You all may remember Elizabeth Morgan from her wildly popular visit here a couple of months back. Her guest blog, “I Believe in Angels and a Ton of Other Things,” was a big hit, so I’m thrilled to bring her back with an excerpt from her book, THE COLLECTOR. And by “excerpt” I mean THE ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER! Now, there is a prologue and you can read it by clicking here, but I dare say you might want to stay right here and keep on reading. This is a FANTASTIC first chapter!
THE COLLECTOR | Excerpt
Ten years later…
Kale stood unseen under the dim streetlight, waiting. Night had lain down upon London like a thick blanket. The street glittered as if it mirrored the night sky because it was completely soaked from the pouring rain.
As he watched every human that passed him shivering helplessly, he found himself wondering how the water would feel against his skin.
He held out his right hand and caught the falling rain. Nothing. He couldn’t feel a thing, even though he could see each drop that hit his skin. He couldn’t even feel the cold chill he knew was in the air, and as he tipped his hand and let the gathering water fall from his palm, his skin remained dry.
He looked at the night sky and sighed. It was pointless to wonder about such an unimportant thing, so he brushed the thought aside and concentrated on the humans around him.
He could sense every ounce of tension, aggression, and lust pulsing in the city’s nightlife. They were raw emotions, and they floated around him, attempting to influence him. But such simple human emotions slid off him like the raindrops on the windows of the buildings, and they were just as unimportant.
He opened his mind and listened to the random babbling of each individual, their desires pouring from their minds along with their worries and fears. An ongoing trail of meaningless words…
“I dress up for him and he doesn’t even notice…”
“It’s bloody freezing. I just want to go home.”
“Man, I’ve got to get laid tonight…”
“I am so wasted!”
“I bet I look fat. Why did I wear this?”
“She dumped me. I can’t believe she dumped me!”
Humans. Everything affected them. Every word, touch… Why? What was the point in it all?
Why did he care about such things?
He closed his mind and dropped his head back, allowing the white fog to swirl around his eyes. He pulled the vision the Fates had given him of his next collection. He had already seen what was about to happen. He had watched it a million times. This girl’s death would be nothing compared to some of the others he had witnessed, but something didn’t feel right. He didn’t feel right.
He latched on to vision, holding it in his mind, letting it re-play before him one more time. He watched as the silver BMW swerved around the street corner, water exploding as the tires pass through the deep puddles. The driver has lost his grip on the wheel, which sent the car spinning. It hits a blue compact, smashing into the right corner of the hood. Apart from slight whiplash, the passengers aren’t hurt. The BMW spins onto the curve. The front of the car catches the coat of a young woman. Her legs break as soon as the metal meets her pale skin, but it is the instant blow of her head slamming into the brick wall that kills her. Her lifeless form rests on top of the hood of the BMW, her legs mashed into the wall of the bar behind her. Quick and brutal.
He dropped his head and allowed the fog to clear from his eyes.
His chest suddenly felt tight.
She doesn’t stand a chance. The thought echoed in his head. But why does it even matter?
It wasn’t the first time he had seen her. She had been only a child when they met, her young mind so open to all that lay around her. He had probably looked like a mortal to her.
She had watched as he took her father away.
She had no idea what had happened. She was too young to understand. He had reached out for her, but then the driver of the Ford that had stopped after the crash helped her. Knowing she was out of harm, Kale then delivered her father into the light.
But seeing her now, older, he found himself curious about her life.
Always cars. Why must her life now end in such a way?
It shouldn’t matter. It wasn’t his place to know the details of those he collected. It wasn’t his place to be curious. It didn’t matter…
“It does not,” he told himself.
He lifted his head, eyes opening as he sensed the faint dark fog of death invading the air. It was time.
For some reason, his gut twisted as he watched Samantha emerge from the bar where she worked. Her long, auburn hair fell gracefully down her shoulders, framing her pale, heart-shaped face. She stopped abruptly, struggling to get her red umbrella working. He watched carefully as the heavy rain penetrated her thin, dark green coat, which fit snugly against her slender frame. She had grown into a beautiful woman.
Kale could already hear the tires of the BMW in the distance slipping along the drenched road, coming for her. The strange feeling in his chest seemed to swell and grow inside him.
