The sun is setting over the ocean and the pink glow on the horizon is beautiful. Raziel places a hand on Adriel’s cheek and kisses her. Leaning back, he says, “You know I love you.” It is not a question. It is a statement of fact.

To his surprise, suspicion is Adriel’s first reaction. I don’t blame her. He’s never this sappy. At least, not in public. “What is about to hap…?” She doesn’t get a chance to finish her question. He’s gone.

At the same moment Raziel disappears, a pissed off spirit dive bombs Adriel’s head. It literally slams through her face and comes out the back of her head. Talk about brain freeze. And the words coming from Adriel’s mouth right now? I don’t think even a Fallen Angel should be saying those kinds of words.

I am going to blame my laughter on shock. Because I would be a terrible friend if I actually thought being face bombed by a ghost was funny. Especially when the spirit comes back around for another go at Adriel’s head. Since she has her back to it with her hands at her temples as she processes her pain, she doesn’t see it. I’m not that terrible of a friend. I’m not going to let it get to her again despite my inappropriate laughter. I pull magic and catch it before it can attack. It’s a good thing magic can somehow traverse planes of existence.

We are on the terrace this cool night and the three of us were enjoying a mug of warm orange ginger mint tea from Tabitha’s special tea selection. It was Raziel’s idea, but he had to have known this would happen. Was he looking for the perfect setting for his disappearance?

It was just the three of us, now the two of us, because everyone else is out and about. Kegan and Alita are at her parents’ for the evening and Kallen is at the palace with Zac, Dagda and Dad playing video games. Kallen figured out how to make Zac’s game console work with magic instead of electricity. This may be the end of Fairy civilization as we know it. Dagda is already hooked on a racing game and he is now fascinated by all things related to cars. He’s considering creating one and not by magic. Sometime in the distant future, scholars will point to this year as the one the Fairy realm started to decline, I’m sure of it.

Isla and Garren are seeing a play in the village and Tabitha and Mom are both in the house somewhere reading. All in all, it was a peaceful night until sixty seconds ago.

“So, by the way it’s gnashing its teeth and clawing at my magic, I’m guessing this is a typical vengeful spirit,” I muse.

“How clever of you to figure that out,” Adriel says dryly.

Ignoring her tone, I ask, “Why do you think it attacked you and where the hell did Raziel go?” I am the only one around here who can teleport, so how could he just disappear like that? It is also strange he left right before Adriel was attacked instead of warning her or trying to protect her. He must have known it was coming being omniscient and all. What a jerk move on his part.

Still holding a hand to her now aching head, my dear friend asks, “Do I appear to you to have the answer to either question?”

“Wow, frostbite of the brain makes you surly,” I mutter. But seriously, it is concerning that Raziel just disappeared. Adriel’s seeming lack of concern I will put down to ghost attack shock, not that she doesn’t care what happened to him. “I don’t sense any magic other than mine. Do you?”

Pressing her lips into a straight line, Adriel doesn’t respond right away. Instead, she reaches into the pocket of her jeans and pulls out an envelope. She tears it open with a viciousness that poor envelope doesn’t deserve and begins to read. I want to peek over her shoulder so I can read it too, since it is obviously more important than answering my question, but I suspect it’s from Raziel and that would be rude. So, I wait. I’m surprised when she crumples it into a ball and then shoves the note into my hands as she mutters, “I knew something was wrong when he told me to wait to read this.”

“Wait for what?” I ask as I smooth out the note on the table and begin to read. It’s brief. Very brief. Considering how long she took to give it to me, Adriel must have reread it a thousand times. All it says is, I am well, do not worry about me. You and Xandra must handle this on your own. Not my decision. Love always, Raziel. The most irritating thing about having an omniscient boyfriend and friend? Their annoyingly cryptic messages. Giving Adriel a surreptitious glance, her expression tells me this is way more annoying for her than it is for me. She's not mad, though. I would be mad if Kallen left me a note like this.

