Secrets don’t make friends, and friends don’t make secrets. At least, that’s what I have always been told. But everyone has at least one that they can’t even tell their best friend.I know I do, and I bet it can top everyone else’s.
“What are you doing?” I look up from the scrap piece of paper, my thoughts rearranging themselves back into their rightful place. Blue-gray eyes peer down at me, hard as stone, but his mouth twitches in an attempt to hide a smile. He snatches the sheet from beneath my pen, ignoring my acts of protest. “More feathers, huh?”
I reach for the paper, but he backs away, his quick reflexes my weakness. This time, his stony expression breaks, a smile lighting up his face. Laughter fills the tiny kitchen, dancing over the sound of the living room TV. I fake to my left, but go right, leaping up those extra few inches to snag the slip from his fingers.
“Got it,” I giggle, moving away from Avery. He stands quietly, watching me as I smooth the sheet out on the dining table. “You just had to wrinkle it.”
“Yup,” he moves back to the stovetop, where breakfast simmers. The smell of bacon wafts through the trailer, mingling with the eggs and hash browns.I lean against the table, watching him as he tries to flip the slices of bacon without burning himself. His five foot, seven inch frame looks out of place against the white oven, belonging more in front of a punching bag instead, with fists drawn, arms flexed. Though he should be out practicing for an up-coming tournament, he is, instead, cooking me breakfast.
Laughing, I step up behind him, wrapping my arms around his torso. His muscles move beneath my arms, the darkness of my black tank top a contrast against his white tee. “My poor baby doesn’t know how to cook a few, innocent strips of bacon. That’s alright, darlin’,” I chuckle, moving him out of the way and taking the fork. “I’ll do it. You can handle the eggs.”
“You’re such a smart ass.” He reaches over and plants a kiss of my cheek. As the scent of his cologne tingles in my nose, he steps back. “But that’s why I love you.”
As the last of the bacon is removed, a sensation invades my body. Between my shoulder blades, heat blooms, spreading out across my back like unfurling petals. Dread fills me, my eyes slashing over to glance at Avery’s athletic form. He concentrates on shredding cheese, stealing a pinch as the pile builds.
“You saw nothing,” he jokes, but I wish it could make me laugh as he intended. Instead, the call of my heart becomes stronger, the warmth sliding along the inside of my skin. Worried, my best friend stops his quest and steps in front of me. His body blocks mine, only a breath’s distance away. Warm hands come up to cup my face, his eyes full of worry, his voice concerned, “Diana, are you okay?”
If only. My breathing moves in and out in quaky rushes, my face flooding red with heat. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a lil’ hot, is all. I’m going to step outside and get some fresh air. You finish up, and then we’ll eat, okay?”
I don’t wait for his answer. My feet move me across the linoleum into the poorly carpeted living room. With the front door propped open, the light from outside shines in, glaring across the TV screen. As NCIS blares, Avery’s dad dozing in the recliner, no one but me sees the shadow that slants only a moment across the sunlight. Damn it all.
I step onto the porch into the full light of the autumnal morning, the brisk bite of the air on my arms instantly cooling me. As more heat pools between my shoulder blades, I stare up at the sky, searching.
“Seraphim,” the sound of my true name calls me, the voice deep and melodic. Archangel stands at the corner of the mobile home, dressed in our calling card of black on black. His leather pants, worn from work and wear, mold to his thick legs like a second skin, his arms bulging out of the sleeves of his t-shirt. “I need to speak with you. Now.”
“Diana,” Avery calls from inside. I can hear him in the kitchen, getting out plates and glasses.
“Hold on, I’m on the phone.” I move my hand up to my ear, concealing it behind a veil of hair. Lowering my voice, I glare at Angel. “Leave. You have no business here.”
“I have every right to be here, where you are. You’re my soulbound, Seraphim.” His gaze darkens at the movement inside the house. Standing in the light of the morning, he looks every bit a god our descendants thought us to be. The light plays in the black, raven darkness of his hair, coaxing out bands navy and purple. Golden, green eyes watch me, excessing me with an intensity that comes only from the Fallen. He examines everything about me, from the way the wind plays in my hair, to my bare, pink-painted toes.
