If you’ve already read chapter one, just scroll down to where chapter two starts. Hope y’all enjoy!
I WOKE UP IN A PANIC, gasping for my next breath. My lashes fluttered open, but everything was blurry at first, swirling, fuzzy points of light blanketed a velvety blackness. I squinted, then blinked a few times and saw that I was staring up at a clear night sky full of stars. My back was flat against the ground, my head resting uncomfortably on top of something coarse and hard. As I rolled over and pushed up with my hands, sharp pain spread through my body, letting me know I hadn’t completely healed yet. But I ignored it and stood up, feeling unbalanced as I swayed. My arms flapped out as if I could fly, but I was only trying to keep from falling. After a few grueling moments, I was finally able to get it together—sort of. I cast a wary gaze around me. A forest thick with vegetation spread out on both sides, quiet and secluded, and a road weathered with age split right through the middle of it. Not too far from where I stood, the moon projected its light upon the dark surface like a mirage in a desert, and no matter how much distance I could gain, I knew I’d never reach the point where its light truly touched.
A deep sigh blew through my lips as a sense of hopelessness claimed me. Though I was certain I was somewhere on Earth, I still didn’t know where exactly I was or why I was there. I glanced down and my chest tightened with panic. Red, crackled smears covered the tops of my black wedge boots, spreading in crimson trails up my jeans, which were also ripped and torn—shredded at the knees. My arms were scratched and bloody, and the white tee had definitely seen better days. I grabbed my mouth, holding back a gasp, swinging another gaze around me.
Suddenly, images shot through my mind like a projector playing old videos. There was a man holding me, running his fingers through my wavy caramel hair. His eyes were like deep, sapphire pools, coaxing me into their bottomless depths. He lowered his lips to my ear. Then, the vision cut out like interfering static. I drew in a deep breath. More images returned, and this time I could make out that the man was familiar. He was around five foot ten, brunette, and had a muscular body from head to toe. I couldn’t see his eyes this time, not because I wasn’t straining, but because he was blurry…no, moving really fast. He threw me to the ground. “Stay down!” he yelled. “They’re coming!”
“No!” I screamed, trying to rise. “Cole!” I couldn’t move fast enough. Everything was happening too fast, yet it seemed to be progressing in slow motion.
But as I rose, something grabbed me, holding me back. Long black arms wrapped around me. Slick, scaly fingers with claws the size of knives interlocked at my waist, securing their hold on me. I kicked back, then tried to squat down and twist free, but the thing’s grasp was too tight, unbreakable. I looked around in a panic, scanning the area, but couldn’t find a trace of Cole. I screamed—more like a shriek of pain. Panic seized me. I blinked.…
The visions stopped. I remembered everything.
There were headlights off in the distance ahead of me, slowly approaching. I glimpsed the overgrown forest on both sides, then swung right and took off running, plowing into the thick vegetation and swerving around trees and bushes. Their branches were like skeletal hands gripping me, cutting into the tender flesh on my arms. But I kept pushing forward, tears building in my eyes like a stream during a flood. Cole. I’d left Cole. I needed to get back to him before it was too late. I couldn’t let them take him. My pace slowed to a swift walk, and I closed my eyes, squeezed them shut, letting my aura guide me. My fingers pressed into my temples, concentrating, directing all of my focus on Charon, the place where Cole and I had been just before I accidentally orbed back to Earth.
A few moments later, I was standing on a land overtaken by war. Smoke rose from fresh craters blasted in the soft, sandy surface, and black ashes fell like snow. It was like a smothering fog making it difficult to see, hard to breathe. I squinted, trying to help my eyes work a little better. There were mountains all around, a small inlet of water separating them from me. The water looked black, empty, and lifeless. Small waves rushed the expansive, sandy shoreline, breaking, splashing, and then retreating back to sea. I couldn’t remember why I was here. But I knew this place. I’d been here before, but this wasn’t how it looked. It was much more beautiful. What happened here? The fresh smoke proved something recent had occurred. I swallowed hard, my pulse rushing up my throat. This place was Charon. Or at least was Charon.
Everything had come back to me, my memories connecting like matching puzzle pieces.
“Cole!” I yelled, my voice frantic, desperate, and afraid. The fact was, I was beyond afraid, because I couldn’t sense him here. They must’ve taken him alive. If he were dead, I would’ve known instantly.
