Stricken (The War Scrolls Book 1)By: A.K. Morgen
“You’re mistaken,” Killian repeated.
“Then what are you?”
He pushed away from the wall and walked toward her, his arms still crossed loosely over his chest. The muscles in his chest bulged beneath his dark tee. The fabric stretched tight over his abdomen, seeming almost sculpted to the rock-solid flesh beneath.
“You’re not human.” She walked backward, refusing to let him get too close. To keep her hands from shaking, she curled them into fists at her sides.
“I am,” Killian said, “more or less.”
“Let’s talk about the ‘less’ part, then,” she snapped. A part of her brain warned her that she was being foolish goading him like that, but she couldn’t stop herself, either. She remembered how he’d snarled and sniped at her, threatening her without actually threatening her. She didn’t like him.
He stared at her for a long moment before shrugging a shoulder. “I’m Nephilim, half-human, half-angel. Does that help?”
“You’re Nephilim?” Aubrey’s heart sped up. “You’re—they’re—” She swallowed hard, remembering another Nephilim boy with cold, blue eyes and deadly intent. She pushed that memory away, fighting for calm. “The things chasing me—?”
“Were shapeshifters before they became infected.”
“Infected?” The question was a pitiful squeak. Aubrey didn’t care.
The wolves really were shifters. Oh Lord, what had happened to them?
“This is going to take a while,” Killian said with a sigh. “I’m going to walk toward you. No,” he said when she starting backing away from him. “Don’t do that. I’m not going to hurt you.” He pointed behind her. “I’m going to go sit in that chair, okay?”
Aubrey looked between him and the chair. For him to get to it, he needed to walk right by her, within grabbing distance. She crossed to the bed, a good six feet from the chair in the corner. She knew it wouldn’t be far enough if he meant her harm, but it was the best she could do at the moment. She nodded to him as she pressed herself into the wall beside the bed, letting him know he could move.
Killian frowned at her but didn’t say anything as he strode across the room then lowered himself into the chair.
Aubrey stared at him for long moments, trying to decide if he was going to hurt her.
“Are you always so jumpy?” he asked.
“Not until recently.” She rubbed her hands along her arms for warmth. Her body felt frozen solid, the kind of chill that came from inside and worked its way out. “What do you mean by infected?”
“Recently as in the last couple of days?” he asked instead of answering.
“More or less. How are they infected?”
“You’re stubborn.” Amusement flickered in his blue eyes.
“And you’re avoiding the question,” she said, glaring at him. “How?”
Killian sighed again. “They were infected with La Morte Nera.” He offered a sardonic smile. “Those things—” he stressed the word, distaste twisting his lips “—were Elioud, the human ancestors of angels. Now, they’re nothing. Shells.”
“La Morte Nera?” Aubrey’s eyebrows climbed at the familiar name. “The virus? That’s a myth.” Even she heard the disbelief in her tone.
“Considering that my blade-brothers and I just killed four Elioud infected with the virus, I’m pretty sure it’s more fact than fairy tale.” His dry smile slipped, probably in response to the horrified expression she felt spreading across her face. “La Morte Nera is real,” he said.
Aubrey blinked, trying to process. La Morte Nera was nothing more than a myth. A made-up virus the Fallen used to scare their children into behaving. Except…
Killian’s expression twisted into something hard and bitter.
“It’s real.” A barrage of familiar faces ran through her mind, friends she’d left behind years ago. Jason and Mark. Simon. Little Tyrell and Anthony.
“What are you?” Killian demanded.
“Human,” she answered and then bit her lip. A long time ago, one of her ancestors had mated with an angel. She didn’t tell Killian that, though.
“You’re just a kid,” he said, more to himself than her.
“I’m nineteen,” she snapped, bristling. She hadn’t been just a kid in a long time.
Killian eyed her for a long moment, his lips pursued. “And no one’s looking for you?” He arched a brow. “Interesting.”
“I take care of myself.”
She said nothing. He didn’t need to know about Aunt Mel. Besides, Mel wouldn’t be looking for her yet. She was on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic. She wouldn’t be home for another week.
“You know about the Fallen.”
That wasn’t a question, but Aubrey nodded anyway.
“My brother was—” Aaron’s charred arm flashed through her mind. “He was a shifter,” she whispered, her gaze on the floor.
Aubrey lifted her head to find Killian staring at her, his expression neutral. “He died in a fire.”