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Authors: Celia Stander

Guardians of the Akasha

BOOK: Guardians of the Akasha
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Guardians of the Akasha

Celia Stander

For J, C & R: You are my Akasha.

Chapter 1

Keira’s feet ached in the high heels she’d bought to go with her little black number. “Not so clever to go clubbing in new shoes,” she grumbled to no one in particular.

She’d been trying to leave the club for the past hour, but Sammy and Alison had ignored her lagging energy and kept pulling her back onto the dance floor. A grin tugged at her mouth. Her friends had some animated moves. Sammy, especially, had no lack of confidence in the dancing department.

It was as if the knowledge that they were done with school, forever, had caused their brains to leave the building for a while. It had been two weeks of non-stop fun and partying since school’s end. Tomorrow that would all come to an end, though. Sammy and Alison were booked on flights to join their parents overseas for the summer holiday, and Keira would stay with hers in London.

She hesitated in a pool of faded light cast by a streetlamp and glanced back towards the club. The distant boom-boom of the music’s bass sounded like drums reverberating through the concrete jungle surrounding her. The flickering neon above Poison Ivy’s entrance tempted her back, but the thought of her soft bed and a busy day ahead won the battle and she kept walking, grimacing as the shoes pinched her toes.

A quick look at her watch made Keira quicken her stride. The last train to Notting Hill left in thirty minutes; she didn’t want to miss it. Poison Ivy was a bit remote and not their usual scene, but Sammy’s latest crush had invited them to a private party and arranged VIP access.

“Too bad he didn’t arrange transport as well,” Keira muttered and shrugged deeper into her trench coat. Even in late spring, London’s midnight air held enough of a chill to turn her breath to a light vapour. She turned a corner and bumped into a couple locked in an octopus-clench. She mumbled an apology but could have been invisible for the notice they took.

Two blocks later and she could see the beckoning sign to the Underground station up ahead. She paused, got her mobile out of her clutch and sent off a quick text to the girls while she still had reception.

Sorry to have left, so tired & busy day ahead! Taking the tube. Have fun & c u at apartment. K x

A scuffle of feet sounded behind her. She looked over her shoulder and glimpsed movement in the shadows of a yawning doorway a few metres away.

What was that?

Keira put the phone away, gripped the little bag a bit tighter and set off again. “Blasted shoes!” Another pinch tempted her to kick the heels off and jog the last block to the Underground, but a glance at the cracked, littered pavement squelched that idea.

A cat yowled in the distance and Keira’s arms broke out with gooseflesh. Her eyes scanned the surrounding buildings; they all stood in dark isolation on either side of the street. There was no movement and no welcoming lights were on. She had a flashback to the scary movie she, Sammy, and Alison had watched a few nights ago. They derided the stupid girl who had left the safety of her house to investigate noises outside—at night—alone.

“Get a grip!” Keira scolded herself. “It is such a cliché. Girl alone outside—empty streets—cat yowling….”

You should have waited for a taxi
, a little voice whispered in her mind.

“Hey, wait up!” A voice interrupted her inner monologue.

She took a quick glimpse back and remembered his face; he had tried to buy her a drink earlier, which she had refused. He smiled a hungry smile and stretched his legs to catch up with her.

Keira didn’t wait.

“Come on, sugar!” He tried to sound friendly.

Keira shivered. She wasn’t going to make it to the subway.
Leave me alone…leave me alone.

A heavy hand fell on her shoulder, forced her to a stop and turned her around. “Hey, why in such a hurry, darlin’?” he asked with a leer.

“Please, leave me alone,” Keira asked politely, stepping back from the brandy fumes on his breath.

“Hey, hey. A pretty little thing like you shouldn’t be walkin’ alone. Let me take you home,” he reached out to touch her hair. Keira brushed his hand away and took another step back.

“Hey,” he said again, sounding offended. “No need for that—just tryin’ to help.”

