This time I was on a balcony, one that seemed so familiar and didn’t take me long to recognize. It was the balcony of Gavin’s apartment in Brooklyn. The sun was setting just in front of me, pink, purple, and orange tones mixing to create a beautiful visual. I placed my hands on the wood bannister, glancing down to see I was still in my sweats and shirt. I was definitely dreaming or had dematerialized. The first seemed more likely since only fellows could dematerialize but who knew at this point.
“This almost feels like seeing you for the first time.”
My breath caught in my throat. A voice I hadn’t heard in so long instantly brought an onslaught of emotions, the heaviest one being gratefulness.
I slowly turned around, the sound having come from behind me, and couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face. “Took you long enough.”
Gavin looked ethereal and just as I remembered him. Tall and well built, his pale skin glowing in the sunlight. His dark red hair lay in stylish waves and his auburn beard was trimmed short, the hair running over his lip and up his jaw line. He wore the outfit the fellows usually wore, white pants and a tunic sort of shirt. His eyes though were what always grabbed my attention first. They were a brilliant green, swirling with emotion and vulnerability. They were my favorite feature and as soon as we locked eyes I was a goner. They say the eyes are the window to the soul. He might as well have had ten souls with how much could be found in his.
“Sorry for the delay. I wanted to protect you. Of course, now there’s not much I can hide from them.” He stepped forward, closing the space between us and putting a hand on my cheek. “How are you...”
I leaned into the warmth of his palm, reaching up to grasp his forearm. “I’m fine. Just worried about you. What’s happening? Where are you?”
“In a holding cell. Awaiting trial. The committee will decide my fate.”
“When is your trial?”
"Tomorrow?” My heart began to race, the fear for him doubling over. “That’s not enough time. We’re trying to find Elyon so we can prove you’re innocent.”
“It’s alright, Ava. Don’t worry about me. I trust the committee to make the right decision.”
“What if they don’t? You’re being punished for something you didn’t do. I can’t-” Rather than let me finish my rant, Gavin cut me off with a kiss. He gently pressed his lips to mine, a kiss that spoke volumes about how much he missed me.
I hoped my response to the kiss portrayed how much I missed him. He was the love of my life and it killed me to be away from him. Could he tell all that from a kiss?
He released me a moment later, humor dancing in his eyes as the electricity between us continued to spark. “I love you. Let’s talk about something else. I have to leave you soon and I don’t want to waste another minute talking about things we can’t change.”
But we could change it. I knew we could and it was frustrating he didn’t think so. However, he was right. I didn’t know when I would see him again and I didn’t want to waste any of the time we had now. “Okay. You have no idea of how much I miss you.”
“It can’t be any more than I do. How are the rebels treating you? I heard you were struggling to gain their trust.”
Damnit. Gabriel must have told Makeda despite my best attempts at convincing her otherwise. “It’s nothing I can’t handle. They’re not exactly welcoming but I trust them. Soraya and Gabe anyway. Gavin...can I ask you something?”
He dropped his hand from my face and reached for mine, lacing our fingers together. “What is it?”
“Did you....” I took a breath. “Did you allow yourself to be caught?”
He looked away for a moment, confirming my suspicion. “Did I turn myself in you mean? Yes.”
He returned his gaze to me. “I can’t explain it in a way you’ll understand but I couldn’t betray the committee any longer. They put their faith in me and I disappointed them. I couldn’t spend a moment longer in hiding. At some point I realized I needed to face what I’d done. Amos is completely innocent however I am not.”
“I hate how much blame you put on yourself. Not everything is black and white. I understand the history of the rule but that doesn’t mean each situation is the same. You were following your heart. You shouldn’t be punished for that.”
“The committee would throw a fit if they heard you say that.” He smiled.
“Well, someone needs to say it. I mean, it’s ridiculous. And the fact that you’re so willing to take the blame is so...It drives me crazy.”
“I can’t hide from this any longer. When I was alive all I did was hide from tough decisions. I can’t do that anymore.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t have let things go this far. I’d rather not have been with you and know you’re alright than go through this.”
