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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Hellooooo everyone!! First, thanks for your feedback this week, and I hope you enjoyed our little visit from the vamps on Monday. Second, the Taming Fire finale will be split into two parts. This is part one and I'll post the other when it's ready. :) Also, look forward to some more Hedgewater on Sunday.
All of that out of the way, I hope you like TF part 1!! I'm off to enjoy the rest of my night before I go back to work tomorrow. Sleep well or good morning/afternoon... wherever you might be.
All of that out of the way, I hope you like TF part 1!! I'm off to enjoy the rest of my night before I go back to work tomorrow. Sleep well or good morning/afternoon... wherever you might be.
TAMING FIRE: FINALE PART 1
“Xavier!” Emile screamed out to the open space around him. He felt as though he were falling through an endless tunnel. The air was so cold it pricked at his skin. “Xavier!”
The man he loved… Where was Xavier?
Emile heard his name in a faint reply. His eyes shut; he was too tired to keep them open anymore. His chest burned where the cross lay flush with his skin.
“Xavier,” he choked, realizing smoke drifted up his nose.
Hands lifted him from under his shoulders. Relief came in the form of soft feathers wrapping around his body. They chased away the burn in his lungs and the smoke trying to grab at his body.
“Hang on, little one.”
“Don’t give up now. Your time is short. Make the best of it,” Lim’s whisper reached his ear before Emile hit hard ground. “Show him love. Show them all.”
Confused, achy, and coughing, Emile struggled to roll off of his back and sit up. Blinking a few times, Emile saw stars. All around him, hovering close to his face and body, tiny stars moved with a single touch of his hand. When he looked down, Emile froze. Underneath him was nothing but space. He put his hand down to test if what he was seeing was real.
An unseen barrier blocked his hand from reaching out to a formation of purple and orange gas, shining bright in contrast to the black of space. “Holy shit,” he breathed.
That’s when he remembered Xavier. If Emile was here, thousands of miles away from earth, a pinprick of a planet underneath him, then where was his love? Emile got to his feet, keeping his arms out for balance in case the barrier didn’t hold. Astounded, he found his feet firmly planted, suspended over the universe like a god of men.
“Did you think we would war before mortal men, who could hardly begin to comprehend what their eyes were seeing?”
Chills went up Emile’s spine. He rotated to see Lucifer in his true demonic form, seated on a throne of blood and flame. Thick, rosy liquid trickled from his mighty chair, pooling around his large, bare feet. Flames scattered under his touch, sending ashes into the black nothingness around them. His horns gleamed, curling up and away from his head.
Fire danced in the devil’s eyes, entrancing Emile until he swayed uneasily. “W-where is Xavier?”
Lucifer snapped his fingers. A figure began to emerge out of thin air next to Emile. On his knees, Xavier came into focus and coughed until he was hoarse. Black smoke was expunged from his lungs via his mouth, rolling into the arena-like atmosphere.
Emile dropped to his knees, patting Xavier on the back. “It’s okay. I’m here.” He grabbed Xavier’s hand, hauling him to his feet.
He welcomed the half-breed’s desperate embrace and nuzzled his nose in Xavier’s shoulder. “Where are we?”
Xavier swallowed against Emile’s shoulder. “Limbus,” he whispered. “The edge of hell and the edge of heaven, it is a place of judgment for those who question their faith and loyalties.”
“No. Worse.” Xavier pulled away. “Much worse.”
“It is here where demons and angels have the right to battle for souls yet to be decided of their own free will. It is the only place in all of my creation where he may have that right, though I should mention he has yet to be victorious.”
The men turned to find the Creator seated on a throne of white. Upon closer inspection, Emile found the seat to be made of white rose petals that fell away in a gentle breeze, causing the floral fragrance to drift to him. The scent was the same his grandmother used to wear; the scent that haunted him and at the same time gave him strength. It wasn’t a coincidence. He knew that as he met the Creator’s eyes.
“Some theorize Lucifer created sin and tempted Eve to take the fruit, but the truth is, I did not create man in perfection as I did my angels. I created man with such infancy, so that they would grow and learn with their own free will. Lucifer had no part in her decision. He had yet to fall from grace, no matter how much he boasts it was he who tempted her.”
The Creator looked through Emile, at Lucifer. Xavier and Emile watched the interaction, sensing tension thick in the air. “He was so beautiful and perfect, my angel, my son of morning. I gave him power and free will as I did his brothers and sisters, but because of his beauty, he became arrogant and spiteful. He wished to exalt his throne above the stars of his father – to be more powerful than me and rule them all.” The Creator’s lips twitched into a smile. He elegantly glided from his throne; yards of ethereal white trailed behind him, creating a robe befitting the universal entity.
“It may be true that here you sit, Lucifer, on a throne in the stars.” The Creator stopped. Amusement touched his ocean blue eyes. “But what you fail to realize, what you’ve always been too blind to see, is your throne will never ascend above this point or above myself, for everything you see is of my own making. I am power. I am everything. I am you. Do you not see, Lucifer? You cannot rise above me.”
Enraged, Lucifer slammed a clawed fist on his throne. Flames burst from his hand, licking his skin. “My fire will consume every man, woman, and child. I will never stop fighting for the souls of my people.”
“My people,” the Creator roared. His robes billowed around him in anger. His eyes bled white. He raised a hand to Lucifer. “You wicked fool, your deceit and lies are no match for the power of my love. When they are scared do they pray for you to save them? When a miracle occurs, do they bless your name? Where do they chant your title and praise the works of your kingdom? Where are these men you rule, Lucifer?”
“It is quite simple. You have none.” The Creator dropped his hand, calming the swarm of fabric around him. “You have nothing but regret to show for your actions. It is why you bring this boy here, because he sees through you and yours. No matter his shortcomings or trials he has always turned to me. And through me, others turn to him. You are bitter one of yours has become enthralled by him, seeking the beautiful light inside of him. You cannot let go because you are greedy and need to have the last word, even though there is nothing else to say. It is why we are here, in this place of trial. You wish to condemn this boy to a life of hellfire as punishment for leading your sheep astray. To let him live would make you look weak in the eyes of your followers.”
The Creator rumbled, lifting his hands above his head. “But that sheep has the right to choose. He has the right to see the glory of my love versus the pain you offer up.” Dropping his hands in a rush, the Creator sighed. Behind him the stars glowed until an angel appeared from each and every one.
Hundreds of wings spanned over the magnificent galaxy before him. Beings with light coming from inside of them stood tall, shining down upon them all. The Creator’s army was more perfect than any word written attempting to describe them in the bible.
Emile’s breath left him. He had no strength to stand before such a sight. His knees hit the barrier and his eyes welled with tears of wonder. Lim burned brighter than the rest, kneeling before his father with a sword at his hip. He turned his eyes to Emile with a smile; a knowing look transpiring such love and care.
