*Bonus scene cut
from ELYSIAN (Celestra Series Book 8)
A Celestra Christmas Carol
Mia and Melissa sit on the floor texting
each other with their new phones with nothing but the colorful Christmas lights
to brighten the room. A tidal wave of wrapping paper surrounds them, and it
looks magical, the silver foil sprayed with rainbow lights—even Tad’s annoying
tinsel holds a regal beauty at this late hour, reflecting blues and purples.
Outside the window, the navy sky is
stamped with charcoal-colored clouds—a wash of moonlight shines over the
ground, bright as a spotlight.
I roll off the couch and make my way
outside. There’s nothing in me that can mirror the joy of my sisters. Not even
holding little Beau tonight on his first official Christmas is enough to pull
me out of this funk.
It’s cold outside. The wind licks at my
ankles, and the iced porch seeps right through my socks. I head out toward the
woods regardless of the Arctic chill. This is one of those moments in life
where you wish the black of night would swallow you whole, and you’d cease to
“Midnight stroll?” A male voice booms
I don’t need to turn around to know its
I lunge at him and wrap my arms around
him so tight, you’d think he just rescued me from a burning building.
“No need for all the teen angst.” He
buries a kiss in my hair. “A simple Merry Christmas will do.”
“Merry Christmas.” I give him a quick
peck square on the lips.
“Now tell me why you’re out here and not
in there trying out the new clothes I’ve lined your closet with.” He growls
with his signature sexual leer.
“Because I’m pretty sure they’re
illegal.” I roll my eyes as I envision the parade of lacy frilly numbers that
I’ll have one hell of a time explaining once my mother catches sight of them.
“A hooker would blush wearing those things.” I try to keep a smile from hedging
on my lips.
“They’re not street clothes, Skyla. It’s
a private reserve for our soon-to-be expansive couple time.”
“About that”—I bury my face in the warmth
of his chest a moment before pulling back—“Marshall, I can’t take this. I’ve
become a poison that kills everything she touches—everyone she loves.”
“Well then, you must hate me because I’m
still standing. And I assure you, I’m quite virile.” He takes up my hand, and
we begin to stroll through the maze of pale birch trees with their chalky bark.
I glance up at the deep cobalt sky
through the gnarled branches, and a sense of peace begs to take over this
horrible foreboding, but I won’t let it.
“You know, sometimes Marshall, I wish I
was never born. I’m sure it would have been a lot less trouble for everyone all
Marshall wraps an arm around my waist and
pulls me in.
“Why don’t we verify this rather morose
theory of yours.”
“And how will we do that?” I glance up at
his well-chiseled features—that gorgeous head of hair that reflects the glow of
the moonlight. I can’t help but note a sparkle of excitement in his eye. I’m
sure his “verification” methods are engineered to land me on his mattress.
He gives the impression of a wicked grin.
“That, too, shall come to pass, but first—I’ll simply reverse the natural order
of the last eighteen years as we take a little joy ride through time.”
Marshall doesn’t wait for my approval. He
waves his hand in the air and the woods, the soot-covered sky converge in a
whirlpool of color, and we spin in a downward spiral as if he had just flushed
all of Paragon down the toilet.
And with my luck, he just might have.
The sky opens up to a tangerine expanse.
The familiar perfume of warm roses mixed with smog assures me we’re in L.A.
It’s this scent exactly that has bookmarked itself in my mind as the marker of
my old home.
Marshall lands us at an opulent estate, a
tall white mansion with miles of garland looping around the property. A few
cars sit out front while people mill inside the palatial estate, enjoying a
“You did it!” I give a little jump
holding tight to his hand. “This is really the world without me in it?”
“Indeed it is, and I wouldn’t be so
giddy, Ms. Messenger. It’s not all smog and roses you know.” He wraps an arm
around my shoulder. “Come.” Marshall walks us through the iron gate as if it
were nothing but a vapor. He speeds to the oversized McMansion, and we walk
through the tall glossy doors swift as apparitions.
