This was it.
This was their chance.
Heart racing with both excitement and trepidation Stephanie RavenCroft pounded down the stairwell to the kitchen. Carrying an open box filled with paperback books in her arms, she attempted to balance her iPad on top of it as she ran.
“Kalturek!” she shouted. Her foot faltered on the last few steps and she nearly fell. The iPad slid from the box and dropped to the floor. “No!” she cried, watching as it smashed on the wooden hallway floor.
“Stephanie? Are you all right?”
Surrounded by his five siblings and their spouses, Kalturek got up from the kitchen table and made his way hastily to his wife’s side.
“No, I’m not. Damn it, I broke it,” she exclaimed as angry tears welled in her eyes.
“Honey, calm down there’s no need to cry, or cuss for that matter. I’ll replace the iPad if it’s broken,” Kalturek assured her. He was grateful his sister-in-law’s kids were already in bed. He’d never heard his wife swear like that unless they were fighting.
“No, I won’t calm down,” she shouted, startling everyone in the kitchen. Her eyes were wild with a mixture of excitement and fear. “I found it, I really did! The answer was right here, Kalturek, and it’s been here all this time. She’s our only chance and if we don’t get to her in time it’ll be too late for us.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Angel Stryfe! Baby, we have to find her before she gets killed. We’re running out of time,” she said urgently, quickly becoming hysterical.
“Stephanie, you’re not making any sense. Slow down and start from the beginning.” Being the Sheriff of Loveland County, Kalturek was instantly on high alert after what she’d said. A woman was about to be killed? How could she possibly know anything about that? His wife had been up in the attic searching for Christmas decorations for the last several hours.
“There isn’t time!” Stephanie exclaimed urgently. “They’re going to kill her, and we’ll lose our chance if we don’t get to her first.”
“Chance for what? More importantly, who’s about to get killed?”
“Angel Stryfe! I’ve already told you that. Keep up already.” Stephanie was becoming cross. Her husband didn’t seem to understand the urgency of the situation. Frustrated, she didn’t quite realize she hadn’t fully answered his questions.
Kalturek bent down before her and patiently took her hands in his. “Stephanie, look at me,” he said, waiting till she peered up at him with her midnight blue eyes. “You’re coming to us with half a story here. Who is Angel Stryfe? Who’s trying to kill her? How do you know this? And what has it got to do with you and me?”
Taking a deep breath, Stephanie exhaled. She really hated it when he patronized her. “The books, Kalturek; the books in the box! It’s a series called Phenomena, written by somebody called David Pearson.”
Bastion RavenCroft, the head of the RavenCroft family, swiveled in his seat near the counter and stared across the kitchen at the couple on the floor.
Was it possible he’d been busted?
Kalturek gave his wife an appraising stare. “But what does that have to do with this Angel Stryfe? Who is she?” Like his five siblings, Kalturek had been born with a supernatural power, and they each had their own specialized ability. In his case, he had the power to see white or black auras around people, which often signified when people were having good and bad intentions in a given moment. As Sheriff, his power had been most advantageous in the past just as it was now, for he could see a pitch black aura around his wife. The darkened aura hadn’t been there before she’d gone up to the attic, and that worried him.
“She’s an author,” he heard her respond.
“I thought you said David Pearson was the author.”
“I did. Damn it, Kalturek! Shut up and let me explain.”
Shoving Stephanie’s hands away, Kalturek stood, glaring down at her. He was losing patience with her. His wife had been getting more irritable of late and increasingly hostile with him.
“I cannot understand what it is you’re trying to tell me without all the facts.”
Cupping her bowed head with one hand, she snarled in frustration. “You want facts? I’ll give you facts. Fact one, this David Pearson is writing about this family. Every deep dark secret we have, he seems to know. That includes who has what power and the real story behind how Sable got here.”
Kahner’s head popped up from where he’d been resting on the table, waiting to get back to their poker game. His identical features to his twin brother formed the same shocked expression that was on Kalturek’s face.
“Wait, what?” Kahner exclaimed in alarm.
“You heard me.” Swiping three books from the top of the box she had carried down, she began shaking them before everyone as she stood. “Fact two, book one tells of your brother Kahner and Sable meeting, getting pregnant, and married.”
Sable blanched noticeably.
“Book two tells of your other brother Kalabernus and his new wife Ariana meeting and getting pregnant,” Stephanie continued. “And book three… baby! Book three is about us,” she cried.
“You can’t be serious.” Kalturek was incredulous.
Everyone stood and began clamoring toward the box on the floor.
“Are there more copies?” Kalturek’s younger sister Mackenzie asked anxiously. Her gaze shifted toward their father Bastion. He appeared oddly subdued considering, what Stephanie was telling them.
“No, it’s like a continuous fictional series only in different categories or genres; for example, Phenomena for children, for youth, and for young adults. These are the first three of the young adult series. But baby, book three…” Stephanie’s eyes were alight with delight. She practically danced in place as she shoved the book in his face. “Kalturek, honey, all we have to do is find her. We find this Angel Stryfe before they kill her and we can have what we want,” she exclaimed with excitement. “Babies, baby! We can have children of our own too, just like Kahner and Kalabernus.”
