Abraham’s Men (Birch Harbor Series, Book 2) by Kristen Selleck
Genre: YA paranormal romance
Number of pages: 394
Word Count: 86,000
Cover Artist: Kristen Selleck
College sophomore Chloe Adams returns to Birch Harbor determined to find the remnants of the secret society known as Abraham's Men.
Yet, the only clues she has are the words 'find Ian Rose' and a strange coded journal that once belonged to her father.
No longer able to hear the voices that have plagued her for most of her life, and finally having the loving home she has always dreamed of, Chloe struggles to define what she wants--
Until fate and her mentor conspire to offer her the chance to discover the truth.
Unfortunately, the truth might kill her.
Abraham’s Men (Birch Harbor Series #2): Chapter One
The faint buzz of her cell phone shocked Chloe Adams out of a light sleep. Panicked at the thought of missing the call, she struggled to unwind her covers, gave up and lunged toward the windowsill, groping toward the illuminated screen. She didn‘t recognize the number, which was a good sign that it was him.
“Seth?” she asked, as the bad connection crackled against her ear.“Clo?” His voice was faint, sounding as far away as he actually was.“Can you hear me?” she asked louder.“Barely. I don’t know how long I can keep the signal, we just got back to the village and it’s been…and I don’t know how long…just wanted…”The static washed over his voice in waves.“Seth, I can’t hear you. When does your plane come in? Did you find out if you could get the earlier flight?”“…that everything’s okay, that you’re doing alright. If it starts again…Father Andrew’s…you can stay with him until I get back…”“I’m fine, everything’s fine, just tell me when you’ll be in, so I can-”“Are you there…I can‘t…? Clo?”The static conquered his voice entirely.Chloe pounded her fist against the windowsill in frustration. She hated Costa Rica, hated forestry, hated Michigan State University for its wonderful Study Abroad programs. Why was he calling in the middle of the night anyway? There was just an hour’s time difference between Birch Harbor and…The time, according to the bedside clock, was only ten. Only ten o’clock at night and she wasn’t in Birch Harbor any more, she was home. Coming back to a place she hadn’t seen in years was odd. She had to remind herself that these were her things…it was her clock, her bed, her windowsill…her room…the place where she had laid down to sleep almost every night for sixteen years. It wasn’t the same anymore. It seemed to belong to another girl who might come in at any moment and find her there.After two years away from home, she wasn’t even sure that her key would work when no one answered the door. Exhausted after the nine hour drive from Birch Harbor, she had gone to her old room, dropped her bags, and collapsed on the bed. She hadn’t been asleep very long when he called.
Home…and at ten o’clock at night, it was a safe bet that her mother and sisters were too. They would have seen her car in the driveway.Chloe held her breath and listened. Sitting up in her bed in the dark, holding her breath and listening for the sound of voices from downstairs made her feel like a child again. Realizing this, she got up and turned the light on. She was not a child anymore, she was almost nineteen, and would make sure they knew it too.When her eyes adjusted to the light, she noticed that her suitcase had been moved. The closet was open, and her clothes were hanging in it. That meant her mother had come in while she was sleeping. Her mother had gone through her things.Chloe took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. No point in getting angry. Her mother would only say she was trying to be helpful or give some other excuse, and then turn silent and disdainful. If she wanted to get any information out of the woman, she was going to have to play the prodigal daughter.Truth be told, she had nowhere else to go. She had spent the first part of the summer with her roommate Sam, but the strain between the girl and her family over Sam’s constant binge drinking had made the stay uncomfortable.Seth had left for Costa Rica at the end of May, and her only other option would have been to spend the next month in a hotel--which she had actually considered, but decided against it after reviewing her bank statement. The small inheritance her father left, still had to stretch through three more years of college and…at some point…a trip to London.So she was home. A place she dreaded for many reasons. It was in this room where she first heard the voices that had almost ruined her life.Chloe ran her hand slowly along the wall, stopping where she knew the word ‘help’ had been painted over. She could still feel the grooves where the pen had dug into the wall.“I’m back,” she whispered.She closed her eyes and waited, judging the silence. Nothing…not even a whisper, and then from downstairs came the faint sound of ice clinking against a glass.“I know what you wanted now,’ she breathed, ‘tell me what you need to, I’m ready to listen.”She could hear the sound of someone walking across the kitchen floor below her, and the squeak of a cupboard door opening. She knew which cupboard it would be, the one where the linens were kept, and where the vodka was well-known to be hidden.