The room Gideon was standing in was devoid of any color or furnishings. The only break in the white on white was the drain in the middle of the floor. Being in this room did not bode well. Pain and blood usually followed once entering this room, a knowledge he was personally acquainted with. The question Gideon kept asking himself was why was he here? There was nothing he could think of he had done to warrant this type of punishment. And if they had wanted him to come immediately, why was he still waiting an hour later? Nothing was right about this situation.
As he stared at the drain he remembered a time when he had inhabited this room for a long and painful session. Questions were asked that he would not answer. Questions that would send his brother-in-arms, one of his best-friends, into exile. The elders soon realized that no matter what they did to him, he would not tell them what they wanted. So they switched to another brother they thought weaker than he, forcing Gideon to watch as they tortured the only other angel he trusted with his life.
As their blood mingled on the floor and walls, the powers to be gave Gideon one last chance to answer their questions. The price if he did not? He would stay in the heavens while the only family he had ever known was cast out, including the man in the chains who, like him, had not broken any of the sacred rules or betrayed his family.
Locking eyes, his friend had given a small shake of his head. Gideon would stick to the pact they had made weeks earlier. No matter what was done to them, no matter the cost, they would not betray each other or Lucifer. Feeling as if his heart was being wrenched out of his chest, Gideon once again refused to answer.
As Lucifer swore vengeance while Gideon watched him being cast out of the only home he knew, Gideon prayed for death. He had done everything he could think of to be cast out like his brothers, but his master stayed silent. The punishment he had to bear far worse than the others bore. For no one truly trusted him after that day. No one would call him friend, and to be honest he did not want any. It was not until Talon came along and would not give up on him that Gideon finally allowed someone in. But even that had come at a price.
Pushing those unhelpful thoughts away, he came back to the present. His entire body ached. There had been no time for him to heal from Lucifer’s torture or the concussion the dragon had inflicted on him, and it was telling in the sweat on his brow. If he did not know better, he would have thought there was an infection in his ravaged back. But that was impossible. Angels did not get infections.
Where were they?
Time in this place had no meaning. It could have been only a few minutes or hours since he arrived. Either way, he was becoming annoyed. Sara was out there being chased by God knew what, and he was stuck here at the whim of someone who thought their time was more important than his. He needed to know she was safe. He needed to feel her in his arms. Closing his eyes he tried to sense her. There was something fleeting. A sense of insecurity, of fear. Then a stab of desire so intense it brought him to his knees engulfed him. Gasping for air, he tried to sort out what he was feeling. As her guardian he was locked into her emotions. It was a way for him to know when she needed him. Now she was locked in someone else’s arms, and what he was sensing left him cold.
“No,” he whispered his heart shredding.
“You think you are the only one that loves her?” a condescending voice filled the room.
Of course. Now they show up. Although it was not who he had expected.
“You of all people should know love will only tear you apart.”
Slim sandaled feet came into view before his eyes. Gideon knew he should stand and pay proper homage to the elder, but he could not muster the strength or the will, and this particular elder did not deserve it.
“Is that why you called me up here, Lucinda? To rub salt into my wounds?” Gideon asked between clenched teeth.
Material rustled, a woman’s hand reached down to his chin and gently raised his head so he could look into her golden eyes. “Why do you still fight me?”
Gideon sighed. No matter how many times he told her, Lucinda would never understand. He would never allow anyone that far into his heart again. Once had been enough. At least that had been the way he lived until Sara. With one look into those brown eyes, he had lost his heart and soul to her. Now someone was trying to take that away.
He remembered his promise to let her go if there was someone else, and it bounced around in his head like an evil ball with spikes. Now that his heart had a good taste of what losing her would cost him, he was rethinking that promise. After everything he had survived since the beginning of time, he knew losing her would destroy him.
“You would never understand,” Gideon said moving so Lucinda’s hand no longer touched him. With great effort he pushed himself to his feet. The world wobbled. Once it settled, he took a deep breath, let it out slowly and turned his attention to the female in front of him.
Long blonde hair swept up in an intricate braid enhanced her high cheek bones and golden eyes. Lips that any man would love to kiss and a body that the sheer toga she wore did nothing to hide would bring anyone to their knees. Any man with a brain would think Gideon an idiot for his refusal of the beauty before him, but he had seen a side of her in this very room that was not so beautiful. One that was as ugly as she was beautiful.
