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"Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences."
Robert Louis Stevenson
What do you do the moment your father discovers your dead mother is still alive, looking not a day older than the day she died-over seventeen years ago?
It was a decision I never had the chance to make.
"We need to talk," Evelyn said, helping me lift my unconscious father to the sofa.
"You didn't need to hit him!"
"He was going into shock," Evelyn said without the slightest hint of remorse.
This woman was unbelievable, thinking she could just show up at our apartment and take over our lives. "I don't want to talk to you."
She put her hands on her hips, looking down at me like...like...like a mother. My mind scrambled.
I harrumphed. "What? Did you hit your head tumbling down from your cloud or something?"
Evelyn blinked, stunned for a moment, before she turned away from me and placed a pillow under Dad's head. She wiped the hair back from his face.
Her hand lingered. Mine fisted.
"Why don't you just go?" I spat out, furious that she continued to make herself comfortable in my home and so easily ignore me. "Leaving seems to be your thing."
She felt for Dad's pulse and studied his face. "He'll come around soon."
Oh my God. How can this be happening?
It was all too much. After losing to Phoenix in Greece, I'd just wanted to see Dad, tell him the truth about who and what I am, and see if we could mend our relationship. Instead, my returned-from-the-dead mother had oh-so-calmly shoved a fist in his face with supernatural strength.
"You could've broken his jaw," I said, at a loss to know how to deal with this situation. My mother was a stranger to me. All I knew about her was that she'd traded me in the moment I was born, given my destiny to angels, and committed Dad and me to a lifetime of unanswered questions. Now she was back and I had zero concept of how to handle her.
I strode into the kitchen, wet a towel, and scooped in a handful of crushed ice before coming back to Dad's side to dab at his forehead.
"Before either one of us says anything to James, we should talk," Evelyn said, sitting on the coffee table opposite, her fire-blue eyes darting between Dad and me. I could just imagine what was going through her mind.
Bet you never thought you'd be faced with us again-and never wanted to.
"You mean you need time to think fast so you can bail on him again." Every word tasted sour. I needed to get a grip. I was damned if this woman was going to push me over the edge. "Look..." I blew out a breath. "Don't bother with the balcony. It's a nightmare to jump down-just use the front door and hide your face from the security guys on your way. When Dad wakes up, I'll tell him there was an intruder and that he was attacked. He'll think he was seeing things and let it go."
She looked at me, eyes wide. "Do you really think I would just run out the door?"
I almost laughed at her offended tone. "Do you really think you won't?"
She sighed and glanced at Dad again. "You inherited his stubbornness." She looked like she wanted to say more but shook her head, frustrated. The movement gave me a small amount of satisfaction. "I'm not going anywhere."
I stared at her, wondering if I had time to literally throw her out before he woke up.
Christ. I can just picture Dad waking up to see his daughter and dead wife ripping each other apart.
"Please, just go," I said. "You don't belong here."
She crossed her arms. But I could tell she was tensed and ready, waiting to see if things were going to get physical.
My eyes narrowed and the temptation to force her hand rose to the surface. But we both knew I couldn't risk it.
"Does he know what you are?" she asked, her shoulders relaxing.
I slumped back onto my heels. "No. But he knows something. He's read your letter and seen my markings. I was planning to tell him today."
She nodded, taking it all in. "Well, then, I arrived at the right time. We'll tell him together. Everything."
"You're so thoughtful," I sniped.
Dad started to stir.
"Fine," I said. "But when you start flinging lies in the air, don't expect me to go along with them. Unlike you, my version of ‘everything' will actually contain the truth."
Before she could respond, Dad's eyes fluttered open.
"Violet?" he said, his voice crackly and uncertain.
"Dad, it's okay," I responded, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You're home and safe." I gave Evelyn a warning look then turned my attention back to my father. "No one will hurt you again."
His eyes came into focus and, despite his confusion, he smiled at me. I smiled back. Then he saw Evelyn. He gasped and I had to grab hold of him to keep him steady as he scrambled to sit up.
