Winter's Legacy: Future Days (Winter's Saga #6)
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For my husband and biggest supporter, Dan Luellen
Special thanks to my beta readers:
Lynne Couvier Laura Driskell Crystal Nunally Faux Nereid Gwilliams Charlie Harrison
TwylaBeth Walker Lambert
Jamey Lubeck Robin Hartsock McCord Tonia Miller
Jennifer Orlinski Imogen Pope
You wonderful people made the editing process so much easier by helping me look for errors and disconnects. Legacy is a far better book because of you!
I love you all and am very thankful for your hours of effort.
Some of you went above and beyond by being available around the clock when I’d message you, desperate for your valued opinion—or even just your reassurances.
You even sent me words of encouragement when I seemed to be “too quiet.”
You know who you are! You are my lighthouses in the storm!
I treasure your friendship.
“Don’t be afraid to move. Be afraid to hold still.”
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
Meg and Evan
Tucumcari, New Mexico
14 weeks ago
“You don’t remember life on the ranch, Meg. So let me tell you: You were awesome.” Evan’s hazel gaze appeared crisp and lucid beneath the swollen, burned flesh on his face. He lay curled in a fetal position on the sickly polyester comforter that was anything but comfortable against his badly burned body.
The cheap motel’s thin walls reverberated with voices from all sides, but Meg was oblivious of the others. She was trying desperately to cover Evan with her empath’s white blanket, but it did little to soothe his cooked skin. She tried to control her urge to wince as she watched him move his swollen face to talk.
“Those days were magical,” his voice was a gruff whisper. “Between studies, training and chores, Mom would let us go about our mischief—just letting us be kids. Those were some of the best memories, Meg. I pray you’ll regain the memories of those days. They defined you. They defined all of us.”
He had trouble swallowing the saliva that had gathered in his mouth. Meg found herself wishing she could swallow for the burned boy as she watched him struggle.
“We used to play a game—you were so good at it. I always thought it was because you could somehow sense the direction Alik and I were edging toward, but in the end it didn’t matter. ‘Hunt or be Hunted’ was a favorite.”
“Evan, I need to get your fever down. Please let me get you to the tub.”
“Not yet. Time is too valuable.”
Meg blinked away the tears that threatened to blossom in her dark eyes.
“We started the game the way we always did—at the top of the hill just north of the pasture. You used to wear a bandana to keep your hair back, but for the game, you tied it around a stick and planted it into the top of the hill. ‘First one back to the hill, flag in hand, wins,’ you’d say. And we would all chant ‘Roses are red, soldiers confronted, it’s time to hunt or be hunted.’ Then we’d run down different sides of that hill and plot against each other.”
Meg racked her brain trying to use Evan’s words to help trigger a memory, but the blackness where her memories used to be stood firm.
“Alik always used brute force, because that’s what he was good at. That and memorizing all the hiding spots you and I could ever find. I always tried to outsmart him, producing some new device or compound—one of which led to ‘The Great Smoke Bomb Incident’.”
Evan’s chuckle at that memory turned into a raspy cough lasting a full, painful minute.
“You, big sister,” he finally managed. “You won more times than any of us.” His lips were so swollen from heat exposure, they looked painted and plump. Meg watched them, waiting for them to split open as he spoke because they’d swollen so badly. Everything about the boy made Meg wince empathetically.