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A vision for the future, p.1
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       A Vision for the Future, p.1

           Melissa Wright
 
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A Vision for the Future


  A Vision for the Future

  Melissa Wright

  Copyright 2013 by Melissa Wright

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Special Thanks to author RK Ryals, for unending support and inspiration. To Jenn for boundless enthusiasm, and Brittany for honest feedback. You guys rock! And to my mom, who still asks each day how it’s going.

  A Vision for the Future

  I'd known how I would die since the day I was born. The knowledge was there in my first memories and had been fixed ever since.

  I would not be alone when I died. My best friend would be with me. I could see her face. Horror and agony were clear, though her features were slightly distorted through the water between us. She was gripping my forearm, pulling with everything she had.

  I could see her anguish and the scene was so real I could almost feel the ache in my chest.

  In the vision, I knew I did not want to die. No part of me was ready for it to be over.

  The surface seemed nearly within reach when it ended in sudden, excruciating blackness.

  I had accepted all this. Because I'd known when my life would end, I'd lived it accordingly, working and playing at a pace that was suitable for my situation. I wasn't a superhero, I didn't see disasters and prevent them like in the movies. I'd never predicted lottery numbers or even been able to guess the fastest checkout lane in the supermarket. I’d only ever had a handful of revelations or visions or whatever you wanted to call them and, aside from that of my death, I'd never really concerned myself with them.

  That was, however, until they became firmer. The impending "deadline" had always been vague, and though I knew about how old I looked and felt in the vision, I'd never had a set timeline.

  Before last week.

  And now, the closer it came, the more obsessively I worried about it. I wasn't ready to die.

  The door of the sedan opened, interrupting my thoughts, and I forced a smile for Jack, though he barely noticed me. He was, as usual, on his cell phone. When he finally glanced at me, it was with a reproof; he hated it when I wrung my hands. I pulled them apart to slide under the pressure of my legs as the car sped from the hotel's private entrance. As we drove through the gates, I wondered if it really was private as we had been told, or if it was merely a delivery entrance and they wanted us to think we were receiving special treatment. That sort of thing happened more often than not.

  Jack's laugh brought me back and I watched him as he so easily conversed with his secretary about the day's scheduled rally. I couldn't understand how he could be so damn plucky when he knew what I was facing. I could only hope that it was the false Jack that he used so often, the one that was necessary for his line of work. Jack was a politician in every sense of the word.

  I nearly smiled at the memory of how we'd met. I'd been sitting alone at a small table in a coffee shop that I'd never been to. I always liked to try things I’d never done, because I knew there wouldn’t be much longer for new experiences. For any experiences at all.

  I'd heard a deep voice order plain black coffee and glanced up just in time to see him scan the room. I'd instantly recognized him from one of the few non-death-related visions I'd had. He was Jack Mason, and he was going to be president.

  The thought had made me smile, and Jack had thought that smile was for him. Jack liked attention. As he paid and received his coffee, he turned back several times to consider me so I put my head down and focused on a flyer at the table to avoid him.

  "Excuse me," he'd said and I looked up, shocked to find that he'd approached my table. I felt my brows rise at his boldness and he poured on the charm. "You have a beautiful smile. I'd like to see it again."

  I'd laughed at him and he'd taken it as encouragement to sit in the chair across from me. He was so handsome. Tall and lean, dark hair, strong jaw and teasing eyes. And he wanted me. His forwardness had made me brazen and I replied, "I was merely smiling because I recognized the future president."

  And that was that.

  His personality was suited to such comments and I'd hit the mark, bull’s-eye. When I looked back on it now, it was so apparent. Worse, I'd never lied to him, I'd told him right away the whole deal. But he'd never backed off or accused me of being mad. The fact that I'd seen my own death made the prediction for his future more definite as far as he was concerned. His platform had, ironically, become “A Vision for the Future” and he'd thrown himself into campaigning full force.

  I hadn’t had any friends at the time, dreading the idea of having to explain my situation, so when I'd met Jack, he became my world.

  And then, of course, there was the day I'd met Maggie. I'd been shopping for a new suit to wear to one of Jack's fundraisers and found her in the dressing room. I hadn't recognized her at first, she'd just been a copper-headed stranger talking to herself in the mirror. I had struggled not to laugh at her from my stall, but found myself smiling when I walked out in the trial skirt and blazer outfit to see how it looked in the larger, surround mirrors she'd been standing in front of.

