Thanks to their adoptive parents, Allie and Cole have shared an unwavering connection since childhood. Now teenagers, they've been told their bond goes deeper than friendship. Allie and Cole are soul mates, destined to fall in love with one another again and again across the ages. For Cole, who remembers the past, the news is welcome. But Allie resists what she sees as a threat to her freedom, a ghost story, perhaps even a fantastical plan designed to control her . . .
In rebellion, Allie pushes Cole away-leaving him to battle the memories that haunt him and the pain of losing her once and for all. But his absence may prove too much for Allie's heart to bear. Will she keep fighting the mysterious ties that bind them? Or will she find herself desperately pursuing the very fate she rejected-and encountering obstacles she didn't expect?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)|
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A Cursed Novel
By Odessa Gillespie Black
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Odessa Gillespie Black
All rights reserved.
The day Cole stopped trying to torch Allie's dolls and hide all her toys, my twin sister Kaitlyn and I knew our children had begun a change. It was one we'd foreseen but weren't prepared to handle. There were so many unknowns in their futures. With a little help from a friend, we'd guided Cole and Allie's souls into artificially inseminated fetuses, and carried and nourished them as if they were our own naturally born children — even though they were of no blood relation to us or each other.
When Cole and Allie reached puberty, Cole would remember his century of past lives. Allie would only have hints of déjà vu. Luckily, Kaitlyn and I had a few years before we'd have to explain the curse laid upon them by Allie's older sister in the 1800s.
When the kids reached age nine, I had almost completely shut down my mental ties with their thoughts.
Cole's thoughts might have helped me be prepared when the time came to tell him about his past, but Cole's thoughts were his own, and the motherly side of me — which surprised me more and more every day — didn't want to meddle.
I was in denial most of the time though. I stayed away from his thoughts so I didn't have to face what was coming.
When Cole began stealing long, wistful glances at Allie, it should have been a hint that there was a memory forming behind those normally curious eyes.
When Allie noticed, she always stuck out her tongue or called him some harmless name she expected would fend off a pending attack on her possessions, but his stares weren't that of a mischievous little boy plotting the destruction of her dolls and dollhouses.
If he wasn't kept under tight supervision, Cole's transition from my little boy to something more mysterious and dangerous might scare him more than the prospect terrified me.
As the days sped by, the looks were longer and the torturous attacks on all things girly waned. This was the time a mother would start considering having "The Talk" with her little man, but the talk that I had to consider was much more burdensome than what normal mothers had to contend with.
Kaitlyn had it easy.
Her talk with Allie was going to be much more ground shaking, but she had the opportunity to put it off until it was absolutely necessary because in all likelihood, Allie wouldn't recall that she'd lived past lives.
Cole's dark hair was usually mussed up and his dark green eyes bright with curiosity about the world around him. But as of late, his dark expressions and glints of lime green in his gaze would surely lead to a shift that would scare the hell out of him.
I had to make a decision. Soon.
Tell him now?
I stretched longer on a lounge chair beside the pool.
Off somewhere in the middle of the Rose Maze, Cole and Allie chased each other.
"If you could run faster, you could catch up," Allie said.
"You're younger than me, so I always let you win." Cole's voice was a little deeper. Or maybe that was my imagination. Some days he seemed to have aged a thousand years in less than ten.
In previous lives, most spats only lasted a few minutes. No more than an hour or so, if they were over something serious, such as what flowers they were going to plant in the gardens or changing the design of a room in the house from archaic to something more modern.
Cole was always so old-fashioned, whereas Allie's tastes were more artsy. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't like Ava, whose only concern was the extravagance of her home.
I think, looking back, that Allie tried to separate herself from the couple's painful past in simple gestures such as doing away with some ratty piece of old furniture that Cole considered a treasure to cleave to forever. Though the previous people they'd been had been about as compatible as a tornado and a trailer park, they'd never fought over anything that would have rocked their marriage or shaken their love for one another. Now, as children, the last spat ended because a new one had started.
Cole called for Allie around the side of the house. His voice was mischievous — again.
* * *
When Cole was twelve years old, he became withdrawn. He avoided Allie and upon accidental encounters with her, his thoughts were so loud that I couldn't block them.
I used to torture you. Now you torture me. And you don't even know it.
He sounded so much older.
I decided two weeks into his twelfth year that it was time. He had become a total recluse. His spirit seemed broken.
He stood on the lookout for Allie from the balcony of his room on the first floor. His thoughts took a downward spiral.
I can't be normal. I'm supposed to want to play video games, go fishing, swim, hang out with other kids my age, but all I can think about is some guy I've never met hugging some really pretty girl that for some reason I feel like I'm supposed to know. Then when Allie's around, I can't think, I stutter, I get hot, then cold, then sweat, and then I feel like I'm going to pass out. Or throw up. Or both. And Mom would probably think I was crazy if I told her. She'd probably make me a doctor's appointment.
