Above the flames the fla.., p.18
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       Above The Flames (The Flames Trilogy #1), p.18

           Cassandra Fear
 
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  “Lamia! That’s enough! You do not make the rules here. We are here to fight the demons, and to do that, we have to make sure these humans are ready for the battle. That is your job. To train Beau.”

  Lamia stuck her bottom lip out. “But it was just one afternoon.”

  Amon frowned at her. “Is this a game to you? Do all the lives here mean so little to you?”

  “No. It’s not a game—”

  Amon cut her off. “You know that Jasmine and Beau are courting, do you not?”

  “Do you?” Lamia spat the words. “It sure doesn’t seem like it. What, double standards are your new thing?”

  “I’ve done nothing—”

  Lamia cut him off this time. “You do something every single time you look at that girl. It’s in your eyes. You can’t hide your feelings, you never could. You admire her, Amon. You want her.”

  “No—”

  “Yes. You do. And you don’t think Beau can see that?” Lamia asked, coming closer.

  Amon narrowed his eyes at her. “I’m training her, Lamia. I do admire her. A lot has been thrown at her and she’s dealt with everything and kept moving forward. Of course I respect that about her.”

  Lamia tapped her finger against his chest. “There’s a difference between respect and wanting. You are definitely leaning more toward the latter. And I think if you keep it up, the repercussions will be bad.” She looked up at him, her eyes soft. “You know I love you, Amon. I’ve told you many times. I’m just looking out for you.”

  When he gazed down at her, what he found in her eyes surprised him. She did love him. He could see it plainly. They stared at each other for a few moments. Amon found he couldn’t look away, stuck in the surprise of the moment. Which must have given Lamia ideas, because she leaned forward and touched her lips to Amon’s.

  Her lips moved slowly. Amon let her kiss him for a moment, but grabbed her shoulders and pushed her away from him, keeping hold of her. “I can’t, Lamia. You are like family.”

  Her lips pressed together and her eyes turned to slits. “Of course I am. How many times must I face rejection from you? And all the while, if Jasmine kissed you, you’d welcome it.”

  Amon’s stomach dropped. He focused on her, and then nodded. Perhaps if he admitted the truth, it would save Lamia some heartache.

  She broke his grip. “I knew it was true,” she spat. Then she stormed past him, leaving Amon alone to deal with his thoughts. Was it so horrible that he liked Jasmine? She made him laugh, kept things interesting. And he’d spoken the truth. He admired her greatly. That admiration had blossomed, though, and now he had to deal with his changing feelings. He’d have to talk to her. Soon.

  “Um, Amon,” Jasmine said as she walked into the room. “Lamia just came into the living room saying all kinds of crazy things.”

  Of course she had. Why would he have thought anything different would happen?

  “We need to talk,” Amon said, but before he could say anything more, a red-faced Beau stomped into the kitchen.

  “What the hell, man?” Beau rushed forward, shoving Amon with both hands. “You trying to steal my girl?”

  Jasmine stepped between them. “He’s not trying to steal me, and I’m not your girl. We’re on a break, remember?”

  Beau’s breathing was heavy as he came forward again, moving Jasmine out of the middle. “What do you have to say?” he asked Amon, completely ignoring Jasmine.

  Amon glared at Beau. “Perhaps if you didn’t act like such a child all the time, she wouldn’t be susceptible to being stolen.” He wished he could have taken the words back as soon as he’d said them. But his emotions had gotten away from him. Perhaps he was the child in this situation.

  Beau’s face changed to a brighter shade of red. “Let’s get this straight. Jasmine is mine. Do you get it?” Beau ended up right in Amon’s face.

  Jasmine wiggled in between them, but focused on Beau. “How about you get this straight! I’m not yours. I’m my own!”

  “Looks like we’re all missing the show,” Azzy yelled, strolling into the kitchen.

  “Ooh, someone grab some popcorn,” Caim said, winking. Despite his efforts to stop it, a grin spread across Amon’s face.

