I've posted bits and pieces of Chapter 1 over the last couple of months, both here and on Facebook, but not the full thing. So, here it is.
***WARNING: SPOILER ALERT***
If you haven't read The Space Between, you don't want to read this! It picks up from the end of the first book, and I'd hate to have that ruined for you. The Space Between is still on sale for only 99c, so it's a perfect time to get it and catch up before May 19th.
Where to Buy:
Sea-green eyes. Caramel-colored curls. Tip of a pink tongue swiping over full lips. Small body with curves in all the right places. Skin the color of dark honey that tasted just as sweet. The vision of my Twin Flame filled my mind several seconds before her physical self would fill the doorway. I couldn’t tell you which was happier to see her—my soul or my dick. Both swelled to greet her.
I pulled my headphones off and tossed them on the nightstand as she closed the door to the room we shared at the Phoenix manor behind her. We’d been here for over a month, since the night we caught a ride with a trucker to meet our fate here in Tampa. Well, specifically, at the Gate in the bottom of Tampa Bay, where our souls were Forged together. The manor overlooked the Bay, appearing to be an old, abandoned hotel that most people ignored.
“I thought I’d find you in here,” Leni said as she sauntered toward the bed where I sat. “Hiding again?”
I shrugged, blowing off her concern. “My training was cut short today.”
“Mm-hmm,” she affirmed as she bent over and placed her hands on the foot of the bed. My eyes drifted to her cleavage automatically, and I swore she flexed or squeezed or did something to make her tits practically pop out of the low-cut, green t-shirt she wore. I swallowed and forced my eyes to hers. “Not hiding at all?”
I gave her my best smile. Her eyes glazed for a brief moment, the distraction I’d hoped for. “Not from you.”
She walked her hands closer to me until she had to raise a knee onto the bed. “But…?”
My distraction hadn’t worked. She knew me too well and wouldn’t let this go. Still, I didn’t finish her sentence, but only held her eyes as she slowly crawled across the bed toward me.
“You are hiding from everyone else,” she finished. I didn’t need to answer. She already knew the truth. In the several weeks since we’d been here, I still hadn’t grown used to certain things—things she didn’t have to deal with like I did. Such as being able to hear again and constantly being surrounded by a whole tribe of Guardians. She leaned back, as though preparing to retreat. “Should I go then? Give you that alone time you need so much?”
I loved the sound of her voice, even as it dripped with sarcasm. But sometimes even her voice became too much. After eight years of complete and utter silence and living on my own nearly as long, even Leni—my other half and the woman and soul I loved more than life itself—could be a little overwhelming. I would never tell her that, though. I wasn’t stupid. And especially not now, when both my soul and body ached for her so badly.
Like lightning, I reached out and grabbed her wrists and pulled her to me. She let out a squeal and a giggle, and her green eyes lit up with anticipation the closer they came to mine.
“I need you more than I need alone time,” I said, my voice already husky with desire.
She glanced at my lips, and my eyes lingered on hers until I couldn’t wait another millisecond to taste them. Soft, silky, wet, and inviting. Her mouth opened slightly, giving permission for me to enter, and I slid my tongue in to meet hers. She straddled my lap and crushed her boobs against my chest as she deepened the kiss. I placed one hand on the small of her back and slid the other up to the nape of her neck and into the mass of curls.
“It’s almost time for our shift at the Gate,” she whispered when I gently tugged her head back, giving me access to her throat. I groaned against her neck, gave it a quick kiss, and then reluctantly pulled away.
She knew what I needed, and making out wasn’t it, which was why she’d stopped us. She rolled off of me, and we slid down until we lay together in each other’s arms, our mouths and our minds silent. Our hearts beat together in a rhythm that grew slower as we relaxed into each other. Leni’s eyes drifted closed, and mine did, too, as our souls found each other and melded together. We languished in that state—our souls as one yet still in our bodies—the most peaceful existence possible. At least, on this world called Earth.
Right now, it was just us, as one. No me or her. No them. No physical or mental training, no past lives to force into memory or evil enemies to worry about. We didn’t even have to think or feel, if we didn’t want to, although it felt pretty damn great. Everything simply passed between us, within us, a slow swirl of thoughts and emotions mixing together. The Zen of everything and nothing at the same time that took me, us, away from the rest of the world, from the insanity our lives had become since the night we crossed paths in Italy only a couple of months ago.
