This Fury Won’t Fade – Teaser!

CHAPTER ONE

 

Silence suffocates these walls.

Before TEN, smiles and laughter, maybe the occasional tear were the heartbeat and breath keeping the college alive. Now that soul is gone, replaced with animal droppings and swooping spider webs it seems even the spiders have evacuated, leaving their homes to hang lifeless from corners, strung carelessly across doorways.

We’ve taken refuge in some sort of emergency bunker built beneath a school. A real one. Not the fake kind I grew up in. They didn’t kill you on graduation day here.

Being alone makes it easier. The quiet provides a thin blanket of ease that’s just enough to keep me from breaking. I haven’t been able to face them yet, the other confiscated youth. My mom, the girls, and Charles should be back soon. I’d like to see them, but what would I say? To the girls, that they’re father won’t ever come home. That it’s my fault he’s dead. To Charles, that his son has been taken captive by the Commander General of the NTA himself? That I don’t know if he’s alright. An aching spreads through my chest, reverberates out to my limbs. Eyes burning, I clutch at a window sill with shaking fingers to try and steady myself.

My shoulder twinges with phantom pain. The bullet wound has completely healed. There isn’t even a real mark to prove it was ever there, just a tiny spec of scar tissue, and even that seems to be fading. I wish it hurt, truly hurt. At least it would be a distraction from all the other awful things.

Someone’s behind me. I have the presence of mind to tense, hand moving to my gun. But then, I let it fall, recognizing the heavy footfalls. “They’re back.”

How he has the audacity to sound excited, I’ll never understand. “Go away, Ace.”

He sighs, doesn’t move. “It’s Dianna. She –they had her at the rebel camp. She was taken prisoner, but when–”

“What?”

A thousand thoughts are racing through my adrenaline addled brain. Dianna was there. She was a prisoner there and we set off a bomb at the encampment. No. No. I couldn’t take it if anyone else died.

I can’t lose anyone else.

“Whoa, no, no, no. Shit, Jo, come here,” he whispers as if facing a rabid dog, inches himself closer to me until he can take my hand, smiles, “She’s alright. In the chaos after the explosion, she escaped. She followed the NTA to The Inn. Found your mom and the girls making a run for it. She’s downsta—”

I’ve never moved so fast in my life.

I’ve flown down all three flights of stairs inside of fifteen seconds, nearly ripping the door off its hinges in my haste once I hit the underground level. Fifty sets of eyes fix their sights on me. They’re heat seeking missiles and I’m on fire. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what they think of me, the girl who lost her mind in the heat of battle. The one whose nightmare-induced screams keep them up at night. The only pair of eyes I care to see, that I need to see, are hers. “Dianna?” My voice is a contorted thing, strangled.

She emerges, Charles in tow behind her. The mix of emotions I feel are mirrored on her soot-streaked face. Hope, pain, sadness, and an ocean of relief.

“Hey, Jo.” She says, a half-smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. I run to her, bury myself in the bones of her shoulder. She rubs soothing circles into my back and lets me cry.

“It isn’t your fault.” She whispers into my ear. “None of it is your fault.”

But it is. All of it.

~*~

 

When I enter the little room off the main hallway, I know it’s time and my body stiffens, jaw tightening. Now that Roman is gone, the whole idea of a tactical meeting seems wrong. My mom is busy setting up a health unit where she can screen everyone for TEN on entry to the building, and Logan isn’t back yet, so it’s just Ace, Liam, Chris and Doug, and Dianna and Charles, among a couple others I don’t yet know by name.

Eight people to convince. And I must convince them.

“I’m going after him,” I say in a hushed voice, taking a solid stance across the room from Ace, who sits in a lumpy armchair in the corner.

“No.” Ace says.

Dianna stands, leaving Charles to look bereft on the sofa, and lays a hand on my shoulder, “You mean well Jo—I know that—but it’s not safe.”

“Safe?” I hiss, not at Dianna, but at the very idea of what she’s implying. “What is safe? Do you think it’s any safer here? Nowhere is safe.” Turning my attention back to Ace, I close the distance between us in three steps, “They’ll kill him Ace.”

“She’s right. And you know he would come for us if the situation were reversed,” Liam pipes up, “I’ll go with her. I intercepted a transmission last night. I know where they have him.”

My heart is a hammer driving nails through my lungs. Liam knows where he is. I could kiss him. I could kill him for not telling me sooner.