“Hey...” He tilted my chin up gently with his free hand. “I regret none of it. I’m grateful for the time we had together and I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
He really knew how to make my toes curl when he wanted to.
I stared up into his eyes, lost in the way he made me feel. “I wish we could stay here forever. I’m alright with dreaming forever. What’s so fun about being awake anyway?”
He grinned. “Kissing you in reality is much better than any dream.”
With that said, Gavin captured my lips again and swept me away, the sunset warming us in approval.
I woke up feeling well rested but empty. As soon as I sat up, I touched my hand to my lips, the dream fresh in my mind. If only it had been reality. I was thankful I’d finally been able to see him but when would I again? Would our next encounter be in a dream or real life? Would we even have another encounter?
Things I didn’t want to think about.
Instead, I busied myself with getting ready for the night. I chose a simple black halter dress that hugged my form and reached my ankles, pairing it with gold jeweled pumps. I put my brown hair up in a bun and left a few ringlets hanging at the sides of my face, my makeup smoky and simple. Once dressed, I sat on the edge of the bed and began to play with my Elioud energy. I use the term play rather than practice because really I just wanted to keep my mind off things. I wasn’t ready to see anyone yet so I figured I’d hide out in my room a bit longer until I was ready to stop replaying the dream with Gavin in my mind.
The veins in my arms glowed a bright blue as I commanded the energy forward. Pushing it out of my hands, I swirled part of it into a mandala-like shape, making it dance and rotate as it floated away from me. I created another and another, continuing until about forty of them filled the room, all varying in size and design. I was in the middle of creating the forty-first when a knock sounded on the door. “Come in.”
The door swung open and in walked Soraya, looking especially stunning in a satin violet dress, gold clips in her pinned up braids. She smirked as she walked over, dodging my creations to sit on the bed beside me. “Bored much?”
“Dreamt of Gavin,” I said, freeing the forty first mandala of energy to go float among its allies.
“Oh...how was that?”
Though I hadn’t known Soraya long, I told her everything. She knew about Gavin and part of what I’d gone through staying with the fellows. So, she knew how important a dream with Gavin would be to me.
“He wasn’t just there. He was controlling it.” I turned to look at her, pausing in my creation of an angelic energy mandala army.
“Kinky.” She winked.
I smiled. “Not like that.”
“Girl, you wasted a good opportunity. So, what did he say?”
I couldn’t tell her he’d turned himself in so I had to find a way around that fact where I could still tell the truth. “He misses me. And he’s not sure when we’ll see each other again, if ever.”
Her tone went soft. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“Not really. I feel like I’m doing everything wrong and I have no control over my life anymore. And I miss him so so much. I know I’m supposed to stay here and stay safe but I just want to be with him.”
She put an arm around my shoulders, squeezing. “I know it’s hard and I won’t even begin to pretend to understand what you’re going through. But if he truly loves you, the one thing he would want more than anything is for you to be safe and live well. If anything happened to you this would all be for nothing. I know we live with a bunch of jerks but we’re still a family. What usually helps me is kicking the ass of a few malevolents. It’s like going to the gym to sweat out your stress but better.”
I laughed, thankful for her company and endless empathy. “I might have to try that tonight. If Gabriel even lets me do anything. He’s basically going to be my escort.”
Soraya raised an eyebrow suggestively. “Oh, he is, is he? I swear, he’s got it bad.”
I rolled my eyes as I usually did at the mere mention of him. “Your matchmaking radar is broken.”
“It’s okay to entertain feelings for someone else Ava. Maybe that’s what you need: a healthy distraction. He’s a huge pain in the ass, yes, but he’s extremely loyal and level headed. He has a temper but it never gets out of control and he knows how to be respectful. Give him a chance.”
“What about Lailah? They’re obviously together.”
Soraya pursed her lips. “Please. He’ll never officially be with her. She’s too dramatic and possessive. A guy like Gabriel can’t be controlled or be in a relationship with someone like her.”
