• L.J. Sealey

Mortal Heart Full Chapter - Chapter One





CHAPTER ONE


BEING ALONE WAS A DAUNTING PROSPECT, and yet it was how things had been for Lacy since her grandparents had died. But that was before she’d met him: the man who had entered her life and turned it completely upside down. The one she’d fallen in love with.

Michael.

Her angel.

And now he was gone.

Lacy stood by the window, arms wrapped tightly around herself while she stared out into the inky black sky, trying to imagine where Michael was up there. Was he beyond the stars? Beyond the faraway blackness? Or was there a space in between here and there? She couldn’t imagine how it was possible. Never having any kind of faith growing up, Heaven, angels, demons—all of it had been nothing but exaggerated stories to her. After her little sister had been run over and killed—after the turbulent upbringing they’d both had with a mother who had been too troubled to care what she was putting her children through—Lacy had quickly lost what little faith she might have had.

Oh, how she wished that was still true.

Now, though, she’d been forced to face all those things and more as reality. But because of that, at least she knew Michael was somewhere safe.

What was he doing right now? She couldn’t help wondering. Were they treating him okay? Was he being held like a prisoner?

God, the not knowing was killing her.

In the end, all Lacy could do was tell herself that no matter what, his time in Heaven couldn’t possibly be comparable to the suffering he would have endured in Hell. That had to be true. And in some way it gave her small amounts of solace to know that those demons weren’t anywhere near him.

Suddenly her legs felt too heavy so she went to lie on her bed. Lacy closed her eyes tightly, like if she squeezed hard enough she could block out the whole world. The anguish. The pain. She thought of him, pulling up a happy memory, but no matter how hard she tried, Michael’s image kept slipping away. Her brain was refusing to cooperate. But she needed to see his face behind her closed eyelids, the creases at either side of his mouth as he smiled, those icy blue eyes—eyes that were always so full of love—that spoke a thousand words whenever he looked at her. Whenever Lacy managed to pull his image back inside her mind she could pretend he was still with her and that the whole thing had been nothing but a crazy nightmare. Then something always pulled her back to reality, forcing her to remember that she was alone.

The other half of her had been gone less than twelve hours, yet she felt the loss of him as if it were a lifetime.

It was too hard.

Her heart, her life, her soul, had all shattered into tiny little pieces as she’d watched the angels take him away.

As she felt the twisting, crushing sensation swirling around inside the hollow of her chest she heard a whimper—an involuntary sound that kept leaving her voice box over and over again since the moment she’d woke up. She rolled onto her side, curling her numb body into a tight ball, her arms cradling her chest as she took some deep breaths to try and ease the ache behind her rib cage.

He was back again. The image of his handsome face was right there behind her eyelids. Michael smiled right before he leaned in to kiss her, his damp lips parting before they pressed against hers. When Lacy inhaled, her breath hitched, breaking her concentration and causing his beautiful face to fade away like a reflection in the water that had been disturbed by a ripple until there was nothing. A sob left her in a rush, bringing her back to a reality she couldn’t bear.

“No,” she begged. “Please don’t leave me.”

But it was pointless. The knowledge of what had happened was too strong to deceive her troubled mind. She turned her head into his pillow, breathing in the spicy ocean scent of him that still lingered on his cotton pillow case. Her heart shattered as her memories began to shift around her mind on a torturous loop. Their time in bed together only hours ago, his gentle arms cuddling her under the covers she was now lying on top of; his soft lips kissing hers before he’d got up to take a shower; the way he’d held her hand in the backseat of the car on the way to the cemetery; his gentle kisses on the top of her head while they’d stood at her mother’s graveside only hours before. She remembered how supportive he’d been, not only through the funeral and the events leading up to what had caused her mother’s death, but through everything.

Lacy squeezed her eyes shut willing herself to stay in the past and as her mind took her further back to the time when they’d first met, she felt a warm glow surrounding her heart. Smiling, she remembered meeting Michael for the first time in the dean’s office over at SPU. Straight away she’d been struck by his handsome features, catching her breath for a second as his pale blue eyes had pierced her. She’d been so grateful for the fumbling Michael had done in order to free up a hand to shake hers; it had given her a little bit of time to compose herself as she’d stood in front of him in that small space. For the rest of that day she’d enjoyed spending time with him as she’d showed him around.

Who knew where their lives would end up? She certainly hadn’t known on that day that the man who had been temping for her pregnant colleague would become such an integral part of her life. So much so that it was hard to remember what her life was like before he’d stepped right into it. And that’s what scared her most: Michael was such a deep part of her that she feared a future without him.

