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Authors: Rachel Higginson

Sunburst (Starbright Series)

BOOK: Sunburst (Starbright Series)
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Sunburst

The Starbright Series

Book Two

 

By Rachel Higginson

[email protected] Rachel Higginson 2013

 

This publication is protected under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws, and all rights are reserved, including resale rights: you are not allowed to give, copy, scan, distribute or sell this book to anyone else.

 

Any trademarks, service marks, product names or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if we use one of these terms.

 

Any people or places are strictly fictional and not based on anything else, fictional or non-fictional.

To Stella Victoria, my star.


Chapter One

 

             
Stella…..

             
A fast chill slithered down my spine. I snapped my head up and then twirled around. I heard it.
I know I heard it
.

             
Stella….

             
There it was again. The singsong whisper floated through the just-budding trees, carried by the gentle breeze.

             
I turned in a circle again, desperately seeking the origin of that voice. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the Darkness was playing with me, but I’d rather face something head on than deal with the unknown.

             
It was painfully frustrating.

             
And really creepy.

             
I gripped my two katanas in my hand tightly and lifted my chin to the wind, hoping to pick up the scent of sulfur. The long, samurai-type swords felt comfortable and familiar in my tight grasp but still I had to remind myself to relax my wrists and stretch my fingers.

             
Stella….

             
My name was whispered with a deranged laugh, the sound just a decibel louder, just a few feet closer.

             
Stella come play…..

             
I swallowed the quick fear that invaded my blood and took off sprinting. I could be running toward the threat or away from it and really, at this point, I wasn’t sure which scenario I was hoping for. But I moved swiftly through the densely packed trees, leaping over brush, dodging low hanging branches.

             
I could feel the evil closing in around me.

             
I anticipated the fight as much as I dreaded making first contact.

             
My gut told me this was Seven- my arch nemesis and the long-lost sister of my other half and Warrior Counterpart.
              Other half in the strictly platonic sense of the word, meaning we fought to save the world side by side, complemented each other in every way and most recently drove each other crazy.

             
That kind of other half.

             
At least for now.

             
The breeze turned from light to heavy, from gentle to aggressive. The sky darkened overhead, thick with gray storm clouds that seemed to come out of nowhere. I felt a lone rain drop splatter on my temple and then trickle down my face. 

             
I came to an abrupt halt when I felt the Darkness stop in front of me. We were facing off now. My swords were raised, my feet spread apart and evil all around me. Except I couldn’t see anything!

             
“Damn it!” I shouted into the thick forest. “Show yourself!” I ended with a wild battle cry that carried over the now-whipping winds. Freshly budded leaves were ripped from their branches, swirling around my feet and a streak of black lightning hit the ground twenty feet away. It scorched the earth, burning up the new green grass in a spider web of charred ground.

             
Stella….

             
The whisper was there again, soft and delicate in direct opposition to the violent weather. The sound sent tingles of fear skittering down my body and settling in my flexing fingertips. My eyes watered from adrenaline and I prepared myself for the worst.

             
Still, I steeled myself with courage and in a taunting voice called back, “Come out, come out wherever you are!”

             
Nothing but silence.

             
I wasn’t surprised but I was also disappointed. I just wanted these episodes to be over with. Ever since February when Aliah met Seth and me on the football field turned battlefield, the Darkness had laid relatively low.

             
Shadows were scarce around Mead, Nebraska- the tiny farming community where I lived- although average activity still continued to plague the rest of the Earth. We hadn’t seen another sign of a Fallen, except if you counted what was happening to me now. And Serena and Nate had returned to life as usual, fighting off the army of Darkness while Seth and I tried to finish out the school year.

             
Everything was as it should be. That is, the Darkness still worked as hard as ever to sink its ugly teeth into this world, I was hearing voices and experiencing what I was calling…. visions more than ever. Possibly, I was on the verge of losing my mind completely. And Seth was struggling not to give into the dark side and follow his sister.

             
Not that he would ever admit that out loud.

             
It was just something I could feel.

             
In my bones.

             
So maybe everything wasn’t exactly as it should be.

             
Mostly it felt like on the surface, we won this huge battle back in February. But really, when we got down to it, Aliah and his minions really emerged the victors- because the rest of us were all messed up now.

             
The winds grew stronger, causing my long, golden blonde hair to whip around my face. I brushed at it with the back of my wrist, but barely made a difference before it was right back in my sight again.

             
Stella…. Stella…. Stella….

             
The whisper grew louder until it was a sickly sweet melody that tickled my ears at the same time causing real fear to unfurl inside my chest. I turned around again, just wanting- no,
needing
this to be over.

             
More black lightning hit the ground a few feet in front of me and I jumped back, a scream ripping from my throat. I steadied myself again, drew my swords forward and then tilted my chin for borrowed defiance.

             
In a low, confident voice I said, “Seven, I’m waiting. We can do this all day or you can stop being such a coward.”

             
High pitched, tinkling laughter was the only response, before a huge gust of wind knocked me on my back. My swords clattered off to the side and I lay there out of breath and weaponless.

