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       Emblaze, p.31

           Jessica Shirvington

  „You"re her partner," she asked, confrontationally.

  „I am."

  „You"re from a Power?" It was an odd question.

  „How did you know?" Lincoln asked.

  „At least some things were done right," she mumbled. „I suppose if I were to make a point of passing you now - you"d be willing to use force?"

  „A fair assumption," he said, and I could tell he wasn"t joking.

  My soul stirred again.

  „Would you die for her?"

  I almost stopped breathing.

  I could feel his eyes on me.

  „I do. Every day."


  „What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil."

  Friedrich Nietzsche

  We landed in a thunderstorm and the turbulence was too much - I felt sick by the time the plane drew to a standstill. More so at the thought of what would happen now we were home.

  As we began to taxi towards our terminal, Griffin and Josephine moved to the front of the plan. Dealing with everything else, I"d almost forgotten she was there, probably enjoying the show.

  The pair stopped in front of Lincoln and me,

  „Violet, Josephine will be returning to the Academy immediately. We have no idea where Lilith is headed but we can assume she will be in control now, so it is unlikely she and Phoenix will return here. Josephine will mount an investigation and put out feelers to all Grigori worldwide until we get a hit on them. In the meantime, the Assembly with be …

  reviewing your unique situation.

  I nodded. No doubt that wouldn"t mean anything good, but there was little else to say for now.

  Griffin cleared his throat. „Also, Josephine will be taking your moth-" my look cut him off.

  „Sorry - Evelyn, back to the Academy with her. Given the circumstances of her return, she will need to be fully debriefed and monitored."

  I looked up, seeing in Griffin"s eyes what his words only touched upon.

  They were going to imprison her, just like Josephine had threatened to do to me. I glanced over my shoulder at Evelyn. She was standing at the back, leaning casually against the wall, arms crossed, as if unconcerned. But she wasn"t.

  Could I stand by and let them take her? Why should I bother trying to stop them? She would never help me. She"d probably handcuff me for them if the roles were reversed. And I already had enough troubles with the Academy.

  I looked at Lincoln. He was glancing around, too. I knew what he was thinking.

  Even if we wanted to do something, we have no chance.

  We could fight, but that would be bad, bad, bad. Plus, even though I"d be happy to punch Josephine I didn"t want to fight the Academy Grigori; I liked most of them.

  I turned back to see Josephine looking smug.

  „Violet? Are you okay?" Lincoln said loudly.

  I looked up at him in horror. He knew better than to draw attention to me when I was like this. He put a hand over my face.

  „You look like you"re going to be sick. Spence! Take her to the bathroom!"

  Spence moved quickly, helping me up.

  What is Lincoln doing?

  I wasn"t going to be sick. He knew why I was panicking.

  As Spence pulled me down the aisle, I caught Lincoln giving him a small nod.

  What the …?

  Spence opened the door tot eh bathroom, and to my horror, stepped in with me, a finger to his lips.

  I mouthed, "What"s going on?"

  He shrugged. He didn"t know either. All we knew was that Lincoln had sent us down here on purpose. Why?

  Because Spence must be able to do something no on else can.

  I dropped my face in my hands and then looked up at our reflections in the mirror. I wished Spence could glamour me into looking better.

  Glamour! That"s it.

  I put my mouth to his ear. „Lincoln"s giving us the chance to get her out of here. I can"t just let the Academy imprison her. If I clear the way, can you hold a glamour that no one out there will see through? Can you help me get her off?" And all the while my soul churned, loving and screaming for that man more and more.

  Spence grinned. „Don"t need to ask, Eden. I"ve already told you I"ve got your back."

  I squeeze his shoulder, gratefully. „And I"ve got yours. Whenever. Whatever."


  I stumbled out of the bathroom. „Linc," I breathed.

  He bounded up the aisle to my side. „Hey! You okay?"

  I glanced at Evelyn and let her see my eyes dart towards Spence. It was the best I could do. She didn"t react at all.

  I hope this works.

  „Yeah. Just dizzy. Can you help me off?" I asked.

