Chasing Freedom is the second book of the Salvation Triad, following Escaping Paradise.
Alyssa’s fight to free Jon from the seductive hold of Cobalt continues. She must now also contend with his other personality, Jonah.
Enjoy this preview from Chapter 1.
She was aware of Jon getting up. As Alyssa heard him leave the room, she rolled over and went back to sleep, expecting that he’d return in a few moments. At some later point, Alyssa woke as she reached for Jon and found his side of the bed empty. She sat up and looked around, wondering where he had gone.
Jon stood by the window, the curtains pushed to one side to reveal a view of the city at night. He leaned against the window frame, his arms crossed, his face in the shadows. He didn’t seem to realize that she was awake.
“Jon? Are you alright?” Alyssa asked, concerned.
“You should go back to sleep,” he answered. His voice sounded distant and tired.
Jon sighed heavily and turned to face her for a moment. His face was nearly hidden in the darkness, light from the window illuminating only his most prominent features. “Really, just go back to sleep.”
In her half-asleep mind, something seemed off. Jon sounded distant, but there was more. Alyssa shivered, fear tickling at the back of her mind.
“Yeah,” came the reply.
“Where’s Jon?” she asked nervously.
“He’s sleeping. You should be sleeping, too. Leave me alone. Go back to sleep. I’m not doing anything. I just wanted to get up for a while.”
She watched him. He did not move. He stood silently, looking out the window. His voice didn’t sound dangerous, as it had before. “He sounds,” Alyssa’s mind reached for the word to describe the tone, providing her with, “sad.”
“Do you want to talk about what’s troubling you?” she offered. “You are going to get yourself killed one of these days, idiot. Why aren’t you screaming for help?” her thoughts rebuked her.
Jonah snorted. “You don’t care. Don’t waste my time with stupid questions. I don’t have a lot of it left.”
Alyssa blinked in the darkness. What could he be talking about? Was there something about Jon’s health she didn’t know that was going to take him away from her?
“Are you sick?” she asked, worry filling her voice.
“No, I’m not sick. Neither is Jon since that’s who you’re worried about. But I know that the way things are going, I don’t have a lot of time left before I’ll be erased from existence. I’d like to spend a few minutes of it to myself if you don’t mind.”
“Jonah…” her heart wrung with pain at the sadness in his voice. At the same time, her mind screamed at her. “What is wrong with me? Jonah, the crazy man with the scalpel, is going to go away! This is a good thing!” Even with the validity of her thoughts, she worried about Jonah. She wrestled with the unexpected internal conflict. She was terrified of Jonah, so why did she feel this aching sense of compassion at his sadness?
Jonah ignored her and continued gazing out the window.
“Jonah, why do you think you’re going to be erased?”
At that, Jonah turned away from the window and looked over at her. He remained silent at first as if weighing whether to respond or not. When he did, he sounded defeated and broken.
“While you were asleep this afternoon, he called my brother. He promised to call the doctor tomorrow and start seeing him, to get rid of me. He said he’s doing it for you so you can be safe.” Jonah’s voice began to take on the hateful, dangerous edge Alyssa remembered.
“I hate you. You’re the reason he’s doing all this.” His voice dropped to the familiar, sneering growl. “If you hadn’t shown up, I’d have been back in control by now. Instead, Jon is going to win. He’s going to erase me. I can’t even take over and get away because that rich kid has set guards everywhere and they won’t let me leave. It’s your fault. You’re a liar, as bad as Diva, and he can’t even see it.”
Hearing Jonah sound more like the version of Jonah she’d encountered at Cobalt spurred Alyssa out of her emotional and mental conflict. She didn’t care how angry Jonah was or whether he liked her or not. Being compared to Diana was a step too far. “I am not a liar. I’m certainly not like her.”
“You lied to me,” he said flatly. The accusation fell into the air between them like charges read at the start of a trial.
“I’ve only spoken a few words to you. When did I lie?” Alyssa couldn’t think of anything she’d said that could even be twisted to be a lie.
“You said it’s the person, not the name. You lied.” Jonah pushed away from the window frame as he spoke, taking a couple of steps toward her. “It’s the name, and it’s the other person. You want to save Jon. You want Jon to see a therapist. You want Jon to be your boyfriend. You don’t give a damn about me, and you know it.” He gestured angrily as he spoke.
The conflict spun back through Alyssa’s mind. “Jonah is Jon,” she thought. “Jonah was his name first, but aren’t they the same person? Though, if they are the same person, why are they so different? Why do they hate one another so much?” She didn’t know enough about the identity disorder to understand or to help her mind and heart as they struggled to reconcile the two distinct names and behavior patterns with one another.
“Jonah…” she started but paused.
“Don’t,” he spat at her. “Just don’t.” He returned to his post at the window, taking up his previous posture.
Alyssa sat quietly, her mind chanting at her. “Jonah is Jon. Jon is Jonah. If she loved Jon, … If Jonah is Jon…. If Jon is Jonah…” The understanding was just out of reach, frustrating her. “Jonah is dangerous,” she reminded herself. “Jonah is the reason I have a giant purple blotch on my face, stitches on my arm, and two broken bones!” Her thoughts looped back again, like a music track on repeat. “But if Jonah is Jon…. If Jon is Jonah….”
She flipped the blanket back and turned on the lamp. Crossing the room, Alyssa stood beside Jonah. She said nothing. She just stood there, looking out at the city with him. She didn’t know what to do, but she didn’t want to leave him standing there alone feeling like this was one of his last nights alive, either.
Alyssa felt a quiet sense of compassion for Jonah as she grasped that Jonah was the one who had been so broken that Jon had emerged. Jon held Jonah’s humanity, his gentleness. Understanding crept softly into her mind carrying a brilliant flame of insight. “Jon is Jonah’s broken heart.”