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WE DROVE A FULL FOUR hours before ditching the semi-trailer truck in Reno. In an ideal world, we would have taken it straight to Lodi, only stopping once to let the kids relieve their bladders and stretch their legs, but it was marked with military insignias. Someone was bound to notice it if we kept going.

There’s not a lot, but at least one woman had settled here, at least for a while. I reach in and pull out a white blouse and linen skirt. Thong underwear. A lacy bra. A sheer camisole. A cropped T-shirt. A pair of stretchy men’s boxers. People were funny during the early days after the Great Attack. Even when they evacuated their homes, they took their cell phones, laptops, keys, wallets, suitcases, and shoes that would have been great for tropical vacations but not for running on the streets. It was as if people couldn’t accept that it wouldn’t all blow over in a few days. Eventually, though, those things ended up abandoned in cars and streets or, in this case, in the drawers of a museum house. I find a T-shirt that’s almost as big as Paige. There’s no chance of finding a pair of pants for her, so a T-shirt dress will have to do for now. I tuck her in upstairs and leave her shoes beside the bed in case we need to go in a hurry. I kiss her forehead and tell her goodnight. Her eyes shut like a doll’s, and her breath deepens almost immediately. She must be absolutely exhausted. Who knows the last time she slept? Who knows the last time she ate? I head downstairs to find Raffe leaning over the dining table with his wings laid out in front of him. He’s taken off his mask, and it’s a relief to be able to see his face again. He’s grooming his wings. It looks like he has washed the blood out of them. They lie on the table, damp and limp. He plucks out the broken feathers and smooths the healthy ones. ‘At least you have them back,’ I say. The light hits his dark hair, showing his highlights. He takes a big breath. ‘We’re back to square one.’ He sits on a wooden chair, almost wilting into it. ‘I need to find a doctor.’ He doesn’t sound optimistic. ‘They had some stuff on Alcatraz. Angelic surgical supplies, I think. They did all kinds of experiments there. Could any of that stuff be useful?’ He looks at me with eyes so blue they’re almost black. ‘Maybe. I should probably scope out that island anyway. It’s too close for us to ignore.’ He rubs his temples. I can see the frustration stiffening the lines of his shoulders. While Archangel Uriel is creating a false apocalypse and lying to the angels to get them to vote him in as their Messenger, Raffe is stuck trying to get his angel wings sewn back on. Until then, he can’t return to angel society to try to straighten things out. ‘You need some sleep,’ I say. ‘We all do. I’m so tired my legs just want to give out.’ I sway a little. It was a long night, and I’m still surprised we all made it through alive to see the morning. I half expect him to argue, but he nods. It just confirms that we need the rest that badly, and maybe he needs time to figure out how to find a doctor who can help him. We trudge upstairs to the two bedrooms. I turn to Raffe in front of the doors. ‘Paige and I will—’ ‘I’m sure Paige will sleep better alone.’ For a second, I think that maybe he wants to be alone with me. I have a moment of crazy awkwardness mixed with excitement before I see his expression. Raffe gives me a stern look. So much for my theory. He just doesn’t want me to sleep in the same room as my sister. He doesn’t know that I already shared a room with her when we were with the Resistance. She’s had plenty of chances to attack me. ‘But—’ ‘You take this room.’ Raffe points to the room across the hall. ‘I’ll take the couch.’ His voice is casually commanding. He’s obviously used to having everyone obey him. ‘There’s no real couch. Just an antique settee made for ladies half your size.’ ‘I’ve slept on rocks in the snow. A cramped settee is a luxury. I’ll be fine.’ ‘Paige isn’t going to hurt me.’ ‘No, she’s won’t. You’ll be too far away to tempt her while you’re asleep and vulnerable.’ I’m too tired to argue. I peek into her room to make sure she’s still asleep before walking into my own room across the hall. The morning sun shines its warmth through the window of my room and onto the bed. There are dried wildflowers on the bedside table, adding a splash of purples and yellows. The scent of rosemary wafts in through the open window. I take off my shoes and lean Pooky Bear against the bed within easy reach. The teddy bear sits on top of the gauzy dress that covers the sword’s scabbard. I’ve felt a tinge of emotion coming off it ever since we’ve been back with Raffe. It’s both happy to be near him and sad to be forbidden to him. I stroke the soft fur of the bear and give it a little pat. Normally, I sleep in my clothes in case I need to run. But I’m sick of sleeping that way. It’s uncomfortable, and the welcoming room reminds me of what it was like before we were scared all the time. I decide this will be one of those rare times when I can sleep comfortably. I pad over to the chest of drawers and rummage through the clothes I found earlier. There’s not much of a choice, but I make the best of what’s there. I choose the cropped T-shirt and the men’s boxers. The T-shirt is loose but fits okay. It comes down to the bottom of my ribs, leaving my midriff bare. The stretchy boxers cling to me perfectly even though they’re for guys. One leg is frayed and unraveling, but they’re clean, and the elastic isn’t too tight. I crawl into bed, marveling at the silky luxury of sheets. The second my head lands on the pillow, I begin fading away. The soft breeze flows in from the windows. Part of me knows that it’s sunny outside and warm in the way that October can be sometimes. But another part of me sees thunderstorms. The sun melts into this rain, and my room with the garden view turns into storm clouds as I drift deeper into sleep. I’m back where the Fallen are being dragged away to the Pit in chains. The spikes in their necks and foreheads, wrists and ankles drip blood as the hellions ride them. It’s the same dream I had through my sword when I was at the Resistance camp. But a part of me remembers that I’m not sleeping with the blade this time. It’s