There are shadows in Ace’s eyes, and an exhaustion in the set of his shoulders. I can see the weight of his newly inherited position taking its toll. “You’re right, he would have come for any of us. But do you think he’d want us risking our lives to save his? Would you want him to do the same?” He sighs, dragging himself upright, “What we need to do is gather supplies. We have a newborn infant here and not enough formula to last long. We gotta post a watch schedule. Erica is on the roof right now, alone. Jax is on guard, alone. And we need to help Amy get her lab set up. If anyone gets sick right now, she doesn’t have the shit she needs to treat them. We were only able to salvage so much. We can’t organize a rescue mission right now.”

At the mention of my mother’s name, a fistful of guilt is crammed down my throat, left to fester in my stomach. I won’t soon forget the look on her face when I ran to Dianna, and almost immediately forgot she was right there. Standing off to one side, looking like someone scooped her heart out with a soup ladle.

I was glad to see her, that she was alright, but in that moment I needed my best friend, the only true one I’ve had for years. But if my mom hadn’t made it back, I—well, I don’t know what it would’ve done to me. The idea of losing her, after only just finding her, makes my chest hurt. In that moment, I resolved to make things better between us. She may not understand me, and I may not understand her, or the choices she’s made, but things like that don’t matter anymore. They can’t. I should be grateful for the fact that I still have a mother at all. The child born on the eve of the raid at The Inn will never meet her mother.

“He’s right, we need all available hands on deck here right now,” Charles says and the lack of emotion on his face as he condemns his son to torture is the spark that lights the gasoline in my veins.

“He’s your son!” I shout, backhanding a wooden chair to the floor. It clatters against the concrete and swallows all other sound from the room. “Don’t touch me.” I tell Dianna as she attempts to comfort me, “He’s your son too. Are you just going to leave him there?” My eyes are filling with hot tears and I’m powerless to stop the trembling in my limbs, “They’ll torture him, Dianna.” And then I allow myself to say aloud the one thing I’ve managed to stop myself from thinking, “They might have tortured him already.”

She has no reply, but I can see the pain I’ve caused her in the narrowing of her eyes, and the way her chin quivers.

“You’re all cowards,” I say. I know it isn’t fair, and it isn’t entirely true. But right now, I don’t care.

“Not all of us can heal a bullet wound in a couple hours, Jo.” Ace says.

Charles is immediately on his feet, “Is that true?” he asks me. “Has it accelerated that much?”

When I don’t answer, he begins to pace, “We’ll have to run tests. I’ll need some blood samples. If you could allow—“

“That’s hardly a priority right now Charles,” Dianna says.

I’m beyond words. Beyond reasoning. And they must know, they have to know even without their permission, I will go after him.

Like he came for me.

Liam turns his attention to Ace, “We have Dunne. If I can get within range of their closest two-way signal, we can see if the Commander is willing to trade.”

“Ethan for Dunne.” I whisper, mostly to myself. It could work. My lips spread into the ghost of a smile. The first I’ve had in days. “Ace?”

Ace nods, pursing his lips together as he considers the approach, “Ok. But I’ll be honest, I think Ethan is more valuable to them than Dunne is to us. And even if they did agree, how are we supposed to know they’ll make good on their word?”

“Is that a yes, then?” I ask, a little too much fire in my words, and I’m left wondering what happened to our easy conversations, our inside jokes? Will we ever be whole again, or is this what we’re left with… clipped voices, and war-hardened faces, with ghosts in our eyes.

“Yes, but I got one condition.”

“Name it.”

He doesn’t speak until he’s able to securely latch his eyes onto mine, “If this doesn’t work… you have to swear to me you won’t go after him.”

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The Undertaker’s Daughter – THE FIRST FIVE

From Hell’s portal to a Lambeth basement, 1848

Cruel spikes dug into the tender flesh of his wrists, shooting a wildfire of agony through his veins and dragging him back to consciousness. A signature pain letting him know that blood magick was being used to restrain him. Acrid brimstone and harsh smoke assaulted his nostrils and battered the delicate lining of his lungs, making each breath an effort of will.

His eyelids were caked with thick mucous and he had to fight to crack them open. Smoke enveloped him, swirling in a black mass around him like the souls of a thousand sinners had been released to hound him. He stared deeper into the inkiness to see the faint glowing red of the underworld below him.

He could feel his arms outstretched above him, constricted by a thin crimson band knotted around his wrists that bound him and kept him dangling. Below his feet lay an infernal abyss of lava-like intensity. Hot air blasted away some of the cloying smoke, allowing him to see the brimstone and terrifying flames below.

