End of Days Page 7

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, alert 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?’

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