Born amongst humans, yet not quite human themselves, the parasouls fight to remain hidden. Using ancient tunnels and abandoned, buried basements as their homes, parasouls live in the underbelly of society; obscured from humans in a world they've created – a world where they don’t need to pretend they’re normal. Damian McNamara built and controls the society they’ve learned to thrive in.
Angelique is the leader of a special team whose job is to keep the “normals” from knowing of the parasouls’ existence. Her gift is a curse, a constant reminder that she’s not normal, or human. Her fingertips come alive with electric blue flames, leaving her physically unable to touch another living soul without inflicting indescribable pain upon them.
The Parasoul Acquisition Control Taskforce, a little known government entity, hunts them, collecting parasouls for their special abilities.
Shane is the headhunter for the taskforce. Like Angelique, he’s never been able to touch anyone due to his gift of red and orange flames that singe the flesh of others.
The moment Shane and Angelique meet, the heavens open and connect their souls forever. So what happens when Shane finds himself trapped between the only thing he’s ever desired and his job? Has he been left with no choice but to deliver the one person who owns his soul over to his boss, General Ritter, and the government’s taskforce? In a world where battle lines are obscured, how do you know which side is the good, the bad, or the dictators?
Both sides are in for a rude awakening.
Can love conquer all when you’re supposed to hate the one soul you can’t live without? How long can they fight the urge to give in to their connection? Can two parasouls on opposite sides find common ground and forge a future?
“Angelique? It’s time,” Gretchen called, dragging my attention away from the white and sapphire flames I danced across my fingertips.
“I thought we weren’t needed. What’s changed?”
Crossing her arms across her chest, she cocked her eyebrow. “You know better than to ask questions I can’t answer. Master will tell you all you need to know. You don’t want to keep him waiting.”
With a huff, I blew out the candle near my bed, leaving just the small light funneling in from her torch. There were times when I missed not having electricity to run lamps, but not enough to make me want to leave what was now my family.
Gretchen was responsible for watching over us. By us, I meant the other girls in my squad, which consisted of Makenna, Treni, Nevaeh, and me. Our only purpose in life: to keep our secret. It was something we did very well.
Gretchen never lost sight of her calling in this life. She played the mother role to perfection. Even for a woman in her late eighties, she was beautiful. Anyone who didn’t know her age would estimate her to be only in her thirties. One of the advantages of being born a Parasoul, we aged at such a slow rate once we shifted.
Gretchen’s long, mahogany, straight hair flowed like silk down her back when she spun to lead the way toward the chamber of the High Court and Master. The graceful posture with which she carried herself led many men to vie for her attention. They could never challenge her devotion to the Master. She was his consort, and had been since her arrival fifty-some years ago, long before my time.
Parasouls living underground had grown unaccustomed to the human practice of marriage. To us, it had become an outdated ceremony. As far back as I can remember, those around me took consorts - what the normals referred to as lovers.
Master was all we were ever allowed to call Damian McNamara. Damian brought every one of our kind into our secret world - with our help, that is. Hidden away, we lived in the underbelly of humanity. Tunnels, caverns, and long-abandoned buried buildings belonged to us. Damian held us together as a family, or the closest thing to it we had ever known. His power was absolute. No one challenged him; not if they wanted to live. The man could crush a person just by gazing at them.
Granted, we could walk among the normals, we were never one of them. Parasouls were a higher species of human. After shifting, we’d each have an ability - or talent, if you will. Since no research had been done, we had no idea why we were different. Most of us didn’t really care. We were just happy to live out our very long lives in peace. Traits such as the electric flames I produced made it essential for some us to stay separate from the humans. We’d been born one step above them on the evolutionary ladder. They just didn’t know it, or about us.
The Parasoul Acquisition Control Taskforce, government hunters who tried to track and trap us, had dubbed us ‘paranormal souls,’ a designation that had gradually metamorphosed into “Parasoul.” Every Parasoul was born differently from the humans with whom we coexisted. There was no telling when our uniqueness would reveal itself. For some it happened at birth; for others, like me, it arrived with puberty.
Pushing up off my tattered bedding, I left my makeshift bed on the floor of my room, which once had been a subbasement for an abandoned building that had been long forgotten and covered over by a new, more modern office complex. The basement above mine had been filled in, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t know about the one below it. Now it had become my sanctuary.
I’d been lounging for the last few hours waiting on mealtime, so luckily I was still dressed. Gretchen smiled when I slipped past her into the passageway that led to the main meeting area. The sounds of our residents echoed down toward us. I loved hearing the festive ramblings of mealtimes. It meant the members of our society were happy and content.
