I have been getting some enquiries regarding Aidan’s Redemption, which is the sequel to Lily’s Reprieve, and is also the second book in the Blackstone Trilogy. I had hoped to publish just after Christmas, but I had underestimated how busy my December would be. The good news is that the cover is done, and the manuscript is complete. I am busy now with final edits, after which I will publish, either on or before January 10, 2014.
For those readers who can’t wait, here’s a three chapter teaser of Aidan’s Redemption to see you through.
Copyright 2013 Niki Savage
“Why do you hide beneath the ground like a wounded animal? Why do you not teach these humans a lesson they will never forget?”
Aidan smiled sadly. As usual, Zargun just wanted to destroy and conquer. “And what lesson would that be?”
“That they must worship us, or die.”
“I could not convince even one human to remain loyal to me. How would I convince billions?”
“Are you still moping over that harlot? She betrayed you. Is that love? You should have destroyed her like the others.”
“I could no more hurt her than I could hurt my own flesh.”
“And yet she watched them beat you, and did nothing.”
“She was as much a prisoner as I was.”
“But you keep forgetting that she had put you in that position. If I had not stepped in, you would be dead now, or locked in a dungeon.”
“And you were only too happy to take advantage of the situation,” Aidan said bitterly.
Oscar glanced up, startled by the sound of his master’s voice. Until now, the verbal exchange had been silent. Zargun spoke in Aidan’s mind, and Aidan answered him in the same way.
“Could I have predicted that the radiation of the sun would set me free?”
“You must have suspected,” Aidan said, answering Zargun in his thoughts.
“I hoped, and my hope was rewarded. You have been too easy on these humans.”
“You forget that I am human too.”
“Your innocence astounds me. You gave up the last of your humanity when you allowed me to teleport us to the sun. Could a human survive such a feat?”
Aidan rose to his feet and walked to an ornate mirror that complemented the antique furnishings in the luxurious room. He studied his image for a few moments before declaring aloud, “I look human. I am human.”
Zargun laughed. “Except that you glow in the dark, despite all your sessions with the black stone. Anyone who comes near you will die within hours, and that includes sweet Lily. But she is as good as dead anyway. By now the leukemia would have destroyed her body.”
Aidan grimaced in pain. “You cannot know that for sure.”
Zargun laughed again. “I can only hope. Let us travel into the future, and see if she is still alive.”
“I will not do that.”
“Because that would destroy the last bit of hope I have.”
“I fail to understand what you see in her. You are better off without her. You are stronger without her. You made yourself vulnerable to protect her, and she used it against you. How can you still care for her after she betrayed you?”
“She betrayed me because I failed her. I should have told her everything from the start, and I should have been true to her.”
“But you were true to her, in your own way.”
“It was not good enough.”
“Well, I think it is time for me to take charge.”
“You, take charge? You are just an alien talking in my head. You have no power over me.”
“You will discover that you are wrong. You are a mere thousand years old, but I have been alive for millions of years. Do you think you can stand against me?”
Before Aidan could answer, incredible pain ripped through his skull. He fell to his knees, screaming Lily’s name as red hot, molten agony tormented every nerve ending in his body.
* * * *
Lily lay on an unfamiliar bed, staring at the crystal wind chime she had hung near the window. The September sun shone through the window, instantly transformed by the crystal facets of the wind chime into brilliant colors that danced on the cream-colored walls of the motel room. Yet the room remained chilly enough for Lily to consider adding a jacket to the jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt she already wore.
James was in the room next door, and they had been on the run for six months. During that time, Lily had discovered that James was under the impression that Aidan worked for a clandestine government organization. He had told her that Aidan had instructed him to go on the run with her if she or Aidan gave him the keyword Ulysses, because that would mean Aidan’s cover had been blown.
It sounded almost believable, if you left out the fact that Aidan was part alien, radioactive, and deadly to anything that crossed his path.
In the beginning, Lily had been under the impression that James expected some kind of contact from his employer. But as the months passed by, it became obvious that Aidan had left them to their own devices.
After exhausting the five locations that Aidan had specified, they had kept on the move, changing location every few days, pretending to be father and daughter on a road trip through America. Most people accepted their story readily, if they were even curious enough to ask.
A sharp rap at the door that connected her room with James’ room startled Lily from her reverie. She sat up and called, “Come in.”
