FATED DESPAIR EXCERPT
ANGEL’S FATE: BOOK 4
Deaglan’s demon-vampire hybrid slid his katana into Amiah’s chest and my world froze, the horrific moment burned into my mind.
It happened so quickly. One moment she was desperately trying to save Cassius by channeling an enormous amount of power stolen from the men around us — since her own reservoir had been mostly depleted — and the next, the hybrid had stabbed her.
I stumbled, caught my balance and pushed myself to run faster and reach her. I couldn’t stop. I had to get to her. I’d been running since Cassius’s throat had been slit and she’d started screaming, a soul-deep desperate wail.
Her eyes widened with surprise at the blade in her chest, her mouth open on a gasp, then the hybrid yanked his blade out and her impossible power exploded into a blazing golden light. It overwhelmed her unnatural full-body fae glow and blazed from her eyes with the unmistakable magic of an angelic mating brand.
For a second, I hoped that somehow, even though the brand was newly formed and she wasn’t supposed to be able to, she’d be able to draw life force from her mate and it would save her.
I didn’t care which one of us she bonded with, so long as she survived. I didn’t even care if it was me.
But then she cried out and the golden light blazed in the hybrid’s eyes.
He was her mate?
How the fuck was he her mate?
“What did you do?” the hybrid gasped, his expression as stunned as hers.
The brand’s magic swelled. The leash spell binding me and Amiah shattered in my chest making me stumble, and another, more powerful spell exploded between the hybrid and Deaglan.
Just like the last time I’d seen a vampire get branded, the power of the forming angelic mating brand severed any other bonds that weren’t soul bonds between the two recipients.
Guess the hybrid wasn’t a part of Deaglan’s team of his own free will. Which was good, because if he was well and truly Deaglan’s man, we were fucked.
Deaglan snarled, his expression a mix of rage and shock, and flew out of the hole in the roof. His men, those who were still alive, ran screaming from the cavern.
I dropped my light spell, throwing the Summer Court’s luminous cave garden into deep shadows. The glow from the luminescent rocks and moss and algae was weak in comparison to the light I’d summoned to prevent Deaglan’s shadow fae assassins from jumping between shadows, but I kept running, trusting my vision to quickly grow accustomed to the darkness.
I knew agony burned through me. It had for the entire fight with Deaglan and his men because I’d had to maintain the light spell, but I couldn’t feel anything. All of me — all of my senses, my thoughts, my soul — was focused on Amiah, her hands pressed to her chest, her blood rushing between her fingers and soaking into her beige cotton shirt, and her eyes wide with horror.
It didn’t matter that her soul was now bonded to the hybrid. I had to get to her.
Hawk screamed and bolted toward her, and Titus was close at his heels.
She crumpled to the ground, and the hybrid continued to stare at her, his expression still shocked, her blood dripping from his katana.
“What did you do?” he asked again, as if he couldn’t get his mind to move past their sudden, horrifying soul bond.
Titus snarled and swiped at him with his claws and my heart leaped into my throat.
“Don’t kill him,” I yelled. “She’s branded him. They’re soul bonded. You kill him, you kill her.”
Titus’s golden gaze jerked to me, then he closed his hand at the last second and slammed his fist into the hybrid’s face instead of ripping out his throat.
The hybrid didn’t even defend himself. I wasn’t even sure if he was aware Titus was there. He never looked away from Amiah until Titus’s punch knocked him down, and, even clearly dazed from the blow, he strained to keep his eyes on her as the big dragon pinned him to the ground, the hybrid’s body under Titus’s knees and the hybrid’s head captured under a big hand.
Amiah gasped, the pool of blood shockingly large for the few seconds she’d been down. She needed to heal herself. Why wasn’t she healing herself?
Right. Fuck. Cassius. She’d been channeling all her magic and the magic she’d torn from Deaglan’s men into Cassius.
Hawk dropped to his knees beside her and cupped her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him, although I was too far away to actually tell if she was able to focus on him.
“Come on, Amiah. Heal yourself. You’ve got a bit of power left. Use it. Please use it,” he begged. “Please heal yourself.”
I barreled past them and scrambled up the three shallow jagged shelves at the back of the cavern where the key to unlocking Faerie’s Heart had become empowered, and where Cassius was bleeding out—
Please let him still be alive. God, please. Don’t do that to her.
