CHAPTER 1

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CHAPTER 2 NEWEST POST

“Hello, Praea.”

Jolted by what felt like a thousand volts of electricity, my fingers released their grasp on the satellite phone. It clattered against the edge of the tabletop then bounced to the floor. Only one person on the planet called me by my angel name, Praea—my demon mother, Kasyade. Why was she answering my best friend's phone?

Where is Adrianne?

My stomach clenched like it was being squeezed by invisible hands. Oh shit. What if it was? I cried out in pain before panic flooded my bloodstream and constricted my airway like a spiked iron vise.

Warren Parish, my fiancé, put his hand on the back of my neck. "Babe, are you OK?" Waves of his energy pulsed through me, easing the pain and tension in my twisted uterus.

The g-force from the takeoff of Claymore Worldwide Securities' jet pushed my head back against the headrest. "Stop the plane." My voice squeaked out, barely a whisper.

"What?" Nathan McNamara shouted over the roar of the engines.

I splayed my palms on top of the plane's conference table and took a deep breath. "Stop the plane!" That time, I shouted.

Enzo, Special Operations Director of Claymore's most elite combat unit known as SF-12, swiveled toward me in his chair. "Stop the plane?"

My fingers found the seat belt wedged underneath my pregnant belly, and my trembling hand fumbled the buckle. "How many times do I have to say it?" I screamed.

Warren grasped my hand to stop me from unbuckling in the middle of takeoff. "Sloan, what's going on?"

My face whipped toward him. "She has her!"

"Who has who?" Enzo asked.

"Kasyade has Adrianne!"

Everyone looked at me. Nathan reached to the floor and picked up the satellite phone.

Warren's arm curled around the back of my chair. "How do you know?"

I took a deep breath in through my nose and blew it out through my mouth. "I called Adrianne, and Kasyade—or someone who sounds a lot like her—answered. She called me Praea."

Taiya pointed at me across the table with her good hand, the one that hadn't been blown apart earlier that day in our battle with the Morning Star. "Alis Praea." Taiya was speaking in Katavukai, the language of angels. Thanks to my unborn daughter, I could now understand her. She was smiling like she expected me to reward her with a cookie.

"Yes, Taiya, I know I'm Praea." I pointed at the phone Nathan was holding. "I swear I felt Kasyade's power come through that thing. I think it shorted out in my hand."

Nathan pressed a button and put the phone to his ear. "It's ringing." After a second, he shook his head. "Voicemail."

I looked at Warren. "We have to warp back. Immediately."

"No!" Enzo's hand shot forward. "You can't breach the spirit line from a plane while we're airborne. You'll kill us all."

Nathan was hitting redial on the keypad, but he was looking at Enzo. "Then go talk to the pilot and tell him to turn around."

Enzo hesitated.

"Now!" Warren yelled, causing even me to jump in my seat.

Enzo struggled against the force of the plane as it rose in altitude, but he got up and staggered forward out of the conference room.

We'd been on the plane less than twenty minutes after boarding on the tarmac of an airfield just outside Chicago. The battle inside Chicago's oldest cemetery was so fresh I still felt jittery from the adrenaline pulsing through my veins.

But it was over. We'd won. We were supposed to be on our way home to rest in our victory until the search for Kasyade resumed. She was the only major threat to my daughter left on the planet, and without the power of the Morning Star behind her, she should have been more of a nuisance than a real villain.

How very wrong I'd been.

I closed my eyes and clapped my hands over my ears. In the darkness, I sent out my gift to find Adrianne in the universe. She was there, but I had no idea where. "I can't locate her, but she is alive." My rising panic triggered another slight cramp in my midsection as I continued to search.

"I redialed a couple of times. No answer." Nathan handed the phone across me to Warren.

Reuel, my flesh and blood guardian angel, sat up in his chair. "Nai ent, Azrael."

I nodded. "We do need Azrael." I looked at Warren and pointed to the phone in his hand. "Call him."

Warren's father, the Archangel of Death, had stayed behind in Chicago to deal with burying the body of Warren's mother, who had been possessed by the Morning Star. But the dead—no matter who it was—could wait; Adrianne could not if Kasyade had her.

Warren nodded and dialed with his thumb.

Nathan nudged my arm. "What exactly was said?" It was obvious he was slipping back into detective mode as he reached for a pad of paper and a pen from the center of the table.

"She just said, 'Hello, Praea.' That's all. Then there was the jolt. It felt like a shock."

"You weren't calling from your cell phone. How did she know it was you?" he asked.

I thought about it. "Maybe she recognized my voice. I did a lot of yelling for Adrianne before Kasyade answered me."

Nathan tapped his pen against the pad of paper. "What if she used her power to make you call her?"

"En kapa il tun," Reuel said.

"What?" Nathan asked.

"He says it might be a trap," I translated.

Nathan nodded. "It wouldn't be the first time."

Enzo came back into the conference room. "They're turning the plane around, but it's going to take a few minutes."

I forced a smile. "Thank you."

The plane shifted to the left, and I gripped the armrest to stay upright. Beside me, Warren was on the phone with Azrael.

"Could it have been anyone else who answered? Could Adrianne have been playing a joke on you?" Nathan asked.

"Joking about that?" I shook my head. "Not a chance."

Warren ended the call. "Azrael's warping back now. We'll meet him there once we get on the ground." He put his hand on mine. "Breathe. He'll be there in minutes."

"Vinat," Reuel corrected.

Seconds. That made me feel a little better.

I sucked in a deep breath, held it for a few beats, then blew it out slowly.

Nathan reached across me for the phone again. "Tell me her phone number. If it is a trap, maybe somehow Kasyade crossed the lines or made you misdial."

I told him Adrianne's phone number, and he wrote it down on his pad. She'd had the same number since we went together to get our first cell phones in high school. My breath hung in my chest as he dialed.

A second later, he pulled the phone away from his ear and shook his head. "Nothing. Voicemail. We need to get back there."

Tears sprang to my eyes, and I covered my face with my hands. Warren put his arms around me and pulled me against his chest. Over my head, he spoke across the table. "Enzo, when we land, Sloan, Reuel, and I will warp back to Asheville. Can you have the pilot change the flight plan to go there instead of returning to Claymore?"

"Of course," Enzo said.

"What's going on?" a woman asked.

I looked up, wiping my wet cheeks. Fury, Warren's obnoxiously flawless, Tactical Barbie ex-girlfriend was standing in the doorway to the conference room.

"Why is the plane turning around?" she asked.

"Plans have changed," Warren said. "We're all going to Asheville now instead of New Hope, and we need to land so Sloan and I can warp there immediately. Sloan's best friend, Adrianne Marx, has possibly been kidnapped by Sloan's mother, a demon named Kasyade."

"Don't call her that. Kasyade is not my mother." I wiped a trail of snot along the cuff of my sleeve—because that was my M.O. around this Athenian woman: to be as snot-nosed, tearful, splotchy, and swollen as humanly (or celestially) possible whenever in her presence.

Fury groaned. "I'm so over all this supernatural bullshit. I say let the demon have her so we can all go home."

My hand flew to my seat belt buckle, and this time there was no fumbling. I ripped off my lap restraint and bolted from my seat toward her. Nathan jumped between us just in time, grabbing me in his arms before my fingernails started clawing at her stupidly perfect face. He was saving me, really, because unless I used my gift, Warren's ex-girlfriend could kill me with a napkin, and everyone knew it.

She cackled as Nathan held me back.

"Calm down," he said directly in my ear, his breath hot against my skin. "You know this is exactly what she wants. You can't let her get to you." He pushed me back a few steps until Warren grabbed me and pulled me back into my seat.

Enzo squeezed past us and toward her. He gripped her arm and hauled her back into the main cabin. She was still laughing.

