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The Kingdom of Peace

 

 

UNKNOWN

 

Massive white wings folded before he landed in the courtyard, the paved floor trembling under his feet from the force and exuding a ripple of power that shook the Crystal Palace. The lingering wisps from the clouds below us drifted over the ground like swirling mist, hurriedly dispersing out of his path.

Heart racing, my eyes snapped to the rivulets of blood flowing from his chest and curling along his right arm. I whirled away from the window, gripping the skirts of my blue dress as I ran to his side.

“Michael! What has happened?” I called for him, asking the question although I already knew the answer.

Crossing the tall archways into the white hall, he stalked towards me, the dancing flames of his fiery sword extinguishing when he sheathed it. Michael’s steps slowed, coming to a stop before me while his chest rose and fell with barely controlled emotions. Without a word, my hands immediately flew to him, a golden glow emanating from my palms and knitting together the slashes caused by the only kind of weapon that could hurt an immortal Archangel…

A blade forged in the Kingdom of Peace.

Lucifer’s crimson sword.

Michael’s commanding stare held my eyes, both pain and determination capturing his features as he cradled my cheek. “He is truly lost to us… This was his last test, and he failed it. My brother won’t stop until he destroys the human world.”

Hurt spread through my soul with his meaning. “What will you do?”

Leaning in, my beloved closed his lips over mine, placing a loving and thankful kiss before he lifted his head. When his crystalline blue eyes held my gaze again, the pain inside him intensified, but so did his resolve. “I must end this, once and for all.”

The warmth of his touch left me as he marched past me, now fully healed, heading for the vast gardens that extended behind the palace.

“How can I help?” I called after him, causing him to stop and glance at me over his shoulder.

“Summon my Hand. I’ll be with Father.”

With a nod, I spun and crossed the archways in the opposite direction. Golden wings surged from my back and lifted me into the air with urgency, taking me towards the training grounds. The sound of clashing swords, spears, and bursts of light power reached me before Michael’s Legion of Warrior Angels came into view.

Deciding it best not to land, my eyes dutifully searched while I hovered over the Legion. I promptly found the brothers among warriors, busy sparring and handing out commands.

“Archangel Michael has summoned his Hand!” I announced, my voice carrying over the entire grounds and echoing in the wind. All training ceased instantly, with Alwin’s, Libin’s, and Barak’s heads snapping in my direction.

“Darius, continue the teachings as instructed,” Barak ordered, waving him and two others towards him.

The Angels took over the session, and without the need for explanation, Michael’s Hand flew towards me, bowing their heads fully once they reached me.

“He’s with our High Father, in the gardens,” I informed.

“Thank you, Golden One.” With a nod, Alwin flew past me, followed by his two brothers.

I joined them.

Colorful flower beds, and lush green plants rustled with the swirling breeze our wings created as we landed. A familiar wave of peace and unconditional acceptance swept over us, exuding naturally from our High Father to bathe the land, Michael, and us.

“Fathers,” Barak greeted amid their conversation, calling their attention to our approach.

“Thank you, Beloved,” Michael offered to me, taking my hand in his when I reached his side.

Flanked by his brothers, Libin stood before us, all three of them bowing their heads in respect. His gaze focused on Michael. “You summoned us, Father?”

“Yes. I have a mission for you and your brothers, Li,” Michael confirmed. “My meeting with Lucifer proved he is no longer able to see the truth. Darkness has finally consumed him, regardless of how I wished for him to return to the light. He must be removed from Earth.”

“From Earth? Is he no longer in the Kingdom of the Fallen?” Alwin asked, the notion deeply troubling him, as it did me.

“No, Al. He has been among humans for a while now.”

Confusion and concern spread over Alwin’s and Libin’s features as they exchanged a glance. Barak’s, on the other hand, filled with duty and determination.

“It will be our honor to strike down the shadow of evil from the Kingdom of Innocents, Father,” Barak vowed, gripping the crystal sword at his hip, a parallel of Michael’s blade.

Although all Angel souls were created and brought to life by our High Father Himself, Michael had imbued his light and essence into the three souls now before us, making them his sons just as the rest of us were the High Father’s sons and daughters.

Michael had created them in his image and likeness, raised them, and trained them. They were an extension of him, and any action taken by Alwin, Libin, and Barak was as honorable, and final, as that taken by Archangel Michael—Greatest of all Heavenly Sons, Commander of the Silver Legion Against the Forces of Evil, and Protector of the Children of Earth.

