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The Redcastle Redemption

The Redcastle Redemption

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The Redcastle Redemption

Lunghezza:
259 pagine
2 ore
Pubblicato:
Jun 2, 2014
ISBN:
9781310674792
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Things finally seem peaceful for Cali and Calvin, but the twins are still struggling with their new-found freedom. Layla senses that more trouble still lurks in her future, while Michael's happiness is being crushed under the weight of a terrible secret.
When someone new discovers the girl's special talents, he will stop at nothing to put them to use. The cousins must face their most brutal adversary yet, and everyone is forced to fight for both their lives and their loves.

Pubblicato:
Jun 2, 2014
ISBN:
9781310674792
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Derrolyn Anderson is a visual artist and writer of young adult fiction.She is the author of the four book "Marina's Tales" series and the four book "Athena Effect" series.

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The Redcastle Redemption - Derrolyn Anderson

THE REDCASTLE REDEMPTION

~

Derrolyn Anderson

~

Copyright © 2014 by Derrolyn Anderson

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions of it.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.

~

PROLOGUE

~

The man sitting at the desk whipped off his headset, slapping it down on the motel room table with obvious relief. The electronic bug he was monitoring had finally broadcast the information the boss had been waiting for, and he called out the news triumphantly, "Hey Frankie! Tomorrow morning looks good. The three of them will be together—without the cop around."

It’s about time! the little man exclaimed. I’m sick and tired of screwing around in this backwater. Go next door and tell the boys it’s go-time first thing tomorrow. Send the doc over here while you’re at it.

A few minutes later Frankie watched the door creak open to reveal Professor Theodore Reed’s worried face. He crept into the room slowly, a new wariness in his step. He found these career criminals to be unpredictable, and his dealings with them, distasteful. Nevertheless, he believed that if he played his cards right, he might still have a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

We’re going out to collect all three of them tomorrow, Frankie informed him. I want you to run over the precautions with the boys.

Of course, he replied. And I have your word that they’ll use the utmost caution? I don’t want to see any of them hurt. They won’t be of any use to you if they’re injured.

Frankie smiled a warning, his eyes icy cold. My men can handle the job.

Professor Reed nodded, licking his lips before he spoke. Once you have the girls, you’ll see to it that my funding is fully restored … correct?

Yeah, yeah. Sure. Frankie waved his hand dismissively.

The professor edged closer. Senator Blackwell was extremely angry about losing Layla … Are you certain that you’ll be able to change his mind about my grant?

"Don’t you worry about the senator, he’ll do as I say. You’ll get your money after I see these girls in action."

Professor Reed nodded, turning to leave.

Oh … and Doc?

The old man stopped in his tracks, Yes?

You’d better be right about what they can do.

Chapter One

LIARS

~

Ramon stepped into the little bar on Main Street, pausing for a moment while his eyes adjusted to the dim light. He spotted a flare of red hair, and smiled at the sight of Layla perched on a barstool, surrounded by a group of elderly gentlemen.

One of them looked up to see him coming, calling out, Hey Ruiz, your girl here is killing us.

Layla twisted around to greet him with a bright smile. They’re teaching me how to play liar’s dice.

The men all shuffled down a seat, opening up the stool for Ramon to slide in next to her. She leaned over to plant a kiss on his cheek. How was your day? she asked, her lips soft against his ear.

Boring, he answered, leaning closer to her. Uneventful.

She reached down to squeeze his knee, letting her hand linger on his thigh. Good.

He shivered a little, wondering if she knew what she was doing to him. So, he cleared his throat, you’re learning how to play dice?

"I’m pretty sure she’s schooling them," the bartender pointed out, nodding towards the pile of cash in front of Layla. He popped the cap from a bottle and slid it across the polished marble bar towards Ramon.

Thanks, he said, reaching for his wallet but getting waved off.

It’s my turn, Layla said, shaking her dice cup and slamming it down on the bar like she’d been playing the game for years.

