Lost Souls #1
by L. M. Bain
Three decades ago, Anna made a fateful mistake that earned her soul a one-way ticket into the Wood of the Suicides. To avoid eternal suffering, Anna signed the contract, thus binding her to immutable servitude to the Lords of Hell.
On the thirty-second anniversary of her death, Anna meets Orenda, whose soul, unbeknownst to them, is coveted by Lucifer himself. A long-forgotten feeling begins to blossom within her, one she thought had died after the betrayal of the man she was set to marry. Their improbable romance unleashes a chain of events that threatens not only the world of the Normals, but also Heaven and Hell.
Can Anna and Orenda survive the horrors of hell and escape damnation?
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Genre: Paranormal Romance
A Red Satin Romance
A Fated Meeting
The sound of the wind filtering through the pines was as loud as the emptiness she felt inside. Over thirty years had gone by, yet, everything around this very spot seemed unchanged. This was her day to reminisce, the only day where she allowed herself to ponder on what might have been, knowing damn well that nothing could ever be done. This was the time where she could get away from it all and truly, be alone, to feel some sort of peace; truth was, in her world, peace did not exist, for she had relinquished that part of herself so long ago. Oh, how she wished the fiends would have just taken away her soul, so she wouldn’t have to feel the longing. Hadn’t she suffered enough? Time seemed so irrelevant.
Faithfully, just as she did every single year, Anna would sit alone at the edge of that cliff. Sometimes, she would allow herself to cry, but the wind would wipe away her tears. Sometimes, she would smile, and the cold autumn breeze would caress her face, encouragingly. The wind had been her faithful friend; the only one that had witnessed the deeply troubled and sad young woman she had once been. The only one that had borne witness to her plight, the one that still remembered the vast sorrow imprinted upon the cosmos that fateful day.
Anna often thought of him; of the two of them. She often fantasized of going to see him, of all the things she would say, of all the things she could do. She often thought of unleashing her rage upon him so that he could feel every bit of the pain that she had felt... The deeply rooted pain that she yet continued to feel, but she knew it was forbidden. Once the blood covenant was sealed, she forever renounced to seek contact with the normals. The guardians wouldn’t allow it... But she at least could think of him, and fantasize of all she could do... For the devil may own her soul, but on this day, her thoughts were only hers.
For you see, even the purest of souls can make mistakes, and loving too much had been hers. Loving that man, had been her downfall. And still there she was, yet again, just as she did every year reminiscing on all that she had lost. Trying to recall the person she once was, but who had she been? Well, she had been a bright young scholar, the pride of her parents. A pure soul whose only sin was to fall for the charms of a young religion professor. Oh, how she’d adored him! But in the world of academia, one must not share a bed with one’s professor, for it is frowned upon. Especially, if he is a man of the cloth. She hadn’t cared. Anna had been young, naïve, and so much in love, so much so that when the whirlwind romance was discovered, she defied God and the world for him. For his love, Anna gave up her family, her future, herself... How disappointed her parents had been! She still remembered the deep disillusion she saw in their eyes the day she left her childhood home, with him. She had yelled at her parents. She had told them that everything they’d said about him, was wrong. How she had hoped that soon they would see all the wonderful qualities she saw in him. Anna had prayed regularly for the day where they would finally accept him...
“How stupid!” She tightly clenched her fists at the memory, fighting back the tears that welled up in her eyes. That man had been a traitor. The worst of its kind! How she hated him! Or did she? Thirty-some years was a very long time to hold onto a grudge, but the rage she felt inside fueled her. It was her only motivation to go on existing, and the driving force behind her mission. Nothing else mattered, not even the fact that she condemned herself more and more with every defiled action she took against Him.
Anna suddenly felt angry at herself for allowing yet another tear to fall because of him. Still, after all these years.
Flustered, she took a deep breath and stood from the precariously placed boulder, perched at the edge of the cliff. The hood of the dark cloak she wore fell gently around her shoulders as the garment swayed smoothly against the wind. Below, the dark waters of Coeur D’Alene rested peacefully, swayed gently by the cool fall breeze. She lifted her eyes. The light of dawn would be making its appearance over the horizon very soon, and she could see the already dimming lights of the city beyond the highway. Suddenly, she felt her body tense as the abrupt rustling of leaves caught her by surprise, interrupting her thoughts. Anna immediately turned toward the path that lead to the cliff and squinted as she breathed in the pine scented morning air.
What in the hell? she thought. No one ever came around at such hour. No one.
