The Secret of Strange Waters (The Light Keeper Series Book 2)

THE SECRET OF STRANGE WATERS
A novel by
K
ELLY
H
ALL

Booktrope Editions

Seattle WA 2015

Copyright 2015 Kelly Hall

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Attribution
— You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

Noncommercial
— You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works
— You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

Inquiries about additional permissions should be directed to:
[email protected]

Cover Design by Melody Barber

Edited by Beth Caplin Stoneburner

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. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.

Print ISBN 978-1-5137-0169-1

EPUB ISBN 978-1-5137-0191-2

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015911173

To my three: Randy, Ty, and Jesse

I love you.

Works by Kelly Hall

Light Keeper Series:

The Legend of the Light Keeper

The Secret of Strange Waters

Coming soon
– The Truth about Broken Trees

Acknowledgments

Thank you to my husband, Randy, and our amazing sons, Ty and Jesse, for always having my back and supporting me with unconditional love. Thanks so much to my family and friends who give me support and encouragement. I love you all so much.

Thanks to my Booktrope family for all of your faith and support. I’m honored to be among so many amazing and talented people. And special thanks to my Booktrope team for all of their hard work: Stephanie, Melody, Beth, Cindy, and Samantha.

Chapter One

TALON AND
I SAT
on our back steps, talking about our day. School started a week ago, and we were already starting to miss one another. We’d grown used to having all day, every day, together, but lately we only saw each other at lunch and when we got home. After school, we did our chores and homework, and hoped to still have time to be alone before our parents got home. We were keeping our new relationship a secret from them, since Talon’s dad was going to marry my mom. We all moved to Bragg Road in June to get a jump start on our lives together before the wedding, which was set for October—only a month away. So far everything was great, and Talon and I had grown much closer.

I took the step below him and leaned against his chest as he rested his chin on my shoulder. As I reached up and ran my fingers through his dark curls and breathed in his familiar scent, it was hard to remember life before him. The previous year, I had lost everything in the hurricane: my home, my possessions, and my friends. At the time, it seemed to be the end of the world, but I was born again to this new life: a fresh start I never wanted, but now would never trade. I’d gladly pay the same price again. If there’s one sure thing I learned, it’s that material things are not the true treasures of life; people are.

Since moving to Bragg and meeting Granny and my cousins, Hunter and Owen, I learned that
life could be normal, even though I never would be. I accepted who I was: an ordinary girl with the extraordinary gifts of seeing Shadows and controlling my Light— the Ghost Light of Bragg Road. I have seen the Shadows for as long as I can remember. They were always there in the dark, so I tried my best to avoid them. Even though I was able to, I knew with my Light power they could never really get to me now. They were afraid of it.

Alyssa, my ghostly great aunt, was the keeper of the mysterious Light that haunted Bragg Road since her death years ago. She was trying to find Michael, her boyfriend, who’d been staying alive on medicinal Waters to find her, but apparently the mysterious and powerful man who killed her also kept them apart through the years. I wasn’t sure how he’d done it, or why. When she and Michael disappeared to the other side, they left me with so many questions. I could only hope to find the answers and learn more about my gifts. I still haven’t found out who the mysterious man, Rex, was, and wasn’t even sure if that was what Alyssa wanted me to learn in the first place. Still, I was curious. Michael had said we were the same—Rex, Alyssa, and me. It took me a while to learn there was a name for what I was. Luckily, my cousins figured that out.

One night, they came to my window after sending a warning text. “You gotta hear this,” Hunter said, helping me out of my window. Talon, climbing out behind me, refused help from Owen. We made our way to the back patio next door and gathered around in a circle of rickety lawn chairs. The scraping of the metal legs on concrete offended my ears as we got situated.

“This better be good,” Talon said, yawning. “I just went to sleep.”

“I think Lily will appreciate it.” Owen turned to me with wide emerald eyes. “We know what you are, Lily. Listen to the EVP.” He held a recorder up close to my ear.

I recognized the recording. It had been taken the night of our investigation with Alyssa on Bragg Road. When Hunter finally analyzed the recording, all he found was a shrill, angelic hum. I thought it was interference at the time.

I rubbed my eyes; this wasn’t anything new. “We’ve been over this already,” I said sleepily.

“Just listen, it’s coming,” Hunter said. After a second, he pointed his finger at me. “You hear that?” He smiled.

“I heard something,” said Talon. “Rewind it.” I didn’t hear anything but static. I listened more carefully.

Talon jumped back, his eyes wide with amazement. “I heard it!” He played the recording once more.

