Through the Ashes (The Division: Book Two)
By Connie L. Smith
The war has begun. The battle’s unfolding. And victory feels so distant…
The Essenced had prepared and trained, but never imagined the true horror of watching demons tearing through the Division to invade the realm. Every claw is horrific—every snarl disgusting—and the responsibility of keeping that vile terror from expanding beyond the battlefield’s borders rests in the teenagers’ hands. They thought they were ready for that challenge…
But then their confidence is shaken when a deadly new weapon emerges from the enemy’s arsenal, and well-kept secrets from the Essenced’s angelic superiors begin to surface.
In the midst of the carnage, can the teens find the strength within themselves, and among themselves, to grasp victory in blood-tainted hands?
Rightfully interpreting the sudden urgency of her hold, he soothingly traced his hands up her back and through her hair. “I’m not going anywhere.”
After pinching her eyes closed against her fears, AJ reopened them and pulled back to give him a hard, unblinking stare. “You’d better survive this war, Julius. If not, I’m gonna get Clint to yell at you. I’ll write an angry speech and everything.”
He smirked at her words, even chuckled. “Yeah, I didn’t think you’d let something as tiny as death get in the way of arguing with me.”
“I’m serious,” she insisted with a glare that contradicted the smile hinting on her lips.
“I know you’re serious, and saying how heartbroken you’d be if I died would be much too normal to fit into your ‘you better survive’ lecture.” He shrugged lightheartedly. “Truthfully, I’d have been a little disappointed had you chosen that angle.”
She kept the harsh expression, but had to keep wrestling back her grin.
“And you might as well go ahead and smile.” He tapped the right edge of her mouth with his index finger. “I can see it practically begging to spill out.”
Finally caving, she let her smile blossom, but rolled her eyes in mock irritation. “I’m still serious. You better survive.”
“I’ll survive if you will,” he softly told her while his right hand trailed over her brow, down her cheek, and to her neck.
With a hum of agreement, she collapsed against his chest and hugged him with all the strength she could spare.
Tugging her closer, he gave her a whole new wave of strength to dip into.
“Yeah,” Travis spoke up. “What’s the big strategy here?” He confidently held his hands out to either side of him. “This can’t be the whole plan. We killed hundreds of demons, and now we’re waiting for hundreds more to show up. Then we’ll kill them and wait for more. And we’ll keep doing that until the Division’s so huge that humans and demons alike can walk from one realm to the other without any real effort at all. This strategy doesn’t have an end, so either there’s more or it’s pointless.”
Paige frowned at the Incubus-Essenced warrior. “That was my point.”
Travis nodded. “And it was a good one. How about we get it answered?”
After silently debating how much he should tell the soldiers, Nicholai uncomfortably cleared his throat and settled more of his weight on his desk. “There’s more to the plan,” he hesitantly offered.
Travis shrugged. “Then what is it?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know all of the details as of yet,” Nicholai confessed.
“Could you give us the ones you do have?” Johnny asked with a new cigarette shamelessly dangling from his lips. “Our neighborhood pervert has a point here.” He tipped his chin toward Travis in what he meant to be a quick motion, but what he saw with that glance had him doing a double-take to glare at the Incubus-Essenced pack leader. “Hey! Stop staring at my girl!”
With his own shrug that seemed to embody the phrase, “I can’t help it,” Travis reluctantly brought his stare back to Nicholai. “We’re putting trust in you here. We’re fighting, and we’re winning for the most part. Don’t you think we deserve the same trust? Shouldn’t we know what’s going on?”
…Nicholai’s gaze never wavered, but it grew more serious with each second. “The Tomes.”
“I hear, at the facility, you were barely capable of communicating.”
“That’s because I was,” Shane admitted. “Even when I was there for Nicholai’s debriefing after the battle, I was unfocused. Not as much as I’d been in the past, but more than I am here because this,” he tipped his chin toward the Division, “was nowhere near me. You said yourself that my protective instincts have a place now to channel themselves, so I don’t have to be so spacey all the time.”
“Yes, I did, and I meant it.” After a quiet moment where the angel watched the alpha pensively, he shrugged and looked away. “I suppose I didn’t fully appreciate the difference in mindsets. Complete preoccupation to boredom is quite a transition.”
“Not a hard one to make when we’re stuck in Catoosa for days without even a 3DS or a book.”
Stephan absorbed Shane’s comments, and a feeling of unease rose within him when he pondered the implications lying somewhere beneath the actual words. Bored? A Syragh-Essenced in these circumstances? Granted, he hadn’t seen an actual Syragh in millennia, but as memory served, they never tired of their purpose. In fact, on occasion, the creatures’ impulses made them some of the most annoying beings in the universe. One could only be forced to pause walking so a helpful entity could remove a banana peel from his path so many times before the consideration became taxing. And they’d always done those kinds of things with giant smiles.
But then again, these soldiers had been human a great while longer than they’d been Essenced. Perhaps the boredom and monotonous outlook could be explained as lingering human characteristics within the pack. Stephan sincerely hoped the reasoning could be so logically addressed. Otherwise…
I’ll not even think it, the angel silently decided.
About the Author:
Connie L. Smith spends a decent amount of time with her mind wandering in fictional places. She reads too much, likes to bake, and might forever be sad that she doesn’t have fairy wings. And that she can’t swing dance. Much of her preferred music is severely outdated, and as an adult she’s kind of obsessed with Power Rangers. She has her BA from Northern Kentucky University in Speech Communication and History (she doesn’t totally get the connection either), and her MA in English and Creative Writing.
Main Site: http://conniesmithbooks.weebly.com/
Sewing/Quilting Blog: http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/sewblog/author/conniesmith/