Fighting Insanity Preview
I had no problem adapting to the new way of our lives. My four brothers and I were thrilled. Honestly, the second Colton said switch from working for Hell to Heaven, that was all we needed to know. I didn’t care if I had to start my five hundred years of service over or that I might never retire. The three hundred years I spent dragging souls to Hell ate at me. We might have only taken the ones that sold their souls, but it still was always ugly.
There were the ones who did it for selfless reasons that killed me inside to deliver. And now recently, Ariel the archangel had told me those ones should have been given a free pass because they made the ultimate sacrifice—themselves for another. So the knowledge that I had taken souls that weren’t supposed to even be there weighed on me.
On the bright side, we were saving people now and I had a limitless supply of manual labor to work out my issues. Mondays we were going out with our angel partner and rescuing souls. The rest of the week, we worked on acclimating them to their new lives and moving their belongings to the new boarding school the angels built.
No, that wasn’t a sentence I thought I’d ever say either. And it had only been a little over a week so it wasn’t necessarily a routine yet but it also had promise.
I had just said my goodbyes to my angel, Nisroc, thanking him for his aid in my duties and looking forward to some rest. We were able to recover ten souls in one day because of him popping us all over the globe, which was huge, but also exhausting. Instead I was lugging in a sofa with my brother, Canice, from the moving truck of one of the richer families helping furnish the boarding school.
“I swear if you don’t stop, I’m going to beat you,” Dex Sethos growled, carrying a struggling young man over his shoulder. “Do we have a lockup for the unruly ones?”
“I change my mind. I believe in guns now,” the man bitched as he pounded his fists against Dex’s back. “I wish I’d had a shitload when you broke into my house and kidnapped me! Yes, I’m being completely unreasonable.”
“My angel just flashed his wings and everyone we went for believed in what was going on real fast,” Canice chuckled, shaking his head. I wasn’t really paying attention though because that man’s voice triggered something inside me.
He was my mate. I knew it as surely as my name.
“We told you what’s going on. It’s not kidnapping,” Dex argued, his shoulders hunched in exhaustion. “Please don’t make me movie-slap you out of your hysteria.”
“Do not touch him!” I snarled, dropping the end of the couch and bolting over there. I don’t think they heard me because the man was still struggling.
“Just because you slipped LSD into my water supply or something first doesn’t mean I’m going to buy angels and hounds came to kidnap me instead.” I heard a grunt that I suspected was Dex from something the man did. “Put me down!”
“Fine, you little shit,” Dex groaned and slid the guy off his shoulder. He would have landed hard to the floor if I hadn’t caught him in time. “Watch yourself, Tierney. He bites.”
“So do I,” I threatened as I coddled my mate, noting how every inch of him felt against me. “You will not slap him or instigate any other violence against this man.”
“As long as he stops kicking me in the balls and biting me, sure, he’s safe,” Dex drawled, blinking when I growled deeply at him. “Shit, man, I’m sorry. I won’t touch him again. Just be careful, he’s majorly pissed.” He held his hands up in surrender and took a couple of steps towards Canice—as if that would help him somehow.
“And atheist!” the guy snapped as he struggled in my arms. I set him on his feet, blinking my eyes when he immediately bolted for the door.
“Yeah, and he’s a runner,” Dex sighed. My heart twisted at what was going on. My mate was running from me. I’d never thought this would be our meeting. “Good luck with that. You’re going to need it.”
I took off after my mate, ignoring the chuckles of everyone behind me. I passed him easily and blocked the door.
“Please, just let me go. I don’t want to be in a cult,” the man begged, sagging against me as his hands thumped on my chest.
“I know this is hard to understand, a lot to take in,” I murmured gently as I ran my hand over his soft, soft black hair. “We aren’t a cult. I promise no harm will come to you, and if anyone tries to make you drink the blood of a virgin, I’ll be right with you, running, okay? Please, breathe a bit and let some of this settle. Would you like a drink?”
“Of what?” he hedged, staring up at me suspiciously.
