Sebastian studied the girl he was forced to kidnap and didn’t like what he was seeing at all. The bandage he had wrapped around Scarlet’s head was stained with blood, and she was curled in a fetal position, clutching a blanket.

I was supposed to protect her from the creature.

Guilt hit him as he thought about the pain she had to endure because of his lack of focus. Scarlet’s grandmother, Liza, had given him one job as a club member: “Protect my granddaughter.”.

But Liza’s death had impacted Sebastian so greatly that he found himself drifting into different memories he had of her, making him lose focus, especially at times when he was supposed to be paying attention.

Liza’s funeral had disorientated his thoughts and he had been unfocused–unaware that there had been a dangerous, dark figure lurking around Scarlet and her grandmother’s grave. He should have spotted the creature that hit Scarlet, but all he could think about was the fact that Liza was in the ground, somewhere where he wouldn’t be able to reach her again.

Sebastian was seventeen years old, yet staring at the place where Liza was buried had made him feel like he was five, unable to control the emotions burning inside him. Scarlet’s argument with her mother had momentarily brought him out of his stupor and he had focused on them, noticing the tense atmosphere.  

He had noticed the way Scarlet’s mother had been looking at her– not the way one would expect a parent to look at a child. The mother had put on a nice facade in public, but Sebastian had seen the monster seething inside her and he hadn’t liked it. Liza apparently hadn’t been the only one hiding secrets from Scarlet and Sebastian.

Liza hadn’t talked about her family much, expect for her granddaughter, and the fact that Scarlet’s parents detested her, but that they weren’t trouble. But seeing the scene with Scarlet and her mother made Sebastian doubt Liza’s statement.

There had been something very wrong and Sebastian had been too focused on trying to figure out the puzzle pieces that he hadn’t noticed the shadow that had come up behind Scarlet before it was too late. He thought he had everything under control; he had scanned the area multiple of times, and yet Scarlet could have been killed because of his carelessness.

Sebastian sighed and concentrated on the walls of the club’s meeting room that Liza had painted light blue. Color was her signature, and she had filled the entire building with green couches, bright yellow blankets and orange carpets. She had figured that even though she ran a dangerous club filled with warriors, the decorations would make the training–their mission– a little easier.

Sebastian had been training under Liza since he was ten. She had taught him the skills to be a warrior; and for those seven years, the club had been a refuge.

A burning pain stabbed Sebastian’s chest as he thought of Liza and he tried to block the memories he had of her, unable to think without conflicting emotions. Instead, he continued assessing her granddaughter, uneasiness seeping through his bones as he watched her clutch the blanket tighter, like it was her lifeline.

Way too innocent, Sebastian thought, shaking his head. He knew before he kidnapped her that bringing her into her grandmother’s world would be tough on her, but it would be far more difficult than he had anticipated. Liza had trained him to accept the dangers he would have to face, but could he train Scarlet to do the same?

“She doesn’t belong in this world,” Liza once told him. “I will try to keep her away from these horrors for as long as I can.” She had succeeded for many years, but not for as long as they had hoped.

“So, I heard you ran into some trouble capturing the princess,” said Jax, Sebastian’s younger brother, as he strode confidently into the living room. He stopped near the green lush couch, allowing himself to study Scarlet like Sebastian had been doing. “ Hmmm…the bandaging looks good …did that yourself?” Jax sounded innocent, but Sebastian could see the devilish glint dancing in his eyes.

“I’m thrilled that you find this amusing, brother,” Sebastian muttered, annoyed. “She could have been killed.”

Jax rolled his eyes. “Sebastian, we both know you wouldn’t have allowed that. You need to learn to relax.”

Sebastian didn’t say anything, knowing that it would just lead to another argument. Jax saw his brother as “undefeatable,” which Sebastian found to be false. His best friend would still be alive if he was as powerful as Jax thought him to be.

Jax, realizing that Sebastian wasn’t going to say anything, sighed dramatically, as if Sebastian’s lack of reply crushed him, and sat on the chair next to the couch. “You people have all gone mad,” Jax stated.  

“I get that Liza is gone,” Jack said, sighing. “I get that she’s not coming back; but we have all dealt with death before. We can get through this. You think Liza would want us all moping around? Everyone is walking around like  a bunch of zombies that have come back from the dead. I’m getting sick of it! I can’t even crack a joke without someone scolding me. The club is filled with colors and yet it seems like the darkness of reality has followed us inside and refuses to leave.” Jax  rubbed his neck in annoyance. “Liza promised us that the club would always be the light that would protect us from the darkness…but you guys are acting like there is no light without her and she would never want that.”

