“What the fuck was in that drink?” Dariana laughs while I press my hand on the brick wall outside the club. I’m laughing, too. “We’re angels. How can we get this drunk?”
The night is warm here in the human world. Warm and clammy. Music pulses through the thin walls as the bouncer looks over at us from the doorway.
“Sshh!” Dariana giggles, pressing her soft finger to my lips. “Don’t give our secret away.”
My eyes grow wide. “Oh, shit!” Descending into giggles, I pull her into me and lean my head back against the brick. I hiccup, smiling. “We should do this more often.”
“How long until your bodyguards find us?”
Another hiccup. I shake my head. “I’m surprised they haven’t yet.”
Dariana’s smile widens before softening. “You need to feed. Let’s find you a juicy meal.”
“A juicy meal,” I laugh, the world spinning around me.
Instead of moving away, Dariana shifts closer. “Do you want a man or a woman?”
“I want you.”
She smiles, biting down on her lip as police sirens wail in the distance. “You have me.”
More laughter. I can’t seem to stop.
The stars twinkle overhead.
“That was cheesy.”
“You think?” Her smile rivals mine.
She leans in, but I place my hands on her chest. “He’s watching us.”
“Who?” she asks, looking to the side. “You mean the bouncer?” When her eyes return to mine, they sparkle with mischief. “Let him look.”
“You’re trouble.” I giggle.
Her hand slides up my chest to my throat. “You have no idea.”
My breath gets caught in my throat when she nips my bottom lip with her teeth. Then she dives in and plunges her tongue into my mouth, her grip tightening on my throat. She tastes of gin, strawberry lip balm, and the enchanted night.
With her eyes still closed, she swallows deeply before leaning back. She’s breathtakingly beautiful. So beautiful that I want to kiss every inch of her and explore every soft curve. My heart hammers inside my chest as I reach up to cup her face, and my trembling breaths, visible in the night air, mix with hers. “It’s just us. I don’t think they’re coming.”
She leans back in and whispers against my lips, “They’ll come.”
Something sharp digs into my chest, causing me to frown as I break away from her parted lips. My hands fly up to my mouth when blood begins to pour down her chin. Dariana’s eyes widen before she’s yanked off me.
Amenadiel pulls her into his chest, pressing the sharp edge of his bloody knife against her throat. “Angel, did you think you could hide from me in the human world?” He tsks, tightening his grip on Dariana while she struggles in his arms. “You can’t hide anywhere.”
Dariana’s wet coughs and the blood that pours from her lips has tears trailing down my cheeks.
“Don’t hurt her. I’m here. You have me.”
His dark chuckles echo against the brick wall. The bouncer is gone, and the music is silent. It’s just us, my loud, beating heart and his crazed smile.
Tilting his head to the side, he says, “The angel begs.”
With my hand outstretched in front of me, I push off the wall and take a careful step forward. “I’ll do anything. Just let her go.”
“Do you know how to kill an angel?”
More tears. Why am I so fucking weak when I need to be strong? I should have fed. “Amenadiel, you don’t need to do this.”
“Answer the question.”
Dariana’s breaths are coming fast, her dark eyes pleading with me not to do anything stupid. “Run,” she chokes out.
I tear my gaze away from her, shaking my head. “I don’t know the answer.”
“They don’t teach you anything in Eden.”
A scream leaves me when he slides the gleaming knife across Dariana’s throat. Blood pours from the cut, and her eyes grow wide with fear as she gurgles.
Throwing her against the wall, his hand shoots out and tears her heart from her chest. It beats in the palm of his hand, grotesquely beautiful. Crimson blood drips from his fingers as he holds the torn organ out to me. Dariana’s lifeless body collapses in a heap on the cobblestones.
“You stole her heart with your blue eyes and heavenly light. It’s only fitting that you should have it.” He fakes concern. “What’s wrong, Angel?”
I turn, fleeing down the alleyway. Fear chokes me, but I don’t look back. If I stop running, even for a second, he’ll be on me. Every nerve ending in my body knows it. My blonde hair flies behind me and I lose my shoes. They lie abandoned on the cobblestones, like in a scene out of Cinderella. Loose rocks dig into the souls of my feet, but the pain doesn’t register through this haze of panic. I have to keep running. I need to get away.
“Angel!” he calls out behind me, above me, all around.
A sob rips from my lips as I turn the next corner. The main street is empty. Even the bars, which were buzzing with nightlife earlier, are now dark, their windows bordered shut with wooden planks. The world is void of life, as if I’ve stepped onto an apocalyptic movie set.
“You can’t run from me.”
I don’t know how many shopfronts I run past before I collapse to the ground, unable to breathe through the clogged fear in my throat. Stumbling back to my feet, I keep running. Blood pours from a stinging cut on my knee, and my black dress has turned white, trailing behind me on the ground and disturbing the low-lying mist. I look like a runaway bride.
