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 stood there, in shock.
My mind just couldn’t process Ethan’s words. It was absurd: war in Whitfield. I lived in the town where nothing ever happened. Except, apparently, angels and demons and a host of other supernatural creatures. But besides that, it was really pretty boring.
Most of the time.
Branches scraped themselves across the face of the moon. They waved gently in the night air, creating ribbons of slowly moving, tangled light on the concrete below me. I wanted to lean into Ethan and stay there forever, but I was too shocked by my surroundings to move.
At any moment, I expected the fountain to burst into life again, highlighting its statues and singing with trickling water. I expected to see trees draped with tiny white lights, what my mother had called fairy lights, but only a few gap-toothed and broken strands remained. I wanted to see all of the shops on the square brilliantly lit up, doors flung open in welcome. Instead, more than a few looked closed entirely, their interiors dim and doors firmly shut. I longed for everything to change back to the way it was, to the Whitfield I remembered.
But nothing changed, and I turned to Ethan once again. He pulled me close until our hips brushed against each other and I rested safely in the crook of his arm. He nuzzled the top of my head with his lips, murmuring, “It’s all right, it will be all right,” as softly as the gentle wind around us. I found myself relaxing in spite of everything, longing to believe Ethan’s reassurances.
Only to feel icy fingers on the back of my neck. Strong, like a living statue’s, they wrapped slowly but surely around me while a too-familiar voice spoke languidly in my ear.
“Dearest Caspia. Here you are again. Do you have any idea how much trouble you’ve been?” Ethan stiffened beside me at the all too familiar voice. “And you’ve made everything worse through your actions,” Asheroth said, drawing out his vowels to give his words extra emphasis. His fingers drummed against my skin, their texture rough, like lightly weathered stone.
“Let her go,” Ethan said, his voice taut with anger. I could feel him trembling against the side of my body where we touched. “She’s done nothing to you.”
“On the contrary,” Asheroth said. “You lied to me, Caspia. You lied to both of us.” He actually sounded a little hurt, underneath the cutting tone of his voice. I felt his fingers flex against the back of my neck, icy and uncomfortable. For just a moment, I was reminded of how powerful he was. He could crush my bones to dust with one hand, if he wanted, in an instant.
I shivered in his grasp, and then forced myself to stillness. I wasn’t ready to apologize. Not to him, not yet. “What do you want, Asheroth?” I asked, keeping my voice carefully neutral. Who knew what kind of mood he was in tonight, and what the consequences of that mood might be? Best to play it safe and careful with this one.
I found myself ripped from Ethan’s grasp and spun around to face my very angry, self-proclaimed guardian. He looked every inch the Fallen angel, cast down from the Realms of Light for daring to love a human woman. That human woman had been my ancestor, long since dead; he had taken it upon himself to guard me for her sake. I truly believe it was one of the few things keeping him clinging to sanity. His pitch-black hair was on the boyish side of long, with tendrils of it getting in his eyes. Those eyes burned at me now, a brilliant white like staring into the sun. His abyss-wings weren’t visible. I took that as a good sign, that he could somehow control the Darkness inside him.
Asheroth’s hold on me migrated from neck to forearms to waist. His hands were cool through my clothing. I could feel the barely-constrained strength there in the delicate way he held me, as if I was blown glass that might snap in his hands. My mad Fallen angel was being careful. “I want you to take things more seriously,” he practically snarled at me. “I want you to think before you act. I want you here, and not in the Twilight Kingdom.”
I couldn’t be sure because he was Asheroth, but I thought I saw a measure of concern as well as madness in his diamond-bright eyes.
“That’s what we all want,” Ethan said soothingly, coming to stand by my right side. “There’s no reason to frighten Caspia.”
That seemed to get his attention, and to imbue him with a fresh reserve of sanity. He set me down carefully and stepped backwards, still giving me a stern and disapproving stare. Ethan stood right behind me, his presence a solid comfort against my back. Jack had maneuvered himself so that he stood behind me but to the side. His skin shone with the same blue that now ran across mine and Ethan’s. I felt comforted by their presence.
“You truly have no idea how much you’ve complicated things, do you?” Asheroth said, sounding tired instead of angry now. “Caspia, this goes beyond you running away- straight into the arms of the enemy.” He turned wearily to Ethan. “How much does she know?”
I was suddenly sick of the way Asheroth treated me: like a helpless and unreasonable being. “She doesn’t know very much,” I snapped. “Ethan had just gotten to the word ‘war’ when you showed up here. I think that would be a great place to pick back up, don’t you?” I stood there with one hand on my hip, grinding it against the denim of my jeans in frustration. “And how can we possibly be at war already when I’ve only been gone for one day, maybe part of another?” I tried to remember how long I’d spent in Belial’s room, unconscious. I had no real idea, I realized with some horror. What if it had been longer than that? I was just opening my mouth to ask when Jack stepped in.
“Time moves slower in the Twilight Kingdom,” Jack said, looking sad as he did so. “A single day there means several have passed here. You’ve been gone longer than you think.”
It took me a minute to digest this disturbing piece of news. Before I could ask, Asheroth said, “A week.” He put a crisp staccato emphasis on each syllable as he spoke them.
“A week,” I repeated dully, shocked.
“In Belial’s corner of the Dark Realms, that amounts to roughly three days,” Jack said quietly from behind me. I stood there in silence, trying, and failing, to process it all. At least now I knew I’d spent nearly a day unconscious in a demon’s rooms. And I knew now that every day I spent there took me farther and farther away from Ethan. But I swallowed my unease.
