Above the flames the fla.., p.28
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       Above The Flames (The Flames Trilogy #1), p.28

           Cassandra Fear
 
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  She sighed, then crawled onto the bed and curled up beside her best friend, resting her head on his shoulder again. “You can’t leave me, Beau.” She wrapped an arm around his chest. “I don’t know how I’ll live in this world without you.”

  “Amon will take care of you, Jaz.” Another long, loud coughing fit. “I love you, though. I really do. Never loved…” he took a deep breath, the sound like sawing wood, “…never loved someone like I did you.”

  Her body convulsed and she squeezed him tight. Tears soaked his shirt as they poured down her face. She cried loudly, snot dripping from her nose. Beau’s body shook. More white foam came from his mouth. She leaned into his ear and whispered, “I love you too.” Beau’s smile was the most precious gift in the world, and his whole face lit up as he gave her that smile.

  A line of blood seeped from the corner of his mouth as Beau took one final, shaky breath. But he never got the chance. For at 1:20 p.m. on July 17, Beau McDaniels died. Jasmine lost her best friend. The one person she knew better than any other person in the world.

  Jasmine moaned. “No! God no! Please! Come back!” She grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him up, then wrapped her arms around him. She rocked him back and forth. “Beau. Beau! Please don’t leave me! I need you!”

  She gently placed his head on his pillow, and curled up beside him again. A long time passed before she got up. The warmth had drained from his body and his shirt was soaked from her tears. She stood beside him. He looked so peaceful laying there, his face relaxed. Death often looked stress free, not like life at all. She leaned down and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I will always love you.”

  Everything blurred together as she stumbled from the room. She moved to her own room and pushed the door open. When she closed it behind her, she leaned her back into it and slid down. She covered her hands with her face. Time didn’t seem to move. Her mind was numb, and although thoughts berated her, she ignored them all. She was frozen, rooted to the floor.

  Her hands trembled. She wrapped her arms around her chest and tucked her hands under her arm pits. Then she rolled onto the floor, pulling her knees up into a ball. She fell asleep soon after.

  ***

  The next day, Jasmine stood straight, her feet planted into the ground. Her black dress soaked up the sun’s rays, and sweat rolled down her skin and soaked into the cloth she wore. Her eyes felt swollen, and it was hard to focus through blurry tears.

  Caim and Amon lowered Beau’s lifeless body down into a deep hole they’d dug. Everyone was in attendance. Lamia stood separate from everyone, but Gemma and Cole stayed close, linking their arms with Jasmine, providing a much needed strength. Amber and Teeny, whom she hadn’t even met yet, lurked behind everyone else. They fidgeted and looked uncomfortable, but Jasmine wasn’t up for offering warm welcomes. She shivered, a cold chill creeping down her neck.

  Amon shoveled dirt, pouring it over the grave. Jasmine’s fingers shook, so she wrapped them around her sides.

  When they were finished, they marked Beau’s grave with a wooden cross and painted the letters of his name in blue, the same blue of his eyes. She didn’t know how long it would last, but it was something. The whole town was gone now. The funeral parlor was shut down when the demons attacked. Jasmine wasn’t sure if things would ever get back to normal, but she knew she would die trying to make them that way.

  She’d tried to contact Beau’s parents, but they never picked up their phones. Of course, she couldn’t leave a message with the details of what happened. She had to talk to them face-to-face. And she would make sure that when they came home, she’d be here to tell them what happened. If they ever arrived home. The demons could have already attacked them for all she knew.

  One by one, everyone moved forward and said a few words. Jasmine went last. She bent over and picked a wildflower from the grass. Then she moved forward and stood over Beau’s makeshift grave. As she laid the flower over the loose dirt, she straightened and blew a kiss. “Goodbye, Beau. You will forever be in my heart and I will never forget you.” Tears dripped down her already puffy cheeks as she turned and strolled back toward the house. “The willow tree will keep you safe,” she whispered into the wind, hoping that it might reach his ears in Heaven.

  Chapter 36

  A Demon’s Predicament

  Bael

  Bael stretched out on a lumpy mattress in a one-room cottage. Evangeline sat beside him in a wooden chair. He sat up and rested his elbows on his knees and dropped his head in his hands.

