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Everlasting flame, p.1
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       Everlasting Flame, p.1

           Katelyn Anderson
 
Everlasting Flame
Everlasting Flame

  By Katelyn Anderson

  Copyright 2016 Katelyn Anderson

  All rights reserved

  Cover design by Phatpuppy Art Studios

  Photography by Nizas from Depositphotos

  Cover Typography by The Font Diva

  Edited by Joy Michelle Oliver

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously.

  Thank you for downloading this eBook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.

  Contents

  Preface

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Preface

  Becoming a hero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Name a hero who hasn’t made sacrifices along the way or become corrupted by revenge. Name a hero who hasn’t lost anyone precious to them. Name a hero that hasn’t lost pieces of themselves fighting for a cause nobody in their right mind would fight. How far can a hero fall before they become a villain?

  I wanted immortals and humans to coexist happily. I wanted the bloodshed to end, the nightmares to cease, the sad cries of people who have lost their families to become laughter.

  I never imagined my life would change so dramatically. I never thought I would become the hero that lost everything. I never thought I would be the hero that fell and became a villain.

  Chapter One

  I had spent most of my life hidden from the rest of the world. I didn’t exist. I wasn’t a registered citizen. I didn’t have a record. I didn’t have anything. I could be anyone I wanted to be.

  The T.E.A – Tainted Execution Agency – are responsible for making immortals fearful for their lives. The agency made it compulsory for people to register their identities, date of birth, spouses, children, so they could keep track of those who didn’t age. They basically became the new government. Cheating the system came with a price, unless you were like me and were kept under the radar. Being housebound really sucked. My dad was safe; he was only human. My mother was immortal, just like me. She only had a few years left until the T.E.A began to suspect her. Before then, she would claim a new identity to cheat the system. There were ways, expensive and dangerous ways, but anything was better than being murdered.

  Immortals aren’t threats. We are human, just more evolved. The only thing separating us from humans is the fire flowing through our veins, magic born from the creator of our kind. Sickness doesn’t affect us. We bleed like humans but our wounds heal almost instantly. Bones take a few minutes longer. Severed limbs we can grow back but it’s an incredibly painful and long process. We aren’t the cheaters of death. A bullet to the brain or heart kills us. There’s obviously a reason why those two spots are our Achilles heel but nobody seems to know why. Perhaps the agency doesn’t want us to learn the truth in case we can avoid being killed off like vermin.

  I despise the agency’s existence. They act like God and spare no soul tainted by immortality. They even kill children. That’s why my family kept me a secret from the rest of the world, to keep me safe, to keep me alive. I was your typical rebellious teenager but even I knew it wasn’t worth stepping out into the world, especially when I wasn’t supposed to exist.

  I played it safe. My mother homeschooled me when she had time off work and taught me everything there was to know about the cruel world outside. I wasn’t ignorant. Every day I craved freedom. I wanted to step out into the world to change it and make it better.

  Humans and immortals could coexist if the agency was disbanded. The agency was discriminating us and making everyone fear our existence. They didn’t give us a chance to speak out. We were immediately gunned down. I wasn’t the only one who wanted peace. There was a resistance that fought back but they were fighting a losing battle. I wanted to end the war but I wasn’t old enough to do anything. What could a fifteen-year-old girl possibly do to alter a war that had been raging on for almost a century? Nothing.

  A knock at the door disrupted my train of thought. I was sitting cross-legged on my bed, staring aimlessly at the swirly patterns on the wall. Books and paper were spread around me like scattered flower petals. They were all history books. I was hoping after studying wars intently, I could figure out how to end the one we were in. But there was nothing helpful. Staring blankly at the wall was my way of switching off my brain. I couldn’t do anything to save my kind. I didn’t exist.

  “Again?” my mother, Charlotte, asked me with a raised eyebrow. The disapproval was visible in her tone. Her blonde hair was tied up and slanted to one side, dipping past her shoulder. Her eyes were blue, the colour of the sky on a clear day. We shared the same dainty nose and cheekbones but she was more beautiful than me. Her skin was more olive than mine, mainly because she saw the sun on a constant basis.