Handle what on our own? And who decided this? And what gives them the right? I can see the same questions mirrored on Adriel’s face. Sitting back in her chair, she sighs, “I guess we need to figure this out if I ever want to see him again.”

She must be fuming inside. I am. A major problem that we don’t know about was just dumped in our lap and we have to figure it out with no clues and no help. But, Adriel is sitting there calmly saying we just need to figure it out. “That’s it? You’re not even the tiniest bit upset about any of this?” I push. “I would be furious if an Angel or somebody took Kallen and told me to figure things out without him.” I am assuming there is an Angel of some sort behind Raziel’s disappearance. Hopefully, he would have left a clue if he was about to be kidnapped by someone nefarious. It must be a high ranking Angel because I should have seen an Angel stop time, zoom in and take him. In Adriel’s Fallen state, she wouldn’t have, but I would. Seraphim? Probably.

The vengeful spirit trapped in my magic is tired of being ignored. It opens its mouth and lets out a wail so high pitched, I know how a dog feels when a dog whistle is blown. I cover my ears and reach out with magic to take his voice away. Only, it doesn’t work. The thing continues to wail. What the heck? I press my palms harder against my ears in case they are bleeding and need pressure to clot while I consider my next move.

The spirit is that of an old man. I am assuming Fairy since we are in the realm of the Fae, but his hair is so white and his eyes so pale that I can’t be certain if he ever had the typical Fairy characteristics of black hair and green eyes. His body is shriveled. Really shriveled. Put him next to a raisin and the raisin will seem round and sleek by comparison. He could not possibly have been shaped like that in real life. “Why is it so shriveled?” I call out to Adriel over the wailing.

“Come inside!” Adriel shouts back as she heads for the door. She adds, “Leave it out here.”

Like I was going to bring it with us. I give her a sour look before turning toward the terrace door myself. There, staring aghast at the spirit trying to free itself of my magic, is Mom. She is blocking the entrance and it would be rude to walk through her even if my eardrums are about to bleed. “Mom, go back inside! We’ll explain in there.” Not that we have an explanation. When she still doesn’t move, I snap my fingers in her face. Meaning I have to take a hand from one of my ears and I doubt my ear drum will ever forgive me. It takes several tries, and several levels of permanent deafness I am certain, to get Mom’s attention. Finally, she backs up so Adriel and I can pass. Like I said, we could have run through her if she didn’t come around, but on top of being rude, it would also be really freaking cold. I’m not sure Adriel’s head is ready for that kind of cold again. Picking up the pace, the Fallen Angel of Death and I practically run to the other side of the house. In the kitchen, we flop down on a stool at the island counter and finally take our hands from our ears. The wailing is still loud, but not piercing. I check my palms for blood and am relieved not to find any.

Fear lining her face, Mom asks, “What was that thing?” She glances over her shoulder to be certain it didn’t follow us.

“Don’t worry, I have it trapped,” I assure her. Turning to Adriel, I repeat my question from a moment ago. “Why does it look like that?”

“It must have died a long time ago. The longer the soul is out of the physical body, the more distorted it becomes,” she explains. With a quick glance at Mom, she adds, “Present company excluded.”

Mom and Dad’s souls are still with us because I am somehow anchoring them with my magic. I don’t really understand how. I am not actually exerting magic that I can feel, or that anyone else can sense. When they died, I didn’t even know I had magic. Nor did I know they died until they showed up as ghosts. But somehow, my magic knew and collected them at the critical moment their souls left their bodies. At least, the Angels tell me this is how it happened and I believe them. Especially now after seeing what a spirit that stays on its own looks like.

Mom’s face has paled to the point of almost being indistinguishable from the wall behind her. “Jim and I are going to end up like that?”

Surprised by her statement, Adriel hurries to say, “No, of course not.” She says the words, but there is concern in her eyes. She doesn’t actually know what Mom and Dad are going to end up like if I continue to hold them here. Their present existence is unprecedented. But, the Angels I spoke to about it gave me no indication anything bad would happen. All they said was that I had to let my parents go if they wanted to go. Mom and Dad have given no indication that is the case.

