Angel fire, p.22
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       Angel Fire, p.22

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 22


  “Hi,” they each muttered. After a beat, Brendan, the short one with wiry hair, stepped forward to awkwardly shake Alex’s hand. With an apprehensive glance at Willow, he stepped hastily back again.

  The black guy was Wesley, whose arched eyebrows and wry mouth made him look like he should have a great sense of humour – except that he also looked like he’d never smiled in his life. He shifted his feet, glowering. “Are you going to need us for this, Kara?” he muttered.

  “No, I don’t think so,” said Kara. “Why don’t you guys go into the TV room, or the range or something, so the three of us can talk?”

  “You sure?” drawled Sam. He narrowed his blue eyes at Willow in a calculating way. “You might need some backup. ”

  Alex snorted. With an effort, he refrained from pointing out that backup worked a lot better when the person backing you up actually knew how to shoot a gun.

  “Yes, Sam, I am sure. Go on, now. I’ll tell you guys whatever you need to know later. ”

  After the AKs had drifted away, Kara put some water on to boil. She started getting mugs out of a cabinet, then hesitated as she looked at Willow. “Do you. . . do you eat and drink like we do, or—”

  A cold anger tightened Alex’s muscles. “Kara, for Chrissake—”

  “Well, I don’t know!” she snapped back. “How am I supposed to know what a half-angel does or doesn’t do?”

  “Come on! Do you think I’d even be with her if she was like them?”

  Kara started to say something else and stopped; a flush tinged her cheeks. Not answering, she banged the cupboard door shut and opened another one, taking out a jar of instant coffee. She thumped it onto the counter.

  Willow looked away, hugging herself; the plaid shirt billowed loosely about her thighs. “Yes, I eat and drink like you do,” she said in a soft voice. “But I don’t want anything. ”

  Wishing he could pull her close against his chest, Alex put his arm around her instead; he could feel the tautness of her shoulders. Kara poured boiling water into the mugs, and added splashes of milk. “Two sugars, right?” she said without looking at him.

  He glanced up in surprise as his throat tightened. It was how Jake had taken his coffee. “No, uh – just milk. ”

  He saw Kara realize her mistake; a pained wince crossed her face. There must have been a hundred times on hunts when they’d stopped at a 7-Eleven and Kara had walked back out to the jeep balancing coffees for everyone – teasing Jake about the sugar and saying he couldn’t take his java like a man. Now Alex knew she was seeing the same thing he was: his brother’s grin as he said, What you’re really saying is I’m sweet enough already, right? The flirting between Jake and Kara had never come to anything, though if Alex knew his brother, it hadn’t been for lack of trying.

  Kara handed him a mug without speaking; they sat down at a battered wooden table that dominated half the room. “You sure you don’t want anything?” she said to Willow, her voice stiff.

  “Maybe some water,” said Willow. “I can get it,” she added as Kara started to stand up.

  Alex and Kara sat in silence as Willow found glasses in a cupboard and filled one from the bottled water that sat on the counter. Kara was very pointedly not looking at Willow; she sat drinking her coffee, drumming her fingers on the worn wooden table. Her nails were short but shapely, painted bright pink. Memory stirred in Alex as he noticed. Those incongruous feminine touches of Kara’s had given him some sleepless nights when he was fourteen or fifteen; he’d speculated endlessly on whether she might wear lacy lingerie too. Kara probably would have decked him if she’d known. No, not “probably”.

  Willow sat down, slipping into the chair next to him and avoiding his eyes. Under the table, Alex rubbed her thigh reassuringly, wishing they were alone; he hated how tense she seemed. She let out a breath, and darted a grateful glance at him.

  “So what is this place?” he asked Kara again. “How did you hook up with the angel spotters, anyway? And how did you manage not to get killed? Cully said—”

  Kara’s brown eyes turned large. “You’ve seen Cully?”

  “Yeah, just over a month ago. ” Alex glanced down, playing with the handle of his coffee mug. “He’s got angel burn, Kara. ” Even now, he hated thinking about it. Once Alex’s father, Martin, had started losing grip with reality, Cully had taken over as lead of the AK training camp: the place in the remote New Mexico desert where both Alex and Jake had been raised. And he’d done it so tactfully and unobtrusively that Alex’s dad hadn’t even noticed to take offence. The man had been a father to him in everything but name.

  He described the encounter to Kara – how Cully was staying alone at the old camp now; how he’d tried to kill Willow because the angels had told him to.

  The news brought a hard line to Kara’s mouth, but then her manner turned thoughtful as she took in the pink scar on Willow’s arm, where Cully’s bullet had struck her.

  “So the angels want you dead, huh?” she said.

  Willow grimaced slightly. “Yeah, you could say that. ”

  “It’s what the terrorist manhunt is about,” said Alex. He drained the rest of his coffee in a quick gulp. “They think she has the power to destroy them. ”

  Kara sat watching Willow; even relaxed, Alex could see the muscles in her slender arms. “And? Do you?”

  “No one’s told me how yet, if I do,” said Willow. Her spiky red-gold hair cut across her cheek as she looked down, tapping at her water glass. “Unfortunately, being a half-angel doesn’t come with an instruction manual. ”

  “No, I guess not,” said Kara. “But my guys saw something about you that freaked them out. ”

  “My angel self,” said Willow. “I have a – dual nature, I guess you’d call it. My angel form can appear at the same time as my human one. They’re both me, though. My angel self doesn’t have a halo. It doesn’t. . . feed, or anything. ”

  Alex could tell how bizarre Kara was finding this. “Ohh-kay,” she said. “So, you want to show me?”

  Willow gave her a level look. “No, not really. ”

  Kara’s gaze narrowed for a second, then she shrugged. “Fair enough. But how is it that. . . I mean, I thought angels couldn’t breed. ”

  “I don’t know,” said Willow. “I’m the only one; it’s a mystery to them, too. ” She managed a tight smile. “I’m just a fluke, I guess. ”

  Briefly, Alex explained how he and Willow had first met; how Willow had almost died trying to stop the Second Wave from arriving. He didn’t tell the final part of the story – how he’d held Willow’s lifeless body in his arms and somehow willed her back into life. It still made his stomach clench to think how close he’d come to losing her.

  When he’d finished, Kara tipped her chair back as she studied Willow carefully, her dark eyebrows drawn together. “So you really are on our side, then,” she said.

  Willow shrugged. “I don’t think my AK boyfriend would want to have much to do with me if I wasn’t, do you?” Kara didn’t answer. Willow went on, her voice quiet but deliberate, enunciating each word clearly: “My father destroyed my mother’s mind. She would have been normal if it wasn’t for him; instead she barely knows who I am. Of course I’m on your side – I hate what the angels are doing here. ”


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