Angel fire, p.91
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       Angel Fire, p.91

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 91


  “Look, here’s a seat,” said Céline, tugging at his arm. “There’s room for all of us, if we squeeze. ”

  “Thanks, but Maria and I will—”

  Céline ignored him and reached across to take Willow’s arm instead, laughing as she drew her into the pew. “Come, come! We haven’t seen Seb in weeks – we want to meet his girlfriend!”

  Behind them, people were waiting to get past; Mike shoved Seb good-naturedly into the pew ahead of him, beside Willow. “Nice wings, dude,” he whispered. “You took my advice, didn’t you – told her you’re a devout. ”

  Seb’s eyes met Willow’s as they both realized: it was either make a scene and perhaps draw attention to themselves, or stay where they were. “I think it’ll be all right,” murmured Willow to him as they sat down. “The service will be starting soon, anyway. ”

  “We must play a game,” announced Céline once they were settled. “What actress does Maria look like? Because she looks so familiar it’s driving me insane. Seb, who do you think?”

  He shrugged. His heart was suddenly pounding. “I don’t know,” he said, gazing at the converted cathedral and trying to sound uninterested. “She’s more beautiful than any actress. ”

  The three French girls all cooed in delight. Mike nodded. “Definitely the right answer. ” He offered his hand to Willow. “I’m Mike, by the way. I’m from Sacramento, what about you? I heard an American accent, right?”

  “I’m from Maine,” said Willow, shaking his hand. Seb could sense her anxiety. “Bangor. ”

  “Yeah? What brought you down here?”

  Her lavender wings moved as she shrugged. “The same as everyone else, I guess. ”

  “How did you two meet?” asked Nicole, leaning forward. Her eyes had circles under them. She looked approvingly at Willow’s angel wings. “Did the angels bring you together?”

  “Um. . . ” Willow swallowed and glanced up at Seb, her gaze searching his. “Yes, sort of. ”

  Her hands were tense on her lap; he took one of them, and she gripped his fingers tightly. “It’s a long story,” he said. “But I’ll tell it if you like. It’s very romantic. ” He was already planning how he could spin it out; make it so boring that they’d completely lose interest in Willow.

  “Wait, wait, I know the actress!” burst in Céline, bouncing slightly in her seat. “It’s that girl with long blonde hair – what is her name? She’s been in so many things!”

  Seb froze. Long blonde hair. Madre mía, in another moment she’d have it.

  “No, people usually say Keira Knightley,” said Willow quickly. “Or. . . or Katie Holmes. ”

  “Keira Knightley?” Céline frowned in surprise. “No. . . well, maybe a tiny bit. . . ”

  To Seb’s immense relief the service started then with a rippling of harp music, and conversation stopped. The three French girls faced forward, eyes shining as the preacher made his way up the small spiral staircase to the angel-winged pulpit. Willow let out a breath. Seb stroked his thumb across her fingers, aware that he wasn’t at all sorry to be posing as her boyfriend.

  The preacher looked younger than Seb had imagined, with dark hair and a wide smile. He raised his hands to the sky, smiling out at the congregation as he spoke into a microphone. “Bienvenido a la Catedral de los Ángeles. ”

  An interminable sermon about the angels’ love; how lucky Mexico was to now have its own personal angel; lots of standing and singing hymns and then sitting down again. Céline and the other girls knew the hymns by heart, though the lyrics were in Spanish. Willow pressed close to Seb as they shared a hymnal, her head down – obviously trying to keep her face away from their notice now.

  Finally the moment came when the preacher asked if anyone wished to be blessed on behalf of the angels. He came down from the pulpit to the balustrade, his questioning tone echoing through the speakers. Thankfully, the angels they’d seen when they first entered the cathedral were gone now, apparently sated. When Seb checked, he could sense they’d joined the others in the office area for the time being.

  A few people started going hesitantly towards the front, footsteps echoing on the shining marble. Willow gave Seb’s fingers a meaningful squeeze as she released them. He nodded. “Excuse us,” he whispered to Mike. The American’s eyebrows shot up; Seb could practically hear him thinking, What – really? But he didn’t comment as Seb and Willow edged past.

  Neither spoke as they went down the long centre aisle. They both knew more angels could appear at any time, and sense his and Willow’s energy, if they got close enough. Willow’s chin was up, her gaze steady on the balustrade where people were kneeling. The preacher was already blessing the second applicant, his lips moving in prayer as he held the man’s hand. The woman he’d just blessed stayed kneeling, head down.

  And from nowhere, the thought flashed through Seb’s mind how right this would feel, if circumstances were different: to walk towards an altar like this with Willow someday. If she felt the same, he’d even do it now, despite both their ages. Because, as he glanced down at her beside him, he knew that this girl – this woman – was the only one he’d ever love. She’d had his heart for almost his entire life; she was woven into the very fabric of him.

  They reached the balustrade with the great golden altar gleaming before them, and kneeled side by side on blue velvet cushions. Willow bowed her head; Seb could sense her complete focus on the job at hand. Pushing away his thoughts, he cleared his own mind, getting himself into the relaxed state that he used for his readings.

  It seemed to take for ever. Finally the preacher reached Seb, his eyes gentle. “Do you wish to be blessed by the angels, my son?”

  “Yes, father. ” Seb held out his hand; felt the priest take it.

  A burst of sensation, images, knowledge. Seb’s heart sank. This wasn’t the usual preacher at all – the usual preacher was sick. This man was visiting from another state, and though ecstatic at the thought of meeting the Seraphic Council in a few days, he’d arrived only hours ago – had hardly even had a chance to speak to anyone before he’d been asked to do the evening service. Seb probed deeply, but his spirits were sinking. There was nothing here to get; this man didn’t know the details of the reception yet.

  The priest lightly touched Seb’s bowed head and moved on to Willow. Seb stayed where he was. He could sense her discouragement after a moment, and knew she’d found out the same thing as him. At last the preacher moved on again, to a man wearing a grey business suit.

  Seb turned his head on his clasped hands, gazing sidelong at Willow. Their eyes met; she bit her lip, and glanced at the arched door in the shadows that led to the offices. “Seb, we’ve got to go in there,” she whispered.

  He nodded reluctantly, eyeing the office doorway. Maybe he could leave Willow in the corridor, while he attempted to go past the angels himself.

  She was regarding him with a small smile. “Think again,” she murmured.

  Seb blew out a breath and looked back towards the door. As he did, he saw the first woman the preacher had blessed, still kneeling with her head on her hands. . . and his eyes widened as he took in her aura. The other life energies at the balustrade were either grey and sickly, or soft pastel hues of devotion; hers was an ugly, furtive mustard-yellow, with angry red veins.


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