The image of him flanked by all of those angels who had come to take him cut into the tender memories like the cold steel edge of a knife slicing her heart in two. His eyes had shown fear, the only time she’d ever seen it, telling her that he didn’t know what to do.

“Oh, Michael,” she whispered before her breath hitched. “Where are you?”

How could she get past this? She thought she’d lost him once before after he’d traded his own life for hers with the demon that had possessed her. The pain of losing him then had been unbearable, but it didn’t compare to what she felt now. It was different this time—a finality that crushed her heart. Michael was the other half of her and without him. . .

Oh, God. She couldn’t do this.

She sat up abruptly, needing to get away from where her thoughts were now taking her before she was driven mad by them, but what could she do? Where could she possibly go to escape what she felt?

Nowhere.

Nowhere but in her room.

As Lacy’s swollen eyes looked around her bedroom at all of her home comforts, she felt her stomach sink. Since moving to Oakland, MD, her home there had been her safe haven; somewhere she’d always felt comfortable. But now, as she looked at the pale pink, floral wallpaper that surrounded her, the white wicker chair next to her white-washed dressing table, and all of the other things she’d bought to dress her room and make it her own, it was all so different.

She felt like a stranger in her own home. It wasn’t a safe place for her anymore. Not without Michael.

Ignoring the knock on the bedroom door, Lacy fell back onto her pillow and closed her eyes, trying desperately to call back a different, more pleasant memory.

Knock. Knock.

“Lace? You have a visitor.”

Visitors were the last thing Lacy needed right now. She could barely keep from losing control in her own company, so she was far from capable of conversing with anyone.

Go away, Nina. Please just go away. “I don’t feel up to it, Ni,” she managed to say even though her voice was hoarse from all the crying she’d done since Evo had placed her down on her bed however long ago that was. She covered her eyes with her hands, hoping Nina would give up and go away.

“I know,” her friend said, her voice a tepid whisper on the other side of the door. “But I really think you need to—”

“Lacy? I wish to speak with you.”

Her eyes flew open the moment she heard his voice. She hadn’t dreamt it. It was real. She sat bolt upright, wiping away the tears and smoothing back her tear-soaked hair.

“Please.” His muted voice was only just audible. “If you will?”

All the hurt and aching in her heart turned to anger at hearing the angel. Then something changed inside her: Instead of feeling like a wilting rose about to crumble into dust, Lacy felt a need so strong to expel some of her anger that it had her bolting from the bed. Her heart pounded as she prepared to let all of her frustration out on the male who was on the other side of the door. She pulled the door open, and the moment she saw the sorrow in Samael’s eyes, she let rip.

“Don’t you look at me that way.” She was so angry she barely recognized her own voice. “You can’t feel hurt. Not when you allowed them to take him away.” Her hand went over her mouth as she struggled to hold back the sobs that threatened to tip her over the edge. “Where is he?”

Samael straightened, his handsome stoic features belied the emotion she heard in his voice. It was hard to look at him. “He is safe.”

What the hell did that mean? That was no indication of anything. Safe wasn’t good enough for her. She wanted to know what was going to happen to him, whether she was ever going to see him again. At the thought of never seeing Michael’s face again, never feeling his touch, a stabbing pain ripped through her chest and she fought back another sob, holding her aching chest. No matter how angry she was at Michael’s father and Raziel for not intervening, she couldn’t physically keep up the illusion of strength. It hurt too damn much. Truth was, Lacy was close to breaking point. Or maybe she’d already passed it. She certainly felt like she’d been ripped in two. How much more broken could she get?

“Where?” Her voice came out in a ragged whisper as the last bit of energy threatened to wipe her out completely. The anxiety she felt right in that moment was so intense, it was an effort to stay on her feet.

“May I come in?” As Samael spoke, his expression softened and when he reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder, Lacy felt some of that excruciating anxiety begin to wane. Suddenly, she felt lighter, the angel’s touch delivering a temporary respite from the darkness that was smothering her.

Defeated, she nodded, moving to the side to let him pass.

“They have him in confinement in the Second Realm. He’s being well looked after—as he should be.” Samael turned and watched her as she walked over to sit on the end of the bed.

She rubbed at one of her temples. “They? Who are they?”

“The Thrones are elder members of the council,” he went on to explain. “They are justice and authority to our kind. Law guardians, if you will. It is they who invoke our laws and keep order amongst the warriors. When one of us defies those laws it is the Thrones who see to it that the offenders are brought to trial.” He paused, his eyes going distant, his handsome face full of anguish. “They are the ones who came to collect my son.”

