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Taking back forever, p.1
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       Taking Back Forever, p.1

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
Taking Back Forever


  TAKING BACK FOREVER

  Kindrily #2

  Karen Amanda Hooper

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Dear Reader:Welcome Back

  Kindrily Key

  Shaking the Stars

  Dear Reader:You Choose

  Mind the Gap

  About the Author

  Dear Reader,

  Welcome back.

  I say welcome back because if you are reading Taking Back Forever, you have hopefully read book 1 of the Kindrily series, Grasping at Eternity.

  If you haven’t, let me respectfully explain that this isn’t one of those sequels where the details of book 1 are recapped. The story picks up right where we left off. A lot of characters and details tie in from one book to the next. For your own reading pleasure, I recommend reading Grasping at Eternity first.

  With that being said, I love my readers. When they talk, I listen. Keeping track of all the kindrily members in Grasping at Eternity was difficult at times for some, so I included a character key with this book for easy reference.

  Thanks so much for coming back to read more of the kindrily’s story. I hope you enjoy Taking Back Forever.

  My eternal thanks,

  Karen

  “The unread story is not a story...

  The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”

  ~Ursula K. Le Guin

  Dedicated to you.

  Thank you for being a reader.

  May you shine forever.

  SHAKING THE STARS

  Maryah

  Stars glittered down around the girl as the peacock feather in her hand fanned out into more than a dozen blue and green quills. The figurine’s eyes were made from tiny green jewels. The iridescent liquid she stood in shimmered like Louise’s paintings or the dream I had where the hallway flooded with a river of green and gold.

  I shook the snow globe again, mesmerized by the beauty of the twinkling stars.

  “It’s you,” Carson told me.

  “Me?” I suspected the strawberry blonde girl inside the glass was me, but I felt arrogant saying it out loud. Carson said he made the snow globe for a school project, so why in the world would he have chosen me as the centerpiece for his assignment? “I don’t understand.”

  Carson plopped down in a stool across from Krista and me. “All week in science class we’ve been learning about classical conditioning and our teacher wanted each of us to bring in stimuli we thought would elicit a similar reaction from everyone.” He tugged the strings of his hoodie. “So I made that.”

  A close-lipped grin spread across Krista’s face and she lowered her chin. Carson glanced at her and smiled.

  I rubbed my thumbs over the smooth glass. “I don’t get it.”

  Carson tucked his dark hair behind his ears. “My experiment went exactly as planned. Every single one of my classmates, without fail, couldn’t resist shaking the crap out of you.”

  Krista held back a laugh, covering her mouth with her hand.

  I set the globe on the counter in front of me. “I’m sensing there is a joke at my expense somewhere, but I don’t want to know what it is.”

  Carson blasted a loud and obnoxious air horn. Krista and I almost jumped out of our seats. Eightball had been asleep near my feet. He jumped up and howled.

  “What in the world?” I leaned down and rubbed Eightball’s head, assuring him everything was okay. He snorted. Then his chubby short legs slid apart until he lazily sprawled flat on the floor again. My pulse returned to normal, but my ears were ringing. “Why did you blow that thing?”

  “Yes! Ding, ding, ding!” Carson pulled out a wrapped chocolate truffle from the pocket of his sweatshirt and tossed it across the counter to me. “Way to ask a question.”

  Krista leaned forward, watching us with an expectant smirk on her face.

  I eyed Carson, and the chocolate, skeptically. “What’s wrong with the candy?”

  He tossed me another truffle.

  “Seriously,” I said, “what are you doing?”

  Another truffle skidded across the counter and hit my hand.

  Krista nodded at him. “It’s working.”

  I crossed my arms over my chest, studying the devious duo and replaying our whole awkward encounter. “Are you rewarding me with chocolate every time I ask a question?”

  Krista, the traitor, handed me a truffle while Carson grinned smugly.

  I smacked the candy away. “I’m not Pavlov’s dog!”

  “Hey,” Carson said. “You’re finally asking questions. Pavlov would be proud.”

  “I still don’t see the connection between that and the snow globe.”

  He leaned forward. “Maryah, for months so much magic has been happening all around you, but you were oblivious. I speak for many when I say we really wanted to shake some sense into you. Now, you know the big secret, but you’re still not asking enough questions about us, your kindrily, your power, or your past. You need to try a lot harder if you really want to enhance your ability and recover your memories.”

  “Or what?” I asked. “You’ll blast me with your air horn?”

  “For questions, you get chocolate. For obliviousness, you get the horn.” Carson smirked. “It’s a win-win.”

  “Okay.” Krista jumped to my defense much too late. “Point made. The air horn isn’t necessary but I like the chocolate reward.”

  She unwrapped a truffle and popped it into her mouth.

  I stared at the miniature me in the snow globe. All the stars were piled at her feet. The liquid around her was completely still. I folded my hands in my lap, resisting the urge to shake her again. “I still don’t get how the snow globe fits into your ridiculous experiment.”

  He picked it up, turned it upside down, and shook it so hard his bangs fell like curtains over his eyes. “It’s a stress reliever. Figured it would come in handy if Pavlov’s method doesn’t work.”

