destined stORm excerpt
NEPHILIM’S DESTINY: BOOK 4
My senses reeled from the power channeled by the glyph witches we’d fought on top of City Hall moments ago and from my crash into the alley, while my body burned with pain and power and Cassius’s rage. His grip on my throat tightened, and his fire, searing bands of flame securing my wrists, burned my skin and controlled where I pointed my palms, as if he feared I’d blast him with divine light.
With a snarl, he pressed me harder against the garbage bin, drawing agony through ribs that had to be broken. The reek of the alley’s bin in the early summer’s heat, even perpetually shaded in the alley across from City Hall, made me gag. Wings I didn’t know I’d had until a few seconds ago twitched and slapped against the metal side with a dull thud, as my pulse roared and my thoughts whirled.
I had wings.
I. Had. Wings.
I couldn’t make my mind work past that thought.
I had wings.
I wasn’t supposed to have wings. I was a powerless nephilim, more human than angel. How the hell did I have wings? Wings ruined everything. Made me a liar, and a monster.
I didn’t want to believe I was more like Michael’s nephilim than I was human. I didn’t want my nature to change, to become violent or bloodthirsty. All I wanted, all I ever wanted, was to help others.
Behind Cassius, Kol howled and wrenched in Gideon’s grip, swiping his blade at me, desperate to kill the monster. Me. His face was a mask of pure panic and rage, and his emotions turned the air frigid. All sense of the flirtatious, wicked incubus was gone, and my throat tightened with grief and rage. A reaction like that meant his experience with Michael and his nephilim had been worse than he’d made it out to be. Horrifyingly worse.
Cassius pulled a red zip tie with a power containment spell on it from his pocket and, with his fire whip, yanked up one of my hands, burned and bleeding from my own power. He slipped the tie over my wrist, and the world darkened and snapped cold. My buzz’s stinging inferno stuttered along with the lurching temperature from Cassius’s fury and Kol’s fear, but that only made me more aware of the pain in my body, adding a dislocated shoulder to my broken ribs and the agony in my back where my wings had ripped free.
“Her wings aren’t magical constructs. The zip tie would have dispelled them. They’re real.” Cassius’s gaze locked on me, his angel glow blazing in his eyes. “Get Kol back to the roof to guard the witches then get the SUV.”
“Cassius—” Gideon started.
“She’s a nephilim.”
From the corner of my eye, my vision lurching in and out of focus, I saw Gideon stiffen. But I was afraid to look at him and see the same hurt and betrayal in his eyes that I’d seen in Kol’s the moment my wings appeared.
“She’s my mate.” The force of Gideon’s words made my soul sing, but when I raised my gaze, my vision darkened and his expression was strange. Had he really said that with conviction or was that just what I wanted to hear? God, it was so hard to focus.
“And she’s a war criminal,” Cassius said.
“We’ll deal with this back at Operations. In private,” he said, cutting Gideon off again. Then his tone softened a bit. “Get Kol to the roof and get the SUV. We have to get her back to Operations before someone sees her.”
Gideon opened his mouth to say something but another billowing wave of spinning darkness swept over me and when my vision cleared, he was hauling Kol, still out-of-his-mind screaming, out of the alley.
Then Cassius wrenched back to me, his fury so strong it snapped to cold. “Where are the other nephilim?”
“There are no others,” I gasped. I still couldn’t figure out what had happened. The guys had been fighting the witches. Kol had been knocked off the roof. I’d tried to catch him and—
“There are always others. Your kind can’t be alone. You don’t know how to be alone. You’re pack animals.”
“There are no others.” I was alone all the time. I had been for so long I hadn’t realized how empty I was until I’d found my guys. God, my guys—
Cassius jerked me forward and slammed me back against the full garbage bin with a thud. Hot white agony shot through my chest and the world darkened. I fought to catch my breath but couldn’t, each inhalation blazing torment through me.
A part of me prayed I’d pass out, in part to stop the pain, but more because I wasn’t ready to face my guys. Kol had been instantly horrified. I was still confused about Gideon’s reaction, and I had no idea what Jacob’s would be. Marcus’s, without a doubt, would be furious. He, above all, had completely believed I was human and that I wanted nothing to do with the supernatural world. He’d sacrificed years being apart from me because he’d thought that was what I wanted.
Except now the truth was out. Would his wolf still see me as his mate? Was that a bond that could be broken, unlike the unbreakable angelic mating brand I shared with Gideon and Jacob?