leaning against the bed but not touching me. This doesn’t feel like a sword memory. I’m dreaming about my own experience of being in the sword’s memory. A dream about a dream. In the thunderstorm, Raffe glides down, brushing hands with a few of the newly Fallen as he heads toward the earth below. I see their faces as Raffe touches hands with them. This group of Fallen must be the Watchers – the elite group of angel warriors who fell for loving Daughters of Men.They were under Raffe’s command, his loyal soldiers. They clearly look to him to help save them despite their choice to break angelic law by marrying Daughters of Men. One face catches my eye. His bound form is familiar. I strain to see him better, and eventually, I do. It’s Beliel. He looks fresher than I’m used to, and his usual sneer is gone. There is anger in his face, but behind that, there’s genuine pain in his eyes. He grips Raffe’s hand for a moment longer than the other Fallen did, almost shaking it. Raffe nods to him and continues toward the earth. Lightning flashes, and the sky rumbles as rain drips down Beliel’s face. When I wake up, the sun has moved across the sky. I don’t hear anything unusual, so hopefully, Paige is still asleep. I get up and walk toward the open window. Outside, it’s still sunny, with the breeze blowing through the trees. The birds sing and the bees buzz as though the world hasn’t completely changed. Despite the warmth, though, when I look outside, I get chills. Beliel still lies chained to the garden gate, shriveled and tortured. But his eyes are open, and he stares right at me. I guess he could be completely thawed from his paralysis by now. No wonder I had a nightmare about him. But it wasn’t really a nightmare, was it? It was more like a memory of what the sword showed me. I shake my head slowly, trying to make sense of it all. Is it possible that Beliel could have been one of Raffe’s Watchers? 4 The room is warming from the sun. I guess it’s probably around noon. It feels glorious to have a break from all the craziness. I’m not prepared to give up on my precious sleep yet, but a glass of water sounds good. When I open my door, Raffe is sitting in the hallway with his eyes closed. I frown. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I was too tired to walk to the settee,’ he says without opening his eyes. ‘You’re keeping watch? I would have taken my turn if you’d told me. Who are we worried about?’ Raffe snorts. ‘I mean, any specific enemy at the moment?’ He’s sitting facing Paige’s door. I guess I should have known. ‘She won’t hurt me.’ ‘That’s what Beliel thought.’ His eyes are still closed, and his lips barely move. If he wasn’t talking, I would have thought he was asleep. ‘Beliel is not her big sister, and he didn’t raise her either.’ ‘Call me a sentimentalist, but I like the idea of you in one piece. Besides, she’s not the only one who might be interested in your tasty flesh.’ I tilt my head. ‘Who told you I was tasty?’ ‘Haven’t you heard that old saying? Tasty as a fool?’ ‘You made that up.’ ‘Huh. Must be an angelic saying. It’s to warn the foolish about things that go bump in the night.’ ‘It’s daytime.’ ‘Ah. So you don’t deny that you’re foolish?’ He finally opens his eyes with a grin. But his expression goes slack when he sees all of me. ‘What are you wearing?’ He scans over my outfit. I was so comfortable that I’d forgotten I’m wearing the cropped T-shirt and stretchy shorts. I glance down at myself, wondering if I should be self-conscious. I’m reasonably covered except for my midriff, and I guess I’m showing more of my legs than usual. ‘This coming from a guy who runs around shirtless all the time?’ Of course, I kind of like him shirtless and showing off his six-pack abs, but I don’t mention that. ‘It’s hard to wear a shirt when you’ve got wings. Besides, I haven’t heard complaints.’ ‘Don’t let it get to your head, Raffe. You haven’t heard compliments either.’ I want to say that we have plenty of guys who look just as good as he does, but that’d be a total lie. He’s still scrutinizing my outfit. ‘Are you wearing men’s shorts?’ ‘I guess so. But they fit.’ ‘Whose are they?’ ‘Nobody’s. I found them in a drawer.’ He reaches over and pulls a thread off the frayed leg. It unravels, slowly winding its way around my thigh and incrementally shortening the already short shorts. ‘What would you do if you had to make a run for it?’ His voice is husky as he stares, mesmerized, at the unraveling thread. ‘I’d grab my shoes and run.’ ‘Dressed like this? In front of lawless men?’ His eyes drift up to my midriff. ‘If you’re worried about pervs breaking into the house, it’s not going to make a difference whether I’m in this outfit or in baggy jeans and a sweatshirt. Either they’re decent human beings or they’re not. Their actions are on them.’ ‘It’ll be tough for them to take any action while I’m pummeling their faces. Disrespect will not be tolerated.’ I half smile at him. ‘Because you’re all about respect.’ He sighs as if a little disgusted with himself. ‘Lately, I seem to be all about you.’ ‘What makes you say that?’ I wish my voice didn’t sound so breathless. ‘I’m sitting on the hard floor outside your door while you take a cozy little nap, aren’t I?’ I slide down the wall to sit beside him on the hallway floor. We sit with our arms almost touching, letting the quiet settle around us. After a while, I say, ‘I think sleep would do you some good. You can take the bed. I’ll keep watch for a bit.’ ‘Not a chance. It’s you who’s at risk, not me.’ ‘What is it that you think is going to get me?’ My arm rubs against his when I shift to look at him. ‘The list is endless.’ ‘Since when did you become so protective?’ ‘Since my enemies have determined that you’re my Daughter of Man.’ I swallow. My throat is dry. ‘They have?’ ‘Beliel saw us together at the masquerade. Even with my mask on, Uriel knew it was me on the beach with you.’ ‘So am I?’ I whisper. ‘Your Daughter of Man?’ I can almost hear my heart pounding. It beats even harder when I realize that he can probably hear it. He looks away from me. ‘Some things just can’t be. But neither Uri nor Beliel understand that.’ I let my breath out – slowly, controlled. He might as well have said that I don’t understand it either. ‘So who exactly would be coming after me?’ I ask.

