Authors: Heather Young-Nichols
The Grounded Series, Book One
By Heather Young-Nichols
Copyright © 2015 by Heather Young-Nichols.
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: May 2015
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
To everyone who still wants to read about fantastical creatures. You are my people.
Table of Contents
The sound of the door slamming on its hinges chased me down the hallway, my shoes slapping against imported tile as I tried to get to my room before they caught me. Even as quick as I was, they were quicker. The people who created, raised and trained me were hot on my heels. Maybe, if I’d worn tennis shoes instead of super cute wedge sandals, I could’ve made it, but my father got close enough to stop me in my tracks. Three more steps would’ve gotten me out of the bright hallway and safely into the softness of my sanctuary. So close.
“Alyssum Bracken, stop right there,” he said in his official voice. His official voice is the boom he used to control The Council room and occasionally me, the voice that said he wasn’t messing around and I’d regret it if I didn’t do as he said. I stopped, although I wasn’t going down without a fight.
“What?” I spat, crossing my arms under my breasts as I looked up at him.
His size intimidated most people, sometimes even Mom, but not me. With light brown hair and gentle brown eyes, even the solid muscles that bulged from under his shirt and his six feet plus height didn’t scare me. He just looked like the big teddy bear that used to toss me around when I was a kid. No one agreed with me on the teddy bear part.
“The Council made their decision,” he said, his jaw tense. “You must respect that.”
“But he could—”
“There’s no proof, and it’s a waste of time to run off chasing ghosts.” His voice went back to a normal level. “Not to mention dangerous.”
“I’ve done so much—”
He cut me off again by holding his hand up while shaking his head. “This is not a discussion. The decision is final.”
“Ash,” Mom intervened. She placed a hand on his arm and gave an almost imperceptible squeeze, “at least hear her out. This is not The Council room.”
He took a deep breath and nodded without taking his glare off of me. I look a lot like my mother, which was part of what scared him. She’s also small with blonde hair and blue eyes, the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen until I came along, according to him. And apparently, at my age, she could wrap a boy around her little finger without even trying. I was more likely to knock a guy over the head with a tree branch. Dad had no reason to worry about me in that arena.
He did anyway.
“I’ve done a lot of research, Dad. He’s out there; I know he is.” Relaxing a little when his jaw lost some of its tension, I continued trying to convince him. “If I get the chance, I can bring him back.”
“And what good do you think bringing Heath Sorrel back here will do? If he’s still alive, and that’s a huge if, we don’t know that he will be useful.”
He asked the same question I hadn’t been allowed to answer in the gallery, where The Council was discussing the recent increase in tension within the Gobel community. They didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.
“You told me that the Sorrels were super powerful. Well, wouldn’t that have been passed down to their child?”
“They were very powerful when they were alive.” His deep, booming voice took on a different tone on the rare occasions he talked about his best friend.
Glen Sorrel and my father grew up together and it had been a heavy blow to my dad when Glen died. That was when my father took over as head of The Council. I was born a few years later.
“This issue has been decided. We will prepare for war and we’ll be ready if it should come.”
He stalked away, his footsteps driving his point home with each heavy thud. My mother followed him closely. I took off into my room and slammed the large door behind me, hoping they heard it.
What did my father know? To him, I was still that little girl he’d fallen in love with the moment she was born. I often wondered if he’d ever see me as a grown up, someone who could contribute to our society. He trained me himself; he knew how strong I was, yet he remained content to let me waste my talent by sitting around the house.
Staying in my room for hours didn’t help. I started going stir-crazy and looking for an outlet. My options were limited. The sun was setting and my ass would be in a world of trouble if I headed out to the copper mines after dark.
I fumed. Leaving was dangerous with everything going on, but I knew I could make a difference. I just had to figure out how. If I were a son, Dad would let me go, no questions asked, but if he thought I’d let something like gender stand in my way, boy was he mistaken. As an adult, I didn’t technically need his permission. With a little money, a car, and a credit card, I was all set; there are a few perks to being the daughter of your people’s leader.
The only thing holding me back was me. I’d never taken off on my own before and wasn’t sure I wanted to push my parents that hard. Being Gremalian gave me a certain amount of freedom; I’ve never had to deal with curfews or many rules, but to just leave without telling anyone would be a few steps too far.
Three soft raps on the door, Mom’s signature knock, brought me outside of myself. I watched as she let herself in. I figured she’d come back once my dad calmed down since that’s the way it always went; him first, then me.
“Alyssum, your father only wants what’s best for you.”
She walked to the window looking out over the Delaware countryside. Only Gremalians remained in Delaware, a small town on the Keweenaw Peninsula in very northern Michigan, miles from the nearest human city. Humans abandoned it long ago; they weren’t able to tough it through the harsh winters and thought the copper supply had dwindled. In reality, Gremalians chased the humans out of town as soon as someone realized what the copper could do for us.
