End of Days Page 11

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.

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