The only thing better was a physical orgasm at the same time our astral selves collided and climaxed.
But that was on the other end of the spectrum between total peace and the most fucking exciting thing ever. And right now, we needed the peace. I needed the peace. When I’d been deaf, it had been easy to block out the rest of the world. Since my hearing had returned with the Forging, along with all kinds of special abilities, escape wasn’t so easy to find, not even when we projected.
Pushing our souls out of our bodies no longer automatically meant privacy and intimacy as it had in the beginning. In fact, it was almost as rare to be able to let our souls drift together in that other realm as it was to have alone time in the physical one. Knowing what I did now, I kind of wished we hadn’t mastered projecting without sex or controlling our souls so quickly. Now there were expectations, like guarding the Gate, and no dyads did that alone, especially newly Forged ones like us. Otherwise, sitting at the bottom of Tampa Bay could have been as peaceful as melding with Leni was right now.
Until our phones both beeped with text messages.
“Ignore it.” I sent the feeling through our combined souls, the way we communicated when together like this.
The phones chirped again. Leni moved us to hover over mine to read the message from Mira:
“Jacquelena and Jeremicah to meeting room C ASAP.”
“Sorry, hun,” Leni said. “But at least she’s asking for both of us.”
Mira, who I’d thought had been my grandmother in this life cycle, had known and guided my soul longer than this physical body had been alive. Her soul’s name was Mirangela, and when I was Micah, I’d known her as Angela. Now that Leni and I had made it to the Gate and our souls were Forged together again, Mira’s role in my life was technically complete. When she was around the manor and had time, however, she tried to help me remember more about my past lives so I could use that knowledge in this one. Thank God she wasn’t here often because the life lessons she wanted me to remember—the ones that mattered—consisted of the storms, which made for shitty memories. And so far, all I’d been able to remember was this life, the one before it, and the one before that, when the soul that Leni and I had shared was ripped in half.
Summoning both of us meant Mira probably didn’t intend to work on my memory recall, but that didn’t necessarily mean whatever she had planned was good. At least Leni would be by my side. Her presence always made all the crazy shit around here more tolerable.
Our soul pulled into two, and we returned to our bodies, and then headed downstairs from our eighth-floor room in the hotel part of the manor. Meeting room C was behind the mansion that now sat where the lobby used to be. With a conference table and eight chairs, it was one of the smaller rooms where groups of Guardians discussed missions … or planned Call of Duty campaign strategies. Although we weren’t exactly normal humans, we spent our downtime trying to maintain some sense of normalcy from our old lives.
Already seated were Mira and Theo, Leni’s Guide this time and last, and Uri and Melinda, two of our healers who’d helped protect our bodies while we were trying to get to the Gate. Mira and Theo had been Guardians in past lives, but this time they’d chosen the easier path of being Guides so they could grow to old age for once. Mira, plump with gray hair and glasses, was in her seventies, and Theo, tall and thin with silver hair and an olive skin tone, was in his eighties. Both were much stronger than they looked, though. Still, as Guides, they were not equal to Guardians.
“You both look well,” Melinda said, eyeing Leni and me as we entered the room and sat down across from the others. Her brown hair was pulled back in its usual braid, keeping it out of one of the oldest faces in the manor, besides those of the Guides. She and Uri, a short, blond man who was her other half, were in their thirties and the oldest of the Guardians at our Gate. They’d only lived as long as they had because they were healers and rarely went on missions, although they were forced to fight the Lakari when necessary. The Guardians didn’t really have a hierarchy, but because of their age and time here, Melinda and Uri were the closest we had to leaders.
“Looking well and ready to serve their roles,” Uri said, and I looked at him for meaning.
“Let’s wait for Brock and Asia before we start,” Mira said.
Not a minute later, the other two Guardians, the pair who’d helped us fight the Lakari and led us to the manor that first night, entered the room. Once we’d managed to beat the Lakari, get to the Gate, become Forged, and then healed, Leni and I had felt an instant connection with Brock and Asia that we felt with none of the other Guardians here. Perhaps it was because they’d been Forged only a couple of months before us when the most recent before them had been over a year. We spent most of our time with them.
