Home > Rage and Ruin (The Harbinger #2)

Rage and Ruin (The Harbinger #2)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

1

I blinked open achy, swollen eyes and stared straight at the pale, translucent face of a ghost.

Gasping, I jerked upright. Strands of dark hair fell across my face. “Peanut!” I pressed the heel of one palm against my chest, where my poor heart pounded like a steel drum. “What in the Hell, dude?”

The ghost, who’d been sort of a roommate of mine for the past decade, grinned at me from where he floated midair, several inches above the bed. He was stretched out on his side, cheek resting on his palm. “Just making sure you’re still alive.”

“Oh my God.” Exhaling raggedly, I lowered my hand to the soft dove-gray comforter. “I’ve told you a million times to stop doing that.”

“I’m kind of surprised you still think I listen to you half the time.”

Peanut had a point.

He had an aversion to following my rules, which were only, like, two rules.

Knock before entering the room.

Don’t watch me while I sleep.

I thought they were quite reasonable rules.

Peanut looked like he had the night he died, way back in the ’80s. His Whitesnake concert T-shirt was legit, as were his dark jeans and red Chuck Taylors. On his seventeenth birthday, for some idiotic reason, he’d climbed one of those massive speaker towers and subsequently fallen to his death, proving natural selection was a thing.

Peanut hadn’t crossed over into that shiny bright white light, and a few years ago, I stopped trying to convince him when he said to me, quite clearly, it was not his time. It was far past his time, but whatever. I liked having him around...except when he did creepy crap like this.

Pushing the hair out of my face, I looked around my bedroom—no, not my bedroom. This wasn’t even my bed. All of this belonged to Zayne. My gaze flicked from the heavy sunlight-blocking curtains to the bedroom door—the closed bedroom door that I’d left unlocked the night before, just in case...

I shook my head.

“What time is it?” I leaned back against the headboard, keeping the blanket close to my chin. Since Wardens’ body temps ran higher than humans’ and it was July, so it was most likely hot and sticky as a circle of Hell outside, Zayne’s apartment was like an icebox.

“It’s almost three in the afternoon,” Peanut answered. “And that’s why I thought you were dead.”

Damn, I thought, scrubbing my hand across my face. “We got back pretty late last night.”

“I know. I was here. You didn’t see me, but I saw you. Both of you. I was watching.”

I frowned. That didn’t sound creepy at all.

“You looked like you’d been through a wind tunnel.” Peanut’s gaze flickered over my head. “You still do.”

I’d felt like I’d been in a wind tunnel. A mental, emotional and physical wind tunnel. Last night, after I’d had a complete and utter breakdown by the old treehouse at the Warden compound, Zayne had taken me flying.

It had been magical, up there with the cool night wind, where the stars that always looked so faint to me became bright. I hadn’t wanted it to end, even when my face went numb and my lungs began to strain with the effort to breathe. I’d wanted to stay up there, because nothing could touch me in the wind and the night sky, but Zayne had brought me back down to Earth and to reality.

That was only a handful of hours ago, but it felt like a lifetime. I barely remembered coming back to Zayne’s apartment. We hadn’t talked about what had happened with...Misha, or about what had happened to Zayne. We hadn’t talked at all, really, other than Zayne asking if I needed anything and me mumbling no. I’d gotten undressed and climbed into bed, and Zayne had stayed in the living room, sleeping on the couch.

“You know,” Peanut said, drawing me from my thoughts, “I might be dead and all, but you look way worse than me.”

“I do?” I murmured, even though I wasn’t surprised to hear that. Based on the way my face felt, I probably looked like I’d face-planted a brick wall.

He nodded. “You’ve been crying.”

I had been.

“A lot,” he added.

That was true.

“And when you didn’t come back yesterday, I was worried.” Peanut floated upright and sat on the edge of the bed. His legs and hips disappeared a few inches into the mattress. “I thought something happened to you. I was panicking. I couldn’t even finish watching Stranger Things I was so worried. Who’s going to take care of me if you die?”

“You’re dead, Peanut. No one needs to take care of you.”

“I still need to be loved and cherished and thought of. I’m like Santa Claus. If no one alive is here to want and believe in me, then I’ll cease to exist.”

Ghosts and spirits didn’t work that way. At all. But he was so wonderfully overdramatic. A grin tugged at the corners of my lips until I remembered I wasn’t the only one who could see Peanut. A girl who lived in this apartment complex could also see him. She must have watered-down angelic blood kicking around in her veins, like all humans who were able to see ghosts or displayed other psychic abilities. Enough to make her...different from everyone else. There weren’t many humans in existence with traces of angelic blood, so it was a shock to learn that there was one so close to where I was staying.