His body flailed in the air, striving for release.

His consciousness reached out, seeking his brother-in-arms. Zadkiel.

A wash of violet light filled his consciousness. Here, brother.

I’ve been ambushed by Abaddon. Yes, that was what happened, he forced his mind through a labyrinth of memory that was nothing but a jumbled sequence of events.

Catching sight of the sharp-toothed, slimy-scaled demonic being stealing the Book of the Living Dead.

Grabbing his sword to dive headlong after the demon’s heels as it fled the celestial realms.

Plummeting downwards, tumbling and rolling to land, not in the expected domain of the underworld, but amongst a group of pitiful hovels.

Sprawling facedown on a cobbled street strewn with screaming, writhing human bodies spasming in death throes, with shriveled skin and sunken eye sockets in faces blue with oxygen deprivation.

Trying to ease their suffering had pried his attention away from the quarry he hunted. In those seconds a red haze ensnared him, covering him from top to toe, trapping his senses like a fish caught in a net. Now here he was above the bowels of hell, shackled by blood magick.

I was chasing the book. He sent the thought to Zadkiel.

You have it? Eagerness inflected the words.

He forced his eyes open past the thick crusting of mucous. Red-rimmed smoke covered him in darkness. He blinked several times trying to adjust his eyes to the shadows. No.

Do whatever you can to guard that book and return it to its rightful place.

I will.

Whatever it takes. The emphasis of the words flooded his consciousness with their importance. But take care you don’t lose your own salvation.

Tingling warmth reached out to him, sheathing him in Zadkiel’s purple glow as heat etched black letters across his chest. Take this gift from the Book of the Living Dead to remind you where to find your own salvation, should you fall prey to Abaddon and all else fails you.

His awareness of Zadkiel faded under the cloud of his own mental anguish. He lashed out at himself for his carelessness, struggling against his bonds. Leaping single-handedly after the demon without activating reinforcements had been rash. Now, there would be a price to pay.

From the enflamed smoky shadows below him, a figure glided upwards, like a huge serpent. It was enormous, it’s head raised from the thick coils of its body below until the face was only inches away from his own face, the forked tongue slithering between a lipless mouth.

Abruptly the fires of hell vanished, to be replaced by four stone walls, dripping with mildew and moisture and exuding a pall of stale, damp air. He sucked in the dampness to ease the pain of his burning lungs. He looked up to see his bound wrists were dangling from one of the heavy beams that crossed the basement ceiling. The stench of rotting damp mixed with the odor of rat excrement and unwashed humanity made him realize he was no longer in the celestial realms but tied to the physical world.

His vision adjusted, pulled back to human limitations and, instead of the hissing serpent, he saw before him a man dressed in a black frockcoat, wearing a top hat and twirling a cane between his fingertips. He looked exactly like a London toff except for his eyes. They were deeply hooded, sunk cavernously deep and glowed with a feral ruby glint.

The smell he exuded was even worse than the damp and rat excrement, it was like burned and rotting flesh that clung to him in a noxious haze.

“Abaddon!” The word erupted on a visceral growl.

“What do you think of my ingenuity, Sinclair? A cholera epidemic to scourge the streets of Lambeth. Thousands are dying. Too many to bury properly. So many unshriven souls, perfect for my plucking.” He uttered a nasty laugh, little more than a vicious snicker.

Sinclair struggled, flailing wildly, his wings beating strong to lift him in the air up to the ceiling. But it was useless for the blood magick that bound his hands was solid and fierce and unrelenting. This was not the blood of an animal, it had to be the blood from a human. An innocent. Only such a source would provide magick strong enough to bind a being of light.

He brought his body back down to dangle from his wrists, while his wings continued to beat, creating a backdraft that knocked the hat from Abaddon’s head and blew his coattails straight back. The wind did not sway the man in black, only his clothes.

“Enough,” Abaddon snarled. “You rely on those wings far too much. Let’s see how you handle not having them.” He signaled behind him and gliding forth came a ghost, its soul so blackened with perfidy that it could hardly be distinguished against the dark walls of the cavern. It hugged in its arms a sleeping infant which it held out to Abaddon.

Abaddon grasped the baby, cradling it in the crook of one arm.  Flipping his cane with the other hand the spring-loaded tip revealed a deadly blade.

Sinclair gnashed his teeth with frustration. Horror and fear battled within him. Using his wings as leverage, he bucked his body, trying to wrench his wrists from the thin red thread that bound them. Pain continued to lance through him, but he ignored it.

