The devil's daughter made her choice—and now she has to live with it.
Without Michael, the spark of goodness that lived within her has faded and Desi's Shadow has become her constant companion.
Everyone thinks she's something special. A savior. A hero.
But Desi's not any of those things.
And she's going to prove it.
I teased the cold in through my fingertips, into my blood stream. Drank it into my soul and let it fill every crevice of my being. I squeezed my eyes tight, willing myself home to Hell, wishing it were me there and not Michael.
The thought of him broke my concentration and I felt the sunlight warming my eyelids. Not the cold of Hell but the warmth of the California sun. A gut-wrenching sob tore through my chest. I couldn’t bear the thought of Michael enduring endless torture at the hands of my father. Couldn’t bear the thought that he’d be stripped of his goodness. Stripped of everything that defined him.
The creatures of Hell would see to it.
It should have been me.
Unable to claim the darkness I needed so badly, I let my eyes open. Just Lucy’s balcony. Just Earth. Just a life I never wanted. I rolled up the yoga mat and stashed it in a clay pot in the corner.
I stepped into the apartment and slid the glass door closed behind me.
“Mornin’, princess.” James lay sprawled on the white leather sofa, TV remote in one hand, apple in the other. “Isn’t it a little cold for you to be doing that?” He had no idea how his nickname for me cut, how it reminded me—every. single. time.—of the duties Father demanded of me and the choices I’d made. Including the wrong choice.
I shrugged as I passed him on my way to the kitchen. “It helps.”
He clicked off The Early Show then rolled off the couch, shuffling into step behind me. “Yeah, you look relaxed as hell.”
“Ha.” If only he knew just how right he was.
I pulled out the carafe from the coffee maker and poured myself a cup, breathing in the dark, nutty aroma. Yoga and a hot cup of strong coffee—my armor against the coming day. Without them, I didn’t think I’d survive in the human world. The wanters and needers defined high school, encapsulated it. Just the thought of it, of them, exhausted me.
James leaned against the opposite counter while I poured, the delicious steam rising into the air like fog.
“Did Mir tell you?” he asked.
I could feel him staring, like an invisible string stretched between us. I resisted meeting his gaze. I hated that James and Miri were a part of the craziness of my life. I constantly worried over Miri’s involvement—and now James? I did not want him involved with the Hallowed. How could I protect them? I hadn’t even protected the one I love more than my own soul.
I set the carafe down and handed James his cup, watching his hands, not his eyes, and said nothing.
“You can pretend all you want that you’ve got a heart of stone, but not talking about it isn’t going to change anything.” He took a sip of his coffee. He screwed his face up and stuck his tongue out several times, making smacking sounds. “Yuck. How can you drink it like this? It’s practically tar.” He set his cup on the counter and went about adding sugar and cream. I drank long and deep from mine just the way it was.
“Anyway,” James continued, his suitably sweetened cup held in front of him like a gift. “I’m coming. Like it or not.” He sipped and sighed. “Mmm, good. Besides, I’m not gonna let my girls hang out with a bunch of old dudes all the time—someone needs to keep those fogies in line.”
“Ha. Those old fogies could kick your skinny white butt any ol’ day of the week.” Longinus, a two-thousand-year-old centurion, was always ready for a fight and Knowles was a demon cast out of Asgard along with my father and everyone else he’d polluted with his mutinous rhetoric. “The only one you could take is Cornelius—and even you wouldn’t hurt a priest.”
James laughed but when he leaned forward, his ocean blue eyes were dark and serious. Only a couple inches taller than me (he always said good things came in small packages) he speared me with his gaze and I felt trapped.
“You are loved, Des. Whether you like it or not. And sometimes, when people love you, they want to help you. They want to be there for you. It’s our right, you know. Let us help. It won’t kill you.”
He kissed me on the cheek and left the kitchen. “See you after school.” A moment later his bedroom door clicked shut.
The clock on the microwave read 7:30. I stared at it until it flicked to 7:31. It seemed my whole life consisted of things I couldn’t change, that I couldn’t stop—chief among them being people who loved me. I didn’t deserve them and they certainly didn’t deserve the danger loving me put them in.
Maybe I couldn’t change their feelings, or their misguided need to help me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that one day, they would all regret knowing me.