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       Chasing Forgiveness: A Tala Prophecy Companion Novella, p.1

           Tia Silverthorne Bach
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Chasing Forgiveness: A Tala Prophecy Companion Novella
Chasing Forgiveness

  Tala Prophecy Companion Novella

  by Tia Silverthorne Bach

  Copyright 2015 Tia Silverthorne Bach

  License Notes

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be copied or re-distributed in any way. Author holds all copyright.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Cover design by Jo Michaels

  Edited by Jo Michaels of INDIE Books Gone Wild

  Published by Tia Silverthorne Bach

  The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment.

  ***

  Acknowledgements

  "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

  ~ Albert Schweitzer

  So many people spark my inner flame.

  I can't imagine life without my husband of twenty years and three beautiful daughters. Ed, Jackie, Reagan, and Maddie bless my life every day.

  Some of the first sparks came from my mother, father, and three sisters.

  Jo, you're not just a spark; you're fireworks! You inspire me. Thanks for your mad editing skills, killer covers, all around advice, and friendship.

  My beta readers rock! Thanks Shauna, Dana, Tara, Tricia, and Mom. I'm so grateful for your encouragement and suggestions.

  And what would life be without amazing friends? I'll get to see many of you in Colorado in May and utopYA in June. Hearts and hugs.

  Thanks to all the readers who spend precious time reading my books; you inspire me to keep writing.

  And in all things, thanks be to God.

  ***

  When terror strikes, forever altering your life, it doesn't ask permission or forgiveness.

  After a tough week of school and extracurricular commitments, my sister and I lounged with Mom in our bedroom discussing boys and clothes. I told a story about a boy at school who was pushed out of the locker room with his underwear around his ankles. Laughter filled the space. Then, we heard a noise. Mom bolted upright and told us to stay put. As she pulled the door closed, she put a finger to her lips. My sister came to sit with me, and I took her hand. With each passing second, I tightened my grip. We heard a dog outside barking and growling followed by a loud noise downstairs. My sister gasped, and I clamped a hand over her mouth.

  Maybe Mom bumped into something in the dark. After all, we were just laughing and goofing off. An eerie feeling settled into my bones. Something was wrong. Why hadn't Mom come back? Impatient and curious, I uncurled my fingers from my sister's, crept toward the door, and cracked it open.

  "No, Madeleine-" Am?lie said.

  I cut her off by putting a finger to my lips and shaking my head-my heart pounding in my chest. Turning back to the door, I strained to listen. At first, I only heard muffled voices, so I stepped a foot into the hallway. Then, a male voice-rough and deep-wafted up the stairs.

  "You knew we'd find you."

  "Fernand isn't here, and I don't know what you're talking about," my mother said, her voice shaky.

  Dad had been gone for days. When I asked Mom about it, she said it was an unexpected business trip. Lately, he spent more days on the road than with us.

  A loud crash, followed by my mother's screams, sent me scrambling back into the room.

  "Search the house!" the male voice commanded.

  "Girls, run!" Mom yelled.

  There was no doubting the fear in Mom's voice. Only one other time in my life, when she screamed for me to get out of the road as a speeding car approached, had her voice sounded so intense. I ran forward, slammed the door, and locked it. Frantic, I spun around a couple of times, desperate to find a way out. On the third twirl, I caught sight of our only chance. I grabbed Am?lie and pushed her toward the bedroom window.

  "Down the tree!" I yelled. I'd used this mode of escape last weekend to sneak out and see my boyfriend.

  As Am?lie threw one leg out the window, something slammed against the bedroom door. I grabbed our desk chair and wedged it under the doorknob. My heart raced, and I fought for air, my breathing shallow and erratic. Desperate to find some kind of weapon, my eyes darted around the room. Then, I saw what I needed. A few months ago, my dad brought back an ornate sword in a carved case from his trip to Japan and hung it on our wall. I grabbed the weapon, hoping it was more dangerous than a normal souvenir, and ran to join my sister.

