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South London, England, 2006
A single blood-tear ran the length of his face as he crouched over her mangled corpse. He wasn’t gnarling though, instead he grinned with reddened teeth. The woman grasped feebly at the last traces of life as he stood, looking down on her as if she were a disappointment to him. Turning his back, the man rolled the sleeves of his shirt, revealing arms coated with ink. Tattoos were his trademark amongst enemies and allies alike, and so he never hesitated to show them off. He wanted everyone to know what he had done.
Beast and proud.
He ended every kill in the same way, and so he drew his favourite gold lighter from one pocket and a pack of cigarettes from the other. The tip was aflame as he took a long, deep drag before lightly opening his mouth to allow the poisonous smoke to dance within the fresh air. He felt the smoke from the cigarette warm his insides, awakening his entire body. There was no better feeling in the world than the taste of blood and fire on the tongue.
As the woman lay there, freezing on the bridge of death, she remembered that she would never make it to her son’s 18th birthday. He would be an orphan; parentless. He would read the name ‘Catherine Sykes’ in the newspaper the next day and it would take all the happiness, which would have come from his special day, away. With this last tortuous thought, she shook one last time, before giving into the sweet release of death.
Her murderer stood with his eyes fixated on his creation as he roughly wiped the blood from his hands onto his jeans, letting his cigarette hang from his lips. An evil smirk played on his mouth as the woman’s face became whiter, her eyes frozen.
“Take this as a message from the Thomas family. No one hunts one of my kin and lives to talk ‘bout it.” The man whispered down at her – through the space between his lips and his cigarette.
The corpse did not answer him. Whispers of wind toyed with the loose strands of her hair. The man looked to the stars as he took another deep inhalation of toxins, before blowing a long stream of smoke from his nostrils like a dragon. With one last glance at his work, he lightly kicked the body over the cliff-side before turning and striding away. But he was stopped in his tracks.
“Come to save your friend ‘av you? Sorry, she’s dead.” He laughed gently, tossing his cigarette to the ground and crushing it beneath his boot. “And now so are you.”
In a matter of seconds, the man was gone but then reappeared in front of a trembling woman holding an outstretched gun. With ease, and an irritated expression, the man knocked the gun from her feeble grip. “When will you people learn?” He murmured before quickly grabbing her throat.
She winced and squealed in his grasp but it was futile. With his thumb at her throat and the rest of his hand grasping the back of her neck, he tightened his grip and lifted her. Her legs dangled, thrashing for freedom against the emptiness beneath her feet. His thumb pressed deeper into her trachea, cutting off her air supply and then, with a loud, unnerving crack, her neck broke.
He let her body drop to the ground, an uncaring expression on his face as he walked over the corpse. “We will always be the victors. Your teammates will do well to remember that…”
South London, England, 2006
Bright stars freckled the face of the heavens as it stared down upon the world with distaste. The howl of a pup penetrated the skies as it wept, the fog impairing its sight of home. However, little did the wolf know that he wasn’t alone in his yearning. He wasn’t the only thing lost from their place of belonging…
Hazel eyes surveyed the fog, trying, to no avail, to locate the wailing pup. Just when she thought she may have found it, she was startled by a pale face. ‘You idiot,’ she thought, realising it was only the freckled nose, curly haired girl she saw in the mirror every day. She considered how foolish is was to have feared her own reflection, when so much lurked within the darkness before her eyes. She could feel the pain emanating from the lost pup’s wails. It was so far away from home. And so was she.
She glanced down at the shackles tying her to her bedroom. With a grimace, and all the strength she could muster, she finally tugged herself free from the chains. The broken links clinked on the ground as she felt a wave of relief sweep over her. Grinning, she struck the window pane, shattering it. She leveraged herself up and out through the window, landing on the archway above her front door. Without hesitation, she then jumped down onto the gravel before running off into the night.
Except she didn’t do any of that in reality. Instead, she was still trapped inside her bedroom. Not by chains or cuffs but by family, loneliness, responsibility, shunning and a lack of purpose. She pushed herself away from the window, willing herself not to desire the outside world. It was too dangerous to dream.
