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.
How to describe seeing Ethan again, unharmed, when my imagination had painted such a terrible, terrible picture?
I had thought he might be dead, or injured. But now he stood here before me, and I could not read all I saw in his eyes. There was too much; it moved too fast, and I had my own feelings I was struggling with. They rushed to drown me as surely as the tide, and I could not stop staring. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, and squeezed for dear life. I felt off balance, insecure: what if he rejected me?
I shouldn’t have worried. Before I could exhale, I was in his embrace after so, so long. I felt enclosed in a cocoon: safe from the world, at last. We were bound together with arms and fingers and lips, Ethan and I, hungry and devouring. His scent overwhelmed me. I gulped it down greedily. I was already used to the air of the Twilight Kingdom, and Ethan’s scent was like the smell of wet earth and grass after a rain. Life. Love. Ethan. I burrowed even deeper into the collar of his soft wrinkled cotton shirt. I realized, to my surprise, that I was crying.
Blue-green eyes the color of the river in summer looked down at me. Stubbly cheeks and bleary, red-streaked eyes pointed to a man who wasn’t sleeping well, but to me, he was beautiful. I thought of the sight of him in the mornings, watching as he got ready for his day.
A normal day, full of work and errands and chores. A normal life we shared together. In spite of all the angels and demons and magic that I now knew surrounded us, we had still managed to carve out what passed for a normal. And I was just realizing how much I missed that, held closely in Ethan’s arms, as if I was precious and breakable. It was fitting, too, because I felt so, so breakable right now.
“God, I’ve missed you,” he whispered into my hair. He buried his face in it and gently nuzzled the top of my head. “I’ve been so worried, you can’t imagine . . . “
“I think I can,” I whispered, pulling back enough so that I could see his face without missing out on the delicious sensation of being held. I threw myself against Ethan’s chest and hugged him for all I was worth.
“Are you all right?” Ethan wanted to know, tucking me firmly into the space between his chin and chest. It fit as perfectly as if it had been made for me.
I stared at him, drinking in every detail and burning it into my brain to save for later. Later, I thought, when I am awake and trying to survive Belial’s Kingdom. That is when I’ll take this memory out of my pocket like a folded note, and I will hold on to it so tightly that even Belial himself won’t be able to shake me.
I dodged the question a little, because I didn’t want to lie to him. I was most definitely not all right, as I was currently being held prisoner by a demon that looked just like Ethan. But there was no point telling him that. He already knew.
“I’m unharmed,” I said, forcing out the best truth I had. I was done lying to Ethan; if he wanted me to, I would tell him every sordid detail. But there would be time for that later. “And you?” I asked, leaning into him again. He took me into his embrace, and the skin between us crackled a soft but electric blue. Ethan looked at us wonderingly.
“I could never get used to that,” he said, staring at his arm.
“At least we can meet, thanks to Jack,” I said, realizing that the Shadows had not made an appearance on my arms the whole time I was here. Which only emphasized how safe I felt in Ethan’s presence.
“Don’t thank me just yet,” Jack said, looking like a guilty eavesdropper. “We’re here for a purpose.”
“Aren’t we always?” murmured Ethan, his eyes never leaving mine.
“Ethan,” I began, hesitant. “How bad is it? The town?” Suddenly I couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes. “I know what I did was terrible, but you have to believe that I never knew they had Hellhounds! I would never put Whitfield in that much danger… or you, or even…” I lowered my voice to a paranoid whisper. “Or even Asheroth.”
“I know that.” He heaved a sigh. “The town is fine. The Hellhounds couldn’t get past the wards; we pinned them here and were able to call in the rest of the guardians to help with the clean up.” He sounded very tired when he said that. “We were lucky to trap them here when we did. If they had gotten loose on the town… well, it wouldn’t have been pretty.”
Even though he had assured me that it wasn’t my fault, I still felt guilty about the Hellhounds. I probably would for the rest of my life.