Cole couldn't go on thinking something was wrong with him.
And Allie couldn't continue to think that she was the reason for Cole's behavior. She'd approached me many times in the last few weeks to tell me she couldn't get Cole to come down from his room.
I assured her I'd speak with him.
Her hazel eyes had glistened with hope and her caramel and golden locks shined as she nodded.
* * *
I knocked on Cole's bedroom door after dinner, which had been especially quiet.
"What, Mom?" he said.
"How did you know it was me?" My heart stopped. What if he'd heard my thoughts?
"I know your knock." His voice was solemn.
I took a deep breath. Good. We needed to talk, but I wasn't quite ready for the whole shebang. I went in and leaned on the door. It clicked shut.
"The whole shebang, huh? I'd wondered if you knew or if I was going crazy. Have a seat." Cole sighed and sat Indian style on his bed, offering the spot in front of him. He stared at me expectantly.
I was at a loss for words. I landed into a seated position on his bed. My legs were spongy.
He shoved a book aside. Since when had he started reading?
"Why don't you start with telling me what you know?" I said, trying to take the awkwardness out of the situation, but that was downright impossible.
"Where do I start?" Cole leveled me with an even stare.
Staring from behind his eyes was no longer my little boy.
Tears filled my eyes.
Cole's eyes dashed to a poster on his wall, but he looked back to me with a wince and took my hand. "Mom, I'll always be your little boy, no matter what I remember."
Despite all the times we'd argued in the past, we'd grown close quickly, but I'd never imagined he'd be my son. A brother figure, but never my son. Now the prospect of losing him was even more painful.
"When did you know?" I said.
"I honestly don't know. I've been getting little glimpses of the past since I can remember, but I just never paid attention to them. Not until recently." His voice had changed to that of a more educated person with more wisdom under his belt than any other sixth-grader. Two weeks had matured Cole by years.
"Until recently? What happened?" I steeled myself for the memory he would recite.
"It comes in bits and pieces, but the most important thing was I remembered that I loved her." Cole stared at the Batman blanket on his bed.
Wow. What could you say to that?
"There's not a lot you can say. You couldn't exactly come to me and say, 'Son, you have died so many times now, I've lost count. What do you want for dinner?'"
"Do you realize the broad spectrum of what we need to talk about? I don't know where to start. I mean, there's the sex talk, the Allie talk, the Grace talk. Do you know how complicated you are?" The humor in my voice blanched behind the seriousness of the matter.
"I'm beginning to see." Cole sounded so wise. "And please. No sex talk. I think I remember enough to have that covered."
"Oh, my." My voice cracked. "Where did my son go?"
Cole squeezed my hand then released it. His face pinched in deep thought. His dark red lips opened then shut.
"It's okay. I know I'm your mom, but I was your best friend at one point. You can talk to me." The tension in my back subsided a little now that we were finally talking. Really talking.
"How do I live around her and know the things I know about us? I feel like I am keeping a huge, double-barrel secret from her that's getting ready to go off with the next word I say. I don't know how to deal with that. I have all these emotions running through me that have no place right now. I feel this huge need to protect her from all things bad. I remember. ... Shelby, I remember holding her in the dark when I was in my mid-twenties. I remember things a twelve-year-old shouldn't." Cole laughed incredulously, and for the first time the old Cole Kinsley's impish grin aged his face.
"Okay, so this is a little weird. I thought I could get past the you-being-my-little-boy aspect of this situation, but this is a bit much," I said.
"Hey, you said I could talk. I have to have an outlet."
I closed my eyes. "I knew this day was coming, but how could I ever have prepared for it. I don't understand. You realized in the other lives when you hit puberty."
"Seriously, I'm twelve, not five."
"Don't remind me."
"Help me get away from it." Cole leaned toward me, forcing my gaze to his.
I would have sworn he was thirty.
"I can't be around her when I know what she looks like naked. And in case you haven't noticed the changes in other children at our school, puberty comes a little sooner than it used to. Why do you think I'm having such a difficult time?"
"We are going to get through this."
"But what if she detects that something is different? What do I say when she asks me what's wrong?" Cole's voice squeaked in distress.
"She's going to know something is wrong if you keep acting as though she's contracted the plague. You have to pretend you don't know. When the time is right, Kaitlyn will tell her. Just go about your life as if nothing ever happened. If you can. And stop talking like you have three college degrees."
"I'll do my best," Cole said.
"You can talk to me anytime. You know that." I got up.
"You were always a good friend."
It shocked me. The way he stated it was so mature, so not my son — so Cole Kinsley the old soul.
"Hey, Shelby. If my memory serves me correctly, I'm still the boss of you, so I'm changing my bedtime."