  Lincoln wrapped his arm around my waist. „Everyone clear the aisle."

  And it was as easy as that. Everyone moved back, watching me, the poor invalid who needed to be helped off the plane by her soulmate. I was grinding my teeth the entire time.

  Lincoln knew, of course. My asking for help was a sure-fine way to tip him off. Griffin, too, who actually looked like he was enjoying the moment as we passed him and Josephine.

  „We"ll be seeing you soon, Violet," Josephine promised as we passed.

  „I"m sure," I said, wishing I didn"t have to so pathetic in front of her.

  „Hey, Kaitlin!" Griffin called out, standing on one of the seats. „Throw us a couple of bags.

  Heavy bags started flying through the air, providing the perfect distraction, keeping prying eyes away.

  Lincoln and I kept moving, keeping up the pretence of my weakness until we"d disembarked. Once we were off, we made a bee-line for the terminal, only stopping when we were surrounded by other people. I turned around. Spence was right behind us and dropped the invisibility glamour instantly. He was alone.

  „Where is she?" I asked, suddenly sick at the though we"d been caught.

  Spence shrugged, apologetically. „I had her until we hit the terminal, but as soon as there were people she just took off into the crowd."

  I put my hands on my hips and let out a breath. What had I expected?

  „Whatever. Let"s go."


  „ And the angel said, “I have learned that every man lives, not through care of himself, but by love."

  Leo Tolstoy

  There was so much to do, but not one of us knew where to start. Somehow we all ended up back at Hades. By the time Lincoln, Spence and I walked into Dapper"s apartment, everyone else was already there.

  The conversation ebbed and flowed as we reflected on the past few days, Griffin telling us how he"d managed to recruit so many Grigori from the mainland to help our cause and Lincoln filling in the gaps, explaining that he"d been back to Irin to request their and the Rogue forces" safe entry to the island. I wondered if Irin had fed from him again, but Lincoln, as if reading my thoughts, assured me that the Keeper had simply agreed, still on cloud nine from whatever payment Phoenix had sent him.

  That was where Lincoln had been coming from the night I left with Phoenix. I could see the regret in his eyes now, how much it pained him that his delay in reaching me had enabled Phoenix to take me away with him.

  Theories were thrown around about what Lilith would do, now that she was back, where she would focus on her destructive energy. The only thing everyone agreed on was that it wouldn"t take her long to resurface.

  I made my way to the minibar, where Onyx was handing out drinks like a pro.

  „You asked me once if I was willing to make the big choices," I said, grabbing a Coke.


  „I am. Are you?"

  He downed a large gulp of whiskey and cast his eyes around the room, filled with enemies of old. „I believe I already have."

  I nodded. „You"re welcome to stay close to us," I said, giving him my word. „Thank you for helping me."

  He shrugged. „I"m not good, Violet."

  „I know that, Onyx, but you"re not evil either."

gave a brief nod. „You saved a lot of people on that island, myself included."

  Tears welled and I shook my head. „It was my fault. I helped Phoenix bring back Lilith."

  He waited until I"d composed myself.

  „If you hadn"t brokered the deal, it would"ve happened anyway, just differently. You did the best you could. I"m amazed you managed what you did."

  I really hadn"t thought of it that way,

  Dapper joined us at the bar. „I need you to work tomorrow, Onyx. Trisha said a couple of staff have called in sick."

  I could Onyx was tempted to tell him to get stuffed but then he surprised us both by simply passing Dapper a full glass. „I can do that."

  Dapper sipped his drink to hide his shock and nodded with a raspy, "That"s good."

  Onyx harrumphed and moved away. Once we were alone, I leaned in to Dapper. "I know it was you who healed Onyx and Steph."

  Dapper fixed his gaze on me.

  „I won"t tell anyone," I offered.

  I saw the tension leave as his shoulders and mouth relaxed. He cleared his throat awkwardly.

  „Thank you."


  We spun round to see Griffin. "Except I already know and would prefer not to have to pretend otherwise."

  „Me, too," Lincoln said, now walking towards us.

  „Didn"t anyone ever tell you its rude to listen in to other people"s conversations?" snapped Dapper.