A familiar Christmas carol plays
throughout the opulent home as we make our way into the party.
“Oh look!” I point over to an
all-familiar, strapping man, holding a drink in hand and sharing a laugh with
friends. “There’s my dad.” Everything in me sighs as I take him in.
“Not your father,” Marshall says,
strolling us through the expensively dressed crowd. “You don’t exist,
“Oh.” A thread of disappointment runs
through me. “I sort of forgot about that.”
A giant Christmas tree is lit up with a
million white lights at the far end of the room, and I distinctly recognize the
redhead belting out a laugh.
“There’s Mom!” I squeal like a
schoolgirl. “Am I going to see how they met?” I’m fascinated by this. I should
have Marshall blip me out of existence more often.
“Heaven’s no. They’ve already met.
Lizbeth was a bridesmaid at his wedding a year ago.”
“A what?” The room warps with my
“Careful, love. We’re in a delicate state
“So Dad married someone else? It’s
Candace isn’t it?” I wouldn’t put it past my celestial mother to simply have
another version of me. That’s always been the underlying truth—she never quite
“She indeed needed you, Skyla, or you
wouldn’t have been born in the first place.” Marshall points over to a toasted
blonde with a silver lame pantsuit that makes me feel like I’m going to have a
seizure just looking at it. “That’s your father’s bride. She’s expecting twins.
Two boys. All holy hell will break loose once she spawns the little demons.”
“What?” I gasp in horror.
A bell goes off near the tree, and all
eyes are directed toward the illuminated ode to Christmas foliage. And what to
my wandering eyes should appear, but Demetri Freaking Edinger.
“What does he want?” I spit it out low,
suddenly disgusted by the horrible turn of events.
“Please, everyone, I bid you a moment of
your attention,” he calls it out over the crowd, and the room hushes to a
whisper. “I want to thank you all for coming out.” He gleams his wicked scowl
as he scans the room and squints a special smile in my direction. “My bride and
I will be leaving shortly on our honeymoon, but please, stay and enjoy the
festivities. Santa arrives at eight.” He lifts his drink high in the air.
“Shit.” I watch in horror as Demetri
makes his way to my mother and seals his lips over hers.
The room starts in on a low-lying
tremble, then gyrates violently, and the crowd lights up with a scream as
Marshall and I disappear.
“Do control your emotions, dear. I’d hate
to have my visa revoked by the Decision Council for disrupting the unnatural
order of things.”
“That was disgusting,” I say, taking in
our new surroundings.
A bevy of bodies clutter up a darkened
living room, and for a second I think we’re at one of Ellis’s morally bankrupt
parties only to discover a far more familiar layout. “We’re at the Oliver
house! I’m much more relived to be here than Demetri’s hornet’s nest in a
reality where he weds my mother.”
“We’ll see about that.” Marshall walks us
through the crowd and tempers his body to the rhythm of the loud, raucous music
booming through the speakers. “Oh, yippy”—he bleeds a nefarious smile without
the proper enthusiasm—“here comes Jock Strap now.”
Gage. Those deep wells dig in on either
side of his face as he gives one of his killer smiles. For a minute, I think
maybe he’s smiling at me until a brunette, wearing nothing but a not-so-long
T-shirt, runs up and uses his body as pole.
“Who the hell is that?”
is a girl who has had her sights on young Oliver for quite some time now. And
is she ever glad you’ve never taken up space on the planet—or least she would
be.” He nods over toward the hug fest.
I want to hurl at the sight of her overzealous
limbs rubbing up against him. Honest to God, it hurts just to be facing their
Her long tan legs, her flowing dark mane
remind me a lot of Chloe, but, thankfully, she’s not the skank in question.
Gage gently removes her and takes a step
away. His smile fades as he makes small talk.
