not wanting to appear paranoid, she remained calm even though she felt like she was being watched. Turning, she discovered why.
AJ’s gorgeous eyes were zoomed in on her.
Her heart fluttered of its own accord as she watched him studying her.
He doesn’t look sick…he’s even smiling at me, she thought with a surge of hope.
She was ashamed to admit that his behavior still made her blush, even though the world was basically ending. But hormones could do that to a girl—or, in this case, AJ.
“Are you okay?” Paige asked as she approached him. He still stared blankly at her with that same trademark smile across his lips.
He didn’t reply, simply continued to do his thing—which was nothing but an unwavering stare softened with a smile.
* * *
Paige had walked into the room, AJ realized, shocked to see her again. Then he frowned, concentrating on what a part of him was sure was an apparition.
Was it really her or was he hallucinating?
“Take your Seedling.”
She was really there because Francis started acting out again.
Good to know. AJ was somewhat pleased he hadn’t completely lost all his marbles.
I feel like we already did this song and dance, Francis. You say I need to take her in an ominous yet highly fake voice, and I counter with something witty while declining, AJ replied, bored by the repetition.
“There will be consequences.”
Go to hell, Francis.
“We will find and punish you.”
Do your best, Francis. It can’t be worse than being forced to listen to your boring voice all day long.
“Come to your senses, AJ, and take her.”
I’m calling your bluff and I’m ready for you. So, come and get me if you can, AJ shouted internally, and looking at Paige across the room, he knew he was making the right decision.
She started walking toward him, and he was glad Francis had gone once again—probably off pouting somewhere—because he didn’t want an audience.
* * *
“AJ, have you seen Willow?” Paige asked. Then, realizing how stupid her question was, wanted to smack herself across the forehead.
He barely even knows who I am. Why would he know who my little sister is?
“My sister, Willow—have you seen her?” Paige clarified, like that would make any difference.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a small movement. A head turned at the name and instantly, she knew it was her.
It was her sister Willow, and she beamed at Paige.
“Yeah, she’s right over there,” AJ replied, gesturing and startling her a little. She had already moved, not even aware whether she thanked him or not.
Unable to contain herself, she hugged her sister tightly. Eventually, clearly impatient to share something, Willow tried to end it.
Paige, however, couldn’t let her go.
“Paige, let me breathe. I’m not sick, but I will be broken if you carry on hugging me this hard.” Willow tried to reassure her. “I have my bracelet on.”
Paige frowned. What bracelet?
Willow raised one of her hands and sure enough, there was a delicate-looking thing around her wrist. Paige wondered where she got it—from whom and why.
“Paige,” Willow exclaimed. “Guess what? I’m glowing gold, just like you.”
That did the trick, and Paige loosened her hold so she could look her sister in the eyes.
Fear built inside her heart as Paige tried to allow Willow’s words to sink in.
Again with that golden glow.
She looked at her own hands and the golden glow she’d seen all day was unmistakable.
Have I entered some delusional stage of the virus? she wondered, panicking. She immediately dismissed that thought because Willow looked normal.
It was simply the things she said that made no sense.
I’m totally the delusional one?
“What?” Paige managed to choke out. She didn’t really want the answer to that question but couldn’t stop herself from asking nevertheless.
“Brooke brought these and says we have to wear them—to keep them away,” she explained in a rush. “Hurry, put it on,” Willow urged, handing her a bracelet with honey-gold gems embedded in it.
“Who are they?” Paige asked.
“The things in the shadows. Like Mom used to protect us from. The golden glow helps the things in the shadows find us, but the bracelet stops that,” Willow whispered conspiratorially, but that made no sense to Paige.
“No, Paige.” Willow rebelled, clearly guessing what she wanted to say. “Please…please, do this for me,” she pleaded.
Paige simply continued to stare at the thing like it was radioactive or something equally dangerous.
Nervously, Willow looked around and then back at Paige, clearly impatient.
Wanting to indulge her, Paige slipped it on and instantly, the tension eased from her little sister.
Paige’s golden aura faded.
Willow chuckled. “Watch.” She smiled as she removed her own bracelet. Suddenly, a golden aura appeared all around her. Willow’s skin was sparkling like she was dusted with gold, and Paige was surprised and horrified at the same time to notice how her sister had never looked happier.
It was the same as Tatyana’s and even hers, but it was definitely more prominent.
Simply put, everything about Willow was shining back at her, and Paige had never been that scared in her entire life.
Not when that woman tried to kill her on the road, or even when she got the first phone call from her dad telling her about the world ending. But seeing her sister, here and now, did that for Paige.
Willow slipped the bracelet back on quickly and just like that, returned to looking like her little sister once again.
What the heck is happening here?
She didn’t know who to ask for the answer.
Paige paused for a moment, trying to take it in, and AJ walked over to them. He paused, smiling.
“AJ, you are not sick anymore,” she exclaimed in wonder, because the last time she’d seen him, he was carried out of the school on a gurney.
He raised his arm and on his wrist was the same amber bracelet Willow and Paige had on.
“Your sister hooked me up,” he explained, high-fiving Willow. “I’m all better now. I don’t think I had the same virus as everyone else. They gave me the all clear.” AJ nodded over to the guards.
Paige was glad.
Willow came closer to whisper in her ear. “I knew he was your boyfriend so I gave him one as well.”
Paige went completely red because, by the way AJ tried not to laugh, it was obvious he’d heard every word of it.
Please, God, kill me now.
“How is this possible?” she asked them, touching the foreign object on her arm.
AJ simply shrugged. “How is any of it possible?” He must have been glowing as well.
And, in a way, he was right.
“Look, the most important thing is that we are all right.”
Paige looked around the room again. “Is River better? I’ve tried calling her but got no answer.” She looked back at AJ, hoping he’d have the answer and he did.
“She’s in another room. They…took the infected—those that were getting worse—into another room. They were trying to bite people.” AJ gulped.
“Yeah, Stage Two,” AJ repeated somberly.
“My bracelet didn’t work on River,” Willow admitted. Paige pulled her little sister in for a hug.
“I have to go and get my mom but then we can all go and meet up with dad. He has a plan.” Paige hedged, not wanting to share everything.
“I’m coming with you,” Willow replied.
“No, Willow, I think you should stay here. It’s too dangerous outside.” Paige tried to reason with her, remembering all she went through simply to get to Fort Hamilton. And if Willow was with her, everything would be so much more difficult.
“But I don’t want to stay here.”
“I will look after her,” AJ offered, and Paige was grateful.
“Thank you.” She turned toward Willow, putting her hand on her sisters’ shoulder. “I promise that I will be back as soon as I can.”
Reluctantly, Willow nodded.
“Please be careful, okay, and don’t take the bracelet off,” Willow warned.
“I promise,” Paige replied instantly, giving her one last hug.
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