Hi everyone!

I know you're expecting another update to these wonderful stories, but I am afraid that is not the case. That does not mean, however, that you won't get some enjoyable work of mine to read. I would like to let you know that my novel, The Dark Blue, the sequel to Counting Stars is being released on September 10, 2011. Here, I am including the synopsis as well as Chapter 1. I hope you enjoy it.

Rose Schroth

"Destiny will run its true course."

Life refuses to be normal in the case of Annabel Hartman. As summer begins, she sets out to break the Alderic's curse. But things aren't as easy as she had hoped.

Henare, the head of the family, makes his appearance, as does the final element—metal.

Demetrius' intentions prove to be questionable at best.

And the worst of them all?

Annabel's friendship with Aiden is tearing at the seams.

In the sequel to Counting Stars, all that remains in the dark will be revealed, and the destiny of Annabel Hartman will finally be fulfilled.

Chapter 1


At the sound of his name, Aiden Alderic turned his bright eyes on his only friend, Anna Hartman. Her voice was sweet and quiet, just barely a whisper as the two of them sat there together on the roof of the Alderic home. Aiden watched her as her eyes connected with his. With a raise of her chin and a shrug of her shoulders, she finally finished what she had started. "Can we be friends?"

"Forever," he replied without thought. Suddenly, his eyes went wide as the memory came rushing back. Every single question in his mind was suddenly answered. Anna caught the way his skin went pale and the way he suddenly looked at her differently. But he couldn't tell her what was going on.

Annabel was no longer the person he had met seven months ago on the first day of school. She wasn't just the girl who was his best friend that knew his deepest secret and never left him. She wasn't just the girl he was secretly in love with. That slight exchange of conversation had changed everything that he knew and switched it around. Suddenly, she was more than Aiden ever realized she could be.

"Aiden?" She asked, and he sensed that she was nervous. Instead of answering her, he shut his eyes for just a moment as he lay down. His hands were beneath his head as he opened up his eyes once more so that he could see the sky. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw her frown. "Aiden, what's going on? Just tell me, all right?" Aiden quickly turned his attention on her. He laughed and smiled at her.

"It's nothing, Anna," he assured her. She released the breath she had been holding in. "For now," Aiden whispered, "Just count some stars with me." Instantly, she rested down next to him. Her arm slightly touching his as they both stared up. Aiden began to count each star, but it didn't stop the frantic thoughts inside of his head.

We lay there counting stars, but I barely say the dark night sky above me. My heart was beating with excitement and realization. I was once asked if I remembered, and now I did. I was once told that it was all my fault that Annabel's life was the way it was, and now I knew it truly was. I was the one who ruined her entire future. It was all my fault because of something that had happened long ago. How I never made this connection until now was a mystery to me. If Anna knew, she would never forgive me. She would hate me, and I would lose her. But, I didn't deserve her friendship. Knowing that I was the reason behind her pains, I wondered how she didn't even remember. We had met each other once before, six years ago, and that was the beginning to Anna's years of heartache…

"Demetrius, why are you taking us to a park in another town?" Twelve-year-old Namir asked as the four Alderic brothers stepped outside of their car. Namir's black hair moved about in a soft, cold wind. To make it stop, he tapped his six-year-old brother, Kari. The young child stared at Namir as the wind died down. A look was shared between them as Kari read his brother's mind.

Demetrius, the oldest brother and only guardian of the younger three, was just twenty-four as he kneeled down in front of Namir. With a laid back smile that hid all of his true intentions, Demetrius placed a hand on Namir's shoulder, "To get away from everything for a bit. You guys deserve to have some fun." By everything they needed to get away from, the three boys that stood there knew their brother meant the terrible curse the four of them shared. "Namir," Demetrius continued, "Watch Kari all right? He's still young, and we can't have him slip up in public." Namir nodded his head and smiled. Then, eleven-year-old Aiden, who had been silent and angry as usual, became Demetrius' center of attention. "Stay out of trouble, all right?"

Aiden glared at his brother. His hands formed into his fists, he stomped his foot, and yelled in a low whisper, "Shut up! Water boy could mess up too! It's not fair that you act like he's better than me. He's not perfect!" Aiden felt his skin heat up. In frustration, he took a deep breath to cool the fire in his blood. "Why must you always act like it's me?" His voice was a dull, weak whisper. "It's not me all the time," he muttered.

"But it is," Namir muttered under his breath, "It's always because of you. Remember when Emi found out? Whose fault was that? Oh right, it was yours." Aiden went to attack his brother, only to have Demetrius stop him by stepping in between. Namir glared at Aiden past their brother's open arm. "Look here dragon breath, just stay away from people. Last thing we need is for you to set a bunch of innocent people on fire. Come on Kari, let's go play." Namir took the youngest Alderic out to the playground.