Sebastian didn’t say anything to that. He couldn’t, because he couldn’t explain what he was feeling. He couldn’t tell Jax that he had always considered Liza to be his real mother; Jax would only be hurt by it. There were things that Jax didn’t know regarding their mother by blood, and if Sebastian told him what he felt about Liza, Jax would only see it as outright betrayal.

Jax had loved Liza in his own way, but unlike most members of the club, he hadn’t allowed her in. His loyalty had remained with their mother. Sebastian thought it was better for Jax not to know the secrets their mother had been hiding from them, because their mother was dead and Sebastian would rather Jax believe a lie than to hurt him.

“Pretty little thing, isn’t she?” Jax said, cracking the silence that had haunted them for the past couple of minutes.

Sebastian saw that he was referring to Scarlet and grunted in agreement. He remembered how stunned he had been by her beauty when he first saw her at the funeral. The short, tight black dress she had been wearing, and was still wearing, hugged her curves perfectly, making Sebastian glad that he had covered her with a blanket. Scarlet’s long midnight black hair had also drawn Sebastian’s attention. And her stunning emerald green eyes–just like her mother’s– except not filled with coldness. Scarlet’s eyes were clouded with emotion.

Her eyes hold no secrets. Whatever she feels she shows and I taught her not to be ashamed of that because God knows this cruel world needs people who are not afraid to feel.” Liza had told this to Sebastian once, and he couldn’t have agreed with her more, knowing that he was one of those people who was terrified of feeling. Sebastian liked pretending that he felt nothing and wore a cold facade that masked his emotions. It was easier to deal with people and things that way. Only one person knew who he really was inside and out, and she was gone.

Thinking about Liza, Sebastian couldn’t believe that Scarlet was at the club with them. He had heard stories about her but he had never thought he would end up meeting her. It always seemed that Scarlet was unreachable, living a dream life that didn’t involve crime and  bloodshed. While Sebastian’s hands had been filled with blood, hers had been filled with gold.

Scarlet had been Liza’s pure life and Liza had never wanted Scarlet to encounter her other life, which was built of screams and darkness. And yet, Scarlet had failed to escape the wretchedness of their world because the members of the club had no choice but to bring her into the darkness with them.

“So,” Jax’s voice interrupted Sebastian’s thoughts and Sebastian watched as his brother and propped his legs on the yellow coffee table in front of him, making himself comfortable.“How are you going to explain all this to Scarlet?”  

Sebastian wanted to laugh from the absurdity of Jax’s question. In truth, Sebastian had no idea how to give Scarlet the explanation that she needed. Her grandmother’s history was brutal and so were the secrets she held from Scarlet and her family. Scarlet would have to learn to live with the darkness whether she liked it or not. She would have to learn to live with the fact that her grandparents had established one of the most dangerous clubs in existence, which they named Angels Wings.

Sebastian ran his hand through his hair in frustration, staring at the ceiling as if it held all the answers. He couldn’t look at Scarlet anymore. They would destroy her; the club would butcher her innocence. All the members of the club were well acquainted with the cruelty reality provided. They had been trained by Liza until their hands had bled and until she was satisfied with the warriors she had created.

“Jax.” Sebastian looked at his brother. “Our world is messed up.”

“You don’t have to tell me that, brother,” Jax smirked, but there was no humor found in his ocean-deep blue eyes, only coldness that would freeze a normal human being to the core. “I’m all too aware of how messed up our world is,” Jax finished, taking a sip of his beer which Sebastian hadn’t noticed he brought in with him.

“I didn’t want to bring her here,” Sebastian confessed. “I don’t want this place to destroy her. I don’t want the war we are fighting to affect her, and don’t want her to be a distraction. We are close to uncovering their secrets, Jax. Having her here would be a nightmare.”

“Well, we have no choice,” Jax stated, running his hands through his hair in frustration. “We tried to keep her away from this world, but then they killed Liza…” Jax cleared his throat and rubbed his chest, trying to get rid of the emotion that he felt burning inside him.

“Stop thinking like Liza, brother; it won’t help the situation. You can’t shield this world from Scarlet anymore; the best way you can explain things to her is by not sugar-coating anything and letting her absorb the facts.”

If it were only that easy, Sebastian thought, bitterly.