Samantha finally got the umbrella up. Her right hand was shaking as she raised it above her head, her left reaching inside the black bag that rested against her hip. She glanced inside, searching for something.
Kale lifted his hand and slowly swiped the empty space in front of him, causing time to slow before his eyes. He watched the BMW swerve around the corner, then looked back at Samantha who had lifted her head as she pulled her cell phone out of her bag.
Kale could hear the crunch of metal as the BMW hit the car. Samantha reacted to the sound, her gaze gliding over the space where he stood, droplets of rain rolling down her cheek as her eyes suddenly locked with his.
His back straightened. She was looking at him. Straight at him. Could she actually see him? How could she see him? He wasn’t on the mortal plain.
Her brow furrowed, a strange expression spreading across her face. Her head swung toward the BMW as her cell slipped from her hand.
The strange feeling exploded in Kale’s chest. A ripple of light rolled over the surface of his skin, and before he realized what he was doing, he ran toward her. He sensed the hood of the car near his leg as he wrapped his arms tightly around her waist and spun, pulling her along with him.
Time caught up.
The sound of metal crashing against bricks and a string of screams filled the street.
He could hear Samantha’s heart hammering against her ribcage, the air pushing past her lips as she struggled to catch her breath. He removed his arms, backed away, and watched in amazement as she looked over at the BMW crushed into the wall.
I touched her!
He had just touched a living mortal. How? How had that even been possible?
She looked up at him, her large green eyes searching his face as her eyebrows dipped.
“What just happened?” Her sweet, feminine voice shook as she looked back at the car. Shock and disbelief jelled and masked her face. Her body was tense, yet she was still shaking.
“An accident.” A stupid answer, but he could hardly get the words past his own lips. She could see him. She could hear him. He had touched her…
She looked back at him. “You saved my life?”
He had. How?
He was a Collector, not a Guardian. It was impossible for a hand to touch a mortal unless the mortal was ready to take it in death. She wasn’t dead. He was sent for her spirit, not to protect her. She was supposed to die, and he had saved her life.
Her lips met his, and he froze, not knowing what to do. Her eyes were closed as he looked down his nose at her. He could sense the heat radiating off her wet skin, along with her fear, confusion, and gratitude.
He opened his mind.
He was across the street. I was all the way over here. How did he get over here without me seeing? It’s raining, and he’s not wearing a shirt. He’s not even wet. I’ve seen him before. I swear to God, I have seen him before. What the hell just happened? Oh, God. Why the hell am I kissing him?
He closed his mind as he felt her backing away.
“Thank you.” A slight red tint crawled under her skin as she wrapped her arms around her stomach.
“You-you are welcome.”
He could already feel the light curling around him, but it was the violent pull that snapped his attention away from Samantha’s lips. He was being summoned.
He lifted his hands and placed them at either side of her temples, while looking deep into the dark pools of her eyes. They looked back at him, that same wild curiosity he had seen in her before. He leaned closer, listening to the sudden kick in her heartbeat and the slight catch of her breath.
A child seeing him was understandable. Society hadn’t corrupted their fragile minds by telling them that people couldn’t see spirits or angels. They hadn’t been told what was normal or strange. He assumed Samantha would forget. It was a traumatic experience, and she had only been four years old at the time. She should have just thought he was a figment of her imagination, but eighteen years later, here she was standing in front of him again, her green eyes gazing up at him as if he were just…a man. A man she knew.
His eyes clouded as he whispered, “Forget.”
Light swallowed him, ripping him away from her. His arms flew out as he was lifted. He felt the skin of his back crawling, the tantalizing pull of it tightening and the sting as his wings sliced through his flesh. He flinched slightly as his wings burst from under his skin. They stretched, happy to be free, the skin around them already knitting back together, healing.
He was being pulled higher and higher.
He closed his eyes and let the light embrace him, his wings dancing as the light carried him home.
He landed on his knees, head bowed. Panic seized him. He already knew where he was due to the black floor, which shimmered like the stars in the night sky below him, and the steady sound of turning wood, which echoed within the huge chamber, filling the cold silence.
He had been brought to Destiny’s chamber.
Why had he been brought here? He wasn’t due to see them for another eight months. It wasn’t time for next year’s list of souls. Only the Guardians had reason to enter this chamber on a regular basis. They were the only angels who had a purpose within the mortal world.
