Bored almost to the point of changing her nail polish a third time, Tranae decided she may as well see what was going on outside. She walked out of her bedroom, jogged down the stairs, and left her house.
Tranae glanced at Cianne’s house before looking down the road to where their street intersected with a main thoroughfare. The smell of burnt rubber and the unmistakable chatter of curious spectators filled the air as she approached the intersection of Roland Road and Ridgeview Park Lane. She lazily strolled along the sidewalk, her attention split between the gathered spectators and the text message she was sending her best friend about all the commotion she was missing.
At the end of the street, several police cruisers, three emergency vehicles, and at least one hell of a wreck littered the impassable junction.
“I wonder what happened?” Tranae asked herself. She let the hand that held her cell phone fall to her side as she slid her way through the group of spectators to get a better look.
A car accident wasn’t much of a surprise at this particular intersection, but the several loud popping sounds that she heard following the crash tugged at her curiosity. Tranae didn’t care for the macabre but the crash, the strange sounds, and the large number of people she saw walking by her house were enough to spark her interest.
This was so much more exciting than changing her nail color. Due to her current parental imposed imprisonment, she couldn’t go to the spa to get them professionally done.
Tranae peered over the police barrier, taking note of all the police, emergency medical techs, and firemen. “So reckless,” she said, dragging the words out. “Someone must be hurt bad.”
“Looks like it,” someone close by offered.
Tranae didn’t look to see who spoke. Her attention was focused on the metallic silver car sitting just inside the police barrier, with its roof caved in due to a large palm tree resting on top of it. The car looked familiar.
The make and model is kind of popular, she told herself to dismiss her fears. There’s no reason to stress. Still. Tranae scanned the scene from left to right, trying to see through the emergency workers who were huddled together in groups.
“It looks pretty bad.”
Tranae looked at the man who spoke. She eased past him.
“Excuse me,” the man sneered as he stepped aside, “no need to be rude.”
Tranae paid the man no mind because her attention was directed beyond a huddled group of EMT’s where there was another vehicle. It was totaled and it was a vehicle she was certain she recognized, despite the damage. Tranae’s stomach knotted, curiosity making way for panic. She hurried around the length of the barrier, closer to where the huddled EMT’s were frantically working. She needed to see who it was they were working on.
“I’ve got a pulse over here,” a female paramedic yelled out.
In a state of utter panic, Tranae fixed her eyes on the female paramedic. When the paramedic jumped up, allowing a gap in the huddle, Tranae saw what she feared most. The scream that rose from her lungs caused everyone within earshot to look her way.
About Four Months Earlier
Tristan parked the borrowed truck under a large tree at the end of the busy street. He looked at the dashboard and noted that it was a quarter after one. The sun, which looked to be at a high point in the afternoon sky, wasn’t able to penetrate the tree’s shade. But it was still about 90 degrees under the leaves.
It was a hot day but it was business as usual on the city block filled with vendors, residents, and children. For Tristan, the heat was never an issue, and just like the people around him, he had business to take care of.
He reached for the bag on the passenger seat and pulled out a bottle of water. He had about an hour before his meeting so he decided to look in on an old friend whose apartment was in clear view from where he sat.
As Tristan began to drink his water, he saw his friend’s image appear in the rear-view mirror. He watched Jason Cruz, also known as JC, walk right by the truck Tristan sat in, turning every so often to glance over his shoulder.
Tristan made no attempt to move or hide that he was there, watching. He drank his water as JC strolled across the street and continued down to the far end of the block. He saw JC look around again before stepping into an apartment building, sure that JC didn’t see him.
Jason hadn’t seen him this time or the two other times he sat parked in the very same spot. “You seemed spooked,” Tristan said in a low hiss to no one. “Being spooked should be the least of your worries Jason.”
It was only two and a half weeks since Tristan saved Cianne (Cyan) from the hell JC and his friends put her through to extort a large sum of money from him; two and half weeks since she was left alone to defend herself from a pack of feral dogs that he had to kill with his bare hands to save her. It was two and a half weeks since he found out Cianne had supernatural abilities and had somehow inadvertently given him the strength and speed necessary to protect her.
