Scooping Penelope’s body up into my arms, I rushed as quickly as I could towards the wooden door connecting the fence to the house’s side. Kicking the door open forcefully, I made my way between the Bishop home and their neighbors until I got to their front yard. Callan raced towards me and took Penelope from my arms as he bounded the rest of the way towards the back door of our car.
Swinging the door open for him, he gently placed her in the back seat as I crawled in after her. Kneeling down on the floor beside the seat, I leaned over her, willing her to wake back up. As soon as she had opened her eyes to utter her words, she had fallen unconscious. Callan was already in the driver’s seat, speeding us through town towards my Aunt’s home.
“What’s wrong with her?” Callan shouted over his shoulder as we sped right through a red light.
“Callan, be careful! We don’t need to draw any attention to ourselves,” I replied as he snapped his attention back to the road.
As he slowed down, I was able to keep myself reasonably balanced as we bounced along the road.
“Don’t look back here,” I said as I scrambled to clothe Penelope. Her clothes were disheveled, but it was the best I could do given the circumstances.
Callan pulled the car over, and we made our way with Penelope in tow towards the front door to Aunt Helen’s house. It swung open widely as Ebony was the first to rush forward.
“What’s happened to her? Is she okay?” she rushed to ask as she touched Penelope’s face in Callan’s arms.
“Quickly! Get her inside,” Helen commanded as she waved her hands, gesturing for us to hurry.
Once inside her home, we headed upstairs to lay Penelope in the bed she and Ebony shared. Ebony crawled into bed beside her and laid down, stroking her hair. We gathered around the sitting area in the room as Helen brought in some tea.
“Maisie will have all the supplies first thing in the morning. The sooner we get you out of this town, the safer it will be for all of you,” Helen admitted.
“Where’s Gabriel?” I asked. “We need him here. I have no idea if this is normal.”
“He’s not back yet,” Ashlin replied. “We have no way to get in touch with him either.”
“Great, and Penelope is the only one who knows Jade’s phone number,” I stated as I paced the room.
“Can everyone leave me alone with her for a moment?” we heard Ebony say from the bed.
We stood up and left the room, closing the door behind us. Ebony must have been feeling more lost than all of us. After all, this was the love of her life, lying unconscious in a bed with no signs of waking up. Heading downstairs, we adjourned to the den where Aunt Helen was quick to fix us more tea and sandwiches. She reminded me a lot of my mother in that regard.
“Is it magical?” Josh asked. “What happened with the ceremony? What about that Blaise guy?”
“Crap,” I said, rubbing my forehead with my hand. “I forgot all about Blaise. I kind of left him there.”
“Wait, he was unconscious too?” Ashlin asked.
“I think so. I mean, it’s not like he was my main concern at the moment. It all happened so fast. As soon as I cut the cords of energy between them, there was a burst of energy, and it knocked us all off our feet,” I remembered. “What have you guys been up to since we left?”
“Oh, lounging around. Your Aunt is trying to make us fat, I swear,” Ashlin laughed. “If she keeps servicing me all this food and tea, I’m going to burst.”
“How long will it take to cross the ocean?” I asked my Aunt.
She flopped down in a chair near us. “It should take a little less than two weeks.”
“You should feel right at home on the ocean,” I directed at Josh.
“That’s kind of what I’m worried about,” he admitted. “It’s not exactly the safest place for us to be. If my mother is really looking for us or just for me, she’ll have the other sirens scouring the ocean.”
“We can keep you below deck,” Ashlin teased. “As long as you’re not in the water, right?”
“Have you met my mother?” Josh mocked.
At that moment, we heard the door open to the front of the house. Standing from the couch, I rushed into the parlor to see Gabriel walking through the door.
“Oh, good, you’re back!” I exclaimed. Taking his hand, I dragged him up the stairs towards his sister’s room. Knocking on the door, Ebony told us to come in. I guided Gabriel over to the bed where his sister lay, still in the place we had left her.
“I don’t know what happened,” I said, running my hand through my hair. “One minute we were in the ceremony and the next we were all on the ground. She woke up for a moment and then passed back out. I don’t know how these spells and rituals work.”
Gabriel knelt beside the bed and his sister, taking her hand. He flipped her hand over and looked at the lines upon them, tracing them with his finger.
“What are you doing? Did you hear me?” I asked, starting to worry that maybe I had sent Gabriel into shock.
“She’s okay,” he murmured as he laid her hand back down. “She needs to rest and regain her strength. I’ll do a healing over her to help with the process.”
“But what happened?” Ebony inquired.
“What happened was the result of cutting a five-year cord between two people. When the cord was cut, the energy snapped back towards them like a psychic whip. This is the result of that. The stronger the bond, the harder the push back,” he explained.
“I felt that. It was pretty intense,” I commented.
Gabriel glanced over his shoulder at me, a strange expression crossing his face. “You were there? Not Callan?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said. “Penelope wanted me there instead of him.”
