The female Elk and her first fawn of the spring grazed at the edge of the forest. Winter had receded and new life was emerging. When the Reapers returned to Hell spring had bloomed throughout the entire forest. Wild flowers burst from their pods and newborn animals balanced on slender legs. It seemed all the world was rejoicing, except for Aurora.
She gazed out of the window at Jasmyne and Harrison as they sat together on a brightly coloured picnic rug, her head resting easily on his shoulder. They were friends for now, but Aurora knew their relationship would grow to be much more. She was pleased for her sister. She deserved to be loved and Harrison was a good man. Had it not been for him and his soldiers they might have all died on that field and Melloch and his Reapers would have taken over the world. If anyone was to take the place of her brother in Jasmyne’s life she was glad it was going to be Harrison. There would be problems of course. He was human and she was a descendant. Children were not allowed, but they would deal with that when the time came. For now, they would enjoy each other’s company and cherish each sunrise, knowing how close they had come to losing everything.
Downstairs Aria and Jada argued over how much lemon should go into a lemon meringue pie and Amelia was at the stables feeding the horses. The world was as it should be, safe. They had won. Life would go on. But for Aurora the cost had been irreversibly great. Gabriel was dead and it hurt that she had not be given the chance to say goodbye or lay him to rest. When the light receded and the war was over, the field had been empty. She knew Gabriel’s soul had been taken to Heaven, but his body was gone, lost in the blast. It was almost as though he had never existed at all, but the pain in her heart said otherwise.
As if sensing her sadness, Jasmyne turned and looked up to the window. She waved and motioned for Aurora to come down, but she shook her head. She was not ready to enjoy the spring or smell perfume in the air. For now, she would separate herself from the promise of starting over, at least until the space beside her felt a little smaller. She pushed back her hair and sighed deeply. She had loved fiercely and been loved in return. She had avenged her parents and given the world a second chance, a chance to change for the better. Humans knew about descendants now. They had helped in the fight. Whatever came as a result was yet to be determined but it would be something new, something that would change the way they had lived until now. For the most part, people did not know how close they had come to losing their world, but hope hung heavy in the air. She could sense it in the perfume of the flowers and pollen on the breeze. Whatever His plan, Aurora knew she would have a role to play and when the time came she would be ready. But for now, she would mourn the loss of Gabriel and try to make peace with the pain in her heart.
She padded over to the bed and rested her head down on the pillow. It was unlike her to sleep during the day, but she often dreamt of Gabriel and she longed to see him.
She had almost fallen asleep when a scream from the kitchen pulled her up. Downstairs a bowl crashed and Aurel appeared in her doorway. Terrified, she leapt from the bed and ran as fast as she could, taking the stairs two at a time. Had one of the Reapers stayed behind? Had Lucifer somehow risen from the dead? What was happening? Thoughts flew through her mind as she turned into the kitchen so fast that she almost lost her footing.
“What is it?” She shouted to her sisters. “What’s wrong?”
Aria and Jada were at the window, their backs turned. When they didn’t answer she shouted at them again. “Damn it Aria, talk to me. Jada what’s happening? Why did you scream?”
“There,” Aria said, pointing out the window. “Look…”
Aurora pushed her way between them and saw Jasmyne and Harrison up on their feet staring into the forest.
“What is it?” She demanded, her frustration growing. “What are they looking at? I can’t see…”
“I don’t believe it,” Jada breathed. “It can’t be…”
Unable to see past Jasmyne and Harrison, Aurora turned and ran out onto the porch. When Harrison took two steps forward and fell to his knees, Aurora finally saw what everyone was staring at.
Walking casually across the field and up toward the house, was Gabriel.
It took a moment for Aurora to comprehend what she was seeing, but when Jasmyne ran up and tugged at her arm it finally hit home. Gabriel was alive. Overcome with emotion she leapt from the veranda and ran as fast as she could toward him. Her hair whipped across her face as she closed the space between them. When she reached him, she threw her arms around his neck with so much force that he fell back and they both toppled to the ground.
“How? I thought…”
He shook his head slowly. “I have no idea. I guess like everyone else I was given a second chance.”
She pulled him in and kissed him all over his face “I thought I lost you.”
“I thought I lost me,” he grinned. “Aurora, you can’t imagine where I’ve been.”
“I don’t care where you’ve been, all that matters is you’re here.”
She wanted to say more but suddenly Harrison came crashing between them, tackling Gabriel in a bear hug that sent them both tumbling out across the grass.
