Suffering from post traumatic amnesia, Sabella Hall begins to remember her abusive father and discovers an amazing ability. She is sought out by the leader of The Vu, a clan of those with gifts such as hers. As she journeys through using her gift, finding new love, experiencing betrayal, and remembering her past, she faces off against a shocking adversary.
According to the author, this book contains domestic violence and sexual violence against women/children/men.
The author has rated this book Rated PG-13 (questionable content for children under 13).
My body spasms as I jerk awake. Still halfway in my dream, my arms fly up to protect my face. Seconds tick by as the sound of the birds chirping outside brings me to my senses. Slowly, I lower my arms and squint in the daylight invading my room. Sweat soaks my sheets.
This dream involved dragons. A little far-fetched, but it had seemed so real as they poured flames over my skin. I can still feel the burning; I rub my arms to remind myself that my skin is still clear and pale and whole.
Damn. These nightmares are getting old. They started a month ago, the night of my eighteenth birthday, and are gradually getting more intense.
A rap on my door echoes loudly and I jump clear out of my skin. My brother, Teagan, chuckles from the doorway. He is wearing workout pants and a black tank top. His dark hair is close-cut and a hint of fuzz spikes from his chin.
“Good morning, sunshine. I’m going jogging. You want to come?”
I shake my head and stretch my arms out in front of me. The popping that results in my spine feels wonderful.
“As fun as that sounds, I think I’ll pass this time.”
“One of these days you’ll see the wisdom in jogging instead of coffee first thing in the morning.” He shakes his head in mock disdain and disappears, patting the door frame as he goes.
“Love you!” I holler after him.
“Yeah, yeah, me too,” comes the trailing reply.
The gorgeous day shines with the sun in the sky reflecting off the luxury cars in the spacious circle drive. It seems more like a ball than a high school graduation party, but that’s no surprise considering my parents. From the chocolate truffles to the delicate pearl decorations, they made sure everything is perfect. The tablecloths are white lace and reach to the waxed floor. Musicians tune their instruments in a far corner. I wish they hadn’t quite gone to this much trouble, but objecting was pointless so I bit my tongue.
My name is Sabella Hall. My memory starts when I was adopted. Everything before that is blank, like a concrete wall. My parents, constantly in the public eye, never hid my adoption from me. Maybe that’s why I was never bothered. I was five, they said, and even the psychologist I saw always wondered how I remembered nothing. But if it was no matter to me, they decided they should leave it be…and so we went on about our lives. I figure if memories aren’t bubbling to the surface by now, I am not meant to remember them, and so I stopped trying years ago. Wherever my biological parents are, I figure I am better off without them.
Now, I raise my glass to toast to the embellished speech my older brother has given. Teagan stands on a table, much to our mother’s chagrin, demonstrating his lifelong skills as a master storyteller. Not only does he shine extra favor on my scholastic achievements, but he coaxes a chuckle from the party guests with silly stories from our childhood. He was adopted as well, but neither one of us has ever felt any less than blood related.
Eventually, Teagan bows with an extravagant twist of his arm and jumps down. The musicians begin to play, and couples furtively step onto the smooth dance floor. I dance with a few handsome young men, and then pretend my feet hurt so I can plop down at a table nearby and sample some chocolate truffles. I am careful to avoid dropping any chocolate crumbs onto my shiny lavender dress, sewn for me by my mother’s tailor. It’s more out of fear of her wrath than any respect I might have for the shimmery fabric itself. I watch everyone else dance, humor in my eye as I regard those who apparently only attempt dancing at these kinds of events.
Teagan approaches and offers me his hand. Smiling at my brother, I allow him to lead me back out onto the floor. He moves with the grace of a young man who has been taught ballroom dancing his entire life. I smile at the young women who watch him obsessively. He is a lady killer, with his tan skin and piercing brown eyes. He is sure to be propositioned a few dozen times before the night ends, none of which he is likely to take.
