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Authors: Ashley Townsend

Chasing Shadows

BOOK: Chasing Shadows
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Chasing Shadows


By Ashley Townsend






Ink Smith Publishing




Copyright © 2014

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


Printed in the United States


The final approval for this literary material is granted by the author.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.





Ink Smith Publishing

710 S. Mrytle Ave Suite 209

Monrovia, CA, 91016








To Pinterest, Rock Band, and my awesome friend Watson for providing distractions when I had writer’s block, and to Joe-Bear for making my first caramel macchiato and for fueling my caffeine addiction since—to coffee and chocolate, for loving me as much as I love them. Also, thank you to the Ink Smith team for letting me hold this story in my hands (I
thought that would happen), and to Roan Carter for designing a cover that I constantly drool over.

And to my first fan, who loves these characters like I do and encouraged me every step of the way. Sarah B., this is all for you, and never forget what amazing adventures God has in store for your future … and, if you’re like my Sarah, your past.

Chasing Shadows







~Chapter 1~






“The king is dead. You have to come back.”

Sarah repeated the words over and over in her head, trying to make sense of them. She stared at the redhead standing on her doorstep in jeans and a T-shirt, struck speechless by her sudden appearance. A million thoughts flew through her head as she looked at Karen’s expectant face, awaiting her reaction to the news. Karen didn’t speak; she just waited, shifting nervously under Sarah’s stupefied gaze.

It was impossible—she had to be seeing things. The stress of preparing for college had finally gotten to her, and her muddled brain was tricking her into thinking that Karen was standing in front of her house—in Oklahoma of all places!

But did apparitions speak? Because this one certainly had a moment ago.

Sarah swallowed. She had worked so hard to forget about the past, telling herself that she’d imagined everything—taking a side-trip to the twelfth century, running from a masked murderer, nearly being burned alive with the mysterious blacksmith who had stolen her heart. And then when those vivid memories became impossible to explain away, Sarah convinced herself that maybe if she kept the remembrances hidden for long enough, then she would forget about everything and everyone. She kept those memories tucked away deep inside her, in the place where she saved all the truths she wanted to pretend didn’t exist in order to preserve her heart.

Deep down, though, she knew it was all true. There would always be those secret memories that she tried so hard to hide gnawing at her conscience, reminding her of those she left behind. Karen’s unexpected presence at her door only served to confirm the fact that Sarah hadn’t imagined a thing. It also forced her to face the guilt she’d managed to overlook with excuses she knew were worthless.   

Sarah shook her head at the irony of it all. Not ten minutes before she opened the door, she had almost managed to convince herself that she had moved on and left former days where they belonged—in the
. She had a sickening feeling that all of that was about to change.  

“Are you all right?” Her friend’s quiet question broke the bonds holding her tongue, and her mind cleared enough for her to come up with a semi-intelligent response.

“Seriously?” Sarah asked, her tone dripping with incredulous sarcasm. To relieve nervous energy, she mindlessly rubbed her thumb over the jagged scar on the back of her hand, forcing aside the memory of Will’s relief when she fought against the poisonous wound and had at last opened her eyes to find him watching over her.

Red hair swished as Karen risked a quick glance over her shoulder. She turned back to Sarah, her green eyes reluctant. “Is there somewhere private where we could discuss this?” She seemed to have calmed slightly since Sarah opened the door, though her pale face was still strained with obvious trepidation.

“What, you think someone followed you from the twelfth century?” Sarah’s astonishment over the situation had not diminished her sense of humor, or the lilt of sarcasm her words carried.

“You can never be too careful,” was Karen’s response. Sarah noticed that she truly looked worried about whatever danger was after her, real or otherwise.

Sighing, Sarah inclined her head toward the front door of her house. “We can talk in my room.”

“Is anyone else inside?”

Sarah looked at her in confusion. “Well, my mom’s here, but no one else.”

Karen bit her lower lip in indecision, and Sarah could almost see the wheels in her head turning. “I guess we could sneak in through the back.”

Sarah’s mouth hung open. “You can’t be serious. Come on, just follow my lead.” She turned the knob and motioned for Karen to follow her inside. She did so, though her reluctance was almost humorous; one would think she was headed for the execution stand rather than the Matthews’ entryway.

