Summary: Our favourite tortured boys are back in this third and final instalment in which they try to outrun Hell.
Notes: See chapter 1 for disclaimer warnings and related info. Thanks for reading and commenting and as always enjoy.
The first time, I didn’t think anything of the tickle running up my spine. The second time, however, it pulls me from my thoughts. I try to fade out, and I still can, but it takes a Herculean effort to keep my increasingly corporeal body invisible, so I give up.
As I stand and descend the two steps from the porch to the walk, a movement at the corner of my eye makes me spin. I look up to see the family room curtains sway from where Grace dropped them. I had hoped she’d stay with Hope and Maggie upstairs, but she’s been sitting in the chair near the window off and on for most of the day, watching me.
I can’t stop thinking about what happened—what she said. She fell from Heaven because she loved me. How was I so blind as to not know that?
Because I didn’t understand human love then.
But I do now. Now I know the power of it. I understand the lengths a person would go to in the name of love—the sacrifices they’d make.
I’d willingly give up my wings for you.
I’d said those words to Jack before we left, and, God help me, they’re still true.
I pinch my forehead against the headache brewing there and walk around back, my guard up. Naburus is gone for the moment, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back. As I round the corner into the backyard, the door opens and Grace slides through onto the back porch, closing it quickly behind her. The darkness has made her braver.
“Hi,” she says without looking up.
“Am I … bothering you?”
I walk slowly up the steps and slide into the wicker sofa, motioning for her to join me. “Not at all.”
“Because Dad said we should leave you alone.”
I can’t help but smile. “I could use some company.”
She sits at the other end of the sofa, a few feet from me, still looking at her feet. “Is Jack an angel?”
If I didn’t know about Grace’s ability to see auras—a being’s true essence—I’d think the question strange. “No.”
“I didn’t think so, but there’s something different about him.” Her eyes lift briefly to mine, then fall just as fast. “Something … not really angel … but Divine.”
I think about that for a second, because she’s describing exactly what I feel in Jack—something celestial but not angelic. “What do you see when you look at an angel?”
She chews her lip for a minute before answering. “Anyone who’s not human looks…” she trails off and shrugs. “There’s not really a word. Shiny?” She shakes her head. “No. That’s not right. It’s more than shiny.” She hesitates, searching, then her eyes light up and she looks into mine. “Luminescent. That’s it. And sort of metallic. Angels are bright, like platinum, and demons are darker, like tarnished bronze.” She nods her head, satisfied.
Her lashes lower and she shifts in her seat. “He’s … different but still luminescent. I can’t really describe it.” She shrugs. “It’s like there’s parts of both. Does platinum tarnish?”
I smile. “Not that I’m aware of.”
She shrugs again. “That’s the only way I can describe it.”
“Grace, this is really important. Never approach a demon. If they sense your ability…” I trail off, not wanting to frighten her.
“It’s okay,” she says, chewing her lip again and watching her hands, folded in her lap. She peeks at me out of the corner of her eye. “I can make them go away.”
My heart skips. “How?”
She looks at me then. “I pray. Ephesians six eleven seems to work the best.”
I appraise her for a moment. Can she actually repel demons? That would be a useful tool.
“How old were you? The first time you saw an angel?”
Her eyes find mine again. “Six.”
“Young,” I say. “Were you frightened?”
“A little,” she confesses. “It was in the hospital after Gray got hit. The nurse who came to the waiting room with the doctor to tell us they hadn’t been able to save him was an angel. Because she was there, I believed Gray had gone to Heaven, and that made me feel a little better.”
At Gray’s name, I feel that tickle up my spine again.
She really looks at me for the first time. “Do angels eat? I could get you something.”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“I made some lemonade…” she says.
I smile the most reassuring smile I can find. “Lemonade sounds great, Grace. Thanks.”
There’s a shy smile on her face as she pushes to her feet. I stand and turn to watch her head into the house.
Which is why I don’t see the blast until it’s knocked me flat on my back.
Too late, I throw up a field.
The smell of brimstone mingles with seared flesh as he stands over me, gloating. “Guardian angel protocol rule one. Never let down your guard, even for lemonade.” Gray’s eyes flash red heat.