“Doesn’t matter. She already wants to kill me. I’ve got enough going on. And I couldn’t do that to Gavin.” Especially while he’s locked up in angel prison.
“Trust me, she’s all bark no bite. But I respect that. Feeling up for dinner? Michael cooked and actually asked if you were hungry. I think he feels guilty about being such a jerk to you last night.”
Well, that was surprising. “I am a little hungry...You think he poisoned it?”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “Eh, fifty-fifty.”
We had a few more laughs about the occupants of the penthouse before leaving my room. We stopped in the kitchen on the main floor where Michael and the raven-haired girl that reminded me of Olivia were sitting, chatting over empty plates at the white island counter.
The kitchen was large, the dark wood cabinets and appliances stretching across the far left wall while the island was just across from it with four white chairs around it.
I had hoped to find the room empty and now felt as though I was walking into a lion’s den. Having Soraya there as a mediator did help.
“Hey guys,” she said, walking to the other side of the island where three glass pans of lasagna lay beside a basket of garlic bread. She took a plate from the stack on the counter and handed me one, taking another for herself. “Thanks for cooking Michael.”
They were dressed up for the evening, looking spectacular in a black suit and deep red romper. Both Michael and the girl glanced at me, seeming to analyze me as an unspoken message went between them. “Of course,” he said, leaning back in his chair. Michael was attractive, with honey brown hair and a nice build, but he rarely smiled, a sight that would probably shock those around to see it.
I filled my plate and waited for Soraya to take the seat beside Michael so I could take the one beside her. “Thank you,” I said to him, echoing Soraya. “This smells really good.”
“It’s nothing. I enjoy cooking.” He seemed to hesitate before speaking again. “I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night. It was uncalled for, especially since I hardly know you.”
You would if you actually spoke to me, is what I wanted to say. Instead what came out was, “It’s alright. I know you don’t trust me and I don’t blame you. I’m an outsider receiving special treatment and I certainly don’t deserve it regardless of what happened with the gates. I’m not expecting to be anyone’s best friend overnight. I just want to help in any way that I can with fighting the real enemy. Lucifer.”
He crossed his arms. “And we want the same. I’ll try to get the others on board. We really are a family here so anything we do isn’t personal, it’s just to protect that. I appreciate your honesty.”
I nodded. “Thank you for listening.”
Soraya and I devoured our dinner, enjoying the light conversation that ensued. We weren’t going to be best friends right away but their walls were certainly beginning to break down. It was Cassiel all over again. Although I was pretty sure Cassiel still hated me.
We departed in the same fashion as the previous night, myself and Soraya with Lailah and Gabriel in a black Sedan. This evening though we were switching things up and going to an event rather than a club or bar. It was Halloween weekend and there was an upscale masquerade party happening at some sort of ritzy ballroom. Masked parties were ideal for possessed to find victims, considering the anonymity and crowds.
We all donned masks of different colors, mine black with gold lace. Gabriel’s was all black as well as his suit to match me. Lailah was in bad spirits, as usual, and clearly part of the reason was our date situation. Still, she looked stunning in a floor length olive dress, exuding shameless confidence.
Walking up to the event was a spectacle. A red carpet was laid out on the stairs of the massive stone building, lights strategically placed about. Photographers were snapping pictures of the party goers as they climbed the stairs, catching images of the city’s wealthiest and most fashionable residents.
I was in character, holding Gabriel’s arm as we walked behind Soraya and Lailah. Our masks were on and I prayed it was enough disguise. Having my picture plastered all over the internet wasn’t exactly something that I needed right now.
The décor of the event was amazing and it was clear the venue had spent a pretty penny. The room itself was incredible, showcasing a high ceiling and massive roman pillars lined against the walls. The color theme was red and black so everything around the room followed this including the glasses, waiter uniforms, tablecloths, and hanging decorations. Spiderwebs were draped over every surface and a few live performances were happening around the room such as various women and men dressed in outlandish costumes doing gymnastic-like stunts.