After the second fall, the Guardians had been created to take over from the Watchers. It was decided that their powers be limited, and that their lives would be tied to the mortals they protect. At the end of their mortal’s life, they would die also, only to be reborn and reassigned. It was all in the hope that they would not follow the footsteps of their brothers before them.
But why was Kale here? Why hadn’t he been summoned before the Council for disobeying his orders? He did not answer to the Makers. What reason would an Angel of Deliverance need to be brought before them? He shuddered.
The Makers. One woman. Three individuals. Each represented the three phases of a mortal’s existence upon earth. Adelpha, birth. Iva, life and Thana, death. Over the centuries, they had become known as many things, the Moerae. The Parcae. The Norms. The Matrones. The Fates. They were the first created after Earth and its mortals, and they were designed for one reason and one reason only. To create purpose within the World. To design and control the Creator’s divine plan for all eternity.
He waited patiently, not daring to lift his head. Seconds stretched into minutes, yet they did not speak to him. Kale took a deep breath and raised his head carefully in hope of not meeting any of their eyes, but his gaze fell upon a giant hole within their tapestry.
Fates’ tapestry. It was an exquisite and vibrant design that covered the walls of the chamber in layers. Each individual thread was a lifeline, spun delicately from the hair and blood of the Fates themselves. Each length was chosen to match that of a mortal’s time on earth. Each individual thread was cut and woven into the ongoing design, linking people’s fates and circumstances. It was a design that only the Makers understood.
And something told him the reason he was brought here was because of that very hole.
Adelpha stood to the left of the chamber. She took the form of a young girl. Her golden hair fell in thick curls to the floor, pooling around her feet, her white dress flowed from her slim figure, and her light blue eyes sparkled with life.
She sat on a small wooden stool, pulling strands of hair from her head and threading them into her spinning wheel, watching as they tightened around the spindle on the other side, where Iva stood.
Iva took the form of a maturated woman. Her hair was darker, thinner, the curls straightening themselves and stopping at her waist. The first lines of age started to emerge on her pale skin, and her blue eyes had lost the sparkle of youth. Her pale gray dress clung to her broader frame.
She pressed her right index finger on the tip of the spindle, while reaching for the thread with her left hand. She pulled the freshly spun thread through her thumb and index finger, her blood staining the thick, golden strands. Once she had pulled the thread to the length of her left arm, she dropped it into Thana’s lap and started her process again.
The eldest Fate sat in a wooden rocking chair to Iva’s left. Age had eaten away at her. Her pasty, gray skin wrinkled with each blink of her black eyes, and the skin beneath them sagged with exhaustion. She was completely bald underneath the hood of her dark gray dress, which was as equally worn and faded as she.
Thana picked the thread up and held it close to her face, her tired eyes studying each fiber, paying close attention to each detail of the darkening thread. She stopped, wrapped the thread around the thumb and index finger of her misshapen left hand, making sure it was good and tight, then picked up the battered pair of rusty scissors that lay on her lap and gave one clean cut. The thread began changing color as she lifted it and threw it into the air, guiding it with her fingers to the ripped hole in the tapestry. With a single flick of her wrist, the piece of thread wriggled and weaved itself to where it belonged in the pattern.
Her gaze turned to Kale, and he dropped his head.
“I hope you realize what you have done.” Her raspy voice sliced through the pleasant silence.
“I do,” Kale answered. His suspicions were confirmed by her simple statement.
“Good. Then would you care to explain to us why you appointed yourself a Guardian?” Iva’s calming and sensual voice asked.
“You are a hand. You were there to collect that girl, not to protect her,” Adelpha joined in, her voice sweet and uncaring as she continued to turn her spinning wheel.
“I did not mean to,” Kale answered. “She saw me and—”
Adelpha laughed. “That is impossible.”
He knew why they would think that, but it wasn’t completely impossible for a living human to see him. Although, it was mostly very young children. No. Older mortals had seen him too. Throughout time, there had been a few who had gazed upon him. A few he thought could see him, but they had always turned away. Yet Samantha didn’t.
“She saw me,” he repeated.
“A hand is only seen when the mortal is ready to take it,” Iva reminded him.
As if he didn’t already know.
Thana coughed. “Yet you showed yourself.”
“I did not show myself; she just saw me. It is possible for an older mortal to see.”
