Two Kingdoms (Page 24)
I don’t even care how much it hurts to wrap myself around him, or how vulnerable I look in this particular moment.
The other three take seats on the floor, eyes alert like they’re waiting for something. Anything.
At this point, it’s starting to feel like no one and everyone wants us dead. As though there has to even be a balance to the level of confusion I’m forced to endure.
Small, gentle circles being traced over my back is what I feel when I first stir awake. The hand pauses for a brief second before resuming those lazy patterns.
“I’m simply here to see if she’s awake yet,” I hear a familiar voice saying.
I barely crack an eye open, seeing the door and a hint of Lamar’s profile beyond Jude’s head, as he mostly blocks the doorway. I locked that door for a reason.
“Until someone tells us what the hell is going on, no one is getting through this door. Unless you really do want to f*****g kill me. Obviously, it’ll be every man for himself after that.”
It’s still Ezekiel under me. I can tell by the tribal tattoo coming up from the top of his jeans where his shirt has risen up. His body is warm under mine, and his arms are still around me, holding me to him just the same as when I finally gave in to the emotional and physical exhaustion and fell asleep.
Mentally cataloguing the small bit of residual soreness, I start taking inventory of the guys. Everyone’s attention is on the doorway. Kai’s muscles are bunched as he grips his triton too hard.
They’re also still wearing their warrior skirts.
“Lucifer asked for forgiveness. Clearly you know that means he felt true regret. And that’s a terribly hard thing for him to experience, given the obvious,” Lamar prattles on.
The blood stirs in my veins, and I jackknife to the seated position as my eyes narrow.
Lamar is gasping in the next breath when barely the thought in my mind rips him into the room, knocking Jude aside. Lamar slams into the wall by whatever angry current is flowing out of me, and he clutches at his throat like he’s strangling, as his eyes bulge a little.
The guys just look at me when I finally drop him to the ground without ever leaving my spot on the bed.
Ezekiel’s hand smooths up my back as he sits up slowly beside me. All eyes move to Lamar as he chokes on fresh air.
“What was that for?” he asks incredulously.
“You sat there smiling after Lucifer manipulated me into coming to hell. Then you sat there when I was dragged up there, where I was tricked into believing I’d just watched Ezekiel die.”
When my voice wavers, I stop talking and settle for a really outraged glare.
His eyes soften, and he clears his throat as he stands. “I had no idea that would happen. I’m just learning of these things, and they’re only including me because you’ve started trusting me first. I’ve not been allowed to know certain things I really wish I had known.”
“F*****g goodie for you,” Kai says on a bitter growl.
Lamar’s lips tighten. “We’re being called to a meeting right now. I was sent to…deliver the message. You apparently gave up your ability to hear Lucifer’s calls.”
Jude glances at me. I shrug a shoulder, too tired to even hit Lamar with my own fist, because it involves walking over there to do it.
“What are you going on about now?” I ask on a tired sigh.
“You’ve changed a lot of things. You must have made concessions in order to get other things you wanted, including coming back to life after a true death,” Lamar explains in that way of his that makes you feel stupid and frustrated because you only get more confused.
Exasperated, I ask, “How? How do I balance things in that way? Enough to come back?”
“The very power of your mind, of course,” he says like it should be common knowledge.
“Great. So if I truly die again, I’ll just stay dead,” I grumble, pinching the bridge of my nose. “My mind isn’t that awesome anymore.”
“That’s a concern for another time. I’ll escort you, and you’ll finally have the answers. Then I’m afraid your work gets very hard. All five of you.”
“Explain,” Jude says to him. “I’m sick of walking into a scenario where we’re the only ones to not know what’s going on. The games end now.”
Lamar’s eyes meet mine, as though he’s considering it, and he finally releases a reluctant, defeated breath.
“You proved to them you truly have no idea who you were, and that the memories are certainly gone. You’re terrible at deception. You never once suspected an illusion,” Lamar tells me.