"You keep talking like that, and I'll move it up two hours." I pulled the door behind me.
"Love you, mom." Cole's thoughts filtered into the hall.
"Love you too, sweetie."
* * *
Once in my room, I shut the door.
Every mother dreads the day her little boy officially grows up, but who could you cry to when your boy grows older than you? Though he was just down the hall tucked under his favorite Batman blanket, I felt as though I had lost him in some strange way.
"I can hear you all the way down the hall, Mom. Stop that. I haven't gone anywhere. You will always have me. Remember, I never die. I keep going on. When I leave this body, I will find you. Allie isn't the only one I am connected to anymore. I love you. More than any other mama I've had. Now laugh, because you know that in some other plane, some alternate reality, this is funny. I used to infuriate you. Now you're crying over me."
"You don't get to tell me what to do just yet. Hush and go to sleep," I said.
"I'm still the boss of you."
"Are not." I grinned.
He remembered our playful banter so many years ago.
"Go to sleep, Cole Kinsley."
"Edwards, not Kinsley. I'm not ready to completely move into that identity just yet. Let me be a kid while I can, for heaven sakes." He sounded like my little boy again.
As I tugged my own blankets up and rolled to face my husband Trevor, I couldn't conceal my joy. Cole had had twelve mothers, and I was his favorite. Cole never said anything just to make someone feel better. He'd had trouble with honesty in his past lives due to his severe obsession with Allie's safety.
I hoped now that he had learned some of who he was that, that wouldn't change.
* * *
Though I still had the body of a little boy, I was Cole Kinsley on the inside. I had corrected Shelby to make her feel better. The complete transformation from the me I knew to some guy who haunted my dreams would happen someday, and there was nothing I could do about it. She would have to have time to adjust, just the same as I would. It would have been different if only my voice had changed and new hair had grown in strange places. An alternate personality had begun revealing itself little by little since I'd been old enough to talk.
Suddenly, just as I was about to pull the covers up to my chin the way I did when I was little — which had been only two weeks ago — I decided that I wanted to sprawl out on the top of the blanket. I didn't want the comforting sensation of confinement that the blankets normally offered, which also two weeks ago felt like protection from the big, strange world.
Another thought mingled with that one.
I remembered Allie's long beautiful legs folded as she lay on her side of the bed. I had rolled over to her, placed everything on the front of me to the back of her and held on as if I never wanted to let go.
My twin bed was too small for anyone else to fit, so at least I didn't have to stare at a vacant spot beside me.
I tried to close my eyes and block out all the stupid memories.
When my eyes closed, the memories advanced and my hands were moving over her.
I felt like a restrained animal. Since two weeks ago, I felt as if I was on the edge of some huge precipice when I was in the same room with Allie, as if I was going to fall off it and flip head over feet into a ravine of the unknown.
I hadn't asked Mom why that was.
I needed to learn the rest on my own. I could tell tonight that she really hadn't been ready to give me the talk, much less, The Talk.
It was funny how, in two weeks' time, the embarrassing moment every kid was supposed to have with his or her mother had escalated to a whole new level.
My father, Trevor Edwards, an attorney she'd met when they'd bought a house a few miles from Rollins Estate, had always seemed to know just what to say when Mom got especially neurotic over me. Even in the years before my recent birth, neuroticism had always been a part of her personality.
Early in my eleventh year, Dad told her after she'd almost had a nervous breakdown over me using words bigger than I should have for my age, "He's Cole. Everything is always going to be more complicated with him than any other kid."
I had taken it as an insult at the time and had forgotten it shortly thereafter, but it hadn't been a jab at my personality, it had been the truth.
For the first time ever, I decided to go against the rules. I wasn't allowed out of the house after dark. Tonight, I needed air.
The night air. The breeze blowing through my hair. Twigs breaking under my feet as I walked. Or ran.
I needed to run.
I padded softly down the corridor to the stair well. Though the house was gargantuan in size, the walls seemed to close in. All I could think about was outside.
It was odd, but when I was outside, all the stomach churning, nausea, and feeling caged in alleviated as soon as I took a deep breath. For the last fourteen days, I had come outside at night when the thoughts of Allie made me tremble and my stomach feel as though it had been turned inside out. I thought it was those weird hormones so many other kids talked about and that we were being taught about in school, but tonight there was more than hormones at work inside me.
Uncontrollable trembling and a throbbing ache in my joints had begun around the same time Allie had started developing and budding in places. I tried not to stare, thinking it had merely been a reaction to seeing her change.
Tonight, the fire that ran through my veins and the strength that felt as though it could explode like fireworks out of my muscles at the thought of her was different. Amazing, but different.
Excerpted from Ever Lasting by Odessa Gillespie Black. Copyright © 2016 Odessa Gillespie Black. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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