Black Heart Page 40

“You are not part of this world, Madeline,” Gabriel said. “You are not dead.”

I pulled away from him, and sat up, drawing my knees to my chest. “It’s only a matter of time.”

“Do not say that,” Gabriel said. “Do not make me think that you wish for this.”

“I’m so tired, Gabriel,” I said. “I’m tired of fighting, of trying to do the right thing over and over when no one else bothers to.”

“That is exactly why you must,” Gabriel said. “Who will stop those in power, those who would abuse it, if you are not there?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t know why it always has to be me. Surely there are others with powers like mine,” I said, coming to my feet.

I felt self-conscious again, and wished for something to cover my nakedness, to hide my vulnerability. As soon as the thought occurred to me, there was a neatly folded pile of clothing beside the blanket.

There was a set of plain cotton underwear in light blue, and a bra to match. The jeans and black T-shirt could have come from my own closet, and they were warm to the touch, like someone had just taken them from the dryer. There was even a pair of new boots, just like my old ones. The leather was stiff as I slid my foot inside. I had the brief but strange thought that magic shoes shouldn’t cause blisters. It seemed like that would violate some sacred law of the universe. I felt better once I was clothed, like I’d put my armor on. I slung my sword over my shoulder.

“There are others like you, but that does not mean they wish to expose themselves to harm,” Gabriel said, standing as well. His own clothes appeared and he silently began to dress.

“I didn’t wish to expose myself to harm, either,” I said angrily. “And I certainly don’t wish to expose our baby to harm. But you know that as soon as he’s born, every enemy Lucifer has ever made is going to come for him.”

Gabriel buttoned his shirt, his face brooding. He seemed to come to some kind of decision. “You should take your gargoyle’s advice, and go to Lord Lucifer. He would be able to keep the child safe.”

My mouth dropped open. “Are you crazy? Lucifer will take our child from me. He’ll mold him in his own image, make our son a monster. I could never go to Lucifer. And I don’t know how up on current events you are here in dreamland, but Evangeline is back and she’s pregnant. She’s going to see any child of mine as a threat to her progeny. The first thing she would do is try to strangle our baby in his crib.”

“I am well versed in current events,” Gabriel said. “I know everything that has happened to you since my death.”

He looked pointedly at my wings. Only then did it occur to me that he had never asked why my wings were silver instead of black, and why they were visible instead of hidden.

“Oh,” I said, feeling small. “So you know . . .”

“About Nathaniel, yes,” Gabriel said.

There was nothing to say to that. We stared at each other, the silence between us lengthening. What do you say to the man that you married about the new man in your life? The fact that Gabriel had died seemed hardly relevant now that I was facing him.

“Gabriel, I—” I began, but he cut me off.

“I cannot be angry with you,” he said. “I would like to. I would like to rage, to say you betrayed me. But you are alive, and so is he. And I am not. I cannot blame you for wanting comfort.”

My whole body was filled with pain, the pain that only love can bring. Not only was I standing here about to lose Gabriel again, but he knew that I had been with another man. I scrubbed my hands over my face, but nothing could stop the tears now.

“Madeline,” he said gently, and enfolded me in his embrace. I felt his love and his forgiveness flow over me, and I wept into his shoulder.

Gabriel, always so patient, so gentle, so understanding. A better human than I could ever be, and he had only the smallest drop of human blood in him. How could I do this again? How could I leave him?

He kissed my cheeks and my lips, kissed me until my crying ceased. We stood with our arms around each other, holding on, neither of us speaking. There was nothing left to say, and we both knew we didn’t have much time.

Then the voice I’d expected to hear was behind me.

“Madeline,” Daharan said.

I clung more tightly to Gabriel, breathing him in, wanting a few more moments, wanting to keep him with me forever.

He pulled away first, always the stronger one, always more practical than I.

“It is time,” he said.

I nodded. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t say good-bye.

“You must not return again,” Gabriel said, stroking his fingers over my cheek. “You must give up your dreams of death.”

“I don’t dream of death,” I said. “I dream of you.”

“Then you must let me go,” he said softly.

“I thought I did,” I said. “I tried to.”

“You must try harder,” he said. “When it is your time, I will be here.”

“And then we’ll have forever,” I said.

He smiled. “Yes.”

“Okay,” I said, backing away until I could no longer feel the warmth of his body against mine. “Okay.”

Gabriel didn’t say anything else. There was nothing else for us to say to each other.

I turned around and saw Daharan standing well away from us, giving us privacy in our good-byes. He could probably hear every word, but it was nice that he was willing to give us the illusion of being alone.

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