I walked around aimlessly, like a lost puppy, only to find more destruction. I kicked a rock the size of a tennis ball. It scuffed across the grainy, powder-like surface, leaving a trail behind it.
Then the air grew thicker—like pressure building before a storm—and after a moment, I sensed a presence, familiar, but not friendly. Gooseflesh spread across my skin and my teeth ground together. “Show yourself, Limos!” I demanded, my eyes narrowing.
There was a poof of orange, rusty colored smoke. A draft blew through, clearing some of it away. Limos glared at me, a hint of fang showing in his open mouth. He was nearly six foot, long, flowing black hair draping over his even blacker cloak, and his eyes were the color of blood. “Selene, aren’t you supposed to be guarding your human?” His voice was a deep, malicious hiss.
“That’s none of your business!” I snapped, eyes narrowing into a deeper glare.
Limos waved a hand in the air like he was shooing a fly. “My apologies. Though I do enjoy seeing you in human form.” He stepped forward, reaching for me. His fingernails were overgrown—jagged and sharp, like miniature razors. I swallowed hard as he moved closer, leaving barely a couple feet between us. He hesitated a moment, then lowered his hands. “Ah, that’s much better,” he purred, sounding more like a growl. “Selene, you really are my favorite angel.”
I rolled my eyes. A chill crept up my spine, spilling across the back of my head. “Where is Cole?”
“Do not worry, my child. He is unharmed. I may hold onto him for a little while. That is, unless you are willing to make a trade?”
I took a small step back. “What trade? What do you want?”
Limos half laughed, sinister, evil, like the demon he is. “Oh, Selene, my dear child. I want you. But you already know that.”
I could feel my pulse quickening, shuddering up my chest, into my throat. “No. I can’t!” I swung my head to the right, then slowly to the left, scanning the mayhem previously unleashed by Limos and his hoard of demon followers. “Please let him go!” Tears dripped out of my eyes, making cold, sticky trails down my cheeks. There was an emptiness in the pit of my stomach that clenched into sharp, excruciating pain.
“Tsk tsk, Selene. Was it not your fault that Cole even came here?” Limos turned, arm raised, voice loud and authoritative, saying, “Is this not my world? Look around you, my child! Your god has abandoned this place. I have claimed it for my own.” He lowered his arm, took a small step closer. “Did you really think this world was not on my radar?”
I stared at him, the lumps forming in my throat making it difficult to speak. I had been wrong about this world. It had been an even bigger mistake to bring Cole here. “Limos, please. Don’t do this.”
Limos burst into sinister laughter. A moment that felt more like an eternity passed as I waited for him to settle down. “If only you would have followed the rules.” A sly chuckle rolled off his black, dry tongue. “None of this would have happened. But I am so grateful to you, my child, that you did not follow His rules.”
I couldn’t reply. Limos was right. All of this was my fault. I looked past the demon and gazed at the water, wishing I could jump in and wash away all of my sins. But that was a human desire. Angels aren’t supposed to sin. Even though we were created so differently from people, the truth is we are actually a lot alike. Angels, like humans, have the freedom of choice. We’re not robots. We’re real living beings. We’re not immune to punishments if we make a bad choice. That was how Lucifer, one of God’s most beloved angels, got thrown out of heaven in the first place.
I found my voice. “I will strike you down! You do not have any power over me. Release Cole now!” I stepped forward, keeping my focus on Limos’ eyes.
He rubbed his hands together—slowly, teasingly. “My child, are you threatening me? You want me to release that vampire after you brought him straight to me? You are a fool. If you kept him on Earth where he belonged, I would have never been able to take him. Your vampire was under the protection of Typhon as long as he remained on Earth.”
“Typhon will hear about this! He will challenge you!”
“That is where you are wrong, my child. I have grown stronger. Typhon will not do a thing.”
I wanted to strike Limos that very moment. But I knew I couldn’t. Angels can’t strike demons without His permission. And I definitely didn’t have His permission. If I had just kept Cole on Earth, none of this would’ve happened. Hindsight can be such a bitch sometimes.
Limos cocked his head sideways, watchful eyes all over me like an unwanted and prying visitor, which he was. “Are your stints of amnesia increasing when you orb?”
My eyes went wide. How did he know about that? I couldn’t answer him. I couldn’t let him know just how much I understood his question.