Because of it, the title of Michael’s Hand was placed upon them.

“We are thankful for your vow, Rac. Nevertheless, that is not the reason I have summoned you. Stopping my brother is my responsibility, and no one else’s.” Michael paused, exchanging a glance with our father, who placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“You carry a great burden, Son, but I trust you. I know that whatever you decide must be done with Lucifer, will be the right thing to do. But I must ask, if you can, bring my son to me so his soul can begin to heal. You have my confidence and my blessing.”

“Thank you, Father.” Michael’s gaze turned to his sons. “Today a truth came to light, one that Lucifer has kept hidden from us for the last twenty-one years. He has an heir.”

My hand flew to my mouth with his declaration, my shock echoed by Libin, Barak, and Alwin, who stepped forwards as I gasped.

“I will return to the Kingdom of Innocents to search for my brother, but I need you to find out who his successor is, and whether or not their soul has been tinged by Lucifer’s insatiable need for vengeance and destruction. Uncover the heir, assess their intentions, and act accordingly.”

“As you wish,” Libin promised with a nod. When the High Father walked up to him, he fell to one knee in absolute veneration. His brothers followed suit.

“Barak,” our father began, placing a hand upon his head. “Wielder of Righteousness and Consequence. Should you find the heir to be aligned with Lucifer’s plans for destruction, I trust you to deal justice to them without hesitation. Please stop them from hurting the Children of Earth any further.”

A slow step took him to the next brother, His touch settling onto him too.

“Libin, Wielder of Honor and Truth. Only your heart can see beyond prejudice or expectation. No destiny is set in stone, and there are many paths the heir might choose. I trust you to uncover the good deep inside them and bring it to light.”

With one more step, He placed His hand on the last brother.

“Alwin, Wielder of Justice and Impartiality. The balance of Truth and Righteousness lies in your heart. I trust you to be the steady force between them, assuring the correct decision is made regarding the heir and their future.”

“And so it shall be,” Michael’s Hand answered in unison, rising to their full height once the High Father stepped back.

“My brother’s last sighting was in Portland, Oregon, in the United States,” Michael resumed his instructions. “He’s returned a few times, and I have reason to believe it is because of his successor. Whatever they are planning will be unleashed there, so we will all be descending to Portland.” His gaze turned to Alwin. “We don’t know how long it will take to find the heir, so accommodations have been secured for you. Blend in among the humans.”

He handed an envelope with further directions to Libin, and without hesitation, his sons’ massive white wings expanded, lifting them off the garden and to the edge of our kingdom.

“Should we seek you once we capture the heir, Father?” Barak asked, hovering in the air.

“First, I must locate my brother. Only then, will I find you.” A heavy breath sank Michael’s chest, and he lifted his gaze, regarding each of them grimly. “If you find darkness within the heir too, do what must be done. The Kingdom of the Fallen must not be dragged into shadows any longer. It is your mission to stop it, by any means necessary.”

With one last bow, Libin, Barak, and Alwin dove into the sky, disappearing among the clouds below us.

~*~

~CHAPTER 1~

 

Portland, Oregon.

 

EVELYN

 

Tingles spread along every inch of me as I stretched in my bed. My warm, soft, plush, and inviting bed. The mattress whispered sweet nothings to me, begging me to stay tangled in its embrace, and I was tempted to listen. The remnants of the midnight rain still lingered in the air. Its cool and slightly humid breeze seeping through the open window, only to be chased away by the warmth of the rising sun.

I loved mornings.

I loved the start of the new day.

I loved the wealth of unlimited possibilities that each new awakening brought us, and just like every day, I planned to seize them all.

Clinging to pure will, I flung the down comforter off me and jumped out of bed. My bare feet hit the cold, polished concrete floors of my loft apartment, and I hopped to the window, swinging the panes wide open.

“Good morning, world!” I bellowed for everyone to hear. “Let’s fuck shit up today!”

“Whoo-hoo!”

“Let’s do it!” a couple of people echoed from across the street.

“It’s too early for cursing, Eve!” my downstairs neighbor shrieked at the same time, and I chuckled.

“Sorry, Mrs. Wazowski!” Not really, but whatever.