As the seventeen year old turned to face her bedroom, she felt the urge to curse. It was a mess. Papers from her revision, along with lotions and old teddy bears, were sprawled about the carpet. All of these things were her own possessions but she hadn’t been the one to spray them around the room. Her sister’s wrath was inevitable but unavoidable all the same. And so, she cleaned. She heard the familiar jingle of her chains, even with her noisy home, as she picked up her Biology notes, wishing more so than ever that the perfect tales from one of her favourite books would come to life. But, perhaps, Letti Kane would never be given such a luxury.
The giant statue of Jesus watched over the people of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a busy city. Houses stood almost one on top of the other, like stairs leading up to the top of a mountain. The streets were jam-packed, uproarious mayhem all day every day much like a jungle. In the Brazilian jungle itself however, there stood only one house – the D’Anna residence.
The D’Annas had originated from Rome, Italy, but travelling all over the world had become an obsession of theirs. Sadly, as a consequence, their distinct Italian accents had now deceased over time. In fact Jorell, the head of the household, was the last D’Anna within the mansion to remain noticeably Italian.
If there had been such a thing, the mansion would be that of jungle royalty. Three separate buildings collectively made up the house; they were joined by trees and vines, which danced together and intertwined to form bridges. Branches crawled up the windows as though the jungle were inviting the mansion to be a part of it. It was big and black with many windows, so much so the D’Annas could roam about their home and feel as though they were right outside. The jungle was a beautiful and bizarre choice of lodging. Their neighbours were exotic birds and spunky creatures to which went about their business, leaving the D’Annas to theirs.
“Ciao, Bella.” grinned Jorell, fixing the cufflinks on his shirt as he embarked the kitchen, addressing his wife for the first time that day.
She turned to face him with a buttery kitchen knife in her hand and a menacing smile on her thin lips. Jorell looked into her eyes, eyes of which pierced everything they looked upon – she had looked upon many things in her lifetime. This was but one thing Jorell had always admired about his wife; she had been through a great deal and come out at the better end.
His dark eyes examined the knife before returning to her beauty. Her curved figure was complimented by a red dress, which clung to her before falling just below her knees. The couple’s sophistication fitted their surroundings perfectly. The kitchen was large and elegantly decorated in white, red and grey. Black and white furniture filled the space, adorned with slate ornaments, expensive china and the latest technology.
“Ciao,” She returned with a chuckle, “fancy hearing that after spending the morning at the market with those boisterous Brazilians!”
She shook her head drolly.
“Don’t complain. If I remember correctly, madam, it was you who insisted we buy a house out here.” He smiled, teasing her flirtatiously and she took the bait.
Melody moved in closer to her husband.
“You’re always right, Lorenzo, aren’t you?” She exclaimed, purposely childish – using his Italian name rather than the current name he used in England, as she often did.
She gently placed the knife on the chopping board before sliding her hands up to her husband’s strong jaw, lightly caressing his goatee.
“Sì, Melody, of course!” He whispered, bringing her in closer and glancing over the face of the woman who had been his entire world for the majority of his life; her lips, eyes and body were a joyful familiarity.
His fingers lightly brushed against Melody’s sunken cheeks, which stood out beneath thin skin. Long, wavy brown hair lay across her bare shoulders. Her entire air was of elegance, an exact replica of her husband’s. Jorell leant in to steal a kiss before stopping himself, a puzzled expression clouding his face.
“Oh, that’s right, honey, where’s Beau?” He asked suddenly, breaking their embrace and checking the kitchen frantically.
“I’ve no idea! Last I saw him, he was with Skylar in his bedroom but you know how she is, always getting distracted. Oh dear!” Melody answered, feverishly shaking her head.
Jorell bit his lip as he forced the cupboard open to scan the inside for his grandson – Beau tended to hide in unusual places. He was unsuccessful in finding him. He moved on to another.
“Beau seems to be the most exciting thing in our lives at the moment, and even he’s getting older now.” Started Melody, leaning back on the kitchen side with a thud.
