Authors: Rochelle Maya Callen
ROCHELLE MAYA CALLEN
Copyright © 2014 Rochelle Maya Callen and C&C Legacy Publishing
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
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Visit the author’s website at www.rochellemayacallen.com.
Book Cover Design by Damonza.com
Inkstain Interior Book Designing
Editing by Becky Johnson
For my husband, Jese—
who loves and believes in me.
Thank you for keeping me smiling.
Jade’s mother, Lilith
, gazed into the looking glass with one raised eyebrow. She lifted her fingertips to her lips, and…
She watched as her daughter yanked the life out of one of her Greater Demons, as if she was yanking strings off a puppet.
Powerful, yes. Lilith
’s icy eyes twinkled. Her daughter was powerful. She smiled even as her daughter collapsed into a pathetic mess over the dead human boy, even as Jade cried—a disgustingly human ability.
Compassion could be snuffed out.
Dejanira had not risen, but Jade was still a kaleidoscope of opposing pieces, a precarious balance—a balance that could so easily be tipped to Lilith’s favor. Dejanira was still lurking in the shadows of Jade’s soul. The side of Lilith’s perfectly red mouth slowly crept up into a calculated, evil smirk. Jade would join them, especially when she knew what the angels had planned for her. Yes, she would come home.
Lilith closed her eyes and listened to the old man screaming behind her. Screaming was a lullaby, a sweet caress of pain. She turned around to see Lynx halfway frozen in the very same lake that Jade had been imprisoned in for years
. It was the same lake that Lynx had saved her from. There was no one to save him now. Her giggle was a sweet, girlish sound that echoed eerily and treacherously alongside the screams.
Well, well, Lynx... it is time we had a little talk.” Lilith reached her palm forward, feeling the poison writhe within her, and seeking release. Her palm faced Lynx’s direction. The poison and power felt delicious within her, but for Lynx, she felt an amused glee rise up within her.
’t revealed the secrets yet, but he would. Her fingers curled into a fist; she felt the power shoot forward and meld to his form, meld to the very essence of his being, and she saw the old man contort in agony.
She laughed as she heard his bones breaking.
is eyes were
blank, all the gold drained out of them. Slashed and bloody.
Cold and dead.
I was screaming his name, clutching at his shirt and crying. How could I have lost him? My Connor
; my light-filled man.
I brought him into my world of blood and darkness
—into my Hell.
I was being hauled away. Scrambling, I held
tightly onto his shirt. So tight. I wouldn’t let go. I wouldn’t leave him.
No!” I screamed at the person dragging me away. “No! I can’t leave him! I promised!”
Just then, my fingers lost hold; his t-shirt fell out of my grasp
, and the distance between us grew.
wracked my body in spasms, but the arms around me didn’t let go.
That is when he moved.
I stilled, staring.
’s bloody face turned towards me, his eyes accusing and sterile. Four words were all it took to unravel me. Four words stole my breath away.
In his familiar southern drawl, he said,
“Monsters don’t keep promises.”
Heat boiled around me. I felt trapped and burning.
My eyes fluttered open. Gasping, I jerked upright, surprised to see stars and sky around me, and surprised to see two cobalt blue eyes watching me in the dark. He didn’t make a move towards me. He sat just beyond the fire, his eyes steady on my own.
I—I had a bad dream.” The same bad dream that I had dreamt for the past six nights since we had left Connor in that hospital bed alone. Six nights since we took to the wilderness in our march north. Six nights since we set out to find Hell.
I could see that.”
I stared at him.
“How? How did you...” I wiped at my face, feeling gritty ash beneath my fingertips. My cheeks were wet with my tears. They always surprised me.
I doubt people who have good dreams cry in their sleep.” His voice was measured, even— coiled tight. Giovanni was all control and harsh lines. His eyes were flecked with annoyance.
I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sure you can’t sleep with me being so…emotional.”
He let out a loud, frustrated sigh.