Brock’s body, about as tall as mine with a similar build that came from countless hours in the gym, filled the doorway first, his dark hair hanging over his brown eyes that surveyed the room. As though he seemed to approve, he motioned his hand, and the wispy Asia followed him in, her dark eyes also calculating. They stopped at the only empty chairs, and Asia cocked her head at the others, her silver hair swinging over her shoulder. She changed her hair color like she changed clothes, but not from a box. Just something she could do, apparently. When we first met, it had been short and white-blond.
“What’s going on?” she asked, not one to hem and haw.
“Why don’t you take a seat?” Mira offered, and she waited for Brock and Asia to sit before continuing. “This won’t take long. We have a few things to share with the four of you. Melinda and Uri wanted a couple of Guides to sit in on this chat, and since Theo and I were here today, we thought now was as good of a time as ever.”
Leni took my hand under the table. I shared her anxiety. Low at the moment, but Mira’s tone set us on edge.
Melinda leaned forward, resting her forearms on the wooden conference table. “Can we see your marks?”
I wasn’t the only one who hesitated, but after a silent moment, we all lifted our arms above the table.
“Have you noticed anything different about your marks from the other Guardians’?” Uri asked.
My brows pushed together.
“I’ve never noticed anyone else’s marks,” Leni said. Exactly.
“Exactly,” Uri echoed my thoughts. “Because they’re on our necks or heads. Out of sight.”
The four of us on this side of the table each shifted in our chairs.
“Why are we different?” Asia asked.
Uri and Melinda glanced at each other, then exchanged another look with Mira and Theo. Theo nodded.
“Mira and I are simply Guides, and we only know what’s been passed down to us by other Guides,” he said, “but from what we know and what many of the Guardians are saying, your marks are different because your souls are different. We all believe you’re part of the Sacred Seven.”
We stared at him silently.
“And … what’s the Sacred Seven?” I asked when no one else did.
“We’re not entirely sure,” Mira said, “but—”
“Wait,” Brock said, holding a hand up. “What do you mean you’re not entirely sure? How do you say something like that and not know what it is?”
“Details have been lost over the centuries,” Theo said. “We try to keep records to help future Guides and Guardians, but they’re always destroyed in some manner or another. The only thing we know for sure is that the Seven are called sacred for a reason. You’re the elite. The leaders of the Phoenix Guardians.”
“And Jacquelena and Jeremicah are the leaders of the Seven,” Uri added.
Crickets, again, as we all absorbed this. Then questions started flying.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Melinda finally said, raising her voice over the rest of us. We all quieted. “Like we said, we don’t know what it all means.”
“Since you don’t know much, how do you know we’re them?” I demanded. The others backed me.
“We feel it,” Uri said. He pounded a fist against his chest. “All of the Guardians feel a respect for you at the soul level. We know at our very cores that you are supposed to lead us.”
What the hell was he talking about?
“This makes no sense,” Leni said. “How could nobody remember more? How could we not remember something like this?”
“That’s always the question, isn’t it?” Melinda muttered as she sat back in her chair. “Memories are always wiped. Any recordings are lost. Any time we try so much as to leave clues for ourselves, we don’t remember that we did half the time and can’t make sense of them the other half. It’s as if the universe is against the possibility of us actually knowing everything we need to know.”
“Maybe it is,” Mira said. “Every lifetime, no matter how high in the world echelons we’ve gone, is a chance to grow and learn.”
“We can’t possibly know everything anyway,” Uri added. “Only the Maker knows. We do our best to figure out what we can, but our meager human brains are not capable of understanding everything. It’s a waste of time to try.”
“So what does this mean for us?” Asia asked. “If nobody knows the answers, does it really mean anything at all?”
Theo leaned forward now. “It means when the times comes, you four will be expected to lead. Especially you, Jeric and Leni.”
A prickle ran down my spine. After eight years of being a loner, I hadn’t even figured out how to live in a world with other people. And they expected me to lead? Hell no.
“We wanted to tell you now so you can be prepared,” Uri said. “You won’t be staying here long to guard the Gate. As soon as you’re ready, you should be out in the world, doing missions, helping the Broken and Lost. And if and when crisis hits, you’ll be experienced to handle it.”
