Authors: Karen Luellen
Book 6 of Winter’s Saga
By Karen Luellen
Published by Karen Luellen
Copyright 2014 Karen Luellen
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to others. If you would like to share this book with another person, please buy an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not buy it, or it was not bought for your use only, then please return to the author and buy your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
For my husband and biggest supporter, Dan Luellen
Special thanks to my beta readers:
TwylaBeth Walker Lambert
You wonderful people made the editing process so much easier by helping me look for errors and disconnects. Legacy is a far better book because of you!
I love you all and am very thankful for your hours of effort.
Some of you went above and beyond by being available around the clock when I’d message you, desperate for your valued opinion—or even just your reassurances.
You even sent me words of encouragement when I seemed to be “too quiet.”
You know who you are! You are my lighthouses in the storm!
I treasure your friendship.
“Don’t be afraid to move. Be afraid to hold still.”
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
Meg and Evan
Tucumcari, New Mexico
14 weeks ago
“You don’t remember life on the ranch, Meg. So let me tell you: You were awesome.” Evan’s hazel gaze appeared crisp and lucid beneath the swollen, burned flesh on his face. He lay curled in a fetal position on the sickly polyester comforter that was anything but comfortable against his badly burned body.
The cheap motel’s thin walls reverberated with voices from all sides, but Meg was oblivious of the others. She was trying desperately to cover Evan with her empath’s white blanket, but it did little to soothe his cooked skin. She tried to control her urge to wince as she watched him move his swollen face to talk.
“Those days were magical,” his voice was a gruff whisper. “Between studies, training and chores, Mom would let us go about our mischief—just letting us be kids. Those were some of the best memories, Meg. I pray you’ll regain the memories of those days. They defined you. They defined all of us.”
He had trouble swallowing the saliva that had gathered in his mouth. Meg found herself
wishing she could swallow for the burned boy as she watched him struggle.
“We used to play a game—you were so good at it. I always thought it was because you could somehow sense the direction Alik and I were edging toward, but in the end it didn’t matter. ‘Hunt or be Hunted’ was a favorite.”
“Evan, I need to get your fever down. Please let me get you to the tub.”
“Not yet. Time is too valuable.”
Meg blinked away the tears that threatened to blossom in her dark eyes.
“We started the game the way we always did—at the top of the hill just north of the pasture. You used to wear a
bandana to keep your hair back, but for the game, you tied it around a stick and planted it into the top of the hill. ‘First one back to the hill, flag in hand, wins,’ you’d say. And we would all chant ‘Roses are red, soldiers confronted, it’s time to hunt or be hunted.’ Then we’d run down different sides of that hill and plot against each other.”
Meg racked her brain trying to use Evan’s words to help trigger a memory, but the blackness where her memories used to be stood firm.
“Alik always used brute force, because that’s what he was good at. That and memorizing all the hiding spots you and I could ever find. I always tried to outsmart him, producing some new device or compound—one of which led to ‘The Great Smoke Bomb Incident’.”
Evan’s chuckle at that memory turned into a raspy cough last
ing a full, painful minute.
“You, big sister,” he finally managed. “You won more times than any of us.” His lips were so swollen from heat exposure, they looked painted and plump. Meg watched them, waiting for them to split open as he spoke because they’d swollen so badly. Everything about the boy made Meg wince
“I finally asked you how you did it on
e day after a particularly humbling loss. You know what you said? ‘It’s not a game to me. I don’t hold anything back. I win or I die’.”
“That’s when I learned how powerful your mind was. Your sheer determination to live in the moment is what gave you the advantage time and
time again. You live and fight and love like it’s the last day of your life.”
“Evan, what does this have to do with anything?” Meg’s dark eyes were wide with worry.
“Just give me some time, Meggie. I’m still figuring this out myself.” He took a labored breath and continued. “Alik can see into the past. You can exist to your fullest potential in the present. It seems pretty obvious now what my gift was always meant to be.”
“Evan?” Meg watched the boy’s eyes start to roll back in his head.