Ramon chuckled, as amused by her as he always was. How about you? he asked her, lifting his beer to take a long, end-of-the-day swig. Everything quiet today?

Everything’s fine, she replied, twining her ankle around his leg with a sweet smile.

The man next to Layla snuck a peek at the dice under his cup. Four fives, he announced.

Four sixes, Layla replied, looking to the next player. The bidding continued around once more, until her next turn. She sighed, turning to the man seated to her right. I’m afraid that you’re a liar, she said as politely as possible. Everyone lifted their cups, counting the total.

The men at the bar all laughed as the man relinquished his final dice with a frustrated sigh. You’re out Bob, the one at the end crowed.

Shut up Fred. You’ll be next, Bob shot back with a sour smirk.

Ramon leaned in close to rumble in Layla’s ear, Don’t you think you have an unfair advantage? He inhaled the scent of her hair, unable to resist sweeping his lips across her cheek before pulling away to sit up straight.

She turned to face him. No. It’s pretty much a game of statistics.

"And lying," Ramon laughed.

The game continued, and Ramon watched as Layla methodically eliminated each player, one by one.

She’s ruthless, Fred grumbled, relinquishing his last dice.

You shouldn’t gamble if you don’t want to lose, Layla said flippantly. She took the pile of bills she’d won, stacking it neatly and sliding it towards the bartender. A round of drinks for everyone and keep the change, she said, taking her wine glass in one hand and Ramon’s arm in another. C’mon, let’s go get a table.

The men all groaned in protest, wanting to play another game, but Ramon shrugged, happy to be led away. Once they were tucked into an out of the way booth he started to tease her. So now you’re a dice shark?

I didn’t change them once, she protested. Honestly.

He rolled his dark eyes at her, "The game is liar’s dice, and you can tell when they’re lying! He sighed dramatically. Poor old guys. Did you see Bob’s face?"

She crossed her arms defensively. I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him. He was thinking … she leaned closer and lowered her voice, "dirty thoughts about me."

Ramon’s eyebrows raised in surprise, but his eyes twinkled with mischief. How could he help himself?

He’s old enough to be my grandfather! she said, her halfhearted outrage dissolving into giggles when he slid closer and grabbed hold of her knee under the table. The two of them rushed to finish their drinks, waving goodbye to the group at the bar before stepping outside into the dusky twilight.

Alone at last, Layla took the opportunity to fall upon Ramon, pressing the full length of her body onto his. Did I ever tell you, she surprised him with a passionate kiss, that I’m a sucker for a man in a uniform?

"Look at you. Now you’re giving me impure thoughts," he scolded her.

She smiled, a little tingle of excitement trickling down her spine at the thought. In that case, shall I escort you home officer?

Yes Ma’am.

~

The afternoon shadows slowly lengthened, chilling the meadow where Calvin and Cali were stretched out side by side. They’d taken their dirt bikes out for a ride on the beautiful late spring day, venturing deep into the most remote stretches of the property. After many careful searches over the past few weeks they were relived to find absolutely no signs of any more trespassers. On the way back down the mountain they stopped to rest in Cali’s favorite little clearing, spreading a blanket to lie among the wildflowers and look up at the clouds that were rolling slowly across the sky.

Calvin turned his head to watch her watching the sky. Sometimes, in moments like this he felt so peaceful inside that he could scarcely believe it. He marveled at everything that had happened since he first laid eyes on her, amazed by how much his life had changed, in awe of the fact that he was the one she chose to be with.

She returned his gaze, smiling gently when she saw the intensity of his colors. What?

He couldn’t find any words, so he raised himself up on one elbow and leaned over to kiss her tenderly, sighing with happiness when she wrapped her arms around him and stroked his back lazily.

I love you too, she whispered into his ear, spurring him on.

He rolled on top of her, and she could sense him hovering, propped on his forearms, careful not to press her down onto the hard earth. She rose to meet him, wanting to feel the weight of his body as she kissed him back passionately.