  "Oh. My. God," Maggie had said as she eyed me, "that is the most First Lady thing I've ever seen!"

  I allowed myself to laugh at her then, but when I looked in the mirror, it was a bit Jackie-O. She carried on about how she'd just have to buy it and, when she reached a manicured hand over to read the price tag, her face twisted in mock horror. That was when I knew.

  It was her.

  Kooky as she was, I couldn't let myself avoid her then. I had spent the whole of my life knowing the devastation she would suffer when she watched me die.

  I shivered as again my thoughts returned to death. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered hearing that a cold chill meant someone was walking over your grave.

  Jack was still on the phone.

  I considered making a call of my own. Maggie had been having a rough time since my visions had started becoming clearer as well. She didn't know about my death prophecy because I hadn’t the heart to tell her, but she knew I saw a few other things. She knew my prediction about Jack and, up until a few weeks ago, it had appeared to everyone I'd be right. So Maggie believed me wholly. Plus, she was a little off.

  But when I'd seen a mental image of her mega-jealous boyfriend Ryan holding a gun to her, she'd dumped him the same day. She hadn't seemed to regret it at all, so I didn’t think she was as serious as he had been about the relationship, but he'd been leaving her nasty voicemail and text messages, accusing her of screwing half the office. He'd also apparently blamed me for the whole situation because I'd gotten Maggie her new job in said office—Jack’s office.

  I wasn't sure if Maggie had told him about my revelation when she'd broken it off. But Ryan had sent me a few messages of my own, saying I'd taken her from him and cursing me. Jack had made sure that was taken care of right away. I didn't know to what extent, but I knew, at the very least, his security team had blocked the number from my phone.

  "Right, well, we should be arriving in about twenty. Listen, I've got another call. Yes. Okay." Jack smiled—at the phone, not at me—as he transferred to the second caller. "Jack here. Oh, hey, Greg. No, no, I've got time. Yes."

  He laughed again.

  I couldn’t help but wonder what was with his mood. For weeks he'd been
dejected and now, suddenly, he was out-and-out perky.

  He'd been down in the polls and the general thought was that it was time to concede, so part of me had understood his despondence. But it irritated me wholly to see him smiling and laughing now given all that had happened since then.

  He'd been constantly too busy to even speak to me since our anniversary. We weren't actually married, it was simply an anniversary of our first meeting, but we celebrated anyway. We'd gone to a lovely restaurant and when we'd returned to the hotel, he'd actually discussed spending our lives together.

  Jack almost never did anything against the advice of his council, so I was shocked that he'd even consider it. It wasn't that his team disliked me. Everyone, everywhere knew I was Jack's girl. I was front and center at every fundraiser and speaking engagement, endlessly at his side for photo ops and social meetings. But, since Maggie had started working in the office, there had been a snag. She'd mentioned my sight to a few associates and, though we didn't publicly claim it, Jack's team worried about it somehow getting out. I'd overheard several heated conversations regarding the issue and, honestly, I'd never expected to ever be more than a "companion" because of it.

  But I'd not really given it much thought since then, because later that night, he'd given me the gift.

  I'd been calling it "the gift" because it was too hard to say “the sweater I was wearing when I died” while I was sitting here alive. I'd been giddy on love and wine and had eagerly ripped the fancy pink packaging apart to find a gorgeous ice blue cashmere sweater set.

  I'd frozen solid as I stared into the box, vaguely aware of Jack's affectionate words and how he'd known it would complement my striking eyes. He'd kept talking, thinking I was merely in awe of his wonderful present, until I screamed.

  "Christ, Laina, what is it?"

  I dimly appreciated his pet name for me as he shook me violently in an attempt to break the trance.

  "The sweater, the sweater," I babbled. He jerked me forward so we were eye to eye as he forced the explanation from me. When I'd finally gotten the message across that it was the sweater I would die in, he’d thrown it across the room and pulled me instantly into a tight hug.

