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Broken Wings (Alleyhill Novella)

BROKEN
WINGS

—an *Alleyhill *story—

[]

KAY & UNRULY

———

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Kemdi Ik

www.KemdiIk.com

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.

Cover design by Kemdi Ik

Stock Photos retrieved from Adobe Stock

Kay and Unruly Books 2016

www.KayAndUnruly.com

Broken Wings | Kemdi Ik – 1st ed.

(Alleyhill ; bk. 2.2)

Summary: Blythe is a fallen angel with an aimless mission. Within a few days, he’ll be out of Alleyhill. However, he’s notable for causing havoc in less time.

eISBN: 9781519970183

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Copyright

Author’s Note

–––

The Day Ellicia Left

Epigraph

1 | The Wait & Rumours That Be

NATHAN

2 | For a Reason & The Meeting

BLYTHE

3 | Again & Aloof

JASON

4 | SOS & Settled Disaster

NATHAN

5 | To All the Hours We Could Have Had

BLYTHE

6 | Without a Doubt

–––

By Kemdi Ik

“The Beckoning” Excerpt

About Kemdi Ik

AUTHOR’S NOTE

This Alleyhill story is not required to be read before The Beckoning. However, it is recommended; plus, it’s a short story, so why not? You’ll be introduced to Blythe, a Fallen angel, who might make an appearance in The Beckoning (I’ll never tell). Go on and read on.

THE DAY ELLICIA LEFT

“She’s gone,” Jason finally said, his eyes stuck on the road before them. They had only been standing there like a couple of lost teenagers for the past two hours. Teenagers, which by the way they tended to forget they weren’t. Although it had been a while since either of them were human. Jason especially. Because, whereas Nathan’s memory as a human tended to slip away, Jason’s were much further from reach due to the very fact that he had been a vampire almost a century before Nathan was even turned.

Ellicia was long gone, indeed. Even knowing that, Nathan still couldn’t bring himself to agree with him. “You shouldn’t have just left like that,” he commented, appearing by Jason’s side. “What’s going on with you?” his voice was grounded, and his gaze was trained on the same empty road. He couldn’t let his confused emotions rise more than they already had.

Jason finally peeled his eyes away, choosing to stare at some random trees. “Let’s talk about me later. You let her go.”

“I had to.” He had to know Nathan wasn’t lying. There was no way he could let her go if it wasn’t the only plan he had up my sleeve.

“Why?”

“You know why. She isn’t safe here. The further away she is from the hell gates, the better for us all. The better for her.”

“You seem so sure of yourself.”

Nathan kicked mindlessly on a bare patch of gravel road. “Do I? Because I feel like I might appear to her any minute now.”

Just like that, it was over. Nathan most likely wouldn’t ever see her again, and even if he did, she wouldn’t ever know. She couldn’t ever know. “It’s for the best,” he muttered mostly to himself, but Jason nodded in agreement. Of course, he was tempted to ask why he cared so much, but knowing Jason, it would probably turn into another fight. They had had most of that lately, for absolutely no reason. Or maybe there was a reason. Maybe it was Ellicia, but neither of them had said it out loud yet.

Jason said something else that Nathan didn’t quite get. His mind was on another thing he knew he had to do. Because, if he were being honest, Ellicia couldn’t stay gone forever. That was a given. Or maybe it was just a weak part of his mind making him believe that one fact. Ellicia would be back when it became safe for her to return. Years from now. Several years.

“What now?”

“She won’t stay gone for long. We know that,” Nathan finally said after a few calming breaths. Curiosity would bring her back. He knew that. “Let’s make it safe for her.”

“How?”

“With her powers deactivated, and the thing in her resting, most demons aren’t interested anymore, but others are.”

“Others like who?”

Nathan turned in the opposite direction and started walking. Jason followed shortly behind him. “Fallen angels,” was his reply. That was still a mystery. Fallen angels weren’t exactly nice guys, but he wondered why they had set their eyes on Ellicia. That is, of course, if he were to believe what Sandoree told him—that they wanted Ellicia dead. He didn’t know how much longer he could watch Ellicia die without going insane. It was crazy, but just the other day, he’d considered falling for her—a thought that should never in a million years have crossed his mind. Hell, that was crazier than crazy. He was given this position as a chance to do right, and due to that, he didn’t exactly have the luxury of choosing a different path. But nonetheless, the idea had crossed his mind.

Jason hurried his steps, his mind still going through whatever he thought he was going to say to Ellicia. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Why?”

Nathan felt it in his pocket as he backed away slowly—Ellicia’s phoenix pendant. Perhaps, he should have returned it before she left… Maybe he still could. With another step away from the gravel road, He shrugged and said, “Who knows why they do anything? We should have a talk with… someone.” With all that had just taken place, his thoughts were still spiralling out of his control, but he fought to keep them still, to assess them. To get the name he needed.

“Who?”

Nathan lightly shuffled his feet, thinking back to a time before. “They call him Blythe.”

“And what’s so special about this Blythe?” Jason questioned.

Nathan ruffled his hair worriedly and continued walking on the road before him. “He’s lived a long life.”

“How long?”

“We are about to find out. If you’re in.” It wasn’t a question. If Jason decided he was coming, he was coming. Probably a good thing, seeing as Nathan was most likely going to need his help.

Lariah had been handled. The bounty from the underworld had been called off and the Fallen had stayed hidden. Ellicia was safe again. For the time being.

[]

“It’s not why we choose to fall that determines what happens next. It’s how hard we fall and how willing we are to get back up.”

~ Blythe, The Fallen Angel.

1

– The Wait & Rumours That Be –

[*I *]SWORE OUT LOUD. Anger, my current nemesis, had struck again. Though, I guess I was madder at myself than anyone else for not seeing the change coming. Still angry for no excusable reason, I flung the already broken glass bottle in the opposite direction using nothing but my heated thoughts. I needed to calm down. This didn’t mean anything.

“She can’t be gone. It’s impossible,” I remarked, more to myself than Anthony. In fact, it was more than impossible. It was completely unheard of. A Protector leaving their post… Not possible. Not in my lifetime, not ever. Never in the history of the world’s existence had that ever happened. At least never with the Protector of the hell gates. Maybe it was more somewhat possible for other Protectors out there—those whose burden could never be as heavy as keeping the gates of hell sealed—to leave their post. But with the hell gates involved, the Protector’s fate was sealed. Always.

Tony shook his head as he cleaned up the mess made by the broken glass. “She is, Blythe,” he insisted. “Word is to keep away from her.” He returned to arranging the tumblers behind the bar.

I tried keeping my voice lowered. It wasn’t his fault he was born a knucklehead. “The Protector can’t just walk up and leave Alleyhill.” [_Ellicia, Ellicia. _]“Why the sudden need to leave?” I asked more to myself than anyone else.

“She can, if she isn’t the Protector anymore,” Tony chipped in.

I chuckled. I couldn’t help it. I had lived enough years to know that once a Protector, always a Protector, until death—true death. Which from what I’d heard, she’d escaped twice. Lucky girl. Too lucky. “Tell me what you heard, Anthony. Word for word.”

“Her memories have been wiped. A deal was made with the demons that as long as that remained to be true, she’d be left alone.

Loopholes. Oh, how wonderful. “Demons, you say. Well, last I heard, I had wings on my back, not smoke.”

Twirling his barely-there moustache, he asked, “What are you saying, Blythe?”

“I’m saying that if what you say is true, then someone is late.”

“Who?”

I smiled knowingly. “A soon-to-be friend, I think. Or a foe, who knows? Goes by the name of Nathaniel.” I shook my head. Sometimes, I think this world just wasn’t ready for my existence. We’d met once—Nathan and I. I hadn’t been very nice then, either.

“Not Nathaniel, her Guardian?” he said disapprovingly with a noticeable frown.

It had been a while since I’d been involved with anything angel-related. In fact, my only tie to the supernatural was the bar I owned—the Outsketch bar. The bar that I hadn’t been physically in for over four years, until right now. It looked more or less the same. Tony did do a good job managing it, I guess. I should really think of thanking him some time later. I knew I couldn’t do it now; I was too riled up. My mind was caught up in the business I had to handle before I left town again. This time, I wouldn’t return. That was the plan, at least.

“Yes. That one exactly. Get me another bottle, Tony.”

He winced at my harsh way in which I relayed the order. I should be nicer to him. But ‘nice’ wasn’t something I did or could ever risk being. That was why I was a Fallen. I’d tried the nice path once, over a century ago. To say it bit me in the ass would be too mild a description. This was me now: unfamiliar with politeness. And I was okay with that.

“No, boss. No alcohol, remember?” He avoided my gaze.

I tapped the wooden table beside me with both palms. “Fine. You know what, forget the bottle. Let’s go break some necks today.”

“You don’t mean—”

I stopped him mid-sentence. “Yes, I do.” I studied his wary expression. “What?” I rubbed my palms together, agitated. “I’m bored.”

Tony didn’t move. Instead, he continued to speak. “Maybe you should get a video game instead,” he suggested, his voice low and shy as it had always been whenever it was directed at me. “I hear Grand Theft Auto may be right up your alley.”

He had good intentions, I knew that. Even with the fact that he was a werewolf, a creature of the underworld, he had always been a much better person that I. “I’m a five-century-year-old Fallen. I don’t do video games.” And with that, I picked up my keys and headed towards the door. Tony followed two steps behind.

“Well, hello, boys,” was my all too familiar greeting as I gallivanted into my soon-to-be-nemesis’ liar.

“W– what are you doing here, Blythe? We’ve stayed away. We’ve—”

My hand was wrapped around Joe’s neck before his statement could come to an end. “Where’s your boss, Joe?” My voice was low, grounded. The grip I had around his neck was anything but threatening. This was me being nice.

“He—He’s…” Attempting to right himself, he cleared his throat and got rid of the tremble in his voice. “He’s busy. What do you and your minion want?”

“Information. Tout de suite.” I punctuated that with a wicked smile.

I felt the coldness before it approached me. Perks of once being a true angel. With my back to the vampire attempting to attack me, I tightened my hand around the scared vampire’s throat. Joe had always been a shrill one. I snickered at their vile attempt. “Really?” I dropped my hand from Joe’s neck and turned to face the unknown figure. He was new. No wonder he thought he could take me on. “You must not have heard of me,” I said, still knocking the wind out of him with my grip. I’m Blythe.”

“Um, maybe you should let him go, boss.”

How many times did Tony have to learn that pity was weakness and weakness made you a target? I wondered how he’d survived so long with me all the way in Montreal? “Not today…” My eyes still on the unnamed vampire, I offered my most wicked smile. “You really shouldn’t have.” With a loud snap, he was no more. We know how the saying goes: Ashes to ashes…

I dusted away any lingering ash on my shirt. I heard Joe’s breath hitch as his friend disintegrated to ash. He knew better than to attempt a counter attack.