"Dad, breathe. You're going to have another panic attack," I said as soothingly as possible.
His eyes were so wide, they were mostly white. "Oh God. I didn't imagine it. Who are you? You...You look..." he stammered.
Evelyn took a deep breath and locked her eyes on his. "You took me on a carriage ride through Central Park on our first date. You only had enough money for half the trip, so we were dumped in the middle of the park and had to walk back. You picked flowers for me along the way. When you said good-bye that night, you kissed me and said, ‘This is only the beginning.' We met for breakfast the following day and every day after that, for the next six months. The first morning we didn't have breakfast together was our wedding day."
Dad was frozen. I think I was frozen too. From one small speech, I now knew more about their relationship than Dad had ever told me. And it only made me more livid.
How could she have done this to him?
Time seemed to stand still. Evelyn looking at Dad, imploring him to accept this impossibility; Dad staring back at her with disbelief. My eyes shot between the two of them...my parents.
"Evelyn?" He breathed the word.
"Are you..." He swallowed. "Are you a ghost?"
"No," Evelyn said calmly. "I'm human. Mostly." Her brow furrowed. "I think."
"Oh," Dad said.
I rolled my eyes at her.
"James, Violet and I have a lot to explain. We would like to be able to tell you everything if you're willing to listen, but we must warn you-once you know, you will become a part of this world..." She glanced down, a sadness creeping into her voice. "And you can never go back."
I ground my jaw. I hated that she was right. I also hated the way she united us. There was no "we." She'd kept her secrets from Dad since the moment they had met. Everything had been a lie. Then, when I was born, she'd accepted an angel's bargain-probably for a penthouse suite in Heaven-and committed me to a life as a Grigori. Sure, I'd had to choose whether to accept it, but I was learning fast; angels are determined beings and what they want, they usually get.
She would have known that too.
Worse, not only had she handed over my fate the moment I was born, she'd given me to an angel of the Sole, making me the one and only human Grigori to have ever been empowered by the highest-ranking and most mysterious order.
Yeah, I'm high up in the freak department.
"Violet?" Dad said, interrupting my thoughts, his face still a picture of shock.
I sighed, drawing my eyes away from Evelyn. "It's her, Dad. I...found her when I was in Greece. Are you sure you're up to hearing the whole story?"
He shifted position and began rolling up his sleeves, the way he did when he'd set his mind on something. He took my hand, gripping it tight, and cast a wary glance in Evelyn's direction.
"I know my daughter. I knew my wife. You look incredibly like her, but she died seventeen years ago and you...you look the way she did the day she died." He glanced at her wayward hair. "Almost."
I smiled, proud of Dad for not just falling into her arms.
"I will hear the entire story, nothing spared." He gestured to Evelyn. "You know things other people wouldn't, but that doesn't prove anything as far as I'm concerned." He let go of my hand, stretched his arm across the back of the sofa, and raised his eyebrows. "Start talking."
It must have taken every ounce of courage not to break down right there, not to grab Evelyn and hold her tight-whether he believed it was really her or not. Dad loved her like he loved no other person in this world and I knew nothing had changed that over the past seventeen years.
Evelyn was staring at him, a thoughtful look on her face. "You've changed," she said finally.
"Apparently you haven't. Talk!" Dad demanded.
Evelyn saw the amusement in my eyes and rolled hers in response.
"I'm human, like you," she began, "born to two human parents, but when my mother was in late pregnancy, she had a placenta rupture. The doctors were able to deliver me, but it was a different time then-they didn't have the resources they do now. My mother did not survive."
My heart sank. I had always thought there was nothing worse than knowing my mother had only held me for a few short minutes. But there was; I could see it in her eyes when she told the story. Her mother had never held her at all.
Dad shifted in his seat. "Evelyn never told me that," he said cautiously.
She smiled sadly. "I was scared to give away too much information. I was always careful-it was the way I was trained."
Dad maintained a stoic expression. I think it was the only way he could go on.
"Continue," he said.
