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Authors: Ednah Walters

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Hunted tgl-3

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Hunted
( The Guardian Legacy - 3 )
Ednah Walters

Bran and Lil may have escaped an attempt to lure Lil to the dark side, and recovered the contracts damned people signed with Bran when he was a soul collector, but someone forgot to tell them that no one switches sides or cancels contracts without consequences.

Hunted by an unknown but powerful enemy, Lil, Bran and the Guardians must seek help from unlikely sources to avert total annihilation of the Guardians. When they finally face their enemy, one of them may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

HUNTED
 The Guardian Legacy 3
by
Ednah Walters

This book is dedicated to my sisters, Meb and Singh, who instilled in me the love for books.

 

I could never thank you enough for your love and patience.

A SELECTED GLOSSARY OF TERMINOLOGY

Fallen angels:
Angels sent to earth by God to protect humanity who strayed and intermarried with humans.

Nephilim:
Children descended from the union of fallen angels and humans.

Guardians:
Good Nephilim.

Cardinals:
Guardians with the ability to control energy, solids, water, air, time and psi/mind.

Civilians:
Guardians with limited abilities who support the Cardinals financially and by monitoring demonic activities.

Hermonites/demons:
Nephilim who can choose to be good or bad.

Primes:
Powerful demons with the ability to control energy, solids, water, air, time and psi/mind.

Souled Demons/Neutrals:
Demons and children of demons who have given up their evil ways and/or have no interest in hurting humans.

Neteru:
Nephilim who don’t have the ability to shift into other beings, form or sprout non-human body parts.

Nosferatu:
Vampire Nephilim.

Werenephil:
Shape-shifter Nephilim.

Lazari:
Werenephils that can shift into smoke-form.

Nephling:
Nephilim with one human parent or grandparent.

Nature-benders:
Nephilim with the ability to manipulate nature.

The Brotherhood:
Short for the Brotherhood of Guardians—Souled Demons who live in a closed community with their own chosen leaders, are peaceful, and don’t side with Guardians or demons.

Chosen One:
The most powerful Guardian, prophesied to unite the Nephilim.

Kris Dagger:
A powerful dagger the Chosen One uses to channel and direct his or her psi energy.

Psi or psi energy:
Psychic energy channeled by Nephilim.

Alrunes:
soul mates.

Tartarus:
The abyss where fallen angels and evil Nephilim can be sent.

Alphas:
Energy balls created by Cardinal Energy Guardians.

Omegas:
Energy balls created by ordinary energy demons.

Omnis:
Energy balls capable of great destruction, produced by powerful demons. Only one person can destroy them—the Chosen One.

Teleport:
Move from place to place by dematerializing and rematerializing.

Telegate:
An energy pathway left behind when someone teleports.

Medium:
A human psychic who channels communication between humans and Nephilim.

Mimic:
To shift and copy another being.

Athame:
a powerful dagger used by demons.

PROLOGUE…

I
n the middle of the Pacific Ocean, an island rose from the sea like a partially submerged moss-covered rock. Short rivers and streams drained into its waterfalls and bays. Waves sloshed the base of the hanging cliffs and curled away as though pushed back by an invisible force.

A girl stood on the sandy beach along the coast of the island, midnight-black hair cascading down her back. Dressed in white pants and a white tank top under a matching, gauzy duster, she appeared oblivious to the lush tropical vegetation or the pristine blue waters cresting under the gentle breeze. In her hand was a dagger with a wavy blade chiseled with red inscriptions, rays of sun reflecting off the wicked red stone on its guard. She lifted her hand and pointed the dagger upward. A streaming red light shot from the blade and tore through the air, piercing the sky to the east, west, north, and south.

“Come to me,” she whispered, and angled her head as though listening to a response. She searched the sky even though not a single cloud, airplane, or bird drifted across the heavens.

“I command the dagger now, therefore I command you,” she ground out, her brilliant blue eyes glittering with annoyance. Her pupils dilated, swallowing the iris until the whites of her eyes disappeared. Black bottomless orbs remained, catching the light bouncing off the ocean water. “Now!”

A burst of black flakes appeared in front of her, swirling faster and faster like a swarm of bees. They coalesced until a woman in black pants, with matching shirt and trench coat materialized. She dropped on one knee and pressed a fist on her chest before standing. Next came a man with silver hair, in an expensive designer suit. More followed, until there were twelve of them, a mixture of men and women. Most were youthful with eyes full of optimism, a few had eyes filled with wariness, but they each bowed to the girl with the dagger.

