Hope you enjoy this little sneak peak into The Afterlife of Alyx & Israel. I’ll be posting up 1-2 chapters a week til release day ~ 3 July!
This version has not been proofread yet and may contain errors.
Somewhere on Earth, two souls, made of the same ethereal substance, were pulled into two separate soon-to-be mothers. Later they would be born, a girl named Alyx, the other a boy named Israel.
They would have no memory of who they were and who they had been or how their sacrifice saved an entire people. They would have no idea of the angels that would sometimes come to their window to watch them as they slept. But on quiet nights they would find themselves staring up into the vast sky and feel the pull of something greater out there, and they would feel that they were inextricably part of it.
Twenty-five years later…
“Alyx is engaged.”
“She’s what?” Vix blinked rapidly at Balthazar, the blue-skinned demon sitting across from her in a private booth in Purgatory, the supernatural neutral zone set out as a bar. She wasn’t a fan of this place, a dimly lit den of exposed brick, a burbling jazz floating through the mist that seemed to hang just under the steel beams and exposed ceiling. Even with the enchantment over Purgatory that prevented violence of any kind, demons made her nervous, especially this demon sitting across from Jordan and her. But she wasn’t about to let Jordan come here on his own when Balthazar had sent him a message tied to the prickly legs of a large black hell-beetle.
“She’s getting married,” Balthazar repeated. “You know, the mortal tradition where the woman lies about being a virgin by wearing a white dress, the couple then lie to each other by agreeing to a list of promises read out to them by a guy dressed in a robe, sometimes wearing a funny hat, and swap round circles of metal that they then wear on a finger.” Balthazar shook his head, making the downlight from above shimmer across the streaks of small iridescent scales highlighting his cheekbones. “So odd. Where I come from if we want to show an eternal commitment we just swap blood and lick each other’s−”
“Stop!” Vix cringed. “We don’t need to know.”
“So she’s getting married,” said Jordan, leaning his wide muscular frame back into the creaky leather. As usual his long honey and wheat hair was tied back in a messy ponytail, and his strong jaw was shadowed by the beginning of stubble, something that the ladies always seemed to love. Not Vix, mind you. He was not her type. “Didn’t we expect that from them though?”
Balthazar raised an eyebrow studded with tiny horns and gave Jordan a weighted stare, his thin black slits centered in large navy irises unblinking. He finally blinked, then again with his second eyelids. “Let me rephrase that: Alyx is getting married to someone who isn’t Israel.”
The light went on behind Jordan’s pale jade eyes, the rim of his thick lashes forming twin O’s as they went wide. He slammed forward, his palms slapping the top of the thick wooden table, causing a few otherworldly patrons of Purgatory to glance over with mild curiosity. “It can’t be.”
“It can and it is. I heard it from a reliable source of mine.”
“Been keeping tabs on her all these years, have you?” Vix said, unable to hide her sneer.
“Don’t tell me,” Balthazar pointed a long, thin, blue-clawed finger at her, “you haven’t.”
She flinched. Then cursed herself internally for letting that slip of emotion get through. She had been keeping tabs on Alyx. She had known about this boyfriend like she had known about the one before, but she didn’t pay him too much attention. She thought he’d just fade out of her life as the previous one had done, because he wasn’t the right one. “I didn’t think I’d see the day when you’d care about something that didn’t benefit you.”
Balthazar shifted in his chair to face Vix head-on, an indignant look on his face, his tail making an agitated whipping sound across the floor. “I’m shocked you’d say such a thing.”
“Name one time you’ve helped us where you didn’t have a hidden agenda.”
His eyes narrowed and the top of his lip pulled up, flashing a row of very white, very sharp, very pointy teeth. “I don’t remember inviting you here.”
Vix leaned forward in her seat and Balthazar mirrored her aggression until they were almost nose to nose. “I don’t remember inviting you to poke your nose into our business.”
“I don’t need an invitation to care about old friends. You not being one of them.”
“I don’t need an invitation to punch you in the face.”
“Go on and try it. See how far you get.”
“Guys, settle down.” Jordan pushed them both back into their seats with his hands. “You can settle this pissing contest later. We’re going off topic.” His voice was cool and steady, having regained most of his former composure. “Alyx isn’t one of us anymore. She’s mortal, remember? She made her choice all those winters ago. She left the supernatural world. She chose him.”
Vix could hear the slight strain of bitterness in Jordan’s voice. She knew Jordan wasn’t still carrying a torch for Alyx; he was very happy and very much in love now, but it still had hurt that she had given all of them up when she gave up her immortal life.