Squealing with every cold, tiptoed step, I made it to the bathroom, turning on the shower until the steam filled the large space—its warmth engulfing me. Shimmying out of my PJs, I jumped in headfirst.

High waisted grey leggings—checked.

Cropped, turquoise tank top with a super cute detail on the back—checked.

Comfy tennis shoes—checked.

Wrinkled white T-shirt that fell over one shoulder, and I couldn’t remember if I’d actually washed—checked.

Tossing my crazy long hair with mousse, I let my wild curls loose to dry and hopped over to the kitchen. The first sip of my kiwi and cacao green smoothie was pure bliss. It was my go-to for a boost of energy, which I needed, especially after partying last night with my bestie until 2:00 a.m.

“Wish me luck, Mom.”

Kissing her picture next to the door, I unhooked my messenger bag from the wall and exited the loft. My heart squeezed. I missed my mom so badly that sometimes it hurt to breathe. Being a single mother hadn’t been easy for her, but she’d always been there for me, and we had each other. She’d called us the Dynamic Duo, and though I was grateful she was no longer in pain, I missed her with all my being.

I really needed some company… maybe I should get a pet. Probably a bird, since I had an unhealthy fascination with those creatures.

Clearing my throat, I blinked away the emotion that snuck up on me and headed out, unlocking my bike from the parking station just outside the building. The once warehouse had been converted into spacious loft apartments. The best part of all? I got the craziest deal on the sale. Thank God because, otherwise, I would not be able to afford living in the city.

It was my home, and I was safe there—thanks to Mom and the last gift she ever gave me.

Placing my bag into the bike’s basket, and the smoothie bottle in the holder, I headed to work—pedaling to my heart’s content.

Colorful strokes filled my vision as I passed the numerous murals depicting the neighborhood’s history along Alberta Street. A brilliant collaboration of the city with amazing black artists and storytellers.

The Art District was the best place to be in Portland. Of course, I was totally biased, but it was hard not to agree when you walked along its lively streets peppered with art galleries and workshops, puppy friendly restaurants, hip coffee roasters, and other eclectic businesses. Not to mention, the Last Thursday Street Fair every summer.

“Morning, Eve!” Mr. Lacy, the owner of the Community Cycling Center—a non-profit organization that had helped kids and people of all backgrounds come together in a beautiful way—waved at me while he opened the shop.

The mural on the side of his store was one of my absolute favorites.

He’d hooked me up with the sweet ride I was on—a perfectly restored, 1950s bike in sunny yellow with white rimmed tires, a cute basket, and the best horn EVER.

“Morning, Mr. Lacy!” I waved back and honked at him, the funky music filling the air and making him grin handsomely.

It was almost seven in the morning and the town was waking up, just like the first rays of sun breaking through the clouds above us. The smell of brewing coffee and hot pastries filled my nose when I took the road towards Alberta Park, heading for the strip of businesses across from it.

Lighthearted laughter reached me from the park as I pedaled passed it, and I glanced over my shoulder to find a guy dropping onto a nearby bench while a flight of white doves flocked towards him, completely surrounding him.

The sight swiftly took me a back, bringing an incredulous smile to my face. Not only because it was supper rare to see that many white doves in one place, or because I adored birds… it was because of him. They seemed drawn to him like bees to molten honey, and joy exuded from his every pore at their warm greeting.

He gently caressed them, kissing the top of their heads while others fluttered around him, his joy becoming more palpable. The ripped muscles of his biceps clenched and unclenched with each stroke. Long black hair fell in soft waves down to his back, partially obscuring his face, and oh how I wanted him to turn so I could see—

“Aaah!” I squealed when I missed the sidewalk in my ogling of him, and I unceremoniously bounced onto the street, calling everyone’s attention as I wobbled with the bike not to faceplant the street.

When I lifted my head again, he was looking at me. His gaze seemed to twinkle with amusement, probably from my crazy behavior, and the fact that I was all too happy checking him out. He was hot as all hell, with icy eyes and raven black hair that contrasted sharply against the other. A strange prickling stirred along my spine while he held my gaze, but it was only for a split second. There was something about him though…

The beautiful white birds soon reclaimed his attention, and he turned away to watch the dove eating from his palm.

Everything inside me wanted to go to him and join him in petting the sweet creatures, but I was promptly reminded of the tiny little fact that I wasn’t a millionaire and I actually had to work for a living.

