Chaos (Book 4) (The Omega Group)

Chaos

The Omega Group Series

Book 4

 

 

Andrea Domanski

 

www.AndreaDomanski.com

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Andrea Domanski

Cover Art Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca
Sterling

All rights reserved. This book or any portion
thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the
express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations
in a book review.

Send all inquiries to www.AndreaDomanski.com

First
Printing, 2015

Prologue
Princess Ann County, Virginia
August 1740

 

Grace Sherwood lay in her bed, surrounded by three
generations of family, awaiting the death that should have claimed her long ago.
A warm summer breeze wafted through the window of her sparse room, bringing
with it the smell of rosemary. Those herbs continued to flourish even as she
deteriorated. Her weakened heart would soon stop beating, ending a tumultuous
life. Her legacy, however, would live on like her garden.

At the age of eighty, Grace felt ready to leave the world
behind. She’d raised three strong sons, buried a loving husband, and toiled on
their farm until she could no longer grip a yolk. She’d done well despite the
intentions of many.

More than half a lifetime ago, in 1697, Grace suffered the
humiliation of being accused of witchcraft for the first time. Although the
charge of using supernatural means to kill a neighbor’s bull proved both false
and ludicrous, it began a streak of allegations that plagued her for decades.
She’d been branded a witch many times by people who blamed her for the loss of
their crops and livestock.

Unlike other colonies, Virginia shied away from witch
trials. They didn’t allow hysteria to take hold and, instead, required proof of
magical wrongdoing. Grace stood accused on many occasions, but each time the
court either found her innocent, or simply declined to prosecute.

That changed when she was accused of using magic to kill her
neighbor’s unborn child.

Perhaps the court had simply grown tired of having her as a
defendant, or perhaps the death of a child still in its mother’s womb hardened
them to Grace’s plight. Whatever the reason, the justices ordered a trial by
ducking.

She’d been trussed up like one of the animals on her farm
and brought to a plantation near the mouth of Lynnhaven River. Six justices
rowed her into the river and threw her overboard. They believed the water to be
so pure that it would reject a witch’s presence. Had Grace sunk to the bottom,
she would have been proved innocent. But after being pushed below the surface,
despite her best efforts, she floated back up.

For eight long years she’d been incarcerated. The small
window in her cell allowed her to watch the town folk live their lives without
even a glance in her direction. When finally released, Grace returned to her
homestead, tending her farm and gardens.

Looking back on that time in her life, Grace couldn’t help
but smile. The horrors of those years changed her in so many ways. She’d been
innocent of every crime, yet she’d been made to pay for them anyway. At the
time, she hadn’t been able to see past her anger.

Now, gazing at the loving faces of her sons and
grandchildren, and listening to the muffled giggles of her many great-grandchildren,
she thanked the powers that be for showing her the path she needed to follow
all those years ago.

She’d learned a valuable lesson in that filthy prison cell.
When good things happened, ordinary people thanked God for the blessings. When
bad things happened, they blamed the devil. The witch trials were simply their
way of putting a face to the evil they feared, and exerting control over it.

Her eldest son, John, brushed her cheek. “Mother? Is it
time?”

“I believe so,” she whispered.

Her last moments were spent basking in the glory of her
accomplishments. She’d raised a happy and healthy family. They would bring joy
and strength to the colonies for generations to come. But that was only one of
her sources of pride.

She’d kept her greatest achievement secret for more than
thirty years. Even her family, whom she loved more than anything on this earth,
knew nothing of the power she’d created. Those justices would surely roll in
their graves if they knew the plan they’d helped put in motion.

Grace slowly turned her head toward the open window. The sun
had long since set, leaving only the full moon ready to guide her spirit to its
new home when she passed. It seemed to shine brighter that night, casting long
shadows in its wake. But the heavens weren’t what held her attention.

Spread throughout the darkened fields, the members of
Sherwood Coven chanted incantations meant to help her cross to the next plane
of existence. They kept their voices low, so as not to alert her family to
their presence, but Grace knew the words they spoke. She’d taught them well.