“I have more confidence in my magic than that,” I assure Mom, trying to instill the confidence in my words that Adriel did not instill in hers. “I’m more worried about why it attacked.”

Adriel grimaces at the memory of a ghost flying through her head. “Since Raziel was taken, I assume the attack was not random.”

There’s only one reason I can think of for such an attack on her. “Do you think it can tell you’re an Angel of Death?” I ask. It’s not like she has it tattooed on her forehead. Generally, those who can sense magic can tell she’s a Fallen Angel, if they know what Angel magic feels like, but they can’t tell what kind of Angel. Can spirits?

Shrugging, she says, “It is possible. Spirits see our light. It is what guides them to us. Maybe there is some residual light in my aura even though I am Fallen?” Huh, I did not know that. I wondered how spirits ended up in front of her. I thought it was some sort of magnetic pull or something when the deceased soul left the body. I guess people really do ‘go into the light’ when they die.

“Your aura is bright, but not bright enough to collect noisy moths,” Tabitha says as she enters the room. She must have heard the spirit. They can probably hear the spirit in the village, so of course she heard it. Our ears are safer here, but we still need to speak over the obnoxious wailing. I send my magic out again to shut it up, but nothing happens. Why can’t I make it stop?

“You really know how to pick new friends,” Taz gripes as he follows his favorite Fairy into the room. “My eardrums haven’t shattered yet so maybe next time you should pick a fast wanker who can shatter the sound barrier. A good sonic boom on top of this ought to do it.”

“I didn’t pick him,” I remark dryly. “He picked us.”

“He must be searching for someone who wronged him,” Felix says, coming to my side and sitting down.

I stare at Tabitha. “He look familiar to you?”

She shakes her head. “But thanks for assuming it is me. Not that I could really tell with how shriveled the thing is, but I do not believe anyone here has wronged someone to that degree.” She pauses before adding, “On the other hand, we may want to question Garren about it.” Tabitha has made strides toward building a friendship with the Fairy she swore to hate until her dying day, but she still has moments when she slides backwards. Like now.

I must admit, though, he does seem like the most likely culprit. He can be a jackass sometimes. On the other hand, “What about Isla? She is the High Chancellor. She has probably pissed off a lot of Fairies.”

A healthy snort leaves Tabitha. “Daily.”

Frowning, Adriel considers our conversation. Finally, she shakes her head. “That spirit has been out of its body for quite a while. It is doubtful that it is just now getting around to haunting someone in this house.”

“Then you think it was a random attack? Maybe the person it was haunting died and it’s looking for new targets,” I suggest.

Her frown still in place, Adriel shakes her head again. “That is not how vengeful spirits work. They move on to us after their target passes.”

Frustrated, I gripe, “Then this one seems to be broken.”

“Holy piss ant! Did you see that?” Felix yelps, startling the hell out of me. He dashes forward and begins sniffing near the fridge.

“What, is there a stray piece of bacon?” Taz asks, lumbering after his friend.

Felix shakes his head. “No, I thought I saw…” He shakes his head again. This time as if trying to clear it. “Never mind.”

“Felix, are you okay?” I ask now that my heart is no longer in my throat. He’s never acted like that before. He is never skittish or unsure of himself.

“Just seeing shadows,” he mumbles. Maybe the wailing is getting to him. It’s getting to me.

I open my mouth to ask more pointless questions about the spirit, pointless because no one here is going to know the answer, when I clamp it back shut and pull magic. Another spirit erupts from the kitchen wall and heads straight for the back of Adriel’s head. I throw up a wall of magic and it splats against it. Literally. It splats like a rotten tomato. I watch in horror as it attempts to peel itself off my magic and back into some sort of reasonable shape. Right now, it looks like Picasso roadkill. Any other shape will be better. As horrible as it is, I can’t seem to peel my eyes away from the grotesque scene and I am growing more disgusted by the second.

Startled, Tabitha demands, “What the hell is going on here?”

