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 awoke with most of my clothing gone, replaced by something soft and thin.
I was flat on my back between silken sheets and a heavy coverlet. My hand, wrapped tightly with a bandage, throbbed dully, along with my head. The room was dim and smoky. Not smoky, I self-corrected as I tried to see in the semi-darkness. Blurry. My vision was blurry, from pain and perhaps drugs. Great.
“Tell me about my brother,” Belial’s deep voice demanded before I could even focus my eyes.
“Why?” I asked, resisting the urge to curl back in on myself. I would not make myself look more vulnerable than I already was, here in the center of Belial’s broad fur bed. “Why do you want to know about him?”
He appeared to think this over for a moment, very deliberately, pale fingers dusting the tops of cut crystal bottles that flared into focus when my vision cleared. “For reasons that are my own,” he said at last, very slowly, very deliberately. By chance or habit he picked the brightest bottle of all, a squat thing half full of clear crimson liquid, sheer but brilliant, like blood stretched across fire. He held it towards me as if he would have me drink. “Don’t you have a brother?” Two full glasses of the liquid waited at his elbow. I had not seen him pour.
“Yes,” I answered carefully, staring at the little port glasses. I did not want to drink with a demon.
“Yes, I knew that you did.” Belial carried the drinks toward me slowly, deliberately, as if I were a wild bird he did not want to startle. “I also know he was dying.” He measured his words to cover his actions; his next carried him right next to me on the bed. “He should have died.” I shifted my weight sideways but he was faster, abyss-eyes and strange crimson liquid right in front of me before I could move. “But he didn’t die, did he? And then my brother arrived in your life.” Hot fingers pinned my uninjured ones around the crystal. He tossed his back in one fluid motion. “At least, that’s what my spies tell me. Drink.”
“No.” I wondered if he could feel my good hand trembling underneath the pressure of his hold.
His fox jumped up on his other side. He leaned into me just like a stalking animal. He had only to slide an arm beneath me to make it into an embrace. “Drink. If I wanted to kill you, you would be dead.” If he leaned much closer I was going to spill the red drink down my nightgown. Once I would have thrown it in his face. Now, it was all I could do not to skitter away from him while I tossed it back.
But he didn’t release me. Curved over me, I had only to wrap my hand around the back of my neck and close my eyes. He could so easily be Ethan.
God, I was in trouble.
“That’s enough,” I said in a surprisingly firm voice. “I know how powerful you are in this place. I know what you can do. But I won’t let you bully me. I drank your drink. Now let me go.”
Surprise flickered quickly across his familiar features, but he masked it quickly. He slipped away from me, taking his fox with him. He studied the flames, his back to me, the silver of his black suede jacket shining brightly. “How did he do it? How did Ethan’i’el keep your brother from dying?”
I remembered that moment, my own brother gone from me, Ethan there before me like the being of Light he kept hidden most of the time. I remembered the Light and life that had traveled between us, and I realized how angry I was. I vaulted off the bed.
Bad move. Still dizzy from the head wound, I swayed and would have fallen. Thankfully, Belial’s bed had very thick bedposts. I clung to one with my good hand like a life preserver, realizing I was wearing an almost-sheer silvery nightgown. “No. No way. I don’t know what’s between you two, but that’s where it stays, ok? Ethan never once mentioned you to me. I’m here because you wouldn’t leave my town alone until you had me. Well, here I am, and I’m not telling you anything about Ethan.” I wouldn’t either; I had a feeling I would need every single memory of his touch, of every moment together, to survive this place.
Especially considering who its keeper was.
“You will tell me,” Belial said softly, but there was hatred there below his words. “You will tell me anything I want, when I want, and we will begin with how your brother did not die.”
All at once, I was afraid. Truly afraid, and not because I was worried about my town or the people I loved. I was afraid of the creature in front of me. Suddenly he bore very little resemblance to Ethan at all. I could not explain what exactly happened to melt the semblance of humanity from his bones so quickly, but it was gone and its place was something that was the very essence of Darkness. Every abyss- wing and portal I had ever seen since meeting Ethan lead here, to the creature in front of me.
“I know you can hurt me,” I said, doing my best to stand up straight, even though my knees felt like jelly. “I know you can do terrible things until I tell you whatever you want, do whatever you want. But that’s not the same as telling you, exactly. It’s being forced. Maybe it won’t matter in the end, but it matters to me.”