“You know this doesn’t mean you can go moving out and leaving me at the mercy of our mother, right?” he grins, oblivious to the attention he receives from the sidelines as we move with the music.
I shake my head, my blonde curls shifting across my bare back with the movement. “I would never dream of such a thing.”
“Good,” he nods thoughtfully, “Although, I guess you’re going to have to get a job now, or maybe go to college.”
“Is that really so bad?” I ask.
“I’ll have the house all to myself during the day.”
“Be careful, sir,” I admonish, “You might just get yourself in trouble.”
“Isn’t that my middle name?”
“Would the Lady of Honor care to join me for a dance?” My father appears at my elbow. Teagan releases me, and I wrap my slender arm around the crook of my father’s extended elbow and beam up at him. He is tall, solid and graced with pepper-colored hair and a matching goatee. The music continues to play, soft and sweet, behind us.
“You make a dad proud,” he smiles under his silver moustache.
“Don’t go getting sappy on me now,” I admonish him gently. “You’ll ruin your reputation.”
He nods. “There isn’t a sappy bone in this old body,” he says gruffly, trying to look stern without much success. Smiling, I lay my head against his chest for a moment and listen to his heartbeat like I have since I was a small child. Its familiarity is bittersweet. I know that soon I will be too old to do that, or not around to.
The song ends and everyone politely claps, the sound a mere flutter. I turn to go back to my seat and pause at seeing the figure in the doorway, dark and foreboding. Curious, I try to make out who it is, but the figure is so dark I can’t tell. I am pretty sure it isn’t anyone I know, which unnerves me. This party is invitation only.
The person wavers in my vision like smoke on a windy day as my mother captures my attention with quick, wet kisses to my cheeks. She always was emotional. I pull back and glance at the doorway again, but it is clear and bright with no sign of any mysterious figure.
The brown-stone coffee shop is busy, so I stand in line for fifteen minutes behind several people including a bald, moustached man in a tan suit, a short lady wearing impossibe high-heels that don’t benefit her in any way, and a beast of a man with sweaty palms and an ample shock of brown hair. When I finally reach the counter, I order my usual mocha with whipped cream and move to a corner to wait.
The door opens and a chilly breeze hits me. I shiver and glance up to see who came in. My heart skips a beat and my stomach drops through the floor. The mysterious shadow man swirls and beckons by the glass window; no one takes particular notice of him, which is definitely odd.
I feel nauseous. I clasp my trembling hands together and hope anxiously that they finish my drink so I can duck out of here. This just doesn’t make sense. People don’t turn into smoke, and I distinctly feel eyes locked on me somewhere in the swirling depths of nothingness.
I back up against the counter and startle when I feel the formica counter press into my spine. There is nowhere else to go except the bathroom and the front door. The bathroom is a classic place to be murdered, so I grind my teeth and hang on there, willing myself to stop shaking.
I turn back to the barista, who is hanging over the glass with my drink in her hand. I stick my hands out and immediately knock the tip jar over, spilling coins across the counter. They clatter and spin like my head is starting to. I pull my hands back like the jar burned me, my mind racing.
“Are you okay?”
“Blood sugar,” I murmur, managing to take the drink without any further property damage. “Thanks.”
I slide towards the door, keeping my back against the wall. I suspect I look ridiculous to anyone watching, but the cold sweat breaking out on my face tells me it doesn’t matter. The shadow man doesn’t move, watching with invisible eyes as I reach the cool glass of the door, push with my back, and make a quick beeline for the sidewalk. My Charger is parallel-parked a few feet away, and I slide into the firm leather seat and turn the key in the ignition with trembling hands, steering out onto the road without checking for traffic or buckling my seatbelt.
My knuckles turn white on the steering wheel and I will myself to let up off the gas pedal before I get pulled over by the police. I check the rearview mirror to reassure myself that he isn’t following me. I see nothing but the normal traffic, which is always heavy at this time of the morning. I thank my lucky stars I didn’t hit anything when I left the shop.