The Creator extended his hands again. “I claim that sheep as my child, now, then, and forevermore. I open my arms for him to come. Strike against him and I will allow him to use his love and anger upon you.”
Emile looked up at Xavier. He couldn’t read the emotions on his face, but it was clear Xavier knew who the Creator was speaking of. That sheep was a confused half-breed caught in the middle of a never ending war. No matter how stuck Xavier was, Emile knew no amount of standing there and hearing how much he was loved, by a man he didn’t know, would make Xavier give in. Emile knew what came next. He knew how to make Xavier see. He was certain of his purpose when he heard the first scream. It gave him the courage and the fire he needed to follow through.
Lucifer gripped a figure by the neck, rising from his throne. “What of this, almighty liar? What of this worthless creature my power conjured out of thin air?”
An army of darkness rolled in on a wave of fire. Demons stepped through an invisible wall, surrounding their leader. Hooves and claws, some with no faces and disfigured bodies, and some with skin so dark they blended into the pit of space, Lucifer’s demons were ready for battle. Among them was Bee, striding forward in his true form. He made no point in hiding himself in this realm, clacking his claws together eagerly.
“Yes, Creator, what of this?” Bee ripped his claws down Botis’s back.
“No,” Emile whispered. “Xavier, stop him.”
“Oh, Xavier,” Bee mocked. “Yes, stop me, half-breed. I dare you.” The Prince of Hell stuck his claws deep into Botis’s gut. Botis screamed. His reptilian tongue darted out of his open mouth. His red eyes sought help from his friends.
“You can’t do that! He had no choice how he came to be! You don’t own him,” Emile growled. The cross around his chest burned through his shirt, leaving charred pieces to fall away.
Bee threw his head back and laughed. The sound cut Emile to the core; a hopeless effort was what it sounded like. However, Emile was determined to never know Botis’s screams again. The conjured demon was innocent. He loved or was capable of having a heart. He’d helped both Xavier and him when he could have made things worse and went to Bee. Botis only sided with Lucifer because he thought he had nowhere else to go. He was stuck, but he didn’t have to be.
“Botis!” Emile dashed forward, only to be dragged back by Xavier. The half-breed wrestled him into the middle of the arena again. “No, you don’t understand. I know what I have to do!”
“And what is that, mortal?”
Xavier blew out a slow breath. He looked up to see his father standing tall in front of his army, a many legion militant structure meant for causing chaos the likes of which a human military could never conceive. “Don’t answer him, Emile.”
“This is the boy, the one you have demon touched?” Bael pulled his swords from his belt. Fire leapt up both blades.
“It’s not what you think,” Xavier murmured, feeling backed into a corner. His father, the man he had looked up to his entire life, was going to dismiss him for good and make him an enemy if he lasted through the next hour.
“You’ve made your mark upon him and still you don’t take his soul! What am I not understanding…half-breed?”
“Father!” Xavier jumped to his feet, eyes begging for mercy. “I didn’t take his soul because half of it was mine all along.”
Hushed silence fell over Lucifer’s side. If looks could kill mankind, Lucifer’s would have destroyed all of earth. He rose, still gripping Botis’s throat as if the demon was nothing more than a rag doll.
“Impossible!” Stars rattled around the demon king. “You are mine!”
Bael’s fierce expression fell away as Lucifer approached his son. Emile’s words rang in Bael’s head. Xavier, his son, never had a choice. None of this was his fault, instead destiny’s decision to make him one with the mortal at his side. Neither his son, nor the human… they didn’t deserve Lucifer’s anger.
“My king,” Bael shouted over the maelstrom of fire. “My king, stop!”
Lucifer cranked his head to the side, whipping his eyes to Bael. “You dare tell me what to do, underling?”
“Underling?” Bael scraped his blades over the invisible flooring beneath his feet. “I, Bael, commander of the darkest army in all of hell, am your underling?”
“Those who speak out against their king are underlings,” Lucifer hissed, throttling Botis to make his point. “Do you not speak against my actions, Bael?”
Closing his eyes briefly, Bael knew come hell or high water Xavier was his blood. No matter his station or his king, the dark commander would never allow Lucifer to touch his family. His decision made, Bael cast a glare full of intent at Lucifer.
“Anyone who touches my son with the intent to kill is no king to me.” Bael pointed his sword at Lucifer.
Xavier pushed Emile back, fear in his eyes. Every demon watched their king pad over the barrier floor to Bael. Lucifer dropped Botis at Bael’s feet. Botis wheezed, reaching out a clawed hand to Emile and Xavier. Everything slowed – time, thoughts, and words. The lines between good and evil seemed to blur, as did the empty space between sides. Somewhere in that rift of a moment, as angels lifted their swords to greet the bodies of their enemies, and the king of hell lifted his flaming hands to Bael standing tall before his shadowy legions, Emile saw his opportunity.
With one act of kindness, a selfless pledge of his love, Emile would change the structure of heaven and hell. His eyes slid to the Creator, standing still amongst a guard of angels. The heavenly king nodded at him. A tear fell from Emile’s eye. He grabbed Xavier’s hand, yanking him to attention.
“For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, and whosoever believeth in him, shall have everlasting life. Remember what came next,” Emile whispered and let Xavier’s hand go.
“Emile, stop!” Xavier started to run, but was shoved into the melee. “Emile!”
The mortal lifted his face to the stars and yelled, “For you and all those like you, the ones without a choice, the ones undecided of who is most high, I give myself to death to show you his undying power and sacrifice. Have faith in him and you will always know love.” Emile’s voice echoed around the arena, filling every ear with his powerful last words.
“Emile!” Xavier screamed.
Sucked into the battle, Emile let his cross guide him. A wave of holy supremacy occupied his body, riding out the Creator’s plans as if Emile knew them all by heart. In his last seconds of life, Emile threw himself between Bael and Lucifer, kicking Botis out of the way so that he would be free of the storm; free to live and choose.
Emile counted his last breaths. He was stifled for air as the heat kicked up. Even though Xavier’s father was strong and a commander of the worst beings in all of hell, Lucifer was stronger. For Xavier, Emile would protect Bael, a demon who thought he was worthless because he was human; just another soul to reap. The message would be sent. Xavier would choose. They would all stop to think. His job would be fulfilled.
Heat wafted at Emile, rolling off the devil’s body. It licked at his skin and Emile felt it this time. He felt real flames instead of those fabricated out of his own fears. This was no trick. He felt every soul trapped in the underworld with every searing burn to his body. He wept as sweat rained over his face. And still he did not move from that spot between two vicious beings. Only his hands, guided by the cross around his neck, reached up as Lucifer bent down.
Emile and Lucifer touched for the first time. The human’s hands around Lucifer’s horns and the demon’s hands around Emile’s cross, they both began to glow. They screamed. Emile, through his cries of torment, looked Lucifer in the eye.
