The Fall Of The Fellowship

By Kelly Hall

PROLOGUE

 

Rebekah was confused when she opened her eyes to the morning light shining across her bed. The curtains glowed as they blew gently in the breeze from the open window. Freedom. This is what it felt like, and while she had no idea how she’d gotten out of her cell, all that mattered was she was home.

She sat up in the bed, and realizing she was naked, Rebekah pulled her white satin sheet up around her breasts. The room was white and clean, smelling of fresh citrus and flowers. Beyond her window were green hills and lush trees, and farther still beyond that was the sea. The smell of salt air lingered on the wind, and from beyond her door, the sound of chatter filled the air.

Voices, both familiar and new, the sound of cheer, and the sound of happiness graced her ears like a love song, and she smiled, thinking they’d been waiting for her to wake.
She closed her eyes and listened harder, putting her keen senses to use.

Ignis laughed, the sound so pleasing to her ears it made her weep, and Jarreth was there. Delilah too. And the sound of their laughter made her heart happy. Canter spoke her name, and she got to her feet to join them, pulling on a long white tunic and then her robe. She looked around for Stella and Luna, only to find them missing. And suddenly, the sound of the others’ laughter became whispers.

Traitor. Unworthy. Concubine. The voices were now judgements, and her heart broke. The sounds grew into hisses, filling her ears until they were nothing more than a hum. The sound rose so loud that she held her ears, and suddenly, a voice broke through the noise, silencing it immediately. “My Immortal.”

Her white room was stained in blood so red that it looked like rose petals had been scattered. She reached for her neck, her hand meeting her wet, blood-soaked flesh. The feel of the wound that marred her skin told the truth. Kayne had bitten her.

His hands came up from behind, and suddenly, his mouth was on her again, feeding, taking, turning her on. She hated her feelings. So much, she screamed out.

She opened her eyes to the darkness. Nothing but moonlight shined from a tiny square in the ceiling, and the smell of the dank cell surrounded her. “Dammit.” She sat up, realizing that she was still locked up in Arcadius, and it had all been just a dream.

She got up from her bed and stretched, taking deep breaths. She had to stay strong, even though she worried about her hunters and what was to come with the pending trial. Rebekah hoped she didn’t have to rise up and show the Church that she wouldn’t be kept like an animal; never again.

The dream was everything her heart had wanted, her friends, her home, and her freedom. But there was something else. The dream had meant something more. That she would find peace.

She sat on her squeaky cot and couldn’t help but wonder what was waiting for her when she got out.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

“Shit!” said Delilah as brown hair dye hit the sparkling white sink. Her mother would have a fit if it left a stain, so she quickly rinsed it away and tried to be more careful. No matter how many times she dyed her hair, she never got any better at not making a mess. How could she be so awful at something so simple, and yet she could shave the wings from a gnat with no problem? At least, she liked to think she could.

She looked up in the mirror. Aside from glancing at the plastic wrap she’d tied around the one thin streak of red she wanted to remain, her eye caught the tip of the hunter’s mark that marred her flesh, peeking from the strap of her tank top. What was it all for? When the mother of the race, a woman she’d come to like and admire, was sleeping with the enemy?
Kayne, the Father of the Dead, no less.

Delilah bit back the bile in her throat, thinking of the night she’d loaned Rebekah her red, slinky dress. The girl—make that woman since the Immortal Huntress was centuries old—had mooned over the man with stars in her eyes as if she were going to meet Prince fucking Charming. Make that the Prince of Darkness, thank you. What made it all ten times worse was that Rebekah had denied it.

But the proof was as plain as black and white. Or full color, as the case was, like the photographs Doc Spence had taken. Delilah could still see the look on Rebekah’s face in those pictures, and yeah, even though the fucker Kayne was smoking hot in a smoldering, younger Keanu Reeves but even hotter kind of way, that didn’t make it okay.

Rebekah had pledged her life to fighting the bloodsuckers, not fucking them.

