This is the first two chapters of Fallen Academy Four. DO not read unless you have read the other books. It drops on the 19th of April. Preorder here!
Lincoln’s back leaned against the campus building, while he looked at me wide-eyed. “You’re going to take training lessons from a fifteen-year-old?” He raised a skeptical eyebrow.
We’d been married two weeks now, and already he wasn’t happy with my training. He wanted Archangel Michael and himself to teach me to defeat the Devil, but I knew there was something special about Emberly. I wanted to work with her, especially since Michael had said she could mimic Lucifer’s mind control.
“Did you even meet her while I was gone? She’s super powerful.” We tried not to talk about our time apart, but some things needed to be asked.
He shrugged. “Briefly. She’s badass, I get it, but she’s still learning. I don’t think she’s the best one to train you.”
The door to the gym opened suddenly, and Emberly peeked her head out, glaring at us. “I can totally hear you, and a deal’s a deal. Your woman already agreed, so get your asses inside. I only have an hour.”
Lincoln seemed shocked at her attitude, but I just grinned. I liked her more and more each time I saw her.
Lincoln and I had a mini honeymoon of lazing around the trailer, while I settled into the last month of my third-year classes. Raphael had signed a special permission slip, saying I could skip most of year three, as I’d learned enough skills in Hell to pass the testing. It was probably a crock of shit that Lincoln begged him to do, but I was grateful. I wanted to be in classes with Shea, Chloe, Luke and even Tiffany’s annoying ass.
It made me feel normal.
When you accidentally made a pact with the Devil, to break open the gates of Heaven for him, normal was a welcome relief. I was waiting for the right time to talk to Lincoln about getting Sera back and breaking Raksha out, but I figured if I mastered mental control, that would convince him I could go back down there with a team of Fallen Army soldiers.
As I walked into the gymnasium, Emberly spun around and faced me. “So, what was San Francisco like? Still a shithole? I can’t believe you bailed your man out. That’s so cool.”
Lincoln tensed a little at the whole ‘bailed your man out’ thing, but I just chuckled.
“It was… dark and scary, but we all made it out.”
She nodded, but then a serious look crossed over her features. “I heard you brought back a bunch of… slaves,” she said the word like it was painful.
It killed me to think about how many had been left behind—in a different kind of hell. “Yeah. As many as we could, anyway.”
Emberly’s eyes focused on Lincoln, who was standing there with his arms crossed, and a stoic expression on his face. “You’re a captain! You could amass the Fallen Army and storm the city, take it back for our side, and free everyone.”
The fire in her eyes reminded me of my own passions, but her ideas, although noble, were too far-fetched. San Francisco had been way too dangerous. Even if we wanted to—which we did, of course—there was no way we had the numbers to pull off something like that.
Lincoln scoffed. “Pull the army that guards these walls, and put them all at risk on a whim that we could overtake San Francisco? Angel City could fall in the process!”
Swallowing hard, Emberly crossed her arms to match his stance. “Great risks can reap great rewards. If I were captain, I’d pull half the army and storm in there, guns blazing. If the demons didn’t cooperate, I’d kill them all, and set the city on fire after evacuating the innocent.”
A grin took over my lips at the little spitfire. She was adorable, like a mini temperamental Michael.
Lincoln just shook his head. “One day, if you make captain, you’ll see that we don’t have the resources for that, and that great risks can also reap great death.”
She frowned, but chose not to reply.
In her silence, I found myself staring at the metal and leather cage straps on Emberly’s wings. They were like medieval braces you would put on someone’s legs. Lincoln followed my gaze, and I wondered if he had the same questions I did. Did they retract like mine? Or remain out like her father’s?
When Emberly caught us both looking, she rolled her eyes. “Wondering about my wing braces?”
Oh, shit. I blanched, looking at the floor. “No, just checking out your cool glowing hair,” I lied.
She chuckled. “When my dad fell for my human mother, right after the Fallen War, I don’t think he knew his offspring had the potential to be deformed.”
Deformed. It was an awful word, and I didn’t know what to say in response.
“Do they hurt?” Lincoln asked, with more compassion in his voice than I expected.
Something dark crossed her face. “Every moment of every day.”
“Do the braces help?” While she was on the topic of her wings, I figured I’d ask the burning questions I had, for as long as she’d let me.
