A Beyond the Books short story in the Nephilim Series
The three scenes that follow take place concurrently with Chapter Twenty-Six of The Night Everything Fell Apart, Book One of the Nephilim Series
Cameron Redmond woke with a start, heart pounding. His body was soaked with sweat. He kicked off the clammy sheet and lay staring up at the ceiling. Beside him, Piers slept like the dead. Like he always did after sex. Cam turned his head and studied his lover.
Piers was decades older than Cam, but the difference in years didn’t matter. His features were unlined except for a few attractive crinkles at the corners of his eyes. According to Piers, this wasn’t unusual. Nephilim didn't generally show their age. His hair was an anomaly, though, mingling dark and white. His ruby earring—a single, half-carat stud set in yew wood—was a garish contrast to the salt-and-pepper curls.
The older man's expression was serene, his breath barely audible. Cam envied him. His own orgasm hadn't given way to relaxation. On the contrary, sex only seemed to exacerbate his habitual restlessness. To Cam, slumber was something to be feared, much as he'd feared walking through Liverpool's rougher quarters in what he'd taken to thinking of as the time before. The time when he'd believed he was human. Before he'd discovered, amid terror, pain, and immense, frightening power, what he truly was.
Images and memories leaped from the dark corners of his brain—emboldened, perhaps, by the events of the past few days. The so-called volcano in Wales. Masses of hellfiends streaming overhead, like an endless plume of ash. The unnatural sky and Piers's troubled reaction to it had unearthed memories Cam would have preferred to keep buried. His life in the time before—a blur of homelessness, hunger, and heroin. His life in between, when an overdose had pitched him toward death. His unexpected survival had sent him careening into his Ordeal. If Piers hadn't found him, huddled and shivering, lying in his own stink...
A rush of gratitude and love for his savior unfurled in his chest. The warmth and hope of it chased the trauma of his past—most of it—back into the dark. Cam rolled onto his side facing Piers, his arm tucked under his head. A breeze played with the open curtains. Moonlight filtered through, falling in a slant across the floor. Abruptly, Cam sat up, realizing the light meant the sky was clear at last. But what, exactly, did that mean?
It was barely past midnight, but he was certain he wasn't falling back asleep any time soon. He might as well get up. The antique pocket watch was almost done. A massive Bavarian cuckoo clock was his next project. It was in pitiful shape; it would absorb his attention for days. He was quite looking forward to it. The precision and concentration needed in repairing clockworks soothed him.
He eased out of bed, careful not to disturb Piers, who liked to sleep late. There was no reason for him to rise, even when the sun came up. The shop had seen only two intrepid customers in the last few days. Cam moved to the window and peered up at the sky. The hellfiends were indeed gone, leaving a full moon and collection of washed-out stars. But even if the clear sky encouraged more foot traffic, the shop didn't need to open before eleven.
Piers muttered in his sleep and rolled to one side. A glint of red light caught the corner of Cam's eye. Reflexively, he looked closer. And sucked in a breath. Cam hadn't been mistaken. The ruby earring was glowing.
Unease gathered in his chest and sank into a knot in his stomach. Piers had warned him this day might come. He glanced down at the ring he wore on the middle finger of his left hand. The diamond touchstone Piers had given him after he'd emerged from his Ordeal was clear. Of course it was. Piers had made damn sure Cam's magic wasn't tied to his own.
Too soon. He wasn't ready. He'd barely come to terms with what he was. What Piers was. Nephilim. He wasn't ready to confront others of their kind, much less face the clan alpha that Piers hated and feared so ferociously.
Cam clasped Piers's shoulder. It was very hot. Either that, or Cam's hands had gone very, very cold.
"Piers? Wake up." He gave him a shake.
"What—?" Piers blinked blearily. He looked into Cam's eyes. The last remnants of sleep evaporated. He shoved into a sitting position, the sheet whispering down over his naked torso.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Cam gestured toward the earring. Piers glanced into the mirror above the dressing table. His eyes widened. Deftly, he removed the earring and stared at the glowing gem.
"Do we have to answer it?" Cam asked.
"I must, if I wish to stay alive. You, however..."
Cam sank down on the edge of the bed. "This has to have something to do with the hellfiends."
"That's a fair guess, yes." Piers flung back the bedcovers and rose. He strode to the wardrobe and opened it, surveying a line of crisply ironed garments. He chose a pair of black trousers and pulled them on. "But it's by no means certain. A summons from the alpha can come for any number of reasons."
"None of them good, I take it."
Piers shot him a glance. "No. None of them good."
"I'm going with you," Cam said quietly.
"No." Piers pinned him with a look. "You will not. Mab doesn't know anything about you. I want to keep it that way."
Cam twisted his ring. "You may not come back."
Piers said nothing.
"I couldn't stand that," he said quietly. "I couldn't stand not knowing. I couldn’t stand waiting. I'm going with you."
"You gave me my freedom at the end of my Ordeal. You can't take it away now." He stood. "I'm going with you. I'll stand at your side."
"If you do," Piers warned, "you may very well die there."
"So be it," Cam said.