Hastily, she pulled the cloak over her whole body which rendered her invisible to human eyes. In a cat like manner, she sat back down and waited patiently, hoping for the intruder to leave quickly.
From within the shadows that permeated the pine-filled path, Anna heard the unmistakable sound of breaking glass against rock, preceded by a loud maniacal laughter, followed by a guttural cry… Then she saw him. A broken man in complete disarray. His long mocha hair was covered in leaves and mud. Although she could not see his eyes, she could sense he had been crying. The man held a bottle of whiskey in one hand and donned a wedding band on the other.
“Fuck!” he yelled.
She stood and watched as the man tumbled across the path in her direction. She could feel the drunken rage and despair swirl within him. He smelled of desolation, whiskey, and a deep-seated heartache. The demon within her became increasingly agitated, reveling in potential anticipation. The misery of human ire and despair was like a drug to her; she needed it. She needed the sin unraveling within him. She craved the tender human soul before her… The man was primed for the taking, and she had to fight the urge to instigate him to act upon his deeply seeded desires.
He would make a great addition to the cause, she thought, the Dominions would be happy.
“Fuck, fucking shit, fuck!” he groaned falling to the ground after forcefully kicking the rock where she had been sitting at. Anna stared at him as he squirmed in pain, and then chuckled. She felt no sympathy or regard for him.
The man picked himself up. Gathering what little self-pride he had left, he sat up on the rock, allowing his feet to dangle precariously over the cliff. Curious, Anna moved closer and watched him intently. That’s when she sensed the deep unwavering sadness within him, and something inside her jolted. The man was softly crying, holding onto the bottle as if it were his saving grace. His back was hunched in a defeated stance as his eyes fixated on the waters below. The sun’s light began to slowly rise over the skyline, and she could finally see exactly what he looked like. The man was beautiful. There was a peculiar golden aura around him, unlike anything she had ever seen before.
He must be a pure, she thought and curiously levitated right in front of his face. The man could not see her, so he looked past her, lost in the commotion of his despair while she stared intently into his eyes. A quick glimpse into the remnants of his sanity, told her that those soft baby blues had loved so much, just as she had done. In them, she saw that his loss had cut much deeper. She recognized that the deep stain of sorrow would never leave him, and she wondered... She suddenly yearned to know his story. Oh yes, his skin was still impregnated by the scent of betrayal; that putrid aroma that forever blemishes those who have been jilted. Anna knew it well, for she smelled of it too.
The soft melody of wakeful wrens suddenly filled the quietness, announcing the beginning of the new day. The man continued to sit in silence, with Anna quietly perched right next to him. For hours they sat together, overlooking the horizon just watching the day pass by. The man, completely unaware of her presence, and her, basking in the unknowingly company he provided. This was her special day and although she hated to admit it, it was nice to not have to spend it alone. Even if he did not know she was there, Anna found comfort in his silence and in the quietness of his thoughts.
She wholeheartedly refrained from intruding into his mind, for that would likely call the attention of the others, and she wanted to savor the last hours of her time alone, with the man. Her longing to know about him, only grew more and more with every passing minute.
The shadows of the pines began to elongate as the sun prepared to set. The man looked around in nostalgic awe at the magnificent beauty of the landscape before him: luscious hills covered in evergreens and ponderosas that reached as far as the eye could see. A thin layer of fog had formed just above the frigid crystal-blue waters, suggesting that winter would soon come. He sighed. Suddenly, a magnificent bald eagle flew right by them, waking them both from the trance of their melancholy.
“Wow,” he muttered in honest amazement.
Wow, she silently agreed.
Deepening orange and red hues started to cover the sky, as the sun began to set behind them. The ominous darkness that lay before them sent shivers down her spine when the true intention of him being there suddenly became evident inside his mind.
“Well, let’s get this over with...” he slurred cavalierly, standing atop the rock. “Here is to you,” he declared raising the bottle and pouring whiskey down the void. “Here is to me,” he said and took a long deep swig, finishing up to the last swallow. “And here is to the future, that will never be,” he stated and toasted to the heavens.
The man looked down into the waters and took a deep breath. Dread clearly denoted in his eyes as he anticipated what would come next. That’s when Anna felt it. It was the same apprehension she had while she stood at that exact same spot, over thirty years earlier: Fear, desperation, dismay and anguish, desolation; heartache.
He is weak, Anna thought suddenly, filled with disgust and disdain. Weak as she once had been. Anna decided right there that she was not going to stay and watch him do it. She was not going to stay and watch another soul make the same mistake she had once made.