“What was that I said about getting your boss?” I ground out.

His edginess dissolved, and he scurried along.

“Blythe—”

I cut Tony off before he could start with his lectures on anger misplacement, [blah, blah, blah. “Non! Je ne veux pas de vos conseils. _]I can’t hear it right now.” No lecture. No nothing. I needed answers and then I was out. No lingering in town. That was what I repeated to myself time and time again. Even if it kept drifting towards something else. Towards _someone else.

NATHAN

2

– For a Reason & The Meeting –

A Few Weeks Ago

“What you’re asking . . .” My thoughts were in overload. I was still in shock, confused as hell. Katelyn and I had never really spoken. Sure, Ellicia had introduced us, but knowing how I felt about her daughter, I never expected a meeting like this.

Katelyn pushed on, saying that Ellicia was safest without those memories. “You know it. I know it. It’s our safest option. Look, I’m going to find her—Madame Bidoü. You don’t have to be there. But I will be.”

She put me in an awkward predicament. I had done what I had to do to bring Ellicia back from the dead. Of course, I was going to be there.

With one easy thought, I headed over to Bidoü’s. She’d made herself visible to me ever since she saw me as trustworthy. I wasn’t sure why she trusted me, but I wasn’t going to question her. She was blabbing on to someone who wasn’t there. Another perk of being an angel. “Tell me it isn’t true,” I said. I didn’t have to explain. Chances were she already knew what I was talking about, probably before Katelyn had cornered me.

“You’d have to specify.”

She gave me that knowing smile that I’d come to be familiar with.

“Ellicia’s memories. Is there another way through?”

“If I were given a message to you, I would have called you here. You wouldn’t have arrived unannounced. Don’t make me put on the casting spell again. “Whatever it is that you and Katelyn have up your sleeves should remain unknown to me. For now.”

“But you already know.” This was Bidoü. How could she not? “You’re the one she’s coming for. Katelyn is seeking your help. Will you? Do you have to?”

She cleared her throat, wiping the smile from her face. “I feel a sense of loyalty to anyone with the last name Wayfield.”

“Except for Ellicia,” I scoffed. It was a low blow, but none of this would have needed to happen if Bidoü had never handed over the blade to Ellicia. It all got screwed up with that one stupid blade that had appeared to Ellicia via her dreams.

You and I know how this works. The balance must remain. Those little Protectors around the world have a certain responsibility, but at the end of their fight, they get to sleep and wake up and move on with their lives. Ellicia was not and will never be a little Protector. She was the Protector of the hell gates. I don’t make the rules. She was The Protector, Nathan. We knew how her story would end, but it didn’t. So now a lot of things are screwed. If wiping her memory could set things in balance, then it’s what I’d do.”

“But—”

She waved her hand and I couldn’t speak. It was as though she’d sealed up my lips magically. “Go to sleep, Nathan.”

now

Ellicia propped her head on her raised wrist. “Kate is going to be so pissed,” she said, trying to hide a smile.

I loved her smile. I loved her. “More than pissed,” I agreed.

“Are you okay?” she asked with a concerned look on her face. Was I that transparent? I hoped not, seeing as I was far from being human.

No, I wasn’t, but I nodded nonetheless.

I wondered if I should tell her what was to come. She’d want to know. I knew she would, but many pieces were still unknown. Maybe she wouldn’t need to know, or maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part. Ever since I’d witnessed that odd memory of my past-self speaking to present-day Ellicia, I’d questioned a lot of things. Maybe being given the chance to help innocents and being tasked as her Guardian was anything but a coincidence. Somehow, I knew that in helping her on her path, I was on mine. Angels didn’t have destinies. They were immortal, so they didn’t need one. But I was once mortal… before I died, twice.

Ellicia kissed me right before a text on her phone disrupted us. She pulled away lazily.

“It’s Sean,” she said to me. She read the text out loud, “College is great. Don’t think of not going.”

Restlessly, I landed a peck on her neck, then on her cheek, before finally kissing her on the lips. “Yeah, I bet the parties are worth the stress.”

“No, I think he and Deana are ‘going steady.’”

Something was off. “Yeah… um… Sean?” This was news to me. Then again, I tried my best to stay away from human affairs. Well, humans who weren’t Ellicia.

She nodded. That was when I noticed the blood seeping through her shirt. Did that just appear?

This conversation, I … remembered. Except this time, there wasn’t a single ray of sunshine in her bedroom and the light kept flickering. Something was off… “You’re bleeding.” And did she say Sean?

“Sure,” she said, still smiling.

“You’re bleeding, Ellicia.” The blood was coming from the spot that she’d been stabbed in. Or rather, the spot she’d stabbed herself in.

Still smiling, she started crying. Except instead of regular tears, hers were red. Blood. She was crying blood.

“Your eyes.”

Her expression remained bland. She seemed unbothered by how wrong everything was. I didn’t even think she noticed any weirdness at all, which made no sense whatsoever. “Jesus, chill out, Nathan.” Her voice sounded like static. I barely made out what she was saying.

What the—

Before I could figure out what the hell was going on, blood was everywhere—under my feet, soaking the rug, covering Ellicia. Then I felt it… something—a familiar pain in my gums. A particular pain I’d dreaded. With my tongue, I felt my teeth… my fangs. I turned away from Ellicia as quickly as I could and stared at her blank walls. Her heartbeat echoed in my ears. They were too loud, too loud. Her blood was too red. Everything was… wrong.

I felt disoriented. Wait a minute? Was I … dreaming? I was having a nightmare…?

I woke up just as the thought settled in my mind. Nightmare… I hadn’t had that since before I was turned. Yet, I knew enough to tell that that was no regular nightmare. It was a message. I just didn’t know what. And what was it with Sean? He was dead. Even with the disturbing series of images still fresh, all my brain hung on to was Ellicia’s smile. I gulped as I remembered that it would be a while before we laid eyes on each other again, if ever. She was fine. She’s safe, I told myself again and again.

There was no time to analyse the creepy dream. I had someone that needed finding. And he went by the name of Blythe. Blythe, the Fallen. It wasn’t going to be easy, especially since he appeared to have zero online presence other than the few random fictional stories based on his life. I’d almost given up before finally something. With the powers of the internet and my angel gifts, it didn’t take long for me to find his whereabouts. It was a tiny detail, but it was going to be vital to finding him, if I was lucky. If he was in town, there was only one place he would be.

Having this information, I decided to take a visit to Jason’s, relay the information to him, and then, together, we could hopefully figure something out. But first, I needed to call him.

I blasted through Jason’s unlocked door impatiently, not caring to look at him when I said, “I found him.”

“Who?” Jason asked, casually taking a drink out of a blood bag. “What? I’m hungry.”

I shrugged. “Blythe.”

“So, I guess that means the man’s not a myth.”

“Yeah.” Truth be told, I already knew he wasn’t a myth. We’d met once before, so knowing about his existence wasn’t the problem. Finding him was. “He has agreed to meet us.”

Jason smiled at that revelation. “How? You said it would be damn near impossible to meet with any of The Fallen, much less, Blythe, himself.”

“I have my ways.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing you need to be concerned about.”

“Why do I even try?” Jason asked in a lazy manner. You wouldn’t tell me anyway.”

Instead of urging me for further information, he decided that playing around with his lighter was a better choice. I was grateful because, although I’d told him a lot across the years, there were still certain things I preferred keeping buried. Either way, I offer some information. “He’s the owner of the Outsketch bar, so I figure that’s the best place to have a meeting.”

“Wait, he’s the owner of the bar?” he paused before repeating the last two words with emphasis, “The bar? The one that I’m in practically 24/7?” he asked, louder this time. He was clearly in disbelief.

I’d met Blythe before and even then, I wasn’t aware of that situation. So I was also taken aback when I’d found that out.

[*Jason *]snapped his fingers, successfully distracting me from my faraway thoughts. I debated knocking him out. My daydream had been soothing. Ellicia had been there. Now I was back to reality. Grey, boring reality. In a bar with Jason, awaiting Blythe’s arrival. I doubted he’d show, but right now, he was the only lead we had. We were on a mission that would probably end up leading nowhere but we had to try. We needed answers that I knew Ellicia would want sooner or later. Starting with what she was. Nephilim wasn’t cutting it anymore. I think a name would do. Just a name, of what she is. Because I knew, I could just tell, that once she fought for her memories back, that would be one of the questions she wouldn’t let go of.

“Nate, get your head together. Where is he?” By ‘he,’ I guessed Jason was talking about Blythe.

One week had passed since Ellicia left and I had a hard time thinking of anything that wasn’t linked to her. And I couldn’t have that. A clear head was what I needed. Blythe was no joking matter. Blythe, the Fallen angel. The only fallen angel I knew of. If there was anyone who knew anything—other than the angels who were icing me out—it would be him. I had to try, at least. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt as though I owed Ellicia everything. Maybe I wasn’t that unsure, maybe I knew exactly why I felt that way when it came to Ellicia.

Shaking my head and downing a shot of something—vodka, maybe? —I told Jason, “You don’t have to be here.” Jason didn’t know anything about Blythe other than what I had told him. He was a fallen angel who’d been on Earth for over two centuries. And from some things I had said, Jason could tell the guy was not good news. In fact, he was anything but. Rumours were, he was now on a path of redemption. Whether that was true or not, depended on how today’s meeting went.

“Like hell,” Jason said. It was a lost cause. I knew he wasn’t going to change his mind.

We were seated at a booth at the far corner of a bar. I made sure that they had a clear view of the entrance from where we sat. I still couldn’t explain how a Fallen angel could own an establishment known for the presence of supernatural beings, not the good ones. Yes, he was a Fallen, but he was also an angel. That part didn’t just dissolve as we left heaven. The last thing he needed was a surprise.

“Wait. Fallen angels don’t have wings?” Jason asked.

I still couldn’t pinpoint his sudden interest in my people. Well, not that I, personally, was a fallen angel. “That’s why they are ‘fallen’,” I said, emphasising the obvious. Some, from what I’d heard—mostly ancient ones—had shells of their old wings, which went unseen by non-angels. “Here he comes,” I muttered under my breath, looking at a middle-aged man with a deep scar running across his face.

Jason took down a shot before turning to lay his eyes on said Blythe. “Seems like a nice guy,” he said sarcastically.

Other than the very rugged scar on his face, Blythe had come in with the intent to impress, or maybe intimidate. He was wearing a vintage-looking biker jacket. From what I could tell, he was alone, with the exception of a girl he didn’t seem to be interested in by his side. I didn’t dwell too long on that fact. This was his bar. He probably had henchmen in every corner. His hair—on his head and his face—was clean shaven and immediately walking into the bar, he walked straight to me. He did not look friendly, to say the least. I didn’t expect him to, either.

“Blythe,” I greeted.

“Nate,” he said in the same hostile tone that I was making use of. “Who’s the vampire?” he asked, nodding at Jason.