Warren pulled the seat belt around my swollen belly again and buckled it. "Sit still. We're descending to land."

The plane rattled all around us as we passed through a layer of clouds. I realized Nathan's arm was braced against my chair, probably in case I tried to get up again. With his free hand, he was dialing another number on the satellite phone.

I caught his eye and raised my brow in question.

"I'm calling the sheriff's office back home. It's time to call in some favors." He ducked his head and plugged his free ear with his finger. "Osborne, hey. It's Nathan McNamara. Listen, I need a favor."

Warren squeezed my shoulder. I looked over at him and took a deep breath.

His black eyes were soft and gentle—full of ethereal light and nothing else. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and it was a chilling reminder that this man I loved no longer had one. "We're going to find her, Sloan."

I wanted to agree but couldn't speak. Beneath us, the airplane's wheels scraped across the runway. I gripped the armrests and closed my eyes. An eternity later, when the plane finally rolled to a stop on the tarmac, I was the first in the room out of my seat and heading toward the door. Nathan followed me, Warren, and Reuel off the plane, back into the icy Chicago wind.

"My buddy at the sheriff's office is already starting the process to track Adrianne's phone. Call me with any information as soon as you find out what's going on at her house. The sooner we can grease the gears of the local police, the better." Nathan put his hands on my shoulders, the gray skies above reflecting in his irises. "Don't do anything stupid. You hear me?"

I nodded and my bottom lip quivered. "Take care of Taiya. Don't let her out of your sight."

"I promise. We'll be there as quickly as this plane will fly," he said.

Warren shook his hand. "We'll see you soon."

"Be safe," Nathan said, slapping his shoulder before cautiously backing away.

Then, without even looking around to see who was watching, Warren took my hand, and together, the three of us crossed the spirit line with a thunderous crack.

* * *

Crossing the spirit line was much like walking through a wormhole. Inside the breach, the chasm buffering the world I knew from the world I'd yet to see was an ethereal corridor filled with sheer silvery waves. There were no road signs, maps, or directions. Our intention was enough to guide us through space some five hundred miles back to Asheville. The journey happened in a heartbeat.

When we passed back into the front parking strip of Adrianne's complex, I was doubled over in pain, and I released Warren's hand to grip my belly. Wincing, I sucked in a sharp breath through my teeth.

Warren stepped over in front of me, and Reuel moved out of the way. "What's wrong?" Warren asked.

The tension in my stomach fizzled as I took another deep breath. "Ooo, that was painful."

"Was it the baby?" he asked, his eyes wide with alarm.

"No. It's going away, but it may have been a contraction."

"A contraction!" Warren clamped his hand over his mouth when his words belted out much louder than he'd obviously intended. “It’s too early.”

He was right. Twenty-five weeks was way too early for labor pains.

I looked around to see if anyone heard him or noticed that we'd appeared out of nowhere. We were alone. "I'm fine. It's gone now." I tugged on his sleeve. "Come on."

The three of us crossed the parking lot, and I scanned the cars for Adrianne's sporty red coupe. It wasn't there. Dread was growing in my chest like a cancer. Inside the building, the front door stood ajar to her two-story loft. Warren walked through it first, and I cautiously followed with Reuel close at my heels.

"Azrael's here," Warren said quietly.

The living-room television was blaring E! News. A pot of marinara sauce had boiled over on the kitchen stove. All the lights were on.

Something crashed in the back of the house. It sounded like someone had thrown a glass.

"Azrael!" I called out.

"In the office," he replied, his deep voice echoing off the walls.

I turned toward the hallway. "This way," I told Warren and Reuel.

Adrianne's favorite apple-crisp-scented candle was still burning in the half bath.

When we reached the office, Azrael was bent over Adrianne's roll-top desk. Red wine was splattered across the wall and drizzling to the plush beige carpet that was sprinkled with broken glass. "She's gone." His voice cracked. "I'm too late."

I cautiously approached his side and touched his shoulder. He flinched. "How did you get here, Sloan?"

"I warped here with them."

He turned. "Excuse me?"

With all the chaos that had transpired in Chicago, there hadn't been time to catch Azrael up on all that had developed since my powers had awakened.

"In your letter, you said we'd know when the baby could survive outside the woman." I put my hands on my belly. "We know now."

"You can cross the spirit line?"

I nodded.

Lost in thought, or maybe wonder, he stared back out the window.

On the desk was a white floral-printed day planner. I'd given it to Adrianne for Christmas to track her appointments at the hair salon. It was open to a section of white lined note pages in the back inscribed with bright purple ink.

In the margin was a doodle of a pregnant stick figure pulling out her hair, and in Adrianne's bubbly cursive were the words,  Sloan's To-Do List Before the Wedding.

The list read as follows:

1. Order booze for the reception. (Just because you can't drink doesn't mean I can't.)

2. Send the final guest count to the caterer. (Guess if you have to.)

3. Register for wedding gifts. (Towels and dishes and shit.)

4. Register for baby gifts. (Baby Adrianne is coming, ready or not!)

5. Don't forget to…

And that's where the list ended. Midsentence with a scrawled line like she'd been dragged away from the task. If Kasyade was involved, she probably had been. My stomach lurched at the thought, luckily dispelling its contents in the direction of Adrianne's aluminum trash can.

Warren grabbed my arms from behind to steady me while I hurled.

Azrael walked away as I straightened. I'd assumed he was going to the bathroom to fetch a towel or some tissues. I was wrong. He walked to the window and stared outside.

Warren pulled back the office chair. "Sit," he said, easing me down into it. "I'll be back."

I covered my rancid mouth with my hand, then reached for the half-empty bottle of water on the desk by Adrianne's planner. I swished out my mouth and spat it in the defiled trash can. As I downed the rest of the water, I heard the faucet running in the bathroom.

"Sloan, can you find her?" Azrael asked, still not looking at me.

"No," I creaked out. My throat burned with acid.

Azrael said something muffled to Reuel in Katavukai, but I could understand him. "You're right. This is very bad," I said.

Azrael's face whipped toward me. "You've learned our language too?"

"Verta," I said.

"The child will have greater abilities than I thought." Azrael looked over as his son reentered the room. "Even Warren can't speak it."

"Warren can't do what?" Warren asked, kneeling beside me.

"Speak Katavukai," Azrael said.

"Oh yeah, but I'm sure Ms. Rosetta Stone right here will teach me." Warren placed a warm, wet washcloth into my hand. "Here. Are you OK?"

"Yes. Thank you." I wiped my chapped lips. "Azrael, Adrianne's alive, but I don't know where she is."

"This is Kasyade's doing," he said.

I already knew Kasyade was behind it, and I also knew why. My demon mother wanted my baby. No ransom note required.

"Where would she have gone?" Warren asked.

"If I knew that, I wouldn't be here." Azrael turned toward us, folding his thick arms over his chest. "Sloan, when's the last time you spoke with Adrianne?"

"Last night. She came over to our new house to help us unpack. I told her about the fight you and I had and that you'd left town. She drank too much, passed out, and Warren drove her home."

Azrael swore.

I looked at Warren. "Maybe her car is still at our house."

"Reuel, can you go check?" Azrael asked.

Reuel nodded and walked out of the room.

Azrael stared at the carpet. "And that was the last time you talked to her?"

"Yes. When Warren came back last night is when everything changed." I pointed at my stomach. "It's like the baby came alive, and suddenly I was able to see angels and cross the spirit line—"

"The Vitamorte's power awakened," he said.

"Yes." I put my hands on my stomach. "That's when we returned to Claymore, so we could take Lamal back to Chicago."

Lamal was the Angel of Prophecy who'd possessed a homeless man in order to hide from the Morning Star, Kasyade, and Abaddon, the Destroyer. In hindsight, how convenient it had been that we took him back to Chicago to free him from his human host—back to the exact place the Morning Star was waiting to ambush us…

"Do you think Lamal set us up?" I asked everyone in the room.

