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Authors: Bonnie S. Calhoun

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Tremors: A Stone Braide Chronicles Story

BOOK: Tremors: A Stone Braide Chronicles Story
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© 2014 by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

www
.
revellbooks
.com

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-2310-4

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

1

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Three young men pulled off what they thought was the coup of the century—spending the night in sleeping bags under a large outcropping on Grasslawn Beach.

“Dude, I told you we could get away with it.” The blond surfer unzipped himself from his sleeping bag and brushed the sand from his hair. He slapped his tattooed friend a high five.

“You were right, man. This saved us way mucho bucks,” the tattooed guy said.

“This is the bomb,” the tall surfer declared as he stood and stretched himself to his full six feet. “I really thought they’d catch us down here.”

“I told you nobody checks the beach after eleven at night,” the blond said as he pulled his board from under the outcropping.

“Man, this sea air really knocked me out. It’s after one already. Let’s hit the waves. Look at ’em!” Tattooed Guy cupped his hands over his eyes to peer at the pounding surf.

The three made a contest of who would get their boards in the water first.

“Dude, we have the beach to ourselves. How much better can it get?” Tall Guy paddled out to the approaching wave on his belly. Reaching the point where he saw good waves breaking, he sat with his legs straddling the board, watching the other two paddling to
him. “Come on, move it! I’d at least like to catch one wave before I’m old and gray!” He whipped his hair around and flexed his muscles.

“This is really pretty cool. We’re all alone. No amateurs to get in our way. Nothing but sun and hangin’ ten for the whole day.” Blond Guy sat up beside him, waiting for his tattooed friend. “Come on, did you forget how to swim?”

They didn’t notice the current pulling them away from the beach. Suddenly a wave surge nearly landed them on top of each other. Their boards clicked together.

“Hey, easy, man, what’s up? Don’t scratch the merchandise. This cobalt-blue baby is my pride and joy. It needs to look good for the ladies.” Tall Guy grinned and checked his board for damage.

“Did you feel that?” Blond Guy looked into the water.

“Feel what?” Tattooed Guy fisted his hands on his hips, his legs dangling in the water. Sea spray filled his hair and dripped down his bronzed torso.

“The pull of the current. Look, we’ve moved pretty far from land.” Tall Guy squinted. “Why does the beach all of a sudden look really wide?”

“Aw, man, forget it! Here comes a wave. Let’s rock.” Blond Guy stood up on his board, swaying back and forth, waiting for the wave to lift them up.

The water growled up out of the sea as the shoaling wave grew to a height of fifty feet. The boys barely had time to react. When they did, it was already too late. They would not reach the top of that wave, or take a first ride on a new surfboard, or have the ride of a lifetime.

Suddenly all three were submerged and drifting to the bottom of the sea, caught in a watery grave on a bright and sunny day, where there was no life.

Selah Rishon Chavez saw the foam, smelled the surf, heard the waves. She flailed, then screamed, bolting upright, awake and gasping for air. Her arms and legs beat at invisible water. The only tangible wetness—sweat plastering the hair to her forehead. She’d fallen asleep with the sea breeze gently rustling her hair, but now sweat and sticky grass seeds had created a tangled bird’s nest in her long locks.

She leaned forward, sucking in deliberate, controlled breaths as
her hands encircled shaky knees. She pulled them tight to her chest. The third dream in as many weeks. Different locations, different people, always the same end—death by a great wave. But the dreams only happened when she fell asleep on the beach with the sound of waves crashing around her.

Each time she labored to commit the scenes to memory, they drifted away in a matter of minutes like dandelion down. The strange pictures, scary and disquieting, were mental curiosities of a certain unknown grandness. How was this possible? What did it mean?

Tremors of fear scrolled up her back and across her scalp. Why did she have these dreams only when she slept on the beach? She understood the images . . . the Sorrows. A super volcano, earthquakes, nuclear explosions, and the tsunami had destroyed the country all in the space of one short week.

But that had happened 150 years ago.

2

S
elah squinted at the sun still hanging low in the sky. Thankfully she’d slept less than an hour. Disoriented, she rose from her favorite comfort spot in the thick pampas grass and stood to stretch the sleep from her lean frame. Her eyes prickled with dried crust. She must have cried herself to sleep. Father was selling her into a life of bondage, slavery at its basest form, and her mother could do nothing to save her. No amount of reasoning or cajoling had worked because he was giving her, bag and baggage, in marriage to Jericho Kingston from Waterside Borough.

