The Guardian
Soul Summoner Book 8

Chapter 1

 

It was weird seeing myself floating in the sky.

Cassiel and I were suspended about ten stories above the salt mirror on la Isla del Fuego, the Island of Fire. The mirror, a “natural” phenomenon made of salt, was a perfect circle measuring over a hundred yards in diameter.

We knew, however, there was nothing natural about it.

I aimed my hands at the circle and used telekinesis to try to open it. The circle’s perimeter glowed purple, and a diagonal line crossed its center.

From our vantage point, it was a clear “No” sign.

I took a deep breath, letting the sea and sweet jasmine fill my nose. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“It’s the gate to Hell, Warren. I’d worry if you didn’t.” Cassiel’s blonde ponytail whipped on the island breeze.

“It’s clearly telling us ‘Do Not Enter.’” I traced the circle in the air with my finger.

“You know, the circle with a slash across it is also one of the alchemical signs for salt.”

I smirked. “Of course I didn’t know that.”

As an Angel of Knowledge, Cassiel was full of all sorts of information. She also thrived on sharing that information. A perfect example? She’s the only reason I knew it was jasmine I was smelling.

Her never-ending thirst for learning had served me well. Without her, I wouldn’t have found what we were looking at, and more importantly—I wouldn’t have learned how to destroy it.

And the Nulterra Gate needed to be destroyed.

“What do you think it’s like down there?” I asked.

“For you? I don’t think it will be too bad. I mean, the Morning Star created it to be his home. I doubt it will be miserable for other angels.”

“And for humans?”

“Well, we know little about Nulterra, except that its energy comes from the destruction of human souls. And souls must be made unstable before they can be broken. I doubt it will be a pleasant experience for Fury.”

“What do you mean by broken?”

“Do you know anything about nuclear energy?”

I glared at her. “Are you making fun of me now?”

She laughed. “No. It fascinated your father, so I thought you might have learned something from his blood stone.”

“I haven’t worn his blood stone in a very long time. Refresh my memory.”

“In nuclear power stations, or in atomic bombs, energy is released from uranium atoms by blowing them apart. However, uranium in its natural form is too stable to explode. It has to go through an enrichment process to increase the number of unstable uranium atoms that will make it explosive.

“Nulterra is similar. To harness the power of the souls, they first have to destabilize them. Then they’re cast into the pit for destruction.”

I thought of Fury. “Destabilized how?”

“Torture.” She grimaced. “Which is why I think the deal between the angels and the Morning Star was such an attractive option for your father.”

Azrael, the original Archangel of Death, had seen Nulterra as an opportunity. A place to send the ultra-wicked as punishment for their deeds on Earth.

The deal worked well until three souls were sent back to Earth to unleash havoc on humanity once more. Cassiel and I were just coming off the heels of that shitshow. And the memory of it still turned my stomach sour.

I looked over the island. “Why do they call it la Isla del Fuego? Isn’t that a Spanish name?”

“In 1521, Magellan discovered and claimed these islands for the Spanish Empire. The first explorers said this island gave off a glow at night. They thought it was from swarms of fireflies in the molave trees.” She gestured toward the short, crooked, leafy trees that surrounded the circle.

“It’s not fireflies though, is it?”

She shook her head.

“Do you really think it will work?” I asked.

“Sealing the gate or getting out alive?”

“Both.”

She didn’t answer, which stirred all the dread that had been rising in my stomach for the last few weeks.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and looked at the screen.

Nathan McNamara: You need to talk to your father. He’s doing it again.

I smiled and shook my head.

“What is it?” Cassiel asked.

“Azrael keeps experimenting with Iliana. He’s trying to get her to give his powers back.”

“What? How?”

“He started small by dry stunning himself with Nathan’s Taser in front of her.”

“He thought that would work?”

“I guess he figured it was worth a shot. Iliana just cracked up. She thought it was hilarious.”

Eight weeks before, Sloan McNamara and I had been struck by lightning in front of our daughter, Iliana. Even as an infant, she’d been able to use her power as the Vitamorte to protect us. Somehow, by doing so, she’d restored some of Sloan’s lost powers as an Angel of Life.

My father was now trying to get his powers back as well.

The phone buzzed again. “Listen to this,” I said to Cassiel as I read the new message. “Went to their house for dinner last night. Adrianne walked into their bathroom and found Az in all his clothes standing in a bathtub full of water. He was holding a hair dryer while Iliana watched from a towel on the floor.”

Cassiel’s mouth fell open. “Are you serious? That’s from Nathan?”

“Yeah.”

Another message came through. I’m going to kill him if he doesn’t kill himself first.

I tapped out a response. I’ll have a chat when I see him later today.

“How does that work?” I asked Cassiel.