Lacy hadn’t known Michael’s father all that long, but she’d never heard emotion in his voice before. He’d always been so well composed, almost two dimensional, but his voice had almost broken as he’d said that last line. All of a sudden, Lacy’s contempt turned into understanding. “That’s why neither you nor Raziel could stop them.”

Samael nodded and she saw the frustration tighten his features. “You have to understand that in the eyes of our lawmakers, Michael has broken one of our oldest laws. A law that is as important to our kind now as it ever was. Especially since the last war between the Fallen and the Creator where there was so much carnage. It’s a serious offence, Lacy. And no one knows that more than me.”

The angel said that last part so quietly Lacy barely heard him. Her heart sank as she felt Samael’s pain as her own. Michael’s own mother had lost Samael in the same way back in that war he spoke about, and the pain of losing him had been so great she’d taken her own life after Michael and his twin sister, Gloria had been born. Samael had been helpless to stop it.

In that moment, faced with the same agony, Lacy sympathized with Larissa and what the poor woman had endured. She couldn’t imagine how much harder it would be had she carried Michael’s baby as Larissa had carried their twins. Not even the love of her children had saved her.

When a heavy feeling rose up from her stomach, Lacy shot up from the bed. “Sorry,” she managed to say on her way to the bathroom while she struggled to hold the contents of her stomach in until she got to the toilet. She just about made it, dropping to her knees in front of the basin. She felt a presence behind her right before her hair was gently pulled back out of the way.

“I’m so sorry this has happened to you,” Samael said, his voice as gentle as his touch. “If there was any way I could take this pain away from you and my son and stop all of this, I wouldn’t hesitate.”

Lacy felt too distraught to care about embarrassment, but she welcomed the support from him. When she managed to get her breath, she got to her feet, flushed the chain, and moved unsteadily to the sink. After rinsing her mouth out, she turned to him as she dabbed her face with a towel. “Thank you.”

Samael gave her a gentle smile in acknowledgment. “I know we’re not very acquainted with each other, but I wanted to be the one who came to explain things to you.” He lowered his head and a sigh dropped his shoulders. “I suppose. . . I can’t help feeling responsible for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gazri—I mean, Michael—is my son. Although you are not betrothed, I already consider you as my daughter-in-law, to use the human term. I can’t let history repeat itself.”

He looked at her with such pain in his eyes, and Lacy knew exactly what he was referring to. But as much as it would destroy her to never see Michael again, she knew what losing Larissa had done to Samael and she would never put Michael through that.

“You don’t have to watch over me, Samael. I would never destroy him that way.”

Silence made the minutes tick past painfully slow as they stood in Lacy’s bathroom until she couldn’t stand it. She glanced to where Samael stood at her side. His immaculate appearance was such a contrast to Raziel’s. His dark hair was in his usual slicked back style. He wore a white shirt that was fitted perfectly to his defined physique with gray trousers and a calve-length black coat. He leaned against the vanity with his arms crossed.

“Have you seen him?” lacy asked.

“Unfortunately no. Due to the way I handled my own grief all that time ago they won’t allow me near him until after he has been tried.”

“Has Raziel?” If what Samael said was true and Michael was being treated well, surely that wasn’t in isolation?

“He’d made a request to see him right before I left to come here.”

It may have been slight, but still the relief was welcome. She couldn’t bear the thought of him being cut off completely in an unfamiliar place. “At least he has someone who cares deeply for him up there; someone on his side.”

“It may seem hard to understand, but my brethren are doing this because they care.”

She couldn’t hold back the scoff. “How exactly?”

“The laws are in place to protect us as well as mankind. For an angel to have relations with a human is verboten and has been for thousands of years. The Elders, known as the Seraphim, have put this particular law in place for a number of reasons: Firstly, they believe that to lose the person you love and have to go on without them is a pain none of us should ever face. Our kind love deeply, in a way no human can imagine. Before there were such laws, that pain was reflected in the behavior of the ones who had loved and lost. It wasn’t common for my kind to have relations with humans, let alone fall in love with one. I have never heard of such a thing happening; apart from myself, of course. But the stories say that when they did, and they inevitably lost them through illness or old age, it would affect them deeply. Those angels were lost. They’d become half the warriors they were before; physically and mentally they were no longer whole.”

Samael closed his eyes and took in a slow breath as if to compose himself, and Lacy felt for him. She felt a kind of kinship towards him with the pain of loss they’d shared, even though it was only hours since Michael had been taken. At least he was still alive. . . in some way.

“I know that anguish they speak of; I have lived it every day—have been a fraction of my former self ever since Larissa.” After a brief pause Samael continued. “Of course, then there’s the whole situation with the Nephilim, the children born of my kind and yours.”