I dropped to my knees beside Cassius, not caring I was in a pool of his blood or that the agony in my body was making me shake, and pressed my hands over his heart. I just needed to sense a glimmer of magic inside him. That’s all I needed to keep him alive.
I couldn’t heal him. But I could cast a hibernation spell and freeze him in time until Amiah could save his life.
But only if he was still alive.
And only if I could survive channeling that kind of magic.
There. A small, barely lit glimmer of power in his heart. It would take Amiah a massive amount of magic just to bring him back. She’d need to be fully recovered to save him, but she could save him.
I’d make sure of that.
So long as I didn’t kill myself.
“Amiah, please!” Hawk cried, his voice breaking with desperation, making my heart clench.
I didn’t know how he’d managed to fall in love with her so quickly. They barely knew each other. But the impossible had happened and Hawk’s heart belonged to Amiah. And no one knew if an incubus who’d lost his lover could remain sane. Being in love was thought to be genetically impossible and on those extremely rare occasions when it did happen, it was considered a mental disorder.
What I did know from his heartbreaking pleas was that if she didn’t save herself, he’d let himself starve to death. Yes, he’d known she and Cassius were going to end up in a traditional angelic monogamous relationship, but she’d still be alive. She’d be happy and have what she desired. That might have been enough for him to keep on living.
But her death was going to break him and he was one of the strongest people I knew.
“Come on, Amiah. Please.”
Convince her. Please, God, convince her to live.
Because I could save Cassius. I had to save him. I just needed to focus.
I shut Hawk out. I shut everything out, all the pain, the fear, and the anger, and reached for my connection with Faerie’s primal magic.
The demonic magic that wasn’t supposed to be inside me, that I couldn’t get out, blazed the strongest it ever had, and scorched through my magical channels and veins, setting every nerve on fire.
Everything within me begged me to stop, and yet my soul begged me to keep going.
I was in love with Amiah, too.
It was crazy. I swore I’d never fall in love again, thought she was frustrating and annoying and uptight—
Until she hadn’t been any more. Until she’d let down her walls and let me in, and God, I wanted to keep what we had. Her, me, and Hawk. Hell, if Titus and Cassius wanted to join in, that would be great too, but all of it would be gone if Cassius died.
His death would shatter her and I didn’t know if the rest of us would be enough to get her through that, especially with her unwanted angelic mating brand permanently bonding her with someone who’d tried to kill her at least once and who she knew nothing about.
God, she’d done everything, had a chunk ripped out of her soul to get rid of it, and it had still formed.
Maybe it wasn’t a real bond. Maybe all the power she’d been impossibly channeling had bonded her to the hybrid when he’d stabbed her and, once I’d regained my full power — if I ever regain my power — I’d be able to break it for her.
I captured the small thread of fae magic that should have been a torrent coming through my connection and spun it into the hibernation spell, twisting my intention over and over again, creating the spell from scratch because I didn’t have it tattooed on my body.
It needed to be strong. It needed to hold without me having to keep pushing power into it, because after this, I was summoning the man who’d failed Amiah and owed her for a job he apparently hadn’t done, and casting that would likely be one spell too many.
Already the fire of uncontrolled magic burned in my chest, my will weakened from constantly fighting the demonic magic and having to keep casting spells day after day.
I strained to stay in control.
Just a little more. I could do this. I could survive this. I could have my Amiah, the Amiah who wasn’t heartbroken over the death of a man she loved, the one who wanted to explore her desires, and who somehow magically connected with me during sex.
My willpower stuttered and the weak thread of fae magic stuttered with it, losing shape and burning into my body.
I gritted my teeth and yanked the thread back into the ball that only I, and maybe Hawk because he was a Sensitive, could see. I was almost done.
The spell and my focus.
I just needed a little more.
Another stutter and another flash of fire that threatened to consume me from the inside out.
I pushed the last bit of power into the hibernation spell, making it flare to life, and released it in Cassius’s chest before my power burned me up. The spell activated and I let go of my magic.
Smoke billowed from my hands and forearms like Cassius with his fire, except I wasn’t fireproof like the angel. I sagged forward, gasping, the demonic magic screaming through me. But it hadn’t killed me. Thank God.
