Saving Thomas: A Midway Novel Book Two (Hidden Wings)




Chapter Twenty-Four


Eden




Alaine, Emma, and I stayed as Samuel and Dom took Thomas up to his room. That was twice in two days that he’d been saved, and the second time by someone unexpected.

“My name is Mariel,” the woman said, extending a hand to each of us. When she took my hand she paused and grasped it tighter, her dark eyes meeting mine. “You have great power, and a darkness growing inside you.”

My eyes averted to Alaine.

“She was in the Underworld yesterday and something happened to her.”

When I looked back, Mariel’s eyes were still fixed on me.

“There is a horrible darkness that dwells in the Underworld. It tempts Fallen with things they want or need most, and when they finally give in and welcome it, it becomes a part of them, slowly taking over.” She paused, her eyes studying mine. “You let it in.”

Tears pooled and fell from my eyes. “I did, because it was the only way to save them. Is there any way to get it out?”

Mariel shook her head. “Unfortunately, every person the darkness has entered has gone mad. We’ve lost countless Fallen to it. It’s slow. Sometimes it takes years to fully take over a life, and when it does, it suffocates them.”

Alex came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. I craved his comfort. “What is it, exactly?” he asked.

“No one knows,” Mariel said. “It’s an ancient evil that dwelled in the Underworld long before we were banished there.”

“Is there anyone who can help?” I asked, almost to the point of begging.

“No one in the Underworld can help you,” she shrugged her shoulders. “But maybe you can ask someone in Grandia? If anyone knows, it would be the Creator.”

The Creator. How in the world would I speak to the Creator? I always thought of him as untouchable and unreachable.

“I have to go. It appears the Underworld needs my undivided attention.”

“Thank you, again, for coming to Thomas’s rescue,” Alaine said.

“In just the nick of time,” Emma added.

“Yes. Well, I try to make everything Beleth does my business. It pisses him off, and that makes me happy.” She laughed. “It’s the little joys in life, right?”

“Right,” Alaine agreed.

Mariel turned back to me. “It looks like you have a lot of love surrounding you. Try to feed that. Sometimes love can perform magic of its own. You never know.”

With that, Mariel bowed her head, spread her wings, and took off into the sky.

“I’m going to check on Thomas,” Alaine said, heading into the house.

Emma turned toward her. “Where did Kade go?”

“He mentioned something about food,” Alex answered.

She rolled her eyes. “I guess I better go. I’ll see you two later.”

Alex took hold of my hand and pulled me alongside the house. “Where are we going?”

“Into the labyrinth.” He led me through the leafy maze, this way and that, until we came to the center. He sat me down in the middle of the gazebo and took both of my hands in his. His emerald eyes were glimmering in the sunlight. They were so bright, reminding me of new grass.

He caressed my face in his hands and pressed his lips against mine. “I will find a way to make the darkness go away,” he breathed. “I will not let it consume you.”

My chest felt much too small for my large heart. A heart that belonged solely to him. Maybe Mariel was right. Maybe the love between us, a love so pure and strong, would be enough to drive out the darkness I’d invited in.

It was ironic that I had welcomed that darkness to save Alex. And now, I was the one who needed to be saved. But I wouldn’t let it stop me from living my life. Today, was a good day. The love of my life was next to me, loving me, and I knew he would search every corner of the world to find a way to stop it.


***


The next few days were spent in the house, under the protection of the magical barrier. The atmosphere was somber and mostly quiet. We had all gone into the Underworld and survived, and most of us were still recovering, both physically and mentally. So, to switch things up, Alaine decided to throw a party. She called it a celebration of life, friends, family, and love.

Courtney and Caleb had returned from camp, so most of the gang was there.

In the morning, a huge van pulled up filled with party decorations. Alaine was busy getting everything in order and gave us instructions to dress formally and meet downstairs in the ballroom at six P.M. sharp.

Over the past few nights, I’d woken with night terrors. When I had them, it affected everyone. Lightning, thunder, rain, and wind wreaked havoc outside, while my screams woke most of the residents from their sleep. I was fine during the day, but at night, in the dark and quiet, my thoughts would wander and that wicked darkness would seep into my dreams.

Alex had been my rock. He was always there, to hold and comfort me, attempting to soothe my soul through our bond.

Beleth was still out there, and so was the threat that he’d return.