‘Aside from the usual suspects, the entire host of angels saw you with me when I cut the wings off Beliel. They think you’re traveling in the company of a mask-wearing demon who cuts wings off angels. That’s enough to come after you, if only to find me. Besides, you’re an angel killer now, for which the penalty is an automatic death sentence. You’re quite the popular girl.’ I think about that for a minute. Is there really anything I can do about it? ‘But we all look alike to them, right? How can they even tell us apart? They all look the same to me. They’re all so darned perfect in every way – perfect Olympian bodies, perfectly beautiful faces, even perfect hair. If it wasn’t for you, I’d think that angels were all totally interchangeable.’ ‘You mean because I’m beyond perfect?’ ‘No. Because you’re so humble.’ ‘Humility’s overrated.’ ‘So is clear self-assessment, apparently.’ ‘Real warriors don’t stand for psychobabble.’ ‘Or for rational thinking.’ He glances at my naked legs. ‘No, not that rational, I admit.’ Raffe stands up and puts out a hand to me. ‘Come on. Get some sleep.’ ‘Only if you do too.’ I grab his hand, and he pulls me up. ‘Fine. If that will quiet you down.’ We walk into my room, and I crawl onto the bed. I lie down on top of the covers, thinking he’s making sure that I get some sleep. But instead of leaving, he climbs onto the bed beside me. ‘What are you doing?’ I ask. He lies his cheek on the pillow next to mine and closes his eyes with some relief. ‘Taking a nap.’ ‘You’re not going downstairs?’ ‘Nope.’ ‘What about the settee?’ ‘Too uncomfortable.’ ‘I thought you said you’ve slept on rocks in the snow.’ ‘I have. That’s why I sleep on soft beds whenever I can.’ 5 I expect him to lie there full of tension like me, but his breathing quickly turns deep and slow. He must be exhausted. Even aside from his lack of sleep and being constantly on red title1=, he’s still recovering from his wing injuries, both the initial amputation and the surgery. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. I lie there, trying to sleep beside him. The scent of rosemary wafts in through the window along with the warm breeze. The buzzing of the bees near the plants below sounds distant and soothing. The buttery sunshine glows through my closed eyelids. I turn away from the bright window and end up facing Raffe. I can’t help but open my eyes to look at him. His dark lashes lie in a crescent against his cheek. Long and curved, they would be the envy of every girl. The line of his nose is strong and straight. His lips soft and sensual. Sensual? I almost giggle. What kind of word is that to pop into my head? I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of anything as being sensual before. His muscular chest rises and falls in a steady rhythm that’s mesmerizing. My hand twitches, wanting to stroke his smooth muscles. I swallow and flip over to my other side. With him at my back, I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, like I’m trying to calm myself in a fight. He moans softly and shifts. My movements must have disturbed him. I feel his warm breath on the back of my neck. He must have turned onto his side, facing me. He’s so close I can feel the electric tingle of almost touching along my spine. So close. His breathing maintains a deep, steady rhythm. He’s totally asleep while I’m hyperaware of him lying beside me in bed. What’s up with that? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? I try to shove this whole confusing mess of emotions into the vault in my head. But either the vault is full or this bundle of emotions is too big or too stubborn or too thorny to shove into the vault. In the meantime, my body slowly arches back until we touch. The second my thigh touches his, he moans and shifts, throwing his arm around me. He pulls me back toward his hard body. What do I do? The entire length of my back is now pressed against his chest. What do I do? Hard. Warm. Muscular. Perspiration prickles my forehead. When did it get so hot in here? The weight of his arm presses my body against him and pins me down onto the bed. I have a moment of panic where I think about jumping out of bed. But that would wake him. A flood of embarrassment hits me at the thought of him seeing me all hot and bothered while he’s been sleeping. I try to calm down. He’s holding me like a teddy bear while he sleeps peacefully. He’s probably so exhausted that he’s oblivious to me. His hand is hot on my ribs. I’m exquisitely aware that his thumb lies along the bottom of my breast. A thought slips into my head. I can’t seem to get rid of it no matter how hard I try to shove it aside. What would it be like to have Raffe’s hand on that part of my body? I’m seventeen years old, going on eighteen, and I’ve never had a guy caress my breast. The way things are going, I probably never will, at least, not in a good, loving kind of way. In an apocalyptic world, violence is guaranteed and good experiences are just a dream. That makes me want to feel it in a good way all the more. Something gentle and sweet that should have happened in due time with the right guy if the world hadn’t gone to hell. While my head rages in argument and confusion, my hand covers his. Gently, oh, so gently. What would it be like to have Raffe’s hand caress my nipple? Really? Am I really thinking this? But thinking is not the right word for what’s going on inside me. It’s more of an . . . urge. An irresistible, undeniable, pounding, trembling, panting urge. I slowly inch his hand up so that his thumb presses against the soft flesh of my breast. Then I nudge it up just another fraction. Raffe’s breathing is still steady. He’s still asleep. A little more. Just a fraction . . . Until I can feel the warmth of his hand spreading over my chest. And then everything changes. His breathing becomes ragged. His hand pushes up and begins kneading my flesh. Demanding. On the verge of hurting, but not quite. Not quite. An incredible sensation runs through me, starting from my breast and flooding out from there. I’m panting before I know it. He moans and kisses the nape of my neck. He works his way up to my mouth. His lips land on mine, hot and wet and sucking. His tongue sweeps in, teasing mine.My whole world is a mass of sensations – the soft sucking of his lips, the warm slipperiness of his tongue, the hard pressure of his body against mine. He flips me onto my back and moves over me. The weight of his body presses me down against the mattress. My arms slip around his neck, and my legs and hips shift restlessly. I’m whimpering or moaning or mewling, I’m not sure which. I’m so deeply lost in the vortex of sensations that the only thing that matters is the here and now. Raffe. My hands run over the muscles of his chest, his shoulders, his bulging arms. Then he pulls away, leaving me gasping. I groggily open my eyes, feeling drugged, reaching out for him. He looks at me with intense eyes. Distressed but swirling with want. He pushes back away from me. He turns to sit with his back to me. ‘Christ.’ He rakes his hair with both hands. ‘What just happened?’ I open my mouth to answer, but the only thing that comes out is ‘Raffe.’ I can’t tell if it’s a question or a plea. He sits with his back ramrod straight, his muscles stiff, his wings folded tightly along his back. I touch his shoulder, and he starts as though I shocked him with electricity. Without another word, he gets up and walks briskly out of the room. 6 I hear Raffe’s footsteps clomp down the wooden stairs. The front door opens and slams shut. Then I see a snowy wing tip sweep the air outside my window as he takes off. I shut my eyes in utter humiliation. How can the world end in a giant fury of biblical proportions yet still leave room for embarrassment? I lie there for what seems like forever, wishing I could blot out what happened. But I can’t. Massive confusion swirls through me. I get it. He’s not supposed to . . . Daughter of Man . . . blah, blah, blah. Can’t anything be simple? I sigh and stare at the white ceiling. I might have stayed there all day if I hadn’t glanced through the door that Raffe left open on his way out. Across the hallway, Paige’s door is open and her bed is empty. I sit up. ‘Paige?’ No answer. I grab my tennis shoes, slipping them on while walking down the hallway. ‘Paige?’ I don’t hear anything. She’s not in the kitchen, dining room, or living room. I look out the living room window. There she is. Her little body is curled up on the ground beside Beliel, who is still chained to the picket fence. I run outside. ‘Paige? Are you all right?’ She lifts her head, blinking sleepily at me. My heart slows down, and I exhale, letting out the tension. ‘What are you doing out here?’ I’m careful to walk beyond Beliel’s reach. Paige lies just out of his reach too. She may be strangely attached to him, but she’s not stupid. Beliel the demon lies still. He’s raw and red where the chunks were taken out, although he’s not bleeding anymore. I’m pretty sure he’s come out of his paralysis, but he hasn’t moved since we were at the aerie. His skin is pruned. His breathing is raspy, as if his lungs are bleeding. He’s not healing as quickly as I expected him to. But his eyes follow us, title1= and hostile. I put my arm under my sister’s shoulders and lift her up in my arms. Until recently, she had been getting too big for me to do that, but the Great Attack changed all that. Now she’s no heavier than a stuffed doll. She squirms, looking around. She’s making sleepy toddler noises, making it clear she doesn’t want to be taken away. She reaches out toward Beliel, who just sneers. He doesn’t seem bothered or confused by her inconsistent attitude toward him. ‘Your voice sounds familiar,’ says Beliel. He hasn’t moved, hasn’t blinked. He’s like a dead body that can move its eyes and lips. ‘Where have I seen you?’ I’m a little creeped out that he’s thinking the same thing I thought when I first saw him in chains. I walk away from him with Paige in my arms. ‘Your angel doesn’t have much time left to get his wings back,’ says Beliel. ‘How do you know? You’re not a doctor.’ ‘Raphael ripped a wing almost completely off my back once. I had to have that puny human doctor sew it back on. He warned me that I wouldn’t have much time if they came off again.’ ‘What puny doctor? Doc?’ ‘I ignored him. But now that I think of it, the little puke was probably right. Raphael has done nothing but make us both wingless.’ ‘He’s not wingless.’ ‘He will be.’ He gives a grim smile, exposing his bloody teeth. I keep walking onto the porch. I’m almost at the door when he speaks again. ‘You’re in love with him, aren’t you?’ he rasps. ‘You think you’re so special. Special enough to catch an archangel’s love.’ He makes a dry, rattling noise that I think must be a laugh. ‘Do you know how many people have thought they could win his love over the centuries? That he’d be loyal to them just as they were loyal to him?’ I know I should ignore him. Nothing he says can be trusted – I know that – but curiosity burns through me anyway. I put my sister down at the open doorway. ‘Go back to your bed, Paige.’ After a little coaxing, she walks into the house. I turn and lean on the porch railing. ‘What do you know about him?’ ‘You want to know how many Daughters of Men he’s gone through? How many hearts do you think have shattered over Raphael, the great archangel?’ ‘You’re telling me he’s a heartbreaker?’ ‘I’m telling you he’s heartless.’ ‘You’re going to tell me that he did you wrong? That you don’t deserve to be chained up like a rabid animal?’ ‘He’s not a good guy, your angel. None of them are.’ ‘Thanks for the warning.’ I turn to go back into the house. ‘You don’t believe me. I can show you.’ He says these words quietly like it doesn’t matter to him whether I believe him or not. I pause at the doorstep. ‘I’m not a big fan of creepy guys offering to show me anything.’ ‘That sword you carry around hidden under the stuffed animal,’ he says, ‘it can do more than just look shiny. It can show you things.’ I get goose bumps. How does he know? ‘I can show you what I experienced at the hands of that archangel you’re so enamored with. We just both need to be touching the sword.’I turn back toward him. ‘I’m not stupid enough to give you my sword.’ ‘You don’t need to give it to me. You can hold it while I just touch it.’ I look at him to see if there are any tricks. ‘Why should I risk losing my sword just to see if you’re telling the truth?’ ‘There is no risk. The sword will not allow me to lift it or to take it from you.’ He’s talking to me like I’m an idiot. ‘It’ll be perfectly safe for you.’ I envision myself being in a memory trance within easy reach of Beliel. ‘Thanks, but no.’ ‘Afraid?’ ‘Not stupid.’ ‘You can tie my hands, chain me, bag me, put me in a cage. Do whatever you like to ensure your safety from an old demon who can’t even get up on his own anymore. Once you do that, you know the sword won’t allow me to take it, so you’ll be perfectly safe.’ I stare at him, trying to see through his game. ‘Are you really afraid of me harming you?’ he asks. ‘Or maybe you just don’t want to know the truth about your precious archangel? He’s not what he seems. He’s a liar and a betrayer, and I can prove it. The sword won’t let me lie – it doesn’t pass on pretty words. Just memories.’ I hesitate. I should be turning around to leave, and he knows it. I should be ignoring everything he says. But instead, I stand rooted to the porch. ‘You have your own agenda that has nothing to do with showing me the truth.’ ‘Of course I do. Maybe you’ll let me go after you realize that he’s really the bad guy, not me.’ ‘You’re the good guy now?’ Beliel’s voice turns cold. ‘Do you want to see it or not?’ I stand in the sunshine, looking at the beautiful view of the bay and the green hills beyond it. The sky is blue with only a few puffy clouds. I should explore more of the island to see if there’s something here we could use. I should be coming up with a plan to get my sister better. I should be making myself useful instead of flirting with disaster. But my dream keeps coming back to me. Could Beliel have been one of Raffe’s Watchers? ‘Were you . . . did you used to work with Raffe?’ ‘You could say that. He used to be my commanding officer. There was a time when I would have done anything for him. Anything. That was before he betrayed me. Just like he’s going to do to you. It’s in his nature.’ ‘I know you lied to my sister just for sport. I’m not a lonely, scared seven-year-old, so drop the evil manipulation act.’ ‘Suit yourself, little Daughter of Man. You wouldn’t have believed what you saw anyway. You’re too loyal to the archangel to believe that he was the source of so much misery.’ I turn around and walk into the house. I check to see that Paige is sleeping in her room. I check the cupboards in the kitchen to take stock of the few cans of soup left by the men who were camped here before us. While wandering around, the desire to see what Beliel is offering nags at me. Maybe he’ll show me something that brings me to my senses about Raffe. Maybe I’ll snap out of it and move on with my life – my life with other human beings, where I belong. I can’t even think about what happened earlier with Raffe without my face flaming in embarrassment. How am I supposed to look at him when he comes back? If he comes back. The thought twists my gut into a knot. I kick a decorative pillow on the floor, getting no satisfaction out of seeing it bounce off the wall. Okay. Enough. It’s just peeking into Beliel’s memory. Obi’s men are risking their lives every day, trying to spy on the angels for tiny scraps of intel. And here I am with the best spying device in the world, plus an offer to go into an enemy’s memories. I’ll have my sword with me the whole time, and it’s true that he won’t be able to use it against me. I’ll just get it out of my system and move on. I’ll be extra careful. Regardless of what Beliel has to show me, Paige and I will leave the island afterward, and we’ll go back to the Resistance. We’ll find Mom and see if we can find Doc. Maybe he can help Paige eat normal food again. And then, after that, we’ll . . . survive. Alone. I go upstairs to grab Pooky Bear, then walk outside to Beliel. He’s lying near the fence post, curled in the exact same position he was in when I left. I can see in his eyes that he was expecting me to come back. ‘So what do I do?’ ‘I need to be touching your sword.’ I lift my sword, pointing it at him. It shines in the sunlight. I have the urge to ask it if it wants to do this. But I don’t want to sound stupid in front of Beliel. ‘Come closer.’ He holds out his hand to grab it. I hesitate. ‘Do you need to hold it, or can you just touch it?’ ‘Touch it.’ ‘Okay. Turn around.’ He turns on the dirt without protest. His back is roped with strings of dried muscle. I don’t want to touch him with a ten-foot sword. But I press the tip of my blade into his back anyway. ‘One wrong move and I’ll stick you right through.’ I’m not sure if the connection is enough with only the tip touching his back, but he doesn’t seem concerned about it. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. I feel something opening in my head. It’s not like the other times when I suddenly found myself somewhere else. This one is weaker, lighter, as if I could choose not to go there if I wanted, as if the sword isn’t so sure about this particular voyage. I take a deep breath too. I make sure my feet are in proper fighting position and brace myself for an attack. And then I close my eyes. 7 I feel a moment of dizziness, then I land on firm ground. The first thing that hits me is the overwhelming heat. Then the stench of rotten eggs. Under a black-purple sky, a chariot is drawn by six angels harnessed like horses. Blood and sweat stream down their shoulders and chests where the harness cuts into them. They strain to drag the chariot and the giant demon who drives it. The demon has wings of course. He could just fly to his destination if he wanted. Instead, he rolls slowly through his domain. The demon is so big he makes Beliel look like a child. His wings flame with what looks like real fire reflecting off his sweaty skin. He carries a stick with a circle of shriveled heads at the top. On the heads, the eyes blink and the mouths try to scream. Or maybe they’re drowning and gasping for air. I’m not sure, because no sound comes out. Each has long blond hair that flows up and around the heads like seaweed waving in a current.

Once I get past the horror of the heads, I realize that the eyes are all the same shade of green. How many heads would you have to choose from to be able to collect a group with the exact same shade of eyes and hair? The ground is covered in broken glass and shards of bone. Each wheel is draped with two angels as if the monster demon didn’t want his shiny wheels marred by the rough ground. The Fallen angels are chained to the wheels and are stuck through with all kinds of shards sticking out of their skin. Beliel is one of these Fallen chained to a wheel. His wings are the color of a dying sunset. They must be his original angel wings. They’re half stretched out like he hopes to be able to keep them from being crushed. But many of the feathers are already scorched and broken. I hadn’t thought about how demons become the way they are. Maybe there’s a transition time between being an angel and becoming a demon. Since Beliel still has feathers, I’m guessing this probably means that it hasn’t been long since his fall. His face is recognizable, although somehow smoother, more innocent. His eyes lack that stinging, harsh quality that I’ve come to know. He looks almost handsome without his usual smirk and bitterness, though there’s pain. A lot of pain. But he bears it without a whimper. The wheel rolls, crushing his body against the bone shards covering the ground, making him endure the weight of both the vehicle and the monster riding on it. His face is focused and determined, looking like he’s clenching his jaw to keep from screaming. His wings tremble with the effort to hover above the ground. That protects them from the worst of the damage, but they still drag along the field of sharp bone and glass. As the wheels roll, the angels who are chained to them are getting their wings slowly crushed and splintered. They still carry their empty scabbards, which clank and drag against the rough ground, reminders of what they’ve lost. The giant demon cracks his stick above his head, and it unspools, whipping through the air. The shrunken heads begin shrieking as soon as they’re let loose. They shoot toward the harnessed angels with hair streaking through the air in front of them like snaky spears. When they hit the angels pulling the chariot, the sharp hair begins to shred their skin. The heads open their mouths wide and frantically gnaw on the Fallen. One of them manages to burrow halfway into the back of an angel before the whip gets pulled back. These Fallen angels look starved and are covered in festering wounds. I suspect even angels need their nourishment to fuel their speed healing. Then, in the middle of all this, a pack of hellions with their bat faces and shadowy wings slink toward them. They’re bigger than the ones I saw in my sword’s memories. Beefier and with spotted wings, as if they had disease blooming on them. These hellions have a crafty gleam in their eyes that make them look more dangerous than the ones I’ve seen before. They look around, aware, moving with purpose. The modern hellions seem to have devolved into smaller, weaker, dimmer versions of these. Still, these hellions are nothing compared with the demon lord. They’re shadow creatures against the towering thing riding the chariot, and they’re clearly afraid of him. Maybe they’re not the same species. They don’t look anything like him. The hellions look like toothy bat-winged animals with squashed faces while the giant looks like an angel gone ugly. The hellions are dragging someone behind them. She was probably once pretty, with mahogany hair and gray eyes, but now she looks like a used-up doll. Her eyes are empty, her face blank, like she’s sent her inner self away somewhere. They pull her along the rough ground by her ankles. Her arms drag behind her head, and her tangled hair gets snagged on the spiky bones that tug at her. Her dress is torn into rags, and every bit of her is filthy and bloody. I want to help her up, to kick the hellions off her, but I am just a shadow here in Beliel’s memory. I see faint smudges of the Halloween paint that the Watchers’ wives had on that night when I saw Raffe fighting for them. I don’t recognize this girl, but she must be one of the wives that the hellions were given. Raffe managed to save some but not all. I was there to see how much he tried. Maybe she was one of the ones who ran in panic. The hellions drag the poor girl around all of the chariot wheels, staying far away from the demon while still being close enough to see the angels. They tremble when they have to come near the demon and keep looking up at him, as though afraid that he’ll strike out. The demon hisses at them, and the air suddenly becomes more foul. Did he just breathe a whole lot of stinky sulfur toward the hellions the way a skunk might aim its scent? No wonder the air smells like rotten eggs here. Half of the hellions run off in terror. But the other half stays, curling up and trembling until the demon loses interest. They carefully resume their walk around the chariot. They’re looking at the expressions of each angel as they pass. The Fallen tense up when they see the girl, staring with fascinated horror. They all look carefully at the girl as if they’re trying to see if they recognize her. Many shut their eyes when they see her, like their thoughts torture them even more than what’s actually happening to them. When the hellions finally catch Beliel’s attention, his eyes grow wide in horror. ‘Mira,’ he rasps. The woman blinks when she hears her name. Her eyes seem to focus. She turns her head. ‘Beliel?’ Her voice is vague, sounding like her inner self is still far away. But when she sees him, her face morphs from a blank mask to recognition. Then it turns to pure anguish. She reaches out for him. ‘Beliel!’ ‘Mira!’ he screams, terror in his voice. The hellions sense it, and they hop with excitement. They chatter, nearly clapping their hands together in delight like little children. Then they bare their sharp teeth threateningly, showing Beliel that they’re about to harm Mira in ways he can’t imagine. ‘No!’ Beliel thrashes against his chains, screaming threats against the hellions. ‘Mira!’ Then the hellions dive on the girl. Beliel’s scream is horrifying. Mira finally breaks and screams too, her cries becoming wet and gurgling. Beliel begins calling out in a broken, defeated voice, ‘Raphael! Where are you? You were supposed to protect her, you worthless traitor!’ I finally peek to see if I can get out of here. I can’t take this anymore. The hellions have dragged the girl farther up to keep pace with the chariot to make sure that Beliel continues to see what they’re doing to his woman.Beliel thrashes against his chains. He’s so frantic I think he might actually have a shot at breaking free. These are not the screams of an angry man. These are the nightmare screams of someone having his soul torn to pieces right in front of him. Beliel breaks down and sobs. He sobs for his Daughter of Man. For the girl who even now looks to him to rescue and protect her. Maybe even for their children, who are likely being hunted and killed by someone he thought was his friend. A friend like Raffe. 8 I’m so preoccupied with watching the plight of the two lovers that I haven’t been paying attention to anything else. But now, the back of my neck prickles. My sixth sense is urgently whispering to me, trying to get through all the noise of what’s happening in front of me. I look around. And that’s when I see that the demon lord riding the chariot is staring right at me. How can he see me? I’m just a ghost in Beliel’s memory. But he stares right at me. His eyes are bloodshot, looking like he lives in a world of perpetual smoke. His face is curious and angry at the same time, as if he’s offended by an intruder watching him. ‘Spy,’ he hisses. ‘You don’t belong here.’ His words sound like a hundred slithering snakes, but I can still understand him. As soon as the demon says the word spy, the hellions all look at me. Their eyes widen as though they can’t believe their luck. It doesn’t take me long to figure out that I’m not invisible anymore. The demon takes a good look at me with his bloodshot eyes. Then he whips his stick in my direction. The heads – the screaming, drowning, bloody heads – shoot out toward me at the end of his unspooling whip. Their expressions are a mix of despair and hope. They’re desperately delighted to be heading my way, with their fractured teeth showing in their gaping mouths. Their hair, which should be flying back, reaches toward me. At the same time, the hellions leap at me, all claws and fangs. I stumble backward. I try to turn and run, but the uneven ground trips me, and I’m falling onto the sharp glass and shards of bone. The heads scream as they race toward my face. I’m falling. Falling. I stumble backward and fall onto my butt. I’m back on the island. Beliel, wingless and shriveled again, lies on the ground in front of me. Then a hellion jumps out of Beliel’s back. It leaps at me with extended claws. I scream, crab-crawling backward. It swipes my shoulder as it flies past me. Blood flows down my arm. The tip of my sword is still buried in Beliel’s back. I try to pull it out. There’s resistance, like someone is pulling on the other side. Revulsion reverberates through my arm as though the blade is an extension of me. Two more hellions shove through along my sword like conjoined twins. They pop out of Beliel’s back, which is bleeding from the slit where the hellions came out. They’re leaping out of his memories. I finally yank out my sword and scooch back as fast as I can away from Beliel. The hellions land in the garden with a thump. They roll and land on their feet, shaking their heads and moving drunkenly as they look around the small yard. They squint against the sunlight and lift their hands to shield their eyes. That gives me a second to get on my feet and catch my breath. But then they jump. It’s all I can do to lift my sword and swipe blindly in front of me. I’m in luck because they seem disoriented, and one even trips over its own feet. They change course and stay out of range of my blade. But their disorientation doesn’t last long. They circle me until they get their bearings, gauging my moves with crafty eyes. These hellions are smarter than others I’ve fought in my sword dreams. One feints while the other tries to get behind me. Where’s the third? The missing hellion leaps out of a bush and comes at me from the side. I spin, bringing my sword up to slice the beast. My arms adjust as I move – my angel sword wielding me instead of the other way around. The blade adjusts into a perfect position to cut through the hellion’s torso. It lands on the grass, shuddering and bleeding out. I finish my spin and kick the one trying to get behind me. It lands on the far side of the fence. It pushes itself up and hisses at me. The two surviving hellions back off, keeping their eyes on me. Then they run off and take flight, disappearing into the trees. Beliel chuckles. ‘Welcome to my world, Daughter of Man.’ ‘I should have known you were going to trick me,’ I pant as I put pressure on my shoulder to stop the bleeding. The blood feels slick on my fingers as it soaks through my shirt. Beliel sits up, chains clinking. He’s a lot more mobile than I thought. ‘Just because hellions came after you doesn’t mean what you saw wasn’t the truth. How was I supposed to know they could get through?’ He doesn’t sound at all surprised. ‘What happened to Mira,’ he says, ‘that’ll be you someday soon. And your precious Raphael will be responsible for it. I once thought of him as my friend too. He promised he’d protect Mira. Now you know what becomes of people who trust him.’ I get up shakily and head for the house. I don’t think I can trust myself to be in the same space with that horrible creature for much longer. I could kick myself for listening to him in the first place, but I guess I don’t have to. He already did it for me. 9 I’m washing the blood off my shoulder in the kitchen when Raffe comes back. ‘What happened?’ he asks, dropping a plastic garbage bag on the floor and rushing to me. ‘Nothing. I’m fine.’ My voice is stiff and standoffish. I think about covering up the wound, but my shirt is torn, so I can’t. The old cropped T-shirt is hanging off my wounded shoulder by a thread. No doubt it would be sexy if it weren’t for all that blood. He brushes my hand aside and leans into me to look at the gashes on my shoulder. ‘Are these from the dead hellion in the yard?’ He’s close enough that his breath caresses my neck. I step away, feeling awkward. ‘Yeah. And his two friends.’ He clenches his jaw so hard I can see his cheek muscles twitching. ‘Don’t worry,’ I say. ‘Being around you had nothing to do with it.’ He cocks his head at me. ‘What makes you think I was worried it had to do with me?’ Oops. Did he ever mention hellions to me? Or do I know he worries about them coming after me because I peeked into his memories through Pooky Bear?