  Caim and Azzy stood shoulder to shoulder at the entrance to the room. Both were smirking, like they had something up their sleeves. Amon shook his head.

  “Stay out of it. This is between me and him.” Beau pointed to Amon.

  “What’s between you two? Jasmine?” Caim asked, chuckling. “Because from where I’m standing, that’s kind of what it looks like.”

  “In the literal sense,” Azzy said, trying to keep a straight face. Then he walked forward and grabbed Beau. Caim grabbed Amon’s shoulders and pulled him away from Beau.

  “Listen, you two. There are plenty of fights coming at us from outside. How about we keep it from happening inside?” Caim angled his head. “Good idea, you think?”

  Amon didn’t understand how Caim could make him feel like he was being scolded, but he always had. As long as Amon could remember. “I think you have made your point,” Amon said.

  “This conversation isn’t over, Amon. One day, your buddies aren’t going to be there to stop me,” Beau said, storming from the room.

  “God, I wish he’d just grow up,” Jasmine said. “I’m sorry about all this, you guys.” She dropped her forehead in her hand.

  “It’s not your fault. Beau just doesn’t know what he wants right now,” Amon said.

  “But he knows he doesn’t want you around another dude,” Azzy said. “That’s for sure. Man, did you see his face? It looked like the guts of a tomato. So red.”

  “He kind of has an anger problem,” Jasmine said defensively.

  “Kind of?” Caim asked. “Beau needs to learn to control his emotions. Or else he is going to cause a lot of problems when we are hunting demons.”

  “Did somebody say ‘hunting demons’?” Amon turned at the new voice. Evangeline came through the entrance and stood beside him. He walked to the counter and leaned against it, crossing his arms.

  “Where have you been?” Amon asked.

  “Upstairs, trying to put things back in order,” Evangeline answered quickly. “And trying to find out what the demons’ next move is.”

  “And? Did you?” Caim asked.

  “Unfortunately, no,” Evangeline said sadly. “But I will keep trying.”

  “Good, keep us updated,” Jasmine said. “We need to make a move soon.”

  “Do not go out yet. You must learn how to use your power first. I know you’ve had some successes, but when you come across an actual demon army, the stakes will be higher and your fear will take hold, making your power more difficult to control,” Evangeline said, putting her hand on Jasmine’s shoulder.

  “We can’t wait much longer, Evangeline. The humans are being slaughtered too quickly, and if we don’t fight back, it will be too late to save anybody,” Amon said, his voice clipped.

  “I have been looking for Gazardiel. If I can find him, and bring him to you all, he can teach the Angel Blessed how their power works. Better than you or I can,” Evangeline said. “I will find him. Heaven is a mess right now, and everyone is doing their part. So, please, do yours. Help teach Jasmine and her friends. Train them to fight. Whatever will help them.”

  “We have been, and we will continue. You have our word,” Caim said.

  “Thank you. Now, I’m going to keep searching. I will check back in soon.” Evangeline turned and walked out the way she had come in.

  “Looks like we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Azzy said, grinning. “Should we get started?”

  Amon raised one brow. “What do you have in mind?”

  Azzy shrugged. “How about we take the Angel Blessed out for a night on the town.”

  “Guys, I still don’t think we’re ready,” Jasmine said, her voice high-pitched.

  Caim laughed. “You’re as ready as you’ll ever be. For this, at least. It’s time to make you
one of us.”

  Jasmine scrunched her forehead. “How do you plan on doing that? We’re human. We can’t just turn into fallen angels.”

  “You will see,” Caim said to her.

  “Are you sure about this?” Amon asked, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

  “Oh yeah. It’s definitely time for initiation night,” Azzy said. He threw a hand in the air. “Find the others. We leave now!” His tone was dramatic. Amon stifled a laugh, not wanting to give anything away. Already Jasmine looked as if she might puke.

  He kept quiet and walked away in search of Gemma. He hadn’t decided if he wanted to invite Beau and Lamia yet, but he was leaning toward no. Of course, he’d completely forgotten to ask Evangeline about the angels’ plans.