  Krista cooed. “I’m impressed that you made it. It’s so pretty.”

  “You like it? You can have it.” Carson ate a candy and spoke with his mouth full. “Just leave it in an easily accessible place so I can shake it when Maryah frustrates me.”

  “Very funny,” I deadpanned.

  Krista giggled and Carson winked at her in a way that looked sort of flirty. Carson was not Krista’s type whatsoever. She was way out of his league, and he knew it.

  “Nathan’s not here?” Carson asked.

  I glanced at the clock above the pantry. “No, but he said he’d be back by dinner.”

  “It really sucks that you don’t have to go to school and I do.”

  “At least it’s Friday. You’ve got an entire weekend to irritate us.” I chucked a candy at his face but he caught it.

  “You call it irritate, I call it entertain.”

  I hadn’t been back to school since before spring break. The kindrily—mainly Louise and Nathan—decided my time would be best spent learning about my past, practicing seeing into the eyes of their souls, and hopefully getting a handle on my ability to astral travel. At first, Nathan worried about me being deprived of all the end of the year activities of my senior year, but class trips and proms weren’t really my thing. I didn’t mind missing them, and I was much happier hanging out with Nathan, Krista, Sheila, or any other member of the kindrily all day. Not to mention the drama with River and his arrest was the big topic of discussion at school. I didn’t need to imagine the rumors flying around because Faith kept me updated even when I didn’t want to hear them. I was relieved to stay out of that spotlight.

  Carson ate the chocolate I threw at him. “So where’d Nathan go?”

  “I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I didn’t ask.”

  He blew the ear-piercing horn a
gain and spun out of his stool. He headed for the hallway and shouted, “Snow globe!”

  “He’s so funny,” Krista said.

  I rolled my eyes and patted Eightball’s head to stop him from growling. “Yeah, he’s a riot.”

  When I heard Carson’s bedroom door shut, I picked up the globe and cradled it in my hands, slowly rolling it from side to side, examining all the stars and the detailed peacock feathers.

  Krista leaned over the counter, her forehead only inches from mine. I raised my eyes, and sighed when I saw her eager expression.

  “Here.” I handed it her. “You know you want to.”

  She smiled and took it from me. “I do, but not for the reason Carson said.”

  I crossed my arms over my chest. “Mmm hmm.”

  After waiting ever so patiently, and with what seemed like great satisfaction, Krista shook me.

  ∞

  Faith had been coming over every day after school to do her part in my diligent training. By the time she sashayed through the door it was almost five o’clock.

  “You’re over an hour late,” I pointed out.

  She shouldered her messenger bag onto a chair and spun on me with her hands on her hips. “Clearly, I had a good reason.”

  I waited for her to continue, but unlike usual, she didn’t ramble on. She stood there silently, her blue eyes narrowing under her diamond eyebrow piercing. After a few moments of uncomfortable staring, I shrugged. “Should we get to work?”

  “Maryah!” She threw her hands up above her head. “You seriously didn’t notice my hair?”

  Now that she mentioned it, her mostly white and pink hair did look a little different.

  “You trimmed it?” I couldn’t say cut because her hair was so short there wasn’t enough to cut.

  “I razor trimmed it so the sharper angles frame my face and accentuate my petite features. Plus, I touched up the pink sections so they’re brighter.”

  “Ahh.” She looked pretty much the same to me. “It looks great.”

  She shook her head. “You’re just appeasing me. You’re supposed to be working on noticing details. You aren’t off to a good start.”

  “Yes, between you and Carson I’m well aware of my inadequate observation skills.”

  “Even more reason for us to work harder.” She opened her bag and pulled out an overstuffed folder. “Today’s lesson is history.”

  “Every day’s lesson is history.”

  She grabbed my hand and led me to the couch. She opened her folder and spread out photos on the coffee table. The same photos I’d been staring at since Tuesday when we started “training.”

  “That’s because the key to mastering your ability is remembering your past.” Faith pointed to the photos. “Start studying,”

  “You have too much faith in me, Faith.”

  “You don’t have enough faith in yourself.”

  She was right about that, but I was determined to become stronger all around. Being part of a supernatural family sort of forced me to raise the bar for myself. Average was no longer an option, but I was a seeing is believing type of person. The kindrily had blind faith in me based on the soul I used to be, but all I knew was the current me. And I still had a lot to prove to myself.

  For the next hour I stared at pictures of almost every member of our kindrily. Most of the photos were from this lifetime or the last, but a few members had several rounds of lifetimes documented. I spent the most time on Nathan. He looked so different in his last two forms, but he still had the same intense green eyes.

  Krista and Sheila had gone out shopping together. I wished they had stayed at the house so they could answer my questions about the pictures of them. My favorite was an old black and white photo of Mary and Nathaniel with Sheila and Krista as young girls. The back of the picture said it was taken in 1915. I held up another photo of Mary as a young girl with black curly hair. Her arm was around Sheila, who at the time was older than Mary. Me. I was Mary. I was still trying to get used to that fact.