Abaddon raised the tip of the blade to the sleeping infant’s neck.

“Stop!” Sinclair’s voice sounded raw and hoarse within the basement confines, as though maybe it had been worn away by screams he could not remember. “Stay your hand, Abaddon! I will do your bidding without more blood magick.” The words cost him enormously to bow his will to that of his foe, the black-hearted demon, the fallen angel who was Zadkiel’s enemy and therefore his own. But he would not have the blood of more innocents on his hands.

Abaddon laughed. The laugh started softly and then built until it was a great belly-shaking roar that woke the baby. Its frightened wails echoed throughout the room. Then, so swiftly his actions were little more than a blur, Abaddon slit the infant’s throat and as the blood welled up, he replaced the cane with a sword that the ghost beside him provided.

Pearl-handled with a wickedly long silver blade, it was a beauty. The metal sang silently to Sinclair, vibrating in the very depths of his being. It was his very own sword!

Grasping the hilt, Abaddon dipped the sword tip into the baby’s blood and then shifted closer to Sinclair.

Sinclair used his wings to support his body as he lunged out, swinging his legs to strike at Abaddon, who stayed just outside his range, skirting around behind him. Sinclair changed the thrust of his body to kick backwards, feeling satisfaction as his booted foot struck home against Abaddon’s chest.

“Ingrate!” As the word howled across his lips, a searing pain sliced through Sinclair’s shoulder blades.

His mouth wrenched open in a scream so intense it reverberated around the stone walls. Brutal pain speared from his back, saturating his body, making his limbs jerk and tremble uncontrollably. His vision blurred, before darkening entirely, his consciousness lost in an incoherent buzzing.

Gasping, he forced his eyes open, looking downwards to see his severed wings heaped below his feet. Pristine, snow white feathers wallowed in the excrement lining the floor.  Benumbed with horror, he watched as the feathers browned at the tips, curling in on themselves.

Abaddon had hacked his wings with his own sword, using the power of the blood magick he had ripped from the innocent baby, leaving nothing but ragged stubs between his shoulder blades.

Sinclair’s back muscles twitched and knitted, as drops of blood trickled down his spine. A sharp point nicked against his skin, scraping upwards to soak the blood onto the edge of his own sword. As he felt the fight go out of him, his chest warmed and tingled beneath his shirt almost as though Zadkiel was reaching out to him. Don’t lose your salvation.

He gritted his teeth, clamping down on the sobs that pooled in his mouth.

When Abaddon reappeared in front of him, his eyes glowed redly with blood lust and satisfaction. He flung the baby to the floor, where it landed cocooned in his dying feathers, curling inwards around its soft skin, paling from healthy pink to alabaster white.

The black ghost glided up beside Abaddon, who still held Sinclair’s sword in his hand, its edge dripping with blood mixed from the innocent and his own sanguine fluid.

“You think losing your wings is the worst I can do to you?”

Panic now crawled up his skin, prickling his eyes where sweat clung and dripped from his forehead. Without his wings he would be trapped on this earthly plane with no powers!

With the ghost hovering beside him, Abaddon raised the sword, placing its blood-soaked tip against Sinclair’s face. Without warning, the blade slashed downwards.

Screams ripped from his throat as cold metal dug into his flesh. Slicing his face, cutting deeper in a jagged line through his neck, grating against his collarbone, biting through his chest until finally the blade struck his hipbone.

He could feel his flesh peeling away from his body, hanging open, only held in place because his bound hands stretched above his head, preventing the loose flesh from slipping to the floor.

His organs were still contained by his ribcage. He could hear his heart pumping and feel the blood pounding as it pulsed through his exposed veins. His sinews stretched under the peeled skin.

He felt his soul leaching outwards through his torn flesh. From the corner of his eye he could see the golden shimmer of his angelic being leaking upwards.

“Now!” Abaddon barked the order and the dark ghost floated forwards, its shape hollowing as it seemed to suck inwards.

The golden shimmer was pulled strongly forward into the hollow, like a cobweb blown by the wind. Appalled, Sinclair watched as the dark shade swallowed his own luminosity. The ghost’s blackness was shot through with golden glimmers.

“Your angelic brothers will now believe you have crossed over to the dark realms, for that is all your soul will reveal when they reach out to you.”