Demetrius ruffled Aiden's hair, but he pulled away. "Just go play." Demetrius smiled wide. Aiden kept his gaze on the children playing on the monkey bars and slides. They were so happy. He hated that. "Try to make a friend for once," Demetrius commented. Aiden growled in disgust. His brother sighed at him while standing up. "I'll be over there, all right?" Demetrius walked away and sat down on a bench next to an older woman.

Walking to the swings, Aiden was suddenly pushed to the ground. His hands caught him just in time to stop his face from hitting the sidewalk too hard. He grumbled in hate as he heard the giggling child run off without a care in the world. Aiden would've been upset that no one noticed him if it wasn't for the fact that he was used to it. He picked himself up only to be astounded by the sight before him.

Just by the empty swing set, a young girl, his age, stood there. The crazy world of childhood seemed blockaded away from her. She was just standing there staring up at the blue sky. Her brown hair was blowing in the natural wind. Her cheeks were red, and her mouth was set in a determined line. In an instant, she turned her back on him as she kept her eyes up.

Without much thought, Aiden walked over to her. His feet stepped onto the mulch, and she turned around at the sound. His thin pre-teen arms wrapped around her shoulders into a gentle, timid hug. At the movement of her arms around his waist, he released the nervous breath he had been holding in. She had accepted him. Suddenly, his heart felt like it was about to burst from happiness. Then, in a soft whisper, he heard her gentle voice ask him, "Can we be friends?"

"Forever," Aiden replied without a thought.

How could I have forgotten Anna? Why is it the moment I saw her that first day of school, I didn't recognize my one and only friend from my childhood? She had changed, there was no other explanation. As a kid, Anna smiled happily. She was so open. It was as if she had no secrets to hide. Just being around her made me a better person. In the short time that I knew her back then, I smiled and felt wanted. Before her, my eleven-year-old self never knew what it meant for someone to actually see me. The Anna that came into my life later on, however, was angry and closed off. She was more like me. There was no way I could've connected the girl of my past to the Anna of my present.

"Aiden?" At the sound of her voice again, Aiden was pulled from his thoughts. Anna was sitting up now with her arms resting on her knees. "It's getting late," she commented. He could see his old friend in her now. She had the same dark blue eyes that hid layers of underlying thoughts and emotions that Aiden never understood. Suddenly, Anna yawned and stretched her arms over her head. The sleeves of her red shirt didn't cover up the pale lines that the stars lit up. Aiden frowned at the sight of her scars, remembering that Ritayu, a member of his own family, had done that to her-all to keep her away from him and his brothers. Anna sighed when she saw that Aiden was upset. "I'm all right Aiden," she reassured him.

Aiden sat up, and stared her right in the eyes. He didn't quite believe her. Just a week ago, she had almost died. Ritayu had tried to kill her. Aiden was so close to losing her. But, he held back all his worries and simply asked, "Are you sure?" Anna nodded her head, but it wasn't a good enough answer for him still.

"You don't need to take care of me," she defended. Aiden sighed. He knew she would be like that. A part of him wanted to tell her that he had to take care of her. He was compelled to make sure that she was never hurt by him or anyone else. Aiden wanted to protect her because he loved her more than he should. But, he also knew the only reason Anna needed protection was because of him.

Anna's head suddenly rested on his shoulder, which caught him by surprise. Not too long ago, the gesture would've sent his heart racing, and Aiden would have had no clue as to what it meant. He knew now. He knew why she was his world, why there was no life without her, and why he needed her. Aiden pretended as if he didn't feel a thing though as he whispered to her, "All right, I think it's time to go. I don't want you to fall asleep and then roll off the roof."

Anna lifted her head and looked at him. Her nose crinkled at the bridge as she shut her eyes and smiled. Her small laugh echoed out into the silent night. Aiden had no choice but to smile as well. He couldn't help himself around her. "I guess you're right," Anna replied.

Slowly, she was letting down her walls. Anna, whether she knew it or not, was becoming the girl I had met six years ago at a park in a town I never visited before. Knowing it was her all along that had always accepted me, I thought that it was destiny. It just so happened that on the day I was there, she would be there too. The girl who I would fall in love with, it was her…but, ultimately, it was me that ruined her life. If she had never met me that day, her mother would still be alive. She wouldn't have those scars. But seeing her smile and laugh again made it worth being a part of her life, and showed how selfish I truly was. Anna trusted me, she told me her darkest secret that she was meant to save the world, and yet, I was hiding more secrets from her than I should be allowed. She trusted me again, like she had those many years ago on the one day in my childhood where I had a real friend. But, Anna didn't know that, she didn't remember…

Young Aiden and Anna sat side by side on the swing set. Around them was the excitement of the children. They were screaming with happiness as they ran about, but the two new friends were silent. Aiden stared at her as Anna slowly rocked back and forth with her eyes facing forward. He didn't know her name, and she didn't know his, but he didn't feel the need to ask. They were meant to be friends, he could tell.

Suddenly Anna smirked, "That's my brother." She lifted her delicate finger out to the group of children. Aiden recognized the kid who had pushed him to the ground. He was scrawny and small, most likely around Kari's age. Aiden nodded his head to show her that he saw who she was pointing too. "Do you have any brothers?" She asked.