“A friend,” I replied. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?” He eyed the girl by his side. He needed privacy. The less people that knew about this, the better.

Blythe waved the girl away, returning his attention to Nathan. “And what about him?”

“He stays,” I responded, cutting in before Jason could get some angry words in.

“Drink?” Blythe said in a commanding tone. Once an angel in the High Order, always an angel.

“Already had,” I said. We both knew there was no need for small chatter. I was here for one reason and then we’d probably never see each other again.

Blythe nodded to himself. I hoped that meant he understood my straightforwardness. “Straight to business, I guess.”

“Yes,” I agreed.

Blythe scanned the room quickly before speaking. “The Laiy. Word is, the band’s getting back together.”

“Not possible. No reason,” I countered.

He arched an eyebrow and showed a cunning smile as he said, “You sure about that? Because I hear there’s a new Protector on the horizon.”

What?! I couldn’t have heard that right. I blinked in surprise. “What?” This news took me aback, but I couldn’t afford to waver my gaze. I had to pretend that I had the upper hand. Yes, I was sort of on the outs with my fellow angels, because of The Trials, which were bound to take place soon, but I thought that he would at least, know of a Protector in town. Especially if said Protector’s post was guarding the hell gates.

“Could be a rumour, but . . . They say this news comes from The Creator himself—the old guy upstairs—so it’s most likely true. Us angels,” he paused, suppressing a laugh. “You angels,” he corrected, speaking directly to me, “aren’t exactly liars, so I think it’s true.” He waited for a reaction. I gave him none. “How is it possible that Ellicia still breathes on this day?”

“Why exactly are you keeping tabs on a human that doesn’t affect your life?” That came out sounding harsher than I intended. Gone was my cool, calm composure. Why was he asking about Ellicia? She wasn’t in Alleyhill anymore; plus, her memories were gone. She wasn’t a threat. The deal had been settled. Ellicia’s memories had been wiped for this exact reason—danger.

I could tell he sensed my anger. I could also tell he was hiding a smirk. The bastard. I had to shift the topic back to my pondering question. “I know you know who I should be talking to.”

“You’re going to have to be more specific, Nathan.”

I think this was what people meant by ‘fighting for power.’ What might have seemed like a local conversation to passers-by was way more than that. I wasn’t going to give him information that would lead to Ellicia, but I still needed his help. “I know you know who… Who?”

“There’s someone in London. I need a name… and an address.” The address probably wouldn’t be necessary if I had a name, though. Then again, this person could have shielded themselves with the same sort of spell that made Bidoü difficult to find initially.

Blythe tapped his finger continuously on the table, leaving my request unanswered. Silent seconds passed before he said something. “Okay. I know the name you need.” He breathed in. it almost looked like I’d lost his attention. “You’re going to have to give me a minute.”

He barely left me time to reply before he hurriedly left me and Jason alone.

As soon as Blythe backed away, Jason nudged me with his bottle. “Dude looks like he’s forty,” he grumbled after gulping down another shot.

Jason was a vampire, so I couldn’t advise him to slow down the alcohol intake. It took a lot—and I do mean a lot—to get vampires drunk. “I hate to break this to you, Jason, but you are way over forty.”

“Not if you count my human years.”

“We are angels. We don’t get to live like humans,” I explained. “We don’t live by the rules of ‘age.’ My guess is he was initially given that human body, age and all.”

“But he has… I don’t know. He’s just off. Is he bad or good?”

Bad or good? Two short and simple words. Yet, they couldn’t be more complicated. “It’s complicated. What about you, Jason? Which are you?” I knew he was a good person. But the problem was in getting him to believe so.

“Stop saying my name like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I’m a child.”

I stifled a laugh and readjusted my game face when I saw Blythe at the far corner. He was observing us, no doubt. Probably trying to figure out where we lay within the spectrum of good and evil. Just like we were doing to him.

“I dislike the waiting game,” Jason said casually once Blythe was out of view.

“So do I,” I agreed. Waiting took a patience person. And patience was difficult to come across.

“Do you believe what he says about the Laiy?”

“No, I mean… A new Protector? So suddenly after the hell gates have been successfully sealed? Not possible.” I didn’t know much about what Blythe claimed was happening with the getting together of the Laiy. For some reason, I’d been out of the loop. I’d blame it on my relationship with Ellicia, but angels had done worse, and I was betting that they had been included in these rumours. Rumours, because there was yet to be a confirmation. As serious as he’d sounded, it wouldn’t be wise to take his words to heart until I’d heard from Sandoree. She would be my next stop once Blythe returned with a name and I left this filthy establishment. Jason, I could handle. I was used to his presence in my life. He was one the very few people still alive who knew of my vampire days. But the others in the bar… their thoughts were shouting in my direction. Sufficed to say, my angel senses were tingling, screaming at me to fight.

“Where is the lady of the hour… Ellicia? I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.” Blythe was provoking me, and unfortunately, he was so close to succeeding.

BLYTHE

3

– Again & Aloof –

“What’s it to you?” Nathan asked. I could tell he was still trying to keep his cool. Any longer and he’d be failing at that.

I chuckled, my eyes scanning the bar again. It unnerved me of how many demons had made this their home. In a way, I shouldn’t care. I fell. But at the same time, it still felt … off. And of course, there was Jason. “It’s nothing to me. I’m the nicest one of them you’re going to find. The rest, however, have a seventeen-year-old grudge—almost eighteen years old, actually—to settle.”

Nathan’s jaw clenched. “What do you mean?” I could tell he was battling his anger when he said that, other than the twitching never on his nerve, his fingers had been clenching and unclenching for a few minutes now.

“The girl’s mother,” I started. “She took care of quite a lot of us while she was alive.”

“But she’s dead now,” he made a point of stating

“That may be the case, but others show anger towards the child . . .”

The Stoalin moved forward on the chair, an eyebrow raised. He asked, “Ellicia?” He hadn’t put in a single word since the conversation began. I was happy with the silence. Bargaining with an Underling was not what I came here for. Royal blood or not. His people made my skin crawl and crowded my bar… all the time. I couldn’t complain, though. I mean, the money was good.

“I think she did something,” I said, turning my gaze to Nathan. I expected him to be riled up by my insinuation.

But he wasn’t. “What could she have possibly done?”

I clicked my tongue, clearly not still unbothered by this not-really-friendly conversation. “Eh. Was hoping you’d know. The signal—for the lack of a better word—in her is dead, or really dim now, so I can keep my boys in check. However, the demons, you know how they are.” He nodded at Jason. “They don’t just go by anyone’s rules. They say they’ll leave it alone for now. But . . . brother.” I gestured to Nathan. “That signal isn’t going to stay dim forever.”

“I’m not your brother.”

I dusted off his implication. His position wasn’t much better than mine. That, I was sure of. “At least I have the rest of the Fallen with me. I hear you’re not much of anyone’s brother nowadays. Probably shouldn’t have fucked her, huh.”

Nathan was up before my sentence was complete, effectively dragging me to the floor with a powerful punch. The fucking angel. I’d forgotten the strength his type held. Although I was much stronger than the average supernatural creature, I knew I was far off from defeating a winged one who wasn’t damned, like me. “Do not speak of her in that way. Ever again,” he warned, his eyes focused. He got off of me slowly, backing away and dusting off his shirt. It wasn’t much longer before I pushed myself off of the ground. I rubbed my neck, ready to face an audience, but there was none. Another trick… Nathan had paused everyone’s movements.

“Nice,” I commented in a negative tone. I didn’t want him thinking his pathetic punch had hurt.

Although his cheek was now reddened by the collision, Blythe nodded softly, but by his facial expression, he was clearly suppressing another annoying laugh. “Calm down, lover boy.” I steadied my feet and craned my neck. It felt sore.

“The name, Blythe.”

“Fine, but unfreeze everybody. The business needs money to run.”

He did so reluctantly and sat down as I reclaimed my former position. “It’s Matthew you’re looking for.”

“And where is he?” Nathan’s vampire friend asked. He’d been quiet since we began, but now it seemed he, too, wanted information. I was unwilling to answer a creature of the underworld, so I didn’t.

Nathan cleared his throat and took over. “Where is he?”

“Different country, I’m afraid.” I cleared my throat. Boy, was the audience tough. “Perhaps, you’ve heard of a little place in the U.K. called London?” I picked up a sheet of tissue from the edge of the table and checked my pocket for a pen. I was in luck. I scribbled down the last known address for Matthew. It had been so long. I could only assume the guy died of old age. I was already picturing him dying from a painful stroke with no one around to aid him when Nathan snatched the sheet of paper from my hand.

“Is this it? The address?”

“Last I checked.” Though I knew it to be a losing fight, my body didn’t. It wanted another opportunity to punch Nathan in the face. He was different from the first and previous time we’d met. Had an edge to him, one I think even I recognised. “Don’t do anything stupid, boy. My circumstance was different from yours. I was a pure angel; you are not. You were given this gift. And after you expire, you’ll get to the beautiful land I’ve only ever heard of: Heaven. Say hi to your master for me when you get there.”

“Don’t worry, Blythe. Gifted or not. I would never choose to fall.”

I huffed, breathed slowly, calmed myself down. I took his words in and spat them out in my mind. Nathan was young. Even though he’d seen things, he hadn’t seen the things that I’d seen. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Expect maybe every vampire or shifter in existence. I could live with that. “You’re lucky, Nathan. You’ve known what it’s like to be human. And even when you were one of the damned, you were spared. That’s got to be the luckiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Remind me again, the story of your… gift.”

I could tell I was making him mad. Words were at the very tip of his tongue before his vampire pal, Jason, butted in, unrequested. “Thanks for the address.” He pocketed the paper and raised a questioning brow at Nathan.

Damnit, stupid vampire. For a very stupid reason, I had been itching for a fight since the day started, and he’d just taken my chance. Nathan had taken me off-guard previously; now I actually wanted to be punched. How sick was that?

“She said she saw wings,” Nathan said. “When she witnessed her mother’s death. She said the, and I repeat, the Fallen angels had wings.”

I shook my head. “What she saw was probably our shadow, our shell—visible to the eyes of an angel or an active … Nephilim, I guess.” Even as the words rolled off my tongue, they felt wrong.

[Active Nephilim. _]Those words didn’t go together. For as long as I’d existed, I’d never known of a Nephilim who’s activated powers didn’t lead them to their imminent death almost immediately they active them. But Ellicia… Not only a supposed Nephilim, but also a Protector. And not just any Protector but one of the hell gates. _Wow. Somewhere deep down, I guess I knew. Nathan probably knew it, too. Maybe even in the moment his eyes landed on her for the first time. I was sure he’d felt her power, the huge difference from what the Council probably told him he’d feel. Protectors have a surrounding aura, one that we—angels—could sense. Especially protectors of the hell gates. Their aura was always strong, much stronger than any mundane’s. But Ellicia’s, I didn’t have to see it in order to know. The stories I’d heard let me know that hers was obviously vastly different, more powerful. Much too powerful to be held by a mundane. Protector or not. Nephilim or not.