Azrael put his hands on his hips as he considered it. "I've never trusted that weasel, but I don't think so. It's more likely that the Morning Star or Kasyade manipulated you into taking him back there."

My eyes fell to the floor. "I feel like a chess piece."

"In some ways, you are." Azrael did nothing for my confidence.

"Adrianne called you at the cemetery," Warren said to his father. "Did she leave a message?"

She had called him, probably saving our lives by doing so. Azrael's ringing phone had distracted the Morning Star just enough for us to overtake him.

Azrael pulled out his cell phone and tapped the screen a few times.

Suddenly, Adrianne's voice filled the apartment.

Tears sprang to my eyes.

"Hey, Az. It's me. Again. I don't understand what's going on. I'm taking the day off, so I'll be by my phone all day. Just call me, OK? Bye."

I had to force myself to breathe.

"What time was that message?" Warren asked.

Azrael looked at the phone. "12:46 p.m."

"And Sloan called Adrianne when we took off from the Chicago airport around three," Warren said.

White hot rage bubbled up my spine. I closed my eyes and clenched my fists. "So sometime in between is when Kasyade took her."

Took her.

The words echoed in my skull.

Warren's hand squeezed the back of my neck. "We're going to find Kasyade, and we're going to get Adrianne back."

"No." I opened my eyes and held up my hand. The light of death sizzled in my palm. "We're going to find Kasyade, and I'm going to kill her."

* * *

By the time Reuel returned from my house to report Adrianne's car was not there, Warren, Azrael, and I had overturned the apartment searching for clues. Her purse was missing, along with her keys and her cell phone. But other than her absence, and the mess Azrael had made of her wine glass, there was nothing out of place in the house. No overturned furniture. No blood spatter. Even the burned food on the stove wouldn't have struck me as odd without the bone-chilling phone call on the plane.

Adrianne was a lot of things, but Betty Crocker wasn't one of them.

Under any other circumstances, I would have assumed she'd gone out to run errands. Maybe to buy more wine or to visit her mom. Her mom. Oh my god. What was I going to tell Adrianne's parents? Tears tickled the corners of my eyes again.

But there was simply no time for a meltdown.

"Who might Kasyade have gone to for help? Abaddon?" Warren asked.

Azrael looked doubtful. "She couldn't have taken Adrianne there if he's gone back to Nulterra."

"Nulterra?" I asked.

"Abaddon's lair," Azrael clarified. "Nulterra means the Neverworld."

I shuddered. "I don't like the sound of that."

"The good news is it's impossible for a living human to enter there."

"And we know Adrianne is still living," Warren said.

"Exactly." Azrael looked at his watch. "I need to return to Claymore and assemble some forces to help find her. What is the ETA for the plane from Chicago?"

"We're waiting to hear from Nathan and Enzo," Warren said, standing up. "What do you want me to do?"

Azrael nodded to me. "Stay with Sloan. I'll send word when I can."

"Nathan has already contacted the sheriff's office to start tracking her phone. Maybe I should call Agent Silvers and see if she can help us." I pulled my cell phone from my pocket.

"You can't place your faith in humans, Sloan. Not this time." Azrael crossed the room and stopped in front of Reuel. "Keep them safe."

Reuel nodded, and the two hulking angels shook hands.

"How long will you be gone?" Warren asked.

Azrael walked toward his son. "A day at most. See what leads you can come up with, and I'll send teams to investigate. If shit goes south here, for whatever reason, take Sloan and go to Claymore. She'll be safest at Echo-10."

Echo-10 was a completely secured building on Claymore's New Hope compound with no windows and only one door in and out. The walls were insulated with a composite metal foam called high-Z that had the power to block supernatural activity.

Warren nodded.

"Azrael?" I grabbed his arm.

He stopped and faced me.

"You're going to find her, aren't you?"

He put both hands on my shoulders. "If I do nothing else in all eternity."

I wrapped my arms around his middle and hugged him.

He stroked my short hair, and in a completely un-Azrael fashion, he kissed the top of my head. Then he walked outside and a moment later, the building shook with the force of him crossing the spirit line.

I turned at Warren and Reuel. "Should we report her missing to the police?"

"And tell them what?" Warren looked around the living room. "That she left the lights on and isn't home? There's not much to go on here."

"We need to call Nathan," I said.

Warren nodded and pulled his phone from his pocket. "Shit. I don't have the satellite number. Do you?"

"No." I looked at Reuel.

He shook his head.

Closing my eyes, I reached out into the world with my gift. I found Nathan McNamara somewhere over Indiana, and I pulled him to me with so much force I felt the strain of it in my lower back. Before I reopened my eyes, my cell phone buzzed in my pocket.

Warren was smiling when I retrieved it. "You're such a badass."

I smirked. "Not sure about all that." I clicked the answer button and pressed the phone to my face. "Hey."

"Hey, are you at Adrianne's?" Nathan's voice crackled over the satellite connection.

"I am. She's not here."

He swore on the other end of the line. "What about her phone? Is it there?"

"No. I tried calling it again a few times too. It rings and rings, but then goes to voicemail."

"Is her car there?"

"No. Her purse is gone too."

"Any sign of a struggle?"

"Not even a small one," I answered.

Nathan was quiet for a moment. "While it's definitely mysterious, no struggle is a good thing."

"Should I call 911?" I asked.

For another beat, he was silent. "No, drive to the sheriff's office to report her missing. Ask to speak directly to Sheriff Davis. He should still be there for another hour or so. He likes you, and he already knows you're a little odd."

In the past year, Sheriff Davis had witnessed my involvement in finding a missing child, stopping a serial killer, and shutting down a multimillion-dollar sex-trafficking ring. I'd also survived a deadly car crash into a frozen river, had my townhouse basically blown up by a demon, and I'd escaped from the sheriff's own jail after being wrongly accused of a crime. To say he probably found me "odd" was a comical understatement.

"We'll head that way now," I said with a gulp. The simple thought of the inside of the jail triggered my panic disorder like a nuclear detonator.

"Warren's with you, right?" Nathan asked, perhaps detecting the shakiness of my voice.

"Yeah, he's right here. So is Reuel."

"Where's Az?"

"Gone to get help from Claymore," I said.

"That's good. Something tells me we're going to need all the reinforcements we can get."

"What do I tell the sheriff?"

"Lie. Tell him a woman answered Adrianne's phone and said she took her. Keep it short and simple so you can repeat it back easily. Keep as many of the details as close to reality as possible without making yourself sound nuts. That's the key to sounding believable."

"You scare me sometimes," I said.

"That's my job. Tell him I'll be in touch as well."

"When will you be back?"

"Enzo says we're scheduled to land in Asheville around seven fifteen. I'll call you as soon as we're on the ground to find out where you are."

"Be safe, Nathan."

"Right back at'cha."

I disconnected the call. "Nathan says to go to Sheriff Davis and report Adrianne missing. I'm supposed to tell him a woman told me on the phone they'd taken her."

"What are you going to say?" Warren asked.

"I'm not sure." I hugged my arms. "He said to keep the story as close to the truth as possible."

I closed my eyes and replayed the horrific events of the day. The demons attacking us in Chicago. The Morning Star in the possessed body of Warren's mother, Nadine. My power blasting through Nadine, killing her instantly…

The Morning Star escaping into the atmosphere.

Before he'd gone, he'd descended into my body and spoken directly within my mind. "This is only the beginning," he'd said.

I shuddered.

"I'll think of something in the car. Let's go." I took a step toward the front door, then stopped. "But first, the bathroom."

According to the book my obstetrician had given me when she first confirmed my pregnancy, I currently had a baby the size of an eggplant tap dancing on my bladder. When I had to go—I had to go.

