An abiding love. An epic betrayal. One bloody path to redemption.
Joshaviah Falcon, the Guardians’ mentor, guide, and conscience, keeps his own past tightly under wraps. But sometimes, the memories—like a story desperate to be told—claw their way free…
As a newly created Guardian deposited in Dark-Age Europe Joe quickly encounters the worst, then luckily the best, of humanity. For a while he’s happy with an itinerant metalsmith and his family. He even falls in love with a violet-eyed beauty who calls forth his mating instinct—until a treacherous prince uses that love to force him to commit the most unforgivable of sins.
Robbed of everyone he ever loved, Joe turns avenging angel, leaving a gory trail of payback in his wake. Death would be a welcome relief; instead he’s sentenced to an immortal existence on Earth, stripped of his Guardian status.
But one ray of hope pierces his torment…a path to redemption through the deepest, darkest pits of the Underworld. Where he’ll drown in a river of blood—or wear it like a badge of honor.
Joe burst out of the elevator to the third-floor garage and strode over to his bike, the only possession he valued, the only thing he would take with him. The Kawasaki street legal ninja H2 was his pride and joy, but more than that, he needed its speed right now. He needed to get away, needed to let the mind-numbing speed of the bike dissolve his pain.
He flung his helmet so violently against the wall it disintegrated with a loud crash that reverberated through the nearly empty garage. Joe needed no helmet. Instead, he craved the wind in his face and in his hair.
Riding on his motorcycle at full throttle felt almost like teleporting, or flashing, as Guardians called it, but unlike flashing, it could go on for hours. After a few hours of intense speed his mind would calm and he would become numb again.
At least he hoped it would work that way. It always worked before, but this time was different, the pain more extreme.
He sat astride his bike and opened the throttle. The roar of the bike bounced off the walls and the intense acceleration took him down to the ground floor of the building within seconds.
He sped out onto the road and headed towards the hills behind the apartment complex. After a few moments, the city disappeared behind him and the open road flowed ahead.
Like magic, the bike picked up speed the instant he applied more throttle, and the roar settled into a guttural purr. The hair-trigger acceleration thrilled him through his pain. He accelerated even more and sped into the night.
On and on he rode, still picking up speed. The wind slapped his face until his eyes watered and whipped his long hair in every direction. He didn’t care. If he kept going for long enough, he would stop thinking. That’s what he needed, simple, mindless existence.
The past always intruded, no matter how often he thought it was behind him. For a few years, he had succeeded. Watching out for Esau, being his Guardian all these years, took most of his time and attention.
When they met Nathan and West, he had even less time to think, focusing his attention on guiding them. Happiness had almost been within his grasp.
Perhaps he had guided the young Guardians too well. Each of them now had a mate and meaningful work in the community. Happiness shone from their faces. It was too much for him to bear.
Not that he begrudged their happiness. Far from it. He wanted them to be happy. The trouble was being able to read minds, he could pick up their thoughts, their feelings and their happiness too easily.
Once, happiness had been his, too briefly, before it all disappeared — taken from him. And it had been his fault.
If he had paid more attention to what was happening, she could still be alive today, enjoying life by his side as she was meant to. Perhaps all of them would have been able to live full, happy lives.
The road and the scenery sped by in a blur. He didn’t care where the bike took him. A destination was not necessary.
For countless years, he had kept his emotions tightly controlled. But now, chaotic, overpowering emotions burst through him, tearing him apart, the numbness he sought still out of reach.
Being with Nathan, West and Esau, watching them develop and find their mates awakened something in him long buried. It overwhelmed him, eating him alive until all he wanted to do was scream endlessly in protest.
The need to leave them, grew ever larger, even though they were his only friends. Leaving them would enable him to be numb again.
Joe became aware his bike was losing power. Something was wrong with it. How was that possible? He always maintained it well.
He pulled to the side of the road and checked the gas gauge. An exasperated sigh escaped his lips. How absurd. Out of gas. It was late, and he was in no state to deal with anyone. Hunting for a gas station was too much trouble right now.