“Is that all you have? A name and an address that may not be correct?”

I was growing frustrated. What more did he want? I was choosing to be nice, and this was what it did to me. “I gave you an address and two names—ask about Jackal when you get there—with no strings attached. Purely out of the goodness of my heart.” I placed a palm on my chest dramatically.

“It’s great that your heart which doesn’t exist works,” Jason grumbled.

It took all the willpower to not snap his neck and ash him right there. Was this what the world had come to? Me, being judged by the Damned. The Damned, if I might add, who visited my bar frequently. “You’d be careful to watch your mouth, vampire. If you still intend on coming to this bar… that I own.” That shut him up for now. I was no idiot. I guessed who he was the moment I saw him. He was a Stoalin. Of all the vampire clans in existence, of course, the Stoalin would befriend an angel. There was a story there, I just didn’t know what it was.

Desperate to assume the role of someone cooperating, I offered Nathan some information. “Only a few people knew the true story of William. I am one of the select few. Obviously.” I gestured to myself. “Whatever you’ve read, whatever you think you know, wipe it from memory. I can bet you a million bucks it’s wrong.” Nathan was one of the odd ones—one of the rare ones who held on to their human emotions long after not being one. I guess that was one of the reasons he was granted the opportunity of being an angel.

I expected Nathan to dig deeper, to pursue further, but he didn’t. Not that it mattered, the answers would find their ways to him. Paths had a way of fixing themselves. “And you? Where are you off to?”

“Italy. Interesting things to find, Nathan. Interesting things,” I said, getting distracted by the female exiting the bar. Shit, how long had she been here? Why hadn’t I seen her?

“So,” Nathan started, dragging my attention from the Exit back to him. “Your… wings…” His voice trailed off.

“Don’t worry about me, mate. I’m used to what I am now. I made a choice.” A painful choice, one that I regretted for centuries, but one that I knew I couldn’t live on forever. I had to move on. Live with my choice and block out the darkness that beckoned me. “You know my stories. You know I can be dangerous if I choose to, but I don’t choose to.”

Nathan’s eyes narrowed. He was probably wondering where I was going with this, probably a little fearful. Good. He should be scared. “I am one of many Fallen. And Lillian, Ellicia’s mother… She’s on some of their blacklists. I don’t know the whole story, so I’m not going to tell it. But truce or not, I think she’s still in danger. Maybe not from the demons, for now, but definitely from the likes of me. A lot of them are broken and aren’t willing to be healed. They don’t care to find paradise anymore. So they’ve transferred their blame from the mother to the child. They are both terrified and thrilled, though. Not a good combination, if you ask me.”

Both Nathan and Jason glanced at me questioningly. I continued, “Rumour has it, she killed two Fallen at the ripe age of five with a blink. A blink! Talk about power. If that’s true, maybe she doesn’t need to be warned. Some stories swear she was weeks away from being five; others claim she was almost six. Whatever the case, I’d say she can take care of herself. Maybe she’s already safe on her own.” I paused. A cunning smile made its way to my face. “Oh, wait. She wouldn’t be. Not anymore since she doesn’t remember what she is—”

“Shut up,” Jason grouched. “That’s none of your business. Thanks for your warning, but you’re right. She can handle herself if need be.”

“Fine… There’s one more thing. I think it may be important to you.”

“What is it?” he and Jason asked simultaneously.

My serious manner was back intact when I looked at Nathan. “The Laiy is getting back together. That woman, Katelyn, the girl’s stepmother—she’ll know.” I retrieved my black suit from the chair and put it on as I got up. “Next time you hit me, that’ll be the end for one of us.”

“I’ll send her a gift,” I said to Anthony, sounding just a tad villainous. “Strictly to move the story along.” I might have mentioned my thoughts on Ellicia’s situation when the bar finally came to a close, which was about twenty minutes ago—at three a.m.

His eyes shot to me. “Maybe you shouldn’t interfere, boss.” He cleared his throat and quickly changed his tone of voice. “What exactly will this gift be?”

I check my phone as I spoke. “A bouquet of flowers. Girls like that kind of thing, right?” I’d been expecting a call from a contact of mine in Italy.

“What’s so special about a bouquet of flowers?”

“They would be no ordinary flowers. Besides,” I started, cunningness taking over my tone, “it’s not what type of flower that matters. It’s the colour. A very significant one, in fact. Yellow.”

“Facilitating her return wouldn’t be a good idea,” he advised. I often wondered if he would ever get tired of that—advising me, that is.

But I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. It was either that, or get eaten alive by William. That man was a bastard, even in death. Yes, my intentions were every bit selfish, but so what? At times, everyone needed to reward themselves with something. By doing this, I was rewarding myself an escape from death. My life had held no purpose for decades. I was tired of living like that. It was either this or let the darkness in. The second option was not worth considering.

I exited the bar and headed for the second floor. This was my temporary residence, given that was only staying for a few weeks. Any longer, and I’d probably have to return to my manor. I wasn’t willing to feel the loneliness in my life quite yet.

While alone with my thoughts, I contacted someone I knew back in Chicago and hoped to God that they didn’t think my request to be too stupid. Luckily, Mark agreed to drop off the flowers when the day came. I’d given him specific instructions to do it in a week, not a day before or later. I had initially chosen to do it on her birthday, but apparently, that happened a while ago—September 18th.

Clattering sounds from the lower floor dragged me back to the bar. Unsure of its source, I re-entered warily. I had never been one to call the cops, given that I’d almost managed to handle everything on my own. Being an ex-angel has its rewards—yes, mixed with a whole lot of punishment.

With the back door slightly ajar, I caught a view of the incident. Anthony.

I could tell he was changing, morphing into his true form. The girl who held him by his neck… I think her name was Deana. I couldn’t be too sure since the lights had been dimmed down earlier. I watched for a few seconds before stepping in. The girl was human, though she looked like she could handle herself. I had no doubt she would get killed in a fight with a werewolf without any backup. Then again, she could have come strapped, and I couldn’t risk Anthony—sadly my only true friend, though I treated him like shit most of the time—getting killed.

“Just Blythe, sweetheart. No last name.” I could tell my presence startled her. she’d probably thought the wolf was alone. “Calm down,” I said to Tony. He nodded slightly.

“And just Deana, last name not required,” the girl said.

I was surprised my guess was correct. This was Deana… the Deana, most likely. Youngest member of the Laiy, or so I’d been told.

She lowered her defences and turned to face me. Anger was still apparent in her facial features.

I offered a smile and hoped it wasn’t as devious as it felt. She was practically a kid. What the hell was she doing here on her own? Training or not. She still put herself in a dangerous situation. “Will you actually be ordering something or …?”

“No, thank you,” she practically huffed out. “I came here looking for a … friend.”

That was when I noticed the oddness in her tone. Was she drunk? Was she asking to be killed?! “I think it’s best you head on home, kid,” I ground out.

She shook her head and unclenched her fists. “I’m looking for—you’ve probably heard of him—Jason,” she says, then quickly added, “Stoalin,” as if it was an afterthought.

Of course I was aware of the Stoalin clan. They were infamous less so now than before since their relocation. I still failed to understand why Jason had returned to Alleyhill. The Stoalins were definitely on the top of my list of Most Vicious Vampire Clans Ever.

“You’re a … Lone?” Deana asked Tony, puzzled.

How selfish could I have been? All these years, I’d never questioned his choice to be a lone wolf. For as long as I’d known him, he had never been in a wolf pack

“So, where is he? He’s always here,” she says solemnly.

I was about to tell her the last thing I did was keep tabs on lifeless creatures when the front doors dinged open. Et viola. It was our missing vampire by the name of Jason Stoalin.

He didn’t acknowledge my presence. He walked right up to Deana and whispered for them to leave. He supported her with his arms as they walked away.

“Well, that was… interesting?”

“She’s got a wicked swing,” Tony muttered. “Anything to drink?” he asked.

“Don’t worry, Anthony. Sobriety, remember?” I said that solely to make him feel better. See, I did have a heart. Truth was, sobriety ended two years ago, practically every day since. “She’s with the Stoalin, isn’t she?” I asked, abandoning her name. he knew I was talking of Deana.

“No, but she is with the Laiy, which has been over for about a year now.”

I chuckled. The Laiy can never truly be over. Just like the Protector’s work couldn’t ever be over, but then again… Ellicia was a long way away from Alleyhill. “She is the one with the Stoalin. Jason, I think.” Honestly, I didn’t know where my facts came from. I saw a few things and put them together. It was sort of a skill of mine.

“She can’t be. She’s a member of The Order.”

“Indeed, she can’t be with him. Yet…” I smiled as I noticed who she was now talking to. “Speak of the devil. Excuse my French, I knew I was rusty. I meant, speak of the vampire.”

I guess as a Fallen, the last thing I should be doing was judging people, but it was instinct. I used to be up there in the clouds, loving the look of every pathetic person from up high. Oh well, that day had been over for over two centuries now. “It’s odd that he came to Alleyhill when his family left, isn’t it?”

“You think everything is odd.”

“Except for me, of course.”

“Of course.”

A name I’d been able to push out of my mind made a re-entry. She went by Avery last I checked, which was a few months ago. As for seeing her, it had been four years. I often wondered what she looked like now, whether her interests had changed, if she still hated me for leaving. But lately, I’d been able to get her out of my mind, except for now, of course. Once her name got into my mind, it had a habit of staying there. Avery.

I approached her, smirking like I usually did. “Blythe.”

“Blythe? Last name?” she didn’t seem interested. Her gaze hadn’t left the notepad in her arms.

I smirked again. She was cute. More so, even. “No last name, Sweetheart.”

[“Well, _]Sweetheart,[ the bar’s closing in five, so you and your buddies better get out while you can.”_]

It appeared that she, like everyone else, wasn’t aware of the owner of this particular establishment.

There was something about her. Something that told me she would be different. She was magnificent. A magical being. I wondered if I reached any closer, she’d disappear, a mirage of my own doing.

As if reading my mind, she smiled and said, “Don’t worry. Disappearing isn’t something I’ve mastered quite yet.”

[Then I laughed. It was a strange, unfamiliar sound. I was sure it was an even stranger sight. _]So, there is life somewhere in there,[ I thought. I wasn’t completely dead inside after all._]

JASON

4

– S.O.S. & Settled Disaster –

“Where’s Nathan?” Deana asked, her eyes still heavy with sleep.

Maybe if I shrugged my shoulders enough times, she wouldn’t ask again. I was about to ask if she would like to head on to my guest room just as she landed on the couch closest to her. I didn’t have to ask to know the answer. I knew she was already fast asleep. I still couldn’t figure out why she’d chosen me of all people to confide in. yes, we had our once-in-a-while civil talks, but this was something else. Something I didn’t think I, being a vampire, should know.