Selah’s eyes widened. She’d nearly forgotten. She turned toward the sea. A motion at the shoreline caught her attention, and she dropped back to the cover of the tall grass. Good. She hadn’t lost them. Father and the boys were still at the water’s edge. The sun reflected brightly off the sea. They’d be burnt to a crisp if they stayed out there much longer. The boys took after Father with their fair skin, blond hair, and brown eyes, while she favored Mother with olive skin, dark hair, and green eyes. She could follow them everywhere all day in the hot sun and be no worse for wear.

Father had told Mother he was meeting with Simeon Kingston today to talk details of the nuptials. Since she wasn’t allowed to have a say in the arrangement, she planned on being their shadow everywhere. She’d get to the bottom of this deal if it was the last thing she did as a free woman.

Technically she wasn’t a woman yet, and that was the only reason
she still roamed free. Her eighteenth Birth Remembrance was in two days. The wedding was set for ninety days later.

Selah didn’t want to get married. She especially didn’t want to be married to someone she didn’t know. To add insult to injury, she hadn’t seen Jericho Kingston since they were seven years old. At the time he was gangly as a stick bug, with a big nose and bulging eyes. She shivered. A frown etched its way across her forehead as she tapped nervously on her knee. A fate worse than death awaited her with a man she’d never even kissed. For that matter, she hadn’t done a lip dance with any boy, but she’d have liked the chance to try.

She peeked through the grass. Father and the boys were pointing to a boat at sea. A new Lander was coming ashore. The boat bobbed closer but was still about a hundred feet out.

She glared as though Father could feel her animosity. She wanted a life of her own, to be a hunter, to be down there on the beach with them, as part of the family business. Why didn’t they want her? Sometimes she felt as though she belonged to a different family, like she was adopted.

The boat drifted closer. She saw it clearly now. Large rowboat shape, high sides, probably able to transport a dozen men with no effort, but always carrying only one passenger—a man with a winged tattoo on the left side of his forehead. This country hunted these strangers, men her father called Landers.

Father had disappeared from Selah’s view. She tried to peer over the edge of the dune but only succeeded in nearly slipping into the ancient rubble pit in front of her hiding place. It had once been a high-rise building much farther from the sea, but it now sat as a concrete corpse at the edge of encroaching waters. Rusty, twisted steel reinforcement bars tangled in the broken construction detritus threatened to impale her for a misstep.

Her brothers Raza and Cleon still stood at the shore, then Raza began to wade into the water. What was he doing? No! That was a stupid move.

Selah scrambled from her hiding place, running around the grassy dune and down the slope. Sinking into the sand with every urgent footfall, she darted to the beach.

“Stop!” she screamed as she charged their position and slid to a stop at the edge of the surf. He was going to ruin the catch.

She made eye contact with Raza. He grinned, almost sadistic, then
turned and plunged his long knife into the gossamer film covering the boat’s surface. He ripped the knife back. The film billowed up as though caught on a breeze and evaporated in a sparkling cloud of mist.

She had only recently spotted the spider web covering from her lookout high on the dunes. From the ground she could never see it on the boat, and it dissolved once the boats crashed and broke open. It must be some foreign high-tech way to keep the Landers from getting sunburned on the long journey across the ocean, because none of them were ever lobster-red after such a long time at sea.

“You shouldn’t be on the beach. This is a man’s job, not something for little girls,” Raza said with a sneer. He glanced over the side of the boat, then replaced the long knife in its sheath on his hip.

Selah screamed again and charged into the surf to pummel him. He had a male ego as large as that boat. Just because he was the oldest son did not mean he was her boss.

“You call yourself a hunter. You just cost the family a whole lot of credits!” she yelled.

Cleon caught her around the waist, lifting her feet from the ground and swinging her around. Her legs were still moving, creating a windmill that slammed Cleon in the shins. The effect could have been funny at any other time, but at five feet nine and 160 pounds, Cleon had a muscular farm-boy build that outweighed Selah by enough to hold her in the air without breaking a sweat, despite his pain.

“Whoa, girl. Take it easy. You’re going to drown yourself that way.” Cleon laughed, holding tight.

Selah struggled to get free. “That was so stupid, Raza. You know better than to break the covering. Now you’ve killed the Lander. You should have let it crash to the rocks and disgorge him alive. There’s no bounty on dead bodies. Father is going to be mad.”

Raza, six feet tall and 190 pounds of muscle, hauled the boat to shore behind him. He continued to ignore Selah, which only succeeded in making her angrier.

Her arms and legs continued to thrash as she struggled to find release from Cleon’s grasp. “You’re stupid! Do you hear me? I’d make a better hunter than you. I don’t know why I’m not allowed, but I know I could do a better job than—”

“Selah! Be quiet, girl!” Father’s voice boomed. He strolled around a rock outcropping, shovel in hand. “What are you doing here on
the beach? I thought I told you to stay away until after your Birth Remembrance.”