He growled with frustration, wishing they were back home in their soft bed before rolling onto his back to pull her on top of him. Her braid tumbled down to brush his cheek when she dipped her head to kiss him again, making him forget everything but how much he wanted her.

She suddenly stopped, gooseflesh rising on her arms as the overwhelming sensation of being watched overcame her. She raised her head, looking around.

What is it? he asked.

She sat up, looking all around them. We have company.

Who? He bolted upright, alarmed.

Look, she said, pointing. Crows.

Calvin squinted up into the trees surrounding the clearing, noticing that dozens of black birds had arrived on silent wings. They perched in the trees ringing the clearing, croaking out somber greetings as several more arrived, gathering in the branches above them. What are they doing?

I’m not sure, she answered, twisting around to scan the clearing.

It’s a murder, right? Calvin asked, the hairs on the back of his neck rising. Isn’t that what they call a whole bunch of them?

Yes, she nodded, impressed that he knew the term. I saw a few scatter when we first got here … I think we may have interrupted something.

What? Calvin asked, more than a little creeped out by the silent group.

A funeral, Cali said.

A what? he asked again, but she was already on her feet, searching the ground all around them. He watched her circle the clearing before finally stopping at the far side of the meadow.

Over here, she called.

Calvin trotted over to her side, looking down at a dead crow on the ground, its feet curled tight against its body. He looked up at the silent birds surrounding them. They’re here for it?

She nodded. I’ve seen this before. When one of them dies they all gather together and sit quietly for a while. I think they’re saying goodbye.

Calvin looked up at the birds in the surrounding trees, and an odd feeling passed through him. There must be fifty of them. We should go.

I want to bury it, Caledonia said, leaving his side to cast about for something to dig with. She pulled a chunk of bark from a fallen tree and stooped down to start scraping a hollow in the soft ground next to the dead bird. Calvin followed her lead, getting a stick and kneeling by her side.

Let me help, he said, putting his back into digging. When they’d gone deep enough she gently scooped the bird’s carcass into the hole, covering it with the wood and filling in the displaced soil. Calvin gathered a few stones to cap the little grave while Cali picked some wildflowers to arrange across the top.

Caledonia stood looking down at it for a moment, and Calvin came up behind her to enfold her in a tight embrace. He dropped his chin to her shoulder and pressed his cheek against hers with a sigh. They stood there for a few minutes inside the silent circle of birds, each of them thinking about their own losses.

A rustle of feathers and a few screeching calls broke the spell, splitting the darkening sky as the birds flew off one by one, heading out to their regular roosts for the night.

Let’s go home, Calvin said, his breath warm in her ear. She nodded, but it occurred to her that wrapped in his arms, standing on the land she loved, she was already as close as she was ever going to get.

Caledonia was quiet on the drive back to their house, beating back an uneasy feeling that was rising in the back of her mind. Nearly a month had passed since the professor had betrayed Layla, and they’d all let their guard down a little, hopeful that the senator and the professor were going to leave them alone after all. Maybe they were being a little too complacent. Maybe the crow funeral was some kind of omen, she thought, immediately feeling silly for being so superstitious.

When they got back to their quiet house they were greeted with enthusiasm by Poddy the three-legged dog. He jumped for joy, bounding back and forth between them like a ping-pong ball. Michael was holed up in his room as usual, and there was a note on the kitchen table from Layla, announcing her plans to meet Ramon in town for dinner. Cali knew that meant she shouldn’t bother waiting up.

She plopped down on the couch, still a little nervous but not really sure why. Calvin came over to settle in next to her, sliding his arm across her shoulders. She rested her head against his with a sigh. You okay? he asked.

She smiled, touched by how he could read her emotions without any synesthesia whatsoever. I was just thinking about Layla, she said.

She’s with a cop. I don’t think you need to worry about her anymore, Calvin pointed out. "I’m sure Ramon is keeping a very good eye on her," he added.

I suppose.

Despite the fact that Layla had narrowly escaped the senator for a second time, she was behaving as if nothing had even happened. She was completely in denial, refusing to speak about the past and shrugging off everyone’s concerns for her safety.

