Authors: G.P. Ching
Return to Eden
Return to Eden: The Soulkeepers series, Book 3
Copyright © G.P. Ching, 2012
eBook Edition, License Notes
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
First Edition: March 2012
Cover art by Adam Bedore at Anjin Design.
Photograph copyright Red Glass Sphere (isolated) © Kompaniets Tara and Beautiful Woman © Serov.
Licensed through Shutterstock images.
Third edition edited by H. Danielle Crabtree
Glossary of Terms
A rare type of Soulkeeper who has the power to heal people and situations. Healers can tell right from wrong even in the most confusing of circumstances.
A type of Soulkeeper specialized in the art of equipping Horsemen for their work.
A type of Soulkeeper who acts as a warrior, battling Watchers when all other tactics have failed.
When a person is under the spell of a Watcher. Usually, Watchers will lure their victims to drink an addictive elixir that subjects the person to the Watcher's will.
An enchanted gem given to another Soulkeeper by a Healer that allows the Soulkeeper a window into the Healer's abilities. It is given when the Horseman or Helper needs guidance over an extended period of time away from the Healer.
A person with a recessive genetic abnormality that gives them power to fight Watchers. Each Soulkeeper's gift is as unique and individual as a fingerprint but their purpose falls into three categories: Helper, Horseman, or Healer. A Soulkeeper's power is triggered by a stressful event and is only fully realized when the person accepts their true purpose.
: A branch of the tree that grew out of Oswald Silva's buried corpse. Used by a Soulkeeper, the staff acts as a portal, transporting the user from one place to another. Makes a sound like a firecracker when activated.
Angels who defected with Lucifer from God's grace. Also called fallen angels or demons, these beings have the skin and eyes of a snake, and wings like a bat. They are skilled in illusion and sorcery, appearing as model-perfect human beings most of the time. They are notoriously lazy, preferring to wait until their victims are physically or emotionally weak to attack. They live below ground in a place called Nod because the sun drains their powers. They gain strength by eating human flesh obtained by abducting people and keeping them as slaves.
Abigail Silva knew she was dreaming, the kind of bittersweet dream that could float away on the current of a waking breath. Clue one was the June snow. It drifted down around her as she walked into her garden, the delicate plants unbothered by the winter storm. The lush foliage harkened back to the days when Oswald's soul still warmed the air.
Gideon waited for her, closer than usual, close enough to cause her skin to prickle from the heat in real life. A lock of wild auburn hair cut across his forehead and his pearl-white wings folded against his back.
Holding her breath, she reached for him. Slow. Tentative. Would her imagination allow her this one sweet experience? Or, would her touch fill them both with scorching pain as it did in the waking world?
Soft ecstasy. There was no pain, no burn. Her shaky exhale ruffled the feathers where her hand made contact. Gentle but eager, she stroked his wing downward, moving her caress to his upper arm. The light from within him shimmered between her fingers. Touching Gideon was touching heaven. She inhaled the smell of sandalwood, orange blossoms, warmth, and light.
A smile spread lazily across Gideon's face, reaching all the way to his emerald green eyes. He raised one rugged palm. She pressed her cheek into his hand. Those pearly wings enveloped her body, protecting her from the snow, a thoughtful but unnecessary gesture considering her Watcher skin couldn't feel the cold.
Abigail decided as long as she was dreaming, she'd make the most of it. For centuries she'd wondered what it would feel like to kiss Gideon. His lips were full, parted, waiting. Tilting her chin, she pressed her mouth to his. She closed her eyes, desperate to cling to every detail of the honey-sweet kiss. How long could she remain here in this fantasy? She vowed to fight waking with everything she had.
Pain. Abigail opened her eyes. Gideon was gone, replaced with the cold, blond illusion that the devil preferred to use. She might have screamed but there was something in her mouth. What had tasted like honey now moved bitter and rough on her tongue. She gagged, pitching forward. A cockroach crawled from her bottom lip and dropped to the dirt.
"Lucifer!" she spat.
"You remember me, Abigail? So glad I made an impression the last time we were together. Have ten thousand years of absence made the heart grow fonder?"
She scrambled away from him. "Am I still dreaming or is this real?"
"Both, my dear. You are still asleep, and this is very much real."
Pulse racing, she tried to turn for the gate but her legs refused to obey. When Lucifer wanted an audience he got one. "Why are you here? I thought we agreed to go our separate ways after the fall?"
"Separate ways, yes. But I hadn't counted on you going the opposite way. You've crawled straight back to God. The list of Soulkeepers I stole from you—I believe you had no intention of sharing it with me. You're helping Him now. Unfair, Abigail. You were supposed to be mine."
"We had an agreement."
"I've never had a problem breaking an agreement." Lucifer rolled his eyes and spread his hands.
"What do you want, Lucifer?"
"I want you, Abigail. I need your help with something, help only you can give me. Join me and we will conquer this Earth, and I will make you a queen over it."
"Not interested," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. "I know how your promises work. Sure, you’ll make me a queen—Queen of the Damned. Queen of the Broken. The most sorrowful of the sorrowful. No thanks. You forget I have free will. I choose not to help you."