“Iliana restoring Sloan’s power?”

I nodded, stuffing the phone back into my pocket.

“Everything with Iliana is new. We have no idea what to expect from her.”

“What’s it like?”

Her brow lifted. “What’s what like?”

“You having no idea about something,” I said with a grin.

She stuck her tongue out at me.

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My keen ears heard a rustle of leaves behind us. I turned in the air and glimpsed a young boy duck behind a bush. “We have company.” I slowly descended to the ground, landing in the center of the salt flat.

Cassiel came to rest beside me. “Who?”

“A local boy. Hello?” I called out.

Two small black eyes peered out from between the giant leaves of a Kris plant, more commonly known as the elephant ear (thank you, Cassiel).

I looked at Cassiel and pointed toward the boy.

She eased forward, as she was the less intimidating of us two. “Hello?” she said, her voice gentle and melodic. “Maayong gabii.”

The kid jumped up and ran away.

She sighed and put her hands on her hips. “That went well.”

“Have a way with kids, huh?” I walked over and stood beside her.

“Shut up, Warren.”

I smiled. “Guess we can’t expect much from a kid who’s just seen us floating in the sky.”

“Wonder where his parents are.” She closed her eyes and turned her ear in the direction the boy had run.

I looked at my feet and picked up my left boot. Water dripped off it. “It’s wet.”

“This is the rainy season. The thin layer of water creates the mirror effect. When I was here before, the salt was powdery.”

Crouching down, I touched the tip of my index finger to the glassy surface of the water. Then I touched it to my tongue. “Yep. Salt.”

Cassiel’s face soured. “You licked the ground.”

She had a thing about germs on Earth.

“I licked my finger.” My head tilted, looking up at her. “You know you can’t get sick, right?”

“That’s beside the point.”

I shook my head and used my power on the gate again. This time, with my closer vantage point to the center line across the circle, I noticed the purple glow was more than an illusion. The sparkling color moved and twisted over the salt. I passed my hand through it and felt the familiar buzz of the supernatural.

“I believe it’s powered by the Neverworld,” Cassiel said.

I looked across the circle. “Powered by Nulterra.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

I chuckled. “No.”

“Why are you?”

The cartilage in my knees crackled as I stood. “Because it’s clearer than ever an innocent woman is trapped down there.”

Cassiel lifted an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean it’s clearer than ever that, even after all these years, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for Fury?”

“I’m going to save her sister. That’s all.”

She grinned. “You’re such a bad liar.”

One of Cassiel’s gifts was the ability to tell when people were lying. If she was seeing something in me now, then her powers extended to people even lying to themselves. I had zero intention of doing anything simply for Fury’s sake—even rescuing her sister from the pit of Hell.

That ship sailed eons ago.

Still, I didn’t argue.

“Did Fury know she has the key to Nulterra?” Cassiel asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“Why did she try to hide it from you?”

My eyes were fixed on the glassy ground. “Secrets are what Fury does best.”

“Hmm,” Cassiel said without further comment.

“I suspect she feared the symbol’s appearance was a supernatural mark that her child was the Morning Star. She didn’t want anyone to know the child wasn’t human.”

“More maternal than you thought, huh?”

“Absolutely.” I jerked my head toward the bank. “You ready?”

“Yes.” She walked close beside me. “While you’re in Asheville, you should visit the second-born angel and prepare his parents for what is to come.”

“Shannon’s child?”

She nodded.

“Is this a suggestion, or an official request as a Council member?”

“Does it matter?”

“No.” I looked at her. “I’ll do it if you think I should.”

She thought for a moment. “War is coming. That much is inevitable. They deserve the truth.”

“I agree. Sometimes I wish I’d known everything back when everyone was trying to keep me in the dark,” I said.

Her head tilted from side to side. “If he so desired, the Father could tell us everything before it happens.”

“Why doesn’t he?”

“Because maybe omniscience is a curse. Sometimes knowing too much can cause us to not act at all. Would you really wish for a life without Iliana in it?”

“No.”

“So maybe you not knowing made everything fall into place as it should.”

“I hope so, Cassiel. There are far better places to spend my time away from Eden than Nulterra.”

“Venice?” she asked, smiling but not looking at me.

“Most definitely.”

When we reached the grass where I’d left the backpack I’d brought along, Cassiel took off the brown bag strapped across her chest. “I want you to take this.”

It was the satchel she’d used to smuggle items into Eden after our last trip. When I grabbed it, my arm sank with its weight. “Whoa. What’s in here?”

“Something I hope you won’t need. Don’t open the bag unless it’s a life-or-death situation.”

“Why?” I shook the bag next to my ear.

She grabbed my arm to stop me. “I mean it, Warren. Life or death only. Don’t even unzip the bag. It could mean my expulsion from Eden if it’s found.”

