Boundless Page 32

“Holy crap, Dad,” I gasp. “Try warning us next time.”

“Now,” he says, clapping his hands together. “Again.”

We take off our boots and socks, strip off our jackets, and toss them down on the sand. Dad stands on the water’s edge a ways off and crosses his arms to watch us. I lift my broom and approach Christian, who drops into a defensive posture. Sand squishes between my toes.

“So,” Christian says, like we’re having a laid-back conversation instead of trying to beat each other to a pulp. “How’s Angela?”

“She’s all right. She’s speaking to me again, at least.” I thrust. He parries. “I had dinner at her house a couple nights ago, and we talked some. At least she gave me the version of the story she wants everyone to believe.” He swings; I block. “She’s going to be in my lit class this quarter—did I tell you? We’re reading Dante. That should be a barrel of laughs.”

“I saw her in the square yesterday, eating a double-decker ice cream cone in twenty-degree weather,” Christian says. “She gave me guff just like her normal old self. Only … bigger.”

“Oh, come on, she’s not that big. You can hardly tell.”

“What is she now, like six months along?”

I see an opening and take a whack at his leg, but he moves too fast. I stumble past him and whip around barely in time to deflect a blow meant for my hip. I push him away.

“That depends on which story you believe.” I wipe at a strand of hair that’s sticking to my face. “If Pierce is the father, that would make her like four months, tops. But she told me that she’s due in March, which would make her six. The math doesn’t add up. Six months means she got pregnant in Italy. So the baby has to be Phen’s.”

“But she won’t admit that Phen’s the father, not even to you?” Christian asks.

“No way—she says it’s Pierce. She even told Pierce that he’s the father, which means that he is now completely freaked out. He’s offered to help, but Angela won’t let him do anything for her. He’s a decent guy. Too bad he’s not the father.”

Christian frowns. “So Angela’s going to stick it out through winter quarter?”

I brush his ribs with the broom, and he jumps back. “Yep. But then she’s going on a leave of absence, or something,” I tell him. “Indefinitely.”

“But what about her purpose? That takes place at Stanford, doesn’t it?”

“She doesn’t want to talk about her purpose. It’s like she’s stopped believing in it, or she’s decided not to care, or she’s too busy focusing on this baby thing right now.” I stumble, and Christian gets a solid hit to my thigh. “Ow! Hey, not so freaking hard!”

He pauses, lowers his broom. “But I thought we agreed—”

I charge him, taking advantage of his lowered weapon. “Back, back, you fiend!” I scream, and he laughs as I disarm him, his broom flying into the water. He sinks to his knees, the end of my broom at his throat. He grins, lifts his hands in the air.

It’s good to see him smiling. It’s been a rough couple weeks for him, being home in his empty house, constantly reminded of Walter and the stuff they used to do together.

“Surrender,” I intone gravely.

“Death first,” he yells, then barrels into me, catching me around the middle and dragging me to the sand.

“No, stop,” I scream, struggling as he throws a leg over mine. “No tickling! There’s no tickling in sword training. Christian!” I laugh helplessly.

“That’s enough,” Dad says suddenly.

Christian and I pause to look at him. I think we both forgot he was there. He is not amused, either. Christian gets off me and pulls me to my feet, brushing sand off his shirt. Dad hands him back his broom.

“Again,” he says.

“Sheesh, you’re such a drill sergeant,” I snicker. “Lighten up.”

Dad’s eyes spark. “This is not gym class,” he says.

“I never was too fond of gym,” I joke.

Which is, of course, the wrong thing to say. “This is life and death, Clara. I expected better from you. I expected you to take it seriously.”

I stare at the sand. I’ve been trying hard not to obsess about the image of myself covered in blood, dull-eyed, that occasionally flashes through Christian’s mind along with a wave of anxiety.

“She deals with tension by making jokes,” Christian says quietly. “She gets that it’s serious.”

The fire leaves Dad’s eyes. He lets out a breath. “I’m sorry,” he says, which shocks the crap out of me. “Let’s take a break.”

We sit in a line on the shore, watching the waves. I look over at Christian and smile, send him a mental hug to assure him I’m okay, because at the moment he’s considering giving the archangel Michael a piece of his mind.

“In some ways,” Dad says to Christian, “I am just her father.”

“Here’s what I don’t get,” Christian says after a minute. “All my life, since my uncle first told me about Black Wings, he told me to run. He told me it wouldn’t do me any good to try to fight them—they’re too powerful, too fast, too strong. You can’t kill them. Run, he always said.”

“Mom said that, too,” I chime in.

“It’s true,” Dad says. “In a one-on-one battle with an angel, you won’t prevail. It’s not only about the power and the speed and the strength. It’s experience. We’ve been grappling with one another a long, long time.” He seems sad at the idea. “And you’ve only just begun to fight.”

“So what’s the point?” Christian asks. “If we can’t fight a Black Wing and succeed, why did my uncle try to teach me? Why are you teaching us to use the glory sword?” He shakes his head. “I know I see myself wielding one in the vision. But why? Why, if I can’t win?”

“Black Wings are unlikely to harm you directly,” Dad says. “They’re still angels, after all, and to hurt someone on the side of good goes against our design. It would cause even a Black Wing a great deal of pain. That’s why they prefer to use minions to inflict any physical damage.”

“Minions?” I repeat.

“Angel-bloods,” he says. “Black Wings do their evil work through the Nephilim. And the Triplare are the most powerful of the Nephilim.”

Prev Next