  Chapter 22

  Initiation

  Jasmine

  The SUV stopped at a large, vacant field, and Jasmine filed out along with the others. Everyone had come, even Beau and Lamia, which surprised her a bit. The only one who wasn’t here was Bub, which made Jasmine wonder why he didn’t come. She was glad though. When everyone was out of the SUV, Jasmine stood and waited for instructions.

  Caim moved to the front. “Okay. I brought everyone here because I’ve noticed a lot of fighting and bickering between everyone. In order to survive this war, we must stand together as a team.” He smiled. “So, I want everyone to sit down. This first exercise only involves our voices.”

  Jasmine sat, and so did everyone else.

  “I want each person to tell us a dark secret.”

  “So, what, this is like truth or dare?” Gemma asked. “What? Are we in high school again?”

  “Yeah, I never really liked this game much even then,” Cole said.

  “Shh. That’s enough. We need to understand each other right now. That way we can work together better.”

  Gemma and Cole looked at Jasmine and she nodded her approval.

  “Okay, I’m going to start,” Caim said. “I am going to share what happened to make me fall from Heaven.”

  Jasmine couldn’t help her curiosity. She’d been wondering that about all of them. They all seemed so nice, and brave. And loyal for that matter.

  “As an angel, I was tasked with Guardian status. It was my job to watch over you humans, but never to interfere with your free will. Your choices are and have always been your own. But, one day, as I was looking through our watcher orb, which made us capable of looking down on you all from above, I came across a young girl. Her father…” Caim stopped talking, and swallowed. Then, he clenched his fist and straightened his back. “Her father was on top of her late one night while she slept. The girl woke up, startled. She pushed against her father, kicked. He continued his assault. When she smacked him across the face, he punched her in hers. I couldn’t let this happen, so I used my angel speed and found her. He hadn’t gotten anywhere yet, and I threw him off of her. He slammed against the wall, his head cracking against the corner of her nightstand. He died. Even though I saved the girl from irreparable damage and scars for the remainder of her life, scars that would never be healed, I was thrown from Heaven for killing a human.”

  Jasmine listened the whole time, almost like she was in a trance. She didn’t realize until Caim had stopped talking that she had a fistful of grass in each of her hands.

  “You’ve got to be kidding me! How could the angels punish you for saving a young girl’s life?” Jasmine asked loudly.

  Caim shrugged. “That is their way. We are never allowed, under any circumstances, to take a human life. It’s a deal breaker.” Caim smiled. “But my anger over that moment has long since passed. It has brought me here, after all. To take part in something bigger than even the angels.”

  “I guess, but that really sucks, man,” Cole said.

  “It has never bothered me. I knew the moment the man died what my fate would be. We are never led astray up there. The angels are very upfront about the rules.”

  “Their rules are stupid,” Beau said. “I would be thanking you for saving that girl.”

  Jasmine looked over at Beau, and he was staring at her. Hard. Things were different between them for sure, but she knew how this story must have affected him. Something like this had almost happened to him. If it hadn’t been for his parents saving the day…she looked away first.

  “Okay, now I want Cole to share something,” Caim said.

  Cole chuckled. “I’ve never really done anything heroic, man. Not my style.”

  Caim gave him a pointed stare.

  “All right, there was a time when I was just a kid that a little girl fell on the playground and scraped her knee and I went to the nurse and got her a Band-Aid.”

  “It doesn’t have to be about heroics, Cole. Just tell us something about yourself. Something you don’t share with many others,” Amon said.

  Cole paused, looking up to the sky. Then he met Caim’s gaze. “Well, I’m really quiet around people most of the time. I don’t like people knowing things about me. It’s really hard for me to open up, and I think that’s because I always jumped from foster house to foster house. I never had a stable home, and was never around long enough to even think I might end up having a real family. So because of that, I don’t let myself get close to anyone.” He laughed. “I guess I just always figure they won’t be around long, ya know?”

  Jasmine was startled, but Cole’s words kind of hit close to home. “You know, I never really looked like either of my parents. I always wondered if I’d been adopted, until my mom came out and told me I was. Now I know the truth.”

