I was falling. Plunging through the suffocating abyss of obscurity that held me, hostage, in her wretched embrace.
I flung my arms out to the side, trying to halt my descent. There was nothing to grip, nothing to prevent my fall. I sank deeper into the inky black well. Isolated and vulnerable, I was easy prey. The cards were stacked against me. There would be no fairytale ending to my story. No savior to guide my way out of this cavernous hellhole.
Then, I heard that deep, rich tenor of sweet seduction and felt my heart soar in my chest.
The fog of shadows lifted, and a pool of blinding light appeared. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame, simmering in its purity. Squinting against the intrusive rays, I found myself back in the woods. Genesis stood over a grief-stricken Abel as he cradled my lifeless body. He was pleading with some invisible force, his anguished cries a garbled, incoherent mess as his muscular body convulsed with sobs. Sebastian, meanwhile, had rejoined the ranks of the living, fresh blood coursing through his veins as he became human once more, reversing his fate while subjecting me to mine. The silent crow that had been circling overhead, perched on a branch nearby, its yellow eyes watching intently.
Abel laid my body gently upon the ground, a bed of late Autumn’s leaves crackling under my dead weight. No pun intended. He rubbed his palms together, then cupped them around his mouth and blew gently, trying to generate heat. With a deep breath, he placed them upon my chest and that familiar white ball of energy crackled to life.
The protest shot from the voice like a sonic boom, rattling the trees and sending a rippling effect of shock waves through the atmosphere. Abel was launched backward, hurtling through the air until his back collided with the wide trunk of a tree at the opposite edge of the clearing.
Five hooded figures emerged from the shadows, their faces concealed as they stepped into the open space. The tallest figure in the line took a single step forward, distinguishing himself from the rest of the group. His hand came up to push his hood back and immediately, Genesis and Sebastian bowed their heads in respect.
Abel however, clambered to his feet and stood defiantly, his broad chest rising and falling with rapid breaths. His nostrils were flared, hands clenched into fists at his sides. His pupils contracted into vertical slits. He was ready for war.
“What the fuck are you doing, Odon?”
The Council’s God of Death devoured Abel with his punishing glare. His cold, black eyes were merciless. He was built like a Viking, his stature bulky and intimidating. The sides of his head were shaved and covered in tattoos. A long braid as dark as his eyes draped down his back. This man’s demeanor promised nothing but torturous pain. He scoffed at the 6’3” reaper that stood before him in challenge, unconcerned by the threat.
“What I must, Abel! You will NOT resurrect her. Her fate has been decided—”
“I refuse to accept—”
Odon made a gesture with his hand. “Refuse away. But it is what shall be, and you will NOT interfere. Your retribution, boy, will be determined three days from now. Until then, your duties as a reaper will not be sanctioned.”
“Suck my dick, Odon. Colette has to be delivered for judgment. And I will-“
“Echo will assist all wandering souls to their destinations.”
The small figure standing to Odon’s left stepped forward. A slender hand materialized from the cloak and pushed her hood away. She was ethereally beautiful, her elven features flawless and delicate. She had white-blond hair that fell in cascading waves to her waist and her eyes were the color of cool metal, focused on the group standing before her. She couldn’t have been any taller than 5”, but the wicked gleam in her eyes warned that she was a force to be reckoned with.
“Echo? She’s a Siren, for Christ’s sake! She can’t—”
“If I were you,” Odon gritted out through clenched teeth, “I would pray for a fate similar to your beloved. I can assure you that The Council will not be as merciful this time around.”
“I will not allow Colette nor Genesis anywhere near that monstrous, corruptive bitch!” Abel seethed, his hardened gaze fixed upon Echo.
With those words, I expected no less than Abel’s imminent decapitation at the hands of the Viking God, but instead, a haughty smirk twisted his lips and amusement flickered in those soulless eyes. “I really don’t see how you have any choice in the matter.”
Abel stalked forward, closing the distance between himself and Odon. “If you leave me no choice, then expect the worst.”
Odon raised an eyebrow. “Are you threatening me, Abel? I hardly feel the need to remind you of what happened to the last asshole who invoked such foolish measures. I do believe his body is rotting away in The Killing Fields.”
