Authors: Nicole Storey
The Celadon Circle
Even Angels Cast Shadows…
(The Celadon Circle Book Two)
Copyright © 2015 by Nicole Storey
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author. Your support of the author’s right is appreciated.
This book, and original publication, was registered with the United States Library of Congress Copyright Office.
Cover Design by DARK IMAGINARIUM Art and Design
Model: Alexandre Cukovic
Formatting by Rich Meyer of Quantum Formatting
The Celadon Circle
Quinn’s lungs, constricted and burning from constant exertion, screamed for air. Legs as weak as matchsticks, he stumbled around another piece of machinery he couldn’t name. His fingers trailed along the corrugated surface. Toxic snowflakes of burnt-orange rust peeled away and drifted to the floor.
The vacant factory had seen better days. It was a labyrinth of dark passages, tipped catwalks, and fetid air. The cloying scents of diesel fuel, damp concrete, and urine clung to him. It seeped into his clothes and the pores of his exposed skin. Quinn imagined how horrible the smell would be if it were August instead of October. He swallowed hard against the bile that crept up his throat.
Rounding a corner, he tripped over a nest of moldy blankets and something squeaked. A rat the size of a Chihuahua scampered from the pile. Quinn halted his labored progress until the rodent’s fat, leathery tail disappeared beneath a scarred desk. He shivered. Rats were the least of his problems but he still hated them. He nudged the makeshift den with the toe of his boot and prayed no more critters were home. Quinn speculated on the number of derelicts who took refuge in the dreary, crippled building, and hoped none of them squatted there right now. To be anywhere in his general vicinity meant death.
It was coming for him.
The sun climbed higher in the sky to burn away the fog that lingered around the scattered buildings of this abandoned industrial park. As the wet foundations dried, their lighter color hinted at subtle purity.
Illyria was also searching for someone to purify. Quinn wondered if he’d feel clean after she scorched him from the inside out with the touch of her hand or ran him through with her sword. Maybe, once his ashes mingled with her maniacal laughter and the wind carried them ever upward toward Heaven, he would be whole again.
Vengeance and guilt, with their voracious appetites, had gnawed at his soul for years: the victims he couldn’t save, the family he left behind, the sister he tormented...nothing suppressed their cravings for long.
Once Illyria took his life, perhaps their hunger would be sated.
Unable to go any farther, Quinn’s legs buckled. He crawled to a nearby wall and leaned against it. Moisture from the floor seeped into his torn jeans, adding to his misery. His lungs whistled as they sucked in air. Legs, splayed like a broken marionette, seized, and then cramped. Too tired to massage them, he clenched his jaws to keep from crying out.
In the silent, drafty room, the sound of a door shattering was akin to ringside seats at a car crash.
The angel had arrived.
Gabriel’s footsteps reverberated off sleek marble walls and echoed throughout the antechamber. He winced, and felt he was committing a sin by disturbing the solitude of this pretentious palace. God forbid he scuff the diamond-inlaid floor.
Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. He wasn’t going to leave his vessel and transform to his natural state for a twenty-minute meeting with Michael. The archangel would get over it.
As he took in the expansive staircase, Gabriel sighed and then began to climb. Why couldn’t Michael’s heaven be less demanding? The need to stretch his wings and fly was an itch he desperately wanted to scratch, but it was not allowed here. Neither were displays of power. Just a few of the ridiculous rules Michael had set to emphasize his position in the third Triad – as if they didn’t know.
Legs pumping, his pace providing a pulse to the otherwise lifeless climate, Gabriel reflected upon his brother.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about Michael. For as long as he could remember, the archangel had been a constant in his life. God knew Lucifer, His first son, would fall. He also knew Evil would be let into the Garden and the first sin would be committed. He created Michael to lead His army. Gabriel was created to be a messenger – a courier between humans, angels, and God.
And there were others: Raphael the Healer, Uriel the Light of God, Salaphiel the Patron of Prayer, and more. Gabriel rarely got the chance to interact with his brothers and sisters of the First Chosen, save Michael. They were all too busy with their tasks.