“How long until he comes to save you, Angel? Can you hear him?”
Amenadiel’s words give me pause and I halt, turning in a circle as Daemon’s deep voice echoes against the buildings. I’m in a town square. The fountain in front of me is empty of water.
“Angel, wake the fuck up!! Fuck, what do I do?!”
I whirl around at the sound of heavy footsteps behind me, my white skirt dragging on the ground, my blonde hair plastered to the sheen of sweat on my cheek.
“Angel,” Amenadiel says, advancing on me slowly. “Why are you running?”
“Angel! Wake up!”
“They can’t save you now.” Amenadiel cocks his head, listening. “Your friends sound pretty desperate, don’t you think?”
“I would much rather hurt you.”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” I scream so loudly, my throat hurts. Fear trickles down my spine the closer he gets. His dark shirt doesn’t hide Dariana’s smeared blood on his neck and chest, where the buttons have come undone.
“What do I want? It’s easy. I want to peel your skin off your body while lover boy watches on from the other side of the veil. How much damage can I do before he flips? How long until he seeks out my son or me? By then, you’ll be dead.”
Behind me, my wings erupt, flaring beneath the dim streetlights as I bare my fangs with a hiss.
Coming to a halt, Amenadiel raises his brows. He looks amused. “Would you look at that? Your light is already beginning to flicker out.”
My ankles connect with the fountain as I step back. I’m trapped with nowhere to go.
Daemon’s voice filters back through. “Angel, hold on! Ronan, we have to enter through the veil somehow.”
“I don’t fucking know! We’re running out of time!”
I squeeze my eyes shut, trying desperately to center myself. This is my fucking dream, and Amenadiel is an impostor. I’m in control here. Not him.
“Are you ready to die yet, Angel?”
As I open my eyes, I’m met with empty air behind me.
The fountain is gone.
My breath gets caught in my throat as I turn to see the door with its cracked wood and peeled paint. A light flicks on beneath the gap as if someone pressed a switch.
Turning around, I look at Amenadiel, who cocks his head. His eyes travel past me to the door, and he visibly gulps before his eyes harden.
“I think your power resides behind that door.”
I take a step back, closer to the door, and he narrows his eyes. “Angel…”
“Know something I don’t?”
His lips curve into a dark smile. Following me step for step, he clasps his hands behind his back. “All I know is that you won’t find what you’re seeking behind that door.”
You said she can turn away from the Light, but she can’t be apart from the Light. What happens if she turns toward the Light?
“That’s interesting,” I muse, my skirt dragging on the cobblestones while I smile at him. “I think I’ll find exactly what I need behind that door.”
Chuckling, he runs his hand over his beard. “The thing about you, Angel, is that your curiosity will always lead you back here. You can’t escape until you leash your darkness. Or unleash it.” His smile widens and he lowers his hand. “We’re not so different, you and I.”
“Get out of my fucking head!” I hiss.
His cold and cruel laughter lifts the hairs on the back of my neck.
“Fuck, Angel! I can’t lose you! Wake the fuck up!”
Amenadiel’s laughter stops just as suddenly as it started. “Sounds like lover boy is desperate. You have truly wrapped Lucifer’s son around your finger.”
Fast as lighting—faster than I can react—he strikes out with his knife, slashing my arm. Pain sears through me and I stumble back, falling on my ass. The blood pouring from the flesh wound stains my white dress, filling the gaps in the cobblestone. Daemon’s roar cracks like thunder in the sky.
Whimpering, I scramble back as Amenadiel advances, his tongue dragging through my blood on the sharp blade. “Now, let’s rip Daemon’s heart from his body.”
I jump to my feet, tripping on my skirt as he advances. It all happens so fast. One minute I’m standing up, ready to run, and then the next, I’m flat on the ground. The cobblestone scrapes my knees, and searing pain radiates through my wrists from the impact. I cry out in agony and look down. My broken wrist bone sticks out through my split skin, stark white against the red blood pouring from the wound.
I lift my gaze.
The door is ajar.
Planting his feet on either side of me, Amenadiel fists my hair and yanks my head back, pressing the sharp blade against my throat. The triumph in his eyes devours the defeat in mine. “Any last words, Angel?”
She can turn away from the Light, but she can’t be apart from it. So what happens if she turns toward the Light?
I swallow against the sharp blade, feeling it nick my skin. “I unknowingly broke the veil. I can mend it again.” Reaching my hand out, my fingers graze up against the elongated light beam on the ground. I close my eyes.
“The God of the Bible is a God of love.”
“I think you’ll find your power behind that door.”
Drawing in a sudden breath behind me, Amenadiel stumbles back, whispering, “It’s not possible.”