My throat tightened and tears stung my eyes. It had all happened so fast, and it was all too soon. Maybe if I’d had time to show them who I was, they’d have been able to forgive the lie. But they barely knew me, even Marcus. I was a monstrous abomination, my kind responsible for the torture and death of so many people, and Gideon, Jacob, and Kol all had first-hand experience with nephilim.
Cassius slammed me against the garbage bin again. “I said, what’s your plan?”
I dragged my whirling thoughts back to him. “No plan.”
“Tell me your plan. You infiltrated Operations. You branded my brother.” His grip on my throat tightened, and I fought to breathe. “I can’t kill you, but I can make the rest of your life miserable. Without your magic, you won’t be able to kill yourself to end it or my brother.” His fire whips tightened around my wrists, and I panted against the pain. “Didn’t your siblings tell you to kill yourself the second you were caught?”
“I don’t have siblings. I’m natural.” God, please just believe me.
He barked a bitter laugh. “There’s no such thing as a natural nephilim.”
“Please,” I begged, the alley spinning faster and growing darker.
Cassius said something, but I couldn’t focus past the pain to understand him.
Time lurched and Cassius shoved me into the SUV — I had no idea how I’d made it to the mouth of the alley. I tried to drag my gaze up to Gideon in the driver’s seat, but couldn’t raise my head. My heart was breaking. I had to know how he felt. I couldn’t be alone again, an outcast without a family. Please. I needed them, needed to belong, needed to be loved for who I was.
Except I hadn’t been loved for who I was. Not all of me. I’d never be fully accepted and it had been foolish to think I could keep my secret and my guys. Now I had neither.
The darkness surged again and my stomach churned. I had to have a concussion. It was the only explanation for why I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t get my vision to clear.
Another lurch in time and we were in the Quarter. I’d missed the entire ride from City Hall.
“Go around to security,” Cassius said. “Let’s not parade her in front of every angel in Union.”
Gideon parked on the other side of the building in front of a metal door instead of pulling into the garage, and Cassius hauled me out of the SUV. He pressed his thumb to a fingerprint reader and marched me into the secure part of Operations, where they kept the holding cells and interrogation rooms. I leaned my forehead against the cool cinderblock wall and squeezed my eyes shut, but the world wouldn’t stop spinning.
“Go back to City Hall. Deal with those witches.” That sounded like Cassius.
“Chris and Nathaniel are—”
“Not the team’s leader.” Cassius’s voice was strangely gentle, with no sign of the fury I’d seen in the alley. “You have an optics problem already. You can’t afford to let head office think they should replace you. I’ve got this.”
Someone said my name. I was pretty sure it was Gideon. Or maybe I’d just imagined it. Then there was a long pause… or I blacked out again. I wasn’t sure which.
“God damn it,” Gideon hissed. “Fine.”
I forced my eyes open and managed to raise my gaze to look at him, but he’d already strode halfway out the door.
Cassius unlocked the interrogation room beside us, shoved me into the plain gray space, and down onto a metal chair. He cuffed my hands to the bar in the middle of the stainless steel table, and a freezing, aching hollowness filled my chest as the magic containment cuffs locked away my power. Without a word or a second glance, he stormed out of the room.
I sagged forward, leaning my forehead on the cool table, trying to draw a breath that didn’t hurt and fighting my tears. I was a survivor. I could survive this.
Except I couldn’t. Even if a miracle happened and I managed to escape, Gideon and Jacob would be able to find me through the brand. And even if they let me go, I was broken without them. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be strong, independent, but the magic that bound our souls together was stronger than me. I couldn’t fight it for the rest of my life. Hell, I could barely fight just thinking about fighting it.
Come on. There had to be a way out of this, a way to break the bonds, to escape, to—
But I didn’t want to do any of that. I wanted to stay. I wanted things to go back to this morning when I’d woken in Gideon’s arms, and Marcus had kissed me, and all my guys loved me.
Didn’t they still love me? They had to sill love me. Didn’t they?
But I was now a monster, a war criminal. Unless I could convince Cassius otherwise, I was going to be locked up for the rest of my life even if they did love me.
This couldn’t be my fate. I couldn’t live like this.
Please, love me.
