Wicked Nights, p.13part #1 of Angels of the Dark Series
The second day, she vomited over and over again, until there was nothing left inside her stomach except—surely—glass shards and rusty nails. And maybe a herd of stampeding buffalo.
The third day, she returned to the trembling and the sweating, so weak she could barely lift her head or even open her eyes.
Eventually, sleep battered past every wall of resistance she had erected, and she slipped into the land of dreams. Her parents hugged and kissed her, telling her how much they loved her. Her older brother, Brax, rubbed his knuckles into her hair. Oh, how she had missed him. Since her incarceration, he’d made his dislike of her very clear.
Once upon a time, he had threatened any boy who’d wanted to date her. He had smiled at her every morning as he’d fixed her breakfast, her parents having already rushed off to work. On the drive to school, he had lectured her about studying harder and keeping her grades up so that she could get into a good college and have the best possible future.
That wasn’t possible now. The man Brax had become did not believe Annabelle’s recollection of that fateful morning. He did not trust her, and he certainly did not adore her and want the best for her.
Best? What was the best for someone like her? Despite the euphoria she’d felt upon first leaving the institution, despite her desire to live on her own, happy and carefree, the truth was now unavoidable. The only future she had was one on the run from the law.
The dream morphed, her parents and Brax pushed to the back of her mind and replaced by the demons she’d fought throughout the years. She saw blood-soaked floors no one else could see, her feet slipping and sliding in the puddles as she cried for help she would never receive.
Thankfully, that dream morphed, as well. She lay beside Zacharel, and he placed his cold hands on her, gently brushing her hair from her face as he mumbled about troublesome humans. He stuffed sweet, juicy clumps of fruit down her throat, and she somehow found the energy to slap him for being such a turd about it.
The fourth day, everything changed. Her sleep calmed, her mind blanking. The aches and pains faded. Finally, blessedly, even the trembling and the sweating eased, and strength returned to her limbs. She stretched and struggled to a sitting position, dizziness waiting at the fringes of her mind, ready to devour her entire being.
She looked at her surroundings—she was still inside the cloud—then at herself. She was dressed in a white robe as soft as cashmere and scrubbed clean from head to toe, despite the length of time that had passed. Who had changed her? Bathed her?
Her cheeks flushed with heat. Yeah, Zacharel. His part hadn’t been a dream, after all, but straight-up reality.
How…nice of him.
Zacharel didn’t seem like the type to concern himself with the suffering of others, especially at the expense of his own comfort, but he’d risked a few slaps from a whacked-out female just to ensure she ate.
Poor guy. He probably regretted releasing her.
She threw her legs over the side of the bed and stood, swayed. It was time to hunt Zacharel down, thank him and figure out her next move.
* * *
“PESKY HUMAN,” ZACHAREL muttered as he paced the center of his cloud. He had never before taken care of a sick human, or even a sick angel, for that matter. Clearly. Under his care, Annabelle had only gotten worse.
And she’d slapped him! On multiple occasions! Not even his Deity had ever dared such a thing. Whip him, yes. Zacharel was still recovering from his latest round with the leather strap, but slap him? Never. Not that the puny actions had hurt. It was the principle of the thing. He’d taken time out of his day to care for her, precious time he should be devoting to his new army and their various missions, and she couldn’t thank him?
“Typical mortal,” he grumbled now. His anger with her did not stem from worry, he was certain of it. He rubbed the heel of his palm up and down the center of his chest and smacked his lips, cringing at the sour taste in his mouth.
He wouldn’t voice a lie, but he would certainly entertain one in his own mind.
Annabelle would live or she would die, and Zacharel wasn’t going to concern himself one way or the other any longer. He just wasn’t.
He grimaced as that sour taste intensified. Enough of this! He would do what any other man would have done in this situation. He would summon a female to take over. Jamila. Yes, Jamila would ensure Annabelle’s safety.
“Inform Jamila I require her presence,” he told the cloud.
How long would it take her to fly here? It would take him less than a minute to thrust Annabelle into her arms and kick them both out of his home. He was tired of thinking about Annabelle, tired of wondering how badly she hurt, if she would survive whatever sickness had struck her. Tired of reaching inside the air pocket containing his vial of water from the River of Life, only to catch himself before he made contact with it. To even consider giving her the remaining drop was ludicrous.
“More threats?” Jamila asked the moment she arrived.