Sighing, she slightly shrugged. “Sort of. My angelic form keeps repairing itself every second, but the wings are too heavy for my frail human half, so the bones keep fracturing. The braces keep some of the weight off. Kind of like a bra.”
Oh God. I couldn’t imagine how she managed to go through each day in that kind of pain, and still have a smile on her face most of the time.
“Can you fly?” Lincoln stepped closer. I knew the “fixer” in him wanted to aid her now, maybe even try to heal her.
She stiffened at his sudden movement. “With a handful of painkillers, yeah.”
Oh my God. An angel who couldn’t really fly? That was the most awful thing I’d ever heard.
Silence descended on our little group. Lincoln scuffed the toe of his shoe along the floor, as I brushed imaginary lint off my clothes.
“Done feeling sorry for me?” Emberly asked after a few moments, uncrossing her arms, and standing with one hip cocked out, a hand propped on it.
Unsure of what to say, we just nodded.
“Good, because I have a shitload of cool powers too, and my mom told me to never feel sorry for myself. There’s always someone worse off,” she stated sagely.
That girl was wise beyond her years, that was for sure.
“How should we begin?” I asked. Was she going to go inside my mind? She’d said something before about making me bark like a dog, but I sincerely hoped she was kidding.
As she stood there, the tattoos on her arms moved up and down, swirling in random patterns. They glowed as if they were actually made of light. “You want to learn to withstand mind control, right?” she queried.
Something flashed in her eyes, a purplish silver. It was only for a split second, but I’d definitely seen it.
“Kneel,” she commanded, and my knees suddenly gave out, forcing me to splay my hands out to catch myself from falling on my face. I went down on all fours, heart pounding. It felt exactly like what Lucifer did, but he never spoke; he would just think it and I’d be crossing the room toward him, against my will.
“Holy shit. Did you just force her to do that?” Lincoln walked a circle around Emberly, looking her up and down as if it would reveal some great secret.
The teenager nodded. “My dad says it’s like the cardinal rule of being an angel to never ever use it against a human, to never take their free will. So, I’ve only practiced it a few times with my best friend, Mel—when she was willing.”
Holy shit. A little fifteen-year-old with a major attitude just made me fall to my knees. And she made it look easy.
I was so screwed.
Standing, I grit my teeth. If I succumbed so easily to her, I couldn’t imagine what I could do for the Dark Prince when he asked me to open the gates of Heaven.
“Again,” I ordered, locking my knees. Step one of my plan to free Sera and Raksha was to learn to withstand the Dark Prince’s power over me. I had to do this.
That flash of purple in her eyes was back. “Kneel.”
My legs buckled and I went down with a groan. Beating the ground with a fist, I stood quickly.
We tried it twenty more times before Lincoln intervened. “Try using your powers. Bring forth your Raphael healing power and… I don’t know, try to push the command away.”
That didn’t really make sense, but I knew what he was trying to say. Just locking my knees and physically trying to withstand it obviously wasn’t going to work, so it was about time I relied on another tactic.
Lincoln turned to Emberly, who looked bored out of her mind. “And can you do something different, so she isn’t anticipating it? Can you make her do things without speaking out loud?”
The teenager squirmed a little under Lincoln’s direction. “I can try.”
Great. Something was about to happen, and I didn’t know what. Thanks, hubby.
I called forth my light magic and let it rest in my palms, unsure what to do with it, when her eyes flashed purple again. Out of nowhere, my right palm opened and smacked me in the forehead, splashing my face with light magic, which tickled.
Emberly giggled a little, and I cut her with a glare.
I wouldn’t give up, no matter what. It wasn’t in me to quit. Sera would never give up on me, and I owed her the same courtesy.
Being married was cool, but Lincoln had some serious PTSD about my kidnapping. It had been a month now since our wedding, and he would not leave my side. I was surprised he even let me go to the bathroom alone. Classes, Emberly’s training, girl time with Shea, time with my mom? He. Was. There. If I thought it was just because he wanted to hang out with me, I wouldn’t mind, but I knew it was because he was afraid of me being taken again.
Today was his first day back at work. He was going out into the war zones for a night shift, and Shea was staying over at the trailer with me. Blake and Darren had been assigned to help command the army outside the walls, and were frequently away from campus, doing night shifts in the war zone. Tonight, Lincoln would meet up with them, to help with the effort.