I knew I was being irrational, that my emotions were going crazy, but I couldn’t get them under control. It was as if a dam had broken and I couldn’t stop the flood. I bit back a sob. Even if my guys did want me, the best I could hope for was magical stasis. Cassius would put me to sleep, and I’d never wake up.
Which wasn’t God damned fair. I wasn’t one of the nephilim from the war and I didn’t have an ulterior plan. But I already knew life wasn’t fair. My mom gave up everything for me and she’d died too young. My father had given me up completely. I’d never known him and I’d like to have thought he’d have wanted to be in my life if it hadn’t risked revealing my half-angelic nature.
The door banged open, and instinct jerked me up, my wings slapping against the back of the chair. Blazing white agony sliced through my chest and my throat tightened again. Cassius. Not one of my guys.
Jeez, come on. Get a grip. Focus.
“—is none of your concern now,” he snapped, and I knew there was no way in hell he’d get any of my guys for me no matter how much I begged… if they even wanted to see me.
He sat in the chair across from me, fire licking over his hands as if he were so angry he couldn’t fully control his power. “It’ll be easier on you if you just tell the truth.”
I sucked in a shallow breath. “I’m a natural nephilim.” I forced out the words, words I’d never thought I’d ever say out loud, let alone twice and to an angel. “I was born before the war. I was seven when Michael fell.”
Please believe me.
“The truth.” Cassius’s fire snapped from his fingers and brushed my knuckles. I jerked back, yanking my wrists in the cuffs securing me to the table and slicing more agony through me. “You bound my brother’s soul to yours,” he snarled. “You’ve poisoned something beautiful and sacred. For what? What’s your plan?”
“There’s no plan.” He had to believe me. My guys had to believe me. Someone had to. But my mother had warned me. No one would. I was impossible, and no one wanted to risk letting one of Michael’s monsters go free by believing a lie.
“There’s always a plan.” Cassius’s fire flared, making me jerk back again. “Tell me.”
“There’s no plan.” There never was a plan. All I wanted was to live a normal human life. All I wanted was to not be alone.
“I’ll get it out of you,” he said, his voice dark.
Except there was nothing to get, and he wasn’t ever going to believe the truth. No one would.
My eyes burned, my tears threatening to release. I had no idea why I fought them. It didn’t matter if Cassius thought I was weak. I couldn’t convince him of the truth, and my emotions were just too overwhelming.
God, why did I have to have wings? Why couldn’t they have shown up later when Cassius was gone and my guys truly knew me?
But that wasn’t the way it was and I had to pull my shit together.
“Tell me the plan.” His fire swept over my hands and up my wrists.
A strangled scream escaped my clenched jaw. The room darkened again, but I didn’t pass out. I had to think. Come on, think.
“Lawyer,” I gasped.
“You’re a terrorist. I can hold you indefinitely without cause.”
“Lawyer.” There wasn’t anything else I could say, although I didn’t believe for a second he’d get me a lawyer or that a lawyer would even believe or, hell, represent me. All I could hope was that I’d buy some time while waiting for a lawyer to arrive… if a lawyer arrived, for my head to clear. “I have rights.”
“JP law doesn’t recognize nephilim as people. You don’t have rights,” he said. “Tell me where your siblings are. How many of you are left? What’s your end game?”
“Lawyer.” I couldn’t lie about having nephilim siblings to get him to leave me alone. He’d just come back more enraged. A part of me wanted to say I’d only tell one of my guys, but that would only add to Cassius’s belief that I had a plan.
He jerked to his feet and slammed his palms on the stainless steel table. His flames swept around him. “Tell me your plan or you’ll wish you never perverted the mating brand and hurt my brother.”
And that was what hurt the most. Even if I hadn’t meant it, I’d betrayed Gideon and Marcus and Jacob in a way that couldn’t be forgiven. I’d let them believe I was something I wasn’t, and it didn’t matter if I’d shown them my true self or not. That one fundamental lie put everything else in doubt, most of all whether they’d really fallen in love with me or if I’d manipulated them.
“Tell me.” Cassius leaned closer, his fire searing over my arms.
I jerked against the cuffs, unable to stop myself, and blazing agony sliced through my chest, forcing me to pant shallow, ragged breaths.
“Tell me or I’ll bring in Yadveer and have him tear into your memories.”
My pulse skipped. He thought that was a threat, but having the lethe demon see the truth and then show it to Cassius might convince him I wasn’t lying.
“I consent,” I gasped. “I consent to the lethe demon reading my memories.”