“I was thinking I have a bottle of Tullamore Dew I keep for special occasions.” I shrugged, missing the feeling of him against me when he pulled away. He blinked at me, his eyebrows pulled together tightly. “It’s Irish whiskey, the good stuff.”
“I’m not old enough yet, and I don’t think getting drunk around a bunch of strangers is the best idea.” His gaze darted all around him and then back to me before over his shoulder as if worried someone was creeping up behind him with a sedation needle or something.
“You can see over the bar, that’s all that’s required in Ireland.” I shrugged again, unsure of what else to say to the man. “Besides, you don’t get drunk off the good stuff. I find it’s just what I need when my nerves are shot.” He still seemed hesitant so I tried another route. “What’s your name?”
“Kellan. Kellan Short,” he mumbled, glancing away from my intense gaze. “Sure, I’ll have a drink.”
“Good, good.” I moved away from the door to lead him to my room… Only to meet Canice’s bright smile. “What?”
“I think he just gave you the slip,” my brother joked. Sure enough, I turned around and my mate was out the door and running across the grass.
“Mother fucker.” I groaned, staring after Kellan a moment before giving chase. He was a fast little shit to be sure.
And sexy. God was he sexy.
Which was problematic given I was now pursuing him and that spoke to my deepest instincts as a predator. My heart was racing, thinking of claiming my prize when I caught him. Again, problematic since Kellan seemed to think we were all nuts and pumping LSD into the water. Nothing like beliefs such as that to build a relationship on.
I grabbed his arm when I reached him but then he stumbled, catching me off guard. He went down first and while I didn’t have the footing to stop it, I was able to maneuver myself so I didn’t crush him. And somehow he landed on top of me—not something I’d normally complain about but it was awkward given the circumstances.
“So you’re a big, fat liar,” I mumbled, not moving as he sat up. I did however groan when his ass moved against my groin. Yeah, that helped keep my focus.
“What did you expect? You’re all crazy,” he whispered as tears filled his eyes. I could see the fear in his expression even if he wasn’t shaking against me.
“We’re not, but I understand it seems that way to you, Kellan,” I sighed while trying to figure out what to do next. “Please just trust us that you’re in danger. Even if you think the rest of this is nuts, you have to believe that. We’re not snatching people and selling body parts. We’re bringing people to safety.”
He smacked his hands against my chest until I covered them with mine. “From the Devil and Hell. I don’t believe in any of that!”
“You should because the Devil has his eye on you, young human,” Ariel warned him, appearing out of nowhere. “What can we do to prove this is real and not some drug-induced hallucination?”
“Let me go?” Kellan tried as he went to stand, slipping on some wet grass and landing right back on me sprawled out again.
“That proves nothing and leaves you in danger.” She squatted down on her haunches and stared into his eyes. “How about this? You really think about what we could do to prove to you this is all real—without endangering your safety—and I swear to you I will see it done if I can.”
Kellan narrowed his eyes at her as he slowly sat up. “You’re either an angel or a hound so there’s nothing you can’t do, right? Why would you limit it like that unless it’s just your way of getting out of a promise?”
“Wow, you are by far the least trusting human I’ve ever come across in all my years,” she huffed. She opened her mouth again but then closed it before trying once more. “Because I can’t bring people back from the dead. I can’t make it rain money, things of that nature. I didn’t want to say anything and then have to tell you no and push you further.”
“Okay, that’s fair,” he hedged, sliding off me in a way that made me want to roll him under me and get him naked. “I want a brain scan. I want to see this isn’t some tumor making me hallucinate. And I want to go purchase some food and drink of my own that no one else touches.”
“Done,” I immediately agreed, worried nothing else would make him stay. “If you don’t run for a few days or pull any shit.” His gaze snapped to me, eyes filled with guilt. “We’re not stupid, Kellan. You want us to take you to the doctor right away so he can kick us out of the room and you can call the police. Look, we want to make you see this is real, but doing that could put the hundreds of other lives here in danger. I can’t do that.”