Jorell stopped checking for Beau and turned to face her. She was now hugging herself with a glum expression daring to tear away her beauty. He approached her, placing his words carefully.
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve done everything, been everywhere…what’s left? What now?” Melody held back her tears as she covered her face with her left hand.
Jorell’s face became hot; too hot.
“Where’s your ring?” He exclaimed through gritted teeth; once again her wedding ring was absent from her finger.
His heart immediately sank. A harsh curse came as a vicious whisper when he lowered his head. This was a running occurrence between the two. The seeds of dishonesty and disloyalty had been sown long ago; as much as Jorell had tried to destroy it, he couldn’t escape the truth.
“I’m trying to talk to you, Lorenzo, but you’re more concerned about my bloody ring! Do you trust me so little?” She sobbed angrily.
“Can you blame me?” Jorell answered too quickly, his words virtually acidic.
Melody had no answer for him. Her eyes began to fill with tears, even as she willed them not to, when a giggle came from underneath the table. Jorell scowled before departing the room with a lethal storm cloud forming above his head. Wiping away her tears quickly, Melody gawped down at the child who crawled out to her feet. She hooked him up by his dungarees before tickling her grandson, Beau, trying to forget the argument the baby had witnessed moments ago.
“Melody, I’m going back to London. I’ll see you and the others when you return.” Announced a husky voiced teenager, not long turned eighteen, as he drifted down the white carpeted stairs.
He jumped at the last step and stood tall in front of his mother, awaiting her response with spirited eyes. Melody reached over and rustled through the young man’s dark hair with distaste.
“When you arrive, you’d better book yourself in for a haircut. It’s getting horribly long!” She laughed, studying the irritated expression that was growing on his lightly olive-skinned face.
“Ah, but I like the way it keeps my eyebrows warm.” He played with the strands at the front, causing his mother’s mood to lift. “But anything for you, I suppose. Right, so I’m leaving.”
“So early?” She asked, fixing Beau’s dungarees.
He nodded, impatience now showing in his stiff body language; she continued, “Hey, take your cousin with you, Kaizen, she’s been bugging Symphany but your sister’s too busy. Would you take her instead? She needs to get away for a while. Take her shopping or something.” Melody requested, smiling in such a way that he couldn’t refuse.
He rolled his Pacific blue eyes and sighed heavily. Kaizen wasn’t sure he had the energy to endure his cousin. Quickly, he weighed up the situation. Protesting would mean he would have to stay there and argue with his mother for a while, which never went well; so, simply agreeing meant getting back home to London much faster.
“Fine.” Kaizen answered with feigned indifference, as he threw a black, non-hooded jacket over his grey one.
“Oh, and don’t call me Melody, it sounds dreadfully formal.” She uttered, smoothing her locks out of her face.
“Oh, I suppose you’re right,” His eyebrows knitted, “Mom.” The words tasted foreign in his mouth.
She kissed his cheek but began wiping it away immediately, after having noticed Kaizen’s distaste for it. He called for his cousin before shortly departing.
Two days later…
Letti was on the ball. It was only 10 a.m. and already she had completed two hours’ worth of Biology revision for the upcoming exams. At seventeen years old, Letti was a college student studying for her A Levels at her senior school. She was a good student. Her teachers gave her above average grades and she always knew that she would go off to university and get a great job, as long as she stayed focused.
Now all she needed was someone to go over her notes with her. Her younger sister, Carah, aged fourteen, always helped Letti out. Carah was the only thing that made living in the Kane house tolerable. It seemed that Carah was one of the few Kanes with the ability to be sensitive or compassionate. Letti gathered her notes and practically skipped to her sister’s bedroom beside her own. As usual, Carah’s door was ajar.
“Hey, Care.” Letti sang, allowing herself entrance. “Wondered if you could be my substitute Bio teacher for an hour or so.”
The red waves that made up her sister’s hair bounced as Carah jumped up from her desk to greet Letti. However, in doing so, she had managed to spill her red drink all over her music notes. Carah’s watery-green eyes grew as she began to panic.