“It’s time for the summoning,” she said, studying her followers.

“Are you sure about this?” a man with wavy bronze hair, graying at the temples, asked. “This could be catastrophic if we are not careful.”

Without answering, the girl pointed the dagger at him. The man started to shake, his mouth opening and closing as though he was silently begging for mercy. His skin shrank, his eyes became sunken, and his hair changed color and texture until he looked like a thousand-year-old mummy. He dropped onto the wet sand, his brittle bones snapping.

The girl looked at the silver-haired man, who grinned as though the demonstration of power was a joke. He lifted his hand and an energy ball materialized above his palm. The core glowed red, yellow and orange flames leaping from its edges. He threw the orb at the body. In seconds, nothing was left.

The girl didn’t look at the others and her voice was deceptively soft when she asked, “Anyone else that thinks we shouldn’t summon
it
?”

- 1 -
FIRST CONTACT


The boys were amazing tonight,” Antony Mancuso said in a regretful voice, referring to the punk group he promoted.

“There’s no reason why they can’t continue touring,” Bran said.

Mancuso shook his head. “No, we had a good run. I don’t care what you said. No one plays around with his soul and gets away with it.” He puffed on a cigar, smoke drifting toward the ceiling.

Mancuso was a heavyset man with heavy jowls and sad, beady eyes. He didn’t offer us seats despite the comfortable leather sofas scattered around the room. That was okay. We didn’t want to sit anyway. Our presence made the damned uncomfortable. We, on the other hand, despised them for selling their souls for material gain and fame, but we needed their cooperation.

“What do you want me to do?” Mancuso asked.

Bran pulled a rolled-up scroll from the inside pocket of his trench coat, and a dagger from the belt around his hip. The scroll was dark-brown and thin like animal skin, the edges darker and uneven as though cut by fire. He unrolled it to reveal a list of names. The letters glowed fiery orange against the dark background.

“Antony J. Mancuso,” Bran read.

A contract appeared out of thin air. Square and made from the same material as the bigger scroll, the words written on it were in the ancient language of Nephilim and angels. The only recognizable words were Mancuso’s name.

Mancuso watched Bran with shiny eyes as though he was fighting tears. He snuffed off the smoldering tip of the cigar on an ashtray. “How long do I have after I cancel the contract?”

“You’ll get your soul back right away,” Bran explained.

“I meant my health, the reason I gave up my soul.”

“Nothing is going to happen to you,” Remy said impatiently from where he stood by the door. “Because of us, you are about to cheat hell.”

“No one cheats hell.” Mancuso picked up his cigar and placed it between his lips with shaking hands. “Or death.”

“Stop puffing on that garbage and you’ll add ten more years to your life,” Kim added bluntly, blue eyes flashing.

That was Kim for you. She spoke her mind, damn the consequences. Mancuso didn’t even look at her despite her nasty tone. Instead, his gaze kept swinging between Bran’s face and the contract.

“Give me your finger,” Bran said, gesturing to Mancuso.

Mancuso heaved forward and extended a chubby finger. No one spoke as Bran pricked his finger and blood pooled from the punctured hole then dropped onto the parchment. It smoldered at the wet spot then burst into flame, leaving behind nothing.

“Why don’t I feel different?” Mancuso asked.

“You had a massive stroke, Mr. Mancuso,” Bran said. “You couldn’t talk, eat, and walk before you signed with me. You are talking to us.”

Mancuso stretched his arms and wiggled his fingers, a smile flitting across his round face. “Yes, I am. So David Lee’s voice…?”

“Will be okay even after he cancels his contract,” Bran finished patiently. “We’ll be back after he’s done with his last song.”

Mancuso was the promoter at Zone, the hottest new club on Union Square in New York City. He was famous for plucking garage bands out of obscurity and turning them into overnight teen sensations. But his most successful band, a punk rock group called Hellboys, weren’t young. They had had their time in the limelight in the late nineties. Then their lead singer, David Lee, lost his voice to drugs, until two years ago when he ‘found it’ and the group had an amazing comeback.

No one knew how David Lee’s voice recovered. Doctors called it a miracle. Fans didn’t care. The truth was known to a select few. Us. The Cardinal Guardians, children of the Nephilim, whose sole existence was to rid the world of demons.