“They love, like any child loves their father or like any father loves his child. They love, you’re so called followers.” Emile let out a strangled cry. His palms began to scorch under the heat of Lucifer’s horns like a hot iron. “And you’re no one’s father or child. You’d have to have a heart. That’s why you lose, Lucifer.”
Lucifer roared, pushing all of his hate and influence into Emile’s fragile mortal body. Bael reached out for the human who had tried to protect him.
There one second and gone the next, bursting apart into miniscule pieces, Emile’s body ceased to exist under Lucifer’s power.
Bael’s hand went through the air, catching only bits of glittering dust that scattered across the sky as it fell away. He looked up into the eyes of his master, his former master, and was surprised to see Lucifer’s pride and joy, his horns, fall away from his scalp. Blood welled, leaking over Lucifer’s forehead.
The horns clattered to the barrier beneath them, rolling awkwardly to a stop at Xavier’s feet. Xavier sucked in a shaky, angry, unfathomable breath. His glare warranted death to the demon he targeted. He clenched his smoking fists, both of them brewing fire and he didn’t even notice. He lifted his hands and roared, causing every being around him to take a step back. He only had eyes for Lucifer. He only felt pain at the thought of what had just happened. He couldn’t bear this pain!
The battle put on pause due to Xavier’s earth shattering anger, he flung his head back and screamed Emile’s name. The agony in his body was nothing compared to the throb in his heart. His love was nothing but dust, blown to the corners of the universe. He would never hold his Emile again, however briefly he’d been gifted in the past week. He’d never hear that beautiful voice reach his ears. Xavier would never say those three little words to the only person in the world he’d ever think to say them to.
Something burrowed out of his body, ripping the flesh around his spine. Wet with blood, but glowing bright around the tips, black wings expanded to either side of his body. Both of his eyes bled white. Behind him he felt the Creator near. For the first time in life, Xavier listened to his heart above the hate he’d been programmed to believe.
Emile had sacrificed himself for a demon, Xavier’s father, regardless of how Bael felt about him.
Emile had believed in the Creator until the very end. He had an unrivaled faith and a heart bigger than his body could contain.
Emile’s love for him stemmed from his love for the Creator.
The same holy being of Emile’s faith stood at Xavier’s back, caressing his feathers with a comforting touch, something Lucifer would never do.
Xavier bent down and picked up Lucifer’s horns; a last gift from his beautiful Emile. The moment they touched his hands, they’re dark exterior lengthened into two sharp swords. Twisting around his wrists, the hollowed ends became grips for his hands.
“I have chosen my loyalties.” Xavier took a step forward, dragging his new blades across the ground. White fire sparked to life, pouring from his wrists down his weapons. “And they will never lie with you.”
“Choose,” he screamed to the demons around him. “Choose him and I will come after every last one of you! After I deal with him first…”
The demons looked to one another. Some laughed. Others cowered in the recesses of the dark. Some were filled with curiosity.
Lucifer cackled. “I shall grow new horns, half-breed. Your new toys won’t bring my children to him.”
“Wanna bet?” Xavier blurred forward, wings flapping and raining blood on whoever was near. His blades drove home in Lucifer’s chest, blasting white flames into the demon’s body. “He touched them,” Xavier whispered excitedly, half mad with grief. “Emile touched your horns.”
Lucifer’s mouth opened. His skin began to crack. “No,” he choked.
The devil realized Xavier was right. By wearing the disciple’s cross, Emile had left behind his faith, embedding his last ounce of love into Lucifer’s horns. The power was too much for Lucifer to handle, no matter how much he tried to fight it. His body caved, cracking all over until fiery red lines appeared on his skin.
Xavier twisted the blades, tears running down his face. “He loved me so much, he would give his life to protect my family, so I wouldn’t know that kind of suffering, his suffering; so I would always be able to look on my father and know he still has a choice in what to do with his life. He left behind such a powerful message, for me, and for them, your followers. He showed us all how weak you are. He showed us you are nothing.”
Xavier swallowed back his pain. “If you like your soulless hell so much, you can stay there forever.” He pushed the blades in up to the hilt.
Fire consumed Lucifer’s body. A beam of red light pierced the arena, spotlighting Lucifer. His body crumbled. His screams thundered through the air. Demons ran to their master from all directions, crying his name. They touched the light, one by one, and followed their master back to hell. When only half of them remained, the light disappeared through the floor as if it had never been there in the first place.
Xavier’s vengeful rage was swept away by the turmoil of his deeply rooted grief. Coiling around his wrists completely, his twin swords turned into cuffs. Their weight reminded him of the large whole in his heart.
Xavier didn’t realize he’d taken to his knees until he had to look up to see the person calling his name. His father, Bael, stood inches away from the Creator. The pair of them seemed so mismatched, Xavier didn’t begin to try and comprehend why they could bear to stand next to each other, much less combine their concern with matching expressions of sadness.
The Creator reached out a youthful, coffee-skinned hand. His Caribbean blue eyes churned with power and love, telling Xavier he was willing to bear some of the load. Xavier took his hand, and rose to his feet on solid ground. All around him angels began to enclose him within a circle, still allowing Bael and now Botis to remain.
“You cannot kill an immortal being,” Bael spoke first.
“I saw him…” Xavier sputtered, wiping his eyes.
“He is banished from earth for the remainder of his days, days that will never dwindle. Those who did not follow are now stuck between here and there.” The Creator wiped Xavier’s cheeks of tears. “They have been given the gift of choice just as you have. They may now discover within themselves whether they truly wish to follow the same path or to repent and love as Emile did you.”
Xavier keened, wobbling on his feet. “Don’t say his name.”
“Emile is dead, Xavier.” Bael laid a hand on his son’s shoulder, finalizing the moment Xavier had dreaded the most. “And because of him, I will fight for you, as he did for me. Never in my existence have I seen a mortal give up their life for one of us out of love and not because they were influenced, just because he didn’t think it was fair. It’s not fair. Why should I have to serve him when he offers us nothing but the promise of a soulless end? He does nothing for us, Xavier.”
“What are you saying?” Xavier turned his face away. All the life in his eyes was slowly fading away. He felt depleted, thirsty for Emile at his side. He couldn’t wrap his head around the truth. Emile was dead.
“He’s saying he’s seen the light, so to speak,” Elsanah interrupted.
Bael growled. “Don’t start with me, Elsie. Our kid’s human just…”
“The love of my life is gone!” Xavier pushed through the crowd. “He’s fucking gone!”
At the end of the arena, Xavier saw Bee plastered to the wall. The Prince of Hell was wicked, but seeing his father disappear, banished forever… It literally struck the fear of God into him. He quickly recovered, but only on the outside. Bee flashed his red eyes at Xavier, his father’s murderer, and summoned what forces he had left.
“You,” Xavier spat so hard he tasted blood on his bottom lip. “What do you choose for the death of Emile?”
