Chapter 1 - A Change in Plans
Sarah walked out of the Police Station and felt hollowed out. She closed her eyes as a cold breeze wrapped around her, squeezing all the remaining warmth from her. It wasn’t even noon yet and she had flown with Zane on the beach, seen her great-grandmother’s murdered body and been propositioned by Charles Langford, an evil, psychotic witch. Yep, today wasn’t turning out the way she had planned.
Sarah felt two arms wrap around her from behind. She stiffened automatically but then relaxed back into Zane’s warm, strong arms. The cold breeze had no choice but to evaporate.
“I can feel your sadness. Please don’t give up hope Sarah,” Zane whispered into her ear.
Sarah sighed and nodded her head. “I won’t. Let’s get out of here though. We can’t talk here. I can feel him watching us.”
Zane let go of her and they turned around to see her father Race, Zane’s mother Gretchen, his grandmother, Agnes and Lash and Charlie walk out of the building and join them. Sarah frowned at her father. Race Livingston was normally radiant with health and strength but he looked weak pale and miserable now. Understandable considering Charles had tried to kill him just moments before, but there was something else there now. Sarah walked quickly to her father and reached up around his neck to hug him.
“Dad, everything’s going to be okay. Let’s go back to your house so we can talk,” she said, pulling back to look up into his face.
Race closed his eyes as if he were in pain but nodded his head. “We might as well.”
Sarah looked back over her shoulder at Zane and frowned worriedly. It was as if Charles Langford had sucked the life out of her father. Zane winced and walked quickly to his mother and grandmother and ushered them towards the cars. Sarah waited and joined Zane in his jeep. They drove in silence the few blocks to her father’s home and joined everyone in the front room. She stared at her father’s comfortable home, decorated in a simplistic masculine style and missed her grandmother’s ocean side mansion with a hard twist of her heart. Charles Langford had not only murdered her grandmother, he’d taken over her home as well and she would never step foot in that house again if she had anything to say about it. But that didn’t stop her from missing it.
Everyone piled into the room, stripping off coats and jackets and finding places to sit. Race went into the kitchen and moments later brought out a couple chairs. He sat in one and then motioned for her to take the other. Sarah felt the complete misery of the small group as if a large weight had settled on her shoulders. Life had picked them all up and thrown them off a cliff.
“What are we going to do?” Gretchen asked, her voice shaky and her eyes red and teary.
Race cleared his throat and shook his head, looking away from the people circling around him and out the window. He ran his hands through his dark tousled hair and shook his head silently. Sarah frowned. Her father had taken on the role of leader from the very beginning and now, when they needed him the most, he was too shaken to even talk.
Sarah looked around the room in agony, wishing she had the answers everyone needed but she didn’t. At least not yet. She felt a warm breeze wrap around her middle and she immediately reached for Zane’s hand. She looked at him and tried to smile, but couldn’t. Zane squeezed her fingers and then stood up.
“Race, I’m so sorry about the death of your grandmother. Francis was an amazing woman and we’re all going to miss her. Right now, even though we want to mourn, we have to plan our strategy. Our first priority is safety. According to Charles, we can all leave. However, Sarah won’t be able to. I think it would be wise for those of us who can leave to do so,” he said, looking at his grandmother and mother.
Gretchen’s mouth fell open in surprise and Agnes looked at him like he was insane.
“Boy, you got another thing coming if you think we’re going to leave now when Sarah needs us the most,” Agnes said, her voice shaking in outrage.
Zane’s mouth quirked up in a smile. “Grandma, you’re a fighter. We all know that, but if you stay, you have to understand that Charles will try to kill you if you stand between him and Sarah.”
Agnes sniffed loudly and smoothed her long tan skirt over her knees. “At least I’ll die knowing that I stood up to evil. No Zane. I mean to stay. I’ll do my part. I won’t turn my back on our girl.”
Zane smiled, his silver eyes lighting up as he looked back at Sarah. Sarah smiled back, her heart feeling warmer at the thought of Agnes standing by her side.
“What about you Mom? What about Cat and Zandra? You have two daughters who still need you and would be heartbroken if anything happened to you. You need to go Mom. You shouldn’t be here,” Zane said moving to kneel in front of his mother.
Gretchen bit her lip as a tear slipped down her cheek. “Zane, I love your sisters more than my life, but this is bigger than us all. We’re all here for a reason. None of this is a coincidence. I might not be the strongest most talented witch, but I know I’m needed. Sarah needs me, you need me and Race needs me. Now no more talk of walking away.”
