DARK AWAKENING by Amanda Usen
Talent Series Book One
When you bury a seed, it starts to grow…
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Publisher: Balancing Act Press
He had no choice but to erase her memory…
A decade ago, Jake Fallon’s desire for Zoe Draden caused him to lose control of his superhuman abilities, putting the rest of the Talents in danger. Tasked with the protection of the group, making Zoe forget their encounter was the only way he could guarantee her safety—and his control of himself.
His mind swipe left Zoe aware of only a small portion of her powers, which she now uses to grow vegetables for her busy café. But when her brother is kidnapped and the existence of the Talents revealed, she must ask Jake for help—even though being near him triggers panic attacks she doesn’t understand.
A BDSM club is the perfect place for Jake to engage his endless need for dominance and manage the underground world the Talents inhabit. When Zoe needs him, Jake must lead the charge and take on the only power greater than themselves—a superhuman army modeled after the Talents—and the one woman who can threaten his entire world.
Fear shot my senses into overdrive, making my ears buzz and the morning sun seem extra bright. The scent of coffee, maple syrup, and fried potatoes mingled with the sour smell of his dried sweat and greasy hair. My shoulders screamed as he wrenched my arms even tighter. I searched for the panic button under the counter with my knee.
It should be right…there.
My knee flipped the toggle just as something hard dug into my ribs. It felt blunt, like a gun, not sharp, like a knife, and I was glad because he was pressing hard enough to split me wide open.
Guess he’s not going to order breakfast.
He shoved me into the register and freed my arms, gun still pressed into my side. If he pushed any harder, he was going to break a rib with that thing. Maybe he already had and I didn’t feel it yet. I had a stupidly high threshold and an unusual response to pain.
“Open it,” he growled.
Something rustled in the dark place I kept hidden. My muscles locked as I fought to contain it. Nothing good came out of that darkness.
Across the room, Audrey shoved her chair back and held up her phone. She mouthed something. I stabbed my gaze at her like it could pin her to her chair. She was a black belt and a big fan of foot-to-head action, and I wanted her to stay in her seat. It was just money. A guy holds a gun on you, you give him the money.
I tried, but I couldn’t move. Not on the outside. On the inside, I seethed and buckled, cracking somewhere near my foundation.
Darkness poured out, winding around my feet and ankles like thick, black roots holding me in place. Now I was really in trouble.
“The drawer, bitch. Open it.”
Under the buzz of terror in my ears, the room hummed with cheerful noise, cups hitting saucers, forks and knives clinking against plates. With the exception of Audrey, no one seemed to notice my plight. What the hell? Customers continued eating, talking, and slugging back my excellent in-house medium-roast coffee. One of them was even trying to get my attention by holding up his empty cup, upside-down, smiling like he expected me to rush over and fill it.
Little busy right now.
The black roots spiraled up my calves. I struggled to take a step back so I could open the drawer, but barely felt the pressure of my shoe on the top of my foot. I needed to move, to fight, but I was paralyzed. I hated those roots. I didn’t know where they came from or how deep they went, but I knew they would choke me to death if they kept climbing.
Dread galvanized me, and I used the muscles of my thigh to drag my leg backward. I gained an inch, but my foot hit the floor again, defeated. Cold sweat ran down my side. I threw my hips into the movement, twisting, straining, getting nowhere, leaning backward from the waist, and begging gravity to lend a hand.
The guy shoved me toward the register again. Pain bloomed where my hipbones met the counter, and the gun was a hot brand in my side. The roots climbed faster, snaking around my waist, encircling my ribs. I felt pressure at my throat, and my skull tightened. My vision went gray and then green. The familiar furnishings of my café flashed in bold relief, stark images outlined in sharp shadows, somehow both darker and brighter than the world I knew.
I looked down at the gun jammed into my ribs. It gleamed in his hand and then it wavered, became a hand, a gun, and then fingers.
No gun? I looked, confirming that his hand was empty. No gun. He must be an illusion Talent. No wonder Audrey was the only one trying to help.
The roots slackened and then gave me a gentle squeeze, almost like a hug, and I could move again.
I turned my head to look at him.
His thin features were drawn, his blood-shot eyes exhausted, and his tense mouth held deep, unhappy grooves. Sudden sympathy unfurled inside me, edging out the panic. I knew what it was like to be desperate, Talented, and virtually alone. I’d never hit rock bottom and decided to rob a café, but maybe this guy didn’t have a family or any other reason to keep it together. Maybe this was a cry for help.
Or maybe he was a psycho and I was an idiot. But I was going to give him a chance anyway. His energy reminded me of Kane’s, and I hoped if my little brother was out there doing something stupid, someone would try to help.
“You don’t have to do this.” The words emerged in a shredded whisper. I cleared my throat. “Illusion Talent, right? I can help you.”
“Give me the money.” He grabbed my left arm and squeezed like he was trying to leave a handprint on my bones. Illusion Talent and freakishly strong? My lucky day.
I heard a crack, this one clearly audible, and gray-green stars crowded my vision. I ignored them. The pain wasn’t bad, and I wasn’t giving up yet. There are no lost causes, I told myself before I met his desperate gaze. “You aren’t alone. There are more like us, you know.”
I heard a plate break.
“Cockroach!” A woman screamed.
The sound of chairs pushing back all at once filled me with dismay.
“There’s a rat under the table!”
“Oh, for the love of God.” Other than the house and my car, the business was all we had. “Stop it.”
More shrieking, hysterical now. “There are flies all over the ceiling! Maggots!” Glass shattered.
Enough was enough. No more playing nice.
I never used my Talent in public, but this qualified for an exception. I reached for the threads of his frantic energy and pulled.