Sometimes the afterlife sucks.
Allie certainly has her hands full with an unruly team of Remnants...
A man who keeps her teeth grinding and hormones raging.
A pet bobcat who can’t keep her nose out of Allie’s business.
And angel warriors who insist on doing things their own way.
Allie isn’t really sure she and the other Remnants are ready to take the prince of darkness on while he roams about tempting the world to follow him…
…but they don’t have a choice.
He’s coming. The Releasing has happened. The suck is about to get a whole lot suckier.
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The Tempting #2
THERE WAS a the gloominess to the atmosphere. It was oppressive and depressing. But that couldn’t be helped; no one was in the mood to be cheerful, not with the way everything had gone from good — and sometimes even great — to horrible.
It had been a week since The Releasing, the day that Lucifer had been loosed from his chains and allowed to leave The Pit. A week that was but a speck in the grand scheme of eternity, but when you were dealing with evil running amok, it was a lifetime.
Allie and her team had decided that they would take a break — a “vacay” as Allie had told them — after all the practicing, fighting and preparing they’d done before The Releasing. But no amount of preparation or practice could have prepared them for just what happened when the Prince of Lies was unleashed.
She knew they were supposed to be resting and relaxing, enjoying a well-earned break, but Allie was frankly bored out of her skull. Their duties as Remnants — those who were chosen to mete out the Father’s perfect justice during the Millennium Period — were over. This was Lucifer’s time to “shine,” if shining could be defined as spreading his darkness all over the earth. Allie smirked at the complete opposite meaning.
“What do you want to do today?” she asked Charo, who stared at her with her big, unblinking yellow eyes. Allie knew the bobcat could understand her; it was one of the things that had changed in the Millennium Period, that the animals understood humans perfectly. She just wished Abba would have given the animals the ability to speak back. She was getting tired of hearing her own voice.
“I suppose we could go for a walk through the Gardens,” she suggested with a sigh as she scratched her friend behind the ears. Allie thought that she really couldn’t call the cat a “pet,” since Charo didn’t rely on her for anything. She offered a grape to the cat, who turned her nose up at the offering.
“You know, in the Old Age you woulda been eating gophers and mice if you were lucky, or roadkill if you weren’t.” She grinned when the cat shuddered and gave her a look that said, Don’t remind me.
“So, now that we’re all vegetarians, what do you eat? You don’t seem to like fruit, you huff at vegetables, and bread doesn’t seem to hold any appeal for you either. Those are pretty much your only options, kiddo.”
In response, Charo strolled to the apartment’s open living room window, jumped up on the sill, looked back at her, blinked her yellow eyes, then leapt out of the third story quarters.
Allie got up and walked over to call out after her. “Vegetarian, don’t forget! Don’t be bringing back a dead rodent to munch on! Oh, hi Eliana… I, uh, didn’t see you there.” Allie waved down at the woman who looked horrified. She knew the look wasn’t because of any fear of rodents or disease, like back in the Old Age, but was due to the thought of eating meat now that they had new and improved bodies.
Abba had given everyone in the Millennium bodies that were like those back before the Great Flood, with the exception that the new bodies aged even slower than they did back then. Even with the improvements, though, Allie was looking forward to the new new bodies they’d get after The Judgement, when they’d have spiritual bodies for the rest of eternity.
No more aches and pains would be awesome.
The healers in the Millennium were amazing, though, and with the addition of leaves from the Tree of Life, they could heal just about anything. But still, it would be nice to not have to go to a healer to begin with. Over the past thousand years, Allie had spent more than her share of time in the Healing Quarters.
But that was the way it was with the Remnants. They trained hard and injuries were common. And after the past several months when they’d had to fight demons who’d escaped prematurely, along with angels who’d decided to play for Team Demon, the injuries had increased a hundredfold.
Abba had teased her that the Remnants were using so many leaves from The Tree that He was going to have to rename it the “Stick of Life.”
She watched as Charo sauntered off toward the Gardens. People greeted the cat along the way and she’d stop every once in a while for an ear scratch. Allie sighed; she didn’t expect Charo to stay and entertain her, but now she was going to be lonely. That meant she could either take yet another nap, or she could actually leave her quarters and find someone to hang out with.
Nap it is.
After tossing and turning for far too long, Allie sighed and got up. She decided she’d shower and then actually leave her apartment for the first time in a week. The solitude had been nice, but she was now about to go out of her mind from inactivity.
She decided to dress in her gorgeous Remnant uniform, even though there was no need for it here in The City. They were safe here, even with Lucifer gathering an army to attack the holy city. Allie knew that he wouldn’t even get close to the place before Abba put him back under His thumb where the jerk belonged.
The new uniforms that Abba’d had designed for them were not only demon claw-proof, but they were seriously cool. The fabric that they were made from was really lightweight, but tough. Allie knew that for a fact, since Sherone, the demon serial rapist, had tried to shred her uniform from her body and hadn’t even managed to scratch the surface.
She’d been sooo thankful for Abba’s foresight that day.
Standing outside her quarters, Allie debated which way to turn — left, she could go to the Angel Abbey and visit the Heavenly Host. Right would lead her to the Temple where she could hang out with Dad. Or she could also go downstairs to the Commons Hall and see if any of the Remnant team was about.