As another clump of dye hit the sink, Delilah growled out a sound of frustration. She quickly rinsed it away and continued massaging the cream into her hair.

Considering everything going on, she wasn’t as mad at Rebekah as she was at herself. She wondered if she made the right decision in leaving the academy. With things falling apart, not just with their leader the Immortal Huntress, but the Church too, her brain was a little clouded. Add in the problems between her and Jarreth, and it was just too much to take.

She closed her eyes and swallowed hard at the thought of her and Jarreth making one last go of it. She had really thought things would be okay, and they’d be together forever. But allowing that to happen had been her fault, and losing him again brought her full circle to her self-loathing.

Not even the new dye job would make her feel better. Going back to her original color wouldn’t change all that happened or rewind time to when she’d been brunette. Back when things were perfect. Maybe that was why she was leaving the streak of red, like a scar there to remind her of the journey, as if she didn’t already have her mark to do that.

She finished working in the dye and washed her gloved hands. Then she slipped them off and went to the kitchen, hoping not to drip on her mother’s white rugs. She had to snap out of this sinking depression. What was done, was done. It was time to move on.

As she stood at the kitchen sink, Jarreth’s house was visible through the kitchen window, and she stared at the old brick house, thinking of all the time she’d spent there as a child. She and Jarreth had been friends forever it seemed, and she had even once married him under his mother’s garden arbor, which had seen better days. Back then, she thought it would be forever. How was she to know that something as natural to her as the Fellowship of the Hunters would change everything? And when it came into their lives full time, it did.

She and Jarreth had practiced and planned their entire lives for the day they would be able to join, and the closer to that day they got, his father grew increasingly worse. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was her fault all along.

Or was it the fact that her own mother was sleeping with Jarreth’s mother Cindy? She couldn’t imagine how humiliating that had to be for someone like Brock Barnes, who was a man’s man and one hell of a hunter.

She glanced down at the time and realized she should get the dye out of her hair. She made her way back to the bathroom and rinsed, careful that all of the dye made it down the drain. As the water rinsed clean, she shut it off and walked over to the sink to unwrap the red streak and check out her natural brown shade. The color was a close match to her natural one, and as she towel-dried her hair, she wished everything was that reversible.

She had just picked up the blow drier when she heard a noise out front. Since her mother wasn’t due home for another hour, she couldn’t help but wonder who it could be. Her mother’s large SUV was loud and rattled the walls when she drove it into the garage, so she didn’t think she’d missed it. She grabbed her knife on the way to the front of the house and stopped in the hall, just feet away from the intruder.

As the footsteps came closer, Delilah jumped out, the knife drawn and ready to strike in case she needed it.

Cindy nearly jumped out of her skin and screamed like the victim in a low-budget horror. Seeing the knife raised, the sunlight from the window gleaming across the blade, she thought someone had sneaked into the house to hide out and kill her and Sage. Looking down through her raised arm, she realized it was only Delilah.

“Jesus, Del!” She held her hand over her heart and panted as she took a few steps back.

Delilah couldn’t believe the woman had let herself in. “What the hell are you doing, coming in here like you own the place?” She knew her mother and the woman had a thing, but did that give her the right to come in and out of the house so freely?

“Your mother gave me a key,” said Cindy, who wore jeans and a T-shirt from a Celine Dion show. The woman seemed thinner to Delilah since the last time she saw her, and healthier too. She had always had that worn housewife look: flat hair and mom jeans, accompanied with a frazzled smile and dark bags beneath her eyes. “She knows I’m here.”

“Well, she could have told me we’d be having guests. Then maybe I wouldn’t have tried to murder you.” Maybe. The woman certainly wasn’t her favorite person.

“Sage is leaving work early. She wanted me to tell you. She didn’t have time to call home because she had to meet with a client, but she said she wants me to start dinner. I know my meatloaf is your favorite.”

Jarreth’s mom had always been the merry little homemaker type. Bored housewife was more like it.

