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Emma L Adams

Celestial Storm: Celestial Marked Series Book 5 (Paperback)

Celestial Storm: Celestial Marked Series Book 5 (Paperback)

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Book 5 of 5: Celestial Marked

The end is here for Devi Lawson…

Devi may have killed the arch-demon Lythocrax, but in the process, something much worse has been unleashed.

The Divine Agents, rogue angels, have given Devi an ultimatum: join them, or watch Earth crumble to ashes. Preparing for war would be difficult enough without the nether realms getting involved, but two demonic overlords would like a piece of Devi, too. Meanwhile, her warlock partner Nikolas fights a battle of his own, for leadership over Earth's warlocks.

And in the background, an old enemy might not be as dead as Devi thinks.

The celestials want her as their saviour. The demons want her dead. The rebel angels want the worlds to burn. And to save the ones she loves, Devi must make an impossible choice…

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The air always seemed to smell like brimstone these days. Black fragments of demonic residue drifted on the breeze, leaving dark stains on the whitewashed plaster of the nearby houses. The humans were going to have to deal with their new decor, because it wasn’t going away. Not with the war between heaven and hell moving closer to Earth by the day.

And now, here I was, faced with Faye Carruthers, creator of the website that specialised in stalking the crap out of me and my fellow celestial soldiers, and all I could think of to say was, “Why did you have to let those vampires photoshop a picture of me into a coffin with the caption ‘I’m undying to meet you, Devi’?”

Fiona grinned. “That one was pretty funny.”

My best friend’s expression said, ‘OMG, I’m meeting my hero.’ If I wasn’t so bloody tired, I’d have had more to say to DivinityWatch’s creator, especially since Faye was supposed to be a fugitive, on the run from the celestials for summoning a demon and attacking the guild four years ago. I’d long suspected Faye was innocent, but the sight of her in Haven City, wearing ripped jeans and a battered jacket and leaning against a motorcycle, hammered home how batshit the last week had been. She still wore her guild-issued wristbands, stripped of the celestial guild’s emblem, which covered the arrowhead mark on her left wrist. I had an identical mark on mine, but on my right wrist, I bore a demon mark, the same as the celestial mark in reverse. Both were given to me by the same Divinity who’d marked me, then fell from grace to become an arch-demon.

The arch-demon I’d killed today.

A nearby car tilted onto its side, and a hulking creature shambled out of its shadow. Demon. Looked like the battle had left a straggler behind.

“Stand back,” I warned automatically, though Faye was still technically a celestial, expelled or not. Drawing my celestial blade, I leapt onto the car. The demon collapsed beneath it with a high-pitched scream. Child’s play.

With a lunge, I stabbed downwards. My blade passed through fabric and three terrified-looking vampires rolled out from the rapidly deflating scorpion demon costume. 

“You have got to be kidding me.”

The three vampires yelped and tried to hide under the car. I lifted my blade and it disappeared, and there came the distinct sound of a phone camera clicking.

“Look, a battle with hell literally ended five minutes ago,” I said. “You couldn’t wait a little longer to prank me?”

Actually, there was never a good time to dress up in a demon costume to play a practical joke on someone trained to kill demons, but for immortals, vampires could be alarmingly lacking in common sense.

Now Faye’s awed expression mirrored Fiona’s, except it was directed at me. I scowled back. “Do you have people from your site following me?”

“It’s me they’re following,” she said, not cowed by my irritation. “You can’t blame them for wanting a glimpse of the famous Devi Lawson.”

More like infamous. I turned back to the vampires. “You’re lucky I didn’t scorch your brains out. If you’re going to hang around a battlefield, at least make yourselves useful and help clean up.”

The vampires scrambled out from under the car and fled. Another camera snapped from somewhere behind me, and I gave Faye an exasperated look. “Last week there was a poll on whether or not I’m hiding a forked tail. You’d think they’d have better things to do with their time, considering we just stopped the apocalypse. Why now?”

