Authors: Derrolyn Anderson
THE MACKENZIE LEGACY
Copyright © 2013 by Derrolyn Anderson
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions of it.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
ON THE RUN
Calvin woke with a start, reaching out to find her missing. He bolted upright and hit his head on a canvas wall. Groping blindly for the zipper in the dim light of the new morning, he pushed open the flap just in time to see Caledonia come into view, her arms stacked high with firewood, her breath white clouds in the cold mountain air.
He exhaled, feeling relieved and a little foolish. Weeks had passed since the awful morning he’d woken up to discover that she’d been taken, but he still had a difficult time letting her out of his sight.
She knelt to lay down her burden, brushing her arms off and turning her attention to the fire pit. Calvin settled back down, spying on her through a crack in the old tent they’d picked up at a roadside swap meet. He watched her break up some twigs, digging in the grey ashes for a live ember. She got on her hands and knees to coax the fire back to life.
When it came to camping out, Caledonia knew what she was doing. Calvin would still be shaking off the road, stretching out his legs, only to turn around and find the tent already pitched and firewood stacked. She slept on the hard ground without complaint, and could start a campfire in the blink of an eye, banking it at night so it flared up swiftly in the cold damp of the early morning.
She was a lot stronger than she looked, climbing high into the pinon pines to harvest the cones that she’d roast over the fire to extract delicious nuts. He’d watch her scramble up like a squirrel, laughing down at him as he stood dodging a rain of pine cones with his heart in his throat, scarcely able to breathe until she was safely on the ground.
Her sense of direction was phenomenal. Calvin would find himself disoriented as soon as they entered the tree line, but Caledonia never got lost when they went on hikes. Her sharp eyes darted all around, and he was amazed at how many different kinds of edible plants she could identify and forage from their surroundings. She was resourceful enough to cook anything with only a flat rock and a tin can, and yet she laughed with delighted surprise when he showed her something as simple as how to toast marshmallows on sticks.
In the woods she was on guard, with her knife always at the ready, but she dismissed noises in the night that spooked Calvin. She went to great lengths to stow away their food, pointing out the signs of scavenging raccoons and possums in the morning. He thought she was being overly cautious until a marauding bear shuffled through their campground one night, passing them by to plunder someone else’s unattended cooler and carelessly secured trash.
They’d been camping out more often lately, trying to make their dwindling money supply last as long as possible. It was a new experience for Calvin, but spending time in the woods made Caledonia homesick, filling her dreams with visions of the land she’d gain control of on her eighteenth birthday.
“I can’t wait to see it again,” she told him. “I want to show you everything.”
“Soon,” he promised her, genuinely curious to see the mysterious wilderness she’d materialized from.
Calvin was loathe to stay in one place for more than a few days, afraid to attract any attention that might lead Professor Reed to them. He knew the lengths the madman would go to get her back, and he wasn’t about to take any more chances. He discarded his cell phone, fearful that any calls he placed might be used to track them down, and they never gave their real names to anyone they met along the way.
They crisscrossed the state of California that summer, doing their best to keep an unpredictable pattern of movement. They camped on sandy beaches or in shady forests, hugging the coast for a few days at a time before moving inland to pitch their little tent in one park after another. The two fugitives cuddled together in one sleeping bag, whispering their hopes and dreams into each other’s ears on their almost unbearably sweet nights together.
Ever since the accident that left his mother dead and his father in jail, Calvin had spent his teen school years careening recklessly from party to party and girl to girl, never allowing anyone to get close enough to really know him. He put up a front, acting like he didn’t have a care in the world while his life was spinning completely out of control. He had been headed for real trouble, and even though he knew it, he simply didn’t care.
Calvin didn’t care about anything until Caledonia came along. From the moment their eyes first met he’d been captivated by the strange girl, and before he realized it, she’d crawled inside his heart and taken up residence. He suddenly found himself head over heels in love with someone he couldn’t get enough of, and it wasn’t until he was completely under her spell that he discovered just how unique she really was.
Caledonia had been born with an unusual skill– the ability to detect and influence the emotions of others. She could literally see right through Calvin, leaving him vulnerable in a way that took some getting used to. She solemnly swore that she’d never use her powers to manipulate him, and she never had. It was important to her that the one person on earth she trusted be able to trust her back; the faith he had in her was the most precious thing she possessed.
But their newfound love was in real jeopardy, because Caledonia was being hunted down by an evil man that threatened to tear them apart. Professor Reed had made himself her legal guardian until she came of age, and he wanted her back under his control. He was a man obsessed, and there was no telling what lengths he might go to.
So Calvin and Caledonia were on the run, determined to stay together and hold onto the one true thing had– each other. Calvin gave false names every time he paid for cheap rooms and campsites, and there was never a problem when Caledonia was by his side. She disarmed suspicious minds with ease, and more than one motel clerk found themselves glossing over their ID policy when they looked into the unusual eyes of the pretty girl.
Park rangers monitoring the campgrounds all got the same treatment, and if anyone ever thought to question them further the idea just seemed to fly out of their heads, replaced by an overwhelming sense of trust and well-being. Calvin was constantly surprised to see Caledonia in action, amazed by the things she could do.
She also amused him every single day, both with what she knew and what she didn’t know. Caledonia could predict the day’s weather better than any forecast, and tell the hour simply by looking at the sun, but she was skeptical about the reliability of digital clocks. She developed an obsession with motel ice machines, hoarding ice in their little cooler like it was a precious commodity, even after Calvin reassured her they could pick up more at every gas station they passed.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” she would say, shrugging off his sideways glances. There was nothing to do but go along with her little quirks.
