Copyright 2017 by T.L. McDonald All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in whole or in part in any form or by means, including photography, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Redemption: The Marked Book Three
“Do you want butter on the popcorn?” Jared yells from the kitchen.
“Of course. You can’t have popcorn without butter, silly. It’s unnatural.” I drop the latest rom-com release into the Blu-ray tray, then take my place on the sofa. “And don’t forget to sprinkle on some salt too.”
“Have I ever?” Jared stands in the doorway, a huge bowl of popcorn held between his hands. A goofy smile plasters itself across his face, bringing out the adorable dimple in his cheek. In the same moment my heart flutters at seeing it, he staggers back a step as though he were just struck by some unseen force.
He looks down at his chest, the color draining from his face. “Hanna?” My name is no more than a whisper upon his lips, but it holds the weight of the world.
The bowl falls from his hands, crashing to the floor with a loud bang that echoes throughout the room. Popcorn scatters over the hardwood in slow motion as my eyes settle on a bloom of bright red seeping through his white t-shirt near his heart. With each breath he takes, it spreads further and further over his chest.
“Jared?” My heart freezes in place with forgotten heartbeats as I jump to my feet. “Oh my God, Jared!”
He falls to his knees at the sound of the grandfather clock striking midnight. He looks up at me, a trail of blood running from the corner of his mouth, his hands resting limply in his lap. The look on his face holds me in place, my feet glued to the hardwood, unable to move. His eyes lower a fraction to my hands and I feel the splatter of warmth on my bare feet.
The knowledge of something horrible itches at the back of my mind, causing cracks to split the world around me and I fight it, because I don’t want to know. I don’t want to remember. I just want so badly to go back to the way it was before. Before I knew fallen angels existed. Before I knew my best friend—the boy I fell for—was the chosen one in a prophecy foretelling the end of the world, as we know it. Before I… Before I…
No. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want it to be real.
My chest fills and deflates rapidly—too rapidly—and a hazy darkness begins to creep around my vision. My hands begin to lift, but I don’t want to look. I really, really don’t want to look, because if I do, then there is no more denying. There is no more pretending what happened didn’t happen.
My hands continue to rise and no matter how hard I fight to not look, or how hard I try to squeeze my eyes shut, they stay wide open.
Blood is all I see.
The dream around me begins to pull asunder with every beat of Jared’s heart pumping more and more blood through the fabric of his shirt.
“You’re too late. You were too late the moment he chose against you.” The sound of Blondie’s voice pulls me from the horror of what I see covering my hands and the knowledge of why it’s there. Jared made a choice and I…I did this. The Fallen were coming and I…I… “What’s done cannot be undone,” Blondie singsongs triggering fractured pieces of memory to spring forward. I fight against them because I don’t want them to be true, but I can’t stop myself from seeing Jared’s face when he made his choice, or the moment when I thought I’d saved him, or the moment when I knew it was too late.
When I knew I was too late. Blondie lifts Jared up by his throat, his eyes black as coal. His smile is pure evil and full of a sadistic sort of glee. It spreads across his face so easily, showing me just how much he’s enjoying watching me suffer. “Time to play a new game Hanna. I can’t wait to watch the world burn around you. It’s going to be so much fun.” Fingers pressed against his lips, Blondie blows me a kiss. Before I even have a chance to blink, he and Jared are gone, leaving nothing behind but an open door to a world on the brink of falling apart.