Just one more spell. That was all I needed to do and she’d be safe… or rather safer.
God, Deaglan knew she had one of the keys to freeing the powerful magic of Faerie’s Heart. He’d be coming after her, and I could only pray the others would be able to hide her long enough for her to recover. Because after this, there was no way I’d be able to protect her.
“Hawk, is she stable?” I asked, dragging my attention back to the horrific scene, her laying in a pool of blood, Hawk staring into eyes only partially open, and Titus pinning her newly bonded mate to the ground, his teeth bared.
“She will be,” he said, and he pressed his lips to hers.
The pressure of his power, the weight I felt because of my magical sensitivity, swelled, and he shoved his magic in Amiah.
He was giving her his life force, something she told him never to do again. Incubi and succubi consumed life force through a person’s sexual energy and, unbeknownst to most people, could also give it back.
He could give her enough magic to maybe heal her, in the very least stabilize her, but if he gave too much, he’d kill himself.
And I needed him to help get all of us out of there. Titus had a hold on the hybrid for now, but if he decided to fight back it would be a struggle to contain him and move both Amiah and Cassius. Especially since my next spell could incapacitate me.
Amiah gasped and her fae glow flared, but she didn’t open her eyes, and Hawk trembled, the pressure of his power rushing out of him, weakening his essence.
He was going to give her everything.
Of course he was. He was in love with her.
“Hawk, stop.” I staggered off the shelves and, with a strength I didn’t realize I had left, yanked him away from her.
We both fell back, landing on our butts, and the demonic magic snapped and sliced into me.
“Did I save her?” he gasped before his eyes rolled back, and he collapsed.
My sense of his power flickered and vanished.
Fuck fuck fuck.
He’d given her too much. He needed an infusion of sexual energy or he’d die, and I was God damned not going to let him or anyone die. I crawled to him, pressed my lips to his, and imagined I was kissing Amiah, since while I found Hawk attractive — everyone in all the realms would find him attractive — he didn’t turn me on like a woman did. Like Amiah did.
Except thinking about kissing her made me glance at her and her too-pale skin and her barely-there breaths, and chilled any desire I might have had.
Think of something else. Anything else.
The demonic magic sliced deeper, making my breath short sharp pants.
I struggled to focus. I needed to forget everything and get turned on. Just for the duration of the kiss.
Hell, this would probably turn Amiah on. She’d just love to see this. Me lip-locked with Hawk when I’d been adamant he wasn’t my type. Everything else with her and sex had been surprising, I’d bet she’d be into this too. She’d loved it when Hawk watched me make love to her. Hell, she’d loved it when I’d watched her give me a blow job.
Her pupils had dilated, turning into dark bottomless pools surrounded by brilliant blue, glowing sky. I bet they’d go big and dark again, eager to watch us kiss, eager to explore this new dynamic. I had no idea how she’d managed to keep her vow of celibacy for over a hundred years. I think I would have lost my mind. But now that her self-imposed drought was over, it was clear she wanted it all, and I wanted to give it to her.
The memory of her face when I’d first pushed inside her tight slick sheath filled my mind. Her eyes had rolled back, her lashes had fluttered shut for a second, and her expression had been pure bliss. Her cold angelic mask and her desperate need to control everything had been forgotten and she’d let me glimpse the real her. The Amiah I’d fallen in love with.
Hawk groaned into my mouth and captured the back of my head, deepening our kiss and sending a sliver of magic into me to strengthen my desire and give him a bigger hit of sexual energy.
I clung to the memory of Amiah, determined not to pay attention to who I was kissing or the acidic burn of the demonic magic consuming me for fear I’d lose some of my desire.
I focused on all of the delicious sounds she’d made, her cry of release, my name on her lips, and her gasps and moans as she drew closer to the edge. From the first time I’d had her, I’d fantasized about having her again. I hadn’t had a lover release her hold on everything like that in a long time, and coming from Amiah, it had been shocking and amazing. And then when we’d had sex to save Hawk’s life, I’d started fantasizing about the three of us, but hadn’t really thought she’d be into that. I hadn’t thought she’d be into blow jobs either.