He took a slow breath through his partially opened mouth. “I can see into the future, Meggie. And if we’re going to live through this, you and I need to come up with a plan we can’t share with the others. It’s crucial that it just be between us. We can win this, but as far as my vision can see, it won’t be easy.”
“You can see the future?” Meg repeated, trying to process the implications.
His sharp hazel eyes widened with a bout of pain causing his body to arch on the slick spread. When he recovered, his breathing was hitched and erratic, but he continued talking. “I can see the future of others, not my own. This gift has serious limitations. The images I get are hazy, like a dream I’m trying to remember, and life keeps changing.” Evan’s eyes glassed over, staring unblinking at nothing. “Meggie, life is so beautifully fragile.” His body began to shake.
“You’re going into shock, Evan. I need to get your core temperature stable.” Meg swiped at the tears that finally overflowed her pale cheeks.
“I don’t have much time, Meg. You need to listen and do exactly as I say. No matter what, you cannot deviate from the path I lay out for us.” His eyes were pinched closed against the waves of pain. “Do you understand?” His eyes burst open. His pupils abruptly constricted to small pin pricks, as though the lights in the room were glaringly bright. His bloodshot eyes locked onto Meg, waiting for an answer.
“I understand,” she breathed, sensing both his absolute determination and fleeting grasp of consciousness.
Williams and Chaunders
The Facility in Germany
14 weeks ago
“What is it Chaunders?”
“I can hear you breathing. After all these years, I know when you’re thinking of saying something by the noises your sinuses make.” Dr. Kenneth Williams glared impatiently from the neat stack of papers he was reviewing at his laboratory desk. The smell of new paint lingered in his newly rebuilt state-of-the-art Research Hospital.
“Of course sir
, you’re so perceptive.” Dr. Percival Chaunders’ hand shook as he held the printout of what was supposed to have been a wild goose chase. The pursuit had been a long shot at best, but the proof stared back at him in black and white. His eyes darted to the laptop’s screen and paused to stare at the icon indicating the presence of an encrypted attachment to the email.
“Well?” Williams asked with exaggerated interest.
“Sir, several months ago you asked me to set up a fact-finding team.”
Williams rolled his beady eyes and waved his hand in the air trying to hurry his second-in-command to the point. “And—”
“And they had found nothing all these months.”
“Thank you for wasting my time, Dr. Chaunders. Now may I get back to more pressing matters?”
“They had come up empty until now, sir.” His eyes were wide with excitement behind his spectacles. The layer of grease collecting in the crevices of his face glistened under the fluorescent laboratory lights.
“What did they find?” Chaunders had Williams’ complete attention now.
“The team responsible for monitoring the scientific community and social networks red-flagged an article submitted for publication. When they dug deeper, they found it was written by Dr. Charles Payne.” Chaunders paused waiting for the name to sink in.
“Payne?” Williams shook his head frowning.
“He worked for you years ago at The Institute in California. He was on the original team that produced the first working Infinite Serum.” Chaunders nodded, anxiously, waiting for Williams’ memory to catch up.
Recognition slipped across Williams’ face. “Ah yes. Payne. I remember him
highly intelligent—and a promising enough scientist.”
“Yes, well he must have thought he’d waited long enough. Surely no one would notice, especially after he made alterations of his own. He must have gotten wind of us because by the time the investigators tracked him down, he’d left the country.”
Williams was frowning deeply. “Surely no one would notice what? What are you babbling about?”
“Sir, the name of the article he submitted was: ‘Engineering Human Beings Through Targeted Somatic Cell Manipulation.’ Dr. Williams, evidently he kept personal copies of your original Infinite Serum and has been using it all these years as a springboard to further explore his genetic research.” Chaunders held the paper out to a rigid Williams. A bead of blood trickled down his raw temple like sweat. He blinked once, shaking himself from the rage that
threatened to take over, and took the paper from Chaunders’ quivering hand. His eyes scanned the document.
“My original Infinite Serum. He had it all these years? I can resume my work—nothing can stop me now,” he whispered almost reverently.
“What do you want to do about the Winters?” Chaunders was out of breath with excitement.
“I don’t need them anymore—except Meg. I want my daughter back. The rest will need to die. They know too much.”