“I don’t know how long I’ll be here, maybe not long at all. If you’ve got something to say about Abraham’s Men…you had better say it soon.”Again she waited, her hand pressed against the hidden word, holding still, because somehow she felt that they were there, that they were still watching, waiting to speak, and from far away, there came the faintest sort of answer. A sound like something tiny and metallic. A sound like air rushing toward her…like-Chloe felt the cold air brush across her feet and graze her legs. Panicking, she stumbled backwards while almost instantly realizing that the air conditioning had kicked on, and that the noise and the cold air had only come from the duct in the floor.Chloe laughed at herself. Somewhere, in some remote part of a Costa Rican jungle, Seth probably felt the strange urge to rub his forehead. She could almost envision him sitting in the chair at her desk, shaking his head while saying, “If you would just think about things logically…”“Chloe?”Her mother’s voice rang up the stairs. There was no avoiding it now. It was time to face the lion in its den.Down in the kitchen, Debra Adams sat poker straight at the head of the family table. At her left hand was the glass of red liquid they all pretended was cranberry juice. Tonight, the vodka bottle sat incriminatingly on the counter behind her. In all her life, Chloe had never witnessed such an open admission of her mother’s drinking. It was a family secret, the evidence always kept out of sight. She wasn’t sure if the bottle on the counter was a sign of something good or bad.“You came home,” Debra observed.Chloe nodded and stared at the ground. Even dressed in pajamas and a silk bathrobe, Debra Adams was intimidating. Her face was still carefully made up in her everyday business chic façade, her hair perfect and unmoving.“Sit down,” she ordered.Chloe drew a chair away from the table and sat.“Did you get your grades back?”“Yes. I did very good. I had a 3.5 average from the semester, and my cumulative was 3.7. I made the Dean’s List again, and I got a mention in the acknowledgements of my psych professor’s book. I was a researcher for him and…and he…he thanked me in his book. You know…I just mean…well, I think he’ll be a good recommendation for when I go to grad school. I did good,” Chloe mumbled.“Well…good. I’m very…I’m proud of you,” Debra said.Chloe glanced up, surprised, but her mother wasn’t looking at her. She was holding her glass, and studying the red fluid in it as though it was the most fascinating thing in the room. She felt an uncomfortable sort of sympathy for the woman. It couldn’t be easy for her either. They were both standing in a minefield. Who would be the first to bring it up? Who would be the one to stumble and say the wrong words, making the other fly into a rage?“Your sisters didn’t come home this summer,” Debra said, still staring at the glass in her hand. “Sara got that internship in New York…she’s doing very well, and Lisa, well, she’s backpacking around Europe with that boyfriend of hers…Mark, or Mike or something.”“Okay,” Chloe nodded.“If you still want…if you think we should go to therapy together…just us…”“No,” Chloe interrupted. “No, that’s okay. I think I’ve had enough therapy the past couple of years for all of us.”She was attempting to make a joke, but her mother didn’t laugh. She shot Chloe a quick, appraising glance, probably to see if she was angry or not, and nodded.“Good. Well…?” Debra paused uncertainly. Chloe took a deep breath.“I want to know about Dad,” she said.Her mother took a long, slow sip from the glass. Chloe watched, willing her to make eye contact.“I met your father in college-”“Mom…I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to argue, but I want the absolute truth. I know you didn’t go to college.”“You don’t know everything. I went to college, Chloe, but I didn’t graduate, and yes, that is where I met your father. He worked the nightshift at a coffee house on campus, and I saw him for the first time when I went there with my friends to study for finals. He was… he was very attractive, very out-going, and funny, and I…I wasn’t. On our first date he took me to a basketball game. He was very kind. I remember that, very kind and thoughtful. He was smart, and driven. The kind of person that made you feel…”“Special,” Chloe mumbled. Her mother gave her a sharp glance.“Safe,” Debra corrected, taking another sip from her glass.“We got married after he graduated…I was still in my junior year. That’s when…that’s why…well, I didn’t finish. Your sister Sara was born a year later, and Lisa came a few years after that…and I…I never had the time. Your father did well enough. I just…”“What happened to him?” Chloe asked.“I don’t know. After Lisa was born, things were different. He was gone a lot more, always traveling, and when he was home, he wasn’t the same. Always distracted, he stopped listening to me. Sometimes I would have to say things two or three times, and he would stare at me, or through me. He never slept. I would get up at 2 in the morning and he would be downstairs, pacing and whispering to himself. I thought it was stress from his job. I thought…sometimes I think about it now, and I wonder how I didn’t see it. I never realized there was anything wrong until…”Debra stopped and shook the ice in her empty glass.“Until?” Chloe prodded, leaning forward.“Until you were born,” Debra said. She pushed her chair away from the table and stood. While Chloe watched, she uncapped the vodka bottle, took the juice from the fridge and poured herself another drink. It was one of the strangest things Chloe had ever seen, her mother drinking openly.“What happened when I was born?” she asked.