Authors: Amy A Bartol
Also By Amy A. Bartol
Inescapable: The Premonition Series Volume 1
Intuition: The Premonition Series Volume 2
Indebted: The Premonition Series Volume 3
Incendiary: The Premonition Series Volume 4
Copyright © 2015 Amy A. Bartol
All rights reserved.
For my mom, Gloria Lutz. I love you.
oft whispering touches
cascade against my cheek, so light that they’re almost a shadow against my eyelashes. I stir in bed, stretching my arm to Reed, searching for my angel even in my half-conscious state. My arms come up empty as my fingertips touch damp earth. I open my eyes to the hazy sense of wrongness. My fingers trip over the silky softness of my feathers. The acrid smell of smoke is all around me as my head lies against the grassy ground. Above me, angels are flying, moving chaotically.
Fire rains across the dusky skyline, turning what is left of the blue filament to red and orange as giant rockets burst and riot. The explosions make the ground tremble. There is a pain in my belly; fear twists it. A shrill roar causes all the hairs on my body to stand up at once. I’ve never heard its like and I dread seeing what is capable of making such a sound.
As I sit up, my head throbs painfully. Using my trembling hands, I rest my head in them, hoping that the world will stop spinning. From the corner of my eye, I see an armored-clad Power angel flying low to the ground near me. His forward trajectory switches in the sky as a hulking Seraph broadsides him. They rapidly lose altitude, plummeting towards me.
When the warring angels tumble to the ground only a few feet away, my hands go up to cover my head and I brace myself for their impact. Rather than being crushed by them, I’m scooped up and thrown over someone’s shoulder. My cheek rests against his strong, blood-colored wing. Yelling in Angel echoes in the air as carnage from the war waging around me litters the ground.
“Mo chroí” the soft voice echoes in my skull like it’s being amplified.
No longer slung over an angel’s shoulder, I awake in my bed, but I’m not in my room in Crestwood. The bed is in the middle of the battlefield. A thin, white sheet barely covers me as I sit up against the pillows with a jerk.
I feel Brennus in my bones before I ever see him. I breathe him in; his exotic scent makes my skin dance to touch him. I could paint him red and he wouldn’t be anymore startling to me. Brennus’ black, velvety wings float around him as dark as a shadow in the night. They’re nearly as black as his hair.
His iridescent green eyes drink in every inch of me. I clutch the stark white sheet to my breasts to cover them, only to find as I look down that it’s nearly translucent. I push my long auburn hair over my shoulders to cover them. “Ach, Genevieve, have I na told ye before dat yer attempts ta hide yer beauty from me are made in vain? Ye only succeed in looking more seductive.”
“Where are we?” I ask. I’m still in my bed, but I’m far from my room.
“Ye tell me, ’tis yer dream,” Brennus smiles nefariously as I gaze around in trepidation. “As soon as I entered dis nightmare, it began to crash down around me—Heaven is secretive, but I was able ta discern enough.”
“What did you see?” I ask him.
I shiver and he smiles. “’Tis na a pleasant future. Welcome ta da new age, eh? ’Twould appear dat tomorrow has been cancelled.” Brennus lifts his eyebrow, looking around as the dreamscape surrounding us is changing, turning from catastrophic destruction to a haze and blur of shapes. Dust swirls in the wasteland.
“How did you enter my dream?” I ask, deciding to focus on the least scary of everything I’m seeing around me.
“I was worried dat da other wouldna be able ta save ye. I have been ta da aingeal house, but dere are layers of magic surrounding it. I couldn’t be certain it was yer magic. Da other has a similar scent ta his spells.”
“Magic has a scent?” I ask.
“It does,” he nods. “Yers is exotic—intoxicating.”
“You didn’t know I survived?” I finch. He’s been here at the house studying us.
“I’ve been going out of me mind wi’ worry over it. Me yearning for ye was so strong dat I had ta find a way ta quench it. I retrieved one of da perfume bottles ye gave ta me.”
“The ones with my blood?” My heart skips beats.