“I don’t need your help.” Keira clenched her hands into tight fists and locked her knees to stop her legs from shaking.

“Well now, I happen to think that you do. I been watchin’ you tonight—such a pretty little thing.” This time he was faster; he lurched closer and grabbed a fistful of her long dark hair, pulling her into him.

She tried to push him away, but he yanked harder on her hair and twisted her head back. She looked up; his intention was clear. He was strong, confident in his size, while she was young and easy prey.

He pressed his body against hers. “Comin’ with me tonight—gonna have us some fun tonight,” he sneered and pulled her towards a side alley.

“Please, I don’t want to hurt you. Let me go and we’ll forget about this,” Keira tried to reason with him.

He laughed. “You, hurt me! I sure am gonna enjoy watchin’ you try, honey.”

“No!” She sobbed as he dragged her further into the darkness.

“Yes!” He taunted, not realising that she was talking to herself.

Keira bit her lip, trying to contain the tension building inside her. Years of suppression had done nothing to cool the core of molten lava that was now rising into the too familiar heat in her blood. Her mind and instincts battled each other as white hot rage threatened to explode out of every pore in her skin.

She didn’t scream. Even if there were people around to help, it had reached the point where she didn’t want to attract attention.

He dragged her behind a dumpster, pockmarked with weeping rust stains, and threw her up against a wall. She dimly registered the foul smell of rotten food and would have gagged but he held her throat with one hand as he fumbled with his belt with the other.

“C’mon baby, let’s finish this,” he muttered.

Keira struggled to drag air into her lungs, his vice-like grip threatened to cut her breath off. She kicked his shins and ground her heel into his foot until a vicious blow rocked her head back, slamming it against the bricks behind her.

Her mind lost the battle of controlling the beast within as her instincts took over and suddenly, she was in the eye of the storm. She felt the pressure around her neck and a sharp, loose brick digging into her back. None of that mattered.

Their faces were inches apart; his lips pulled back in a snarl and his eyes narrowed in slits of anticipation. She smiled and gently wrapped her fingers around his wrist.

“Shit!” He yanked his hand away from her neck, shaking it as if something had touched him with a glowing hot poker. He pulled his shirt sleeve up and his eyes widened as he looked at the red, welted finger marks on his wrist.

It was his turn to take a step back, into the wind that now screeched like a banshee down the alley. Trash flew at him from all sides and he threw his arms up to protect his head; he stumbled and tried to prevent his fall, but an empty whiskey bottle hit him on the brow and sent him to his knees. He grabbed his face, then pulled his hands away and gasped at the blood.

“Who—what—?” he gibbered.

Keira glided closer, her long, dark hair rising like a halo around her head, moving of its own accord on the waves of power radiating from her body. She smiled a sad smile, bent down and murmured in his ear, “I am sorry, but I did ask nicely.”

He gave a small, shocked grunt, before he sank forward onto the ground and the wind died down around them.

She straightened up and stood for a few frozen seconds, staring at the unconscious body at her feet. The tempest inside her raged for a moment longer while the heat in her hands begged to be released and rid the world of one more predator.

No.

She took a deep, shuddering breath, turned her back on the alley and walked the remaining block to the Underground station.

*****

A few miles away, the old woman sat upright in her bed. “Keira,” she whispered in distress and reached for the phone.

*****

A few thousand miles away, an elegant nose turned east and black eyes closed as their owner gave a satisfied sigh.

“Now that felt familiar. Welcome back,” he drawled.

Chapter 2

Julius cracked his knuckles. It was a nervous habit, one he tried hard to hide. He could never show weakness—refused to—but an interview with the Man tested his resolve. Midnight summonses wreaked havoc on his beauty sleep, but he knew better than to complain.

He clasped his hands behind his back and frowned at the bland elevator music. “Bloody hell, who chooses this crap,” he grumbled and stormed out as soon as the doors glided open on the thirteenth floor. Ms Domain greeted him with an imperceptible nod and a red-taloned finger that pointed at the black leather couch. She proceeded to ignore Julius and continued typing, her fingers a blur over a space-age keyboard.

