Blood Redemption, by Vicki KeireAbout 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.

Blood Redemption is the third installment in the Angel’s Edge series, by bestselling author Vicki Keire, serialized and published right here at Curiosity Quills, every Friday.

Installments:

I stood beside Ethan, his arms wrapped tight around me as we stared into the portal to Blackwood Lodge.

“Remind me why I’m doing this again?”

My voice shook a little as I lingered in front of the arch-shaped vortex. It swirled with dull colors: dingy white and smoky gray, shot through with threads of black. It looked hungry and angry. “You want me to walk through that?” I asked again, for the tenth time since I’d first seen it. Doubt and fear rocked me, even though two of the people I trusted most in the world stood on either side of me.

“It will be fine,” Ethan whispered into my ear. I shivered a little at the sensation, and pulled closer to him.

On the other side of me, Asheroth actually groaned before enunciating as if for a very small, and not particularly bright, child. “This is the portal that will take us to the Western guardians. The Blackwood family, remember them?”

“How could I forget?” I eyed the hellish-looking opening warily. It did not inspire confidence.

“You’ll like Blackwood Lodge,” Ethan promised, taking my hand in his. “It’s . . . different.”

“Plus there’s the small fact that you set my house on fire and broke my wards. There’s really no place else.” Asheroth snorted.

“And I know you want to see your brother,” said Ethan.

Logan! He was the best thing about this whole crazy plan. I would get to see him after what seemed like months of absence, when really it had only been a few days for me, and a couple of weeks for him. And Cassandra and Mrs. Alice would be there, too.

Holding tightly to Ethan’s hand, I prepared to step into the whirling gray vortex. No one was more surprised than me when Asheroth took my other hand. My mad Fallen angel was not a touchy-feely kind of guy. In fact, I was hard pressed to remember a time when his touch hadn’t hurt or startled me in some way. His preferred method of contact was to hold me by the back of the neck like a puppy. But this time, he held me lightly, as if I was made of paper-mache and might rupture at any minute. Knowing his strength, it was just possible that I might. And yet he handled me like delicate glass.

Then we stepped forward into the portal itself. It was so disorienting; the world of Asheroth’s compound disappeared around me, and I was left in what felt like a state of temporal nothingness. I was neither here nor there, but somewhere in between, with no anchor but the man I loved and the Fallen angel I feared as much as I trusted.

Just as I was thinking of Asheroth and calculating the odds of my safety, I felt a familiar electric darkness spark from my palms. It shocked me, because always before, the Shadows appeared gradually, creeping over my hands with agonizing slowness. They had never felt like sparks before. The feeling was one of angry ants marching outwards from my palm. I felt uneasy; I didn’t like it that the dark part of me was doing something unpredictable.

And then I watched in horror as the Shadows turned into literal fireworks, sparking from my hands and exploding like a dark Fourth of July. I felt a flare of pain, followed by shock. Worst of all, I had no control. I tried as hard as I could to force the Shadows back into myself, but I knew from bitter experience that they would not respond. There was nothing to do but let out the darkness and hope no one got hurt.

The vortex must have been feeding them somehow, providing the energy the Shadows needed to become wildly unpredictable and dangerous. Even I didn’t know the full potential of what it was that broke out on my hands, and sometimes swallowed my entire body.It frightened me because I had seen what they had done to Belial; I knew my ability could be deadly to mortals and immortals alike. With a cry, I wrenched my hands from both Ethan’s and Asheroth’s. I felt untethered in the vortex now — not alone, exactly, but unpinned, like I was spinning alone in space. What would happen to me? Would I be lost forever in the gray nothingness? I struggled to connect with something, anything, and could find only the vortex and my own electric fire swathing my hands.

I felt cold stone-like hands on my shoulders. Asheroth. He pushed me from behind, so hard I felt the strength of him bruise me. I realized the Shadows were still confined only to my hands, so they couldn’t hurt him yet. The last thing I wanted was to accidentally attack my mad guardian angel, especially since I had already effectively made him homeless.

Asheroth’s efforts must have worked, because the void vanished and I felt myself falling forward through the portal. Momentarily blinded, I landed on my hands and knees. Roughly cut grass rubbed against my skin. Newly and unevenly mowed, it tickled my nose with its sharp, pungent scent. I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the ground right in front of me.

But Ethan wouldn’t let me. He pulled me up, brushing my hair from my face. “What happened back there?” he asked, quietly disturbed. I could read the urgency in his eyes.

“I’m not sure,” I had to admit. “It was frightening, though. That was more powerful than anything I’ve felt before. And it seemed like I had even less control than usual.” Not for the first time, I wondered if I wasn’t a danger to my friends and allies.

I tried to take in as much of my new surroundings as I could. We stood in a low meadow, bright with sunlight and dotted with wildflowers. Copses of trees cast inviting patches of shadow around the perimeter. A small brook wound its way through the trees at the edge of the clearing, gurgling musically. The air smelled wonderful here- fresh and full of promise. It was even better than the air around Asheroth’s compound. “I don’t know everything I can do yet. I’m not sure what just happened, but I’m glad I didn’t hurt anyone. I couldn’t forgive myself if I did that.” Ethan shushed me with a gentle kiss to the top of my head. He laced my hand tightly in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“The wards must have sensed her as a threat,” Asheroth mused, coming to stand hesitantly beside me. I didn’t blame him for his caution. If normal Shadows could hurt someone as powerful as Belial, how much worse would unpredictable ones be to him?Asheroth shrugged and gave me a look that was impossible to interpret. “Maybe they still sense some of the Twilight Kingdom on you,” he said, as if Belial’s realm was a bad smell I couldn’t quite shake off.

