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Authors: Kristen Day

Forsaken

BOOK: Forsaken
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Forsaken

Daughters of the Sea Trilogy #1

 

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Kristen Day

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction.  All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are a product of the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Kristen Day.  All rights reserved.

 

Dedicated to Mom and Stacy for

supporting my wild and crazy dreams.

Prologue

17 years ago

 

“I don’t know if I can
do this, my love.” Looking at her, he tried to muster the same strength within himself he saw shining in her wise, beautiful eyes.  She was so strong, so poised.  Only someone who’d spent a lifetime with her would see the depth of her pain within the slight lines framing her eyes.

“It is
for the best – this is the only way,” she whispered, as she lowered the large basket onto the porch. Then louder with a resolve coming from deep within, “It shall come to pass.” 

She took a small step back from the front door of the town police station with what seemed to be a great deal of effort.  Her eyes closed and her head bent forward as a single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. 

He watched as the night air swirled around, and then through her hair, lifting it from her shoulders as if to caress her sadness away.  With the silver moon high in the clear sky, the rest of the town was fast asleep.  The 2:00 hour was approaching fast and even the stars seemed to shine with urgency.  Time was almost up.

Looking back
down at their precious delivery, he took a deep breath, inhaling the rich aroma of the sweet grass woven into the basket. He hoped in vain it would be successful in warding off evil.  Kneeling down carefully, he unfolded the overflowing layers of silk and velvet blankets.  The piercing blue eyes that looked back up at him took his breath away.  Swirling with all the colors of a Caribbean lagoon, they watched him intently.  As if guessing what had to happen next.

His words caught in his throat as his tears threatened to spill over. He swallowed and tried again to say the words
he needed to say, “My precious baby girl.  You are my moon, my stars, and my sky.  You are the very breath that gives me life.  One day an understanding will come.  For now, we must say goodbye.” 

She reached for him and gave him the brightest toothless grin he’d ever seen.  His heart slowly ripped apart, shattering into a million jagged pieces that would never be whole again.
Remembering the braided seaweed bracelet he’d been holding in his hand, he carefully tied it around her tiny left wrist and made sure it was secure.

“This is not goodbye forever,
my sweet girl, only for now.  We love you with all our hearts….” The tears began to spill over and he felt a hand softly touch his shoulder.  She nodded in understanding as he stood up and walked down the steps, unable to stop the overwhelming wave of complete and utter sadness.

He looked on as she
whispered something into the basket, and then kissed their little girl’s cheek with such tenderness it broke his heart all over again.  She folded the soft layers of fabric back to protect their baby from the crisp wind blowing off the ocean, and then slowly stood.  She turned, met his eyes, and walked down the steps to stand by him.  His rock.  His everything.  They would do this together.  Hand in hand, they took one last look at their miracle and walked into the shadows, leaving no trace they were ever there.

Chapter 1

Present day

 

I registered the icy cold first – a slow, painstaking ache felt all the way down to my soul.  The realization that I was swimming at a dangerous depth came next, followed by an absolute and suffocating panic. The pressure around my body had become utterly relentless, and my lungs screamed for oxygen.  Suspended in the darkness, I couldn’t see anything except for a thin ribbon of silver appearing in my line of sight.  Slithering side to side, twisting and turning, it taunted me.  I froze as it slowly wrapped around my neck, leaving a trail of icy pin pricks across my bare skin.  It continued down my body – encasing me in fear.  All of the sudden, it tightened with such force that the small amount of the air I did have in my lungs was forced out.  As I heard the sickening crack of bones and felt a paralyzing pain searing through my body, I knew no amount of struggling would help.

Unable to do anything but watch the last of my oxygen bubble up
to the surface above, I tried to come to terms with what was about to happen.  I was going to die. Completely alone and scared, I was going to drown in this darkness.

Unbelievably
, just as quickly as it had locked around me, I was released.  Looking around frantically, I braced myself for another attack, only to find a pair of piercing blue eyes watching me.  The same deep blue eyes I’d seen in so many other dreams glared back at me with something resembling rage.


Why are you here?” I barely heard his next words as my lungs began burning and my vision blurred. “Your soul will never survive.”

He turned abruptly and
my vision cleared just enough to catch a glimpse of the horrors lurking behind him.  Hundreds of silver ribbons quickly morphed and twisted into shadowy human forms.  They turned in my direction in unison and descended upon me.

I bolted upright,
my heart relentlessly hammering against my chest. Warm water surrounded me, but it was of the bubbly, lavender scented sort, not the cold, murky darkness I had just come from.  I was still in my bathtub.  No wonder I had dreamed I was drowning. Shaking my head, I tried to erase the vivid memory of it. Unfortunately those eyes - his eyes - never fade.  They’ve haunted my dreams for years. 

