About Blood Redemption
Trapped in the Dark Realms, Caspia finds herself the unwitting leader of a growing Nephilim rebellion. Plagued by strange dreams and intrigue, she learns to master her Azalene abilities when all she wants is to find her way back home.
To Whitfield. To Ethan.
But a new enemy gathers, and it isn’t just Belial. To avoid another Nephilim war, the Realms of Light decide to attack their ancient enemy first. Caspia, her hometown, and everyone she loves happens to be in the way. With the Light poised to strike from one side, and the Dark Realms on the other, she and Ethan must fight their way back to each other and try to protect the life they’ve built.
I stared at the spot where Belial had been, too astonished to move.
Nothing was left of him but a puddle of what I assumed to be demon’s blood. The light of the half-moon overhead shined across its surface, the pale, brilliance outshining the stars.
The moon had been full when I was taken. That meant at least two weeks had passed here while I was in the Twilight Kingdom. The night air was cool, and smelled incredibly fresh. I took huge deep breaths that smelled of pine and river water. Somewhere beyond the tree line the St. Clare River rushed on, its muted roar a comforting backdrop to the sounds of night in the South: the swelling song of crickets and cicadas; an owl in the distance; leaves moving through wind.
I hadn’t known demons could bleed. I had seen Ethan fight for me before, and take some pretty hard blows, but never had I seen an angel, Fallen or otherwise, actually bleed. It took some time to register. I kept seeing the same horrible image again and again: the blade sliding into Belial’s side, and the way his smooth marble skin had ruptured, leaking thick black ichor.
I looked at the sword Ethan still held. Its crushed diamond surface dripped with the lifeblood of Belial, a demon so powerful he had been able to best even Asheroth, the strongest Fallen angel in my admittedly limited experience. Some deeply buried part of me felt a new fear at the realization that I’d been at his mercy, and that he would be angrier than ever now that Ethan had beaten him. Human Ethan, whom he thought to be so fragile, had succeeded in badly wounding him. If Belial was already dangerous, now he was bound to be even more so. But I had more important things to worry about at the moment, rather than to let myself wonder about demon’s blood and his ensuing wrath.
I was home. And Ethan was still holding on to one of my arms.
He must have come to the same realization, because he dropped the sword to the ground with a clatter and turned to face me, an expression on his face as full of wonder as it was of disbelief. “Is it really you?” he said, so faintly. He slid his strong hand down my forearm where his thumb began to trace small circles against my pulse. “Are you really here?” His river-bright eyes were full of fear and hope.
I wasn’t sure I believed it myself. “I think so,” I answered hesitantly. I had been stuck for what seemed like forever in Belial’s kingdom and now I was home.. Even if home consisted of Asheroth’s compound instead of my cozy apartment overlooking Old Town Square.
What was even better was the irony of it all – I had managed to escape with Belial’s direct help. My request had actually worked. I had succeeded in tricking the demon, even though I had lots of help. All of a sudden, my spirits soared. If we could beat him on the little things, then our chances for defeating him on a larger scale had to be good.
I didn’t get very far in my musings before Ethan took me by the other forearm and held me at arm’s length. I wanted to melt into his arms, but he wouldn’t let me. He seemed determined to check me for damage first. I was acutely conscious of my appearance: wild-haired and wearing the tattered shreds of what had already been a revealing evening gown. I felt exposed and strangely shy. He looked me over from head to toe, chewing on a corner of his lip in concern. “Did he . . . are you . . .” He swallowed hard, like he really didn’t want to ask the question, but had to. “Did he hurt you?”
I thought of the blow to my head when I first arrived in Belial’s realm. I thought of the way my hand had crumpled like glass when I punched him. I thought of these things and looked at the worry in Ethan’s eyes, and gave him my bravest small smile. “It doesn’t matter. I’m okay now,” I offered, which was as close to the truth as I wanted to get at the moment. Later there would be time to fill him in on all the details of my stay in the Twilight Kingdom. I knew telling him right now would upset him, and I didn’t want my Ethan any more upset.
I wanted him in my arms.
Ethan let out a pent up sigh of long held frustration, and pulled me gently into his arms. “I can tell when you’re lying, you know,” he whispered into my hair.
“I’m not lying,” I protested. “I’m fine now. Totally and completely well. Better than fine, actually, because I’m here.” I wove my fingers together until they rested in the small of his back, pulling him tightly towards me. “With you.”
Behind us, Asheroth made an impatient sound. I ignored him. When Ethan ran his fingers up my neck, I forgot all about him. Everything melted away until there was nothing but us: no demon blood, no mad Fallen angels, no broken wards. There was nothing but Ethan’s hand cupping the back of my neck, bringing my head down until I could feel his breath on my cheek. Then our lips touched, and the world around me exploded into fire.
Soft and gently urgent, I kissed him back hesitantly. My senses were filled with nothing but Ethan: his scent of citrus and the fresh green of growing things; the soft warmth of his skin; the tender but protective way he held me; the faintest hint of stubble on the skin under my palms. I dropped my hands from his back and cradled his face in my hands, deepening the kiss. It became something larger than both of us. Hungry and needy, it was as if we were trying to pour all the time apart into one desperate action. His hands roamed lower, pulling me flush against his warm solid body. A little cry involuntarily escaped me; it had been so, so long. It had been even longer for him, and he clutched me to him as if to negate this fact.
