Stricken (The War Scrolls Book 1)By: A.K. Morgen
“You’ll be the first to know.” He stared at her, looking exactly like the avenging angel she’d thought him. “But you’re a whole lot more valuable to me alive than dead, sweetheart.”
She doubted that. He didn’t even know her.
He must have read the skepticism in her gaze. “I don’t know anything about you, but I do know about the virus. It’s killing us faster than we believed possible. Finding infected Elioud is expected. What we don’t expect is to find four of them fighting like hell to get to a teenaged girl instead of turning on us.” He arched a brow. “I’d really like to know how those four managed it. And since you seem to be what they were after, you’re more valuable to me alive than you are dead. I need answers, and it looks like you’re it.”
Well, that was honest enough, wasn’t it?
He would protect her if she needed protecting and help her where she needed helping. It would be, she was suddenly certain, his personal goal in life. And if he ever decided she was a threat to him or the answers he sought, he’d kill her where she stood.
Aubrey shivered and made her decision. “Fine.”
She felt as though she might have made a deal with the devil himself.
They’re going to need you. You’re the only—
The only what?
She didn’t know. And she didn’t know if this is what her father meant about her being needed, either, but she couldn’t turn her back this time. Not when people like Aaron and his friends were dying.
“Thank you,” she said.
“No need.” Killian hauled himself to his feet. “I meant what I said.”
Aubrey shivered, no less leery of him than she’d been when he’d walked into the room. She wasn’t nearly that stupid.
“Is anyone going to come looking for you?” he asked.
Aubrey hesitated for a long moment, caught between the truth and a lie, and then she sighed. “I live with my aunt, but she won’t come looking for a few days.” The confession sounded sad and pathetic even to her.
“Where are your parents?”
“My father, yes. But my mother died in a wreck when I was a baby. I never knew her.”
If Killian heard the loneliness in her voice, he didn’t comment on it. Instead, he pointed toward the bathroom. “The shower’s in there,” he said.
He was gone before Aubrey could thank him.
Killian closed the bedroom door behind him, leaving Aubrey to bathe in private.
“How did it go?”
He glanced over to find Abriel crouched against the wall, twirling a dagger aimlessly between his fingers. Aside from the weapon, his blade-brother looked more like a bored college student in his polo and jeans than a four-hundred-year-old warrior who’d hunted down and killed hundreds over the centuries.
“About as well as expected.” Killian hesitated, his hand still on the doorknob. “Is she going to run?”
Abriel sheathed the dagger in his boot and shook his head. “Nah. Her thoughts are surprisingly calm.” He arched a brow at Killian. “No luck reading her?”
“No.” Killian rubbed his forehead, frustrated. Once upon a time, he’d thought he’d come to terms with his weak mindreading Talent where the Elioud were concerned, but apparently not. He was dying to know what the girl was hiding from him. Whatever secrets she kept, they haunted her. He saw that much clearly.
“She’s Elioud,” Abriel said, “but her blood is weak, almost completely human.”
Killian nodded. He’d guessed as much even before Aubrey confirmed his suspicions. Her aura was bright like an angel’s, but not even the acrid stench of the infected wolves or the grime and dirt covering her was powerful enough to mask the scent of her humanity or hide her beauty.
Her hair hung in tangles down her back, as dark as his was light. It set off her porcelain skin and bottomless green eyes in a way that made him uncomfortable. And the soft curves hidden beneath her dirty clothing made his entire body ache.
“Caitria doesn’t know her family line?” he asked his blade-brother, jerking his mind away from the lovely girl.
“Nope.” Abriel bounded to his feet then headed toward the living room, wisely not commenting on the direction of Killian’s thoughts. “She’s not happy about it, either.”
“It’s not her fault.” Killian eased himself down onto the sofa. No one but Caitria herself expected her to know every Elioud line still capable of producing those with Talents. Their world was in chaos, and the Fallen were dying as fast as the children they’d birthed long ago were. If Aubrey’s story was true and one of the exiled Fallen had helped rescue her, that angel might well be dead now.
“Her brother died in a fire?”
“I wonder how.”
Killian shrugged. Aubrey hadn’t exactly given him her entire life’s story, and he couldn’t say he blamed her for that. How could he when one of his kind had tried to kill her? That bothered him more than the little human girl’s distrust of him.