  “My love, we have succeeded. Why do you look so sour?” Evangeline came to sit beside him.

  Bael turned and glared at her. “No, we have not. We did not get the Angel Blessed, they were all rescued. They are important to our plan. We do not have long before our time here is up. If we do not kill all the humans, then we will be forced back to Hell, to live the rest of eternity.”

  Evangeline sighed. “I know, Bael. But we will make sure that doesn’t happen.” She smiled, placing an arm around him. “Together, we can do anything.”

  Bael grinned and wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her close. He put his mouth against her ear and reveled when she shivered. “You had better hope you are right, my love. For if you aren’t, I will have no problem killing you.”

  He drew back and gazed into her eyes, then leaned forward and kissed her softly, drawing back only to touch his lips to hers again. She was so sweet, his angel. Evangeline had always been his. Even though he didn’t feel love like she did, it was nice to have a piece of the emotion.

  “Bael. I missed you so much. You have no idea what it was like around those fallen angels.” She looked down. “All they wanted was to save the world. And I so badly wanted to tell them they wouldn’t even save themselves.”

  Bael laughed and petted Evangeline’s hair. When his hand touched her tiara, he pulled it off and threw it to the ground, where it clanged and rolled into a corner. “You no longer need this golden halo. We will find you something darker, befitting a princess of Hell.”

  Evangeline reared back. “Does that mean—?”

  Bael nodded. “It is past time I made you my wife.”

  Evangeline stood and paced in front of him, looking like she would jump out of her skin. After a few moments, she stopped. “You’ve made me the happiest angel today, Bael.”

  The door flew open and Moloch stormed in, wild-eyed. “Master Bael, you must come—”

  Bael’s voice shook with rage. “I told you no interruptions. Out!”

  Moloch pointed behind him. “But you must come. Someone is here.”

  Bael raised his brows. “Who would come here?” He walked past Moloch, and Evangeline followed.

  The grass tickled his bare feet as he moved forward, seeing a large, dark shape moving from the woods.

  “Ready yourselves for battle.” He raised his arm, and his demons moved behind him as one unit.

  They crept forward, Bael, Moloch, and Evangeline side by side. The shape moved so fast Bael’s eyes couldn’t register where it was until it moved right in his face.

  Blood red eyes stared into his own, and his spine tingled. Dark, cracked skin lined the body of the leader of Hell.

  “Lucifer. You have been released.” Bael smiled, although inside his stomach dropped.

  Lucifer smiled with gray lips. His maroon horns curled atop his head as he looked down at Bael. “You have done an excellent job.” He peered over Bael’s head. “You all have! Tonight, we celebrate the start of something spectacular! Tonight, we celebrate with blood!”

  A helicopter flew above them, followed by three more and two jets. Bael covered his ears against the sound.

  Lucifer laughed. “Oh, look at this. It seems we will have plenty of blood to celebrate with! Perfect!”

  Bael stepped back, Lucifer’s towering height putting a strain on his neck as he looked at him.

  Evangeline moved forward. “Lucifer. It is wonderful to see you again.”

  Lucifer took her hand.
“Ah, the beautiful Evangeline. What trouble have you started now?” He kissed her knuckles. “Hopefully a lot.”

  Bael balled his hands into fists. His heart hammered in his chest and his cheeks warmed. What is this sensation I’m feeling?

  Lucifer’s lips lingered on Evangeline’s skin and he moved his eyes up, peering to the side at Bael. The corners of Lucifer’s lips tilted upward and Bael clenched his fists so hard that his claw dug into his skin.

  “Is something wrong, Bael?”

  Bael growled, but managed to shake his head. What is wrong with me?

  “Demons new and old, tonight is the night your master has risen. Tonight, we start preparations to take over this world and make it our own. Forever!”

  The demon horde cheered and screamed in excitement. The boisterous noise made Bael cringe.

  As the demons and Evangeline followed Lucifer through the woods, Bael hung back.

  “Not in the mood for a celebration?” Moloch asked, sidling up beside him.