             
I was awesome at this job….

             
I flung myself to my feet and tried to lunge for my weapon. A surge of wind pushed me back, away from my katana, but not strong enough to make me fall. I went for my sword again but the same thing happened. 

             
I took a step back with my hands in the air.

             
“Fine, we can play it your way,” I said to whatever was out there. “He’s mine you know. Seth is
my Counterpart
. He’s tied to
me
. You can’t control him. You never could and you never will.”

             
The winds picked up, whipping around me, plastering my long hair in my vision. The black lightning that streaked from the sky in charcoal flashes, hazy in gray and obsidian crystals, hit aggressively around me. The ground started on fire in little starbursts and then burned out quickly, leaving charred, dead grass in their wake. The sky was nearly black now, with the clouds overhead so thick and dark that it felt like midnight, not mid-afternoon.

             
“Let’s go!” I screamed goadingly into the wind. My voice didn’t carry far, but whoever was out there would have been able to hear me easily.

             
I started to light up then, I had been patient enough. I couldn’t stand it anymore. The slow burn under my skin grew and grew until I was a solid ball of light. From every piece of me, my Light emanated in blinding, radiant beams. I pierced the darkness with my very essence, challenging the nature of this fight with the inner most part of me.

             
The air around me began to sizzle and pop with the electricity between me and my enemy. The new spring grass didn’t start on fire, but began to brown from the heat coming off my skin.

             
“I’m ready for you!” I shouted. Although, if I were honest with myself, I was keenly aware that was not true. I was in no way ready to fight whoever was behind this force. And if it was Seven- like I suspected it was- I was probably insane for antagonizing her.

             
My Light continued to grow, while everything out of my reach continued to darken. My swords- laying several feet away- were completely camouflaged beneath the blinding light of my Star-essence; the only thing keeping them from disintegrating from my burn was a sacred blessing that protected them from my supernatural heat. The lightning picked up in speed and volume, snapping and sizzling as it lashed out against the earth. I felt the deep vibration of thunder, and the ground moved beneath my feet.

             
This was coming to a head, a culmination of wills. She was done provoking me; this was about to get real.

             
And then the last thing I heard from her was, “Stella!” in the loudest, most unearthly voice I’d ever experienced. The sound of her voice sent chills rippling all over my body, my stomach dropped painfully and the back of my neck ached from tension.
This girl was so crazy.

             
But then she was gone.

             
The evil part of the storm disappeared more quickly than it had arrived and the sky went from inky black to soft charcoal. The alien lightning turned back to normal; in the sky, white lightning and the wind died down immediately.

             
Just as a hundred curses popped into my head, the sky opened with a downpour.

             
“Great,” I groaned. I picked up my swords and then took off for one of my father’s barns, the closest shelter from the rain.

             
By the time I reached the metal barn, I was soaked to the bone and frustrated. My hair was plastered to my face and neck and my t-shirt and yoga pants were sucked to me. This was so annoying.

             
Had she really kept me out there just so I would get wet?

             
Or was something completely different going on?

             
This was all there had been since February. I would get caught up in these little almost-battles and then nothing. Not only was I at the end of my rope about it, I felt like I was playing exactly into their hands. Whatever they were planning, I was just going right along with it.

             
At the same time though, it wasn’t like I could just walk away when something like that happened. I was stuck.

             
And at their mercy.

             
And I hated it.

             
“Why are you all wet?” Seth asked from behind me, and I jumped at the sound of his deep, rumbly voice.

             
“You scared me,” I panted. At this point I should have been ready for anything, but my thoughts were jumbled at the moment.

I turned around to face him as he stood in the doorway. He was wet
, too, but not as soaking as I was. He had obviously been out running, something he often did from his farm to mine and back again. His light blue t-shirt was darkened to navy from the rain, almost everywhere but on the bottom hem, his running shorts slicked to his muscular thighs. He was barefoot, his feet painted in mud.

             
I sucked in a breath at how delicious I found that.

             
They were
muddy feet
. I so should have been grossed out, not admiring how manly he looked with dirty toes- and the speckled, streaked arches uncoated like the balls of his feet.

             
This was getting weird.

             
Honestly, did I have a foot fetish?

             
I snapped my eyes up to his face as quickly as I could, bypassing his spandex-looking thighs drenched from the rain. He was so gorgeous; I couldn’t breathe for a second.

             
This was a reaction he got from me a lot. It wasn’t fair. Seriously,
it was not fair
. He was an Angel, a real-life, perfect, flawless Angel. And even by those standards he was exceeding expectations.

             
His golden brown hair was extra curly, tussled and messy from the rain. His amber-colored eyes brightened with excitement and anticipation as he watched me check him out. His strong jawline was ticking; the muscles in his long, slender throat worked to swallow.

             
My breath hitched. I couldn’t help it. He was
so wickedly sexy
.

             
“Stella? What are you doing out here?” He asked again. His voice dropped even lower and he took a step towards me.

BOOK: Sunburst (Starbright Series)
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