Angel fire, p.55
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       Angel Fire, p.55

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 55


  “It’s been a weird day, hasn’t it?” I’d said, clearing my throat.

  “Yeah, understatement,” Alex had agreed. I could feel the tension in his muscles, even though we weren’t touching. “God – a half-angel and the Council, both in the same afternoon. ”

  I tried to smile. “Hey, have you got something against half-angels?”

  I saw him wince as he realized what he’d said; he shook his head at himself. “Not this one,” he said, taking my hand and drawing me to him. “I like this one a lot, actually. ” He looped his arms around my neck, dropping his head to mine. “Look, I really am glad he’s here. I just want you to be safe, Willow. ”

  And all I’d wanted to do was hold him as tightly as I could. I’d hesitated, still worried about angel burn. Sometimes, like when I’d kissed him earlier, I thought I must be going insane to even be thinking about it; other times, the fear was an ocean of ice inside me. Then Alex had pulled me gently to his chest, and I’d given in to it. We’d stood against the wall holding each other for a long time, while the rest of the world faded away. Nothing else seemed to matter, apart from being in Alex’s arms.

  Now, sitting in the basement exercise room with Seb, I was desperate to get some answers about what had been happening with my angel. Perversely, she seemed to have calmed down a little since I’d met him, but I was still so aware of her, there inside me – so conscious that I didn’t know what she might do.

  Seb and I settled ourselves on the large, square sofa cushions, sitting a few feet from each other. He was wearing faded jeans again, and a blue T-shirt that had a swirling white logo in Spanish. The words looked slightly crumbled, like they’d ridden through the wash too many times.

  “What does your shirt say?” I asked.

  He glanced down at himself as if he couldn’t remember. “It’s for Cinco de Mayo – when we threw the French out of Mexico. ”

  “The French were in Mexico?”

  “A long time ago. ” Seb shrugged. “I bought it at a marketplace. ”

  I nodded, realizing how very little I knew about this country. It wasn’t exactly something that was covered at school, which was sort of strange when you thought about it – Mexico was so close.

  Then, still gazing at Seb, I noticed something that was different. “Hey, you shaved,” I said. He looked less like a rock star today; more like an actor playing the sexy new boy at school.

  He touched his jaw, looking embarrassed. “Yes – I guess it’s been a while. ”

  “I think I liked you better before,” I said, studying him, and then wished I had said anything except that – I’d just been making conversation, but his hazel eyes looked delighted suddenly. He grinned as my cheeks flushed.

  “I’ll never shave again,” he said.

  I grimaced, aware that my face was on fire. “Seb, look – you know Alex and I are together, right? I mean – I like you, but—”

  “Yes, I know that,” he said quietly. “It’s all right. ” I had the sense of some deeper emotion being buried; then Seb smiled and ran a hand over his jaw again. “But, you know – if you think not shaving would help. . . ”

  To say I wasn’t used to boys making their interest in me so obvious – even in a humorous way – would be the understatement of the century. I wasn’t even used to boys having any interest in me, much less ones who looked like Seb. Back in Pawntucket, I had always been Queen Weird, the outcast of the school. I opened my mouth and then closed it again, trying to think what to say.

  Seb saw my discomfort, and the teasing look in his eyes vanished. “Willow, I’m only joking,” he said. “I mean – yes, I would like to be more than friends; I’m not joking about that. But I know you’re in love with Alex. If friendship is all you want, that’s okay. It really is. ”

  I shifted on the cushion. My cheeks were still warm, especially remembering what I thought I’d sensed in him the day before – the depth of his feelings towards me. Thankfully, I couldn’t pick up on any sign of that now, though admittedly I didn’t go looking very hard. If by some insane chance I’d been right, I seriously didn’t want to know.

  “Are you sure you’re all right with that?” I said finally.

  “Yes,” said Seb. The corner of his mouth lifted. “My whole life, I’ve been looking for another half-angel. Believe me, I don’t want to leave now, just because you haven’t realized yet that you can’t resist me. ”

  My eyebrows flew up. “Yet?”

  “That was a joke too,” he said hastily. “I mean – well, no, I do hope you’ll realize that someday, but—” Half laughing, he broke off and put his hand over his face, shaking his head. “Ah, caramba, I’m not doing very well, am I?”

  Somehow I was smiling too. Seb dropped his hand. “Okay, let me start over,” he said. “Willow, just to be here with you – to be your friend – that’s enough, I promise. ”

  “You’re really sure?” I asked, scanning his face. “Even if friends is all we’ll ever be?”

  Seb’s eyes were steady, without even a hint of teasing. “Yes, I’m very sure,” he said. “I’ll be your brother, how’s that?”

  He meant it. I let out a breath, relieved that he understood – and even more relieved that he still wanted to stay. “A brother sounds. . . really, really good, actually. ”

  “You’ve got one, then,” he said. “For life, if you want. ”

  “Thanks,” I said softly. And even though we’d only just met, I knew I probably did want that – already, I felt such a connection to Seb. Even more, I knew that I needed his help. Feeling shaky, I pushed my hair back; suddenly my words were coming out in a rush. “Seb, I’ve got so much I want to ask you about. I’ve been so worried—”

  Seb had been sort of half-lying on his pillow; now he sat up, immediately concerned. “Worried?”

  “More like terrified,” I admitted. “Your angel. Can you feel him inside you? I mean. . . present, but separate from you. Not thinking your thoughts. Like he has a mind of his own. ”

  He frowned, watching me. “Not for a long time,” he said. “But when I was younger, I felt that. ”

  I sat on the edge of my sofa cushion. “What happened when you were younger?”

  Seb’s body language was casual: one wrist on his knee; the other hand resting on the cushion, propping him up. But there was a swirl of emotion from him – and all at once I knew I was the only person in the world who he’d ever tell this to. “Maybe you saw some of this when we touched yesterday,” he said. “When I was eleven, I was arrested for stealing. ”

  “Yeah, I did,” I admitted. “And that place they put you. . . ” I trailed off.

  “Here in Mexico they’re called reformatorios. ” Seb pulled a face. “They used to say to us that we should be thankful to be there – because now we could be improved. ”

  Improved. Remembering what I’d glimpsed of the young offenders’ place – running water for only two hours a day; vicious beatings; being strapped to the bed at night – my throat tightened. Irony wasn’t the word.

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