I kind of expected the torture to start there, but he merely closed his eyes and petted his fox. A tiny bit of the evil fled the room. “No, I won’t torture you for anything I want from you. You’ll tell me willingly.”
I felt the old familiar stubbornness settle in between us. He had no idea how stubborn I could be. “You don’t know me very well, then.”
“On the contrary.” He put his fox down gently. I wished I hadn’t seen that; I didn’t want to see him be gentle to anything. “You will meet me for breakfast tomorrow morning, eager to tell me what I want to know. About my brother, and yours. And then we’ll have a history lesson.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because.” At a gesture, two spectral gray shapes appeared on either side of him. “In exchange, I will grant you one request.”
My too-good-to-be true radar started screaming even as I tried not to stare at the gray mist-figures advancing on me. “One request? What kind of request, exactly?” I prodded.
“Anything you want. But just one. And just for one person. You can’t ask for every single Nephilim here to suddenly wake up in their beds, for instance.” He smiled much too smugly for my liking.
“But I could request that one Nephilim wake up in her bed?” I asked dubiously.
“Yes.” He began to flip idly through a book. I wondered why he bothered.
“Then that’s what I want. I mean yes, let’s do it. I’ll tell you right now.” I crept closer, testing boundaries in my eagerness. The hem of my silvery nightgown looked like a living pool of mercury on the floor between us. I wondered if it matched my eyes. I wondered if Belial could tell, about my eyes. He smiled to see my hesitant approach.
“In the morning, Caspia. That is the bargain. The Grey Ladies,” he indicated the mist figures, “will show to your rooms, where you can meet the other gifted. The Grey Ladies were human, once. They should be familiar with your needs.” He leaned towards me, and in the firelight, he looked so much like Ethan again it made me ache. To think I could be back with him in the morning… but of course it had to be some kind of trick. I knew better than to bargain with demons and expect to come out ahead. He saw the doubt in my eyes, and said more gently, “If anything in your rooms is not to your liking, just tell one of the Grey Ladies. I’ve assigned the pair of them to wait on you while you’re here. And of course, Jack will be waiting to see you. He was quite upset at your sudden parting.”
My head snapped up at the mention of Jack. “Is he ok? He’s not… hurt, is he?”
Belial shrugged. “I really don’t know. I was much more concerned with you. He might be.”
My alarm grew a little faster than my anger at his callousness. “What do you mean, you don’t know? You have a doctor here, don’t you?”
“Demons don’t get sick.”
“But… if you’re building an army…” Words failed me, and I stamped my foot. “We’re human, and we need… things,” I finished lamely. “Like doctors.”
Belial raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been rather eager for your arrival. Some of the others have not been so fortunate. Go with the Grey Ladies. Go and see how the other gifted fare,” his snaky smile had slithered back in place. “Then tell me over breakfast what your request will be. Home, for you? Or something else?”
No doctors. Jack, hurt? I remembered the time he Dreamwalked into my living room, battered and upset. “When a Hellhound takes a swipe at you, the wound pretty much cauterizes itself,” he’d said.
I followed the smoky forms of two spectral women out into the stone hallway. Each step felt heavier than the last. I knew better than to drink with demons and believe in their lies. Something horrible was waiting for me, I just knew it. And I hated Belial even more because for a few seconds, I had actually let myself think I might wind up safely out of here. Now I felt selfish for even thinking it. He’d probably hurt someone to make me use my request just to torment all of us.
One of the Grey Ladies paused in her silent glide. I couldn’t be sure, but I think she was studying me. I forced my shoulders back and my head up straight. I could not afford to show weakness in this place. No weakness, ever. But she merely hovered, waiting for me to pass. My shoulder and left arm passed right through her as I walked. I wondered if it was uncomfortable for her, to come into contact with human flesh, to see the mortality that had been stripped from her. I expected it to feel creepy when I passed through her, but it didn’t. Instead, it was just like walking through cool fine fog.
Cool fog that smelled like roses and promised rain. Not unpleasant at all. When I looked back, she hovered in the hallway like a still cloud. I wished they had faces, the unfortunate Grey Ladies, so I could see what she was thinking, but she was even harder to read than Belial.