1 Things Aren’t Always What They Seem
Evan felt her hands slip under his well-worn black leather jacket. He felt his longish hair whip back from his smooth forehead as he squinted into the wind. He could feel his heart beating firm and steady under Kylie’s fingertips as she spooned herself against his back.
The motorcycle’s engine beneath them was hot and roaring. No words could be exchanged over the noise, so Kylie pointed the directions to Evan as they made their way out of the city.
tops of palms blurred past his eyes as they flew down the four-lane highway and though the evening stars were captivating, Evan forced himself to keep his eyes on the road running parallel to the River Giza.
When they approached an old airfield to the right, Kylie pointed at the abandoned
hangar. A clipped nod was Evan’s acknowledgement of her plan. He took the corner fast enough to force the two to lean into it.
Evan slowed as they wove their way through broken glass. The wind whipped abandoned debris around the corners of the sand-colored building. He pulled around to the opposite side of the building so they were hidden from the view of the highway and killed the engine.
Evan glanced back at Kylie as she unattached the helmet’s strap and yanked it off unceremoniously. He hadn’t moved from his spot, hands on the handlebars, legs spread wide balancing their weight. Movement elsewhere caught his attention.
Kylie followed his eyes to the alcove the building created next to the closed
hangar door. An updraft had seized a torn plastic bag and was tossing it gently into the air along its invisible wind column. The bag was ballooned wide, as though offering itself as a sacrifice. It flew to the apex of the building before the wind changed its demands and swept the bag out of sight.
Evan sighed deeply.
“You okay?” she asked tentatively.
“This is certainly remote enough,” he answered, dodging the question.
“Come on,” Kylie motioned. “You asked for a deserted parking lot and that’s exactly what you got.”
Both Kylie and Evan stepped off the motorcycle, their shoes crunching in the combination of sand and broken glass.
Once, the hangar had been graced with large windowpanes that must have invited the bright Egyptian sunlight to pour indirectly into the hangar from the north and south sides of the building. Now vandals had all but destroyed the glass windows, leaving shards of glass like sharp landmines around the base of the once useful building.
Evan took Kylie’s right hand in his left and wove his large, scarred fingers between hers. He was waiting for her to flinch at the feel of his mangled skin, but she seemed completely unconcerned with anything but the glass crunching beneath her shoes. Evan’s heart tentatively leaped into his chest at the thought that here was a beautiful, brilliant girl who seemed to accept him—scars and all.
The sensitivity gone from much of that hand, he couldn’t feel the sensation of her touch, but he was learning to appreciate Kylie for not flinching away from his disfigurements. She held his left hand just as easily as she did his right. Evan envied her for her unconditional acceptance of him. He wished he could unconditionally accept himself.
“See?” she was saying, “It’s not much for safety and comfort, but it
deserted.” She waved her arm in an arc as though presenting him the grandeur of a palace instead of the wildlife-infested, safety-hazard, don’t-stay-after-dark, abandoned airplane hangar.
Evan just nodded, feeling suddenly very shy.
“So,” Kylie prompted, “You wanted some private show-and-tell time. The floor’s all yours.”
unzipped his jacket and shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans. He kicked thoughtfully at a pile of debris.
“Now that I’m here, I’m not really sure where to begin.”
Kylie was busying herself using an old palm leaf to dust a clean spot next to the relatively glass-free cement wall and motioned for Evan to sit beside her. He paced in front of her instead.
“Just start at the beginning, Evan. I’m all ears.” Kylie’s large green eyes looked up sincerely into his troubled face. She had pulled her long jean-clad legs up to her chin and wrapped her arms gracefully around her knees. Her head tipped to the side as she gave the troubled boy time to gather his thoughts.
“Listen, my brother and sister and I are—different,” he forced himself to start. “We were test subjects in this cruel scientist’s plan to create humans who were more.”
“More. Stronger, smarter, faster, quicker to heal—just more.” He sighed deeply and risked a glance at Kylie’s expression expecting an incredulous look at best. All he saw on her wide expressive eyes was curiosity.
