Forbidden (The Seeker Saga, #2)

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Forbidden

 

(Book 2 of the
The Seeker Saga
)

 

By Sarah Swan

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2012 Red Eagle Press

Amazon Kindle Edition

 

This entire book is a work of fiction.  Names, places, characters, and incidents are all either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, persons are coincidental.  All right reserved.

 

May 2012

FOREWORD

 

To my readers,

 

I couldn’t have written this book without you.  That may sound cheesy or corny, but it is true.  Let me explain.

 

When I released
Chosen
, the first book of
The Seeker Saga
, I had no idea how great the response would be.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so many of you would read and enjoy my story.  Many of you recommended the book to friends, and I received hundreds –
hundreds!
– of emails and messages from fans.  It was completely overwhelming.  Many of you wrote reviews, some good, some great, some not-so-great.  And while I thank all of you for the feedback, the reviews that were most important to me were the not-so-great ones.

 

Ultimately, a writer’s responsibility lies with her readers.  Everything she does, she does to make the story more enjoyable for them.  To make it more real, to make it more interesting, more captivating, more remarkable.  In short, to make it
better
.

 

That is why the reviews mean so much to me.  All of you have provided an immense amount of feedback about the first book.  About the parts you liked, and about the parts you didn’t.  I read every single comment made about my book, and I took them all to heart.  I heard your complaints loud and clear.  And in writing this book, I strove to improve on as many of those complaints as I could.  Many of you said
Chosen
had a slow pace.  I made this book faster.  Others said there was too much build-up and not enough action.  I agreed, and focused on making
Forbidden
exciting to read from the get-go.  I developed the characters further, did my best to close out any loose and open plotlines that were left hanging from the first book, and essentially just did my very best to make
Forbidden
a more satisfying experience for you.

 

But ultimately, I am not the one to judge whether I have succeeded in this or not.  That decision is yours.  And I will continue to read your comments, respond to your messages, and do everything I can to grow and learn as an author. 

 

This is not my book.  It is your book, and I write to entertain you.  I may not get everything right, but I hope that with each new book I get closer and closer.  My ultimate goal is to gift you with a fascinating tale that you will love and remember.  And if I can make someone out there forget themselves, just for a moment, and lose themselves in my writing, I will know I’m getting closer to that goal.

 

I hope you enjoy reading
Forbidden
as much as I did writing it.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Sarah Swan

 

 

PS: I feel compelled to offer an explanation for the delay.  I promised this book a month before it finally came out.  And, while it was ready to be released according to schedule, there was something about the ending that I just didn’t like.  So, instead of publishing something that might not be quite up to par, I decided to take the time to fix it to give you a better story.  Over the last month, I wrote and rewrote the ending six different times before finding one I liked, and one that I think will resonate with many of you.  Hope you enjoy the book!

Prologue

 

An unexpected gust of wind lifted Chris’ cloak.  He pulled it down hastily.  The cold night air still carried a touch of frost from the morning, but the worst of the blizzard that had raged for more than a week had passed.  Or so Chris hoped.  He would never get used to the erratic weather up here in the mountains, nor the cold. 

Most days Chris had been able to spend indoors after his father had chosen to relocate here following the Traven Island disaster.  Indoors, where a roaring fire gave enough warmth to forget about the surroundings. It gave him enough time to lose himself in the research with which he was helping his father.

But today was different.  When Chris awoke this morning, his father was gone, presumably to town for more of the supplies they needed.  Chris had found a note, quickly scribbled and frustratingly vague, that said his father’s trip might take more than a week.   There was no mention as to why that could be the case.  In the best of weather, a trip to town and back could take an entire day.  Chris had no idea what his father would be doing in the interval.

Another gust of wind rustled through the trees, causing Chris to shiver and draw his garment closer to him.  He glanced over his shoulder to where the cabin he shared with his father lay.  It was more than half a mile away. Even in the dark, Chris could tell exactly where it was by the tiny dot of light that streamed out the window.  It was the light from the roaring fire inside.  The light held the promise of warmth and comfort… if Chris managed to get there before the end of the night.

He stomped his boots, feeling the crunch of snow beneath his feet.  The blizzard had left more than two meters of snow as it came and went. One of the least pleasant tasks Chris’s father had assigned to him had been to clear each side of the cabin of snow every morning.  It was a useless, tedious job that took away time from what Chris really wanted to be doing.  And even worse, it aggravated the injuries Chris had suffered at the hands of Tracy Bachman back on the island.  But, his father would not see reason in letting Chris off with just clearing the front of the door. 
He
was the one doing the important research. In his mind, anything Chris contributed was little more than child’s play.