Being a reserve hunter, her own mother, Sage Miller, had to get another job to support her daughter. Delilah remembered going over to Jarreth’s and having supper when her mother would work late. Cindy had fed her more meals than she could count, but that had been when she was cooking for her husband and son, not her lover.

“I’m not hungry.” She’d be damned before she ate the woman’s meatloaf or anything else she cooked. She turned and started back down the hall.

Cindy followed, stopping in Delilah’s bedroom door. “I know you’re angry with me, Del, but we’re not going to stop seeing each other. My husband left me. He could have stayed and tried to make it work, and he didn’t.”

Delilah sat on the bed and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. She mostly didn’t want Cindy to see her so rattled. “So, you’re trying to get me to believe that this little affair with my mother had nothing to do with it? Try again. I know better.”

Cindy shook her head. She knew that Delilah was angry, and while she knew the girl couldn’t understand it, she wasn’t too dim to see it was an adjustment for her. Cindy hadn’t expected everyone to accept her sexuality or the choices she’d made. All she could hope for was forgiveness at that point.

“I’m not saying it didn’t,” she said. “I loved him, but Brock had something he loved more. The Fellowship. I just wanted some attention, and Sage was there for me. I didn’t even know I was bisexual.”

“Well, I’m glad my mom helped you find yourself. Meanwhile, you’ve waited all this time, and your son had to find out by accident after two years.”

Cindy winced and leaned against the wall. “Is he taking it hard?”

She hated to think of her son hurting because of her. But his father had spent years devoted to the cause, working all day only to stay gone all night with the hunt. He eventually made it his whole world, and since Cindy wasn’t part of the Fellowship, she was left out. Especially when her son decided to take on the same lifestyle.

“Is he taking it hard? Are you fucking kidding me?” Delilah’s usually girlie voice boomed. “You chose a woman over his father, the man he’s looked up to his entire life, and not only that, but you’ve been cheating on his father for years without telling him that you’re the reason he left in the first place! Did you ever consider his feelings?”

Delilah didn’t like feeling penned up in her room and got up to push past Cindy for some space. She rounded the corner into the living room and paced the floor, not sure what to do next. She didn’t want to sit down, and she didn’t want to calm down. This had all come to a head after years of buildup, and she wanted her mother and Cindy to both answer for the situation she and Jarreth were in.

Cindy came into the room and stood by the kitchen bar. “I know you’re angry with me and your mother, but we love each other, Delilah.”

“More than you love your children apparently.” Delilah knew the words would sting, and she didn’t care.

“I beg your pardon?” Cindy burned inside. She had known this girl her entire life and taken her into her home and welcomed her at the dinner table more than once. “Don’t you ever suggest that I don’t love my son. He means everything to me, and I was going to tell him, but I just didn’t know how. I was afraid he’d stop loving me. That he would run off and choose his father, which would have only taken him away from you. Whatever I have to do to work things out with Jarreth, I will.”

Delilah folded her arms and gave Cindy a challenging look. “Will you stop seeing my mother?”

“Delilah!” Her mother’s voice sounded out so loud, it startled Delilah. She looked up to see her mother, an older reflection of herself, only angrier.

Sage stood by the door. She had apparently made it home earlier than expected, and Delilah had been so angry that she hadn’t felt the walls vibrate from the SUV.

“What is going on here?” She walked over to join Cindy, resting her hand against the other woman’s back.

Cindy didn’t say a word. She didn’t want to throw Del under the bus for the weapon thing, knowing Sage would be pissed that her daughter had pulled a knife on her.

Delilah didn’t know what to say, so she said the first thing that came to her. “I wasn’t expecting her to come marching in here like it was her house.”

“You mean the way you did? I understand that you have a room here but only because I’ve allowed that. This is, after all, my house, not yours. So, you better get used to it. She’s not going anywhere, Delilah. We’re a couple. We’re happy and in love, and like it or not, we’re going to continue to be together.”