That was worrisome. “I don’t want it.” I tried handing it back to her, but she pulled her hands back, refusing to take it.

“Like I said, hopefully we won’t ever have to risk it.” She put her hands down when I lowered the bag. “But if you find yourself in a situation you can’t get out of, the risk will be worth it.”

My cell phone rang, but I was still staring at her.

“You gonna get that?”

With a sigh, I pulled out the phone and looked at the screen. “It’s Azrael.” I tapped the answer button and put it to my ear. “Are you playing with electricity again?” I asked my father without a greeting.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

Cassiel took the bag from me, knelt, and put it inside my backpack.

“Where are you?” Azrael asked.

“La Isla del Fuego. You should see this place. It’s incredible.”

“I hope I never have to.”

Fair enough. It was demon-made, after all.

“Fury has arrived at headquarters,” he continued. “Are you leaving the island soon?”

“Momentarily.”

“Is Cassiel coming with you?”

I looked at her. “No.”

“Good.”

For once, my father wasn’t just being a jerk where Cassiel was concerned. He had good reason to not want her around this time. And thankfully, Cassiel not coming was her idea.

“What’s the boat’s ETA at the pickup spot?” I asked.

“About half an hour.”

My tactical watch was set to Asheville’s time zone on the opposite side of the world. It was after 6 a.m. there, but the sun was fading on the Island of Fire. “I’ll be ready. I’m leaving here soon. We need to talk when I get there.”

“About?”

“About you trying to kill yourself to get your powers back.”

He sighed over the line.

“Will you be at Claymore when I arrive?” I asked.

“We’re passing through Williamston now, so if not when you arrive, soon after.”

“We?”

“Adrianne’s with me.”

Static—not from the phone—crackled in my ear. “Az, I need to go. Someone from Eden is trying to contact me. I’ll text you when I land.”

“Roger that. Give my regards to Cassiel. Tell her I’ll miss seeing her.”

“Right,” I said with a smirk. “Bye.” I ended the call and put my finger to my ear, listening to the spirit world for a moment. Nothing. Then I turned toward Cassiel. “Az says hello.”

“I heard him. Tell him I said—” She held up her middle finger.

I burst out laughing. “Who are you, and what have you done with my serious and proper friend Cassiel?”

The slightest hint of pink rose in her cheeks. “Hanging out with humans has had a bad effect on me.”

“Or a great effect.”

Cassiel certainly dressed more humanlike these days. She wore a pair of olive-green cargo pants and a loose gray tank that looked straight off the rack of a military base Exchange. The only thing telling that the clothes were Eden-made was the slight shimmer of the fabric.

I trailed my fingertips down her forearm. “You sure you don’t want to come with me?” As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them. Not because I didn’t want her to come, but because I wasn’t sure how I’d backtrack out of it if she changed her mind.

“I’m sure.”

I relaxed.

She took a small step closer to me. “Some time away from Eden…and from me would be good for you. Would be good for us, if there is ever to be such a thing.”

It wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation. Cassiel and I still weren’t together after the last shitstorm on Earth, but it was looking like a possibility.

Cassiel was convinced that Eden clouded my judgment. Made me forget there were things on Earth I still wanted. Made me forget there were still years I wanted to spend there with my daughter, Iliana.

And years on Earth translated to centuries in Eden. Too long for angels committed to each other to spend apart. At least, that’s how Cassiel saw it. She’d shot down the idea of living with me on Earth when Iliana was older. Saying she “wouldn’t belong,” neither on Earth nor as a part of my old life, something she’d never fully understand.

As an angel who’d spent almost her entire existence in Eden, Cassiel wasn’t just out of touch with her humanity—as I sometimes felt; she’d never had it to begin with.

Life on Earth would be hell for her.

She slipped her fingers between mine, and my breath caught in my throat. “I will miss you though.”

I pulled her into a tight hug. “I’ll miss you too. Look in on my family from time to time?”

She nodded against my chest.

I held her for a long time, inhaling the sweet scent of Eden still fresh in her hair. Our intoxicating power radiating between us. There was so much I wanted to say…

My “ears” crackled with supernatural static again. I pressed my finger to my ear once more, straining to listen for voices. Still nothing.

“What’s the matter?” Cassiel asked.

“I’m not sure. Sounds like one of my angels is trying to call out to me, but nothing is coming through.”

More static. Then a tiny voice. Baby babble?

I listened harder. Realization exploded in me like a warhead. “Iliana?”

More static. More baby babble.

“Illy, can you hear me?”

“Appa!”

At the sound of my daughter’s voice, my knees buckled. I dropped to the earth like I’d been punched in the stomach by a hurricane.