Muttering under my breath about my stupid decision and despite my lingering fangs, I carried her towards my bedroom and dropped her slowly her on my bed. It was a good thing I was a nightly creature and didn’t need it at the moment. Then again, I had a spare room; I didn’t know why I didn’t just take her there instead. What was wrong with me?

I was blaming my dumb decision on the fact that I hadn’t had any blood in the past few days. I scolded myself internally. I couldn’t wake her up now. She was already fast asleep. This couldn’t possibly end well.

She slept over. Great. Now what? I didn’t know why the fact that she was currently asleep in my home was such a significant fact in my dumb brain. Oh, wait. I did know. She was human and I craved human blood. I was currently craving human blood.

“Don’t drink me,” she murmured quietly, as if reading my mind.

A ring from my phone distracted me from saying something to her. I picked it up without glancing at the screen. I already knew who it was. “Simon.”

“Century-year-old brother,” he said cheerfully. That, by the way, was basically the only way he currently addressed me. The last time I saw him, he was throwing a party and planning to drink the blood of all the humans who attended. Yeah, fun times. Other than that, the last time we’d actually seen or spoken to one another, was almost thirty years ago.

“You’ve been saying that for almost a century now. I think we can both assume that I’ve been alive for almost two centuries now.” Well, alive for twenty, and undead for the rest.

“Funny.”

“Why are you calling?”

“Can’t a brother just call another?”

My fists clenched involuntarily. “Not if the last time said brother came into town, he planned on killing The Protector.”

“Ex-Protector. And besides, my insight helped, didn’t it? How goes Ellicia Anyway?”

“How the hell should I know?” Now I’m irritated and it has nothing to do with my annoying brother. It’s her. It’s always her, and that frustrates me. “She hasn’t been in Massachusetts for a month now.”

“So I heard.” There was a short pause. “On a serious note, I called to actually know how you’ve been doing.”

I finally let out a laugh. Deana shuffled around on my sofa, so I cut it short. “I had no idea you were now in the comedy business. Congratulations.”

“Okay, fine. I called, because Father misses you. He wants you to come home.”

I huffed and slowed my breathing. “I am home.”

“You know Alleyhill hasn’t been our home for several years now. With good reason.”

“I know.”

“Come home.” He says again. “Even if it’s just for a week. Come on, you’ve got to miss your brothers.” Not really. That is why I’m still in Alleyhill. But I remain quiet, pondering his request.

Home? I didn’t even know what that meant anymore.

“Maybe a break from Alleyhill is what you need to get your brain off of you-know-who. Because—and I hate to be mean.” He really doesn’t. “She will never be yours, bro. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.” Again, he really wasn’t. And I knew that. Ellicia and Nathan were, or had been. And even if they weren’t, there’s no way in hell I would let her settle with a monster like me. Not that she would anyway. The way I rationalize the way I feel about her, is her blood and her power. Those have to be the reason that I find her . . . irresistible. I gulped, knowing that there was a partial chance that my reasoning was completely wrong. I was a horrible friend just thinking about this. Besides, what right did I have thinking about that when, for the past twelve hours, my mind had been occupied with one name: Deana. Why of all people, had she sought me out… drunk?

I inhaled a sharp breath before I said to a now awake Deana, “Maybe it’s time for you to go. I don’t want to feel your aunt’s stake in my heart,” I ground out, attempting to ignore the beautiful scent of her blood. So … red. I slapped myself on the inside. There was no way in hell I was going there.

Deana waved off my suggestion. “Don’t worry. I’ll sneak back in. She’ll never know I was out all night.”

I sat beside her, careful to leave more than enough inches between us. “Speaking of staying out all night, are you okay?”

I think my question took her off-guard. I think it caught me off-guard, too. After all, I was a blood-sucking vampire. What was my business with her safety? It had been two years since we’d ever had a non-violent conversation. Even if she was drunk when it finally happened last night.

“Oh my God. What did I say? Something stupid, embarrassing?”

“No. you said something about the Laiy regrouping.”

“Did I?”

I nodded.

“You should forget about whatever I said, Jason.” She delivered a firm look. “I’m serious.”

Okay, now my curiosity was piqued. “Why?”

She got up from the couch and dusted off her shirt. “It’s not for your ears.”

“What’s not for my ears?”

“Whatever I said.” Clearly, her anger was rising. Could she really blame me for wanting to know what had her so riled up?

She grunted and paced. “Why did you even bring me here? Why not just take me home?”

“I couldn’t— You clearly needed a friend.”

She let put a harsh breath and paced even more. I could hear the moment her heartbeat spiked. I wondered what was on her mind. Was she thinking of—

“No,” she said out of nowhere.

My forehead creased. “No, what?”

“Nothing.” Then she smiled. “No nothing,” she said, still expecting me to know what on earth was was babbling on about. Then she identified the cause of her random mood change. “There’s nothing.” She stared daggers at me. “With… There’s just nothing, okay?”

“You’re going to have to be specific. With…” Us? I wasn’t foolish. I never thought there was. Okay, maybe that was a lie. But it was only for a minute—scratch that, a fraction of a second—that the idea of us being an … us crossed my mind. I was a vampire, which meant wanting to be with anything, much less a human, wasn’t something I’d ever had the pleasure of pondering about.

“Right,” she muttered, grabbing her bag from the couch “Maybe things are better like this, especially now that you’re no longer attending Alleyhill High.” And with that, she walked out of my front door.

I had this stupid, aching feeling that I should stop her and say something. Clearly, I needed blood. I was obviously off my rockers. She was a child who’d always wanted me dead and I was a vampire, period. I shouldn’t ever have gone to her nineteenth pre-birthday party — by the way, who the hell had a pre-birthday party? —and I shouldn’t ever have kissed her. Talk about stupid mistake.

NATHAN

5

– To All The Hours We Could Have Had –

I shouldn’t be here. This was a very bad idea. I could get caught. She could catch a glimpse of me. Though she wouldn’t remember me, her memories could be triggered. But at the same time, I had to be here. I had to return what was never mine to begin with: Her pendant. I wasn’t sure why I’d taken the time to wrap it up, or maybe I was. I loved her. and love made people—and angels apparently—do odd things. Like come to Chicago when I should be anywhere but here.

My motion stilled when I saw her. A girl dragged her across the room and introduced her to male stranger. My heart stilled even more, as if it were possible.

What was I doing here?

Leave, Nathan. Leave now.

It felt like I’d been sucker punched. Whenever I thought about Ellicia moving on with a life in which I wasn’t a part of, of course I assumed she’ll find someone else, love someone else. But seeing it in action, even if it was just an introduction, sucked. It more than sucked because ever since I’d fully taken her in, heard her voice directed at me, I knew she was it for me.

I walked up to the front door and stood for what felt like hours. Finally, I did what my mind pleaded for me to do. I dropped the small parcel in front of the door and left before the footsteps that approached from the other side reached the door.

From there, I headed to Sandoree. Something had been pushing at the back of my mind. The Trials Punishment for my treacherous behaviour: using forbidden magic on someone for purely selfish reasons. I might have thought that I was doing it for her, for the good of mankind in general, but I was only fooling myself. I’d waited every day since then for the Trials to occur, but, other than the small suspension I’d been awarded, nothing had happened.

Sandoree smiled sadly at the sight of me. “The Trials are happening, Nathan.” She shuddered. Her voice wavered when she said, “Sadly, you may not come out the other end of it alive. You know that, right? If you were any other angel, I’d suggest… falling. Sshhh. That never came from me.”

“But I’m not, am I? Not any angel. I do not have the luxury of having thoughts like that. Besides, I like what I do. Helping people. It’s better than the alternative.” Death after this life would be bliss. Whereas my life before this, as a vampire, would have led to fire.

“What? Taking blood to live?” he asked. I was sure he was remembering a time before—when we’d first met. Knowing how I’d felt about being a vampire, I knew he wouldn’t tell me otherwise. Being a vampire was never the life for me. I also never imagined being an angel to be, mostly because back then, my faith in good had wavered to being almost non-existent.

“Yes, that one.” I chuckled without humour. “She actually called me, but I was occupied.” To say the least. Jason seemed nervous. It wasn’t an everyday sight, that was for sure.

He had his head bowed down slightly. Was he avoiding my gaze? If he was that could only mean one thing. He’d done something I didn’t think I’d approve of. Still, his nervousness caught me off-guard. Over the years, we’d both kept things from each other and even then, I had never seen him nervous. “Dee said to—” he stopped talking almost immediately. He must have caught on to the slip. I know I did.

“So it’s Dee now, huh? J, you know I don’t care who you choose to be with, but Dee is Ellicia’s friend, one of her only friends… and human and—”

“I’m not with her,” was his all too stern response.

I was inclined to believe him, even though his eyes still avoided mine. Maybe I really didn’t know the truth. Perhaps, that was why I didn’t question him further regarding his relationship with Deana. I gave him an appreciative nod. “What did she say?”

“It appears that Blythe may not have been far off. The Laiy has requested a meeting. Something is going down. It looks like rather than taking postponing this European trip of ours, we might have to bring it closer.”

“How much closer?”

“Tomorrow.”

“So, no wings?” a female voice asked.

Ellicia? I thought.

Not this again.

This time, I was aware of the dreamlike memory. It didn’t feel like a nightmare quite yet. Thank God.

She murmured something in another language that I didn’t quite catch. “What is that?”

“Italian,” she replied.

“I didn’t know you were interested.”

She smiled, turning slightly to take me in. “I don’t know. I mean, my mom lived there. Even now that I know she wasn’t human. I— I don’t know. Learning Italian is just something I’ve done since forever.”

“So you can speak?”

Un po. Not as good as I’d like but it doesn’t hurt to learn.” She smiled, I smiled. “Ti amo.”

The words, her presence, everything. This was surreal. Even knowing that this was nothing but a memory playing out before me, it still felt just as real. I tucked her hair behind her ears just for the hell of it. “Ti amo anch’io, Ellicia Wayfield.”

She seemed impressed by my words. Can’t lie, it made me feel good. Great, even. “You speak.”

“Perks of—”

“Let me guess,” she interrupted, shushing me immediately. “Of being an angel. Of course. Call me when my perks of being a Nephilim show up.” She was exhausted from days of trying to forget her time in the underworld. Some memories of her being there—hopefully, the worst ones—had already been forgotten. She didn’t have to tell me for me to know that. I didn’t push on that issue, I never did, never could. Things would be easier if she forgot, so whenever I could, I wouldn’t bring it up. I couldn’t bear to think that she’d been suffering, feeling death over and over again while I’d been able to do nothing but hope that Laury’s spell would work. Even then, I’d felt helpless. Back when I knew the only way to help her was to convince Laury to aid me with the forbidden spell.

