Have you entered to win a feather From an Angel’s Wing? It’s the contest to celebrate the release of Blind Destiny…
The woman stood alone in a courtyard of blood.
The bodies that surrounded her looked more like meat than anything else.
The man watching her from the shadows had lived through enough slaughters to recognize the one before him now.
These people had been alive not that long ago. If he had only arrived sooner, he could have helped. It made no sense. Why was he here now?
Perhaps whoever had killed them would come back for the lone survivor.
She stood there, drenched in blood, her head bowed.
Frowning, he eased closer, uncaring of the blood and gore. Some would fear it would stain the pristine white garments he wore, but the clothes never stained. Never showed signs of wear or weather. The wonder of that no longer puzzled him, nor did he consider it a wonder. Just another observation in his long, wretched existence.
He stepped in a puddle of blood and not even a drop trailed behind him as he continued forward, his steps soundless on the earth.
He no longer completely moved in this world.
A fact he had yet to fully accept. A fact he’d never completely understand.
Who are you? He eyed her closely, almost willing her to lift her head, to take notice of him.
Who are you…who am I? Why am I here?
And that, if he were honest, was the question that bothered him the most.
Oh, he had a vague idea. He was here because something had led him here, to this isolated home, perched on a lovely mountainside. From a distance, it had been rather imposing, a sign of wealth and power.
Death and hell had waited within. Not too long ago, he never would have been able to sense the evils that had taken place inside here.
But not that long ago, he had been a dead man himself.
Not that long ago, he never would have seen what was about to happen.
It was a knowledge he hated, the way he saw it unfolding in his mind. As though he had split into two people, the part of him that still clung to his mortal coil was terrified and desperate to flee from this hell place. The other part watched was what to come—the way the woman went to her knees, her fingers sliding through the thick, red mess that was blood and earth.
Then both sides of his brain reconnected.
His mind did not understand what she held at first.
But then he saw the glint of the blade, and he knew.
He went to move—
He could even hear the scream forming in his mind.
That was not the answer. No other knew that better than he.
But he could not move.
He physically could not move.
She has to take this step.
He shook his head, denying the voice that whispered to him from within.
Yes. Because once she does, once she is almost past hope, you can reach her. Then, you will offer her the choice.
As she plunged the blade into her chest, finally, he could scream. Their screams mingled as one and as the inexplicable bonds controlling him loosened, he rushed to her side.
He slid an arm beneath her and even as he touched her, he felt it. The buzz of something…more. He did not know how to describe what it was, but he knew it was powerful.
And as her gaze held his, he saw everything…
Everything she was, everything she had ever done.
And she looked into his eyes and saw everything he was. Everything he had ever done.
They whispered it as one.
There were very few people in the world that Will could say truly knew him. And only one of them could he call friend.
That one person was Sina, and she was almost as old as he was. Just a few short years separated them. A few decades, maybe a century. He had no way of knowing. Those first years had been lost to insanity and he barely remembered them.
They were almost a matched set, he supposed. Ancient creatures, not all right in the head, not then. Not now.
For the longest time, it had just been them, struggling to adapt to what they were meant to do, what they had become.
What would come later, as more and more of them were made.
They’d fought together often in those early days. Bled together. Came as close to dying as they were likely to, as long as they insisted on holding on.
Not that he had much choice.
Too much to atone for.
But Sina could let go. She wouldn’t, though. She’d be here until the bloody end. He knew this, because he knew her.
And she knew him, even without benefit of her oh-so-canny abilities of the mind.
Thankfully, she couldn’t read his mind. Not anymore. She’d been able to, that one time, when she hovered at death’s door and he’d been stunned at what she’d done, what she was.
She’d seen enough, that one night. But that was the only time she’d ever read him deeply.
It didn’t matter. Sina didn’t have to read him.
She knew him.
And that was even worse.
She’d know what was coming if he approached her.
Will was no fool.
So instead of going to her, he decided to approach the matter in a more roundabout fashion. Sometimes the straightforward approach just wasn’t the best way to handle things.
Especially with creatures who were older than dirt and reacted very poorly to change.
The night smelled of rain.
And wet dog.
Luc laughed as Krell flopped down next to him with a happy sigh after he’d shaken the water out of his fur. “You just can’t stay out of the lake, can you?”
Krell nudged his thigh.
Obligingly, Luc scratched the dog behind his ears. “If you wanted to get wet, all you had to do was wait a little while. It’s getting ready to storm.”
Those words had no sooner left his mouth than it happened, tension gathering in the air. It wrapped around him tighter and tighter while next to him, Krell whined, inching closer. The dog had been around too long not to know what that meant.
Luc sighed. The bad part with not being able to see—he had long since acclimated himself to relying on his other senses, honing it to a fine skill. He could sense Will’s arrival a good two minutes before others could. It had nothing to do with psychic skill and everything to do with the way the feel of the world changed.
Tighter. Hotter. And somehow…brighter. Even though Luc’s world had been wrapped in darkness for hundreds of years.
In the seconds before Will made his appearance, the tension lessened, almost like the calm before the storm. Then it swelled to a crescendo and Luc’s ears popped as Will’s portal appeared.