A mere decade before, Gabriel considered his older brother the image of a perfect seraph. Michael was humble, holy, and guarded their Father’s children as if they were his own creations. Poor Raphael couldn’t keep up with the number of healings their eldest sibling demanded of him. The ones who couldn’t be saved were met at Heaven’s gate by Michael himself, guided inside with words of comfort and love. Gabriel’s only wish was to be as earnest and devoted as his mentor.
But something changed.
Gabriel paused in his ascent to admire the view through one of many impressive stained-glass windows that adorned the palace. He wasn’t tired. He was worried.
Before him, the calm waters of a green sea stretched in a never-ending pattern of hypnotic rolls and crests. Its gentle waves embraced a shore in hues of purple and blue, smoothing the sands as a mother might smooth the brow of her child. In the distance, a whale breached the surface and slowly descended to the depths again.
The vitreous sea was tranquil today, nourishing. But Gabriel knew it could turn stormy and threatening without notice…just like Michael.
To his left, far upon rocky crags, a statue of an angel guarded his brother’s domain. Wings spread wide and poised for flight, a dress rippled and billowed around her bare feet in pretend gales. Arms open, a serene smile softened the hard lines of her face. Through this particular piece of stained glass, she was painted in red.
Life was all about perspective. Through his eyes, the angel appeared covered in blood. To someone else, she might glow like the sun. He shook his head; his thoughts drifting back to the archangel.
Was it stress? Is that why Michael had become so callous? It was as if the brother he once knew no longer existed.
Gabriel pushed the thought away. It was a sin to question the actions of a superior, especially a First Chosen. It was much worse to feel the way he did about his own brother – one who had been there for him many times in the past.
He ran a hand through the soft, brown curls on his head – a human gesture Michael would frown upon. Gabriel couldn’t help it. Guardians had more interaction with humans and often picked up some of their mannerisms. Though discouraged, this flaw was tolerated. Developing strong attachments to humans was not.
Gabriel cleared the final step of the staircase, surprised to find himself at the top. He made a right turn and entered a passageway created of glass. Outside these walls grew a lush garden with every flower and tree imaginable. It was a favorite part of Michael’s heaven that ended much too soon.
Gabriel pulled the cord that hung outside the elaborately carved door of Michael’s office, and told himself he felt no strong attachment to his charges. Jordan, Casen, and the twins meant no more to him than other humans he had contact with.
From inside, a bell rang, signaling his arrival.
Gabriel wondered if it was a sin to lie to one’s self.
The screwdriver slipped, gouging a sizeable chunk out of Quinn’s hand.
He hurled the offending tool across the yard while his brother snickered. Quinn shot Nathan a warning look, which only succeeded in making his twin laugh harder.
Quinn sighed and reflected on the past three months. They were frustrating nightmares strung together, measured in crawling hours, cheap whiskey, blood, and scalding tears he only allowed freedom when he was alone.
Nathan’s laughter faded; his expression grew as somber as the day. Quinn wondered if his brother sensed his anxiety in the crisp October air. With the bond they shared, it wouldn’t surprise him. Nathan was always quick to read his emotions, absorbing them like a sponge, sharing the burden. The connection was useful, especially on hunts. Being able to anticipate each other’s moves is what made them such successful Slayers.
Now, Quinn found it embarrassing.
Although more open with his feelings around Nathan, he didn’t like to appear vulnerable – out of control. Like graffiti on a wall that eventually bled through no matter how many times you painted over it, so were his insecurities. The stress of losing Jordan had caused him to become reckless, make stupid mistakes. Losing control could have devastating consequences.
Nathan grabbed two beers from a nearby cooler while Quinn wrapped his injured hand in a grease-covered rag. With a grunt and some popping of the knees, the two lowered themselves to the front porch steps.
For a while, the only sounds were an occasional call of a bird and the wind rattling the skeletal branches of the giant oak in the yard. No words were needed.