  “Honestly, you probably all were. You were Angel Blessed, so more than likely your mother died when you were born. Because of the powers you were gifted, it would have been a very hard labor. Most of the time, when any baby still in the mother’s womb is given these types of powers, the mother doesn’t make it through the birth,” Lamia said. “At least, that is what I have always been told. I’ve never actually met an Angel Blessed before though.”

  “Okay. Amon, you’re next.”

  Jasmine met his eyes and his softened. He quickly looked away, as if ashamed. “I have always blamed myself for my parents’ death. If I had just been there, maybe I could have stopped it.”

  Caim placed a hand on his shoulder. “But you know you couldn’t have. You died that day too.”

  “I know, Caim. But my whole family was killed by a demon. A demon who I could have killed, should have killed myself. If only I hadn’t been so scared.”

  “You were only a child yourself, Amon. You couldn’t have stopped him, even though you wanted to,” Caim replied softly.

  Amon gazed at his friends, and it looked like there were tears in his eyes. “There was so much blood. After I heard the first scream, I started running from the field.” He looked at everyone else. “You see, I had been gathering bundles of hay. For the horses. We were going to take the leftovers to the market to sell. We were very poor.” He paused, his eyes glazing over as if he were reliving every moment, seeing everything again. “But then I heard my mother’s scream, and I ran with everything I had. By the time I’d made it to our small home, everyone was gone. My mother, my father. My brothers and sisters. Even the newest addition to our family, only three months old at the time. I didn’t see the demon until he shoved his sharp claw through my stomach. Blood gushed from the wound, and I remember putting my hand against it to try to stop the bleeding. But it was too late. I fell to the floor. And that’s all I remember until I awakened in Heaven.”

  Jasmine’s mouth fell open and her heart raced. A sorrow filled her. Nobody should have to live like that. She stood and moved over to him, wrapping an arm around him. “I’m sorry you had to see that. To go through that.”

  “Okay, how about someone tell me what the hell is going on with you two,” Beau almost yelled.

  “It does seem like you’ve become rather close,” Lamia chimed in.

  Jasmine looked up, her eyes wide. “Amon is my friend, my teammate. And I can see the hurt on his fa
ce plain as day. Offering condolences to a friend shouldn’t be questioned, and I shouldn’t have to defend my actions.”

  Beau stood and walked away. Lamia followed after him.

  “Okay, I think this activity must end for the moment. I know everyone didn’t get to share, but this exercise was to draw us closer, and a few of the members of our team didn’t see it like that,” Caim said.

  “I’m sorry, Caim. I was actually enjoying this, and felt like I was really starting to understand things a little more clearly,” Jasmine said.

  “We’ll just have to try again soon,” Gemma said.

  Caim smiled. “Yes, I think that will be best. Now, everyone pair off with your trainers. I want you to canvas the area, hunt for demons. If you find one, kill it. No mercy.”

  “Sounds like my kind of fun,” Jasmine said. She had plenty of rage against the evil creatures, and hearing Amon’s story just amped her up even more. She’d have lots of fun if she found one. Jasmine grabbed Amon’s hand and pulled him up. Together, they took off in the opposite direction of everyone else, ready to find some demons.

  Chapter 23

  Hunting Demons

  Amon

  Stalking through the streets around the house had turned up nothing, so they’d taken the SUV. Jasmine drove Amon out past a few close by towns, which seemed to be abandoned. So they kept driving. Amon wanted to see just how far the demons had gotten.

  “Have you seen anything yet?” Jasmine asked.

  “No. Nothing.”

  Silence stretched after that. Amon had plenty to say, but for some reason he felt nervous. Sharing his story had been hard; he’d kept that burden to himself for so long. Relived it every single day in Hell. It was a nightmare he couldn’t escape. But talking about it helped, which was something he had never thought to do before. He’d carried that weight on his shoulders for so long. Now it seemed like it was finally lifting.

  “A penny for your thoughts,” Jasmine said.

 
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