Empower, p.1
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       Empower, p.1

           Ashley Stambaugh
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  The Collide Trilogy: Book 3

  Ashley Stambaugh



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39


  About the Author



  by Ashley Stambaugh

  Published by Clean Reads


  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.


  Copyright © 2016 ASHLEY STAMBAUGH

  ISBN 978-1-62135-583-0

  Cover Art Designed by AM DESIGN STUDIO

  To my children, Wyatt and Holden. May you always be confident in who you are and strive to be a light in the dark.

  Chapter One

  Melina raced down the park’s main pathway, her long hair flying wildly in the wind, her heart pounding in her chest. The sun was about to set, and the increasing darkness made it hard for her to keep the man in her sights. She knew what he was. The soot she had seen on his face when she first spotted him was a telltale sign. But she didn’t know why he was running from her. She pushed herself to pick up her speed when he suddenly veered from the path and into a thick patch of evergreens.

  She ducked her head and raised her right arm as a shield as she ran straight in between two of the trees. The tiny needles scratched at her face and pulled on her hair, but she forced herself through the remainder of the branches. When she finally made it out onto the other side, the empty clearing made her come to an abrupt halt. Surely he hadn’t risked teleporting. Nighttime was descending upon them, but it wasn’t completely dark out yet, and there were a few other people here and there throughout the park. Her eyes darted from side to side as she searched for any sign of movement.

  A few seconds passed then all of a sudden she saw the man bolt out from the row of trees straight in front of her. She pushed off from the ground and sped after him. He dashed in and out of the shadows, weaving his way around various trees and shrubs. She could tell he was trying to throw her off his trail, but he was going to have to do better.

  When they reached the park’s entrance, he raced through the front gates and fled across the lonely street straight into a dark alleyway. Melina rushed into the alley after him and saw that he had morphed into his demonic form. He glared at her with fiery red eyes and then bared his sharp, jagged teeth. A low growl escaped him, and then he vanished, leaving nothing behind but a haze of black smoke.

  Melina stared at the spot where he had disappeared and then leaned over and placed her hands on her knees, taking in deep, calming breaths. Her throat and lungs were burning, and her face and ears felt painfully numb. The cold didn’t usually bother her much anymore since she now had a constant internal warmth from the demon powers she had absorbed, so it must be a lot colder out than she had realized. Once her breathing had steadied, she slowly stood back up and glanced around the immediate area. She was all alone.

  A soft sigh left her as she turned around and started to walk back toward the sidewalk. Chasing a Noxin demon through the park in the cold night air wasn’t something she had planned to do, but she thought he might lead her to some answers. Too bad it only resulted in more questions.

  A little over a month had passed since the incident with Maura had happened at Lee’s apartment, and Melina hadn’t seen any Noxin demons since. Not even any signs of their possible activity. She had expected that to be the case for maybe the first couple of weeks, but not for this long.

  Then yesterday afternoon she had seen one lurking behind an old dilapidated building. He hadn’t seen her, so nothing happened with him, but the one she saw just now did see her. And when he saw her, he ran from her. But why? She shook her head and then stepped onto the sidewalk just as her cell phone rang. It was Lee.

  “Hello,” she said with a smile.

  “Hey,” he said back. “Where are you?”

  “Oh, I’m still out. I—”

  “You’re still out in the city?”

  Her smile faded. “Yes…”

  “At this time of night? Melina, you said you were going for a short walk in the park, and that was over an hour ago. Did something happen?”

  She cleared her throat. “I saw a Noxin demon and I, um… well, I chased after him.”

  “You what? Melina!”

  “Lee,” she said in a calm voice. “I know you’re worried about me, but I can protect myself. I have my angel powers back now, and I have the demon powers under control.”

  He let out a heavy sigh. “I know, I know,” he said. “But no matter how much control you have over your powers, I’ll always be worried about your safety.” He paused and then said, “It’s something I can’t shut off easily.”

  “Well that’s good to know,” she said as her smile returned. “And I’m sorry.”

  “For what?”

  “For not fully appreciating your concern,” she said. “And for worrying you. Look, I’ll be at your place as soon as I can find a safe spot to teleport from. Then we can talk some more. Okay?”

  “Okay,” he said. “Can’t wait to see you.”

  “Me either.” Melina ended the call and then turned on her heel and headed back toward the dark alley. She paused as she peered around the corner, her eyes searching for any movement or glowing red eyes. Seeing nothing, she walked farther into the darkness and then closed her eyes. She brought up an image of Lee’s apartment in her mind, and within a second she was gone.

  When Melina appeared in Lee’s living room, she saw him sitting on the couch waiting for her.