“Dr. Williams, that’s his name, he injected us with a compound he called the ‘Infinite Serum’ and waited to see if it would kill us like it had all the prior human test subjects. Only we survived. He called us ‘metahumans’.” Evan couldn’t stop to look at her for fear he would see disbelief or worse, loathing in her beautiful face. So he just kept talking.
“Our mother was a scientist where Williams was carrying out these experiments. When she found out about us, she stole us away from him and raised us as her own
“Wow. Well, are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Oh, that. Yeah. I guess you could say I am. We all are.”
Evan’s shoulders relaxed when he saw Kylie’s facial expression remained that of curiosity.
Maybe she will understand,
he dared to think.
“There’s more,” Evan tried not to flinch at his thoughts.
“Tell me,” she said calmly.
“My mom taught us to fight. She is a former special ops soldier, so she had this whole background before she focused on
her work as a scientist.”
“She sounds like quite a woman, your mom.”
“She is,” he nodded, feeling a sense of pride for his mom.
“We didn’t know how different we were, Alik, Meg and I. We were raised separate
ly from the world on a secluded ranch in Texas. It wasn’t until Mom was captured by—wow, Kylie this is a long story. Are you sure you want to hear it?”
“It’s about you and your family. Of course I want to hear it so I can better understand you.”
Evan watched her face and felt his heart clench in his chest. He moved to sit beside her on the cement step and leaned back against the cool wall behind him appreciating the quiet of the place. Evan was trying hard to stay neutral about the girl who felt like a tonic to his soul sitting beside him in the quickly darkening building.
“Tell me what happened to you and your siblings, Evan.” Kylie prompted. Her green eyes were wide with innocence. Evan hesitated at the thought that he was about to take away Kylie’s
“Kylie, I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
“Because my truths are scary enough to sha
ke the most jaded souls. Your sweet and simple life would likely be changed forever.”
“Listen here, Ev
an Winter. I’m not a Faberge egg. We’ve never talked about my life—I mean my mother. She—left some pretty deep scars on my heart. I’m not without my own history of betrayal and tragedy. So don’t worry about shattering my innocence; my past already did that years ago.”
Evan had never seen Kylie’s face harden with anger before. For a moment, she looked unrecognizable
. Not for the first time, Evan wished he had Meg’s gift of empathy. All he wanted to do was take away even just an ounce of the weighted pain pressing into her darkened face—just to see inside her mind and understand her.
“I’m so sorry,” Evan said earnestly.
“Don’t be,” Kylie waved her hand dismissively. “Just trust me to handle whatever you’re about to say.”
“Okay.” He breathed deeply and rubbed his hands on his jeans. “Remember me mentioning
my mom stealing us away from that sick scientist? Williams?”
“Yes,” she nodded, watching his body language as much as she listened to his words.
“Well, he wasn’t done with us. He spent years hunting us. Everything changed when we were found.”
sprang to his feet and began pacing again as he summarized the last eighteen months as concisely as possible. His boots crunched the occasional shard of glass against the cement below. The temperature was dropping quickly. Light jackets perfect for the day were feeling feeble against the autumn night air. Kylie rubbed her shoulders to stay warm. Without a pause in his retelling, Evan removed his jacket and draped the leather over her shoulders.
handsome scent lingered on the material, briefly distracting Kylie. She slipped her arms into his still-warm coat and doubled her effort to focus on his story.
to Kylie’s internal struggle to maintain her composure and decorum, just kept sharing. He had bottled up these emotions for so long, once the cork popped, everything came gushing to the surface.
To her credit, the usually talkative girl stayed quietly attentive, listening and absorbing Evan’s words without interruption.
When he got to the part where he was trapped in the burning van, he tried to keep his tone steady, but couldn’t. The pain he felt that day had scarred more than his skin. It had traumatized him. His voice cracked more than once before he gave up and fell silent. His scarred hand itched with the memories as though a separate entity that got charged up at his thoughts. He began rubbing his palm on his jeans, a habit that had become obvious to Kylie the more time they spent together.
His eyes were watching, unblinking at the sliver of moonlight cutting the darkness and painting a bluish hue on the glass-riddled