I held up a finger to the boys. "Be right back." I power-walked to the half bath in the hall and closed the door behind me. As I shimmied out of my belly-pouch maternity jeans, I turned to sit on the toilet, then froze mid-squat. Something caught my eye across the small room near the floor.

Jammed deep into the seam where the wall met the baseboard was Adrianne's flowery purple ink pen.

* * *

I was on the phone with my father when Nathan arrived from the airport. The deputies were still canvassing the apartment, and Warren and I were staying out of their way. Nathan found us sitting on Adrianne's sofa, a pull-out couch I'd slept on more times than I could count.

"Dad. I'm going to have to call you later. Nathan's here."

"OK, sweetheart. Let me know when you have an update. I love you."

"I love you too." I ended the call.

Nathan's eyes were wide and already combing the room for clues. "What have they found?"

Warren shook his head. "Not much. How did you get here?"

"Enzo rented a van at the airport. They dropped me off on the way back to the house. I told him it would probably be better for the crew to stay out of the department's way." Nathan dropped his heavy backpack on the floor before sitting on the coffee table in front of us.

"What did you do with Taiya?" I asked.

A slight smile spread across his lips. "Enzo ordered Fury to babysit. She's supposed to watch her at the house."

Warren stifled a laugh behind his hand. "I bet she was pissed."

Nathan nodded. "Let's just say I understand how she got her name." He looked around the living room. "Tell me what you found here."

We told him about the list in Adrianne's office and the pen protruding from the wall. He adjusted the ball cap on his head; the patch on the front was a grayscale American flag because he was working. "A pen? That's weird." He stood. "I want to see it."

"McNamara?" a plainclothes detective asked. He had introduced himself to us as Detective Eddie Osborne.

Nathan turned as he approached. "Good to see you, Eddie."

"Glad you're here. We've got a lot more questions than we have answers. Want to take a look?" Osborne asked.

"Absolutely."

Warren and I followed them down the hall. Nathan glanced back over his shoulder. "Where's Reuel?"

"I sent him to the store to get us dinner. Sloan needs to eat," Warren said.

Warren stayed in the hall while I followed Nathan and Detective Osborne into the bathroom. I stepped to the right, back beside the toilet to give them room. Eddie pushed the door closed and pointed to the pen stuck in the baseboard behind it. "This appears to be the pen she used to write the note in her office."

Nathan knelt down. "It's really jammed deep in there."

Eddie nodded. "And we're not sure why." The radio on his shoulder beeped, and the dispatcher's voice came through. "Excuse me, guys."

Nathan stood and moved back to let Eddie out of the bathroom.

Warren came in to take his place in the small space.

Nathan looked at us. "Either of you got a pen?"

Warren patted his pockets. "I don't. Sorry."

I shook my head. "Me either."

"I'll grab one from the office," Warren said, turning sideways to squeeze past Nathan to the door.

"Warren, grab my backpack from the living room instead!"

A moment later, Warren returned with Nathan's pack and placed it on the floor. I put the toilet lid down and sat on top of it, and Warren stepped back beside me.

Nathan unzipped the front pocket and pulled out a pen before crouching down behind the door again. "The door had to be closed for the pen to wind up in the wall here. She was hiding."

Tears burned my eyes.

"That was some serious force used to put the pen in that deep through the drywall, and in order for it to have gone in at that direction, she would have to have been holding it like this." He closed his fist around the pen with the pointy end facing away from him. "She was holding it like a weapon."

Adrianne must have been terrified, cowering in that bathroom.

"She turned her back to the wall to defend herself, and something caused her hand to slam down and back right here."

"But if the door was open." Warren opened the door and trapped Nathan behind it. "Wouldn't it be in her face? She wouldn't have room to move her arms."

"Yeah," Nathan said when Warren closed it again.

"The door wasn't open." I was staring at the wall above Nathan's head, thinking out loud more to myself than actually talking to them. "If this was Kasyade, she wouldn't need to open the door to come through it." As the words left my mouth, my knees wobbled.

Nathan stood from his crouched position and turned to inspect the wall. "Did they use a black light in here?"

"Not that I saw, why?" Warren asked.

Nathan reached into his backpack again. "Because that's the closest thing us real cops have to a ghost detector." He pulled out a small black light.

I put my hands on my hips. "You just happen to carry one of those around in your bag?"

Nathan looked at me like I was stupid. "Yeah." He hit the light switch on the wall and flipped on the black light.

A faint fluorescent stain started on the wall about three feet off the ground and was smeared almost to the ceiling.

"Bingo," Nathan said.

Using his pen, he marked the wall where the spot started. He had to jump to mark the top.

"What it is?" Warren asked.

"Chemicals of some sort," Nathan said.

A light bulb flickered on in my brain. "It's hair product. If she was crouching, her head would be about that high." A knot tightened in my throat. "She was dragged up the wall."

We all stood there in psychedelic silence for what felt like forever.

Warren finally flipped on the light. "Maybe she was making the list in the office when she heard a sound. Something frightened her while she was investigating, and she hid in here."

Nathan knocked his knuckles against the wall. "Whatever it was came through this to get to her."

"We know what—or who—it was, Nathan," I said.

He nodded with his eyes cast on the floor.

"But Azrael would have noticed it if the bathroom door was locked when he got here," Warren said.

A sigh puffed out Nathan's cheeks. "We need the prints off the doorknob." He split a glance between me and Warren. "My guess is we'll only find Adrianne's."

I knew where he was going with his theory.

"Do either of you know how demon possession works?"

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CHAPTER 2

I needed air.

“Can we go outside?” I asked, my head swimming with dizziness.

Concern was etched across Warren’s handsome face. His arm swept around my lower back, and he took my hand as he guided me out of the bathroom. “You’re really pale. What’s going on?”

“I’ve never fainted, but I imagine this is what it feels like when it’s coming on.” Stars twinkled in the corners of my eyes.

Nathan followed us back to the living room, through the kitchen and dining area to the small balcony that overlooked the city. I clung to the cold railing and sucked in a deep breath of cool evening air. Warren rubbed my back.

Leaning my elbows on the iron rail, I cradled my forehead in my hands. “How did this happen?”

My lower lip began to tremble, and my upper body shook with deep and painful sobs that erupted without warning. The strength left my knees, and I would have fallen had Warren not stepped in to hold me against his warm chest. I balled my fists into his shirt and screamed so loud my wails echoed off the mountains in the distance…or maybe it was off the concrete walls of the apartment building. I was too distraught to tell the difference.

Adrianne was gone.

And it was all my fault.

“I need to call Azrael,” Warren said. He helped me over to the small outdoor table and chairs. “Have a seat so you don’t fall.”

When I was safely in the chair, he pulled his phone from his pocket and looked at Nathan. “Keep an eye on her for me?”

Nathan nodded. “Of course.”

Warren disappeared into the house, and Nathan knelt down in front of me. “We’re going to fix this, Sloan. She’s alive, and as long as she’s alive, we can save her.”

“The way I saved Warren’s mom?” The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. “The Morning Star possessed Nadine, and I killed her trying to save her!”

Nathan gripped my hands. “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet. You’ve got to focus on the positives. Adrianne’s alive. That’s what matters most.”

I knew he was right, but I couldn’t make myself feel it. I couldn’t feel anything beyond guilt and loss…and a hellacious fury so intense it seemed to burn up the back of my neck. It was all I could do to not conjure up a light ball of death just to watch it dance in my palms.

Warren returned a moment later. “Here.” He handed me a box of crackers, the kind Adrianne always kept stocked in the pantry.

My face soured. “No thanks.”

“You need to eat something, babe.”

I sighed and opened the top of the box. “What did Azrael say?”

“He didn’t have much time to talk, but he says no.”

Nathan stood. “No to what?”