  I'd bawled the rest of the evening and eventually fell asleep in the cradle of his arms. In the dark of night, I woke again, shrieking so loudly security came to check on us. Jack had calmed me just enough to answer the door and send them away, making up some nonsense about night terrors. When he returned to bed, he'd worriedly questioned me again.

  "It's clearer, Jack. It's coming," I fluttered.

  "What? What's coming?"

  "It," I managed through broken sobs, and then he'd understood what I meant. "It's close, Jack. It won't be long now. Before… before it was indistinct, but now I know. It's soon."

  He'd patiently stroked my hand as I spoke, but I could see that he wasn't getting it. He didn't comprehend the urgency. I tried to explain it fully. "You leave me, I'm alone and that's when it happens."

  "I won't leave you, Laina," he soothed.

  "But you will, you'll leave me and I'll die," I croaked. I didn't know how to get through to him without spelling it out. "Jack, it's all related. You aren't going to do it on your own. You're only going to win because of the sympathy vote." His face had hardened and I knew he'd misunderstood me. His feelings were hurt so I tried to clarify, "You will win because of me, Jack. You end it with me right before I die. No one knows but us and I walk out alone and die." I had pointed to the floor as I hissed, "In that sweater!"

  He shook his head, "You're not making any sense."

  "It's clearer now, Jack. They are connected, these two of the three visions I've had my entire life. You win the election because I die. They feel sorry for you. You dump me out and that's how I end up alone, by the water, where I die."

  His face had paled.

  And that was the last we'd spoken of it.

  Each time I'd tried to see him since, he'd been too busy, constantly in meetings and press events, everywhere but with me. His assistant had been returning my calls and messages, something that had nearly never happened before the gift.

  Finally, I'd pushed myself through security and into the middle of one of his meetings, demanding a moment to speak with him alone, in person.

  He'd smiled as if I'd not just humiliated him in front of a room full of colleagues and said, "Yes, Elaina, tomorrow morning. You can ride with me to the rally."

  I was hurt that he'd given me an appointment, even more so that it was outside the hotel. He'd known that I'd not left since I'd woken with clearer sight, knowing the time was near. I was afraid to go anywhere, unsure of exactly where the water was. I'd kept free of anything outside and I'd avoided Maggie altogether.

  But I hadn’t let on that he'd wounded me, I just held my head high and said, "Of course," before I spun and walked from the room. I could hear the disquieted murmurs behind me but I kept on until I reached our suite, where I threw myself on the bed and wept.

  I'd cried myself to sleep and didn't wake until early the next morning when I heard noise in the adjoining room.

  "What's going on?" I asked the staffers who were carrying boxes out.

  Something about their manner gave the impression their task made them uncomfortable.

  No one had answered at first and then Jeff, a handsome young aide, said, "Your things are being relocated, Miss Johnson."

  Miss Johnson? Relocated? The part of me Jack had trained knew I should force a smile, but I could not. I'd felt cold and abandoned as I sat on a sofa and watched my belongings being removed from our room.

  When the last of them were gone, the door had opened once more as an intern informed me that the car would be ready in fifteen minutes. I'd foggily made my way to the vanity, thankful that they'd left my cosmetic bag and a clean outfit. One glance in the mirror at my puffy red eyes and messy hair told me a shower was absolutely necessary, so I threw my clothes off and hurried to the bath to clean up.

  The hot water helped to clear my head but that had only served to make my heart ache more. As soon as I was out and dry, I'd plastered on foundation to cover the blotchy red marks and, noting that I'd only three minutes left to dress and make it down sixteen levels to the car, skimped on everything else but mascara.

  I opened the door and found that maid service had been in, which annoyed me entirely, because honestly, how fast did he need to clean up after he'd moved me out? I made my way across the room, hurriedly unzipped the garment bag and all but vomited right there on the floor when I saw what hung inside.

  I had grabbed the wall to steady myself, certain it was just a coincidence—someone didn't know and had mistakenly left it for me—before I'd turned and searched for my slept-in clothes from the day before. And then I cursed. Because the maid service had taken them.

  After a few centering breaths, I'd rummaged through every drawer in the room, hunting for anything else wearable, but even Jack's clothes were gone. For one instant, it had given me hope. The idea that maybe we were both moving to a new room.

  Together.

  "Miss Johnson?" a voice called from the door. "The car is waiting."