Finally, after a very pregnant pause, I said, “How can this be possible? Even after a week . . . who would want to move against us now? I thought the threat had been dealt with. Just who are we at war with?”
“With the Light,” Asheroth answered at last, after a long silence. “They’ve sent Hunters.”
Beside me, Ethan hissed. Jack actually reached for a weapon, only to come away empty handed. None of us were armed, in the Dreamtime.
I didn’t know what Hunters were, or why the Light was something to be afraid of. “And this is bad because . . . .” I prompted.
“They are the un-Fallen,” Ethan supplied grimly. “The advance guard of the Realms of Light. They have hunted Nephilim in the past, and we can only assume they are here to do it again.”
Dread washed across the pit of my stomach. “Logan!” I said, suddenly terrified for my brother’s safety, and angry with myself as well. My brother’s newly manifested Nephilim gifts could easily make him a target. “Is he all right?” I demanded.
“Your brother is safe behind the wards of Blackwood Lodge,” Asheroth said tonelessly. “He won’t be easy to detect among all those people. And his gifts were such a late development. No one knows about them but us. He is as safe as we can make him.”
“We’ve seen the Hunters in the ether,” Jack said, looking to me for confirmation. I nodded wordlessly, remembering shapes in the mist. “They’ve infiltrated the Dreamtime, at the very least.”
Ethan swore under his breath. “They’re closer than we thought, then,” he said.
“I thought all of this was supposed to end when I turned myself over to Belial,” I murmured, rubbing my temples with my thumbs. All this new information, and the surprises of the evening, were combining to give me a killer headache. None of this was supposed to be happening. I had made the great sacrifice, and that was supposed to be it. I should never have thought things would be that simple. “Tell me about these Hunters,” I said instead. “Tell me what they’re doing to my town.”
“This,” Asheroth said with barely constrained rage. His white eyes snapped fire and he threw his arms wide to indicate the entire town. “The Light knows Belial is building an army of Nephilim descendants, and they know he will use this army to challenge them, eventually. They know about these Shadows of yours, and just how much of a threat you are. Therefore they are building an army of their own, and they will use it to crush this town and anything else that stands between them and Belial.”
“But our town is warded against such possibilities,” I said with a confidence I did not feel. “I don’t understand why it should affect the square like this. Where have all the businesses gone? Why is the fountain shut down?”
Asheroth looked like he was ready to explode. “What would you do if you were one of our Darker residents, here in Whitfield, and one of the most powerful forces of Light imaginable suddenly started building an army right next door? It would make you a little panicky, at the very least. In the last week, we’ve had several residents from the Darker side of town pack up and leave. Not all are going quietly, though. The town council is deadlocked as incidents of violence against innocents are on the rise. And the fountain?” He sneered. “Someone spray painted, ‘Fear the Light’ on it and smashed the pumping mechanism to bits. No one knows how long it will take to fix.”
The cold march of dread once again settled in my stomach. I felt so powerless, so trapped; my town was in danger, and there was nothing I could do to help, because I was trapped in the Dark Realms with Belial.
Before I could ask the question out loud, Jack turned to me. “I hate to break this up, I really do, but we’re running out of time. I can’t hold all of us here for much longer.” Ethan nodded and pulled me close to him once more. Asheroth merely glared at us and turned his back. I thought I caught a glimpse of Darkness shimmering there.
Ethan’s arms encircled my waist, pulling me close to him. Everything else seemed to fade away around us, until there was nothing left for me but Ethan. Being this close to his scent, his skin, his blue-green eyes, made me long to bury my head in his shoulder and forget everything I knew about the world. In his arms there was no Belial, no Twilight Kingdom full of desperate, tormented Nephilim. There was only the two of us.
But I couldn’t repress the final, burning question for very long, however tempting it would be to forget about everything but the two of us. I pressed my forehead against his chest and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me? About Belial?”
He sighed heavily and pulled me closer until I was flush against his chest. “I wasn’t sure it was him, at first,” he said. I could hear the thrum of his heart against my ear. “I had no idea how obsessed he’d become, so it was easy to put it out of my mind. And then, when I knew it was him, I hoped you wouldn’t have to find out.” He pulled back just enough to look at me. His fingers were very gentle as they brushed my hair from my face. “Please believe me. I never thought you would have to encounter him.”
“And I wouldn’t have, if it hadn’t been for my own stupidity,” I said, walking my fingers to the center of his back, where I rubbed very small circles across the surface of his skin. It was true; I was culpable too. We both could have been more honest with each other. I only hoped this one mistake didn’t prove fatal to us.
Then Jack was taking my arm, trying to pull me away. I buried my face in Ethan’s chest and held on to him more tightly. “Ssh,” he whispered into my hair. “I’ll see you again soon. Promise me.” Then he kissed me, his lips soft but urgent. My fingers dug into his hips as I kissed him back.
“Of course,” I said. I was crying now. “But it’ll be longer for you than me . . . .”
“Ssh,” he said again as he let me go. My arms had never seemed emptier than they did at that moment. I let Jack take my hand. The last I saw of Whitfield before the ether consumed us was a mournful looking Ethan and Asheroth’s angry back. That and the fountain, standing in the middle of the square like nothing more than a lump of concrete and broken things.
What an apt metaphor for the wreck that was my life.