I took her hands in mine and drilled her with my concerned gaze. “Don’t think that way. You’re a wonderful person. You did it—closed the hell gates.” I lazily brushed my thumb across her cheek. It wasn’t long before I figured out I had to leave, distract myself from her… everything. The urge to be closer to her in every way possible grew stronger every second she was around. I didn’t think anything could feel as overwhelming as I did at the moment. It couldn’t be possible to feel this way with someone else. Yet, here I was feeling exactly like that.

Her eyes were heavy as she mumbled, “I want to see your wings.”

I shoved my hands into my pocket, ignoring her request. “Maybe if you really squint, you can imagine them on my back.”

“Funny. But I’m serious. Like the first time you came to me in… full form. Remember, when you practically stopped time.”

“I definitely didn’t stop time. It was an illusion of sorts. We were speaking, moving but no one else could tell, only if I let them or if they were angels themselves.”

“Show me,” she insisted.

“Watch. Carefully.” I ripped a sheet of paper from the book on her bedside table and let it go so that it’s floating mid-air. Then I showed her what she wanted to see: me with my wings, in true colour. I could tell that the glow around me was almost too bright for her eyes to handle. If she had been any other mundane, her eyes would have probably burst because of that. “The light that’s forcing your eyelids shut is the reason I made everyone else pause that time. Well, that and I knew I needed way more time to convince not to kill out of pure anger.” Then I pointed to the piece of paper that wasn’t floating anymore. It appeared to be frozen in time. “Watch this.” With my index finger, I grazed the small piece of paper and it continued its descent to the ground.”

She was almost asleep. I could feel it. Today, I was glad when she called. She wasn’t as sad and she seemed not as angry at the world anymore. Plus, we talked. We just talked about nothing and everything. I needed to kiss her, but I stopped myself. If I did that, then I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop. That was what she did to me. That and so much more.

I’d just dimmed my glow a little bit when she grumbled slightly. Her eyes are now shut. “Don’t … leave … yet.” I didn’t. Not until she was fast sleep. She had this otherworldly power over me. I returned to my human self, pecked her on the forehead and left. That was the moment in time that I knew if she were to ever tell me to throw myself into a pit of fire for her, I would. I was way past walking over a dangerous line. Like an idiot, I ignored the warning sign, the one that screamed CAUTION! Instead, I flipped it the middle finger, jumped over it and rushed over to her.

Being an idiot had never felt so good, and waking and confirming that this was another stupid dream had never felt more depressing.

Jason came over an hour later, holding a stuffed suitcase. With only a few words, he’d handed me a passport—mine—and a few paper documents.

“Do we have everything?” he asked… again.

“I guess.” I flipped through my passport. It was an odd document. I’d never had one. Never needed one. Still didn’t need it, but Jason insisted we take the trip together. The only way that was possible was getting on a plane. Another thing I’d never done before. This document was now resting in my hand because Jason knew a guy.

“Tickets. Luggage. Cash. We’re good,” he confirmed, checking his suitcase for the millionth time. “I’ve got the car keys. We should get there in time.”

I grudgingly picked up my suitcase and followed him out of my apartment. “And your family,” I said. “Will you be visiting them?”

“Here’s to hoping the answer remains the same. Hell no.” he beeped the black coupe open and threw his bags into the backseat. I did the same, then got into the passenger seat.

“You’re going to love Europe, Nate.”

I doubted it. We weren’t going for pleasure; we were going for business. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I expected we’d get a load of bad news concerning Ellicia. Still, I hoped for the opposite outcome.

BLYTHE

6

– Without A Doubt –

Now I was hovering over her like some weirdo—one who couldn’t look away could stop myself. “Go to Italy with me.”

She’d been working here for two weeks. That was what Tony told me. I didn’t even know she was in town. If I had, I wouldn’t have come back. I would have stayed away, but now I had seen her and I couldn’t just leave. Deem me selfish. My job as an undercover stalker came to an abrupt end once she caught my stare.

No explosions… yet. That was good.

“Blythe,” she greeted curtly. Dark curly hair, ivory skin, beautiful lips. Just as I remember.

“Avery.” My heart caught when her name sounded from my lips. It had been so long since I’d said it, since I’d seen her. I wondered if she was still angry, if she’d forgiven me, if she was thinking about the last time we were together. I thought I’d seen her the other day when I met up with Nathan. Now, I know that I was right. It had been her.

“What are you doing here? I mean, I know you own this… place, but I didn’t know that you’d be… If I’d known you’d be here, I wouldn’t have taken the job.”

“It’s okay. You shouldn’t not get a job because you hate me.” Hate me… It hurt to say the words. But it was true, I guess. I’d caused it for myself. I couldn’t blame her for not making me her favourite person.

She dropped her tray and tucked her hands in her pockets. Her eyes were trained on the floor. I hated that I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “I don’t hate you. I just… Can we talk about this when I’m not working?” She tipped her chin upward, but still her mind seemed elsewhere.

“Yeah, sure… Anytime, today. I’ll be around.” She didn’t hate me. Wait, what did that mean? Agh. A huge disadvantage of falling, and rejecting the evil that came with it, was getting infected with human thoughts, with human emotions. My incapability to handle what had caused Avery to distance herself from me. I hated the pain I’d caused her. Hated that, technically, she’d be better off without me in her life. Hated that, after so long, leaving her alone, all it took was one look to know I couldn’t do it again.

“Okay,” she said softly.

I rushed over to her. Blood was everywhere. Too much blood. This shouldn’t be happening. She was crying herself to death. I was too panicked to do anything meaningful. All I could do was hold on to her, cradle her, and lie that it was going to be okay. No, it wasn’t. She wasn’t ever going to forgive me. I’d done the unforgivable. I’d killed her—our child—and she hadn’t even been born. I’d caused all of this. My search for vengeance had caused me to lose my only shot at happiness.

My hands were fidgeting nervously by the time the hour hand hit six. Patience wasn’t something I was familiar with; yet, I waited. I was still mad at Tony for forgetting to let me in on the fact that the woman I’d loved and hurt was back in town and working at my place. I never thought I’d see her again. I never thought wither of us would return to Alleyhill—the place that held our haunted pasts.

I was by the entry as the door dinged open. It was her. She smiled awkwardly as she side-stepped me. “Um, Blythe, I had no idea I’d ever see you again.”

She wouldn’t look at me. Why wouldn’t she look at me. I lifted one of her palms with mine and rand my thumb in circles around it.

“I didn’t think I’d see you, too,” I confessed. “I didn’t think you’d come tonight, either. And you have all the right to hate, to kick me till I stop breathing, to get me out of your life.”

She didn’t say anything so I kept going. “After everything, I left.”

“I left, too. I didn’t think I’d ever come back.”

“Why are you…” I dropped her hand. “Oh. I mean, of course. It’s okay. Not that it matters what I think.”

She slid her hands into her pockets. “What are you thinking?”

“That you probably came back with… someone.” I flinched at the implication. I couldn’t ever imagine her with someone else other than myself. I had no right to be so possessive, though.

“Blythe, I—”

“I love you.”

“—am not seeing anyone.” Finally, she looked up at me. “I could never hate you for something that was out of your control.”

She’d healed over the years. I could tell. Her eyes seemed warmer somehow.

“I love you,” I said again. In case she hadn’t heard. “Still do, always will.” That was our saying. We’d said it to each other, right up until that terrible night. After that, it was easier to be apart, to move on without the constant reminder than we’d lost something we’d almost had.

She tucked her hair behind her ears. She avoided my gaze again.

Now I was hovering over her like some weirdo—one who couldn’t look away no matter how hard he tried. But she wasn’t backing out or pushing me away, so I took that as my cue to suggest something even more bizarre. I spoke before I could stop myself. “Go to Italy with me.” Italy was my ticket out. After ensuring Ellicia’s return, I was done. Handing over this establishment to Anthony and never returning.

From her stance, I could tell she either wanted to run or pretend like she didn’t just hear what I’d asked. I could see it in her eyes. I was disrupting her life again.

“Don’t,” she said. It was like a whisper. I almost hadn’t heard it. “I’ve got a job to do.”

She was getting frustrated, but I couldn’t move away—wouldn’t move away.

“Think about it, darling.” I slipped the plane ticket into her hand. She didn’t let it drop, so that was hopefully a sign. “A fresh a start with a scarred man who’s tired of being scarred.” I left, not knowing if she would be there, but wishing that she would.

I waited by entrance number four in the airport. An airport which, by the way, was several miles from Alleyhill. She would come. She might not have worded the reply, but she didn’t have to. Her eyes did all the talking. And judging from the female figure that was slowly approaching me, I could say confidently that I could still read her. Who knows? Italy might just be the place for me—the place for my future.

BOOKS BY KEMDI IK

ALLEYHILL

(Fantasy/Paranormal Series)

The Becoming

Dearest Ellicia (a ‘short’)

The Awakening

The Beckoning (The Final book in the Series)

OTHER BOOKS

Take Me Far Away

~

Thank you for reading! Leave a review/rating if you can.

Kemdi Ik can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Read her BLOG

~

An excerpt of The Beckoning awaits you on the next page.

[]

If you haven’t already read it, here’s an [+unedited sneak peek +]from The Beckoning:

AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE

1

Faded

HERE LIES JEREMIAH WAYFIELD. DEVOTED HUSBAND & FATHER.

HERE LIES LILLIAN WAYFIELD. DEVOTED WIFE & MOTHER.

TO SOMEONE ELSE, these words may have seemed simple—normal, even. But to Ellicia, they revived her heartbreak, her loss. So much loss. This marked the third time in five days that Ellicia had found herself by her parents’ gravesite. It was also three times more than she’d visited ever thought to visit them in the past two years. Not surprisingly, her mother’s headstone was much older with more cracks along its edges.

What was she doing here dredging up sad thoughts?

She got up, dusting off her jeans in the process, then she approached Sean’s. His death had been quick and painless. Right? The more she attempted to recall the story of Sean’s death, the more it seemed to differ from what she’d been told—from what she remembered. He shouldn’t have ever come to Alleyhill. Maybe that way he’d still be alive. Maybe then he would have never been shot. Odd that Alleyhill apparently had one of the lowest crime rates in The States, but still that had happened. A gunshot to the head—that was how it had happened.

What if her mother hadn’t been home on the day of the robbery? What if her father hadn’t driven her to the game on her birthday? What if Sean hadn’t taken a year off? But she couldn’t play the ‘what if’ game forever, because, much like her parents, he was already dead.

She sluggishly left the cemetery and headed to her car. It was late. Way past midnight. What she needed was sleep. Then everything would be better. Although, ‘sleep’ was a whole different source of worry.

[*She *]was dreaming again. Ellicia was sure of it. It was the same dream she’d had repeatedly now: a boy, a yellow petal, and a blue flash. Not always in that order, but this was a dream—that dream—nonetheless.

The familiar presence engulfed her. The male figure appeared in the distance. “Tell me your name,” Ellicia demanded. When she spoke, she didn’t recognize her voice. It came out smoky, like a whisper, but somehow, it echoed all around.

