Here today to celebrate the release of her debut, Angelfire, is the charming Courtney Allison Moulton with a never before seen Will POV scene that is, of course, not in Angelfire.
This is a scene I wrote a long time ago from Will's POV. The first of Ellie's flashbacks in Angelfire was originally the opening scene for the book, but was moved during edits. In that scene, her incarnation of the era is killed in battle, and as a character exercise, I wrote from Will's POV when he learns of her fate. Though he might be quiet on the outside or say something snarky here and there, he is truly passionate on the inside and his narration comes easily to me. All of the characters in this scene you will meet in Angelfire and learn even more about them in the sequel, Wings of the Wicked. I hope you enjoy this scene!
The last time I held her in my arms was the last time she died.
I feared for her, more afraid for her life than my own, because she was all that mattered. I could be replaced—would be replaced—but she was most precious in all the world. She was the only one who could save it.
My eyes were shut tight and my jaw clenched, determined not to make a cry of pain. That would only encourage them. It would take a lot of damage to kill me, but that wasn’t their goal. Reapers were patient, for they had eternity to do whatever they desired, and many loved to spill blood just to watch it run.
One of them grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked me upright so that his yellow eyes could drive into mine. His mouth slid wide to show multiple rows of jagged, needle teeth.
“I thought you had passed out for a moment,” Geir said as he crouched in front of me. “That would have been disappointing.”
If the chains weren’t so tight around my arms, I’d have punched his face so hard those shark teeth would be shooting out the back of his head. I jerked against the metal to their limits, but halted brutally with Geir’s throat just out of reach. I was too weakened to break free of the chains and of the angelic spell cast into the pentagram drawn on the ground around me. My body would heal and then they would begin again, tearing me up until I was near death only to let me heal so they could start all over. I didn’t know how long I’d been in this barn. I didn’t know if it was night or day. And I didn’t know if she was still alive.
I had to return to her. The reaper struck my face and blood ran over my eyes. I had to return to her.
He stopped after some time, releasing me roughly, but I was so numb from agony that it made little difference whether he was torturing me or not. The closer I was to death, the less it hurt. My chest heaved painfully in order to breathe. One of my lungs had collapsed and its desperation to heal was even more excruciating than the initial blow that had damaged it. When my eyes were shut, I saw her face. When I opened them, blinking through blood, I saw Geir’s face. Ivar stood behind him, talking to Cadan. He wrapped a hand around her cheek tenderly for a moment before leaving the barn with her. Their show of affection for one another was alien, so untrue to their natures. They were incapable of love. They didn’t even know the meaning of the word.
My teeth ground together as my heartbeat quickened with rage. Bastian had returned. He appeared from the Grim with a flash of black hair and shadows of power that made my skin crawl. I shivered and sank deeper on my knees, my knuckles dragging to the dirt floor. Geir moved aside as Bastian approached, the lesser reaper bowing out submissively.
Bastian’s icy indigo gaze met mine with satisfied amusement. “Hello, William. Did you miss me?”
“What took you so long?” I asked hoarsely, looking up into his face. “Geir hits like a bitch.”
The yellow-eyed reaper hissed and moved to strike me.
“Enough,” Bastian said in a low, calm voice. He didn’t need to shout for his thugs to obey. Often, one look was more than enough to send them cowering.
It was painful straining to see Bastian’s face above me, waiting for him to start torturing me again.
“I’m impressed you haven’t lost your spirit, William,” he said. “By now I thought you’d be begging for death, but I have to admit I’m pleased. I have a gift for you. He should be here soon.”
My mind raced as my pulse pounded in my head. I needed to eat in order to heal and escape and return to her. Hunger made my brain numb, but I couldn’t resort to what they would do to heal. I wasn’t one of them.
I sensed the arrival of another reaper and a moment later, Ragnuk appeared through the barn door, his enormous bear-like shape silhouetted in the dim light. He was the largest Ursid reaper I had ever known—and one of the oldest. He lumbered in awkwardly, as if one foreleg was lame.
When I saw the small form he carried in his jaws, my soul died.
Her. His teeth clamped down on her body, puncturing her skin. Her clothes were drenched with dried blood, some of it still running. Her eyes were closed. I could see her, but I couldn’t feel her. She wasn’t there inside that body anymore. She was dead.