  "I'll be right there," I said. If it had only been a woman, I would have paid her to give me her shirt.

  "Jack says to please be sure you come down, he's anxious to see you."

  Jack. Yes, I'd been right. Jack wouldn't leave me, he loved me. He wanted to spend his life with me. I'd just been so absorbed with myself I couldn't see what he'd been going through.

  I'd pulled the light blue sweater and slim navy skirt from the rack and hastily dressed, all but running from the room to meet him. The elevator dinged past floor after floor and I couldn't seem to keep my breathing steady or my feet still. When we had finally reached the parking garage, I rushed out to the sedan, practically flying in when the driver opened the door for me.

  But Jack wasn't there yet.

  "It'll just be a moment, Miss Johnson," the driver assured me.

 
; "Thanks, Stephan," I said breathlessly. I had smiled when the tinted divider window rose, glad Jack and I would have complete privacy when he arrived.

  And he'd been on the phone ever since. "Jack," I interrupted him. He held up his first finger, the one-minute signal, and I sighed. I knew we were close now, I could see the cars lining the streets. Too many for a weekday morning.

  "Great, yes. Thanks, Jim." He finally snapped his phone shut. He looked at me and then, purposefully, down at my sweater.

  A cold chill ran up my spine.

  "Eric said you wanted to speak with me?" I asked, suddenly uncertain.

  "I wanted to be sure you were here."

  "You wanted me at the rally?"

  "I'll miss you, Laina. Truly, I will."

  "Are you breaking up with me?" I asked, nearly oblivious that I sounded like a panicked teenage girl.

  He stared forward. "Yes."

  It knocked the wind out of me.

  I watched as he viewed the large crowd of people gathering to hear him speak. He was ignorant of my horror, merely concerned with the showing. I could see his fingers pick at the material of his pant leg in an attempt to contain his excitement.

  The frigid air hit my face as the door opened and he slid out, already smiling and waving to the crowd, without a single glance back to me. I stared after him in a daze as he walked toward the podium, shaking hands and kissing babies along the way. He had left me.

  The whirr of the dividing window filled the car as it slid down and I vaguely recognized that the driver was informing me he needed to park. I numbly opened the door and stepped out, the cheer of the crowd reduced to staticky background noise as I walked stiffly from the vehicle, only to see a pier ahead of me.

  The water.

  He had known.

  He was campaigning by the lake. Probably some environmental initiative. And he had known.

  My hair whipped in the cool breeze that came across the water. It was somehow unexpected, but, still, I knew what was coming. I absolutely didn't want it, but I couldn't seem to stop my feet as they moved, closer and closer to the wood planks that started the pier.

  My heart was pounding and my throat was dry.

  I was unable to find my voice, though I yearned to scream when I heard the unmistakable blast of a gunshot.

  It took only a moment to realize something was wrong. This wasn't my vision. I wasn’t drowning. I looked to the end of the pier to find the source of the report. For a fraction of a second I was almost relieved that it was, in fact, not my death. And then I saw Maggie, her face pale and shocked, clutching her chest with one hand as she held the other bloody palm out in a "stop" gesture. I followed her horrified gaze.

  And found Ryan.

  He was still pointing the gun at her, just as in the vision, yelling some incoherent hate, when the crack of discharge echoed across the pier again.

  The second blast tore me from my stunned haze. I ran for her as her body toppled backward into the lake.

  I was screaming now. "No, no, no!"

  My knees hit the planks hard as I leaned over to find her. I could see her just below the surface, struggling to break through. I thrust my hand in after her and she grabbed at it violently until I got a secure hold on her forearm to pull.

  Time seemed to slow as I saw her face through my reflection in the rippled water, both twisted in pain and terror. It was the vision, the one I’d watched my whole life.

  But it was wrong.

  Her weight pulled me down but she'd nearly broken the surface when it became right. When I finally understood.

  My ears registered the crack, crack at the same moment the bullets ripped through my chest.

  # # #

  Read on for a free preview of

  BOUND BY PROPHECY

  Book One in the Descendants Series

  For thousands of years, the Seven Lines have held a prophecy. The details are vague, as such things often are, but it can pretty much be summed up like this: Do things right, or everyone will die.

 
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