After loading my bike onto the parking station, I unlocked the door to the yoga studio, yet I was helpless but look back.

The hot guy was gone, his doves flying to the sky.

What the—? How had he disappeared so fast? He was nowhere to be found.

Taking a long sip of my delicious veggie-packed smoothie, I shrugged it off and went inside the studio. Rows of spotlights illuminated the space while I placed my bag on the counter next to the register.

A mischievous smile curled my lips when the windchime at the door jingled behind me, but I began to light the scented candles in the sitting area without looking back. “You are late.”

“Punctuality is a social construct I do not subscribe to,” Alex replied with a snort, placing a kiss on my cheek on his way to the counter. “Besides, I know you just arrived too. I’ve known you for sixteen of your twenty-one years, Evelyn Serrano. You are not fooling anyone.”

Biting the smile, I huffed. “Except, now I’m your boss, so you better find a way to be on time or—”

“Bitch, I know you did not just say that to me!”

Laughter erupted from me when I turned and found the “I’m about to smack the ever-living glitter out of you,” look on my bestie’s face. “I’m kidding!”

“Yeah, you better take it back because I invested in this place too. We are co-owners, Eve—”

“And don’t I forget it!” I finished for him, snapping my fingers with all the inherited Spanish attitude my being contained. Mom had been from Spain, or raised there? She never truly specified which.

Narrowing his eyes at me, Alex sighed and dropped his body on the chair. He was totally hungover.

“Okay, what crawled up your ass this morning?” I asked hooking a hand to my hip. “It’s such a beautiful day!”

“Ugh, you are such a morning person,” he grunted. “I would hate you if I didn’t love you so damn much.” Reaching for his coffee cup, he took a long gulp of it while I fluffed the large cushions along the floor.

“I’m drained, Eve. How long are we going to keep celebrating your twenty-first birthday? It’s been a month.” He gave me the evil eye. “Besides, for someone who went to bed well after midnight and woke up at six, you have way too much energy.”

Another sip of coffee made it down his throat, and I sent a pointed look towards it, lifting my smoothie as comparison. “That is because you treat yourself like crap. Stuffing your body with gourmet coffees, caramel creamers, heavy syrups, and whatever else you can find in the vending machine. Our body—”

“I know, I know. Our body is our temple, and we have to treat it as such. The cleaner we eat, the healthier we’ll be,” he recited my mantra in a high-pitched voice that was supposed to sound like me. “No coffee? What the hell is wrong with you, you vegan eating, animal loving, tree hugging hippie?”

My laughter rang around us as I made my way back to him.

“And what the hell is in that thing anyway?” he grumbled.

“Glad you asked! It has banana, kiwi, goji berries, cacao powder…”—his eyebrows rose with interest, like it didn’t sound so bad after all—“celery, parsley, baby spinach, protein, coconut water and—”

“Gross!” His features twisted in mocking gagging motions, and I grinned, drinking from my delicious and extra creamy concoction. Mmm.

Alexander and I had fallen absolutely, inevitably, and overwhelmingly head-over-heels in love with each other in first grade. His sassy, Colombian, fine ass had moved to the States from Bogota shortly after he was born, and his parents settled in Portland. When he shared his pink Playdough with me, a match was made in Heaven. Cut to me, irreparably heartbroken when he came out of the closet at fifteen, and yet, our love for each other only intensified.

My bestie walked on water as far as I was concerned, and I was his stars, his moon, and his sky. Plus, he had awesome taste in fashion and killer makeup skills. What else could a girl need?

Reaching his side, I pulled him into a hug and cradled his head to my chest, my fingers caressing the back of his short hair. Alex gladly held me to him, enjoying the hug. He was such a spoiled boy.

“Stop complaining about our partying. If I recall correctly, you were the one who interrupted my meditation last night and dragged me over to Melany’s house.”

Chuckling, Alex pulled away and kissed my forehead. “Right, but what kind of friend lets me do that? You should’ve thrown me out of your house, sending my ass back to my place. And you should have definitely not let me drink the entire tequila bottle with Phillip.”

His gaze wandered to what was left of my green smoothie.

“Wanna taste? It would be a great pick-me-up after last night.”

“Hell, no!” He pulled away to drink from his coffee again, reaching for something inside his gym bag. “I prefer stuffing my face with fattening sweets that make me bloated and do not provide antioxidants or—”

My hand smacked his arm to stop him from mocking me, but soon, my eyes widened when a familiar pink box dropped on the counter.