“Maybe I should ask for more time off.” He paced our trailer, raking his hands through his hair.
“Babe.” I never used pet names with him, but I would if it would get his attention and make him stop for a moment. “I’ll be fine, I promise.”
It wasn’t like Lincoln could do much if Lucifer showed up here. Lucy felt all powerful at times, and I wasn’t sure Lincoln could take him down like he thought he could.
“I just wonder if I should maybe take a year off. Until this whole thing is over.”
I could see the stress in his body, in the way his shoulders bunched up, arms always slightly flexed. Padding over to him, I wrapped my arms around him.
“We need the money. I have my heart set on buying an actual house one day for all our kids to live in.” Not to mention he paid for my mom to live in Angel City as well. Something I told him he didn’t need to continue to do, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. My checks were a lot smaller than his, and I wasn’t even sure I would be paid since I was banned from going into the war zones until Lucy was dead.
A huge grin lit up Lincoln’s face. “All our kids?”
I chuckled. “Like one or two of them.”
He shook his head. “Nope, you said ‘all.’ That’s at least four.”
Laughter pealed out of me. Standing on my tiptoes, I pressed my lips to his, claiming his mouth in a deep, passionate kiss. Pulling back, I ran my fingers along the scruff at his jawline, and then leaned forward once more, my mouth on his as his hand came up around my neck, bringing me closer.
When I finally pulled away for good, I was a bit breathless. “I think we’ll do better if life settles back to normal, ya know?” I couldn’t live in fear. I refused to do it.
A resigned sigh left his chest. “Okay, but you know it’s only ‘normal’ right now because you drank that stuff, which means he can’t track you anymore.”
Yes, drinking the protection spell Raphael had made was some sort of safety net for the time being, but Lucy knew I was here. I was sure of it. Where else would I seek shelter? Lincoln had also taken the protection spell, and was hidden from Lucifer’s prying gaze, so I managed to take comfort in that.
“You have my cell number. Call me any time to check in.”
He sighed again. “I’m only agreeing to this because Shea is going to be over here with you, and I know she’s as protective as I am.”
“If not more.” I nodded. “She said she was bringing rope to tie our ankles together in case I got taken in the night.”
Lincoln looked impressed. “That’s a good idea.”
I snorted. “She was kidding.”
A loud banging rattled the trailer door. “Knock knock, bitch!” Shea’s voice called out, and both Lincoln and I grinned.
“Go!” I told him, pushing him lightly.
He fought against me, and instead of moving toward the door, he pivoted, reaching out to cradle my face in his hands. When his lips claimed mine, in a knee-weakening kiss, I moaned into his mouth. Desire pooled between my legs, and I was half tempted to send Shea away and ask him to call in sick to work.
“I love you, Brielle Atwater-Grey.”
A grin pulled at my lips. I thought he might think that my desire to hyphenate my name was silly—we had Mikey to carry on the male line or whatever—but part of me just couldn’t let go of my dad.
“I love you too.”
“It’s dark out here!” Shea griped through the door, and Lincoln smiled.
“Yeah, and it’s a full moon, so let us in,” Luke called out too.
Cocking his head to the side at the sound of Luke’s voice, Lincoln opened the door. Chloe, Shea and Luke were standing there with a box of Cloud Nine donuts.
“So, it’s a party?” Lincoln asked, as my friends shoved past him and into the trailer.
“You bet your sweet ass it is. Third years only.” Luke blew Lincoln a kiss.
With a grin, my husband met my eyes, holding them for a long moment before waving goodbye.
After the door closed, Luke popped open the box of donuts, and grabbed a purple one with lime green stripes. I had no idea what emotion it induced, but I was sure it was yummy.
“Did you see Tiffany’s face when Delacourt announced Brielle would be back in classes tomorrow?” He gossiped, taking a bite. The moment it hit his tongue, he moaned ,and collapsed onto the sofa.
I chuckled, taking a seat next to him.
“But… but… shouldn’t she be a second year? She missed everything!” Chloe whined in a fake Tiffany voice, which caused us all to crack up even harder.
“I’m so over Tiffany,” I declared, picking up a bliss donut. “How did you guys pay for these? I know your salary can’t afford a whole box.”
Shea grinned. “Noah got a promotion. He’s a captain now too.”
I chuckled. “So, you celebrated by spending his raise?”