“Hello, Anna...” she quickly turned toward the direction of the disembodied raspy voice, audible to her ears, only.
Anna immediately recognized the deep Texas accent, and the subsequent apparition of the calf-length charcoal duster that followed. Anna was greeted by the eerie figure of a tall, bronze-skinned man coming out of a swirl of thick dark smoke. The spurs on his boots jingled diabolically, as fire and smoke seared the ground with every step he took.
“Fancy to meet you here this fine evenin’.” He tipped his black felt hat, putting on his best Casanova smile.
“What are you doing here, Diego?” Anna confronted angrily.
Diego Southerland, handsome and arrogant as all of hell’s sins. Elegantly dressed in his impeccable cowboy getup from the top of his felt hat, to the tip of his python boots, covered at the ankles by a pair of tight-fitting blue jeans. The grey western-style shirt he wore, was unbuttoned mid-way down, exposing the taut muscles of his untrimmed chest. Born in Nacogdoches, Texas when the west was still wild and untamed, Diego was the natural child of a wealthy rancher’s only daughter, and one of her father’s ranch-hands. Diego’s grandfather had put a noose around his daddy’s neck and hung him from a tall oak around his property, shortly after he discovered his daughter’s affair.
Although loved by his mother, Diego grew up rejected by his grandfather, so much so, that his grandfather would constantly remind him that no half-Mexican bastard would ever inherit his property. So, when he was 24, he abandoned his wife and five children to follow Robert E. Lee in the fight against the Yankees. For two long years, no one knew of Diego’s whereabouts, or whether he was still alive; that all changed one stormy August night... Just as his mother had sat down to dinner with her father, Diego walked inside the opulent dining room, his clothes, covered in blood.
“Diego!” his mother cried and tossed her silk napkin upon the table. Lifting her ankle length dress with both hands, she ran to tend to her beloved child.
“It ain’t my blood, Mama,” he replied between sobs, staring at his blood-soaked hands. “It ain’t my blood...” Diego said shaking his head, rocking back and forth in place, repeating the phrase over and over. “There’s so much blood, Mama,” he said wiping the blood off his brow. He looked up and around the large dining room. It was as if he did not know where he was. “There’s so much blood...” he repeated.
His gaze focused loosely on her eyes, as he tenderly dragged his palm across her cheek, leaving a bloody handprint on her face.
“There’s always so much blood, day and night, Mama, and the screams…” Kneeling, Diego placed both hands over his ears, trying to drown out the noise inside his head. His face twisted in a pain no mother’s heart could bear to see. “The God-damned screams!” he shouted. “They cry all the time, Mama. They cry all the time!” he wailed, holding tightly onto the neckline of her dress. “They went and got their legs cut off, and the trees, the dirt, everythan’ is always all covered in blood…” Diego gestured and flailed his right arm.
“Diego, honey, whose blood is it?” she asked tenderly, kneeling next to him. Diego stared at her, smiling maniacally, lost in the memories from the battle. “For God’s sake, Diego, whose blood is it?” she insisted, shaking him by the flaps on his duster; Diego did not answer.
Something caught her eye and she looked down. On his left hand, he held a tiny rag doll. It was the same little doll she had sewn for Diego’s youngest daughter.
“Oh, dear God!” she gasped and covered her mouth with both hands. “Becky... Your children...”
“They all better now, Mama,” he assured, patting her clumsily on the head. “They’re all sleepin’.” Diego stared direly into her eyes as he spoke. “The troops are coming here, Mama. I don’t want you to die…” Diego whimpered loudly, burying his head on her bosom, holding tightly onto her waist.
“Boy, you best quit your whining, and tell us exactly what in the hell is going on!” his grandfather yelled sternly, sitting at the head of the table.
“You…” Diego leaped up as drunken spit foamed from his mouth. “You old bastard! You best shut the hell up! They is comin’ for ya.’” He laughed manically. “I done told them you was a Yankee supporter, and the troops are comin’ for ya...” Diego pointed at his grandfather, while a crazy, desperate look rose inside his hazel eyes.
“You dimwitted son of a bitch!” his grandfather cried out.
“No, sir!” Diego yelled, unsheathing his revolver when his grandfather attempted to reach for the carefully placed shotgun on top of the table. “Sit down,” he ordered and calmly pointed the gun at him. “Come on now, sit the hell down!” he yelled and cocked his head when his grandfather failed to comply. “Now, I done told you they were comin’, but they only comin’ for you...”
“You idiot!” his grandfather yelled. “The rebels will kill all of us! Including your mother!”