“So it is true?” he exclaimed. “Your eyes gave it away, my child.” That evil laughter returned, rumbling out of his mouth like a tidal wave of evil. “You no longer have him on your side. But you’re not fallen yet. No, not yet. If you were a fallen angel, then I could easily acquire you.” A sly smile curved his lips. “I suppose I should test the waters and take you for my own right now!” He lunged forward, fast—so fast he was impossible to see.
I gasped, stepped back. But he was already there. Too close, his arms opened wide, ready to grab me.
Out of my body a jolt of electricity burst forth, radiating a light so bright it pierced the dark, smoke-filled world around me as if it were a miniature sun. Limos jumped back, ducking down, hands over his face to shield his eyes. He shrieked in agony, hissing words, begging me to stop, to turn off the light. I closed my eyes, stealing a moment to express my gratitude, and then sucked in a deep breath, swallowing the light inside my body as if I were a vacuum.
I walked over to Limos, crouched down beside him. He lowered his hands enough to peer at me, red eyes wide with shock. “You are still under His protection!” he wailed. It definitely was not a question.
I nodded, feeling a touch of a smile on my lips. “Put Cole back on Earth where he belongs, and I will forget the past few hours ever happened.”
“You have won this one, Selene! But we both know your time is limited. Soon you will be fallen. And then you will be mine.” Limos lowered his head, curling his body into a ball, and vanished inside the rusty orange cloud that had brought him to Charon.
I took a deep breath and rose. How was I going to get Cole back? I didn’t have anyone I could go to for help. My only chance was if Typhon would help me—except going to the Underworld would not only take too much time, but came at a high price. The Underworld was off limits for angels. I definitely couldn’t orb there. And even if I could, my powers most likely wouldn’t work there. I’d be a sitting duck, er, angel, with demons of every kind running all around me. I cringed at the thought. No, going to Typhon wasn’t my answer. Somehow I needed to get a message to him, and the only way to do that was through one of his followers. But there were two big problems with that. The first was that I’d be breaking another “angel” rule for the vampire I loved. The second was that you just cannot trust a demon.
I FOLLOWED MY CHARGE IN the shadows, until it was just the right time for me to appear in human form. Caitlyn Harris dashed through the double glass doors of the research center, two oversized books tucked in the crevice of her arms. She was an attractive young woman with a very promising future. Rich brown hair framed her heart-shaped face, swaying just below her shoulders as she rushed to the only available table. A pair of jeans and a red polo shirt fit snuggly around her slender, five-foot-six body.
There were several rows of bookshelves stretching to the ceiling, surrounding the study area where Caitlyn claimed her spot and pulled out her chair. After she placed her books on the table and got a little more situated, she let out a deep, satisfying sigh. She’d just leaned forward, ready to dive into her work, when she looked across the table and noticed me sitting there. Startled, she jumped back in her chair. “Selene! Where did you come from? I didn’t see you when I came in here!”
I half laughed, mindful of keeping my voice low. “You were in a hurry. I don’t think you noticed much of anything.”
Caitlyn smiled, running a couple of fingers through her straight, silky hair. “I’m a little behind with a few of my classes. Feeling the stress of it. You know?”
I nodded. “I completely understand.” I glanced down at my lap and then back up at Caitlyn. “I’m still so excited that we’re both here. The last few months have been amazing.”
“Are you kidding? It’s better than amazing. It’s perfect.”
And it really was—for Caitlyn anyway. She’d been accepted at Bridgeton Institute while working on getting a BA in Earth and Space Science at Florida Atlantic University. Bridgeton Institute is an elite school offering advanced programs in her field. Since I’m her guardian angel, I followed her across the country, all the way to Denver, Colorado, where BI was located.
“I’m thinking about meeting Stacey and Rob tonight,” Caitlyn said. “I need a break from the books.”
“Where at?” I tucked a few wisps of hair that had fallen out of my ponytail behind my ears.
“Brix. Eight o’clock.”
“Okay you’ll come?”
I smiled. “Of course.”
“Stacey said that Jack might come.” Caitlyn smirked. She quickly pressed her hand across her lips, covering them up.
I frowned. But kept my mouth shut. An argument about Jack wasn’t on my list of things to do today.
“Don’t look at me like that!” Caitlyn scolded.
I quickly diverted my attention to my lap and started tracing circles in my jeans with my index fingers. I could feel Caitlyn’s glare burning a hole in my head, so after a brief, uncomfortable moment of silence, I looked up. Some of her hair had draped across her face like a curtain, and both arms were folded in front of her chest. “I’m sorry,” I said, voice small and cautious. “I just think you should be careful with him. I don’t know if I trust Jack.” And then I added, “Yet,” hoping to make it sound a little better.
