Unchained nr-1, page 29part #1 of Nephilim Rising Series
She knew it was crass to think of Micah like that, especially after what was done to him. And why was she in Anacostia? She hated this area—hated the crime, the hopelessness, and the fishy smell the river gave off every time a rainstorm came through.
And then she felt it—a minion.
Cracking her knuckles, she backed up a couple of feet. Empty, dilapidated row houses lined the street. Skeletons of their former glory, they were now inhabited by rats and the homeless.
But the minion wasn’t there.
Lily almost grinned when she realized where it was—the old reform school they had brought Michael to. Taking off down the block, she hopped the fence and headed around the building. The sensation grew, telling her she was on the right trail.
Entering through the busted-out window, she quietly crept through the abandoned classroom and hall. The doors at the end of the hall were open. Releasing her blades, she edged along the wall.
The balcony above the gymnasium was empty. Quickly, she scanned the upper level and then peered over the rusted railing. Empty.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she whispered, gazing up at the ceiling.
“I’m right here.”
The voice sent shivers down Lily’s spine. She recognized it, knew it to be a voice she should never hear again. She turned around, feeling her heart twist. “William?”
“Are you shitting me?” Michael peeled off the helmet, staring at the reform school. Jesus, he had hoped he’d never come back to this place. “She would go here?”
Luke tucked the helmet under his arm as he climbed off his bike, looking around with a frown. “We’re gonna have to ditch the bikes, and there’s a good chance we may never see them again.”
Michael soured at that. “No…I like this bike. I want to keep it.”
“We’ll get you another one.”
He sure hoped so. “Why would she come here?”
Luke pitched the helmet into a bush. “I just know Lily.”
Michael looked over the fence. Ice flooded his veins. He had a bad feeling—a real bad feeling about this. He turned to Luke, but he’d already jumped the fence and stood on the other side, waiting.
“You’re slowing me down,” Luke said, then turned and strode off through the overgrown grass.
He flipped him off and followed. It took Michael a bit longer to make his way over the fence. He jogged to catch up to him. “So you think she went here to find Julian?”
They rounded the building and stopped in front of the same window Luke had pried the boards off over a month ago. Michael started to climb through first but stilled. The ice was spreading through his body, forming icicles in his stomach. A shiver ran up his spine. “I feel…something,” he said.
“What do you feel?” Luke said from behind him.
Michael peered over the ledge of the window, pieces of wood and brick crumbling under his fingers. “I feel another…Nephilim, but…”
There was something else in that reform school—several things, or something really powerful. It reminded him of the feeling he got when he’d seen Baal, but much…much worse.
“You know what I don’t get?” Luke said, his breath bouncing off the back of his neck. “How you’ve survived this long when you’re really this stupid.”
“Shit.” Michael drew in a shallow breath and started to turn. The back of his skull exploded in pain, and then there was nothing.
Lily couldn’t stop staring at William. He shouldn’t be standing there. “You’re supposed to be dead.”
William glanced down at himself, smoothing a hand over his pressed polo and smiling in a smug way. “Nah.”
Just the sight of him caught Lily off guard. His sudden reappearance was something she couldn’t comprehend. Luke had killed…he had said so. It was only a moment she hesitated. That split second was enough time to give William the upper hand. She saw him move and raised her arm to block him, but it was too late. His fist connected with the side of her face. There was the sickening sound of bones crunching that seemed far away, and then fierce pain burst through her body as she staggered to her knees.
She lifted her head, spitting out a mouthful of blood. A rush of air served as a warning, but Lily couldn’t move quickly enough. William’s steel-toed boot connected, flipping her onto her back. She felt her cheek split open, then the warm cascade of blood that followed.
“Lily…Lily, I’ve always thought you would be smarter than this,” taunted William. He reached down, grasping a handful of her hair. “You thought I was dead? Why?” He yanked her to her feet. “Ah, that’s right. Luke told you so.”