Snow would fall soon. Casen was out in the fields, preparing the cattle for the long winter ahead, making sure the barns that dotted their acreage were secure against the bitter cold. Quinn took another pull from his longneck bottle and wondered if Nathan had seen to Archer, Jordan’s beloved quarter horse.
“Yes,” his brother answered the unspoken question. “I gave him oats, fresh hay and water, and a good brushing.” Nathan picked at the label on his bottle. “We’re gonna have to do something with him soon. That horse is miserable, and neither of us rides.”
Quinn stared into the distance, remembering how Jordan’s face had lit up like a borealis the first time she’d laid eyes on Archer. She’d shared a bond with that horse almost as strong as the one he shared with Nathan. To give the animal away would be admitting defeat, giving up on the sister who needed them.
But Nathan was right. Archer was used to more interaction and exercise, and Jordan’s absence affected him deeply.
Closing his eyes, a flood of images washed over him – happier times when he watched from a distance as Jordan raced through the pasture on the back of the magnificent animal, red hair rippling behind her like a cape, a smile of pure joy on her face. Her moments with Archer were probably the happiest in her life.
Reluctantly, Quinn nodded.
“Maybe we can loan him to The Good Shepherd Riding Academy for a while,” Nathan said, referring to a local ranch that paired special-needs children with horses to help them gain confidence, learn to trust, and believe in themselves.
Jordan thought a lot of the program. The idea of Archer helping children while receiving some much-needed exercise and attention wasn’t a bad idea.
“But only as a loan, though,” he stressed. “Jordan won’t be gone forever.”
Standing, Nathan took Quinn’s empty bottle and placed it upside down in the cooler with his own. Quinn was tempted to ask for another but drowning himself in alcohol would only result in a hangover the next morning and a headache that would linger for days.
Nathan retrieved another screwdriver from the tool chest and went back to work on the mangled Charger. Just looking at his baby made Quinn’s heart ache and his blood boil. The car was a mess.
Three days before, on yet another tedious hunt, a Jersey Devil used the car as a trampoline…after Quinn ran into it. The results were a busted radiator, fan, and a hood that looked like Pegasus performed
on it. It would take many months and a lot of cash to make the repairs.
The angels had finally coughed up the dough, but still denied them time off. They barely slept. He and Nathan were sent on one assignment after another, to all corners of the country, leaving their uncle to manage the ranch alone.
Since that fateful hunt for the
in Tennessee, everything was different. The fabric holding their dysfunctional family together had unraveled, with one important thread lost in the fray. How were they going to pull their sister from the pits of Hell, which may very well be where she was right now? After all, she had left with demons.
So much needed to be done.
There were mountains of ancient lore on Cambions – half-demons – they needed to dig through. Quinn had no idea if there was anything specific on how to banish the demon part, and he no longer cared. Jordan was his sister. That’s all that mattered.
The hardest part would be keeping her safe from angels once they found her. Word in the Celadon Circle was that the Powers That Be were still actively searching for her. For reasons unknown, Michael saw Jordan as a threat. Quinn wanted to know why.
For the past two months, their orders came from the Hornblowers, and never the same wings twice. Gabriel hadn’t shown his face (or wings) since the day Jordan left with her demon father, Aamon. Of course, Casen shoving the business end of a pistol in Gabe’s face might have something to do with their Guardian’s absence.
It was obvious the angels were keeping them busy to thwart any attempt to save their sister. Well, that was going to stop.
The approaching rumble of Casen’s John Deere signaled he’d finished for the day. Quinn helped Nathan put away the tools and cover the Charger with a tarp. They finished just as their uncle rounded the corner of the house.
With a curt nod to his nephews, Casen stripped off his leather work gloves and fished the remaining beer from the cooler. Staring toward the sky, he finished half the brew before pulling the bottle from his lips. Shoulders pushed back, jaw set – Quinn knew that look. It was the same stance, the same expression his uncle got on hunts when he tired of playing by the rules. Uncle Case was ready to make up his own.
“Come on inside,” he ordered, eyes as dark as the coming dusk. “We’ve got work to do.”