  “Yes, again,” I mumbled, screwing up all the paper scribbles and chucking them on the floor. “How are you content with this life? How can you and dad continue to keep me locked up like some sort of prisoner? I want to go out there. I want to help the resistance bring about change so Tainted Beings no longer have to hide or be afraid.”

  The agency labelled our kind as ‘Tainted Beings’ because we supposedly tainted the human population. It was discrimination of the highest form and yet we could do nothing but hide.

  “I’m tired of having this discussion with you, Joan. We are only trying to protect you. Leave the world saving to the adults.”

  “They’re doing a poor job. Their attempts are useless. They need to subtly bring the agency down from the inside like a Trojan horse, not prance around drawing attention to themselves.”

  My mother sighed and put her hands on her hips, crinkling the fabric of her light blue dress.

  “Enough, Joan,” she scolded, eyes narrowed.

  “If they were any closer to winning, we wouldn’t be having this conversation and I would be free to do whatever I like. I want to be a person who exists. I don’t want to hide anymore. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

  “You’re not ready to face the real world.”

  “You tell me that every day, Mum. You won’t even give me the chance to prove myself. Register me. I want to be–”

  “No!” Her answer was final; she left my room without another word.

  I was half tempted to call after her but thought better of it. There would come a day where I was old enough to look after myself and she would have no choice but to let me go. Until then, I would stop pushing my luck. My parents were the only people I had. If I upset them, I wou
ldn’t have anyone to talk to.

  I let out a heavy sigh and started to clear up the books on my bed, placing them back on the bookshelf.

  I didn’t mean to be so ambitious. I just wanted the world to be a better place. At the end of the day, I’m sure that’s what everyone wanted. I couldn’t be the only one. I knew I wasn’t. The resistance was all the proof I needed; people wanted change. I wasn’t foolish enough to run away and join them. I just had to be patient.

  I gripped the edges of my curtains and gazed out my window. My room was at the end of the house, second floor up, away from the prying eyes of our neighbours. I could stand at my window without being seen. The forest below only stretched a few acres. What lay beyond was my slice of paradise. When my parents weren’t home, I’d climb out my window and go exploring. I never wandered too far. If I did, I wouldn’t find my way back. I climbed trees and used branches as swords. There was a small lake at the end of the forest, one I swam in whenever I got the chance. It was the only time I felt at peace. It was the only time I forgot everything. I would spend all day out there if I could. The only thing I ran into were animals, never people. It got lonely sometimes but at least my cousins and uncle came to visit when they could. Even then, I felt alone. No one knew how helpless I felt.

  Light was beginning to fade as the sun dipped lower in the sky. Storm clouds were brewing, blocking out the glorious orange with darkness. Heavy rain splattered against the glass, creating rivers down my window. The wind whistled past the house and made the trees sway. The light above my head started to flicker. I hoped the power didn’t go out. I never liked the dark; the endlessness frightened me.

  I slipped into a jacket before heading out of my room. I couldn’t bear to stare out into the storm any longer, especially when thunder shook the house. Wrapping up tightly in a jacket was my way of comforting myself.

  I reached the stairs and stopped in my tracks when I heard my parents speaking in hushed voices. If I made a sound, I knew they would stop. They had a bad habit of staying quiet whenever they heard me coming. I wasn’t stupid. I knew something was wrong. They would never tell me. They usually changed the subject or pretended they weren’t deep in conversation. I knew better.

  “We will leave tonight. Start packing and tell Joan to do the same. It’s not safe here any longer,” my father spoke, a sense of urgency in his tone.

  “Wait for the storm to pass. It’s not safe to be driving in these conditions. What has you so shaken, Michael? Surely you’re overthinking things?”

