Stricken (The War Scrolls Book 1)By: A.K. Morgen
Her father’s gaze drifted off to the side and then quickly back to her, but he couldn’t hide the broken look in his eyes.
She turned her head and saw what he had.
Her brother’s arm, charred and blistered, peeked from beneath another fallen roof beam.
“Aaron’s gone, Bree. He’s gone, baby.”
“No!” She shook her head back and forth, trying to deny the truth fracturing her heart. “No.”
“He’s gone, sweetheart.”
“Aaron!” Aubrey jerked upright, her breath coming in gasping sobs.
Oh God, Aaron. And her father.
A nightmare, but not.
The dream was an exact memory, dredged up from that place deep inside where she’d tried to bury it three long years ago. Her shrink had told her then that memories didn’t stay buried forever, but she’d tried anyway.
Would the pain of that day ever fade?
At night, when she slept, the loss of her family haunted her like a wraith. It terrorized her, leaving her a broken mess over and over. But she was awake now, and in the light of day, she controlled what held her attention.
She drew a deep, shuddering breath and swiped shaking hands beneath her eyes. Shoving the memory back into the corner reserved for it and the others like it, she buttressed the walls she’d built around those painful flashbacks long ago. When her body stopped trembling, she took stock of her situation.
At some point, she’d been moved from the abandoned house and tucked into a massive four-poster bed. A deep red comforter twisted around her legs. Dark curtains—so red they might as well have been black—covered long windows on the opposite wall. An overgrown armchair sat in the far corner, a wooden table beside it. Two large bookcases flanked it, each stuffed to overflowing with books and papers of all shapes and sizes.
Aubrey drew another breath and disentangled herself from the blankets before climbing unsteadily to her feet. It felt as if a great weight sat upon her chest, fear and pain squeezing her heart in a vise. But she could curl into a ball and cry later. Right now, more important things demanded her attention.
“Which door?” she asked herself, staring at three identical doors situated around the room. None provided any hints as to where they led.
She chose the closest and pulled it open.
A bathroom, impressively decorated in deep blues and soft creams. No help there.
The second door opened onto a closet full of jeans, T-shirts, and combat boots far too large for a woman. So, one of her rescuers—if that’s what they were—lived here.
She closed the closet door and started across the room.
The last door swung open before she made it halfway.
One of her rescuers stepped into the room.
She halted in her tracks.
Piercing blue eyes homed in on her, startling her. She’d never seen such a beautiful color before. Sky blue close to the pupil and gradually darkening to a stormy blue around the edge of the iris. His face was all chiseled planes and beautiful, severe angles beneath a riot of unruly blond hair. He stood a good foot taller than her five foot three. He was also a lot younger than she had expected, probably not much older than she was. His face was unlined, youthful. His skin seemed to glow a soft gold.
And his arms. Good grief! She’d seen tree trunks smaller than his arms.
He was too big, too perfect, to be human.
“Hello,” he murmured.
Aubrey stared at him, her heart beating fast.
“Did you sleep well?” He made no move to come any closer, choosing instead to cross his arms over his chest and lean back against the wall. Muscles bulged beneath his shirt. He left the door standing open, maybe trying to put her at ease.
It didn’t work.
“I…” The words stuck in her throat. She coughed and then nodded instead of trying to force out a response.
“Do you remember anything?”
She hesitated a moment and then nodded again, slower this time. Whichever of the three he was, gentleness didn’t seem natural for him. Even talking softly and leaning against the wall, he was more commanding than any other guy she knew. An aura of danger rolled from him, not threatening perhaps, but there just the same.
He was the predator. Never the prey.
His name floated up from the murky depths of her mind. Oh yes, she remembered him. Bossy and commanding, and—
“You’re Fallen.” The words slipped out as soon as realization dawned. She took an involuntary step backward. She didn’t know much about the fallen angels who lived on earth, but she knew enough to be afraid. The Fallen were like shadows, walking among humans but leaving no trace. They were guardians, Warriors of Light protecting her kind from the polluted races the Fallen had supposedly birthed with demons long ago, but only a fool thought they were the cherubic helpers popularized in paintings.
The Fallen were fierce, loyal, and even more deadly than any of the demon races out there. They were God’s warriors, His army, and they were damned. Cast from Heaven by God the same way He’d cast Lucifer into Hell.
The angel shook his head in denial. “You’re mistaken.”
“I’m not.” Aubrey lifted her head, narrowing her gaze. “You and the others are Fallen. That’s how you knew where the—” She couldn’t bring herself to verbalize the rest of that sentence. Not with Aaron’s memory so close.