Chapter 1
10 Years Ago

 

Sixteenth birthday. First kiss. Sun setting over the
river.

No pressure. Ha.

Orano Tulay tilted his head awkwardly as he leaned in for
his very first kiss. His girl had already closed her eyes and pursed her lips,
so the next move needed to be his. With heart pounding in his chest, he reached
out his hand but then halted the movement. He didn’t know if he should touch
her or not. In the movies, men always touched the woman’s face, but that seemed
really presumptuous. Every other part of her body felt completely off limits
for a first kiss. He could always just let his arms hang at his sides, but that
would be totally weird.

Please don’t screw this up.

Orano felt sure that everyone else his age knew exactly what
to do in this situation. He, however, didn’t. He stared at the beautiful girl
standing in front of him and swallowed hard. Before he could second-guess
himself any more, he placed his hands on her shoulders—the least romantic spot
possible—and pressed his lips to hers.

The world instantly quieted. He knew that birds still
chirped in the trees above, and the river still gurgled over the rocks, but the
only thing Orano could hear was his heartbeat.

Her impossibly soft lips parted, and he took that as an
invitation to do the same. His tongue instinctively darted out, swirling with
hers and bringing the taste of her Chap Stick into his mouth. Nothing had ever
tasted sweeter.

She pulled back and gazed up at him through hooded eyes,
only to have the moment interrupted by the shrill ring of her cell phone. Orano
ached to pull her close, as though doing so would keep the world at bay a while
longer, but instead stepped back while she answered it.

“Hello?” Her voice trembled slightly as she spoke. She
paused while waiting for whoever spoke on the other end to finish. “Okay. I’m
on my way now.”

Disappointment flared at those last words, but Orano kept
his face neutral. “You need to go?” he asked.

“Yeah. My godfather’s in town to help with the move, and Mom
wants me back. Sorry.”

Orano stared in silence, knowing he should say something but
unable to think of anything that wouldn’t make him feel stupid.

As though sensing his fear, she smiled up at him and gave
him a quick wink. “Happy birthday, Sparkles,” she said before trotting down the
path toward her house.

He’d always hated that nickname and would have happily
maimed anyone else for using it. But not her. She’d been calling him that for
years and made it clear she intended to continue doing so.

Orano started the journey back to his house, pondering the
sudden change in his circumstances. His mind replayed over and over again the
moment where his life deviated from the expected path. That kiss changed
everything. He had a smile on his face and a bounce in his step when he reached
his driveway.

Not ready to end his night just yet, Orano instead took the
long gravel drive leading to the old barn that sat vacant on the property behind
his house. Used for many years as his hideaway, the barn had become the only
place he felt truly comfortable.

For as long as he could remember, Orano didn’t deal well
with people. Not just some of them, all of them. He didn’t have any mental
issues or phobias; he just didn’t like how noisy people were. They talked
incessantly without really saying anything and wore their overly emotional
personalities like a badge of honor. Most were downright mean whenever they got
the opportunity. He’d spent the majority of his life either tolerating or
ignoring pretty much everyone around him.

His mother didn’t help. Calling her overprotective would
have been a serious understatement. She wanted to know where he was, and with
whom, at every moment. It’d been that way since his first day of school. Orano
always assumed she’d worried about him being teased over having a white mom.
But after years of living with her over-bearing nature, he realized his mother
was just wired that way. Eventually, he’d grown accustomed to her brand of
crazy, but she’d gotten a lot worse over the last few months. Lucky for him, he
only had one friend, which made reporting to his mom a lot easier.