Gabriel and I walked over to a vacant area beside the dance floor and I released his arm as soon as we were there. Soraya and Lailah had split off to mingle however the plan involved all of us focusing on tracking down a particular malevolent. This dark spirit was a leader of sorts and would have details on one of the biggest malevolent hideouts. It would be a game changer to capture him. To have the details on the biggest hideout in Manhattan meant taking out the spirits in mass and possibly finding Elyon. I wasn’t going to say it out loud but Elyon was certainly my priority.
“Should we split up and scan the room for him? Cover more ground quicker?”
Gabriel took a couple champagne glasses from a passing tray. “We’re not splitting up. Nice try.”
I took the glass he handed me, shrugging. “Just a suggestion.” I was hoping to get to the spirit first so I could ask about Elyon. I just wasn’t sure how to do that.
“We had an agreement. You work with me and I’ll take you to see your half malevolent boyfriend.”
“Ex,” I corrected him.
“If you say so.”
Rolling my eyes, I sipped the champagne and scanned the room, what I could see of it anyway, for anything suspicious. The backup plan was to use me as bait to draw him out. I preferred to not play the damsel in distress but if it happened I was going to need my acting hat. “It’d be much easier to track him if we knew whose skin suit he was wearing.”
“Unfortunately, this particular spirit swaps people like we change clothes. He may be using someone different from yesterday. Or even this morning.”
“Great, a chameleon. Well, I’d say it’s time to walk the room, yes?”
“Yes...” Gabriel placed a hand on my lower back, steering me through the crowd. We strolled casually, pretending to be entranced by the event when really we were on a mission to find a demon possessed party-goer.
We were making a turn near the bar when I spotted him. Carter. I shouldn’t have been surprised since he regularly attended upscale parties like this but he hadn’t exactly been socializing much since the closing of the gates as he was focused on bonding with his new part-demon family.
He looked good though, dressed in a tux with freshly cut dark brown hair. He was wearing a simple black mask that gave his striking blue eyes a darkness to them which they hadn’t had previously. Or perhaps it wasn’t the mask...
He was standing with a woman who seemed to be his date though he clearly was paying her no interest, nor the red dress she’d worn for him. His eyes were locked on me, beckoning me over.
“He’s here,” I told Gabriel, unable to get out any other words.
“I see him,” was his even toned response.
I didn’t comment as we were only feet away, nor did I smile as we approached. Carter’s date, a beautiful brunette, immediately sized me up and was clearly wondering who I was. I didn’t pay her any mind, too upset at Carter to care about making a good first impression. “Hello Carter. Didn’t think I would see you here.”
“That makes two of us.” He held out his hand to Gabriel, his gaze switching to my faux date. “Carter.”
Gabriel took it though it was clear he was squeezing Carter’s hand a little tighter than necessary. “I know who you are.”
The two men held one another’s gaze, daring the other to try something. It was a clear display of machoness in the most discreet way possible and almost laughable. They finally released one another’s hands and Carter turned to look at me again.
“I’m Denise,” the woman said, offering her hand to me. She was clearly trying to stake her claim on Carter, not realizing I wasn’t a threat in any sense of the word.
I shook it, fighting a grin. “Ava. Nice to meet you.”
Her eyes gave me a once over again. “Likewise.” She clearly didn’t mean it.
“Now that we’re all acquainted, mind if I steal your date for a dance?” Carter looked over at Gabriel, daring him to challenge the request.
Gabriel touched my lower back. “That’s up to her.”
“It’s fine. One song to catch up since we haven’t seen each other in a while. Denise, do you mind?”
She did, but she wasn’t going to say so and seem clingy. Carter hated clingy women.
“Of course not. I’m sure Gabriel is a great dancer.”
“I don’t dance, unfortunately.”
I wanted to laugh but controlled myself. “Scintillating conversation then?”
Carter took my hand a little less gentle than I expected, leading me to the dance floor. He stopped just on the edge, in plain view of our dates, probably hoping to make Gabriel jealous. Placing a hand on my lower back, he pulled me close, taking my free hand with his other and swaying us to the slow song. “Great new bodyguard you have. I’m assuming he knows who I am because you’ve mentioned me.”