JC should be on edge. He, along with his buddy, Nicklaus Carter, a college student Cianne once tutored, had literally gotten away with kidnapping and murder. The third accomplice, Peter Walter, a.k.a. Cook, a name given to him by Cianne for the home cooked meals he brought her when they held her captive, realized early on that the kidnapping for ransom scheme was wrong. For five days Cook secretly made sure Cianne ate properly; and in the end, he tried to help her escape but lost his life in the process.
The police have nothing to link JC or Nick to Peter or the crime other than they knew one another, but Tristan knew they were guilty. “Cook” had botched the kidnapping for Nick and JC so one of them shot and killed him.
Tristan was so damn thankful to Peter for helping Cianne and the baby she carried inside of her. My baby. She would never be the same because of them and if something had happened to her as a result of their actions…
“Shit,” he cursed at the thought.
Tristan put the top back on his water. He dismissed all thoughts of Cianne’s mortality. She and the baby survived their ordeal. It was time to look ahead. He would do whatever it took to keep them safe. There were just a few loose ends to tie-up. He focused on the apartment building JC went into.
Cianne nervously glanced at her father. They both sat on an elegant sofa in a home that was bigger than Tristan’s.
“What am I supposed to call her?” Cianne let her eyes wander around the large room again. This time she moved her eyes over each item slowly, to appreciate all the intricate details that she may have missed before. Beautiful pictures and tapestries adorned the walls, while wood carvings and figurines were displayed on tables and shelves. She wanted to stand and examine each piece but she wasn’t bold enough to do so. Her eyes moved from a tall statue of a female standing upright with a bucket on her hip, to the wide sliding doors that led to the large stone patio.
The doors were closed.
“She will tell you what she wants you to call her,” Joseph said, sounding indifferent. He looked at his wrist watch.
It was a quarter after one. Cianne knew because she glanced at his watch too. They had arrived fifteen minutes ago and he seemed more anxious than she was.
Cianne looked up to find her father watching her. He was most likely waiting for her to tell him that she changed her mind about meeting Vivian. Looking into his eyes right now, she knew he wouldn’t protest if she did decide she wanted to just leave.
To both of their surprise, Cianne settled further back on the sofa. She was neither scared nor tempted to run. It wasn’t just about her anymore. She needed answers that could only come from her maternal grandmother, who she was told had passed away before she was born.
A few weeks ago, the news of her grandmother’s existence would have been a huge shock to her. But she was forced to accept that anything was possible, considering all that happened to her recently. An unplanned pregnancy; being kidnapped and held for ransom; and being attacked by wild dogs certainly changed her thoughts of what was possible. If that wasn’t enough, she also talked to her deceased mother during a visit to the past, made possible by Time Weaving. All that, coupled with the realization that her visions and Time Weaving were not freak accidents of birth, but were instead inherited from her mother, was a whole lot to swallow.
The thought of her mother, who she thought of as perfect in every way, passing some cursed gene on to her was unsettling; and while Cianne never even entertained the possibility, she had no choice now but to accept it as fact.
What she found difficult to accept was that Tristan was somehow a part of this world or group. Whatever it was. Cianne didn’t press him to explain how he was able to rescue her because she didn’t think she could handle what he might tell her. She saw him rip those dogs apart with his bare hands that night he came for her. She witnessed the speed at which he moved. Cianne saw him as a boy in a fragmented memory.
Tristan was different, just like she was.
What if he knew for years about her and what she could do? Did he pursue her with such determination because Vivian ordered him to get close enough to spy on her? As she asked herself these questions another question came to her. If she confirmed that Tristan was aware of her and only got close to her for those reasons, how would it change her feelings for him? She pushed the questions out of her head and tried to relax.
“So,” Cianne sighed after a few moments of silence, “she’s some kind of Queen?”
“That’s what I’m told,” Joseph said with a frown.
Cianne thought of her grandmother, the queen, entering the room. Her stomach churned as she again focused on thoughts of meeting the woman. She wondered if it would be a formal entrance; was she expected to bow? Her concerns over what to call Vivian came back to the forefront, Queen Vivian or Grandma? She could be safe and call her Queen Grandma.
Cianne gave that thought a little laugh. It felt good to laugh again.