David Lee had sold his soul to Bran when Bran used to collect souls for a demon queen. Mancuso had introduced them to each other.

We filed out of Mancuso’s office and headed upstairs to the VIP lounge. We had a clear view of the dance floor and the stage, where David Lee was singing his heart out while sweaty bodies writhed and arms flailed in a rhythmic daze.

I felt the urge to sway to the pulsing beat, but we weren’t here to dance. All of us—Izzy, Kim, Sykes, Remy, Bran and I—were dressed in black hunting clothes, which blended well with the Gothic outfits most of the clubbers wore. Anonymity was everything in our line of business. No one was supposed to know we existed.

Across the table, Sykes turned his chair and started whispering in the ear of a giggling human girl. Next thing, the girl slid her fingers through his blond hair, gripped his head and whispered something back. Somehow he always found time to flirt or make out with some girl even in the middle of a mission.

Remy, seated next to him, drummed his fingers on the table, oblivious to everything and everyone, his gray eyes staring into space. He’d been acting weird the last couple of months. Sykes insisted Remy needed to get laid. I think dealing with humans on a daily basis was getting to him.

The “girls”, as I often called Kim and Izzy, wore bored expressions though the two were critiquing the outfits the women at the neighboring tables wore. Kim, golden blonde hair professionally styled and makeup impeccable, and Izzy, with skin a shade of brown that attracted light in ways that defied description and a dark curly mane, lived and breathed fashion. Unfortunately, they could be so catty sometimes. Even though they wore black shirts and trench coats like the rest of us, their black leggings and designer thigh-high boots were not standard Cardinal Guardian issued. But the boots were very handy when hiding the special weapons we used when hunting demons—knives, daggers, and sickles.

Bored with eavesdropping on their conversation, I went back to studying the dancers. Dry-ice smoke rose like the Lazari from the stage as the band started their next number, an old favorite that sent the predominantly teen and twenties crowd screaming. I tried to block the noise, their thoughts, which were loud, and their emotions, which were varied, but couldn’t completely do it.

How long do we have to wait?
I asked Bran. The club was too loud to have a normal conversation.

An hour or so
, he answered calmly as if we had all the time in the world and the clock wasn’t ticking on his soul.

Bran’s story was complicated, but then he was a complicated guy. Coronis, the most powerful demoness of all time, had kidnapped his grandparents and forced their only son, Bran’s father, to marry an alpha demoness. As a result Bran had grown up among the demons and like every faithful follower, he’d moved into the soul-collecting business when his powers appeared at the age of sixteen. A year ago, he found us, the Guardians, his grandfather’s people, and switched sides. To save his soul, he had to cancel every contract he’d ever enticed a human to sign.

Three months ago, we’d acquired a list of Damned Humans who’d sold their souls to demons in the last several millennia, Bran’s included. As a result, we’d given up beach time to chase Damned Humans. Looking at Bran, you couldn’t tell he was worried. He was cool like that. Being the oldest in our group might have something to do with it. He’d just turned twenty. The other Cardinals were nineteen—they all had summer birthdays—and I would turn seventeen in three weeks.

Like most Nephilim, Bran was startlingly handsome, with an angular face, wavy, shoulder-length black hair, broad shoulders and a tall, masculine body. His most striking features were his emerald green eyes, which now reflected the strobe light flashing around us. I caught the gaze of a girl at our neighboring table and smiled. She glanced away but within seconds, she was back staring. Even though Bran never seemed aware of it, he attracted more attention than the rest of us wherever we went. Something about the way he carried himself was mesmerizing, like he could chew you up and spit you out without losing sleep over it. He was a badass when badassness was called for.

You are tired
, he telepathed, giving me a probing glance, then he tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear. Such a simple gesture, yet it showed his gentler side.

I shrugged.
It’s almost midnight and we still have one more stop to go
.

Then go to sleep. I’ll wake you when it’s time to leave
. He angled his solid body and pulled me closer.

I couldn’t sleep if I tried, not with the noise level. Still, I rested my head against his broad chest and closed my eyes. Despite being seated upstairs above the bar, the rotating strobe lights still reached us. I hated strobe lights. They messed with my mental focus. As a Psi Guardian, having a calm mind was everything.

Bran’s psi energy gently brushed mine, and I sighed. He always knew what to do to relax me. Smiling, I drifted away from the noise and the lights.