Our little town was remote enough that humans didn’t venture up here too often anymore, which was nice. It gave us the opportunity to live our lives without having to worry about being discovered. Plus, we wouldn’t have to share the copper. We also went to great lengths to guard against any human who might decide to go exploring.
Besides the “High Voltage” signs a few miles from town, our constant energy hummed in the air, which made humans uneasy. And if one happened to slip through, security did a mind zap thing that was never fully explained to me that made them forget. Or turned them into a vegetable. Luckily, that situation hardly ever arose.
“That’s what he wants me to believe.” I laid on my bed and stared at the ceiling, my hands behind my head, legs crossed at the ankles.
“He loves you very much and you know it.” She paused the way she does when choosing her words carefully. “Saffron Sorrel was my best friend.”
That got my attention. I bolted upright to get a look at her. She still had her back to me, her voice calm and even. The Sorrels were mentioned so rarely that I couldn’t
pay very close attention.
“We knew each other before we got married. Once we did, Ash and Glen were inseparable, so Saffron and I were too. For five years, your father and Glen made names for themselves within The Council and eventually Glen was elected and your father was by his side. Glen had big dreams for our people. He wanted…it doesn’t matter.” She sighed. “I was there when Heath was born and, I admit, I was a little jealous because we hadn’t been blessed yet.” She finally looked over with a tired little smile. “Losing the baby along with our friends was almost more than we could handle, but Alyssum, losing you is something we could not bear. You understand what I’m saying?”
I knew what she was going to say. I’d heard it many times growing up and could recite the speech from memory. “Be careful…don’t goad anyone into any fights…”
I stopped talking as soon as I realized why my mom came into my room in the first place. By telling me that she and my dad couldn’t bear to lose me, she was warning me to behave. If Mom was warning me to behave and not outright telling me I couldn’t go, then she was giving me permission to leave Delaware to see if I could find the Sorrels’ son.
My eyes grew wide as my mother tossed a roll of cash to me. I snatched it right out of the air. She shoved a copper necklace in my hand, a small token to most people, but Mom was giving it to me because she knew it was important to send me out into the world with something that could help me heal. Copper does that for us.
“I love you, Mom.”
She gave me a quick squeeze and left the room.
I yanked open the closet and pulled out a small, brown leather satchel, tattered from years of use. Even though I was jumping on the inside, I still took the time to neatly fold every article of clothing. No way would I be ironing anything when I got there. A few of my must haves went into a red backpack: iPod, a couple of books and a laptop. I double checked to make sure all the appropriate chargers made it in too. The only thing left to grab was my purse, which I found hidden half under the bed.
After one last look around, I grabbed the necklace—a tear drop charm hanging from a delicate chain—Mom gave me. I felt power tingle my skin as soon as I touched it. While I knew most of us carried copper when leaving Delaware, I hadn’t given it much thought. It made sense that my mom would give me extra protection. Besides the healing capability, copper also enhances our powers, something I would need on the outside.
I pushed open the window on the south side and dropped the brown bag to the ground, then flung the backpack over my shoulders. The other window on the west wall overlooked the roof of our sunroom. Although I’d snuck out many times since turning thirteen, this seemed different.
I wasn’t sneaking off to meet Sage, former friend and first boyfriend, or to climb through the mines and revel in the surge we Gremalians get by being close to copper, nor was I leaving to kiss that same boy for hours at a time on the banks of Lake Superior like I had the summer after I turned fifteen. I was running away to search for Heath, the son of our dead ex-leader, a boy I’ve never seen and who may not have survived the car accident that took his parents’ lives.
The first drop to the sunroom roof was only two feet, after which I used an old chimney pipe to shimmy to the ground before running and grabbing the first bag without stopping. Within minutes, I was on the road in the car my parents bought me when I graduated.
Leaving after sunset worked to my advantage. I made it to Mackinaw City in good time, just over five hours. After another three on the road, I had to stop near Saginaw to sleep. My eyes had been sagging until, finally, it became too dangerous to continue. I slept a bit, then took some time during breakfast at a Denny’s to go over all the research again just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
I double checked the map for the exact location of the fiery car accident and the nearest hospital Heath would’ve been taken to, using my finger to trace the path from accident to hospital on the map to make sure my theory made sense. Then I was back on the road.
Although it would’ve been quicker to go through Canada, I went south, through Ohio, since I didn’t have a passport or the time to get one. Twelve long hours later, every meal eaten with one hand on the wheel, I stopped at the first motel I crossed paths with in Putnam Valley, New York.
Since I arrived so late, I wasn’t about to search for and compare motels. The room I was given fit the appearance of an old style, roadside type of accommodation to a T. I’d slept in worse places; at least it was clean. After a hot shower, the bed could’ve been made of nails and I wouldn’t have noticed.
I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.