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Authors: Raine Thomas

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Becoming

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BECOMING

Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy: Book One

 

by

Raine Thomas

 

Published by Iambe Books at Smashwords

 

Copyright 2011 Raine Thomas.

eISBN: 978-0-9838318-0-8

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
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the hard work of the author.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce
this book, or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text
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and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether
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encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

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

Visit the author's website:
http://www.RaineThomas.com

Cover design by:
Nimbi
Design

Distributed via Smashwords:
http://www.smashwords.com

 

This book is dedicated with love to my parents,

by birth, by marriage, by choice:

 

Diane and Steve

Luanne and Brian

Pame and Harry

 

I’m so fortunate to have each of you in my life!

 

Prologue

 

His lungs burned like hot coals in his chest
as he ran. Although he would have preferred just about any other
method of climbing to his destination, the thick surrounding trees
prevented it. The terrain was treacherous, marked with jagged-edged
rocks made wet and slick from a recent thunderstorm. The lack of
moonlight on the hot night was a mixed blessing. He couldn’t see
very well where he was going, but he hoped the cloak of darkness
would offer him some camouflage from his pursuers.

He was eternally grateful that the bundle in
his arms didn’t squall or otherwise make noise that would surely
give away their position. It made his task at least mildly
easier.

Before he had started this last leg of his
journey, he had seen his two companions off safely. That was
another blessing on this otherwise cursed day. Knowing they had
achieved that much of their mission gave him hope that he could
finish this.

As he leaped over another boulder, the baby
he carried in a special harness across his chest made a small
cooing sound. Compared to his booted footfalls, the noise was
nearly inaudible. But panic soared through him nonetheless. If that
coo was the predecessor to a fit of screaming or crying, he knew
all would be lost.

Thankfully, there was no more noise from the
baby. His gaze darted across the shadows as he plowed on, knowing
that he couldn’t see nearly as well in this environment as his
enemies. They were, after all, suited to shadows.

Finally, his goal came into sight. The light
surrounding the location would not be visible to his pursuers, but
it stood out to him like a beacon. It was a site used only in
extreme emergencies because the results of using it varied so
widely.

This certainly constituted an emergency.

His breath leaving him in sharp bursts, he
ran straight for the light. And as he got to within feet of it, he
nearly failed to notice the weapon aimed for his midsection.

For the baby.

He leaped. The weapon struck his leg, but
missed its target. As he once again hit the ground, pain speared
through his injured leg, bringing him to one knee. He did what he
could to cradle the newborn as he fought to regain his footing.

But he wasn’t quick enough. This time, he
felt the lance of pain sear through his lower back. He knew, out
here in the wilderness as he was, it was a fatal blow.

He had failed. And as a result, it would be
the child who suffered.

Pulling on every bit of experience and
training he had, he staggered away from his enemy toward the light
only he could see. Moving with as much speed as he could manage, he
unsecured the baby from the harness. He heard the sound of the
weapon singing through the night air as it targeted his neck. He
brought forth his second power even as he made one final lurch and
thrust the baby into the light with a brilliant flash.

As he died, he could only hope his final act
was enough to protect the future of his kind.

 

PART I:
Discovery

 

Excerpts from the Great Foretelling:


Before there will be greatness, there will be
failure. It is how those failures are ultimately overcome that will
shape the future of all kinds.”

 


It will be one of us who serves as the bridge…a
guardian with patience and the capacity to learn and then teach
that which we have been incapable of learning from the beginning of
time.”

 

Chapter One

 

The blow to her head hurt more than just
Amber’s pride, especially because she should have seen it coming.
She had expected her opponent to follow the jumping inside crescent
kick with a jumping toe kick, but he changed it up on her, throwing
in a roundhouse combo that shoved her off-balance and sent her
straight to the ground.

Get your head on straight, Hopkins
,
she thought, irritated with herself for being distracted enough to
take the hit.

Springing back up, she bounced on the balls
of her feet and once again faced her opponent. Ignoring the noise
and spectacle around her, she focused exclusively on the battle at
hand. This time, when her opponent came in with a spear-hand
strike, she countered with a high block, then used her forward
momentum to step in close and take him down with a double leg
sweep.

“Break!”

At the instructor’s command, Amber
immediately straightened rather than following the move with her
finishing strike. She reached down to help her sparring partner,
Timothy Mason, to his feet. He grasped her hand much as he had many
other times over their years practicing together. Because they were
about the same height, they were often paired together for
sparring.

“Good job, Hopkins,” their instructor, Mr.
Jenkins, said. “Keep that up, you just might take the trophy at
nationals next month.”

Amber bowed, as did her fellow black belts,
as the class was dismissed. Collecting her gear and slinging her
well-worn equipment bag over her shoulder, she made her way to the
front of the karate center. Catching the proud gaze of Mrs. B—as
she and her fellow foster and best friend, Gabriel Reid, called
their guardian, Clara Burke—she felt a flush heat her cheeks.

“That was excellent work, Little Star,” Mrs.
B said, using the nickname she had given Amber several years
ago.