“That’s part of what we’re here to see, as charming as this reunion is,” Jack said, stepping closer to us, away from his spot against the wall. He moved surely, lithely, in the Dreamtime, his tattoos flickering and his body language leonine.
“What do you mean?” I asked, slightly confused. This was the first I’d heard of an agenda other than getting back into Ethan’s arms.
“I want to see the town,” he said, reaching out to grab my hand.
“Hey!” I protested.
“I have my reasons,” he said darkly, and I wondered suddenly what they were. Just how well did I know Jack, after all? What could he be keeping from me? And most importantly, why was it essential for him to run around Whitfield in the Dreamtime?
Despite my concerns, I held lightly to his hand as he looked apologetically at Ethan. “We have to be touching,” he said. Ethan reluctantly let go of my hand to hold on to Jack’s. Now that I thought about it, Ethan seemed less than enthusiastic about going to see the town. Was he hiding things from me, too?
Well, I would know soon enough. It was exactly like the last time I Dreamwalked with Jack: the apartment began to waver around us like a bad video feed, and was quickly replaced by another, still wavy, scene. The change was almost instant. One minute we were in Asheroth’s basement bedroom, and the next, we were in the park downtown.
My heart caught in my throat the second I recognized my surroundings. I began to share some of Jack’s alarm. Businesses were closed that were usually open; only about half the lights in the park were on. There were no people except the three of us. That was the way things were in the Dreamtime, Jack had told me. There would be no people unless he pulled them in with us. That did nothing to help the feeling of wrongness that seemed to permeate the very air around us. I slid up next to Ethan again and rather shakily took his hand.
The darkened windows of our apartment reminded me that neither Logan nor I lived there any more; hell, Asheroth had even rescued the cat. Home was now nothing but a collection of unsafe empty rooms- unsafe because the protective wards around the place had been destroyed.
The remnants of the coffee shop on the square made me sad. I had spent so many afternoons there, making lattes and goofing off with Amelie. Now there was nothing but a burned-out husk of a former business. Blue tarps rippled in the breeze; clearly someone had been here, trying to start cleaning up the mess. But to me, it was as if there was a hole in my heart. Only by getting the business restored would I feel better; we had to show those who would stop us that we were a resilient lot.
I felt Ethan’s hands on my hips, steadying me, while the hot sting of salty tears worked their way down to my nose. “It’s not your fault,” Ethan said. It was exactly what I needed to hear: reassurance.
“It feels like it is,” I said, and tuned to bury myself in his soft cotton shirt again. It suddenly hit me, how tired I was.
But I shook it off and smiled at Ethan as brightly as I could. “But we’re here, together,” I said, making myself smile a little. “And nothing’s on fire right now, so . . . .” As I turned in a slow circle, taking in the rest of my town, I saw something that made my heart stop.
My fountain. My beautiful, beautiful fountain at the center of the square. For the first time in my life, it wasn’t running. It wasn’t lit up. Hell, it didn’t even have any water in it. I had never, ever in my entire life seen it that way.
“The fountain!” I said, starting forward towards it. “What happened?”
“It was vandalized. We’re not sure by whom,” Ethan said. There was a tight edge to his tone that I hadn’t noticed before. “One thing is certain. The incidents of violence against innocents here in Whitfield are growing, to the point that even the innocents are noticing. The Council has a hard time explaining it away. Things are at critical mass here, Caspia. It’s like a forest right before the forest fire now; everyone’s on the verge of panic.”
“But what’s happening?” I demanded, bewildered. I’d been afraid of the ones I loved being hurt, and yes, that I had caused some chaos in my town was a possibility, but this? This went deeper. This pointed to something not right in Whitfield itself, and I needed it to be right. Needed it badly. How else was I going to survive the Dark Realms, if Whitfield was struggling?
“Oh, Caspia,” Ethan said, and I could hear nights of worry in his voice. His fingers through my hair were both gentle and possessive. I wanted him to twine them there and hold onto me forever. “War has come to Whitfield at last.”