Calvin found himself mightily impressed by her knowledge of motorcycle maintenance, amused by how she constantly inspected the tires and fluid levels, pointing out to him when to change the fuel filter and stressing the importance of making sure the chain was properly lubricated.
“Did your dad teach you that?” he asked her.
She shook her head no, “I read how… I needed to know, because if our bike broke down, Papa couldn’t trade anything, or bring me anything new to read.”
Hardship had made her resourceful, and she’d learned to apply all the knowledge she could glean from books to contribute to her odd little family’s survival. She described scrounging together whatever she could get her hands on to keep their family dirt-bike running.
“We had to make our own parts, or take them from something else. I used to send Papa to town with a list, but sometimes…” her voice trailed off.
“Sometimes what?” he asked.
Her eyes clouded over and she looked away. “He’d forget,” she said, with a finality that meant she was done talking about it. There were things about her parents that she didn’t like to remember.
The more Calvin came to know Caledonia, the better picture he got of her strange childhood. It seemed as though her parents had left her on her own a lot, withdrawing into their paranoia and staying indoors for days at a time. They’d tried to hide their terror from her while at the same time hiding her from the outside world. In many ways, she’d been forced to grow up even faster than he had.
“Jarod is really good with bikes,” Calvin changed the subject, telling her how his brother used to dream about opening a repair shop someday.
Caledonia liked to hear stories about Calvin’s childhood, and he obliged her, recounting all kinds of little details that would have bored the average person. She made him recall happier times, reminding him that things weren’t always so bad.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Jarod was going to build custom choppers, and I was going to airbrush designs on the gas tanks. He was going to school for it when the accident happened… But he quit talking about all that stuff when he started riding with the gang…”
Caledonia looked up to see Calvin ringed by melancholy blue, and she tasted the bittersweet flavor of abandoned dreams. She reached out to take his hand, squeezing it when he smiled wryly at her. She was always trying to comfort him in spite of her own sorrow, and it made him love her more than he ever thought possible.
Just being around Caledonia opened up his scarred heart, and he started to see beauty everywhere. When they wandered through an art gallery in a small beach town, he had a sudden urge to start drawing again. Caledonia could see his rosy peach enthusiasm, and she ducked into an art supply-store, buying him a set of colored pencils and a sketchpad.
She inspired him, and soon the tablet was filled with sketches of her sleeping or reading. She’d look up from her book to catch him watching her intensely, making her smooth her unruly hair self-consciously.
“Don’t move,” he’d tell her, “You’re perfect just like that.”
She’d try to keep still, and keep a straight face, but eventually she’d crack a smile, and before he knew it they’d both be laughing. More often than not the book and sketchpad would wind up getting tossed aside in favor of more physical entertainments.
As happy as Calvin was, the constant fear of losing her again was always gnawing at the back of his mind, and he found himself continually looking over his shoulder. He was counting down the days until they no longer had the added fear of the law coming between them.
In contrast, Caledonia found herself increasingly at ease, no longer sensing the danger that Calvin did. Given the sheer scale of the landscape they roamed across, she figured that they’d be as hard to find as a needle in a haystack.
If there was a dark cloud hanging over her, it was thoughts of the twins Layla and Michael, still confined in the opulent cage the professor had constructed for them. Sometimes she had dreams that she was trapped there too, and she’d wake up with her heart pounding, unable to sleep for worrying about what was happening to them.
Apparently she wasn’t the only one who could read emotions. Calvin would see her brow furrow with concern and know she was thinking about them. “You did what you could,” he’d tell her. “They can leave whenever they want to… There’s nothing you can do about it.”
She could see his irritation when he spoke of the twins, and she couldn’t really blame him. Calvin had none of her affection for Layla, and he was still angry with Michael for nearly ruining Caledonia’s narrow escape. As far as Calvin was concerned, the twin’s predicament was their own problem.
But it wasn’t that simple, and she knew it. Caledonia realized that
and Michael were hopeless, brainwashed when they were tiny children by a ruthless manipulator, and desperately in need of help. If her own parents hadn’t gone to such great lengths to hide her away she might have been raised by the professor too, and she felt a powerful kinship with the twins that was difficult to explain.
Professor Reed was planning to resume human trials of his Athena drug, and Caledonia had to try and do something to stop him. Calvin found a remote phone booth and waited anxiously while she reported the professor’s illegal experiments to the authorities, calmly telling what she knew and hanging up abruptly, confident that the police would raid Reed’s secret lab.
There had to be some justice in the world, she thought.
Once again, her thoughts were with Layla and Michael as she started the fire that morning. In just a few short weeks she would turn eighteen, and at that point, she knew she must find a way to help them whether Calvin liked it or not. Without any interference from the authorities, she’d be free to stand her ground and fight, even if the vicious thugs that worked for the professor thought they were above the law.
Her hand strayed to her knife involuntarily.
Calvin sighed, propping himself up on his elbows to admire her graceful movements as she rekindled the fire. Even after weeks on the road she still took his breath away, and just being around her made the sparsest accommodations bearable. He could learn to love roughing it, he thought, as long as he had Caledonia in his sleeping bag every night. He reached over to rummage in his tote for a sweatshirt, and by the time he’d crawled out of the tent she had a roaring fire going.
“Brrr,” he said, coming up behind her as she stood warming her hands in the morning chill. He encircled her in his arms, ducking his head to kiss her cheek. “Good morning.”
She cringed away from his scratchy face. “You tickle.”