As an elder, she had the power to grant him everything he ever wanted, just as she had the power to take everything away. Now, as she stood before him, regal in her bearing, looking down her nose at him as if he was some insignificant insect she rather step on, she once again tried to seduce him. Doing his best to hide the disgust he felt at the thought of her ever touching him again, Gideon gave her the only bow his ravaged back would allow.
“You summoned me,” he said formally.
“What is wrong with your back?” she asked ignoring him.
“I was injured,” he answered evasively. The summons could very well have been because he went into hell without permission. It could also be the fact he had lost Sara to Lizza in the first place. Either one he knew he would have to answer for, but in return he wanted answers of his own. “Why didn’t you tell me who Sara really was?” he asked unable to keep the anger out of his voice.
Lucinda gave him a sharp look, telling him she did not like his tone before moving to stand behind him. “You were told only what you needed to know. Now, remove your shirt,” she snapped.
In this room there were far more painful ways to have his shirt taken from him, and it was a small request. Gritting his teeth in anger at the evasion of his question, he carefully pulled his shirt over his head, dropping it to the floor. Lucinda gasped.
“Who did this to you?” she breathed. When her cool fingers touched his skin and the pain started to eased, Gideon stepped away from her. The last thing he wanted was to owe Lucinda a favor.
“Lucifer,” Gideon answered stiffly.
The silence dragged on, but Gideon did not turn around. He waited for what he knew would come.
“The others are not pleased that you took your men into his realm without consulting us first,” Lucinda said formally.
“There was no time,” Gideon explained, trying to keep his voice as neutral as he could. “Sara was surrounded and….”
“It does not matter your reasons why. Just that you did,” Lucinda snapped. She moved so she was once again standing in front of him. Her eyes soften into what Gideon knew she thought was her sympathy look. The knowledge of what usually followed that look only made his stomach clench with dread. “Do you want me to return your wings to you?”
“What is your price?” Gideon asked before he could stop himself. As her eyes narrowed, he berated himself for the idiot he was.
“The price is what it has always been,” her voice low with anger.
Taking a breath, knowing this was not going to go over well, he said calmly, “Then it is too high.”
Lucinda studied him for a moment. “Is being in my bed that appalling to you?” she asked her voice sounding hurt as she moved closer, her hand reaching out to stroke his chest with her fingertips. As they skimmed over his skin, it felt as if a thousand needles pricked him. Keeping his eyes on hers, Gideon was surprised he did not feel blood running down his chest.
“As you pointed out when you walked in, my heart belongs to another,” Gideon said stiffly.
Lucinda’s eyes moved to her hand, watching it in fascination as it continued its wandering across his body. “If you come to me, I will tell you everything you need to know about your charge,” she bargained, her voice husky. “If you give me what I want, I will send others to make sure she is brought here and kept safe from the one who seeks to use her.”
“And what promise do I have that you will not use her to your own ends?” Gideon asked. When her hand stopped, he knew he had hit on something important. Taking one step closer so she was forced to look up at him, he said softly. “What guarantees do I have that you are not the one who seeks her?”
Lucinda stiffened. “I am an Elder. There is no other higher standing than me in our pantheon. You dare to accuse me of treachery?” she snapped indignantly, backing away. “You forget yourself, Commander.” The last was said as if the title was something vile.
“And you forget who it is you are talking to, Lucinda. I can ruin you with what I know. Don’t push me,” Gideon ground back, a small satisfied smile on his lips as Lucinda blanched.
“You refused to betray The Fallen One, but you would betray an Elder? I think your loyalties are in need of reevaluating,” she snapped turning and walking towards one of the walls. Reaching out her hand, a table suddenly appeared with a wine decanter and two glasses.
“My loyalty to those who have earned it has never been in question,” Gideon reminded darkly. “As you and others have reminded me every day since the fall.”
“Maybe we should have casted you out with the others. A whispered word and Fallon spent the last millennia in Lucifer’s deepest darkest pit paying for his so called betrayal. I’m sure his hatred for you as you sit here in these hallowed halls has grown into something legendary.” When she turned back to him, she only held one glass, the other stood empty on the table. Either she was slighting him, or they were expecting company. “Rumor has it Lucifer tortured Fallon for centuries for his supposed betrayal, ending with the burning of his wings.”
That was something he had not known. After watching someone he considered his brother, his closest friend, cast out, Gideon had tried to find information about Fallon. Tried to rescue him from what he knew Lucifer had to be doing to him because of a lie, but no one would help him. Even though everyone thought he had sided with the light, he was still labeled traitor, and no one trusted a traitor. His own pain must have shown in his face because suddenly Lucinda was in front of him, her eyes once again soft with false sympathy.