He studied me closely before giving one slow nod. “What about a compromise?”
“Depends on what you want.” I shrugged. What else could I say without knowing the terms?
“Dex said he’d have the angels gag me if I didn’t stop screaming.” His head swung back and forth so fast between us it almost made me dizzy. “They could keep me from screaming for help and we could go get my own supply of food and water no one touches.”
“I’m not going to have them gag you,” I protested before Ariel agreed to it or something. “Look, I will be honest with you, no matter what, if you promise to be honest with me. If you swear you won’t run if I take you shopping, then I’m trusting you and the lives of others here. My family is here, Kellan. I will go with you for the supplies you want, but my family is on the line. So can you truly pledge to me you won’t run or cause a scene if we do this?”
He opened his mouth and then closed it again, shaking his head before he stopped and let out a sigh. “If you don’t hit me, force me to do things, hurt me, or anything like that, I promise I won’t start any trouble.”
“I would never, ever hurt you,” I whispered, reaching out to brush back his hair. He flinched away, and I let my hand fall like a rock, pain in my chest at his reaction. “Ariel?”
“He’s telling the truth, Tierney,” she promised as she stood. “Go ahead around front and take him, I’ll tell the others and be listening. If there’s a problem, just call out my name and I’ll appear.”
I sat up slowly, focused on her for the moment. “You don’t think the demons would try for us again already, do you? We’ve been out and about all day with no problems.”
“They didn’t know where the souls were,” she reminded me with a frown. “Only the hounds will when it’s time to collect. For all we know, the demons could be close, waiting for any opportunity to get a soul. We don’t realize what will happen if even one should fall into their hands.” She held out the keys to my truck to me, probably pulling them out of nowhere since they’d been sitting on the dresser of my new room.
“It’s going to take me a while to get used to the stuff you guys can do,” I sighed, shaking my head before getting to my feet.
“What do you mean?” Kellan asked, brushing off the ass of his jeans as he stood up.
“I’ll explain on the drive. Let’s hurry so we’re not out at after dark.” He nodded as I snagged the keys from Ariel. I waved goodbye to her and led him around to the front of Rafe’s house. It was a good start that he hadn’t tried to bolt again. Once we were at the truck, I opened the passenger door for him, unsure of where to begin.
“You’re really worried about my safety, aren’t you?” he whispered after I jumped into the cab and started the truck.
I nodded as I yanked the shifter to drive. “Yes, you’re in danger. All the souls are we’re trying to help.”
“Why? Why are we in danger? Skip all the Heaven and Hell shit and just tell me what’s really going on.” I heard his seat belt click as he pulled against it, trying to look at me even as he made sure there was a good amount of distance between us.
“Kinda hard to explain when you put limits on the headlining acts like that,” I grumbled, pulling down the driveway once I found something on my GPS that would work for what Kellan had asked. “Let me ask you something then? Do you come from money?”
“So this is about me being rich? That always has me with a target on my back.”
“No, well, not really.” I banged my head against the steering wheel before turning onto the road and trying again. “Was it old family money or did your parents just become rich one day suddenly?”
“Yeah, my dad won the lottery before I was born,” he hedged, glancing at me before hurrying to look away. “You just guessed that or did your homework on me.”
I wasn’t a patient man so it wasn’t hard to admit I was already about to start pulling out my hair. “Kellan, I didn’t even know your name. I was carrying in someone else’s couch to chip in when Dex came in with you. I intervened to help, remember?”
“Okay, fine, you’re right. Sorry.” He let out a little sigh that almost sounded like he was crying but I didn’t think he’d hit that point yet.
“We have gotten a lot of lottery winners though,” I joked, trying to bring up something lighter. “Seems to be a favorite.” When he didn’t say anything or open up, I push further. “Were your parents odd to you? Maybe colder than they were to your siblings?”
“Only child and that’s complicated.”