The Temple was the most tempting, because who didn’t want to hang out with The Creator? But it was also the place where she’d likely run into her ex, Jaden. Since he was a martyr, he and Allie couldn’t have the same relationship they’d had in the Old Age and it was always sort of awkward to be around him. Jaden didn’t make it weird, though; in fact, he seemed to have somehow forgotten that they’d been married once upon a time.
Allie hadn’t forgotten, though, and seeing him always made her blush.
The Abbey was a better option. “Angel Abbey” wasn’t the real name of the place, just something Allie made up. In fact, she didn’t think the angels’ quarters even had a name. But she always felt a little uneasy there. Not all the angels thought she was fun to be around.
And then there was that darned angel rebellion and the fact that they still weren’t sure exactly who was and who wasn’t siding with Lucifer. They knew of some who’d gone to the “dark side,” but Abba was certain there were still others who hadn’t outed themselves yet.
Where to go…
Allie sighed; she’d never been so indecisive. One week of down-time and her brain had turned to vacation mush. What she really needed — and wanted — was a good fight. The angels and Abba sure weren’t going to provide that, so she walked down to the Hall.
“Hey stranger!” came an all-too-familiar voice as she entered the vast room. Allie laughed, relieved to see a good portion of the team hanging out, eating and playing games. She was never a board game person herself, but she was bored enough that she might just join in.
“Hey Robin.” Allie smiled at the girl who she thought should be third in command, after Nick, who was Allie’s second. She made a mental note to talk to Nick about promoting the girl.
Robin could be annoying with her whining and complaining, and she also had a tendency toward laziness. But when it came to thinking on your feet in battle, no one could beat her. Robin had a way quickly assessing a situation, then calculating the outcome of each course of action and deciding which to take, all in a matter of seconds.
They would need that ability in the coming… well, for however long Abba decided to let Lucifer run free.
“You wanna join us for Sz’kwa? We’re playing tournaments.”
Allie smiled at the woman she’d known back in the Old Age, when Robin had been an adorable little pixie with bouncy blonde curls with a tendency toward thumb sucking. Other than growing taller — well, and she no longer sucked her thumb, that Allie knew of anway — nothing much had changed.
“I’m not much for games, but I’ll watch you play for a bit and see if it’s something I can manage to learn.”
Robin seemed a little shocked at Allie’s acceptance. It wasn’t surprising, considering Allie rarely had anything to do with any of the team, other than in practice. She was one to keep to herself, that was for sure.
Allie decided she needed to rectify that.
After several games, Allie realized it wasn’t as difficult as she thought it would be, so she joined in and surprised herself by actually having fun. The teams were getting really competitive and were making bets.
“I win!” Justin shouted, punching Colette in the arm as he did so. “Now you have to wear my dirty socks next practice!” Colette grimaced; Allie knew it wasn’t from the punch, because all the Remnants were pretty tough and could take a hit. No, Colette was grimacing at the thought of wearing Justin’s nasty socks.
Allie didn’t blame her. The thought made her shudder.
It was her turn and she’d just made her move when Nick walked into the Hall. Allie watched the man move into the room, his eyes scanning. When they landed on her, they widened. Allie’s lips curled into a smirk. Yeah, I know, surprise! Allie’s here! Woo freaking hoo.
Whatever he’d been heading to do apparently was forgotten as he made his way to where Allie was sitting. She tried not to show any reaction when he sat next to her, especially when his shoulder brushed hers as he positioned himself. Then he bumped her again when he shifted to reach for the game tiles.
His knee tapped hers when he started bouncing his leg. Allie was starting to sweat. Is it hot in here? And why the heck does Nick always smell so good? It’s not like we use colognes now. Apparently, I’m crowding him, since he keeps bumping into me.
Nick reached across her to grab… something… then turned his head so that their noses were practically touching.
“Sorry,” he murmured, not sounding sorry at all. He stared at her for a minute and they were so close that Allie could see that he had green specks in his light blue eyes. She wondered why she’d never noticed that before. She knew he had beautiful eyes; they were probably his best feature, so beautiful they were captivating. Mesmerizing, even.
Allie involuntarily leaned forward just a tiny bit and their noses brushed. Nick’s mouth opened and he sucked in a breath. She knew all it would take to get a kiss from him was just another slight lean forward and their lips would meet and…
“I’m going to take a walk in the Gardens!” she announced far too loudly as she leaned back and threw her leg over the bench. She could feel her cheeks flaming and wanted to get away as soon as possible.
“Thanks for the game!” she called as she rushed for the door, knowing she was putting way too much enthusiasm in her announcement, but she was seriously flustered and so unsure of herself in that moment.
Allie practically ran out of the Hall, then transferred right to the Gardens. She didn’t even want to take the time to walk through The City and was never more thankful for the Remnant’s transferring ability than in that moment.
The beautiful Gardens, the restoration of the Garden of Eden, went completely unnoticed by her as she stomped along. Her heart was pounding, which she knew it had nothing to do with the exercise. She wiped her sweaty hands against her thighs and huffed out a nervous breath.
And told herself to get a grip.