I rolled my eyes
at my own unruly imagination and slid down into the tub, so my head and shoulders were the only things above the thick layer of bubbles.  My heart rate eventually slowed and I began to think straight again.  I closed my eyes and tried to relax…

“Hannah Elizabeth
Whitman!!!”  So much for the slow heart rate. I rocketed back into a sitting position, covering myself with my hands.

“You scared the crap out of me
, Dee!”  Doris Whitman stepped all the way into the steamy bathroom.  The smell of baby powder and freesia followed her in.  She shook her head at me, “You’ve been in there so long I swear I can hear your fingers and toes wrinklin’ up.  Now get washed up and get dressed – we’re gonna be late!” 

             
“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying.” I mumbled as she walked back downstairs, already giving out orders to the rest of the family. 

             
I decided I’d rather hide under the blanket of soapy bubbles and try really hard to disappear into an alternate universe, instead.  Submerging my body completely underwater, a smile crept across my face as the sound of the outside world instantly became muted.  All I could hear was the faint lapping of the water on the sides of the tub, my own beating heart, and a faint melody tickling at my ear drums.  It reminded me of wind chimes blowing in the wind….wait.  Wind chimes?  I listened harder and heard them again; this time louder and something else… like someone singing… 

With ninja-like
speed, I jumped out of the claw foot tub in one swift movement and stared down at the water in shock.  I tried to convince myself I was just hearing things.  There were no wind chimes hiding in my bathtub.  I’d just add that to the long list of weird things that had been happening to me over the last couple of years.  That list was getting way too long for my taste.


I hope all that racket up there is you jumping into your clothes!” She must have sonar for ears or something.

“I’m almost ready!”  I
wrapped a fluffy blue towel around me and padded into my room, doing a quick search of my closet to find something to wear.  The Hartfords had been planning this party for months and according to Dee ‘everybody who’s anybody’ would be in attendance.  Living in the Deep South, Georgia to be exact, I’d become accustomed to Atlanta’s Society and all the trappings (I mean opportunities) that came along with it.  But, I hadn’t always lived here.  The Whitman’s adopted me when I was 13 years old.  They had high hopes that I would turn out to be a perfect southern young lady like their own daughter.  Little did they know I was damaged goods from the very beginning.  No amount of grooming or etiquette classes would change that.  Bouncing around from family to family in the Georgia foster care system, I experienced and witnessed things that would make a grown man cry.  I learned the hard way that once you’ve seen evil, it brands you for life.  Your heart becomes hardened and you are never, ever the same. 

Don’t get me wrong, I
tried to live up to my adoptive mother’s expectations, but it had been a futile effort.  I’d love to be like the girls I knew who had always known the security of a loving family.  Who spent their nights dreaming of debutante balls, parties, and the perfect wedding.  Unfortunately my dreams…or more accurately, my nightmares…were much, much different.

After deciding
on a strapless, blue seersucker dress, I threw on a pair of strappy white sandals, a mother of pearl necklace and matching earrings.  I fixed my hair and makeup, glancing in the mirror to make sure my look would pass Dee’s inspection.  My long, blonde hair was naturally straight, but a curling iron gave it instant bounce.  I could have used a couple more trips to the tanning bed, but the blue of the dress brought out my blue eyes. Which reminded me of another pair of dark blue eyes staring daggers into me…I could get lost in those eyes…. I shook my head to rid myself of my most recent nightmare. I grabbed my Coach bag that mom insisted on buying me last Christmas, a pearl bracelet, and added a quick swipe of light pink lip gloss to complete the ensemble.  I almost looked like I belonged here.  Almost.

Taking the stairs
two at a time, I made it to the foyer just in time to crash into my sister, Laura Beth, coming around the corner.  After shooting me a look that could wither plants, she marched past me into the formal living room.

“You
really shouldn’t run in heels, it scuffs the floors,” I wanted to scuff up her face, but I settled for a dramatic eye roll, instead. 

Her
fitted canary yellow dress offset her dark brown curly hair perfectly, which she’d pulled back in a low ponytail secured with a navy blue ribbon.  Being the same age, you would have thought we’d be closer, but she decided a while back that she saw me strictly as competition.  I believe the first words she spoke to me were “I hope you don’t think you’re sleeping in my room”. Nothing says ‘welcome to our home’ like a threat and an icy glare.  Dee looked up from her freshly painted toe nails as we entered the room.

“Ready?”
She quickly looked us over with intense scrutiny, decided she approved, and then shooed us towards the front door. The heady scent of cigars and old books followed Charles Whitman as we collected him from his study on the way out.  We piled into the car and headed to the Hartford Estate.   