“Oh frick, frick, frick!” She wailed, “I’m sorry, Letti, crisis!”
She dived onto the notes, trying to pat them dry with her t-shirt. Letti pulled a face as she tiptoed out of the room, knowing that when it came to Carah’s music, nothing could get in the way.
Stumped suddenly, Letti considered her aunt Alyson to be her next best bet at a study partner. However, she then remembered that her aunt and uncle always visited the market on a Saturday. Even with thirteen people living under one roof, Letti felt at a loss for helpers. Her hands tied, she had no choice but to beg her older brother.
Sighing in frustration, Letti knocked hard at Wyatt’s door with ringed fingers. No answer. She knocked again, this time to a familiar tune. No answer.
“Wyatt?” She pulled the handle down, “Wyatt, I-”
Something was blocking the door but with a few hard shoves, she found her way in. A foul stench then hit her nostrils, causing her to recoil. ‘Has something died in here?’ Hand over mouth to stop herself from retching, she scanned over his bedroom, finding junk littering every available space. It took her some time to locate her brother amongst it all, but it was no surprise that he was lying like a corpse in the messy bed, snoring groggily like the living embodiment of his environment. Letti was about to throw something at him to wake him when she noticed that a girl’s arm was strewn over his back. It was Evie, or so she hoped, Wyatt’s girlfriend.
Defeated, Letti closed the door to the vulgar room. Her fingers rapped at the notes in her arms as she considered the person who inhabited the room beside Wyatt’s. Juliet. Her eldest sister. Her polar opposite. Her arch enemy. Juliet only cared for number one – herself. Even his one year old daughter, Leah, came second best – perhaps even third or fourth best.
Letti hadn’t realised that she had been standing outside of Juliet’s room for some time now. On the one hand, Juliet was awful – simple. No one in their right mind ever chose to spend time with her. But on the other hand, Letti needed to pass. University was her ticket out of here.
“I can smell you through the door, worm. Move it!” came a croaky voice from within Juliet’s room.
Startled, Letti took a step backwards, dithering in the hallway as anger built up inside of her.
“Oh, yeah, I was just uh…it’s just that I have this Biology exam-”
“And what? You thought I had nothing better to do than help you study?”
Suddenly the door swung open, giving way to a beast. Juliet towered over Letti with ease. She wore next to nothing, as she usually did, causing Letti to avert her eyes – her sexuality was a weapon that she wielded freely. The troubling thing was her bloodshot eyes though, burning into Letti as Juliet looked her up and down.
“Get over yourself,” Juliet sneered, “ignorant bitch!”
And with that, she slammed the door between them. Letti gritted her teeth, wishing so desperately that her chains weren’t holding her back from kicking down the door and wiping the smug look from her sister’s face. But alas, she held her tongue, lowering her head as she walked down the stairs.
In the living room, Letti found her cousins, Drake and Jonah – both no older than ten – playing video games. Her mother stood by the mantel with a vacant expression on her face, a washing basket wedged between her arms and her stomach. The living room was simplistic. There were no photographs of the family or paintings; there weren’t any awards or trophies on display either. There were just sofas; a television; a mantelpiece over a fireplace; and a large window which allowed you to see into the kitchen, high stools lining it.
All out of options, Letti approached her cousins with the last bit of hope she had left.
“Hey, boys, how would you like to play a lil game with me?” She sang, falsely enthusiastic.
They didn’t lift their heads from their game or give a reply.
“Hello, Earth to Drake…Jonah?”
Letti’s mother paid no attention to her shouting, for her mind was too far gone. Rampant images of her past were paining her head, causing her to sweat. The washing basket in her arms shook as Bellemere became restless. Her thoughts were overwhelming, unnerving her to her very core. The thoughts were growing wild, becoming more and more real. Suddenly, she was thrown into a flashback of events from many years before…
Bellemere was standing in the exact same place. She wore a long, black dress which flattered her every curve. A strip of red material crossed over each breast and continued around to hug her waist. Her dark, unnaturally red hair was thrown over one shoulder, smooth and elegantly wavy. In front of her stood a tall, handsome man dressed equally as eloquent as herself. He complemented a charcoal suit with a white shirt that clung to his muscular figure, a blue tie hanging loosely around his collar after an evening out together. Confidence radiated from him like a physical energy; Bellemere’s usual identical demeanour however, had weakened. She tapped her foot impatiently as the tension between them thickened.