I was getting frustrated. “Again, please.” I sighed, growing impatient and missing the warm, mosquito-free comfort of my bed. I slapped another blood-sucker and flicked his remains off my arm.

“It’s there, Lily,” Talon assured. “It says ‘light’ something.” He leaned in closer to the device.

“I heard it. Light Keeper?” I glanced up at Owen, who was nodding. The noise was a faint whisper mixed with a little static in the hum, but it was most definitely there.

“Yes, Light Keeper, Lily. You’re a Light Keeper. It makes sense.” Owen looked as if that solved everything. To me it only presented the same questions. Mainly, what the heck was a Light Keeper, and why me?

“That’s what it says,” Talon said, with the smile still touching his eyes. “I don’t know what it means, but I think they’re right. It’s what you are.” And with that, my newly discovered gift had a name. Since then, we have accepted the paranormal as normal and made it our mission to understand it.

Talon pressed his lips behind my ear and breathed softly on my neck. Then he rubbed the goose bumps from my arms and laughed when I turned to face him and give him the look that told him he was heading into dangerous territory. His lips twitched up at the corners, teasing a smile, but he held it back and gazed at me with his deep, brown eyes. When he stared at me this way, I always wondered what he was thinking, and of course my heart fluttered. We savored these few moments in silence till our parents got home, and then it was back to the script.

I was growing tired of the script. My mom wouldn’t be happy about things, but I assumed she would adjust, like I had with her and Tom. It was Tom we were mostly concerned about, especially since he had already warned Talon to keep it friendly. That was only because he was afraid we’d mess up what he had with my mom. Well, that and because he still hadn’t forgiven Talon for the wreck that totaled his car, scarred Talon’s then-girlfriend’s face for life, and killed the other driver. He’d been trying to make it up to his dad ever since. Tom was trying, too, but even though Talon was seventeen, he hadn’t driven anything other than his dirt bike.

Our time on the porch went too fast; we soon heard the sound of Tom’s truck approaching. Like always, Talon gave me one last kiss before we went inside to greet his dad.

“Hi, Tom,” I said. He stood at the door and kicked off his boots so he wouldn’t track dirt in the house.

Talon plopped down on the couch. “Hey, Dad. Rough day today?” Tom’s brows were pinched, and his mouth was set in a hard grimace.

“Not too bad.” He glanced up at us. “You two stick around later. As soon as Cate’s home, we’re gonna have a talk.” He started unbuttoning his shirt as he walked away to his room to shower.

Once Tom rounded the corner, Talon pulled me onto the sofa next to him. “Wonder what that’s all about,” he said. Talon was very handsome, with lean muscles from his infatuation with extreme sports. His tan darkened over the summer, as did mine—though I could never quite reach his shade. His brown mess of curls had sun-kissed highlights that fell into his face. I swept it back to see his eyes and brushed his cheek with my fingertips.

“Do you think they know?” I asked. They never said anything, but we figured that they had to be a little suspicious about us since Tom had told Talon we needed to keep it friendly. We were not very good at hiding our feelings. Even though we controlled our actions, I still practically beamed every time I saw him.

“I don’t know. Maybe we should just tell them. Tell them this is how it is, like it or not.” He let out a long breath as his eyes softened. “We should have done this a long time ago.” He was right. It was time, but knowing that and acting on it were two different things.

Later, at dinner, Tom told us not to leave when we were done. It was time for our talk. “I’ve wanted to talk to you about something, Talon, but since it concerns Lily, too, I figured it was best for us to talk about this as a family.” Tom gave me the same hard expression he wore earlier, but I wasn’t very good at reading him yet. I
could
read Talon, however, and he was worried. His eyes met mine and we both took a deep breath, preparing for the worst. We were certain we knew what “this” was about.

Surely they knew. He would tell us to end it, or worse. It was possible he might send Talon away to live with his mom. My heart sank. Just as I was about to reach out and grab Talon’s hand to make a gesture of unity, Tom spoke again.

“I’m going away for a few months for my job.” He waited for our response. I pulled my hand back and breathed in relief as he explained. “My job is promoting me, and I can’t refuse the trip.”

“We’re pushing the wedding back,” said Mom. “We don’t know for sure how long he’ll be gone.” Mom was trying to look supportive, but I figured she must’ve been sad. “
Autumn Elegance
will have to become
Winter
Whimsical
.” She smiled and threw up her hands like she surrendered. Mom would have to start all over on her wedding theme.

“So when do you leave?” Talon asked.

“In a week or two, I think. I‘m not sure yet. But Talon…” Tom hesitated a moment. “I need your help. I need you to hold down the fort while I’m gone. Do you think you can handle it?”