“Thanks,” Amber said, shifting her bag
uncomfortably over the praise. Then she ventured, “Since I’m all
sweaty, I probably shouldn’t be going to get my hair done.”

“Nonsense.” Mrs. B’s humored expression told
Amber that her guardian was on to her. “Lulu will shampoo your
hair. I want to do this for you. You only get one end-of-the-year
pool party when you’re about to graduate high school, after
all.”

While Amber knew quite well that there were
worse things in life to endure than spending half the day at a
beauty salon, she was rather hard-pressed to think of any at that
moment. Despite her qualms, she soon found herself shepherded into
Mrs. B’s car and driven to her guardian’s favored salon.

Within the hour, she sat in a chair
undergoing what was to her a very foreign—and very female—ritual. A
fuchsia smock covered the shorts and T-shirt she had changed into,
and her hair, having already been snipped and trimmed into what she
was assured was a flattering style that didn’t remove too much
length, was now covered in some kind of goop she had been told
would “bring out her natural highlights.” The steady hum of a hair
appliance and the chatter of female voices buzzed around her ears
as the sharp and pungent scents of permanent and highlighting
solutions assaulted her nose.

She still couldn’t believe she had agreed to
this. Mrs. B sprang it on her before the haze of sleep had cleared
her brain, and Amber figured that had a good deal to do with
it.

“It’s time for me to give you your graduation
present, Little Star,” Mrs. B had said that morning as Amber downed
her usual breakfast of orange juice.

“Present?” Amber echoed as though this was an
unheard of concept.

“Yes, indeed. Gabriel isn’t the only one who
can acknowledge the hard work you put toward passing your final
exams. I’d like to take you to the salon for a nice haircut before
the pool party.”

“Aw, come on, Mrs. B.” She felt her shoulders
hunch in discomfort.

“Don’t give me any nonsense, child,” Mrs. B
responded calmly as she sipped her morning tea and read the paper.
She was ever the educated southern lady when she spoke, and she
made sure her charges modeled themselves accordingly. If nothing
else, it had gotten Amber straight A’s in English. “You are
absolutely deserving of my praise and recognition. I don’t want to
hear a word otherwise.”

It was eerie how Mrs. B got straight to the
heart of the matter. Amber had frowned into her juice glass and
wished futilely that Gabriel was already awake, then looked through
her eyelashes at the woman who had raised her since she was
twelve.

Sunlight streamed through the kitchen window
and gleamed across Mrs. B’s reading glasses. The years had been
kind despite the hardships she had faced. Sure, there was now a bit
of gray sprinkled in her hair that hadn’t been there six years ago,
but she otherwise appeared much as she had the day Amber first
trudged through her door. Indeed, her constancy was one of the
biggest gifts Amber had ever received, and all she ever wanted.

She supposed accepting a graduation present
from the woman who had raised her into adulthood when so many
others had passed on the opportunity was the least she could
do.

“Okay,” she had said finally, trying not to
sound too grudging. She even managed to contain her instinctive eye
roll, but when she saw one corner of Mrs. B’s mouth rise, she
realized she hadn’t quite passed it off.

And now here she was, sitting in the salon of
Mrs. B’s stylist and friend, Lulu Medley. Aptly named Lulu’s Beauty
Shack, the salon had been established in the basement of Lulu’s
1920’s home on Toombs Street in the hospitable, postage-stamp town
of Palmetto, Georgia, not even fifteen miles from their home in
Newnan. Amber’s apprehension over this experience was high enough
since she hadn’t had her hair cut in forever, but when considering
the fact that Lulu catered primarily to African-American
clients—and Amber’s skin was pale as the moon—she held more than
one internal debate over the wisdom of having caved to Mrs. B’s
“gift.”

Fortunately, Lulu seemed to know her
business. She had either sensed Amber’s reluctance the moment she
opened her front door or had been coached ahead of time by Mrs. B.
Her no-nonsense nod and knowledgeable scan of her client’s
appearance served to ease some of Amber’s anxiety, and the offer of
a Coke and a homemade chocolate chip cookie worked its own kind of
magic. Before she knew it, Amber had changed her clothes and was
being ushered into the stylist’s chair and draped in the fuchsia
smock.

“Clara, you were absolutely right about this
one,” Lulu said now with a nod at Amber.

The stylist, obviously at a waiting stage,
sat what some might term a sizable backside into a straight-backed
chair near Mrs. B. The rather uncomfortable-looking seat was
situated between the three salon chairs in the room and the small
waiting area complete with a coffee table sporting magazines and
photo albums. Since the room was probably not much bigger than
thirty feet across, the comment was easily discernible.

Amber struggled not to squirm and dared not
glance at the other stylist and client in the room. Because the
second stylist was a younger, slimmer version of Lulu, Amber
assumed she was her daughter. She seemed completely focused on
working in the second client’s elaborate weave as they chatted
about the client’s three children, but Amber sensed their eyes
flicking to her at the comment.

BOOK: Becoming
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