‘God, you’re so dense!’
Morgana startled, staring at the man before her with wide red eyes. She’d never, in over 700 years, heard an angel curse—let alone take the Lord’s name in vain.
He was out of his seat—the seat he was never supposed to leave—and staring at her with eyes so green, so bright and blazing with emotion that it frightened her.
She stood to match him, releasing control over her powers—allowing tendrils of dark shadow to seep out from her—a reminder that she was called Queen for a reason.
The Angel paused, regarding her with such an open expression of wariness and admiration that she was once again baffled by him.
Half a century she had been making these deals. Half a century of pointless chess, each side trying to out manoeuvre the other as the endless negotiations between heaven and hell raged on. She was the key to these deals. The only demon who could withstand the toll, to pay the price of making deals with Angels. No one else could last as she did. Not demon, and not angel.
Until this one.
He was new. A fresh baby angel. Impossible and yet real.
Unlike the others—who disdained to even look at her unless absolutely necessary—he kept up an almost constant chatter during their games. Always asking questions. Enquiring after her. Asking about her day, her life, her feelings.
She couldn’t understand him.
‘For someone so adept at knowing what people want you have a terrible grasp of emotion,’ he said, his lips quirking up in wry exasperation.
‘I have a perfect grasp of emotion, certainly more so than any angel.’
He laughed. The sound was dry and not quite mirthless. ‘And yet you remain completely clueless as to my feelings.’
‘Angels don’t have feelings,’ she scoffed, crossing her arms and eyeing him shrewdly, wondering what new game they were trying to play.
‘And yet here we are,’ he muttered, lifting his head to stare up at the ceiling, a faint flush of red creeping up his neck.
She blinked, frowning at him in confusion. He was embarrassed?
His gaze dropped back down to her. Green into red. Light into dark.
‘How can you not see it? How do you not hear it? Every time I’m here I feel like my heart is going to explode. Do you really not see how far in love with you I’ve fallen?’
Everything froze. All words lodged in her throat, her thoughts screeching to a halt and jamming into a ten car pile up in her mind. Her hip hit the edge of the table and the chess pieces jostled. Love?
She gaped at him. Two of the chess pieces toppled over, clattering onto the marble table top that served as their game board. The sound reverberated through her and an instant later anger erupted within her.
‘You…angels don’t feel love,’ she snapped, and despite her tone—despite the suspicion that made her words sharp and her expression distrustful—she felt a stirring in her chest.
A faint thump…thump…as her ancient, unbeating heart responded to the sincere fond exasperation in those frustratingly bright angel eyes.
‘I know,’ he said, and his tone—while filled simple acceptance of her statement—had an undertone of despair. ‘I know.’
He took another step closer. So close it burned. Tingles crept up her fingertips, tickling up the old wounds there. Wounds of light she had tried to cover up with darkness, yet never quite succeeding.
They had made her both weak and strong. Weak enough to change the way she made her deals. To change how she bargained. Strong enough to deal with angels. To bear their presence. To kiss them. To inflict a pain of her own upon them. Her own darkness—mottled though it was—carved a path through each angel she touched, causing them as much pain as they did her. After all, wasn’t that the point of her being there? She could withstand what even the Dark Angel himself could not.
Though as her fingers turned numb, she wondered if she’d overestimated her strength.
His breath wafted over her face. Sweet and smelling faintly of coffee.
‘Angels don’t feel love,’ she repeated, trying to hang onto her anger, to the suspicion that came so naturally when in the presence of all other angels except him. ‘They can’t. It’s impossible.’
‘They’ve tried to take it away,’ he muttered, his eyes riveted on her, catching her in place, disallowing her to move, to even breathe. ‘They took away everything else. My life, my memories, my humanity. Everything. Everything except you. I remember you. Standing at a crossroads, in the middle of a field, to make a deal with a boy.’
Thump, thump…thump, THUMP. She sucked in a sharp breath, her throat tight and dry and her mind exploding into thought. Into memories. Memories that had been locked away. That she had locked away. Memories of how she’d gained the scars of light riddling her soul. No…no it couldn’t be…could it?
‘I remember waiting,’ green eyes flickered down to her lips. ‘Ten years. Ten years for a kiss. I practiced. Just like you told me to. But it was nothing like waiting for you. It was nothing like kissing you. You…you are everything. Everything I ever waited for.’
She wanted to speak. Her hands clenched at the table behind her, her fingers digging into the soft underside of wood. She wanted to say something. To call him a liar. To call him a trickster. To tell him to take his games back to those filthy angels and tell them that she was a Queen—the Queen—and she would not be fooled by their games. She invented these games.
Instead, when she opened her mouth to speak, all that came out was a name.
‘Morgan,’ she whispered.
A faint smile lifted his lips. ‘You finally noticed’ he murmured, leaning forward, his lips brushing against hers as he spoke. ‘Hello Morgana.’
‘You can’t be…’ she kept her gaze fixed on his, disbelieving and a little afraid. ‘You can’t…’
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
‘Can I kiss you?’