Braxton Camulus wore a signet on the last finger of his right hand. It was a finely wrought wood mosaic, set with a chip of raw ruby. When the stone began to glow, he stared at it for a long moment, then swore softly.
What the hell time was it? He closed his laptop and glanced at his phone. Past midnight. He'd been running the pattern of the hellfiend invasion through an advanced epidemic model he'd hacked from the US Centers for Disease Control. The CDC, however, were accustomed to illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria. They had no experience with—or, presumably, any belief in—demons. Brax had been obliged to modify the algorithm to account for a number of metaphysical variables. The revised output carried a significant margin of error, but the gist of the threat was clear.
Earth was in deep shit. The human race wasn't exactly doomed—not yet, at any rate. But absent an immediate, intelligent, coordinated global effort, the world would soon be consumed by evil and chaos.
The slim ray of hope wasn't much comfort. When, in all of human history, had mankind ever launched an immediate, intelligent, coordinated global effort? Against anything? Add the fact that ninety-nine percent of humanity believed the invasion was a volcanic ash plume, and the probability of human survival plummeted.
Brax revised his assessment. Humanity was fucked.
He drummed his fingers on the table, eyeing his ring. It'd been years—seven years, precisely—since he'd been forced to trade his onyx touchstone for Mab's ruby. In all that time, the ruby had remained dark. Now, just a few days after a horde of hellfiends exploded from the deep, a summons arrived. Even if he believed in coincidences—which he didn't—this one would be a stretch.
Was Mab behind the invasion? He had no trouble believing she had the power to imagine, and bring into reality, such a calamity. He did have trouble believing she'd actually do it. The Druid alpha was vicious, but it didn't fit her style. Mab's legal and illegal business activities relied on a relatively intact and healthy human realm. Her focus was narrow and completely self-absorbed. Powerful as she was, he couldn't imagine her taking an interest in terrorizing all of humanity just for the hell of it.
He'd have to wake Raine, he supposed, and try to explain. As a witch, she wouldn't be required to accompany him. He only hoped he could convince her to stay here in London. Avalyn and Ronan, and Harry, of course, would have received their own summons.
But the lads...
He slipped his computer into its sleeve and stood. The bedroom door was slightly ajar. Light and the electronic sounds of video games spilled through. He opened the door the rest of the way. Gawain's eyes remained on the screen. Gareth, who was much more perceptive than his cousin, looked up.
"Uncle?" He frowned. "Is something wrong?"
Gawain glanced his way. He must've seen something disturbing in his father's expression, because his fingers froze on the game controller. His avatar took a hit and died, and he didn't even notice.
"Dad? What is it?"
Brax studied the lads. Gareth was Avalyn's and Ronan's son. He was sixteen, two years older than Brax's own son, Gawain. Gareth looked younger than Gawain, though. He'd inherited his mother's red hair, fair skin, and freckles. Brax had always been grateful that he and Avalyn, though twins, didn't look much alike.
"Dad?" Gawain said again.
Brax shook his head slightly. No logic in delaying. They had to be told. He held up his hand. At the sight of his ring, both boys' eyes widened.
"A summons," he said. "From the alpha."
"We're going to Texas?" Gareth asked, swallowing hard.
No. Texas didn't feel right. "Not Texas," he said slowly. He closed his eyes briefly, touching the stone with his mind. He felt a jolt of disbelief.
He opened his eyes. "We're to assemble at Tŷ'r Cythraul, in Devon." He nodded toward the screen. "Turn it off. We leave within the hour."
Morgana MacKerran sent the icy deluge squarely into Collum's face. Her useless cousin bolted upright, sputtering. He shook his head and inhaled, she guessed, more water than air. Collum roared his displeasure, then ruined the effect with a fit of wheezy coughing.
His bedmates had gotten a good dose of ice water as well. The lasses floundered about, flashing naked limbs and breasts. By all the ancestors in Oblivion! Their shrieks were like icepicks in Morgana's ears. She waited by side of the bed, empty bucket in hand, for the stramash to subside. Eventually, Collum caught his breath and blinked up at her, resentment plain on his handsome face.
"I might'a known." His blue eyes regarded her balefully. "You perishing besom. Only you would assault a man in his own bed, and wi' a bucket of ice, no less! Damn it, woman, isn't Scotland cold enough for ye?"
He climbed out of bed naked and reached for his robe. He had sixty years if he had a day, but he cut as fine a figure as any human thirty years his junior. If Morgana had a taste for men, she supposed she'd be tempted. Thankfully, manly bits left her unmoved.
"Morgana," Collum said as he cinched his belt. "I know you disapprove, but—" He cut off as the two females in his bed, having presumably gulped some fresh air into their generous lungs, renewed their caterwauling.
He winced. "Lasses! Please! Silence!"
The blond immediately shut her mouth. The brunette made a few more squeaking sounds before she subsided. Morgana very much doubted Collum even knew their given names. The man wasn't much for such details.
She set the bucket on the floor. "Lasses," she said quietly. "Gather your clothes and go."
They pair of them did, and quickly. Hurried along, no doubt, by Morgana's expression. The blond paused to blow Collum a kiss on her way out the door. Morgana rolled her eyes.