“Bring the girl to me and I will return your wings. Bring the girl to me and you can finally be rid of the burden of keeping her safe. You never did want the role of her guardian. Now is your chance to be free of her.”
Free of Sara. The thought chilled him.
“Maybe this will help,” Lucinda purred.
Before them on the wall a window opened. On the other side was a dingy alleyway. Suddenly Sara ran into view, her eyes darting behind her every so often. Then she ran into someone who caught her before she fell. A giant. No. Not giant, but angel.
“Fallon,” Sara whispered coming to a halt.
“Hello, Princess,” Fallon greeted with a slight nod of his head. “It’s been a long time.”
Sara looked as if she were going to be sick. Then she swayed dangerously. Gideon stepped forward before he could stop himself, his instinct to protect her automatic, but he was not in the alleyway. Fallon was, and it was he who held her in his arms as he gently lowering her to the ground. A strange look passed over the fallen angel as he stared at Sara as if he were memorizing her face. His hand gently caressed her cheek as he murmured her name, trying to bring her around. Finally, her eyes fluttered open and she stared up at him.
“Your wings,” she breathed.
Fallon flexed his wings. “They were a gift,” he shrugged, as if it had no meaning to him.
“A gift?” Sara asked frowning in confusion.
“From the one who saved me from the hell your father put me through,” his voice neutral.
Gideon knew his brother ‘s face as well as he knew his own, and Fallon was anything but neutral. He was in mental anguish. Although only someone who knew him as well as Gideon did would recognize it.
“Who saved you? I thought you escaped,” Sara said confused.
The small smile that spread across Fallon’s lips was not a happy one and did not reach his eyes. Those gad turned haunted. “You and I both know your father would never allow me the opportunity to escape after what I had done.”
“No, he is not one to take betrayal lightly,” Sara murmured.
“Not since,” he stopped there.
Gideon wondered what he was about to say. Since they fell? Shaking himself out of whatever memory was haunting him, Fallon went on.
“You are quite the prize, Sapphira. My master would pay a great deal if I brought you to him. Why don’t you make this easy and come quietly.”
“Where would the fun be in that?” she asked pushing away from him. “You know how I love a good fight,” her voice shaking a little.
Sitting back on his heels, Fallon smiled at her. “You were always good with the sarcasm. I have heard it ended with your brother in a bloody heap on the floor more times than not. You seem to have that effect on men,” his eyes roaming her face once again. “They always seem to want to protect you no matter what the cost.”
Gideon thought of her brother back in South Dakota, but somehow knew that was not who Fallon was referring to. Did that mean she had a brother in their world? And what did he call her? Princess?
“Tell that to the men Father kept throwing at me that would use me…,” she stopped.
Gideon’s heart froze at what she was insinuating, and by the thunderous look that passed over Fallon’s face, he too was not pleased.
Then Sara’s voice soften, “Besides, I don’t ask anyone to fight my battles. I can take care of myself.”
“Yes, you can,” Fallon agreed. “You proved just how strong you were when you fought your father to protect me. But it wasn’t enough, was it. In the end he defeated you, and I paid the price.”
Protected him? As Fallon began to lean closer to Sara, his eyes locked onto hers.
“I liked your eyes better when they were blue,” he said reaching up to touch her cheek with his fingertips. “In my dreams I would to become lost in them for hours, just as I would become lost in your body.”
Gideon suddenly could not breathe.
“I thought you hated me,” Sara whispered as Fallon’s lips lowered to hers.
“Don’t you know? The one you hate the most is the one you truly love.”
Gideon could not tear his eyes away from the picture as he watched the love of his life kiss the one man he never thought to see on this side of the veil as if he was the air she needed to breathe.
“There is one little secret that Fallon has kept from everyone but Lucifer. Even from Lucifer’s daughter,” Lucinda cooed in Gideon’s ear.
“The one final betrayal that lost him his wings.”
Gideon did not want to hear what that betrayal was because if he did, he feared he would lose Sara forever. The shattering of his heart once again tore through his body, only this time he knew why.
“Bring the princess to me and I will make it so you never feel the pain of loss again,” Lucinda whispered.
And at that moment, as he felt as if his existence was ending, Gideon wanted nothing more than to feel nothing.
Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes