At first, I thought dying wouldn’t be so bad. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself. After all, I had given my life to make sure that Camael and Adam would live.
A decision that would haunt me forever. Haunt us both.
Enoch had given the Celestial realm the opportunity to build their own course—strike their own path. Six months had passed since then, since Adam had left the fold in ways that none of us could have ever imagined.
Enoch had given us back our mortality. The right to die. The right to live. The right to be free.
But my never-ending distrust of anyone around me kept me from trusting this fact. I had seen Hell with my own two eyes, learned magic from well-known demons, and traveled to the realm of the angels as one of them.
I was Eve.
The first woman according to Genesis, but in all honesty, I was far from such a thing. The female gender had existed long before me and would exist long after me, more so now that I was back to being mortal like the rest of humanity.
I was merely the first female human being.
The powers that be, The Seraphim, had chosen Adam and me to watch over Vilon and the Garden of Eden. We were supposed to be Mother Earth and Father Sky, the protectors of Assiyah. Its guardians.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how I would be tricked and played, bent and molded to accommodate the whims of gods and men.
Gods so they claimed. Angels really. Mortal now.
Just like me.
I could see Camael staring at me from across the way. We had come back to this same spot every week at midnight and stood in silence. Perhaps coming to terms with Fate. Perhaps coming to terms with the death of Raphael and Adam.
Why, you fool?! Why?
Camael’s pain still burned my ears and tore into my heart, each time making my soul bleed for him. I knew what it had cost him to protect me, to protect us both. In doing so, he had betrayed Heaven one last, final time by killing a fellow angel.
As he flipped Adam’s corpse off him, all that remained of his humility had gone with the dead Grigori.
I have never murdered anyone in my life.
Until now. Until he was forced to exact revenge.
Until Adam had attacked me.
I still didn’t have all of my memories back, but one by one they were returning.
After the battle, neither Matt nor Mammon had returned, the latter of the two striking Camael harder than anything else. One of his best friends and second in command, Mammon had never surfaced, and no amount of scrying had delivered his corpse.
I kept trying to convince Camael that Mammon may have still been alive. After all, he was the weapons-master of Hell and an Archdemon no less. If anyone could survive, it would be him.
Unlike the Celestials, they never had wings. They were warriors through and through. They had never seen Heaven. They didn’t want to.
But now everything changed.
One innocuous instant, and the afterlife was fair game for all. But with each door our actions opened, more questions followed.
Whatever advantage I thought we had gained proved otherwise the more I thought about it. Prior to the deal I had contrived with Enoch, only Lamafuere could kill an angel. Now anything could. Gunshots. Hypothermia. Anaphylactic shock. The list went on and on.
My angel was human indeed, and it terrified me.
In the months we had spent together in Gehenna and Sheol, I had learned what I needed to keep Camael out of my head unless I wanted him there.
Or at least he had learned to tell the difference of when I minded him there, and when I welcomed the company. Because what I would soon realize was that we were going to need more than each other’s company if we were going to win the new war cresting the horizon.
We were going to need a plan.
A plan and an army.
Too bad we were stock out of both.
I wouldn’t lie and say I hadn’t thought about what would have happened if I would’ve ended up with Adam if things would have gone differently. But it didn’t take long, all of a second to know that it wouldn’t have happened any other way.
Not because Fate had wanted our course to travel this route, but because I, myself, chose it so.
“Come on,” Camael said, decidedly heading down the narrow path that bordered the cliff’s edge.
It would take him hours but Camael knew exactly how I felt about him using his wings. Now that he was mortal, he could be hurt, killed even. And if his wings suddenly failed him, then a thousand feet plummet to Earth would be the end of my sable-winged angel.
In my ignorance I had hoped that this time amongst humans would give him what he needed to recuperate what he had lost. But after spending six thousand years of life amongst immortals, thousands of demons he had lost in the battle, for each friend he had lost, each person he had spent side by side for millennia, he had gained a new demon of another type.
I could see it in the lines now encasing his brow. I could see it in the tight grimace burned into place. He had not said anything to me. Not yet.
And I knew better than to press him.
It was more than enough to drive anyone over the edge.
And I would have to be there to clean up the pieces as I had been.