She swung the blade at his chest, but he caught it, snapping one of the daggers off her cuff. Shit. This wasn’t going well.
William tossed the dagger over the railing. “Good old crazy-off-his-ass Luke.” He swept her legs out from underneath her, sending her spilling to the dirty alley. “Do you know how truly fucked-up your BFF is?”
She couldn’t afford to listen to him. Not when he had her on the ground. It was the first lesson every hunter was taught. Never let them get you on the ground. But his words were distracting her. She rolled onto her back, narrowly avoiding another boot to the face. Over the pounding of her heart, she heard the distinctive thump of something large being dropped.
“He killed that little Nephilim whore you call Anna. He’s the one…” William jerked, his words cut off. He made a strangled sound, and they both stared down at his chest. A Sanctuary dagger pierced his heart clean through. Then William was gone, really dead this time.
Lily rolled to her side, staring up at Luke. It was hard to see through the blood pouring down her face, and her words came out slurred. “I thought you said…you killed William?”
He helped her to her feet. “I did say that.”
She pulled away, nearly toppling over. She grasped the banister for support. “I don’t…you…killed Anna?”
“I did kill Anna,” he answered simply.
She stared at Luke, horrified. The walls tilted. “No, Luke, please no. You didn’t. You know what…that means.”
“It’s okay now, Lily. Don’t be afraid of me.”
She staggered along the railing. A lump on the floor moaned. “Michael? Luke, what…what did you do?”
Luke grabbed her arm, spinning her away from Michael. “Don’t worry about him. He’s not going to be our problem. Not for much longer, anyway.”
This had to be a nightmare. “I don’t understand. Luke, you…loved Anna.”
“I did love her, but she loved a Fallen!” he roared, his grip tightening on her arm. “I would have done anything for her, and she betrayed me!”
Lily pulled her arm free. The pain from the broken bones in her face was making her dizzy. She was having a hard time processing what he was saying. “Why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you tell me you needed help?”
Luke stared at her, confused. “I don’t need help. I want to see the Sanctuary crumble upon itself. You were turning out just like Anna.” He licked his lips, reaching for her again. “You went out and screwed a Fallen and messed everything up.”
“Oh my God.”
The sound of wood splintering somewhere on the ground floor turned into footfalls. It sounded like a herd of elephants running through the halls, and within seconds, the doors below busted open. Glancing over the banister, Lily felt her heart stutter.
Deadheads—deadheads way past their expiration date—rushed across the floor. Their bodies were twisted, hardened, and crusted over. The air then turned heavy, signaling the arrival of minions—lots of them.
“I made sure Micah was assigned to follow you. I knew eventually he would catch you with Julian, and with him being Micah, he would run straight to whoever would listen. Lily, you really should sit down. You look terrible.” He pried her hands off the banister. “Don’t worry about them down there. Did you know you can control
“Luke…what have you done?” she whispered.
“I wouldn’t have done anything if it hadn’t been for Nate’s complete lack of control. If he had put his foot down once with Anna—just once—all of this could have been avoided.” He wrapped an arm around her waist. “That son of a bitch did a number on your face. Shit. He wasn’t supposed to touch you.”
Lily’s head fell forward. “You’ve…been working with the Fallen. It’s been you…” Her stomach heaved. She thought back to the night they’d gone to Michael’s apartment. “You…said someone…who hates the Sanctuary…hates Nathaniel.”
He sighed, the same sound he made so many times when she would pester him about one thing or another. “It was Nathaniel’s fault—the Sanctuary’s fault. They made me kill Anna, Lily. If they had forbid her once, watched her just once, they would have seen what she was doing.”
“No,” she whimpered.
“Yes! I hate Nate for what he has made me do. This was the only way to really get him back. There was nothing else I could do but bring down the Sanctuary. It didn’t take long to find a Fallen that was interested—really interested—especially in Michael.”
