Authors: Marianne Curley
If he's after a reaction, he's going to be disappointed with my silent response.
âI'm not known for my patience,' he snarls. âDishonour me in public, and the next hundred years of your life will be a living hell. I promise you.'
âAnd the difference would be â¦ ?'
âYou will know the difference.'
âReally? I doubt that.'
He takes my hand and lifts it to his lips in a gesture that contradicts the cruelty in his eyes. But I know what he's capable of doing, so when he tilts my face up with his thumb under my chin and forges into my mind,
You apparently need a taste
, I should know better than continue to taunt him.
Do you seriously believe beating me up on the inside, where no one can see the bruises, will help your cause to make me love you?
His thoughts slam into my head along with his darkness.
I try to block him, to pull away, to shove his thoughts back at him, anything to sever the connection or at least lessen the impact his darkness is having on my soul. I reach for my power but can't feel a thing. I search for the haze, but I'm not angry, I'm afraid. I look into his eyes, searching for something I can use as a weapon to spear back at him, but find myself drowning in his river of misery. It disconnects me from everything that is good. All the things he once had and can never enjoy again have left his soul bitter and cursed with envy. He needs power to fulfil him and he sees
being able to provide this.
His irises glow bright yellow and I see the beast sitting in a chair of golden vines in a room with black walls lit by smokeless fires in ancient-style urns. Dark angels, bigger, scarier than Thrones, stand guard behind him and patrol the room, ordering souls in one at a time. The beast, slouching in his fiery chair, looking arrogant and bored, examines each soul brought before him before announcing their penalty. One soul, a giant of a man with massive biceps, skin inked from fingers to armpits, and who looks as if he's not used to taking orders, refuses to accept his punishment. The beast lifts the soul by the throat, and while he holds him easily with one hand, he makes fire with the other and shoves a handful of it into the soul's arguing mouth. The soul shrieks in agony as the fire travels down the inside of his throat, scorching his skin all the way to his abdomen.
Shock and anger generates my power. It whirls inside me, giving me an immediate lift as it spreads rapidly out from my core.
Prince Luca feels it too and instantly releases me.
Taking a step back, he acts as if nothing just passed between us. He offers me his elbow as if he were a c
s gentleman. My whole body shudders with the power I didn't use. What a shame. I would have liked to smash my still-throbbing fists into his arrogant, perfect face.
I take a deep breath, straighten my shoulders, raise my head and hook my arm through his.
With a look of surprise and amusement on his face, we walk out the doors together.
I could be walking to my death. The feeling of dread would be the same.
Amber is late. At this rate we'll miss the meeting. I've called her twice and both times it's gone directly to voicemail. She's probably in a reception black spot on Mountain Way. I decide to wait five more minutes before leaving without her. In the meantime, I back the Lambo into the driveway, kicking myself because I should have gone and picked her up instead of sitting on my butt in my living room, waiting for her to go home and change her damp clothes. I knew she was upset. Shit! After I left Thane I found her sitting in her mum's car sobbing, angry at the world. I told her about the meeting tonight at the monastery, that it will do us good to see how the angels are planning to get Ebony back. She'd taken a deep breath at the thought of positive action and started to pull herself together, promising she would meet me at Thane's place in plenty of time.
Finally I spot her lights on the long driveway winding through the forest. She pulls up beside me, locks her mum's Honda and jumps into Thane's Lamborghini, full of apologies.
âHey, you're here now, that's what matters,' I tell her, frowning when I see her eyes are still red, her nose still shiny. âAre you OK?'
She stares out into the darkness. âI miss her so much already. We did everything together since we were, like, little kids. I knew even then that Ebony was special. She didn't want to stand out, but she did, especially at high school.'
She turns to me, but still has that faraway look in her eyes. âPeople are so ignorant of anyone who doesn't slot into their narrow idea of normal. Not me. I loved Ebony's differences. Like the time I found a small white feather in my bathroom.' She sniffs, drawing in a deep shuddering breath. âAnd now she's not here and I'm â¦ I'm â¦ so alone.'
âShe wanted you to take care of Shadow.'
Her eyes refocus and light up like a sparkler. âShe told you that?'
âYep. In the cave before they took her. She said you were her family and she loved you.'
She sighs. âFor as long as I've known Ebony, this is the first time she
needs help, and no one, not even the angels, can do anything.'
Man, do I get it.
I point to the seat belt. âWe should get moving.'
She starts latching it on, but before she finishes she spots my wrists and shrieks, âOh hell, Jordan, your burns are so much worse! Those blisters will get infected if you don't protect them.' She pulls out her mobile phone. âI'm finding you a doctor up here.'
âI'm not going to a doctor tonight.'
âYes, you are.'
âAmber, listen. We're running late for the meeting, and I'm not missing that for anything.'
She stares off into the darkness ahead, thrumming her
fingers on the dashboard. âWill you let Nathaneal heal them?'
âNo freakin' way.'
âWhat about Jezelle?'
Through clenched teeth I explain. âI don't want a quick fix.'
She gets me right away. She always does. Where Ebony can see images in my mind, Amber is hyper-aware of my voice and facial expressions. âYou
deserve this.' She slides her fingers beneath mine, linking our hands together. âWhat's happened to Ebony is not your fault.'
As good as her hand feels in mine, I pull away. âYou don't understand. The things I did were reprehensible.'
âThat's impossible. You love her too much.'
âI had my reasons.'
If I tell her she'll hate me. But if she finds out from someone else, there'll be no coming back from that amount of hate. âPrince Luca wanted Ebony to break up with Thane so no one could accuse him of committing the angelic crime of stealing another prince's fiancÃ©e. He blackmailed me into making it happen, so I told Ebony lies and planted her head with doubts, amongst other things.'
Amber's look is intense. She stays silent, listening as I tell her about my covenant with the Dark Prince, how he told me the lie that my mother was alive and I was the only one who could save her. âIf I could break up the lovebirds, Luca would release Mum. He said he'd bring her home. And for a while I believed him.'
When I finish she peers up at the stars and the only sound in the Lambo is our breathing.
âFollow me, Jordan,' she suddenly says.
She heads to the house, waits for me to open the door, then goes straight to the downstairs bathroom and hunts around in cabinets until she finds some non-stick dressings, crÃªpe bandages and tape. âI also need sterile water and cling film.'
âCling film's in the kitchen. I don't know about sterile water, but there's always boiled water left in the kettle.'
She runs out, returning with cling film and a glass bottle half full of water. She starts with my left wrist, rinsing it with the water, patting the wounds dry with the non-stick dressings.
âLooks like you've done this before.'
She flicks me a dubious look. âKind of.' She wraps the cling film next, and tapes it.
âWhat does that mean?'
âRemember those bad fires from a few years back?'
âOur old stables burned down. We got all the horses out, but a couple of the mares sustained some minor burns. I watched the vet treat them.'
âHow old were you?'
âI don't know, maybe eleven.' She looks up at me with a crafty smile. âStill don't want a doctor?'
The crÃªpe bandages are secured now and I can tell she's done a good job; both wrists feel supported, protected. âI'll take my chances with you.'
âOh, will you now?' She smiles, the teasing spark in her eyes subsiding the longer she holds my gaze. âShe trusted you, Jordan.'
âThat's what makes it so hard.'
Inside the car I lift up my one of my bandaged arms. âThanks for this.'
Our eyes connect. Inside my gut is churning. She smiles sadly. A tear oozes out, rolls down her face. âYou're welcome,' she says, and I start driving.
At the monastery Brother Bernard is waiting for us. He takes us down a few stone flights of stairs to a corridor with a steel door at the end.
