Single mother Ella is struggling. About to turn forty, the last thing Ella needs in her life is more complications, but she suspects her brush with angels may not be over yet.
Ella’s daughter, Indie, is keeping a huge secret. But it’s not until she meets the new kids at school that she begins to learn about her true powers.
Luci has been busy. With the help of her whisperers, she’s figured out how to destroy the Angelic Realm. The only problem is the one person who can help her secure the final ingredient won’t help.
As Indie explores her growing abilities, she enters a world of fate and power that Ella left behind sixteen years ago. She will soon discover that this world is on the brink of war, and that she may be the most powerful weapon of all.
For over two thousand years, Ella’s and Zac’s lives have been intertwined. When fate no longer exists and the past catches up to the present, will the bond of blood be enough to unite two worlds
“I absolutely loved this book…a fantastic conclusion to her Indigo Chronicles trilogy.”— Rachel Clarke, NetGalley Reviewer
Excerpt from Children of Shadows
19 BC—FIESOLE, ITALY
BEFORE THE BEGINNING
Life wasn’t always easy, but it was simple. If you wanted it to be.
Luci could have settled anywhere in the world to raise her boy, but she chose Fiesole. The small Italian town perched on the edge of a Tuscan hillside was a vibrant mix of tranquillity and opportunity. Quiet enough that she was left alone, but busy enough that she never felt bored.
With one hand she hoisted her son onto her hip, and with the other picked up her basket full of fruit, wine, and grain. The ears of wheat tickled her back as she balanced it on the crook of her arm.
‘You’re getting heavy, Zadkiel,’ she said to the boy.
She was wearing a white silk dress gathered over one shoulder and tied in the middle with a gold- coloured sash. It was a little extravagant for the market, but the opinion of others was the least of Luci’s problems.
Zadkiel hooked his legs around his mother’s waist to stop himself from slipping down her body. He giggled as she rubbed her nose into the crease of his sweaty neck and blew a raspberry.
‘If I’m heavy then put me down, Mummia,’ he said.
‘Never. You weren’t made to walk, my angel.’ Luci smiled, spinning him around. ‘You were made to fly.’
The boy laughed, wrapping his skinny arms tightly around her neck.
‘Oh, the flowers have gone,’ he cried.
Every morning his mother plaited her thick dark hair into elaborate twists, and Zadkiel would carefully thread wild blooms through it. Her hair had come lose in the heat of the day and was now hanging thick around her shoulders.
A jasmine plant grew over a low wall at the entrance to their home. Luci plucked a sprig and handed it to her son.
‘They look like tiny feathers,’ the boy said, pulling each delicate flower off its stem and pushing them into his mother’s hair. Luci smiled at the word ‘feathers.’ The boy knew nothing of who he was, or the power that surged through his veins. He would know soon enough—but not yet. Not until he was a man.
Their cottage was on the outskirts of the town just over the city wall, nestled in the woods beside a stream. It had taken Luci years to tend the land, to push rocks into the soil to form a path and to collect enough pots and fabric to make the little house a home. Her home. The first one she’d ever lived in.
At night she would curl herself around her son, fitting him between her knees and chest as if he’d never left her womb. If anyone were to watch them sleeping, they wouldn’t be able to see the boy protected in his mother’s embrace—and that’s all Luci wanted, that no one but her could get near her son. As long as Zadkiel was with her, he was safe. As long as he thought he was the same as the other dusty boys that ran around the town square playing tag on market day, as long as he remained normal, Luci would be safe too.
‘I’m hungry,’ Zadkiel said, flopping his damp head against his mother’s shoulder. She planted a kiss on his sticky forehead.
‘I will make your favourite soup tonight.’
The sun beat down on them, the brown grasses scratching her ankles as she made her way to their front door. She waved at a shepherd she sometimes saw heading up the dirt track, an old man who walked his goats the same route each month, but few knew who she was. What she was. The villagers described her as a mother who’d lost her husband to a war, or an illness, or perhaps another woman. As far as they knew she had come from the north looking for work. She made her money as a healer and a midwife— she had magic hands, they said. Half the town feared her for this, the other half sought her out. Luci was good with those who suffered, and she was good with new life. But beyond that, nobody bothered her.
It was cool inside the cottage. Zadkiel immediately perked up and ran off to play with the clay dolls his mother had made him. Luci smiled and hummed as she unpacked her basket, shelling peas into a pot and chopping up onions. All was silent save for the birds making their way to their nests, circling the darkening sky like tiny specks of black against a white canvas.