Rolling over on my back, I gasp. Light streams from my hand, too bright to look at directly. I shield my eyes as it shoots up and spreads across the starry sky like pulsating veins. I can see it: the crack. It’s right there, slowly filling with the warm light that pours from my hands and body.
Amenadiel is staring up, wide-eyed, and too shocked to move. My breath catches in my throat, and tears stream unchecked from my eyes as love, pure and unconditional, pours from my every pore into the universe.
Every inch of me is alight.
This is who I am. I am love… peace.
Every beginning and every end.
The light slowly retreats from the sky, and like a boomerang returning home, it seeps back inside my center, where it has always resided.
I laugh through my tears, ignoring the throbbing pain in my broken wrist. “What are you going to do now? You’re trapped here.”
His eyes snap to me and he hisses through deadly fangs. “You fucking whore!”
More crazed laughter. I hurt so fucking bad.
Launching himself at me, he lets out a roar and I throw my hands out, clutching at loose rocks while he drags me farther away from the door. “I’m going to kill you so fucking slowly.”
My nails snap off and grit sticks to the exposed flesh on my wrist. The pain is so intense, I can’t stop more tears from falling. “If you kill me, you die. There’s no way out. You’ll forever live inside my mind.”
“And haunt your fucking nightmares,” he growls, flipping me over onto my back.
I can’t hear the boys anymore. Not now that the veil is closed.
“You think death scares me, Angel?” Amenadiel’s smile is deranged. He’s got nothing left to lose. Raising the knife, he strikes.
I roll away just in time and the knife connects with the cobblestone. Pain radiates through my wrist as I push myself up to my feet and run as fast as I can. It’s not fast enough. His shadow is gaining on me.
“I’ll drag you down into the darkest fucking pits of Hell with me!”
My heart pounds in my chest while I sprint for the door. Every instinct I have tells me this is my last chance. The light pours out across the bloodied cobblestone like an outstretched hand.
“What happens if she turns toward the Light?”
His fingers snag in my hair, tearing out a clump from its roots.
With a scream, I throw myself at the door. It gives way and I fall through into the blinding light. Amenadiel’s deep voice is the last thing I hear before it slams shut behind me.
“Don’t go to sleep, Angel!”
“Aurelia, what are you doing?” Freya, my best friend, asks, causing me to startle and snap my wings shut behind me. She laughs. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
My heart is still in my throat as I drag my gaze away from the tall gates.
When I don’t reply, she follows my line of sight. Her throat jumps before she circles her fingers around my arm, steering me back to the path that leads to the village. “You know we shouldn’t be out here.”
“Is this real?”
“You can’t tell anyone I let you talk me into coming along. The elders won’t be happy.”
I pull her to me and wrap my arms around her small frame, squeezing the life out of her. After I release her, I palm her cheeks. “Are you real?” I turn in a circle, squinting against the bright sun. The walls are as tall as I remember, enclosing us from the outside world. From fallen angels, inky black wings, brown eyes, and scorching kisses. From death. Life.
My eyes snap back to Freya’s. “You’re naked.” I look down at my body and let out a gasp. The sun warms my bare skin, the mild breeze licking at my nipples. Raising my hand in front of me, I stare at my wrist, unable to believe my eyes. There’s not a scratch on it, as if it was never broken.
“Why are you acting so weird?”
I slowly lower my hand and look at Freya for a short moment before taking off in a sprint down the path.
“Where are you going?”
Fear constricts my throat, a feeling I had never tasted before I left Eden.
“Come back!” Freya runs after me.
I don’t stop. I run as if I can outrun this rising panic inside. I can’t. It chases me down the hill like an avalanche. Any moment now, it’ll crush me.
I launch myself at the gate, but no matter how much I pull on it or bang my hand against it, it doesn’t budge. I’m trapped. Swinging around, my gaze lands on a tree. The hare nearby flicks its ears as I throw myself at the lowest branch, hauling myself up. I’ve climbed this tree since I was a young girl. It’s different now. I’m not scaling it with a curious mind. Fear pushes me higher through the branches, and my heart aches with every beat while I push myself to the limit.
How am I back here? Was any of what happened real? Was it all a dream? But no, it can’t be. I didn’t know about kisses, emotional pain, or this drowning fear before. I didn’t know Deamon’s smell or Dariana’s laughter, like that of chiming bells. Or the coppery taste of blood.
I emerge through the tallest branches and stare out over the wall. Beyond it, the dark forest stretches out as far as the eye can see. The screaming silence drowns out everything except my thundering heartbeat. I slip but right myself, clutching onto the branch.
“Aurelia!” Freya calls out from below. “What are you doing?!”
Tears burn my eyes as reality comes crashing down on me. I’m back here. Only it’s no longer home. It’s out there, amongst sin, death, and inky black wings. It’s calling me. It’s calling me home.
“The Bible speaks of redemption. If the Garden can let her out, there must be a way back in.”
To be continued.
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