Angel fire, p.38
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       Angel Fire, p.38

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 38


  “Hey, what’s going on – are you okay?” Mike had come out and was on the street beside him now, holding both bottles of beer. “Dude, you look like you’re seeing ghosts, or something. ”

  Seb shook his head, unable to take his eyes off the invisible battle above. His angel self was fast and strong, but he could feel that he was tiring. The angel snarled at him as they collided again, shoving at him with its wings.

  “I’m fine,” he managed with an effort. “Mike, go inside. Don’t stay out here. ”

  Mike laughed uncertainly. “What – is this another dangerous place like Tepito? Yeah, we’ve got all these scary grannies and grandads dancing past – don’t know what they might do. ”

  Seb started to speak, but knew with a chill that it was too late – the angel had seen Mike standing with him. He saw its eyes narrow; it plunged at the angel Seb with an even greater ferocity, fighting to get past. No! Seb’s angel held it off somehow, his wings flashing in the light of the lanterns. The angel darted; Seb lunged but it wrenched away, soaring straight at Mike – not bonding with him, just attacking for all it was worth.

  Seb grasped the thing’s plan instantly; knew it was a trap – but he couldn’t let Mike be hurt when he’d only been trying to see if Seb was okay. His angel self put on a burst of speed, whipping in front of Mike to protect him, just as he’d protected the girl. He stretched his wings out, holding the angel off as it feinted at him in a frenzy of radiance. Mike kept talking, oblivious to the drama being played out only feet away.

  In his human form, Seb’s heart was thumping. He put his hand in the back pocket of his jeans and his fingers closed around his switchblade.

  As he’d known it would, the angel went for him while his angel self was still shielding Mike. Seb didn’t let himself think. Dodging sideways to avoid its outstretched hands, he flicked out the blade of his knife and went for the halo before the angel could strike him with its wing. The blade glowed white as it sliced through; for an agonized second, his arm felt like it was on fire. An explosion of light that knocked him off his feet – the sound of the angel’s screams.

  It was gone.

  Seb lay where he was on the sidewalk, breathing hard as the remnants of the creature glittered gently over the dance. He brought his angel back to himself, relishing the feel of it safe inside of him. He had done it. Somehow he had done it. The half-angel girl flashed in his mind, and the realization that he was still alive and still had a chance to find her was like diving into a clear mountain pool.

  “Uh. . . Seb?” Mike was squatting beside him. “Tell me that was some kind of Mexican folk dance, right? And that you didn’t really just start leaping around with a switchblade for no reason at all. ”

  Seb smiled. With an effort, he sat up. He was still holding the switchblade; he flicked the knife away and stuck it back in his pocket. Then he took his beer from Mike, pulling at it in a long sip. “Folk dance,” he said as the singers warbled into the night around them, guitars strumming. “It was definitely a folk dance. ”

  Mike shook his head. Settling cross-legged next to Seb on the sidewalk, he said, “You Mexicans are weird. ”

  “But you like us. ”

  “Yeah. Guess I’m weird, too. ”

  Seb gazed at the dancers, watching the bobbing colours of their auras as they spun past – and knew that sometime soon, he was going to have to think about what he’d just done.

  He’d always told himself that at least the angels gave something back to humans with their touch – but if he really believed this made a difference, then why did he try to protect every human he ever met from them? Why had he just risked his life for the niñita, when for the first time in eighteen years, he might be close to finding the only thing he’d ever wanted? If he’d let the thing feed from her, then the street girl would have been happy for ever, no matter how she might have been damaged. Yet at least she had a choice now. Perhaps she could pull herself out of the streets, and be safe and well – find a happiness that was grittier, more real than anything the angels’ touch could give her. Seb shook his head in amazement as he realized: he’d do the same thing again, if he had to do it over.

  “Nice night,” said Mike, tapping his hand on his thigh in time to the music. “The street dancing, and the lanterns. Nice. ”

  “Yes, it is,” agreed Seb. He didn’t really understand himself, but he supposed it didn’t matter. He reached into his pocket and touched the brass frame of the photo, stroking his finger across its smoothness. And he knew that his half-angel girl would understand this, probably a lot better than he did. He could feel her compassion for what had just happened, for both the street girl and himself; see the warmth in her green eyes. He let out a breath, drinking in the sense of her that felt so close now. He needed her; he always had. Somehow he knew that she needed him too.

  I will find you, he thought. It was a promise to them both.

  But for now, it was enough to just be watching the dancers, basking in their happiness.

  “OKAY, THE RECEPTION’S GOING to be in here,” said Kara, pointing. We were sitting around the kitchen table with mugs of coffee, looking at Brendan’s laptop – he’d found floor plans for the hotel on the internet. “There’s a private reception with just the Church of Angels officials first, then we lowly peons will be allowed in. ”

  Alex and I had been there for just over two weeks, and it was starting to feel like a plan was coming together. Luis, after being hesitant to tell Kara too much, had now become a lot more forthcoming. Not only did he start opening up about security details, but he’d given Kara invitations that would get her and her “friends” into the reception for a private audience. It was a huge relief – if the word relief can be applied to something that fills you with utter dread.

  “So we’ll be entering by the hotel front door at three o’clock,” said Alex, lightly touching the screen. “We’ll go in with the other guests. . . then up the elevator to the main function room. ” His finger trailed along the map, then he glanced down at the printed schedule Kara had gotten from Luis. “Do we know where the private audiences are being held yet?”

  Kara shook her close-cropped head. “But it’s got to be one of the rooms on the same floor, right? Maybe that one?” She pointed to a meeting room down the hallway.

  As they kept talking, my eyebrows drew together. . . because I wasn’t picking up anything at all from the floor plans. I don’t always from images, but given the circumstances I would have expected something – some glimmer of emotion. But it was like the plans were just empty pixels on a screen, instead of a map showing the location of the most vital operation in the world.

  “The reception’s not black tie, is it?” asked Liz, chewing her fingernail. Most of her nails were bitten to the quick. “’Cause we can’t exactly hide guns under evening gowns. ”

  “Oh god, I hadn’t even thought of that,” murmured Trish, her freckled face worried.

  “Thankfully, no,” said Kara. “Luis said the people representing Mexico City – that includes us – can just wear their normal outfits. Maybe something a little dressier, like you’d go to church in. ”


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