His tone was hard and unfamiliar. He’d never spoken to me this way before, so it was hard to hear now.
Wait a minute! I was supposed to be angry with him for allowing his new friends to get away with almost murdering me.
“Yes, I believe he recognizes you because he was the one who intervened when your cronies were about to kill me.”
The far off dark look in his eyes didn’t change. “Ah. Now I recognize him. They weren’t going to kill you. I wouldn’t have let them and I’m also pretty sure you’re much harder to kill now...being immortal and all.”
The way he said it almost sounded dirty, as though he were judging me for my decision to bind myself with the stone. It took a great amount of will to fight down the brimming anger, deciding not to allow him to rope me into an argument. “Why are you here? I thought you were keeping a low profile.”
His eyes were staring me down but never before had that made me so uncomfortable. He was part demon, a Cambion, so that should have explained it, but he was different now. It was as if his dark side was influencing him and had grown stronger since the last time I’d seen him. “I figured that wasn’t necessary anymore. If Lucifer wants me, he’s going to find me.”
“Yes, if you make yourself an easy target.”
“And you aren’t?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “My situation is different. I’m not alone.”
“Neither am I.”
His statement caused goosebumps to raise on my arms. I wasn’t a paranoid person but this put me on edge. An unknown amount of Cambions were here in this room and probably watching us. Did they know who I was? Or better yet, was the malevolent we were in search of already tipped off about us? This changed everything.
“Maybe you can help us then. We’re looking for a possessed.”
“At a party like this? At least one in every five are possessed.” He meant it as a joke but his tone was dry and detached.
“A specific one. He’s a leader of one of Lucifer’s clusters and has information we need.” Information I needed rather. We spun around, and I spotted Gabriel, looking bored with Denise and glancing in my direction. “Do you know where he is?”
I bit back my anger once again. “Carter, please. It’s important.”
“This doesn’t have anything to do with Gavin does it?” His gaze had left me momentarily to scan the room, probably searching for his arch nemesis.
“No, it doesn’t it and he’s not here.”
“Probably for the best.” His eyes returned to me. “I don’t think he’d approve of your date anyway.”
Once again, it killed me not to respond and set him straight but I needed to focus on the goal at hand: Getting information. “Are you going to tell me who it is?”
His gaze flickered over my shoulder. “The least and most obvious host. The lead singer of the band.”
Well, damn. That I hadn’t been expecting at all. “Thank you.” The song was coming to an end and now that I had my information I had to hurry and try to have a real conversation with him. “Carter, are you alright? You’re changing.”
His expression was indifferent, returning to me. “I’m just embracing what I am. I used to fight it but I’ve learned to accept it.”
I knew his kind had an evil side but I also knew that Carter had a lot of good in him. This answer seemed forced and certainly was a lie. It was also similar to what he’d said when explaining why he joined the Cambion den in the first place. It broke my heart. If anyone knew what an amazing person he was, it was me. I wasn’t taking this change lightly and I was going to prove to him that he was better than this. “You’re only part and that doesn’t mean anything. You can still choose to be different and you have. I know you.”
“You know the surface of me. That’s all.”
“So, tell me what I don’t know.”
He didn’t respond, stopping our dancing as the song switched to a livelier one. His eyes were on me but he wasn’t there, withdrawn into the shell he’d created. “Let’s get you back to your date.”
I tried to hide my disappointment, following him off the dance floor. Avoiding Gabriel’s gaze, I took his arm and walked away, caring not about saying goodbye to Denise. We were a few feet away when I finally looked at him, hoping I’d masked my emotions well. “So apparently we’re not alone here. Carter is here with other cambions but I don’t know how many.”
“Damn. That changes things. We can’t take out a malevolent without alerting them and it certainly would start a fight. Did he happen to know who the malevolent is?”
“No.” It was a lie and it hurt me to say it, but I needed to speak to the malevolent before anyone else. “But we’ll find him.”
The band finished their song and the lead singer spoke into the mic. “We’re going to take a break for a few but in the meantime please enjoy yourselves, keep our wonderful bartenders busy, and we’ll be back!” He winked and began to make his way off the stage with the other band members, the applause of the room following them.