“The moment I tasted ye on me tongue, I felt ye. I shut me eyes and tought o’ ye. I tought of da way ye smile, da way ye walk, da turn yer eyebrow takes when ye’re angry. It made me chest ache. I was afraid ye died. Dere was a pull within me...here.” He lays his hand over his heart, “I followed me heart...ta ye—ta dis place.” Opening his arms, he looks around at the contours of my dreamscape. “I ache without ye.”
I’m an idiot
, I think.
I gave him a gift that provides him a means to reach me—to get inside my head—my dreams.
“It’s a cruel world, Brennus. Imagine how my heart felt when you tried to kill me.” I watch him warily as he turns toward me. He smiles again.
“’Tis a violent world, Genevieve. Dat’s why I’m here. I’ve found out a few tings. Tings ye need ta know.”
“Oh?” I stall for time so I can try to figure out how to wake up from this nightmare. I pinch my arm hard, but nothing happens except now my arm hurts.
“Have ye na learned yet dat ’tis us against dem?”
My mouth hangs open until I snap it closed. “No, I thought it was me against you.”
Brennus’ brow puckers. “’Tis na. We’re on the same side. Ye’re me queen.”
“I’m not your queen! You tried to kill me. I’m divorcing you or dethroning you—whatever! We’re done!”
“Ye really hurt me. No one has hurt me like dat—ever.” Brennus looms near me. His skin is a softer color; it’s not just the lighting. His bare chest is like that of an angel’s. It’s almost like he burns brighter now. His wings move with an elegance that would be hard to copy. He notices me staring at them. A crooked smile crosses his lips. “But, den, ye gave me back me wings...dey’re na da same color as was born ta me—dey once were white.”
“Do they work? Can you use them?” I have an impulse to go to him and pet his wings to see if they’re soft like velvet—black velvet.
“Oh, dey work grand. Dey’re stronger dan me old ones. Finn is envious.”
“Finn...he’s alive?” Something within me exalts knowing that I didn’t kill Finn when I’d unleashed my wrath of energy against Brennus and his soldiers.
“He was na among dem.” He sees my relief and tries to suppress a smile. “He is yet undead and more dan a wee bit angry wi’ me, truth be told. He blames me for losin’ ye again. He tinks dis is all me fault.”
“It’s not your fault. I just love someone else,” I breathe.
“Ye love me, too—ye love me da most.”
“Ye do love me da most. Ye have ta fight it, shift it ta hate because ye fear it. Ye only hate me because I will na play by yer rules. I make ye abide moin.”
“I hate you for what you did to Reed,” I snarl.
“I let him live,” he seethes with his jaw clenching. “He’ll na be so fortunate should he try ta come between us again.”
“Ye just met him first. But ye’ll need a god o’ war if ye intend ta survive and so ye’ve made one. Me. Ye made me stronger wi’ new found power.”
“That was an accident, Brennus. I was trying to kill you, like I killed all of your men.”
“Den we’re even and so we can begin again—and ye only emptied da cradle. Dat was but a few of me newest warriors ye ended, na even close ta all o’ dem. Ye can na drown da fire wi’out me. Ye feel it now? ’Tis na cold between ye and me—’tis fire.”
He’s right; the closer he gets to me, the warmer it becomes between us. He sits on the sheet as I draw up my legs away from him. The bed sags under his weight. He’s really here in my dream. He has a physical presence; he’s not just a ghostly shape, but is as real as I am.
Barely breathing, I watch him reach for my sheet, tugging it lightly so that I have to clutch it to keep myself covered. The supple fabric trails over my flesh anyway, feeding his hungry eyes. I pull harder on it, but Brennus flicks his hands and my arms splay wide and are tied behind me to the headboard of the bed.
My eyes narrow as I glare at him, feeling the sheet slip lower on my breasts as I struggle against the binding on my wrists.
Brennus’ eyes go from sultry to frustrated when he pulls the sheet lower only to find me fully clothed in a baggy t-shirt and jeans, brought about by my hastily cast spell. Smirking at him, he pouts as he looks into my eyes. I rub my wrist that I unbound using my own magic.
“Dat’s no fun, Genevieve.” He flicks his hand at me, and when I look down at myself I’m attired in a silky black corset pulled tight enough to crack my ribs. Skimpy black panties and black-gartered stockings complete the ensemble.