“It wasn’t planned,” her mother said, sitting down and smoothing her bathrobe over her knees, “not so soon after Lisa was born, but I was happy about it. I thought it would help us, make us close again. He didn’t see it that way. He said he didn’t want any more kids, didn’t want them to get hurt. All these crazy rants, and half-formed thoughts came pouring out of him. It must have been building for a long time. He had this belief that there were people out to get us. He thought there were dead people who talked to him, or warned him that we were all in danger. He had piles of notes with names and dates and places. He showed them all to me then. It was like waking up one morning and realizing you were married to someone you didn’t know.“I tried, Chloe, I really did try. He wouldn’t go to a psychiatrist…didn’t trust them. I talked to him everyday, tried to convince him to get help. When you were born, he wasn’t even there. He came later with your sisters, and he wouldn’t hold you…but he watched you. He watched you all the time. I would get up at night to feed you, and he would be in the rocking chair in your nursery…watching you. I never understood why. Sometimes he seemed to think that something would try to hurt you, and sometimes… it was as if he thought that you could somehow hurt us.“We fought all the time. He wasn’t working at that point. He’d been fired for too many absences. He was always at home, always writing things down, being secretive and talking to himself. It scared me. It scared me so bad that I…Debra took another deep gulp from her drink and cleared her throat.“You have to understand that when you spend all day everyday with someone like that…someone who’s insane…and that’s the only interaction you have, it’s very easy…it starts to become…normal. You might even start to live in their…in what their reality is. I think I almost started to believe him. I would hear a noise, and think it was…”“Did you hear them?” Chloe whispered.Debra scowled at her drink.“No! I tricked myself into believing him, because I wanted to. I didn’t want him to be sick. There is no them, Chloe! There never was. It was a side effect of being exposed to his ramblings, his constant paranoia and fear. I wanted to believe him, so I did.”“So you thought you heard them?”“I convinced myself that I heard a voice. I told him about it. I thought…I thought it would make him happy, that he wasn’t wrong or crazy. He left me after that. There was no discussion or argument, he just left. I woke up the next morning and he was gone, all of his things were still there, but he never came home again. It must have scared him. He must have been healthy enough to realize, deep down, that he was making it all up, and when I…he…”“You never heard anything after that?”“From him? No. I was able to find out from his sister where he went, and I filed for divorce. I didn’t want him to come back. If he could make someone…someone like me start to fall into his….“I didn’t want him to hurt you girls. You were all so young, very impressionable. I didn’t want his sickness to affect any of you. You needed to have a normal, healthy childhood. I had to do it. It was for the best, for all of us.”“Did he go to London?”Debra shook her head.“Pennsylvania, of all places…I don’t know why.”“Did he ever go to London that you know of?”“He might have. He traveled a good deal when he started working again. Why?”“Did he ever talk about a man named Ian Rose?”“Oh Chloe, I don’t remember. The man had lists of names all over the place. It doesn’t sound familiar.”Chloe sighed and folded her arms.“I saw it in you very early,” Debra said, “that same way of acting. You were always by yourself, always mumbling things no one could hear. You never had a close friend, never brought anyone over to the house. I tried so hard to make everything perfect for you…for your sisters. I thought I could stomp it out--”“You saw it in me? You saw it? I can’t believe you’re saying this! I just can’t. I asked you for help! I told you what was happening to me, and you acted like you didn’t believe me! You acted like I was lying!”“I wanted you to fight it, beat it back! You only have yourself! You’re the only one that can make it stop! Not pills or doctors or anything else! You have to make the decision not to listen! How could I expect you to fight if I coddled you, if I gave it credence? If I treated it like it was real?”“You’re nuts!”“Am I? Two years ago, you were dragged out of here, screaming and crying. You attacked him! You attacked someone who was trying to help you, and they threw you in the loony bin, didn’t they? Did it make you better? Did all the talking to doctors and pills and whatever the hell else they did to you make you better? You could barely function…but now look at you…Dean’s list…first year of college down. Who did that for you? Who saved you? Was it the doctors at Woodhaven that you ran away from? Answer!”Chloe didn’t. She bit her lip. It was all she could do to keep from screaming.“You did it, child! You did it! You made the decision to stop all the crap. You are the only one that can save yourself.”“What do you think? That I woke up one morning and decided I wasn’t going to hear voices anymore? You think that’s how this works? You’re mental. I am not okay. I will never be okay. There will never come a day where I don’t have to worry that everything I’ve accomplished will be lost--”“Welcome to life,” Debra laughed. She swirled her drink and tossed it back.