Well, I guess I could consider myself lucky that I hadn’t been sent there!
The vein in Abel’s jaw ticked furiously as he drew closer with his next words. They were a foot apart now, with Odon besting Abel in height by a couple of inches. “I’d consider it more of a promise. Fuck with those I love and prepare for war.”
“Three days, Abel,” Odon replied, replacing his hood before dissi‐ pating into the shadows with the other members of the Council.
Abel looked upon my corpse, then fell to his knees, beating his fists upon the ground with primal fury. His frustrated screams pierced the tallest treetops, before crashing back to Earth.
I felt a void in the pit of my stomach as I understood the terms of my settlement. I was dead. It was an absolute that couldn’t be altered. Echo would come for me and Genesis, Abel would be subjected to a fate worse than death, and Sebastian, freshly resurrected, would be free to do whatever the hell he wanted.
Abel threw his head back and lifted his eyes skyward, conflict, and pain brewing within their depths. Then, the exasperation etched upon his Adonis-like features morphed into dawning hope as his stare fell upon the crow perched nearby.
“Cassius!” he roared, summoning the mysterious creature of the night.
My eyes widened in realized horror and I felt my stomach drop. Fuck! Once again, I had underestimated Abel’s persistence and, in this circumstance, fucking ignorance. I wanted to grab him by the goddamn shoulders and shake some sense into him.
Sebastian’s hand latched onto Abel’s shoulder in warning and his protest was a low growl. “No, Abel. You heard Odon. Colette—”
Abel launched to his feet and backed Sebastian against a tree, gripping him by his throat. “Don’t utter her fucking name,” he ordered through clenched teeth. “Say it and I will rip your motherfucking throat out. Do you hear me?”
Sebastian’s blue eyes narrowed, but he managed a hoarse reply. “I hear you, brother.”
Abel released him and turned back to the crow. “Cassius! Now!”
A rolling fog settled over the forest floor as the crow landed. Tendrils of smoke swirled upwards in a tantalizing dance before the shadow of a man appeared. Dressed in black, the only things I could make out at first were his eerie yellow eyes and gleaming fangs.
“You rang?” Cassius called mockingly.
“Abel,” Genesis chided, her blue eyes pleading. “Don’t do this.”
Abel spared her a glance, a silent exchange occurring between them. He stood protectively over my body and nodded down at me. “Do it.”
Oh God, no! Abel truly had lost his fucking mind. Cassius appeared shocked. “Do what?”
“Quit fucking around. I’m not losing her.”
Cassius shook his head, his eyes cutting to Genesis and Sebastian. “You guys wanna tell him this is the damn dumbest idea he’s ever had, or shall I?”
Sebastian shrugged while Genesis bit her nails in apprehension.
Cassius turned back to Abel. “I would love to help you out, really, I would. But truth is, I’m not one for baby-sitting newbies and—”
“Cassius,” Abel interjected, his green eyes swimming with unshed tears. “Whatever you want, it’s yours. Just please…bring her back to me. I need her. I can’t be without her.”
No, Goddammit! I didn’t want to be a member of the Blood‐ suckers Union of America and I most certainly didn’t want to be indebted to this asshole for the rest of my life…well, undead life. Abel’s grief had manifested itself as sharp stabs of pain puncturing my heart, but his motivations were saturated in selfishness. I was dead, and as much as that fucking sucked, he refused to accept it.
“Well, you my friend,” Cassius said demurely, jabbing Abel in the chest with his index finger, “have officially sealed your fate. I take no responsibility in anything that happens from this point on, understand?”
Abel nodded. “Sure, whatever.”
Cassius knelt beside me, snaking one hand behind my neck to tilt my head up. His fangs unsheathed and low hissing rumbled in his throat. He licked his lips hungrily, then met the wide-eyed stares of Abel, Genesis, and Sebastian before dipping his head.
Those two pointy canines lowered to my dead flesh, sinking into my cold, clammy skin and filling my veins with a ravenous hunger I had never known. A hunger for only one thing:
TO BE CONTINUED…
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