Home   |   All About CJ   |   Available Books   |   Newsletter   |   Freebies & Fun Stuff   |   Shop   |   Contact CJ




     When Kira stepped into the ballroom, she was taken aback by the number of shades that had crammed themselves into the large room. So many unhappy thoughts. Even filtering them out, she could hear them. Sorrow, anger, even hatred were the emotions that permeated this room. She wondered if it was because of the Gate. Were the negative emotions in here because Hell was thought to be such an unpleasant place?

     She reached over and took Gallegar’s hand. He looked down and smiled the smoky, seductive smile that always tripped her heart when she saw it.

     Here was love. No hate, or anger or sadness. Just his love for her. It was something to hold onto in this frightening place.

     Patrick stopped in front of the far wall. It was completely bare, with plaster peeling in long strips falling to the floor. The floor was bent and buckled in places. The shade glanced back over his shoulder at her. “Here it is, sugar. Are ya ready?”

     Taking a deep breath, she nodded and made her way up next to him. Patrick put out his hands and sent power streaming against the wall. “Show yourself.”

     The vortex appeared suddenly, taking everyone, even Patrick by surprise. Hurriedly, they all stepped back.

     It was huge, almost twice as big as Heaven’s Gate, and its power was much more intense. The swirling color was almost blinding to the eyes—a hot yellow-orange tangle of brilliant hues.

     The colors were so vivid, it almost made Kira sick to her stomach as she continued to stand there, battered by the Gate’s power. It reminded her of the pictures she had seen of the sun, with its leaping tendrils of flame. But as she watched, her eyes became more used to the glare.

     “The vortex to Heaven moves clockwise, but this one moves counterclockwise.” Kira continued to stare at the Gate in fascination. “This is no memory…this is the real thing.” The Gate gave off an allure that repelled her. She remembered Patrick saying that was how the Gates pulled in only the people meant for it.

     Suddenly, a harsh voice broke into her musings. “Get away from there, human! You are not welcome here!”

     Kira turned and saw a group of about twenty shades standing off to the right of the Gate. They were a mixed group of the old and the young, but all had the same expression on their faces. Deep anger and mistrust.

     “Flora!” Patrick’s voice held warning as he strode over to stand between Kira and the group. “How dare you interfere? What do you think you are doing?”

      As one, the Chosen also moved and flanked Kira protectively.

    The woman named Flora stepped forward, gray eyes spitting anger at her leader. “You have desecrated the Gates by allowing this creature in here. She has no right here, and we challenge your ability to lead our people anymore. God knows you’ve made a mess of it so far.”

     Patrick’s jaw tensed, but when he spoke his words were diplomatic. “These people are here at my invitation. They are going to help us figure out what to do about the Gates. I don’t need your permission, Flora. I am leader here. You have been on this plain just a few months. You know nothing of what has come before. I’ve done everything I know how to get the Gates reopened so ya’ll can go to your rewards. When the Peacekeeper came to me, I saw someone with power enough to help me fix this problem. Not only that, she brings alliances with the most powerful supernaturals in the city. I’d be a fool to ignore such bounty, and I ain’t no fool.”

     Flora took a step back when Patrick began to speak. His power was no trifling thing, but she was flushed with false bravery, due to the spirits at her back. “We all know you had Sebastian killed so you could take over. Did you tell the Peacekeeper and those others, you were the one who convinced him to go get help?”

     Patrick went so still, Kira knew Flora had struck a nerve. She waited for a moment to see what Patrick would say, but when he didn’t respond, she cleared her throat.

     “So? Talking his leader into finding help was an intelligent thing to do. Why would we fault him for that?”

     “Because Patrick was the one who sent him to that horrible wizard. I’ve always thought it was because they were in it together. The wizard got rid of Sebastian for Patrick, so he could take over.”

     There was another silence. Patrick knew if a shade could sweat, he’d be doing so. Would Kira believe Flora’s lies and half-truths? Would she turn and look at him with distrust in her eyes. He waited for her to speak. But he just turned and stared at what Kira did do.

     She started to giggle. She giggled so hard she leaned into Lucas so she wouldn’t fall over. Patrick looked at the other Chosen, and they were all grinning back at him. He breathed a sigh of relief.