“So glad I passed that test,” I say through a f**k-you and go-to-hell smile, coating the words with as much insulting sarcasm as one can.
“He hurt you too easily, and you’d never have allowed that,” he goes on. “Nor would you have allowed yourself to be separated from them to begin with. Rafael may finally have to fall after all this.”
“Does that mean he’ll be down here with me?” I ask conversationally, hoping the answer is yes.
“I don’t know. I’m not really sure what happens to fallen angels, aside from Lucifer,” he answers. “But I do know why they want to see you. It’s become clear you’re no longer an option for the pure plan. The only thing left is the impure one.”
I glance at Ezekiel, but he’s still staring at Lamar.
“Just f*****g tell us in small, literal, detailed, and easily understood words what the hell they want from us,” Gage growls as he takes a threatening step toward Lamar.
Lamar smiles grimly. “I thought it’d be obvious by now,” he says in that annoying way of his. “They want you to be The Four Horsemen and The Apocalypse. They need you to do what you were designed to do, because the time has come.”
No one really says anything for a second, but I finally release a humorless laugh that borders on hysteria as I turn phantom and zap myself off the bed.
I turn whole a few feet away from him.
“I’m about to be The Apocalypse right this very second,” I caution him.
He swallows thickly and gives one curt nod.
It’s a bluff. I feel just as miserable as I did that night I spent on the bathroom floor after my first experience with Harold’s liquor, so I don’t have that sort of power inside me at the moment.
“You’ve wanted answers, Paca. You have to know that everything Lucifer has done up until this point has been to protect you and hell. Passing the test means you finally win the argument you fought for five hundred years ago.”
“I argued to blow up the world?” I ask dubiously.
I know I’m not that kind of horrible. It goes against everything that I do know about myself. I only kill when necessary or for balance—according to my journal. I never kill just for funsies.
“Not quite. It’s more complicated than that,” he says uneasily. “I’m afraid it’s more complicated than I can explain. You came for answers. Stop arguing you’re way out of them just because you got hurt. You’re tougher than that.”
His pep talks usually involve more a*s kissing. I prefer that version of him.
“Fine,” I say curtly, going phantom.
His eyes dart around like he’s looking for me, as I change my outfit, collecting an exasperated curse from Gage just before I go whole and reveal my newest ensemble.
Lamar’s eyebrows hit his hairline as he looks at me.
“What on earth are you wearing?”
“Something insensitive and rude to distract them just before we unleash hell and set them all on fire,” I say with a firm nod of my head, expecting the guys to reel me in and tell me I’m insane. “After we hear whatever glorious excuse they have for all these damn games, of course.”
I glance around when no one does the predictable Paca-is-crazy tirade. Even Jude is quiet.
Lamar looks a little queasy.
“Sounds like a plan,” Kai says with a shrug as he walks over to Lamar. “Lead the way. Let’s see if we like what we hear or not.”
For the first time, it feels like we’re a true unit.
Simply because I can’t believe they’re going along with me, I have to ask, “Just so we’re clear…we’re going to walk in, f**k s**t up, and walk out like the evil bosses we are, right?”
Jude shrugs a shoulder as he smirks. Kai gives me a devilish little grin.
“Depends on what they say,” Ezekiel tells me in a noncommittal sort of way, as Gage gives his sword a bored look.
“F**k my day,” Lamar says with a tired expression as he turns and leads the way.
The doors fly open dramatically without me actually asking for it to be done, and they clang on either wall as the six of us strut in. I almost want to do a hands-on-hips superhero pose.
If only I had a cape…
Lamar flanks to my right, moving toward the corner, as we walk to the long table full of my siblings and the haggard angels.
Rafael doesn’t meet my eyes. It seems we’re interrupting a conversation between him and Lucifer.
We remain standing instead of taking the five vacant seats.
“He must fall. Then Paca and her Horsemen will level the world. After that, you seal up your home, and I’ll seal up mine. It can have whatever remains. It won’t gather the strength it needs,” the Devil says, his eyes cutting to another angel.