TUMBLING THROUGH INKY DARKNESS, I landed face first in the freezing ocean, legs and arms sprawled, grasping for anything solid. My breath whooshed out and the black water crashed over me, driving me under again and again until I was completely disoriented. Panicking, I flailed helplessly against the vicious surf. My head bounced against a jagged rock, starbursts of light exploded behind my eyes.
Out of the darkness, Killian’s face swam in front of me like a mirage. The memory of his words echoed and disappeared like a dying breeze.
I will give you a child, Princess.
He’d smiled into my eyes and kissed me with promise.
Such beautiful promise.
Part of me wanted that…his child, our child…a tiny magical creature to carry on his name.
Part of me just wanted to practice.
But now, I felt nothing, sensed nothing. There was no wind, no ocean, nothing but darkness and absolute silence.
Was I in Hell?
Wasn’t there supposed to be fire? Brimstone?
I squinted into the void and saw nothing, not even my hand in front of my face. If this was Heaven, it was a huge disappointment. Spending eternity in a black cocoon wasn’t my idea of bliss. I was claustrophobic, didn’t anyone remember that? Hello? Anyone?
Killian? Where are you?
I sent my thoughts to him in the darkness. His face shimmered in my mind, his voice coming from far away.
What are you doing? Get back to Sean! He’s going to bolt!
Sean? He’s already gone.
A great weight landed on my back and someone pushed me into the wet sand until my spine nearly cracked. Over and over again, someone shoved me into the sand until I thought I’d drown in it. My cozy world of darkness crumbled and both light and pain came pouring in even as the water poured out of my mouth.
“Good girl, do it again!” Strong hands pushed against my back until I coughed up all of the water in my lungs.
Gasping and coughing, I lay on the sand trying to stop the stars that circled my head like a cartoon.
“Come on, keep coughing.” He turned me over to my side and hovered next to me while I coughed weakly.
Finally, I collapsed and closed my eyes trying to breathe normally. It hurt to inhale and I groaned and coughed some more. Being dead was far more comfortable…
Killian’s voice came to me again. That’s my girl! Anchor him. Don’t let him go!
I sensed, rather than physically felt, the man next to me begin to pull away. He tensed as if he was about to stand up and I realized it must be Sean.
Anchor him? How?
I was saved from spending too much time thinking about this because he abruptly stood and stepped away from me. Feeling his sudden tension, I knew he was about to bolt. Instinctively, I grabbed him around his ankle and dragged him down to the sand. Totally surprised, he fell on his butt with an indignant shout.
“What the hell are you doing? Let go of me!”
Sitting up without letting go, I choked out, “Where do you think you’re going? You can’t just leave me here in...” I looked around the gloomy sandy beach without a clue about where we were. “You can’t leave me here!”
He shoved furiously at my hand, but my grip was strong and I was a desperate woman. No way was I letting go. He raised a hand to me as if he’d use his powers to move me. He could probably throw me all the way back home if he wanted to. I lifted my own in challenge.
“You’d use your powers on me now? How low will you stoop?”
Lowering his hand, he flushed faintly. His voice held a sad note of desperation that tugged at my gut, just a little. "Damn it, Mica. What are you doing here?”
“Right now, I’m freezing to death. Can we please go somewhere with walls and a fire? You know where we are,
Looking like he’d rather be spit-roasted in Hell than spend another minute with me, he agreed with bad grace. Gritting his teeth, he helped me up and watched detachedly as I wobbled on my feet. Making no move to steady me, he stood with arms crossed and glanced around the beach. Yeah, he totally didn’t want me here. Well, at least he didn’t let me die. That had to be a good sign…of course, he was my protector, my own personal Primani and they were supposed to be angels…of a sort.
A gust of wind roared in from the ocean nearly knocking me down again. Lunging forward, I shoved my hair out of my eyes and grabbed his hand. He shook me off but I linked my fingers in his and refused to let him go. Now that my brain was settling down from its near-death experience, I was able to put together coherent thoughts and wished I couldn’t.
