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Branded (book 1), p.1
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       Branded (Book 1), p.1

           K.L. Hawker
 
Branded (Book 1)


  BRANDED

  By K.L. Hawker

  BRANDED

  Copyright © 2012 K.L. Hawker

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission by the author.

  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  Branded / K.L. Hawker

  ISBN-13: 978-0-9917257-1-7

  Cover Design by Conrad Visual Concepts

  www.facebook.com/klhawker

  www.klhawker.com

  For Austin, my inspiration.

  Elephant shoe.

  “And lead us not into temptation,

  but deliver us from the evil one.” ~ Matthew 6:13

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Introduction to Stranded

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Prologue

  I clutched my stomach as we weaved in and out of traffic along the freeway, my mouth dry and eyes wide with fear of the unknown.

  “Please slow down,” I grumbled, knowing she wouldn’t listen, but if she paused to consider my words, it just might create a decrease in acceleration.

  “We’re already going to be late as it is,” she answered calmly, passing another car. “I think I’ll use the carpool lane.”

  “We’re not carpooling,” I pointed out.

  “Technically we are. You’re going to school and I’m going to work.” She smiled at me sweetly.

  “I’m your daughter. It’s not carpooling, it’s parenting.”

  Mom laughed. “How are you feeling now? Any better?”

  “I still feel sick. Can we please go home?”

  “Is this about Ryan, honey?” Mom asked, in the annoying way that only a mother could.

  “No, Mom,” I interjected. “You know, just because I have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that every time I feel sick, he caused it.”

  Mom nodded slowly. “I suppose you’re right. Then it’s about your dream?”

  I turned and stared out my window. The dream itself was horrifying enough, I didn’t need to recount it and deal with my mother’s ambivalence to the same.

  “Dreams can be scary, sweetheart, I get that, but you can’t stay home just because you think the sky is going to start falling down around you.”

  “It’s not the sky,” I mumbled.

  The overpass was up ahead, in plain view now. My knees were drawn to my chest and I was breathing heavily into them. Mom reached out and gripped my knee. “Are you okay?” she said, her concern now apparent. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I tried to catch my breath.

  “Geez, honey,” Mom said as she slowed the car down and pulled in behind a slow moving car. “Just breathe, honey. It’s okay.”

  I knew what the loud thud was without having to look. I knew it was a chunk of concrete from the above overpass. I knew it had just fallen and split apart into several smaller pieces. Cars began swerving around the broken concrete. I knew the colors of the cars without looking. I knew which ones would make it and which ones wouldn’t.

  “Pull over!” I shouted between sobs.

  Mom was clutching the steering wheel now as we neared the overpass. Her speed was reduced, and she was met with annoyed drivers behind her, honking and hollering at her to get out of the way. And then, right there in front of our eyes, and above a half dozen vehicles, and below a dozen more, the overpass heaved, groaned and crumbled as it collapsed. Just as I had seen it a few hours before while I slept.

  While others were screaming, panicking and racing from their vehicles, Mom was smiling. “You’re gifted with Prophecy!”

  Yes, it would seem that this tragic incident confirmed that her sixteen-year-old daughter had finally found her gift. And although it wasn’t what she had hoped or imagined, there was never a mother more thrilled to have a prophet for a daughter.

  Now that I was a Gifted One, I had no choice but to break up with Ryan. I knew he would be heartbroken, but it was the only way. Gifted Ones weren’t supposed to get romantically involved with the ungifted. It was too dangerous as there would be no way for him to protect himself from the Defiers.

  As expected, it didn’t go over well. As controlling as he was, the mere fact that he had no control over this situation sent him into a tailspin. He showed up at my door every morning and every night—sometimes with a dozen roses, sometimes with my favourite take-out food, and once with a ring as he begged me to marry him. Whenever I turned him away, he would tear out of the driveway, peeling rubber as he went. He was angry. I knew that, but there wasn’t anything I could say or do. The more time I spent away from him, the more I realized how smothering he had become over the last couple of months. I began feeling guilty that I was enjoying my time apart from him.

  One evening as we sat on my doorstep—him begging for an explanation for why I wouldn’t take him back, and me dying inside a little bit more each time he asked—I finally caved. I told him about my gift. Mom would not be happy; I broke the number one rule of secrecy.

  “Mom?” I called into the kitchen one morning as I came down for breakfast. “I had another dream.”

  Mom sat up straight and pulled a chair out next to her. “What is it?”

  “There are Gifted Ones on the East Coast that haven’t been discovered yet. One of them holds a power so strong that could change the world.”

  “What are their gifts?” she asked.

  “One is a healer with great potential. The other is fuzzy. I don’t know. I just know that the two are close friends. We will find them together.”

  Mom drilled me for all the details and when I had finished, she said, “Pack your things. We’re moving to the East Coast.”

  “What? But what about my friends? Can’t we finish this school year first? Why do we have to move there? Can’t we just go visit first?”

  “You’ve done too much damage telling Ryan about your gift,” she said pointedly, still harbouring a tone of resentment.

  “We can’t just up and move across the continent just because of that, Mom.” I was standing now, making my point loud and clear. “He won’t tell anyone,” I promised.

  “My sources tell me that he’s been doing a lot of research on Gifted Ones. You should not have told him.”

  “I know, Mom. I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted him to stop asking why.”

  She ignored my reasoning and stared at me with such intensity that I knew what she was doing. She was manipulating my thoughts.

  “Mom, don’t!” I warned as my reasons became clouded and my memories fogged. Don’t what? I asked myself. She’s right. We have to go. For the good of mankind. To find these Gifted Ones before the Defiers do.

  “We’ll need to move at night, and leave no trace behind,” she said.

  “Of course.” I nodded. Because she was right.


 
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