Authors: DelSheree Gladden
by DelSheree Gladden
Wicked This Way Comes Series
Date Shark Series
Shark Out Of
Book Three of
The Aerling Series
Book Three of
The Aerling Series
DelSheree Gladden 2014
and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination,
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,
organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond
the intent of the author or the publisher. All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval
system, without written permission from the publisher and/or author.
Printed in the
all my friends on Wattpad who reminded me daily that I should be working on
Invincible. The hundreds of messages and comments and emails prove how much
they love these characters. This story is for them.
Thank you so much to my Wattpad readers for hounding
me until I got this book finished. I left them hanging for way too long, but
they forgave me and gobbled up the new chapters the second I had them posted.
Their love for Mason, Olivia, Molly, and Hayden spurred me to finish the story
so they could know once and for all,
what happens at the end!
I’m especially grateful to one of the readers I met on
Wattpad, Sneha Mohite, for her help answering questions on Wattpad, her
enthusiasm for all my books, and being the first to give me feedback on the
ending. As she knows, I agonize over ending a series no matter how many times
I’m forced to do it.
I also owe a big thanks to Nikki Jeffrey for fielding
the literally hundreds of messages that came in, and keep coming in, asking
about this series. She has been so kind to help me out so I could focus on
writing. She’s a life saver!
Most years I participate in NaNoWriMo, but this year
my goal was to finish this book by the end of November, and I don’t think I
would have made it without the awesome lady known as SeriouslyGina and her band
of NaNo pirates! Late night Google chats kept me writing and got me moving on
this story, so thank you Gina!
you as well to my husband for his support and his encouragement to finish
writing this book and stop dragging my heels over it. He also pulled me away
from it when I needed a break because my brain was fried and I just wanted to
curl up with him and watch a movie.
How is it possible that the fate of an
entire world is in my hands? I just agreed to leave what is supposed to be my
home and return to Earth, where I will be hunted by every Sentinel on the
planet. I look over at Olivia and my chest tightens. It’s not just me going
back. She’s coming too, willingly walking into the kind of danger that has
nearly claimed her life three times already.
I stare out at the crowd of Aerlings, all
of whom are staring back at Olivia and me. Fear and anticipation bleed out of
them. Their world is collapsing. They believe I can fix it.
Cedrick, the leader of the Aerlings, steps
forward and says, “Mason, I know this is a lot to take in, but there isn’t much
time. You and Olivia need to prepare to leave right away. We must hurry.”
He starts trying to bustle us off
somewhere, but I yank my arm away roughly. “Wait…” I shake my head, dislodging
sticky thoughts and fear alike. “You said the bridge between the worlds wasn’t
going to collapse immediately.”
“No, but we have no way of knowing how
long it will take you to reach the Mother and repair the damage to the bridge.”
Cedrick’s anxiety is evident in every harried movement, but I’m not leaving
without a few answers.
Squaring up my shoulders, I’m surprised
when my power jumps immediately to my aide. I’m not the only one who notices
the sudden influx of air gathering around me, as if I’m readying myself for a
fight. The Aerlings surrounding us stare wide-eyed, some even taking a step
back. Olivia turns to look over at me, but she doesn’t seem scared, only
I’m not entirely sure what to make of
this, so I try to ignore it for the time being. Answers first. Turning to
Cedrick, I say, “Before we leave, we need to know what we’re walking into. I
need a few answers before we go diving headfirst into a fight I have no idea
whether or not I can win.”
“Mason, don’t you understand what you
are?” Cedrick asks.
I stare at him, not sure what he’s talking
about. “An Aerling, uh…god?” When Cedrick’s eyebrows furrow in confusion, I
stumble over my next response. “That’s, uh, what the Caretakers called me,
anyway. They made up their own classes, so maybe…” My eyes dart around the
troubled eyes staring at me. “Were they wrong?”
Cedrick shakes his head. “They have
forgotten so much,” he says, frustration and sadness tainting his words. He
looks back with a serious expression that worries me. “While you do hold
tremendous power, you are not a god. You are a Warden. Your purpose is to
protect our world from the Sentinels. You are one of the few able to kill them.
We have not seen a true Warden in centuries. Your birth was a beacon of hope to
every Aerling here that the war with the Sentinels would soon come to an end.”
“Wait, what?” Olivia interrupts. “You all
expect Mason to take down the entire Sentinel army? By himself?” She turns,
taking in all the eager faces watching us. “Are you all crazy?”
If any of them are offended, they
certainly don’t show it. Cedrick places a calming hand on Olivia’s shoulder.
“Mason doesn’t need to defeat
Sentinel. He only has to defeat their
creator, Tū. If he is defeated, the Sentinels will lose their power over
“Tū,” I say, “as in Tūmatauenga
in the Māori myths?”
Cedrick nods eagerly. “Yes, he must be
defeated. He holds the Mother on Earth and prevents her from rejoining the
“Whoa, hold up,” Olivia says. “How much of
the Māori story is actually true?”
A woman steps up beside Cedrick, then, and
looks at Olivia kindly. Her wrinkled hands are clutched in front of her, but
she carries herself gracefully despite her age. “It is such a beautiful tale,
the Māori creation story. During my time on Earth, it was always my
She smiles warmly, but Olivia and I look
at each other, wondering if she actually has something to say that will help
us, or if this is like talking to Robin’s grandmother.