     Flora looked at Kira as if she had lost her mind. “You think this is funny?” Her face was so flushed, it was frightening. “He has someone killed, and you think it’s a joke?”

     Kira stopped laughing, and the power in her golden eyes pinned Flora so hard, the woman stumbled back a pace. “No,” she said, “It is not a joke. But you are if you think I would believe such a thing of your leader. He is a good and trustworthy man, who has done everything he could to help your kind. I will not hear another word against him. You are not worth spending any more time with. Leave us, so we can help Patrick fix the Gates.” With that, she turned her back on Flora and took a step closer to Hell’s Gate to continue her examination.

     Defeat touched Flora’s face as she watched Kira turn away. All those that were with her swiftly moved off, as if hoping Patrick would pay them no more heed.

     Obviously infuriated, the shade gave a chilling scream that had everyone turning back to her. “I’ll kill you,” she shrieked at Kira and leaped through the air at her.

     Hate glistened in her eyes. It seemed like the moment was caught in time, but Patrick, who was closest, managed to get an arm on Flora, giving her a strong shove. It sent her careening away from Kira and across the path of the Gate.

      It was then all Hell…literally…broke loose.

     With a screaming roar like a runaway freight train, the Gate heaved. The vortex shuddered and began to pulsate rapidly. Like a whirling sunset, the maelstrom started to swirl faster and faster, until you couldn’t see the ribbons of individual light. There was a thunderous explosion, and the Gate became one solid wall of a hot, burning, lava-like mass. Smoke billowed and fog poured out over the ground. An acrid burning smell permeated the air, causing all nearby to choke and gasp for air. Strange lights flashed on and off, making everyone turn away to protect their eyes.

     At that moment, the Gate heaved again and sucked in Flora, who was lying amid the reflections of color. She screamed…this time, a sound of sheer terror.

     Without a thought for her own safety, Kira leaped into the burning mass of colored light. Heat slapped her in the face, making it almost impossible to breath, but she reached out and grabbed the shade by the forearm. Instantly, her hand began to burn. She felt herself being pulled into the storm with Flora.

     “Gallegar!” she screamed, refusing to let go of the shade.

     Gallegar saw her sliding forward. Saw that Flora was in the clutches of something stronger than Kira, and he lunged forward with one arm, grabbing her around the waist. He too gave a shout of pain as his arm caught fire when it was enveloped in the odd yellow light.

     Kira felt Gallegar grab her, and then her stomach began to burn like acid had been tossed on her. She screamed in pain, but refused to let go of the terrified shade. She watched in horror as the flesh on Flora’s body blistered and scorched. It shriveled and crisped, turning black. Then it began to peel away from her body and drop off, leaving muscle and bone that also began to burn and flake. The unfortunate shade’s hair melted, and her scalp peeled back leaving Kira looking at eyeballs in a grinning skull’s head.

     Flora’s screams were like knives in Kira’s ears, but still she held on. Once again she could feel herself slipping forward, even though Gallegar held her tightly.

     Behind her, Gallegar was fighting a losing battle. The strain on his arm was telling, and he didn’t have to look down at it to know something horrible was happening. He shouted at Lucas and before he had even finished the shapeshifter’s name, his strong arm was linked with the vampire’s, providing the anchor they needed. He heard the shouts of the other Chosen behind him, but he was too dizzy to understand them. All he knew was he needed to keep Kira safe, no matter what.

     Lucas’ arm wrapped tight around Gallegar’s. The wolfman sensed Benjamin go into his extra strength mode and then grab Lucas around the waist. He was grateful for the extra muscle. He had a feeling they would all need it.

     “What the hell has happened?” Koran roared above the screaming of the Gate. His hair whipped around him in the blasts of wind. The sheer heat made it hard to breath. He stood with Danolas at the edge of the Gate, hands lifted as he tried to decide what to do.

     Patrick was standing behind them, shouting at Ethereals to get out of the room. When he heard the question, he turned back, and his face was haunted. “The Gate has been opened! Somehow, the Gate was activated.”



***end of excerpt***




Back to The Gates of Life


free invisible
hit counter