  “You weren’t there. It was an interrogation. There were a few holes in my responses, ones I covered up with convincing lies. I’m not sure if it was enough. It won’t be long until they come and search the house. We need to leave. If they find an unregistered child, it’s all over.”

  “If we run, then we look guilty. Damian can keep her hidden until the house inspection,” my mother said. Damian was my uncle, her brother.

  “Her room will give everything away.”

  “If we have time, we can box what we can and make it look like a storage room. We can’t leave, Michael. That will put targets on our back. I’ll call Damian and make arrangements.”

  “Jacqueline won’t be happy about putting her family in danger.”

  “I’ll handle Damian’s wife. She would do the same if it was her children at risk.”

  “Good luck with that. What should I tell Joan?”

  “Nothing,” I called down the stairs. “I heard everything.”

  There was a touch of silence – to some extent. The storm outside was still battering the house. My parents were the ones who went quiet. All I could hear was the wind howling and rain splattering against the roof.

  My father was the one who popped his head around the corner to see me standing at the top of the stairs. I could feel the suffocating disappointment. He was shaking his head, causing his light brown hair to bobble. Those hazel eyes narrowed when I shrugged in response.

  “What? It saved you the trouble of making something up,” I said, folding my arms. “You and mum need to stop hiding things from me. I’m strong enough to handle it.”

  “Joan...” my father started with a sigh, running his hand through his hair.

  “Yeah, yeah. You’re both just trying to protect me. Whatever, I get it. I’ll start packing my things.”

  I heard a change in the storm outside when I turned away. Immortal ears were incredibly sensitive. When you had nothing better to do than listen to the things around you day in and day out, it was easy to pinpoint something foreign. The sound of thudding feet splashing on the roof or the dragging of cables; that wasn’t normal. Shattering glass littered the floor; we were being invaded by the agency.

  “Run! Hide!” my father urged in a frantic cry. His request was barely audible over the smashing glass and storm outside. His words mingled with the howling wind. He didn’t have to tell me twice. I knew the consequences should I be found.

  I ran to my room and wriggled under my bed; my wardrobe wasn’t big enough to hide in. I yanked the sheets further down. I was covered at all angles. I pressed my cheek to the floor and stayed still. There was a small gap in front of my face, allowing me to see very little.

  My heart was thudding so loudly, I thought my eardrums were going to burst. I slowed down my breathing so I wouldn’t hyperventilate and bring attention to myself. I had to remain calm and silent, no matter what I saw or heard.

  I couldn’t help but jump when glass clattered onto the bedroom floor. Thankfully I managed to keep my mouth shut, even though I had been very close to letting out a small yelp.

  The air suddenly became thick when a cold pressure filled the room. It was as if I had been submerged in a pool of ice; my skin burned because of the extreme cold. I had never experienced a sensation quite like it before. I had to bite my lip to stop myself from crying out.

  A pair of red high heels stepped into view. She kicked across the glass shards as she walked. The shards spun around her in a tornado, like leaves caught in a cycle of brisk wind. It wasn’t long until the glass shattered into dust from the immense pressure she was radiating. The particles hushed across the floor; they were nothing but granules of sand.

  The heels clacked towards me, drawing closer.

  “Please don’t find me. Please don’t find me. Please don’t find me,” I repeated to myself in a nearly inaudible whisper. I put my hand over my mouth to muffle the whispers and whimpers.

  I knew she wasn’t human; humans weren’t surrounded by such immense power. I was drowning in burning ice, stuck in the same room as a sorceress. I didn’t stand a chance. All I could do was pray she didn’t find me.

  A manicured hand grasped the side of my bed. Her fingers dug into the wooden frame like sharp claws, ready to find her prey. It was over. I was dead meat.

  “Maria, come down here,” a smooth voice called up the stairs; the hand twitched and hesitated. “Now. That’s an order, not a request.”

  The hand slipped out of view, leaving the bed where it was. She could have easily peeked under the sheets and found me, or flipped the bed over. She was too occupied muttering distasteful things about her superiors speaking to her in that manner as she walked away.

