Angelfall by L. Penelope

Angelfall

Their love could break the world.

Lyrix, the first new angel to emerge in a millennium, brings hope for her endangered race. But the weight of duty is heavy. As the newest and strongest, she is expected to become a Seraph, one of the stoic angel kings and queens. She dreads the prospect of losing all her emotions in the transformation, but avoiding her destiny may lead to extinction for her kind.

Wren is half-human and a second-class citizen among angels. A chance meeting with Lyrix leaves them both yearning for a life lived on their own terms. A relationship between an angel and an angelborn is unprecedented, and powerful forces oppose their union. On a journey to the human world, tragedy strikes, and Wren and Lyrix realize their love may destroy both worlds.

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Excerpt

Lyrix

SAN FRANCISCO, April 18, 1906

I hold my straining belly as I race down the dark, creaking stairs. Traces of the dream linger, fueling my haste. The force of a contraction brings me to my knees on the landing. I bite down on the fleshy base of my thumb to stifle a cry of pain. I don’t want to awaken anyone in the boarding house.

Tears pierce my eyes but do not fall. Finally, the contraction passes. I inhale a stuttering breath, gathering my strength to take the last flight down. My legs wobble, weak from months of bed rest. I’m not sure I can make it, but I must find Wren.

Streetlights flicker feebly against the predawn sky. A horse and wagon rumble over pavement somewhere nearby, but the street before me is empty. Half a block away, traffic rolls down Montgomery Street, as the day begins early for laborers. My steps are slow, my body hunched over, arms shielding my belly, willing the baby to wait. Just a little longer.

The street is so quiet—the silence makes the hairs on my arms stand up. My dream started quietly too, before it became a nightmare.

I make it to Montgomery Street, each step an agony. As I turn the corner, another contraction hits, but that’s not what takes my breath away. Wren stands there, halfway down the block—my Wren, his hands raised high above his head. A shorter man hovers an arm’s length away, the switchblade in his hand glinting in the flickering streetlamp.

It was this flicker I saw in my dream. A glancing of light off the steel along with a sense of dread that made me awaken in a sweat and rush from our room at the boarding house.

Wren shouldn’t be here. He should be on his way to work, even now hitching up the cart for the morning deliveries. Instead he reaches into his pocket for his billfold and hands it over to the thief.

He catches sight of me then, just a quick, worried glance before his focus turns back the man with the knife. The thief’s lurching and swaying suggests he’s just left one of the opium dens which pepper the neighborhood. He has what he wanted, the meager dollars in Wren’s billfold, and I suffer through another contraction, barely able to stay on my feet.

Wren remains still as the thief pockets the money and backs away. I release the breath I’d been holding. My hands press against my belly, willing our baby to wait just a little longer. The midwife must be called. I have not been human long enough to be confident about the birthing process.

Wren’s gaze is on me. He can feel my distress through our bond, even now that his powers have faded. He turns to me at the same time a brilliant light arcs across the sky. The deep violet luster hovers overhead, so bright I have to squint against it. Wren can’t see it, but the thief does.

“No!” I scream as the light expands, taking on the shape of a man. Wren stops suddenly—I can practically see his mind racing, trying to figure out what is wrong. Violet is the color of the Angels of War. I do not recognize this angel, but all of the disparate images of my nightmare fall into place. The glimmering light, the fear, the certainty. Some part of me knew that the rulers of Euphoria would stop at nothing to get me to bend to their will. As the angel hovers, whispering horrible thoughts into the ear of the thief, I fall to my knees with a cry. Wren is fully human now and no match for this angel, and I cannot use my powers without harming the baby.

The child is impatient under the weight of my distress. My water breaks. A fountain of warm liquid pours from me, flowing down my legs in a stream. Wren lunges for me.

The thief raises his arm high, before plunging his knife into Wren’s back. I fall to my side—the pain turns to numbness, and the rest of the world fades away. All I can see is Wren’s face, contorted by agony. Another step brings him closer to me, but the knife sinks in again and again.

Wren falls to the ground. The man stands over him, eyes blazing with fury. The Warrior angel’s job is done. He darts away as quickly as he came, disappearing back into the night sky. As soon as he leaves, Wren’s murderer drops the knife, staring at his hands as if he’s never seen them before.

Wren drags himself across the pavement to reach me. I stretch out my arm, seeking to touch him just one more time, but fall short.

Wings flap in the distance. Different angels coming for Wren. To take him away from me.

As they approach, I scream again and try with all my might to pull myself over to him, but can’t move. This body that I love so dearly is failing me.

Unlike the Warrior, the two Guardian angels arrive in their corporeal forms. They land in a cloud of black feathers. Black masks hide their faces. They point their cruel obsidian swords towards Wren. My cries for mercy fall on deaf ears. Ebony fire swirls around their blades. The angelfire builds as I wear out my throat, uselessly begging for them to spare him. When they release the fire, a wall of pain slams into me, silencing my cries and dissolving the tether of my control.

The fire takes Wren, leaving not so much as a charred mark on the sidewalk. The baby quiets inside me, somehow knowing that his father is gone.

A deep and primal pain breaks loose within me, in the form of a sound no human voice could produce. The force of my despair radiates outward, detonating a charge that quickly spirals out of control.

The ground shakes violently. Windows rattle, then shatter, raining down shards of glass. I’m vaguely aware of the angels taking flight again, weaving through the crumbling and falling cement and brick. Dogs bark in the distance. Screams fill my ears as people awaken to the shuddering earth.

My body splinters and fragments. My angel form takes me and not the other way around. All the control I fought so hard for is lost as anger and grief overwhelm me. The full weight of my angelic powers fuels the destruction.

It goes on and on, until the city I love is as broken and ruined as my heart.