Cleon released his hold and Selah pushed away from him. She pointed at the boat beached on the sand. “Raza ruined that catch. I could have—”

“You didn’t answer my question!” Father yelled as he moved closer and stabbed the shovel deep into the sand. He towered over her at six feet. His blond hair waved in her face as he bent to stare her in the eyes. He was an ordinary-looking man, but the scowl changed his face to sinister.

Selah cringed. When he was this angry, no answer other than complete submission would defuse him.

She lowered her head. “I’m sorry, Father. I forgot.” But that was a lie. She hadn’t forgotten. She hoped he couldn’t sense the deception in her voice. “But the catch—”

“That’s not your problem, girl. You should be at home right now, watching your brother, so Pasha can do her weaving.” Father turned to Cleon. “Take her home. Now.”

Cleon grumbled his displeasure and motioned Selah to his Sand Run. The four-wheeled beach machine had overly large tires that would easily hold two of them for the half-mile ride to the house. But it would be half that distance if Selah walked her favorite shortcut.

She stood beside the vehicle as he revved it and motioned her onto the back. She looked down the beach. How would she know where Father went if she allowed Cleon to take her home? Maybe she had a chance with her brother. He didn’t treat her like a pesky annoyance, and he only tormented her when Raza put him up to it. If he didn’t do what Raza wanted, he’d get the same treatment she did. It was a matter of survival. She understood.

She hopped on the back, wrapped her arms around his waist, and laid her head on his shoulder. Maybe she could get him to tell her their plans.

She clung to him for the five-minute ride. The noise was deafening—not a single chance to talk.

Cleon pulled up in front of the larger of their barns and motioned her off. She dismounted and turned off his switch. The engine growled to a halt.

“What?” he asked, grinning at her.

Selah fisted her hands on her hips. “I should be the one asking
what. Why did Raza intentionally kill that Lander? Father didn’t even look mad at him for doing it.”

Cleon busied himself with kicking at the dirt wedged in the deep tread on the front tire. “You can’t say Raza killed him. The guy could have already been dead.”

“How many times have overzealous hunters cut into that spider web covering?”

“Quite a few.”

“And how many Landers were already dead?”

Cleon huffed. “All of them.”

“And how many wind up dead when the boat crashes and splits open?”

“All right, I get your point. But I don’t know why Father wasn’t mad. All I know is he started digging the grave before the boat got close.”

Selah pulled back. That didn’t make sense. And come to think of it . . . “Why didn’t Father take the wagon like he normally does when he goes to hunt Landers?”

“He said we wouldn’t need it this week.” Cleon looked truly nervous telling her so much of Father’s business.

Selah paced beside the Sand Run. There was no way to know when or how many Landers would float into shore. It happened as a random occurrence. “There’d be no need for the wagon if they had no one to transport. But there’d be no one to transport if . . . they were all dead.” Selah turned to face her brother.

Cleon had a baby face that looked deceptively slick when he wanted to lie, although the act was never quite effective on her. Those fair looks didn’t mix well with embarrassment. As he furrowed his brow and looked past the barn in the direction of the house, she could see his ears turning red under the mass of blond waves. No response.

“I watched Raza kill that Lander today, and I’m positive he did it on purpose! Are you telling me they’re going to kill any Lander that comes into shore this week?”

Cleon shrugged and twisted the corrugated rubber grips on the handlebars.

Selah bristled. “Why would Father willingly give up all those credits?” Between this development and the numerous questions about her upcoming marriage, deception gnawed at her mind, creating great caverns of disillusionment. What weren’t they telling her? Who
could she trust? This was supposed to be her family, the center of her strength. None of this situation seemed real anymore.

He squinted into the sun. “I should probably get back before Father gets mad.”

“Well, you’re just a font of information today, aren’t you,” she said. She knew either he was scared to tell her or he really didn’t know. She’d put him to the test. “Okay, so if you won’t tell me about what they’re doing down there, then tell me when and where Father is going to have the meeting with Simeon Kingston about my wedding.”

Cleon shook his head. “I’m really sorry, Selah. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you should be forced to marry someone you don’t know.”

“Thanks, now spill.”

He gritted his teeth. “If you let on I told you, I’m in big trouble.”

“I won’t tell. Swear to eat a raw rat if I do.”

Cleon grimaced. “Fair enough. They’re meeting here at the barn later this afternoon. Kingston is bringing Father the first payment.”

“First payment,” Selah said. “How much am I worth?”

BOOK: Tremors: A Stone Braide Chronicles Story
9.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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