Not that Luc was watching—he could have. Krell wasn’t just there for companionship. In all the centuries since Luc had become a Grimm, a guardian angel, he’d developed an ability to connect with others and use their eyes. Usually, he limited it to a specific partner, or to his companion animal, but he could use the eyes of anyone he saw fit.
He just chose not to.
Just as he chose not to look at Will. He didn’t need to see the bastard. Actually, he’d rather not talk to him, either.
Will rarely came bearing good news. Curling his hand into the thick fur of Krell’s neck, Luc murmured, “Perhaps you and I should have gone into town tonight, gotten rip-roaring drunk.”
“You can’t get drunk,” Will said.
No, that was true. Pity, that. Something he missed from his mortal years.
The Grimm all looked human enough. Even their fearless leader Will, with his pure white hair and silver eyes—granted, Will looked like a freaky human, but still, human was human.
They had all been human at some point in their lives. They’d chosen to become what they were—taking the step to become a Grimm, fighting against the demons that slid through the veil separating the mortal world from the netherplains.
That change was a drastic one, though. Altering them until the human appearance was just that—an appearance. A wound that would kill a mortal, they could heal in minutes or hours. They could go days, weeks without rest if they had to. And those were just the physical changes.
All of them were reborn into this life with gifts.
One of Luc’s was the ability to connect with others to use their sight.
His other gift—peering into the minds of others—was normally rather reliable.
Of course, he normally didn’t try to peer inside Will’s impenetrable mind.
It was like trying to peer at anything with his sightless eyes…he saw nothing.
“Yet you still can’t help but try to look, can you?” Will asked.
Luc shrugged. “Habit.” Stroking a hand down Krell’s back, he said, “If I hadn’t had that gift to rely on for the past few centuries, it wouldn’t be second nature.”
“True.” There was a pause and Luc could hear the other man coming closer.
As Will sat down beside him, Luc muttered a quiet oath. So the boss wasn’t there for a quick chat. Fuck it all.
Will laughed quietly. “You’re still mad at me.”
“Oh, it’s not so much that I’m angry. I just don’t like you, Will.” The hand stroking Krell curled into a fist. He was angry, though. Not just over the loss of Perci. That was a pride thing just as much as anything else. He was angry at Will, angry at himself, angry with Perci even, for how long they’d let each other suffer.
“If you would but be honest with yourself, you would realize she has been lost to you for a very long time,” Will said quietly.
“Oh, I know that.” He sighed. “Knowing it in here…” He touched a hand to his temple, then laid it against his heart. “Doesn’t make it any easier to accept in here.”
“Truer words,” Will mused. “Does it make it any easier for you to know that she is happy? Happier than she has been for a very long time?”
Luc closed his eyes. “It makes it easier. Yet it hurts like a son of a bitch. I couldn’t help her, and I’m arrogant enough for that to sting. But I love her enough to want her happy, no matter what the cost.”
For the next few moments, no words were spoken. It had been more than six months since Perci had left. Six months. But it had been hundreds of years since he had lost her. They had been married once, long ago. Back in their mortal life. They had come through the change from mortal to Grimm together, but they hadn’t been together as man and wife since their mortal years. The wounds they’d received, the murder of their children, Luc’s torture at the hands of his stepmother, Perci’s abuse—it had left scars that went too deep.
Luc had accepted those losses, and he might have been willing to let go, but the woman he’d loved, he couldn’t help her, and she couldn’t move on. She’d carried those hurts so deeply.
She was happy now, though. With another man. A new Grimm, and a man Luc would like to hate.
It was a bitch that he just couldn’t.
“So what brings you to my humble abode, old man?” he asked Will after the silence had stretched on just a little too long.
“I’ve a job for you.”
“Well, I figured you hadn’t come out just to have a beer.” Luc rose to his feet. “But if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to go have one.”
“Haven’t we already established the fact that you can’t get drunk?”
“I’m not drinking to get drunk—I just like the taste of it. And you can talk while we walk,” Luc pointed out. He snapped his fingers for Krell to join him and reached down, resting a hand on the dog’s head, seamlessly connecting their minds and looking around.
Sure enough, clouds had rolled in. He could feel the wind slapping against him and it had a cold bite to it. Maybe he’d lay a fire at the chalet. A fire, while he had that beer, and listened to whatever insane job Will had laid out for him.
“Greece?” Luc repeated nearly thirty minutes later.
“Yes.” Will studied the bottle Luc had given him with a mistrustful eye before lifting it and taking a taste. He immediately put it back down. He’d tried rancid wine in his mortal life that had tasted better than that, he was pretty sure. “There’s a house located in a small village in Greece… Kalo Horio. Some of them think it’s haunted. It’s not terribly old, built back in the 1700s. They’ve got a legend they’ve built around it…the seven bloody sisters.”
Luc turned that around in his mind and then shook his head. “Never heard of it.”
“That’s because they invented it.” Rising from the stool, he headed toward the refrigerator and opened it, studying the contents. Junk, he decided. Beer, soft drinks, chocolate milk. For food, there was chocolate, pizza, chips, buffalo wings, hot dogs, bologna. Heaven help him. “Luc, you have the appetite of an adolescent.”
