Ransom: Redemption Series Book II by R.K. Ryals by R.K. Ryals - Read Online

Book Preview

Ransom - R.K. Ryals

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1

be.

Chapter 1

We are defined not by what is expected of us but by what we do with those expectations. The trumpet of war has sounded. The journey has begun. There is no doubt she will exceed my expectations.

~Bezaliel~

We had made the wrong choice. I was convinced of that. No matter how much easier being unbound would make our lives, it wouldn't erase the fact that we should have stayed behind. I should have stayed behind. Moving forward meant I had to admit I was having feelings I didn't want to have, it meant admitting that even after we completed our mission I'd still be in danger, and it meant admitting I was terrified. The carpet we were on tilted upward and I gasped.

What’s the carpet doing?

I put my hands on Marcas’ jeans and gripped hard. This carpet ride was a terrible idea. An absolutely terrible idea! And I was not enjoying it. This whole journey was a messed up bag of horrible revelations and misguided decisions. We’d stolen the flying carpet in Italy from a group called the Swords of Solomon in order to retrieve a mythical ring from Egypt, and I had spent the first few minutes of the ride too engulfed in shame to notice how close the stars were getting. I could hear Marcas gritting his teeth from behind me.

I’m beginning to feel grateful that you don’t have claws, he complained.

I ignored him and dug my nails in harder. We were too fucking high!

You have got to be shitting me! I exclaimed as the flying carpet kept climbing higher and higher. The moon was huge now. At any point, I was expecting to find myself fighting for air. The moment never came, but it didn’t stop my anxiety attack. I backed into Marcas. He gripped my arms hard.

Breathe easy, Dayton. The only way you’ll find yourself suffocating is if you panic. Your father’s blood keeps you safe. The oxygen will not get too thin for you. The air is your domain.

He pulled hard at my hands, and I slowly began to let go of him. The air was my domain? That was a lark! What kind of twisted sense of humor did the universe have? Being a Naphil didn’t make me like heights. I didn’t like this at all! The carpet climbed a little higher and my nails dug back in. Oh, my God! I was going to be sick! How the hell could I be half-Angel and afraid of heights?

They should have books for this kind of thing, I muttered irritably. I heard Marcas snort.

You can’t write a book about something that’s never existed before.

Loneliness gripped me. I hated being the only one of my kind, hated hearing I was alone in my sane but incredibly messed up Naphil world, and hated knowing that I was a liability because of it. I knew Marcas knew I hated it. I knew he did.

I was talking to myself, Craig.

Then try doing it in your head. Not out loud.

I cringed. Talking out loud was a habit of mine. I did it as much as I bit my tongue. I was sick of him trying to tell me how he thought I should behave just because I bothered him. Hell, he bothered me too. In soooo many different ways.

You’re an asshole, Craig, I muttered. He hrrummphed from behind me.

What gave you that impression, Blainey? My demonic parentage or my witty tête-à-tête?

I ignored him. He didn’t normally talk to me in such a joking, almost carefree manner which led me to believe he was only goading me to distract me. This suspicion made me feel funny. Was the bond drawing us closer, or was I beginning to like him a little? I fought with the feeling. I should hate him. I wanted to hate him. I even needed to hate him. And I hated even more that I couldn’t hate him. My final conclusion: I needed therapy.

I brought my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them protectively. The flying carpet we were on was big enough I didn’t have to look at the ground below if I chose not to, but it didn’t stop me from trembling uncontrollably.

My emotions were everywhere. I was swamped with guilt, terror, anger, restlessness, bitterness, worry, love, and a loneliness that ate away at my gut. The fact that I was on a flying carpet with an absolutely expressionless, smartass demon I was beginning to care about didn’t help matters any. The carpet leveled out, and I closed my eyes briefly. Finally! I would have cried if we’d continued upward. Fuck not having books on this crap!

I’ll write a Nephilim handbook for dummies, I grumbled.

The chance of other sane Nephilim couldn’t be all that small. Look at me. I wasn't supposed to exist. A chill permeated my bones, and I shivered. The carpet was moving at a surprisingly fast rate of speed with absolutely no turbulence. We were incredibly high now and I struggled to forget how thin the air was. I didn’t need to dwell on the fact that I should be having trouble breathing.

I looked up at the Demon at my back and sighed. He seemed content. I wanted that feeling, but it wasn’t going to come, and I shouldn’t expect it to. I wished I could close my eyes and forget why I was here, but I couldn’t.