Two sightings in one week is more than unnerving but borderline insanity. No one else at the party or in the coffee shop noticed this odd stranger – only me. That thought is the most unsettling. My stomach flips. Perhaps I am finally going crazy. I make a mental note to call my therapist.
I speed home despite my inner chastising, adrenaline pulsing in my veins like water through a straw. I need to blow off steam. My basement is the only place I have ever been able to decompress. My parents renovated the entire basement several years ago, turning it into a fully stocked workout center that my brother and I frequent daily.
The basement is the one place I can clear my head when all else fails. I spend hours training and working out. Right now it is empty, and Teagan won’t be joining me for awhile.
I toss my purse and coffee onto the side table as I march through the front door. My keys go on the rack above the entrance table. I nod a curt hello to our butler, Charlie, who has been around for years. I’m not sure when he joined the family but he’s always been a constant. He silently watches me turn the corner.
I jog to my room and grab a workout shirt and pants from the closet. Donning them, I yank my blonde hair back into a ponytail and lace on athletic shoes. It takes less than five minutes before I am heading down the stairs to the basement. The cool, musky air is comforting in its familiarity.
I wrap my wrists in pink and wipe down my favorite heavy bag with a damp cloth. A thick metal chain runs from the metal eye on the top of the bag to the ceiling and hooks around. It rattles in protest as I prep the bag.
Resting one hand on a bench against the wall, I pull one leg up behind me; the stretching of my tense muscles elicit a groan. I stretch both legs and arms methodically, roll my arms and shoulders around in a few circles, and then pull on my sparring gloves and shuffle a little in front of the large blue and white bag.
I clench my jaw. Kick. Punch.
Whoever said violence only hurts never took out their frustration on a heavily stuffed punching bag. It is the most gratifying feeling I have ever known.
It seems like only minutes drifting by as I lose myself in the effort of beating up the bag, and I am barely aware of the front door upstairs closing and heavy, masculine footsteps across the hardwood floors. I pause and wipe sweat off my forehead with my arm, a counterproductive attempt considering my arm is just as sweaty. Voices drift from the next floor up. Charlie and Teagan.
“Downstairs. Seemed troubled.” Charlie’s voice is just audible.
I get back to business, trying not to eavesdrop even though I know they’re talking about me. Teagan will be downstairs any moment to grill me. I try to think of something to say that will explain all of this but I suck at lying to anyone let alone my big brother.
I am going crazy, there is no doubt. Teagan will likely agree. I briefly consider the option of institutionalization as a bedroom door slams, and minutes later closes again. Here he comes. Just as I expect, the basement door opens and Teagan comes thundering down the stairs with the grace of a lame elephant. Here we go.
“Are you okay?” Teagan watches me apprehensively as I plant my foot on the heavy bag with a solid thud. The bag shakes away from me and then wiggles back for more. I wipe at the sweat on my forehead and nod.
“I’m fine. Why?”
“You’ve been moody all week.”
Teagan steadies the bag for me and I plant a jab, cross, hook, and uppercut in quick succession as he leans against the opposite side. The bag barely moves against his frame. I kick it again, for good measure.
“Just thinking,” I say between controlled breaths. “There’s a lot to think about now.”
He regards me with a quizzical expression. “You can talk to me, you know.”
In most circumstances I would. He is so protective of me, which I think is related to the haunts of his own past. I don’t know much about it except that he endured drug-addicated parents before human services found him. He doesn’t talk about it and I have never thought to ask. It would be unkind, since I can’t remember my own past, to make him relive something so horrible. I can only imagine.
I stretch slowly and toss my training gloves carelessly onto the bench against the wall.
“It’s really not a big deal.”
I unwrap each of my hands. The wraps land haphazardly on the bench, covering the gloves protectively. I stare at them for a moment, running potential ways the conversation can go before I speak again. How nice it would be to wrap myself in a cocoon of material and drift to sleep until my life goes back to normal.
