Above the flames the fla.., p.16
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       Above The Flames (The Flames Trilogy #1), p.16

           Cassandra Fear
 
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  “Foolish girl, I didn’t kill him. He’s much harder to kill than that,” Bael said, almost soothingly. He petted her hair and rested his chin on her shoulder. “If he is important to you, then we will bring him along. If you join me of your own accord, you can have anything you want.”

  Jasmine leaned into him. “You promise?”

  “Yes. Of course,” he said.

  “Then let’s go. But let me go to him first,” Jasmine said, hoping Bael bought it.

  Bael released her. “Go, but if you try anything, know that things will go a lot differently.”

  She glided toward Amon, climbed the steps of the porch, and dropped to her knees beside him, checking for a pulse. His hand wrapped around her wrist.

  “I am fine, Jasmine. Tell me you have a plan,” he whispered.

  She jerked her head up once, hoping he got it. There was a plan in her head, but she wasn’t sure it would work.

  Before she stood and faced Bael, she spoke inside to her power, letting it know what she wanted. It purred in answer, so she sent a small prayer skyward and turned around. Bael stared at her, waiting patiently for her to join his side. Even though she suspected he assumed she’d try something, he didn’t give any indication of his thoughts away.

  Her power was right on the surface. Ready. She wrapped it around herself, like she was the stick for spun cotton candy. She smiled wide and gave herself over to her power, letting it consume her. Surrendering to it liberated her even more. She loved every minute of the process. Her body was the power’s vessel, and it made her special. Control over it came by accepting it, and speaking to it, which excited her. Throaty laughter slipped from her.

  Bael raised his thin black brows, which looked unreal and penciled in. “What could she be laughing at?”

  Amon came forward, stopping beside Jasmine. “She’s laughing because she knows she can rip you to shreds. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see it happen.”

  Bael wrapped his arms around his chest like he was hugging himself. “Ooh. I’m scared now.” He dropped his hands to his sides and smirked. “Do you honestly think I’m scared of a little girl? Or pain? I’m a demon.”

  “Enough!” Jasmine yelled, sick of Bael’s irritatingly high-pitched voice. Her power was sick of it too. It launched. The heat spread up her legs, over her stomach, down her arms, and straight out of her hands. She saw it all happening, but her power had taken the reigns now. She was in the backseat. Watching. She whispered suggestions. It answered, but in its own way. A tiny flutter of fear caressed her heart, like the tiny pattering of butterfly wings, but she quickly swallowed it down. Being afraid was what always made her lose control, and she had no room for fear in her heart.

  Jasmine took shallow, calming breaths as blue fire circled Bael. Encased him. Strand by strand, like he was being covered in yarn. When the last strand wove around him, a cocoon of blue enveloped him. There was no sign of the demon. Only a neon blue wrapping. A low-pitched ticking started. Fast at first. Then it slowed. Tick…tick…tick. When the sound stopped, a loud pop followed. The cocoon exploded. Glittery blue specks fell through the sky like snowflakes. They sprinkled the ground, lighting it up for a moment, then disappeared.

  Her power snapped back into her body like a rubber band and she quickly tucked it away.

  A woodsy scent surrounded her as Amon placed his hands on her shoulders. “Are you okay?”

  She nodded, not trusting her voice. Her heart was racing and her arms and legs were shaking. Her eyes were a lot heavier than they should be, and for a moment she wondered if Amon would mind if she closed them, only for a second. Then thoughts of Bael hit her and she gained her focus back. “Where’d he go?”

  Amon shrugged. “I was hoping you could tell me that.”

  “I have no clue,” Jasmine said, noticing Amon’s wide eyes. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

  “While you were using your power, your eyes started to glow. A golden color.”

  Jasmine bit her lip and ran a hand through her hair. “Well…it could be worse, right? They could have been red.” Her voice cracked. “I can work with gold.” Not really. Her chest felt like an elephant sat on her suddenly, and she struggled to breathe. Why would her eyes glow any color?

  “You were really incredible, Jasmine. It was a sight to see. I’m sorry the others missed it,” Amon said, awe clear in his tone.

  “Um…thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the show.”

