Here is the first chapter of my upcoming book, SPEAKING OF THE DEVIL! This is book one in my Days of New series. Hope you enjoy!
It had been six months since the Archangels reclaimed Heaven, but Clark still jolted awake, as if he was falling from one nightmare into another.
When the temporary flash of fear cleared, Clark cursed and swatted away the feathers tickling his nose. The alarm clock blared next to him and echoed through the drafty apartment. He slammed his hand onto the snooze button, sending the clock crashing to the stone floor covered in musty old rugs.
Camille, an angel soldier from the Throne choir, didn’t even stir as Clark shoved her pure white wing off him and rose from the bed. The sheet was bunched around her sprawled legs, exposing her bare ass and smooth, porcelain skin.
Running his hand over the scruff along his jaw, he walked over to a large window framing an entire wall of the bedroom. Outside, the sun was starting to illuminate the gray earth. His breath condensed against the window, the winter air crisp beyond the heated confines of his apartment. From his vantage point, he saw the entire south side of the estate, where refugee tents littered the front lawn.
Clark caught his reflection in the glass. His pink Mohawk was flat and faded, his blue eyes much the same, making him look more tired than his twenty-four years warranted. Further down his reflection, he glimpsed the tattoos on his arms and had to look away, even though the unwanted marks called to him like little whispers.
“Get your shit together, man,” Clark mumbled to himself as he turned away from the window. He couldn’t deny the crushing pressure he felt staring down at the refugees, knowing they were looking to him for survival.
Jeans, work jackets covered in dirt, and torn rock band T-shirts were strewn about the floor at his feet as he crossed the small apartment and set a metal pot on the wood-burning stove. He filled it with water, numbly watching as it began to boil. He knew the coffee would be bitter if he dumped the grounds in too early, but he did it anyway.
He drank his coffee quickly before venturing back into the bedroom to dress. Camille was in the shower, the ancient pipes thundering to life behind the walls; thankfully, the compound had a solar powered pump to maintain the water pressure. He couldn’t find his old leather jacket that had once belonged to his father, so he settled on a faded plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up unevenly, a stained white undershirt, and jeans with more holes than material. He closed the door quietly behind him and set off down the hall.
As Clark hurried to his office, he kept his head down and his eyes on the well-trodden stones of the Descendants of Enoch’s compound. Entire wings and halls had been added to the estate over the centuries, making it sprawl before him like a damp, cluttered maze. People shuffled about behind their rooms’ doors, preparing for another long day of work and cold. The place was coming alive, waking with the grudging acknowledgment of a new dawn.
He reached his office door and slipped inside silently. The wood-paneled room overlooked the back fields, a view familiar to Clark. He’d spent hundreds of hours playing in front of this very desk while his father had worked.
He sank into the leather chair behind the desk and poured himself a glass of whiskey before he turned on the stereo in the corner. The Clash spilled out and filled the room as light from the sunrise trickled through the windows. He leaned back in his chair and sighed, watching the bright colors leech into the clouds. The whiskey did the trick and burned away thoughts of the war, Sophia, and Michaela.
Because if he thought about Michaela, then he thought about Sophia. And if he thought about Sophia, he remembered his father’s death. And his father’s death brought on thoughts of hybrids and Watchers and plagues and Lucifer and Hell and unwanted tattoos and running through the woods, counting down the seconds before death. He couldn’t think of any of that or else he would be halfway through the liquor bottle before the sun had fully risen.
Because all the people he missed were all the people he’d lost, and they were gone and far away. And he needed to focus because he had to save the world today.
He heard a knock on his door. “Come in,” Clark called and took a sip.
Zarachiel limped in, his back twisted beneath his heavy coat, the pain in his eyes evident. “We have a slight situation.”
Clark groaned and quickly swallowed the rest of his whiskey. “What now?”
“It’s nothing like that…just…well, a Nephil arrived this morning. She’s demanding to see you,” Zarachiel said. He shoved his hands into the worn pockets of his work pants.
“Who is it?” Clark asked.