The door opened, and James entered, a smile on his face, though she could see the lines of hardship that the months on the run have carved on his features. He wore beige chinos and an open necked blue shirt, but Lily didn’t think she would ever get used to not seeing him in a suit.
“Having a nap in the middle of the day, luv?”
Lily didn’t have the heart to tell James that she hated it when he used that endearment. It reminded her of Victor, who had fooled her with ease, and tricked her into betraying Aidan. Though he and Patrick had paid for it with their lives, Lily couldn’t move past the fact that she had fallen for their deceit. Self-condemnation haunted her, but she had to bear her burden alone, unable to tell James what had happened that fateful morning when she had betrayed Aidan.
She forced a smile. “Nothing much else to do. And I feel as if I just can’t catch up on my sleep.”
“You slept all day in the car yesterday. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”
“I’m fine, but I have this horrible headache that just won’t go away. Do you have some Advil in your room?”
“No, luv, but we can get some after lunch. There’s a good restaurant down the road. I think we need a solid meal to get our strength back.”
Lily suppressed a shudder at the thought of food. “`I’ll give it a miss, if you don’t mind. I’m not hungry.”
“I’ll bring you a takeaway, in case you change your mind. And I’ll see what pain pills I can get.”
“Thanks,” Lily said, glad that he had not insisted that they stay together.
James left, and she lay down again, resuming her contemplation of the crystal wind chime Aidan had made for her.
In the rush to leave the Central Park penthouse, she had grabbed what she could in the allotted fifteen minutes. She had left behind all the beautiful designer clothing she owned, and had instead filled her suitcase with sensible shoes, jeans, T-shirts and jerseys. The kind of clothes that she imagined someone on the run would need.
Then she had used five precious minutes to take her wind chime down from the ceiling and pack it in its box. Afterwards she had run to Aidan’s room to grab his favorite woolen sweater and a bottle of his aftershave, tools she could use when the longing became too much to bear.
But she had also disobeyed James’ orders. She had left all her credit cards and her laptop on her bed as instructed, but she had packed her iPad and her iPhone. Aidan’s cell number was in the contacts list of her iPhone, so she had planned to purchase a prepaid sim card, and then call him. But since then a few things had happened that left her hesitant to contact him.
During the first months they had been on the run, she had often woken during the night, sure that she had heard Aidan calling her name. And while awake, she would hear his voice in her mind, telling her over and over that he loved her. She had wondered about that at first, wondering if that was what Aidan had meant when he told her that teleporting to the sun had changed him into something else.
Maybe he had reached a plane of higher enlightenment. Maybe he was now capable of mental telepathy, like the aliens on the planet Hedon. Maybe he was trying to reach her, to reassure her that he was in good health and that they would be together again somehow.
But if he had wanted to do that, he could just have phoned James. At each of the five locations, James had found a locker that contained new papers and an unlisted cell phone. But no call had ever come through on any of the phones, adding to James’ belief that Aidan was dead, because he had not contacted them as agreed. But Lily knew better. She had betrayed Aidan, had trampled on his love for her, and this banishment and uncertainty was her punishment.
Her eyelids grew heavy as she stared at the crystal wind chime, and a few minutes later, she fell asleep.
~ . ~
Lily woke what felt like only minutes later when James burst into the room. She jumped to her feet, startled, but then immediately sat on her bed again as the world turned dark in front of her eyes. She took a few deep breaths before looking up at James. “What is it?”
“We have to get out of here,” he said, two spots of high color in his cheeks. “Some strangers at the restaurant were asking questions, looking for someone of your description.”
Lily yawned. “I’m sure this town is filled with plenty of blonde twenty something girls.”
“They described a scar on the girl’s forearm.” He grabbed her right arm and pushed back her sleeve to reveal a crescent shaped scar dating back to her childhood. “They described this scar.”
Lily gasped as her insides turned to ice.
“You need to pack,” James said. “We’re leaving in ten minutes.”
Lily didn’t need ten minutes to pack. She rarely unpacked her suitcase anymore. It took her three minutes to unhook the wind chime and pack it into its box, and a further thirty seconds to sweep her toiletries off the bathroom counter and into her toiletry bag. Slipping on her trainers and tying her shoelaces took less than a minute. Only five minutes had passed by the time she walked through to James’ room with her suitcase.
He had already slammed his suitcase shut. “We’re getting good at this,” he said, trying to inject humor into the tense atmosphere.