This was my chance.
I turned to Gabriel again. “I’m going to run to the ladies’ room. I’ll be right back.”
His gaze was suspicious, probably wondering if I was planning on breaking our deal, but he didn’t comment. “Alright, I’ll check in with Lailah and Soraya to see if they have any leads.”
“Great. I’ll find you.” After I beat this information out of the lead singer.
We went our separate ways and I checked over my shoulder a few times before making my way to the side of the stage where the singer stood, drinking water and conversing with the drummer. He was an attractive man, the skin suit anyway, with shoulder length wavy brown hair, beautiful hazel eyes, and a nice tall physique. The entire band wore white tuxedos with white bowties but his was gold and matched the simple gold mask he wore. He was laughing and had a great smile that certainly worked well for the face of the band.
Too bad he wasn’t going to be smiling much after his encounter with me.
The drummer noticed me first and elbowed the singer, causing him to turn and look over as I approached.
I gave him my most sultry smile, swaying my hips. Stepping closer than necessary, I winked at the drummer before turning to my prey. “Hello.”
He was grinning, his eyes having gotten a good view of my dress as I walked over. “Hello there.”
“You don’t know me, but I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Tanya.” I held out my hand.
He took it with his free hand, holding on. “Adam. Pleasure to meet you Tanya. Are you enjoying the event?”
“I am. You guys are impressive.” I watched the drummer slip away to give us some space out of the corner of my eye. “You have a great voice.”
“Thank you.” He was still holding my hand as well as my gaze, clearly planning out how to take advantage of the situation. “So, where’s your date? I’m surprised he left you alone.”
“I came alone.”
His eyes lit up at that, thumb caressing the back of my hand. “Is that so?”
Quickly scanning our surroundings, I moved my other hand, the one concealing the dagger I’d retrieved from my clutch. I touched it to his side, blocking the view from onlookers with my body. “If you move, you’re done.”
His hand stiffened as did his expression though the grin was still there. “Nice cover up. Elioud, I’m assuming?”
I ignored him. “We’re going outside. If you try anything you won’t get very far. I have reinforcements.” Who didn’t know where I was or what I was doing but he didn’t need to know that.
“Lead the way.”
Taking his arm to make it seem like we were a couple, I started walking him toward the back of the room where one of the fire exits was located. The security guards were busy dealing with a belligerent party-goer, providing the perfect distraction. I pushed my hostage toward the door and followed behind him, pressing the knife to his back.
The door closed behind us, leaving us alone in the stairwell. I directed him down a flight of the cement stairs and pushed him against the wall, stepping back with the dagger outstretched.
“Well, you’ve got me here. How may I be of service?” His tone was cocky but it was clear he was nervous. His right index finger was also twitching, a tell-tale sign he was planning his escape.
“You have information I need. If you tell me what I want to know, I’ll spare you.” Or send you straight to my colleagues once I’m finished. Not quite a lie but not exactly the truth.
“I’m not turning down that deal. What do you want to know?”
I kept the dagger out, part of my attention on the door lest anyone open it and discover us. “I’m looking for someone. His name is Elyon.”
“I’ve heard of him.” He shifted his footing. “What about him.”
“I’m looking for him. Apparently he’s hiding out with one of the clusters and I need to know where.”
His face had changed as I’d been speaking, his eyes flashing red for a moment, revealing his true self. “I’ve just realized who you are...Ava.”
Damn. I was more famous than I thought. “Answer the question.”
He shifted his foot placement again, his gaze sinister. “You’re the one that closed the gates. I never thought I’d see you in the flesh but here you are. I thought you were in hiding.”
He was deflecting and it was beginning to piss me off. “Tell me what I want to know or you’re not walking out of here.”
His eyes danced with humor. “I don’t need to.”
The door burst open at that moment, startling me. I turned to look at the sound and that was when he struck, rushing me. I was expecting it but he was stronger than I anticipated. He knocked the dagger from my hand and reached for my neck but I grabbed his wrists and twisted, snapping the bones as they contorted at an odd angle. This did little to deter him as footsteps rushed down the stairs above us.