Bee no longer had the power of his father with him. Whatever they’d done to Lucifer had cut his hell breathing battery down significantly. He had the backing of a hundred useless demons, most of who were still in shock, and his bad boy arrogant wit to get him by. Xavier saw right through Bee’s smirk. Every irate step Xavier took towards him, Bee’s grin diminished.
“I asked you a question.” With his broad black wings, feathers tipped in the Creator’s light, Xavier made no point in masking what he’d become from his worthless, former race. “And I won’t ask it again.”
He summoned his blades from his wrists. The motion came fluidly, without a thought. Someone deserved pain; a brand of pain only he knew at the moment.
“No,” Lim stopped him. “This is not the way.”
Pushing Lim away forcefully, Xavier snarled. “He will know what he’s done to me!”
“So will they, Xavier, they will see what happens next and ruin everything Emile stood for. Emile was able to see you for who you were and look past your darker parts. They deserve the chance, a single chance to right themselves and know the beauty of your Creator’s love just as much as you did. Kill him now and take away that spark of hope that dwells deep inside of them.” Lim appeared to Xavier, standing between him and Bee. “Remember that, Xavier…”
Remember that, Xavier thought. An inkling of Emile’s words panged his heart. The Creator sacrificed something precious to him long ago for the greater good; gone in body but not in spirit. Xavier finally understood. He took a step back, mystified. He was now a… and Emile was there. He had to be. Emile still had a soul.
“Let them go, Xavier.” Bael approached his son. “They aren’t worth it right now. Soon they’ll realize who they have to depend on for help and that will be a far more fitting punishment in the end.”
Bee crept back to the wall, summoning his way out. “But before you sneak away, Bee.” Lim smiled. “We will be watching. One chance is all you get.”
“Don’t even think of visiting daddy either.” Bael leaned forward. His shadow demons launched at Bee, stopping mere inches from touching the prince. “I command my own power, not his, and I’ll be watching, too.”
“One chance,” the Creator repeated, “to choose who you wish to serve. Continue on the path you have lived all of these years and my forgiveness will no longer be yours.”
Bee rallied his demons together. Abandoned by his father to earth and an army of angels, who was he now without Lucifer’s command? He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t want to stick around to find out from the Creator. They were being granted escape, even though he knew they were hardly safe judging by the look in Xavier’s eyes. The half breed was magnificent in his menacing, yet angelic glory. His wings matched those of the Archangels, bordering on the line between holy and terrifying. Xavier would not come back to them. He was the Creator’s now.
Bee had lost this round. Shamed and weak, his first thought as he led his army back through the arena portal was that of revenge. Whatever his fellow demons wanted to do was fine by him, but he would see his father free if it was the last thing he did. It would take time and a careful collection of power. But it would happen. One foot in the mortal world, and one foot in Limbus, Bee scowled over his shoulder, sending a hate-filled farewell to Xavier.
Xavier tilted his blade, playing flames along its length for Bee to see. “Next time I won’t show you any mercy.”
Bee grinned. “Until we meet again, angel.”
The portal sealed behind the demons. Silence hung in the air.
Gone was Lucifer’s bloody throne. Gone were the demons that followed their king back to hell. Gone were the Prince of Hell and his hoard, off to earth where they would plot again. Xavier didn’t know what to do or how to say the things he needed to get off of his chest. He simply couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t feel, or could he? Was he in pain or was he numb? Who was he without the other half of his soul? What happened now? Where did Emile go, up to heaven?
“I don’t…help me.” Xavier could feel Emile’s touch wrap around his wrists like a ghostly memory. The trace of Emile’s faith left behind on Xavier’s blades was all he had left.
“I have given you all the help you need because you asked your heart asked for it the moment Emile left the physical world.” The Creator moved out of the way. “By claiming me as yours, I claim you as mine. Never again will you know pain or suffering. Never again will you question who you are or why. You will only feel how much I love you, because you now know what love is.”
A small woman parted the crowd. Her long silver hair cascaded over his shoulders, down to her waist. Her gold eyes burned, touching something familiar inside of Xavier. The scent of her perfume flowed over him and he knew for sure who she was. She had to be.
She smiled warmly, reaching out a hand. Xavier shook his head. “I can’t take any more.”
“Ah, but I think you’ll enjoy this part. You’ve earned it, Xavier.” She folded her soft hand around his. “Have a little faith.”
Guided by Emile’s grandmother, Rosalind, Xavier walked between the angels and his father’s army. He stopped once he reached the mystery portal and glanced at the Creator one last time. His heart twisted, burning his chest. “Is he happy? Is Emile happy where he is?”
The Creator smiled. “Go and find out for yourself.”
Pulled through the portal, eyes wide with hope, Xavier let himself fall through the air. Time and space collided. He closed his eyes and smiled. All he could feel was love. All he could smell were flowers. All he could hear was the Creator’s whisper, telling him everything would be just fine.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, even if it wasn't a holiday for you. It was nice to hear everyone's opinions on what series to start next. I missed seeing all of your comments these past few months. So, that was pretty neat. :)
As most of you guessed, the next series will be:
A VAMPIRE STORY!!!
I've been messing around with the title of the series and I've officially decided to go with The Second City Tales. Each story will be around 100 pages long... maybe a little longer if I get really into it. In reality they won't technically be shorts, but more like novellas. So please don't think you're in for a super whirlwind of mini-stories. lol
I know some of you were a little worried about the addition of more vampires on top of the Guardian cast in my other series. Fear not! This series will be entirely separate, save for a few minor characters from the other series to glue them together in the same world. The Second City boys might visit some of the same places and have a phone conversation or a meeting with the Guardians and company from time to time, but I assure you this will take place in their own community.
I really wanted to delve into the other side of the vampire world I created. I wanted to take a closer look at the Second City Oliver put together, the dealers, street life for a human turned vampire, and what everyday life was like for those that didn't live at the compound.
That said, I'm happy to announce the first Second City Tale will start at the end of July and will be titled Shelter Me. The story will follow Greg, a SC shelter employee in the heart of Soho, and Trey, an ex dealer running from his dirty past. I don't want to give out all the details at the moment, but know you're in for more action and drama and sexy lovin'. HAHA.
For those of you who voted for One Hundred Little Things, I want you to know I'm not throwing it out. I definitely want to write that story... really bad. It'll happen. :)
One last thing before I go, I do want some more feedback, but on a different story. What do you guys think of Hedgewater? I'll be honest and say the views are a little dismal compared to my other stuff and I knew I took a risk by doing something completely different. But are you guys still enjoying it enough to keep it around? If not, let me know. No hurt feelings, I promise. :) I'm just curious to know as I plan what I need to do for the rest of the summer.
