Special Note: Okay, here is the first chapter to the sequel. I don't have much to say about it just yet accept I hope it's a good start and please review if you're so inclined. Thanks!
This Is Absolution
Card 1: Page of Swords
Caleb Danvers stood at the edge of the lawn that stretched out toward the woods beyond. He brought his cup of coffee to his lips and took a sip, narrowing his dark eyes curiously at the scene that played out before him.
The whispers from the other students broke the silence of that dark Ipswich morning. All dressed in their Spencer uniforms, they gathered next to Caleb and watched the police do their work.
Bright yellow caution tape spread out like snakes against the border woods, blocking off the crime scene and drawing attention to the spectacle of flashing lights and uniformed officers as they buzzed about this way and that.
"They're saying some girl was killed in the woods last night," a girl whispered to her friend as they stood behind Caleb.
Her friend gasped and nodded, "Yeah, I heard that she'd been ripped to shreds, like some animal had been at her or something."
Caleb took another sip of his coffee which was bitter and black and then focused on the crime scene. Pogue forced his way through the crowd and came up behind him taking in the action.
He flashed his green eyes to Caleb, "What do you think this is?" he asked as he looked over his shoulder and observed the gathering crowd.
Caleb shrugged, "Could be nothing, but you can never tell around here."
Pogue turned his attention back to the caution tape and police as they moved around and behind the tree trunks, collecting evidence and conferencing with the detectives. "Yeah, could be nothing… could be something."
"Yeah," Caleb nodded, "Could be something."
"Excuse me… excuse me," Sarah said softly as she edged her way towards Caleb and Pogue.
Caleb recognized her voice immediately and looked over his shoulder, catching her blond hair out of the corner of his eye. She came up beside him and smiled before her attention was drawn to the crime scene across the lawn.
She looked away and let out a breath. Then she reached out and took the cup of coffee from Caleb's hand and took a sip, "Oh my god, Caleb! How do you drink this stuff?" she gagged on the coffee and handed it back to him as she turned her head away in disgust.
Pogue let out a quiet laugh and Caleb smiled at her, "Serves you right for not asking first."
"Whatever," she said rolling her eyes and then snaked her arm through his as she cuddled against him. "What do you think happened out there? I heard some girl got killed last night. They said one of the gardeners found her early this morning and that she was all torn up like an animal had attacked her."
Caleb shrugged again, "I don't know, I just got here. I'm sure it's nothing though." He looked down at her with reassuring eyes. She shifted her eyes away.
"I've never heard of any indigenous predators in these parts that are big enough to take down a human…" Pogue said as he cocked his head to the side and studied the police behind the caution tape.
Caleb whipped his head around and stared at Pogue. It took a minute for him to realize Caleb was giving him a look and he turned his head slowly before be saw Caleb's eyes on him.
Pogue shuffled his feet with his hands in his pockets and looked down, "But, you know, I could be wrong."
Sarah smiled, "Its okay, Pogue. I get it. There's a possibility. I understand."
She let what she'd said linger in the air before looking up at Caleb, "I'm hungry. We should head over to the cafeteria before class starts. I want a bagel or something. Come on. This is creepy." She tugged Caleb by the arm and then looked at Pogue, "Are you coming?"
Pogue nodded, "Yeah, I'm coming," he said following after them.
He took one last look over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes. Caleb was being too nonchalant about this. Something wasn't right. It was in the air.
Chase's eyes darted to the front door as he saw the shadow cast across the cut glass. The jingle of keys echoed through the foyer and the door was forced open, letting the muted sunlight spread out over the marble floors.
Leona struggled with her key, finally pulling it out of the lock and then closed it behind her. She turned around slowly and as she raised her eyes from the task of putting her key back into her purse, Chase was revealed and standing before her.
She dropped her purse and jacket at once. They hit the floor with a thud and her mouth hung open in complete surprise. Could it really be him? Could it really be her little Chase?
Chase turned to face her and for a moment they were frozen in time as they didn't know how they should react to one another. Then Chase let the corners of his mouth ease up into that famous smile. "Hey, Leona. Long time, no see. How have you been?"
Tears began to sting her eyes and she let out a joyous gasp, "Oh my god… Chase… My little boy…" she ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck in a tight embrace. He had to bend down a little to hug her back as she only stood to the height of his chest and she sniffled softly, "I was so worried about you. You just disappeared and then they told me you were going to some other academy… Spencer, but you'd only stayed for two weeks and then disappeared again."