Except that Chris knew that was not the case.  He could be just as thorough in his research as his father, just as dedicated, just as detailed, and just as systematic.  If his father would only see that, their progress would come much faster.  If his father only saw him as an
equal
… well, maybe not, but at least someone who could shoulder the load when needed… then maybe they would have already discovered all they needed.  Chris thought he deserved that much, at least, after the way he had proved himself back at Oliver Academy.

Getting Tracy to use her crystal near the large growth of crystals in the caverns of Traven Island had been enough to fully fuel the
voliar –
the ruby Chris usually kept around his neck.  It had absorbed a portion of the crystal’s power, much like a sponge. With that, it was possible to tap into the power of the crystals much like tapping into the electricity of a battery.  They could access it slowly, study the patterns of energy being released, and – hopefully – figure out exactly how the crystals worked.  They could explore whether it was possible to use the crystals without the need for a female to wield her power.  All that was possible only because of the
voliar
.  Without it, there was nothing they could do here, in the remote reaches of the Colorado mountains, to further their plans. 
Chris
was the one who had discovered it.
He
was the one who made the greatest contribution. But, his father had snatched the
voliar
away from him the moment he saw it charged.  Again – as always – Chris was treated like a child.

A groan sounded from above. Chris looked up just in time to sidestep a collapsing mass of snow from the branches of a nearby tree.  Chris took another step back, away from the base of the tree.  Away from where he could get hurt.

He took a longing glance at the cabin behind him, but stayed in place.  The note his father had left him also told Chris that he was to meet an associate of his father’s, by the northernmost edge of the clearing that surrounded the cabin, a full hour after sundown.  The frustration he felt at the moment was fueled by the fact he had been waiting in the cold for
three
hours without a single sign of the mysterious associate.

Of course, Chris knew how difficult this clearing would be to find for somebody not intimately familiar with the terrain.  The spot was hidden in the far reaches of the Colorado Rockies.  The only way to get there was by jet, to a tiny town of 500 people all but forgotten by civilization, followed by a five-hour snowmobile ride high into the unmarked mountains.  The cabin they lived in could not be reached by helicopter because the air was too thin for the blades. Were it not for the blasted cold and inclement weather, it would actually have been the perfect location for Chris and his father to conduct their research.  Nobody could disturb them, and from the way their cabin was situated on the side of the mountain, they could see anybody approaching miles in advance.  Not that he ever expected anyone to come here.  If you didn’t know exactly where you were going when you left town, you would find yourself hopelessly lost in the thick mountainous forest within hours.  And soon after, if you didn’t find your way back, either starvation or frostbite would claim your life.  The faraway place provided ideal privacy for Chris and his father to pursue their work.

Yet Chris found himself feeling particularly uncomfortable at the prospect of meeting somebody else here.  This associate of his father’s had obviously been given directions. Otherwise, how would he know where to go?  Trusting someone else with the location of the cabin was a move Chris did not understand.  It would have been just as easy – easier, perhaps – to meet in town. Doing it that way meant the cabin’s location could remain a secret.  Sometimes, Chris’s father did things Chris could not understand. Of course his father never deigned to explain his reasoning to Chris.

There was another reason Chris was uneasy: The nature of the meeting itself.  The person he was supposed to meet, according to the note, was not a friend of his father’s in any way.  Rather, he was a
recommendation
, somebody who somebody else had recommended to his father as a man skilled for… certain purposes.  That was exactly how Chris’s father had described him in the note.  An
undesirable
, as it were, and someone who would not mind getting his hands dirty if the price was right.

Chris reached into his pocket to feel the thick envelope lying there.  He had checked on it many times while waiting, but it eased his mind to touch it.  The envelope was also something his father had left for him, right beside the note, with specific instructions to give it to the man unopened.  But Chris’s curiosity had gotten the better of him. In an unprecedented moment, he had chosen to directly disobey his father and look inside.

What he found there surprised him more than he could imagine.  Thick dollar bills, all in hundreds, padded the outside, and totaled more than sixty thousand dollars.  That was not what shocked him, though.  He knew his father had money, if not exactly how much or where.  It was what was in the middle of the envelope that caught him off guard.

Taken individually, the two other things in the envelope would not have aroused much suspicion:  An innocent enough wallet photo of a young girl around Chris’s age, and an ID card belonging to a bespectacled man staring grimly at the camera.  It was the combination of the two items, coupled with the money, that had Chris uptight.

The girl he could have recognized anywhere.  Tracy Bachman.  She was the one who had caused him so much trouble.  In fact, he remembered the day he brought her to have that picture taken.  It seemed like ages ago, a lifetime, but the truth was that it happened less than two months back.

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