“I hoped you would accept my invitation,” a statuesque woman said as she walked into the room. She wore a long gray wrap-around dress that fit her lovely figure perfectly. Her hair was pulled back in a bun and her makeup looked as if it was applied by professionals.
Cianne watched as her father stood up and kissed the woman lightly on the cheek.
“Joseph, you look well,” Vivian smirked.
“You look lovely as always Vivian,” he said. A strained smile appeared on his face.
“My dear,” Vivian said the smiled brightly at Cianne, “you are a true vision.”
Cianne watched her grandmother from the moment she entered the room, and now looked up at Vivian as she stood in front of her. She hesitated but then stood and accepted the light kiss Vivian placed on her cheek. Cianne waited until Vivian was seated in a beautiful chair, which made her look like royalty, before sitting back down on the sofa.
“And the impressive Tristan, will he be joining us?” Vivian asked.
“He had some things to attend to,” Joseph answered before Cianne could.
Vivian looked from Cianne to Joseph. The look Vivian and Joseph shared was neither hateful nor kind, but it was a look nonetheless. Vivian then looked back to Cianne. “He does have a lot of responsibilities for such a young man. How does he manage?”
Cianne didn’t know what she meant by the statement. Tristan was as carefree as anyone she knew. A bit confused, she looked at her father.
“He seems capable.” Joseph stood, exhaling as he did. “This is a lovely property you have here. I think I will take a look around your garden, if that’s all right with you?”
Cianne could hear the agitation in his tone.
“It belongs to a close family friend who has graciously let me use it as needed,” Vivian said plainly.
Cianne saw a faint smile on her father’s face as he turned to walk toward the glass door leading to the patio. She looked at her grandmother, a beautiful woman seated across from her, thinking again that she looked familiar. It suddenly dawned on Cianne that this was the same lady standing in the crowd at her graduation ceremony a couple of days ago.
“So…” Vivian started after Joseph left out and shut the door. “How are you feeling?”
“Better.” Cianne didn’t really know how to sum up what she felt. If she was to be honest, she would tell everyone that she once loved the dark and now she feared it. That she was now frightened to be in small spaces and that she hated being in a room with the door shut. If she told them that the only time that she really felt safe was when Tristan was with her, everyone would give her that look. The “I feel so sorry for you” look.
No, she thought, saying good or better was what people really wanted to hear.
“Good. How is Dr. Reginald working out for you?” Vivian asked. Her eyes moved to the large glass pitcher sitting on a table in front of Cianne.
She was the one who referred the baby doctor?
It made sense now. Her father told her Dr. Reginald was highly recommended, so Cianne switched doctors and began seeing her immediately. “We’ve only seen her once, but she seems nice. I’m sort of disappointed that she doesn’t believe in modern technology but I thank you for referring her.”
“She’s a little old-fashioned but a very skilled doctor; and she will be available to you twenty-four hours a day, so if you need to call her do so.” Vivian stood. “Would you like something to drink?”
Cianne shook her head. She watched Vivian walk over to the table and pour water into the glass from the pitcher. The water swirled inside the glass as Vivian poured. When Vivian returned to her seat, Cianne asked the question that had been driving her crazy.
“Did you make Tristan the way he is?”
Vivian raised a brow. “Tristan hasn’t explained it to you?”
“He asked me to come here, told me that you would explain everything.”
“And you accepted that?” Vivian questioned.
“He accepts everything I say without explanation. I feel he deserves the same from me,” Cianne said as she looked at Vivian.
Vivian nodded as she took a sip of water. “No, I didn’t make him the way he is. But I will explain how he became the way he is after I give you a crash course about your people.”
Cianne didn’t speak; she was excited at the prospect of finally getting some answers, but at the same time she wasn’t sure what to expect or what was expected of her. She decided to keep her thoughts and feelings to herself until she received more information. She looked at Vivian with an expression as if to say “continue”.
“We are the descendants of a great nation of people called the Coesen (Coe-sin). We are basically human but our DNA has been altered, giving us the ability to do things that an average human cannot.” Vivian sat back in her chair. “Coesen are born with these abilities but in some, the ability remains dormant. These Coesen are still an important part of our nation. They still carry our genes and our mark. When mated with another Coesen, a child with abilities can still be produced.”