  Shoving the sword, safely in its sheath, into my sweatpants, I scrambled down the tree.

  Am?lie waited at the bottom, yelling for me to hurry. About halfway to the ground, I looked up and saw a man hanging out of our window. Shocked by his appearance, I froze. His porcelain skin and red eyes took my breath away; he would've been handsome had he not reeked of creepy. When he smiled, fang-like incisors elongated until they were almost to the bottom of his chin.

  "I've got them," he said in a teasing voice.

  I dropped the last few feet to the ground. Unable to stay upright, I landed and rolled before finally pushing myself back up. I grabbed my sister's hand and ran, terrified to glance back and see how close our pursuer was. I dropped Am?lie's hand so I could unsheathe the sword.

  Am?lie screamed, causing me to snap my head up and see the freak from our bedroom land not ten feet away. With exaggerated movements, he stood from his crouching position, fixed his stare on us, and laughed.

  "This is too easy."

  In a flash, he had Am?lie in his grip. He pulled her head to the side, exposing her neck, and bent toward it. His teeth shone in the moonlight.

  "No!" I yelled as I sprinted toward him.

  He dropped my sister and came at me. With sword raised, I thrust it at him as soon as he came close enough. Spinning, I caught his hand and sliced it off when he reached for me. He looked as shocked as I was by my maneuver. Thanks, Dad, for an authentic souvenir, I thought. Then, the thing moved toward me again.

  "I was going to kill you quickly, but now you will suffer!" he yelled, clutching the area where his hand used to be.

  A piercing howl cut through the night air, causing the creature to look to his left. When he did, I swung the blade again. This time, I caught his lower neck. Blood spurted everywhere as he clawed and hissed. I hadn't been strong enough to slice all the way through and decapitate him.

  Am?lie rushed to my side, and we took off for our closest neighbor a few yards away. Pulling her along and terrified to look back, I felt her being ripped away as a dark shadow slammed into me.

  "She's coming to."

  Struggling to fight the heaviness in my head, I edged one eye open and then the other. A handsome face leaned over me.

  Gripping the bed sheets, alarm filling my body, I tried to scramble backward. Exhaustion prevented me from getting far.

  "It's okay. I'm not here to hurt you."

  "Where am I?" I managed.

  "Safe."

  Shadows and darkness; it all came rushing back. "Oh, God, where's Madeleine?" I asked, trying desperately to sit up and take in my surroundings. Then, I remembered Mom's screams. "And my mom and dad?"

  With delicate force, the young man pushed me back toward the bed. "Madeleine's safe and recuperating. You need to rest. You and your sister have been through a lot, and your healing is almost complete."

  Intense hunger swept over me, and a
ll I could think about was food. Pushing past selfish needs, I wondered why he didn't answer about my parents. "I want to see my sister."

  "You need to rest." He sighed. "But I can see that's not going to happen. Madeleine wouldn't sit still either. Okay, let's go." He put his hand out. "My name is Rafe, by the way. Madeleine is with my brother, Rowan. I'll take you to them." Rafe extended his hand and a smile crept onto his face.

  He was one of the most handsome men I'd ever seen. His skin was a warm brown, his eyes deep green, and he must've stood over six feet tall. If I had to guess, I'd say he was eighteen or nineteen; just a couple of years older than me. I reached out and put my hand in his, startled by the jolt of his touch.

  When I stood, I noticed I was no longer in my pajamas. Instead, I was wearing a pair of gray sweatpants and a white cotton tank top. It looked like something my dad would lounge around in on a relaxing Sunday morning.

  Confused, I looked at Rafe.

  "I know you have questions, but it'll be easier to talk with you and your sister together. She's been up a few hours now, and I'm not sure how much more Rowan's told her since we spoke earlier."

  I couldn't help but wonder why Madeleine hadn't demanded to see me right away. Shaking off my thoughts, I followed Rafe into a dim hallway. Everything from the wood paneling to the decorations on the wall reminded me of New Orleans. Even the rickety stairs made me think of the old homes in our neighborhood.