Memories assaulted me: The Abbey, my birthday, the ritual, Marcas, Italy, Maria, the SOS, the battle, the carpet, and now the journey leading us to the ring. Egypt. For a girl who was afraid of the dark and heights, I was now dealing with a lot of both in unnatural quantities. If the ring was in the uppermost level of a spider-ridden dark pyramid, I was going to hyperventilate. Even with my new night vision.

You can let go now, Marcas grunted, and I realized rather belatedly that my nails were still plugged into his legs. I pulled away sheepishly and folded my hands into my lap.

My bad.

He didn't respond. The air around us was getting slightly warmer. I had to talk or I was going to go insane.

How does the carpet know where to go? I asked Marcas curiously.

He groaned. I didn't care if he wanted silence. Babbling made me feel better and there was still so much I didn't understand.

As one of Solomon's artifacts, it can detect the location of any object the King once used.

I looked down at the rug.

Like a homing device?

Yes.

"Ooookay," I said slowly.

I could tell he wasn't in the mood for conversation. Maybe the battle was weighing on him too. Not likely. Maybe he was thinking about Egypt. What did he have to worry about? Maybe he was conjuring up different ways to kill me.

"Or maybe he just really doesn't like talking," I told myself dryly. Well, phooey on that. I had a lot on my mind. The blurry image of his mother as the poison dripped down my neck suddenly swam before my eyes.

She's going to kill me, isn't she? I whispered.

Marcas looked down at me. His forehead creased.

What?

Your mother, I said.

I looked up at him. "No matter what happens with the ring, she is going to kill me, isn't she?"

Marcas ran a hand over his face. He looked tired, but I didn't feel sleepy so I knew he wasn't as weary as he appeared to be. That was one good thing about the bond. He couldn't pretend to be too tired to talk. If he was, I'd be the one doing all the sleeping for us both.

She won't kill you, he answered.

I searched his face. He was lying to me. I turned to face him carefully, my body trembling with the effort. I was absolutely terrified of falling off the carpet. Marcas reached out and steadied me as I finally managed to complete my spin. I sat with my legs crossed Indian-style just inside the protective triangle created by his thighs. His gaze met mine.

Don't lie to me, Craig. I'm not scared of her.

It surprised me to know I meant what I said. I really wasn't afraid of her. Death, maybe . . .then again, maybe not. Afraid, no. My emotions were so overwhelming. I now understood what Marcas meant when he'd said he was not seeking death, but it wouldn't be unwelcome if it happened. I was so conflicted. Marcas' eyes narrowed.

"You should be scared of her, Dayton. She doesn't make threats lightly."

I shrugged. On some level, I was afraid. It just wasn't a priority right now.

I'm not afraid of death, I muttered.

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew it was a lie, a false attempt at bravado. After the battle, I'd begged the light to save me because I didn't want to die. Why now was I suddenly craving it? Was it the betrayal I felt I'd committed? Was it fear? I wasn't going to lose my friends! They were going to be just fine. Right?

I glanced down at my knees, but was startled to feel Marcas forcing my chin up with his finger. His face was closer to mine, and I could see the way his midnight blue eyes flashed red momentarily.

You're so naïve, he whispered.

My face grew hot. Naïve? Who was he kidding? He made me sound like a child. This past week and a half had erased whatever remnants of childhood I'd had left in me. There were only memories now tainted by betrayal, lies, and blood.

I'm not naïve, I insisted. Marcas didn't move.

Aren't you? You're misplacing your fears, he said.

I shook my head, effectively removing his hand.

What do you mean?

Marcas' eyes glowed again. I hated when they did that. It disconcerted me.

My mother isn't offering death, Blainey. She's offering you damnation.

I felt my body go numb.

Damnation?

Damnation, Marcas repeated.

I placed a hand on each of his legs, bracing myself.

I don't understand.

Marcas looked over my head at the stars surrounding us.

She's planning to kill you before we're unbound.

So? I didn't get it. She was planning to kill me, period. It didn't matter when. His gaze moved back to mine.

You're bound to a Demon, Dayton. My blood is in your veins. If you die before we are unbound, you will be damned for eternity. Your soul will not rest in heaven.

I froze. My fingers dug once more into his legs. He gritted his teeth but didn't remove them. I knew my eyes were round.

That's not possible, right? My father . . . I-I have Angel blood in me as well.

Had Damon, Marcas' brother, damned me? Had my own aunt damned me? Something flashed in Marcas' eyes. He seemed conflicted.

