Novel Three is starting off the New Year a little differently than we have in the past. A change is coming, but I’ll wait to share that with you until we get the kinks ironed out. In the meantime, I leave you with a sample from chapter 16 of my second book of the Personal Demons series.
Personal Guardians: Chapter 16
“You have a lot of faith in him,” I said through a mouthful of eggs.
“I’ve known him for a long time, Ava. He’s intense, for sure, but it’s a quality I’ve learned to love. You will train with Elisa and me for now.”
“What about you is so different from Darius?”
“Our personal demons, Ava.”
I set down my fork with a clang. I pushed the very last bite of omelet into the side of my cheek. “Your what?”
“Personal demons. The memories that haunt us in our everyday lives. I’ve experienced what you’ve been feeling day by day for… forever. Women are so different from most men. Elisa and I have lived centuries over centuries. When you live to be as old as we are, you start to carry… baggage.”
I swallowed my food, no longer enjoying the way it settled in my stomach.
“Anger, fear, hatred, sadness, vengeance.” Elisa shrugged. “Those are feelings we experience constantly, but we have learned to control them.” A knock on the door sounded and she moved to answer. “And we can manipulate and harness them as well. They are useless against demons, and to use them is dangerous. If the enemy is strong enough they can take it and wield it against you.”
The fight with Jonathan in the orchard flashed through my mind. He had already demonstrated this, once again one step ahead in his lessons than my friends.
When Elisa opened the door, a member of the complex entered carrying two white candles.
“Perfect timing,” Fiona said, clapping her hands together once. “Please proceed, my darling.”
Setting both on my dresser, the woman turned, nodded to each of us, and left the room.
As they had done before, more came. Fifteen souls entered, all women. One right after the other, they bore two un-lit candles, placing them in different locations around the room. I watched as they reverently did their Healer’s biding, and I saw their souls flicker in and out of my memory. I knew most of them, but not as well as I needed.
My energy renewed upon seeing that they were alive and safe—here among people that loved and cared for them. But more than that, I saw their hearts and perceived the feelings that coursed through them. Curiosity. Nervousness. Awe. Intrigue at their new Defender. But mostly, hope. A picture flashed in my mind, causing me to twitch. A mirror image of myself as I lay on my bed. A strange broadcast into the sight of the young girl who watched me as she set the candle upon my bookshelf. When she left, the picture left as well.
“I can see them,” I whispered. Fiona came to my side. “I can see their souls.”
“What do you see?” she asked, speaking softly. Elisa moved closer.
“Glimpses. Some are memories of what happened in the past when I didn’t hear them, but I can sense their current feelings. Even see things through their eyes.”
Fiona patted my leg, giving Elisa a look, and walked away. I wondered at the look but was more interested in the women entering my room.
The last one was young Yvette, the gardener’s daughter. Pure delight at being allowed to help the Healer seeped from her. I smiled at the girl. She set the candle on my nightstand, knocking over the picture of my mother. She froze, her eyes growing wide as she registered her mistake. I reached out and touched her hand as she tried to upright the frame but only knocked it down again.
“Don’t worry about it. Thank you, Yvette,” I said.
With an awkward smile, she backed out of the room, ducking away from my gaze.
Fiona snagged her mid-escape, causing a screech and then a giggle from the little girl before she could flee.
As footsteps retreated down the hall, Fiona struck a match. The smell of sulfur dioxide warmed as she lit the wick of one candle. When she had finished lighting five of them, she pinched out the flame with her fingers.
“Fiona, what’s going on? You’ve already healed me,” I said, wondering why she only lit the five.
“This is not a healing; this is your first lesson,” she said with a wink and a wicked smile.
Elisa took my tray, moving it to the dresser. “And the sooner the better.” She drew dark curtains over my window, muting the sunlight, casting the room into semi-darkness. The only light was from the five lit flames. “Ava, we told you that demons seek powerful humans. You have met many here at this compound, but you’ve never asked to know what brought each of them to our sanctuary. Some are here because they had incredible strength or wealth that demons crave. Others had unbelievable genius. But that’s not all. There are mortals blessed with other talents.”
“Such as?” My heart beat an irregular cadence.
“One of them you just witnessed yourself,” Fiona said, watching me queerly. “You can see into the soul of an open heart.”
I shook my head. “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“You can see inside a soul. You will have to exercise the power to further develop it, but be careful. Just as not all mortals want to know what their destiny is through Elisa’s powers, not all want their souls read. A mortal must be willing to be read—an open heart. Those that entered this room must have been open to you. It seems you are a soul-study. It is rare, but you have not been the only one to have this ability.”
“Did my mother have the same—ability?”
“Yes and no.”
The muscles between my brows puckered. “What do you mean?”
Fiona cocked her head to the side. “She had visions, like you, but could only read souls if she touched them and if they were willing. Apparently, you don’t need to touch them, but that’s not unusual. Every ability is different, and everyone exhibits them in different ways.”
I nodded despite my confusion. “What other abilities can mortals have?”
“Let’s see.” Elisa gripped the edge of my dresser, leaning against it. “Some can heal like Fiona and Cedric, although none as powerfully. Some have the ability to foretell the future. Some can even read minds. Even fewer dabble in energies.”
“What are energies?” I asked, but I had a feeling I already knew the answer.
“That we will show you.” Fiona glided to the side of my bed. “There is an energy in every living thing; some contain more than others. Emotions emit energy as well. You’ve experienced this. When we entered your room, you were filled with such amazing anger and pain that you beautifully blazed with negative energy. It is visible. It is palpable.”
“I blazed?” My cheeks blazed in response.
She continued, ignoring my question. “But that kind of energy is short-lived and can only be used for one thing: destruction. You must find the opposite of those feelings that course through your body, hampering your spirit, my niece.”
Fiona picked up two candles, one lit, the other not. She handed me the unlit candle. “For example, to counter-balance my guilt, I seek the solace of my garden. It brings me peace.” She eyed the small fire while her fingertips toyed with the flame. “Whether I go there in physical form or in my mind, each bloom calms my spirit and sets my soul at ease because I pleasure in life.”
She closed her eyes, a smile igniting her features until a white glow emanated from her face. Despite her calm my insides quaked.
She began to whisper, her voice growing louder with every word. “It soothes my weary heart and my burdened soul. While there, I can breathe in nature. I dance, I sing, I play. I joy in living!” Fiona flicked her fingers. Her eyes flashed open… and my candlewick came to life.
“What the—” My heart seized and I almost threw the newly lit candle across my bed.
With a wave of her hand, a rush of energy flew through the space, picking up strands of my hair, lighting the rest of the candles. A beautiful glow settled upon the room, bringing an instant warmth to the air. Despite that warmth, I shivered. Climbing from my bed, I slowly spun in a circle, seeing each flame as it cast a moving shadow upon the walls and my mother’s painted vines.
Fiona only smiled. “What brings you joy, Ava?”
“How did you do that?” I asked, my voice less than a whisper. My heartbeat fluttered with growing excitement.
She merely shrugged. “I directed my energy in a constructive way.”
Every candle was lit. Every last one held a flame. I looked down at the fire I still grasped and slowly hovered my hand over the wick to ensure it was real. My palm burned in response.