  Not that it was a show. She didn’t have a clue how she had done what she’d done. She guessed it was pretty cool, but it also scared her. A little.

  “Where’s the angel?” Jasmine asked.

  Amon shrugged. “Not sure, but be careful with her.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Just, be careful. Out of all the angels, she is the one I dislike the most. I’ve never trusted her.”

  A chill crept over her skin, but she quickly squashed it. Evangeline was an angel. Angels were good. Weren’t they?

  Chapter 19

  A Dark Alley

  Raised voices woke Jasmine from a dreamless sleep. Her eyes fluttered and Jasmine sat up, realizing she was sitting on the couch. She just didn’t remember how she got here, or when she’d fallen asleep. “What’s going on?”

  The argument continued on in the next room, so Jasmine stood and followed the sound of the voices. She was surprised to find Amon and Evangeline were the source of the yelling.

  “Guys, cut it out,” Jasmine said in her most stern voice.

  Both of them turned toward her. Amon had a deep scowl on his face, and Evangeline’s cheeks were red, her eyes wide and angry.

  Amon moved toward her. “Jasmine, are you all right?”

  “I’m fine, except for the fact that I was sleeping and now I’m not because my angel and my trainer are fighting.”

  Amon lowered his eyes. “I am very sorry to have awakened you. I was only trying to get to the bottom of some things, but Evangeline isn’t very forthcoming with her information.”

  Evangeline pursed her lips, like she’d just tasted something sour. “Amon, as I have told you before, you will receive information when it is pertinent to your case.” Then she turned to Jasmine. “Jasmine,” Evangeline said in her sing-song voice. “I’m sorry to have startled you with my arrival. But things are getting worse around here.” She pointed toward the TV, which flicked on, the news blaring loudly.

  Jasmine winced at the sound, but her eyes stared at the images on the screen. The news reporter’s grave voice said, “There have been reported attacks all over small towns in Idaho. The death toll continues to rise as reports of a band of men with glowing red eyes attacking small towns flood into the newsroom. There have been no confirmations as to who these men are, or what they want. But if you are in Idaho, make sure you lock your door at night. This is Brian with News Channel 7 reporting.”

  Jasmine shook her head. “Oh. My. God,” she whispered, breathing heavily. “What are we going to do?”

  Amon placed his hand on her arm. “We are going to stop them.”

  The front door slammed open and smacked the wall behind it. Beau and Lamia strode in, frowning. Beau looked at the angel. His eyes moved to Jasmine, then to her arm where Amon’s hand rested. Then they shot up, narrowing at Amon. He jerked his hand back. Jasmine stood and rushed to Beau, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Where have you been?”

  He hugged her back. “Patrolling. We were assigned a town a little ways out, and when we got there, everyone was dead already. We found one person still alive. We brought him back here.”

  Footsteps alerted her to someone else entering. As the new man rounded the corner and came through the archway, Jasmine lost her breath. “Bub? Is that you?” His dirty blond hair was buzzed.

  Bub’s navy blue eyes widened. His skinny arms jangled at his sides. “Jazzy? Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it!”

  Jasmine widened her eyes. “What are you doing here?

  Bub smiled, his angle
d chin pointing toward Jasmine. “These guys saved me. I was hiding from some guys with red eyes. They slaughtered, like, the whole town, man. Scary guys. Thank God your friends showed up when they did.”

  Beau cleared his throat. “How do you know Jasmine?”

  Jasmine didn’t want to answer. She wasn’t that happy to see Bub, to be honest. Although she was glad he was alive, she wished he would go and be alive somewhere other than here. Awkward didn’t begin to cover it.

  “I’m her ex, man. Didn’t she tell you about me?” Bub said.

  Jasmine pursed her lips and looked at the ground. When she got enough courage, she faced everyone. They were all staring at her, waiting for her to say something. She only nodded.

  Beau stretched his hand out, shaking his head. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Beau, Jasmine’s current boyfriend.”

  Jasmine gazed up. Beau’s face was maroon and it looked like steam might come out his ears. He wouldn’t look at her. He turned to Amon instead. “Did anything happen while we were gone?”