             
I saw the cars before I saw the house.  Row after row of Mercedes, Jaguars, Range Rovers, and BMWs greeted us, as we turned up the Hartford driveway.  After several twists and turns, the house finally came into view.  The word house didn’t quite do it justice, however.  The Hartfords lived on an old plantation that had been in their family for generations.  The long, winding drive wound through the manicured lawn, lined with cherry blossom trees and eventually circled in front of the house.  One hundred year old oak trees dwarfed the home on both sides, skirted by a beautiful garden bursting with tulips, lilies and lush vegetation.  Large white columns lined the front of the house, allowing you to take in its true massive size.  Every inch of the estate oozed history and reverence. It looked like a scene straight out of
Gone with the Wind
.  Absolutely breathtaking.  After Dee handed the keys to the valet, we made our way up the wide stone steps.  Two stately doormen promptly opened the ornate French doors for us and we were swept inside. 

             
I did a quick sweep of my surroundings, from the maple hardwood floors to the overbearing crystal chandelier hanging above our heads.  A stuffy looking man played a grand piano nearby, as sophisticated women in brightly colored dresses paraded around the sitting area in small groups.  The men could always be found congregating outside on the veranda or in the library smoking; discussing the latest political debate or recent corporate mergers.  I noticed Charles had already disappeared and Dee was making her way toward several older women in large brimmed hats. 

“Laura Beth!  I’m so glad you’re here!”
A dazzling brunette in a pink and white polka dotted sundress skipped over to us.  Meredith Hartford was drop-dead gorgeous and famous for buying a brand new wardrobe every weekend.  Only problem was…she knew it. She looked my way, noticing me for the first time. 

“Oh
hey Hannah, how are you?”  She plastered her best ‘now that I’ve made eye contact I have to speak to you’ smile, then clutched Laura Beth’s arm.

“I can’t wait to tell you what happened last night with Spe
ncer….” As they scurried away whispering and squealing, I saw a familiar face in the crowd, so I made my way to the other side of the room where Sarah Lawson sat with her mom near an open bay window.  She caught a runaway strand of auburn hair as the wind blew it across her face.  Her moss green eyes brightened as she caught sight of me.

“Hannah! How are you?” When Laura Beth made it her life mission to explain to everyone at school how her family had saved me from a life
time of poverty and how I’d be going to a therapist for the rest of my life, I was instantly shunned and forever stalked by looks of pity.  With ‘charity case’ branded on my forehead from the very start, only a select few treated me like a human being.  Sarah was one of those select few.

“Hey S
arah!  Hello, Mrs. Braddock.” Sarah’s mother picked me apart with her eyes, gave me a tight smile, and found someone better to talk to across the room.

“Sorry ‘bout that
,” Sarah whispered as her mom stalked away.


It’s okay,” Her mom’s obvious aversion to me stung, but I shrugged my shoulders and smiled anyway.


So how’s your summer going?” Sarah asked. “Been on any vacations?  We just got back from London a couple weeks ago…you would not believe the shopping over there….”

I
listened diligently as she told me all about their trip to England and Scotland, making sure to add in a few head nods at the appropriate times.  My attention had been drawn to my own adopted mother, who was now making a beeline for our sitting spot.

“May I have a word?”
she asked me with one raised eyebrow.

“I’ll be right back.
” I assured Sarah and followed Dee out onto the back balcony.  Overlooking a massive meadow below, I was struck by the beauty of the plantation all over again before Dee proceeded to shatter it with crude and obvious condemnation.

“How many times do I have to tell you to cover up that tattoo?!”
She literally spit out the last word in disgrace.


What? You’re kidding, right?”


Wrists.  Now. And mind your manners,” She hissed.  I sighed and held out my wrists, as she unclasped my bracelet, switching it from my right wrist to my left.

“We can’
t have all these people seeing that thing on your wrist, can we?” Heaven forbid.

“Dee
, no one is paying attention to my wrists.”

“That isn’t the point young lady
,” I hated it when she called me that.

“I don’t care what people think.”

“Hannah, you represent this family and I will not have you parading around like some homeless person with tattoos all over her body!” At least she wasn’t overreacting.

“It’s only one
tattoo; it’s not even that big.  Honestly, Dee…”

Inte
rrupting me with a harsh look, she quickly continued, “As of this weekend, I’ll be looking into the process of getting it removed permanently.”

I glance
d down at the intricate design on the inside of my left wrist.  My ‘tattoo’, as I had called it my whole life, consisted of a small upside down triangle, with one spiral extending from each corner. The lines of the spirals appeared to be made up of a single vine of ivy.  It had been there for as long as I could remember.  If you looked closely, you could tell it wasn’t even a tattoo – more like a part of my body, resembling a freckle or a birthmark.  I cherished it.  Out of habit, I traced the vines with my finger.  It seemed to shimmer beneath my touch.  The world shifted unexpectedly and I quickly lost my balance.  Reaching for the sturdy balcony railing, I caught it just in time to see a look of embarrassment and horror cross Dee’s face.  Then everything went black.

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