Dom, Mason, and Mark would have to return to Midway in the morning to await their next assignments. Thomas was still mending, and his wings would take time to grow back. Ephraim gave him the approval to return to Grandia for a few months to continue his recovery, and he was thrilled about that.

Alaine gave Sage and Mateo an invitation to stay in her home. They agreed, and she gave them rooms of their own. Her house was becoming a home, filling with a new family of misfits, trying to find our way in the world. In a few weeks, Alaine would begin our training, and I couldn’t wait to see how each of our gifts fit together.

A few hours before the party, I met the girls in Courtney’s room. She’d offered to do our hair and makeup, and promised to make us look like royalty. I liked Courtney. She was so full of life and energy, and I missed her boisterousness while she was gone.

The guys were getting ready on their own and planned to meet us at the bottom of the stairs a few minutes before six.

Courtney wore a sparkly silver dress that puffed out just above her knees, with matching silver heels. Her golden hair was pinned up, with stray curls hanging down on the sides.

Emma was gorgeous as usual, wearing a strapless emerald gown that hugged her perfect frame all the way to the floor.

Sage had gained some needed weight now that she was eating. With Alaine’s help and a lot of rest, the immortal part of her had healed her lacerations and bruises. Her face was fair and very pretty, and while she was still a little thin, she fit nicely into her sapphire dress which fell all the way down to the floor. Her dress accentuated her deep blue eyes. Her light brown hair was curled to her shoulders and the makeup made her look luminous. She looked beautiful.

Courtney kept my amber hair down and curled the ends. My gown was full-length. The top was white, a halter style, fitted in sparkly sequence, while the black, silky bottom flowed down the floor. It was beautiful, a perfect depiction of the dark and light I was battling inside.

“Wow, we look amazing,” Courtney said with a perky smile. She’d kept all of our makeup light and natural with shimmery highlights and long lashes.

“We do look good, don’t we?” Emma agreed, doing a quick spin.

“All right, girls. Photo time!” Courtney grabbed her cell and pulled us together.

We stood in different formations, made serious and silly faces, and snapped at least a hundred shots. It felt nice to be normal. Maybe that’s what Alaine wanted, for us to have a bit of normalcy back after that dark and dangerous time. At least for tonight.

Courtney glanced at her watch. “Time to go, ladies. Let’s go make our grand entrance down the staircase, and make those boys drool.”

“Sage, you look beautiful,” I said, noticing she looked a little misplaced.

“Thank you.” Her pink lips turned up into a smile.

She was still getting used to us. The fact that only days ago, she’d been locked in a dark cell and tortured for who knew how long . . . this must have been very different and maybe even awkward for her. Since we’d arrived, she never left her room. This was the first time we’d really seen or even talked to her. But I could tell that after the little session of girl bonding, her real self was starting to peek out.

“Sage, the single boys won’t know what to do with themselves,” Emma said with a wink.

“Just watch Dom,” Courtney said. “He is very overwhelming. Thomas is cool and so is Mark.”

“Don’t mind Courtney,” Emma laughed, stepping behind her little sister, “she thinks she’s a matchmaker.”

Courtney shrugged. “Alaine’s parties are a recipe for romance. Who knows what magic could happen tonight?” A wide grin rose on her lips. “Okay. It’s go time!”

Courtney opened the door and led us down the hall, followed by Sage, Emma, and then me.

I wasn’t sure why my heart was beating so fast. I knew part of it was that I’d be seeing Alex soon. The anticipation reminded me of my Senior Ball at Brindle Hall. But that night turned out to be a complete horror. I was poisoned and almost died. It was a night I didn’t care to remember.

We stopped behind the wall, just before the landing at the top of the stairs. Courtney took Sage by the hand and tugged her next to her. “We’ll go down together since we’re single and don’t have lovers waiting for us at the bottom.”

Sage didn’t respond but linked her arm in Courtney’s. There were gasps and whistles as they made their way down.

“Have fun tonight,” Emma said, taking my hand. “Tonight we’re celebrating us.”

“To us,” I chimed, giving her hand a squeeze.

Emma and I stepped from behind the wall, and down below were the Guardians in tuxedos, waiting. Kade and Alex were at the front, their faces luminous.

Kade’s eyes were fixed on Emma, a wide smile adorned his handsome face. You could feel the love and bond shared between them. It was strong and warmed my heart and the room.