Just then, the door banged open behind Zarachiel, and the Nephil charged in. At the sight of her, Clark sprang to his feet, dropping the whiskey glass to the floor. It shattered on impact, sending shards across the rug. His heart was somewhere in his throat, squeezing the breath out of him.
“Sophia?” he choked out.
“No,” the Nephil said. “But I think you knew my sister.”
Clark wavered, his head spinning. For one horrible moment, he thought he might actually faint, but guys like him didn’t faint. He reached for his humor, for any badass comment that could save him from this moment, but he floundered in a sea of horrible, wrenching pain.
“You look just like her,” he whispered, his eyes sweeping over the girl’s light colored hair and eyes.
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen my sister in a very long time,” the girl snapped. Her tone was brisk, her words clipped, but her hands trembled, and she had to tuck them into the simple coat she wore that was much too thin for the brutal Kentucky winter the compound was currently enduring.
“Why are you here?” Clark asked, still drinking her in. His heart kept sputtering, like a worn-out car in winter. He had to remind himself over and over that this wasn’t his precious Sophia.
Because Sophia was dead.
“This is the Descendant of Enoch’s compound, is it not? You all are the protectors of the angels, their saintly guardians on Earth. An order of humans passed down generation after generation from the great Enoch himself, right? Or did I take a wrong turn somewhere?”
The girl talked a hard game, but her lips trembled and her eyes were much too wide.
“I see you found the brochure,” Clark commented dryly. He sat back in his chair because his knees were growing too weak to hold him. His eyes traveled down the girl’s slender neck to the lapel of her coat, which revealed the tiniest glimpse of creamy white skin. Suddenly, images of Sophia beneath him in the darkness came to mind. Her heard her moan, felt her nails digging into his ass as he moved inside her. The crotch of his pants tightened, and he had to pour another drink into a new, unbroken glass.
“The Descendants don’t do much protecting these days, not since the end of the war. The plagues didn’t leave much behind, but we take any survivors who can make it here. We’re more of a refugee camp now,” Clark added, sipping from his drink. The amber liquid burned him back to life, lit a fire to his numbness.
The girl came forward, squaring her tiny shoulders. “I came here for—”
“Look,” Clark interrupted. “It’s really early in the morning, and I don’t even know your name.”
“I see I interrupted your…coffee.” The girl’s eyes flickered down to his drink, but they caught on his arms. He saw the flash of fear in her eyes. She was a Nephil, which meant she’d heard the rumors about his tattoos. “Are those the marks…the marks of the Apocrypha?”
The ink on his arms danced and itched at the name, his skin twitching under her fervent gaze. Holy shit, Clark thought. He had to get her attention back to his face. Her enraptured attention on his body was messing with his head.
“Your name?” he snapped.
She jumped at his harsh tone, but her eyes met his again. “Maya.”
“Nice to meet you, Maya. I’m Clark St. James, but apparently my reputation precedes me. As it should. Now, if you don’t mind, I have very pressing issues to attend to—”
“Wait! I need to talk to you. I came a very long way, and I—”
“Zarachiel,” Clark said, turning to the angel, who stood very quietly in the corner. “Don’t we have very, very, very important things to do right now?”
“Uh,” Zarachiel paused. Normally, they just worked in the greenhouses until lunch. As the leader of the Nephilim, Clark was in charge of growing the food for next year, which meant lots of planning and prepping in the greenhouses now. “Sure.”
“See?” Clark looked back at Maya, whose shoulders slumped, her eyes brimming with tears. “But we will talk soon. I promise,” he lied. If he had any say in the matter, he would never talk to this creature again.
He couldn’t bear it…couldn’t handle the pain of seeing all he’d lost staring back at him.
“But I really need—”
“Zarachiel, will you escort Maya to the Nephilim wing? I believe you will find an available apartment over there.”
Clark swiveled around in his chair, taking the bottle of whiskey with him. He heard Zarachiel murmuring to the girl, who seemed reluctant to go. But when the door clicked shut, Clark doubled over, clenching his stomach. His breaths were ragged and gasping as the panic attack had its way with him.
His vision grayed at the edges and floor tilted up ever so kindly to meet his face as he tumbled out of the chair.