Snatching a green melancholy donut, she nodded. “Pretty much.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Y’all are crazy for being married, and engaged, this young. I’m not even entertaining the idea until I’m thirty. At least.”
Luke nodded. “You go, girl.”
I had missed my tribe, so much that it squeezed my chest to think about it, but something was still missing.
“What’s wrong, Bri? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Shea asked, hand at her mouth ready to eat a donut. I hadn’t yet tasted mine.
Not wanting to ruin this moment of normalcy I so craved, I shook my head, and plastered on a fake smile. “Nothing. Did I tell you guys there are other Fallen Academies?”
There were also Legions, the spawn of a demon and a human or even two demons, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into that with my friends just yet. Lincoln had encountered one when he’d been looking for me in Demon City, while I was stuck in hell. He’d told me all about them. Technically Emberly was one, being that she was born of a human and a supernatural creature AKA Archangel Michael.
Luke bolted upright on his seat. “What! Like other campuses?”
I had already told Shea and sworn her to secrecy, but Chloe and Luke had no idea.
Chloe sat down, leaning forward. “Tell!”
A grin pulled at my lips. “Okay, so there’s this chick Catia who helped Lincoln while he was in San Francisco.”
Chloe gasped. “He was with another woman while you were apart?”
Waving away her concern, I rolled my eyes. “No. She’s not into guys. They became besties and, like, emotionally supported each other. Anyway, she smuggled out this teenage girl and got her to safety at the Paris Fallen Academy, where she now works as a professor.”
“Paris!” Luke squealed like a tween. “Ohmygod, tell me we can go there.”
Laughter bubbled out of me. “Maybe one day.”
“How many are there? Paris, LA, and…?” Chloe looked enamored.
“There is also New York, Toronto, and Zurich,” I answered, leaning forward, and enjoying the gossip fest a little too much.
Luke gasped. “What! Like… what? I heard New York was the first to fall, that it’s all a shelled-out war zone.”
My ponytail swayed as I shook my head. I’d asked Lincoln about a thousand questions the night he told me about the other Fallen Academy campuses. “It’s smaller, underground, but they still operate to help students who are angel blessed in the area. Gabriel heads New York and Toronto. Uriel heads Paris and Zurich, and Michael tries to help out whenever he isn’t here.”
Luke’s chest heaved up and down as he registered the news, while Chloe looked dumbfounded. “Why don’t they tell us?” Luke asked.
Lincoln had made me promise I would only tell those I trusted with my life, those who were loyal to the Fallen Army. “Because if it was widely known and the demons found out…”
“Oh.” Luke frowned. “But… Paris!”
A grin tugged at my lips. “He said Catia, the girl he knows there, might come visit on a supply run. Maybe you guys can meet her and ask her all about it.”
Reaching out, Luke grasped my arm, gripping it tightly. “Yes! She can teach us French!”
We all laughed at that, and I chose that moment to bite into my bliss donut. I’d had so few of them in my lifetime, that I could count them all on one hand. Yet, one thing always remained the same—Shea was there every time. The second the sugary center of the donut spilled into my mouth, ecstasy bloomed in my gut, causing me to break out in ridiculous laughter.
I rolled over onto Luke’s shoulder, giggling incessantly as he went for his second donut.
“I missed this. I missed you guys,” I confessed as oxytocin, and God knew what else, flooded my system.
The bear shifter reached up and patted my head. “You have no idea how much we missed you. How long we looked for you. How hard it was to let you go.”
A somber feeling settled across the trailer, and Shea snickered. “Luke ate a melancholy donut.”
That caused us all to cackle in laughter, and I’d truly never felt happier, and at home than in that moment. Maybe some of it was a side effect of the fading bliss donut, but most of it was being home with my friends and family.
The night progressed as we talked, laughed, and ate donuts until we all felt sick. After everyone left, Shea and I snuggled up in Lincoln’s and my bed. We lay there, in silence, just staring at each other for a few long moments.
“What are you going to do when he comes for you?” Shea finally spoke, and her voice shook a little, showing her vulnerability. I could see now that she was as terrified as Lincoln that I would get taken again.
Holding her hand, I squeezed. I didn’t want to lie to my best friend.
“I don’t know.”
I was going to try my hardest to resist him… and pray for a miracle.
It was a long time before I could fall asleep, though it might have been the rope tied around my ankle.
Apparently, Shea hadn’t been kidding.