“Grayson, I would be most grateful if you were to treat me as an adult rather than a child. I’m not going to do just as you tell me,” she answered, matter-of-factly.
“Oh darling, you know I know that!” He replied with a cheeky grin creeping across his tanned face.
Bellemere’s amethyst eyes rolled at his response. She pushed herself off from the mantelpiece and slowly approached her husband with the sophistication of a feline.
“Don’t pretend you don’t care about this. We need to make a decision…do we go rogue or -”
She stopped because he had started to sneer at her remark. Bellemere scowled; he always did this. He always shied away from serious conversation. Once upon a time it had been sweet, his humorous attitude towards life, but now it was merely irritating. He gently grasped the hand of his wife and rubbed her skin with his thumb.
“We must, of course, go rogue. If we wish to keep our family safe, that is. You know it’s what’s right.” Grayson stared deep into her eyes, persuasion swimming in his own.
Bellemere didn’t agree with him for she was shaking her head as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“We can’t leave this place, it’s our home! We made this place from scratch, Gray! We need our family. I know it’s not like me to say that but…this is where we belong.” Her voice was soft but behind it pain and sorrow clawed.
“Belong!” Grayson’s voice had increased, so strong, so powerful that Bellemere winced, “In this, this…prison! With its hypocrisy, it’s ‘laws’? Why should we have to follow their rules? When they find out who we are, and what we’ve done, we will be executed. That’s it. Without hesitation. How is that fair? Huh? How?”
Grayson practically panted with rage, his chest heaving. She started backing away from him, her heart sinking. All that he had said was right, Bellemere couldn’t deny it, but there was more to it than that.
“At least we will be together. The rules are there to keep everyone safe -” she replied, nodding lightly to reassure him, bringing her hands firmly into a prayer around his.
He couldn’t take any more. He threw his wife’s hands from his, her bracelet crashing to the floor and sprawling beads about the carpet.
Staring furiously into her eyes, he continued, “Bellemere! This is pathetic! Forget them! Forget the system. It’s me or nothing. Your bloody kind are all full of -”
The sentence went unfinished as Bellemere had rose and forcefully whacked him. He was sent to the ground, smirking arrogantly as he wiped the blood from his mouth. Bellemere’s face had become undyingly confident now.
“No, you’re pathetic. ‘You want it to be just me and you, huh?’ How can you say that after you had that affair with that slut?” She bellowed down at him; she was hurt now, bringing up the past was cutting her deep but it was her last resort.
Grayson took a deep breath, averting his eyes from hers for a moment as he slouched back on his hands.
“That’s all done and in the past, Belles; you know I love you. What I did was wrong and I’m forever sorry for that; truly, I am, but this is madness, utter mad -” Began Grayson, calmly now.
“I don’t know you anymore Gray! It’s never been the same with us since then. And I don’t think it ever will be…Maybe staying with you will just jeopardise the children…and continue to break my heart.”
Tears bubbled in her eyes. Grayson stared up at his wife, trying to read her thoughts and understand why she was acting this way.
“Then you may as well kill me to save them the trouble.”
“Don’t talk like that,” Bellemere commanded, her voice uneasy.
“Why? I don’t want to live without you and if we don’t leave, we will be killed here anyway… and…maybe killing me will finally help you recover. I deserve it. I’ve lived a good life. So just do it.”
He began calmly chanting, ‘Do it. Do it. Do it…’ a menacing look clouding his hazel eyes. Bellemere became restless. He had hurt her so much and there he knelt before her, begging for death. Her breaths were heavy, her heart rate fast, her mind lost. The hatred she had suppressed over so many years was now rising to the surface. It wanted him dead; it wanted his blood spilt. “Do it…”
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Check out BOOK TWO: Guardians Rise