Zane leaned over and kissed his mother’s cheek. “I love you Mom,” he whispered before standing up. He turned and glanced around the small group, his eyes resting on Lash and Charlie.
“What about you two? Lash, Charles wouldn’t hesitate to hand you over to your father. Are you willing to risk your life?” he asked quietly.
Lash was standing in the corner of the room, apart from everyone, his dark hair falling over his eyes and his arms crossed over his chest. He lifted his face when Zane started talking but he was looking at Sarah. Sarah stared back silently, willing him to go. She couldn’t stand the thought of him being hurt because of her.
“Sarah has stuck up for me practically my whole life. What kind of friend would I be if I turned my back on her when she needs someone to stick up for her?” he said, sounding determined and stoic.
Zane nodded and turned to look at Charlie who had her knees pulled up to her chest as she huddled on the couch next to Agnes.
“Charlie, you’re the newest one to our little group here. I’m sure you understand now after meeting your father that there’s no hope of a relationship with him. His only interest in you is if you’re worth using. We can make arrangements to send you away Charlie. You don’t need to stay and get caught up in this. My sister Cat would take you in. What do you think?” Zane asked kindly.
Sarah winced at Charlie’s expression. She looked as if her last dream had been crushed. Charlie took a deep breath before answering. “You’re right, I understand that my father doesn’t care about me. What else is new? But I don’t care what he says, I do have power. I am a witch and I might not be as powerful as Sarah, but I can do something. I can stick up for my friends,” she said looking around the small group of people and trying to smile. She looked at Lash for an extra moment before turning back to Zane. “I’m staying Zane. I want to help.”
Agnes reached over and hugged Charlie, making her squeak in surprise. Gretchen and Sarah smiled at each other and Sarah felt her heart lighten a few more notches.
“Then that leaves you Race.” Zane said and turned around to stand in front of Sarah’s father.
Sarah’s mouth opened in surprise and she looked at Zane questioningly. Zane glanced at her quickly and shook his head. She closed her mouth and looked back at her father. Race Livingston wasn’t the same man he had been yesterday. Yesterday Race had been strong, in control and had purpose and drive. Today, Race looked ashen, weak and hopeless. Sarah felt her heart constrict sickly at the thought of her father leaving her. She had just come to know him and love him. She didn’t want him to abandon her now.
Race raised his head and looked at Zane despondently. “It’s very heroic of everyone to want to stay and help my daughter, but you have to know that you will die if you stay. Charles came close to killing me today. And that was with just one look. If he can do that to me, then you have to understand that he wouldn’t hesitate to destroy you all just like he would a bug under his shoe. You’re all idiots if you stay. Gretchen, you need to go. You need to take your mother and your son and everyone else and you need to go right now, this very hour. I’ll stay with Sarah. I’ll spend this last month with her. It’s my duty as her father. But at the end of the month, I think the wisest thing to do would be for Sarah to end things herself. If Charles attains her power, this world will never be the same. I can’t let that happen,” he said, his voice sounding shaky and rusted.
Sarah gasped and clutched her throat. “You would kill me yourself? Dad! Are you serious?” she whispered staring at her father. His eyes weren’t just helpless she could see. He had completely given up.
The whole room was deathly silent as they waited for Race to answer his daughter. Race looked away from her beseeching eyes and refused to answer. Sarah shook her head silently and looked down at her hands now clenched in her lap. Opening your heart to loving someone, meant that they had the right to hurt you. And knowing that her father wanted her to give up, and give up her very life, hurt worse than anything she had ever felt before.
Sarah felt a strange hum in the room and looked up to see Zane shooting off sparks as he continued to stand in front of her father. Her eyes widened as she realized Zane was so furious he was vibrating with it.
“You’re saying that Sarah should kill herself and that if she won’t, you will. Did we hear you right?” Zane asked in a soft voice that sounded deadly.
Race must have felt the energy or heard the fury in Zane’s voice because he finally looked up and sat up straighter as he faced the powerful witch in front of him.
“That’s right,” he finally said, looking and sounding as if he had made up his mind.
“Well, it’s good to know where we stand. It looks like it’s time for you to leave Race. Go find a dark corner to live the rest of your life in. When I was investigating you when we moved to Pennsylvania you had a whole room covered in pictures of your daughter. You were content to just sit back and watch her from a distance. You didn’t do one thing to be a part of her life. Now, you’re content to end that life because you’re too scared or too weak to fight for her. Leave. Get out of here. Charles doesn’t care about you anyway. Go back to your dark corners and your life in the shadows,” Zane said, biting out his words, so furious, that his hands were clenched at his sides.