  “Bael came here,” Amon admitted after a moment.

  “What?” Beau asked angrily.

  “He showed up and tried to get me to join his side again. But I used my power and got rid of him,” Jasmine explained.

  Beau nodded. “Okay. Who’s the lady in white?”

  Amon laughed. “Very clever name. This is Evangeline. She is an angel.”

  Evangeline glided across the floor, stopping in the middle of the group. “I am Jasmine’s angel. And I am here to help.”

  Finally taking notice of the angel, Lamia hissed, “What are you doing here?”

  “Lamia!” Amon barked. “Do not be rude.”

  She bowed. “I’m sorry.” Lamia’s voice was sharp, as if she didn’t mean her words. “Why have you come here, Evangeline?”

  Evangeline took a few steps to stand in front of Lamia. “I am here because Jasmine is an Angel Blessed. I have to train her.” Lamia spun around and stormed through the archway. A door slamming told Jasmine she’d gone out back. Amon ran past, a gust of air hitting Jasmine’s face as he followed his friend.

  Jasmine coughed. “Still not sure why I was made an Angel Blessed.”

  Evangeline floated across the floor, stopping in front of Jasmine. The angel wrapped an arm around Jasmine’s shoulder. “Walk with me.”

  Not like I have a choice. The angel’s arms were stronger than they looked, and she pushed Jasmine right out the front door and over to the porch swing. They both sat down.

  “You’ll have to forgive me, but what do you want? I really don’t have time to sit around and visit with you,” Jasmine said.

  Evangeline smiled. “Actually, I thought I would tell you a little more about your power—”

  “Then why don’t you wait so you can tell everyone?” Jasmine interrupted. She clenched her hands and gritted her teeth. Then she stood.

  Evangeline’s soft hands wrapped around her wrist, pulling her back down. “I know you are angry. I haven’t been there for you.” She frowned, and Jasmine’s heart sunk seeing the beautiful angel upset. “But you need to know about your power. And I can at least help you with that.”

  Jasmine jerked her head up once. “Okay. I’m listening.”

  Evangeline sighed. “While you were growing in your mother’s womb, the angels were battling with the demons. It’s been a war that started when Heaven and Hell were established. But the demons were more cunning, and the angels more naive. Things were looking worse and worse for Heaven. We knew that soon the tides would turn in the demons’ favor. We had to prepare for the worst.”

  Jasmine half-smiled. “What did you do?”

  “We did the only thing we could. We searched this realm, looking for strong souls to get us through this war. We found what we were looking for with the tiny beat of your strong heart. There are five of you, all alike, but your powers will not be similar,” Evangeline said.

  “Why? And how did you give us these powers?”

  “All of you were growing within your mother’s bellies. Once we found you, we blessed you with Gazardiel’s powers. We knew that it was only a matter of time before the demons won this war. Before it started, guidelines were set. If the demons won, they would gain their freedom. If they lost, they would never be free from Hell.”

  “What are Gazardiel’s powers?”

  “The angel Gazardiel was very unique. His powers molded, manifested based on the person. They are alive inside of you. They bonded with you, and have become what they are today. You have your power because of who you are. Your personality. The others’ will be molded to them in the same way. But…” Evangeline shut her eyes tightly.

  Jasmine’s heart sped up. “But what? What aren’t you telling me?”

  “Just as the powers mold to you based on who you are, they will also change based on who you become. If you are a good person, they will be good. If you aren’t…”

  Jasmine gasped. What Evangeline left unsaid was enough to make her run and hide in a ditch somewhere. She looked at the angel’s emerald eyes and forced a smile. “Well, that’s fan-fricking-tastic.”

  Then she stood, and walked to the door, where Amon hovered. She grinned. “Eavesdropping, huh?”

  Amon nodded. “I was. I’m sorry…” He paused, peeking around the doorframe toward the angel. “I must go speak with her.”

  “Have at it.” Jasmine glanced over her shoulder at Evangeline. “We’re done here.” Then she stormed past Amon and took the stairs two at a time. She crashed through the door to her room, and then lay on her stomach on the bed. She plopped her chin in her hands and let the thoughts flow through her mind. What the hell am I supposed to do now?