“Um...sure,” Talon said, with uncertainty in his voice. This news was coming so fast; his dad was actually going to trust him. I, for one, thought it was about time. Talon couldn’t be punished forever. Living with the guilt was punishment enough.

“Well, here, you’ll need these.” Tom slid a set of keys across the table to him. It was the spare to his truck.

“Really?” Talon smiled, shaking his head in disbelief.

“You can take Lily to school and back, and run errands when you need to help Cate.” Tom still seemed unsure, but finally smiled and nodded his approval.

“I won’t let you down.” Talon got up and bumped fists with his dad, and then they hugged. I smiled at Mom. It was good to see them this way, but Mom’s expression faded and her mouth turned down at the corners. She excused herself to her room, and Tom soon followed.
Poor Mom
. Trying to relate, I couldn’t stand to think of Talon leaving.

Before I could ponder it any further, he was beside me. He pulled me tight to his chest, so tight I felt like I was in a death grip, and then lifted me up out of my seat. I’ve never seen him so happy before. His eyes were lit with a smile that stretched ear to ear. “He finally trusts me,” he said, and then spun us around and kissed me.

* * *

Talon woke me up so we could get ready for school. He did this every day since I hadn’t yet replaced my alarm clock. I’ve never been a morning person. He seemed happy, still beaming with excitement from the night before.

“Guess what,” he said as we slid into the back seat of Granny’s Lincoln. My cousins gave us a ride every morning since our houses weren’t on any bus route.

“What?” Owen took the bait, narrowing his eyes.

“The wedding’s on hold,” Talon said, kissing my cheek. He was teasing Owen, who always liked to pick on us for the fact that one day soon, we‘d be siblings. Besides that, he had other reasons for not wanting us to be together: mostly because before we learned we were cousins, Owen had a crush on me. Even though I will admit I always thought Owen was very handsome, with dark blond hair, and a perfectly fit body—not to mention the prettiest green eyes I wished were mine—I never had the same feelings for him.

“No way,” Hunter said, bumping his fist. Owen was silent.

“Yeah, Dad’s going away for work soon, and the best part? I’m going to get his truck.”

“Cool deal!” Hunter was genuinely happy for him, but then, Hunter was a genuine person. He was equally as handsome as Owen, but with a slightly larger, more rugged, frame.

Owen was practically steaming. “Cool,” he said, glancing at me. Owen lived with the attitude that if he couldn’t have me, no one should—especially not Talon. He recently promised me that he’d try to get along better, but since Talon liked to annoy him just as much, relations between the two actually got worse.

Talon kissed me goodbye before we got out of the car and headed in separate directions. He spent his days with Hunter in the senior hall, and I spent mine with Owen in the junior hall. Owen had been having fun showing me off to his friends. He paraded me around like a show pony and warned all the other guys that I was “off limits,” which was very embarrassing—especially since he never explained why. Luckily, most kids have seen me with Talon and knew we were a couple. Word traveled fast in school, especially a small one.

I even met a few girls who were obviously in love with Owen, and not too happy to see him so happy around the “new girl.” Hunter called them “The Owen Fan Club.” They gave me dirty looks until he introduced me as his cousin, and then they smiled at me dismissively and continued to flirt with him. Some tried to be friendly, but once they had the chance, they’d ask me all about Owen. I wanted friends who liked me for me, not for who my cousin was.

Owen wasn’t oblivious to the girls swooning over him, but he didn’t seem to care, which was probably what made him more appealing to them; as if his looks and personality weren‘t enough. His confidence shone, except when it came to me. Something about me made him falter; at least that’s what Hunter said, but around the other girls you’d never know it. He fed on the attention.

I also made friends with Holly Conner, Hunter‘s girlfriend. He’s known her for years, but finally, with a little encouragement from Talon, worked up the courage to call her and ask her out. Holly was very dainty and about an inch shorter than me, with natural honey-blonde hair, big blue eyes, and a perfect, creamy pale complexion. She was pretty in a porcelain doll sort of way, and seemed almost as fragile, especially against Hunter’s large frame. They were very much opposites. While Hunter was funny and outgoing, Holly was quiet and kept to herself. The one way they were most alike was that they were both honor students.

“Hey Lily, are we still on for Friday?” she asked. Hope filled her eyes as she leaned against the locker next to mine.

I tossed my books inside and grabbed the binder for my next class. “Yeah, sure,” I answered.

“You aren’t coming to my game?” Owen interrupted, saddened by the sudden realization. His locker was next to mine as well. He slammed the door and waited for my answer.

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