  I held my breath and waited until the heels were nothing but a distant clack fading further into the house. I needed to get out of here and fast. I listened for any sign of someone else close by. All I heard was the sound of my own heart racing out of control.

  I lifted up the sheet and had a quick look around. I wriggled out from underneath my bed when I saw the coast was clear. The only option I had was to jump out the window and run.

  I snatched a backpack from inside my wardrobe and frantically filled it with whatever clothes my hands touched. I didn’t have any time to be picky and zipped the backpack shut. I had an emergency stash of cash tucked away in the bag already, along with rations and water. Perhaps my parents knew one day I would have to make a run for it and that bag was my lifeline until I found
somewhere safe.

  I slung the bag over my shoulders and went to the window. I climbed onto the frame and winced when glass cut into my feet. I cursed quietly to myself. All my shoes were downstairs. I would just have to run barefoot.

  It was too windy to grab onto the tree outside my window. The storm was making the branches flail wildly. There were bushes below; I hoped they would cushion my fall.

  I jumped without hesitating when I heard my mother scream. I landed in the bushes, sinking to the ground. Branches cut my face but it didn’t hurt as much as the glass in my feet.

  I could see the lounge from where I was; the bush kept me well hidden. The lights were flickering. My father was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He wasn’t moving. Every nerve in my body was telling me to run into the forest so I didn’t meet the same fate as my parents.

  I covered my mouth to muffle my cries.

  Agents had my mother surrounded, guns aimed, ready to shoot. They were all wearing black body armour. Their faces were hidden under helmets.

  There was one man wearing a tailored suit and no body armour; he wasn’t armed. It was easy to tell he was the boss. Authority pulsed from him. His sandy blonde hair was neat. His grey eyes were cold pits. He was handsome and young, in his very early twenties. I was taking in his appearance so I would remember the man who was responsible for this nightmare. I would find him again and make him suffer.

  There was a slight gap between the agents, giving me a clear visual of my mother. She was kneeling on the floor with her fingers laced in her hair. Her hands were covered in blood but it wasn’t hers. She had tried to save my father from bleeding out.

  My mother raised her head and caught my eye. Tears painted her cheeks. Her face was pleading at me, telling me to run as fast as I could.

  I adamantly shook my head. I couldn’t leave her. I couldn’t leave her to die. If I charged in there on my own in an attempt to save her, I would suffer the same fate. I couldn’t take on all those armed agents. I was useless. All I could do was run but I didn’t want her to die alone.

  My mother’s lips moved but I didn’t know what she said. Her mouth moved too quickly. I felt something warm wash over me, like the sun had come out, but it was still pouring down with rain. I was being pelted with water, wind, everything. I didn’t care.

  A female stepped into view. Her hair was wet from the rain, causing the colour to be a mixture of white and silver. Her face was catlike, high cheek bones, a small nose, mismatched eyes; one was grey, the other was blue. I recognised her red high heels. It was the sorceress from before, Maria.

  “Where is the unregistered child? We know you have one. If you tell us where she is, I’ll be sure to give you a quick death,” Maria spoke with a soft hiss.

  “Half of you search the house,” the guy in the suit ordered.

  The room emptied promptly. There were only five enemies left. The man in the suit, the sorceress and three agents; three other agents had split from the group to search the house. The agents in the room had lowered their guns but still had a firm grip on them. I didn’t stand a chance.

  “You won’t find her,” my mother said, dropping eye contact with me to stare up at the man who spoke. “She’s well hidden.”

  My mother’s eyes met mine briefly, screaming at me to run, pleading with me. I was rooted to the spot. I was frozen because I refused to leave her and I was terrified.

  Her eyes spoke to me. Please, Joan. Run. Run fast.

  “Magic, eh? If I kill you, the spell you created will die with you,” Maria said, flexing her fingers.