Evelyn nodded. "When a human life is brought into the world, the moments following his or her first breath are vital. Newborns are bathed in the aura of new life. If a child suffers the loss of like-blood, most commonly a parent, within the first twelve days of life, he or she is also overwhelmed by the aura of new death. When the two opposing forces are so strong, a doorway can be created."
"What kind of doorway?" Dad asked, now cautiously glancing in my direction. He was already connecting the dots.
"When new life combines with new death, it creates a kind of tunnel." She took a deep breath. I found myself doing the same. "A tunnel that...an angel can use to transfer a piece of its essence to the body. At seventeen, the child is given the choice of whether or not to embrace the gifts and responsibilities that come with having that essence." She looked at me.
I'd practically stopped breathing.
"An...angel?" Dad repeated slowly.
"Yes, James. Angels are very real. They aren't what you probably think they are-they aren't always kind and they aren't always cruel, but they are definitely always active and a controlling force over our world. If a person who carries an angel essence chooses to embrace, he or she is given-among other things-increased strength, speed, weapons both internal and external, the ability to sense otherworldly beings, a healing capacity, a partner in arms, and...while still susceptible to mortality by harm, a much-extended lifespan, aging increasingly slower the older we get." She looked down. "We can live for many hundreds of years."
I was impressed Dad was still in the room-and upright. He cleared his throat. "How old are you?"
Evelyn didn't even blink. "I was 187 years old when I died. Now I'm back, I guess you could say I've passed my bicentennial."
Dad looked at me, wide-eyed. "Violet, have you been listening to this? Surely this isn't what has been going on with you for the past months? This can't be real."
"I wish it wasn't, Dad." I took his hand. It was hot and clammy. "But she is who she says and what she says. And just as an angel gave his essence to Evelyn...I'm what they call a Grigori. Part human but also part angel. I have abilities-but you've already seen my wrists." I bit my lip nervously, remembering his severe reaction at seeing the swirling silver markings before I'd taken off to Santorini.
As he looked at them, they started to move with a magic none of us could comprehend, churning like a river of mercury around my wrists. Delicate feathered tips began to emerge in the patterns, matching the design on Evelyn's wristbands. Dad glanced between us and I noticed Evelyn staring, mesmerized too.
"She said you had to choose to do this. Did you want this, Violet?"
"Not at the beginning. I wanted to finish school, become an artist, be...normal. After everything that happened..." My voice caught at the memory of the attack.
Dad nodded, not making me say it aloud. Evelyn watched on silently. There was no way I was about to explain it to her-the way that teacher had attacked me at my old school. Dad and I had done everything we could to try and get life back on track after the court case and all the awful questions.
I glared at her and continued speaking to Dad.
"Grigori all have a partner. A person whose power complements ours the most. Grigori can help to start the healing process in their partners when they are injured. The only problem is, apart from me, Grigori can only heal their own partner. Lincoln's mine."
"What do you mean, ‘apart from' you?" Evelyn butted in.
"I'm not here to answer your questions!" I snapped. Again, I turned back to Dad. "I have some extra...abilities. Nothing major," I said with a shrug. Dad looked at me like I'd just turned green.
"Lincoln was hurt," Evelyn said, putting it together.
I nodded, remembering what it had been like to know he would die without my help. The overwhelming fear of a world that didn't include him was all I needed to know I'd made the right choice.
"He was dying," I said.
"You became..." He couldn't find the words. "This!" He pointed to my wrists. "This was for Lincoln?"
His disappointment stung, but I stayed calm to give him time to process. "He would've died. I don't regret my choice, Dad. And now I'm Grigori and that means I'm a warrior."
"A warrior against what?" he barked, incredulous.
I took a deep breath. "Angels who exile themselves from their rightful place and take on human form."
"Fallen angels?" he clarified. "You fight fallen angels?"
"Yes. They're strong and powerful and...evil. They can do things that others can't and they are intent on taking this world for their own."
"Sweetheart, there are no fallen angels walking around in this world." He shook his head, as if trying to bring himself back to reality.