"I know… I'm sorry. I should have called or something," he said softly as he returned her hug. Being embraced by the housekeeper he'd known since he was 2 years old brought an incredible sense of comfort to him and he enjoyed feeling a hug from his plump little Leona again.
His confession that he should have called pulled her from her initial surprise and happiness that he'd returned and she became angry. She pulled him away from her and looked him the eyes directly, a slight motherly scow on her face, "You're damn right you should have called! I was so worried about you; you just left without a word! I should lay you out right now!"
Chase shrank back a little and remembered that not only was Leona a symbol of comfort, she was also a symbol of discipline.
He looked away and nodded, conceding, "I know, I'm sorry. I needed time to think and clear my head. I needed some space." He looked down at her, smiling again as he always knew that his smile would melt her heart, "But I'm back now and I'm so happy to see you. I missed you so much!" He pulled her to him and hugged her again. He felt her relax in his arms and his smile broadened. She was such a push over… his Leona.
She pulled away again wiping the tears from her reddened face and smiled, "Yes, you're back and everything is back to the way it should be." A thought occurred to her and she perked up, her eyes wide, "Have you eaten yet? You must be starving!" she whipped around him and headed out of the foyer and towards the kitchen, "I'll whip up some breakfast for you," she said, her voice fading down the hall. "I'll make your favorite!"
Reid and Tyler sat under the red maple tree directly adjacent to the caution tape across the lawn. Although the activity and personnel had thinned, there were still officers in the woods with their yellow raincoats reflecting against the cloud heavy sky.
Reid sat on the bench and leaned against the picnic table with one arm slung casually over it. He took a bite of his apple and eyed the situation across the lawn suspiciously.
Tyler was hunched over a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" and looked up occasionally when the spark of yellow from one of the policeman's raincoats caught his eye. He took a bite of his turkey sandwich and rolled his head from one side to the other to try and release some tension, and then shifted his eyes to Reid who continued to stare at what was unfolding behind the caution tape.
"What are you thinking?" Reid asked and then took another bite of his apple.
Tyler was startled by his question and it took a moment to comprehend it, "You mean about that?" he flicked his head up, gesturing toward the woods.
Reid rolled his eyes, "Yes, about that."
Tyler shrugged, "I don't know… It's probably nothing."
Reid let out a sarcastic grunt, "In this town, I don't think so."
Tyler chuckled, "You and Pogue should start a club."
Reid whipped his head around and faced Tyler, "You mean Pogue is wondering about this too?"
He nodded, "Yeah; keeps saying it doesn't feel right. He thinks the same as you do. It's always something in Ipswich. But you know how Caleb is. He thinks of the glass half full, plus… he doesn't want to freak Sarah out."
Reid shook his head dismissively, "He doesn't give that girl enough credit and it's going to bite him in the ass one day. She'll get sick of him treating her like that; keeping things from her."
"You think he's keeping things from her? He told her everything," Tyler countered.
Reid let his eyes shift to the woods, "He hasn't told her everything; not really. And when shit starts to happen again, which it will, he'll keep it from her for as long as he can to try and protect her, but you know… that's a double edged sword."
Tyler looked at Reid thoughtfully, "You really liked her didn't you. It wasn't just some crush."
Reid shrugged nonchalantly, "Whatever, I guess. I still like her as person and she didn't choose me so I'm over it… I understand why she didn't."
Tyler rose and eyebrow, "What does that mean?"
Reid didn't answer but darted his eyes in the direction of Bradley Hall. Tyler followed his gaze and saw Caleb and Pogue bounding down the steps toward them. Reid took another bite of his apple and returned his attention to the woods.
By the time Leona had gotten to the kitchen and flung open the refrigerator door, she'd realized that no one had been in the house for months so there really wasn't any food.
She shrugged it off and marched back to the foyer where Chase was still standing, shell shocked, and announced that she'd have to go out to the store and get some things and that she'd be back in about an hour to cook his breakfast.
He tried to settle her and insist that they could go and get something to eat, but she persisted. She wasn't going to let her little Chase come home for the first time in months and not have a home cooked meal. She'd go out and pick up some things for breakfast and once he'd eaten and was settled, she'd head out again and get the rest of the food and supplies for the house.