“Thought you made a new friend?” I reminded him.

“Gena? She’s cool, but it wouldn’t be the same if you ended up as dead as a doornail, and her parents aren’t choice, you know?” Before I could confirm that choice meant good in ’80s speak, he asked, “Where were you last night?”

My gaze shifted to that closed, unlocked door. “I was at the compound with Zayne.”

Peanut inched closer and lifted a wispy hand. He patted my knee, but I felt nothing through the blanket, not even the cold air that usually accompanied Peanut’s touch. “What happened, Trinnie?”

Trinnie.

Only Peanut called me that, while everyone else called me Trin or Trinity.

I closed my sore eyes as realization sank in. Peanut didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure how to tell him when the wounds left by Misha’s actions hadn’t scabbed over yet. If anything, I’d just slapped a weak-as-Hell bandage over them.

I was holding it together. Barely. So, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it with anyone, but Peanut deserved to know. He knew Misha. He liked him, even though Misha could never see or communicate with Peanut, and he’d come to DC with me to find Misha instead of staying behind in the Potomac Highlands Warden community.

Granted, I was the only one who could see and communicate with Peanut, but he’d felt comfortable in the community. It was a big deal for him to travel with me.

Keeping my eyes closed, I drew in a long shuddering breath. “So, yeah, we...we found Misha, and it wasn’t...it wasn’t good, Peanut. He’s gone.”

“No,” he whispered. And then louder, he repeated, “No.”

I nodded.

“God. I’m sorry, Trinnie. I’m so damn sorry.”

Swallowing around the hard lump in my throat, I met his gaze.

“The demons—”

“It wasn’t the demons,” I interrupted. “I mean, they didn’t kill him. They didn’t want him dead. He was actually working with them.”

“What?” The shock in his voice, the way the one word pitched to near glass-breaking levels, would’ve been funny in any other situation. “He was your Protector.”

“He set it up—his abduction and everything.” I pulled my knees up under the blanket, pressing them to my chest. “Even made it so Ryker saw me that day using my grace.”

“But Ryker killed...”

My mom. I shut my eyes again and felt them burn, as if there could possibly be more tears left inside me. “I don’t know what was wrong with Misha. If he’s always...hated me, or if it was the Protector bond. I found out that he was never supposed to be bonded to me. It was always supposed to be Zayne, but there was a mistake.”

A mistake that my father had known about, and not only had he done nothing to fix it, he hadn’t seemed to care about it at all. When I’d asked why he hadn’t done anything, he’d said he wanted to see what would happen.

How freaking messed up was that?

“The bond could’ve twisted him. Made him turn...bad,” I continued, voice thick. “I don’t know. I won’t ever know, but the why doesn’t change the fact that he was working with Bael and this other demon. He even said that the Harbinger had chosen him.” I flinched as Misha’s face formed in my thoughts. “That the Harbinger told him he was special, too.”

“Isn’t that who’s been killing Wardens and demons?”

“Yeah.” I opened my eyes once I was sure I wasn’t going to cry. “I had to...”

“Oh, no.” Peanut seemed to know without me even saying it.

But I had to say it, because it was the reality. It was the truth I would live with for the rest of my days.

“I had to kill him.” Each word felt like a kick to the chest. I kept seeing Misha. Not the Misha in the clearing outside the senator’s house, but the one who’d waited for me while I talked to ghosts. Who’d napped in his Warden form while I sat beside him. The Misha who had been my best friend. “I did it. I killed him.”

Peanut shook his head, his dark brown hair fading in and out as he became more corporeal for a moment and then lost his hold. “I don’t know what to say. I really don’t.”

“There’s nothing to be said. It is what it is.” Exhaling, I stretched out my legs. “Zayne is now my Protector, and I’m going to be staying here. We need to find the Harbinger.”

“Well, that part is good, right?” Peanut rose from the bed, still in a sitting position. “Zayne being your Protector?”

It was.

And it wasn’t.

Becoming my Protector had saved Zayne’s life, so that was a good thing—a great thing. Zayne hadn’t hesitated to take the bond, and that was before he’d found out it was always supposed to have been him. But it also meant Zayne and I... Well, we could never be more than what we were now, and it didn’t matter how badly I wanted to be more or how much I liked him. It didn’t matter that he was the first guy I was ever seriously into.

   
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