He reaches for me, but I growl and flick my hand at him. He is thrust backward to the wooden poster of the bed. His hands are bound behind him and a metal manacle around his throat keeps his head from turning away from me.
“Is that fun?” I ask, getting up off the bed and approaching him with my hands on my corseted hips.
“Honestly?” he asks me with a raise of his eyebrow. “’Tis, mo chroí.” Then he smiles his wicked smile that touches me everywhere. I conjure a black trench coat and hastily tie the belt at my waist.
I turn away from him, not wanting him to see how he affects me; the ache to touch him is there, just under the surface. Brennus’ arms slip around my waist from behind, startling me, not only because he freed himself from my spell, but also because his arms are warm against me, not cold. They cause a riot inside of me.
“Brennus,” his name falls from my lips in surprise.
“Do na fight me, Genevieve. I have someting important ta tell ye and it can na wait.”
I allow him to hug me as I grow still. “What do you need to tell me?” I know him, he’s calm on the outside, but his voice betrays something...it sounds like concern—deep concern.
“I was wrong about ye,” he brushes my hair away from my neck, breathing in the scent of it.
“This is bad. You rarely admit to being wrong.”
“And ye’re very stubborn. Ye rarely relent ta listen ta yer demon, unless ye need him...and ye do,” he says, running his fingertips over the curve of my throat.
“You’re my demon?” I ask.
“I am,” he affirms. “Yers and no other’s.”
“You keep shifting on me, demon, and I can’t keep you happy,” I wait for him to coil in retort, but he doesn’t. “You’re ruthless.”
“Yer love is ruthless,” he breathes against my cheek. “Hush, now. We can argue about it later. I was wrong ta tink ye’re like Persephone,” he admits as he explains. “Dat portrait blinded me ta whah ye are. Dere is another name dat suits ye better.” He turns me around so that he can look into my eyes. His green eyes shine with ancient fire. “Ye’ve begun a havoc in Sheol. ’Tis yer face,” he uses his thumb to rub my cheek tenderly. “Beauty wi’ grace. ’Tis a face worthy of launching a tousand ships. Ye’re na Persephone atall ta da ones dat hunt ye now...ye’re Helen.”
“What?” my voice shakes as I whisper.
“’Twas Finn who learned da truth—Molly really. She has developed a taste for Fallen. She attracts dem with a certain skill. ’Tis her air of innocence dat draws dem in. ’Tis like milk and honey ta dem. She stumbled across quite an interesting bird.”
“Interesting how?” I ask.
“One dat knew a great deal about ye.” His eyes are a slow burn as he watches me. “’Twas Finn dat made him elaborate on whah he knew.”
“Which is?” I murmur, feeling all the blood draining away from my cheeks.
“We were wrong when we tought dat ye’re da only hybrid human-angel.”
“I know I’m not the only one—there’s Russell...”
He slowly shakes his head at me. “I’m na speaking of da other. Sheol has found a way ta create deir own version of yer kind...and dey want ye ta meet him. Ye’re very special, Genevieve, special in that ye’re still the only one—da only female.”
“How can you be sure your source wasn’t lying?” The need to deny what he’s telling me is so strong that I can taste the fear on my tongue.
“Our source was interrogated by Finn. He told Finn anyting he wanted ta know just for the pleasure of his touch.”
“What does this mean?” I ask as my hands rest against his chest for support. I feel like my legs might give out on me at any moment. “What do they want?”
“Yer enemies, da Fallen, have decided dat ye’re worth a war. Dey’re gathering da means ta wage dat war. Every demon is now deciding whether dey’ll play a part.”
“And what part do you intend to play?” I ask.
His neck bends and his lips hover inches from mine. “The part that allows us ta survive, of course. Da Fallen would like ta introduce ye ta deir spawn. Dat does na fit inta me plans.”
“What if the price becomes too high,” I wonder aloud, “for your plans?”
“Ye have me marrow in yer bones, mo chroí. And I’ve yers. I will lay down me life ta protect ye,” he promises. “We have ta strike a truce. I can na fight ye and dem, too.”
“I don’t trust you. There can be no truce.”