“Oh,” he said, his face growing red. I wasn’t sure if he was angry or blushing.
“I’ll leave you alone to work. Maisie will be by first thing in the morning to get us,” I said before heading towards the door to leave. Closing it softly behind me, I decided to head towards my own room and rest. I hadn’t slept much the night before, and it was the perfect time to be alone, if only for a few moments.
Upon entering the room, I fell face first onto the plush bed, burying my face within the thick covers. Kicking off my shoes, I crawled further onto the bed and flipped over onto my back with my arms spread wide. I hadn’t even bothered to turn on any of the lamps in the darkness. The glow of embers in the fireplace and the shimmering moon through the window were the only sources of light.
As I lay there in the darkness, I closed my eyes as the whispering voices started to rise again. Trying to focus on their sounds, they grew slightly louder, the words a little clearer.
Please guide my way through the darkness…grant my divorce swiftly…praise be to you, Dark Lord…
The words melted together in my mind, sometimes overlapping each other. They were praying for many things, the hopeless and the downtrodden. And yet, I pitied them because as their words flowed freely through my mind, their contracts were being forged in Hell in service to me. Some of them knew exactly what they were getting themselves into, while others were simply running out of options and felt God had abandoned them. Why was it so easy for me to make these contracts and agreements, and yet God made it so difficult to be heard?
Breaking my concentration, I heard the door crack open on its hinges. Aunt Helen really needed to see about making some investments into her home.
“Sorry,” Callan called from the doorway. “I probably should’ve knocked.”
Sitting up in bed, the voices dulled but not without leaving a small headache in their place. Rubbing my aching forehead, I sighed deeply and motioned to him, indicating it was okay for him to enter. I stood up from the bed and walked over to the seating area in front of the fireplace.
I threw another log onto the fire’s remnants, holding my hand over it as blue flames sparked from the wood igniting it. Taking my hand away, the light returned to a typical orange color, and I took a seat in front of the fireplace on the loveseat with my legs curled underneath me. Callan sat next to me in a relaxed posture. He looked comfortable in a pair of sweats and a T-shirt, ready for bed.
“Did they both get what they wanted?” he asked.
At first, his question confused me until I figured he was talking about Blaise and Penelope. “I suppose. Penelope wanted to be free of him and his family. I guess this was the last thing keeping them connected.”
“What about Blaise?” he inquired.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I think Blaise may have actually loved her, but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.”
“He loved her so much, he was willing to let her go,” he murmured. “I loved someone like that once.”
I raised an eyebrow in his direction. “What happened to them?”
“I had to let her go,” he replied, sounding far away as if he were reliving a memory. “I met her in the Church. She was in the midst of training as a nun about to take her vows to God. Like most of the others, she had no idea about the Order of St. Anthony, so I hid many secrets from her. My mentor warned me about us being together, but I didn’t want to listen. Then, one day, I went to talk to her for the last time.”
“Did she pass?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “She had taken her vows as a nun and was no longer interested in continuing our relationship if you could even call it that. As she said it, she couldn’t look me in the eye, and instead of fighting for her, I walked away.”
I turned my head to look at him. “Do you think your mentor had anything to do with that? She may have truly loved you.”
“It was a test,” Callan revealed. “A cruel one devised by the Vatican to weed out any recruits that felt too deeply, who were too emotional for the job. Sara never loved me. She deceived me in the name of God. The only person, any one of my brothers and sisters, truly love, is God. Loving anyone else is weakness in your faith.”
“I don’t think you actually believe that,” I whispered as I leaned back upon the cushion beside him. He turned to glance over my face, the firelight casting shadows upon us.
“There’s a lot of things I’ve been questioning recently. It’s a little hard to say what I actually believe in anymore,” he admitted.
I lifted my head from the cushion. “Has your faith been shaken?”
“Let’s just say I’m going through one hell of a test,” he smiled.
“Am I interrupting something?” Gabriel asked as he entered the room. Callan stood up from the loveseat.
“Not at all,” Callan said as he headed past Gabriel, giving him a pat on his shoulder before leaving the room. Gabriel closed the door behind him with one quick push, the sound of it slamming startling me.
I turned around on the loveseat to face him as he walked over, taking a seat in one of the armchairs. “Is something wrong? Ever since you got back, you’ve been acting weird.”
Gabriel was silent for a moment, his eyes revealing a fit of deep-seated jealousy I had never seen before or knew he was capable of.
“I don’t want you hanging around Callan alone anymore,” he said curtly.
I cocked my head to the side, a sly smile coming to my face. “Are you jealous of him? He’s a Paladin for crying out loud. He hunts our kind.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, but Gabriel sat there as stoic as ever and didn’t so much as crack a smile. My laughter died as the room seemed to grow cold. Something was definitely wrong here. Before he left to see Jade, we were joking about jealousy issues, and now all of a sudden, he was angry about them?
“Did something happen while you were with Jade?” I asked suspiciously.