Calvin and Cali were both surprised by the change in her. Layla no longer spoke about re-building the Redcastle house, or anything further than a day or two out in the future. She may have seemed nonchalant to almost everyone, but Caledonia could tell that she was troubled. She alone was able to sense the depths of her cousin’s foreboding through Layla’s blithe mask.

Truthfully, Layla was more fatalistic than ever. She felt the plodding footsteps of approaching doom as acutely as the pangs of love she felt for Ramon, but instead of seeking comfort from her family she withdrew from them, as if getting close and risking their loss all over again would be too much for her to bear.

She dove headfirst into her relationship with Ramon, trying to squeeze as much happiness out of her life as fast as she possibly could. Like someone who believed she’d been handed a death sentence, she zeroed in on the one thing she wanted the most with a laser-like focus, and Cali was beginning to feel left out.

Caledonia tapped her foot with frustration, complaining to Calvin, Me and Layla never talk anymore, not even about the house. She spends all of her time at Ramon’s. I feel like she’s avoiding me.

Calvin nodded thoughtfully. Why don’t we invite both of them over for a barbeque this weekend? We could all hang out together.

She brightened. That’s a good idea. What about brunch tomorrow morning? I have a recipe I want to try.

Whatever you wanna do, he said.

I’ll call and see if she can make it. She sat up, scanning the tabletop for her phone.

Wait! Calvin held up his hand dramatically. Watch this … Poddy— He summoned the dog that was curled up at his feet, and the little fellow immediately snapped to attention. Phone Poddy! … Go get it … phone.

The dog wavered, trying to remember, and finally raced for the end table to lunge up and take Calvin’s phone in his mouth, proudly hopping over to deliver it onto his lap.

Good boy Poddy! Calvin said, picking him up and scruffing his fur, much to Cali’s amusement. He wiped off the phone and handed it to her like a proud parent. I’m going to teach him to get the remote control next.

Well done! She laughed, patting the dog before dialing Layla’s new number.

Hello? Layla answered.

It’s me—Cali.

Is everything okay?

Everything’s fine. I was just calling to see if you and Ramon could come here for brunch tomorrow.

Layla looked over at Ramon. I’m afraid he has an early shift tomorrow.

What about you? Can you make it?

Um … Sure, I guess so. What’s up?

Nothing. I just wanted to get together. We haven’t seen very much of you the past few weeks, and I miss you. I’m also a little worried about Michael. He’s back to being a hermit.

Layla sighed, I know. All he ever wants to do is play around on his computer. I invited him to go shooting at the gun-range with me and Ramon and he practically bit my head off!

Caledonia frowned. He wouldn’t go dirt bike riding with Cal either. I wonder what’s wrong?

Well, he still has to eat! Layla sounded cheerful, What time should I come?

Be here at ten o’clock sharp, okay?

Okay.

Layla?

Yes?

It will be good for all of us to be together for a change.

Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow, Layla replied.

Cali hung up and smiled at Calvin, feeling much better. How does Eggs Benedict sound to you?

Chapter Two

TAKEN

~

The buzzing of Ramon’s alarm clock dragged Layla to the brink of consciousness, and soft kisses on the back of her neck brought her the rest of the way.

Umph, she groaned, pressing her body backwards into his. It’s too early.

I know babe, he said, stroking her hair, But I have to get up.

Do you have to leave right this minute? she mumbled, reaching behind her to run her hand down the length of his body. When his hands crept around her sides to pull her close she sighed with pleasure.

I love you in the morning, he whispered into her ear.

Then stay a little while, she said.

~

Michael’s eyes flew open, and it took a moment before he realized that he was in his own bedroom, waking up from another terrible dream that was already fading from his memory. He sat up with his heart pounding, and by the time reality had fully sunk in a familiar dread overtook him. He reached for his laptop hesitantly, opening it to find the same bad news that had been haunting his sleep.

Nothing had changed.

Oh God, he

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