  Bael frowned and shrugged. “I don’t think it really matters if I am in the mood. Lucifer is in charge, and his mere suggestions are orders. I learned that long ago.”

  With heavy feet, Bael stepped toward the crowd. He should be ecstatic to see his master. He’d been in charge. He’d been the one to free Lucifer. Of course, not by himself, but the orders had been his.

  With Lucifer here, Bael wouldn’t be needed as much. Lucifer had his own plans to take over this world. Bael knew that, so his plans were no longer valid. They were a ripped up sheet of paper, the pieces tossed in the air and floating through the wind now.

  What is your problem? You are the second most powerful demon in Hell. It is not time for a pity party.

  Bael straightened his spine and puffed his chest out. He had plenty of tricks up his sleeve. He hadn’t become second-in-command on a whim. To earn that kind of respect, he’d had to do unthinkable things. Some that he still wasn’t proud of. But they had been necessary, and so he’d done what he had to do to gain his rank. Now, he wasn’t going to let Lucifer make him feel any less than what he was. He’d take charge of things when he wanted to. To hell with Lucifer. The demons would follow him. If they didn’t, he’d make them pay. One by one.

  Bael snickered as he walked toward a new town, one with a lot of people dressed in green and brown.

  Chapter 37

  Angels Among Us

  Beau

  Beau shielded his eyes with his hand. The light is so bright. I can’t see a thing.

  He stepped out of a long tunnel onto a white floor. The light dimmed, but it had messed with his focus. Black spots sat wherever he looked, so he blinked a few times and cleared his vision. He looked down. The white floor wasn’t a white floor after all. Is that…a cloud?

  He took a step and sunk down past his ankle, but didn’t fall through. Something sturdy in the center of the fluffy cloud was solid, and kept him afloat. He hopped along, one cloud to the next, his heart light and a smile on his face.

  The sky, a baby blue, was the bluest he’d ever seen. Gold tables came into view, the sun making the paint sparkle as if a real precious metal. The beauty wouldn’t cease, as on the tables vases of flowers poofed into existence.

  Angels flew over him as he picked up his pace, not sure where he was going, but knowing he had somewhere to be. His back tingled, and he slowed as an uncomfortable heat touched his skin there, then the pain disappeared and he was lighthearted once more, a happiness swelling inside him.

  Beau ran as fast as his feet would carry him. Before he knew it, he’d left the clouds and instead flew above them. He reached an arm around, feeling the soft feathers of what he’d expected: wings. I’m an angel! Holy cow!

  His wings were golden, but a lighter shade than the decorations. They shimmered as if metallic, and Beau laughed, the sound echoing all around him.

  “Beau!” a soft voice boomed, as if talking through a loud speaker.

  He stopped, his wings flapping to hold him in the air. “Where are you?” He turned in a circle, but nobody stood on any of the clouds below him.

  “I am here.” A woman flew up through a cloud, white dust swirling around her. Her brown wings looked rougher, as if they were dipped in chocolate. She had short, spiky brown hair the same color. “Phew. Thought I’d never make it out of that cloud. It was a rough one.” She laughed, the sound like bells chiming.

  Beau’s body felt light, airy. Like he could float up here forever and never tire of it. “It’s beautiful here.”

  The words slipped out before he could stop them. He wanted to say hello. To ask how he’d become an angel. But the Heavens took his breath away and he needed to tell someone.

  The angel brushed the front of her hot pink suit jacket, and then pulled at the zebra print collar. She grinned, showing unnaturally white teeth. “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Follow me.”

  He had no problem following her, even as she zoomed past him. Her pantsuit glittered, catching the light. Small rainbows scattered all over the white clouds, painting the scene even more majestically.

  Beau’s heart raced with excitement as he finally caught the angel. He panted. “What is your name?”

  “Ah. My name? Well, you have to earn that.” She winked, and then zoomed forward again.

  Beau caught up to her as she stopped over a large glowing orb. It was bright yellow like the sun, and he squinted. “What is that?”

  “This is the very first thing I’ll be showing you on our tour today. The orb of overseeing.”

  Beau glided down, landing on a cloud next to the orb. “What does it do?”