“You want to ask why I came back?” Faye said. “I’ll level with you, Devi: I’ve no intention of going to the guild, and if you turn me in, I’ll make you regret it. But Fiona tells me you’re trustworthy.”

“The celestials don’t like me much, either,” I said. “You can ask for a list of my accomplishments. Having a forked tail isn’t one of them, though. Sorry to disappoint you.”

Despite having both demon and celestial magic, I remained human. Just call me Devi Lawson, minor internet celebrity and scourge of rogue demons. And now, slayer of arch-demons.

Lythocrax, the arch-demon who’d attacked Haven City, lay dead a few streets away—or he had, before he’d turned to ashes. I’d only managed to kill him because another arch-demon had given me her power with her dying breath, which had enabled me to transform into the arch-demon himself and pull the information on his weakness from his own mind. Death was too final a punishment for someone who’d tried to destroy everything I cared about, and killing him would have repercussions I didn’t care to think about right now. My head pounded, my body ached from the beating I’d taken during the fight, and the last thing I needed was to be hounded by vampires. 

“Look, Faye, not to be rude, but what do you want?” I asked.

“To talk,” she said. “I have information I think you want to hear.”

“She does,” said Fiona.

“I don’t want to know the four best positions to have sex with a vampire in, or the size of the Wingless Warlock’s—”

“Not that kind of information,” said Faye, with an eye-roll. “Look, the site’s a cover, you know that, right? I have real intel. Like who that arch-demon you just killed was working with, for instance.”

Well, shit. Talk about dangling bait right in front of me. Lythocrax had claimed to be the first arch-demon to fall from the heavens with his divine magic intact, courtesy of some rebel angels called the Divine Agents. If Faye had the faintest clue who they might be, I might find out who was truly responsible for killing my former partner.

“You’d better be right,” I said. “But I’m not discussing anything confidential in front of the vampires.”

“I thought not,” she said. “I have somewhere safe to talk. Fiona can vouch for me.”

“She’s safe,” Fiona whispered in my ear.

Considering she still wore an expression of hero-worship, I wasn’t completely convinced. But I was tired enough that a meeting in a gutter would be appealing as long as I got to rest my legs. “All right, but I’m bringing my car.”

“I’ll be waiting here.” Faye put her helmet back on and turned to the motorcycle she’d left parked at the roadside. She must have driven right through a nest of demons, if the brimstone and demon blood all over the exterior was any indication, but she didn’t seem bothered about leaving a trail all over the road. The roads were already a mess of blood and bits of shattered demonglass, after all. Someone who lived in this realm had thrown demonglass around, drawing the enemy right into the streets, but it burned out fast, so there shouldn’t be any danger of a second attack via the same route. I should know, since demonglass was my own power source. 

Fiona followed me back to where I’d parked my car.

“You can trust her,” she murmured. “The guild set her up. Same as you.”

“Why did she pick now to show up?” I asked, skirting around abandoned cars. “Does she think I’ll bail her out of prison if the guild arrests her?”

Faye might be innocent, but I had enough crimes of my own to answer for without adding someone else’s on top of it. Faye and I had initially come from different branches of the guild and had literally been on opposite sides of the planet when she’d been framed, so it made no sense that she’d risked coming here to find me. Unless… unless she knows about them. 

I’d had to dive into an arch-demon’s slimy thoughts to learn who the real enemy was. Faye was a fugitive who shouldn’t know a thing, but it was the only explanation for her choosing to show up now. She had a price on her head worth more than half the celestial guild.

I found my car, unlocked it, and got in. Fiona climbed into the passenger seat, her hands clenching on her lap. Her own demon mark—from the fire demon who’d nearly taken her life—gleamed on her wrist, a reminder that I wasn’t the only one whose fate was tied to the demons.

“Just hear her out,” said Fiona, as I started the engine. “She spoke to me because she figured from my demon mark that I’m not with the celestials, but she seems to know a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes.”