Wondering what to do, he looked around. Open fields spread out on both sides of the road, so he wheeled his bike into the nearest one. He sat down next to it, putting his head in his hands. His face was wet. Silent tears flowed down his face, and he hadn’t noticed.
Just as well he left when he did. He would never allow the young Guardians, now mature adults, to see him in this state. He was a warrior, with years of controlling his emotions behind him.
Without exception, nobody alive had ever seen him upset, let alone crying like a baby, not even Esau, who had known him the longest. Calm, reliable Joe. If only they knew, the turmoil he hid from them.
Exhaustion claimed him. Too tired to flash anywhere to get gas, he collapsed backwards on the grass. Gazing up at the stars, he lay there, not attempting to get up. Perhaps sleep would come and bring oblivion with it.
Although he closed his eyes, sleep wouldn’t come — his mind raced faster and faster. The images racing around in his head were of Rachel – pure, innocent Rachel.
After all these years, he still remembered everything about her, as though he had only seen her yesterday, her dark hair with small daisies threaded through, her flashing eyes and beguiling smiles.
She had been so vibrant, so full of life. He remembered everything as it had happened, as well.
Joe groaned. He couldn’t allow his mind to linger on Rachel any more. He had spent countless years doing that. It was the way to madness.
A crazed grin twisted his features. What did it matter if he went mad? There was nothing worth living for, now he was no longer needed as a Guardian. Perhaps insanity could bring him the peace he sought. A bitter laugh escaped his lips.
A tickle at the back of his mind distracted him. What was this? Someone’s thoughts intruded into his mind. It was a recent aberration of his ability to read minds. He could sense when people thought about him, whether he knew them or not.
Curious, he debated with himself whether to allow entry of this being, whoever he or she was, into his mind. The mind he sensed was inquisitive, one that wanted to know and understand him.
Printed words flashed across his mind. Joe understood. This person was reading about him.
A cynical smile spread across his face. Entering his mind would give the intruder a shock– a just punishment for the intrusion. Would he allow the intruder in? Why not?
Anything to stop the relentless thoughts about Rachel, his soft, darling Rachel, gone forever. He fought down a sob.
Joe let down his guard and allowed the tickle full access to his mind.
Hey you! You, reading about me. Joe directed the thought to the presence in his mind.
A shocked silence registered in his brain, as if whoever had entered his mind couldn’t accept what was happening. Joe shook his head, slightly amused by the reaction of the person. At least this was a distraction.
Yes, you, that’s right, I’m talking to you. I read minds you know, and I can tell when someone is thinking about me, even you, reading about me now. You’ve been curious about me, I see. I’ve appeared in several stories about the Urban Guardians, but, as yet, no one living knows my real story. I’ve deliberately kept it that way.
The shocked silence grew panicky and a sense of disbelief flooded his mind, as the being registered what was going on. Joe tried again.
Yes, you’re hearing voices, or rather one voice — mine. Don’t worry. I’m letting you in. I’m allowing you access to my mind to take part in my thoughts. It’s only temporary. That’s what you wanted, didn’t you? You were curious about me? Curious about Joe the Guardian?
The sense of disbelief and panic intensified.
Oh, come on now, where’s your sense of adventure? Joe admonished the person in his brain. I’m prepared to let you in and share my story. It will be a distraction. And if it gets too much for me, I’ll just shut you out. Your sense of curiosity will be satisfied. And me? I’ll have someone anonymous to share my story with. I don’t need to know you or anything about you, I’d rather not, so you’re safe. They say talking about something is healing.
A mixture of curiosity and disbelief flooded his mind. Joe took that as permission to continue. He stretched and gathered his thoughts…
My story starts centuries ago, at a time when humans were uncivilized, savage creatures, living their short, brutal lives in small settlements. I’ve never told a living soul my full story, it’s always been too painful… However, maybe it’s time to share it — with a stranger – and a human at that. Joe laughed, a hard, harsh sound.
Perhaps sharing his story in this way would help him come to terms with it at last. Joe hoped so. He was willing to try anything. Real peace would be a welcome change, instead of constantly masking his pain.