  „Afraid I"d already worked it out, my friend. Lincoln had, too, I expect. There weren"t many alternatives once we ruled out Violet"s abilities," Griffin said, lowering his voice now.

  „Just humans?" Lincoln asked.

  Dapper grunted, apparently resigned. „Anything mostly human."

  And then I couldn"t help myself. „Dapper, what are you?"

  Dapper picked up his cleaning cloth and started wiping down the bar. „Just a barman.

  That"s all I bloody well wanna be, anyway."

  With that, we let it go, melting back into other conversations. If Dapper wanted to keep his business private, that was his call. I was glad Griffin and Lincoln seemed to agree.

  Settling on my bar stool, I looked around the room and smiled. My friends, my family, were home and safe. We had big problems and the safe part wouldn"t last long, but for now, we were okay.


  Steph found me a bit later, hiding in the bathroom.

  „You okay?" she asked.

  „Yeah. You?"

  She sat beside me on the edge of the bath. „Yeah. Thanks, by the way," she said, fingering her necklace.

  „Sure. I"d prefer that you didn"t have to be around this stuff at all, though."

  She shuffled closer to me. „I know, but this is exactly where I want to be, Vi."

  „I know." I stood up and took her hand. „Come one, Salvatore"s probably sent out a search party." That earned me a smile. „Yeah, yeah, I know … you love him."

  She followed me out, still holding my hands and bumping my hip. „I really do."

  We linked arms and walked out laughing - right into a silent living room.

  „What"s going on?" Steph asked, still laughing.

  But she stopped when she saw her brother standing in the doorway.

  „Someone said they saw you come in here," Jase said, realising he"d interrupted something.

  „Jase! Hey! Yeah, I just got back," Steph stalled, not sure how much to say.

  I suddenly remembered the text he"d sent me. I squeezed Steph"s hand.

  „Yeah. Some crazy getaway. We … um … we got stranded up the coast and just grabbed a lift back. Someone … working downstairs told us you were here, so we came up to look for you."

  Oh my God, this isn"t going well.

  Jase snorted. "And just happened to find Lincoln and his friend Griffin? Along with my boss, who has also been mysteriously absent for the same amount of time as the rest of you!"

  Damn. He is observant.

  „Jase …I … I…I" But she had nothing. Neither did I.

  „She was with me," Salvatore said from behind, coming up and putting an arm around Steph. "In fact, we were all together, doing things very important. I am apologising, Jase, but Steph is not able to tell you where she is been or what she is doing. Can it be enough to know she"s with people who care for her, just as you? That now she is being home and safe and maybe one day she tells you more?"

  Jase looked completely gob smacked.

  He wasn"t the only one. I"d never hears so many words come out of Salvatore"s mouth in one go.

  Griffin chose that moment to step in. „Salvatore is right, Jase. We wish we could tell you more. But everything he has said is the truth and it is your choice what you do with that."

  I could see Griffin"s power swirling, using his ability to instil truth. A layer of mist moved over Jase, penetrating him with his honesty. Steph"s wide eyes told me her necklace was working well, too, as it broke down the illusions that would normally hide human eyes from such things.

  Jase looked around the room. He was still fro so long, people started leaving - first Samuel and Kaitlin, then Nathan and Becca and eventually, Dapper, too, who put a consoling hand on Jase"s shoulder on the way, „You"ll be right, lad. Sometimes it"s better not to know everything. Bloody well wish I didn"t!"

  He was followed by Onyx, who seemed revived with a bounce in his step. He smiled broadly at us. „And I thought you people didn"t mess with humans."

  Steph squeezed onto the sofa with Salvatore, beside Spence and Zoe, and waited nervously. Lincoln and Griffin made themselves comfortable at the minbar while I was left in no-man"s land.

  Finally, I went up to him. „Jase?"

  His eyes focused on me. „Something really big is going on here, isn"t it?"

  I smiled sadly. „Yes, but believe me when I tell you it"s better if you don"t know."

  He looked at Steph. „She"s safe?"

  I wished I didn"t fell like lying. „Yes."

