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Pushing myself off the cold, hard ground, I shook off Gabriel’s hands. ”I don’t care if you’re an angel, you’re a jerk.” Brushing back the white frizz dripping into my eyes, I avoided his pained blue gaze. “That’s the second time you’ve lied to me.”
“I’ve never lied to you,” he protested, grabbing for my arm as I stormed off the bridge.
“You told me you loved me when you shoved me off that cloud.” I hopped down, glancing around in the falling dusk. Trampling through the woods at night was not my idea of fun, but whatever.
“Then you don’t tell me your ex-girlfriend wants my soul.” I rubbed my arms, scowling. “If it’s so old, why does she want it anyway?”
“Because you have memories she wants.” Lucky bounded before me, sniffing the sidewalk. ”You’ve seen what she’s never seen, done what she’s never done. If she has that, she’d be…”
“Unstoppable.” Gabriel finished, floating down next to us. “And no one will be safe. Including your mother and Delaney.”
“And you,” I muttered under my breath, praying it was too low for him to hear. The way his eyes narrowed, I doubted it. ”I don’t care.” I raised my voice. “I’m going to go get Delaney, no matter what Samantha wants.”
“You’re just going to march down to the creek and get her?” Lucky glanced toward the woods, a whine edging his voice. “In the dark?”
“Scared?” I twisted my arm around, scratching the base of my wings. “Why didn’t you tell me these itched so bad?”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I didn’t think it was that important. What is important that you don’t go into the forrest.”
“Why not?” I ambled past the sidewalk, my boots crushing the dry grass. ”The creek isn’t that far.”
“But it’s dark.” Lucky shuddered.
“So?” I took another step.
“Samantha’s power grows in the dark.” Gabriel’s voice was as dry as the leaves tumbling past my boots, crackling as the cool wind whipped through the trees. “Hence the term dark angel.”
“So she expects us to wait until morning?” I crossed my arms. “After she’s had time to move Delaney and cause more mischief?”
Gabriel’s face was the only answer I needed. Flouncing my feathers (one of the only benefits I’d seen to these heavy wings), I marched toward the trees. ”Don’t worry, boys,” I called airily, turning my grin toward the budding stars. ”I’ll bring you a soveiner. A black feather on a chain. Or Samantha’s head. I haven’t decided.” I’d barely reached the edge of the oaks before the hurried after me, a blur of feathers and snarls.
“Are you crazy?” Gabriel shouted.
“You could get killed!” Lucky howled.
“You’ll get us killed if you don’t shut up,” I informed them, glaring the two angels into sputtering silence. “Haven’t you ever heard the term fake it until you make it?”
Lucky gagged. ”That’s not that fake bacon, is it?”
“Ariella, please.” Gabriel’s fingers brushed across my arm, icy tendrils as soft as the feathers rising above his shoulders. “You don’t understand what Samantha can do. You don’t understand her power.”
His blue eyes glowed in the thickening dusk. A twinge twisted in my heart and I turned away, bitterness curling my lips. “Why does she wear your feather around your neck?”
“To torment me.” His answer was soft and brief. “And you, now.”
I nodded, nibbling on my lower lip. ”I’ll get that too.” Turning, I crept deeper into the forrest, my stiff wings gathering closer, a shield against the cold and darkness.
“Ariella…please.” Gabriel’s whisper echoed around the dark trees as I ran through the leaves, stumbling down the the ravine. Even in the darkness, I could hear Delaney’s terrified whimpering. Holding my breath, I crept closer. Strong fingers wrapped around my arm and I turned, incandescent blasts of angry blue slicing through me.
“I can’t let you do this.”
“But you can help me.” I stared at him until his eyes dropped, his shoulders sagging. Locking his fingers around mine, he followed, Lucky padding behind us. ”I can help too,” he grumbled, snorting and sniffing in my path.
“You can do the most important thing of all.” Stopping, I squatted down, my right hand still entwined with Gabriel’s. ”Listen, I’ve got a plan. You can shield Delaney from evil with your wings, right?”
Lucky cocked his head. ”Yes, but I need to protect you.”
“If you want to protect me, protect her.” I tickled his chin, whimpers vibrating in his throat. ”Promise me?”
He sighed, his hot breath warming my wrist. ”I promise.”
“You’re the best.” Ruffling his ears, I let Gabriel pull me up. I looked at Gabriel, and he nodded. As one, we stepped forward, an army of trees flanking us. Sucking in a final gulp of air, my hoarse voice rang through the air.
“Hey Samantha! I’ve got a riddle for you!”
She stepped out at the shadows, Delaney pressed in the crook of her arm. A black knife glinted at Delaney’s porcelain throat as Samantha’s eyes darted around, searching. ”What’s that, Old Blood?”
“What do the stars do?”
Gabriel shook his head, his fingers cracking around mine.
“I don’t know.” Samantha pressed the knife tighter and Delaney whimpered. ”What?”
I grinned, my voice barely above a whisper. ”Shine.” Closing my eyes, I turned my head and pulled Gabriel closer, planting his lips on mine.
White blasted around me, warmth brushing across my lips.
And over the pounding of my heart, a faint scream whispered in the night.
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