She just kept surprising me. I wanted more surprises. I wanted to get through this mess with the Heart and have her naked in my bed. With or without Hawk. I didn’t care. Hell, I didn’t even care if she was naked. I just wanted her, wanted her around, wanted her determination and caring.
Except that would never happen. It wouldn’t even happen with Hawk or Titus or Cassius added to the mix.
Her soul had bound her to the hybrid, giving me serious doubts about the belief that an angel’s soul mate wouldn’t be fundamentally different from her.
What if that was just a myth, like how beautiful the bond was? Amiah had been terrified of it, saw it as a prison that she had to escape from where all other angels thought it was beautiful and sacred. What if being bound to her perfect match was also a lie?
Hawk pulled away from me, his chest heaving with rapid breaths, his hellfire blazing in his eyes. “I didn’t think I was your type.”
“If it’ll get Amiah out of here, everyone is my type,” I groaned, the pain of the demonic magic flaring. “Did you save her?”
Hawk ripped open the cut in the front of her blood-soaked shirt to get a better look at her stab wound. She didn’t react, her eyelashes didn’t even flutter, but she was breathing. Barely, but she was.
“She’s still bleeding, but it’s no longer gushing. Hopefully my magic has healed the worst of it.” He turned a furious gaze on the hybrid, jerked to his feet, staggered then caught his balance.
I grabbed Hawk’s wrist, stopping him, sending agony screaming through me. “We’ll deal with him later. Get Cassius.”
Hawk’s expression turned grim.
“Did she save him?” Titus asked, his pupils slitted and his canines extended. He trembled, and from his expression it was from barely contained panic and rage.
“He’s barely alive and I’ve put him in hibernation. She’ll need all her power to heal him.” I gasped in a painful breath and met Titus’s gaze then Hawk’s. “We don’t tell her about him until she’s fully healed herself.”
“But thinking he’s dead will crush her,” Hawk replied, heaving to his feet and heading to the shelves where Cassius lay.
“And we all know she’ll kill herself trying to save him. She ran into the middle of a fight for fuck’s sake.” The demonic magic flared and the cavern got even darker.
Fuck. Just stay conscious. Just a little longer.
“Cassius is safe,” I said through gritted teeth. “Even if I die, the hibernation spell will hold.”
“You’re not fucking dying,” Hawk said. “No one is dying.”
“We still need to get out of here.” I turned to the hybrid, the little bit of movement shooting agony through me. He still wasn’t fighting Titus’s grip and he still looked stunned. “Hey, hybrid. Does Deaglan know about my apartment in the mortal realm?”
“No,” he replied, his voice barely more than a whisper, his attention never leaving Amiah.
The always-on intention glyph tattooed on the inside of my right thigh didn’t respond. Shit. The spell needed an emotional lock on him to work and he was either really good at hiding his emotions, or I was in too much pain to know if he was lying or not.
God damn it.
“If you’re lying, I’ll put you in hibernation and forget about you,” I said, trying to get enough of an emotional reaction for my glyph to work.
“Yes, your highness,” the hybrid replied.
Titus snarled and put more pressure on the guy’s head.
Just fucking great, and we really didn’t have the time to keep pressing him. I wanted out of Faerie before things got worse, and in Faerie things could always get worse. Even if Deaglan didn’t know about my apartment, it still wasn’t guaranteed to be safe, but it was the only place where I knew for certain there was a circle with a barrier strong enough to keep the hybrid captive until we could figure out what to do with him.
“If I pass out, demand Karthick portal you back to my apartment and put Talkative here in my clean room and activate the barrier glyph on the circle,” I said as Hawk climbed the shallow shelves to Cassius, his movements not nearly as nimble as usual, meaning he wasn’t even close to having gotten his power back from our kiss.
I dragged in a painful breath and turned away from Titus and the hybrid.
This was going to hurt. A lot. I pressed my hands to the ground and grabbed the barely-there thread of fae magic inside me.
The connection was even weaker than it had been a few minutes ago. Every time I used my magic the demonic magic got stronger and pushed out more of Faerie’s magic, and I had a horrible feeling this final spell was going to push all of Faerie out of me. If I didn’t burn up right away, I’d die the drawn-out, painful death of a fae cut off from his realm.