“You sure you’re ready?” I dared to ask. I may have had my own set of wings, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to deal with an manically-depressed Seraph.
In the recent months, his muscular frame had only grown more sinewy, like he was working out each moment I wasn’t around. With Mammon gone, I had assumed command of the weapons-master, a role I admittedly felt was a wrong decision but Camael wouldn’t hear otherwise—that I had learned everything I needed from Mammon.
I told him he was full of shit.
“What choice do I have, Amelia?” His grimace flexed just long enough that I could tell being here was pushing his limits. “Now, come on,” he said softly as he extended his hand for me to take. “This can’t wait all day. We have to meet with Araboth at dusk.”
I inhaled sharply and let out all the air clenching inside my chest. “Okay, then. Lead the way.” Latching onto the strong, calloused hand I found, we climbed down the narrow pathway one step at a time.
We had buried Raphael and Adam at the far side of the abandoned beach, much of which had changed in its layout as the upper islands had succumbed to their deaths and now littered the shore. As Camael held my hand, his thumb absentmindedly rubbing my skin, I couldn’t help but think about how nice it felt and unexpected it was.
If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be one of the Four Queens of the Underworld and in a relationship with an exiled angel who had taken over Hell itself, like any logical person, I would have told them they were out of their goddamned mind. How ironic that it was that I, myself, had been the one out of my mind, and in a more literal way than I would have liked to admit.
The weather and the tide had been kind to the makeshift graves we found at the base of the cliff. A small amount of seaweed and other flora scattered across the piles. We had pulled together what rocks we could find to mark the mounds that day, Adam on the left and Raphael on the right. A decision I had made since the right-hand path was the truer path. No one would complain that we had not done justice to Heaven’s Chief of Medicine. No one had realized the curse of the gift Enoch had left us with until Raphael had been the one to pay the price.
Araboth’s healing force, one of the Seraphim themselves, had succumbed Adam’s wrath.
The shrill, bone-chilling pleading of Camael’s broken heart would forever plague my dreams. It would never leave my side.
Although Camael had left the fold of Seraphim, he had not done it in spite of those that remained of the Fabled Seven.
It was Enoch’s. The one who had granted us the ability to die. I never knew how much we would miss our immortality until I suddenly found myself back to where I started.
Human. Mortal. Weak.
All those hours I had spent in the pit training with Mammon and Na’amah, learning how to wield the elements and fight with a blade, but all the while never quite grasping what it meant to be immortal.
Time and time again, I had been told by my mentors that I wouldn’t be cosseted, I wouldn’t be protected, never once understanding that I had missed the mark.
As they had missed the mark.
I had come full circle, as had Camael.
Such a strong man, so determined to right the wrongs the Celestial realm had enacted on me.
What I had ignorantly believed would save him instead damned us all.
As we made it closer to the graves, the sudden unsettled feeling that something was amiss threatened to overwhelm me.
Almost six months later and we were finally going to pay our condolences to the fallen Seraph. Even though Adam was dead, I couldn’t help but cling to Camael’s side, his physical strength giving me courage. He was my rock and I had spent years unaware. All that time he had not known I was still alive, and I, myself, had never known he even existed.
Had he not found out about me this time around, I might have forever been damned to exist by Adam’s side.
But Adam must have known, right? Must have known I would choose Camael, though looking back on it now there was so much deception drawn over our eyes that I was lucky for even having survived. Standing beside Camael, I look comfort in the fact that I would never have to be without him again.
I knew I was his and he, mine.
Together, forever, for always.
He had heard me. Perhaps.
I knew I’d rub off on you in the end.
I rolled my eyes at him. “You’re awfully confident that you have.”
He lowered his gaze on me, scowling. “Please.”
His hand slipped around my waist as he pulled me closer to him, his arm protecting me as it had so many times. Our eyes locked and I knew I was completely in love with him.
The fallen Seraph pulled me closer so that our strides were in line with each other and I suddenly found myself swung around in front of him, his arms enveloping me as we stood inches from a man that at first I almost didn’t recognize beneath the caked-on blood and endless sand.
And then the pale green eyes that flowed like the ocean met mine and I couldn’t keep from screaming.