Oh God… Oh God, it was him. Lily pushed against him, but he held on. “Luke…how could you?” Below the deadheads were turning their attention to the doors. Someone was coming. She forced her attention on Luke. “You…you hurt Micah, didn’t you? My God, you did that?”
“Come on, lighten up. You don’t even like Micah,” Luke pointed out. “He was the perfect setup. I knew if I told you it was Julian, you would believe me. You knew Julian was capable of doing something like that. You just needed a push. Micah became that push, and it doesn’t matter if he ever wakes up and tells the world that it was I who attacked him.”
The image of Micah’s battered and torn body flashed before her. How quickly she had believed Luke. She hadn’t even given Julian the chance to tell her the truth. It had only been a few hours ago, but it felt like a lifetime.
Her heart shattered once more. Luke looked like he always did. He had that playful smile on his face, the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. It was like he was two people. And somewhere inside him was the Luke she couldn’t let go of. “Luke, you have to explain…everything you have done. We can fix this. We can…make this better.”
“There’s nothing to fix.”
“No. We’ve got…to get out of here and…find Nate and get…Michael help.”
“You don’t understand, Lily. We can’t take Michael. Asmodeus wants him. And when Nathaniel comes, if he does, I will kill him.”
She stared. “You’re…crazy.”
His face hardened. “Don’t make me choose for you, Lily.”
“Choose what?” she cried. The pain was clouding everything. It hurt to talk, to breathe.
“You’re either with me on this or you’re against me. I won’t let you go back to the Sanctuary, back to Nate, and back to Julian. I will not allow you to do that to yourself.” He jerked her forward.
She staggered. “Luke, don’t…do this. It’s not you.”
“Don’t make me hurt you, Lily!” Fury contorted his face. “Don’t make me do this to you, too!”
“I’m not,” she whispered.
“Then you would be with me on this!” he screamed. “You would understand why the Sanctuary has to be destroyed. Killing Anna wasn’t my fault. I wouldn’t have hurt her if Nate had done his job. He let her leave that night, even after I told him what she was doing. I saw her, Lily. I saw her leaving the Fallen, and I knew what she had been doing.” His grip tightened. “I lost it! I…stabbed her with our blade.”
“I don’t…I can’t.” She was crying. Tears mixed with blood, stinging the raw abrasions on her cheeks. “I’m not going to choose your side.”
“Then you leave me no choice.”
She watched as the Luke she had loved since she was five disappeared in front of her. In his place was someone she didn’t recognize. His eyes turned flat and lifeless. The pale blue now seemed milky in the dim light. Had he turned? He had to have, from the moment he killed Anna. Luke had just hid it well.
“I’m sorry, Lily. I love you. I always will. I’m sorry you are making me do this.”
Her eyes widened as he pulled out his blade. Her stomach dropped. She held up one hand. “Luke…what are you doing?”
He advanced on her. “I will make this quick. I did so for Anna. I will for you, too.”
She stumbled back against the banister. Her gaze fell below. She could make the jump, but the deadheads would be on her in a second, and she was in no shape to fight them. There were too many. They would rip her to shreds in a heartbeat. She turned back to Luke. She didn’t even release her blades. Much like with Julian, she would never be able to kill him.
And he knew it.
Luke sighed. “I taught you better than this, Lily. Never hesitate. Never let your feelings get involved.”
He had, but it didn’t matter. Several things happened at once. Luke lunged at her, and she threw her arm up to block him. He wasn’t holding anything back. His blow shattered the bone in her forearm, sending her backward against the banister. It cracked but didn’t give way.
Fierce pain blossomed all the way to her shoulder. She could sense others were nearby, but she doubted they’d reach her in time.
“I’m sorry,” Luke said, and brought his blade home.
She stared at Luke’s cloudy eyes. “No…I’m sorry.”
Shock skated across his face, and his strike was off by an inch. But it was one of their daggers. Engraved with symbols and honed in holy water. It was deadly.
