Home > Eden (Providence #3)(6)

Eden (Providence #3)(6)
Author: Jamie McGuire

“Kiss your wife,” Father Julian said with a smile.

Jared cupped my cheeks, looked into my eyes, and then pul ed me to him, touching his soft lips to mine. He kissed me gently at first, and then wrapped his arms around me, his lips forgetting everyone and everything around us. We were married. He was my husband, and I was his wife.

He pul ed away. His eyes brimmed with tears, and he looked as overwhelmed with happiness as I felt. I pul ed him to me by his shirt to kiss him one last time.

“I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Jared Ryel,” the minister said loudly.

Jared's smile faded, and he gritted his teeth.

“Not today,” he said, closing his eyes.

Chapter Three


The inside of the chapel darkened. The sunlight coming through the windows dimmed, but it was early afternoon. The air around grew cold and stale. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Fearing the worst, I was desperate for a mundane explanation. “A storm?”

Jared's eyes darkened. “I'm sorry.”

The sound of the tropical winds that regularly blew against the building was noticeably absent, and soon the only light was the dim flickering of a few sconces along the wal s of the church. I shot a nervous glance over my shoulder at our friends and family below. They were frozen in time.

I quickly walked down the stairs, with Jared just behind. My movement didn’t faze the smal crowd, and I gasped, fal ing to my knees. “Lil ian?” I said, reaching out.

Her hands were folded daintily in her lap, a smal smile suspended on her face. I stood and took a step to the next pew, realizing in horror that the living statues' eyes were all stil fastened to the space where Jared and I once occupied.

“Beth?” I whispered, reaching out to touch her cheek. Her skin was stil warm. “She’s not breathing,” I said, looking back to my new husband. Bex stood at Jared's side. He frowned before looking to his brother. Only the humans were affected.

“He must have claimed a grievance,” Bex said.

“Shax?” I asked.

Jared shook his head. “Michael...for murdering his son.” He closed his eyes and took my hand, holding it against his chest. “No matter what happens, Nina, stay with Bex,” he said.

“What do you mean? Where are you going?” I said. He took a step toward the double doors of the chapel. With my free hand, I grabbed at the fabric of his jacket. “Jared,” I whispered. His demeanor terrified me.

The double doors opened, and Eli stood in the entrance, his expression blank. “I'm sorry, Jared. This can't wait.”

Jared nodded, and then tilted his head to the side, speaking under his breath. “Don't speak, Nina. Let me handle this.”

I agreed without words. Jared led me through the doors, to the top of the chapel steps. The sky was black, the darkness filtering down to surround our chapel. Several dark forms stood in formation at the bottom of the stairs. Jared continued. With each step closer to the unknown, my heart seemed to be punching through my chest. Final y, I was face to face with Jared’s accusers, but they remained a mystery. Their faces were obscured by the hoods of black cloaks. If they were angels, they were much more frightening than any I’d encountered.

Eli stood on the other side of Jared, waiting patiently for something, but I knew better than to ask. After a few moments the black forms parted, and two figures, differing dramatical y in size, walked forward. Eli made a subtle motion with his hand, and the air around the smal assemblage created its own light, leaving a muted glow. I glanced at him from the corner of my eye, and he winked at me. I was the only one unable to see clearly through the darkness. Eli lit the surroundings solely for my human eyes.

His consideration set me somewhat at ease. He won’t let anything happen to us, I thought.

Any feeling of comfort offered by Eli’s smal gesture didn’t last long. The two forms were now recognizable, and a lump formed in my throat at Claire's nervous expression as she walked alongside Samuel.

“What are you doing here? Where’s Ryan?” I asked.

Jared squeezed my hand, and I remembered too late his rule of silence. A man at the front of the opposing group ripped away his hood, revealing his enraged eyes. “You are not all owed to speak here!” he said. His body shook as he spoke.

Samuel and Claire took a defensive stance in front of Jared and me. Jared squeezed my hand again, this time in comfort. He brought my fingers to his lips and kissed them. An overwhelming urge to cry overcame me, and although I begged myself not to, my eyes fil ed with salty tears and dribbled down my cheeks.

Eli casual y pushed Samuel and Claire to the side to approach me. “Look what you've done,” Eli said, lifting my chin. He used his thumbs to wipe the twin lines of tears. “Upsetting the bride on her wedding day.” He turned to the man. “Apologize, Michael, and then mind your manners for the remainder of our time here.”

Michael stood tal . “Forgive me,” he said, his body rigid with subdued rage.

I nodded once, cowering against Jared.

Samuel took a spot next to Jared, and Claire stood next to me. Eli returned to his position, but this time he stood more central between the two groups. He lowered his head and closed his eyes. The Ryel siblings, along with Samuel and the cloaked men, did the same. I fol owed suit, wondering if I looked ridiculous, or if it was expected. Jared didn’t offer a suggestion either way, so the safe option was to imitate the others.

After a short time, Eli began to speak in his usual soft, matter-of-fact tone. “Al praise to the Most High, as this is His court and His kingdom. I wil use the common tongue for our Nina, so that she may understand. I, Eliath, angel of the Divine Plan, wil act on the Lord Almighty’s behalf. My decision is final.” He glanced at both Jared and Michael. “Aggression wil not be tolerated.”

Jared and Michael nodded.

Eli looked to me, and his eyes softened. “Michael has made a claim against Jared for the death of his earthen son, Isaac.”

My first inclination was to open my mouth, but after my public reprimand from Michael, I was hesitant.

Eli sensed my fear, and smiled. “Don’t be afraid, Nina. You may speak.”

“Um….” I looked to Jared, who’d told me just the opposite just a few minutes before. Any caution was absent from his face. “Jared didn’t kil Isaac,” I said. My voice was soft, but firm. Even if I incriminated myself, I couldn’t let Jared take the blame for my actions.

Eli nodded, knowingly and patiently. “The actions leading to Isaac’s death are why we’re here, Nina. You may enter your argument in a moment. I assure you this wil be a fair proceeding.”

“Then why do Jared and Claire seem so nervous?” I said, deliberately leaving Bex’s name out. “This doesn’t feel like a casual inquiry.”

“You’re right. It’s not. The charges against Jared are very serious. A life was lost. Archs are not all owed to kill humans to protect their Taleh. Half- Breeds are exempt from our rules, as they are half human and all owed free wil . However, because Half-Breeds are privy to those rules, it is important that they not take advantage. Do you understand?”

“Y-yes,” I said, afraid to say my next words. Eli seemed to have unending patience, but I didn’t want to test it. “But…Jared didn’t kill Isaac.”

Michael’s body twitched, and he began to speak in a language so beautiful, I knew it was of Heaven. Eli interrupted.

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