His shoulders dropped and he nodded. She was out of the door in an instant.
While she was gone he had a chance to look around. He was surprised at how nothing had really changed, but then again, why should it? He had only been gone for a little over three months which wasn't very long at all. But he supposed if someone you cared about had been gone for a period of time, no matter how short, it would seem like a lifetime.
He passed by his father's study and couldn't bear to grip the doorknob and turn… he wasn't ready yet. Even after three whole months, he still wasn't ready.
Now he sat across from Leona as she stood at the kitchen island whisking eggs in a large mixing bowl. He marveled at her and how the lines in her face seemed a little more defined, but still the same as he remembered. With her graying hair, red cheeks and plump body, he thought she was what Mrs. Clause would look like, had she really existed and was cooking breakfast in his kitchen.
She smiled at him with shinning blue eyes, "What are you grinning about?"
He shrugged, "I'm just happy to be back with you again. I really did miss you. I'm sorry if I worried you."
She returned the shrug, "Like you said, you needed time. I understand… I just wish you could have come to me. It did hurt that you didn't feel like you could come to me."
Chase folded his arms and leaned against the butcher block island, "I don't know how to explain it, but I needed to be out of Haversfield. I just needed to be on my own in my own head."
She nodded and decided not to press it further. It was obvious that he wasn't willing to tell her why he'd really left and what he did while he was gone. She knew his leaving wasn't completely about his parents. He'd always been a kind of secretive boy, always a little on edge with this shroud of guilt hanging on him. He was a perfect child, very well behaved and at first she'd thought that he was doing something he shouldn't, but she'd never found anything to support that. It seemed this guilt was in his bones, like he felt guilty for being born.
She did notice that he seemed to be well nourished while he was gone. He was obviously eating regularly and seemed just as fit as he was when he'd left. There was also something else about him, something good that made his presence seem a little lighter, like he was glowing. If she hadn't known better she'd thought he'd fallen in love.
Leona dredged the thick sliced bread she'd bought into the egg mixture and then placed it on the griddle. It sizzled immediately and the kitchen was filled with the warm aroma of homemade French toast.
Chase smiled as he sipped his orange juice and thought about how much Claudia liked French toast. He'd make sure to ask Leona to make it for her when she came to visit him for Christmas.
His smile broadened as he thought about what a wonderful Christmas he and Claudia were going to have. She'd probably never had a New England Christmas before, so it should be a treat. Never mind that he hadn't asked her to come back with him for the holidays or that he wasn't planning on asking her at all, but demanding that she come regardless the protests. She was coming because he wanted her to come and because she was his. That meant that where ever he was, she needed to be there as well.
Pogue immediately swung around the picnic table and took a seat, cracking open his coke with the lid popping, releasing the carbonation.
Caleb stood in front of Tyler as his attention was once again diverted to the border woods and the yellow caution tape that sprawled along the tree trunks.
His position was blocking the little bit of light that shone through the clouded sky and Tyler looked up from his book, "Do you mind? You're blocking the light."
Caleb was pulled from his observation and stepped to the side, "Sorry, Tyler."
Tyler shrugged, "It's cool," and went back to his reading.
Caleb looked at Reid who took another bite of his apple, but didn't make eye contact. He walked around the table and sat his backpack next to Pogue, "I know what you're thinking so stop thinking it."
Reid shook his head and rolled his eyes, "I'm not thinking anything, dude. I'm just sitting here."
"Don't play dumb," Caleb answered.
Pogue let his eyes shift between the two and then looked at Tyler who seemed to be fully engaged in his book.
"I'm not playing dumb, but I am on guard… for obvious reasons. We should never have let what happened get as far as it did, we should have known. We all felt it when he first started using and none of us said anything… at least to each other. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not walking around with my thumbs up my ass anymore. Everyone and everything is suspicious until it ain't suspicious anymore." Reid put his imaginary soapbox away and took another bite of his apple.
"He's right, Caleb. You know he's right," Pogue said.
"We all know he's right," Tyler chimed in, not taking his eyes away from his book.
Caleb darted his eyes to the side as he knew Reid was right as well. What happened with Collins should never have gotten as far as it did and part of that was because they weren't communicating and paying attention to their powers like they should have.