“You’re not a person. I don’t need your consent.” He shoved back from the table. “Don’t think you can give consent and then hide the truth from Yadveer. You can’t hide anything from him. He’s cracked more powerful supers than you.”
He stormed from the room, and I sagged my head onto the table, sobbing. A flicker of electricity, the gentle hum I recognized as Gideon’s power, whispered through our brand, finally noticeable past my buzz because the containment cuffs had silenced it. Guess the containment cuffs didn’t affect the magic of the mating brand.
But that only made me ache more. I yearned to talk to him, to see him, but feared to at the same time. We’d finally agreed to start figuring out our relationship. Hell, I was just starting to figure out my relationship with all my guys.
My throat tightened and more tears plopped onto the metal table.
Gideon’s electricity, still filled with warmth, affection, honor, and determination, the part of him that resonated core-deep with my essence, grew stronger. It slid up my arm into Jacob’s brand, and I felt his powerful stillness and intense certainty.
My guys were coming closer. Please open the door. Please tell me everything is going to be okay.
But a small voice, the voice I’d lived with all my life, said that they wouldn’t. And even if they did, what did I say to them? What could I say to them?
It always came back to that. I couldn’t possibly be what I was. And even if I was, I’d still lied.
The minutes ticked by. Cassius didn’t storm back in. He was probably trying to make me sweat, building up my fear about what was to come in hopes I’d confess. But having my memories read was my only salvation. Gideon and Jacob got a little closer, but not close enough to open the door. They probably weren’t even in the secure section of Operations. And, now that I’d had time to think about it, the strange tone of Cassius’s voice earlier had been calm and consoling. Without a doubt he’d lied to Gideon. Which, for a second, shocked the hell out of me, because that was a very unangelic thing to do. But Cassius was more emotional than the typical icy angel, and I didn’t doubt he’d lie to protect his brother. Except that meant none of my guys knew where I was. They were probably going along, business as usual, dealing with the glyph witches and the mess at City Hall.
My thoughts muddled, and my body grew heavy. I dreamed of Gideon arguing with Cassius, the light in his eyes blazing, his expression furious. In fact, all of my guys stood up for me and demanded my release. Gideon was yelling, his voice hard and icy, Marcus barely had his wolf contained and was snarling, Jacob radiated more vampiric intensity than I’d ever felt before, and Kol—
Wasn’t there. Even my psyche knew no matter what I wanted or craved, I’d lost our friendship by just being what I was.
Besides, it was just a dream. I was a monster.
Except I wasn’t a monster. I was a naturally born nephilim.
But that didn’t mean I wasn’t a monster.
And that was the fear the zip overdose had brought to life, the fear I’d been hiding from myself my entire life. What if Michael’s nephilim weren’t monsters because that was how he’d made them, but because that was just what nephilim were? Human DNA twisting angel DNA because the DNA of a being of celestial light was supposed to be incompatible with anything else. Except if that was true, then I shouldn’t exist—
Or I wasn’t natural.
The door banged open, and I jerked awake, the sudden movement again shooting agony across my chest and stealing my breath.
Cassius stormed in again, fire still licking over his hands and now curling up his forearms to his elbows. Yadveer, Operations’ resident lethe demon, shuffled in behind him, looking as elderly and weathered as I remembered. Pricks of red light glowed in his dark eyes, the only indication — at this distance — that he was anything other than human.
He settled on the chair across from me and held out his hand, radiating the tell-tale heat of a demon. “You want to know everything?” he asked Cassius.
I shuddered at the question, even though I already knew that if Cassius went ahead with his plan for Yadveer to read my memories, my entire life, every hope and dream and fuck-up, would be exposed. I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not that I hadn’t slept with Gideon. If I had, then Yadveer would be able to show Cassius how much I cared for Gideon and how connected we were… and how much his rejection was going to hurt.
“Make it fast.” Cassius crossed his arms and glowered at me. “My brother’s life is in danger. All of Operations could be in danger.”
“Fast will be painful.” Yadveer’s gaze dipped to my burned and bleeding hands cuffed to the bar at the center of the table. “She’s already injured. She could lose consciousness.”
“Will it kill her?”
“Not likely,” Yadveer said.
“Then my only concern is learning the truth and keeping my brother and everyone in this facility safe. You do what you have to do.”
Yadveer’s gaze rose back to mine, not a hint of sympathy in his eyes. “As you wish.”