Maybe it was. Perhaps it had tainted me forever. I knew I could never forget the time I spent there and the things I’d seen, even if I lived to be a hundred.

I knew however long I was permitted to stay, I would never forget this place and its inhabitants. Nor would I want to.Blackwood Lodge was the home of the largest family of magical practitioners in all of Whitfield. But at least two of them were what I considered very good friends, and they were currently hiding my brother Logan from rogue angels. I could only pray they would give us sanctuary.

Ethan and Asheroth led me across the clearing to a large, ramshackle house. It was the oddest sort of dwelling; open porches ran the length of the front. The main part consisted of a narrow, three story structure covered in dark wooden shingles. Additions jutted off in all directions, each of them very different on the outside, as if they had been constructed across a variety of eras. One small wing was built like a log cabin, while another, on the opposite side of the house, was the very best of modern vinyl siding. A brick tower rose from behind the whole thing, casting a long shadow across the yard. The entire place looked as if it had been cobbled together by a child building houses out of Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys and Legos. But the crazy architectural styles seemed to work together in a bizarre kind of harmony.

A large garden stood off to the side of the rambling structure. I could make out corn and tomato plants laid out in long, neat rows. Two children, a boy and a girl, were on their hands and knees weeding. They were so intent on their task that they didn’t even look up at our approach. A smaller nearby garden featured low, bushy plants and flowers. I wondered if this was where Mrs. Alice grew the many herbs she stocked in her shop.

I stopped when we came within about thirty feet of the house, suddenly feeling shy. I knew that members of the Blackwood family were my friends; I hated to bring trouble to their door. But my brother was in there too, and I was determined to see him.

Cassandra stepped out as soon as I took three more steps toward the Lodge. She never hesitated; running up, she wrapped her arms around me in a fierce hug. She wore a fragrance of lilies instead of the customary patchouli she sported at the store. Her long blonde hair was still wild, though, and a long, loose, brightly colored skirt swished around herlike all the times I’d seen her before.

“Caspia!” she practically shouted. Her hug became bone-crushing. “Thank the gods you’re okay.”

Logan came out just a few steps behind her. He tackled me with a whoop and hugged me even harder than Cassandra, the two of them clinging to me like limpets. I could barely breathe after less than a minute; squeaking in protest, I tried uselessly to fend them off long enough to recover the power of speech. Eventually, after I had almost died of asphyxiation, Cassandra let go.

My brother didn’t.

Seeing Logan again brought back memories. I saw him fighting a battle with cancer that left him weak and decimated. I remembered his twisted body, broken after the accident, and the way Ethan had revived him. Then there were endless hours in the hospital, waiting for him to either recover fully, or die. I remembered all these things, and looked carefully at my now healthy, strong brother. I was so glad to see him, words were inadequate. I settled for a fierce hug of my own and a whispered “I’ve missed you.”

“Me too,” he breathed back. “Don’t you ever do something like that to me again. I almost lost you, and I couldn’t live with that.” One hand came up to cup the back of my head and cradle me gently against his chest. I could hear his heart beating erratically, and I felt a kind of safety I hadn’t experienced since childhood. Our apartment had been compromised, but as long as I was with my brother, then home was never very far away.

“How have things been here?”  I asked.I peered into Logan’s Nephilim eyes. They were dark, almost black, with a ring of red around the irises. They’d begun to change about the time he discovered his Nephilim ability: incredible strength. He was strong enough to hold his own against even the likes of Asheroth. I wondered how he would fare in a fight against Belial, and then quelled the thought. I wanted to keep my brother as far out of the coming war as possible.

If he would let me, that is.

“We’ve beenhiding him, successfully so far,” Cassandra said carefully, not looking at Asheroth. “And not just from the Fallen and the demons.” She sighed heavily. “Hunters have been probing our wards.”

My blood froze. I had only encountered them in the Dreamtime, briefly, and didn’t know much about them. But I knew enough. Hunters meant the army of the Light was near, intent on destroying my kind along with my town.

They wanted to kill us before we became a threat. Nephilim with gifts, like me. And Logan.

If they were already trying to break the wards around Blackwood Lodge, then I wondered if there was any true sanctuary left in the world.

Cassandra must have sensed my dark mood. “Come inside, Caspia,” she said, placing a sisterly arm around my shoulders. She guided me up the creaking wooden staircase and across the porch. “I sense you have a lot to tell us. You’ll be safe here.”

As she opened the door to Blackwood Lodge, I could only pray that she was right.

Continue to Chapter 12: War and Peace…



About the Author

Vicki Keire
Vicki Keire
Reads and writes about things that go bump in the night. Hates to cook. Would rather burn laundry than fold it. Keeps vampire hours. Check out her books right here at Curiosity Quills Press.