Lucifer stepped closer, smoothing his blond hair with his hand. "Oh, but I can give you something God can't. I can give you Gideon."
As dangerous as it was, she leaned toward his face, her teeth coming together in an audible snap. "You've been breathing too many sulfur fumes. Gideon is not yours to give. God has promised us humanity. Gideon and I
"When? Pity about God's promises. He's always sketchy on the details. You never thought it would take this long did you? For all you know, it could be another thousand years." Lucifer picked at something under his nail, then held his hand to the light, admiring his manicure.
"God always keeps His promises," she said softly.
"Yes, eventually. Like Moses reaching the promised land." Lucifer turned his attention back toward her and pressed his finger into his bottom lip. "Oh wait, that didn’t work out so well for him, did it? What did He promise you, exactly? Did He say He'd make you human when evil is vanquished from the Earth? Clearly that's never going to happen. Must be easy for Him to make promises He never has to keep. And they call
the Lord of Lies."
"I'm not talking to you about this. I'm not helping you." She shook her head and backed away.
"If I ran things, Abigail, Gideon could fall. I could make him like us. If you were both Watchers, you could touch. You could kiss. And you could be together, forever. Human bodies age and die. What I offer you is permanent."
"Gideon would never fall. He’s too good. He’s not like me and he’s definitely not like you."
"You underestimate your influence over him. He’d fall for you. You know he’d do it for you. He’s already left heaven for you. It’s not that much farther to go."
Abigail squared her shoulders and did a very stupid thing. She met Lucifer’s eyes directly. There was a reason the name Lucifer meant morning star. With his bright blond hair, golden skin, and aqua blue eyes, he was attractive by human standards. But the way he glowed was like looking into the sun. Everything about him pulled her under, a deceivingly bright undercurrent that promised safety but delivered death. Only somehow Lucifer made her thoughts twist until she believed she wanted to die. She was desperate to die.
She tried to remember what she planned to say to him. Even when she looked away, he smelled just like Gideon. He gave off light like Gideon. She buried her face in her hands and began to weep.
"There, there, Abigail. I know my presence is overwhelming. Take some time. Think about my offer. I’ll be around." Where his hand touched her shoulder, Abigail’s skin squirmed like it was covered in maggots. "I’m
In the time it took her to lower her hands, he was gone. The darkness swallowed her, suffocating her under ten thousand pounds of weight, as if she were buried alive in her own subconscious. She struggled against the pressure, flailing her arms, and kicking into the blackness. With a scream, she awoke tangled in her sheets. Black snakeskin fingers gripped her pillow. Her fingers. She'd lost her human illusion.
With a few deep breaths, she extended her hand and focused her energy. The scales transformed into smooth alabaster skin. A perfect French manicure took the place of her talons.
"Another nightmare?" Gideon asked, approaching from the corner of the room where he slept standing up. His light spilled over her.
"I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me about it."
"Don’t be like that, Gideon." Abigail swept her platinum hair behind her shoulders. The blade straight coif, her preferred illusion, cascaded elegantly down her back. She hugged her knees to her chest.
Gideon climbed onto the bed, kneeling beside her carefully. "Abigail, you’ve been secretive and obviously tortured since Lucifer stole the list of Soulkeepers. These nightmares, they mean something. You’re feeling guilty. You should talk about it."
As well meaning as the sentiment was, Abigail felt the edge of his words. It was as much an accusation as a suggestion. "I’ve told you, Gideon. I don’t feel guilty about what happened. I conjured the list of Soulkeepers for a good reason. Who knows how many lives I saved by calling Mara here to help slay those Watchers in Chicago? We needed help and I got it. There’s no way I could have foreseen Lucifer would get the list."
Two fists came down on the bed in front of her, so hard it bounced her backward on the mattress. "No, Abigail. The Healer told you to wait. You should have waited. Don’t you get it? You acted in your own will. You invited this mess."
don’t get it, Gideon. We have free will for a reason. We’re supposed to think for ourselves, to do what we know is right even when it means breaking the rules. And let’s not forget that I was smart enough to place a spell on the list to keep Lucifer out. He can’t read the list because of me."
"He wouldn't have the list at all, if it wasn't for you."
Abigail crawled forward, until she was so close to Gideon her face burned. "I don’t feel guilty for what I’ve done. But let’s be honest, you feel ashamed. Right now you are wondering whether your choice to join me on Earth was worth it. You are wondering if I am worth it."
Gideon lowered his eyes.
"That’s all the confirmation I needed." Abigail bounded off the bed.
Gideon reached for her, the muscles in his shoulder bunching with the effort. "I know you are worth it, Abigail. You’ve always been worth it. But I wonder if we will ever be in the same place at the same time. I can’t understand what you did because I don’t think like you." He narrowed his eyes and his reaching hand formed a fist. "We are together, every day, but still worlds apart. Lately, it feels like galaxies apart."
Abigail folded her arms over her chest and turned toward the stained-glass window. "Maybe we are."
"I do not regret coming to Earth for you, but this is hell. Having you but not having you is
. No, I don’t understand how you stay as strong as you do, or how you have the courage to risk our future on what you
is the right thing to do." He crawled off the bed and took a step toward her. "I don’t have that kind of courage."