I push to a sit and wince as pain slices through me. “Where is he?”
“Safe.… From you, anyway.”
Hauling myself off the ground is harder than I anticipate, and I stagger and nearly fall again. “Where is he?” I repeat.
“Grandpa has him.” He smirks, his face a toxic mixture of rage and amusement. “Though I don’t think he’s quite himself.”
I muster everything I can find and launch into him. I’m sure the last thing he expects is a physical attack, and he falls under my weight before he can launch another blast of Hellfire. My hand is in his face as I pin his arm back.
He chuckles under his breath, taking me off guard. “Must be hard, carrying around all that guilt.”
The mix of emotions that assaults me as I look down at him is hard to describe. I don’t have the framework to put a name to all of them. But guilt is definitely in there. I’ll always feel guilty about what happened to him. But looking into his hard eyes, full of hatred, it’s clear that sentimentality will only get me killed. “Is there a point you’re trying to make?”
“Why didn’t you tell me I was special too? It’s not just Jack.”
“You needed to find out for yourself when you were ready.”
“Thankfully, others had more faith in me,” he says. I feel his infernal energy pulse under me as if it has a life of its own. “I can feel it eating at you … all your doubt. Do you still belong? Will you ever be able to go back? Will you ever get into my brother’s pants?” He turns his head to look at me and tsks. “Nasty angel.”
Out of nowhere, all at the same instant, the sharp edge of guilt twists in my gut and a blast of Hellfire erupts from his whole body, throwing me back. I hit the ground and he bounds to his feet. He plants the sole of one shoe in my chest, his glowing fist pointed at my face. “Gotta love it when the holier-than-thou get what they deserve.”
I twist out from under him just as a blast of Hellfire leaves a crater in the lawn where I was lying.
The shout comes from the porch. I look up to find Grace standing there in the waning light, a glass of lemonade in each hand.
“Go inside, Grace,” I call as panic crawls through my chest, but when I turn back to Gray, he’s standing, arms hanging limply at his side, staring at Grace.
She squints back at him, a mix of repulsion and fear on her face, and drops the glasses where she stands. They explode in a shower of glass and lemonade when they hit the brick stairs. Her lips start to move in what sounds like a mumbled prayer.
Gray winces but doesn’t break his gaze, almost as if he’s holding him hypnotized. A second later, he’s on his knees, hands over his ears. “I’m sorry, Grace. Please…”
Grace moves slowly toward Gray, her lips still moving in his murmured prayer.
I’m on my feet the next second, standing between them. Out of the corner of my eye I see Daniel and Ellen pour out onto the back porch.
Daniel sprints down the stairs toward his daughter, crunching through broken glass, but I call him off with a raised hand.
“Grace,” I say, reaching for his shoulder, but she keeps moving past me as if in a trance.
“… having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” she mutters.
“Grace,” I say again, spinning her to face me and shaking his gently.
She blinks, then lifts his eyes to mine. For a second she doesn’t seem to see me, but then her eyes well and she says, “I thought he went to Heaven.”
“Go inside, Grace. Please.”
I loop my arm around her and we start walking back the way he came. Ellen takes her when we reach the porch and guides his through the door with a last glance back at Daniel. When I glance over my shoulder, Gray’s gone, but Daniel is standing on the lawn, looking out to where Gray was, stunned.
“Gray?” he says, dazed.
I lay a hand on his shoulder and flood him with peace. “I’m so sorry, Daniel.”
He drops his head. “He’s chosen.”
“I’m afraid so.” I give him a pat on the back and head with him to the door. “Go check on the girls.”
He nods, locking his eyes with mine in a silent plea, before ducking through the door.
“Well, that was interesting.”
Aaron’s simper from behind me does nothing for my shaky nerves. I turn to tell him to shut up and do his job, and find his hand raised in my direction, delicate white lightning dancing over the surface of his skin.
He shrugs and a cold smile cuts across his face. “Who would have known a fallen could take down the great John?” he says, then his expression shifts to a mask of feigned grief. “It’s just a shame I was too late to save you from him,” he adds as a blinding streak of lightning erupts from his palm.