“I don’t sleep,” he said. “So your tears are irrelevant in that regard. They are, however, disconcerting.”
I shifted under his heavy gaze.
I told you, we have to find Lynx and then go to the Seraphim for help. They will not help us,” his words slowed, contemplative, “if you are weak.”
Rage roared inside me.
“I’m not weak! Tears don’t make someone weak.”
They don’t make you strong.”
They make you real,” I bit back, somehow defensive of my sacred tears. I had watched with longing as others could cry before, how others had eyes like clouds that could weep rain. Now, I could; now, I felt real right down to the bone—right down to my beating heart —and I would not be made to feel less for it, not even by this massive man—no, this Angel--and his unwavering gaze.
The flames reached upward. I saw a muscle tick
in Giovanni’s jaw. “Real?” he growled in the darkness. The flames reached for him, and changed from crimsons and oranges into a florescent blue. In a flash, Giovanni lunged into me, knocking me back against the ground. A startled breath escaped me as I fell back. His arms caged around me as he loomed. His heat was even more unbearable, like steam scorching my cheeks. “Do you see tears in these eyes?” he said through clenched teeth, his breath hot on my cheek. I shook my head. “But I am real. Aren’t I?”
’t answer. I was stunned into an unsettled silence. Giovanni wasn’t touching me, but he hadn’t come within arm’s length of me since we had left the hospital. He kept a distance, and yet, in front of me was a body of corded muscles on all fours like an animal hanging over me.
Aren’t I?” I could feel the rumble in him, like a beast about to be unleashed.
Yes,” I whispered. “Yes, you are real.” I didn’t like the quiver in my voice.
He retreated to his spot on the other side of the campfire as quickly as he had left it.
“It doesn’t take human tears to be real. You’ll find that out soon enough.”
He cocked his head to the side as he sat down.
“When creatures who have never cried in their lives strip the skin off you, you will in no way believe that they are imaginary. Devils come in all sorts of forms...and not one of them cries.”
Of course, devils wouldn’t cry. They are incapable of remorse, of pity, or of compassion,” I said. “What about everything else?”
’s eyes narrowed. “Everything else?”
What about angels? What about the good guys?”
Giovanni stared past me.
“We don’t cry.”
Crying is human. And we aren’t human.”
I stared at him. He looked human. Broad shoulders, pale skin,
and a stubbly strong jaw. A tangle of black hair fell over piercing blue eyes.
He looked like a weapon polished for wars. There was no doubt about him. Rigid and unmoving, his stillness,
and the very intensity of him put me on edge.
Changing the subject, I went back to something he mentioned.
“You don’t sleep?”
I stared at him.
“Angels have no need for sleep. We are rejuvenated by the sun; it feeds our life force. We are at our strongest when we are under its rays.”
I looked away from him and into the fire. The crackle and popping accentuated my tired, confused thoughts. I felt sleep nag at me again, but I didn
’t want more nightmares.
What were you dreaming?” I glanced up at him. The question came out in a disjointed way—as if he had practiced the question in his head, as if he didn’t know what curiosity sounded like and was trying it out.
’t close my eyes. My heartbeat quickened rhythm. I thought of Connor’s damaged, dead body. I thought of the words he spoke, the truth he told, and his accusation.
I dreamt I was a monster,” I said quietly, letting my words settle into the wood’s silence.
’s eyes stayed on me, and then drifted down to look at the brand on my skin. It was alight with a faint amber glow. I winced and pulled my sleeve down. The tattoo was my mark, my mark to suppress the demon inside me. Every time it glowed, it was a reminder that she was still aching to be unleashed... still there waiting. I swallowed and looked into Giovanni’s eyes. He was all fire and shadows. He only said two words, but those two words gouged a hole in me and forced me down onto the wet leaves, my back to him, tears prickling.
He had said,
And I knew he was right.
y body ached
as if I had been ripped apart and left for dead.
Oh wait, I had been.
