Happy Tuesday, loves! I thought it was time for another teaser from Stricken, Book One of the War Scrolls. It's been a while since I've shared anything from this one. Here's a little refresher on the story for y'all. :)
Eons ago, the Fallen risked everything to save themselves and carve out a future for their people amidst the devastation of the Demon Wars. Now the Fallen and their kin are being cut down by a deadly virus none saw coming.
When Nephil warrior Kaeden St. James sets out on a quest to find a cure, he and his blade-brothers discover eighteen-year-old Anya Mathis, a human with a past as dark as it is mysterious, cowering in an abandoned house in the heart of
The corrupted races are chasing her, and Kaeden is determined to find out why. Memphis, Tennessee.
What neither he nor Anya suspect, however, is their attraction to one another, or the frightening truths lurking in the shadows. The painful childhood memories she fights to bury hold answers that threaten to tear the world apart.
Only Anya can save the Fallen from their fate, but when they discover her family's part in the creation of the lethal virus, old alliances shatter, and her life hangs in the balance. Kaeden must choose between the future of the angels and the human girl he's pledged to protect, and his choice will change everything.
Demons are rising, and this time, they plan to win the war for dominion once and for all.
* * *
"Who is it?"
"Open up," Kaeden answered, and thumped on the door again.
Anya hesitated with her hand on the knob, trying to decide if she wanted to let him in or not. Dealing with the warrior right now didn't appeal to her.
"I brought food."
Her rumbling stomach decided the matter. She pulled the door open.
Kaeden stood on the other side with two brown take-out bags in his hands. He looked tired. There were shadows around his blue eyes.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey." Anya moved away from the door, locking her eyes on his black boots. The toes were scuffed, dried mud splattered against the strings.
Kaeden stepped inside and pushed the door closed behind him. For a minute, they both stood there, not speaking. The awkward silence stretched between them, broken only by the sound of canned laughter from the television. And then the smell of crisp bacon wafted through the room. Anya's stomach growled loudly.
"Hungry?" Kaeden asked, hefting the bags. Hueys was emblazoned on the sides.
"I'm starving," she said, relieved he didn't bring up their earlier argument. Rehashing it now would only piss her off again, and since she'd more or less resigned herself to his presence, glaring and yelling at him probably wouldn't really help matters.
Kaeden offered her a small smile, the right corner of his upper lip curling. "Your doorman didn't want to let me in."
Anya narrowed her gaze. "What did you do to him?"
An amused smirk crossed Kaeden's face. "What makes you think I did anything to him?"
Anya crossed her arms over her chest, not swayed by his innocent expression. She had a feeling no one told Kaeden what to do, least of all a doorman well into his seventies.
"I didn't do anything to him, Anya," Kaeden swore. "I told him I was helping you out while your aunt's gone."
Translation: he was babysitting.
Anya took a deep breath, refusing to remind him, yet again, that she didn't need a keeper. He'd probably just ignore her anyway. Pain in the ass angel.
"Lead the way," he said, shaking one of the bags in his hands.
"What did you get?" she asked, glancing back over her shoulder as she moved across the living room toward the dining room.
Kaeden didn't answer, instead setting the bags down on the table and reaching inside. He pulled out a Styrofoam container before holding it out to her.
Anya accepted it gratefully, and eased down into a chair.
Kaeden reached into the bag again and pulled out a can of Dr. Pepper and a bottle of water. "I wasn't sure what you liked," he said.
"Water is fine," Anya responded. She popped open the container, and nearly groaned aloud at the sight of the massive burger and pile of steak fries waiting for her. Her mouth watered. "This looks great. Thank you."
"No problem. I figured you might be hungry." Kaeden pulled another container from the second bag before sliding into a chair across from her.
Anya lifted her burger from her tray and bit into it. Her eyes rolled backward. The burger was amazing.
Kaeden opened his own tray.
"Veggie burger?" Anya asked, swallowing.
"Yeah." Kaeden popped the top of his soda can and took a long drink. "We don't eat meat."
Anya paused with her burger halfway to her mouth. "Do you mean angels in general or your family?"
"Oh." Anya took another bite, chewing thoughtfully. She'd never before considered what angels ate. As big as Kaeden and his brothers were, she certainly wouldn't have pegged them as vegetarians. "Why not?" she asked.
Kaeden arched a brow.
"I'm not trying to be rude," she hurried to explain. "I'm just . . . curious. Is it a religious thing?"
"No, it's not a religious thing. It's a practicality thing." The corners of his mouth tilted up into a smile again. His blue eyes lightened. "There is no slaughter house in heaven." He took a big bite of his burger, watching her.
"Oh." Anya shook her head, unsure what to make of that. "What are they like? Angels, I mean."
Kaeden swallowed. "They're unyielding, stubborn. Most of the elders act as if they're stuck on earth by choice." He scowled, his blue eyes seeming to catch fire. "They're a bunch of bastards for the most part."
Anya felt her eyes widen. He sounded so . . . bitter.
"You asked," he pointed out when she continued to stare at him, at a loss for words.
"Do you live with them?" she asked.
"But you don't like them?"
"As a collective? No, I don't."
"Aren't your brothers full-blooded angels?"
"They are." Kaeden bit into his burger again. "But Abriel and Dahmiel were born here. They've never stepped foot in Heaven. They fight to protect your people and our own because it's the right thing to do."
"And the others don't?"
""Some do, but most of those who Fell fear Heaven. They believe once they've suffered for their sins long enough, Heaven will take them back."
"What about you?" Anya asked. "What do you believe?"
"Me?" Kaeden stared off into space for a long, silent moment while Anya ate her fries. "I believe they're fools," he said then, clearing his throat. "Heaven will never forgive the Fallen for the damage they've caused, and will never welcome them back. God is not merciful, especially not to those who defy him."
"Then why do you fight for the angels?"
Kaeden pursed his lips. "Heaven stopped sending warriors to defend your world long ago, but the Fallen remain. Despite their faults, they keep your people from being overrun by Hell because they believe this world is worth saving. They believe your people are more than souls to be used up in the final battle and spit out."
Is that how God viewed humans? As nothing more than a means to an end?
Anya didn't believe that. She wasn't sure what she believed, exactly, but she wasn't as cynical as Kaeden. God didn't abandon humanity. He wouldn't.
FALL– The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.