“Okay, well you asked me what I meant earlier with Ariel, right?” I waited until he nodded, doing that quick glancing at me again. Then I gave out a strangled growl. “I don’t know how to explain all of this without the Heaven and Hell stuff! Can’t I just tell you and you just pretend for a moment that it could be possible? That maybe you don’t know everything in the world at twenty!”
“If you stop yelling,” he whispered, moving closer to the door as his chest started to rise and fall rapidly.
“I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you,” I swore, reaching out and patting his knee. “I’m frustrated that I don’t know how to explain this. I’m still getting caught up and learning what’s been going on.”
“Just start with what you know then.”
“I was born over three hundred years ago to a bitch of Hell as a Hellhound.” I rolled my eyes when I heard him start breathing faster. Yeah, good way to start. “I didn’t have a choice in what I did. I was born to take souls that had made deals with demons to Hell. We’re the repo guys. We don’t take sides, we just collect the cars people took money out on that they can’t pay back.”
“Yeah, okay, good,” he blurted, rapidly nodding his head. “Let’s use that. No more souls and Heaven or Hell. Cars and loans due wherever.”
“If that helps.” This was not going well. I took a few more turns to our destination before I said anything else.
“I was three-fifths done of my service as repo guy, years and years of it eating at me. Then I get a call from another repo group that I’d met long ago saying that the company we work for has been compromised, cheating at deals and now we can pick what company we work for, change to the good guys.”
“So just like that you jumped at it? Believed them?” he asked, his tone completely baffled.
“I’d never met management from either company until recently, but I already knew that there was those companies. I’d had dealings with one of them, even if I tried to distance myself from it.”
“Never mind. This is getting to convoluted,” Kellan sighed, pulling his feet up on the seat. “So you knew for sure there was a Hell and demons making deals. So of course there would be a Heaven and angels.”
“Yes, and angels aren’t really known for lying and trying to cheat people.” I took a deep, calming breath before continuing. “But the demons have. They’re all about tricking people, tempting them with everything if they just sell their souls. Atheists are their favorite since they don’t believe in it all and figure why not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve showed up with my brothers to bring someone in and they’re shocked that it was all real, sad they didn’t believe when they should have and doing so would have saved them from that fate.”
“You’re forgetting one big thing here, Tierney. I didn’t sell my soul,” Kellan argued fervently, his hands clutching into fists on his thighs.
“That’s why you and the other souls are so important to save,” I explained, briefly glancing at his puzzled, gorgeous face. “Your soul was sold after you were conceived, but before you were born by either your mother or father who still had claim over the DNA growing. Something like that. The demons found a loophole and exploited it.”
Kellan let out a loud, but endearing, snort. “I wouldn’t put it past my father for a moment that he would sell someone else’s soul if that kind of thing was real. He got away with killing my mother so he could move his slut mistress into their house, even marrying her like that mattered. Then when he died suddenly, she was my guardian. He named her my fucking guardian. At least he only gave her an allowance so she didn’t fucking blow all the money. When I was close to turning eighteen and could throw her ass out, do you know what she did?”
“I have a feeling from your tone and the tension in the car.” I winced, disgusted in a whole new way and wishing I could cover my ears or something. But just because I might want to pretend Kellan didn’t go through something, he did, and as his mate, I needed to know it, help him through it.
Eventually. After he stopped thinking I was a crazy maybe.
“Yup. The woman over fifteen years older than me tried to crawl into my bed just so she didn’t have to live on her own, by her own means. I spent a year ducking her, locking myself in my room because she practically forced herself on me, thinking if I got her pregnant, she’d be allowed to stay.” He took in a shaky breath, obviously not used to discussing such things with another person.
“I’m sorry that happened to you, Kellan. There aren’t words to cover what you went through.” I pulled into Target and parked the truck before undoing my seat belt and turning to him. When he simply blinked at me, looking so lost and unsure, I slowly reached out and cupped his cheek. “I know this is a lot and you have been through so much already that it kills me to ask for more. Maybe for now you can forget the rest of all of this and simply trust that you are truly in danger and look at me as your protector.