But my eyes were set on my bonded. My gorgeous Alex. He was dressed in a white tuxedo with a black bowtie and cummerbund. His hair was styled back, his emerald eyes glimmering, and his smile . . . that bright smile melted me to my core. I could feel his love and approval pulsing through the bond, my body tingling as I neared him, anticipating his touch.

Kade offered Emma his hand, and when she reached the last stair, pulled her into his arms. He kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear. She giggled, and then took his arm and they moved toward the ballroom.

Butterflies twisted in my belly as I reached that last step. Alex bowed his head and then offered me both of his hands. I placed my hands in his, gazing into those alluring emerald eyes. His beauty took my breath away.

“You are so beautiful,” he breathed, leaning in and pressing his lips against my forehead.

My cheeks warmed. “And you are unbelievably handsome. Looking this good should be a sin.” He laughed, and that laughter warmed my insides.

Wrapping my arm around his, Alex proceeded to lead me down the hall into the ballroom.

Alaine and Samuel stood at the entrance, greeting us. “You both look stunning,” Alaine said, wrapping each of us in a hug. “Tonight is about us and forgetting everything outside of this room.”

“Thank you so much,” I breathed. “I really need this.”

She squeezed my hand. “I know, sweetheart. We all do. So have fun.”

Alaine was exquisite in a fitted red gown, emanating beauty and grace. Her lips were painted red, her hair pulled up into a tight bun, her face, like porcelain, was luminous.

Samuel was dashing in an all-black suit. His hair was combed back, his mustache and goatee trimmed.

When we walked into the ballroom I gasped. Alaine had spared no expense. We had stepped into a magical fairytale land, in silvers and golds, with white roses everywhere. The only way to describe it was elegance.

In the center of the room was a dancefloor, and above it hung a massive chandelier with hundreds of teardrop crystals sparkling like diamonds. Around the room were lifelike statues of angels, glowing golden with up-lights. Tables and chairs were to the left, and the DJ on the right. Servers were standing around the room with trays of drinks and hors-d’oeuvres.

The mood in the room was light and happy and the music was calming.

Alex placed his hand at the small of my back and led me to the tables. He pulled out my chair, and then took a seat next to me. Thomas, Mason, Dom, and Mark were laughing at a table next to us, and Courtney, Sage, Caleb, and Mateo seemed to be hitting it off. It was great to see them all in high spirits. Especially Thomas.

“We’re all dressed up and the music is playing. We should be dancing,” Emma said. She stood from her chair and pulled Kade to his feet. He offered her his hand and they walked out onto the dance floor. I smiled, watching them in each other’s arms.

A tap on the shoulder had me turning. Alex was standing behind me with his hand extended. “Would you like to dance with me, fair lady?”

I smiled and slid my hand in his. “I thought you’d never ask.”

He led me out onto the dance floor, gave me a spin, and then pulled my body tightly against his. Tingling pricks rose on my skin at his closeness. I breathed in his wonderful scent, then closed my eyes and basked in the moment.

We stayed enclosed in each other’s arms, and I’d never felt safer or happier. Through the bond, his love overwhelmed me. His lips feathered kisses against my cheek.

“Don’t start something we can’t finish,” I whispered.

His emerald eyes darkened when they met mine. “Before this night is over, we will finish it. That’s a promise.”

His words lit a flame in my core. Lust and desire pulsed through the bond.

“I don’t want this night to end,” I exhaled, my head resting on his shoulder. “I don’t ever want to leave your arms.” I knew he was battling the fact he had to leave and return to Midway in a few days, and I could feel that sadness pulsing through the bond. “Hey, tonight is ours. And tonight, there will be no sadness or darkness.”

A smile rose on his sculpted lips. “No, there won’t.” He dipped me back slightly and gave me a kiss that made my head spin.

Emma and Kade danced over to us. “Hey, look,” Emma said, nudging my back. Her head gestured behind us.

Alex and I turned, and at the far end of the dancefloor were Dom and Sage. They were wrapped in each other’s arms, gazing into each other’s eyes, laughing about something he had just whispered into her ear.

“Looks like Dom may have found his Nephilim.” Kade chuckled.

“And what if he did?” Emma asked. “They look so happy together. They look . . . smitten.”

“I guess they do,” Kade said. “I have to admit, it’s refreshing to see him smile like that. It’s been way too long since his bonded died. Besides, I’d like him to stop flirting with my wife.”