I hope that wasn't information overload. I apologize if it was. Leave me a comment, you guys!! :D
Monday, May 27, 2013
Every year my family and friends get together for a Memorial Day cookout, like a lot of Americans do. Though, we have a special tradition to honor our men and women of service. Both those who have passed away while on active duty or simply passed of old age. J We also honor those who still stand and fight for our country because without them we wouldn’t be free to live the way we do. My grandfather passed away last year. He was a Vietnam veteran. My uncles served in Desert Storm and Iraq. And my older brother lost quite a few friends while in Afghanistan. My younger cousin is currently serving in Korea and I miss him dearly and worry for his safety every single day.
In their honor, my family and I light lanterns at night and send them off into the sky. I got to thinking about our tradition this year and thought I could integrate it into a short story. It’s nothing special, but consider it a way for me to remember and for you to enjoy. Happy Memorial Day to you, to our men and women out fighting to give us peace, and especially to those who have given their lives to protect our country. We love you all.
A Royal Memorial Day
“What is going on?”
Rowe’s eyes flitted back and forth, taking in the scene playing out in the back gardens. Small children splashed around in the pond. A tag team of older boys chased each other with water guns, zipping by Rowe and Dan. A spray of water hit the prince in the face. He scowled, turning to his mate.
“I repeat, what is going on, Daniel?” Not Dan or pet, just Daniel. Rowe was angry.
Dan put a large beach towel on the nearest patio table. “It’s Memorial Day, Rowe.”
“And?” The Prince gestured to the compound chefs directing a long commercial grill onto the grass.
“And it’s Memorial Day.” Dan laughed, grabbing Rowe’s hand. “Walk with me, you big oaf.” Dan tugged.
“Must I really? It’s disgustingly hot out there and it’s nice in the shade. Besides, when you ask to take a walk that means I’m in for talking to. I’d rather avoid it all together, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“You want to avoid spending time with me? Gee, thanks.” Dan let go of Rowe’s hand, shaking his head. “Fine. I’m going to get some sun all by myself.”
Rowe gaped when Dan pulled his shirt over his head and traipsed over the lawn with his beach towel in hand.
“Put your shirt back on, pet!” Rowe flashed a look of warning at some Royals lounging in chairs a few feet away. “Eyes to yourself before I rip them out.”
The Royals chuckled, going back to their conversation. Rowe didn’t share their amusement. He stomped over to Dan. His mate was laying out his towel on a sun drenched plot of grass. The prince bent down, snatching up Dan’s shirt. He threw it at Dan. “Shirt. On. Now.”
“No.” Dan plopped down on the towel. He stretched out, putting his hands behind his head. His eye closed, Dan smiled. “You’re blocking my rays, Rowen.”
“I’ll block more than your rays, Daniel Gerard.”
“I don’t even know what that means.” Dan shooed him away. “Stop fucking around. I’m trying to get a tan.”
“You’re already tan.” Rowe flapped the shirt madly, and laid it over Dan’s bare stomach. “Stop with this non-sense. I get it. I pissed you off. But don’t think for one second I’ll allow you to bare you skin for anyone other than me.”
“Oh. My. God. Chill out! It’s my chest, not my dick. I swim in the pool in less than this.” Dan put his hand above his eyes, squinting in the sun. “What is your problem?”
“You swim… in less than this?” Rowe growled. His fangs poked at his bottom lip. “With who?”
“Unless you’re planning on murdering a swimming pool, I suggest you get your shit together, and sit down. Sometimes, Rowe, I have no idea what to do with you.” Dan flopped onto his back again. “I wanted to take a walk to find a proper place to tan without anyone watching us, and possibly explain the festivities, since you haven’t seemed to notice all the planning going on around you this week. But yet again you can’t seem to tame your inner Neanderthal and just be with me.”
“Don’t start with me. You know how much I hate it when you call me Daniel. You make it sound like I’m a child and not your mate. There’s no winning with you, Rowe.” Dan rolled over, putting his chin in his hands. He closed his eyes when Rowe rubbed his back.
Rowe lay next to him. “I apologize, pet,” he murmured. “You know how I get when they plan things without telling me. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”
“Rowe, I’ve told you three times in the last two days about this party. You don’t listen.” Dan squirmed away. “I wondered why you were all dressed up. Guess I thought you just didn’t like doing the casual thing.”
“I also wondered why you were wearing those god awful shorts. I didn’t even know they made shorts in such a shade of green.”
“Green happens to be my favorite color, and it’s called mint, you asshole.” Dan got to his feet. “Go back inside, Rowe. No one wants a party pooper, especially your mother. This day was her idea for Hill and King, but mostly Hill. It’s special to them.” Dan yanked on the towel until Rowe stood up.
Rowe groaned. “Why? What am I missing? What is so special about that heinous grill and children spraying me in the face with water?”
“It’s not about all the stuff, Rowe. Jesus, you’re dense.” Dan marched away, almost tripping over a folded patio umbrella lying in the grass. He clenched his teeth in pain, too pissed to let Rowe see it had hurt.
Hot on Dan’s heels, Rowe began to feel the heat bleeding through his jacket. He tore it off, leaving the blasted thing in the yard. “Pet, don’t you run from me! I will catch you.”
“Twenty bucks says Dan doesn’t last another five minutes before Rowe carries him off to the woods.” Isaac leaned back on Knox in their lounge chair. He held up a folded twenty between his fingers.
Knox bent down, biting the twenty. He chucked between his teeth then slipped the twenty onto the table next to them. “I say two. You’re on.”
The blue haired vampire lifted a red cocktail to his mate’s lips, pushing aside the umbrella with his finger. “Or was that just a hint you wanted to be carried off into the woods?”
Isaac swallowed. He shrugged. “We promised Nina we would help her get those lanterns together”
“How cool are you, being so blasé about hot sex in the woods.”
“We haven’t done it in three days, Knox. I’m trying to keep my cool and not talk about anything stimulating at the moment. She’s had us so busy, and no one has left us alone… just be quiet and let me drink.” Isaac snatched the drink up, guzzling half the contents. “Happy Memorial Day,” he quietly saluted the staff scampering around the grounds.
“Hey.” Knox nuzzled his nose in Isaac’s neck. “It will be, I promise. After tonight everything will die down and we can go into the city if you want, just the two of us.”
“You promised Nova you would take him to The Sickness concert tomorrow. You know if we get a room in the city, we won’t be leaving it for the next three days.” Isaac smiled lazily, daydreaming of what it would be like.
“Shit. That’s tomorrow? I totally forgot. I’ll... it’s just some stupid rock band. We can take him to another show next time.”
“He was really excited, Knox. They’re his new favorite. I should have never given him that cd for Christmas. He’s starting to become one hell of a fangirl. Did you see that poster he has of Rebel Beltaine in his room now? It’s life size.”
“Who knew the quiet one would be such a little groupie. For a Goth rock group at that… Damn, that’s weird. One day it’s books and the next it’s rock bands. I can’t keep up with him.” Knox hugged Isaac close.
“I know it’s been a long time since you guys found him, but he’s still adjusting. It’s why he absorbs everything he can about the new world. It’s like he thinks it’ll all disappear on him and he needs to grasp it all while he can.”