“More and more Guardians are talking about you and the Sacred Seven, which is why we thought we better tell you ourselves,” Melinda said. “You were bound to hear it from someone.”
“So … that’s it?” Brock asked. “You drop this bomb in our laps and leave it at that?”
“Well, we’re hoping you remember more,” Mira said. “We’re hoping that as the elite of all the Phoenix, you’ll be able to recall past lives more clearly. That you’ll work on trying to remember more diligently so we can all possibly learn what you know.” She gave me a pointed look. I resisted the urge to flip her off.
“Who are the other three?” Asia asked. “If there are supposed to be seven, where are the others?”
“Good question,” Melinda said. “And it’s most likely there are five others. Five pairs. Because an odd number of individuals wouldn’t make sense when we’re all dyads.”
“Do the names Nathayden and Rebethannah ring any bells?” Uri asked. I began to shake my head, but Leni squeezed my thigh.
“They do sound a tiny bit familiar,” she said.
“Yeah,” Asia agreed, “but it’s really vague. Are we supposed to know them?”
Uri opened his hands, palms up. “Maybe. The Guides said they’d heard about the pair from previous Guides. It seems that you all were close in past lives on Earth. They might be another pair from the Seven.”
“But they’re not here on Earth right now?” Leni asked.
Mira shook her head. “They haven’t been for several lifetimes. At least, not together. We Guides only learn of Guardian souls alighting on Earth when both halves arrive. Our role is to bring the two parts together, so when there is only one half here, we can’t do that. We don’t even know about their existence here until Guardians on a mission might find them.”
“There’s rumor that since you’re here and the four of you have been Forged that it means something,” Melinda said.
“Like what?” I demanded.
“Like something major with the Gates or the Phoenix,” she said. “They’re only saying that because none of you have been here in nearly a century and now two pairs are. It’s just a rumor, like pretty much everything else. If the Sacred Seven belong here on Earth, then there’s really no reason we should be overly excited that two pairs have returned.”
“But if you could remember something, anything … it’d help us all,” Uri added. “Perhaps help this whole world.”
Shit. No pressure there. Assholes. Did they really think we could just go back to our rooms, flip a switch, and remember everything about all of our past lives? All hundreds or even thousands of them? How the hell did we get put into this position? I mentally laughed at myself. I supposed if I could remember, we’d know how we got to be a part of this Seven, and maybe how to get ourselves out of it. There was one thing I knew for sure—if leading the Phoenix meant putting Leni’s life in danger, I wasn’t doing it.
The Guides and the healers left us with that bomb, as Brock had put it. We all had guard duty soon, so we headed back to our rooms. I sulked the whole way and needed Leni’s soul mixed with mine more than ever.
We’d barely settled into the perfect state when we were called. Our soul rose from our bodies as one, then drifted into two clouds of light. One took form as Leni, curls and curves and all, and the other took my form. Although our souls remained connected, we could move as two separate entities. We left our bodies safely in our bed, our physical arms still encircling each other, and floated through the window and outside, where Brock and Asia waited. Or at least their astral selves did, only misty-light forms, like Leni and me. We flew out over the water.
“How you doing, bro?” Brock asked as our souls dove into the water by the island with the single weeping willow tree that marked the Gate.
Only a few Lakari, what we’d called Shadowmen until we learned better, had been nearby, their black souls floating like dirty mist over the water. Not enough to take us on—our Light would shatter their Darkness easily—but that could change at any time. Thus, our need to guard the Gate below. They wanted in … from somewhere beyond this world.
“Pretty fucked up,” I muttered. Of course, nobody truly spoke. The energy of our thoughts carried to each other like vibrations through our souls.
“Yeah, no shit,” Brock agreed.
“It kind of explains some things,” Leni mused.
“Yeah, like how we feel a connection with each other,” Asia agreed. “Brock and I knew you guys as soon as we saw you. Your souls anyway. We recognized them.”
“That could just be because we’ve spent a lot of lives together,” Leni said. “Unc—I mean, Theo told us how some souls draw to each other over several lifetimes even when they’re not Twin Flames. Some best friends always seem to find each other over and over. And some families have that deep connection, too.”
Something rippled through us with her last words—a mix of hope and sadness.