  ***

  A while later, the door opened. Jasmine was in the exact same position, and although she heard the click of the door, she didn’t turn to see who came in. So many thoughts attacked her mind. An angel gave me power? This power is alive? What happens if I have an evil thought? Will my power turn evil?

  “Jasmine!” Amon yelled.

  She flipped to her back and sat up. Panting, she asked, “What?”

  “Are you okay?” Amon paced in front of her. “I can’t believe the angels did this.” He angled his head to one side, and then moved it back. “Yes, actually I can believe it. It’s just like them to do something so reckless, so unthinking.” He huffed.

  “Listen. I get you might be mad, but this wasn’t done to you. It was done to me and four others. So, if anyone should be huffing around the room, it should be us.” She paused, gesturing to herself as she stood. “And does it look like I’m huffing around?”

  He shook his head, eyebrows raised. “No. I suppose not, but they need to pay for this. That power inside you is dangerous.”

  Maybe it would be dangerous. But she wanted to try. She could handle it. No matter what came, she was strong enough. She had to believe that. Jasmine touched Amon’s forearm. “No, they don’t need to pay for anything. They did what they thought was best to save them. And they searched for strong souls to bear this burden. An angel telling me I’m strong makes me think there is a reason for it.” It makes me want to prove them right.

  Amon looked at his feet, then his golden eyes locked on hers. “Maybe you are right, but it doesn’t make the way they went about things any better. They deceived a lot of angels up there. I know that now. They told us we would win the war. But they knew we wouldn’t. They knew we would come out the losers. They saw what would happen. So they tried to change what that outcome would mean. It doesn’t make them strong. It makes them cowardly.” He paused, took a few steps back, and leaned against the pale blue wall. “Instead of fighting harder, they didn’t try. And that makes me think very poorly of them indeed.”

  Jasmine sat down on the rose-colored bedspread. “I get it. I really do. But you have to get past it right now. Tuck it away inside and lock it up until this is over. Then evaluate it. Right now, it will just make you crazy. And we all need to stay sane. Or the demons wil
l win this one too.”

  He gazed at the ceiling, as if he were talking to the angels with his mind. After a minute, he turned and started toward the door. “Let’s get out of here.”

  Jasmine caught up to him quickly, grabbed him around the arm, and tugged him back. “Hold on. Where are we going?”

  “We’re going demon hunting.” He smiled. “And we’ll work on some training while we’re out.”

  Jasmine nodded hesitantly. She didn’t think it was a very good idea to go demon hunting with emotions so high. But she looked forward to learning more about her power. “I’m in. What about Beau and Bub? Or Lamia? Will Evangeline be safe here?”

  Amon pressed his lips together and grinned. “Too many questions all at once. But, Beau and Bub are watching TV. Lamia is on watch. Cole and Caim are out back working on how to control their visions. Gemma is still out with Azzy. And Evangeline flew off.” He angled his head to the side. “She was quite upset with me after I berated her for what I overheard.”

  “You pissed off an angel and then she ran off?” Jasmine asked.

  He smirked. “I said she flew off. Not ran.” He laughed loudly. “But, yes. I did piss her off. And she flew off not because of how I made her feel. She went to find out some info on the demons. And look for the other Angel Blessed.”

  Jasmine nodded. “Then what are we waiting for?”

  He leaned in close, his face in her own. His eyes sparkled as he said, “Absolutely nothing.” He picked her up, spun in a circle, and set her down gently. “Let’s go have some fun.”

  A weight lifted from her chest as Jasmine followed him, the rest of her body feeling lighter than it had in a long time.

  ***

  The town Jasmine drove to was maybe ten miles away. It was small. Shops lined each side of a two-lane road and one stoplight sat directly in the middle. She’d driven Beau’s Corvette, but only after he’d said it was okay.

  She stopped the car, pulling into an empty parking spot in front of a laundromat. In fact, all the parking spots were empty. Trash littered the sidewalk, crinkled paper and random cans thrown about the streets. Vinyl siding on some of the shops was black, like it had been burnt. “This looks bad,” she said without meaning to.

 
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