  “Weird,” I whispered under my breath. If I didn’t have the pictures, each lifetime would have been even harder to keep straight. The fact that our kindrily members retained their memories from multiple lifetimes, and could keep them straight, still astonished me. But I kept reminding myself that once upon another lifetime, I was just like them. And I wanted to be again.

  I couldn’t deny any part of my unique existence. At Montezuma Well, I had seen flashes from my past life with Nathan, maybe more than just the last one, but my recollection of what I had seen became blurrier as time passed. Love for him flooded through me so strongly that I could never question if he was my soul mate. Same with my feelings for everyone in the kindrily. I couldn’t remember past lives with them, but I knew I had loved them long before this life. Even Sheila.

  I held up the photo of Sheila and Krista as kids so Faith could see it. “We lived in England here, right?”

  “Yes, that year you—”

  “Stop, please. All I needed was yes or no.” My brain hurt from asking questions and having Faith give me lengthy explanations.

  I rubbed my temples, and Faith leaned across the coffee table raising my chin with her hand.

  “Photo break.” Her aquamarine eyes sparkled like always, along with her glittery face powder. “Let’s try soul searching again. Look deep—past my irises. Try to find any remnants of our history together.”

  “How many more times will I have to do this tonight?”

  “Until you remember.”

  I stared at her until my eyes crossed. “I’m sorry, Faith. I feel lots of love for you, but I only remember you.” I pointed at her, waving my finger up and down. “This you.”

  She tapped her glossy pink lips. “There must be a way. Maybe we should drug you like River did. That’s when your memories of Nathan came back.”

  “Faith!” Remembering my drug-induced paralysis sent a shiver up my spine. I never wanted to go through that again.

  “I’m kidding. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

  I whipped a photo at her like a Frisbee. “You’re a twisted little pixie.”

  She did a pathetic imitation of an evil laugh. Amber was supposedly napping on the couch, but I heard her giggle.

  I rubbed the peacock ring on my thumb. The night Mikey was born the ring had lit up and pulled me into what felt like another dimension. Not only was the experience powerful and magical, it’s how I knew—before even looking into his familiar blue eyes—that Mikey was reincarnated, and that he was an Element.

  I had rubbed and stared at my ring countless times since then, hoping to trigger another vision. I yearned to be pulled into that tunnel of light again so I could come out more knowledgeable, or with solid memories of my other lives—anything that would help make up for my erasure.

  “Harmony should be here any minute with photos of Gregory,” Faith said. “You need to start focusing on him so you can find him.”

  Trying to locate Harmony’s soul mate by astral traveling put a lot of pressure on me. I didn’t even know my soul could leave my body until a few days ago. Now my kindrily was counting on me to learn how to make my soul travel anywhere I wanted so I could watch over a guy I never met. We weren't even sure that he was alive. To me, the task seemed impossible.

  “But for me to astral travel to someone I need to be able to picture their eyes—”

  “Their soul,” Faith corrected.

  “Right, their soul. I’ve never met Gregory or seen his eyes.”

  “That you remember,” she clarified.

  “That I remember.”

  “Yet.”

  I sighed. Every time I had astral traveled had been by accident, and I thought I'd been dreaming, except for the one time when River was about to kill me. Somehow, that night I had desperately traveled to Nathan on purpose, but I hadn’t been able to do it again. “It’s like the chicken and the egg dilemma. Which should come first—remembering my past and the people in it, or figuring out h
ow to intentionally astral travel?”

  “Both are equally important,” Faith said.

  Just then Nathan materialized in the kitchen.

  “Hello, ladies.” He winked at Faith before leaning down and kissing the top of my head. He glanced at Amber asleep with Eightball on the sofa and lowered his voice. “Still working diligently?”

  I jumped up. “Yes, but we were about to take a dinner break.”

  Faith frowned. “But—”

  “You’ve had her long enough,” he told Faith. “I’m claiming rights to her for the rest of the evening.” He wrapped his arms around my waist, still smelling like godly nectar, but with a musty hint of dust and wind, which meant he’d been BASE jumping again.

  My “dreams” about him flying off mountains had actually been me astral traveling and watching him partake in one of his real life hobbies—a hobby that made me nervous he’d hurt or kill himself. He and I agreed that to spare me from worrying, he wouldn’t tell me when he was leaping off cliffs. Thankfully, he had survived another round and was home safe. I leaned back against him, and he kissed my neck.

  “Get a room!” Harmony grunted, strutting into the living room. “Here Faith, the photos you wanted.” She pulled out a stack of pictures from an envelope and tossed them on the table with the others.

  “Yesss!” Faith scooped them up. “Maryah, look at a couple shots of Gregory so you’ll—”

  “No!” Nathan snatched the pictures away before Faith could hand them to me. “I said that’s enough for today.”

  His attitude had taken a 180. He seemed irritated, or maybe nervous. Faith looked as shocked as I felt.

  Amber and Eightball stirred awake.

  “I’m okay,” I assured him. “I can look at a few more while you shower.”

  “No,” he insisted.

  “Don’t be so rough with my photos.” Harmony tugged her pictures out of Nathan’s hands. “They’re irreplaceable. What’s your malfunction anyway?”

 
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