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.
All of the air seemed to leave the room. No one around me moved, and they even seemed to have stopped breathing. The strange man held his hand out to me again. This time, I moved to take it, conscious of nothing except his bright burning eyes. They bore into me, drowning out all other sounds in the room, commanding me to take slow, small steps forward. The man named Bain smiled at me, sharp and wild, and I felt as if we were the only two people in the world. One step, two . . . a few more, and I would be at his side.
Suddenly, I wanted to be by his side very, very badly.
When strong warm fingers closed on my forearm, preventing me from getting any closer to the fascinating newcomer, I wanted to kick out in frustration. Ethan’s hold on me increased from gentle firmness to an almost punishing grip. With his other hand he brushed my hair back behind my ear. “He’s trying to glamour you— to glamour us all. Remember the Summer Court? It’s just like that. But you can fight it, Cas. I know you can.”
I strained against him as Bain’s smile widened, showing a definite flash of sharp teeth.
As I tried to take another step forward, a burning pain seared my wrists. I felt like I was wearing chains of fire. The pain snapped my attention away from Bain and back to the present, and when I broke eye contact, all desire to go to him vanished. Tears sprang to my eyes as I held my wrists up in front of me, convinced I was going to see charred flesh. Instead, my skin was perfectly normal, ringed with nothing more threatening than the silver and crystal bracelets Ethan had given me in my bedroom so long ago.
Bracelets made by Jacob Eden, who stood scowling at Bain from across the room. He stepped in front of the beautiful dark haired girl he’d arrived with and drummed his fingers against his crossed arms. “My charms don’t take kindly to Dark magic, Bain,” he said, voice low and gravelly. All across the room, people stirred slowly, as if emerging from a spell. Mrs. Alice pursed her lips, annoyed. Cassandra shook her head so that her waterfall of blond hair rippled in the light. Asheroth stood unmoving, his features frozen with rage. Only Ethan seemed unaffected, a fact not lost on Bain, who glared at him.
“Not Dark magic,” Bain corrected with an impatient sigh. “Just a bit of fun, I promise.” He held his hands out, palms up for all to see, like a magician showing a crowd he had nothing up his sleeve.
“If we didn’t need all the Guardians, I would kick you out right now,” Mrs. Alice snapped.
“But you do need me,” Bain said softly, “and I, unfortunately, need you.” He scanned the room with a single sweep of his narrowed eyes. “As much as I hate it, having the city fall to the forces of the Light would be . . . disruptive to my plans.” He shrugged and leaned back against the door frame, studying his fingernails as if he didn’t care about anything at all. “If it was just the Dark, well, that wouldn’t be so bad. But it seems things are never so simple, these days.”
“You can save any discussion of your plans for the regular town council meeting,” Cassandra said loftily, tossing her hair over one shoulder. “None of it will matter if Whitfield falls to the Light, or if Belial takes over. There won’t be anyone left to unleash your plans on.”
Bain merely raised his eyebrows, and made no further comment. He dipped his upper body in a mocking bow, gesturing for Cassandra to precede him. As we filed out of the small bedroom, I leaned into Ethan.
“Why didn’t his glamour affect you?” I whispered.
“I’m Immune, remember? Magic doesn’t work on me.” Of course, I thought, remembering the night Ethan had saved me from being carried away by the Summer Court. I forgot how powerful that made him in a town like Whitfield, where every other citizen seemed to be some kind of magical or supernatural creature. He might have lost the powers he’d possessed as an immortal angel, but he’d been gifted with something almost as powerful instead. I wondered what role his ability would play in the coming conflict, and whether there were any more like him around.
I followed the others into a room dominated by a large circular table and hung back, uncertain of my place, while the others arranged themselves around it. Each principal guardian took the chair that corresponded to his or her Gate: Bain sat at the head, Asheroth at the foot, representing North and South respectively. Asheroth glared while Bain ignored him. Mrs. Alice settled into her chair at Bain’s left hand with more grace than a woman over a hundred years old had any right possessing, and the copper-skinned, dark-haired girl took the seat across from her. Wishing I could melt into the wall and stay there, I had no idea what to do with myself until Asheroth gestured to the seat next to him. He looked at me almost pityingly as he patted the chair on his right.
“Come, Caspia,” he said gently. “You have your part to play here too.” I felt as if everyone was staring at me as I slipped in next to my guardian. I saw Ethan out of the corner of my eye, taking the seat to Asheroth’s left. Everyone but Bain had a companion of some kind. But I didn’t have time to wonder why as a large map of Whitfield, surrounded by forests and rivers and hills, appeared on the table before us. The map looked as delicate as a glass etching, but was incredibly accurate. The St. Clair and Navau rivers looked as detailed as any of my paintings did. I felt that if I squinted hard enough, I would be able to see the individual trees of Huntingdon Forest.
