Home > Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1)(2)

Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1)(2)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

I’d had a lot of short-lived crushes.

But Misha was more than my sidekick or my best friend in the whole world. He was my Protector, bonded to me since I was a little girl, and that bond was intense.

Like, if I died, he died, kind of intense, but if he died first, the bond would be severed and then another Warden would take his place. I’d always thought that was unfair, but the bond wasn’t completely one-sided. What was in me, what I was, fueled him, and his Warden powers often made up for the human part of me.

In a way, we were two sides of the same coin, and I had violated some kind of heavenly rule when I’d kissed him. According to my father, Protectors and their charges were never supposed to engage in naughty, fun times. Supposedly this had to do with the bond, but I had no idea what that really meant. Like what could it actually do to the bond? I’d asked my father, but he’d looked down his nose at me like I’d asked him to explain how babies were made.

None of that meant I was any less annoyed at the moment. “I have it under control.” I gestured toward Clay, moaning on the ground. I could see tiny dark spots on his face. Thorns? God, I hoped so. “Obviously.”

“You did that?” Misha stared at me.

“Yeah?” I crossed my arms as Clay began to pick himself up. “And I don’t feel remotely bad about it. He didn’t understand what ‘just a kiss’ meant.”

Misha pivoted back to Clay. “Is that so?”

“Totally so,” I said.

Growling low under his breath, Misha stalked toward Clay, who had finally risen to his knees. He was about to get some help standing. Gripping him by the back of his shirt, Misha lifted Clay off the ground and turned him around so that he was facing Misha. When he let go, the shorter Warden stumbled back a step.

“Did she tell you no and you didn’t listen?” Misha demanded.

Clay lifted his head. “She didn’t mean it—”

Moving as quick as lightning, Misha cocked back his arm and planted his fist right in the center of Clay’s dumb face. Down the boy went for the second time tonight.

I smirked.

“Just like I didn’t mean to do that?” Misha said, crouching down. “When someone says no, they mean it.”

“Holy shit,” Clay whined, covering half his face with his hand. “I think you broke my nose.”

“I don’t care.”

“Jesus.” Clay started to stand but fell back on his ass.

“You need to apologize to Trinity,” Misha ordered.

“Whatever, man.” Clay struggled to his feet, his voice muffled as he turned to me. “I’m sorry, Trinity.”

I lifted my hand and extended a middle finger.

Misha wasn’t done with him. “You don’t speak to her again. You don’t even look at her or breathe in her general direction. If you do, I’ll put you through the window again and do a whole lot worse.”

Clay lowered his hand and I could see dark blood running down his face. “You didn’t put me through a—”

“You obviously don’t get it,” Misha growled. “I did knock you through a window, and I’ll do worse next time. Understand me?”

“Yeah.” Clay wiped his hand along his mouth. “I understand.”

“Then get the Hell out of my face.”

Clay bolted back inside and slammed the door behind him.

“You need to get back to the house.” Misha’s voice was gruff as he took my hand and led me through the yard, into the shadows.

I let him lead the way, because once we were outside the lights, I couldn’t see crap.

“Thierry needs to know about this,” I said once we hit the sidewalk that led all the way back to the main house.

“Oh, Hell, yeah, I’m telling Thierry. He needs to know and something more than an epic beatdown needs to be handed to Clay.”

“Agreed.” A huge part of me wanted to go back and kick Clay through another window, but I’d let Thierry handle it from here even though that was going to lead to a very embarrassing conversation with the man who was like a second father to me.

But Thierry was the one in the position to do more. He was the boss here, and not just a clan leader but a Duke, overseeing all the other clans and the many outposts in the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley. He was ultimately responsible for training all the new warriors and ensuring that the community remained safe and relatively hidden.

He could make sure that Clay learned to never, ever do that again.

Misha stopped once we were far enough from Clay’s house. “We need to talk.”

I sighed. “I really don’t want to be lectured right now. I know you mean well, but—”

“How did you knock him out of a window?” he asked, cutting me off.

A frown pulled at my lips as I stared up at Misha’s shadowy face. “I pushed him and then I... Well, I kicked him.”