I first woke up in the hospital room panicked and screaming Jade’s name. The doctors immediately restrained me and gave me a sedative, and just as I was pulled into unconsciousness, I saw my mother’s blotchy red face, wet with tears.
’t wake up screaming again.
When I woke up again two days later,
Mom was praying by my bed, whispering in sloppy, choked breaths. She looked so vulnerable and broken. Here wasn’t the woman who cried into pillows in her room in an attempt not to let anyone hear her after Dad died; this was a woman who knelt beside hospital beds and wept openly, as if there was nothing and no reason to hold back. I tried to say her name, but my throat was too raw for sound. I inched my fingers across the blanket and twined my pinky with hers. The feeling jolted me back to when I was six and we would make pinky promises on the front porch. She kept her head down and squeezed my fingers tightly. For a moment, she sat like that, but then in a rush of realization, her head snapped up. My eyes went wide at the sight of her and I wondered how long I had been strapped to the hospital bed; my mom’s face was worn and desperate. I wondered how it was possible to age so quickly. She gasped in a breath and pulled me to her, her fingers curling into my hair, squeezing me so tightly, I felt I might suffocate. As I about to tell her it hurt, her sobs shook through her body like an earthquake and her tears were slick on my neck. Instead, I didn’t say anything. I simply winced as I lifted up my arms and wrapped them around her.
That seemed years ago. I stretched and turned onto my side. The hospital bed had been comfortable
—cushioned, fluffed and clean, but it hadn’t been mine. Last night was my first night in my bed, in my house. I propped myself up onto my elbows. I ached, but I didn’t feel real pain. A week ago, my neck and limbs had nearly been severed off, and this week, I felt sore. The world could not get much weirder.
I rolled my eyes at that thought. Of course
, it could. I sat up straight and looked around my room. It had been stripped of so many things... down to my shoelaces. Suicide watch. That is what the psychiatrist told Mom. He had said that I was in a delicate mental state and that they should be extra vigilant about making sure I stayed safe. No one believed that I didn’t make the cuts on myself.
The assumption was that Jade had broken my heart and in some angsty-Romeo style decision, I
decided to slit my wrists and throat. They didn’t know I had nearly been beheaded... the wounds had healed too much before I had even gotten to the hospital for that apparently. Dr. Trist, the psychiatrist who attended me, who I named Dr. Combover in true Jade-style, told me that there was more to live for, that I was young, that a break up...
His babble made me sick
. Apparently, so did the sedatives; in one terrible yet satisfying event, I vomited all over his white coat. He didn’t come back to talk to me, but I could see him outside my room window talking to my mom, her jaw clenched tightly and her eyes growing more tired.
It almost felt like when
Dad died... the whole household walking on eggshells, afraid of stepping wrong and breaking something. But with Dad, he was gone. Yet with me, I was right here.
I traced the scars with my fingertips. Raised skin felt ragged under my touch, but the marks were thin lines now, even less pronounced than just a couple of days ago. I didn
’t know what happened between the time I dropped the memory into the lake and I woke up in the hospital. All I knew was that I was alive when I should have been dead, and Jade was gone.
Jade is gone.
the first few days, I agonized over it. That was probably why the doctor felt so strongly that I was lovesick and heartbroken. I couldn’t tell him the girl I was in love with, nearly transformed into a demon, a demon had tried to kill me. I would have been committed to a psych ward.
But then, as I fell deeper into the grief, I recognized it. Recognized it as clear as a tombstone on green grass. I was mourning
Jade as if she was dead, not just gone. At that precise moment, I yanked myself out of that dark place—a place I knew too well after Dad died—a place Jade hauled me out of.
I told myself. She just needed to be found. And I would find her.
That thought dragged me out of bed. I tugged on my
shoelace-less sneakers and walked down the stairs, ready to see plastered-on smiles, sympathetic expressions, and soft probing voices. I hated it, but I knew I wasn’t the only one worried, the only one fiddling with a nervous anxiety of what would happen next.
Each stair creaked announcing my descent and I heard the whispers in the kitchen stop and wait.