“Get the hell out! You bought Voodoo Doughnuts?!” I squealed and slammed my smoothie cup against his chest, pushing him out of my way and plucking an Old Dirty Bastard from the box.

Without hesitation, I plunged it into my mouth, taking half of it in one bite. My eyes closed of their own volition, a moan escaping me when the chocolate frosting mixed with creamy peanut butter drizzle, contrasting perfectly with the crunch of the chocolate cream-filled cookie pieces on top.

“I thought you were Vegan.”

“Shut up,” I ordered, my voice muffled around the doughnut filling my mouth.

It was Alex’s turn to laugh, his chest shaking while he sat on the chair again and plucked me off the floor, sitting me on his thigh.

The asshole knew Voodoo Doughnuts were my absolute weakness. There was no force in this world, even after I turned vegan, that could stop me from having one. It was something special my mom and I had enjoyed together, usually to celebrate little victories—a fact my bestie knew all too well and took advantage of constantly.

He’d always been there for me. Giving me strength when my mother became ill and passed away. I was there for him when he was ready to accept his true self and told his loving parents he was gay, who accepted him without question. As well as many other heartbreaks in between.

“So, what exactly are we celebrating?” I asked, taking another bite.

Alex’s green eyes twinkled while he licked the frosting off his hand, his metallic black manicure on full display. “Today, it’s officially three months since we opened this little joint together.”

“No way!” I screeched, standing from his lap, and whirling to face him. He was so much better than me at keeping track of important dates. Also, he had a thing for the number three. “Are you serious?”

“Yep. Three whole months since you and I rubbed two pennies together and bought this locale. Opening our own yoga and fitness studio.”

Happiness and warmth spread through my chest, and I glanced up at the two diplomas proudly displayed on the wall. On the left side, my Yoga Instructor Certification, and on the right, Alex’s Personal Trainer Certification.

“Well, congratulations, Partner.” I clinked my doughnut with his and took my last bite just as the phone rang. Swallowing first, Alex answered.

“Thanks for calling the Blooming Lotus Yoga and Fitness Studio. How can I help you better yourself today?”

“Geez, what a mouthful,” I teased, receiving the evil eye from my bestie, again.

Snickering, I left him to deal with the customer, and went to the back to brush my teeth, checking myself in the mirror. I had an eight o’clock private class, and it was almost time. I needed to be presentable.

Wrangling up my mess of curls, I tied them into a high pony that seemed to spill out of my head like a wild waterfall and pulled a few strands out to frame my face. Early on, I’d learned that there was no brushing my crazy lion’s mane into submission, so I didn’t even try.

Honestly, my hair was probably the most interesting thing about me. I didn’t really think I was anything special, but this beast was a sight to be seen. Contrasting starkly with my sun-tanned skin and almost transparent golden honey eyes, the fiery strands seemed almost unnatural in a bright burgundy-red hue. The hair was something else I needed to thank my mother for, but I loved it.

“Could you have chosen a longer name for the business?” Alex complained, reaching the lockers and stuffing both his bag and mine inside of them—he’d already changed from his regular T-shirt into the uniform one.

“What do you want me to say? Girls like Lotus flowers. To them, they represent beauty and Zen, and you didn’t want any gym bruhs in here, so…” We chuckled.

“You are not teaching like that, are you?”

My gaze dropped to my T-shirt. “What is wrong with it?”

“It’s hella wrinkled.”

“Who irons shirts nowadays?”

His brow arched challengingly, and I made a face, pulling the wrinkled shirt off before he wrestled it off me. We’ve been there, done that.

“Who was it, anyways?”

“Your eight o’clock. She wanted to confirm her session with me afterwards, and let you know she’s almost here.”

“Cool.” Lifting my arms, I let my bestie slip the uniform, off-the-shoulder T-shirt over me, pulling my hair out of the way while he tied it in a knot on the right side of my waist, and stepped back to assess.

“Slay.”

Grinning, we exchanged a high five, and returned to the front, ready for our day to begin.

The last three years after I lost my mom had been hard, but with my bestie by my side, and my Guardian Angel watching over me, I’d never felt alone. My life wasn’t perfect, but I was making something of myself, and thanks to the good luck and success Alex and I were having in the studio, something told me everything was about to change for the better...

~*~

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