“You already know it.” The young man looked to be about the same age as her—maybe a year or two older. He had a fit stature—one that eluded of both responsibility and kindness. His medium-brown coloured hair was gelled to the back and his body was illuminated by a soft blue hue. His actual face couldn’t be made out from where she stood and whenever she got closer, his presence faded away faster.

“Then why would I ask you for your name?”

He pointed at her left hand that stayed positioned to her side. “You should really drop that.”

“Drop what?” she asked, almost annoyed. When she looked down, her fingers were holding on to something. When she watched closer, she saw it. A yellow petal. But as she glanced at her surroundings, she noticed that there were no flowers in sight, not even grass. She was only surrounded by dirt. Despite her staying in place, the young man continued to fade. “Stay. Don’t go.”

A phone rang in the distance. “You should probably pick that up,” the male figure suggested.

“What is that? It’s so irritating.” The ringing got louder and the man Ellicia was speaking to vanished from view. She blocked her ears but it didn’t seem to help. The sound appeared to be emerging from the very depth of her ears.

Groggily, she woke up in her bedroom, the dim light outlining her phone beside her digital clock.

Ellicia thought twice about answering her phone—she preferred the weird dreams to reality—but she answered it anyway. Better to get it over with, she thought. “What?” she asked half-annoyed. If her voice was any indication, sleep was still weighing on her.

“Are you dreaming about me?”

Upon recognizing the owner’s voice, she calmed down. “Oh, hey, Alex.” [_And no, _]she thought.

“What do you think about dinner and a movie?”

“I think they are two great words,” she answered with heavy sarcasm.

“I meant: what do you think about dinner and a movie tonight. With me,” he quickly added.

She sighed. “Yes, of course. You know I’m always up for dinner and a movie with you.”

“I’ve been wanting to speak to you . . . about something.” He talked in the awkward way that he always did whenever the other person at the end of the conversation was Ellicia.

“Alex, I like your voice but it’s six a.m. How about you call me back in three hours when I can remember my own name?”

“Sure, we’ll meet up later.”

Ellicia ended the call without saying anything else. She forced herself up from her bed and drew her curtains open. The sun was already peeking above the horizon. She plopped her body on the spinning chair in her room.

Eight months since leaving Alleyhill and her life was still in a sort of ‘pause’ mode. She had gotten accepted into all the colleges she’d applied to—with the exception of Oxford, which she’d applied late for and was still hoping for a positive outcome—but decided to take a year off to figure stuff out. The thing was, she didn’t know what it was she was supposed to be working out. Like she had done several times before, Ellicia caught herself rubbing the empty space between her shoulder blades almost like she was reaching for a necklace of some kind. A necklace that obviously wasn’t there anymore. She knew it was most likely her mother’s pendant necklace given to her by her father. She remembered misplacing it sometime in Alleyhill—although, the exact memory escaped her. She hated that she’d lost it, but mysteriously, a few months ago, it had appeared again . . . in Chicago—on her doormat, in a perfectly wrapped parcel. The phoenix pendant was currently peeking from under one of the pillows on her bed. She glared at it from the spinning chair. She hadn’t put it on since.

Ellicia shook her head, got up from the chair, and walked back towards her bedside to pick up the necklace.

“I’m the second new kid in school,” an unfamiliar person said. “I guess when you’re a guy, no one flaunts your name around. I’m Nathan, short for Nathaniel, but just Nathan is good. You must be the Ellicia I’ve heard so much about.”

“It’s my first day, too. What could you have possibly heard about me?”

“You’d be surprised.”

Ellicia gasped as the sudden flash of memory invaded her—a memory that couldn’t possibly be hers. Her heart thumped hard against her chest. What the hell was that? The necklace slipped from her grasp and landed on the carpet in the process. The voice in the weird flash had been so familiar. She couldn’t be sure but it sounded like the voice of the mystery illuminated person featured in her dreams.

What the fuck is going on in my head? She knew that memory didn’t belong to her. It couldn’t. She didn’t even know a Nathan, and if she’d ever met him—the owner of the rich voice—there would be no conceivable way she’d forget his face, right?

A light knock on her bedroom door threw Ellicia out of her daze. “Kate?” she asked as she made her way to the door.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Kate announced from the other side.

Ellicia’s fingers still fiddled with the empty space where her phoenix pendant used to lay. She pulled her door open and waited for whatever conversation Kate had no doubt already played out time and time again in her head. She raised her eyebrows, signalling for Kate to speak.

“Tonight, I’ll be goi—”

“Nathan,” Ellicia said under her breath in a whisper but it was loud enough for Kate to hear. Shoot, she thought she’d been thinking it, not saying it. “Do you know a Nathan? I mean, I know I don’t know a Nathan, but maybe you do.”

A slight hesitation was visible in Kate’s expression. “Nathan.” She shook her head. “Nathan,” She repeated. “Never met a Nathan. Where did you hear that name, and why are you asking?”

“I’m not aski— No reason. It’s nothing.” Ellicia tried brushing it off as a lack of her morning coffee, but there was a shove in the back of her mind that said, this wasn’t going away anytime soon. “What were you saying?”

“Um, I was saying . . . why do you keep doing that?” Kate asked after noticing Ellicia’s restless hands just below her neck.

Ellicia quickly dropped her hands and kept them stiff by her sides. “You were saying?” she asked, not bothering to answer Kate’s question.

“I have a date tonight . . . with Peter Ackenson.”

“Again. Why? I always thought you and Farley would . . .” Her voice drifted off. She’d figured out during the past few months that anything related to Alleyhill was never a topic for discussion. “Cool. Don’t worry, I’m not having a party.”

“Like you weren’t having a party the last time I wasn’t around?”

She shrugged at that memory. She didn’t even like parties. “Really? Kate that was like a century ago.”

“If by a century you mean a few months ago.”

“Six months,” Ellicia corrected. And it was my birthday, she wanted to add but didn’t. “I promise, no parties. Only boring talks with Gabby.”

“And what about you and Alex?” she asked with piqued curiosity.

“What about me and Alex?”

“It seems that you two have become quite close, and I as your . . . mother—”

“Oh, my gosh, Kate. I’m eighteen. It might be a little too late for the birds and bees talk, don’t you think?” Oops. “I actually have to get dressed.” Ellicia shut her bedroom door before Kate could retort. Her first time having sex was another memory that eluded her. She still wondered how on earth she had gotten drunk enough to give away her V-card to a complete stranger. A stranger, whose name and face she never could quite remember. It was funny . . . The act, she remembered quite vividly, but the person with whom it had occurred with, she couldn’t. She drew a blank.

A strange thought popped in her head, urging her to retrieve something. She rushed to her dresser and pulled the drawer to the bottom left open. Her eyes fell on what she was exactly looking for—the key card she found in her Alleyhill bedroom the day she left the small town for good. She fiddled with it within her grip and chuckled. It had been several months since leaving Alleyhill and Ellicia still had no idea whose it was or what it opened. She traced its edges absent-mindedly. If she were to go by her guess, it probably opened up a hotel room or a high-end condo. Neither of which she remembered ever being in when she was in Massachusetts. Ellicia dumped it back in her drawer, but before she could shut it, her phone rang.

She picked up her phone on the first ring. “What’s up, Deana? Missing me all the way from Massachusetts, I see.”

Deana laughed softly from the other end. “I actually called to get your input on something—”

“Do you know a Nathan?” Ellicia asked inattentively. Her gaze shifted from her bedroom door to the key card in her drawer. It took her a while to realize that Deana was yet to answer her question. “Did you hear me?”

“A . . . Nathan?” Deana stressed the Nathan part of her question. “I met a Nathan once when I went to Texas with my dad, but no other that I can think of.” There was a pause at the other end of the line before she spoke again. “So, Boston or Georgia?”

“Huh?”

“Universities. I’m applying. It’s senior year for us who didn’t graduate early like you.” There was a chuckle hidden in her words.

Ellicia shook her head. She was tired, but not that tired. It was March, wasn’t it? “A little late to just start applying, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but I’ve had a lot on my plate.”

“Really? Like what?”

There was a pause. “Oh, you know . . . work.”

“Uh-huh.” Ellicia’s train of thought was lost in the hazy situation she suddenly found herself in. “Universities . . .” She walked over to her bedside and pulled the necklace from under one of the pillows. “How about you apply to both. A plan B is always a necessity. I actually have to get ready, I’m headed out with Gabby and I have a date with Alex later tonight.” She peered at the phoenix pendant in her palm, almost as if expecting it to do something. What exactly? She wasn’t sure. For a slight second, it seemed to produce a red glow from within. Right from the centre of the phoenix itself. She rubbed her thumb over it and just like that, it was gone.

“Alright, we’ll talk later,” Deana said from the other end of the phone.

Ellicia was so lost in thought that she’d forgotten that she was even on the phone. “Okay.” She hit the ‘end call’ button on her screen and clasped the necklace around her neck. Yes, she thought. That is where it’s supposed to be.

SEPTEMBER 18th

About Six Months Ago

“EIGHTEEN!!” GABBY, ONE of Ellicia’s only friends and the same girl responsible for most of her wild stories, shrieked from the other end of the phone.

Ellicia bobbed her head and fluttered her eyes open. “Yeah, it’s also five-thirty in the morning.” It was almost like no one ever slept in Chicago.

Completely ignoring Ellicia’s complaint, she continued. “I may or may not have planned a party and invited . . . I don’t know . . . all your ex-classmates who miss you dearly.”

“You and I both know you were my only friend. Seriously, a party? You know I hate those.”

“Yeah, but you’re eighteen.” — she made it a point to emphasise ‘eighteen’ — “plus, your stepmom’s not around. This is going to be awesome. Please.” She dragged out the last word as much as she could.

“It’s not like I have a choice; you’ve already invited people. There’s another thing that can be used to describe this – peer pressure.” Perhaps a party would make her feel complete in Chicago. She couldn’t explain it or pinpoint why exactly but from the day she and Kate left Massachusetts behind, she’d felt odd. There was no other word she could think of but ‘odd’ came close. Like she forgot a vital part of her in Alleyhill, which she brushed as paranoid. She loved Chicago, she loved the blue skies, the presence of actual people and she loved her home here. And as far as she was concerned, it was ridiculous for her to think otherwise. “Why not?”

Ellicia had to increase the distance between her phone and her ear due to Gabby’s response. “Yes!!!” Gabby took in a few deep breaths to calm herself. “What’s the colour code? There has to be a colour code.”

“Okay . . . um, black and . . . blue. What time is this illegal event again?”

Gabby let out a stifled laugh. “Starts at nine. Your house, so don’t be late.”

“All right, be here soon.” She let out a shaky breath as the call came to an end. How was she supposed to have a great time when it was around this same time two years ago that her father had met his untimely death?