As a single mother, she’d moved them from Nigeria, where
she’d worked as a missionary, with Orano still a baby. Why she’d chosen small-town
Tennessee to relocate to, he’d never understand. But no matter how much she
hovered, Orano couldn’t help but love and admire the woman. She didn’t talk
much about her life before Tennessee, but he got the distinct impression it
hadn’t been pleasant. Yet, she’d had the guts to uproot herself, move halfway
around the world with a baby, and start over in a brand new place. That kind of
strength earned his respect, even on the occasions when she drove him nuts. Add
to that the fact that she’d worked two jobs his entire life in order to make
sure he never lacked anything the other kids had, and his mother proved herself
a pretty spectacular woman.

Except for today.

For his birthday, after showering him with kisses and hugs,
his mother promptly grounded him for the day. Oh, she’d given it a different
name and told him he’d have the best birthday ever, but that didn’t change the
fact that she’d confined him to their house and even taken the day off work to
make sure he stayed there. He asked her what he’d done wrong, but she wouldn’t
answer. “This isn’t punishment,” was all she said, like that would make him feel
better about being imprisoned.

After hours of pretending they were having some sort of
special mommy-and-me day, Orano had had enough of board games and old home
movies. When his mom went to the kitchen to clean up after dinner, he did
something he’d never done before. He defied a direct order from his mother.

Although he’d grown to be more than a head taller than her,
Orano’s mother still intimidated the crap out of him. Her strength and
stubbornness had become legendary in the small town, and people learned early
on not to mess with Cherry Tulay. Sneaking out of the house against his
mother’s wishes would garner a steep punishment, but Orano didn’t care. He just
needed to get away for a while. His mom’s clinginess had grown to epic
proportions.

He’d intended to go to the barn for a while but knew his
mother would look for him there. So, instead, he took a walk along the
riverbank. He figured an hour would be enough time for him to clear his head
but not so long as to make his mother go postal.

That decision turned out to be the best one he’d made in his
entire life.

Now, almost two hours after deserting his mother, Orano
couldn’t bring himself to go home. He wanted to hold onto the memories of the
night for a few more minutes, so he entered his hideaway.

The smells in the old barn filled his nostrils as soon as he
crossed the rickety door’s threshold. Although no animals had been kept there
for a very long time, all of the smells associated with them—old wood, hay,
leather—still filled the structure. Orano inhaled deeply as the serenity of the
place pushed all thoughts of his impending punishment aside.

Leaving only one thought lingering. The memory of his very
first kiss. The kiss he’d shared less than half an hour ago with a girl who, up
until that moment, had been his best friend. Had she become his girlfriend with
that one kiss? Would she regret it tomorrow? Did she regret it already?

Orano forced his mind to quiet the worrisome voices. All of
those questions would be answered. For now, he wanted to simply remember the
moment in all its glory.

“Orano!” His mother’s scream wiped all thoughts of kisses
away. She barged through the door and grabbed him in a tight hug. “I was so
worried about you. Are you okay? Did something happen?” She grabbed his
shoulders and pushed him back far enough to inspect every inch of him.

Orano felt his temper rise despite his mother’s apparent
concern. She’d gone too far when she put him under house arrest, and now she’d
interrupted the memory of the best thing to ever happen to him.

He pushed her away. “What is wrong with you? You’re acting
crazy, Mom. Just leave me alone.”

Her blue eyes narrowed and her jaw set, while she squared
her shoulders and placed her hands on her hips. His mother’s look of worry
morphed to one of anger.

“Excuse me?” she said, cocking her head to the side. “What
did you just say to me?”

Under normal circumstances, Orano would have immediately
apologized for his comments. He loved his mom more than anything and always
treated her with respect. But tonight, emotions he rarely felt took control.

“I said, leave me alone!” he yelled at the woman who’d taken
care of him his entire life. The woman who’d taught him to never lose control.

