Soul Reaping -- Anne Hope



In the first draft of Soul Deep, I’d included Adrian’s battle scene with Thomas, which I later deleted. This scene takes place after Ben mysteriously goes missing and Marcus is injured in a fight with the Watchers. While Marcus and Regan are dragged back to the Watchers’ complex, Adrian returns to the scene of the crime to face the very man who cut down his father.



Something was wrong. Adrian felt it. An unsettling sensation traveled through him as he crept along pathways he could negotiate with his eyes closed. Using the houses as cover, he scanned his surroundings for a sign of the Watchers. He could still feel their dark energy permeating the air, threatening to tear down the peaceful community he’d built.

His truce with Cal was tenuous at best. A showdown with the Watchers could obliterate it altogether. But he couldn’t turn his back on Marcus. He’d given the man his word and, truth be told, he didn’t want to see his father put down like a rabid dog.

His father.

It felt strange to think of Marcus in this way. Adrian had never really had a father. He took care of himself, always had. The past few days he’d spent in Marcus’s company had brought upon him an awkward revelation. They’d made him realize that he and Marcus were more alike than he’d thought. Had circumstances been different, they could’ve been friends.

He turned the corner and advanced with his back against the brick wall of yet another abandoned townhouse. He’d managed to evacuate most of his recruits, but some hadn’t been as lucky. Several homes had been raided, the Watchers leaving a string of broken bodies behind.

Adrian entered another one of the houses, bracing himself for what he’d find. One of his men lay by the door, his eyes blank, his face a mask of shock, even in death. Adrian lowered the man’s lids, then closed his own eyes in defeat. He’d failed. Failed to protect his people.

When the Watchers looked upon the men and women in this development, all they saw was a group of soul-thirsty Rogues. They didn’t understand what Adrian had created in this hidden corner of society—a community, a family. Even the damned needed a place to call home.

Now that home had been compromised, and Adrian was faced with the incredible task of rebuilding what the Watchers had mindlessly destroyed. And rebuild he would. He’d pick up the pieces, find a new location, make sure to keep it a secret this time. If there was one thing he’d learned over the years, it was that Cal couldn’t be trusted.

But first, he had a promise to keep.

This place had once bustled with activity. Now, the silence was so shrill it pierced his eardrums. He tunneled his vision, searching for the intruders who’d turned his home into a ghost town. He saw two of them circling the perimeter, three others rummaging through empty houses, another one scoping the surrounding woods.

There was no sign of Regan or Marcus.

A few yards from his unit, Adrian froze. The window of a neighboring house had been smashed, and broken glass littered the ground. He approached the debris, noting the blood-red droplets staining the shards. Marcus’s lingering aura clung to the area like a cloud, a churning mass of energy that slammed into Adrian. His father’s pain echoed through him, bringing with it a flash of understanding. Some of these bloodied shards had embedded themselves in Marcus’s flesh, had driven him to the ground in a state of red-hot agony.

“Must be my lucky day.” The voice startled Adrian, and he spun around to face its source. He’d been so consumed with unraveling the mystery of what had transpired here, he’d dropped his guard and revealed his presence to the enemy.

A Watcher stood about ten feet away, looking more like a full-grown cupid than a hardened soldier. A wild cap of golden curls crowned his head, and his face had the innocent quality of youth. But the hungry gleam in the man’s eyes warned Adrian not to be fooled. Boyish features aside, this guy was a predator. Adrian had known enough of them to recognize the signs.

“Six Rogues down, one to go.” The Watcher approached him, bloody blade in hand, his mouth taut with anticipation. “Should’ve known Marcus and Regan would’ve holed up in a place crawling with vermin.”

Adrian held his ground, watching the other man for a sign of attack. “Where are they?”

The false impression of innocence vanished, replaced by a brutal scowl. “You don’t get to ask the questions. I do.” The Watcher waved his dagger at Adrian in blatant warning. “Where’s the boy?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.” In his previous life, Adrian had made a career of besting both the Watchers and the Kleptopsychs. He’d escaped their clutches countless times, had outmaneuvered and outsmarted them at every turn. There was no way he’d allow this pathetic excuse of a soldier to threaten him.

The Watcher smiled, but the nervous twitch in his jaw revealed his displeasure. “I wouldn’t be so cocky if I were you.” He indicated his blade as though its mere existence should frighten Adrian into submission.

But Adrian wasn’t that easily intimidated. There were things that carved wounds far deeper, wounds that never quite healed. This creature’s bloody dagger wasn’t one of them.

All amusement vanished from the Watcher’s face. “Listen, buddy, I’ve had a tough day. Tell me where you stashed the boy.”

“I’m not your buddy.” Adrian raised his hand, and the Watcher went catapulting backward, slamming into the brick wall behind him.

Shaken, the guy clambered back onto his feet, then lurched toward Adrian with a growl. Adrian moved aside, deflecting his opponent’s blow without even touching him. The Watcher flew past him, stopping mere inches from the deadly glass.

“Where’s Marcus?” Adrian asked again. “What did you do with him?”

His enemy pivoted on his heels, violent satisfaction twisting his features. “You really want to know what happened to your precious Marcus? I’ll show you.” He stretched out his arms, and the glass tinkled, rising behind the Watcher like a waterfall. When he slapped his hands together, the bloodied shards speared through the air toward Adrian.

Instinctively, Adrian crossed his arms in front of his face, and the glass stopped midflight. With a hard mental shove, he pushed against the protective wall he’d erected around himself, and the deadly fragments changed course. Like a swarm of enraged bees, the shards whizzed toward his attacker. The Watcher moved out of the way in the nick of time.

Howling with rage, he aimed his blade at Adrian and lunged. Adrian avoided the killing blow, skillfully disarming his enemy and using his dagger against him. Blood gurgled from the Watcher’s throat as he fell onto the cobblestone walkway.

Adrian approached the assassin, staring down into a pair of lifeless slate-colored eyes. A high-pitched sound shattered the stillness, the mournful toll of a death knell.

No, not a death knell. A cell phone.

In the distance he heard a door open and close, followed by footsteps striking the ground. The others were coming. There was nothing Adrian could do for Marcus now. He didn’t even know if his father still lived.

From the north side of the townhouse, someone called out a name. “Thomas?”

Adrian dove into the shadows, slipped quietly between the houses, heading for the concealing cloak of the woods. Someone saw him, ordered him to stop. Ignoring the command, Adrian sprinted into the forest, where shaggy rows of trees faithfully rose to enshroud him.

With any luck, the Watcher who pursued him didn’t possess the ability to tunnel his vision. Not everyone did. Without the gift of sight, his pursuer would quickly lose him in this elaborate maze of trees. Leaves fluttered overhead, and thick trunks served to camouflage Adrian as he weaved his way between them.

Still, for the first time in a quarter of a century, he felt hunted. Old, familiar resentment reared within him, and he swallowed a bitter chuckle.

That was the problem with peace. The damn thing never lasted.