“Shut up!” Diego yelled. “Shut up!” he ordered, clenching his teeth.
“Diego, honey, please!” his mom pleaded, sobbing uncontrollably, completely inconsolable over the untimely fate of her grandchildren. “How could you do this to your wife? Your children…” She put her hand over her chest and whimpered, lowering her head.
“Don’t cry, Mama, don’t cry,” he said. His voice trembled. “Rebecca and the children are in a better place now…” Diego smiled faintly; the tone in which he spoke suggested that he really believed what he was saying. “The same place you always said Daddy went to...”
Diego’s mother sighed in a silent cry, seeing her son’s eyes fill up with tears. “I wouldn’t do that!” he yelled and turned toward his grandfather when he again tried to reach for the shotgun. “You see, one thing you learn when you out there,” Diego gestured with his head toward the door. “Is to pay real close attention to everythan’ around ya. You have to stay alert and watch everythan’. You can’t even sleep, or you’d be a goner.”
“For God’s sake, boy, put that gun down!” his grandfather begged. “You gonna hurt someone!”
What happened next, would haunt Diego for the rest of his forsaken life. His mother, in a selfless attempt to save her son and father, quickly reached to take the gun away from her son. Out of pure and primal reaction, Diego turned around and shot her twice in the chest.
“You bastard!” he thought he heard his grandfather yell. His pupils dilated, and he felt as if he was in a slow-moving dream. Menacingly, Diego turned toward his grandfather as his mother’s inert body slowly fell onto the floor. Releasing all the hatred he’d harbored since childhood, Diego shot his grandfather four times, without hesitation. The house fell eerily silent. In a swift moment of sobering lucidity, he realized all he had just done. Falling to his knees, Diego let out a blood curdling scream, holding tightly onto the little rag doll. There was nothing else he could do but turn the gun on himself. Afterward, the revolver fell loudly to the floor, as his lifeless eyes stared blankly at the chandelier on the ceiling.
Since that fateful night in 1864, Diego gave up not only his soul, but any trace of good he had ever possessed. He had become one of the most ruthless demons Sheol had seen in centuries. Diego worked tirelessly and insatiately, constantly trying to satisfy the void within him, but that would never be. Every time senseless tragedy stroke, Diego would likely be the evil force behind it all. Anna knew that if Diego was here during this, her agreed upon alone time, it could only mean that this man was of extraordinary importance to the Dominions.
“My apologies, sweetheart, I told Azazel that you’d be here already, but he insisted I should be here too.”
Anna sighed, flustered. “Azazel knows damn well that I am to be left alone from the witching hour through nychthemeron. It is in our covenant,” she said angrily. A darkened glow shone menacingly behind her pupils.
“Yes...” Diego smirked and shrugged his shoulders, holding out his hands in a shielding stance. “But Azazel wants to ensure this one comes down with us,” he said and pointed at the man. “He does not want us to lose him, or there will be hell to pay! Get it? Hell.” Diego smiled. Anna could not stand his ridiculous sense of humor. “Pitiful, ain’t it?” Diego said and looked down at the man.
“Yes,” Anna agreed. “Pitiful...”
“A little sufferin’, and these weak humans can’t take shit!” Diego laughed. “A little despair and they want to end it all... Normals!” he exclaimed, disgusted. “They create their own hell, before they even get there, completely unaware of the real horrors that wait for them below... Y’all don’t know what awaits you!” he snarled violently at the man’s face.
Anna knew Diego was right. The fate that awaited the man, was worse than anything he could ever imagine. This was a fate Anna did not wish upon the man; ’twas a fate she did not wish upon almost anyone.
“What business does Azazel have with this man that he sends in his personal bootlicker?” she said and looked at Diego with disdain.
“Now, sweetheart,” he said sternly, “I’ll let that comment slide. As far as why Azazel wants him, I am not at liberty to say.” He gestured sealing his lips and pretended to throw away an invisible key.
“You ain’t got a clue, do you?” Anna asked defiantly. Diego smirked. “Tell Azazel that I will take care of it.” Anna felt annoyed. She wanted Diego out of her sight as soon as possible.
“Bless your heart!” Diego laughed sarcastically. “Woo-wee! I reckon I just ’bout burnt my purdy little lips on that one! Right! Honey, we all know this is your very, very special time, so I will take care of him and I will be out of your hair as soon as he’s done the deed.”
“Cut the crap, Diego,” Anna said, irked. The look on her face extinguished the smile off his face. “What’s in it for you?”