“Can you do that for me? I’m here, taking you somewhere you can get your necessities to prove you’ve not been drugged. I will take you to see a doctor once I know you won’t call the authorities, trusting my family at your word you won’t. Will you please believe that I’m not here to hurt you but to help and I will protect you with my life if you simply let me?”
He stared at me for what seemed like forever, though he didn’t pull away from my touch. “Okay. I don’t know why but everything inside me is screaming that I can trust you with my life, that I’m safe with you, and I’ve never felt that before. Not ever, Tierney. If you don’t lock me up or anything else, I will trust you and try to stop thinking you’re all crazy.”
“Thank you,” I sighed, the tension and ache in my chest leaving. Then I decided to be a little cheeky and lighten the mood. “And I never said we weren’t crazy. We’re taking on Hell. We’re all fucking nuts in my opinion. I just said we weren’t lying or certifiable where what we were saying wasn’t true.”
“You’re trouble, aren’t you?” he chuckled, pulling away so he could undo his seat belt. I took the hint and we got out of the truck, meeting around the back of it. “You damn Scots are trouble I hear.”
“I hear they are too, but I’m Irish.” He glanced at me with an intriguing smile so I figured I’d take the chance to charm him. I bowed as gallantly as I could in a Super Target parking lot. “Sir Tierney Macfayden at your service.”
Kellan rolled his eyes and waved me off. “Sir? You’re making that up.”
“Not at all. Her majesty, Queen Victoria, knighted my brothers and I for dragging off some distant relation who was trying to make a deal for her kingdom. Apparently he died of ‘natural causes’ before his reward of his deal could be upheld. That’s the trickery of making deals for a soul. The ill-gotten gains are only enjoyed as long at the person lives. If they die in an accident or something, the bill is due sooner.” I saw Kellan bob his head, moving further away from me as he started walking towards Target.
I could take the hint. I hurried after him and moved my hand to his lower back, acting as if nothing had just happened.
“So yes, I’m Sir Tierney Macfayden, but you’re special so you can call me Tierney.”
“Sorry I didn’t know you were Irish,” he muttered as we entered the store and he headed for the carts. “I’m not very good with accents.”
“I’ve lived in America a long time.” I caught myself and left out it had been over a century. At least I was learning. “I find that dampens the accent until I’m really angry or really drunk. My family and I visit relatives in Ireland now and again so we brush up on it.”
“I’ve always wanted to travel.” He pushed the cart towards the main path and then paused. “Do I need clothes? Can I ever go back home or get my belongings?”
“You can get something to wear for tonight if you want or whatever, but I’ll make sure we get your things sometime this week. At least the basics.”
“So I’m not going home again, am I?”
I sighed as he lowered his head as he made his way to the food side. “I don’t know, Kellan. We’re scrambling to protect as many as we can. I know it’s scary but we don’t have a long-term game plan right now. I don’t know that you can’t ever go back home again though. Maybe one day.”
“Actually, burn the fucking house down,” he fumed suddenly, walking faster. “I hate that place. My mother died there. My father trapped me with that whore there, made my childhood miserable. Burn it to the ground and everything in it.”
“I would think the idea of moving on from all that pain might make you happy,” I hedged as he stopped to grab a case of water from an end cap display. It was about as big as he was so I grabbed it first.
“Don’t touch it! You could be slipping in poison,” he exclaimed, and a little too loudly for a public store. I was so shocked at his outburst I dropped the case immediately. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the plastic wrapping broke and bottles rolled everywhere.
“I’m sorry,” I rasped, hurrying to collect the bottles, unable to look at him. “I was just trying to help.”
“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—”
“It’s fine. You can’t help the way you feel,” I choked out, not wanting to hear anymore. Besides the blood rushing around in my head and the ringing in my ears probably would have prevented it.
I’d met my mate, finally after all these years. He didn’t believe what I was, thought we were all insane, kidnapping him, and God only knew what else.
And now he accused me of trying to poison him.
No, I didn’t think that was a sentence I’d ever say either.