“What exactly happened at the graveyard, brother?”Jax asked. “Knight didn’t tell me the whole story and he told me that you would give me the details.”

Sebastian nodded, remembering the note the creature left Scarlet. Knight was one of the members of the club and would soon be elected the leader of Angels Wings. After Liza’s passing they had all agreed that he deserved the role. He was the bravest one of them all and would sacrifice his life for the club.

Before arriving to the club with Scarlet, Sebastian had made sure to explain the details of what happened in the graveyard to Knight through the phone and Knight had told him to inform his brother about what had occured and that he would explain everything to the other members once he got back from his mission.

“As you know, Scarlet got attacked,” Sebastian started and took out the piece of paper from his pocket. “The person or thing that attacked her left a letter on the roses on Liza’s grave while I was watching the funeral. I hadn’t seen him. Scarlet picked it up and he attacked her from behind before I could stop him. He was wearing a black mask that covered his whole face, and when I mean his whole face, I mean that he didn’t have any holes for his mouth or his eyes. His face was just black…”

Sebastian remembered watching in horror, wondering what type of face was hiding underneath. “Once I saw him, I spurred into action and stabbed his arm from behind before he could hurt Scarlet more. He was bleeding, but not reacting to the wounds I had inflicted upon him. He attacked me back ferociously with his blade, his moves were quick and swift; I could barely block his attacks. I somehow managed to wrestle him onto the ground, but he got on top of me and pulled something from his pocket. Before I could grab his hand, a shrilling noise invaded my ears. I flinched and automatically closed my eyes, praying that the noise would stop. I had no idea where the noise came from, but all of a sudden its body lifted from mine. I snapped my eyes opened and saw that the thing was gone and the noise had stopped. I got up and ran  towards Scarlet; that’s when I saw that he had carved something on the ground. The same word that was written in the letter he left for Scarlet: RUN.”

“I know that we’re not in a horror movie, but it sure seems like it at times,” Jax grumbled. “Run, huh? He carved it on the ground too just for you? He obviously doesn’t know who he’s dealing with. Do you think it’s one of them?” Jax asked.

By one of them he meant one of the Human Monsters. They were a group of psychopathic criminals that the club had been at war with for years. Sebastian had considered the Angels Wings club to have the most well-trained warriors in existence, but the Human Monsters were like demons from another dimension. Every time Sebastian encountered one, he felt like he was looking at Death himself.

They all wore different clothing since they disguised themselves as normal humans; but it was their scars and their eyes that gave them away. Their faces were full of ugly red scars as if knives had carved patterns on their faces. Their eyes were pitch black, devoid of any emotion.

After all these years fighting, the club had only managed to kill eight of them–and the Human Monsters had killed twice as many Club members. The Club kept some of the bodies of the Human Monsters, but had not been able to identify anything. As far as anyone was concerned these people did not exist on earth; they did not have any families and their messed-up faces did not help with the research since they could barely imagine what they might have looked like before they turned themselves into those things. Sebastian had undergone a lot of brutal training and yet he had only been able to kill one…the Human Monster that killed his best friend. Just thinking of that monster brought hideous memories rushing back…  

“I never want you to turn into one of them,” Liza had threatened Sebastian, holding a knife against his throat in warning. It was the day Sebastian had lost his best friend Liam to one of them. They had been on a mission to find a woman who they found out -from a reliable source- knew about the Human Monsters and where their main base was. The club was desperate for any information they could find.

They arrived to that woman’s house only to find her dead body and a Human Monster on top of her, holding a blade that was dripping with blood. Once the Human Monster saw them, he moved with the speed of lighting.

Sebastian and Liam had barely any time to react. Before Sebastian could turn and face it he heard his friend’s agonizing scream as a sickening crack filled the room. Liam’s body had dropped to the ground and his head had fallen next to his body.

Sebastian could barely remember what happened next, a blinding rage had conquered him and he had attacked the Monster. He remembered taking out his own blade and stabbing it over and over again…they had tumbled onto the floor…the Human Monster had broken some of Sebastian’s ribs with his legs and had thrashed against Sebastian, dropping its blade somewhere in the process… then Sebastian had used his knife to pierce the creature’s neck. Sebastian couldn’t stand the emotions that stabbed him after he finished killing it. He blocked every emotion out and did not shed a tear at Liam’s funeral.

