The Order Ch. 14bypurefire©
"Set her down over there." Liam quickly pulled his gloves off as moved toward the plush chaise in the solarium. He watched as Nadia began to convulse while Caleb quickly removed the writs blades he'd donned for battle. They were cutting it close; the poison Moloch carried was normally a paralytic to demons. He knew that humans did not survive the toxin with modern medicine, but it usually took time for death to come. It had only been a half hour and Nadia looked as if she wouldn't make it another fifteen minutes.
Andraemalek carefully laid Nadia down and refused to step away from her. He ignored the fact that Caleb had to wedge himself between them in order to remedy any emotional damage she'd suffered. Her hand was so small in his, so limp. Her skin felt as if it was on fire. "Liam, hurry up."
"You need to get out of the way," was all the redhead said as he pushed his way to Nadia. He took her soft hands in his immediately bent to the task of healing her.
Alexis placed his hand on his brother's shoulder to get him to step back. "Let them work. She'll be fine."
"She'd better be," Andraemalek replied. She looked so ashen. Her lips were moving slowly, almost as if she were speaking to someone. She was lost in the illusion Astaroth trapped her in. He wanted to call out to Caleb to free her, but he couldn't; his brother needed to concentrate if expected to help her. Andraemalek looked at Liam's glowing blue eyes and found himself frowning when he noticed the sweat covering his brow. Liam never had to put much effort into his healing.
Something was wrong.
Nadia's body began to tremble uncontrollably, forcing her to cry out. Caleb had to fight to keep their connection; her head thrashed from side to side and the audible grunts of effort he emitted were indicative of his troubles. After long minutes, he managed to calm her down enough to work. Andraemalek found himself pacing the length of the solarium, unable to remain still. His heart felt constricted while at the same time incredibly heavy. Blood rushed through his veins as a new, foreign emotion took hold of him. His hands shook and he had to hold onto the mantle to find a solid anchor for himself.
Andraemalek turned and walked to Liam. His brother looked exhausted; his breathing was ragged and his skin flushed from exertion. "What's wrong?"
"It's not working," Liam whispered, "It's not fucking working."
"What do you mean it's not working?"
"D, calm down," Alexis said. He looked to Liam and asked, "What's going on?"
"Astaroth put up some kind of block. Nothing I try works."
"So we're supposed to let her suffer while she pretty much turns into a statue?"
Liam didn't have the heart to look at Andraemalek as he said, "Moloch's venom is fatal to humans. If I can't heal her, she'll die."
"No." Andraemalek walked to Liam and grabbed him by the shirt as he said, "Don't let her die."
"Maybe that's the key," Jameson interjected. As he gently separated the two hot-headed men, he continued, "What if we let her heart stop long enough to drop the block and then heal her?
"No," Andraemalek said again with a shake of his head, "It's too risky."
"Riskier than Liam risking danger to himself to fight whatever is blocking his powers?" Alexis asked. As the practical one of the group, he had to know when to surrender a battle. He understood his brother's need to keep her alive, but not at the risk of Liam's well being.
"You expect me to just let her go?"
"It's what you were sent to do." Nadia slowly opened her eyes and took a ragged breath as she watched the men in the room stare at her. It was difficult to speak; her lungs felt as if they were on fire and her throat was dry. Her limbs were numb but there was a dull ache that pulsed through her. She was dying. "There's no use... no use in fighting it any... any more."
Andraemalek was fully prepared to contradict her but was stopped when Alexis pulled him out of the room and into the kitchen. "What the hell are you-"
"Astaroth wasn't the one who blocked Liam. She's doing it."
"What are you talking about, Lex?" Andraemalek wasn't in the mood for bullshit. He had to convince her to keep fighting, to keep living. Nadia was young and beautiful and perfect; she couldn't die.
"You know that it's a very rare instance in which I get premonitions of those of my blood?" Alexis waited for Andraemalek to nod before he said, "There are limitations to Liam's powers too. He wears the gloves when he fights-"
"Because it's not easy to control healing an injury, especially if it's an enemy."
"Right." Alexis looked toward the short hall that led to the solarium as he said, "He can heal an enemy unwillingly because there is a will to live."