Marked by Time – THE FIRST FIVE

Prologue

I stared at the wall before me and took a brief moment to catch my breath. I was drenched in sweat and my body begged me to just stop moving. I didn’t listen. I wouldn’t. I was addicted to the rush of adrenaline surging through my veins, addicted to the anticipation of the fight. I thought my daily run was energizing. This made it look like I had been lounging on my sofa eating junk food instead of exercising for the last hour.

“Let’s go, Sky!”

 

 

I smiled, keeping my expression hidden from my training partner, before having to take a quick side step.

“Getting frustrated?” I made the mistake of letting a gasp come out in my taunt.

“Getting tired? Come on, Sky, your human’s showing.”

I used the wind to leap at least ten feet into the air to avoid his next blow. I turned to face him when I landed. He had moved the targets off to the side and was slightly crouched. I smiled and got into a similar stance. My muscles ached, but my blood hummed.

 I came alive.

 

“Not even close!” I shouted back. “Bring it on,” I said to myself more than him. He smirked slightly and I shivered in anticipation of the onslaught I was about to receive. He moved forward, more fluid than water and more aggressive than fire.

The dance began.

 

CHAPTER 1

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” My books were scattered all over the floor and the front of my jacket was covered in mud. A group of nearby students laughed as I piled everything in my arms and took off, the voices shouting my name all the motivation I needed to dart back into the covered hallway and keep running.

 

 

All I wanted was to get home without having to deal with them, but the second I got out of Spanish class, they were on me like a pack of wolves. I kept running, my hair coming free from its easy ponytail and my shoes trying to find traction on the slippery tile until I made it out to the grassy patch that connected the two buildings of my high school.

After having hidden in my house for the past three weeks during winter break, actively avoiding Camille’s and Melanie’s attempts at contact, they weren’t going to make getting home easy. I started weaving between people and slipping around corners as I made my way to the second building. I skidded through the doors and was almost trampled by the eager students who were leaving, having to juggle the books in my arms so they wouldn’t fall again. Behind me, the girls were facing the same issue as they tried to catch up.

“Skyler! Sky!” The high-frequency voices rose above the chaos that was the hallway of my bleak high school. They bounced off the white walls and ricocheted off the green, metal lockers that lined the sides. I kept running in the opposite direction, hoping they would stop shouting my name for the world to hear and that I could make it to the bathroom without getting caught.

 

“Sky!” The voice was coated in sugar, disguising its malicious nature.

“Skyler!” The second was whinier, but I expected as much.

The hallway quieted just a bit, and the two voices screeched my name loud enough for the entire hallway to go silent and part so I was in the line of sight of Camille and Melanie. I tried to follow the crowd, but it was too late. They saw me. I sighed and plastered on a smile sweeter than a piña colada. My cheeks hurt and I hoped my smile didn’t look like a grimace. Please, please, please don’t bother me. I’m almost home.

 

I straightened my back and slowed to a fast walk, my squeaky shoes marking my path. Behind me, I heard two pairs of heels frantically trying to catch up as the crowd of happy teenagers collapsed into the aisle they made and continued packing up their homework. So much for being left alone. Is it bad I was hoping they would slip?

Camille reached me first. “Hey, Sky.”

 

My smile miraculously stayed intact as I sent her a nod of acknowledgment. I must have looked pretty convincing if neither one of them commented. However, I noticed Melanie was sporting her “I know something you don’t” face, but that façade swiftly cracked.

“Hey, Mel. What’s up?” I asked her.

She suddenly looked as though she ate something spicy. Her face reddened and sweat dripped down the side of her temple. She started playing with her fingers and wouldn’t make eye contact.

“Uh, n-not much.”

“You okay? You look a little flustered.”

 

In typical Melanie behavior, she rapid-fired her response, “Thanks for your concern, but I’m fine- great, actually- now that Camille is letting me help with your surprise birthday party.” I heard Camille slap her hand to her forehead. “You weren’t supposed to know that last part,” Mel added when Camille looked at her with a glare that would scare the Devil.

“I thought I told you two I didn’t want a big party- or any party.”

“And I thought I told you that having a big party would be the best way to announce to the school that you’re part of our group. It has to outdo all the others!” Camille shot back.

“Guys, I appreciate the offer, but I kind of prefer to stay out of the spotlight. I’m fine with how things are now.”

Camille flipped her hair. “Sky, look, I know you’re saying you want to be left alone, but I think you would benefit from officially joining us. And just think of the party possibilities! I know it’s over a month away, but your birthday is right around Valentine’s Day. I’m picturing red and pink decorations and a red velvet cake with white frosting.” Her eyes glazed over as she stared into her daydream.