A short story set in the world of my paranormal series The Nephilim.
Cameron Redmond woke with a start, heart pounding. His body was soaked with sweat. He kicked off the clammy sheet and lay staring up at the ceiling. Beside him, Piers slept like the dead. Like he always did after sex. Cam turned his head and studied his lover.
Piers was decades older than Cam, but the difference in years didn’t matter. His features were unlined except for a few attractive crinkles at the corners of his eyes. According to Piers, this wasn’t unusual. Nephilim didn’t generally show their age. His hair was an anomaly, though, mingling dark and white. A ruby earring—a single, half-carat stud set in yew wood—was a garish contrast to the salt-and-pepper curls.
The older man’s expression was serene, his breath barely audible. Cam envied him. His own orgasm hadn’t given way to relaxation. On the contrary, sex only seemed to exacerbate his habitual restlessness. To Cam, slumber was something to be feared, much as he’d feared walking through Liverpool’s rougher quarters in what he’d taken to thinking of as the time before. The time when he’d believed he was human. Before he’d discovered, amid terror, pain, and immense, frightening power, what he truly was.
Images and memories leaped from the dark corners of his brain—emboldened, perhaps, by the events of the past few days. The so-called volcano in Wales. Masses of hellfiends streaming overhead, like an endless plume of ash. The unnatural sky and Piers’s troubled reaction to it had unearthed memories Cam would have preferred to keep buried. His life in the time before—a blur of homelessness, hunger, and heroin. His life in between, when an overdose had pitched him toward death. His unexpected survival had sent him careening into his Ordeal. If Piers hadn’t found him, huddled and shivering, lying in his own stink…
A rush of gratitude and love for his savior unfurled in his chest. The warmth and hope of it chased the trauma of his past—most of it—back into the dark. Cam rolled onto his side facing Piers, his arm tucked under his head. A breeze played with the open curtains. Moonlight filtered through, falling in a slant across the floor. Abruptly, Cam sat up, realizing the light meant the sky was clear at last. But what, exactly, did that mean?
It was barely past midnight, but he was certain he wasn’t falling back asleep any time soon. He might as well get up. The antique pocket watch was almost done. A massive Bavarian cuckoo clock was his next project. It was in pitiful shape; it would absorb his attention for days. He was quite looking forward to it. The precision and concentration needed in repairing clockworks soothed him.
He eased out of bed, careful not to disturb Piers, who liked to sleep late. There was no reason for him to rise, even when the sun came up. The shop had seen only two intrepid customers in the last few days. Cam moved to the window and peered up at the sky. The hellfiends were indeed gone, leaving a full moon and collection of washed-out stars. But even if the clear sky encouraged more foot traffic, the shop didn’t need to open before eleven.
Piers muttered in his sleep and rolled to one side. A glint of red light caught the corner of Cam’s eye. Reflexively, he looked closer. And sucked in a breath. Cam hadn’t been mistaken. The ruby earring was glowing.
Unease gathered in his chest and sank into a knot in his stomach. Piers had warned him this day might come. He glanced down at the ring he wore on the middle finger of his left hand. The diamond touchstone Piers had given him after he’d emerged from his Ordeal was clear. Of course it was. Piers had made damn sure Cam’s magic wasn’t tied to his own.
Too soon. He wasn’t ready. He’d barely come to terms with what he was. What Piers was. Nephilim. He wasn’t ready to confront others of their kind, much less face the clan alpha that Piers hated and feared so ferociously.
Cam clasped Piers’s shoulder. It was very hot. Either that, or Cam’s hands had gone very, very cold.
“Piers? Wake up.” He gave him a shake.
“What—?” Piers blinked blearily. He looked into Cam’s eyes. The last remnants of sleep evaporated. He shoved into a sitting position, the sheet whispering down over his naked torso.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
Cam gestured toward the earring. Piers glanced into the mirror above the dressing table. His eyes widened. Deftly, he removed the earring and stared at the glowing gem.
“Do we have to answer it?” Cam asked.
“I must, if I wish to stay alive. You, however…”
Cam sank down on the edge of the bed. “This has to have something to do with the hellfiends.”
“That’s a fair guess, yes.” Piers flung back the bedcovers and rose. He strode to the wardrobe and opened it, surveying a line of crisply ironed garments. He chose a pair of black trousers and pulled them on. “But it’s by no means certain. A summons from the alpha can come for any number of reasons.”
“None of them good, I take it.”
Piers shot him a glance. “No. None of them good.”
“I’m going with you,” Cam said quietly.
“No.” Piers pinned him with a look. “You will not. Mab doesn’t know anything about you. I want to keep it that way.”
Cam twisted his ring. “You may not come back.”
Piers said nothing.
“I couldn’t stand that,” he said quietly. “I couldn’t stand not knowing. I couldn’t stand waiting. I’m going with you.”
“You gave me my freedom at the end of my Ordeal. You can’t take it away now.” He stood. “I’m going with you. I’ll stand at your side.”
“If you do,” Piers warned, “you may very well die there.”
“So be it,” Cam said.
Summoned: Cameron is a Beyond the Books short story in The Nephilim Series romantic urban fantasy by Joy Nash.
Hunted by vengeful archangels and zealot demon annihilators, the descendants of fallen angels play a deadly game on Earth with magic stolen from Heaven.
“A sharp biblical tale bursting with action and character development.” ~Publisher’s Weekly
“A unique and exciting paranormal romance, The Night Everything Fell Apart brings angels and demons to life, all the while blurring the line between good and evil.” ~Booklist Starred Review
Other flash fiction in this collection:
Summoned: Brax (Aug 30)
Summoned: Morgana (Aug 31)