I could lie, but . . . I sigh. We all have to accept our faults eventually. And mine is that I’m a terrible liar. ‘I – um . . . saw things through your sword. Not intentionally. Not at first.’ ‘Things?’ He crosses his arms and glares at me. ‘What kind of things?’ I chew my lip as I think about what to say. He then looks at his old sword lying on the counter. The shine on Pooky’s blade seems to dim a bit under his glare. ‘My sword showed you her memories of me?’ My shoulders relax a little. ‘So you know that she can do that?’ ‘I know that she used to be loyal to me and that I trusted her.’ He’s talking to Pooky Bear, not me. ‘I think it was an accident. She was just trying to teach me how to use a sword. I mean, I had never held one before.’ Raffe continues to talk to his sword. ‘It’s one thing to be forced to give up on a bearer because you think he may have fallen. It’s another to expose his private moments.’ ‘Look,’ I say. ‘It’s weird enough having a semisentient sword without being in the middle of an argument between you two. Can you please just let it go?’ ‘What did she show you?’ He holds up his hand. ‘Wait. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know that you’ve seen me dancing in my underwear to my favorite music.’ ‘Angels wear underwear?’ Oh, man, I wish I hadn’t said that. I’m just digging myself in deeper and deeper today. ‘No.’ He shakes his head. ‘Figure of speech.’ ‘Oh.’ I nod, trying to get the image out of my head of Raffe dancing to some rock song, possibly buck naked. ‘Well, speaking of weird things, the hellions came through the sword.’ ‘What?’ I clear my throat. ‘That hellion you saw on the lawn and two others crawled out of Beliel through the sword.’ I still have hope that I won’t have to confess it all, but he must have gone through angel interrogation school because he gets it all out of me. He frowns and paces around the kitchen as I tell him what happened. When I finish, he says, ‘You can never trust Beliel.’ ‘That’s what he says about you.’ He rummages through the trash bag he dropped earlier. ‘Maybe he’s right. You shouldn’t trust anyone.’ He shoves a mix of canned food and first aid supplies out of the bag. He plucks bandages, ointments, and tape and walks over to me. ‘Where did you get those?’ ‘Alcatraz. Thought they might be useful.’ ‘What else did you find there?’ ‘An abandoned mess.’ He probes his finger gently along my wound. I flinch. ‘I just want to make sure there’s nothing broken,’ he says. ‘Did you know that could happen? That hellions could come out through an angel sword?’ ‘I’ve heard stories but always thought they were myths. I suppose a demon might have some insight into such things. Beliel must have figured he could try to lure some hellions out to help him.’ His hand is gentle as he wipes antibacterial lotion on the cuts. ‘You need to be careful. The hellions are going to be everywhere you are from now on.’ ‘What do you care? You’ll be out of my life the second you get your wings back. You’ve made that pretty clear.’ He takes a deep breath. He presses a gauze pad on my shoulder. I wince. He gently strokes my arm. ‘I wish it could be different,’ he says, taping up the gauze. ‘But it’s not. I have my own people. I have responsibilities. I can’t just—’ ‘Stop.’ I shake my head. ‘I get it. You’re right. You have your life. I have mine. I don’t need to be with someone who doesn’t . . .’ Want me. Love me. I have enough of those people in my life. I’m a girl whose dad left, leaving us with an out-of-service phone number and no forwarding address, and whose mom . . . ‘You’re a very special girl, Penryn. An amazing girl. An I-didn’t-even-know-someone-like-you-existed kind of girl. And you deserve someone who treats you like you’re the only important thing in his life because you are. Someone who plows his fields and raises pigs just for you.’ ‘You’re matching me up with a pig farmer?’ He shrugs. ‘Or whatever it is that decent men do when they’re not at war. Although he should be able to protect you. Don’t settle for a man who can’t protect you.’ He rips a piece of tape from the dispenser with a surprising amount of force. ‘You’re serious? You want me to marry a pig farmer who knows how to use his pig poke to protect me? Really?’ ‘I’m just saying you should pick a man who knows that he’s not worthy of you and who will dedicate his life to provide for you and protect you.’ He presses another piece of gauze next to the first one. I wince again. ‘And make sure he’s kind to you and treats you with respect in every way. Otherwise, he can expect a visit from me.’ His voice is hard and unmerciful. I shake my head as he rips off another piece of tape. I don’t know whether to be mad at him or to joke with him. I move away from his touch, hoping that might take the edge off my confused emotions. Raffe sighs. He reaches out and runs his fingers gently along the last piece of tape that he put on my bandage. I wait for him to continue. When he doesn’t, I wonder if talking about what’s happening between us makes any difference at all. Maybe what I really need is a little space to figure things out. I grab the sword and a can of tuna and head out the back door. 10 Outside, I stand in the sun and let the warmth soak into my bones. I take a deep breath full of the scent of rosemary and slowly let it out. My dad used to say there’s magic in the warmth of sunlight. He used to tell us that if we close our eyes, take a big breath, and let the sun soak in, we’ll see that everything is going to be okay. He usually said that right after Mom had a day-long freak-out session of yelling and throwing things around the condo. Hell, if Dad’s technique can work for one of Mom’s marathon fury sessions, then it should work for the apocalypse. Guys, though, that’s another matter. I’m pretty sure that Dad wouldn’t have a technique that could handle what’s going on with Raffe. There are tiny yellow flowers dotting the hillside of the island, reminding me of the park that we used to go to with my dad before he left us. The only thing out of place is the small group of monstrous scorpion-tailed beasts and the little stitched-up girl with bruises all over her body.