Karen stopped in the doorway to the kitchen and remained frozen there. When she refused to budge, Sarah sighed and turned to her mom, who was bent over the granite countertops with her back to them, humming lightly as she kneaded a ball of dough.


She continued to knead the dough into submission, keeping her eyes on her work. “Mmm?”

“Um, this is my friend, Karen Ashmore.” She knew the introduction would get her mom’s attention.

Dana Matthews straightened suddenly and dusted her hands off on the front of her yellow- and blue-checkered apron as she turned around to greet the newcomer. The smiled she gave Karen was genuine and warm.

“Hi, Karen. It’s nice to meet you.” Her mom’s slight Alabama accent was always more pronounced at times when she was demonstrating some of that famous southern hospitality, like she was now. Even after spending all her married life in Oklahoma, her drawl still managed to sneak into her speech, and that accent combined with her sweet smile immediately endeared her to most.

Although her mom adored their state of residence, Sarah had never really felt like she belonged in Oklahoma. She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something bigger out there for her than a simple life in a simple town. As a kid, she’d fantasized that there was some life-changing adventure awaiting her in the future, which was why she had agreed to assist Karen in her quest to stop the king’s murderer.

Sarah’s grin turned to a grimace as Karen’s words came back to mind, reminding her that they hadn’t stopped King Josiah’s killer, after all. But she was only one girl. What more could she do? 

“Would you like to stay for dinner, Karen?” Her mom’s words caused Sarah’s mind to settle on the present. “I’m making chili and corn bread. Cinnamon rolls for dessert,” she sing-songed enticingly.

“No, I don’t think I can. Thank you, though.” Karen spoke quietly and actually appeared shy, an emotion that Sarah had never before seen on her candid friend.

“We’re going to hang out in my room for a while, ‘kay, Mom?”

Dana frowned, and a deep wrinkle appeared over the bridge of her nose. It was the only one on her youthful face that Sarah took proud ownership of, sure it was the product of countless discussions about cleaning her room. Her mom raised an eyebrow in question. “Are you sure that’s safe as far as health codes go?”

Sarah laughed at the way her mom said it, though she was being completely serious.

“We’ll be fine,” she said, turning towards the doorway where Karen waited. “And if anything tries to eat us, we’ll be sure to scream.” She could hear her mom chuckle behind them as they made their way down the hallway.

“We don’t have much time,” Karen whispered the instant they were out of earshot.

“We have a few minutes for you to give me some answers,” Sarah replied firmly, pretending like she was in control. After the near-fiasco they’d previously experienced, she wanted to have all the facts before jumping in with both feet into whatever plan Karen had in mind.

Karen was silent for a moment, though she appeared compliant. “Where’s Lilly?” she asked suddenly, referring to Sarah’s ten-year-old sister.

“Oh, um, she’s sleeping over at a friend’s house tonight.” Her stomach knotted guiltily when she remembered that it was her fault Lilly didn’t know Karen existed. She had done what she assumed was best for her sister by allowing Lilly to believe that their trip to Serimone had been a dream. It was bad enough that one of them had to live with the reminder of another life; she didn’t want her little sister to get hung up on the past, too. 

They made their way slowly down the hall, the walls of which were lined with a myriad of family pictures. Karen passed them slowly, seeming to absorb the details and stories behind each photograph. She stopped before a large collage frame on the right wall and stared at the one of Sarah dressed in her cap and gown with her dad’s parents at her high school graduation. She held her diploma in one hand and hugged her grandma’s side with the other. She was smiling victoriously, and her grandparents both looked as proud as her parents had that day.

Below that were two photos situated side by side, and Sarah watched, curious, as her friend’s gaze took in each photo. The first was a picture taken last January. Lilly and Sarah stood on either side of their dad in the front yard, knee-deep in fluffy white snow. They all had pink cheeks from the cold, but it hadn’t bothered them in the least as they lined up for the picture. Their mom had snapped the photo just as their dad, ever the prankster, had smashed large fistfuls of snow onto his surprised daughters’ heads. Sarah smiled as she always did when she looked at the photograph and remembered both her and Lilly’s excitement over the first snow day that year. 