"Yes there are. You even know one." I braced myself and bit down on the inside of my cheek. "Phoenix is an exiled angel."
"Phoenix? That guy that you were hanging out with a while back?"
I nodded. Dad had never liked him.
"You brought Phoenix into your home?" Evelyn asked, her tone carrying both disbelief and accusation.
I flashed her a quick smile. I didn't owe her an explanation.
"But you just said they were all evil," Dad continued.
I nodded again, this time with regret. "Phoenix has human blood in him too, and that means he can seem more human than other exiles. He fooled me." I dropped my head, feeling the shame of my choices. "Lots of people have paid the price with their lives."
"Violet, what are you talking about?" Dad asked.
I thought of the Grigori who had died fighting Phoenix's exiles on Santorini. "People are dead, Dad. I just got back from trying to stop Phoenix from opening the gates to Hell. He could've killed thousands of people, but Grigori came in force from all around the world. We fought, we saved Santorini, but...we failed anyway. He used me to bring something out of Hell that makes nightmares seem like cotton candy. He's determined to be all-powerful and...he's the way he is because of me."
I could see Dad struggling to process my words but there was little point in stopping now, so I plowed on.
"Phoenix has gone for now but I don't think forever, and even if it is, there are still more exiles. They'll keep coming and we'll keep fighting them. This is the truth that you deserve, Dad. The truth that she"-I jabbed a finger toward Evelyn-"should've told you a long time ago-like, before she married you or before she had a child with you. Definitely before she chose to die and leave us." My plan to remain calm had come unstuck.
Dad seemed frozen with shock, but somehow he managed to reach over and pull a tissue from the coffee table to pass to me. I dabbed at my eyes but otherwise ignored the fact I'd started to leak.
"Did you really do that?" Dad asked, now looking at Evelyn. His voice was even and low.
Evelyn closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them, they were resolute. "A few weeks before Violet was born, I started to have dreams. As Grigori, we all have strengths. I'm what they call a dreamwalker-I can communicate with others in the dreamscape. That always made it easier for angels to contact me. One angel started to visit me before Violet's birth. He was very powerful. He told me that wars were coming. I was given a choice: exist in a world, knowing my family would ultimately suffer in a reality ruled by exiled angels, or give up my life and yes"-she glanced at me-"commit my daughter to a fate where she would become what I am." She paused. "From what I've seen, she is a respected warrior."
I rolled my eyes. "Compliments don't mend bridges. And you forgot the part where in return, you got to live happily ever after-until I plucked you out of Heaven, that is!"
"Violet!" Dad said, abruptly.
I closed my mouth.
"Wait, what do you mean you ‘plucked her out of Heaven'?"
I pressed my lips together. There was so much to explain, it was hard to know where to start. "My angel maker told me she made a deal to give me up to them. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where she went after she died." I forced myself to remain indifferent. "Phoenix executed a sacrificial ceremony from an ancient scripture in Santorini and part of my blood ended up in the mix. He got his mother and somehow...I got mine."
We all sat in silence for a moment, digesting.
"This is..." Dad shook his head, but then blurted out, "What color was my underwear on our wedding night?"
Evelyn's lips curled. "You weren't wearing any."
I think I'm going to be sick.
"When we drove out to our honeymoon cottage, what happened halfway there?" he shot back.
"You ran out of gas and made me wait in the car for three hours while you walked to the gas station." Her smile widened.
"What was the last thing you ever said to me?"
Her smile faded. "I asked you to name our daughter Violet."
"The very last thing," Dad pushed.
Evelyn bit her lip, looking for the first time vulnerable. "I love you...both."
Dad dropped from the couch onto his knees in front of her.
"Was it all lies?" Dad pleaded, not moving any closer.
"You died..." he said, a tear sliding down his face.
"And now you're back."
He swallowed and stood up, still trying to appear indifferent. "For how long?"
"I don't know." And then Evelyn's eyes seemed to lose their focus and she slumped to the ground, unconscious.