  The angel came down beside him, and nudged him with her shoulder. “Go touch it. I dare you.”

  Beau turned and gazed at the angel. “You aren’t at all what I would have pictured an angel looking like. In fact, Evangeline was more like what I imagined one of you looking like.”

  The angel gestured with her hand. “Blah. Blah. Blah. Evangeline is evil! Or hadn’t you heard? Let’s not speak of her up here. You could be punished.” The last words were a whisper.

  Beau shrugged and walked forward. He inched his hand closer to the orb. Just as his hand almost touched it, he drew back. He tried to turn, but instead the angel barreled into him from behind, and he pushed his hands in front of him. They landed right on the orb.

  Colors swirled through the orb, greens and browns, blues and whites, until they cleared up and everything came into focus.

  Beau sucked in a breath. “Is that Jasmine?”

  The angel moved beside him. “It is. She remains true to the cause. For now. Amon continues to train her to fight the demons. She should have been prepared before the war, but Evangeline was in charge of that.” The angel sighed. “Of course, you know how that turned out.”

  Beau stared hard into the orb. Jasmine was running around his yard, Amon chasing her. She threw her head back as Amon tackled her to the ground. They both rolled flat on their backs, their arms crossed over their stomachs as their bodies shook. Beau’s stomach sunk.

  “Does this thing have sound?” Beau asked.

  The angel laughed. “Nope. It only shows you a picture.”

  Beau frowned. “Why am I seeing Jasmine and Amon?”

  “The orb of overseeing will show you whatever is in your head. Whatever you are thinking about. Of course, at this time, your thoughts are all about the Jasmine, baby.”

  Beau cleared his throat and dropped his hands from the orb. The picture stayed as it was. “How do I get it to go away?”

  The angel smirked. “You just stop thinking about her. That’s all you have to do. Which should be easy once we assign your angelic duties.”

  Beau guffawed. “Um. Angelic duties? I’m not sure I’m qualified for all that.”

  “Guess it’s a good thing it doesn’t matter if you’re sure. We are. We picked you long ago. Even knowing how selfish you were. We picked you to become an angel because you have a beautiful, kind soul, Beau. Don’t ever let anything harde
n that.”

  Beau gazed into the orb again as Amon leaned over Jasmine. She tried to crawl away, but he grabbed her by the legs and pulled her back. Sure doesn’t look like any training is going on.

  Amon grabbed Jasmine’s side. It was obvious he was tickling her. She squirmed and wiggled away from his grasp, but her mouth was open and a lightness was in her eyes as she laughed.

  “Enough.” Beau curled his fists at his sides.

  Amon stopped tickling, and their eyes locked on each other, faces only inches apart.

  “Enough.” Beau squeezed his fists until his nails poked his skin. “Turn it off. I don’t want to see any more.”

  The angel snapped her fingers and the picture disappeared.

  Beau sighed. “Thank you.”

  The angel placed her hand on Beau’s shoulder. “It’s all right to mourn what you’ve lost. But remember, you’ve gained a heck of a lot in the process. I mean, it’s amazing being an angel. You’ll see. And who knows, we will be working with the Angel Blessed a lot soon. You may even see that girl of yours again.” She raised her eyebrows up and down. “But you have to be good for all that to happen. That means following orders.”

  “You haven’t given me any orders. You’ve shown me this orb thing, and that was it. I mean, you haven’t even told me your name!” Beau raised his voice. “This is nuts!”

  Everything around him started spinning, and Beau dropped to a knee. He buried his face in his hands and focused on breathing.

  “Okay. I’ll give you a tiny concession. My name is Charmeine.” She cleared her throat.

  Beau drew his gaze up as Charmeine bowed. “It’s nice to meet you. Now, you said something about seeing Jasmine?”

  Charmeine nodded. “I did. An angel has already gone down the portal to Earth to meet with her. Gazardiel, actually. It was befitting that he went, since his powers flow through all of the Angel Blessed.”

  Beau put his hands up in front of him, waving them back and forth. “Now hold on. Let’s take a step back for a sec. Did you say portal?”

 
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