She wanted to laugh. He was standing so close to her she could count the faint flecks of gold within those moss green eyes. When he spoke, his lips ghosted passed her own, not quite touching, but near enough to burn. To sear. To blaze across her soul.
Since the day he had begun trailing her she had been growing accustomed to his burn. Each angel was different. Each fire that filled them unique, burning away the darkness no matter how hard she fought against them.
His particular fire burned hotter than any other she had encountered. Yet…yet she had been able to endure it. It hadn’t burned so much as it had smouldered. Filling her with a heat that…wasn’t quite unpleasant. As if she had spent her entire existence preparing her soul for his touch.
She had thought it was because he was new. A fresh baby angel with no concept of the gravity his presence put on others. In a way she had been right; but she had also been so unaccountably wrong. It was because he was Morgan that he burned so bright. Because he was Morgan that she—and she alone—could bear the weight of his nearness. Because of the scars his touch had already left upon her. Changing her.
‘Morgana,’ he whispered, and a shiver crept along her spine at the sound of her name, at the hoarse, almost desperate way he spoke it. ‘Can I…?’
Why? Why? Why? ‘Yes.’
Each deal they had made had brought her closer to this. Each kiss she had been foolish enough to think she had stollen—smug even, at what she had thought was a victory—had, in reality, been given so freely. Longed for, even. Each one dragging her closer to this moment, working at the old, bright wounds in her soul. Stretching them longer, carving them deeper, building on the brightness within her.
Heaven and earth, did he even realise what he was doing to her?
His lips were fire. His soul burning alongside the scattered darkness of her own. Yet she didn’t pull away. Couldn’t. He had entrapped her. Snared her in her own trap.
He loved her? She wanted to laugh at the absurdity. Scream at it. Curse everyone and everything involved in subjecting her to this torment. To a kiss that burned hotter than the depths of hell—a kiss she could no more shy away from than deny her own existence.
It was him. Morgan.
She melted. Giving in to him. Giving way to the smouldering burn that was emblazoning into an inferno.
He was all light. Bright, engulfing, all consuming, pure light and she threw herself into the kiss, returning it with every ounce of darkness she could muster up from her bruised and aching soul.
He staggered back, his hands rising to catch at her. For a moment she thought he would push her away. To realise who and what he was kissing. Even if he could feel love. Even if he alone, of all the angels, was capable of such intensity, he had to realise that she—engulfed in centuries of sin—was the wrong choice.
A strange mewling sound seeped out of him. A sound of pain, of pleasure, of longing. Such a longing that it sent a sharp pang of fear straight through her.
She pulled away, gasping, her hand flying up to her mouth to touch her swollen lips, staring at him with eyes that felt too large.
Morgan took two steps back. His legs hit the chair he wasn’t meant to leave and he collapsed into it, looking lost. His chest rose and fell in sharp movements, his green eyes stunned and dazed.
‘That was…’ he paused, catching his breath. ‘It hurt.’
His voice was filled with surprise, and he stared down at his hands as if only seeing them for the first time.
Aftershocks. Pain ricocheted up her spine, echoing along the scars of her soul. She took a deep breath, refusing to let him see how much she burned just for that one, forbidden kiss. She swallowed hard against the pain.
‘See?’ she said, when she thought her voice would remain steady enough. ‘It’s impossible. You…me…we’re incompatible.’
A strange laugh welled up inside him, bursting out and petering off before it even really started. ‘You call that incompatible?’
‘You said it hurt,’ she said, crossing her arms.
‘Sure,’ he said, lips quirking up into that infuriating smile of his. ‘But so does not kissing you.’
She rolled her eyes. He reached out hand to catch her wrist and tugged. She wanted to resist him. To remain where she was. To stay firm. Be the Queen.
Instead, her arms went loose, and she stood before him. Unprotected and exposed. He looked up at her and it was like staring into the sun. A sun that broiled and burned. A sun that gave life.
‘They’ll have our heads,’ she said.
His gaze fell away from her. ‘I know,’ he said, his brows creasing, a frown more severe than she’d ever seen on him forming as he stared at their shoes.
‘If they kill me, I’ll be reborn. They’ll just remake me into what I am. But you…you’re an angel.’
Somewhere beyond their room between worlds, someone began pounding against the walls. Pounding against the boundaries and trying to get in.
Morgan stiffened. His gaze flicked toward the one and only door in the entire room.
‘I’m not afraid to die,’ he said, still staring at the door.
‘They won’t kill you. They can’t. They’ll do far worse.’
‘It’s worth it.’
She shook her head. ‘You’re insane. This…’ she gestured between them. ‘This can never work. You’re an angel. I’m a demon. We’ll be hunted for eternity. There’ll never be peace.’
A crooked smile softened the intensity of his expression. Green eyes resettled on her, pure and unafraid. Content even.
‘I can live with that,’ he said.
She stared him, disbelieving. He really was insane. The idea that he could be so calm at the notion of being chased for all eternity by heaven and hell was…well it was absurd!
‘What I can’t live with,’ he continued, his voice soft, filled with a faint delight that gnawed at the steadily increasing beat of her heart, ‘is not seeing you.’