Karen’s unreadable gaze drifted to the next photo of the two Matthews sisters sitting Indian-style in Sarah’s bedroom on her plush purple rug. Sarah, fifteen at the time, sat behind her sister and held a clump of the girl’s brown hair as she coerced it into a braid. The sweet moment had turned into a humorous candid shot when Sarah crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth, and with Lilly making a not-so-attractive fish-face at the camera.

“How long ago was this taken?” Karen asked quietly, never taking her eyes from the photo.

“Three years,” Sarah answered. Her friend straightened and smiled slightly, though there seemed to be sadness in her eyes.

“Which one is your room?” she asked suddenly. Sarah decided not to probe Karen about her interest in the photos or the expression on her face when she looked at them. When she was ready to talk, she would.

Sarah led the way past her dad’s closed study door and stepped into her doorway. Karen poked her head inside. Her surprise melted into a grin of amusement as she took in the mess.

“Why am I not surprised?” she asked, looking around at the dirty clothes strewn about the floor, the empty and half-full boxes that littered the carpet and the unmade bed, and the piles of nick-knacks that took up whatever walking space remained. Sarah grimaced. It definitely wouldn’t have hurt if she had picked up a little this morning.

Karen cocked her head to the side. “Not that I could find it in this disaster zone, anyway, but where did the purple rug go? The one in the picture, I mean.”

Hooking her fingers through the belt loops on her shorts in a self-satisfied way, Sarah gave a wistful sigh. “Ah, yes. The great chocolate pudding incident of 2012. Good times.” She frowned suddenly and added in self-defense, “And I was packing.”

Karen started slightly, all amusement gone. “What for?”

“College,” Sarah mumbled distractedly, looking over the catastrophe that was her room. “Maybe we should go to the backyard.”

Karen shrugged. She seemed to be more at ease now, though Sarah could tell that her nonchalance was forced. They walked back down the hallway, and Sarah thought she caught Karen glancing at the pictures again as they passed.

Her mom must have heard them coming, because she called out to them from the kitchen, “Everyone still alive?”

“It’s not that bad,” Sarah muttered, then louder, “No hasmet team necessary. Just don’t try and clean up while we’re outside; I have everything organized.” She didn’t have to see her mom to know that she was rolling her eyes.

Sarah opened the sliding glass door leading to the backyard, and the two stepped out onto the cement patio. She led Karen past the wooden picnic table—littered with Lilly’s unfinished summer project of partially constructed birdhouses—onto the lush grass, and to the cherry red swing set. Her dad owned a hardware store in town, and he had built and painted the wooden set when his girls were young. His workmanship had lasted through the years of weather and use, and Sarah still came out here when she needed a place to think or clear her head, which was more often than not, as of late.

Sitting down on one of the swings, she watched Karen take the seat next to her, and they used their feet to push themselves back and forth in silence. Sarah had learned to respect her friend’s thoughtful nature and knew better than to force information from her; Karen would volunteer her thoughts when she was ready and not a moment sooner.

“You have a wonderful family.” Her soft voice broke the quiet sounds of birds chattering in the trees.

Sarah smiled, wiggling her toes in the grass. “Yeah, they’re pretty great.” She glanced over at the other girl, stopping her swing when she saw the pensive look on her face. Karen allowed her swing to creak to a stop as well, though she didn’t look at her.

“I guess it just made me realize that I missed out on all that stuff families do together,” she admitted slowly, as though just coming to the conclusion herself. “I had never really thought that much about it before, but after my parents died, it was just me and the professor. I love Charles like a father, but it’s not the same: there were no camping trips, no elaborate graduation ceremony, and I never got to braid my little sister’s hair or get into a snowball fight because we were too busy working in dark basements on quantum theories and wormhole physics.”

“What about the Joneses?” Sarah asked, trying to lighten her friend’s mood with what she thought was an encouraging reminder. “Don’t you consider them family?”

Karen stared at the back of the house, but didn’t appear to really see it. She looked a thousand miles away. Or maybe it was a thousand years that gave her that distant look. “I do consider them family, in a way. But I still feel like . . . I don’t know. I know that they love me, and I love them too, but it’s just that we’ll never really be a family. You know what I mean?”

BOOK: Chasing Shadows
2.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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