Vix felt this same thread of bitterness herself. But she understood. If it had been her, and she had to decide between Xiang, the love of her life, and everyone else, she’d choose Xiang. Her heart panged when she thought about Xiang, a mortal, getting older day by day while she would never age, which meant one day…
She shoved that thought away into the very depths of her. Today was not about her problems.
“Ironic, isn’t it?” said Balthazar. “Now Alyx’s sacrifice will mean nothing.”
Vix shook her head. “We can’t let it happen. We need to do something.”
Jordan snorted and pushed back a wayward strand of hair. “What are we going to do? We can’t exactly show up at their wedding, kidnap her and take her to Israel, wherever he ended up.”
“Saint Joseph,” Vix and Balthazar said together.
Jordan gave her a look. “Now who’s been keeping tabs?” He frowned. “Wait, so they’ve both been living in Saint Joseph and they haven’t met yet? Not in almost twenty-five years?”
“No,” said Vix.
“Have you wondered why?”
“Maybe fate isn’t ready yet.”
“Or maybe they’re not supposed to meet.”
Vix recoiled, her breath sucking in through her teeth. “How can you say that?”
He shrugged. “If fate wanted them together, wouldn’t she have brought them together?”
“Well, fate has been slacking off. But we won’t. We can’t let her marry this guy, this…” she looked at Balthazar for help.
“The fiancé’s name is Daniel Hotham,” he said.
“Daniel Hotham.” Vix couldn’t help wrinkling her nose. “He sounds like an Englishman.”
“Worse. He’s an accountant.”
“Alyx is marrying an accountant? Our Alyx? Our sword-wielding, world-saving, kickass lightwarrior Alyx…marrying a suit?”
“She’s not ours anymore, remember?” said Jordan, his voice low and tight. “She’s not a sword-wielding, world-saving, kickass lightwarrior anymore. She won’t have remembered anything about who she was. Or us.”
“It doesn’t matter if she’s not wielding swords, she’s still Alyx. She can’t marry this…Daniel Hotherfaffle guy.”
“He might be a nice guy, Vix.”
“I don’t care if he’s the Pope. She can’t marry him.”
“I have the perfect solution,” Balthazar said.
“Kill the fiancé.” He beamed at them both. “Problem solved.”
Vix rolled her eyes. “We can’t just kill him.”
Balthazar frowned. “Why not? I could make it look like an accident. A little height, a little slipperty-boo. Splat. Gone. Easy.” He dusted his hands together.
“Because…” Vix glanced over to Jordan with what she hoped was a help me out here look.
He shrugged and sent back a look that she translated as this is your argument, you figure it out.
“Because,” she tried again, “we don’t just go around killing people just ’cause we don’t like them.”
“Demons do it all the time.”
“Yes, but Alyx lives in the mortal world and in the mortal world we play by mortal rules. No killing.”
Balthazar huffed. “What about a little maiming then?”
“You’re no fun.”
“Besides, getting rid of the fiancé still doesn’t get Alyx and Israel together. We just need to get them to meet…” And there were plenty of ways to get that to happen without revealing that they were behind it.
Jordan stared at her. “Oh no.”
“What?” asked Balthazar.
“I recognize that look.”
Balthazar turned to Vix with concern on his face. “Does it hurt?”
“Vix,” said Jordan, “whatever you’re thinking, don’t.”
“You don’t know what I’m−”
“You can’t mess with fate. It’s a bad idea.”
“I wouldn’t have picked you for a superstitious one, Jordan,” said Balthazar.
Jordan crossed his arms. “I’m not getting dragged into this.”
Vix grinned slyly at him. “You know, you still owe me that favor.”
He shook his head. “No.”
“Aww, come on. I need you for this diabolical scheme to work.”
“Schemes. I love schemes!” said Balthazar. “And I’m so good at them, too. I’m in.”
“Who invited you?” asked Vix.
Balthazar snorted. “Puh-lease. If the plan is diabolical then you need someone who is versed in all manners of diabolicaliness.”
“And you think you’d be any help?” she scoffed.
“I am the Master of Disaster. The Schemin’ Demon. I have a Ph.D. in diabology.”
“Sorry, no, you can’t sit at the big kids’ table.”
“You need me.”
“I need you like I need a pair of horns coming out my−”
“Vix,” warned Jordan.
“Pleeeeeease, Jordan.” Vix fluttered her eyelashes at him.
“Yeah, Jordan,” chimed in Balthazar, fluttering his own eyelashes. “We need you to keep her out of any real trouble.”
Vix glared daggers at him. “I’ll show you trouble.”
Jordan rolled his eyes and muttered, “You need me to stop you two from killing each other.” He sighed and Vix knew she had him. “Fine. But I don’t like this. Not one little bit.”
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