And it didn’t matter. Amiah had to get out of Faerie.
I tugged on my connection and the demonic magic surged, tearing through my body and threatening my hold on my power and my consciousness. Fire burned under my skin and I started to smoke.
Come on. Just one last spell.
Just one more.
I heaved everything I had into my hands and with a scream, shoved the power into the ground and demanded Faerie, not just one of its courts, but the entire realm, summon Karthick. He would come and he would come now. I was a royal and a sorcerer. My connection to Faerie was stronger than most fae and so was my ability to command it.
Please work. Please, God, work.
The burning darkness of the demonic magic roared into my cells and flames burst over my forearms. My blood rushed over the ground around my hands as my skin blistered, burst, and blackened.
One of the guys yelled, but with the roaring in my head and the agony in my body, I couldn’t tell which one.
I tipped forward, gasping, and the inferno inside me burned up my biceps and across my chest, drawing closer to my heart even though I was no longer pushing power into the spell.
It was cast. I could only hope Karthick wouldn’t resist and would answer. He’d be pissed. No one, not even the monarchs of any of the courts, dared summon him like that, but I was out of options.
It hurt to breathe or move or hell, even think. Somehow — I had no idea how — I was still alive. Barely, but I was alive. Every inch of me blazed with agony, and while not all of my outside had second- and third-degree burns, most of my magical insides did.
Please come. Please help us.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Hawk demanded, his voice close and yet far away at the same time.
The power of a portal popped against my senses, and a pressure that had been squeezing around my heart released.
Oh, thank God.
I forced myself to sit up and face what was sure to be an angry sorcerer. The room darkened and each breath, each miniscule movement of my muscles, sliced agony through me. I fought to stay conscious. I just had to make Karthick help us. That was all that was left to do.
“You actually summoned me?” Karthick asked his voice thick with disgust at receiving a royal summons. “Oh, high and mighty prince of the Winter—”
His gaze landed on me, and the short, squat summer fae’s eyes widened, and his attention jerked to the cavern around him and the shadow fae bodies littering the ground.
The cavern’s weak illumination grew even darker and I clutched at my consciousness.
Just stay awake. Just long enough to save her.
“You owe her,” I forced out before Karthick could ask for an explanation. I didn’t have enough in me to answer questions. I just needed to get her safe. “She paid you to take her brand and she’s still soul bonded. With Deaglan’s hybrid.”
She was God damned bonded with a stranger. The very thing she was terrified of.
Karthick frowned. “Well I can’t remove an angelic bond once it’s formed.”
“Which was why you were supposed to have gotten rid of her fucking brand.” And now it was going to make her fall in love with the hybrid and not me. Fuck. “Pay your debt, Karthick. Portal us to my apartment in the mortal realm.”
Karthick’s attention turned to Amiah and the pressure of his magic crushed inside my chest, adding to my agony.
I clenched my jaw, but a whimper escaped, jerking Karthick’s gaze back to me.
“I don’t know if Faerie will let her go through a portal to another realm,” Karthick said. He almost sounded apologetic.
Well he should. And while I recognized it wasn’t completely fair to be angry at him, that angelic mating brands were a magical force all their own that no one really understood, I couldn’t help myself. Everything had gotten worse because he hadn’t gotten rid of her brand. She wasn’t even going to fall in love with Cassius. I might have been able to get over that. But the hybrid? How the hell could she be soul bonded to the hybrid?
I heaved my thoughts back to the real issue. “She can’t stay in Faerie. It’s not safe.”
The demonic magic sliced deeper, cutting into the core of my being and my connection to Faerie shrunk to a miniscule pinprick. I was running out of time.
“You owe her.” I gasped. “I’m calling in your debt. Break her connection… and get us… all of us… the fuck out of here.”
“She’s too weak. Breaking her connection will kill her.”
God damn it.
“Then block it.”
“Blocking it will only buy you so much time. Faerie will summon her back and she won’t be able to resist.”
I knew that, but it was all we had. “Just fucking do it.”
I couldn’t force Karthick to do anything. On a good day, if I got lucky, I might have been a match for him, but this wasn’t a good day. It hadn’t been a good day for a long fucking time.
And if we stayed in Faerie, we were dead.