Prologue

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You are powerful. You are chosen. You are loved. You are never alone.

His body was heavy against the doorframe, eyes blinking rapidly to adjust to the darkness of the nursery where his young wife rocked their new baby back to sleep. The little girl was a bundle of pink skin in pink blankets, cooing along with her mother's lullaby. She had his amber eyes and her mother's pinched nose. A slow yawn morphed into a smile as Emma's sweet singing floated into his ears, punctuated by the slow creak of the antique chair moving in rhythm against the wood floor. Fatigue retreated, pushed aside by a contented sigh and the sweet talcum scent in the air. Baby powder ... and something else. Something that didn't fit. Ash. The familiar hint of coal burned his nostrils, muscles conditioned years before tensed. Bare feet moved quickly, silently, across the pine planks. He peeked behind the floral curtains out onto the yard. The faint light of the sun emerging over the eastern horizon revealed a shadow that prowled across the manicured lawn before it disappeared into the neighboring tree line. A shiver crept up his back and down his arms.

"What is it?" Emma looked up with concern.

Garrett turned to her for a moment. The words stopped in his throat and he couldn't will them out; he paused, letting his eyes look back out into the slowly breaking day. "They're watching her." The words tasted sour in his mouth and he wanted to swallow them back down, away from her.

"What could they want with her?" Emma clutched the baby tighter to her chest.

"We knew this was a possibility ... the prophecy."

"Claire is the chosen one. The guardians are sure of it," Emma spit out, the sudden outburst making the child in her arms squirm briefly before settling back to a peaceful sleep. "She wasn't supposed to be a part of this." Her voice returned to a desperate whisper.

"I know. But what if the guardians were wrong? What if it's not Claire? This is in her blood." He felt his face grow warm.

"I won't sacrifice my daughter." Emma adjusted the soft pink fabric a little tighter around the baby.

"We may not have a choice." Garrett rubbed a calloused hand through his dark hair, shoulders lowering with a defeated sigh as he made his way over to his wife and daughter. The wood floor in front of the rocking chair was cold and hard against his knees. His fingers gently traced the outline of Zoe's sweet face and small nose before he placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

"There is always a choice." Emma looked him in the eye.

"Can we change her destiny?" Tears fell down his cheeks and dripped from his chin onto shaking hands.

Emma reached out a hand to wipe them away, letting it come to rest on his neck. "We have to try." Her own tear traced the contour of her face and she leaned her head to rest against his as the two encircled the infant between them. "We have to protect her from this." 

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