He knew The Covenant was about silence, but not between the members. They were supposed to protect each other and have their brother's back. They'd failed at that miserably just two months ago and Collins was able to use that weakness to manipulate them. They couldn't make that mistake again and that also meant Caleb taking what the others had to say into consideration much more. They sat in a circle with no one at the head, they were all equal and that was important now more than ever.
"Okay," he conceded, "Did anybody sense anything last night? Anything weird?"
They all shook their heads and Caleb shrugged, "Neither did I. If it had been Collins we would have known. I sure as hell would have known so I'm inclined to think this doesn't fall under our jurisdiction."
"You're starting to think he's really dead, aren't you?" Tyler asked pulling his eyes from his book and looking over his shoulder.
"I'd like to think that he's really dead. I need to think that he's really dead, but like Reid said, we need to keep our guard up… especially for Sarah and Kate's sake. Sarah… she's still having nightmares." He let his voice drop a bit.
They all were silent for a moment, especially Reid and Tyler who felt an extra pang of guilt as they were the ones who were supposed to be watching and protecting her that night. They'd underestimated Collins and he'd snatched her up from right under their noses. How pathetic.
Tyler desperately wanted to break the silence and he turned to Pogue, "Speaking of Kate, when is she coming back?"
Pogue perked up immediately and smiled, "She'll be back after Thanksgiving. She's back to her old self, you know, she was totally freaking out at the thought of getting any scars, but she's cool now."
Reid chuckled, "That girl is so freakin' vain."
Pogue had to laugh too. It was true, he couldn't argue.
The bell rang out across the campus and the students who were settled in for lunch on the lawn were scattering like ants, trying to get to their next class on time.
Reid got up first, tossing his apple core into the trashcan and lifting his arms over his head to stretch, "Back to the salt mines, boys. Just another day in paradise."
Tyler laughed sarcastically, "Ipswich, paradise? I find that very hard to believe."
The Torrance triplets had sent a private plane to fly Claudia back to Los Angeles. They'd also arranged for Claudia's truck to be driven back, her house to be prepared for her absence and her belongings to be packed up and sent ahead of her to her apartment. They'd arranged everything and she felt a little useless sitting in the lobby of the private airstrip that was located right outside of Ajo.
She was lonely as well and missing Chase so much that stabbing pains were radiating through her stomach and she had to double over with her head rested against her knee for relief. She'd contemplated, or more precisely, was utterly tempted to call him and see if he was okay, but she'd denied herself steadfastly. She was not going to call him and ruin everything.
The whole purpose of sending him back the way she had was to put some distance between them and make them focus on the task at hand, not each other. If she called him now, that would just derail everything she was trying to do, not to mention that he would probably be completely pissed at her and demand that she either go to Haversfield or he come to L.A. Neither one was a possibility, but with the way that she was feeling right then, she would have agreed to anything just to be in his arms again.
Her body longed for his touch and every time she thought about calling him and then refused herself, the stabbing pain would come with a vengeance as if her body was punishing her for keeping it away from the man that she loved. Not only had her inner voice turned on her, but her body was turning on her as well. Her life was completely fucked up.
"Excuse me. Miss Harrington?"
Claudia lifted her head from her doubled position and saw the receptionist standing before her and looking quite worried.
"Are you alright? You don't look so good. Are you afraid of flying?" she asked concerned.
Claudia couldn't help but let out a soft giggle, "No, I'm not afraid, I'm fine."
"Oh," the receptionist smiled as if reassured, "Well, the pilot asked me to let you know that everything is set up and he's ready to take off when you are."
Claudia nodded and forced herself to sit upright. She picked up her carryon bag and stood up, "The sooner the better. Let's do it."
The receptionist nodded and led Claudia out to the airstrip where her private plane was waiting.
Sarah slid her keys across her night stand as she removed her scarf from her neck. Caleb closed the door behind him and walked over to her bed where he sat with his hands in the pockets of his jeans. She let out an exhausted sigh and then headed to the bathroom, flicking the light on and opening the medicine cabinet.
Caleb sat at the edge of her bed listening to her as she rummaged around, not knowing quite what to do or how to broach the subject of their strained relationship. He understood why she was uneasy with him, even after two months, but he was getting the distinct feeling that if he didn't do something soon, things would never get better between them and he would lose her.