Passing Treni’s room, she fell in line behind me. “New mission, Angelique?”
“Don’t know. We’ve been summoned to see the High Court.”
“Figures. I have a date tonight,” she griped, in her usual ticked-off mood.
Treni’s calling came in the form of knowing where others of our kind were hidden. Her blazing red hair whipping in the breeze resembled the fire of the gods. With eyes a shade of dark gray, she could frighten even the strongest of men, although her consort Xavier never agreed with that assessment. He swore the ground she walked on was blessed to have been touched by her.
Xavier’s job entailed the protection of what we considered our homeland. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would say he didn’t do his job well. The male knew exactly how to lock down our tunnels if anyone came too close. His handsome features, chocolate-brown hair, and irises - sent all the ladies into a frenzy, but he only had eyes for Treni.
Treni nodded toward the door of Makenna’s room. Knowing what was coming, I felt a smile creep across my cheeks. As soon as Gretchen walked past, she yelped and clutched her chest.
“Makenna! Damn it! One of these days you’re going to give me a heart attack.”
Makenna laughed and shimmered into view with her hand still on Gretchen’s shoulder. “For someone so old, you’re not too wise. I’d think by now you’d be used to me appearing out of thin air.”
She slipped in behind us, still chuckling at her surprise attack. Makenna had the ability to camouflage herself as a chameleon would, blending into any background. Her almost white-blond, waist-length curls and pale-blue eyes made her a stunning creature. Unfortunately, it also caused her to attract the wrong sort of attention from the male population. Being deserted and heartbroken one too many times had left her bitter and anti-men. Now she toyed with them, getting what she needed and never giving her heart away.
“Let the fun begin.” Nevaeh smiled at us as we passed her chamber before she moved to bring up the rear. She had the ability to force a person to see what was necessary to allow us to remain hidden. Once she implanted a memory, it was irreversible. She had offered to remove the memories that plagued Makenna, but the answer was always the same: no.
Nevaeh’s inner beauty sparkled above all others. Her sensitivity and caring ways drew us together as more than best friends; we were sisters. Her shoulder-length, honey-blond hair was always worn tied off into a makeshift ponytail, and looking into her green eyes, you felt that you could almost see into her soul. Her outer beauty captivated many; however, she had never found anyone of interest to consort with.
That left me: Angelique. The flames I produced from my fingertips were hypnotic, but excruciating to the touch. It made finding a consort painfully impossible, pun intended. Many had tried, but the pain always had them screaming in agony as they crumpled at my feet. Attracting potential males had never been the problem; the pain I inflicted upon them was. I’d learned to accept that I’d never have a consort of my own. It hurt, but it was what it was. I’d forever be alone, whether I liked it or not.
Our cohesive unit marched on toward the house of the High Court. No one went there unless they were invited or summoned. Everyone living below backed against the mortar and dirt walls when we passed. Our team had been known for being merciless, and no one wanted to cross us.
The underground consisted of subbasements, tunnels, sewers, abandoned train stations, and just about everything in between, all interconnected by doors, broken walls, or caved-in gaps. We didn’t name the sectors after their corresponding boroughs, but we were currently in what the normals would consider Manhattan. Humans were always good for forgetting their past, which included this underground labyrinth. And if one of them remembered, Nevaeh would be sent in to help them forget again.
Stalking into the room, the first thing I noticed was Master seated in his ruling chair - or throne, if you will. By his side stood the three elders who made up his council: Dalia, Jerald, and Heath. Damian looked up, shaking his auburn mane out of his hazel eyes.
Stopping a few feet from him, we bowed and waited. “Thank you for coming so quickly.” He smiled with authority.
We straightened our posture, crossing our arms behind our backs as they always insisted on. We were, after all, their version of the military. “You called, Master. Of course we came straight away.”
“Angelique, your team is needed in New Jersey. There is a young man there telling people of our existence. This cannot continue. I expect you to leave immediately. It should take you until tomorrow morning to reach his location.” I nodded and waited for Dalia to deliver the necessary information.
Glancing through the papers she passed me, I noted the photograph of a male approximately sixteen years in age. You could see he had no idea he’d been photographed. I passed it to Treni, watching on while she scanned the picture. When she nodded, I knew finding him wouldn’t be a problem.
“What are our orders once he is located?”
“Bring him to me, memory intact.” He waved his hand. “You are dismissed.” I paused briefly before giving a sharp nod and spinning on my heels and leaving the room. The girls followed my lead.
