Angel fire, p.32
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       Angel Fire, p.32

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 32


  “No, that’s all right, I’ll wait,” I said with an inner sigh. I started towards the bathroom to get changed – the last thing I felt like doing was getting undressed with Liz and Trish scrutinizing my every move – but then I stopped. If I did that, they’d be imagining god knew what about me; that I had angel wings sprouting out of my shoulder blades or something. So I set my jaw and got changed right there, keeping my back to them and feeling their eyes burning holes in my skin.

  “I, um. . . don’t need those back, or anything,” Trish blurted as I pulled the spaghetti-strapped pyjama top over my head.

  “Thanks,” I said, as if I didn’t know exactly why she didn’t want them any more. And as everyone else started to get ready for bed too, the silence in the dorm had felt like a blanket smothering the air out.

  Lying awake now, I was starting to seriously regret insisting that Alex and I didn’t sleep in the same bed here. I could be with him this very moment, curled up in his arms and talking through the day’s events. And then later. . . my cheeks tinged as I stared at the high, old-fashioned ceiling; I counted its cracks in the glow of the street light to take my mind off the fact that my heart was suddenly beating faster. Yes, good call on not sharing Alex’s bed, Willow. Thumbs up.

  Then I stiffened.

  I could hardly even describe what I’d just felt – it was like a sort of rushing past, as if I were standing beside a river and could sense the intensity of its current, ready to knock me off my feet. But it wasn’t beside me, it was inside of me, so powerful that it felt like I’d get swept away if I even dipped a toe in.

  The feeling lasted only seconds; then it faded. Frowning, I closed my eyes and went deep within, searching. Nothing. I looked again to be sure, carefully exploring every corner of my mind. The weird energy was gone, if it had really been there in the first place – there was no sign of it. I shook my head at myself. Okay, psychic glitch time.

  Then I became uneasily aware of my angel. Usually she waited inside me to be sought out, but now, all at once, she was just there in my mind, watching me, with her wings opening and closing.

  I stared back at her, wondering what was going on. Ever since we’d bonded, her presence had always brought such a sense of love, of comfort. Now it seemed different. Edgy. My angel’s shining face was my own, but my scalp chilled as I realized: there were different thoughts than mine behind her eyes. Thoughts I couldn’t read.

  That sense of rushing power, like something had been awakened.

  Shaken, I withdrew and lay huddled under the covers, listening to the sounds of the others sleeping; the faint noise of traffic. I’d never been conscious of my angel having her own thoughts before – or even having thoughts at all, really; she’d always simply been me. What had just happened? And what would have occurred if I’d shifted my consciousness to hers – this radiant twin who suddenly felt like a stranger?

  The idea brought a shiver of apprehension, and I hated it. I’d only barely gotten used to having this other part of me, and now suddenly it seemed so. . . alien. I let out a breath. Had I really just been thinking about how human I was? The irony wasn’t funny, somehow.

  It took me a long time to finally fall asleep. And even when I did, I could still sense my angel, restless inside of me.

  “Okay, today I just want to see what each of you can do,” said Alex.

  We were standing in the range: a long room on the ground floor that looked as if several walls had been knocked down to form it. There were arched windows down here, too – and though I hadn’t noticed when we’d arrived, they’d been boarded up from the inside. Kara had told me that morning that Juan had bought the place outright, plus all of their equipment. Apparently being an AK paid a lot, which wasn’t really news, given Alex’s Porsche when I’d first met him. And like Alex, Juan had squirrelled away part of his money in cash, though apparently on a far greater scale.

  “So we’ve got enough to keep us going for a while,” Kara had said as she got dressed that morning, while I tried not to gape at her perfect body. She was so sleek and toned; she actually had a tiny six-pack. And an AK tattoo on her left bicep, just like Alex’s. A strange feeling stirred through me at the sight of its gothic letters; I’d always associated that tattoo only with Alex.

  She caught me studying her and stiffened, snapping a T-shirt over her head. “What?”

  “Nothing,” I said. “Sorry. You just. . . look like you’re in really good shape, that’s all. I guess I’m not, that much. ” It was true. I’d always been thin without trying, but I used to get Cs and Ds in PE, because my best friend Nina and I would just sit and talk half the time. Thinking of Nina, I felt a pang, wondering what she thought of me now.

  “Huh,” said Kara, brown eyes narrowed as if she didn’t quite believe I hadn’t been up to something. “Well. We’ll get you into shape,” she’d said grudgingly.

  “So what’s she going to be doing?” asked Sam now as we all stood in the firing range.

  “Excuse me?” said Alex coldly. He was wearing faded jeans and a black T-shirt he’d borrowed from someone. I’d never seen him wearing black before; it made his dark hair look a shade lighter, his eyes almost bright blue.

  “Her. Your half-angel girlfriend,” repeated Sam in his Texan drawl, folding his arms over his muscular chest. His short blond hair was spiky with gel. “I’m assuming she’s going to be part of the team, right?”

  The news that Alex was taking over as lead had been met with a mix of wariness and something like relief. Everyone seemed to respect Kara, to admire her for stepping in after Juan died – but no one argued that she should stay in charge now that Alex was here. Remembering the apprehension I’d picked up from him that night in the tent, I watched him closely now, trying to send him good vibes. He didn’t seem to need them. No matter what he might have been feeling inside, there was no hint he was even nervous as he stood facing the group.

  “Okay, I want to get a few things straight with all of you,” he said, and though his voice was calm I could tell how irritated he was. “She has a name. It’s Willow. And yes, she is going to be part of the team. This is her fight too. She cares as much about defeating the angels as any of you. ”

  I tried to smile as everyone glanced sideways at me. I could feel the suspicion in the room, as if a snake had just slithered through it.

  “If you’re accepting me as lead, then you’re also accepting Willow,” Alex went on. “Because I’d trust her with my life. So I do not, repeat, do not want to hear any crap from anyone about her. Yes, she’s half-angel; no, she is not going to harm you in any way. And that is seriously the last time I ever want to have this conversation. Is that understood?”

  Mumbled yeses. Sam looked like he was about to say something else, then thought better of it. My cheeks were in flames. I understood why Alex had had to do this, but part of me wanted the floor to splinter open and drop me into the core of the earth.

  “Good,” said Alex finally. “Let’s get started. Kara, can you get everyone going with some target practice? Willow doesn’t know how to shoot yet; I need to give her some basic training. ”

  Oh. I’d forgotten that I’d promised to learn how to shoot. But even with my lifelong dislike of guns, it was still ten times better than just standing there while everyone in the room avoided looking at me. Alex took me to the back of the range where there was a table, to show me how to load a magazine.

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