Sarah came out of the bathroom and grabbed the bottle of water that sat on her desk. She popped the pill into her mouth and took a swig, sitting the bottle back on the table and looking at Caleb with those clear blue eyes.
"I guess you're just going to go to bed then," Caleb said looking at her.
She nodded, "Yeah, I'm really tired and the sleeping pills are helping. Dinner was great though, thank you."
He nodded and stood up, looking down at the floor, "We need to talk, you know. I understand that you're--"
"Yeah, I know," she interrupted him, "Just not tonight." She saw the disappointment in his eyes and then let out a breath. "Look, I told you that I wouldn't judge you or abandon you just because of the "gifts" you have and I won't. I love you, Caleb, you saved my life and you trusted me with your secret. I'm not going to throw that away just because I'm a little scared. Don't take my needing time to adjust as a sign that I can't deal with this. It's what it is; time to adjust, nothing more."
"You're saying that, but that's not the vibe I'm getting from you, Sarah…"
"Why? Because I don't exactly feel like being touched right now! Come on, Caleb, you're better than that. At least I thought you were--"
"You know that isn't what this is about! Don't go there!" Caleb's voice deepened with anger, "It's about you flinching when I put my arm around you or being hesitant to kiss me, even when we're alone… especially when we're alone. I think you see him when you look at me."
Sarah tossed her hair over her shoulder dismissively.
Caleb walked over to her and grabbed her by the arms, forced her to look at him. "Did he do anything to you before I got there, before the barn, anything? You can tell me, Sarah."
She pulled her arms away and stalked to the other side of the room, "He didn't do anything to me besides the spells, Caleb. I'm pretty sure that was him in the showers that night, but other than that he left me alone. You're convinced that he tried to rape me or something. What the hell is up with that?"
"Collins is dangerous, he's capable of anything."
She narrowed her eyes at him, "Is dangerous. He could be dead or long gone by now. I'm ready to move on. I honestly don't think he's coming back and you should move on too, all of you. Even from the grave he's fucking with your heads."
"I just want you to be safe," Caleb said. His shoulders dropped and his eyes looked at her pleadingly. "I just want you to be able to sleep at night without taking any pills and to walk around without looking over your shoulder. It's my fault that all this happened to you and I need to fix it."
"I don't want to fight with you, Caleb," she sighed.
"Then stop being distant with me," He countered.
She wrapped her arms around herself defensively and looked down at the floor. He just didn't get it. He didn't get that she couldn't turn off the fear like a running faucet. She was still scared and she wasn't going to force herself not to feel just to make him more comfortable. Sure, she could bury the fear and let it fester inside her until it grew and spread like black sludge, until it consumed her and then what? What good would that do? Make him happy for a little while, until he got tired of her and moved on to someone else. Yeah, he'd move on and she'd be left behind… destroyed.
"I guess we're going to be at odds about this for a little while because I'm not ready and I won't be forced to follow your timetable. I don't like being ordered around." She looked up at him directly and stood her ground.
He shook his head. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know if he was in the wrong here or if she was. It was too much, but not worth losing her over, "I'm sorry… but we still need to talk."
She nodded, still uncompromising, "We will… when I'm ready."
He walked over to the door and opened it. He stood there for a moment and then looked over his shoulder at her, "I love you. Don't forget that."
She felt herself weakening a little and nodded, "I love you too."
At that he turned and left her alone, closing the door behind him.
As soon as he was gone she plopped down on her bed and felt the hot sting of tears. She looked over at Kate's bed which was empty and would remain so until after Thanksgiving break was over.
She felt so alone.
Without Kate there, she had no friends at Spencer. There were some girls who were civil to her and said hi between classes, but most disliked her openly, partly for being a scholarship kid, but mostly for landing the most eligible bachelor on campus, Caleb Danvers.
At this point, after all she'd been through with him and his friends; getting kidnapped and almost killed by Chase Collins, finding out that Caleb, Pogue, Reid and Tyler had special powers that were passed down from first born son to first born son; she felt like she deserved to be with Caleb and take advantage of all the power and wealth he had to offer her.
How easy it would be if it was just about that; power and wealth… but it wasn't. She loved him. They had only known each other for a short time, but she'd fallen for him completely, like a sledge hammer over the head.
Life and love were very unfair.