He twisted from my grip and landed a kick to my chest, causing me to stumble back. I quickly regained my footing and ran toward him, grabbing handfuls of his jacket lapels and throwing him toward the stairs where two security guards were rushing down the last of the steps. One stumbled over him and the other leapt over him as though it cost no effort. I was ready, reaching out to grab his neck as he rushed me and throwing him to the side against the wall.
The other security guard had regained his footing and was ready to pounce. Adam was pulling himself to his feet as well, ready to attack again. He wasn’t going to have that opportunity though. None of them would.
Calling forth my energy, I immediately sent it shooting out at them, three bright blue tendrils that froze their movement. I could feel the malevolent spirits that had leeched onto the hosts’ souls and focused on prying away their grip. The men’s eyes were wide and frozen in terror as they turned red, their mouths gritting out a yell. I could feel the spirits releasing them slowly until finally they separated, my energy consuming the malevolents and destroying them. The bodies dropped to the ground, the men unconscious from the ordeal they’d just gone through.
The door above banged open again and I quickly snatched the dagger from the floor, ready to take out however many more possessed this guy had with him. Footsteps rushed down the stairs and a moment later Gabriel appeared, ripping off his mask and rushing over the fallen bodies to get to me.
“What the hell, Ava?” He touched my arm, clearly angry but also concerned. “Are you alright?”
I pulled off my mask as well, returning the dagger to my clutch which I’d retrieved from the floor. “I’m fine. I didn’t have a choice. They attacked me.”
His eyes changed but he didn’t say anything.
Lailah and Soraya came rushing down the stairs, stopping just before the bodies. Lailah’s eyes immediately went to Gabriel’s hand on my arm but Soraya was the one who spoke. “What happened? Was one of them him?”
Gabriel turned to them, removing his hand from my arm. His simmering anger was emoting this negative energy I wasn’t sure anyone else could feel. “It was. We need to go now. There’s definitely more for them up there.”
“Ava at the center of another fiasco. Why am I not surprised?”
Lailah didn’t even attempt to hide the disgust in her tone. She stomped past us, heading down the next set of stairs, throwing me the ugliest look thus far.
Gabriel didn’t look at me, waiting until Soraya awkwardly passed us before ushering me forward, following just behind.
We rushed down to the next level that led to a basement which we took to a back alley exit. We were out in under a minute and rushing to the side street where we’d parked the car. We hadn’t made it far before two cars came screeching around the corner, their headlights on our backs.
“Run!” Gabriel commanded.
We broke into a sprint toward our car which was only a few yards away, praying to God we’d make it before one of the cars plowed us all down. Luckily it had almost three times the distance to cover. The cars sped up, two black SUVs, their engines revving as they drove toward us down the street, the drivers intent on catching up. My heels were short thankfully, allowing me to almost hit my top running speed.
We all jumped into our sedan, barely having a moment to fasten our seatbelts before Gabriel was zooming away from the curb. The SUVs was now only a couple feet away, hot on our heels.
“I have to lose them. Hold on.” He swerved around a car, barely missing the bumper, then swerved back into the lane, making an abrupt right turn at the next intersection.
I turned to look through the back windshield, my eyes widening when I saw a guy leaning out of the passenger side window, a gun in his hand. I quickly grabbed Soraya’s arm beside me, pulling her down as I shouted “Gun! Get down!”
Everyone ducked as bullets exploded through the back windshield, the glass shattering and flying over us.
“Is everyone alright?!” Lailah asked as Gabriel swerved down another street, this one a little less crowded by cars.
“We’re fine!” Soraya shouted back, removing her gun from the leg holster under her dress. “Just keep driving.”
We were squatting on the floor and were hit by another barrage of bullets, Gabriel swerving the car back and forth to avoid them.
As soon as the bullets stopped, Soraya crawled up onto the seat and began firing out the back window. I quickly rose up beside her and aimed the gun I’d stashed in the car.