  Dad was some kind of big-wig in town, though he didn't hold an official title, so we were often dragged to important social events. All the locals knew our family. We couldn't just disappear without major rumblings from the community. Somebody had to be coming for us.

  At the bottom of the stairs, voices brought me back to reality as we rounded the corner and entered the kitchen. Several guys and one lady, who stood out with her deep tan and flowing white blonde hair, were sitting around a long table.

  "Am?lie?"

  A few people moved aside as Madeleine rushed over. She captured me in a huge hug, squeezing hard, before pulling back and putting her forehead to mine.

  "Have they told you anything?" I asked, eager for details and some knowledge about Mom and Dad.

  "Not much."

  Another olive-skinned, ripped young man walked over. "Hi, I'm Rowan, it's nice to meet you," he said, extending his hand.

  I took it in mine and looked from Rowan to Rafe. They shared the same skin tone, dark hair, and brown eyes, but Rowan's eyes had an olive-brown richness.

  "Let's head into the living room and talk," Rafe said.

  This time, he took Madeleine's hand, and I felt a moment of jealousy. Shaking off the shallow thoughts, since there were more pressing matters than lusting after our host, I followed Rowan and a few others.

  Something about this place felt like home. Tendrils of anxiety laced around my throat, and I knew I should be afraid; yet, a sense of calmness prevailed. Sitting in the living room, on a ball and claw couch my mother would've adored, I took a deep breath and prepared for details. The last thing I remembered was Madeleine swinging a sword at some man-like thing and then running in the darkness; the rest of the story couldn't be good.

  "How much did your parents tell you?" Rafe asked as an older gentleman walked into the room.

  Before I could clarify what our parents were supposed to have told us, a new voice boomed.

  "I'll ask the questions around here."

  All movement and conversation stopped.

  For a moment, I could've sworn I saw anger flash in Rafe's eyes, but he lowered his head and stepped to the side.

  "My name is Hemming. I assume you've met Ricardo, Sasha, Rafe, and Rowan." He nodded at each of them as he said their names. "I wish we had more time to get to know each other, but things are very delicate right now. So, what did your parents tell you?"

  Madeleine and I exchanged glances and shrugged; unless she knew something I didn't, we didn't know anything.

  "Your parents told you nothing?" Hemming asked, his head tilted, one eyebrow arched, and a deep crevice formed above his nose.

  "No. There was a deep voice, and he was asking Mom-" Madeleine paused, looking to the side as if searching for answers "-all he said was, 'You knew we'd find you.' I have no clue what that means or who he was. Right now, all we care about is Mom and Dad. Did Mom make it?"

  Before he could say a word, the look on his face communicated everything. "Your mother is dead."

  I shook my head and covered my mouth with my hand. Tears fell. Mom couldn't be gone. I could see people's lips moving, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. All I could hear clearly were Hemming's words over and over again. Seeking comfort, I buried my face in my sister's lap.

  Madeleine stroked my hair. With a slight quiver in her voice, she asked, "And Dad?"

  "We aren't sure about your father yet," Hemming said. "It seems he's high on many most wanted lists right now. They aren't real thrilled with some of his interactions."

  As my mind tripped over the idea of Dad having any interactions that would matter to this group, or the ones we encountered at our house, my sister spoke. "You're going to have to give us some kind of history lesson, and fast. Until last night, I had no clue vampires existed." My sister's voice seemed clearer, more in command.

  "Well, that didn't keep you from handling them pretty well."

  I raised my head at the sound of Rafe's voice and wiped away the last few tears.

  "If they're vampires, then what are you, and why should we trust you?" I asked. A sense of dread took over, knowing simple answers were a thing of the past. Nothing would ever be normal again.

  "The same thing you are? werewolves. We may be the only family you have left."