When they found their bearings, Harrison sat up and stared at him. “Jesus mate. Way to scare the hell out of us.”
Gabriel grinned and adjusted his shirt. “What can I tell you? I’m here.”
“And for that we are all grateful.”
“The thing is,” Gabriel began as he got to his feet. “I’m bloody starving.”
Aurora laughed and linked her arm through his. “Come on then, let’s head up. I’ll make you anything you want.”
As they walked toward the house Aria, Jada and Amelia burst from the door and came running toward them. Gabriel was part of the family now and just how much they had come to adore him had never been clearer. For the rest of the afternoon they celebrated, toasting to life, love and second chances. Gabriel was alive. It was a miracle.
When night fell and they were finally alone, Aurora folded herself tightly into Gabriel’s arms. “I still can’t believe you’re really here,” she whispered. “I’m so grateful.”
But instead of pulling her close, Gabriel pushed himself up onto one elbow and looked at her. “Aurora there’s something I have to tell you. I am here, but there were conditions attached to my return.”
“Conditions, what do you mean?”
His brow dipped and a shadow fell over his eyes. “Aurora, we have much work to do. There is so much that needs to be done and I will be counting on you to help us.”
“Us?” She repeated. “Gabriel you’re acting very strange. What’s going on? What are you talking about?”
As she waited for him to respond, his gaze was so intense that the hair on the back of her neck stood up.
“The Earth needs to be cleansed,” he began. “It must be returned to the way God created it. It’s what He wants Aurora. It’s the reason He sent me back.”
“Gabriel you’re not making any sense. What do you mean it must be cleansed?”
“God created this Earth for his children alone Aurora. There can be no others.”
“Gabriel you’re scaring me. What do you mean, others?”
“There are many others Aurora, the Council and descendants like yourself. But you already know that. You sense their presence on the Earth. I know you can find them.”
Cold fingers pried at her insides as Aurora slowly climbed out of the bed and backed away. “Gabriel what are you saying?”
“There is no room for your kind on this Earth Aurora. Help me and you will be spared, but we must rid the Earth of these abominations.”
“Abominations?” Her heart was racing. “Gabriel, what?”
Aurel appeared at the door. His black lips curled and a low growl rumbled from his throat.
“No, Gabriel would never speak this way,” she managed. “Who are you?” She glanced down as the symbol on her wrist began to tingle. “Tell me your name.”
Only the bed stood between them as Aurel took his place beside her and she stared in horror as Gabriel’s eyes turned black and lifeless. “Melloch?”
He laughed, dark and guttural. “Before you’re precious God could work His magic, I took hold of the dagger. They were my hands upon it when Lucifer gasped his final breath. The light of your God may have cast me back to Hell, but not before I claimed the vessel that was left behind.”
“You took Gabriel’s body?”
“Not just his body,” Melloch grinned. “His soul squirms deep inside. I can feel him twisting and turning, trying to push me out. His screams ring out like a glorious symphony.”
“You’re lying,” she snapped. “Gabriel died, I saw it myself.”
“Did he? Are you so certain?”
A tear slipped over Aurora’s cheek. If what Melloch said was true, then Gabriel was trapped inside a demon. “You’re a monster.”
“That matters not. All that matters is you are going to locate the other descendants so I can kill them. Your kind will not interrupt my plans again.”
“But my connection to them is too weak. I don’t know where they are.”
Melloch made his way around the bed and Aurel snapped his teeth. “You will find them or your precious Gabriel will be forever trapped in Hell. I will torture him until his mind is broken and his soul is torn.”
“I can’t, don’t you understand?” She cried. “I don’t know where they are!”
Aurora closed her eyes and used all of her power to call for Lucius and the Council. She had no idea if they would sense her calling, but it was all she could do. She glanced toward the door and longed for a way out.
“I know what you’re trying to do, but those decrepit old fools cannot hurt me,” he hissed. “They are old, and they are weak.”
Without warning, Aurora turned and dived across the bed. She ran for the door, but it instantly slammed shut. Aurel leapt at Melloch but was thrown across the room, his body slamming against the wall.
“You are going to track every descendant on this Earth, do you hear me? You will watch as I tear every one of them limb from limb. You will feel every death, every moment of their pain. Then I will set this world alight.”
Her back was against the wall and he was closing in, but despite her fear she refused to back down. “I’ll never help you and you will not continue to dwell in Gabriel’s body. Do you hear me?”
Melloch threw his head back and laughed. “And how do you plan to stop me?”
Suddenly the door flew open and Lucius led the Council into the room “She will stop you with our help.”