“Might not be a good thing, Fi.” I wove through the street, occasionally beeping at curious humans to get out of the way. “The last thing I need is more publicity. I swear, if she wants an interview involving entertaining awestruck vampires again… wait, that was her idea, wasn’t it?”

“Nope,” said Fiona. “Anyway, it’s a private chat, not an interview.”

“If you say so.” Fiona would probably want the private chat more than I did. She’d admired Faye from afar for years, but until today, nobody had actually known the name of DivinityWatch’s elusive creator. Even before I’d unwittingly dragged Fiona into my particular realm of crazy, she’d been obsessed with the idea of getting a glimpse of an angel. DivinityWatch masqueraded as a harmless celestial fansite run by humans, but carried an undercurrent of communication between preternaturals and humans alike.

I slowed the car when I caught up to where Faye waited beside her motorcycle, dark brown hair streaming out from underneath her helmet. With a nod to me, she climbed onto the bike. 

I’d never ridden a motorcycle, but I found myself envying the way she could easily weave in and out of the abandoned vehicles, the cool breeze washing away the taint of brimstone. Or maybe I was remembering the feeling of having wings a little too fondly. I might have loathed taking on the form of the arch-demon who’d marked me, but the wings… they’d definitely been a perk. The smell of brimstone pursued me even through the open window, and the sticky heat made me even more aware of the grime and blood all over my skin. Lythocrax’s blood. I needed to clean up, but all I’d been able to do was apply wet wipes to my hands so I wouldn’t get demon blood all over the wheel.

I hadn’t exactly woken up this morning expecting to witness two arch-demons die right in front of me. Never mind that I hadn’t been the one to kill Abyss, though she’d ended her life by giving me what was left of her magic. Lythocrax… he’d been arrogant enough to assume his weapon wouldn’t turn against him, and he’d paid for it. Had a human ever slain an arch-demon before? I didn’t know, but the other arch-demons might all be plotting my demise this very instant.

“Relax,” said Fiona, seeing my hands clench on the wheel. “She’s not leading us into a trap.”

“That’s not it.” An arch-demon. Mother of all seven hells, I’d killed an arch-demon. Apparently I’d been in shock about the whole thing up until this moment. My chest tightened and I took a few steadying breaths, my hands trembling.

Fiona rested a hand uncertainly on my shoulder. “Breathe, Devi. I swear it won’t take long. I wouldn’t have asked you to do this now, but the celestials are too busy to notice…”

“That the number one most notorious criminal in the city is back?” My panic receded as I wondered how in the seven hells Faye had managed to evade the celestial guild for four years. Not that they were the most competent of people, but still.

Faye drew to a halt outside a familiar tower block. It belonged to Nikolas, my warlock partner, though he’d never lived there. And the entire place was surrounded by vampires.

“Don’t worry,” said Fiona. “They know she’s safe.”

“Ah.” I stopped the car. “I’m not walking through that.”

“Devi, they’re on your side.”

I turned to Fiona with an exasperated sigh. “Look at the state of me. My clothes are a wreck. My hair looks like I’m cosplaying Medusa. And I’m covered in so much blood that I’ll be a pincushion of fangs by the time I get through that crowd. Who even knows what effect this arch-demon blood will have on the idiots?”

“They won’t bite you,” she said, though she didn’t sound certain. “Do you have spare clothes in the boot?”

“Yes. I’m not stripping off here, either.” I pulled out my phone instead and sent Nikolas a message explaining where I was. He’d be helping the warlocks deal with the aftermath of the battle—since they’d lost their leader shortly before it started—which left the rest up to me.

I reached under the seat for my bag, and then leapt out of the vehicle to applause and vampires’ cameras snapping. Maybe I should have used Abyss’s power to transform into someone else in order to sneak into the building without being tailed. It’d be a waste of good magic, but god, vampires were annoying. 

“This way,” said Faye, then called across the road to the vampires, “Guys—Devi is exhausted and needs to come in before she gets mobbed by the press. Can you hold onto your curiosity for an hour or so?”