Knox kissed Isaac’s shoulder, watching the yard for anyone staring at them. Content that no one could see them on their private terrace jutting off their rooms, Knox sucked at Isaac’s neck. “Why do you have to be so smart?”
Isaac reached up, tangling his fingers in Knox’s hair. “Because one of us has to be.”
“Smartass.” Knox’s fangs raked over Isaac’s neck.
“I can’t take it anymore. We’re going inside and you’re going to finish this. No more teasing.” Isaac stood up. He realized his mistake too late.
Nina whistled at him from below. “There you are, Isaac. I’ve been calling both you and Knoxtian and no one answered. I was about to come up there, but what luck! The lanterns have arrived. Come down and help me, would you? Oh, and is that Knoxtian?”
Isaac grumbled. “Yes.”
Nina put a hand on her hip, somewhere between exasperated and relieved. “Bring him along. Hurry up. Hill and King will be arriving shortly. I want everything ready.”
“We’ll be right there,” Isaac called. After Nina walked away, directing the staff in only a way the queen could do, Isaac turned to his mate. “I swear to god if you haven’t fucked me by tonight, I’m raping you in your sleep.”
Knox tried to keep a straight face, but lost it. He laughed, pulling Isaac into his lap. “Brat. You can try.”
“What?” Isaac raised his brows. “It’s not like I haven’t done it before.”
Narrowing his eyes playfully, Knox brought his face inches from Isaac’s. “Let’s see you try it this time. I’ll be ready.”
“You’re on,” Isaac hissed, showcasing his fangs. “You’re so on.”
King waited for his mate to get out of the vehicle. He made a few grunts, reached a hand forward then stopped himself, biting his lip. He was always anxious when Chloe unbuckled Ryder from his car seat and tried to balance the diaper bag in one arm and their son in the other.
“Careful.” The word slipped from his mouth. He cringed, backing away.
Chloe growled, standing up straight. Baby Ryder was fast asleep across her chest. “Here.” She shoved the diaper bag into King.
“I didn’t mean it. It was an accident.” King groaned. “You know how I get.”
“Distrusting, that’s how you get it. Oh, I know all too well.” She rolled her eyes.
Her long red hair whipped around in a silken curtain as she gave him her back. “Door,” she barked.
King received an emphatic glance from Hill, who came to his rescue around the vehicle. “You gotta watch it, bro. I know it’s hard. I was the same way. You watch those kids being born and your entire perception changes. You want to beat your chest every time someone so much as glances at them, or do some damage when someone hurts them, accidentally or not. But that’s your mate, King. She’s not the enemy.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” King rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s just that I never went through this with Nan. Sure, I was and still am protective and she’s my little fucking girl, bro… but I saw him like… I was there when Chloe… ah, man. It’s so much worse this time. Am I terrible for not being this crazy with Nan? Should I be more aggressive with her?”
Immediately, Hill shook his head. “I don’t think Jaska would care for that very much.”
King growled. “Fucking Jaska touching my baby girl.”
“See?” Hill clapped him on the back. “You’re just as crazy with her.”
“I don’t know how you keep your cool like you do. You’re a friggin general when the boys act out, but you keep it together, man. How the hell do you that all the time?” King caught himself when Hill looked away. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. My bad, bro, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“No.” Hill smiled at him. “Don’t ever feel bad for talking about my boy. He’ll… he’ll come around.”
“No word yet then?” King shut the door, glancing at his mate, who was making her way inside.
King saw the sadness enter Hill’s eyes. Never before had he seen Hill look depressed. The queen’s mate was the level headed one of the bunch; even more so than Micah. In fact, out of all of the Guardians, he’d always seemed the happiest since arriving at the compound twenty-four years ago. It hurt King to see his brother in pain.
Hill turned to King. “Blaze called, said they weren’t coming up this weekend. Nina wanted to have dinner tonight with all of us; however, Blaze relayed Cage wasn’t down for it in the guiltiest response ever. Not only has he put Blaze in a compromising messenger position, my son truly believes he can just move off and become this, I don’t know, vigilante lone ranger in the middle of the most dangerous pit of vampire gangs on this planet. Jesus,” Hill let all the air escape his lungs. He inhaled deeply, on a gasp.
King allowed his brother to get it all out. Cage, Hill’s son was out there, alone and confused, yet one hell of a fighter who they desperately needed in their company. It may seem healthy and happy on the home front to the Royals sucked back into their glamorous lifestyles; the death of Thomas, Thierry, and Anton gave the Royals their moment to shine. But the Guardians were not under that impression.
They all knew the dangers still lurking in their city. Every single one of them was well aware, them and their prince. Rowe knew better than anyone. He was in the middle of a war now. He and Cade commanded a brutal taskforce. They infiltrated the city on a steady rotation, eradicating a hefty percentage of Rush dealers and the heavy gang players, who never failed to have fangs.
There was now a true to word underworld lurking in New York City, where kingpins, vampires, and every day no one’s mingled intimately. It was a bloody, cruel, yet strangely alluring kind of place. Yet not at all attractive when your kid decided he wanted to tag along, but hang in the corner where you couldn’t keep an eye on him. That shit was bad news. King could never think of his son out there acting a fool, when he was grown up, being exactly in the same predicament.
“Fuck,” he whispered.
Hill put his hand up, eyes desperate. “That’s it,” he responded to King’s realization. “Valjana, that kid, he doesn’t realize he’s hurting her… and me. Hell, everyone misses him. Axel is the only one he talks to now.”
King nodded, walking beside Hill into the compound. “That sucks, bro. At least Axel’s still getting through, though. There’s still hope for Cage yet. No, I promise you, we will get your son back on the straight and narrow. He’s blowin off steam. Let him catch back up to the program and we’ll forget this ever happened.”
Hill cleared his throat, issuing his courteous end of this conversation look. This was the point where he had reached his limit and it was cool with King. Hill grunted. “And for you, too. Just watch it around Chloe. If there’s one thing I know about our females, they don’t like it when their mate doesn’t trust them with their child. Or acts like they don’t, that’s what I meant.”
“Noted.” King grinned. Hill was switching the subject and he let it slide. King was happy enough his brother opened up to him, no matter how short their conversations were. Hill wanted King to know how he felt. That was an honor in itself.
On top of the human holiday that meant so much them both of them, King knew the weight on Hill’s shoulder was only heavier with Cage not being near. “Bro?”
“I got you. You know that, right?” King kept walking next to him.
“No doubt in my mind, King. I got you, too.” Hill stopped. “I’m gonna go find Nina. You should continue groveling with Chloe. If you ever want to see that kid of yours, I mean.”
King blew out a slow breath. “Time to get creative. She’s not going to let me off that easy this time. I said careful, which to her is the equivalent of… I think you’re going to drop my son, hold the fuck up.”