  „And you?" I saw Lincoln shift from the corner of my eye.

  „Yes. I"m fine."

  He threw a hand towards Salvatore, who was watching nervously. „So he and my sister


  Jase nodded as if he"d figured that much out for himself.

  „So, I just pretend you were off sitting on a beach up the coast?"

  I put my hands in my pockets. "Better than us lying to you."

  „True." The corners of his mouth turned up mischievously. "So … if Steph is going out with him, I guess that means it"ll just be me taking you to the dance?"

  Lincoln stood abruptly. I felt his fury building and had to force myself not to look.

  Jase, however, did, and whatever he saw made him stubborn.

  „Saturday night, right? I"ll pick you up at six and we can get something to eat on the way."

  „Oh," my mouth was dry/ all I could concentrate on was feeling Lincoln"s rage.

  „Oh," I said again. I really didn"t want to hurt him.

  Steph jumped up. "Why don"t we all go together? You know, as a group."

  „Yeah. A group would be good." But I could still feel Lincoln behind me so I added. "Jase, I"m not really available … like that." I swallowed hard, unsure if I was doing the right thing. I didn"t want to lead him on and, more than that, I didn"t want to hurt Lincoln. Just because we couldn"t be together …

  „Oh," Jase said, flashing another look in Lincoln"s direction. "I didn"t realise you were seeing someone."

  „I"m not … it"s just that …" I took a deep breath. "It just wouldn"t be fair to you, Jase. "I"m sorry."

  He stepped towards me and put a hand out towards my face. I grabbed it before he made contact. "Jase, I mean it," I said, surprised by my reaction.

  Lincoln must have felt it too because I sensed him relax. I knew he"d understand what I said next. "The dance will be fun - if you"re okay with going as friends?"

  Jase glanced in Lincoln"s direction again then back to me. He took a step back. "Steph, I"m leaving in twenty and y
ou"d better come with me if we"re going to figure out something to say to Mum."

  Steph nodded. "I"ll meet you out front."

  Jase headed towards the door, stopping to look back at me. He smiled a killer smile that would have blown most girls away.

  „Friends is fine, Vi. His hand braced the doorframe as his smile widened. „For now."

  Either he was well-practised at pissing other guys off or just had really good intuition, because he was out the door in a flash.

  Good God.

  Spence broke the awkward silence. „Come on, Zo. Let"s get you settled a the hotel, you can pout about Music Man later. Can"t believe the Academy is paying for your accommodation!" He pulled her up from the sofa.

  „Well, you will when I tell you the dirt we have on Mr Carven. And anyway, she said, throwing me a foul look, „I"m pretty sure I already called dibs on Music Man."

  I"d forgotten that Zoe had hit on Jase a couple of months ago. I gave her a worried look, but her annoyance morphed into a light smile.

  „No biggie."

  I breathed a sigh of relied - I couldn"t take on anyone else right now. Seeing my chance, I jumped at the exit opportunity. „I"ll walk out with you guys," I said, grabbing my bag.


  I stood in the middle of the footpath, immobile. Getting away had been all well and good, but once I had said my goodbyes and loaded Spence and Zoe into a taxi I found I had no idea where to go. I couldn"t face Dad yet, I knew there would be endless questions that I would have to answer. Before that, I needed to get my head straight.

  I felt his presence when Lincoln neared. I started to speed up - it would be better to stay away from him right now - but he was beside me within moments. He pulled his coat off and wrapped it around me.

  „Come on," he said. „I"ll sleep on the couch."

  I let him walk me all the way to the warehouse and we settled into a perfect silence that somehow conveyed more than anything we would dare say aloud.

  „I"ll run you a bath," was all he said when we got there.

  I soaked for as long as I could before my hungry soul dragged me back out to him.

  While Lincoln disappeared to have a quick shower, I picked up my paintbrush and pulled back the drop-sheet from a section of my wall. I hadn"t thought about the mural much lately, and I still wasn"t ready to tackle the whole thin, but now, down one side, I felt inspired sand outline something that felt right - a single lily on a long stem.

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