‘The great Lucifer? Cooking?’ came a low voice from the doorway.
She’d sensed Gabriel’s presence before he’d spoken, but her stomach still twisted at the sound of his voice. The archangel hadn’t appeared to her since she’d fallen pregnant. She didn’t turn around. Let him come to her.
‘Hungry?’ she asked.
He laughed, a booming sound so loud it made Zadkiel run in from the other room. The boy’s eyes grew wide at the sight of the strange man in his house and he ran off again.
‘So that’s your boy? The reason why you won’t come home?’
Gabriel stepped into the kitchen, creating a shadow over the herbs Luci was chopping.
She turned around, finding herself face to face with one of her closest friends.
‘My goodness. Motherhood suits you,’ Gabriel said, taking in her flushed cheeks and bright eyes.
He picked a flower from her hair, smelled it, and placed it back. Luci shivered at his touch. ‘Did Mikhael send you?’
Gabriel didn’t know who Zadkiel’s father was. No one did. When the realm had discovered that the almighty Lucifer had not only found herself pregnant, but that she refused to return home, there had been much uproar. They presumed Mikhael’s special compensation had been because Luci, like him, was one of the original archangels. That he was protecting her out of kindness. He agreed to give her six years to play at being human, to mother a Nephilim child, and then she would leave the child behind and get on with her job.
Nobody knew the real truth—that Zadkiel was no Nephilim. That Zadkiel was strongest of all archangels. Because he was the son of Mikhael himself.
Gabriel, though, was none the wiser.
‘Come home,’ he said, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. ‘Mikhael’s angry at your defiance. He’s even threatening to pass “judgement” on you, to cut off your wings for disobedience. I think he means it.’
Luci’s eyes flickered over to the doorway, but Zadkiel still had his back to them playing with his clay figures.
‘It’s why I’m here,’ Gabriel added, threading his fingers through hers.
‘To give me a message?’
He smiled, his eyes glowing a bright jade in the gloom of the evening light. ‘Of course. It’s what I do best.’
Luci bit her lips together. She wasn’t going home. She wasn’t leaving her son. Gabriel’s fingers stroked hers, his face full of nothing but kindness. How different he was to the man she’d chosen to father her child. Often, she’d wondered what would have happened had she convinced Gabriel to give her a baby instead, to feel his arms around her, his lips on hers—but the truth was a simple one. Angels laying with angels was the one forbidden rule in the realm, and they’d both be dead right now at the hands of Mikhael’s sword. The only way Luci had been able to conceive was via another archangel, and for the baby to survive the child had to belong to the one who made the rules. Mikhael.
He’d clearly kept what they’d done to himself, though. Probably telling the realm the child’s father was a shepherd or a passing trader.
‘I’m staying,’ she said to Gabriel.
A flash of pain passed over his features, so fast she nearly missed it.
‘He will come for you. He’s telling everyone you’ve gone crazy.’
‘I have gone crazy.’ Luci laughed. ‘Crazy in love with my boy. Crazy to imagine a life without
Zadkiel.’ She stroked the archangel’s cheek and he closed his eyes. ‘Crazy to ever leave him,’ she whispered. ‘I’m staying.’
Gabriel covered her hand with his and brought it to his lips. Then with a slow nod he was gone. ‘Zadkiel!’ Luci ran to the next room and gathered her son in her arms. ‘You need to go.’
How long did she have? How long would it take for Gabriel to tell Mikhael that she wasn’t returning? Surely Mikhael wouldn’t kill his own son. Would he?
She crouched down. ‘I need you to collect firewood,’ she said to Zadkiel, doing all she could to keep her voice low and steady.
‘But I’m not allowed out on my own.’
‘I know, but Mummia needs wood for the fire. To make your favourite soup.’
‘It rained yesterday. There’s no dry wood,’ the boy persisted, looking over at his toys. ‘And we already have wood. And it’s getting dark.’
Luci had trained her son well, forever warning him of the dangers of being alone. She bit down hard on the inside of her cheek. She couldn’t cry. Her tears would scare the boy, would have him clinging to her, and she needed him gone. If he was still here when Mikhael and the realm descended, then… She pushed the thought away and pulled her son closer to her.
‘In aeternum te amabo,’ she whispered into his hair. ‘Forever and ever, Zadkiel. I will love you forever.’