His mother’s eyes widened as though caught in a nightmare.
She raised her hands slowly with her palms facing out. “Please, sweetheart. You
need to calm down. Remember what I taught you. Take deep breaths and—”

“No! I’m not a child anymore. Just go back to the house and
leave me alone.” Orano’s anger surged to a point that scared him. In his
logical mind, he understood that the scale of his reaction didn’t fit the
situation. Nothing his mom had said or done warranted that level of anger. But
he couldn’t stop it. Fury spread like a hot, welcome flame flowing through his
veins. The hairs on his arms rose, as every muscle in his body flexed.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Orano registered the feel
of strong arms wrapping around his torso and holding him tight. The faint sound
of his mother’s voice attempted to penetrate the roar in his ears but, no
matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t focus on it. When the sensations became
too much for him to contain, Orano threw back his head, flung his arms out to
the sides, and bellowed a primal howl.

As though his rage had taken on physical form, it flowed
through his body and down his arms until a blinding light exploded from the
palms of each hand. The release felt extraordinary, like a champagne bottle
being violently shaken and finally popping the cork.

Again he felt his mother’s arms tighten around his chest,
clutching him. Her voice filled with an urgency Orano understood but ignored.
His rage dissipated, as the light pulled it from his body. The once blinding
beam became a glowing trickle before petering out completely.

Orano slowly drew his hands to his front, warily eying the
palms he felt sure would be horrifically damaged and mutilated. They weren’t.
He flipped them front and back searching for some sign of what just happened
but saw nothing except the hands he’d always had. He felt no pain, just a
slight tingling sensation that had already almost completely abated.

The tingling felt pleasant, but the growing discomfort in
his chest did not. He thought at first his lungs were constricted, but a deep
breath dispelled that assumption. The round of hacking coughs that followed,
however, brought him back to his present circumstances.

Fire crawled up the walls on either side of him, hungrily
devouring the old, dry wood. Sparks flew as splintered boards ignited, setting
off more blazes as they fell. Thick, black smoke filled the air until he
labored for every iota of oxygen.

My mom’s in here.

Orano twisted around, searching for his mother. Her arms had
fallen from his chest mere seconds ago—or perhaps it was minutes—so she would
be close. The air became lighter as he lowered himself to the barn’s floor. His
mother’s prone form lay three feet away.

“No!” he screamed as he hurled himself to her side. Grabbing
her shoulder, he turned her over, only to find her eyes closed and her chest
barely moving. With the determination born of a son’s love, he slid one arm
behind her back and the other under her knees. Taking as deep a breath as he
could under the weight, Orano rose up into the heavy smoke.

The old door hung ajar, swinging on rusted hinges as the
flames moved the air. Orano held his breath and ran with his shoulders hunched
to protect his mom from falling debris. Embers burned through his clothing and hair
as he burst across the crumbling threshold and fell to his knees. Orano gulped
in the clean air, waiting for his mother to do the same.

She didn’t. She lay in the grass, unmoving.

“Come on, Mom,” Orano begged. He clasped his hands together
and placed them on the middle of her chest. He’d seen CPR performed on TV
shows, but that was the extent of his knowledge. He pushed down five times, like
the doctors on
ER
did, then blew into his mother’s mouth. When nothing
happened, he did it again. And again. And again.

Until a retching cough exploded from her mouth, and she shot
to a seated position. It sounded like his mom would expel her lungs from her
body, but it was the sweetest sound he’d ever heard. When her convulsions
calmed and she could breathe almost normally, she pinned him with her stare.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Orano nodded his reply, too ashamed of himself to speak.

“It’s okay, honey. This wasn’t your fault. There are things
you don’t know. Things I’d hoped you’d never
need
to know.” Her voice
trailed off as she glanced over his shoulder at the inferno behind him. “We
need to go. Now.” She pushed herself up and waited for him to do the same.

“What
was
that?” Orano’s legs wobbled when he stood,
as the true gravity of what had just happened began to sink in. “How did I…?”

“Not right now, son. We need to get out of here before
anyone sees us. I’ll explain everything as soon as you’re safe.” She grabbed
Orano’s hand and pulled him through the trees to the back of their house. Fire
engine sirens filled the air as they slipped inside.

“Go wash up, and put on clean clothes,” his mother ordered.

“But—”

“Do it. Then we’ll talk.”

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