At last. He whirled to meet her head-on. “You’re late. ”
Golden eyes glittered with…anger? Couldn’t be. There was heat there, but nothing irate. “How can I be late? You didn’t give me a time frame. ” Her wings tucked into her sides, and dark curls settled over her shoulders, falling down the smooth expanse of her arms. “Besides, I didn’t feel a need to rush to another scolding. ”
“I have no intention of scolding you further. You disobeyed the night of the battle, and I proclaimed your punishment. That subject is now closed. ”
She twirled one of her ringlets around her finger. “Then why am I here?”
“You are female. ”
A slight quirk of her mouth. “Nice of you to notice. ”
“I want you to… I need you to…” He pursed his lips, massaged his tongue against the roof of his mouth. He tried to speak again. Failed. The words refused to leave him.
If he placed Annabelle in Jamila’s care, he would not be able to see her without begging an invitation to the angel’s home. He would never know what happened to her. And Jamila was so impulsive, so often controlled by her emotions. What if Annabelle angered her? Annabelle possessed a bit of a temper, and did not always mind her words. How would Jamila react to a callous retort from a lowly human? Not well, that much he knew.
I can’t place Annabelle in her care.
A strange sort of relief crashed over him, lifting a debilitating weight from his shoulders and shining something light and bright into his heart. No, not relief. Couldn’t be. He felt irritated by this turn of events, surely. He was back to where he’d started, to where he had no desire to be.
The angel was staring at him expectantly.
“What do females require?” he asked, refusing to change his mind yet again. Annabelle stayed, and that was that.
Jamila shifted to the side, her robe rippling with the motion. “Require for what?”
“For the meeting of needs. ”
Her eyes widened, her pupils flaring and gulping down all that gold. Rosy pink flushed her cheeks, her lips softening, parting. “I had no idea you had begun to experience desire, Zacharel. You should have said something sooner. I could have told you that I require only your cooperation. ”
As he tried to process her words, she stepped into the line of his body, wound her arms around his neck and lifted to her tiptoes. Then she meshed her mouth into his, and forced her tongue past his teeth.
* * *
O-KAY. THE ULTRACOLD Zacharel was capable of emotion. Desire. But that didn’t make him any less of a jerk.
Annabelle had wanted to know where he was, not because she cared about the man—she didn’t—but because he’d done something to the cloud to prevent her from leaving her room. Enraged, she’d demanded that the cloud show her where he was and what he was doing, and it—he? she?—had.
A TV-like screen had appeared just
Now she watched as Zacharel jerked away from the girl. He growled, “What are you doing?”
Again the stunner conquered the distance, trying to refit her mouth over his. “I’m kissing you. Now kiss me back. ”
“No. ” Frowning, he set her away from him, and this time, he held her in place. His wings were tucked into his sides, though they arced backward, away from the female. Snowflakes rained from their tips, tiny crystals that formed little piles on the floor. “Why are you kissing me?”
The girl’s sensual confidence died a slow, torturous death. “Because you hunger for me as I have hungered for you these past few months?” A question when she’d probably meant it to be a statement.
“I do not hunger for you, Jamila. ”
Ouch. There was such brutal honesty in his tone, even Annabelle flinched.
“But you said…” Jamila floundered. “I thought…”
Oh, honey. Just walk away before he does more than trample on your pride, Annabelle thought, sympathy for the girl momentarily superseding her anger with Zacharel.
“I said nothing to make you think I desired you,” he stated with the same coldness that always infused his words. “You simply assumed. Therefore, now I will tell you plainly. I do not want you. I have never wanted you, and I will never want you. ”
Okay, so, wrong again. The man had no feelings.
A sob parted the woman’s lips, and she spun on her heel, her wings expanding in a burst of movement. Hers possessed far less gold than Zacharel’s, but they were lovely nonetheless. She shot into the air and out of the cloud.
He faced the screen Annabelle still watched, and she knew he was headed into her room. Not wanting to be caught spying, she waved the TV screen away. “Go!”
The air thinned, until only the cloud wall remained.
A second later, Zacharel stepped through that wall, seeming to appear out of a forbidden midnight dream far better than the ones she’d entertained. Thick, silken black hair tumbled down a flawless forehead and into a gaze that studied her with unwavering intensity. Though his features had been painted with a brush of youth, he appeared beyond ancient, the wintry green of his eyes seeing everything, missing nothing.