They swerved as the front windshield shattered from our fire but they didn’t stop, only backing up a few yards.
Gabriel swerved around another corner, never dropping speed. “We’ll lose them in the park. Put your seatbelts back on!”
We did as we were told, bracing ourselves as we reached Central Park. We were coming up on the east side entrance and not the one meant for cars. The park was dark and seemed void of life.
That wasn’t going to last long.
Our car just narrowly made it through the brick wall opening, careening down a short hill toward the trees. Gabriel made a sharp turn at the dirt walkway, the car jumping up and down as it drove over rocks and uneven dirt.
Looking out the back glass-less window, I watched the SUV plow straight through the brick wall opening, too large by only a few inches which resulted in pieces of the wall being ripped away.
They weren’t going to give up. We needed a new plan.
I turned back to look at Gabriel, catching a glimpse of his face in the rearview mirror. “Stop the car.”
"What?” He narrowly missed an oncoming tree, driving us down a hill that led to the famous Bethesda fountain.
“Pull over! Let me out! I can take care of this!”
“Dammit, Ava, no! We’ll lose them at the fountain!”
We weren’t going to lose them. It was clear they wanted me and would stop at nothing to have me.
"Do it, Gabriel!”
“You are not risking your life! They will kill you!”
They could try.
I looked at Soraya, her eyes widening as she realized what I was about to do.
Wrenching the car door open, I threw myself out, flying through the air.
It felt as though it was happening in slow motion, my body turning as it soared through the air. There was a brief moment of silence before my body hit the ground, rolling as my limbs slammed against the concrete floor. I came to a stop after three rolls and heard Gabriel screech to a stop just before the river.
The SUV was roaring down the hill, the headlights directly before me and headed right in my direction.
I pushed myself up, ignoring the pain in my bruised appendages, aware that I was standing just in front of the large fountain. The water was pouring out of the tall umbrella shaped stone centerpiece, the statue of an angel atop it, her wings outstretched.
I heard the doors of the car I’d just been in open, Gabriel shouting my name. My focus, however, was on the SUV, it’s lights only a few yards away from me now. Raising my arms, I closed my eyes and called on the energy within me. It reacted, bubbling to the surface as if anxious to get in on the fight. Opening my eyes, I commanded the water and energy to rush forward.
Shooting out of the fountain basin, the water swirled with my blue energy in two tunnels on either side of me, flying toward the black SUV. The car smashed into the barrier, the front end crushing on impact. The car lifted from the ground, the power of the energy causing it to flip over the fountain, spinning multiple times before it came crashing down on the other side, landing upside down on the roof.
There was silence as I sent the water back into the fountain, turning around to look at what I’d done.
The car engine was steaming, the windows blown out, glass littering the ground.
I began walking around the fountain, closing in on the car. I was a few feet away when billows of black smoke poured out of the windows. They swirled and shape-shifted into three long-limbed figures for a moment before soaring off into the sky, escaping the wrath of four determined Elioud.
I slowed my walk and looked over at my three comrades who had approached the car from the other side of the fountain.
Gabriel went to check the bodies, ensuring they were all merely unconscious and not dead. Lailah joined him, ignoring me and checking the two on the other side of the car. Soraya was the only one that seemed to not be annoyed with me, moving to stand beside me.
“You alright?” she asked quietly, placing a hand on my scraped arm.
I nodded, ready to go back to the penthouse and lock myself away in my room already. “I’m fine. We should go.”
Soraya didn’t say anything, watching as Gabriel and Lailah left the overturned car to join us, unsatisfied with their findings.
Gabriel didn’t look at me, looking instead at Soraya. “They’re alive but banged up. NYPD should be here soon so we need to go. They’ll be fine.”
Neither Gabriel nor Lailah paid me any attention as we looked back to the car and I didn’t blame them. I’d royally screwed up our night, so I would have been pissed at me too. And I was pissed at myself, just for a different reason.
Gavin’s trial was in less than twenty four hours and I was no closer to finding Elyon than from when I’d started.
I’d failed him.