“It’s not about YOU trusting him! I’m the one that likes him. You should trust ME! And what about Cole? I never give you crap about him! He’s the one that’s shady!”
I bit my lip, holding back my angered words. Tears began welling up in my eyes. Cole. I’d been doing my best to keep him off my mind while I’d been guarding Caitlyn. She’s my charge, my responsibility, my number one priority. If anything happened to her, it would be my butt on the line. But if anything bad happened to Cole, it would be my fault. MY fault. I brought him to Charon. He would’ve never been there if it weren’t for me. The guilt was becoming unbearable. The desire to find him was pushing to the surface of my emotions.
But I needed to keep Caitlyn my first priority. And since Jack had come around, that’s meant a whole lot more work for me. He was bad news. I could see the shadows surrounding his aura. He was not fully controlled by darkness, but his mind was open to it at the moment. If Caitlyn didn’t take careful steps around him, her foot would get stuck in his web. One of my additional assignments had been to prevent that from happening. At all costs.
“Cole won’t be there tonight,” I said flatly. “I promise to be nice to Jack.”
Caitlyn unfolded her arms, dropping them to her sides. “Selene, what’s wrong?”
I fought to keep the tears in my eyes, but one spilled out, slicking its way down my face. “Everything is fine.” I got up and took a small step back, keeping my eyes on the tops of my sneakers.
“No it’s not.” I heard her chair scoot back, then hurried footsteps marching my way. “Is it Cole? Did something happen with you two?” She gently rubbed my back, slow, careful strokes.
I didn’t know what to say. My eyes were so full of tears, another drop couldn’t fit in there. I swallowed hard. “We’re just taking a little time apart.” My words were choked.
“Well, you guys have been inseparable. It’s okay to spend some of your time with other people. I’m sure you’ll be back glued to each others’ sides before long.”
I sniffled, forcing a half smile.
Something caught her attention. Caitlyn wasn’t looking at me anymore. Her brown eyes had slid to the side, were curving around my face. My chest tightened. I knew who it was without even looking. His black aura constricted around my spine like a boa constrictor. I stepped out of my embrace with Caitlyn and turned to face Jack, the twisted center of her attention.
“Jack.” Caitlyn hopped over to him like a bunny in an open field. He was six feet tall with a toned body, square jaw, dark auburn hair cut short and spiked on top. He opened his arms and squeezed her inside them. I didn’t find it affectionate. It was actually more territorial than anything else. What the heck did she see in him?
“Hey sweetie.” He kissed her cheek and let go of her.
I couldn’t think of a better reason to be invisible. I didn’t want Jack to look at me with those possessive, controlling, snake eyes of his. “I’ll see you tonight, Caitlyn,” I said, and then gave a slight nod toward Jack. “Enjoy your afternoon.”
“Selene! Where are you going?” he asked, voice loud and sarcastic. “Don’t leave on my account.” His dark eyes slanted into a glare, lips smirking just enough to show a glimpse of teeth.
I shook my head, felt a flush of heat spread all over my cheeks. “I’m not. I was already heading out when you got here.”
Out of nowhere, something jerked in my stomach as if I’d been punched, but I pretended nothing had happened, since it wasn’t anything to do with my human company. With anger blossoming inside, I quickly turned on my heel.
“Bye,” Caitlyn called after me.
“Whatever. I guess we’ll see you later,” Jack said, his voice still a little too sarcastic for my taste.
“Lucky me,” I mumbled under my breath.
A quick wave with my hand and I was out the doors of the research center. Massive oak trees lined the sidewalk that led to a few other classrooms and the campus café. There was an expansive, grassy park area on the right, just beyond the oaks. Shadows below fluffy white clouds danced around, careless and free. My stomach twisted into a knot so tight, it almost brought me to my knees. I caught my breath and ducked behind one of the bigger trees, then blinked away my human form, becoming invisible to everything and everyone around me—except the demon trying to get my attention.
“What do you want?” I asked with annoyance, staring into his beady, obsidian eyes. Moros looked like an oversized Komodo dragon. I’d prefer him to be in human form, but what can you really expect from a demon? His gaze slid up and down, taking in everything he saw. In my angel form, there’s a luminescent glow to my skin. My white dress was a soft cottony satin and flowed all the way to my bare feet. My hair was the same as when I was in human form—caramel in color with voluminous waves, gliding down to the small of my back, and my eyes were the deepest shade of green, almost like emeralds.