“It’s none of your business,” he hissed, standing up from the chair. The fire danced in the hearth, covering his face in shadows.
I stood up from my seat and walked around to the back of the couch, not too far from the door. My senses were tingling, and I was starting to feel threatened by his presence. Glancing down at my ruby ring on my finger, I watched as the stone turned black.
“You’re not Gabriel…”
“Really?” he asked, his voice rising. I turned for the door, but as soon as I did, he muttered an incantation to seal it off.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“So how did you like Blaise? I know you saw him in all his glory. Did you like it?” he said as he slammed his fist against the wall causing a picture frame to fall, shattering as it struck the ground.
I couldn’t tell if this was something demonic or magical. There were so many different things that inspired wrath. I heard pounding on the other side of the door and the muffled voices of Aunt Helen and Callan.
“I see he’s come back for more of you. Did you kiss him?” he asked, inching closer to me.
“Gabriel…” I tried to use a calming voice to soothe him.
He charged at me and slammed both his hands beside my head against the door. His eyes were wild, but I was hoping they’d give me some clue as to what was going on. As they caught the fire’s glow, his pupils were dilated with the outer ring of his iris, the faintest tint of red. It was magical, a potion most likely.
“Did Jade give you something?” I dared to ask. “Think. Did you take anything? Eat or drink anything with her?”
Gabriel lowered his eyes for a brief moment as if he were trying to concentrate before losing his thoughts and returning his wild gaze back to me.
“This isn’t about me. It’s about you,” he growled, sniffing my scent beside my neck as he pressed his body closer to mine.
“I would never hurt you like that,” I stated.
“Lies!” he whispered in my ear before grabbing me by the neck with his hand, lifting me off the floor to where my feet barely touched the ground. I clawed at his hand as he slowly cut off my air supply.
“Gabriel—I don’t—want to hurt you!” I choked out as his grip tightened.
As much as I didn’t want to hurt Gabriel, I had to get out of this situation. Feeling my power rise, I shot him with a quick jolt of electricity from my hands, sending him flying across the room. He crashed into a chest of drawers as I dropped to the ground gagging for air. Scrambling to my feet, I rushed over to him, feeling for a pulse.
“Oh, thank me,” I sighed as I felt his pulse beneath his skin. At that moment, the door flew open, slamming against the wall behind it as Callan and Aunt Helen came towards me, picking me up to my feet.
Penelope stood in the hallway, her arm around Ebony for support, and her other hand out towards the door. I shook Callan and my Aunt off me.
“It’s Gabriel,” I said. “Something’s wrong with him. I think Jade slipped him something when they were out.”
“Let me see,” Penelope responded.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Do you have enough strength?”
She nodded as she passed me with Ebony. She guided herself to her knees with the help of her girlfriend and leaned over her brother. Lifting his eyelid, she peered into his eyes and then opened his mouth, sniffing his breath.
“Oh, she slipped him something alright,” she confirmed. Ashlin and Josh finally made an appearance at the doorway, a little late to the party.
“Well, what is it?” I asked, worried.
“It’s an extremely juvenile potion,” she commented. “It occurs in stages on a delayed response time. Jade probably spiked a drink. What it does, is it exaggerates primal feelings bringing them to the surface. She was probably hoping Gabriel would reveal some deep secret about being in love with her, but since those feelings didn’t exist, they targeted the next best thing.”
“Why wouldn’t she use a truth serum like your father? Wouldn’t that have been easier?” I asked.
“Truth serums are not the easiest things to make, and that would be beyond Jade’s capabilities. Trust me. Besides, that girl wouldn’t want to know the actual truth,” Penelope explained.
“She’s that shallow?” Ashlin asked. “How do we reverse it?”
“It’ll fade on its own,” Penelope said. “Gabriel’s going to wake up with a major hangover, but he’ll live. If he wakes up and tries to kill you, just knock him out again.”
I rolled my eyes. “Can I get you guys to move him over to the bed?”
Callan and Josh picked Gabriel up and threw him on the bed like a sack of potatoes.
“Thanks for being gentle, guys,” I muttered as I walked over to Gabriel.
“He’s really heavy,” Josh complained. “Dude is stacked.”
I knelt down beside Gabriel, kissing his forehead as I ran my fingers through his
hair. Whispering, I said, “You’ve been through so much.”
“We’ll leave you alone, Kas. If you need anything, I’m right across the hall,” Callan said.
I nodded as they left the room. Walking over, I closed the door, pulling it to. The actual lock had broken during the blast, so it wouldn’t shut completely. Getting into bed beside Gabriel, I turned to face him. He was laying on his back with his hands resting on his stomach, his face turned towards me. I traced his jawline down to his collarbone under his shirt.
Sighing, I rested my eyes, knowing I wouldn’t get much sleep since I was worried he might wake up and try to strangle me again. Rolling onto my back, I listened to our breathing as I waited to see what would happen next.