When they were at last alone, Collum turned to face her, arms crossed over his substantial chest. "Damn it, Morgana. Why can't you just let me be?"
"Why can't you let those human lasses be? How old were they, anyway?"
"Of age," he said succinctly. "Not that it's any of your business."
"And they weren't even witches." It was unnatural, her cousin's penchant for magicless human lovers.
He shrugged. "You might be happy with a witch in your bed. I prefer otherwise. It's my business, innit? Just because I live in your bleeding castle doesn't mean..."
He must have taken a closer look at her expression, because his complaints died on his lips. His gaze sharpened. "Something's happened," he said. "What?"
Morgana drew up her sleeve. An oaken cuff, carved in the form of a dragon, encircled her upper arm. An emerald had once formed the dragon's eye, but for the last seven years, a ruby had taken its place.
The gem was aglow.
"Holy shite," Collum muttered. "First demons swarming th' skies, now this." Turning abruptly, he rooted around on his nightstand. He lifted a silver chain, from which dangled a disc of apple wood. The ruby in the center, a matching gem to her own, shone like blood.
"Mab," he muttered. "What could the bitch be about after all these years? We've done as we were told. We've neither of us set foot out of Scotland since that terrible day. She should let us be."
"She's the clan alpha," Morgana said grimly. "She owns our fealty. She can command us as she wishes."
"What do you suppose the bloody besom wants?"
"I cannot imagine."
Collum's fingers closed on the disc. The light shone through his fingers. "We could ignore her summons."
"Are ye daft? She'd kill us both. She came within an inch of it seven years ago."
"If she wanted us dead," Collum said. "We'd be dead. Like—" He looked away.
Morgana swallowed past the lump in her throat. Like Magnus, he'd been about to say. Morgana's twin had challenged Mab, and had given his life in the effort to defeat her. Morgana felt the loss as if it had happened yesterday, rather than seven empty years ago. At least, she told herself yet again, Magnus had died during the duel. If he hadn't, Mab would have taken him as a thrall.
"If only," she began. "If only Tristan had—"
"Stop." Collum held up his hand. "Dinnae go there, lass. It'll only upset you. There's no sense in dwelling on what's over and done."
Lass, he called her, though she was barely a decade younger than he. As for his advice, it was fine and true, Morgana was sure, but she'd never been able to take it to heart.
"Damn Alwen for her weakness," she spat. "How could that Alchemist bastard have cozened her so completely? She was a disgrace to Merlin's line. 'Twould have been better had she died during her Ordeal."
"So you've said," Collum reminded her. "Many times. Over, and over, and over—"
"And the lad." The loss of the lad, the last of Merlin's direct line, had been a crushing blow. "Arthur would be almost of age now, had he survived."
"Well, he didn't survive," her cousin said flatly. "He died. Accept it. Forget it."
"If only I could," Morgana murmured.
She knew it would not happen. Not on this side of Oblivion.
A UNIQUE AND EXCITING PARANORMAL ROMANCE
“A unique and exciting paranormal romance, The Night Everything Fell Apart brings angels and demons to life, all while blurring the line between good and evil.” ~Blue Ink/Booklist Starred Review
THRILLING ACTION AND HEADY ROMANCE
"In this exciting tale, Arthur and Cybele battle impossible odds against dangerous rival Nephilim and face the archangels on a quest to retrieve the powerful staff of Merlin, the one item that could save them…
Packed with thrilling action and heady romance, The Night Everything Fell Apart is a fantastic read for fans of paranormal romance. A strong series debut, the book resolves its primary conflict while opening the door for further stories to come." ~Blue Ink/Booklist Starred Review
FAST-PACED TALE OF PARTNERSHIP, LOYALTY, BETRAYAL, AND LUST
5 Stars! “Creating a compelling fantasy story with an original, solid plot line is no easy feat, and to combine that with rich, well-developed characters is even more rare.
In The Night Everything Fell Apart, veteran author Joy Nash spins a fast-paced tale of partnership, loyalty, betrayal, lust, good and evil that will have readers hungry for the next installment. The premise is ambitious, the lead characters are impossible to forget, and the writing is a treasure trove of description and passion that defines a gifted writer.” ~Selfpublishing Review
A ROLLICKING GOOD TIME
4 Stars/Hot “The first in Nash's Nephilim series is a rollicking good time. Characters are realistically written and infused with humor and passion. Arthur and Cybele are a beautiful couple, their relationship filled with passion, trust and comfort.
Nash's take on the Nephilim, descendants of fallen angels and human women, creates well-drawn conflict, and this along with the suspense and romance elements make this novel a thrilling fast-paced read.” ~RT BookReviews
APPEALING DARK FANTASY
“The Night Everything Fell Apart is an appealing dark fantasy, with elements including angels, sorcery, and demons.” ~Foreword/Clarion Reviews
“Energetic prose drives this supernatural, erotic romance that offers a new twist on the Arthurian legend.” ~Kirkus Reviews
© Copyright 2017 by Joy Nash. All Rights Reserved.