Bloody old crone!
Julius thought.
Doesn’t she ever leave that chair?
The typing stopped and he looked up to meet her ice-cold eyes. He cracked his knuckles and she resumed her typing.

After what felt like a century of waiting and paging through promotional brochures on Du Pré Enterprises, Ms Domain nodded in his direction and pointed at the inner office’s mahogany doors.

Julius got up, pulled at his brown, polyester suit, straightened his orange tie, and entered the office.

“Good morning, Julius,” a languid voice sounded from across the room. “Coffee?”

“Thank you, Sir. Yes, thank you.” Julius walked over and sat on the edge of the chair his boss had indicated.

Doesn’t he ever sleep?
Julius thought, glancing towards the floor to ceiling windows overlooking Central Park. Its trees and footpaths were bathed in a soft glow, cast by myriad lamps and fairy lights scattered throughout the park. Julius, however, didn’t appreciate the lights; he only saw the dark corners and shadows, perfect places for hiding and ambush.

“Sleep is so overrated, don’t you agree?” Daemon asked.

“Yes, Sir,” Julius gulped.

He was silent while Daemon poured coffee from a silver pot, then accepted the small bone-china cup and saucer carefully into his big, rough hands. He took a scalding gulp and clattered the empty cup down on the table in front of him.

He looked everywhere except at the man across from him, who was still delicately sipping his coffee. His eyes flitted across the bookshelves with glass fronts behind which, Daemon once told him, were priceless scrolls and first edition books. Julius had never been a believer in the value of the printed word.
Dust collectors
, he thought and gave a mental shrug. It was not his place to question Daemon’s obsession. If the Man wanted to believe that an antique book will make him master of the universe, who was he to argue?

Julius felt the weight of Daemon’s scrutiny and cleared his throat.

Eventually Daemon put his cup down on the table. “So. Do you have anything to report?”

“Yes, Sir. I do. Our people in London investigated the flare you sensed. They narrowed the location down to an area around a club called Poison Ivy. They are concentrating their efforts on people who were at the club at that time.”

“Anyone interesting come up?”

“Not yet, Sir. It’s only been a few hours, Sir. There were many people coming and going,” Julius’ voice dribbled away as he caught Daemon’s glare.

He cleared his throat. “However, our source in the police informed me that a man was taken to a nearby hospital. He was delirious, going on about being attacked by a witch in a wind. No one is taking him seriously, but he was also at the club.”

Daemon got up and paced the Persian carpets scattered on the floor of his office. “Have they found this man and interviewed him?”

Julius jumped up as well and clenched his fists behind his back. “No, Sir,” he replied. “He checked out of the hospital an hour ago. The team in London is working on it.”

“Good,” Daemon stopped in front of the big windows. He peered down at the street. New York’s traffic had not yet begun its madness, but even when it did, no blaring horns would penetrate the sound proofed room. Noise stayed out. And in.

Daemon turned to face his Lieutenant. “So, we are looking for a woman and she can manipulate the wind. We are making progress.” He tugged absent-mindedly at the diamond studded cufflinks peeking out under the sleeves of his midnight-black Armani suit.

“Find her,” he instructed. “I want her brought to our side—with or without force.”

Julius nodded obediently; he knew better than to ask how he was to accomplish this mission. Besides, he enjoyed the
carte blanche
that Daemon gave him. It made the hunt all the more interesting if someone got hurt in the process.

“Now, the old woman,” Daemon jumped to the next topic.

“Yes, Sir. She is well protected, unfortunately. She’ll be attending a family function tomorrow. We’ve checked out the venue, but there will be too many Guardians. And cattle as well. We can’t risk an attack in the open like that.”

BOOK: Guardians of the Akasha
9.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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