Like a bad dream, tonight’s events came drifting back to me. We hadn’t ended up here on a whim. We were here for safe haven. Ireland was home. Devastated by Dec’s death, Sean had teleported out of the underground tunnels in Brooklyn. Knowing Sean was close to collapsing, Killian had thrown me against him just before he vanished. He wanted me to anchor Sean, keep him from going, but it hadn’t worked out that way. Startled, Sean grabbed me out of reflex and we’d tumbled end over end through the void of time and space until my disastrous reentry in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Where are we going?” I swiveled around but didn’t see any lights from a town or even a tiny village anywhere.
The overcast light revealed an empty wild land covered with stubby grass and clumps of grey heather. The coast was dotted with craggy black rock with tiny patches of sand peeking through. Looking at the rocks with respect, I gingerly touched the lump on my temple. It had swollen to the size of an ostrich egg and was dripping blood down my neck.
“Sean, I’m dripping like a faucet here. Can we stop for a minute? I need to do something with this cut.” My free hand was slippery with fresh blood but wasn’t doing a good job of stopping the flow. I needed a bandage, or better yet, time to heal myself properly.
Seeming to notice me for the first time, he blinked at me in surprise. Surprise turned to annoyance and then irritation. There’s the Sean I know and love…He grunted something intelligible and lifted my hair. Wincing at his roughness, I set my jaw and let him poke and prod.
“We’re almost there,” he said, pulling off his own bloody t-shirt. After wadding it into a ball, he pushed it into my hands. “That’s my only shirt. I expect you to wash it and give it back if you don’t die.”
“Nice.” I shoved the balled up cotton against the cut and pressed. Oh, sure, I’d wash it…jerk.
His eyes swiveled sharply to mine and I caught my breath. Brilliantly blue and intense on a good day, they were nearly black and emotionless now. Flat and cold…and lost. The dim light cast eerie shadows across his cheekbones, making him somehow harder, more dangerous, feral.
“Don’t push me, Mica. You won’t like where it takes me.” His eyes traveled over my face and lingered on my mouth.
Nervously, I licked my lips and looked away. What was he thinking? Once upon a time, I knew. Now, his face was blank, giving nothing away.
After another mile or so of stumbling across the grass, we stopped near the base of a small hill. It was more of a rise in elevation than a real hill. Sean stared at the top of it searching for something. I scanned the hillside for warm bodies…animals, people, demons…We trudged around the base until we came to a tiny indention in the grass that zigzagged up the side of the hill. Sean took off up the trail with me on his heels. Killian’s words still echoed in my head and I didn’t trust Sean not to leave me here and disappear without a trace. He’d been on edge before tonight--angry and frustrated with me and with himself. Killian was worried about him already, but then the fight in the tunnels...
Tonight had been a disaster.
It was all I could do to block the memories. I swallowed the lump in my throat and sniffed hard. There would be time to grieve later. Right now, I needed to keep Sean from losing himself completely. For once, I was protecting him. I guess it’s my turn. We reached the top and he mechanically took my hand and yanked me over a ragged lip of tumbled dirt. Not paying attention to his strength, he pulled so hard I practically flew over the other side. Landing on my knees, I glared at him, but his mind was a million miles away again and he’d acted automatically without seeing me.
“Oh! What is that?” I asked.
“Shelter. Come on. Let’s see if the roof is still there.”
The stone hut was more substantial than the collapsed rock walls of Killian’s temple on Eden, but it was probably as ancient. It had been dug into the hillside so had a natural roof of earth. It didn’t look too safe to me though…I hung back just outside and waved Sean ahead of me. It was like a passage tomb. Being buried alive was my deepest, darkest fear. I really, really didn’t want to go inside. He kept walking though. Sighing mentally, I focused my power to the palm of my hand until it lit up like a flashlight. Blinking spastically, it gave me a little comfort in the overwhelming blackness. Jumping at the sudden burst of light, Sean whirled and nearly blew me up.
“Whoa! It’s just me! Don’t shoot!” I wiggled my hand. “Look, it’s a new trick I learned from Killian.”