I barely hear her. The thing may be closer to a puddle of goo than anything resembling a humanoid, but it still has vocal cords, apparently. I try in futility to take its voice away. Just as its cohort refused to succumb to this particular ability of mine, so does it. I say it because I honestly cannot tell if the thing is male or female. “Let’s go outside!” I yell over the thing. I get a lot of head nodding because a verbal response is pointless. I couldn’t hear it and I don’t read lips well. Good thing, because from her expression and the way Adriel’s lips are moving, she cannot possibly be saying anything good. She must have figured out she was the target of another attack even though I caught the thing in time. She is not having a good day. Look at me, the Queen of Understatements.

Outside, we move to the far end of the long driveway. It’s still loud, but we can hear each other over the wailing once again. Ending her personal rant, Adriel grinds out, “I am going to kill whatever Angel took Raziel.” Hmm, I’m not certain, but threatening her fellow Angels does not seem like a good idea if she wants her wings back. And I’ve met her boss, the one who would pass judgement on her, and I don’t see her as being the forgiving sort when it comes to such things.

Then again, Adriel is my friend. “I’ll help with that just as soon as we get rid of these guys. I suppose it’s useless to question them?”

Pulling herself out of her rage fueled musings, Adriel shakes her head. “When they are this far gone, they are incapable of rational thought or speech.” I figured. No one who can wail like this is in any form of his or her right mind. These are the wails of a demented, tortured and lost soul.

“Then, do we exorcise them?”

Giving Mom a surreptitious glance, Adriel says, “I will do it.”

I appreciate her concern, but I have exorcised things before without freeing Mom and Dad from my hold. Still, I’ll let her handle it. I’m certain there will be some satisfaction involved in exorcising the thing that flew through her head. And the thing that was planning to do so. I wonder how many times a vengeful spirit can travel through one’s head before causing some serious brain trauma due to actual brain freeze. At the very least, it must hurt like hell. Hey, maybe that’s where migraines come from. Ghosts flying through people’s heads. Probably not.

“Tell her to get a move on, it’s almost snack time and Mama Bacon won’t be cooking in a kitchen with a wailing glob,” Taz urges.

I give him a sour look. “Yes, let’s take care of the problem so it doesn’t interfere with your fifth meal of the day.” The sad thing for his waistline is, Tabitha really does make them a nighttime snack.

“Fourth,” he sniffs, completely ignoring my sarcasm.

“I will take the one in the kitchen, you do the one on the terrace,” Tabitha tells Adriel. The two nod at each other and give me, and then Mom, a pointed look. I, apparently, am to stay here with my shell shocked mother.

When the two are gone, Mom speaks in a voice just above a whisper. Meaning I must strain my poor, overworked ears to hear her. “You promise me that you will let us go before we become those creatures.”

Startled by her words, I hurry to reassure her again that she has nothing to worry about. “Mom, you are not going to become those things. You and Dad are whole and you’re going to stay that way.” As her words sink farther in, though, I ask tentatively, “Am I keeping you and Dad here against your will?” I always thought they wanted to stay. At least until Zac is grown.

Her turn to be startled. “What? Of course not,” my mother rushes to say. She moves closer and lays a cold hand on my cheek, “It is a miracle your father and I can still be a part of your life and your brother’s.” Biting her translucent lip, she adds with a glance toward the house, “But if that ever happens…” Her voice trails off.

Laying a hand over the one that is currently giving me frostbite on my cheek, I reassure her yet again. “I won’t let that happen. You and Dad will be just as you are for as long as you like.”

The exorcisms must work. After several minutes my ear drums will never forget, there is blessed silence. “Come on,” Taz says to Felix, “maybe she started our snack.” Yes, because that is going to be the first thing on Tabitha’s mind after exorcising a wailing, vengeful spirit. Then again, Tabitha does process her stress by cooking. Taz may be that much closer to what I know will be his fifth meal of the day. Not his fourth. I’ve been counting. I really need to put him on a diet.

I turn to head back to the house when a familiar voice stops me in my tracks. “I expect you to keep her safe.”

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