Turning towards the stairwell, Ellicia tripped, hitting her head on a nearby counter and falling unconscious.

[*When *]Ellicia’s eyes finally fluttered open, she felt it before she saw it. She was somewhere else, somewhere far. Somewhere confined and dark. Standing up, she dusted off her jeans and immediately stopped moving. There was a small chatter taking place on the other side of wherever she was. The chatter turned into a heated argument before it was stopped abruptly. A few minutes later, she heard a door slam. In the dark space, she could make out outlines of clothes. Lots of it. That was when she noticed she was in a closet of sorts.

She silenced her breathing as best as she could and waited for another teleporting act to occur. She didn’t know what had just happened, but she wanted to be home—somewhere she knew, somewhere she recognized. Not this place.

“You can come out now,” a boy on the other side of the closet said.

Ellicia didn’t move. She knew she wasn’t dreaming because she would have felt it. Other questions plagued her mind: Whose voice was that? Where was she? What the hell was happening?

Slowly and cautiously, she pushed the doors open and noticed she was in a bedroom. Not hers, but she guessed it belonged to the boy who was now lying on the bed and staring at the blank ceiling.

Without moving to glance at her, he said, “Hey . . .”

She didn’t reply, though. She remained wary about the bizarre situation.

He sat up straight and sent her a sad smile. “Never seen you before.”

She finally found her voice again. He, whoever he was, didn’t seem dangerous. She really hoped he wasn’t. “Why aren’t you freaking out right now?” she took the room in. It shared similar designs to the old movies that Kate was sort of addicted to. Very Victorian indeed.

“Is there a reason to?”

“A strange girl just walked out of your closet. You should have attacked me by now or run away.”

He laughed, solely disinterested in talking.

She walked closer, assessing his current mood. “Are you . . . Oh my God. Are you high right now?”

“I don’t know. Does it matter? What are you, an angel?”

I bet that line works all the time, she thought sarcastically as she took another step closer. This should have been weird. She knew that.

But it wasn’t.

Weird was the exact opposite of what it felt like.

“No, seriously. You’re glowing,” he responded to her unasked question, making Ellicia stop dead in her tracks.

Clearly, she had thought that internally, right? She hadn’t said a word, right?

“Like . . . really bright. You’re also hot, very hot.” His voice was hoarse, hazy. Almost as though he was not awake. “Beautiful, of course. But hot, also. Is that why you’re glowing. And you just appeared in my closet.

She cleared her throat and sat down on an empty space on his bed. “I feel like I’m interrupting some sort of moment.”

“I mean, I’m high in my locked bedroom.” He diverted his gaze. “He died, you know. Killed and drained of blood. Obviously by one of them.”

“Who’s dead?”

“The man who raised me. It’s his waking.” He shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal, except anyone with a working pair of eyes could tell that it was. “I should probably go downstairs and put on a fake smile for the guests. But I can’t. Life has never felt so meaningless.”

“What did you mean when you said ‘one of them’?”

“The monsters with the teeth, the creatures with the taste for blood.”

Surely, he was being a tad dramatic, she thought. But then, again, maybe he wasn’t. “Do they have a name.”

“You must not be from here. Vampires, obviously.”

[I’m _]definitely[ not from here_], she thought. Definitely not.

“That’s what I thought.”

This time, she jumped. It was a hundred percent impossible that he’d heard her. It just wasn’t possible. “Did you just read my mind?”

“What?” He looked genuinely dumbfounded. “I say vampires, and now you think psychics are real? Okay.”

“No, I don’t. But you just replied to my thought.”

He turned to her, this time, keeping his eyes on her. “Did I?”

“Okay, I’ll think of a question, and we’ll see.”

“Alright, why not?” he agreed. His only thought at the moment was that his hallucination was as beautiful as she was crazy.

All right, now Ellicia actually had to think of a question. It wasn’t as hard as she’d thought, because one popped up in her mind before she even had the opportunity to assess it. Who’s Nathan?

“Okay, you might have been right. Who is Nathan?”

She shook her head, a little disappointed at her thought. “I have no idea.”

“Well, I’m Ezekiel. And I’m having a conversation with my hallucination.”

She tilted her head, studying him. “Actually, it’s the other way around. You’re my hallucination.” Right? This was her thing, right? She wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Whatever makes you feel better, Beautiful.”

“So, amaze me, Ezekiel. What year is this?”

“1930.”

If she were drinking anything, the contents would have been splashed all over Ezekiel’s face. After recovering from the shock she felt, she asked, “how was the war?”

“Cruel. I was a kid, so I don’t remember much, except what a large scope of grass looks like when it’s drenched in blood.”

This had to be insane. Utterly impossible. This whole thing had to be a hallucination. But weirdly, Ellicia knew that it wasn’t. Something about this felt weird, like it had happened before. Like she had witnessed this before. “Sorry you got to see that.”

“You’re of two races,” he pointed out, his voice monotone.

“Huh?”

“Two races. You.”

She nodded. That fact had never just been pointed out without the person pointing it out being all weird about it. Funny that it took a trip to the distant past for it to happen. Of course, this wasn’t actually real, she reminded herself. Growing up biracial had never altered her life in any distinct way and to that, she was grateful because she wasn’t blind. The world, as modern as it was now, still had . . . racists. “You know I understand English just fine,” she said, commenting about his use of phrases. “And you’re white. Moving on…”

“Yeah, I could tell by your accent. It’s slightly English.”

“You can thank my father for that.”

“Your father, is he . . .?” He looked frightened for her. It didn’t take a genius to guess why.

“Black? Yeah, the last time I checked. Don’t worry about it. This isn’t my time.” As soon as she said it, she knew it to be a fact. Somehow, she was really here. Somehow, she had ended up in this teenage boy’s bedroom all the way back in 1930. Crazy? Yes. Real? Maybe. “He’s dead now. He was also attacked. But not by . . . vampires, by a mountain lion.”

“Happy birthday.”

“How did you . . .”

He raised and quickly sagged his shoulders. This day held more crazy than he could handle.

“So, what’s your name?” he asked with interest.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Why?”

She stared at him with sad eyes. She liked speaking to this Ezekiel. It came easily, like a conversation that had already been had. For about a month, she had felt weird. It only took her a trip to the distant past to feel normal again. But if this was truly the past . . . “You’re already dead.”

And with that revelation, she woke up on the familiar marble floor that engulfed her Chicago house.

She had no idea what she was doing lying unconscious on the floor of her living room? She glanced at her phone’s screen. The time was 2:37 p.m. She didn’t remember how she’d gotten there, or how long she’d been there. Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember anything since she ended the call with Gabby. Yet, her mind felt vacant, like she was expected to remember something. She shook off the feeling. She had already wasted two hours lying on the floor.

Luckily for Ellicia, it took about an hour more for Gabby to arrive. She was fully prepared and led a couple of party planners into Ellicia’s house. Neither of them had to lift a finger. “It’s your eighteenth party, don’t worry about it. I’ve got it handled.” She waved a credit card in front of Ellicia. “It pays to have a workaholic for a father.”

Nine p.m. arrived quickly and so did those invited. Ellicia looked at all the arriving guests, few of which she recognized. Maybe, just maybe, this was the jolt she needed to start living again. Gabby approached her with two glasses of red wine.

“What did I tell you? Is this awesome or what?” She cut Ellicia off before could answer, “Awesome. I know. You’re welcome.”

Most of the guests were dressed elegantly, like they were attending some sort of ball. They must have missed the part on the invite that said ‘casual.’ Meanwhile, Ellicia wore a pair of black jeans, plain black tee shirt and topped it off with an electric blue leather jacket.

“Exactly how many people did you invite?”

“Uh . . .” Gabby seemed to be searching for the answer. Her eyes turned wide and she pointed towards the entrance. “Look. Oh yeah, I also invited Alex. You two would totally hit it off.”

“But I don’t want to ‘hit it off’ with anyone,” Ellicia complained.

Nonetheless, Gabby overlooked Ellicia’s resilience and dragged her towards Alex. “He’s a freshman in college, he’s cute. I promise.”

Ellicia shook her head, but didn’t say anything. There was no point in arguing with Gabby.

She waved him over. “Alex, hey!”

“Hi, Gabby. Cool party,” Alex said as soon as he got within earshot.

“It’s not my party. It’s Ellicia’s.” She tilted her head towards Ellicia. “Ellicia, Alex. Alex, Ellicia.”

Ellicia awkwardly waved in his direction and attempted smiling; attempted and failed. “Hi.”

“You’re the birthday girl,” he said with a sly smile on his face.

Ellicia reached out for Gabby but she was nowhere in sight. She sent Alex another weak smile.

He leaned with his back on the wall and waved his friends off. “So . . . you’re from Massachusetts?”

“I’m actually from here. I moved to Massachusetts and I just moved back.”

“Oh, right. Gabby mentioned something about that.”

“Did she?”

“Not remembering doesn’t equate to forgetting,” Ellicia heard echo in her head.

“Did you just say something?” she asked Alex.

He shook his head and grabbed a glass of punch from the table to his right.

“Not remembering doesn’t equate to forgetting,” she heard again, but this time it came off as hazy and she knew it wasn’t Alex who’d said it, because it sounded almost like the voice belonged to a female.

I must have a very low alcohol tolerance, she thought, hoping that to be the reason for the crazy things that had just taken place.

When Ellicia looked up again, Alex was in mid-sentence talking about how Gabby wanted to set him up on a blind date with her. He must have made a joke later because he laughed. “I think I need some air.” She cut him off as politely as she could and walked towards the front doors of her house. She didn’t know why but as she lifted her hand to turn the handle, she had a strong feeling of similarity. She titled the handle and pushed the doors open. She was immediately welcomed by the cold night breeze. Her eyes met a small parcel placed right on top of the doormat. It was perfectly wrapped around with a red ribbon. Whoa, Déjà vu, she thought as she picked it up.

~

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

[*KEMDI IK *]is the author of the Alleyhill series and the contemporary novel, Take Me Far Away. When she isn’t writing or studying, she is probably binge-watching a random show on Netflix or thinking up ideas for more books. Kemdi is currently drinking another cup of creamy coffee and working on her next full-length novel. Visit her website at www.KemdiIk.com to find out more.


Broken Wings (Alleyhill Novella)

Blythe is a Fallen angel seeking a thrill. Nathan is an ex-Guardian angel tired of thrills, but seeking a way for Ellicia's life to remain safe for an extended period of time. Blythe holds key information on what his first move should be. However, Blythe has an agenda of his own . . . This is an 'Alleyhill' story Catch up on the Alleyhill series: #1 - The Becoming #2 - The Awakening #3 - The Beckoning (The Final Book in the Alleyhill Series)

  • Author: Kay & Unruly
  • Published: 2017-01-07 03:05:13
  • Words: 18138
Broken Wings (Alleyhill Novella) Broken Wings (Alleyhill Novella)