“Yes. And what’s wonderful is the fact that I’ll never gain a pound, I never have to worry about an unsightly complexion, nor do I have to worry about hardening of the arteries, cholesterol, any of those unpleasantries.” He finished off his beer and, without even pausing to aim, tossed it into the recycling bin.
Will blinked. “That’s rather amazing. How do you do that without seeing it?”
“I’ve lived hundreds of years without sight. I’ve picked up a few tricks.” He shrugged. “What does this legend, this house, have to do with us? Are demons causing the hauntings?”
“You’ll have to figure that out for yourself. For now, you’ll have to go see Sina. She’s to work with you on this.”
Luc had been in the middle of getting himself another beer. Now he paused. In the middle of the floor, he turned to face Will. An odd look—one that Will had never seen—crossed his face. He almost looked lost, Will thought.
“Sina,” Luc murmured. “You want me to work with Sina.”
Will shrugged. “She’s just the one I know you need to work with. I don’t know why. I do know she’s familiar with the area. Perhaps that is why. You can find her in Las Vegas, I think. She loves that insane city, for some reason.”
“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go…”
I watched, amused as all get out as the little men paraded across the screen. Really, it was the most ridiculous piece of work I’ve ever seen, both now, and the other hundred-and-sixty-three times I’ve watched it.
Yes, I’ve really watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarves one-hundred-and-sixty-three times. I love the movie. It’s absurd. I love it for its absurdity. It’s my own fault, I suppose. I’d helped concoct the earliest version’s tale.
I bet you didn’t know that, did you?
My own story is a little more grim than this, but that’s typical for those like us.
There was a knock at the door. I opened my mind to see who it was—just a fraction, of course, because one could never be too careful. I couldn’t penetrate the mind and that made me frown. There weren’t many I couldn’t read. If I couldn’t read them, that meant they were either like me…psychically gifted, not necessarily a Grimm, or one of the few people with just a natural resistance to psychic probes.
It could be Will, I supposed. Even those of us who are psychic aren’t usually strong enough to block me. Will was one, but it wasn’t like him to knock. He just blew his way in, almost like the big bad wolf. Of course, that’s not who he is. That’s a different story entirely.
If it wasn’t Will, who…?
A face flashed through my mind, followed by a rush of heat. Of need. The skin along the back of my neck prickled in warning but I brushed it off.
No reason for him to be here, now was there?
Mentally chastising myself, I silenced the TV and slid off the bed. Whoever it was, the person had the patience of a saint. There was no second knock. Just silence, but he—yes, it was a man, I knew—continued to wait.
Again, that shiver ran down my spine.
Halfway between my bedroom and the hotel door, I called out, “Who is it?”
A punch of longing rolled through me like waves crashing against the beach. Luc.
Picture your typical fairy tale prince. Eyes of a perfect blue, a chiseled, handsome face with a cleft in his chin, arched black brows and hair that framed a face so perfect even Michelangelo couldn’t have hoped to reproduce it. A long, lean warrior’s body, a smile that could have made angels weep.
Hell, I knew that for a fact, because he has made me weep. And I am angel, even if I am somewhat imperfect.
That was Luc.
He was even a prince. And there were fairy tales written about him. I’d helped write them. But I hadn’t done him justice. Couldn’t do that, now could I? If I’d penned the tale the way I wanted to, some of our brothers and sisters in arms might see things I’d rather them not see.
They’d realize things I’d rather they not know.
I don’t think anybody knew, not even Will. A benefit of being of the old ones, since I was nearly as old as he was. He’d respect it if I told him to stay the hell out of my mind, and I could back that up with walls so solid he couldn’t penetrate them.
So unless he was given some of that uncanny knowledge, our fearless leader would never know how I felt about Luc.
Luc. A man I dreamed about, a man I longed for. A man who was in love with his own fairy tale princess…and she wasn’t me.
Luc. The last man on earth I wanted to see. Ever.
Composing myself, I detoured by the bathroom. I’d been munching popcorn while I enjoyed the movie. I wasn’t about to greet him with buttery crumbs clinging to my fingers. While there, I checked my face. Yes, I’m vain. Smoothing my hair back into a ponytail, I glanced down at my clothes and sighed.
Not that I’d let myself primp to meet Luc or anything. The black yoga pants and T-shirt would suffice.
Primping served no good use, anyway. This man would never be mine.
He’d never have his lady’s heart, and I’d never have his. Those were facts I’d long ago accepted.
Enough stalling. With one deep breath, I left the bathroom and made for the door.
I opened it and leaned against the doorjamb, brow cocked. This wasn’t a friendly call, I already knew that.
But I couldn’t see his mind as easily as I could others—he was too well trained for that. I’d been the one to train him.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have done such a good job. A peek inside his mind would have let me prepare myself. And I could have used the advantage.
I never saw this coming…
“What do you know about the seven bloody sisters?”
Enter the contest…
Read more about Blind Destiny… or you can just preorder it.
(This won’t be out in print for a while…it’s not long enough so it has to be paired up.)