‘I know, Mummia,’ he said, wriggling out of her embrace. ‘You always say that.’
‘Because I will always mean it.’
Her skin prickled like a cool breeze passing over wet skin. Mikhael was near. They didn’t have long.
‘Go!’ she cried, pushing her son to the back door leading to the river. ‘And don’t return until the moon is high in the sky.’
Instead of running out of the door, the child ran straight back into her arms.
‘And then we will have supper and you will tell stories and cuddle me to sleep? You won’t leave my side?’
She swallowed. How it hurt. ‘I will never leave your side.’
Zadkiel didn’t see the tears sliding down his mother’s face as he headed for the woods. The boy didn’t look back.
Luci straightened up and smoothed out her dress. Taking a deep breath, she tied her hair up and walked to the front of the house. This was it. This was the day she’d feared since she’d first thought up her plan of seducing the great Prince of Heaven.
As expected, Mikhael didn’t take long. She’d been expecting the sound of rustling leaves and the flurry of sails to slice through the murky light of evening, but no band of angels fell from the sky— instead just one man appeared at the bottom of her garden.
One man. She had to stop thinking of Mikhael as a man—because Luci was no woman. They were the beings who created day and night, light and dark. They had moulded the Earth like it had been nothing but clay and paint. The same Earth she was now refusing to leave.
Mikhael stepped out of the shadow of a tree, his icy blue eyes shining like diamonds in the twilight. The leader of the realm wasn’t bedecked in his usual regalia. Instead he’d chosen to blend in with the locals. On his feet were leather sandals, draped over his tall frame was a pale brown robe, and in his hand he held a sword so large no Roman would mistake it for his own. The sword held the power to end all lives—human lives that would never return again, and the angelic lives of those who had gone against him. Yet Mikhael had come alone, which meant he wasn’t going to proceed with the “judgement.” Regardless of the weapon he was gripping in his pale fists, Luci wasn’t going to lose her wings for breaking his rules. Not today.
The King of Angels walked slowly, eyes trained on Luci’s, until he was before her.
‘You didn’t come back to me,’ he said.
Back to him?
He grabbed her wrist with one strong hand, the other holding on to his sword. ‘Gabriel told me you said no.’
Luci gathered herself and considered her options. She could fight…or she could flatter.
‘Have you missed me?’ She placed her other hand flat against his hard chest. There was no heartbeat beneath her palm. Mikhael had a heart, all human bodies did, but she doubted his had ever done its job.
Mikhael brushed her off, but something still crackled between them like static. Like the seconds before the first strike of thunder.
Luci had lain beneath many a man over the centuries. She’d let them do as they must in order to achieve the one thing she couldn’t create alone. A baby. But nothing had worked, and she realised it was because her body was too powerful for mere men. Mikhael had been her only chance to become the ultimate goddess, and she’d done everything in her power to convince him. It had worked. The archangel may have had the mind of an enlightened being—but he also had the body of a young man who liked what he saw. Perhaps he still did.
‘Why are you here?’ she asked.
‘To drag me home? Or because you enjoyed what we did, and you want more?’
Mikhael looked away. ‘This union between humans, you treat it like a means to an end. But with physical touch comes much more, Lucifer. You and I. We’ve known one another since before there was light. I thought…’ He stopped, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat as he swallowed. ‘I thought what we did… That it meant something.’
Luci let out a yelp of a laugh. Was the great Mikhael claiming her? Or was this his idea of romance? The archangel had always scoffed at matters of the heart. He saw human beings as nothing more than weak sacks of skin filled with blood and tears. Mikhael didn’t feel. He couldn’t feel.
‘Of course what we did meant something,’ she replied. ‘It meant I got my child.’
His jaw set hard and his lips curled into a sneer. ‘You really are an unlovable beast, Lucifer.’ Something sharp twisted inside her chest. That wasn’t true. Her boy loved her. He more than loved her, he needed her. She was his oxygen, his water, the very blood running through his spindly body. And from the very moment she’d felt him grow inside of her Luci had fallen in deep and ferocious love with him. A love that terrified her with its intensity. A love she craved and feared and revelled in. She wasn’t leaving her boy.
‘Go,’ she said to the archangel. ‘Mothers don’t leave their children.’
‘We can make more. Come home,’ he said, running his left hand over the top of her arm, the other not letting go of his sword. The strap of Luci’s dress fell off one shoulder and Mikhael’s gaze travelled to her chest.