Hill cringed. “Ouch, Valjana. Grovel.”
“Exactly.” King pointed to him. He withdrew his excitement, only to replace it with a still calm, targeting something towards the Great Room. “Hey wait. Do you smell steak?”
“King, you dream about steak. Is this the part where you tell me you’ve actually lost your mind?”
King clucked his tongue in a way that reminded Hill of this ghetto chick with her name attached to earrings he knew back in the sixth grade. She would stick out her lips as she crossed her arms, bobbing her head while she looked her at her girlfriends randomly. Just to see if they were gonna watch her beat his ass. Hill smiled widely, shaking his head.
“No, man.” King pushed him gently. “Check it out. For real, smell the damn air.”
“I thought we were vampires, not hunting dogs.” Hill pushed open the great room doors, suddenly blanketed with the heavy aroma of perfectly grilled steak. “Fucking hell that’s incredible, you aren’t crazy.”
“It’s called trust. I think I taught myself a lesson, and if I know anything about my mate, it’s that she’s a sucker for a good steak and it’s one of the many qualities I love about her. This will go over just fine. She can’t deny me forgiveness while she’s holding the world’s cutest kid and eating steak. It just isn’t done, not by her at least.”
Hill bumped King’s shoulder with his fist. “Perfect execution, my friend; couldn’t have done it better myself.”
“Why thank you.” King bowed a little. “Let’s do this.”
King lowered his sunglasses, giving his best award winning smile. The doors underneath the stairs in the Great Room opened under a staff member’s hand. The sun pelted down on them both, revealing the heavenly scene in the back gardens.
“Mother of god, I think we’ve entered a barbeque.” Hill’s excitement could only be found in the gleam of his eyes, but it was there. There was something about a barbeque, in a place that would have to Google barbeque to even know what it was that couldn’t help but leave a smile on your face.
George met them on the grass. “Good, you’re here. Cade wanted you to know Rowe is in a mood of the teasing variety, which translates to the prince is playing the part of a cat today. You’ve been warned. Also, this is supposed to be a surprise, but I headed you off luckily, so it would be wise of you both to go out there prepared and charming. Nina, excuse me, the queen has put every last ounce of her energy and thought into this event. I believe you understand?”
“You’re saying my mate did this for the two of us?” Hill’s brows shot up. “Why?”
“Memorial Day, of course. The two of you had a brief conversation two weeks ago about it. Don’t worry. None of us know the details, so please don’t be offended. It’s just Nina thought it would be nice to attach one of your traditions to ours and everyone was taken with the idea. We also have those who have fallen. In the scheme of things, this gesture allows us to honor all of those who have fought for our home and given the ultimate sacrifice. Your mate respects you dearly, Hill. She’s proud of those men and women. She’s proud of you.”
“Bravo, George.” King winked. “That was a beautiful speech.”
Hill held out his hand to George. “Agreed.”
The butler obliged, shaking hands with one of his race’s great Guardians. “Thank you, my lord.”
“Thanks, George.” Before things got too uncomfortable, Hill departed with King to find their mates.
Nina pulled the elegant lady card and rose from her chair on the patio. She stood there, ever Royal, and waited for her warrior to come to her. With her change of wardrobe, wearing one hell of a red sundress, Hill had never been so happy to come home in his entire life. His mate was good, really good. He was proud of her, too.
She held up a beer. The timing was perfect. He couldn’t have asked for a better day, any more perfect weather, an even better mate, and the blending of their fallen. To see Nina there, knowing she had done all of this because she too felt his pain, and loved him fiercely, was beautiful.
“Goddamn it, woman, the things you do to me.”
“I thought you might like it.” She leaned against the railing, confidence winning over her nerves. “And you, King?”
King stopped a foot in front of his mate. He addressed his queen, still focused on Chloe, “I’m honored.”
He was shocked with how smooth he could be. He wasn’t being arrogant, but his execution was stunning. Chloe had been looking right at him, holding their child while King burned the words into her with his eyes. His mate surely took it the way he meant it, only for her, but double the sentiment.
“Good,” was all Chloe replied, lifting her mental block for him. She lifted her plate. “I’ll take some more fruit salad and Jess needs a water bottle. Speaking of which, where are Rowe and Dan? They’re supposed to be doing this.”
“It’s fine, Chloe. For the hundredth time, I am perfectly comfortable right here, although a water bottle does sound nice.” Jess tilted back the wide brim of her sun hat and put a hand on her finally starting to show belly. Her dark sunglasses helped to create the glamorous pregnant woman seated under the shade of an umbrella.
“I got it, baby.” Frank unscrewed the cap off a bottle he brought to the table. “Here.”
“Like I said, I’m perfectly comfortable.” Jess smiled, hiding her sparkling green eyes behind her shades. “Thank you.” She kissed Frank on the cheek.
Everyone thought when Jess finally became pregnant for Dan and Rowe, after visits with Theo, that Frank would be jealous and want to keep the child. But the truth in Frank’s strength came out when he sincerely declared that he was all for giving his brother and brother-in-law a family. He’d said they deserved one, too. And Jess, she couldn’t have been happier to see Dan smile like that, not even with all the money in the world.
“Good lookin out, Frank.” King nodded before he went to get his girl some fruit salad.
The party picked up. For a barbeque, cookout, whatever these vampires deemed appropriate for this shindig, King noticed how much they enjoyed it. The Royal events had usually centered around deaths, laws, or networking as glamorously as they could. To see them all mingling in a carefree way was nice.
Cade and Micah met King at the grill. Rowe was scheming next to them. His violet eyes preyed on Dan gathering food on a plate. His lips twitched with a plan. King could see it all coming.
“Not today, Rowe. This is a rare event and I’d like to continue enjoying it.” King grabbed a beer from the staff tray.
“Rare event?” Rowe sniffed, losing his idea. “Yes, just the person I needed to talk to about all of this. Maybe if I smooth things over with you, Dan will calm down. It was an honest lapse in memory, due to my increasingly busy work load, not that Dan was to blame for any of it. I only forgot he’d mentioned this event to me earlier and I might have been a little shocked by all of this.” Rowe nodded at the grill. “So I took it out by asserting my dominance a little too much. Will you please tell my mate that in no way was I trying to be disrespectful to anyone’s memory on this holiday, that I’m happy he helped plan such a beautiful event with mother, and that I still love him?”
“I think he heard you, smooth operator.” King sniggered with Cade and Micah.
Dan peeked over his shoulder. “I heard you. It’s just a matter of whether I want to believe it or not.”
“Ouch.” King acted as if he’d been burned.
Micah and Cade laughed even harder. They’d taken every bit of what Dan and Rowe had thrown at them over the years. This little spat didn’t fail to entertain.
Dan whisked his plate away, heading for a table. When he glanced back at Rowe, the prince didn’t waste another second standing there. Oh yeah, Rowe was most certainly whipped, and he couldn’t be happier about it.