“Ha!” I laugh in the face of Marshall’s
botched up plan to drive me insane with jealousy. “I can totally tell he’s not
interested. According to his body language, he’s looking for a quick escape.”
“It’s true. His heart is full of sorrow.”
I feel horrible. I’m almost afraid to ask
“That’s right, Skyla. He senses a part of
him is missing. He’s quite the brooding artist, sinking himself in his
poetry—those morose metrical compositions take up most of his day and night.
He’ll be famous for them one day but not until well after his death.”
“Don’t feel too badly. Prior to his
rather untimely demise, he marries the very girl that he’s trying to avoid.”
“No!” It gasps from me. “I mean, they
don’t even look good together.” Now there’s a lame excuse to keep someone for
myself when I don’t even technically exist.
“Give her about ten years’ time, and
she’ll agree with you. She leaves him for a minor league baseball player.
Oliver will have sole custody of the children, though. It’s not all doom and
gloom for the blue-eyed sage. There’s a second nuptial on the horizon shortly
“Children?” The thought of Gage
procreating with half-dressed skanks makes me feel like someone just threw a
brick at my chest. And another bride? I don’t like this one freaking bit.
“Not what you expected?”
“At least Chloe’s not in the picture.”
“Things couldn’t be further from the
truth.” He nods just past my shoulder at a rather wasted brunette doing what
looks like a sloppy rendition of a lap dance over some guy, and—holy shit, I
think that’s Logan!
Logan!” I try to make my way over, but Marshall holds me back.
“Relax. You don’t exist, remember?
Besides, she’s simply trying to make Jock Strap writhe with jealousy.”
“Does Logan know this?” As much as I hate
the thought of her trying to rile up Gage, I hate the fact she’s using Logan to
“He doesn’t mind one bit. In fact, Chloe
is simply one of many in a long line of women trailing around the block to get
on the Logan express.”
“That’s disgusting. Get me out of here right
now.” I try to yank Marshall out the door, but he’s screwed his feet into the
floor and doesn’t budge.
“Leave now? Why—the party is just getting started. Look at this…” He
motions back over to Logan.
I’m half-afraid to witness anymore of the
carnage. I peer around Marshall’s chest only to see Michelle and Lexy pawing
all over the golden Oliver.
“I thought you were going to show me
something new.” I almost breathe a sigh of relief because I know for a fact
Logan’s not really interested in either of them.
“Remember that time I thought Michelle
was having your baby, and it was really Brielle knocked up with Drake’s twisted
seed?” I give a little chuckle.
Marshall sneers into my stab at humor.
“Observe,” he gravels it out low.
Begrudgingly I glance back at Logan. He
looks like a God, with his smile beaming, his face radiating all kinds of
outrageous levels of joy—only his eyes are closed and—wait, where the hell are
Lexy’s hands anyway?
Michelle climbs up and sits on his
shoulders, and I have a feeling things have slipped past the NC 17 portion of
“I don’t know what the hell they’re doing,
but please get me out of here.” I go to bury my face in Marshall’s chest just
as a dark-haired boy with steel blue eyes catches my gaze, and his face starts
in on a slow spreading smile.
“He sees me,” I say mesmerized as I make
my way to Gage.
He comes at me with a slow and determined
gate, his chest as wide as a wall. I can make out the muscles under his T-shirt
as they ripple on through.
Gage pulls back his cheek, and his dimple
lights up on the left, melting me on the inside with a pleasure that sweeps
away this incurable ache.
Our lips crash in one resplendent
exchange, his mouth covering mine with its warmth, but something about his kiss
feels resistive on every level.
Marshall yanks me away by the elbow.
“No, now, do refrain from possessing, Ms.
Bishop. Should she be apprised of the situation, a head might be required per
“Chloe?” I look back at Gage to see him
trying to peel Chloe off his person. “He was kissing Chloe?”
The room warps with my words. Logan looks
over at me, and, for the first time, I think he actually sees me. He leaps in
our direction just as the room reduces to soot.