  The man in the suit stopped Maria by placing his hand on her shoulder, squeezing it tightly. She seemed to stiffen when he touched her. She was terrified of him. How could a demon be terrified by a mere man?

  “Wait. We need answers about the coven she is in. Check her hand,” he spoke, letting go of Maria’s shoulder.

  “My hands are drenched in my husband’s blood, hiding the mark of the coven I belong to. It doesn’t matter if you look. They will hunt you down, regardless. You picked the wrong house. Leave now and they might spare you.”

  I had never heard my mother speak so harshly before in my life. Her voice was filled with hate. I could hear the emotional choke in her words but she was trying to be strong. I never knew she belonged to a coven. I never knew my mother was a mage. It was as if I never really knew my parents at all.

  “They’re certainly already closing in. I was in a middle of a phone call when you attacked, with someone more powerful than you can imagine. He will not take my death lightly. I suggest you call off the search for my daughter and leave. If you don’t, this will turn into a new war you can’t win.”

  “She’s bluffing,” Maria declared. “There’s no one powerful enough to take on the agency and win.”

  My mother laughed and removed her hands from her head. The agents raised their guns the moment she moved. She pushed herself up from the ground, her hands held in the air, covered in blood. Her blonde hair was coated in red chunks.

  “I can think of one man. He strikes fear in the hearts of several mages. The Executioner,” my mother said.

  Maria’s laugh was short and abrupt.

  “Merely a myth! A myth to keep dark covens from rising against humanity.” Maria turned to the man in the suit. “Dane, she is wasting our time. Let’s kill her, then find the child when the spell lifts.”

  “It is not a myth, Maria, and you know it. The Executioner has been quiet for hundreds of years. Killing you won’t change that,” Dane spoke smoothly, waving his hand around. “Maria, do as you please. We have an unregistered child to kill.”

  “Gladly,” Maria replied.

  Everything happened in slow motion. Why was it when you watched something traumatic unfold before your eyes that time slowed down? Was it to allow yourself to comprehend every last detail?

  Maria plunged her hand through my mother’s chest and yanked out her heart in the same moment. There was so much blood. A whip of red struck me. I covered my mouth to stop the scream but it was too late. They saw me rise up from the bush to run. I was next. I was so dead.

  Maria pushed my mother to the ground with a sharp kick and tossed her heart onto her corpse without dropping eye contact with me.

  I would never forget the look of horror on my mother’s face as her dead eyes gazed up at me, still pleading to run. It was too late.

  “Found you,” Maria beamed, tilting her head to the side.

  “That’s quite enough. You’ve had your fun,” Dane said, signaling to the remaining agents to shoot with a quick hand gesture. “Make it quick. We have a mess to clean up.”

  Green laser lights from their guns hovered over my body. I closed my eyes and let out a heavy breath. It was then where I accepted my fate. My parents were dead. I had no one left. My dreams of making a world where Tainted Beings and humans could coexist were beginning to unravel around me. It was over. I was never destined to change the world. I was never destined to become a hero.

  A loud bang followed by a bright flare caused my eyes to flick open. Someone grabbed me and slung me over their shoulder before making a run for it. Bullets whizzed past us as the agents’ fired blindly.

  The rain made everything slippery but the man carrying me somehow managed to stop me from falling. He held me tighter when I tried to squirm out of his grip. I panicked because I felt magic radiate off him in waves. It was as if the rays of the hot sun were bearing down on me.

  “Calm down, Joan. I’m one of the good guys.”

  I didn’t recognise his voice. He didn’t have an American accent; it sounded European.

  “Ah, crap. Should have known the she-devil wouldn’t let you go without a fight,” he said.

  I glanced up and saw Maria chasing after us. Although it was dark and pouring down with rain, the consistent lightning strikes brightened up the forest. Her figure seemed to blur. She was deliberately speeding up and slowing down, taunting us.

  The man carrying me didn
’t slow down. He kept running, ignoring the branches that smacked him.