“Even if it was a possibility, Kale, you ignore any who can see you,” Iva commented. “It was her time.”
“I realize that—”
“Do you realize?” Adelpha asked.
“Yes. And I ask for forgiveness.” He bowed his head lower, his wings mimicking the action. “I did not mean—”
“You have ripped a hole in time,” Thana hissed, “in a destiny that was created long ago.”
“You have changed fate,” Iva commented.
“We have had to freeze time in order to fix it,” Adelpha continued.
“Forgiveness is the last thing you will be granted,” Thana growled, the unmistakable sound of her scissors echoing around the room.
“But my ladies…” Kale forced his head to stay down as a show of respect. “…h-how is that even possible? How could I change fate without you knowing?”
The steady thrum of Adelpha’s spinning wheel stopped abruptly. The heat of their gazes rested on him. Kale’s stomach turned.
All three voices slid into one unified voice. “You dare question me?”
“Forgive me. I did not mean—”
“We are the Makers!” they continued. “We decide the fates of mortals. You are a collector of souls. You are a hand and a light. You are an immortal. You have no fate. Therefore, you were not placed in the design. If a Guardian is sent, it has already been woven into the tapestry as they are bound by the mortals they guard. You have no part in destiny. All of this you already know. You were there to collect, yet you failed.”
“Spare your excuses!” Their voice roared like a thunderstorm through the room. “Too long we have watched you, Kale. To long we have seen how these mortals’ deaths have begun to affect you. You find yourself wondering about mortality.”
“Do you wish for humanity like your brothers did so many centuries ago?” Thana asked, her voice thick with menace.
“No! Never. What they did was wrong. I—”
“What they did left a mess,” Iva said with a sneer. “One bigger than the one you have created. But a mess you have created none the less.”
“And like them you shall be punished,” Adelpha promised with a hint of amusement.
His stomach twisted. Tension wound in his muscles. Surely they wouldn’t send him to the abyss. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t, could they? It was up to the Council to condemn, to punish. It was a simple mistake. One that he would never make again.
He felt the light wrapping around him. Restraining him. “My ladies, send me to the Council.”
“There is no need. They have given us permission to punish you as we see fit,” she finished.
He closed his eyes tightly and tried to remain calm. “I am sorry for the mess I have made. I will do anything—”
“We have already decided,” Thana told him.
“For your insolence, your burning curiosity with such trivial questions, and the damage you have caused, we will grant your wish,” Iva stated.
His head shot up, his gaze frantically darting between the three of them. “I do not under—”
Adelpha’s icy glare pinned him to the spot. “You are lucky we are not throwing you into the abyss with your brothers.”
They weren’t sending him to the abyss? He wanted to be relieved, but with the light curling around his body and their gazes burning into his flesh, he tried to remain expressionless. To remain calm. How could he have been so foolish? Why did he save the girls life?
“You wish to be a part of fate?” Iva asked. “To play a role in humanity?”
“What?” His gaze met Iva’s, and he shook his head. “Of course no—”
“So be it!” She raised her right hand, and the others copied the motion.
“Wait!” The light tightened around his chest and waist. Heating his flesh. “No! I—”
“We banish you to Earth,” they began in unison. “Your punishment is mortality! Your punishment will be to remember all!”
With a flex of their fingers, the light swallowed him and pulled him away, but this time instead of carrying him, it let him go.
Kale found he was falling, the light swirling around him.
The heat of the light stabbed at him, and a new sensation ripped through his body. His mouth opened wide as a painful cry rose from the depths of his soul. Bones cracked, and he experienced the familiar tingles of the skin on his back stretching. The sensation became sharper, the usual blissful feeling, slicing down his spine. His wings shuddered, straining frantically, trying to wrap around him, and then a sharp, violent tug. Once… Twice. The skin of his back ripped as his wings were broken and pulled from his spine.
His sight grew hazy as his blood crawled down his back. The light finally left him, and he continued to fall. Darkness lay before him, rising up to meet him as he continued to drop.
Realization hit him hard as he noticed millions of lights burning below. The river Thames stretched before his eyes, and the bitter wind stabbed at his raw, aching flesh.
He cried out as the sharp sting of the freezing water embraced his body.
Everything went black.
BUY @ COBBLESTONE PRESS