The conference room has no windows, but fluorescent globes in the ceiling provide ample light. The walls are white, and a long polished timber table sits in the centre with a dozen or so angels around it on high-backed chairs.
I take a quick headcount.
Thane is at the table's head. He looks ragged and beaten but still has an air of authority about him. Michael is on his left, with Isaac, Jez and Solomon next along. On the o
te side are Gabe, and the two married couples, Jerome and Sami and Uriel and Tash, with their backs to the door. Three Brothers sit at the opposite end to Thane.
Amber and I make fifteen.
Everything stops when we enter. Those with their backs to us turn. Thane stands and comes over to greet us, but I pretend not to see him and sit myself down in the vacant seat next to Brother Tim, who introduces Monsignor Lawrence and Brother Alex in whispers.
Amber moves silently round to the other side and sits beside Brother Alex.
As Thane returns to his seat he glances at my wrists. He notices the bandages and his eyes move to Amber. He nods
and silently mouths the words, âThank you.'
She smiles back. Realising I'm watching, she shrugs as she catches my eye.
âJordan, Amber, welcome, and thank you for coming,' Thane says. âThese last two days have been trying for you both.' He opens his hands to indicate the others. âAnd for everyone here.'
most of all,' Isaac declares, like a puppy yapping at his master's heels. I snort air out through my nostrils, louder than I mean to.
Everyone except Amber and the three Brothers tu
ir heads and looks at me with animosity shooting out o
eir eyes like double-barrel machine gunfire.
, where is a hole in the floor when you need one? The longer they stare, the hotter my face grows. They've heard my thoughts. But I'm not backing down and apologising. No way. Thane's let Ebony down too many times. I can't just forget that.
To his credit, Thane calms everyone down. âWe can all appreciate Jordan's concern, considering the close bond he shares with Ebony. What's happening is particularly hard on him.'
Isaac nods and shifts his death stare away from me.
âAs you all know, Prince Luca has locked the gates of Skade for a hundred years,' Thane begins, âand he's not going to open them, even if he can, for as long as it suits him. Opening an area wide enough for a team to pass through is our first priority. Michael believes there is a tool that could puncture a hole in the gate. It's called a
. Some of you may remember it.'
Uriel says, âI remember the
being used in the First War, but I thought the High King destroyed it.'
Michael clarifies. âDuring my time on Empyrean, I learned otherwise.'
Jez asks, âEveryone knows how vital time is in these circumstances, so how do we get our hands on it and do we know it still works?'
Michael explains, âThe
is secured in the High King's vault under the guardianship of the Twelve Sentinels.'
A collective sigh of relief eases the tension in the room. It's the knowledge that there's a weapon that can blast through Skade's gates â and probably anything. It's exactly what we need. I wonder who these âTwelve Sentinels' are, and if they have the potential to get in our way.
will function correctly in the right hands, but there are complications,' Michael adds.
âSuch as?' Isaac asks.
Even I can think of one. âIf the Dark Prince gets his dirty hands on it, we may as well kiss the Earth goodbye.'
This time when their heads turn to me there's no hostility, and Michael says, âThat is essentially correct, Jordan.'
They start murmuring, but as soon as the Monsignor clears his throat, the room goes silent. âOur purpose in being here is to facilitate Avena's angels of light in their promise to protect humanity, but we are also Guardians of Earth.'
Thane says, âAs the home of humans, Earth is our concern too, Monsignor. We share a common goal.'
The Monsignor nods but squirms uncomfortably. âMy desire is not to offend anyone in this room, but the question must be asked: is the life of one angel worth the price of
possibly billions of human beings?'
I can't believe what the Monsignor just said. I jump out of my seat. âWell, I'm a human being, and I say she is!'
âJordan.' Thane lifts his hand and motions at me to sit down, his eyes clearly telling me he's gonna wait until my ass is back in the chair. âMonsignor, let me put it this way â should Ebony remain in Skade for a hundred years, the risk to Earth would be immeasurable.'