“Demon possession. He said it would not be possible for Kasyade to take Adrianne’s body without an Angel of Life to help her.”

“How does he know for sure that she didn’t have help?” I asked around a mouthful of Wheat Thins.

“He says all the fallen Angels of Life are accounted for or destroyed except The Morning Star, and he’s out of commission for the time being.”

I wished the news made me feel better. It didn’t. No matter the execution of Kasyade’s plan, the end result was basically the same: Adrianne was gone, and Kasyade was fully in control of her. We’d all seen the power she could have over a human when she turned Warren into a zombie puppet down in Texas.

“Detective McNamara?” Eddie’s voice through the door made us all turn. He sighed and touched his forehead. “Sorry, I should have called you Nate.”

Nathan turned toward his friend. “It’s all good, Eddie. What’s up?”

Eddie jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “We’re about done in here, and we need to notify her family and question them.”

I quickly wiped my eyes. “I’ll go.”

Eddie and Nathan exchanged worried glances.

“I need to be the one to tell them,” I said.

Nathan nodded. “You should let her.”

“OK,” Eddie agreed. “But we’ll need to ask them some questions.”

“Give me a minute to clean myself up.” I stood from the table. “Her parents don’t need to see me like this.”

The living room was still occupied by a few of Buncombe County’s finest when I ducked my head and slipped into the hall. I paused at the door of the half-bath and decided against it, opting for the master bathroom instead.

In her room, Adrianne’s bed was unmade. No surprise there. In the bathroom, her hair products were scattered across the counter. No surprise there either.

What was surprising was that no one had given me any shit about the condition of my appearance since I’d been in Asheville. Luckily, before the cops had arrived, Warren had concealed my bloody shirt beneath his large jacket and wiped my face clean of the tear-streaked dirt and droplets of dried blood. Some of it mine; some of it not. That had kept away prying questions from the police, but looking in the mirror, I was still a disheveled wreck. My hair was knotted from the Chicago wind, and my face was still smudged with mascara and mud.

I unzipped Warren’s coat to survey the mess underneath. Blood was soaked into the lower front of my slashed shirt from Taiya’s demon-controlled attempt at cutting my baby out of my womb. Pulling up the fabric, I saw that my belly-pouch pants were bloodstained and torn as well. I was very lucky that was the extent of the damage. I peeled off the butterfly bandages Warren had applied. The cut had closed completely, not even leaving a scar.

This shouldn’t be my life. I should be eating cake at baby showers, opening presents, and picking out furniture for the nursery—not hunting down demons across the country. I gripped the sides of the sink as panic swelled in my chest.

Breathe. This is not the time to fall apart. Again.

With trembling hands, I turned on the warm water. The sound immediately triggered the need to pee. I choked on a laugh that bubbled out through all my pending hysteria. I could almost hear Adrianne laughing too.

When my stained face was scrubbed clean with Adrianne’s pricey face wash and my skin was patted dry with a fluffy pink towel, I swiped on some of Adrianne’s lip gloss and dabbed on a little blush. She wouldn’t mind. I was going to see her parents, after all.

I yanked her hairbrush through my tangles before turning to her closet and flipping on the light inside. What I found jarred me.

Gaping holes on her clothes racks.

I looked behind the door. Her suitcase was missing too.

My first thought was to yell for Warren, but he was too far away to hear me. I used my power on Nathan instead, summoning him to me through our short span of the universe. It was really too bad my connection no longer worked on my fiancé.

As I waited, I massaged the aching muscles in my lower back, and after a second, there were heavy footfalls on the hardwood floor in the hall. Nathan’s voice called out a moment later. “Sloan? You OK in there?”

“I’m in the bathroom. Can you come in here, please?”

Nathan rounded the corner and poked his head through the door. “Yeah?”

“She packed,” I said, pushing the door open even wider. “Her suitcase is gone. So are a lot of her clothes and some of her shoes.”

He leaned against the door frame. “Makes sense if Kasyade took her. Adrianne would need clothes to wear.”

His words knocked the wind out of me. My brain was still having a hard time grasping the probability that Adrianne was no longer in control of her faculties.

Nathan’s hand rested on my shoulder. “I’m going to find her,” he said gently.

I nodded and blinked back the tears that were threatening to spill. “I need to find something to wear.”

“Think anything’s gonna fit?”

I whirled around with my hands on my hips.

He laughed and backed away. “It’s a fair question. She’s like six foot two. I wasn’t calling you fat!”

Shaking my head, I turned back to the closet.

As messy as Adrianne tended to be, her clothes—at least the clean ones—and her shoes were always neat and in their designated place in the closet. She surely made Kasyade’s job of packing much easier.

What was I going to wear?

Asheville in March had lost the bitter cold of winter, but it was wet and chilly, especially as the sun went down. Long sleeves and pants were going to be necessary. Unfortunately, my own tattered and filthy maternity jeans would have to do. Adrianne’s legs outstretched mine by a mile and her midsection currently equaled the circumference of one of my thighs. So I bypassed the hangers draped with pants and moved on to her shirts. I pulled a blue, long-sleeved tunic off its hanger.

Across the closet, her jackets were arranged first by color, then by weight. I grabbed Adrianne’s favorite, a black fleece-lined parka with a fitted hood. It was warm and waterproof in case it rained. I’d have to roll the sleeves, and I wouldn’t be able to zip it, but it would work.

With the clothes draped over my arm, I started toward the door, then paused. I turned slowly back to face the racks.

“What is it?” Nathan asked behind me.

“The gaps in the hangers.” I ran my hand along the sleeves of more tops than I’d owned in my lifetime. “It’s mostly her summer clothes that are missing.” I looked at Nathan. “Kasyade is taking her somewhere warm.”

Nathan’s eyes widened with surprise, then he slowly clapped his hands. “Good job, Sloan. That’s impressive. What made you think of that?”

“The jacket.” I held it up for him to see. “She carries this jacket with her everywhere, except in the summer. That’s when I realized Kasyade only took items from Adrianne’s summer wardrobe.”

Nathan scratched his head. “Girls,” he said with a sigh.

“I know, right?” I looked at him, hopeful. “But that helps, doesn’t it?”

He thought for a second, then nodded. “We’ve still got a lot of narrowing down to do because there are a lot of warm places around the globe, but this might be a puzzle piece we’ll need to find her.” He squeezed my arm. “Good work.”

Warren stepped into the bathroom behind us. “What are you guys doing in here?”

I gave a slight smile. “Fashion investigation.”

Nathan grinned.

“I don’t want to know.” Warren gestured toward the door. “The cops are about to head out. You ready to go?”

“Nope.” I swallowed hard. “But give me two seconds to change, and I’ll be right out.”

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Like me, Adrianne was an only child. Her parents still lived in the same house, three streets down from the house where I'd grown up, and from the new house where I now lived.

When we were kids, it was an eleven-minute walk from my door to hers. We'd timed it. It was even faster on our bikes, which we spent summers riding back and forth, up and down the winding roads of the historic Grove Park area. It was a miracle we'd survived those early years, in the days before sidewalks had become a staple of the city.

I was thankful Detective Osborne was in an unmarked SUV when we pulled into the Marx's driveway and the motion-sensor floodlight flickered. It shined on us like a spotlight, certainly prompting Adrianne's dad, Phillip, to peek out the blinds from the family room. I knew this from experience. That light had gotten me and Adrianne into trouble more than once for breaking curfew in high school.

Eddie looked into the back seat where I was sandwiched between Warren and Nathan. "How do you want to do this?"

"There's no use in sugar coating it. We all might as well go in," I said.

"Nanum?" Reuel asked.

I squeezed his shoulder. "No. You can stay in the car this time."

He grunted his thanks and then pointed to the uneaten sandwich he'd brought me.

I handed it to him.

"Babe, you need to eat," Warren said, concerned.