An hour? Considering how bone-tired I was, she’d be lucky if I stuck around for ten minutes.

“You know the vampires?” I asked. “They know who you are?”

She grimaced. “I had to tell them, otherwise they wouldn’t have let me in, and I needed a safe place to stay while I’m in the city.”

“And you risked showing up here because…?”

Instead of answering, she made her way towards the crowd, forcing me to follow. The vampires were sensible enough to step aside, and I managed to get inside the building without dripping demon blood on anyone.

The building she’d picked to stay in was a shelter for vampires who’d ended up on the fringes of the law after contracting a demonic virus. The celestials at the time had marked them for dead, so Nikolas and I had helped relocate them somewhere safe. It figured that most of them worshipped DivinityWatch and Faye by extension, but they must be incredibly devoted to allow her to stay here when her presence meant any of them might be arrested for harbouring a criminal. Innocent or not.

Faye unlocked the door to one of the ground-floor apartments and led Fiona and me inside. Darkness filled the space, dispelled when she hit the light switch. 

“Okay,” said Faye. “So I guess you have questions.”

Yes. I did. Too many to count. I followed her into the dimly lit living room and sat down in an armchair, fighting the urge to curl up and sleep. 

A mass of darkness shifted beside me and I jumped when I realised someone else was sitting there next to me. Fiona let out a yelp and sprang backwards.

The master of surprises, Clover, looked calmly at the pair of us as though we’d run into her at the park. Clover was scarred, terrifying, and possibly the person I’d least expected to find in the home of a fugitive celestial. Actually, since I’d learned she was an angel reborn as a human, finding her anywhere was weird enough. 

“What the hell?” I said. “Clover, is this where you’ve been hanging out?” We’d spoken on the phone once recently when I’d been desperate for her expertise, and she hadn’t been any help whatsoever. Admittedly, despite her angelic origins, she had no memory of her former life, but I’d come to rely on her advice. “Wait, is she your source? You’re not getting your info from heaven, but from… DivinityWatch? Or Faye?”

“She’s good at finding things out,” responded Clover. “Better than the guild, even. I suppose she did learn directly from them.”

I realised my mouth was hanging open and closed it. Nothing should surprise me where Clover was concerned, and yet. “So—you’re spying on heaven? Or hell?”

“Both,” said Faye, taking a seat in a free armchair. “I don’t post everything I find out on the site, obviously. I deliberately encourage rumours that are close to the truth but won’t put any lives in danger. Like when that demon virus was affecting vampires. There was a lot of false information going around.”

“Wait, that was you, too?”

She nodded. “Yeah. We used to have links with someone on Purgatory, before they blew the place up.”

“So it’s true?” I asked quietly. “Purgatory—the freaking inspector was there before it blew up. The celestials weren’t happy at all, last I heard.”

“That’s nothing new,” Faye said.

“Yes. You were framed for summoning a demon, weren’t you?”

“I set up the site before then,” she said. “It was a hobby of mine when I was a guild employee. Maybe that’s why the enemy framed me, maybe not, but they needed a scapegoat.”

“So they made it look like you opened a portal to hell on top of the guild.” It wasn’t until the former Inspector Angler, who was supposed to have died in the attack, showed up working for Lythocrax that I’d known for certain there was more to the incident than it’d seemed. He might be dead, but who knew how many others had been marked and paid with their lives?

Faye nodded. “Yeah. I was temporarily at the guild between missions at the time. It wasn’t until later that I figured out the attack was an inside job, but I—”

“Stopped it,” I finished. “You stopped it, and got framed in the process.”

Her jaw clenched, and so did her fists. “Yes, I did. I never saw who opened the portal, but I can guess.”

There was a long pause. I looked between her and Clover. “Rebel angels,” I said softly. “Rebel angels and their spies inside the guild itself. You know about them.”

“Right.” Clover dipped her head. “The Divine Agents are mobilising.”

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