Angel fire, p.37
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       Angel Fire, p.37

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
 
Page 37

 

  Mike pulled a face; he opened his mouth to say something else and then glanced at the scene below. “Hey, look at that,” he laughed, propping his forearms on the railing again as he looked down. “The little scamp. ”

  Crushing out his cigarette, Seb followed his gaze and saw a street child slipping through the crowd that stood watching the dancers – a girl of seven or so, with tousled dark hair. Seen from above, her hand motion was clear as she dipped it into a man’s jacket pocket and then out again, quickly tucking whatever she’d found under her shirt. Seb smiled slightly, remembering all too well the feel of it – the quick flex of the fingers, the grasp and pull, all the while making sure that you didn’t touch the sides of the pocket.

  Mike went back to talking about Tepito; Seb’s eyes stayed on the girl, watching as she manoeuvred through the crowd. Thin, and so young, with big brown eyes and a dirty face. He knew she probably lived in one of the abandoned buildings not far from the centro, or maybe down in the sewers. It was a tough life – god, such a tough life, with so many dangers in it. Even now, years later, he was amazed sometimes that he’d made it out alive.

  It had still been better than that place they’d put him in.

  “Well, what about the Lagunilla market?” Mike was saying. “Is that one all right to go to?”

  “Yes, it’s not too bad,” said Seb distantly. “Just stay in the streets near Francisco Bocanegra and Comonfort; it’s safer at that end. ”

  “Okay, thanks. ” Mike smiled. “Hey, maybe I’ll ask those three French girls to come with me, if I can drag them away from the cathedral. You want to come too? I think that one, Céline, has a thing for you. ”

  Seb started to answer, but broke off as he caught sight of an angel gliding overhead. He shifted his aura to dull greys; brought it as close to his body as he could so that it appeared shrunken. On the balcony beside him, Mike’s aura looked far too healthy. He found himself edging closer, attempting to hide it a little. The angel cruised silently past, almost on a level with them. Seb tried to look as if he couldn’t see it, but its radiance burned itself into his skull anyway – the proud, fierce face; the powerful wings that seemed to glow blue-white, every feather outlined.

  “’Cause I heard her talking with her friends yesterday,” went on Mike, “and if my high school French wasn’t failing me, she was saying that she thinks you’re really hot. Wondering if you’re a devout or not. ” He grinned. “My advice? Just pretend that you are, man. Tell her how much you lo-ove the angels. ”

  Seb was barely listening to him. Below, the angel had chosen its victim; landed in a flurry of wings on the festive street.

  It was the street girl.

  Seb went very still, staring. He had never seen an angel choose a child to feed from before. The girl was gazing up at the angel with a look of awestruck joy on her face; her energy was pale blue. It wavered like a soap bubble, looking young and vulnerable.

  “Seb?” He felt Mike shove his arm with a laugh. “You awake over there? God, I wish I had so many gorgeous girls drooling over me that I could take it in my stride. ” He stroked his jaw with a musing expression. “Maybe it’s the stubble. I could always stop shaving. . . ”

  “Thanks, but I can’t – I’ve got some things to do tomorrow. ” Seb heard his voice say the words. Somehow it sounded normal. Below, the angel was advancing on the girl, smiling, stretching out its shining hands towards her. With no conscious thought, Seb switched his awareness to his angel self and flew out in a rush, swooping down so quickly that the lanterns and the dancers were a blur.

  He hovered in front of the girl, spreading his wings wide. The angel drew back with a flapping hiss. It was a male, and its gaze widened abruptly when it saw that Seb had no halo. “You – how—”

  “Not this one,” said Seb. He had never spoken in his angel form before, but his voice came out with no hesitation, low and hard. Inside, he was screaming at himself. What are you doing? For the first time in your life, you’re so close to finding her – and you’re risking it for this?

  “Another one!” snarled the angel. “Half-human mutant – you shouldn’t even exist!” It came at him in a fury of brightness; Seb fought it back, beating at it with his wings. He sensed that it was scanning in great sweeps of thought, searching for the feel of his energy to find his human form. He could disguise his aura’s look, but not its feel; it would be on him in seconds.

  A brief, frenzied attack, and then Seb darted away and whirled to face the girl. Her eyes were huge, full of wonder. They stared right through him. His spirits sank; he had meant to tell her to run, but she couldn’t see or hear him – only her predator, whose mind was linked with hers. Behind him, he heard the angel cry out in triumph. It had found his human form. Unless he somehow managed to destroy it, it would kill him and feed off the girl anyway.

  No, he thought, staring at her small, grimy face. Many things had happened in his life that he couldn’t stop – but he would stop this.

  On the balcony above, Mike had lifted an eyebrow. “Really? What are you doing that’s better than hanging out with three French girls who think you’re hot? ’Cause this I have got to hear. ”

  Without answering, Seb straightened quickly in his human form, shoving his beer at Mike; he took off at a run just as he saw the angel come swarming up towards him. He flung himself out of the dorm and barrelled down the hallway; raced down the stairs. As he burst out of the front door, he knew that barely seconds had passed. The angel was now nowhere in sight as it searched for him, gliding through the upper floor of the hostel.

  And in doing so, it had, for the moment at least, broken its connection with the girl.

  Seb came to a skidding halt in front of her; crouched down so he could look her in the eyes. She still seemed dazed – there was a happy smile playing at her lips as she stared after the angel. He gripped her thin shoulders; shook them fiercely. “Run, niña! Don’t ask questions – just go – go!”

  He gave her a shove; the girl gasped and seemed to come back to herself. With a frightened, startled look, she took off at a run, vanishing into the crowd.

  Seb’s own angel was hovering overhead, looking out for when the creature reappeared. His human self rose slowly as he stared at the hostel. It was too late for him to try to get away; it knew he was here and would stop at nothing to find him now – and besides, his knapsack was still upstairs, with the girl’s shirt inside. He couldn’t leave it. Distantly, he was aware of Mike up on the balcony, gaping down at him; the rollicking music; the dancers still swirling past.

  The angel came soaring out of the building. It saw him standing on the street below almost immediately, its beautiful face contorting in fury. Seb’s angel form darted in front of it and the creature roared and charged at him in the air, burning with light.

  The two battled fiercely in the street over the dance, flapping and struggling at each other; Seb felt the sizzle of the angel’s energy where their wings touched. The halo. He had to get to it; it was the way he’d defeated the only other angel he’d ever fought. But the creature’s great wings kept him at bay as they twisted together in the air – the angel trying to get to Seb’s human form with its vulnerable life force; Seb straining to reach that gleaming, pulsing circle.

 

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