Kalturek’s youngest brother Drayke jumped in. “When you say just like them, do you mean…?”
“Yes! The RavenCroft triplets; Kahner, Kalabernus, and you Kalturek are all meant to have triplets according to this book!” Stephanie declared.
Stunned, Kalturek shook his palms before her. “Wait, just hold on a minute.” He took the book from her and his eyes hastily roamed the dark cover. Opening it quickly, he tried to make sense of what his wife was saying as he scanned the pages. “I don’t quite understand. Who exactly is this Angel Stryfe? How can she help us have children?” he inquired, as his brothers, Kahner and Kalabernus began removing books from the box, in order to investigate the validity of what she was saying.
“Book three, the one about us, it tells about her. It describes her as an author with the ability to foreshadow or see future events.”
“You mean, like precognition?”
“Yes, and it also says she knows things without knowing why, kind of like your dad. But here’s the real kicker, Kalturek. She’s not just a fictional character in a book but a real live person. I looked her up on my iPad and found her online,” Stephanie continued to explain. “I figured if we were real, maybe she was too. And she is! According to that book you’re holding, she’s supposedly been writing about us, kind of like this David Pearson author. When I looked her name up online I discovered it’s actually true.”
“Did you say she’s writing about this family?” Bastion said in alarm. “She’s actually published something?” Erupting hastily from his chair, the RavenCroft patriarch quickly strode across the kitchen toward them. Taking the book from Kalturek he began leafing through it, his expression grim, his brow furrowing in concentration as he mumbled softly, “I don’t remember that…” his voice trailed off.
Both Synedra, the youngest of the RavenCrofts, and her husband Nathan gave Bastion an odd look.
“Yes, but it’s gonna get her in trouble,” Stephanie continued, seemingly distracted with her own agenda. “At least, according to that book she hasn’t published her novels yet, but she’s about to. So she’s been promoting her new series through the Internet and…”
“Oh, God!” Bastion’s head shot up from the book in alarm as he stared off into space; the look on his face, one of horror.
“Exactly,” Stephanie cried, her eyes widening as well, thinking he was likely having the same thought as she was. She shook her finger at Bastion then at Sable. “So when drug cartel kingpins Kobi and Lionel Radford see their names pop up in conjunction with Kalysta Radford, aka Sable RavenCroft…”
Kahner gave an unflattering yelp of horror at the sound of his wife’s real name being repeated from his sister-in-law’s lips. No one in the family knew Sable’s real name but he and his father Bastion. Her real identity had been kept secret in order to protect her and her children from her former husband Lionel.
“Dad!” Kahner exclaimed in a panic. His wife Sable was now pregnant with his triplets, and he also had her three children to protect. This Angel Stryfe woman was going to get his whole family killed if what Stephanie said was true.
“Stop,” Bastion hollered. His deep voice echoed in the kitchen, gaining everyone’s attention. “Just everyone stop and calm down. Now, Stephanie, am I to understand you’ve read through this novel completely?” he asked, shaking book three in his hand. He knew full well she could speed read.
“Just the beginning where Kalturek goes after Angel to bring her home and…”
Bastion shook his head adamantly. “No, absolutely not. He cannot go.”
“But Bastion, he has to save her,” Stephanie wailed. “If he doesn’t then she’ll get killed. Then we won’t be able to have babies,” she exclaimed irately.
Bastion scowled, his lips pursing in aggravation. “It’s good to know your reasons for going after her are purely selfish,” he continued sarcastically. “Sure, let’s go after her for the sole purpose of making sure you can have children rather than to try and save her life, and for that matter, protect this family’s secret.”
Charging toward her father-in-law, Stephanie stuck her finger in his chest, not caring he was nearly a whole foot taller than her. Shooting daggers with her watering eyes, she practically spit as she spoke, her voice laced with venom.
“I’ve waited nearly seven years to have children with your son. Only now I find out that the only way I’m going to get them is by way of a surrogate. The surrogate in question is this woman right here in this book, Angel Stryfe! I’ll be damned if I’ll allow your arrogant cautious nature to destroy my chances.”
“Stephanie!” Kalturek was astounded, for he had never quite seen her so hysterical and angry. “What is going on with you?” He could see a black aura around her. It literally pulsed, expanding and thickening about her shoulders and head.
Overwhelmed with frustration and desperation, Stephanie yanked the book from Bastion, opened it to the page she needed, and shoved it in her husband’s face.
“Look! See? It’s dated for this year, Kalturek, just like the other two books were, and it’s eerily accurate. If this is, in fact, one man’s vision of future events then we have to move fast! Don’t you see?” Stephanie pleaded with her husband, willing him to understand how serious the situation truly was. “It’s dated tomorrow night! If we don’t get to her first, then Kobi and Lionel Radford’s men are gonna torture, rape, and kill her.”