Race stared at him without expression for a moment before standing up so fast his chair went flying behind him, crashing into the wall. He growled, his face turning red with anger.
“I stayed out of Sarah’s life to protect her from something like this happening. Don’t judge me. And don’t think just because you’re her boyfriend that gives you the right to call the shots around here,” Race said, his nostrils flared and his fingers turning bright with energy.
Sarah shook her head and stood up, moving between her father and Zane. She reached back with one hand to clasp Zane’s hand and pushed soothing energy into his body trying to ease his anger. Race had no choice but to switch his gaze from Zane to hers. He had trouble meeting her eyes, but she stared at him until he did. He looked guilty and defeated.
“No one has the right to call an end to my life. I don’t care if you’re my father or not. If that’s the way you feel, then Zane’s right. You need to go. I need to be surrounded by people who care about me and who will help me find a solution to this mess. You’re not calling the shots here anymore. I want you to leave.”
Race’s anger immediately disappeared as he stared helplessly at his daughter. He reached out to take her hand in his, but she moved out of his way. He looked down at his feet for a moment and then looked up, staring into her eyes.
“Would you choose your life over everyone’s here Sarah? Would you choose your life over countless other witches who will suffer when Charles takes on your power? I know it sounds horrible, but it’s the selfless thing to do Sarah. It’s the right thing to do, as horrific as it sounds. If I could take your place and give up my life for yours, I would. But it’s you he wants. And he will stop at nothing to get you, no matter who he has to kill to do it. Don’t you understand that?”
Sarah’s mouth opened to speak, but she was pushed gently out of the way by Lash. Lash turned and shook his head at her. Zane gently grasped her arms and pulled her back away from Lash and her father.
Lash turned back to face Race. “Stop it. Don’t you say one more word to guilt Sarah into killing herself. Don’t you dare say one more word to rationalize your plan to murder her yourself. We’ve already agreed that we want to fight to save her. Sarah is good and strong and beautiful. She’s worth fighting for. And if you can’t see that, then you’re worse than Charles Langford. He’s willing to fight for her. But you won’t even try. Zane is right. Get out,” he said, pointing to the front door.
Race’s lips were clamped in a tight line as he stared expressionlessly at the dark young man in front of him. He looked over Lash’s shoulder at Gretchen, but she looked away in disappointment. He turned and looked at Agnes and Charlie too, but they both looked away from him.
“I’m only trying to do the right thing here. For everyone,” he said almost pleadingly.
Sarah felt sick to her stomach and turned away from her father to hide her face in Zane’s shoulder.
“You’re choosing the easy way out Race,” Zane said quietly.
Lash walked over to the front door and opened it silently, staring at Race. Race’s eyes glittered at Lash and Zane but he walked quietly toward the front door and turned back to stare at his daughter one last time before walking out the door.
Lash shut the door softly and leaned up against the hard wood, lowering his head to stare at his feet sadly.
Sarah reached her hands around Zane’s back, grasping his shirt in her hands as she sobbed quietly into his chest. Zane rubbed her back soothingly as he sent warm pulses of energy throughout her body to calm her.
Agnes and Charlie both put their arms around Gretchen as she cried softly into her hands. Race hadn’t just walked out on Sarah. He had walked out on everyone. Even the woman who loved him.
Zane stared miserably at his mother as he continued to hold Sarah. “Mom, you could go with him. No one would judge you for going. We all know you love him.”
Gretchen wiped her face with the tissue Agnes handed her and shook her head as she tried to smile at her son. “No Zane. My most important job in this world is being a mother. And you and Sarah both need one now. I don’t understand why Race is doing what he’s doing, but I can love him without agreeing with him or condoning what he’s doing.”
Agnes patted her daughter on the back and nodded her head briskly. “You are one strong woman Gretchen. I raised you right,” she said and kissed her on the cheek.
Charlie stared in awe at everyone around her and shook her head. “This is what it means to be a family. What just happened here, right? I mean, my father turned his back on me and Sarah’s father turned his back on her, but you guys are willing to stand up for her no matter what. That’s what I want. I want a family like that. I’m in. Whatever this is, I want it,” she said, her face breaking out into a pretty smile.
Lash laughed and smiled at her across the room. “You and me both. We’ve made our own little tribe here. We’re all messed up, strange and non-related, but we’re a family now and we take care of each other. So now what? How do we protect our family?”