Frozen at the sound of my voice, a fine thread of energy hovered just on the edge of his fingertips. It collapsed onto itself into a tiny ball of light. His energy core, or saol, had its own intelligence and retreated from hurting me because it was intimately tied to my own; it wouldn’t hurt me. Not as long as he was Primani. A wink of blue caught my eye, but was soon hidden by the dark again.
Lowering his hand, he studied me for a minute and said, “Useful trick. Are you coming in or do you plan to stand there shaking like a chick? It’d be more helpful if I could see the back of the room.”
Against my better judgment, I left the dubious safety of the doorway and met him in the back of the room. Taking my hand, he raised it over my head to illuminate the ceiling. Mushrooms grew here and there giving it a weird warty appearance. Other than that, it seemed sturdy enough. It smelled damp and musty though and Sean sneezed. After the third sneeze, I stifled a small grin. Who knew Primani could have allergies? A small stone brazier sat in one corner with an ancient chunk of wood sitting in it. It looked petrified to me, but Sean didn’t notice. He moved the brazier away from the wall and used his hand to light the log. The log caught a spark and soon glowed with a cheery golden flame. The floor was dirt and there were no other supplies. Great. It was going to be a long, cold, dirty night.
I sat near the fire rubbing my hands. Soaking wet, I was shaking with cold and the cut on my head was aching. Now that we were sitting still, I noticed my fingers and toes were still numb and tingling. How long would that last? I had no idea. I wished Killian was here to ask; he’d know. I was pretty sure the tingling was left over from channeling lightning through my body when we fried the zombies. My hair smelled singed but it didn’t feel burnt so I thought it was probably fine. I peered over at Sean from under my lashes. He stood tensely, shoulders slumped, his eyes staring at nothing. Sensing my attention, he huffed under his breath and rolled his shoulders.
Coming over to me, he squatted and said flatly, “Do you have enough energy to heal yourself and keep warm?”
“I’m not sure. I’m feeling a little hollow. I might need some help. Can you…would you help me?” I hesitated to ask given the mercurial mood he was in.
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
Impervious to the damp cold, he sat with his bare back against the wall and pointed to the dirt between his legs. I scooted over and leaned my back against his chest. The warmth was immediate and heavenly. With his arms wrapped carelessly around me, he shared his heat while staring off into space. Gradually my shivering stopped and I took a deep breath and relaxed against him completely. His heat swirled through my skin like sunlight and I closed my eyes in relief and focused on healing myself. As my saol flowed under my skin, I let myself drift, let it take over. It thrummed through my veins bringing strength and heat to every part of me. Drawing it to the gash on my head, I slowly surrounded the torn skin and bruised muscle and felt them knit back together. It flowed smoothly through me as it healed the tiny wounds, warming me from the inside out.
“You should take off your wet clothes,” he said in a practical tone.
“That’s so not going to happen.”
Uncaring, he shrugged, “It’s your life. Don’t blame me if you get pneumonia.” He pulled his arms away and crossed them against his chest. Closing his eyes, he added,“Don’t forget about my shirt.”
Emotionally and physically drained, I turned away from him and curled up in a ball in front of the weak fire. I was as close as possible without lying on top of it. I was still cold but there were worse things. I could be dead, for real this time. Like Dec…the memory of Dec’s pure golden soul swirling into the air struck me hard and my throat tightened so I could barely breathe.
Beautiful, sweet Declan…my healer, my brother, my friend.
How is he gone? How is that even possible? It was like waking up to find the sky suddenly green and the grass blue. It seemed like a bad dream…
Crazy with rage, he’d launched himself at Jordan. And Jordan had killed him.
Abruptly. Effortlessly. Coldly.
When I closed my eyes, I could still hear the echoes of breaking bone. Jordan had stunned us with his smug little victory speech. No one had known how strong he was, how powerful. Although he wasn’t Primani, he had angelic powers. But no one knew he had familial powers. He’d kept his family’s magic a secret from everyone. Like Killian, his powers were his by birthright. He’d grown stronger with the help of Sgaine Dutre.
And then there was Satan.
Satan had granted him more power as part of a deal they made. Jordan had been an angel once. Now…he was fallen. Fallen and taken my friend with him.