Appa was the word for “father” in Katavukai, the language of angels.

“Warren?” Cassiel asked, concerned.

I plugged both my ears with my fingers. “Iliana?”

“Appa!” she said again, followed by more words I couldn’t understand.

I put my hand over my chest to make sure my heart was still inside me. Then I braced with it against the ground. “It’s Iliana,” I told Cassiel, tears rushing to my eyes. “She’s figured out how to call into the spirit world.”

Cassiel clasped her hands beneath her chin, her face soft with gladness.

I turned my face to the sky and whispered, “Thank you,” to the Father, or whoever might be listening.

But before I could reach out to my daughter again, distant voices echoed through the jungle. Angry voices.

I stood, and Cassiel and I looked in their direction. “That doesn’t sound good,” she said quietly.

I pulled her behind me as a group of men, ten or so, ran through the tree line. Most of them carried machetes or bats. A couple carried assault rifles.

Cassiel grabbed the scabbard across my back with one hand and my bicep with the other. “Why is it every time we come to Earth together, we wind up in front of a firing squad?”

One man shouted something in a language I didn’t understand.

“What’d he say?” I asked her.

“He wants to know why we killed his daughter.”

“What? Tell him we didn’t.”

“Thanks, Warren. I didn’t think of that.”

The man started shouting again.

“He wants us to repay him,” she translated.

“With what? I’ve got sixty bucks in my pocket.”

“I’m not sure what he’s talking about.”

The men with the guns inched forward.

“Warren.” Cassiel’s voice was laced with panic, and her nails were so deep in my skin that I worried she might draw blood.

“Looks like this will be a quick goodbye, Cassiel.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“No clue, but I’ll see you back in Eden when I’m finished.”

“Be safe, Warren.”

I put my hand on hers and squeezed.

Then as the first bullet exploded from its chamber, I grabbed my bag, and Cassiel and I blinked out of sight.

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23 thoughts on “The Guardian Leaked Chapters

  1. Geez, AZ is going to hurt himself. I can see Iliana giggling. Great work ma’am. Can’t wait to read it. Just wish it took as long to read as it did to write. I go through them so fast.

  2. I am so ready for more! The fact that you said it was your favorite so far, has definitely peeked my interest. Waiting impatiently!

  3. This is going to be so great. I can’t wait come on Nov. 22nd. Yet again am not waiting patiently for this book to come out you are the best.

  4. I’m so excited for this book. I’ve been impatiently waiting for just a snippet and or an ARC email, but I can’t wait until the release.

  5. Beyond looking forward to seeing what’s in store for everyone! Perfect tease to keep me wanting more!

  6. OMG…funny already~ Sounds like this one will be even better than the last one…keep them coming and thank you

  7. I love this series and I have binged all of them up to now. As soon as it is available with kindle unlimited I will read it. Can’t wait.

  8. *SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVENT READ ALL OF THE BOOKS TO THIS POINT*
    I’m glad Warren isnt a monk who vowed an oath of celibacy, but it’s still hard for me to see him with anyone but Sloan, what they had was incredible. I wonder with Sloans angelic powers returning than will she still be able to feel the buzzing energy she sensed when she touched another angel like before it was all gone? I know it was stated in an earlier book that with Sloans humanity still intact that it will insure illiana is safe being with her as she grows older, unlike with a full Angel’s presence. I cant wait to be with the characters again, I’ve missed reading about everyone!! I also loved the update with Az he is so comical as a grandfather. I cant wait to read more OMG I’m so excited Elicia …

  9. LOVE! Az is a mess! And that Nathan and Warren friendship is such a great thing! Cannot wait!!!

    And I love the know-it-all-ness of Cassiel because it opens the door wide for comments like this chapter ended on when she doesn’t know things. And there are always things even the most “knowing” of all us don’t know!

  10. omg my heart felt like it came up in my throat when Warren heard Iliana say “Appa” through the spirit world. It’s these feelings and keeping me at the edge of my seat is why I love your books. It takes a special Author to grab a readers attention like this and Elicia Hyder you are an amazing Author .

  11. Az trying to get his powers back? Love it. Sloan actually getting hers back? That’s even better. But, like someone commented earlier, I don’t like Warren’s new relationship — at all. So much so that I had to skim some Venice pages in Soul Destroyer, which is proof Elicia Hyder is an AMAZING WRITER. Otherwise, Warren being with that shifty-shady angel wouldn’t make me feel so icky. Really hoping, she’s non-existent for the rest of the book. For some reason “heaven Warren” isn’t nearly as much fun.

    Very excited to read about Sloan, Warren, Nathan, all of those familiar characters from the first few books — especially crazy Az. Maybe he can get his powers back, but in a funny, twisted way?

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