It’s time
, Bran telepathed later, pulling me out of a pleasant dream of a world with no demons.

We got up, left the balcony and headed for the stairs, which led to the back of the club and Mancuso’s office. The security guards saw us coming and stepped aside. Mancuso offered us seats this time, but no one wanted to sit down. The sooner we were done, the faster we’d head to our next target.

The door burst open and we all reached for our weapons. The security guard froze. I was sure facing six teens dressed like Val Helsing and carrying deadly, medieval-looking weapons wasn’t something he did every day. We had removed our glamour when we entered the room because we weren’t supposed to hide our identities from the humans we dealt with.

“What is it, Joey?” Mancuso asked.

The security guard dragged his gaze away from us. “David Lee is gone.”

“What do you mean ‘gone’?” Mancuso bellowed, heaving to his feet.

“He slipped out for a smoke and took off.”

Mancuso’s face grew red. “Didn’t someone go with him? What am I paying you for? Find him and bring him to me or you are all fired.” He dropped back on his seat, his chest heaving. He shot us an apologetic look. “I explained everything to David Lee after you talked to him earlier, and he seemed okay with canceling his contract even though he believes he’ll lose everything. You know, the money…his voice… I just never thought he’d run.”

Cowards! I hated Runners. One would think we were handing them death sentences instead of their souls.

“We’ll find him,” Bran vowed then shoved his knives in the sheaths around his thigh and glanced at me. “Finish it.”

As the Cardinal Psi in our group, it was my job to erase memories after each cancellation. Mancuso watched me curiously as I walked toward him. Human Psi energy was easy to breach, but changing human perception of past events was a bit tricky. We didn’t want them dreaming about demons and Guardians, or having déjá vu sneak up on them to remind them of the past. Some tended to see a shrink to learn the root cause of their unexplained feelings and dreams, so I had to give them something to find.

“What’s going on?” Mancuso demanded as I stopped beside him.

“I’m going to make you forget you ever gave up your soul or dealt with a demon, Mr. Mancuso. Would you like that?”

He nodded, his jowls shaking. “Oh yes.”

“Good. Look at me.”

I had gotten better at mind-blending. The first time I tried it, I’d gone a little crazy. I got inside Mancuso’s head and went to the beginning—his first meeting with Bran. They’d met at a concert of one of his other clients. We always discussed the fake memories before leaving HQ. Instead of a collector, Bran could be a young, talented singer Mancuso had tried to represent and whose career tanked. Thoughts of Bran and the feeling of doom accompanying them would become regret. Last, our presence in his office and the purpose of our meeting wasn’t to cancel a contract. We were Hellboys’ number-one fans and had backstage passes to meet with David Lee. I went over the new memories and his perception of each image, then broke the mind-blend.

Mancuso blinked as though prodded into awareness. His eyes narrowed as he heaved to his feet. “Damn groupies. Out of my office.”

“Chill, old man,” Sykes said. Bran was already out the door. “We just wanted David Lee’s autograph.”

“Do you see him in here? Out…out.” He waved his pudgy arms. “Security!”

We were laughing by the time the door closed behind us. We exited the building through a side door and entered the alley.

“Let’s get some lattes and frappes before we head to our next stop,” Kim suggested.

“I’m in, but let’s not forget we’ve added another Runner to our list,” Izzy said. “That makes…what?”

“Fifteen,” Bran said.

“How can you be so calm about it? We want to help and they run, damned cowards,” Kim grumbled. “Why aren’t there consequences to selling a soul anyway?”

“Because Master Haziel said there weren’t, and he’s the wisest and oldest Guardian,” I said. He was also our master trainer. “I’m more worried about what Mancuso is going to say when David Lee returns and brings up the subject of damned souls and us. I did what I could, but we’ve never canceled one soul when two humans signed together.”

“I’m sure they’ll consider it a miscommunication. You know how humans get. ‘I’m sorry I bailed out on you, old man,’” Izzy imitated Lee’s raspy voice. “‘Oh, that’s okay, Lee my boy. It’s all forgotten. Just head back to the stage and sing your heart out. You’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hand again,’” she added in Mancuso’s deep baritone. “‘Are you sure, Mancuso? I thought they’d be mad and come after you.’ ‘They love you, David Lee. Just don’t ever run away again in the middle of a concert.’”

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