Ragnuk brought her closer and underneath all of that blood I could smell her perfume. Her scent, the same scent of skin and jasmine I had known for centuries. She always smelled like jasmine. The torn up trousers and shirt hanging off her made her seem even smaller and more fragile. Her hair, like cherries and dark chocolate, was matted and thickly tangled with dried cruor.
He dropped her limp form to the ground in front of me and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even scream. I could only stare at her. It felt like a sledgehammer pounded into my chest over and over each time my heart took a beat.
I had promised her I would protect her and I had let her die alone. She was all that mattered to me, all that I loved, and I had failed her again. Not again. My lips formed the shape of those two words, but my voice wouldn’t work.
“Want a bite?” Ragnuk sneered. I didn’t look up at him, but I felt his triumphant black eyes on me. “She tastes like candy.”
I didn’t respond. The hammering in my chest dragged me more heavily to the floor and my mouth opened to let out a silent scream as my eyes squeezed shut and my head hung low.
“What’s the matter, Guardian?” Geir rasped close to my ear. “Does seeing your beloved’s corpse finally shut your big mouth up?”
She would come back. She would come back. I repeated that over and over in my head, desperate to drown out the reapers’ words.
With a furious roar I summoned all the power I had left in me and let it explode, the flash of smokey shadows drowning my vision for a moment. I raised my fist over my head and brought it down, slamming it into the dirt floor with all of my strength. The earth roiled and groaned, and a crack rocketed through the pentagram, shattering it, uplifting rock and soil and spreading to the farthest edge of the barn. The walls shivered and wheezed and dust from the rafters above clouded the air. Wood cracked apart and metal equipment whined. I heaved against my chains, my power unbound at last, and the metal snapped like brittle bones.
I swung the loose chain through the air and it wrapped around Geir’s throat. I yanked, dragging him down to me and my fist pounded into his temple and the other side of his face smashed into the dirt. I didn’t stop to admire the blood oozing from his mouth as he lay at my feet. I called my sword into my hand and swept it up, but Ragnuk ducked to the side as I surged past him. My attack on Geir destroyed any chance to truly surprise Ragnuk. The blade sliced deep through the Ursid reaper’s neck, shoulder, and side, grinding across his ribcage and spraying blood. The strike wasn’t lethal, but the tremendous roar shattering my ears assured me that it had hurt him like hell. Already wounded from his earlier battle, Ragnuk staggered and hit the ground as I rushed toward Bastian with my sword high.
He vanished from my sight and reappeared directly in front of my face, his bright eyes boring into mine. His palm slammed into my chest with a blast of his power and the force sent me soaring backward through the air. My body crashed through the barn wall and I landed on the grass outside with a rush of excruciating pain as all the air expelled from my lungs. Wood and other debris settled on and around me.
I lay there for just a moment, blinking my mind back into the present until I could breathe again. My sword was still in my hand and I sat up and looked around. Bastian was climbing through the hole my body had made high up in the barn’s wall and then he dropped to the ground, his white wings high over his head. He straightened and those wings vanished back into himself and he stepped toward me. I scrambled to my feet, my body aching to fight him, to tear him apart the way she had been torn apart, but my mind was screaming at me to run. I wasn’t strong enough to kill Bastian and if I were to stay, he would destroy me. If I died here tonight, I wouldn’t be able to protect her when she returned. Perhaps another Guardian would do a better job than I, but I didn’t trust any of them. It had to be me. I loved her. I had to be here when she returned and to protect her better than I ever had before. I wouldn’t let her die again.
I forced back my instinct to fight and to avenge her death and I took my first step back, away from Bastian. Then I relinquished my sword and turned, compelling my body to move faster than I’d ever run in my life, to get away from the reapers, to escape, to ensure that I would survive until her return.
She would come back and I would be here. I would be waiting. I would wait forever.
And that, readers, is a little glimpse straight into the mind of Will. As if he wasn't already completely swoonworthy and amazing, what about this level of devotion and intensity? And for those of you who haven't yet read the awesomness that is Angelfire, now's your chance to win a *signed* copy of it!
To enter, just fill out THIS form. Entries will not be accepted through the comments, but definitely leave a comment for Courtney (and Will!)
Contest is US only and ends Sunday, February 27.