“Skyla!” I hear his voice echo through
the strange chambers of time as Marshall hustles us off to yet another
“He saw me.” I marvel at Marshall as a
deep purple wall warbles in and out all around us.
“He did, didn’t he?” Marshall is less
than impressed by Logan’s supernatural feat. “Nonetheless, there’s one more
thing I need for you to see.”
“What is it?” I take in the creepy
environment as it fades to an ethereal space somewhere high above the earth
with a nest of lightning rotating above us like an electrically-charged
guillotine ready to shred us to pieces.
“The Faction Council has gathered.
There’s an announcement to be made in just a few moments.” Marshall zips us
toward the tiny blue marble we call home.
A scene appears. We’re in an oversized
room, lined with tables full of cookies. The scent of burnt coffee lies thick
in the air. I recognize this place as Nicholas Haver’s overgrown barn where the
Faction Council meets on Paragon.
“The faction leaders have spoken.” A
voice emits from the front, and sitting at a long plastic table is none other
than Nicolas himself. “Celestra shall surrender its standing and graft onto its
Countenance brothers and sisters. There shall be unity among Nephilim this
day.” He gives a little chuckle. “I jest.” His triple chin rolls with delight
as he belts out a brief laugh. “There aren’t any more of those poor souls
around to graft onto anything—never could hold a candle straight without
burning themselves. Let their demise be a lesson to us all. The Countenance
must remain supreme. Should we even think of defeating them our annihilation is
I gasp at his cowardice.
“Is this true?” I balk at Marshall. “All
of Celestra is gone?”
“I’m afraid so. What little Celestra
blood remains has been pledged to the Counts,” he whispers before motioning my
attention back to the front.
“There is no way around this,” Nicholas
begins. “As uncomfortable as it is, we must discuss the plagues.”
“What plagues?” I startle into Marshall
at idea of something deadly brewing.
“All of humanity shall undergo a rather
brutal pruning. The causalities will be staggering, bodies in the streets with
no one left to bury the dead. I’m afraid the future isn’t so bright for the
rest of the world now that you’ve selfishly reduced yourself to an unsatisfied
gleam in your father’s eye.”
“First, that’s disgusting. And, second, I
get your point. Get me home. I’ve obviously got work to do.”
“You seem far more angry than you do
relieved to be a help to anyone.”
“I am angry. Only this time my anger is
aimed right where it needs to be—at the Counts.”
Marshall blinks us back to the forest
behind the Landon house, and a chill grips me until I seize in his arms.
“That was all around awful,” I say, as
Logan and Gage blink through my mind.
“That was just the beginning. I would
never dare show you the horror that world truly experiences in reality without
“Is that what I bring?” I look up at him
as the sterile blue light of the moon washes out his perfect features.
“Very much so.” Marshall plants a chaste
kiss on my forehead. “Merry Christmas, Skyla.”
I reach up on my tiptoes and sear a quick
kiss on the side of his cheek. “Merry Christmas, Marshall.”
My room appears around me, and I’m tucked
neat in bed. I reach over and turn on the lights before peering under the
I’ve magically donned a red and green
barely-there teddy with white stockings and a bright red bow around my left
A glint of light shimmers outside of my
window, and I get out of bed to see the dawn of a new day breaking over
All is new again.
There is so much hope in this world. And
for the first time in a long while, I’m so glad to be a part of it.
It’s all going to work out in the end.
And if it doesn’t… I let out a deep
breath. I’ll have to figure out a way to rewrite the past.
I touch my finger to the red velvet bow
wrapped around my thigh. Despite all of his perverse misgivings, I’m sure glad
to have a certain Sector by my side.
The window fogs up, and something like a
finger draws out an image of a heart over the glass.
Like I said, it’s nice to have a Sector
I touch my hand to cool glass and that
familiar buzz of delight rails through me.
“Merry Christmas, Marshall,” I whisper.
“Thank you for giving me hope when I need it.”