The Twelfth Keeper

By: Belle Malory
BOOK ONE




“Be humble, for you are made of earth. Be noble, for you are made of stars.”



-Serbian Proverb





Prologue



“You’re smiling.”

“That I am.”

“You said you wouldn’t smile again until we found her.”

The general pressed a button. A three-dimensional image of a young girl appeared. Wild, auburn hair. Bright aquamarine eyes, glinting with all the colors and ferocity of a tidal wave. “Jorgensen, we have found her. This is the twelfth.”

Chilling tingles iced down Phoenix Jorgensen’s spine. He froze, paralyzed, stricken by disbelief. So many questions filled his mind, but he couldn’t push the words from his lips. He could barely remember to breathe.

All he could do was stare.

He stood motionless, breathless, staring at the girl’s image.

It couldn’t be true.

She couldn’t be the one.

She was just…a girl. Nothing special or extraordinary there. In her image, she looked pensive. Her mouth curved up just slightly. Almost a smile, but not quite. What do you find so fascinating?

Phoenix felt his hand twitch. He lifted it to her rosy cheek. Light splayed around his fingers, disrupting the image.

He pulled back, his stomach twisting. “Why did you send for me, General?”

A few moments passed before Phoenix heard an answer.

“I’ve chosen you to confirm this discovery, Jorgensen. I assume you’ll feel it when you’re in her presence?”

Of course. The feeling.

It had been so long since he felt it, he’d almost forgotten. If the girl truly was the twelfth, he would feel it again. He would feel…whole.

“Yes, sir,” Phoenix answered. “I’ll know if it’s her.”

“Good to hear, Jorgensen.” The general clapped him on the back. “You leave at once.”

The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall as the general departed. Phoenix stayed behind, unable to turn off the image just then. Unable to watch those expressive eyes fade away. Unable to wrap his head around the girl standing before him. This was not how he imagined her.

Nothing special.

He sighed, giving into the belief that he just might be delusional.





One





Kennedy Mitchell paraded in front of her bedroom mirror, wobbling in her sister’s red stiletto heels, but she gave a good show at flouncing across the carpeted floor in them.

Holding her head up high, she batted her eyelashes at dozens of imaginary people flocking towards her in admiration, clamoring for her attention. “You want to know how I achieved valedictorian, class president, and acceptance to all of the ivies?”

Flattered, she held her hand to her chest. “It wasn’t so very difficult. All I had to do was study hard, look down my nose at people like they’re beneath me, and remind them to treat me like the queen that I am.”

Kennedy felt her lips curve into a sly smile. Pretending to be her sister was sort of fun. She captured Reagan’s mistaken sense of privilege brilliantly, at least she thought so anyway.

She turned back and forth in front of her reflection. The silky fabric of her dress—well, Reagan’s dress—swayed with the movements like a misty, cascading river of blue.

“Why, yes!” she exclaimed. “I am planning to marry Dean Cooper. He’s the most intelligent, handsome guy on the island, after all. We’ll marry as soon as we both finish college. Then we’ll move into a house on Fernandina Beach. One of the expensive Victorian ones with ocean views and a white picket fence. After that, we’ll have exactly two well-behaved, utterly adorable children.”

Kennedy paused to laugh, the sound smooth and honeyed. A perfect imitation of her sister. “Yes, it does sound like the perfect life. Only the best for—”

“KEN-NE-DY!”

The shrill sound of her mother’s voice bellowing from downstairs startled her. Kennedy whipped around—a big mistake. One of her heels caught on the carpet, her arms flailed in the air for one panicked moment before she tumbled to the floor.

“Oof,” she moaned, feeling her backside ache. A voice, probably her conscience, whispered, “Serves you right.”

In some darkened corner, an evil troll named Karma was rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically.

Her mother’s voice rang out again. And by the sound of it, more irritated this time. Ashley was getting impatient. Nothing new there. Ashley was always impatient, always running short on time.

“Coming!” Kennedy called. She dragged her sore body from the floor, slipped off Reagan’s heels, then tossed them into the cluttered closet they shared. Half the space was perfectly organized and color-coded with matching hangers. The other half belonged to her—a mountain of mismatched stuff—and it was also the side she’d thrown the shoes into.

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