As our breathing grew ragged and the kisses more desperate, I felt a cold stone hand descend on my shoulder. I tried to shake it off. After all, I had more important things going on here. But the hand refused to move. It shook me gently, loosening Ethan’s tight hold on me, and I wanted to shout in frustration. Couldn’t he leave us alone for one measly minute?
“Actually, it’s been more like fifteen,” a voice I recognized too well said acerbically. Asheroth. Trust him to be the one to break us apart. It took me a moment to realize I must have spoken out loud. I blushed. Even Ethan seemed sheepish. I broke the kiss to bury my face in his leather-clad shoulder.
“What do you want?” I growled.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking of how I fought to save your life back there. You’re welcome, by the way.” Asheroth’s tone was one of barely restrained fury. “And while we’re at it, I think the events of a few minutes ago deserve some discussion. Don’t you?”
“If we must,” Ethan said softly, smoothing back my hair. He wrapped an arm around me and moved me until he had tucked me into his side. I fit perfectly against him, our hips touching, and the sides of our bodies locked together. I never wanted to leave.
And I really, really resented Asheroth for the interruption. I nuzzled Ethan’s neck, ready to forget about mad Fallen angels for an eternity.
But mad Fallen angels weren’t ready to forget about me. I barely had time to register the cold, statue-like hand that wrapped itself around my neck, while another hand grasped me by the forearm. He yanked me from Ethan’s grasp and held me as far away from him as his arms would reach. My feet scrabbled wildly for solid ground as he hauled me several inches into the air.
But not so far that I could ignore the burning rage buried in his diamond eyes.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” he shouted at me. I winced at the force of the anger in his voice. “Do you have the faintest idea what this has cost us?”
Ethan was at my side in an instant, pulling on Asheroth’s arm. “Let her go, Ash,” he said, warningly. “It’s not her fault.”
Asheroth released my arm, and reached out and swatted Ethan as if he were an annoying insect buzzing around. Asheroth must have been showing restraint, because he only knocked Ethan back a few feet, where he stumbled and fell to the ground. Panting and winded, Ethan was up in an instant, running over to launch himself at Asheroth again.
“Enough!” I shouted, still dangling from Asheroth’s cold stone hands. I wrapped my fingers around my guardian’s arm and tried to break his hold on me. It was useless. I might as well have been trying to break concrete with my bare hands. My breath was coming in short hard pants, and I was terrified.
“I would have thought you’d be happy to see me,” I said to him. My eyes snapped silver in the moonlight; I could feel my own banked fury boiling over.
“You have broken our wards,” he hissed, low and deadly. “By bringing that . . . creature here, you have ensured that he can do it again, and again, and again . . . as many times as he wants.”
“Put her down, Asheroth,” Ethan said again. There was steel buried in his voice now, and even the mad Fallen angel noticed. I looked to see Ethan holding Azazel’s sword in his hands once again. The blade was still dark with blood under the shadow of the half moon. “Let her go, or I swear I will cut you down.” He stood, straight and tall, seemingly unafraid for his own safety. Inwardly, I wanted to cheer. There was little Asheroth was afraid of, but this blade was definitely on the list. I knew because I had once cut him with one of my daggers, made of the same material as the blade Ethan held now.
I realized that Belial must have them now. I had given the demon the ability to injure angels and humans alike when I was taken to the Twilight Kingdom. With a pang of fresh guilt, I realized that this really was all my fault.
“You’re right,” I said, in barely a whisper. “Asheroth’s right. None of this would have happened if not for me, and my stupid plans. I should never have tried to shut the both of you out.” Fresh tears sprang to my eyes. “Never.”
All of a sudden, the punishing hold Asheroth held me in turned into a bone-crushing hug. “If you ever, and I mean ever, do something like that to me again, I will hunt you down and . . . haunt you, or something.” He buried his cold face in my hair. I thought, for just a minute, that I felt something like a tear against my cheek. But it must have been my imagination, because angels, even Fallen ones, didn’t cry.
“We’re not safe here,” my mad angel said. He lowered me gently to the ground. “The compound has been compromised.” He didn’t remind me again that it was my fault, for which I was grateful.
“What are our options?” Ethan asked. He was at my side again, his arm around my shoulder possessive and strong.
“Stay here and risk Belial coming back for her, or travel . . . elsewhere.”
“What’s to stop him from coming after us?” Ethan wanted to know.
“He can come into this compound,” Asheroth said, shooting me a glare. “But no further. This place is set apart from the rest of the city. He’s broken the wards around here, but he shouldn’t be able to enter Whitfield itself.”
“Even this is too close for comfort,” I said, leaning back against Ethan’s chest. His presence calmed me, made it easier to think clearly. “What’s to stop him from bringing his army through?”
“He’s the only one you brought with you, Caspia. I’m hoping that, for the moment, he isn’t strong enough to return. Once he is, though, I imagine he’ll figure out a way to break the wards around this compound entirely and bring his people through.”
“So, what you’re telling me is that we’re about to have an army camped out right next door to downtown,” I said, horror dawning slowly. “And it’s all my fault.”
Asheroth said nothing, but Ethan pulled me closer and nuzzled the top of my head. “It’s not your fault,” he said softly. I felt his hands on my waist, encircling me. “He would have found a way through eventually.
“Where can we go then?” I demanded. “Not back to my apartment. The wards there are broken, too.”
“We’ll have to go to one of the other Guardians,” he said. “To Blackwood Lodge.”
Blackwood Lodge was where we’d hidden Logan. No matter what the consequences of my actions would be, I would get to see my brother again.