Their mating was a good one. Dan was strong enough to hold his chin high and let Rowe’s behavior slide. He knew his mate cared. He was also getting a bit tired of their game of hide-and-seek for the day. Dan wanted to enjoy the event with Rowe. He made that clear by edging out a chair with his foot for his mate as he sat down.
And as the other couples and friends began to settle in for the afternoon, eating and laughing, there was finally peace.
“Why did she sign us up for this again?” Knox surveyed a few hundred lanterns to be set off into the night sky. They were all ready to go, strewn over the courtyard. An American flag had been stationed next to the Royal cross in the center, fluttering gently in the night breeze.
Isaac smacked his arm. “Don’t you feel terrible saying those sorts of things? We’re doing this for those who should be remembered.”
“Excuse me, brat. I wasn’t saying it like that. I meant why us. And since when are you all patriotic?” Knox held up his hands. “Not that you shouldn’t be. I’ve just never known you to be passionate about war.”
“Don’t ask me to explain it. Seeing all of these lanterns, I guess. They make you think of how many people aren’t here anymore because they wanted to protect us.” Isaac stepped closer to Knox. He didn’t grab for his hand. Their bond didn’t have to be showy for them to understand.
“I get it, Iz.” Knox squished in closer, grabbing his mate’s hand discretely. “The human warriors that fought for their country… We may be vampires, fighting our own war, but the human war is much larger. Those men and women die every day and they don’t get the kind of recognition our soldiers do. You’re right, Iz, it does make you think.” Knox glanced at Isaac. “We were meant to protect them, the humans. And here they are serving up their lives because of how much they love us, vampires or not. That’s real strength. That’s a real warrior.”
Isaac bumped Knox with his shoulder. “Don’t cry, okay?”
Knox snorted. “So much for being serious.”
In a rare move on Isaac’s part, he openly hugged his mate, allowing the staff to see. “You’re nothing but a big softy.”
“I’ll have to disprove that later.” Knox clapped his hands on Isaac’s ass, giving him a good squeeze.
“Talk about ruining the moment.” Isaac laughed. “Come on, big guy, let’s get the rest of this done. I want to see the look on King and Hill’s faces when they get a load of this.”
“Twenty bucks says Hill bawls like a baby.” Knox produced Isaac’s twenty out of his pocket. “Game?”
“Always.” Isaac got on his tip toes and kissed his mate quickly.
Hill’s day had been perfect. Nina knew how much he missed his human brothers in the Navy Seals, and all the memories he had of those days. He’d told her on many occasions, after they were mated, of the men he’d watched perish, and subjected her to a few scary moments where he couldn’t wake up from a reminiscent nightmare. And still she thought to honor those men and women, even human, and instill a sense of tradition within their own race to give them pause and think on their fallen warriors.
To Hill, nothing could have been more special for his mate to think of him in that way – a man of honor and valor; a man who she was proud of. To think his experience and gratitude for his human brothers would spark her sense of pride within the vampire warriors was truly amazing. So when she led him out to the courtyard, guiding a procession of full bellied vampires onto the cobblestone, he had to catch his breath at the sight of hundreds of lanterns.
“What is this?”
The queen kissed his hand. “Do you think it’s cheesy?”
“No, I just don’t understand.” He squeezed her hand.
“They’re lanterns to be sent up into the sky, to honor our perished warriors, both human and vampire.” She smiled. “I thought it would be beautiful.”
King and Chloe joined them. “It is,” King assured her. “It really is, Nina. Thank you.”
Ex-Army himself, King knew exactly how Hill felt. Nina couldn’t possibly know how much good she’d done. Hill cleared his throat, nodding. “Thank you… my mate,” he whispered. “This means a lot.”
The queen bowed slightly, filled with emotion. “Anything to honor my mate and his brothers. Such strength should be remembered, even if it is gone from this earth.”
“Seriously, woman, you’re killing me here.” Hill swept her into his side, hugging her tight. “Let’s go give our boys and girls one hell of show.”
“Okay.” She wiped underneath her swirling eyes.
Nina proudly walked her soldier to the middle of the courtyard. Everyone was handed a lighter as they made their way onto the cobblestone. The Guardians faced their race, holding onto their lanterns. Nina nudged her son. “This is what Memorial Day is.”
Rowe could feel the air thicken with emotion. These people had lost their mates, their children, and their loved ones to war. They had stood strong at the side of their warriors, even if they had long since passed on. His pet was right. Today wasn’t about him or his childish behavior. Today was about honoring those who served them, and those who had died to protect them, both human and vampire. He realized his mother’s need to honor them. He realized her yearning to give back to her mate and King, who had bravely risked their lives on their behalf and on behalf of their country for decades.
Rowe stood before his warriors, Guardians and Guards. He felt a little silly doing it, but knew he got it right when he saluted them. “You honor us with your dedication to protect your people. You honor us with your memories and your strength. You honor those who have fallen next to you with the men and women you have become. To all of you, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Now let us thank those who can’t be here with us today.”
A tiny flame danced inside of Hill’s lantern as he let the breeze take it into the sky. Against the darkness of night, the creamy tissue paper lantern looked a ship sailing into the stars. He put his hand against his forehead and saluted his fallen. The other Guardians hefted theirs into the air, letting go. Soon after, hundreds of lights filled the night sky, sending thanks to those who lived beyond their reach.
The vampires stood in awe. A sense of love washed over them all. They now knew what it was to remember. In their loved ones memory, and for all who had served the great country they now lived in, they remembered them well.
King retired with his mate and child to their rooms, holding his family close. Dan led Rowe to the back gardens, just to sit and watch the lights in the sky. Cade and Micah had a few more drinks with George and Maggie, reminiscing about the warriors of old. Knox took back his twenty when he and Isaac reached the front entrance.
“I told you.”
“Shush.” Isaac hugged his mate. “It’s okay to miss them.”
They watched Hill continue to hold his mate. The big male pressed his face into Nina’s slender neck.
Knox rested his chin on Isaac’s head. “It is.” He looked up into the sky, murmuring, “Thank you.”
Isaac led his big softy back into the main house to let Hill and Nina have a moment alone. Everyone needed to let the day sink in and reflect, not on them, but to cherish what they had because of those who had laid down their lives to give them peace.
Nina finally looked up at her mate. “Every day you make me proud to be at your side.”
“And every day I live to fight for you. Every day I live to keep you safe.” Hill brushed her hair away from her face. “Just as they did and still do.”
Nina threaded her fingers through Hill’s. “Thank you.”
Hill gave her a boyish look, one filled with joy. “Are you cold? We can go inside.”
“No,” she tugged on his hand, “let’s a stay a little while longer. They’re so beautiful.” Nina looked to the sky.
Hill admired his mate’s handiwork, still floating in the night. With all the things he wanted to say, he chose to silently send up his gratitude with a smile. He would never forget them.