Boundless Page 30

He can’t hurt me here, I tell myself. He can’t get me. But I’m still trembling.

“All right,” he says, like I’m being selfish but it can’t be helped; I’m partially human, after all. His tone changes, becomes casual. “Maybe you’ll feel like it on another occasion.”

I seriously doubt it.

“Did you ever find out the secret? Whatever it was your mother was keeping from you?” he asks, like we’re talking about the weather.

I fight to keep my face neutral, to keep my mind carefully under wraps, my tone as casual as his as I say, “I don’t know what you mean.”

He smiles. “You did find out,” he says. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep me at bay.”

So he knows I’m blocking him. I wonder if he can read me anyway, if he can hear my heart’s crazy rhythm, the quick intake of my breath, my fear like a sour smell oozing from my pores.

I shake my head helplessly. This was a bad idea, talking to him. Why did I think that I could handle him?

I turn to leave.

“Wait,” he says before I make it more than a few steps. “You don’t need to be afraid of me, little bird,” he says, walking up behind me as closely as the fence will allow. “I won’t harm you.”

I stop, my back to him. “You’re like the leader of the Watchers, right? Isn’t it your job to try to harm me?”

“Not anymore,” he says. “I was … demoted, if you will, from that title.”

“Why?” I ask.

“My brother and I, we had a difference of opinion,” he says carefully, “regarding your mother.”

“Your brother?”

“He’s the one you should truly fear.”

“Who is he?” I ask.

“Asael.”

The name sounds familiar. I think Billy mentioned him once.

“Asael seeks the Triplare,” Samjeeza continues. “He’s always fancied himself a collector, of beautiful women, of powerful men, of angel-bloods, especially those with a higher concentration of blood. He believes that whoever controls the Triplare will have the advantage in the coming war, and thus he is determined to have them all. If he finds out what you truly are, he won’t rest until you either submit to his will or he destroys you.”

I turn, the words if he finds out what you truly are resonating in my head. “This is all very interesting, Sam, but I have no clue what you’re talking about. My mother’s secret”—I force myself to look into his eyes—“was that she was dying. And that’s old news now.”

At the word dying he gives out a pulse of despair that I feel even through the emotional wall I’ve erected between us, but his demeanor doesn’t change. In fact, he smiles.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,” he says.

“Whatever.”

I’m in a bind now, I realize. I don’t have a ride. I rode here with Billy, and I intended to fly home, but he could always turn into a bird and come after me.

“I had my suspicions about you from the beginning, of course,” he continues smoothly, like I didn’t try to brush him off. “I couldn’t understand what had happened that day in the forest. You resisted me more than you should have. Somehow you made the jump back from hell to earth. You summoned glory. You bested me.” He shakes his head like I’m an impertinent but charming little girl.

“My mom did it,” I say, hoping he’ll believe it.

“Your mother was many things,” he says. “She was beautiful, she was strong, she was full of fire and life, but she was, for all that, a mere Dimidius. She could not cross between worlds. Only a Triplare would be capable of that.”

“You’re wrong.” I try but can’t quite keep the waver out of my voice.

“I’m not,” he says softly. “Michael is your father, isn’t he? That lucky bastard.”

He just keeps talking, and the more he babbles on, the more I risk giving everything away.

“Okay, well, this has been lovely, really it has, but it’s cold and I’ve got someplace else to be.” I turn my back on him one more time and move away from the fence, deeper into the cemetery.

“Where’s your brother now, Clara?” he calls after me. “Does he know about his proud lineage?”

“Don’t talk about my brother. Leave him alone. I swear—”

“You don’t have to swear, dear. I have no interest in the boy. But then, like I said, there are others who’d find his parentage fascinating.”

I think he’s trying to blackmail me. I stop.

“What do you want?” I glare at him over my shoulder.

“I want you to tell me a story.”

He’s crazy. I throw my hands up in frustration and stalk off through the snow.

“All right,” he says, chuckling. “Another time.”

I know without having to look back that he’s turned into a bird.

“Caw,” he says to me, mocking, testing me.

Crazy freaking angels! I’m suddenly so mad I’m on the edge of tears. I kick at the snow under my feet, uncover a patch of wet, black earth, pine needles, rotting leaves, dead grass, bits of gravel. I bend and pick up a small stone, smooth and dark, like it belongs at the bottom of a river somewhere. I turn it over in my hand.

“Caw,” says Samjeeza the crow.

I hurl the rock at him.

It’s a good throw, the kind that would get me on Stanford’s women’s softball team in a heartbeat. It’s more than human, that throw. It cuts through the air like a bullet, over the fence and straight at the meddlesome Black Wing. My aim is true.

But it doesn’t hit him.

The rock shoots past the branch, which is now empty, and falls silently into the snow on the forest floor. I’m alone again.

For now.

I’m looking forward to building a great big fire in the living room fireplace, making something to eat for Billy and me, and maybe putting up some Christmas decorations, calling Wendy to see if she wants to go to a movie or something. I need some normal time. But first I stop at the grocery store.

Which is where, in the middle of the baking aisle, I run into Tucker.

“Hi,” I breathe. I curse my stupid heart for how it leaps when I see him standing there in a white tee and holey jeans, holding a basket with green apples, a lemon, a package of butter, and a bag of white sugar in it. His mom must be making a pie.

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