You are tainted, Blainey. Demon blood can't enter heaven. Your father's blood won't help. He is no longer welcome there as it is. He fell.

My mouth opened of its own accord, ready to argue a case I knew was futile. It didn't make sense that I'd be damned for other people's decisions, but none of this made sense. None of it. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't.

It's not supposed to make sense, Marcas said.

I stared at him. How did he keep doing that?

Can you read my mind? I asked him. He drew back.

Not the way you think. Your face—

Is an open book? I finished.

Conor had told me that once. Marcas' jaw tightened.

I don't like being interrupted, Blainey, he said, his words dripping acid. I snorted.

"Screw your pet peeves! I could care less what you don't like. Let's talk about what I don't like, shall we. I don't like any of this, Craig. Not a damn bit of it! This whole thing is wrong. I left my friends battling Demons sent to kill me, only to find a ring that will do nothing more than unbind the two of us and possibly kill me. And, oh wait! It gets better! Now I discover that, if the ring kills me, it may not be such a bad thing. Why? Because if the ring purges me of your blood, at least I have a shot at Heaven."

Marcas' expression never changed. He just watched me as I threw my tantrum. It should have taken some of the fun out of throwing one, but it fanned my flames even more. How could he remain so cool? Oh right. He wasn't the one with a soul on the line. I blew a strand of hair out of my face and glared.

What am I doing? I asked Marcas quietly, the adrenaline caused by my anger webbing away quickly. It left me drained.

What point is there in continuing this stupid mission we're on when it won't do anything more than unbind me and release you?

Marcas looked away.

We're getting the ring, Blainey, he answered shortly. I frowned.

It's not going to help with the war, is it?

He shook his head. I had known that. Deep down, I had known that.

But it will keep the two of us from being pawns in it, he said.

I scooted in closer to him. He was wrong.

We're going to be pawns in it anyway, Craig, I pointed out. Marcas faced me again.

But we'll be where we're supposed to be, Blainey. Opposing sides. It will keep the balance.

I stared at him. He wanted to be enemies? I wasn't sure I could do that. Maybe at first. But now . . . .

You'd want to fight me? I asked him shakily. Why did I care so much if he did?

I'd want to release you.

Release?

Marcas growled.

Damn it, Blainey. Yes. Release. Everyone deserves a choice. Heaven or Hell? No one should have the choice taken from them. No one!

I watched Marcas quietly as the vehemence of his tone made his skin go hot and his eyes redden. I had to release his legs suddenly. The heat was too much. What was he saying? That his mission was not the ring? That this whole thing was about giving me a choice? My heart clenched. I watched the emotions that suddenly played across his face, and my body cried out with the shock. For a moment, his face was completely readable, completely open. He looked at me and his face shut down. But I had seen enough.

Is this about Sophia? I asked. Marcas recoiled.

Fuck, Blainey! You aren't Sophia! Quit trying to be! he hollered.

My blood boiled, and I slapped him. Both of us froze. My hand stung. I looked at my hand and then at Marcas' face slowly. His eyes narrowed. I dropped my hand.

I'm not trying to be anyone, I whispered defensively.

Had I really just slapped him? His jaw was tight. I could see the effort it took him not to retaliate. Demons weren't chivalrous. He didn't give a damn if I was a woman. I could see he wanted to be violent. I had slapped him before at Maria's. I knew doing it again was pressing my luck. What was it about him that made me want to strike out?

He swallowed hard before suddenly taking my wrist in his hand. He gripped it, and I had to fight not to bite down on my tongue. His grip was punishing.

"Sophia had a choice. She made hers. That makes the two of you as different as night and day. You don't have one, Blainey. You are not her. You don't have a fucking choice. That was taken away from you. It's time you realize that," he muttered dangerously.

I felt my heart break. I was going to Hell. Right now, if I died, I was going to Hell. Something dawned on me, and I tried pulling away from Marcas.

"And yet your mother wants me dead because of Sophia," I said calmly.

My eyes stayed locked on his. His grip tightened. I gritted my teeth. I would not be cowed. His grip proved what I already suspected. I wasn't Sophia, but she still haunted me.

"Lilith's not afraid of me. She's afraid you will choose sides. She's afraid you'll care about me enough that you'll fight with the wrong side. You did once before. I wouldn't be the one causing the balance to shift. You would!" I said hoarsely.