Delilah didn’t have a problem telling her mother how she felt. “I don’t like it.”

Cindy let out a long breath, and Sage took her hand. “Are you okay?”

Delilah couldn’t believe her mother. “Is she okay? What about me? Your daughter?”

Sage shook her head. “You are going to have to live your own life, and if you can’t accept that this is the lifestyle we choose, that this is who we are and we want to be together, then that’s your problem.”
Delilah couldn’t believe what she had just heard come from her mother’s mouth. “You think I’m upset because you’re gay?” She gave a nervous laugh. “I’m not some homophobic person who has a problem with homosexuals. I’m your daughter, the girl in love with her son, who has had to make tough choices against what I wanted to protect him from your adulterous affair for the past two years, which, by the way, is what I have a fucking problem with.”

It hit her all of a sudden. She realized the real issue, and it surprised her as much as she was sure it would surprise them. “Brock was all I had for a father growing up. I admired you, Cindy. I admired what you stood for, how you kept your home, took care of your son, me, and your husband. Mr. Barnes might not have been perfect, but I always thought of him as the only man in my life who would look out for me. Seeing you with my mom, I don’t even know who the hell you are anymore.”

She turned and walked away to her room, knowing her mother was right. She had to make her own path.

A few minutes later, her mother came into the room. “I want you to apologize for the way you spoke to Cindy. She’s been through a lot, and just because you think you know what’s going on and what went on, you don’t. I could tell you many things about your precious Brock Barnes to make your head spin. He’s not the loyal, loving family man you paint him to be in that big imagination of yours, Delilah.”

“He’s a hunter like me. Like his son. You of all people should know what that means and how important loyalty is.”

She gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Do you still honor your oath? When you showed up here the other night, you said you had to get away. You transferred out, and yet you’re here instead of reporting to your next station. Why is that? People talk, Del. I know what the Huntress did. If this mess with the Church gets too crazy, we’re all going to have to make a few decisions.”

“I will still fight for the cause. My vows are personal, and they don’t concern you.”

“Yeah? Well Brock Barnes didn’t know which side he belonged on either, and that’s why he ran off to some fucking rogue camp. So much for his loyalty.”

Delilah quickly turned her head and narrowed her eyes. “I don’t believe you.” Brock was the epitome of a hunter. He lived and breathed for it.

“It’s true. Do you think his wife doesn’t know where he’s been, Delilah? Do you think she hasn’t been begging him for a divorce for years now? She has. We both have. He’s hanging on to punish us, to save face where his son is concerned. He’d rather his son think he abandoned his marriage than to know he failed. He’d rather him not know anything than to know the truth. So, there is your father figure. He’s not much better than your real father.” She walked to the door and turned around. “I suggest you apologize to Cindy and then pack your things for your new academy. You said that you got your acceptance from New Orleans. I’d suggest you go.”

Delilah’s chest burned. She closed her eyes and thought of all the things that the two had kept from her and Jarreth. She was always the one left holding all of the knowledge, even though it wasn’t her place to be the one to tell him. That was why she had kept the secret about their mothers for so long. It wasn’t her place to hurt him. She looked in the mirror at her mark, which peeked just over the tank top she wore. What was she supposed to do with it now?

Going to New Orleans was an option. She’d been there before, and she was sure that had been the reason for her quick acceptance, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to be around so many adoring fans of the Huntress.

She had sworn her life to the woman, and the last thing she ever thought she’d do was go against that vow. She scrubbed her face with her hand. All of the women in her life had let her down, and she knew the reason it upset her so badly. The reason it had her so emotional and pissed off was because deep down, she loved them all, even Rebekah who she’d looked up to like a big sister.

But she couldn’t go back to any academy. Even if she wasn’t so against Rebekah’s actions, the Church had taken her, and it wasn’t the first time they’d let Delilah down too. There was only one place she could go to put her mark to use.

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The Fall Of The Fellowship

By Kelly Hall