Misguided Angel Page 10

Dre drew his sword to its throat and prepared to deliver the final stroke, when a voice rang out from the stairway. Someone else had followed them up to the spire.

"Heel, Venator."

They turned to see a hooded stranger approach. Under the moonlight, they saw that he was wearing the colored robes and gold chains of the Citadel. His features were still hidden by the hood of his cloak, but it was the same human the Silver Blood had spoken to earlier.

"This creature is not yours to send to Hell, for he is already there," the dark man declared, and with a wave of his hand the Silver Blood disappeared into the black flames.

Tomi gasped, shocked and dismayed as she realized that the creature they were chasing was no Silver Blood, no fallen angel from Heaven, but a demon from Hell itself.

The hooded stranger teetered on the edge of the rim. He lifted a single foot outward into nothingness and plunged through the chasm of the unfinished dome. His robes blown wide in the wind revealed three black symbols engraved in the flesh of his arm. One was of a sword piercing a star. The last time she'd seen that symbol was on Lucifer's wrist in Rome, when the Dark Prince of the Silver Bloods was calling himself Caligula.

The three Venators ran down to the bottom of the church, where they found the body of the hooded stranger carrying Lucifer's mark.

The Red Blood was dead.

EIGHT

Wildflowers

Even though the sunlight, lovely and warm, was streaming into the tent, when Schuyler woke up, she felt a fearsome cold. She had gotten so used to sleeping next to Jack's warm body, she was at a bit of a loss to find that he was not by her side. She groped at the emptiness next to her. His sleeping bag was still warm. He had not been gone long.

Love? she sent.

I am near, do not worry. Go back to sleep.

She laid her head back against the blankets and fell asleep, dreaming of fields strewn with wildflowers.

An hour later she rose and walked down to the nearby creek they had found the night before. All her life she had lived in relative comfort, and it was strange to be out in the wild, to feel unencumbered and liberated from the routine of modern life.

She took off her shirt and her waterlogged shoes, stripped down to her underwear. She would wash her clothes in the stream. In the absence of soap, she hit the fabric with a rock to shake out the dirt. This much she knew from watching Hattie wash the clothes at home. Cordelia had not thought much of modern appliances.

She was in the middle of her chore when she felt a presence behind her. She turned to see Jack watching her. He smiled, the first real smile she'd seen on his face since they had left New York. It had been difficult to fully enjoy each other's company under the watchful gaze of the Countess's Venators.

"Good morning." She smiled. Jack had washed as well, and his hair was shiny in the sun.

He was as handsome as a god, she thought. Was it just her imagination, or had their exile and journey added to his visage? Every day he looked less like the pretty-boy lacrosse player he had been, and more like the ancient heavenly warrior he really was.

"I brought you something," he said, holding out a bouquet of tiny violet sprays.

She put one in her hair. Even in the midst of everything they were doing, he was always thinking of her. "Thank you."

He put his arms around her, and soon they were lying in the grass together. She slipped her hands under his shirt, loving how warm and strong his body felt against hers, loving how closely he held her. Yet even though they were together, she could not stop worrying about how much time they would have--

We have all the time in the world.

You don't know that. What if . . . She hated how worried she sounded, but she couldn't help it.

Don't. Whatever happens, happens.

Right.

They were prepared to face whatever consequences breaking the bond would bring.

Mimi's wrath. The wasting disease that would weaken him to the point of paralysis. They were up to the challenge.

But I'm scared, she sent.

I'm not.

In a way, their monthlong incarceration had been useful, as they had been able to articulate their fears and hopes for the future, testing the boundaries of their new relationship.

They had been able to plan not only for the immediate situation, but for whatever dark destiny awaited them. Schuyler knew where she stood with Jack. And he knew where she was coming from. She had never felt more secure or certain about anything in her life than the depth and fortitude of his love. He had gone to Hell and back to save her, and she had given her blood to him to save his life.

But the bond . . .

We shall forge a new bond.

You don't have doubts about relinquishing the old? Schuyler had never felt brave enough to ask him this question before, as she still feared his answer. She had never used their closeness in the glom to peer into his memories, to see if he had any regrets for the choice he had made.

She respected his privacy, but she also knew she would not be able to bear it if she found that he carried a lingering yearning for his twin. She would die of jealousy to know it.

Not one. This is a bond we choose to make, not one that was decided for us. I don't believe in fate. I don't believe that love is predetermined.

"We should get back," Schuyler whispered. They didn't have time for this. No time for love; for each other.

"Not yet," Jack sighed, his eyes still closed, his warm fingers tracing a line down her naked stomach.

Schuyler smiled at him indulgently, letting her hair brush his cheek. He twined a fistful and pulled her to him so that their lips met again. She opened her mouth to his, and his hand reached underneath her camisole.

She bent down toward him, straddling his waist, then he flipped her over so that she lay supine underneath him, her white throat open and exposed.

He traced a finger on her neck, and she closed her eyes in anticipation.

She could feel him kiss her jaw, then underneath her neck, and she pulled him closer, closer.

Finally he let his teeth slide over her skin, and then in one quick thrust, she felt his fangs pierce her.

She gasped. It was the strongest he had ever dared, the deepest intrusion into her body, and one she had not been ready for, but it was glorious. She could feel his very life force intermingling with hers, could feel the beat of his heart in her heart--the two of them together, as he held her in his grasp. She felt light-headed and dizzy and drugged, and her arms clutched his back as she pulled him ever closer, ever nearer.

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