The pain his grip caused was beginning to bother me. I felt my inner light move down my arm and Marcas pulled away as if burned. I knew it didn't affect him the way it did other Demons, but my light didn't like it when someone hurt me, and it still hurt. Even if the two of us were bound. I'd learned this truth in my battle with Lexi. I could see a faint mark developing on Marcas' cheek, and I felt overcome with guilt. I had Marcas' strength now. I might even have acquired some of my own. It gave me the ability to hurt him even if he was stronger than me. I reached out tentatively and touched the faint hand print.

Is any of this even about me?

He pushed my hand away.

What do you think, Blainey?

I stared at him, confused. Lilith's Demons were after me because they wanted to send my soul to hell. Was it because she was afraid Damon's ploy would cause Marcas to fall for another Angel? And what about the Angels Marcas once insinuated may want me dead too? I hadn't encountered those yet, but I didn't doubt him. Why would they want me destroyed? Were they afraid I'd become insane like the Nephilim before me? Were they afraid I'd make my father's choices? And what about Damon? Did he still plan to use me? I couldn't do this. I needed to take it one step at a time. Lilith first.

"You're right. I'm not Sophia," I said coldly.

I wasn't going to let Lilith make me afraid. I did have the right to choose. And I wasn't going to let her take that from me. No matter how afraid I was.

Marcas glanced away from me. I watched the way his jaw tightened, the way his facial muscles bunched as he stared out at the land below us not obscured by the carpet. I let my gaze move down his jaw to the neck and chest below it. He was all man in appearance. I kept forgetting he was also a monster.

I'll eat you up. I murmured, my thoughts suddenly swamped with memories of my favorite book as a child. I was Max on his journey to where the wild things are. Marcas was my wild thing.

I let my gaze move carefully to the side of the carpet as my hands found their way back to Marcas' jeans. I really really didn't like heights. The carpet was getting lower and in the distance I could see the lighted pyramids guarded by the great Sphinx. The sky was lighter, the air somewhat warmer. My long sleeve shirt was suddenly too heavy. There was desert beyond the carpet's edge. Egypt.

Chapter 2

Egypt. A land of legends. It is said that a great love was borne there, that the love was destroyed by a rift that could not be crossed. This love, this rift, almost brought war. Choices were made. An Earthly war was avoided. But for how long?

~Bezaliel~

"We're going in there?" I asked Marcas cautiously as I climbed off the carpet.

My knees buckled. The tension from the height and the lengthy cross-legged position made my legs and toes tingle. I was as wobbly as a new born colt. I reached out and grabbed Marcas' jacket for support. Either he was getting used to me touching him, or he was too distracted to notice because he didn't pull away.

We go where the carpet wants us to go.

It was as simple as that. Big macho Demon was listening to a piece of magical fabric. Figures. I still didn't understand this weird world where myth seemed to rule. I believe in God, but flying carpets? And Demon-trapping rings? It just wasn't logical. But, hell, logical went out the window the moment my lips touched the chalice containing Marcas' blood.

Marcas started walking which loosened my grip on his jacket and made me stumble. My gaze locked on the pyramid. It was a dull, tan-like structure scarred by weather and time. There was evidence of limestone casing along the bottom of the pyramid, but most of it was gone revealing only weathered stone. The early morning sun wasn't bright enough to eliminate all of the shadows, but it was bright enough to cast a dull glow around us. It made the place feel enchanted. It was magical and eerie, and I was getting sick of both feelings.

I felt a hand brush my arm, and I looked up to find Marcas watching me. He held out his other hand, and I took it gratefully. His expression never changed.

We need to go.

I nodded. Staring at the ancient monstrosity wasn't going to make it disappear. Marcas pulled me up gently, and we walked toward the pyramid. I felt like an intruder who'd gone back in time using a messed up flying time machine, but Marcas walked with a confidence bred only from familiarity. The wind played whimsically with the sand at our feet as we approached the pyramid's entrance. I was suddenly glad I had on knee high boots. Less chance of sand in the shoes.

Have you been here before? I asked Marcas as he stooped to enter the triangular structure.

I looked around warily. This pyramid wasn't one I'd seen before, but then again my only experience with Egypt was stuff I'd read and snippets of programs I'd seen on the History Channel while staying with Monroe. Was there no security here?

Marcas waited at the entrance, a rectangular doorway that seemed to be crumbling in places.

This tomb isn't well known, Marcas said as he took in my expression. I looked at the darkness framing him and shivered.

Somehow I don't doubt that. You know it? I asked as I stepped up next to him before following him through the opening.

I