"If I eat right now, I'm going to throw it right back up."

Nathan leaned forward to look across me. "It's true. I've been a victim of it."

He was trying to lighten the mood, but it wasn't working.

I stared at the front of the ranch-style red-brick home. "I need to be the one to tell them."

Eddie nodded.

Warren pushed his door open, and we all piled out of the SUV.

The smell of a wood-burning fireplace floated on the chilly mountain breeze, and smoke puffed out of the Marx's chimney against the starry night sky. Pink azaleas were blooming along the path from the driveway, and the front door was decorated with a wreath made of pink bunnies and Easter eggs. It was all so nostalgic. Very soothing, very serene. Very different from the acidic dread that churned in my belly.

Nathan pressed the doorbell. Ding. Dong.

Phillip Marx answered the door with his newspaper crossword puzzle in hand. "Sloan?" he asked, taking off his black-rimmed glasses. He looked over our heads, searching for his daughter, I was sure.

"Hi, Phil. Can we come in?" I asked.

He backed out of the doorway. "Of course, you can." He turned his face away from us as we stepped into the warm foyer. "Gloria, Sloan's here!"

Adrianne's mom appeared from the direction of the joint family room and kitchen. She was drying her hands on a dishtowel, her face as perplexed as her husband's. "Hi, Sloan. We weren't expecting you."

I tucked my cropped hair behind my ears. "I know. I'm sorry for stopping by unannounced, but we need to talk to you." I turned to the men behind me. "You've met my fiancé, Warren, correct?"

They both shook his hand.

"Yes, but we haven't seen you since your engagement. Congratulations," Gloria said.

Warren smiled. "Thank you, ma'am."

I touched Nathan's arm. "And you remember Nathan McNamara, of course."

Gloria smiled. "The flaming turkey Thanksgiving. How could we forget?" She stepped forward and hugged Nathan.

"It's good to see you again, Mrs. Marx." He looked at Adrianne's dad. "Mr. Marx."

"Please, call us Gloria and Phil," she insisted.

He nodded. "Gloria, Phil, this is an old coworker of mine, Detective Eddie Osborne with the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office."

The detective shook hands with Phil. "Why do I get the feeling this is more than a social call?" Phil asked.

"I'm afraid it is," Eddie said.

Gloria covered her heart with her dishtowel. "Where's Adrianne?"

I stepped forward and gripped her elbow. "I think we should all sit down."

"Where is she, Sloan?" Gloria asked again, frightful tears watering her eyes.

Phil curled his arms around his wife's shoulders. "Come on, honey. Let's go sit down in the family room."

We followed them into the family room. It hadn't changed much over the years. The carpet was new, and the reclining sofa, but that was about it. A fire crackled on the hearth.

"Please," Phil said, gesturing to the sofa as he guided Gloria to his favorite armchair.

I sat in the seat nearest her, close enough to reach over and take her hand. Phil stood beside her.

Sucking in a deep breath, I tried to steel my heart. "I'm afraid Adrianne is missing," I said as gently as I could.

I heard Gloria's breath hitch in her chest.

My eyes couldn't bear to look into hers, and they kept trying to dart away, but I forced them to hold her terrified gaze. "We have reason to believe she might have been kidnapped."

The dam holding back Gloria's fear broke all at once, and she let out a painful wail, quickly covering her face with her towel. Phil dropped to a knee beside her and pulled her into his arms. I felt the buzz of Warren's hand rest on the base of my neck.

"But who? Who could hurt her?" Gloria demanded.

I knew, but telling them would only make it worse.

"We aren't sure at this point, but I promise, we are looking for her." Eddie pulled a small notepad from his chest pocket and clicked open his pen. "Have either of you talked to your daughter today?"

Phil and Gloria exchanged a glance.

"I talked to her very briefly this morning," Gloria finally said. She looked at her wrist where her watch should have been but wasn't. "Maybe around ten."

"What did you talk about?" he asked.

"Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary." Gloria was quiet for a moment. "I called her because one of my friends from the Southern Women's Club needed to get her hair done in a pinch." Gloria sniffed and looked at me. "Sue Helms, you remember her, Sloan? Nice lady. Owns the flower shop on Merrimon near the ice cream parlor."

I didn't remember her, but I smiled like I did.

“We know Adrianne called out of work today, but do you know if she had any plans coming up? Maybe plans for this coming weekend?“ Eddie asked.

“We planned to meet for lunch tomorrow, but that’s all I’m aware of. She's been staying home a lot more on the weekends since Sloan has been pregnant." Gloria pointed at me. "Thick as thieves, these two."

The spiked vise returned to its grip on my throat.

"How about other friends? Or was she dating anyone?" Eddie asked.

Nathan looked at me.

I looked at Warren.

Warren cleared his throat.

Eddie straightened in his seat. "What?"

"She's been unofficially seeing my brother, Damon, for the past couple of months," Warren said.

Damon Claymore was the name Azrael was currently using in the human world, and we decided it was best to refer to him as Warren's brother instead of his dad. They looked too similar to deny any relation, and Azrael appeared way too young for anyone to believe Warren was his son.

Eddie was making notes. "And where is your brother?"

"He was in Chicago with me when she went missing," Nathan said, almost truthfully.

"We've heard about him, but we haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting him," Gloria said.

I hoped she never would. Adrianne deserved better than the chaos that came with being part of this world. Azrael cared about her, but he would never be able to give her the things she had wanted all her life. A wedding. Babies. A happily ever after. That life wasn't in the cards for the Archangel of Death.

Warren leaned forward, balancing his elbows on his knees. "I spoke with my brother earlier. He's bringing a special-ops, private-security team in to help find her." He nodded toward Eddie. "Between the local police and Claymore's forces, you've got some of the best men and women in the world looking for your daughter."

Gloria nodded, but she didn't look convinced.

"Does she have any enemies that you know of? Anyone who might want to hurt her?" Eddie asked.

"Everyone loves Adrianne," Gloria said. "She's never had an enemy in her life. Has she, Sloan?"

Not unless you counted Shannon Green, our high-school nemesis and Nathan's ex-girlfriend.

Hey!

My face whipped toward Nathan. "Do you think we can talk to Shannon and see if she'll get Adrianne onto the local news?"

I knew Nathan well enough to know he was suppressing a smile. "Enemies get brought up, and now you want to call Shannon?"

"It couldn't hurt," I said.

"The blonde from WKNC News?" Eddie pointed his pen at Nathan. "You know her?"

"Oh yes. He does," Warren said.

"Do you think she'll do it?" I pressed Nathan again.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. It's probably not even her decision."

"But wouldn't it be worth the phone call?" Phil asked. "Maybe she can influence whoever does make the decisions."

I lowered my voice. "Or maybe I can influence them."

Nathan stared at me while he processed what I'd said. My connection to the souls of others was more useful than simply being able to warp through space and time and make people come when I call them. My demon mother had once told me that as an Angel of Life I had the power to influence the paths of others around me. In some ways, Kasyade handed a lot of missiles to her enemies.

"We can try," Nathan said. He looked at Adrianne's parents. "Just please don't get your hopes up. It may be a long shot."

I squeezed Gloria's hand. "I'll let you know as soon as we find out."

"Thank you." Her voice squeaked. "Who would do this? Who would hurt my daughter?"

My heart twisted.

Me.

Because this was truly all my fault.

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The lights were on in my house. Every light, from the looks of it. All I wanted was to crawl into my bed and cry myself to sleep. A desire that wouldn't be satisfied with the number of people surely bunking in my house.

Fury was in there.

"I need antacids," I said as Warren helped me out of the back seat of Detective Osborne's SUV.

Warren kept his hand around mine. "If we're out of them, I'll go to the store and get some more."

"My hero," I said, stretching my back when I was upright.