Among the tall grasses, my sister puts a bandage on a monster’s finger as if it were her pet instead of a biblical locust designed to torture people in true apocalyptic style. Beneath her oversized T-shirt, I know that Paige’s ribs stick out in clear lines. It hurt to see them this morning when I put her to bed. She has circles around her eyes, and her hands are nothing but bones as she plays nurse to the monster. She sits in the grass beside her pets. I’ve noticed she sits every chance she gets. I think she’s conserving energy. I think she’s starving to death. I have to force myself to walk toward them. No matter how much time I spend with the locusts, I can’t get comfortable around them. As I near, the locusts fly away, much to my relief. I sit beside her on the grass and show her the can of tuna. ‘Remember the tuna sandwiches Dad used to make for us? They were your favorite before you became a vegetarian.’ I pull open the pop-top can and show her the pink fish inside. Paige leans away from the can. ‘Remember how Dad used to plop the tuna onto the bread and make a smiley face with it? That used to make your day.’ ‘Daddy come home?’ She’s asking when he’ll be coming back. The answer is never. ‘We don’t need him.’ Wouldn’t it be great if that were true? I’m not sure I’d come back if I were him. I wonder if he thinks of us. She looks at me with doe eyes. ‘Miss him.’ I try to think of something soothing to say, but I just don’t have it in me. ‘Me too.’ I pick out a piece of tuna with my fingers and put it up to her mouth. ‘Here. Try a piece.’ She shakes her head sadly back and forth. ‘Come on, Paige.’ She looks down at the ground like she’s ashamed. The hollows in her cheeks and between her collarbones scare me. I put the tuna in my mouth and slowly chew. ‘It’s good.’ She peeks at me from beneath her hair. ‘Are you hungry?’ I ask. She nods. For a second, her eyes dip down to the bandage on my shoulder. It’s spotting with blood. She looks away as if ashamed and gazes up at the locusts circling above us. But her eyes keep drifting back to my bandage, and her nostrils flare like she smells something good. Maybe it’s time for me to go. I’m putting the can down when I hear an animal calling. It sounds like a hyena. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a hyena, but my bones recognize the sound of a predator in the wild. My hackles rise on the back of my neck. A shadow jumps between the trees to my left. Another shadow leaps between branches, then several more. And as the next one jumps closer to the nearest tree, I see the shape of teeth and wings. Hellions. A lot of them. The trees around us begin to boil with shadows leaping from tree to tree, getting closer. The mad hyena laugh keeps up its steady call as the mob of shadows leaps toward us. Paige’s locusts fly toward the hellions. But there are too many of them. I grab Paige’s hand, and we run toward the main house. The skin along my spine prickles, trying to sense how close unseen claws are to sinking into me. I yell toward the house. ‘Hellions!’ Raffe looks out the dining room window. ‘How many?’ he calls out as we run to the house. I point to the shadows hopping closer to us from the woods. Raffe disappears from the window. A second later, he bursts out the front door and thumps down the porch, carrying a backpack with a blanket bundle strapped to it. As he runs by the picket fence, we both look at Beliel’s broken chain hanging off the post. Beliel is nowhere in sight. I assume the hellions freed him. They may not like each other, but they’re still on the same team. Isn’t that why Beliel invited me to look into his past, so he could lure the hellions to help him? Raffe tosses the backpack to me. I assume the bundle attached to it is his wings. I slip on the backpack while a couple of Paige’s locusts land beside her. They hiss at the shadows gathering around them. I take a step back. I still can’t bring myself to get too close to those scorpion stingers. ‘We gotta go, Paige. Can you get them to fly us?’ My heart races at the thought of being held by one of these monsters, but I’m more comfortable with that idea right now than being in Raffe’s arms. He’s made it pretty clear how he feels about me – about us – and the fact that there is no us. Raffe throws me a dirty look. He bends over and swipes his arm behind my knees, lifting me up in his embrace. ‘I can go with one of the locusts.’ I stiffen in his arms and try to lean as far away from him as I can. ‘The hell you will.’ He runs a couple of steps before spreading his wings. With two sweeps of his wide wings, we’re up in the air. My arms wrap around his neck. I have no choice but to lean close and hold tight. This isn’t the time to argue. The locusts are just behind us with my sister. Shadows leap toward us through the trees. Angel Island must be some kind of hellion convention center. Either that or these new hellions are far too good at organizing. Raffe leads the way toward San Francisco. Behind us, a cloud of hellions bursts out of the trees after us. 11 As usual, there’s a swarm of locusts funneling over Alcatraz. My hair whips my face from the wind generated by their wings. As we near, a stream of locusts heads our way. They join our little group until we swell into a swarm of our own. The creatures aren’t nuzzling us, but they’re not attacking either. They seem to be joining us on our flight by sheer instinct. The hellion cloud behind us pauses. It’s nowhere near the size of the locust swarm. It hovers in place for a few seconds as if assessing the situation, then the cloud turns around and shrinks into the distance. I take a deep breath and let the tension out. We’re safe for the moment. Raffe watches them go with a frown, deep in thought. I look back at the hellions retreating and realize what the problem is. The hellions aren’t behaving as stupidly as they should. I have a nagging worry about what just happened. What did I release into the world? The funnel over Alcatraz becomes thinner as more of the locust swarm peels off and heads toward us. This new group flows in a spike formation led by a locust with an extra large scorpion tail curled over his head. Something about that makes me nervous. They’re just following my sister out of instinct, aren’t they?Sure you are. He shook his head a little. Seriously, what were you thinking, showing up at that party?

I straightened up, raising my chin. I was thinking that something fucked up is happening in Vegas and I wanted to know what it was. Also, I saw a picture of you working for the Holmwoods, and I wanted to make sure you weren’t being held here against your will.Oh. Jameson sighed. It’s more complicated than that, but working for the Holmwoods was my choice.

And Malcolm? The New York cardinal vampire wasn’t the type who would just let a resource like Jameson walk away unchallenged.The door had a sort of elongated bolt instead of a chain, so I cracked it open with the bolt still flipped. Who are you? I blurted.

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