“Why the change in protocol?” Nevaeh whispered, rushing up behind me.
“Don’t know. He’s never wanted someone brought back unless—” I stopped short and snapped my head up to look at Treni.
“Not yet, but it’s not out of the question,” she murmured, her eyes void of all color.
After a few blinks, the color returned to her dark chocolate irises, and we resumed our pace toward the subway tunnels. I loved traveling by train; of course, one day I hoped to travel on the inside instead of on top. Ducking through a crevice in a demolished wall, we walked on in silence.
Master’s order repeated in my mind, and I couldn’t shake the feeling this meant more than a regular retrieval. Even if the young man was destined to be a parasoul, there had to be something more, something we weren’t seeing.
“Treni, scout ahead. I have an uneasy feeling this isn’t going to be a simple snatch-and-run.”
“You got it, boss.” With a sharp nod, she bolted past me into the pitch black tunnel ahead.
Her all-clear whistle rang out and echoed off the walls. Picking up the pace, we started jogging toward her and the exit that would release us into the normals’ world. Seeing her shadowed form crouched down instinctively had us following suit. Once behind her, the rattling sounds of the rails forewarned us a train would be passing us soon enough.
“Makenna, Treni, Nevaeh, be ready,” I yelled over the roaring sound.
Hugging the walls, we kept ourselves from being sucked out and under the tons of surging metal. The violent winds whipped around us, nearly succeeding in pulling us out of the tunnel. Gradually, the screeching sounds of the brakes catching replaced the howling winds.
“Move it!” I ordered.
One by one, we scrambled and catapulted ourselves up the back of the train. Where Treni chose a graceful backflip landing on the balls of her feet, Nevaeh performed a breathtaking somersault. Of course, Makenna outdid us all with her flying side-jumps off the cement walls, landing in a crouch mere feet from me.
Our agility had little to do with the way we were born and everything to do with the way we trained. When we were rendered unneeded during lulls in parasouls shifting, we remained ready to fight by doing training sessions in the tunnels. Sparring never left us bored or out of shape. Since none of us had borne children, we were in top fighting form at all times. That would change for any of us who produced a child; so few children were conceived in our community that the parents of those who were born generally guarded their young and never left their side.
Treni, being the only one of us with a consort, wasn’t opposed to the idea of children; it just hadn’t happened yet. For whatever reason, we produced children at a slower rate. We’re not stupid, we’ve asked for the reason why, but always got the same answer: we don’t know. Whether they didn’t know or wouldn’t tell, the elders had kept that answer shrouded in mystery. At sixty-odd years, Treni was the third-youngest in our group, but she desired a child now more than ever. Meeting Xavier had changed her views on offspring.
Even for our kind, Nevaeh and I were considered young. At fifty-four, I knew enough to be the best leader our squad had ever had. For Nevaeh, it meant she still had a long way to go.
The day Master asked me to join in the retrieval of a young girl had changed my future. What started out as simple snatch-and-grab fell apart, leaving our leader dead and three trainees on the run with one scared human ready to shift at any moment. We tried to race home before we could fall into the hands of the PACT or, worse, left dead in the streets of DC. In the end, it was I who took control and brought the team and the human back safely. I’d never been a follower; it wasn’t in my nature.
Makenna, being the oldest, knew most about what we had to look forward to. At seventy-seven, she had seen more of our kind killed or led away by the Parasoul Acquisition Control Taskforce – or PACT – than anyone else I knew.
If the PACT took someone, we never saw them again. Very few had been caught in my time, but there were some. That was the only thing that scared me. The mental picture of being stolen away from my community and tortured wasn’t a pretty one. I’d heard stories, but I had never known anyone who could actually give a first-hand account. Still, those images filled my nightmares on more nights than I cared to remember. Encounters with the government-led parasouls that made up the PACT had to be avoided if we ever wanted to return safely to our homes below the city streets.
Yes, we didn’t have the luxuries of TVs or the technology the normals had become addicted to, but it didn’t matter to us. As long as we had our freedom that was a small price to pay. Besides, with no electricity, where would we plug them in? And we’d never be able to get a signal that far underground. I wouldn’t have minded having one of those tablets that the normals talk about - or a phone, for that matter. It would definitely make my teams’ job so much easier. On the downside, my electric touch would most likely fry the circuitry. It might have been difficult for an outsider to understand our simplistic ways, but it’s who we were and how we lived. This was how we had chosen to exist.
There were parasouls who had opted to live among the humans to aid the resistance by obtaining the things we needed. They funneled us the things we couldn’t scavenge, from food to clothing and medicine. They also worked as our eyes and ears in the human world.