“You astound me, Seraphim.” He steps up onto the porch, towering over me. Six foot, four inches of raw, masculine power smiles down at me, full of sensuality and love. He tucks an escaped strand of hair back behind my ear before leaning down until his lips are but a whisper away from mine. “This isn’t over.”
A strong gust of wind tears through the yard, ripping leaves from the trees and singing through the wind-chimes.
“Diana?” Avery steps to the window, wiping his hands on a towel. “Everything okay?”
Black feathers dance where Archangel once stood, twirling away from me. Forcing a smile on my lips, I turn to face my human boyfriend. “Yup, everything’s fine.”
With a confused look on his face, Avery reaches for me. In a gesture that identical to one just given, he brushes his fingers along the shell of my ear. Coming back, his fingers hold a feather, black as a raven, with an emerald edge to it. Strands of my brown hair cling to it, as if refusing to let it go. “More feathers; Diana, I think you have an obsession.”
Throwing the token on the ground, he reenters the house, expecting me to follow. Only, I can’t. I stare quietly down at the rolling feather, knowing its owner is somewhere close, watching.
“Breakfast was good.” Drying the last of the plates, I place it in the cabinet, humming under my breath. Avery drains the dishwater, rinsing the sink of leftover soap, lost in his own thoughts. I fold the towel on the countertop, stretching my shoulders. The burning hasn’t abated, lingering like a warm washcloth. I sigh for the fourth time, thinking of all my secrets.
I wish terribly that I could tell Avery, but he wouldn’t understand. Humans are like that. They don’t believe in magic anymore, only science. If they find something magical, they have to experiment on it, find out just why it’s special, and what makes it that way. It is not the being’s fault that they were born unique and full of mystery.
“Is there something you need to tell me,” full of doubt, Avery’s voice stops me in my train of thought. His eyes are darker, greyer, as they usually are when he is frustrated. “Diana, this has to stop.”
“What’re you talking about?” Folding my arms across my chest, I prop up against the counter, listening.
“You lied to me. You weren’t on the phone earlier; it was in here on the table, where you left it.” His hand is thrown in the direction of the dining table, where my android holds down my drawing. When he turns toward me my heart stops in my chest. Anger is flushed on his face, his eyes glassy with the emotion. “You’ve been acting weird lately, like you don’t want to be around me. When I ask if you want to come over, you come up with some lame excuse. You ignore me. When you’re here, you’re distant. You act like you’d rather be anywhere else, than here with me.”
His steps echo through the house as he escapes me. Out the door he goes- the last place I want to be. Avery and I fighting is not something I want Angel to see. “Avery, wait. C’mon, stop!”
“I’m sick of it, Diana. Sick of you acting like you don’t love me.”
“That not true!” I grab his arm, pulling him to a halt. He doesn’t face me, and when I try to get him to look me in the face, he refuses. His outright rejection of me hurts, bringing tears to my eyes. “Avery…”
“I can’t do this anymore, Diana.” Tears glitter in his eyes, my heart squeezing in response. A physical ache tightens in my chest, swelling up.
“Please, I’m sorry,” I plead. “I… I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you everything, but you have to listen.”
He looks down at me, the hurt in his eyes so strong; it makes me want to cry myself. The bridge of my nose burns with the effort to hold them in. Running my fingers down his arm, I link my hand with his.
“Avery,” I begin.
“Seraphim!” A gust of wind announces his presence a moment before his physical appearance is seen. Like an avenging god, Angel’s long stride eats up the ground between the two of us, anger written plain and clear on his face. “We need to leave.”
“Who’re you,” Jealous spikes in Avery’s voice, one of his many weaknesses. He turns on Angel, putting himself in front of me. A gallant move, but a stupid one.
“Avery, it’s alright. I can handle this.” When I try to move around him, he holds me back. My frustration increases with his anger, especially when Angel sneers in our direction.
And that was like throwing gasoline on a fire.
With a burst of speed, Avery lunges forward, hands up in a fighting stance. He throws a punch in Angel’s direction, misses, and falls to the ground on the other side of Angel.