But my wonder didn’t last as Mrs. Alice made two violent slashes with her finger. Circles appeared on the southern and western sides of town, near The Hollow and Asheroth’s compound on the St. Clair. “We know the forces of Light have penetrated here and here.”
Cassandra leaned forward and drew a circle slowly on the eastern side of the map. Blackwood Lodge. “We have to include ourselves,” she said reluctantly. “Caspia said she saw Hunters, remember? Even if they were in the Dreamtime, that’s still too close for my comfort. We have to face the possibility that they might find a way through.”
“Not through my wards,” Mrs. Alice huffed.
“That’s what we thought, too,” Jacob said. “And you know how strongly the West is guarded, Alice. We can’t take the chance.” Mrs. Alice didn’t reply, but Cassandra’s circle remained on the map.
“And what do we know of the Dark?” Bain prompted. “Where have they broken through?”
Asheroth stabbed at the map, and an “x” appeared over his compound, criss-crossing Mrs. Alice’s circle. “We know that Belial himself can enter here.” A chorus of indrawn breaths and hisses ringed the table. “Caspia said she was chased by Hunters in the Dreamtime there, and Belial used her to break the wards, bringing her back from the Dark Realms.”
“The Light and the Dark. That makes you the weakest link,” Bain said with satisfaction. “I never thought I’d see the day when my Gate would be the last secure one in Whitfield.” He flashed me a toothy smile.
“There was no other way to get her back,” Ethan said in measured, staccato tones. I could hear the buried fury.
“Is she worth it?” Bain asked, leaning back in his chair. “Giving Belial a foothold? Or should we send her back and hope he goes away?” he taunted.
Beside me, Asheroth’s chair creaked ominously. One glance told me he was about to rip it apart with his fingers. I slipped my hand over his cold one and he relaxed. Slightly.
“I brought Belial here, it’s true,” I said, unable to hold my silence any longer. “But I’ve also been to his realm. I know his strengths and his weaknesses. And most importantly,” I took a deep, nervous breath. “I know how to fight him. Not just him, but the Hunters too.”
Dead silence greeted my announcement. Bain unfroze first. “Please, my dear,” he all but purred. “Do tell us more.”
I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. “Well, I have this ability,” I began. I looked at Asheroth, who nodded at me slightly. “When I’m upset or nervous or . . . well, pretty much any kind of strong emotion sets it off. I can create these . . . Shadows. Dark energy. It’s wildly unpredictable, but it does destroy pretty much anything in its path.”
Mrs. Alice smiled encouragingly at me. “Go on,” she prompted kindly.
I took a deep breath. For some reason, I was reluctant to tell them about Jack. About what we could do together. But I knew it might be the best weapon we had in the coming war. “There’s another Nephilim. He’s kind of my counterpart.” Ethan’s expression tightened. I knew he wasn’t exactly comfortable with my relationship with Jack. “He can channel my Shadows into flames that destroy anything they touch. Even Hunter’s armor.”
“And where,” Bain asked, “is this counterpart of yours?”
I looked down at the map. “In the Dark Realms. I escaped and he stayed behind. He’s still Belial’s prisoner.”
“And what good does half a weapon do us?” Bain again, irritated this time.
“We meet in the Dreamtime. We’ve already fought off Hunters there,” I said, carefully not looking at Ethan or Asheroth. The latter had gone rigid in his seat. “But in the waking world, not much, I’m afraid. That’s why I’m going to have to go back. To the Dark Realms. To get him.”
For a moment, absolute silence reigned. And then the room exploded into chaos. Everyone started talking at once, pointing fingers and shouting. Mrs. Alice was shaking her head. Cassandra buried her face in her hands. Jacob Eden and the pretty girl argued back and forth. Bain seemed to be laughing. Only Ethan sat, still and quiet, a throbbing vein on his forehead the only sign that he felt anything at all.
“I just got you back,” he said, not looking at me. “I just got you back, and you want to leave again. For him.” His fingers dug into the edge of the table, resembling claws.
“Not for him!” I protested. “For us. For this town. So that we can fight, and have a chance in hell of winning!” But still he wouldn’t look at me.
And then I felt myself being lifted up by a cold stone hand around my waist. “You’ll excuse us for a moment,” Asheroth said in a voice of almost comic politeness. My perspective changed; the room around me suddenly seemed upside down as an immovable hand clamped down firmly across my back.
Asheroth had thrown me over his shoulder. I squirmed at the indignity of it, trying to get away, but he only held me tighter. “That’s enough,” he told me, right before the room disappeared. I closed my eyes against the familiar dizzy feeling in the pit of my stomach, expecting to be taken to the burned remains of Asheroth’s compound. Instead, I opened them to a world of sunshine and wind.