“I’m with Jack today. Haven’t been able to find his angel.” Between each word, his forked tongue spattered hisses and sighs.
“And that’s why you’re bugging me? I already know his angel won’t be with him today. Why do you think I’m on overtime with my charge?”
“It doesn’t have to be so difficult between us. You and I both know that Jack will have Caitlyn.” The hisses seemed to give his words a thick Russian accent.
I rolled my eyes. This was an endless argument that Moros started with me every time Jack came around Caitlyn, but he’d never gone out of his way to get my attention like he had today with the stomach punches. Something else was up. I didn’t have to be invisible to talk to him, but it would’ve looked like I were talking to an imaginary friend. Besides, I was more than ready to be unseen, thanks to Jack. “Moros, this is not why you’re annoying me. Get to the point. The real point!” My body started glowing like a nightlight.
Moros slithered back, squinting his reptilian eyes. “Put that light out and I will tell you.”
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and then slowly opened them. The glow on my skin was gone. “Speak. Now.”
“There are rumors spreading that Limos has Cole.”
Cole. My heart split inside my chest. I needed to help Cole, but I could sense Moros was going to be more of a problem than I needed at the moment—especially since he was throwing out extra threats on my charge. Next time I meet with Raphael, my boss and archangel, I was going to give him a piece of my mind. Leaving out the part about Cole, of course.
“Selene,” Moros hissed. “I like Cole better than I like Limos. Perhaps we could make a deal and I would help Cole get back to Earth?”
“I cannot make a deal with you!” That’s what I said, but that silent voice inside my head was desperate to hear Moros out. So I stood there and stared at him, waiting for him to continue. Hoping I wouldn’t have to ask.
“Abandon your charge for one hour, just one teensy-weensy hour, and I will tell you who can help you.”
I shook my head, trying to force a “no” off my tongue, but my voice was caught on the massive lump in my throat. My chest was so tight I could barely breathe. I sucked at the air, drinking it in as fast as I could. It burned the back of my throat, penetrating my mouth with hot, fiery flames. My skin crawled with tension like there were tiny electric shockwaves zinging along my arms, crawling up my neck, spilling all over my head. I glared at Moros, feeling regret, pain, betrayal, fear, desperation.
If I betrayed Caitlyn for just an hour, Moros would help me save Cole. But what would he push Jack to do to Caitlyn while I was gone? Was it worth Cole’s undead life to give my human charge over to the monsters? But all Moros was asking for was an hour. Surely I could repair whatever damage he did in that small window of time. And then I would have a lead on how to save Cole. Everything was going to work out for the greater good in the end. I just had to believe that. I was in love with Cole. Caitlyn would want me to save him if she knew what had happened. She’d be okay. She’d probably enjoy having an unsolicited hour of time with Jack anyway. And what if I can talk Raphael into putting Jack’s angel back on the clock? Then at least Moros wouldn’t have free reign with him.
Everyone has a choice. After a few grueling moments, I’d made mine.
After making the deal with Moros, I got the name of a vampire who could help me, and a location where I could find him. Moros and I arranged his “free” hour for tomorrow night. That meant Caitlyn was safe for now, and with that thought came a flood of relief. At least I didn’t have to regret my decision yet.
Once Corrine showed up, it was time for me to get busy. Corrine was an angel, temporarily contracted to be a backup guardian angel for Caitlyn and two other charges. She was sort of like a substitute teacher. She wouldn’t be the first choice for the job, but if the primary angel wasn’t available then she got the call. Corrine is around five eleven, with light blonde hair cut short around her long, narrow face. The white dress looks a little misplaced on her broad, sizeable shoulders. She’d been helping me with Caitlyn for the past year. Apparently the higher-ups thought I couldn’t handle round-the-clock shifts anymore. Unfortunately, ever since I met Cole, I’d have to agree with them. Even though Grote (the demon that usually trails Caitlyn) hadn’t been around for a couple of days, I still couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated, a little jealous, and full of a lot of guilt. No one and nothing is supposed to come before a guardian angel’s assignment, and that particular someone that was dividing me from my job didn’t even have a halo over his head. And now even bigger monsters had kidnapped him.
But before I could find this new vampire ally, I needed to meet with my boss. And that was definitely not going to go well. No, not at all.