"What are you saying, Lexi?"
"She doesn't have a will to live. Not anymore."
"Of course she has a will to live," Andraemalek scoffed, "She wants a future."
"Are you sure about that?" Caleb asked as he walked into the room. His head still swam from the journey he took through Nadia's mind. "She loves you."
"She has me and she knows it."
"Not the way she needs." Caleb moved to the island in the center of the kitchen and continued, "She thinks you only want her around because of what she knows."
Andraemalek didn't try to hide his shock to the accusation. In all the time he'd wanted her with him, it was never because of what she knew. He wanted her because she was the first person to genuinely make him want more than the life he'd led for centuries.
"You need to tell her that before we all lose her."
Andraemalek raised a brow and looked at Caleb as he asked, "We all?"
"She has a good heart and she brought you back where you belong," Alexis said, "We'll always be thankful."
"So tell her you love her," Caleb interjected. "Give her a reason to live."
Andraemalek said nothing for long moments. He wasn't foolish enough to deny that he did in fact love Nadia, but there was a part of him that was terrified of what the declaration meant to his future. It was one thing to know that she loved him, but to let her know the extent of her hold on him...
Euan's tortured wine prompted him to return to the solarium. The sight of Liam lightly stroking her hair as she wheezed for breath tore his resolve. Andraemalek walked to the chaise and knelt at her side. As he took hold of her hand he said, "It's not your time yet, Nadia."
She found herself smiling despite the fact she was dying. "There's nothing... here for me anymore."
If it was possible for her to move, she would have reached up to touch his face one last time. "You have your own life to lead."
Andraemalek ignored the fact that his brothers silently watched as he shook his head to deny her claim. "I've lived for over five hundred years and the only time I've felt alive was when I was with you."
There was no use in sugar coating the truth. Nadia closed her eyes to keep from having to look at his face as she said, "I'm only here because of what I know." His gentle caress brought tears to her eyes. Why was he doing this now, when she was trying to tell him that she understood his intentions, that she no longer held his mission against him?
"You're here because I'm not a demon or a god when I'm with you." Andraemalek used his thumb to wipe away the tears that slowly rolled down the side of her face. He hated that he'd done this to her, that he was the one who didn't know how to control himself. "When I'm with you, I'm a man." Panic gripped him when she lay unmoving. That couldn't be it. Shaking her lightly he said, "I won't let you leave me." He didn't care that he sounded like a deranged stalker; this was the woman who'd come to mean more to him than anything in his entire existence. He couldn't let her go so easily. "Nadia."
"I'm human," she whispered, "I'll always... be in danger when... when you aren't around."
"Just let it happen, Andrae. Let me go in peace."
Andraemalek remained silent for a moment. What was he to say to something like that? "Nadia-" He stopped when her body suddenly vanished. He looked up at Liam's confused face before he looked back at the empty chaise.
"What the hell just happened?" Jameson asked.
Andraemalek said nothing as he slowly stood. There was only one explanation for Nadia's sudden disappearance; Astaroth still had enough strength to summon her to whatever hole he decided to hide in. He checked to make sure he had enough weapons on him. One of his knives was missing, but it was easily replaceable.
"Do you think she was taken or sent to the afterlife?"
Andraemalek hadn't considered the possibility that the members of the High Council might have sent Nadia to the afterlife to end her suffering. They'd gone through lesser lengths to protect The Brethren. "It doesn't matter where she is. I'm going after her."
"D., I know this is hard to accept, but if she's in the afterlife, maybe you should-"
"No," Andraemalek said to Caleb, "We all know I'm too selfish for that."
The blinding light that suddenly filled the room had all men shielding their eyes and ducking for cover. The brightness burned, forcing them to turn away. There was a distant sound very reminiscent of wind chimes and as the sound slowly faded, as did the light.
"What the fuck was that?" Liam asked as he looked at his brothers. They all looked fine, but that did not mean that they were safe.
"No idea," Alexis said. He too looked at the men in the room to ensure their safety and said, "Do you think it was Astaroth or the High Council?"
"It was your father."