“Darlin’, let’s just say that we will all benefit greatly from havin’ this one on our side. I reckon we won’t have to hide in the shadows for much longer, and the South will rise again! Yee-haw!” Diego laughed.
Before Anna could react, Diego stood next to the man and began whispering in his ear.
“Do it...” Diego urged softly in a voice that mimicked that of the man. “It is better this way. There is no one left that truly loves you, you just hurt everyone around you. You’ll be doing the world a favor. It would be better if you were gone; jump!” Diego turned to Anna and smiled. “Ah!” he sighed, speaking to Anna’s ears only. “Those were the exact lines that ran thru my mind durin’ my own moment of truth.” He smirked, reminiscing. The man remained immobile, lost in his thoughts as salty tears trickled down his face. “Geez, would you look at the time!” Diego said suddenly as he looked down at his wrist into a non-existent watch. “This good old boy sure is takin’ his sweet ass time!”
“What do you get out of this?” Anna asked furrowing her brow.
“Sweetheart!” Diego exclaimed patronizingly. “I get the same things you get—purpose, a feelin’ of redemption over past wrong doings that were done unto me. Appeasement of the soul-hungry beast inside.”
Anna gazed toward his bare chest and noticed a snake-like figure moving upward under his skin. Diego’s eyes turned completely black. Anna knew he was right, so right. She hated to admit it.
“I feel this here friend needs a bit more encouragement.” He smirked as red tinted flames began to swirl around his body.
Diego walked back towards the man and whispered into his ear a second time. This time, Anna could not hear what Diego was saying, but she could see the murky demonic aura growing larger around them both. The man’s tears suddenly stopped flowing and he tossed the bottle forcefully against the rock, shattering it into a million pieces. Without a flinch, the man jumped into the cold, deep waters of the lake. Anna stood over the edge and watched in horror as the man’s languid body hit the water, face down.
“That’s done…” Diego laughed. “Now, Ima sit here and collect my prize.” He dusted off the broken glass and sat on the rock.
“No!” Anna let out a pitiful wail that sounded a lot like despair. Diego looked at her confused. “I mean, I will do it,” she quickly said, gaining composure. “I will collect his soul. I... I should do it. I will make sure you get the credit for it, Diego,” she said hastily. She wanted Diego to leave, now.
“Listen, honey, I like you, you know that?” Diego confessed, taking off his hat. Nervously, he ran his fingers through the thick dark curls underneath. “Ever since I first saw you up here a little bit ago, I’ve been hopin’ you’d agree to spend eternity with me,” Diego said and moved closer to her, lightly touching her cheek. Anna shivered with disgust.
“You? You were here?” she asked angrily and moved away from him, staring him dead in the eye. “Did you…?” she asked, grinding her teeth. She already loathed Diego, and to think that he could’ve had anything to do with her demise, that just made her stomach churn.
“No, no, honey, no,” he quickly replied and put his hands up in a shielding stance. “Sweetheart, as much as I’d like to say that I personally encouraged you to jump, I didn’t.” Anna could tell he was telling the truth. “I ain’t gonna lie, that was my job, I was sent to do that, but you never even gave me a chance!” He laughed. “You did it all on your own! Usin’ that beautiful, beautiful thang called, ‘free will’. I just gave you a little telepathic encouragement, that’s all. Not literally, I was just standin’ over by that blue spruce right there, hopin’ you’d do it, that’s all. So,” he put his arm around her shoulders, leading her away from the edge, “Ima do you a solid. You can claim him. I’ll tell Azazel that you were already on the job when I got here.” Diego put his hands on her shoulders, softly coercing her to face him as she tried to wiggle out of his hold. “Like I said.” He gently put a strand of hair behind her ear, focusing his gaze on the soft outline of her slack jowl. “This one is of benefit to all of us, not just me,” he said, a stern look in his eyes. “One more thing,” he warned, his face turned somber. “Do not let Death get to him first.” Anna nodded. “Catch you later, sweetheart!” Diego said blowing her a kiss before disappearing in a cloud of foul smoke.
Anna ran toward the edge and looked down the cliff for the man; she didn’t see him. Instead, she saw a black swirl of corruption begin to open beneath the waters below.
“Please, do not let him be dead,” she said. “Do not let him be dead,” she repeated and closed her eyes.
Anna stood at the edge and breathed in the crisp air. It was Deja-vu. She closed her eyes and thought hard about what she was about to do. There wasn’t much time. The man didn’t have much time. Why am I doing this? she thought. She looked up at the sky and opened her arms. Before she could change her mind, she took the plunge.