“Yeah, something like that,” Asia said. “But—”
She was cut off by the Gate suddenly glowing a bright white through the sand. The light rose around us, creating a solid wall, and then a hole began to yawn open.
Leni’s eyes widened along with the hole. “Whoa. What’s going on?”
“Enyxa’s trying to open it!” Brock nearly yelled, and he responded faster than the rest of us, blasting his light toward the Gate to close the gaping hole before any of Enyxa’s Lakari could pass through.
“No,” Leni said, shaking her head. She moved closer to the cylindrical wall of light. “It’s something else.”
I felt it, too, but how could Leni know it was anything different?
“You don’t have enough experience to know anything,” Brock barked, and I momentarily wanted to punch him for talking to us like that, even if he was right.
“It is different, though,” Asia said. Like Leni, she seemed drawn to the hole that refused to close. It wasn’t black as it usually was the few times I’d seen someone trying to open the Gate from the other side. Colors swirled inside it now, hypnotizing, like the walls in the Space Between the last time we were there.
“Stay back!” I said as Leni moved even closer, tugging at my soul to follow.
“Asia, NO—” Brock’s form flew at her, but he was too late.
Leni had lifted a hand toward the hole, and Asia reached out for her. Both of them were sucked inside, and the hole closed up.
“What the hell?” I yelled as I flew at the Gate’s wall to no avail. The hole wouldn’t reopen. Pain shattered through me as my soul felt Leni’s absence, and darkness began to cloud my vision. Brock and I both stood there, in too much shock to think straight. “What do we do?”
Brock didn’t answer.
“What the fuck do we do?” I yelled at him as I tried to push away the agony engulfing me. “Brock!”
He still stared at the Gate, which remained lit like a beacon in the water.
“I … I don’t know. Nothing like this—”
I didn’t hear the rest. Something flew out of the Gate and crashed into me, sending me soaring through the water until I skidded against the sandy bottom of the bay. Everything around me went dark, and all I could think was Dark Souls. Lakari. They’d passed through the Gate. I immediately went into fight mode.
“Dude!” Leni’s voice stopped me. “Were you seriously going to hit me?”
The light of our souls immediately swirled together, erasing the pain before I’d even registered that it had been her form the Gate had spit back out. I didn’t have to ask if she was okay. I could feel it.
“Damn, you gave me a scare,” I silently said to only her.
I glanced over to Brock, whose form was no longer discernable as just his. Asia had apparently returned, as well.
“What the hell?” he yelled a moment later, his form jumping away from hers. “You know better!”
Leni removed her light from mine. “It’s my fault. It was me. I … I felt something.”
Brock waved his fists in the air like a crazed old man. “You can’t be doing shit like that.”
I stepped forward. “Dude, don’t talk—”
The full force of his energy turned on me. “Do you know what that would do to us? To all of us, since Asia was pulled in, too? We’re lucky they came back. If they didn’t …”
“We know,” Leni said. “We’d all go Dark. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it. I felt a … a connection. Something—someone was in there.”
Brock’s form stiffened. “What the hell is someone doing in the Gate?”
“He wasn’t in the Gate,” Leni said. “I don’t think. It felt like somewhere … beyond. But he was reaching out for us, or for this world, or something.”
“Reaching out?” Brock repeated, sounding confused. “But why? Trying to talk to you?”
Asia shook her head. “No, it was more urgent than that. He had the desperation of a soul that’s been Separated.”
“I think … I think he thought we could help him,” Leni added. “But the Gate threw us back here before we could really know.”
Brock rubbed his head. “Well, it’s a good thing it did. Otherwise, we’d all be in his situation: Separated, desperate, and going Dark.”
Losing Leni had become my worst nightmare, and the thought of her soul going Dark scared the shit out of me. I melded more closely with her.
“At least you’re back,” I murmured to her. “Nothing else matters.”
Her soul gave mine a squeeze, but a tremor rippled through us. “A lot more matters, Jeric. Souls like that guy’s need to be helped. Even if we are part of the so-called Sacred Seven, we’re not the center of the universe.”
“Well, you’re the center of my universe. And I can’t imagine a universe without you. I will always make keeping us together my first priority, and everyone else can deal with it or fuck off.”