He set me down gently, my feet touching down in a field of grass and wildflowers. Still dizzy from traveling through a portal, I staggered backwards. He was there in an instant, his arm a means of support while I got my bearings. “Just sit down for a minute,” he suggested in the most gentle tone I had ever heard him use. I nodded, breathless, and dropped to the ground. I put my head between my knees and focused on taking deep bracing breaths.
Gradually, the ground felt steadier beneath me and the sick feeling in my stomach faded to a faint ache. Only then did I look up to face him. “Why did you do that?” I asked, bewildered. “We were making plans. I have to come up with a way to get Jack back. Together we’re the best weapon we’ve got. Without him . . .”
“You said all that already,” he said, still gently. His outstretched arm cast a long shadow in the grass beside me. I took his hand a little reluctantly. After all, he had a history of dragging me places against my will. But he only hauled me up beside him, and kept holding my hand until I felt steady again. “What you left out is how you intend to do it.”
We stood on a hill where long grasses brushed against the wind. The air was pleasant, and I realized just how long it had been since I’d felt the full spring sun on my skin. Huntingdon Forest was a cool spot of green in the distance, which meant we had to be on the outskirts of Whitfield. I shielded my face against the sun and looked around, trying to guess where he’d brought me.
“I was going to let him take me again,” I said matter-of-factly. “Belial, that is.” There was no point in lying; Asheroth was either going to freak out, or not, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Beside me, he merely nodded. “I thought that’s what you’d say.” He ran a cold finger down the side of my cheek. “You know I can’t let you do that.”
“But we don’t have another choice!” I felt my voice climbing, higher and higher in pitch. I took a deep breath to center myself.
“Come with me,” he said, ignoring my outburst. He took my hand in his as if it was a piece of glass that might break and led me down the hill. I stared at him suspiciously as we walked. He was acting . . . reasonable. I felt suddenly and unaccountably nervous.
As we rounded the hill, I recognized where we were. The old cemetery, just beyond Parson’s Orchard. As children, my friends and I had come here at night, daring each other to touch tombstones while telling ridiculous stories that were meant to be scary. I hadn’t been here in years. My parents were buried in the new memorial garden in town, a modern facility with graves arranged in almost regimental rows. This place had a more restful feel to it, and I caught myself relaxing, even though I didn’t want to. I wondered why he had brought me here, to the only spot of peace I’d felt in days.
“She’s buried here,” he told me, almost as if he could sense my confusion. “Where she could feel the air and the sun. She liked that, being outdoors.”
The wind, friendly before, suddenly felt chilly. I shivered, still clutching his hand. “Oh,” I said flatly. “I didn’t know. I’ve never been to her grave. My parents never talked about her. Gran did, a little, but never about her death.” I wondered if he was going to go wild with grief and felt myself tense up.
He merely shrugged. That perfectly ordinary gesture looked so unnatural on him that it left me feeling disoriented. “I’m not surprised. It’s been eighty years or so now.” He stopped in front of a cracked slab of marble. The rich, orange-red roses I knew he’d brought across the ocean for her grew in a tangle beside the grave. “That’s a long time to mourn someone. I didn’t used to think that; eighty years is nothing when you’ve lived as long as I have. But it’s a long time to the people who get left behind.”
He still held my hand, almost shyly now. I said nothing, and merely looked at the other Caspia’s grave. Her date of birth. Her date of death. And a whole life lived in between.
“Why did you bring me here?” I asked in a whisper. I still couldn’t take my eyes off the grave.
“I can’t lose you,” he said, just as softly. “You’re all I have left.”
“I’m not her,” I insisted, acutely conscious of our joined hands.
“No,” he agreed, loosening his grasp. “But you’re what remains of her, the best of her, in living, breathing form.” He placed both hands on my shoulders, spinning me so that we stood face to face. I saw something both hopeful and desperate in his eyes. “You’re my second chance, and I won’t lose you.”
“Asheroth,” I began. He silenced me with a single cold finger to my lips.
“You’ve pulled me out of the darkness, and I won’t let you go back into it. Not alone. If you must get this Nephilim boy back, then I will go with you, and keep you safe. That’s the only way it’s going to happen, Caspia.”
I gaped at him. What had happened to my mad guardian who raged and yelled and dragged me around by the scruff of the neck? This creature before me was . . . rational. And sad. And beautiful.
I was suddenly terrified he was going to kiss me, forever changing what was between us. I stepped wildly backwards and caught my heel on a stone, falling flat on my butt with a thump.
I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know this creature, soulful and serious in front of me. I wanted my familiar Fallen angel back, to storm and scream and terrify. This time, when he offered me his hand, I didn’t take it.
His look of disappointment made me hate myself.
“You’ll do it, then?” I asked, desperate to change the subject. “You’ll help me get him back?”
“Yes, Caspia Chastain,” he sighed, a hint of steel creeping back into his eyes. “We’ll do it together.”