The men turned to the far corner of the room and stood shocked at the sight of Nadia looking as if she'd never died. She was different; where her black hair was once shoulder length and streaked with burgundy, it was now completely red and rained down her back like liquid fire. As she stepped forward, they noticed the black slacks and button down shirt that covered her body. The ensemble only served to highlight her hair. Her eyes had changed as well; no longer a deep brown, they were now a dark and stormy gray.
"Nadia?" Andraemalek asked in disbelief. At her nod, he stepped forward and pulled her into his arms. There was no mistaking her sweet scent or the softness of her body pressed against his. "I thought you were dead."
"I was." She pressed herself deeper into his arms as she explained. "I remember being here with you and then I was floating. I thought I was going to heaven because it was too nice to be going to hell. But then I was in front of him and he told me that he wanted to make up for the life he'd forced on you and your brothers. He said that he's been watching you all since he'd been sent away and was the one who made sure none of you died before your time. He'd been waiting for me, he said." Nadia pulled out of his hold and looked at the rest of the men in the room as she continued, "He touched me and it hurt like hell at first; it burned like when I was dying before but then everything got kind of hazy and I was back here."
"He gave you life," Alexis said.
Nadia frowned when the brothers looked at each other quietly. "What aren't you saying?"
"You have an ability," they all said at once.
Nadia shook her head in disbelief. She couldn't have an ability. "No, all he did was heal me."
"In order for a member of the High Council to heal or give life, they have to give away a small part of themselves." Jameson stepped forward to look at Nadia as she tried to process the information he fed her. "It's the reason they choose to simply send people to the afterlife."
"And why Liam is such a valuable asset." Alexis added, "His abilities are watered down enough to not be much of a problem."
"No, you're not understanding what I'm saying." Nadia shook her head in disbelief. She couldn't have an ability; she was human. "He must have figured out a way to just heal."
"To get around that block, he had to give you a part of himself."
"Caleb's right," Jameson said as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "You-" He stopped talking when Nadia suddenly gasped. Within seconds, her eyes had gone completely white and began to glow. "Nadia-"
"She doesn't understand why they want her. You don't understand why you need her. But it is together you must work to find the truth." Nadia stumbled backward, weakened by force that had just taken over her. Had Jameson and Andraemalek not been close, she would have surely fallen to the floor. "What just happened?" she asked raggedly.
"That's what I'd like to know," Alexis replied. "But at least it's confirmed that she does have an ability."
"I'm not human anymore?"
"Oh, you're human all right," Caleb said as he scratched his head in confusion at the sight of her eyes returning to their new grey color, "You're just version two-point-oh now."
"Everybody get out. I need to talk to Nadia alone." Andraemalek never took his eyes off her as he spoke. "J., get your hands off her."
"I was just trying to-"
Jameson shook his head as he backed away. "There goes my vacation," he muttered as he followed Euan out of the room.
Nadia watched the men walk out of the room before she focused her attention on Andraemalek. His eyes were glistening, she noticed. "Hi." She yelped in surprise as she was pulled into his embrace once more. As pleasant as his embrace was, she couldn't breathe. "Andrae-"
"I swear on the old man's head, Nadia, if you die on me again, I'll kill you."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"Don't you ever leave me again."
She smiled at the desperation in his voice. It wasn't about what she knew about demons after all. "Well, it looks like I have to stay a little while longer. Can't exactly walk down the street with the risk of what happened with Jameson happening with someone else."
"I love you." Andraemalek let out a ragged breath of relief as the heavy weight was lifted off his shoulders. It was easier than he'd expected, telling her how he felt. Nadia didn't seem appalled by the revelation, nor did she look prepared to laugh at him. She simply held him. "I love you more than anything in this world. Or any world, now that I think about it." He pulled back to look at her blank expression and narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "I refuse to let you leave me. Ever. Damn it Nadia I can't-"
"I love you too, Andrae." Nadia laughed at the audible sight of relief he emitted before she stood up. "You're not forgiven just yet and it's too late to talk that stuff over right now."
"Just tell me what to do and I'll do it."
"Take me to bed before I fall asleep standing up."
Andraemalek lifted her into his arms gently as he said, "That's one mission I won't sabotage."
