Angel fire, p.118
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       Angel Fire, p.118

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 118


  I pressed my forehead against the cool window as I stared out at the passing trees. I’d told the others what I’d sensed from Raziel, about half the angels in the world being dead. It should have felt like a victory, I guess. . . but right now it didn’t seem like much of one.

  As we drove around a bend, a view of the city was spread out below us in the dying rays of the sunset. Alex stopped and we all got out, even Sam, supporting himself with a hand on Alex’s shoulder. We gazed down at the ruined city in silence. True to its status as the most earthquake-resistant building in the world, the Torre Mayor was still standing, its green glass walls curved against the sky.

  It was almost the only thing that was. All around it in a rough circle that must have spanned several miles, the city had been virtually wiped out: a few other buildings were half-standing; most had collapsed into rubble. Though I could make out the flat rectangle of the Zócalo, I couldn’t see the cathedral at all.

  Liz shivered, hugging herself. “Do you think this really happened all around the world?” she whispered. “Or just here?”

  None of us had an answer for her.

  Finally Alex let out a breath. “Okay, come on. Let’s find a place to stop for the night. ”

  Seb stood motionless, still staring at the city as the others started walking back to the truck. Glancing up at him, I saw the dampness on his cheeks. It unlocked something inside of me, and I wrapped my arms around him with a sob. He hugged me hard, clutching me to him; we stood trembling, holding each other tightly. And oh god, I’d been so stupid; so completely wrapped up in my heartbreak over Alex. Seb was right. We’d kissed, that was all. It didn’t have to change things between us unless we let it.

  “I’m sorry,” I whispered against his neck. “Seb, I’m so sorry. I want things to be like they were between us again. ”

  “I want that too,” he said raggedly. “I want that more than anything. ”

  Closing my eyes, I let out a shaky breath as I pressed against him. I could feel the prickle of his stubble against my hair; the strong warmth of his arms around me. Nothing had changed; everything had changed. I had my friend back. I knew Seb was still in love with me, and he knew that I wasn’t in love with him, but somehow it didn’t matter, not to either of us – we needed to be in each other’s lives anyway. And oh god, after everything we’d just been through. . . knowing that our friendship was still intact felt more important than words can even explain.

  Finally I pulled away, kissed his cheek. “Come on,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Would my brother walk me to the truck?”

  “Anytime, querida,” said Seb with a small smile. And he put his arm around my shoulders and we headed back.

  The moon was just rising by the time they stopped, high in the southern Sierra Madre. Up here, with the stars and trees, it was as if nothing had happened at all. It was a relief, thought Alex. Never – not for as long as he lived – would he forget the sight of that concrete wave as it took down the city.

  His team was now tattered into shreds.

  Somehow he shoved it all aside and did what he had to do in order to hold what was left of his team together. Seb produced a lighter from his jeans pocket and they built a campfire. Alex put up the tent for Willow and Liz to sleep in; he and the other guys could crash in the back of the truck. He tore one of his shirts into long strips and bandaged Sam’s ankle; the minute he got it snugly bound, Sam’s broad face relaxed. Which in turn relieved Alex – it probably wasn’t broken, in that case. And that was good, since god knew when they’d manage to find a doctor, if other places in the world had been affected the same way as Mexico City. The idea was too catastrophic to take in, like trying to imagine what was beyond the edges of space – so he didn’t think about it, and thought about food instead.

  He found a few energy bars in his bag. That was dinner for them all. There were also a couple of bottles of water in the truck, plus a stream nearby. Sam took a swig of water and grimaced as they sat around the campfire. “I sure wish this was something stronger,” he said glumly. “A few shots of Jack would go down good right about now. ”

  No one responded, but from everyone’s faces, they were all thinking Join the club. Liz stared bleakly into the fire; Willow and Seb sat close together, though not touching. Alex tossed a stick onto the snapping flames. Remaining in charge was the last thing on the planet he wanted to do after today – but he knew he had even less choice now than before.

  “Okay, guys, here’s the deal,” he said finally. “We’re not going to let this destroy us. We all did what we thought was right – and if we had to do it over, we’d all act the same way. So there’s no point in wallowing. The important thing is that half the angels in this world have been killed. We wouldn’t have chosen to do it this way, but it’s a victory, so we’ll take it. ”

  Everyone was watching him; Sam nodded slightly. Willow’s gaze was gentle on his, then she looked down, playing with the cuff of her shirt. He saw her throat move.

  “What now?” said Liz finally.

  Alex shrugged. “Personally, I plan to keep fighting. ” He told them about the base in Nevada that Sophie had been offering; the memory stick with the details was safe in his bag. “So we’ve got a place to go,” he finished. “It’s fully stocked, and I have the access code. ”

  “We?” echoed Willow. Her face in the firelight looked very still.

  Alex nodded. “Yeah. You’re all welcome to join me, if you want. ” He kept his voice neutral. For a while there, in the aftermath of the attack, things had actually felt the same as always between him and Willow – a delusion that had been forcibly dispelled when she wouldn’t even take his hand to let him help her up. Having her around all the time when she was with Seb would be more painful than he really wanted to imagine. But he needed every person he could get now – and besides, they were part of his team. Even Seb. Bizarrely, something had shifted between the two of them today; Alex thought he could actually work with the guy without killing him now.

  Willow looked worried as she and Seb glanced at each other; he seemed to be trying to read an answer from her eyes.

  “Don’t tell me now, any of you,” said Alex. “And don’t feel obligated to come. ” He scraped a hand over his face, trying not to see the city falling again. Or Wesley and Trish as they’d run after them with the mob, shouting. He felt weary down to his bones. “Today was. . . the worst,” he said finally. “But it still may not be as bad as it ever gets. So think about it. Think about what it means, to keep on with this. I wouldn’t blame any of you if you just wanted to hide out in the mountains somewhere and try to build a life for yourself. ”

  Sam snorted. “Who the hell would do that? Yeah, I’m in; I can tell you right now. ” He was sitting against a fallen log; he shifted, keeping his injured leg straight out in front of him. “No way am I gonna just hide away and do nothing, after today. ”

  “Me too,” said Liz softly.

  Willow cleared her throat, not meeting his gaze. “We’ll think about it, okay? And tell you tomorrow. ”

  We. Alex tried not to feel the sting. “Yeah, sure,” he said, tossing another stick onto the fire. “It’ll take us a few days to get back to the US anyway – if that’s where you’re going,” he added.


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