Michael had told Lacy about what had happened all those years ago with the Branded. The Branded were angels who had been stripped of their powers who’d waited to stand trial before the Seraphim. They’d come down to earth to cause upset amongst the world to get back at the Creator for restricting them. The Branded angels had taken their vengeance out on the race they knew meant everything to the Creator. They had raped and murdered, and their children had been born with evil inside them. Samael had met Larissa during that time when he’d been drafted alongside the Thrones to retrieve the Branded. They’d fallen in love, and Larissa had fallen pregnant with twins. But Michael and Gloria had been born out of love, so they never had that evil inside them. Their hearts are pure, even more so for Michael now that he was a fully-fledged angel having lost his humanity when he’d been killed by Nhang.

That heavy weight had returned to Lacy’s chest as she thought of Michael, remembering that she’d probably never see him again. She breathed as much air as she could into her lungs to try and combat the tight knot behind her rib cage.

It didn’t work.

“So you see. . . that particular law was put in place not only to protect my brethren, but to also prevent cross-breeding. Before the war with the Branded, no one had known what the Nephilim would be, or how they would fare, so it was more for precautionary measures than anything else. The lawmakers weren’t willing to take the risk of anything disrupting our way of existence.

“The Creator, the Seraphim, the Thrones, and my brethren, all do what they do for a cause they believe in. None of us are monsters, Lacy. We simply care deeply, not just for our own, but for mankind also.”

Hearing his explanation, Lacy guessed she could understand a little better now. But even if the laws had been put in place for their safety, why was Michael being punished? “Michael didn’t know this was going to happen. He doesn’t know your laws as you do. He didn’t even know he was an angel until after he’d fallen in love with me.”

Samael’s brows drew into a tight frown. “I know. And believe me. . . I have tried to make them see that he didn’t knowingly defy them. But they won’t listen. Now he is to face trial in front of the Seraphim.” He paused for a second. “They would have come for him sooner had I not managed to stall them for as long as I did.”

It took Lacy all of a nanosecond to realize what he’d said and some of the anger that Samael had managed to distinguish came straight back. She moved to stand in front of him, their close proximity reminding Lacy how otherworldly Michael’s father actually was. The sheer size of the angel should have stopped her from getting so close, but she was too annoyed to care right then. “You knew they were coming for him? Why didn’t you warn him?”

He looked down at her, unfazed by her anger. “He was gearing up to fight a powerful demon and his army. I wasn’t about to risk any kind of distraction that could have caused him to make a mistake. Michael needed his head completely on his mission.”

Her furious heart rate slowed a little, her anger lessening again. Damn, that angel had an explanation for everything; which was quite frustrating when all she wanted to do was let out some of her anger on the closest person at the time. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t keep it up.

Her shoulders dropped and she lowered her head. “He could have run. If he’d have known, he could have. . .” Letting out a sigh of defeat, Lacy knew it would have been pointless.

“And he wouldn’t have gotten very far. They would have found him as they did me.” Samael raised a hand and placed it on her shoulder. “Lacy,” she lifted her head to look at him, “don’t you think I would do anything for my son? If there was a way for me to stop this. . . ”

All she could do was acknowledge his words with a nod of her head. She was exhausted. Samael must have seen how tired she was, either that or he’d been inside her head. It didn’t matter. “Let me help you get some rest,” he said, gesturing for her to leave the bathroom.

She gave him a questioning glance.

“Return to your room and I will see to it that you sleep. You need some respite from all of this.”

How he would be able to do that, she didn’t know. And she didn’t have the energy to ask either. Somehow, although Lacy didn’t know how her legs carried her, she made her way back to her room and crawled on top of the bed. Samael placed a blanket over her and gave her a tight-lipped smile.

“Rest now,” he said gently, placing his hand on her shoulder, and immediately she began to feel her body relax. “I promise you that as soon as I hear from Raziel I will visit again.”

Lacy nodded her head right before she closed her eyes. His touch soothed her, all her stressful thoughts dissolving into a cloudy haze of nothing. Then she felt herself drift away from the pain and the agony she’d felt ever since the Thrones had taken Michael.

Rest.

She heard Samael’s calming voice, but only in her mind. He was right. It was what she needed. And even though she felt sleep pulling her under, in the back of her mind she dreaded waking up to the same agony.



Want more? Read Chapter Two now.


• 𝑷𝑹𝑬-𝑶𝑹𝑫𝑬𝑹 𝑴𝑶𝑹𝑻𝑨𝑳 𝑯𝑬𝑨𝑹𝑻 𝑵𝑶𝑾 •

Mortal Heart, the final book in the Divine Hunter series is now available for pre-order on eBook.

Pre-order Mortal Heart on Amazon HERE


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