Nathan and Reuel walked around to join us at the driver-side window. Eddie reached out to shake Nathan's hand first. "I'll be in touch if we hear anything."

"Likewise, and thanks for all your help, Eddie. We really appreciate you," Nathan replied.

Warren shook the detective's hand as well. "Three o'clock in the morning or whenever, it doesn't matter."

"Nate has my cell number if you need it." Eddie nodded toward Reuel with a smile. "It was nice to meet you, I think."

Reuel grunted and waved.

Warren turned to Nathan as Eddie backed out of the driveway. "What's your plan? You crashing here tonight? Or do you want to take my car back to your apartment?"

Nathan's eyes doubled. "You'd let me drive the Challenger?"

We all walked up the driveway.

Warren laughed. "To keep you from sleeping under my roof? You bet."

"I'd appreciate that. It'll be nice to sleep in my own bed. It's been a while."

"When are you officially done with your Claymore training?" I asked.

Nathan led us up the steps toward the front door. "I'm supposed to graduate from boot camp next Saturday." He looked back over his shoulder. "I'm pretty sure that commitment has been blown all to hell now though."

"I have a feeling the boss will give you a pass. It's just a ceremony," Warren said.

Speaking of ceremonies. I stopped walking. "Warren, what about the wedding? It's in a few weeks."

He shook his head and squeezed my fingers. "Don't start worrying about that tonight. Hopefully, we'll find Adrianne and no one's plans will have to change."

"Akai nanka mete en," Reuel said from the back of our group.

I sighed. "Trust me, I'm not counting on it."

Warren nor Nathan voiced a rebuttal. At least they were being honest.

At the door, Nathan stepped out of our way. "I don't have a key," he said.

Warren smiled at him. "I don't either." He slowly passed his hand in front of the lock, and the deadbolt tumbled open.

"You're so weird," Nathan said under his breath as he followed us inside.

The smell of fried chicken floated through the room to greet us at the door. It was like a homing beacon to Reuel's nose, and he double-timed it to the kitchen. It didn't matter that he'd eaten both of our sandwiches in the car. Thankfully, my stomach growled.

Fury wasn't anywhere to be seen in the living room, dining area, or the kitchen. Further proof of miracles on Earth. A couple of the SF-12 guys were eating at the dining table, and several more were watching ESPN in the living room. The announcers were discussing the NCAA Final Four in men's college basketball.

Shit.

I stopped quickly, jerking Warren to a stop next to me. I pointed at the television. "Is the Final Four this week?"

"Not yet, ma'am." Cooper, second in command of SF-12 next to Enzo, pointed a chicken wing at the flat screen. "The Sweet Sixteen games start on Thursday, and the Final Four will be next weekend.”

My heart sank with dread. Nothing could derail the search for Adrianne faster than one of North Carolina's main teams making it into the championship. My luck it would come down to a matchup between Duke University and my alma mater, UNC—arguably the biggest rivalry in college sports. Or worse, UNC versus NC State, Nathan's favorite team.

I released Warren's hand and crossed my arms, leaning against the back of the sofa. "Who's playing?"

"Relax, Sloan. All the North Carolina teams are out already," Nathan said over his shoulder as he walked to the kitchen.

My face fell back toward the ceiling. "Oh, thank God."

"Hey!" Nathan yelled.

I pointed at him. "You know I'm right."

He didn't argue—because he couldn't.

Warren, who couldn't possibly care any less about college basketball, tugged on the back of my shirt. "Come on. You need to eat."

As we walked to the kitchen, I noticed Enzo standing at the mouth of the hallway toward the bedrooms. His back was against the wall, and he was listening intently. He chuckled under his breath.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

He motioned us forward. Warren followed me to where Enzo was. He held a finger to his lips and then pointed down the hall.

Warren and I both listened quietly. Thanks to my new superhuman hearing, I could pick up the exchange happening in the guest room.

"If you get up one more time, I'm going to handcuff you to the bed frame. It's time to go to bed!"

"Nan tuka villai!" Taiya wailed in Katavukai.

"Oh yes, you are sleepy. I promise, you're sleepy!"

"Ana nan coniya vaṇak cey ya Praea!"

"Praea's not here, and she's never coming back if you don't go to sleep!"

Cue hysterical wailing.

Enzo finally lost it and started laughing.

"Is that Fury?" Warren asked.

"Yes," Enzo said.

I walked to the room and slowly pushed the door open.

Fury's head whipped toward me. She cursed and threw her hands into the air. "Thank God you're back. You can deal with her." Knocking my shoulder with hers as she passed, Fury stormed out and slammed the bedroom door behind her.

Taiya was in bed with the covers pulled up to her nose like a scared child. She basically was, thanks to her demon father, who had continually exposed her in childhood to powers her developing mind couldn't handle. The result was this—a woman my age with the psyche of a six-year-old.

I walked over and sat on the edge of her bed. "Are you being difficult?"

"Akai ai unmai artum."

I nodded. "I know she's mean."

"Nan tuka villai, Praea."

I looked at the clock on my cell phone. "It's after ten, Taiya. We've had a crazy day today, and we'll probably have another crazy day tomorrow. How's your hand?"

She pushed the blanket down and held up her mangled limb. A bullet from Fury's sniper rifle had blown Taiya's hand apart in the cemetery earlier that day, likely saving my life and protecting my baby. I'd healed Taiya's hand on the scene, but it would never be the same again. Half of it was gone, almost down to her wrist. Only her pinky and ring fingers remained.

"Does it hurt?" I asked.

She shook her head.

I squeezed what was left of her palm. "I'm sorry this happened to you."

In Katavukai, she reminded me it was not my fault.

I smiled and straightened the covers, tucking the blankets in around her. "Why don't you try to get some sleep? I'm going to bed soon myself."

She nodded.

I stood and kissed her forehead. "Goodnight, sweet girl."

"Goodnight," she replied in perfect English.

Warren was still waiting for me in the hall. "Everything OK?" he asked as I pulled the door closed.

"Yeah, she's fine." My stomach growled. "Let's eat. I'm starving."

At the kitchen bar, I piled a plate high with two pieces of golden fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and a biscuit. Nathan raised an eyebrow when I carried it to the table.

I glared at him. "Don't judge me."

"I wouldn't dare," he said, smiling as he bit into a chicken leg.

"Enzo, did you get dinner?" I asked as I sat down across from him.

He nodded. "I hope it's OK."

"If it tastes half as good as it smells, it will be the best meal I've ever eaten." I unfolded a napkin and put it over my shelf-of-a-belly. "Thank you."

"My pleasure," he said.

"Azrael wants us to call him," Warren said at the bar. He was eerily staring down at the marble countertop.

I shook my head. "That's so creepy. It's like he controls your mind. I don't understand why he can't just use the phone like anybody else."

Warren raised his cell phone that I couldn't see hidden behind the bucket of chicken. "He did. He sent me a text message."

My fork full of macaroni stopped halfway to my mouth. "Oh."

Everyone else at the table chuckled.

When Warren joined us at the head of the table, he laid his phone in the middle of us and called Azrael on speakerphone. Azrael answered on the first ring with a curt, "Yeah?"

"Hey, you're on speaker," Warren said.

"Is everyone there?" Azrael asked.

"I just got here with Sloan, Nate, and Reuel. I'll let Enzo update you on what's happening on his end."

Enzo leaned toward the phone. "Hey, boss. I've got everybody here at the house except Wings and NAG. They are going to stay with the plane tonight."

I looked around for the "everybody" he was talking about but only counted half of the twelve. Then I noticed a few bodies gathered around the fire pit on my back deck.

"Good. I may need the plane ready to fly first thing in the morning," Azrael said.

"They'll be ready." Enzo sat back in his seat.

"What are the local police doing?" Azrael asked.