Lily screamed as the seven-inch blade cut through skin, muscle, and bone under her left breast. Luke held onto her as she turned to the side, her gaze falling to the floor below.
The door bulged, splintering apart. Several large chunks of metal mowed down a few deadheads that were too close. Standing in the doorway was Julian. In his rage, he stood like an avenging angel—beautiful, proud, and the deadliest thing to walk this Earth.
Just to see him again lessened her pain and fear. Even in his anger, his presence soothed her like no other could. He’d come for her, even after she’d blamed him. Lily tried to call out his name, but she couldn’t form the words.
His gaze went up, settling on where she stood. He roared her name, pain and fury so potent that Luke pulled her back from the banister.
Luke yanked out the blade, and Lily shrieked. A fiery burn seized her chest. It was like Baal’s touch but a hundred times worse.
Deadheads swarmed Julian from all corners. He was making short work of them, but they kept coming and coming. Lily could hear Julian howling her name.
Then the windows shattered, and Nathaniel and Adrian appeared. They, too, were swarmed by the deadheads and minions. The three of them were marvelous fighters, but they were far outnumbered. One deadhead would fall, and three would replace him. Then there were the minions to contend with. Trained just as the Nephilim were, they were just as deadly.
Luke held onto Lily, and he raised his blade once more. “This is your fault!” he screamed at Nathaniel. “You should have stopped her—stopped Anna!”
She saw Luke’s blade out of the corner of her eyes, but she focused on Julian. He ripped through two more deadheads, and his eyes met hers. He wouldn’t get to her in time, and it was already too late. The blade had done its damage, eating through her as it was designed to do.
Nathaniel and Julian yelled at the same time, but she only had Julian in her sights. He hadn’t given up on her. Not once. Not even when she had given up on him. Luke brought the blade down to her neck, but the impact never came.
“I don’t think so,” said Michael, grabbing Luke’s arm from behind and twisting the blade out of his hand.
Luke shoved her away as he whirled on Michael, another blade in hand. “How stupid are you, boy?”
Lily fell back against the banister. Her legs were strangely useless, and she sli
She was going to die.
Her heart sped up and then slowed. Twisting, she dropped her gaze to the floor below. Her eyesight faded in and out. Drawing in short and shallow breaths, she placed her hand against the wound and cried out.
And then Julian was beside her. She stared up at him, wishing she could somehow smooth away the devastation that marred his face. She tried to raise her hand, but her arm wouldn’t respond.
“Lily, look at me,” he ordered softly, slipping his arm around her waist, then pulling her onto his lap. She screamed and shuddered. Julian winced. “It’s going to be okay. Hold on, Lily. You need to hold on for me.”
Her unfocused stare fell to him, her breathing shallow and erratic. “I’m…sorry…so…”
“No.” Julian shook his head roughly. “It’s okay. I know.”
Lily could still hear Michael and Luke fighting, but their shapes were nearly identical. She couldn’t imagine Michael winning this battle. Luke was far more advanced and had decades on him. She wanted to tell Julian to leave her, to go help Michael, but she couldn’t talk. All she could do was moan as the fire spread through her insides.
Julian placed his hand over the wound. “I know what you want me to do. I’m not leaving you. They mean nothing to me, and you mean everything.”
Fighting Luke was like fighting Rafe on crack. He deflected nearly every blow Michael sent his way, and Luke’s fists connected with Michael’s face more times than he could count. It was a savage attack, designed to do damage. Luke’s booted foot hit him square in the chest, sending him tumbling backward.
“You think you can beat me?” Luke laughed. “Are you insane?”
Michael pushed up. He refused to look at Lily’s crumpled body, knowing he couldn’t afford the distraction. All he knew was that she was still alive from the heartbreaking sounds she was making.
“Apparently, you’re the insane one,” Michael taunted as he shook off the pain.