Boundless Page 83

That’s a problem I don’t know how I am going to avoid. Asael holds out his arms like he’s welcoming me home. I can’t help but let him touch me, and within seconds his hands are on my shoulders, then his arms are around me like he’s embracing me, and Angela’s right—my mind fills with regret. All the failures, every wrong move I’ve ever made, every doubt I’ve ever had about myself, they all rise up inside me at once.

I was a selfish girl, selfish at the core, spoiled, flippant with the people around me. I was an ungrateful, disobedient daughter. A bad sister. A terrible friend.

Weak. Coward. Failure.

Asael murmurs something under his breath, and his wings appear, an ebony cloak that he draws around me. The world is fading into blackness and cold, and I know that in one more moment we’ll be in hell again, and this time there will be no way to fight the sorrow. It will swallow me whole.

I turn my head to get a final glimpse of Tucker through Asael’s oily black feathers.

I lied to him. I broke his heart. I treated him like a child. I wasn’t faithful. I hurt him.

“Yes,” Asael says, a snake’s hiss in my ear. He strokes my hair. “Yes.”

But that’s not all, a small, bright voice in my head chimes in. My own voice.

You sought to protect him. You’ve sacrificed yourself, your very soul, so that he may live. You’ve put his welfare ahead of your own.

You love him.

I love him. I will pack that thought away inside of me where nothing can touch it. I will preserve it, somehow. I will shape it into something I can use, to protect me when I’m taken to hell.

Asael makes a choking noise. I push back against him, the weight of his wings heavy around me, and struggle to see anything but black. His mouth is open, gasping like he’s out of air, and still he makes the thick, wet noise in the back of his throat.

“Father?” Lucy asks uncertainly.

He staggers, taking me with him. His wings drop from around me, and that’s when we all see my glory sword buried in his chest.

I have struck his heart.

The blade brightens as I readjust my grip on the handle. All around the wound his flesh sizzles, it heats and burns, the way it did that day in the woods with Samjeeza so long ago, when I destroyed his ear with glory, but this wound is on a much greater scale. Asael’s mouth opens and closes, but no words come. The light of my sword is pouring into him. He looks at me like he doesn’t recognize me, his hands grasp at my shoulders, but he is suddenly weak, and I am strong, so very, very strong.

I push the sword in deeper.

He screams, then, a boom of agony that rattles the walls of the barn and makes everyone but me cover their ears. The lightbulb over our heads shatters and rains down on us. Smoke pours off Asael as he leans against me, and I want to get away from him. My teeth come together as I put my hand against his collarbone and draw the bright sword out of his body. I step back. He falls to his knees, and my arm moves almost with a mind of its own, a mighty sweep that severs one enormous black wing from his shoulder. It bursts into bits of feathers and smoke.

Asael doesn’t even seem to feel it. His hand is still at his heart, and suddenly he lifts his arms toward the sky in some sort of silent plea.

“Forgive me,” he croaks, and then he falls onto his face on the dirt floor of the barn, and disappears.

No one speaks. I bow my head for a minute, my hair falling wild around my face, the heat of the glory sword still moving through me, up my arm, curling around my elbow in bright tendrils. Then I look up at Lucy. She’s still clutching Tucker by the arm, her face slack with horror and dismay.

“Let go of him,” I say.

She pulls him closer. The sorrow blade appears in her hand again, wavering but there, substantial enough to do damage, and she holds it out, gestures at all of us.

“Get back,” she says, her dark eyes wild with panic. She’s outnumbered now, outmatched without her big bad father to get her what she wants, but she’s still dangerous. She could kill Tucker, easily.

She wants to.

“Let go of him,” I say again more firmly.

“Luce,” Jeffrey says gently, stepping forward. Christian has dropped his circle of glory, and the barn feels plunged in darkness. I don’t even know what time it is, day or night, the pale light outside the barn window sunrise or sunset. Since time is wonky there, I don’t know how long we were in hell.

“No,” Lucy says. She glares at me, dashes tears from her eyes with the back of her sleeve. “You. You have taken everything from me.”

“Luce,” Jeffrey cajoles her. “Put down the knife.”

“No!” she screams. “Get back!”

I raise the sword, threatening, and she shrieks. Her wings are out in a flurry of black feathers, like Christian’s but the opposite, obsidian with spatters of pure white across them, and she lifts Tucker effortlessly, caught by one arm and the front of his coat, her wings beating furiously, carrying them upward, crashing through the high window in the hayloft. For the second time that night glass showers down on us, and I cover my face with my arm to keep it out of my eyes, and when I look again she’s gone.

My glory fizzles out.

She’s taken Tucker.

Without a word I’m after them. I’m flying before my wings are all the way unfurled. I pause in the air above the ranch, turning, searching for where she’s gone, and to the east I see a small black smudge against the light of the sun rising in the east. It’s morning, then. I hear Christian’s voice somewhere behind me, his cry of “Wait! We’ll go at her together!” but I can’t wait. I streak off after her, flying harder, faster than I’ve ever flown before. I fly and fly, following her, over the mountains, high, where the air grows thin and cold. I follow her as she veers north and then east again, and it becomes clear to me that she doesn’t know where she’s going. She has no destination. She’s simply flying to get away. She’s running scared.

Anywhere you go, I will follow, I promise her silently. She’s strong, what with the sorrow blade and the speckled wings and all, the child of Asael and some unfortunate angel-blood like Christian’s mother. She’s fast, and powerful.

But she can’t fly forever.

Within minutes we’re deep in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake appearing below like a long gleaming mirror against the land. Lucy pushes higher, moving more upward than out now, and I wonder what she’s planning. The air is very thin, and my throat feels dry with each labored breath I take; my lungs complain for oxygen.

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