  “You know you can’t outrun me, Lorenzo. I should have known that weakling was one of your coven members,” Maria called out, laughing after she spoke. “Drop the girl and run. We can all forget tonight. Surely her life isn’t as precious as your own?”

  “Her life is more precious than you know,” Lorenzo called back, starting to slow down.

  Lorenzo stopped entirely and put me down, helping me stand when he realised I was dead on my feet. He held me behind him, attempting to shield me from Maria. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be safe from that demon.

  “I’m not alone, Maria. Take a look around. You’re surrounded,” Lorenzo stated.

  A large group of people appeared from the trees, stepping into view after being hidden by tree trunks. They all had magic glowing in their hands; lightning, fire, water, air, others had physical weapons that shone brightly in the darkness. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The pressure from all their magic combined was overpowering. I almost couldn’t breathe.

  “This isn’t over,” Maria declared.

  “I believe it is,” a woman spoke, her voice a rich chime. “Run back to your master.”

  “Kill her, Salena! Kill her now!” another woman yelled. “Before she gets away!”

  “You won’t kill me. You never will. You’re too weak,” Maria said before disappearing in a flash.

  My legs gave way but Lorenzo made sure I didn’t fall. He caught me before I hit the ground. Rivers of tears flowed down my face. It was raining so hard it was as if I wasn’t really crying at all. My voice gave out after wordlessly screaming and sobbing.

  Lorenzo lowered me to the ground when my body needed to. I couldn’t stand up any longer. All I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and sob.

  “Damian, I don’t know how to handle crying women, let alone teenagers. She’s all yours,” Lorenzo spoke quietly, moving away to give me some breathing space.

  “You are all unbelievable! I’m done! I quit! I’m leaving this sorry excuse of a coven and if any of you try to stop me, I’ll make you wish you didn’t!” The yelling woman from earlier screamed even louder.

  “Rose–”

  “Screw you, Lorenzo! Screw all of you!” Rose stormed away, disappearing into the pouring rain.

  “Let her go,” Salena ordered when some made the move to go after Rose. “Lorenzo, stay with Damian. The rest of us will leave and give you some privacy.”

  Warm hands pried my secure ball apart, picking me up from the ground. The rain stopped when Lorenzo opened an umbrella and held it over us. The person who picked me up held my face in his hands. The ocean blue eyes and the loving face of my uncle stared back at me. His hands fell from my face when he hugged me.

  “You’re safe, Joan. You’re safe. I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” Damian murmured, hugging me tighter.

  I hugged him back and couldn’t stop sobbing.

  “I don’t have anyone left. They’re all dead,” I choked.

  “You have me. You won’t lose me. I won’t leave you for anything.”

  “I have nowhere to go. I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t exist,” I sobbed, clinging to him. “I’m alone!”

  Damian pulled away from the hug. One hand rested on my shoulder, the other held the side of my face.

  “You silly girl. You exist and you are part of my family. You will never be alone,” Damian reassured me.

  “Damian, we gotta move. Dane called backup, a lot of backup,” Lorenzo said, the urgency obvious.

  “Alright,” Damian replied, sighing. “I know you’re hurting, Joan. I know everything is still trying to sink in. For now, you are safe. You will keep living. You will not die on my watch, not ever. I will not lose another precious person. Let me help you. Let me protect you. Let me love you like I always have and always will. Come home with me. I will keep you safe.”

  I nodded a little too fast.

  “Okay,” my voice came out in a whisper.

  “We can avoid the swarm of agents going this way,” Lorenzo said, shutting the umbrella and pointing with it.

  We followed his lead and I tried to run. I was exhausted and didn’t get very far at all.

  Damian picked me up and held me in his arms. The sudden sense of security was the only thing responsible for chasing away the adrenaline. Adrenaline had been the sole key of keeping me awake and alert. I fell into unconsciousness before I knew what was happening; shock had finally overwhelmed me.

 
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