* * *
I know how much you like hearing the words ‘you were right’, so here you go: YOU WERE RIGHT! I don’t know what the point of coming home was. I’m starting to think that between me and my mom, I’m the saner one…so that’s good.
Maybe by the time you get back to the college and can actually read this, I’ll be back in ‘da U.P.’-- I think I’m going through pastie withdrawal.
I hope you’re having a great time! (no, I don’t really. I kind of hope you’re absolutely miserable and missing me at least half as much as I’m missing you.) What I was trying to ask you before we got cut off was, when are you coming home??? I know you said you might be able to switch your ticket because the flight coming back on the 14th wasn’t full yet, but you never told me if you got it or not. Please let me know ASAP. I want to meet you at the airport.
I miss you.
But then again, don’t feel like you need to rush home or anything. I’m doing very well. Nothing strange, I promise. I had a good time at Sams’, and we already got our room assignments for next semester…fourth floor (I’m going to have outrageous glutes by Christmas, just watch.).
I love you,
Chloe clicked the button and waited until she saw the confirmatory ‘your message has been sent’, before shutting the computer down. The blue glow of the shut-down screen bathed her mother’s personal office in an eerie light. Only one framed photo sat on the desk. It was of her mother and sisters, Sara and Lisa, striking a formal pose in front of a cloth backdrop of a fireplace.It made her angry all over again. Like she didn’t exist! Out of sight, out of mind. She wanted to pick it up and hurl it. Maybe just to make sure that she was real, that she could change things. Maybe she was just a ghost, haunting a place she couldn’t leave because of the pain that tied her to it…like George.But that was how insane people thought.Chloe rubbed her hands over the polished surface of the desk, waiting for the screen to go black, so she could open the door and creep out unnoticed.Her mother was a strange one. What was with the drinking anyway? Was she cracking up in the house all by herself? What did she have, now that all of her girls had gone off and left her?Chloe’s finger rubbed against a tiny crack in the perfect veneer of Debra Adam’s desk. She traced it absentmindedly, while the screen finally blinked and went black.Was she lonely? Did she have regrets? Did she think about her dead husband ever? Did she wake up at night, alone, and miss him? The woman was such a perfectionist, so obsessed with making everything on the outside look absolutely beautiful. Chloe could remember being a little girl and watching her mother frost sugar cookies… each pumpkin, with its orange frosted body and green stem, each having the same black-lined jack-o-lantern grin. They were so lovely, and to a small child, they all looked the same, but not to her mother. She would stop sometimes, stare at a cookie, and then toss it into the trash.Chloe never said anything, but her mother would answer the question anyhow: Its eye was lopsided. It was too brown. The mouth was smudged. Pay attention, Chloe! If you’re going to put in the effort, make sure you do it right. If people know you’re trying, and they see a mistake, they’ll think you can’t do any better. It made Chloe wonder if the cookies Debra brought to the bake sale were really to help the school, or to make her feel superior to the other moms.Somewhat ironic that a woman who had been so obsessed with perfection, would sit at a desk, day after day, and never notice the tiny little flaws right under her own nose. Chloe could feel where the small scratch branched …and then branched again…and again…like the letter E.She folded her hands and drew a deep breath.Slowly, she leaned forward and snapped on the gooseneck lamp that sat at the edge of the desk. In its warming glow, the surface of the desk looked like a sheet of dark ice. Chloe ran her hand over the top again, stopping when she thought she felt something.She bent the neck of the lamp, bringing the light down so that it almost touched the wood. It was there…barely. She traced it again with her finger to make sure. It was underneath a coat of varnish so that she couldn’t quite see it, but could still feel it. The one word she couldn‘t escape…H…E…L…P…“I will,” she whispered to a room that suddenly felt full of ghosts, “God help me, I will.”
About the Author
Kristen Selleck is avidly evil. Until recently, she worked as a mad scientist. After several diabolical attempts at world domination proved unsuccessful (most notably, building an army of robots from used pipettes, empty reagent boxes, and other things left lying around the lab), she decided to pick up the pen. She used the pen to poke an annoying lady at the gas station in the eyeball. Then she decided to write.
She has been known to speak with a strong Russian accent. This is inexplicable due to the fact that she was born in Detroit. It has also been documented that she likes vodka, roller coasters, things which are purple, and blowing things up with dry ice. She abhors kittens, wood paneling popularized in the 1970's, and her arch-nemesis Jimmy (the Evil Overlord of Specimen Processing). She was last known to reside in Grand Rapids, and may be in the company of two evil apprentices, and her devoted henchman, Shad. If seen, please contact the FBI immediately (she owes someone in Accounting a sandwich).