  “Hi,” he said as he stood and wrapped her in a hug.

  “Oh. Well hello to you, too.” She wrapped her arms around his torso and gazed up into his light brown eyes.

  “I told you I was worried.” He leaned down and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. “Now,” he said as he pulled back and released his hold on her. “You said you chased after a Noxin demon. Aren’t they usually the ones chasing after you?”

  “Yeah,” she said while nodding her head. “Strange, right? It was almost as if he was afraid of me, but I’m not sure why he would be.”

  “Whether he was scared of you or not, I’m not sure chasing him was the safest thing for you to do. What made you go after him?” he asked.

  Melina shrugged. “I thought if I followed this one I might f
igure out why they’re suddenly showing up. Something’s not right.”

  “Why do you say that?” Lee asked as he sat back down on the couch.

  Melina lowered herself down beside him. “Well, at first I probably wasn’t seeing any demons because they were all in hiding, you know, revising their plan. But after two weeks had passed, and then three weeks… well, by then it was just odd. I mean, after what I did to Maura, you would think that after a couple of weeks or so she would have had her minions after me. But nothing has happened. Not even with the demons I’ve seen over the past couple of days.”

  “Huh,” Lee said as he crossed his arms in front of him. “That is strange.”

  Melina nodded and shifted her gaze down to the floor. Yes, it was definitely strange. Not only had she refused to join Maura and use her Noxin demon powers to aid in the demon’s plan, but she had found a way to reverse her demon powers to use them to do good. And then, much to her surprise, she had taken away Maura’s guiding angel powers by releasing the human souls from her. To say that Maura was angry with her was more than an understatement.

  She sighed and looked back up at Lee. “I don’t have a good feeling about any of this.”

  “Have you tried to contact Walter yet to see what he thinks?”

  She shook her head. “Not yet, but I probably should. Do you mind if I call to him now?”

  “No, not at all.”

  “Thanks,” she said and then turned her gaze up toward the ceiling. “Walter? It’s Melina. If you have a minute, I need to talk to you about something.” She kept her eyes upward for a few seconds longer and then looked back down at Lee. “I’m pretty sure he heard me, but we may have to wait a while before he shows up.”

  Just then there was a knock at the door.

  “Or not,” Lee said as he stood up from the couch and headed toward the front door.

  “That was quick,” Melina said as she followed him.

  They both made their way into the front entryway, but when Lee opened the door, it wasn’t Walter who was standing on the other side. It was a beautiful Asian woman whose long, shiny black hair was pulled back into a sleek ponytail. She was dressed all in white and had a soft white light shining all around her.

  Melina’s brow creased. When angels take a human form they become visible to all other humans. But when elder angels take a human form they also emanate a glow that can only be seen by other angels and humans with unique powers like Melina. And the fact that the glow was white told her that the woman was an elder guiding angel. Adelia was no longer an elder, so there was only one female elder left. “Are you… Helene?” she asked.

  The woman bowed her head and then looked back up at her. “Hello, Melina. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

  Chapter Two

  Melina’s eyes widened and her mouth gaped open. Helene was the elder guiding angel who had explained everything to her parents when they had absorbed angel powers, so she had always hoped to meet her someday. But now that the day had finally come, she found herself speechless as her mind filled with questions.

  Was she also the angel who tried to help her parents use the powers like Walter had done for her? If she wasn’t, then who was? But if she was the one who helped them, then how far did they get with controlling the powers before the Noxin demons killed them?

  Realizing that Helene could hear her thoughts, Melina briefly shook her head, trying to clear her mind. Helene smiled and gave her a knowing look. Embarrassed, she tried to smile back when a tall, broad shouldered man with dark ebony skin stepped into view behind Helene. He was dressed in a long, tan trench coat and also had a soft white glow about him. A few seconds passed as she stared at him, but then she finally found her voice.

  “You… you must be Cecil.”

  The man nodded. “That I am. It’s nice to meet you.”

  “It’s nice to meet you, too.”

  “May we come inside?” he asked, turning to Lee.

  Cecil’s words made Lee jump like he’d been snapped out of a trance. He must’ve been staring, too. “Um, yeah. Of course.” Lee took a step back as he gestured toward the living room.

  They all walked into the room with Cecil and Helene taking a seat on the couch, and Melina and Lee sitting on the love seat. Melina placed her clutched hands in her lap as she anxiously eyed the two elders. She didn’t know if she should say something or if she should wait to see if they would speak first. Several seconds passed before Helene finally broke the silence.

  “I’m sure you’re wondering why we’re here instead of Walter.”