Teagan snatches one of the wraps off the bench and begins spinning it into a ball. He clenches his jaw, aggravated at my evasiveness. I sit on the bench and he joins me as he finishes the first wrap. My chest burns, and I stretch out my arms and legs individually. He picks up the second wrap and starts circling it around two of his fingers.
“If whatever is going on wasn’t a big deal, my sister wouldn’t be off in her own little world down here for three hours banging up a bag without a break.”
I shrug in a pathetic attempt to hide my surprise at how long I have been down here. Teagan is making sense, which is mildly irritating. My hands are possibly curled for life and ache around the joints; the skin is red and puffy. I decide that a hot soak in the tub is in order.
Teagan leans over and puts his hands on my shoulders, his blue gaze piercing mine with intensity.
“Stop stalling and just tell me. Maybe I can help.”
He is going to think I’m crazy. I know it. My mind races as I try to think of something – anything – that will appease him. Something believable but bad enough to bother me like this. I come up pathetically blank and realize my mouth is hanging open and he is looking very confused. I snap my mouth shut, close my eyes, and draw in a deep breath. It’s now or never.
Before I can stop myself, I blurt “Someone’s been following me.”
Teagan’s eyes narrow and he reflexively squeezes the wrap he holds. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” I feel foolish now. “This will sound silly but I can’t ever see him. He looks like just a bunch of smoke or something. I saw him at my graduation party and at the coffee shop this morning. Just watching me.”
“Maybe we should talk to Mom and Dad.” He thinks I’m psychotic, or making things up. I can tell by his guarded expression; his lips are pursed and his eyes are tight.
I shake my head. “No, I’m sure it’s just my imagination. Forget about it.”
In an unexpected gesture, Teagan wraps his arms around me in a snug bear hug, more comfort to me than anything else would have been. I sink into his chest like a small child, closing my eyes and sighing loudly.
“Next time he comes near you I’ll kick his ass.” He sits upright and holds me out at arm’s length. “Now get out of here and go clean up. You smell.”
I believe everyone should have their own personal Teagan looking out for them.
I take the basement stairs two at a time to the tune of rattling chains as Teagan preps a bag to do his own training. I close the door behind me and come face to face with Charlie. He stands too innocently to the side, a dusting cloth in one hand and some candlesticks in the other. He nods to me formally and goes back to carefully rubbing the sticks down until they shine.
It takes everything in me to keep from running to my room.
I snatch my bath robe off the hook on the back of my door and hurry to the bathroom. The silver tub handles squeak as I turn on the hot water and use the cold handle to adjust the temperature so it won’t melt the skin from my bones. The rushing water is soothing by itself. I inhale the steam and let out a cleansing breath as I lower myself into the tub, submerging myself. All sounds are blocked out and I am in silence – oh beloved silence. Nothingness.
When I push my head above the surface of the water, I lean back with a satisfied sigh and close my eyes. Ah, peace behind closed lids.
A knock sounds at the front door and I hear Charlie answer. He greets the visitor, whose voice I don’t recognize. Curiosity overcomes my will to soak for eternity in this liquid heaven. I step out of the tub and wrap a soft cotton towel around myself, squeezing excess water from my hair. Footsteps approach the door, and I recognize them as Charlie’s loafers. He raps on the door. “Miss Sabella? There’s a visitor here for you.”
“Be right out,” I tell him. I throw on a white tank top and capris and yank a brush through my hair before twisting it into a quick bun. I tip toe to my bedroom and pull on socks and calf-length boots.
I round the corner and hurry down the hall to the door where I am greeted by blue eyes, a scruffy jaw, thick arms, and quite frankly the most beautiful man I have ever seen. The air is sucked violently out of my chest and I cough in an attempt to steady myself. The stranger smiles quietly, knowingly. Like he comes bearing some secret.
We stand there staring at each other. I open my mouth to speak but nothing comes out. His smile widens and I have to suppress the urge to slap him for his mocking.
Charlie finally speaks, breaking the silence so suddenly I flinch.
“Ma’am, this is Jonathan Turner.”
Copyright© Hannah Gordon. All rights reserved.
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