‘No,’ she said again.
His grip on her tightened. ‘Then let me meet my son.’
He knew Zadkiel was a boy? Who’d told him? Gabriel? She shook her head and he growled. A noise she’d never heard him make before.
‘Why do you defy me so, Lucifer? You got to carry a baby, like you wanted. And to play mother, like you wanted. I gave you that much.’
‘My life was never yours to give. The same as our son’s life is not yours to take. Give me ten more years,’ she pleaded. ‘Then, when he’s old enough, he can join us both and we can tell the realm who he is.’
Mikhael shoved her away, causing her to stumble and fall back on the muddy ground.
‘Why do you think I came here alone? The realm doesn’t know what we did. They will never know that I, the one who sets the rules, broke the most important one. They don’t know I fathered a child with you. They think you’ve lowered yourself to nothing more than a human whore who fucked a village boy. A whore I need to bring back home.’
‘I am Lucifer!’ she cried, scrambling to her feet. ‘I am the morning star and the bringer of dawn. The ruler of Venus and the angel of light. You will respect me!’
Mikhael laughed, taking in her mud-smeared dress and her wild hair full of wilting flowers.
‘Respect you? The great Lucifer, who stops at nothing to get what she wants? Look at the state of you. You chose that womanly body because you thought it would give you control, but you forgot it was a lot weaker than mine.’ He pushed her shoulder, and as much as she held her ground her body still stumbled. ‘You’re pathetic. Feeble. What happens to those who don’t obey me, Lucifer? You’ve seen it, you know. You’ve stood by my side during many a reckoning. What happens?’ he shouted.
Luci had been wrong about her options. She only had one option now. To fight.
Rolling back her shoulders she clenched her teeth as the sharp tips of wings she hadn’t used in seven years began to rip through the silky fabric of her dress. He back arched, and she relished the sharp painful stabs as the dark plumes unfurled behind her. Giant feathers. Black as death.
‘Oh, I know exactly what happens when I say no,’ she snarled. ‘I win.’
Night had settled quickly, but thankfully her boy was still far away. She could feel him, she always could, as if the umbilical cord had never been severed. She silently willed the child to keep away. He didn’t need to see this. Zadkiel didn’t know who his father was, he’d never asked, and neither had he seen feathers as large as the ones rising behind Mikhael’s back. White, and as wide and sharp as spearheads, each plume looked like it had been dipped in the blood of his enemies. This was the real Mikhael. The Winged Warrior.
But Luci was not weak. As he raised his sword higher she held out her hands, the power surging from her forcing the archangel back.
‘Get off my land,’ she screamed.
‘You don’t belong here, Lucifer,’ he shouted. ‘You belong with me!’
‘I belong with my son. Zadkiel is more powerful than the two of us combined. And when he’s fully grown, he’ll be the one to take you down.’
Mikhael fought against the force emanating from the palms of her outstretched hands. Like a ferocious gale it whipped at his golden mane, his wings straining like the sails of a galleon ship.
‘My son will serve me,’ he roared. ‘He will worship me. And no one, including him, will ever know who he truly is.’ Straining against her powers, Mikhael reached out and grabbed Luci’s hair. He wrapped it around his hand and pulled her forward so she fell against him, her chest flat against his. He pressed his face up to hers. Their lips were nearly touching. ‘You tricked me once, you disgusting lupa. Never again.’
Gathering all her strength, Luci beat her wings and pushed herself into the air, leaving Mikhael on the ground, a handful of her hair in his clenched fist. But in an instant, he was beside her, white feathers against black.
Mikhael had his sword raised before Luci’s wings had fully formed.
Luci was no match against his sword, and she had no intention of trying to escape and leaving her boy behind. She would have to fight with the little she had. He lunged at her again, his hand grasping around her neck, but Luci was too quick. Dropping and flying beneath him, then behind, she raised her hands and using nothing but magic ripped at his wings. Feathers took a long time to grow back on an angel, and it affected their flight. The ones she pulled from his body floated down to her garden, piercing through the jasmine plant like arrows. Her actions weren’t enough to injure him, but it put him off balance long enough to loosen his grip on his sword and make him spin through the air before rising again.
Luci reached for the weapon—if she could just get her hands on the blade—but she didn’t make it. With a ferocious cry, Mikhael twisted around so fast his wings smacked Luci in the face, causing her to plummet to the ground.