  Melina gave a slight shrug. “I assume Walter’s busy.”

  Helene shook her head. “He’s not busy. And neither is Phinneas. We wanted to meet you so you would be able to call to any of us elders for help.” She gestured between Cecil and herself.

  “Oh,” Melina said. Her gaze shifted down to the floor as she recalled what Walter had said to her. Once a human had met an angel, then that human would be able to call to that particular angel if he ever needed help. “That will be helpful.”

  “It will be more than helpful,” Cecil said, his voice booming throughout the room. “It will probably be a necessity in the near future.”

  Melina’s forehead creased as she looked back and forth between Cecil and Helene. “Why? Does it have to do with the Noxin demons? Do you know something about what they’re planning?”

  Helene shook her head. “No. We’re still confused and also a bit bothered by that. The guiding angel powers they stole would be too weak to do much with.”

  “Maybe they don’t know that yet,” Lee chimed in.

  “They know,” Cecil said. “The lower level Noxins may not be the brightest, but the higher-ups would’ve thought to test the powers.”

  Lee furrowed his brows. “Then why do they continue to steal powers they can’t do much with?”

  “That’s the part that bothers us,” Helene said. “Whatever their plan is, they must still be able to do it, even with the powers being so weak.”

  “So why is it going to be a necessity for me to be able to call to all of you in the near future?” Melina asked.

  Helene took in a deep breath. “We could be wrong, but we think the Noxin demons are going to put their plan into action soon. And if they do, then we’re all probably going to be pretty preoccupied. Walter and Phinneas may not be able to come to help you whenever you need it, so one of us might need to come instead.”

  Images of the two Noxin demons Melina had recently seen popped into her mind. “No,” she said and then swallowed hard.

  “No what?” Helene asked.

  “I don’t think you’re wrong about the demons putting their plan into action soon.”

  Cecil and Helene both narrowed their eyes at her.

  “Is that why you called to Walter?” Helene asked. “Do you have something to tell us about the Noxin demons?”

  Melina nodded and then told them about both of the demons she had seen over the past couple of days. “Even though the first one didn’t see me, he still should’ve been able to sense me because of my demon powers. I wasn’t that far away from him, but he didn’t pay any attention to me. Then the one I just saw tonight ran from me when he saw me. That’s not normal behavior for them.”

  Cecil stroked his chin. “No, that doesn’t sound like their typical behavior.”

  Melina crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. “Something’s not right.”

  Cecil nodded. “It’s definitely troubling.”

  “Yes,” Helene said. “And it’s definitely something Cecil and I need to discuss with Walter and Phinneas. But before we leave, could I have a moment alone with Melina, please?” She looked back and forth between Cecil and Lee.

  “Sure, yeah,” Lee said as he stood up from the couch.

  Cecil simply nodded at Helene and then followed Lee out of the room.

  Once both of the men were gone, Helene turned back to Melina.

  Melina gave her a nervous smile.

/>   “I know you’re curious about your parents,” Helene said in a soft voice.

  “Oh, um…” Melina paused, trying to collect her thoughts. She knew Helene had heard her thinking about her parents when they were standing at the door earlier, but she hadn’t expected the elder to actually talk to her about it right now. She cleared her throat and continued. “Yes, I am curious. I don’t have a lot of details about what really happened to them, and I know you were the elder who came to explain everything to them.”

  “Yes, I was,” Helene said. “Your parents, Paul and Nora, were scared of what the powers might do to them, but they were even more determined to control them so they could use them to help others. But they didn’t just want to use their newfound powers to help other humans with their problems. They also wanted to find a way to protect them from the Noxin demons.” Helene paused to smile. “They truly were very kind and compassionate people.”

  Melina nodded slightly as tears began to fill her eyes. “They were the best parents. Always so selfless.” She blinked a few times and then asked, “Were you the one who helped them with their powers?”

  “No,” Helene said as she shook her head. “That was Nigel. He was the guiding angel they absorbed the powers from. He didn’t have much time to try to help them, though. Your parents had only had the powers for about a week or so before the Noxin demons got to them.”

  Melina nodded and then stared down at her hands as she thought back to that horrible day. She had been in her dorm room at college studying for a big test when she had received that dreadful phone call from her mom’s best friend, Gwen. Shaking her head, she looked back up at Helene. “I still can’t believe it sometimes that Noxin demons were the real reason why they crashed into that steep ravine. And all just to steal their souls.”

  Helene’s forehead wrinkled. “Wait. You mean you don’t know?”

  “Know what?” Melina asked.

  Helene sat up straighter and folded her hands in her lap. “The Noxin demons didn’t take your parents’ souls.”

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