  ***

  "Werewolves?" I asked, scanning the people around me to see who'd crack a smile first. This had to be some kind of a joke. Serious faces remained, and I'd had enough. "Okay, I think it's time we leave."

  My blood was boiling, and I felt anger like I'd never experienced. I didn't realize I was clutching the side of the couch until I stood and heard a crunch. I looked down to find the wood detail firmly in my grasp.

  Shocked, I fell back onto the couch and let the piece fall to the floor. "What just happened?"

  Rowan was quick to come to my side, kneeling before me and making eye contact. "Your father called us in to help you. He got word of the attack, but we didn't get there in time. When we arrived, you were fighting the vampire-and doing a pretty amazing job, I might add-so we had to act fast."

  "What did you do?" Each word was harder than the previous one to say, and my volume decreased to almost a whisper by the last one.

  "You're now one of us," Hemming said. "It wasn't part of the initial plan, but there were so many vampires. Am?lie was an accident, an overzealous newer recruit, and you sliced your leg pretty bad with the downward swing of your sword." Hemming paused and looked to Rafe, who cast his eyes downward. "Still, it's for the best. We haven't been able to communicate with your father, but the plan was always to bring you to safety. Being one of us is the best way to keep you safe."

  "One of you? What exactly does that mean?" Am?lie asked, her voice cracking.

  I pulled my sister closer, bracing for the response.

  "You're stronger than you could've ever imagined, you won't age as fast, and you've gained a new family." Rafe paced the room as he spoke.

  When I woke up, desperate to find my sister and know more about my parents' fate, he'd been there. He calmed me with warm, comforting touches as well as news that my sister was safe. If he wasn't with me, Rowan was. Since arriving, I hadn't spent a moment alone. My gut told me I could trust the brothers more than Hemming.

  "We'll need to get you trained. The people in this room are my most trusted, and best, warriors. You'll be in good hands," Hemming said. He patted Rafe on the shoulder before heading out of the room.

  "Wait," I said. I barely had enough room to stand with Rowan still on the floor in front of me. "How do we know for
sure you aren't the bad guys?" My hands trembled, and I tried to steady them. I refused to let him, or anyone in this room for that matter, know I was scared.

  "You don't," Hemming said, before turning to Rowan and Rafe. "I expect you to get them whipped into shape pretty fast. Got it?"

  After the brothers nodded in unison, Hemming left.

  "I know he didn't do much to answer your questions, and he's never been accused of being warm and fuzzy, but I assure you, we are not the bad guys. These rogue vampires are killing machines, and they'd stop at nothing to wipe out the human species, and ours if they got the chance. They don't care about anyone but themselves. If it wasn't for your father?" Rowan paused, looking to his brother.

  Rafe took a turn. "Your father has been instrumental in keeping the vampires under control. He formed some alliances. Not only with us, but also with a few powerful vampire clans who want to coexist. They've found other ways to feed and believe it's never best for one species to annihilate another."

  "You're expecting me to believe our father was aware of vampires and werewolves. Mom, too? And neither of them thought to protect us or, at the very least, educate us?"

  I knew my parents, and they wouldn't keep us clueless. It didn't make sense. Anger rose like a bad case of heartburn.

  Am?lie, still sitting on the couch taking it all in, reached out and took hold of my hand. She was always the more level-headed of the two of us. Comforted by her touch, I took a few deep breaths.

  "That sensation you feel is the werewolf blood coursing through you. You're new to it, but what feels like anger is really power," Rafe said, a smile spreading across his face.

  "Before we train, let's grab some food. You two must be starving," Sasha said.

  Besides my sister, Sasha was the only other girl in the room, and I made a mental note to make friends with her. I had a feeling this new family was going to be male-dominated, and I wanted some female power on my side.

  "Could I have a moment alone with my sister first?" I asked.

  Rafe and Rowan looked at each other before Rafe nodded. "We'll be right outside in the hall. When you're ready, we'll escort you to the kitchen."

 
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