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       Keeper, p.1

           Tiffany Evans
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  Tiffany Evans

  A Hidden Bloodlines novel

  Book 1

  Copyright 2013 © Tiffany Evans

  Facebook: Author/135543839847822

  Cover design by: Cora Graphics

  Edited by: B&R Publishing

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademarked owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.


  This book is dedicated to my sister, Tia. Without her love, continual help, and hours of reading, it would have never reached it’s true potential. Thank you for always believing in me, and for never turning your back on me.

  To: My husband, Shaun, who fought for me, protected me, and rescued me. Words can never express how blessed I am to have you, let alone how much I love you.

  To: Ashlynn, Tyson, and Ryker, my beautiful children. I love you with all my heart!


  A special thanks to the most amazing critique partners, Chrissy, Wanita, and Meghan. You girls ROCK!

  Chapter 1


  I’d heard my name a lot lately, and for some odd reason, it was always being yelled.

  This time, the deep, angry tone had me scrambling to shove my iPod and sketchbook under my pillow. The sound of stomping boots reverberated up the stairwell. Algebra book. I stumbled over a pile of dirty clothes as I rushed to my desk and grabbed it. Hearing Delmari’s footsteps grow closer, I leapt for the bed.

  He threw the door open, not bothering to knock—obviously not worried I might have been naked—and stood, hands on his hips, glaring down at me. Crap.

  My gaze traveled up his looming frame. I faked an innocent smile, trying to pretend I didn’t know the reason he looked ready to rip me a new one.

  “Your football team lose again? Time you picked a new one to bet on, don’tcha think?”

  Jaw clenched, his eyes bore into mine like he attempted to exorcise demons from my soul. Or beat them out of me.

  “Not football, huh?” I didn’t scare easily like the majority of Dreas. Then again, no sane person would mess with a Kember…especially when that Kember was Delmari. He pretty much walked the earth as a badass, savior and god. Trained to protect, he could destroy anyone in his path.

  “What were you thinking?” He half-turned, running a hand over his buzzed, blond hair, before looking back at me.

  “Well…” I averted my gaze to the orange accent wall behind him, wondering how long I could get away with playing stupid. “Depends on what time of day you’re referring to. Mainly, school, though. You know, gotta get those grades up so I can grad—”

  “Veronica Watson. History class.” His eyes narrowed. “Ring any bells? Or do I really need to remind you she stood in the middle of a test and told everyone her hands-on sex ed class would be moved from the backseat of her car to the city park.”

  I rubbed my nose, hiding the smile behind my hand. Her outburst in third hour was the highlight of my day. Only something a Drea, like me, could pull off. “You heard about that, huh? Please don’t tell me you signed up.”

  The hard set of his mouth hid all signs of the laugh lines that usually creased around his eyes. Okay, not the time for jokes.

  “It’s a small town. Now would you mind explaining why she said it?”

  “Because it’s true?”

  “Taylee! I know you don’t get along with her, but really, you had to make her humiliate herself in front of the whole class?”

  “You haven’t heard my side of the story.”

  “I’ve told you a thousand—no—a million times not to use your ability, and I swear I’ll…” He paused.

  Pop a blood vessel? Take my car and cell phone away? Ground me? I could’ve gone on all day.

  “I’ll pull your butt out of school if it happens again.”

  My snarky attitude dried up. “It’s not my fault. She’s the one who got all butt-hurt when her boyfriend couldn’t keep his eyes to himself. Then she started telling everyone I’d do some risqué things for a little cash. Like you said, Del, it’s a small town.”

  He sat next to me, letting out a huge sigh. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he looked a little spiteful. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve handled it.”

  I knew he would have. He never slacked on his job to protect me. I just didn’t need my “daddy figure” fighting my battles at school, too. Leaning my head against his shoulder, I snickered. “How, by making it rain on her?” Along with strength and agility, all Kembers had either an elemental ability or some other physical gift like super speed. We Dreas got gypped. We weren’t fast or strong. All we could do was use our mental abilities to work within people’s minds.

  Delmari chuckled and pulled my ponytail. “Don’t underestimate the gift of water, and I wasn’t talking about using abilities. You should’ve handled it differently.”

  “You’re right.” I punched the air. “I should have aimed right for her nose.”

  He shook his head. “Good hell, what’ve I created?”

  “A beautiful, controlled young woman.”

  “Controlled? Hah! You have yet to learn the meaning of control.”

  “Which is why you’re here.” I poked him in the cheek. “Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I just made her stand up and take back everything she said about me and, well…you know the rest.”

  He smiled his handsome crooked grin. “I’ll let you off again, but I’m serious. Don’t use your mind control, especially on the ungifted, unless your life is in danger. Promise me.”

  Delmari couldn’t stand to stay mad at me, and even more, he hated punishing me. I was his Achilles heel. Good thing or I would have been sent straight to a Drea foster family by now.

  Twisting a long strand of ebony hair around my finger, I huffed. “I’ll try, but it’s so hard. It feels as natural as breathing, you know?” I shrugged. “When something goes wrong, it’s my gut reaction.”

  “I understand, but I haven’t worked with you all these years for your ability to be spontaneous and out of control.”

  I sighed, remembering the endless hours we worked when it surfaced, just so I could keep it in check. “I know.”

  “You also know why you can’t use it.”

  “Yeah, yeah. It’s a powerful ability that can screw with people’s lives.”

  Delmari laughed, clearly amused by my irritation. “That’s my girl.”