Letting go of my hand, he placed his own on my shoulders. “How did you manage to kick him out the window, Trin?”

“Well, you see, I lifted my leg, like I’ve been trained—”

“That’s not what I meant, you little smart-ass.” Misha cut me off. “You’re getting stronger. Way stronger.”

A shiver curled down my spine and danced over my skin. I was getting stronger, but I imagined that with each passing year, that would continue to happen for the both of us until...

Until what?

For some reason I’d always thought that when I turned eighteen, something would change, but my birthday passed over a month ago, and we were still here, secreted away and well hidden, just waiting for the time when I was summoned by my father to fight.

I wasn’t living.

Neither was Misha.

The all-too-familiar feeling of discontent started to settle over me like a too-heavy blanket, but I pushed it aside.

Now wasn’t the time to think about any of that, because the truth was, I’d been getting stronger for a while now. Faster, too, but I’d been able to hold back when I trained with Misha.

I’d just lost my cool tonight.

Could’ve been way worse, though.

“I didn’t mean to kick him through a window exactly, but I’m glad I did,” I said, lowering my gaze to the dark sweater I wore. “He did seem...freaked out by how strong I was.”

“Of course he did, Trin, because nearly everyone here thinks you’re just a human.”

But I wasn’t.

I wasn’t part-Warden, either, and they were like real-life superheroes, hunting down the bad guys, if superheroes were, well, gargoyles.

Until a little over ten years ago, the beastly looking statues perched on churches and buildings throughout the world were seen only as architectural wonders, but then they went public, exposing to the world that many of those statues were actually living, breathing creatures.

After an initial period of shock, people realized Wardens were just another species, and they accepted them. Well, most humans did. There were fanatics like the Church of God’s Children who believed Wardens were a sign of the end times or something lame, but most people were okay with Wardens, and while the Wardens did sometimes help law enforcement if they happened upon a human committing crimes, Wardens were mostly gunning for bigger baddies.

Demons.

The general public had no idea demons were real or what they looked like or how many different species there actually were. Hell, they had no idea that many demons blended in among them so well that some of them had even been voted into government positions of great power and influence.

The majority of people believed demons were creatures of biblical myth, because some kind of heavenly rule demanded that mankind was to stay in the dark when it came to demons, centering around the incontrovertible idea of blind faith.

Man must believe in God and Heaven and their faith must come from a pure place and not from fear of celestial consequence. If man was ever to find out Hell truly existed, things would go south fast for everyone, including the Wardens.

It was up to the Wardens to dispatch the demons and keep mankind in the dark so that people could live and thrive with their free will and all that jazz.

At least, that was what we’ve been told, what we believed.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand it. Like, if mankind knew that demons were real, they could protect themselves. If they knew that, say, killing one another actually did mean they’d get a one-way ticket with no refunds to Hell, they might act right, but those actions might not be of their own free will. Thierry had explained it to me once.

Humankind must always be in the position of exercising free will without fear of consequence.

But the Wardens of the Potomac Highlands, the ancestral seat of power for the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley clans, where the warriors were trained to protect the human cities and fight the ever-increasing population of demons, had a purpose that extended beyond training the warriors.

They were hiding me.

Most who lived in the community didn’t know that, including Clay and his stupid, floppy hair. He didn’t even know I could see ghosts and spirits, and yes, there was a world of difference between the two. I could count on one hand how many knew the truth. Misha. Thierry and his husband, Matthew. Jada. That was all.

And that would never change.

Most Wardens believed I was just an orphaned human that Thierry and Matthew had felt sorry for, but I was far from being just a human.

The part of me that was human came from my mother. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw her staring back at me. I got my dark hair and brown eyes from her, as well as the olive skin tone courteous of her Sicilian roots. I also had her face. Big eyes. Maybe a little too big, because I could make myself look bugged out without much effort. I had her high cheekbones and small nose that curved slightly to one side at the end. I also had her wide, often expressive mouth.

That wasn’t the only thing that came from my mother’s side. I also had her crap family genetics.

My nonhuman side... Well, I didn’t look like my father.

At all.

   
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