“There are four tribes and each tribe has an elder who represents them. These representatives collectively are called ‘The Council of Four’. In no particular order, the tribes are Quende (Key-in-day), which is ruled by Chandra. The Gedgi (Ged-gee), is ruled by Brenna, who is the youngest of our lot due to her mother’s early passing. The Bode (Boe-dee) is ruled by Eldra and then there is the Arkean (Are-key-an), which is our tribe that I rule. I am also the Sovereign of all four tribes.” She paused as if to see if Cianne had any questions. Vivian continued speaking. “This is our mark.” She leaned forward and turned her head to the side, exposing her neck.
Cianne’s eyes grew wide as she stared at the mark just behind Vivian’s left ear. It was in the exact same place as Cianne’s birthmark but it was different. Vivian’s mark was the upper left portion of a circle, like a large piece of pie.
“The members of each tribe are born with a distinctive mark. This is one way to tell what tribe they’re from. Think of a circle cut through the middle into four slightly uneven segments. The Arkean mark is the upper left segment, and is the largest of the birthmarks. The Bode’s birthmark is the upper right segment of the circle and it is the second largest. Quende, is the lower right and Gedgi is the lower left segment and the smallest. If laid together the marks would make a complete circle like your inner circle.” Vivian clasped her hands together. “You were the first to be born with a complete circle. You are also the only one of us who has ever had a thin outer ring that encompasses the inner mark.”
Cianne realized she was touching her birthmark. She shifted in her seat as she placed her hand back in her lap.
“Our abilities manifest at the time of puberty. Most of us are born with a single ability. A very small percentage of us are born with two. Only one child in our entire existence has manifested power before the age of eleven and she was also born with more than two abilities. This Coesen was prophesied to have untold power.” Vivian looked sympathetic for a fraction of a second. “I and the other members of The Four had to suppress her abilities because they were too much for a child to handle.”
Cianne felt every beat of her heart and she swallowed as she shook her head. “Me?” she asked.
“Yes,” Vivian confirmed. “I understand what I am telling you is shocking, but I must ask that you permit me to go on without interruption.”
Cianne rubbed her hand over her belly. She had to know, no matter how unsettling all this was.
Vivian began again when Cianne nodded. “When our ability manifests sometimes a gift of sorts, a power, will transmit to another Coesen. The result is a Protector who is very strong and very fast, though the extent of the Protector’s power is determined by the strength of the Coesen who transmitted the power to them. These Protectors are connected to that Coesen, who is now their ward, and they will do whatever it takes to keep their ward safe. This is possible because a Protector can sense when their ward is in danger and is able to locate them at any given moment. With training, the Protector will be capable of defending their ward and will lay down their lives to protect them if need be.”
“So, Tristan is a Coesen, and my Protector,” Cianne surmised.
“Tristan is your Protector but he is not a Coesen,” Vivian amended. “We don’t exactly know what qualities The Source requires of a Coesen who is chosen as a Protector. We do know that the transfer happens around the time of conversion, when a Coesen’s power manifests. It is a process we have tried to influence,” she said, as she grimaced, “but it’s something we can’t manipulate. We still do not know who will be chosen or why. All we know is that as a Protector, Tristan feels an overwhelming desire to protect you even if doing so means his life. Do you remember your zoo trip when you were eight years old?”
Cianne nodded her head, yes.
“Do you remember anything after that?”
Cianne thought of the memories her mother tried to help her recover. The zoo trip was there but everything after was still cloudy. She remembered that she didn’t return to that school and she heard her parents arguing for the very first time, but many things were unclear.
“No, not everything,” Cianne admitted.
“It may be a side effect of your abilities being suppressed,” Vivian told her.
Suppressed, Cianne laughed to herself, someone should inform the visions.
She gave Vivian a vacant look but continued searching her memory for something else, anything else, that happened to her just after the zoo trip. Scattered memories flashed through her mind then the haze cleared and she focused as a latent memory came to her. Cianne remembered watching her mother, Kayla, as she stood in a large room a few feet away. She seemed anxious as she spoke to a woman. Both of them looked at Cianne as they spoke, and a loving smile was displayed on the woman’s face. Cianne felt an impulse to go to her but the woman held up her hand, motioning for her to stay where she was.