  Not even I could argue with that statement. I was his girl, even if we weren’t blood related. He often complained about the way I acted. When he did, I reminded him if he didn’t act like this, I wouldn’t, either. After all, he was my only example since I was three months old. What had he expected, really? “You know, you should just be grateful I don’t have a physical ability.”

  “I suppose you’re right.” He looked down, smiling, and picked at his nails. “You as a Kember would be hazardous. Can you imagine a Drea’s life in your hands? The Authority would really have a messy situation.”

  I rubbed m
y palms together. “So would Veronica Watson.”

  Delmari rolled his eyes, bent down and pressed his lips to my head. “I know high school can be rough, but it’s your last year. If at all possible, be a good girl.”

  “What if it’s not possible?”

  He looked around the room and let out a slow breath. “Then you and I are going out back with the boxing gloves.” He winked.

  A warm glow spread through my body. “Was that a challenge?”

  Boxing probably went against the grain for most girls, but I didn’t care. I loved to box. Who didn’t like to hit things? Plus, I had a disorder: I couldn’t say no to a challenge to save my life. Maybe that was my problem.

  “The question is, are you up for it?”

  I bounded off my bed, laughing. “Ah, what’s another loss for you, right?” I knew I’d get owned. I did every time. Delmari trained in this stuff—he put the meaning in the word “lethal.”

  He turned toward the door and stopped. His eyes widened as he gazed out my window. Before I could question him, he grabbed my arm and shoved me behind him, slamming my back against the wall.

  My breath hitched. The trees were aflame. A forest fire? I opened my mouth, but the words stuck in my throat. I could only stare at the red inferno dancing on the treetops.

  Delmari’s eyes closed like they sometimes did when he summoned the rain. Water started to pour over the trees, but the fire never wavered.

  Body tensed, his eyes snapped open. Veins pulsed in his arms. “Grab your pack. Now.”

  “M-my pack? What’s going on? Can’t you put it out?” I wished I could keep my composure like he did.

  “It’s a summoned fire.”

  I stood, hands shaking.

  A Kember set our trees on fire? That was crazy. No Kember would ever do this…

  “Taylee!” Delmari reached back with one hand and shoved me. “Your pack!”

  My heart hammered. I jumped to my closet and grabbed my black emergency backpack. A joke. This had to be some sick joke. Maybe another one of Delmari’s escape drills? Once I secured it on my back, I rushed to stand beside him.

  Delmari grabbed my hand and pulled me down the stairs.

  He pushed the front door open, and I gasped. Ten foot tall flaming walls surrounded our house. They shot up in streams, through crevices in the ground. Thick smoke swirled, darkening the sky. I squeezed my eyes closed, fighting the burn that invaded them.

  Fifty yards away, among the crackling flames, stood a tall man in a black, hooded cloak, his hands engulfed in fire.

  There went my drill theory.

  “Listen.” Delmari’s eyes never wavered from the Kember. His voice filled with urgency as he reached for the handgun on his hip. “When there’s a break in the flames, make for the cabin.”

  Heat radiated through the air, singeing my skin. Sweat dripped down my forehead and neck. Before I could respond, the figure disappeared.

  I jolted back as he materialized in front of Delmari, grabbed him by the throat and slammed him to the ground. The hairs on the back of my arms rose when the man focused his ocher eyes on me.

  Delmari struggled beneath the Kember. He seized hold of the Kember’s hands and tried prying them from his throat. Kicking his legs up, he nailed the cloaked figure in the gut.

  The man stumbled back. Delmari jumped up and lunged toward him. The Kember vanished then reappeared behind Delmari, kicking at his back, just as Delmari turned and jumped to the side.

  “Run!” Delmari yelled.

  Despite his words, I froze.

  Rain fell harder than I’d ever seen, focusing only on one part of the woods: my escape route. It poured like a waterfall from the sky until the section extinguished. My cue. I needed to do what he instructed. He could take care of himself.

  Delmari gasped as he fought to keep up with the other Kember’s speed. He ducked, avoiding the man’s fire-lit fists and swung back at him. Delmari missed. The man tackled him at the waist and slammed him to the ground.

  Panic shot through me. Never once had I seen a weak or slow movement from Delmari. The rain. Summoning it to this degree drained his energy. I had to get out of here so he could stop the waterworks.

  Delmari thrashed. “Go!”

  The cloaked figure punched Delmari in the face. He grunted as his head slammed down into a puddle of water. The Kember’s hands gripped Delmari’s throat, cutting off his air supply.

  I screamed. My drive to flee halted, and my irrational instinct kicked in. I knew I should leave, but I wouldn’t leave Delmari.

  I lunged forward and grabbed the man’s flowing robe. Pain shot through my hands like I’d seized a hot iron, and I jerked them back, releasing him.

  Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, concentrating on getting into the Kember’s mind. Come on, Taylee, you can do this! I focused, seeing the black void behind my eyelids. Then the weight of his mind opened up.

  Pressure built as his mind pushed back toward mine. Like hitting a wall, my progress halted.

  I snapped my eyes open, and the man’s empty gaze flickered to me. An eerie smile spread over his lips. He knew—he knew about my gift; it was the only way he would have been able to stop me.

  Delmari writhed beneath him, his fist striking the Kember in the face. Blood poured from the cloaked figure’s nose. He released his hold and counteracted Delmari’s attacks, struggling to straddle his moving body.

  I screamed, wanting to do something—anything. Hysteria threatened to take me, as I realized the only thing I could do for Delmari was leave.

  Get to the cabin.

  Risking one last glance, I turned my back on the only person I had in the world and ran.

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