“I don’t think he’ll ever stop flirting with Emma.” Alex laughed. “You know Dom loves to press your buttons.”

“Yeah, the asshole.” Kade chuckled.

Emma slapped his arm, making us laugh.

Dinner was amazing and laughter continued through the night. As I looked around at all the smiling faces, my insides warmed. There was so much happiness, and for a brief moment, the world outside didn’t exist. It was only us. A mix-matched family, from many different backgrounds, who loved and fought for each other.

When the DJ announced he was playing the last few dances, everyone hit the dance floor. The first song was fast, and all the Guardians showed off their moves in the center of the dance floor. Everyone cheered when Alex took center. He was amazing, and definitely the best dancer of the group. He did flips and splits and handstands and even spun on his head. My face ached from smiling so wide, and I was in awe watching this incredible guy do things I’d never seen before.

Mark, Mason, Dom, Thomas, and even Kade joined in, while the rest of us gathered around them, clapping and cheering while watching these beautiful immortals dance. It was a sight to see.

I even caught a glimpse of Mateo off to the side, and he also had some pretty smooth moves.

“Last song of the night,” the DJ announced.

Instead of a slow song, the DJ played We Are the Champions by Queen. We all cheered and threw our arms up in the air as it started to play. The Guardians huddled in the center of the dance floor with arms connected over each other’s shoulders. My heart wanted to burst watching their comradery. They had been through so much together.

When the chorus blared, Alex glanced at me and gestured with his head for me to come to him. I walked over and he pulled me into his arms. Kade did the same to Emma. Then, Dom called everyone else in to join them. Every one of us all stood with arms around each other, tears streaming down our faces as we hugged and sang our hearts out.

The outside world had no idea we’d just gone through. We’d gone through hell and had come out victorious. We had saved Thomas and Sage. And right now . . . we were the champions of the world.

At the end of the night, we said our goodbyes. And as soon as we left the ballroom, the real world appeared and the fairytale disappeared. Alex grasped my hand and led me up to our room.

As soon as we walked in, his phone chimed on the nightstand. He picked it up and I watched him carefully as he read the screen. His brow furrowed, and then his eyes went wide.

“Alex?” He turned to me, and I couldn’t read the expression on his face. “What’s wrong?”

Had Midway called him back early?

His face saddened and my heart sank as he slowly handed me the phone.

I held it up and began to read.


Ephraim: Alex, I am messaging you with your next assignment. Her name is Eden East, and you will remain her Guardian. With the recent threats, it is in our best interest to keep you at Alaine Gray’s estate. You’re welcome.


Tears poured down my cheeks. I turned to him and his smile was as bright as the sun. He lifted me into his arms and spun me around. His lips crashed down on mine. “You’re all mine, Eden East,” he purred, his teeth raking against the nape of my neck. “Your happiness and safety will always be my main priority.”

I squealed and peppered kisses all over his face.

He grabbed me by the waist and flipped me onto the bed. I gasped as the power of the bond sent an electrical current through my body. His hard body pressed down on top of me, his arms locked me in on either side. He leaned down and kissed my neck, leaving a hot trail of kisses up to my cheek, grazing his lips over mine. “You know that promise I made earlier?” he breathed.

I nodded, unable to speak. The heat between us was combustible.

He nipped at my bottom lip. “I’m going to fulfill it. Right now.”

His mouth crashed onto mine, my hands tangled in his hair, holding him against me. In seconds our clothes were torn off and tossed off the side of the bed.

“God, you’re beautiful,” he said sitting up, admiring me.

I shook my head, admiring him.

“What?”

“I love you, Alexander. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have you in my life and by my side.”

A gorgeous smile graced his lips. Then . . . in more ways than one, he fulfilled the promise he’d made to me earlier, taking me to that beautiful place only he could.


***


There were times when I felt the darkness inside. It had been there since I’d left the Underworld, creeping, waiting to sneak out and play in the shadows of my mind. I could feel tinges of the rage and madness trying to surface, to wrap its dark tendrils around me. But right now, I was keeping it at bay, trying to fill my life with love and light. Alex played a huge part in doing that.

Mariel had said that the Fallen who welcomed that ancient darkness eventually died. But I wasn’t Fallen. I was Nephilim, and I was strong.

With Alex by my side, I had no other choice.

I would win this battle over the darkness.

And I would survive.