Lily played along, forcing a smile. “Practice makes perfect. Where to this time?”
James frowned. “Let’s just keep heading north, as far away from New York as we can get. When we see a town we like, we’ll stop off for a couple of days again. I just don’t know how they keep finding us.”
Lily didn’t know either, but she had a strong suspicion. Last night she had used her iPad, and today strangers were looking for her. Victor had once asked to borrow her iPad while his had been in for repairs, which strengthened her belief that the iPad was suspect. “James, I forgot something in the bathroom. You start the car. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Don’t be long,” he said as he headed out the door with his suitcase.
Lily stepped back into her room and opened her suitcase. Her iPad lay on top of her clothing. She grabbed it and ran into the bathroom. After lifting her iPad high above her head, she smashed it onto the edge of the bath. The back cover of the device shattered, exposing a tiny circuit board, and a blinking red light. Two small leads attached the circuit board to the battery of the iPad, and Lily tugged it free before grinding it to pieces beneath her heel.
This explained a lot, and she felt a surge of rage at the damage Victor was still wreaking, even though he was long dead. No doubt, he and Patrick had planted the device, hoping it would lead them to Aidan’s hideout, but she had never taken her iPad to the mansion, knowing that she wouldn’t need such entertainment with Aidan in the vicinity.
But after her escape, the Order of St. Lucian had found another use for the tracking device, and only because she had disobeyed James, who had told her to leave all electronic devices behind in New York.
She left the ruined iPad in the bathroom, grabbed her suitcase and stormed out of the room to where James waited. She still kept her iPhone, because it had never left her possession, so she knew that Victor couldn’t have installed a tracking device in it.
Minutes later, they drove out of town. In the next town, they planned to use one of James’ false identities to trade the brown Ford they were travelling in for a different car.
Always moving forward, always running, trying to remain alive, but was this living?
* * * *
With the new car fueled up, James and Lily took turns driving, sleeping in shifts, and stopping only for food or fuel. As the sun rose the next morning, Lily slipped her sunglasses on, and glanced at James’ sleeping face. She felt a stab of guilt, knowing she had put his life at risk. Six months on the run wasted because she had a tracking device in her iPad.
The leads attached to her battery told her that the device had been feeding off the power of her iPad, which is why they’d had times of relative peace when her battery had been flat, and she had not bothered to charge it.
But last night she had discovered that the motel had free wireless, so she had charged her iPad and logged on to the internet, desperate to check her mail, hoping to find an email from Aidan. Instead, she found close to a hundred emails from Suzy, imploring her to respond.
She had thought it was safe to use her iPad, because she had removed the sim card and disabled location services before they had left New York.
But she had no way of knowing that the tracking device would report her general position every time she logged on to a wireless network. And that could have cost James his life. He would have fought to the death to defend her, and he was capable of it. Lily had discovered that James had worked most of his life for a British agency in London, who hired out bodyguards who posed as butlers.
James had told her that when he reached retirement age, Aidan had approached him and offered him employment as caretaker of his apartment in New York. James had jumped at the opportunity, eager to explore new horizons.
But had he signed up for this? The order of St. Lucian wasn’t interested in him, though they would kill him if he stood in their way. No, they wanted her, for reasons she could only imagine. But she had a few ideas. The first obvious idea was that they wanted to use her to draw Aidan out into the open. But how would they achieve that, if she didn’t even know where he was?
But another, far more sinister agenda worried her. She had heard Charles and his father talking in the elevator while she had been in the coffin. From the conversation, she had gathered that Charles had found the hazardous material container with the used condoms. God only knew what they planned to do with that, but she was quite sure that they meant for her to play an integral part in their plans.
James woke and stretched as best he could in the cramped confines of the passenger seat.
“Did you have a good rest?” Lily asked, glancing at him.
He frowned as he stared at his watch. “You were supposed to wake me three hours ago.”
She smiled. “You looked like you needed the rest, Grandpa. I still have quite a buzz going from that enormous cup of coffee I had at midnight. Go back to sleep, it’s all under control.”
James relaxed again and closed his eyes. “If you say so, luv. Wake me when we reach the next town. I think it’s time we find somewhere to book in so we can get cleaned up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Lily said brightly, fighting the exhaustion hovering behind her eyelids. A sign indicated fifty miles to Bellingham, a town close to the border of Canada.
Look out for the rest of Aidan’s Redemption on January 10.