The memory faded just as Cianne realized that the woman she saw in her past, standing between her and her mother was Vivian. Cianne touched her temple, hoping to ease the pounding inside her head as she looked at Vivian who was watching her.
“Is something wrong?” Vivian asked, a concerned look on her face.
“No,” Cianne said immediately, resuming her calm display. The memory she had was vague, but it showed her that at one time she was familiar with and felt something for Vivian. As she thought about this, Cianne closed her eyes. “Ok, I ‘manifested’ early and Tristan is my Protector.” She fisted her hands that rested on her lap. “Why did you abandon me when my mother died? Why wasn’t I told any of this stuff? My entire life I thought I was alone, that I was the only one dealing with these strange powers.” As she finished this outburst of emotion, Cianne realized that she wasn’t following her plan. So much for calm and collected, she thought, feeling a bit sheepish.
“Because of who and what you are, we decided that you needed to be kept safe. Only, we could not agree as to how. So, your mother convinced me that the only real way to do this was to hide you among average people and raise you as a normal child. I helped her disappear with you. As a result, I maintained limited contact with her and you until the zoo incident. Then all contact had to stop to keep you safe.”
To keep me safe, Cianne thought.
“Safe from what?” she asked.
Vivian took a deep breath. “You are unique even to us. Your mother, as a young adult, was unhappy with our traditions and refused to comply. She wanted to be “normal” even if it was only for a short time. She threatened that if I didn’t give her time to live a normal life, she would disappear forever. Your mother was very gifted and it wouldn’t have been much of a problem for her to make her threat a reality. So, I made the mistake of making a deal with her. I allowed her to go to a college with average humans and live without my interference for an agreed upon time.
“During this time, Kayla met your father. She chose what she thought was love, and not allegiance,” Vivian said then paused. She looked as if she was trying to remove a bad taste from her mouth. “You needed to be protected because of who your father was. He was an enemy to our people and wanted for murder. We were actively hunting him when your mother was deceived by his charm. She loved a lie, and you were the product of that lie.”
The product of a lie.
It took a moment for the harsh cold sting of her words to sink into Cianne’s consciousness. She sighed as she looked at the sweaty glass of water on the table next to Vivian. A few of the melting ice cubes shifted inside making a low clattering noise. There was no point in getting angry, not when she needed to know more to keep her baby safe. Cianne focused on her grandmother again.
“So, I had to be protected from him or from your people?”
“He is dead. But our people…” Vivian sighed. “Kayla did the unforgivable, Zaria. We have laws just like any other society and she broke them. Some of our people wanted revenge for your father’s crimes and they wanted your mother and her unborn child’s blood as payment. We knew that you were special before you were born. The Augur, Oma, foretold that you were the Halo, the complete circle, and that you would be very important to our people. Because of that, yours and your mother’s lives were spared. Your mother and I decided you had to be hidden from the radicals of our nation, those who are visible as well as those who are hidden, until you were old enough to understand your role and could control your abilities. But your abilities manifested early and we had no choice but to suppress them. You were to be reunited with me when you turned eighteen,” Vivian told her. “And that is why I am here now.”
A prophecy…great! These people are mad.
“So, you thought I would just go with you?” Cianne asked. “Leave my father and my friends when I turned eighteen to be some princess to people who want me dead? All because you believe I’m some kind of Halo.” “You are the Halo,” Vivian said confidently.
Destined lovers, Cianne’s and Tristan’s, lives are forever changed when the Coesen arrive to claim their Halo. Though Cianne remains reluctant to accept her Awakening, Tristan embraces the clandestine race of powerful Supernaturals with a tenacity that can’t be explained. Determined to accomplish whatever is required of him, Tristan takes on the Maatii, a brutal test of strength and survival, to prove he is the right man for Cianne and their unborn child.
While Tristan is hurled into a world which existence he never dreamed, his anger for the men who wronged him festers into an uncontrollable hate over the recent months. A line was crossed and Tristan is determined to make them pay. With his training to be the Halo’s Protector and his own revenge scheme, Tristan can't see that he is the hunter being hunted, in the Awakening of the Halo.
Copyright 2013. Shea Swain. All Rights Reserved.