"We met with them earlier at Adrianne's house and then went with one of the detectives to tell her parents," Nathan said.

"Do they have any leads?"

"Nathan does," Warren answered.

"Sloan found Adrianne’s ink pen jammed into the wall," Nathan said. "I think what happened was Adrianne was working in her office on Sloan and Warren's wedding stuff when she heard a noise in the apartment and went to investigate. Whatever she saw—or felt—frightened her enough that she barricaded herself behind the closest lockable door, the hall bathroom."

"The hall bathroom door was open when I arrived," Azrael interrupted.

"Yes. The police are checking the fingerprints on it. Upon closer inspection of the bathroom, we found some chemical evidence that suggests Adrianne may have been forcefully lifted against the wall." Nathan paused. "Almost to the nine-foot ceiling. You really don't think Kasyade could have possessed Adrianne's body?"

After a beat of painful silence, Azrael spoke. "No. For an angel to take a human body, they must have help. It's an impossible task to do alone and keep the host alive. Kasyade would've needed help that she no longer has to do that. Sloan has neutralized all her allies."

I was no longer hungry, my appetite squelched by the thought of the Angels of Life we'd already dealt with. Phenex, Ysha, the Morning Star. Oh, the irony. So many humans feared death when life was so much more unpredictably terrifying.

"Nathan, do you have any idea where she was taken? I want boots on the ground searching at first light," Azrael said.

Nathan leaned toward the phone. "Sloan noticed in Adrianne's closet that someone had packed clothing suitable for warmer weather. My guess is she was headed south. The sheriff's office is working on getting the GPS coordinates from her cell phone."

"Excellent work." Azrael paused. "Warren, take me off speakerphone."

Warren picked up the phone, clicked a button on the screen, and held the phone to his ear. He got up and walked away from the table.

"Sloan?" Enzo asked.

I looked up.

"Can you help me figure out where to put everyone tonight?"

I leaned back in my seat and folded my hands over my belly. "Unfortunately, we don't have even close to enough beds."

"It's OK. We don't need beds. We've endured far worse accommodations."

"Well, there are two other bedrooms on this floor with actual beds in them. A queen at the end of the hall and a full next to the nursery. A few people could sleep in the living room on the sofa and love seat, and I guess everyone else will have to pick a spot on the floor downstairs. There's a den down there and a bedroom, but it's empty."

"It will be fine. Thank you," Enzo said.

Across the room, Warren tucked his phone into his back pocket, then stared outside so long it made me nervous. I stood and went to him, angling my belly to the side so I could wrap my arms around his waist from behind. "You OK?" I asked, my chin against his shoulder blade.

He covered my hands with his own. "Azrael doesn't want me to tell you this, but I told him there are no more secrets between us."

Fear rippled my spine as he turned in my arms to face me. He studied my eyes for a moment.

"Tell me," I begged, desperate for him to get it over with.

He took a deep breath. "We have until the baby arrives to find and put an end to Kasyade. Once the baby is born, you'll lose the power to stop her, and Adrianne could be lost forever."

This is the end of Chapter 2, and it is our last sneak post! I can’t believe how quickly the past few weeks have gone! I hope you’re as excited about this book as I am. It was truly my favorite of the series to write. I can’t wait for you to read the book in its entirety! I really can’t stress this enough: If you prefer reading eBooks on a platform other than Amazon, please pre-order this book. I can’t guarantee it will stay on all platforms for long after its release.

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(Audio & Print coming soon)

82 thoughts on “The Sacrifice Leaked Chapters

  1. Absolutely love this can’t wait read the rest iv got most of my family and friends reading these books from beginning x

  2. Not enough! I need more 🙂 I absolutely love this series and am anxiously (and impatiently) waiting.

  3. Ahhhhh why do I torture myself by reading sneak peeks???

    Can’t wait for this to come out! One of the best supernatural series & a favourite to reread for sure.

    Great job Elicia!

  4. I am so hooked. I can’t wait for more,more ,more. Even though it’s been months since I read the other books I am right back in Soul Summoner mode. Awesome!

  5. Omg I want to read the rest now!! Good excuse while I wait to start from The Soul Summoner again!!!

  6. I loved it, made me want more. I can’t wait for the book. I just love this series it’s the best out there. Awesome!!!!!

  7. OMG starts off with a bang ! Love it can’t wait !!! I have the librarian at my grandsons school reading this series! We caught up about it at the open house last weekend she’s loves them too

  8. YES! I loved “Warren’s ex-girlfriend could kill me with a napkin, and everyone knew it.” LOL But, I kinda wanted to punch Tactical Barbie in the face, too. XD Can’t wait for the book!! One month away!!!

  9. All I can say is omg You did it again,only bad point is I have to wait till the 27th of March to read the rest,well done Elicia

  10. Wow! You’re going to just leave it there… It’s been making me nuts since The Taken ended! Looking forward to reading this book in March.

  11. So exciting. Can’t wait til the full book is released, just so I can finish it in one day and impatiently wait for the next release. Definitely at the top of my list of favorite book series. You’re amazing Elicia!

  12. Oh man, I should never have started reading! I’d like to kick Fury’s ass, lol. Can’t wait to read the whole book!

  13. Aaaaargghh! I wish I could just meet them when they warped back to Asheville and find out what is happening. Where do they warp back to? Sloan and Warren’s new house?

  14. Fabulous work. It’s gripping right away. I love Taiya and how good Sloane is to her. Thanks for the peek Elicia. Looking forward to publication!

  15. Oh man! I want more already…….can we please have more? I seriously want my own Nathan McNamara he is the most sweetest man, although Warren is right next to him too. Gah I know we can’t have them both. This whole baby thing is cruising very quickly and I can’t wait for this book to be released! Amazing storyline so far Elicia and it has me hook, line and sinker!!!!

  16. GAH! super intense! cannot wait for march to get here. 🙂 what is fury’s issue!? i still think sloane and nathan are meant to be. sorry warren! :p

  17. OMG this put me RIGHT back to where I was and how I felt when the last book ended. I. CANNOT. WAIT!!!

  18. I have read the series a couple of times…waiting for this latest book. I am addicted and can’t wait to read it Thank you for writing such an entertaining series.

  19. I keep trying to read between the lines of dialect with the characters and I’m finding no hints pointing to who has the sinister intentions. But like Sloan was warned earlier on to trust no one, she really isn’t given any choice but to trust those currently close to her. I’m excitedly dreading to find out whose going to raise their head and crush (or at least attempt to crush) Sloan.

  20. I loved it Elicia, again. Luv this series and can’t wait for it to come out. I’ve pre-ordered. Keep them coming, I can’t put these books down

  21. This was just what the doctor ordered. Except, you know, not nearly long enough! Stressful day working on my group counseling paper and this was the perfect paper writing break! Just what I needed to relieve school related stress!

  22. I normally don’t read sneak peeks because I don’t want to know what happens. I can’t help myself with this storyline. Hurry up and release date!!

  23. “Please Sir, May I Have Some More” or should i say PLEASE GIVE ME MORE MA’AM.As good as the first already. I shouldn’t have started it because i just get angry & excited that there isn’t more!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait for the book!

  24. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Elicia, thank you for our Valentine’s Day present. I was already excited about the next book in the series, but after reading this it cannot get here sooner. March hurry up!

  25. It’s not fair that you know what’s happening next, Elicia! I’m going to bite my nails down to the quick as I agonize over this story! Adrianne better make it out of this ok!!

  26. I have been busting for this book to come out. I hope you will be doing more in this series Elicia. I’m sure Az luvs Adrienne, but I’ll have to wait and see.

  27. Will this book have the Audible version available for purchase as Well? If so when and for how much? I have already preordered my kindel version. I can’t wait!!!

  28. Awww darn…..just when its starting to get really really good. Can’t wait til it offically come out

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