Not missing a beat, the Fallen warrior makes his way towards me, and I have nowhere to run. I stand my ground, head high, knowing well that Archangel would never hurt me. Our bond would not allow him to.
“There is something you must know, Challum.” A light in his eyes worry me, the gold tint lighter, more prominent. In them, I can see my own blue-green gaze staring up at him. In that brief expanse of time, our bond opens, letting in thoughts, memories, for the two of us to share.
A man dressed in casual clothing is in the yard. I recognize the light blonde head of Avery, but the other male, I don’t know. I peer closer to get a better look, zooming my eyesight in on the visitor’s jacket. On the back, much like one of a biker, a crescent moon and a dagger can be seen, emblazoned in crimson against the black leather. The Mercenaries. Like watching a movie, the scene rolls on, and I watch in horrid fascination as the Mercenary gives something to Avery. It’s a feather, black, with a silver sheen to it. Something else passes hands… A photograph. Like hitting pause, I examine the picture.
The female’s hair flies out from her facial profile, her black jeans dusty, but fitted. A t-shirt lifts in a powerful wind to reveal her tanned back, while a fingerless glove adorns the only hand visible. A pair of silvery black wings engulfs the majority of the photo, beautiful in their might and power. In Fallen society, the bigger the wings one has, the more powerful the angel.
“What’s her name,” Avery’s voice plays, familiar.
“You know her, sir.” The stranger gestures towards the picture with a dagger.
“No,” he growls, grabbing the male by the throat. “I want to know her real name.”
“Sera-“ I watch in a moment of horror as Avery jobs the man, who falls to his knees. “The Fallen’s name is Seraphim, soulbound to Archangel.”
Without warning, I am thrust out of the vision. I am thrown across the ground, breath leaving my body with a rush. As I roll into weight lifting equipment, I struggle to find Angel. He has revealed his true form, standing with broad shoulders bare, forearms clad in silver. Black leather pants form to his legs, the only familiarity, while his feet are heavy with a set of biker boots. Grand wings of raven black stretch out behind him like a warning, arching over his head and casting his face into shadows.
“Angel!” I stand wobbly, pain shooting up my leg.
“To battle, Seraphim,” Archangel’s voice thunders over the yard. A pull in my soul called forth my angelic half, urging me to drop my barriers. We were surrounded.
At least a dozen black clad men and women stood with daggers raised, the wickedly curved blades pointed in our direction. With them stood Avery, whose face no longer held any of the sadness of before. Instead, it was manic, a facial expression she’d never seen on him before.
He just laughed. The sting of betrayal and confused ripped through me. I felt… Lost.
“Seraphim.” I tore my attention to Angel, who stood proud, a sword raised in his hand. His black hair waved in a wind created by his wings.
“There are too many, Angel,” I said as I felt a ripped through my body. I caught my reflection in the side of the truck, could see the changes that came over my body as my true form broke loose of its bonds. Like glimmering dust, my wings appear, filling the air behind my back. The tips of my silver-black feathers brushed the dying grass. A few gasps came from the crowd around us, but it quickly broke into angered whispers, getting louder, and louder. More Mercenaries were arriving.
“Seraphim,” Angel tries to warn me, his voice reaching out to me over the distance, but there is none.
In a flash of white hot heat, fire sears through my back. I bow down in pain, clutching my arms across my torso. Spots dance in my vision, blacking out my sight.
Rage escapes from my soulbound’s form, storm clouds darkening the once blue sky. Thunder shakes the ground, trees rattling in their roots.
“Seraphim.” The sound of my name wakes me. Opening my eyes, I meet a set of green-gold ones, warm and happy. A smile decorates his face, and as he leans in to kiss me good morning, a flush of heat envelopes my body. “Good morning, my angel.”
“Morning, love.” I rise, making sure the sheets cover my naked form.Not that it is needed. “What?”
“You have a text message,” he growls, handing over my cell. “From him.”
Rolling my eyes, I click receive and yawn. Reading, I freeze, unable to move. It is a picture. The picture. Beneath is, in all caps, is the words: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
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