* * * * *
It had taken Nadia three weeks to settle into the manor. After packing the rest of her belongings and having her furniture put into storage, she went to the college to finalize her graduation and wasn't surprised to run into Caleb as she walked toward the dean's office. "What did you do?"
"I thought you'd be with Jameson trying to figure out that cryptic message you gave him."
While Nadia did want to talk about the fact that she hadn't had an episode since the night she died, she wasn't about to let Caleb distract her. "I thought you talked to my teachers weeks ago."
"I did, but the dean didn't appreciate your absences." Caleb put his hands in his pockets and smiled wickedly at a group of female students who took the time to look him over before they passed by. He didn't have to read their minds to know what they thought, a small blessing that made reading their minds that much more fun.
Caleb looked at Nadia as he said, "I didn't do anything."
"Not yet." She smiled at his nonchalant shrug before asking, "So I'm an official graduate? For real now?" At his nod, she sighed in relief. Finally, one less thing to worry about. "When do I get my diploma?"
"Hell if I know." Caleb had long ago brought his attention to an adorable blonde dressed in a typical college outfit consisting of pajama bottoms and a large sweatshirt. Though she carried several Organic Chemistry textbooks, she was more focused on his superior male anatomy.
He looked at Nadia's serious face and almost laughed at her mental image of kicking him in the crotch. "How did you-"
"Didn't have to a mind reader for that one." Nadia took hold of his arm and quickly guided him toward the exit. "Why don't you take me home?"
Caleb didn't have the heart to say no. As he walked her to his car, he'd considered the changes that had taken place. In the few weeks he'd known Nadia, he was quick to take on the role of older brother, a role the other men currently in the house adopted as well. Except for Andraemalek; he grew extremely frustrated when she was constantly pulled from his side because someone wanted her attention. Even Liam, the resident grouch, found pleasure in something as simple as watching televised game shows with her. He grumbled at her show selections and poked fun at her when she guessed wrong, but Caleb had read his mind enough to know that Liam was quite impressed with her intelligence and enthusiasm when she got something right.
The only member of the family to have issues adjusting to the new addition was Euan. Unused to the vast emotions Nadia was quick to embrace, he often found himself in odd situations. He confessed that he often felt like a child when she became curious about something that interested her, which vastly explained his new habit of sniffing everything he'd never been around before. And when she became excited...
Caleb smiled to himself as they settled themselves in his car. Nadia thought of her friend with the red hair and hoped that he didn't hate her. Andrae would have a fit if he knew that she thought of another man. Caleb decided to save the information for dinner. As he drove, he continued to probe her thoughts, as it was the only way he knew of to familiarize himself with her. She thought of very mundane things; her future as a doctor, not overstaying her welcome at the manor, figuring out how to get Alexis to talk to her for more than two minutes at a time - "He rarely ever speaks for more than two minutes."
"How many times do I have to tell you to stop that?"
"When you learn to pipe down over there, I'll stop." He laughed when she grunted indignantly and remained silent until they'd returned to the manor. He sighed when she'd fallen asleep and made a mental note to have her restrictions removed. Laying his hand on the horn, he laughed when she jumped up. "We're home."
"You're so rude." Nadia quickly got out of the car and left Caleb behind as she walked into the manor. Jameson sat in the kitchen with Liam watching one of her favorite game shows. Unfortunately, she'd already seen that particular episode, so it made no sense for her to stay and watch. That didn't stop her from placing a kiss on Jameson's cheek. When he suddenly pulled her into a tight hug that had her standing between his legs intimately, she began to giggle. "It's nice to see you too." Nadia tried to pull away but quickly remembered that as half gods, every single one of the brothers had exceptional strength. "Jameson-"
"You must really have a death wish."
Nadia would have turned to smile at Andrae but found that she couldn't move. "Hi, babe."
Andraemalek walked into the room slowly, not once taking his eyes off his brother. "Get your hands off her."
"Give me a minute. She smells good." Jameson laughed when his brother growled low in his throat. Having Nadia at the manor was sure to be an entertaining experience. Knowing that his brother stood watching, he slowly slid his hands down to cup her bottom and laughed at her squeal of surprise.