Those few - the Watchers - who were allowed to live in the human world reported directly to Master. Our team handled the exchanges and guard duty during their visits. Even though they were trusted, no chances were ever taken. The only normals who were allowed to know of our existence were the parents of the parasouls in our community. They, too, would send along care packages or items of need. There was nothing they wouldn’t send. One family had a bakery and would deliver their day-old goods to us. Others passed along tools, old clothes and blankets, and toys for the kids. There was no way for them to betray us without condemning their own children.
I’d never be able to live in the normals’ world. One inadvertent touch from me would immediately announce my differences to anyone close enough to hear the screams. I’d long given up hope of ever finding someone to call my own.
The jarring movement of the slowing train pulled me from my thoughts of home. It took four hours and nine trains before we reached our destination. The darkness hid us when we jumped to the platform at the subway station. Being on solid ground eased the queasy feeling in the pit of my belly. Treni took the lead. With her white-hazed eyes, she guided us, seeing more than we could. Dashing through the subways of the normals’ world, we eventually surfaced through a manhole cover at the corner of Washington and Forrest Streets. Trenton, New Jersey, gave me an uneasy feeling; it brought us too close to the PACT center of operations in Fallsington.
Treni crouched with her hand raised, and we all froze. “They’re here,” she whispered.
I knew before I checked out our surroundings that I wouldn’t see what she could. Light or darkness couldn’t affect her gift. She once described what she saw as a black hole with points of lights floating through it. Everything had a color. Humans flickered in white, while parasouls flashed in orange. Admittedly, she couldn’t tell the difference between us and the taskforce, but it didn’t take a genius to know that when five to ten parasouls were chasing a human, it meant something was happening. Since our team had yet to track him, it had to mean that they were in pursuit.
“How close are they?” Nevaeh whimpered, fearing PACT’s proximity.
“Three blocks west. The target is running two blocks ahead of them. One block that way.” Treni pointed in his general direction.
“Let’s snatch him up before they catch him.” My orders were firm. “Nevaeh, you’re with me. Treni and Makenna, be ready when we push him towards you. If we get separated, first one to grab him heads back to New York.”
Without a second’s hesitation, we scattered. Treni and Makenna dashed down the sidewalks, while Nevaeh and I maneuvered the dark, dirty alleys. I cringed when she kicked a can. Snapping my head to her, I saw what had startled her. A hunter. His black fatigues sold him out, he stood about eight feet away glaring at us, looking furious and feral.
“Nevaeh, run!” I screamed.
“But—?” Nevaeh was torn with following my order or staying to fight.
“Go! Get to the boy!” I grabbed her and shoved her down an intersecting alley.
“You will fail if you fight me,” the hunter snarled, stalking closer.
His disarming good looks left me stunned, frozen in place. Staying in the shadows, he hid most of his features, but I could see the silhouette of his high cheekbones, square jawline, dark hair, and even darker eyes. A bolt of lightning flashed in the sky, and an electric charge reverberated off the bricks around me. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. In a crackling arch, the bolt flashed above, splitting in two. I felt the impact as one strike was launched into my chest. Staring in disbelief, I saw that the lightning had hit the hunter, too. In a blink it was gone.
My eyes locked onto his, and for the first time in my life I was mesmerized. Deep in the pit of my stomach, I felt a pulling sensation that demanded I move closer to the hunter. It felt as if a hook was anchored onto my belly button and it was dragging me toward him. My feet shuffled forward by instinct. From the way he glared at me, I knew he felt it, too. That’s when I saw them - scarlet and ginger flames dancing in his palms.
We’d always been told we had a consort who was our complete opposite, though I had never heard of anyone finding theirs. Was it possible the rumors of soul linking were true? Was my fate sealed in one moment by divine intervention?
“Stop whatever you’re doing to me!” he demanded, just as shocked as me.
“It’s not me. I thought it was you!” I gasped, the draw growing in intensity.
Clenching his fist, he extinguished his flames. “Prove it.” He gestured with his hands.
Releasing a heavy breath, I opened my hands to reveal the cerulean sparks igniting on the tips of my fingers. In a flash they glowed and pirouetted. I looked up to see his guarded expression soften. Transfixed, he stared at the blaze that flowed from my fingertips.
“So what they say is true? We do have polar opposites?”
“It would appear so. Question is: what do we do about it?” he hissed.
Before I could think about what it all meant, I was ambushed from behind. A sharp, stinging sensation rocked my body, forcing it to collapse. His once-heated expression crumbled just before everything faded to black.