Excerpt from Faithless Guardian
Good humor seemed to have replaced the chaos of demonic activity, not that Dover expected anything less. Embry’s cheer spread like fungus wherever he went, there could be no better ambassador for her than the friend she couldn’t live without. They were both dressed down, in what might have been a Georgia-boy uniform of old jeans, battered boots, and ancient t-shirts. Dover took the offered beer from her Charge, sliding into a chair at the immaculate kitchen table, propping her feet in the opposite seat. “What have you two boys been up to?” Embry turned from the stove, a smile creasing his ginger beard. “Jon’s a Bulldog, Dove. So, obviously, we’re besties now.” “Oh, God.” The Guardian groaned. “I’m in for several more Saturdays from football Hell, aren’t I?” “Obviously.” Jon chimed in, his bottle clinking with Embry’s. “He’s been telling me about Guardians and the Host.” Dover arched an accusatory brow toward her friend. “Has he? And what’s he been saying?” Jon had the grace to look somewhat uncomfortable, as though he’d been caught listening to gossip instead of acquiring information from the source. His gaze cut to Embry for support, as expected, the blue-eyed druid offered an encouraging smile. She’d always found Embry had a soothing effect on people, it proved difficult to dislike him. “Well, I know that Guardians serve in large communities called garrisons, usually based in heavily populated cities. They come from all walks of life, all religions, even Atheists. Guardians serve for 15 years, you’re given angelic powers to help protect your Charges, and you require light to use those abilities.” Impressed, Dover sat back, lifting her beer to her lips. She took a long pull, waiting for Jon to reach the point in his recitation that always sparked the most interest. Pertinent details were only fascinating at first glance. Charges never really focused on the idea of where Guardians came from or how they served. The single requirement, however, always brought about a multitude of questions. Her Charge took a long pull from his own drink, as though gathering the courage he needed to ask what he so desperately wanted to know. Dover remained in her place, sentinel-silent, as she mentally braced herself to answer. “He mentioned that the only thing a person has to really do to become a Guardian is…” Jon-no-h’s voice drifted away, as though he found the idea too horrifying to repeat. Dover polished off her beer with another gulp. Though she agreed with Elise that all Charges needed to know her Guardian’s abilities and limitations, having this conversation had never been pleasant. Jon could not continue to ask, so Dover took mercy on him and replied in his stead. “We have to die in the service of others, and be Judged worthy, before we can take a Guardianship.” Embry shifted at the stove, adjusting the beer in his hand with his eyes flickering from Dover to Jon. She could read the concern in her friend’s gaze, as though gauging if Jon needed a sedative slipped into his beer. “Relax, Jon.” Dover attempted to soothe her Charge. “It’s alright to ask. Death isn’t as terrifying once you’ve been through it, trust me.” Jon’s voice had dropped to almost a whisper. “I didn’t want to ask, you know, how it happened.” Thoughts of her death brought the memory racing to the surface. She could still feel the stifling Texas heat, smell the burned sugar of cotton candy on the air mingling with the sulfuric tang of gunpowder. Ricocheting gunfire rebounded in her head, drowning out the recollected screams of terror. If she were to allow it, the trauma of her death would take her over, drag her down under the symptoms of PTSD. The memory of a Guardian’s death helped shape their second life, and so it could never be purged. Dover swallowed thickly, gratefully taking a glass of whisky from Embry as he slid it into her hand. She did not look at her friend or her Charge as she began to speak, her gaze faraway as she recalled with such awful clarity the night she died.
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