"Yeah," Aiden admitted. No one had ever asked him questions before. No one had ever taken the interest to. He felt his palms go sweaty on the chains of the swing. "Demetrius is the one over there who is sleeping. He's our guardian. He thinks I always get into trouble." Aiden turned his pointer finger from his oldest brother to his sworn enemy, Namir, and his younger brother, Kari. "Those are my brothers too. Namir, he's a jerk. Don't talk to him. Kari's the youngest. They don't like me." Aiden sighed as Anna's eyes turned to him. He averted his attention away from her. "No one likes me," he muttered. He dug the toe of his sneaker into the mulch. His knuckles were sore from his tight grip on the swing.

Suddenly, a cool hand reached over and managed to take his right hand away from the swing. Fingers, soft and gentle, intertwined with his in one fluid motion. Aiden's heart sped up in shock as he lifted his eyes up to Anna. Their hands hung in the air between them. Her hold was strong as if she was telling him that she would never let go. "It must be hard," she reasoned, "To feel like that." Aiden turned his eyes away from her. He figured she just pitied him. "But it's not true, you shouldn't feel like that, because I like you." His eyes darted over to her to see if she was serious. She had a gentle smile on her face as she squeezed his hand. "I mean it," she whispered, "I really like you."

"But," Aiden retorted, "We just met. You don't know me." Anna titled her head. Her hair swept over her shoulder. "You don't even know my name, and I don't know yours. What if I'm a monster? What if I'm cursed? You wouldn't like me then." She kept smiling though, which made Aiden nervous. She wasn't running away like the rest of the world. She was holding on to his hand still. "You don't know me," he repeated.

"But I do," Anna whispered. "I knew who you were the second you hugged me." Her gentle smile made Aiden begin to smile as well. "You're my best friend, I can tell. If you're cursed or whatever, that's okay. I'd never hate you." Aiden's grin grew wide and at that instant, there was a flash.

Both Aiden and Annabel jumped and looked behind them to see a woman standing there with a camera. Aiden recognized her as the one Demetrius had sat down next to. The woman smiled as he heard Anna groan in embarrassment, "Mom!" Aiden's mouth dropped open as he stared at the woman. She truly was his friend's mother. They both had long, chestnut brown hair and wide, memorizing grins.

The older woman approached them, "I'm sorry honey, but I had to." She looked down at Aiden, and he suddenly felt very aware that he was holding Anna's hand still. "Hello," she laughed as Aiden and Anna pulled their hands apart. Aiden blinked as a camera waved in front of his face. "Would you mind taking a picture of us, please?" Aiden nodded his head and took the black, small object.

Anna's mother took her daughter and stood in front of Aiden. "Uh…smile," Aiden said, hoping that was normal. He lifted the machine to one eye. "1…2…3…," there was a click and a second of dark blue nothingness until the sound of the camera running greeted him. He kept staring through the peephole at Anna and her mother still standing there smiling. He wanted to be in the picture, he wanted to be a part of it, even just for a second. Aiden sighed when he knew that could never happen. He put the camera down.

As he handed back the camera to her mother, Anna sat back down on the swing. "Honey, we're leaving soon," Anna's mother replied. Aiden's stomach dropped at the thought. Anna had only just entered his life. He didn't want to lose her already. "I need you to go get your brother for me." Then, her eyes were to Aiden, "Thank you for taking the picture. I hope you come to the park again sometime soon." Then, Anna's mother walked away.

Anna stood up. "I'm sorry that I have to go," she whispered. She kicked a few pieces of mulch away from her. She seemed upset, "I really don't want to." Aiden stood up so that he was in front of her. Anna lifted her eyes up to him and smiled, "You'd make a good friend to have." Aiden smiled. "Don't forget me, all right? I know I won't forget you," she admitted. A deep blush formed on her cheeks as she looked away.

"I won't forget you, never ever," he promised. Anna looked at him. In one quick second, she leaned up on her toes. She closed the space between them so that their lips touched for barely a moment. Then, she ran off without Aiden knowing if that had actually happened or not. Watching her leave, Aiden smirked. His only regret was never getting her name.

Anna didn't remember when I told her the very story that started our friendship. She had promised me that she would never forget, but she had. It hurt to know that, but it didn't change the facts. All of this time, it had been about her. She was who I wanted to believe was meant to be with me. But…I was cursed. The reason for every single pain in her life since that day was because of me. In all truths, no matter how much I loved Anna Hartman, I could never be with her because of one remaining fact.

It was all my fault.

If you liked what you read, then purchase the novel on Lulu (dot) com. You can find it exclusively there as well as the first book. Don't miss out on my first series, and don't worry! I have another book that's going to be released in March of 2012, the start of a four book series. You can find out more about everything at my website, a link is posted on my fanfiction site.

Thank you to those who constantly support me.