“My name is Alba. I serve as a historian
for the Aerlings.” She takes each of our hands briefly before continuing. “The
Māori story captured the basis of our history well. The Mother and Father
of the Aerlings are the gods of our world. Their first children were gifted
with special talents to aid in caring for our world, but some wished to extend
their dominion over the human world as well. Tū and Tāwhiri fought
against each other, but Tāwhiri could not conquer his brother. The most he
could do was banish him to Earth, but not before Tū captured the Mother
and caught her up in the banishment as well. By the time Tāwhiri realized
what had happened, it was too late to save the Mother.”
Trying to process everything proves
challenging. I shake my head in confusion. “But, I thought you said we had to
go to the Mother to fix the barrier. How can she fix it if she’s been banished
“She can fix it,” Cedrick says, “because
she is the one who created it.”
Seeing both Olivia’s and my confusion,
Alba says, “The Mother had begun constructing the barrier before she was taken.
After her abduction, the power sealed the worlds and prevented her rescue.”
“I’m sorry,” Olivia says. “I’m completely
lost. If Tāwhiri couldn’t go back and get her, does that mean you’re all
stuck here, too? How do the Aerling infants go down to Earth, then, and why?”
Before anyone can begin to answer Olivia’s
questions, a burst of movement stirs in the back of crowd. Olivia grips my hand
in fear. I’m on the verge of running as well, but I quickly notice that none of
the other Aerlings seem worried. In fact, the anxiety they’ve been shrinking
under since Robin’s appearance begins to mellow into excitement. The crowd
parts. Standing in the suddenly empty pathway is a man and a woman. My parents.
I stand, shocked…too taken aback to even
react. It’s not that I have my father’s eyes or my mother’s hair. It’s not the
joy lighting up their features at the sight of me. It’s the unfamiliar feeling
of belonging, of coming home, which wraps itself around me, pulling me forward
a step, then two. The second I move, my mother rushes forward. Her arms crush
me against her and my father presses us both to his chest as he weeps.
“Mason,” my mother cries, “we’ve missed
you so much. We were so frightened, so terrified that we would never see you
again. I’m so glad you’re home.”
Her words wash over me, thick and
welcoming. Home. I have only ever associated that word with one place. Olivia’s
house. No, with Olivia herself. She has always been the one person I truly
belonged with. That is still true, but my mother’s words sink into my soul and
I know that
are my home as well. I don’t remember the day they sent
me to Earth. I don’t remember if they cried or told me they loved me. I don’t
remember them at all, but I remember belonging to them. I remember their power
cradling me, filling me with their love.
I look up at them slowly. Their faces are
foreign to me, but I know them all the same. “Mom, Dad,” I say, testing the
words on my tongue.
Both sets of eyes fill with tears and they
fall on me with hugs again. It is a long moment before we are able to pull
back. When we do, there is a hint of fear in their eyes. At first, I suspect
they must already know about Robin and that I must leave them again, but then I
recognize the look as the same one I saw on Olivia’s parents’ faces when we
left this morning.
“Molly’s safe,” I tell them. “She’s with
Olivia’s family and she has a whole contingent of Caretaker Officers guarding
her night and day.
“What?” my father asks. His deep, rough
voice is oddly comforting, even when filled with fear and confusion. “You found
your sister? How?”
“By chance, really.”
My mother smiles, though her fear is still
very present. “That is a blessing we couldn’t have dreamed to see. Thank you
for protecting her, Mason. We knew you would if given the chance.”
I don’t want to be parted from them, but
Olivia hovering just off to our side demands my attention. After extricating
myself from my parents’ grip, I reach out for her. She hesitates only a moment
before walking over and standing next to me. She glances between my parents and
me looking uncertain, but at the same time, filled with happiness for me.
“Mom and Dad, this is Olivia.”
My mother is the first to embrace Olivia.
She beams at her when she pulls back, too excited to even say anything. It’s my
father who all but yanks Olivia out of my mother’s grip and into his arms.
Olivia laughs as he crushes her against him. His own laugh rumbles deep in his
chest. “Olivia, you are forever welcome in our family. You have saved our son
and we can never repay such a debt.”
When Olivia is finally released, she steps
back nervously. “I haven’t saved him just yet, I’m afraid. We have to go back
very soon to repair the barrier.”
Both of my parents’ faces crumple in
sadness, but they seem to know this was coming. They nod slowly, trying to hold
off their fear. “But you will be with him,” my mother says. “You will protect
each other, fulfill your mission, and return to us safely.” She nods, as if
trying very hard to convince herself of this.
My father looks down at Olivia with a look
of concern. “You will stay with Mason until the end, won’t you?” His shoulders
bunch nervously. “Most Escorts choose to remain with us, but they don’t have
to. None have ever been asked to face such dangers before, either.”
“Of course I’ll stay with Mason,” Olivia
says softly. Her arm slips around my waist as she pulls in close to me. “I have
no intention of leaving him.”
When Olivia looks up at me, the devotion
in her eyes holds me hostage. I know she means every word. Everything else
slips away for just that moment. We are about to face our deaths head on, yet
knowing we will be together gives me faith. I lean down, kissing her upturned
lips, and smiling as I pull back. I want to do more, but it’s neither the time
nor the place.
Sighing, I look back to my parents and am
startled by the outraged expressions on their faces.