‘You think you can beat me, Lucifer?’ he cried, his face ghostly against the night sky. ‘You think you can defy me and win?’
Facedown, her back to the archangel and her legs peddling to gather purchase, she tried to right herself. But it was too late.
She heard the blade cut through the air before she felt it. With one strike Mikhael swiped his mighty sword through Luci’s wings, leaving a gaping tear between her shoulder blades. Where feathers had once bloomed, there was now a deep dark gash that would never heal.
The almighty Lucifer was untethered. A fallen angel.
The wind was cold against Luci’s wet face as her body fell fast, her arms flapping in vain and her mouth wide, frozen in a silent scream. This wasn’t how the “judgement” was passed. There was meant to be a jury, witnesses, a chance to defend herself.
Mikhael couldn’t do this. Except he had.
Luci’s body hit the damp earth with a deafening crunch of bones, her wings floating down and covering her like a dark shroud. She turned her head, watching one of her loose feathers drift through the air and join Mikhael’s crimson-tipped plume on the jasmine plant.
The ground below her shuddered as the archangel landed beside her.
‘I will tell the realm how dangerous you are,’ he told her. ‘You got hysterical and lost control. I had no choice but to kill you. This is what happens when you say no to me, Lucifer. You gave me no choice.’
She tried to speak, but her mouth was full of feathers and her arms wouldn’t move. The magic that normally fused her bones together in an instant had vanished, leaving in its wake a long, slow death.
Something cold was pressing against her throat. The tip of Mikhael’s sword.
‘I should bring back your head,’ he said. ‘As a lesson to all. But the thought of your wanton body rotting into the very ground you refused to leave satisfies me greater.’
Wrapping her hair around his fist once more, Mikhael pushed off the ground. He flew with Luci trailing beneath him, like an eagle with its prey, her tattered dress leaving a white streak against the black sky.
Running along the edge of the city wall, a thick cluster of trees and overgrown brambles grew. An impenetrable thicket that no one ever visited. Land that belonged to no one. Mikhael threw her limp body into the foliage, thorns and twigs tearing at her skin and dress as she was buried beneath the dry green. Thorns scratched Luci’s eyelids, but she couldn’t move. Life was seeping out of her where blood would normally flow from a human form. But Luci wasn’t human, and now she wasn’t an angel either. She was nothing.
‘All these years shaping humanity, and you know how you will be remembered?’ Mikhael said, floating over her twisted body. ‘As a demon. The antithesis of good. As whatever I choose you to be. Because history is written by the victors, Lucifer. And you lost. You’re dead.’
Luci had created life on Earth, and she’d also created death, but she didn’t think she’d be experiencing them both in such a short space of time. For seven precious years she’d lived, really lived, and she’d loved. But the realm had won, and now the world was losing its light and her feathers would rot alongside her corpse, undiscovered for eternity. Lucifer, the fallen angel, a goddess that would only ever be remembered as the Devil.
‘As for our son,’ the archangel said, with a final flap of his wings. ‘I won’t kill him. I’ll punish you worse than that. Zadkiel will work for me. No one will know who he is, and I’ll make sure he only ever remembers you as the village whore who abandoned her son. The woman who never truly loved him.’
Mikhael’s final strike pierced through Luci’s heart more violently than any sword. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t speak. Forced to watch the archangel as he disappeared into the night.
A tear rolled down her torn cheek as her body sank into the earth. Her arms and legs grew heavy, desperation gurgling at her throat. Her son. She had to reach her son.
She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Air was no longer entering her lungs, her heart already counting down to its final beat. A faint cry carried on a balmy breeze. Not an owl, not the wind, a voice. A child’s voice in the distance.
‘Mummia? Where are you?’
Luci tried to get up. She managed to move one finger, her lips quivering, then collapsed again. She was sinking, the earth reclaiming her.
‘Mummia. I’m scared. You said you would never leave me.’ And those were the last words Luci heard before she died.
Except Mikhael had been wrong about Luci dying. What he didn’t realise was that archangels couldn’t die by his sword. They were not like lesser angels—they could rise again. After fourteen years Luci returned, anger and retribution boiling in her new blood, and the first thing she did was look for her boy.
But she was too late.
Children of Shadows releases on July 8, 2021!
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About the Author:
Originally from North London with Spanish parentage, N.J. Simmonds currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.