After they had buried his best friend, Liza, seeing the cold mask Sebastian had been wearing, lost it and cornered him after the funeral with a knife. He knew that she was trying to make a point and so he listened, not at all afraid of the knife she held steadily in her hand.

He was used to her lessons; she never wanted to hurt them; she wanted them to listen because listening to her was the only way they could win. “ Liam’s death was not your fault, Sebastian,” she had said, harshly. “But showing no emotion and keeping it all pent up inside won’t bring him back.Trying not to feel makes you one of those things that killed him. Don’t be ashamed of anything that you are feeling. Unlike them, you are alive…”  

She cupped his cheeks with one hand and forced him to look at her. “Unlike them, you know how to love, which is the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Sebastian had broken down after that. Everything he felt about Liam’s death burst out of him in waves. Another person he loved was gone and he wasn’t fast enough to stop it from happening… All those memories of Liam and him play fighting and laughing washed through him and Sebastian had felt like he couldn’t breathe. But Liza was there; she had dropped the knife onto the floor and held him tight, her warmth had comforted him. “It’s not your fault, my darling boy,” she told him over and over again, rocking him and running her hands through his hair. At that moment, Sebastian had dropped his cold mask and had never felt more loved…

“Brother.” Jax’s voice broke through Sebastian’s painful memories. “You good?”

“Yeah.” Sebastian cleared his throat. “I’ve never seen them wear a mask to cover their revolting  features before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of them. The way that thing moved…if it’s not one of them, then we are dealing with something as dangerous, or maybe more dangerous, than those things which I find impossible.”

Sebastian thought about that thing’s strength, and felt uneasiness creep into his bones… A Human Monster would have gone for the kill. Why hadn’t that thing killed Scarlet? Why hadn’t it killed him? Something was off about the situation. But one thing was for sure: Scarlet was a target.  

“Great, I love more mysteries. As if the club didn’t have enough.” Jax looked thoughtful. “After we win the war, I’m going on vacation and leaving all of you behind. I’m thinking of going to Hawaii or something; I hear the girls there are interesting.” Jax waggled his eyebrows.  

Sebastian tried to suppress a smile but failed. His little brother always made jokes when things got too serious for his liking.

Scarlet made a sound of distress and both brothers turned towards her. “Well, looks like somebody’s waking up,” said Jax. “I better skedaddle.” Jax jumped up from the chair and quickly headed towards the door.

“Abandoning ship when things are about to get hard, brother?”  Sebastian asked sarcastically, trying to control his nerves.

Knight had told Sebastian to be there when Scarlet woke up, and the other club members agreed. Liza had opened up to Sebastian like a mother would a son. He he had been the closest to her, which is why he would be the one to explain everything to Scarlet everything.

For the first time, Sebastian wished that Liza hadn’t opened up to him as much as she had. If she hadn’t trusted him as much he would have to be the one to shatter the world Scarlet knew.

“Sebastian, I’m offended,” Jax said, as he re-entered the room. “ I never abandon ship when things get hard. But I am scared of women, especially women who are related to Liza. Human Monsters I can handle, but women with Liza’s blood are terrifying and I know that your role as my big brother is to protect me from things that I find terrifying. So, I’m letting you do your job.” Jax winked and then frowned as if realizing something. “ Have you seen my beer? I thought I-”

Sebastian threw the beer bottle and Jax ducked quickly, allowing the beer to smash against the wall.

Jax stared at the shattered glass on the floor and a devilish smile played on his lips as he looked at Sebastian. “You missed,” he scoffed, pretending to be annoyed.” I thought Liza taught you better than this.”

Sebastian looked at something else to throw and picked up a book.

“Now, now Sebastian, words aren’t supposed to hurt you. Let’s relax.”

Sebastian threw the book, and with the incredible speed that Jax was known for, Jax got out of the room and shut the door, allowing the book to smash against it.

After the book fell onto the ground, Jax opened the door and threw Sebastian a kiss. “Better luck next time, my darling brother.”

With that, he slammed the door shut, leaving Sebastian to his fate. Sebastian growled in annoyance and thought about the next time he and Jax would spar. Sebastian smirked thinking of the ways he would make his little brother pay. Of course, Jax would be the only person that would make Sebastian smile at a time when smiling seemed forbidden.

“What’s going on?” a small tentative voice asked.

Sebastian’s smile faded instantly. He flinched, guilt hitting him hard as he turned around to face Liza’s precious angel, whose life he was about to demolish. Scarlet was awake.