A week after Damien and Sapphira disappeared – at the Monastery
Fallon had to get away from all the quarreling or he was going to kill someone. None of them understood. But why would they? They had not had the reason he existed ripped from their heart, their soul. The emptiness he felt was overwhelming, slowly crippling him from the inside out. Closing his eyes, he tilted his face to the skies, his wings and arms outstretched as he stood on the edge of the ledge of the cavern far above the others. It would be so easy to just fall into oblivion. Not that it would do any good. There were times immortality truly sucked. Now would be one of those times.
“Would that really solve anything?” a soft voice asked.
Slowly lowering his hands, tucking his wings behind him, Fallon looked out at the vista before him and not at what his eyes yearned to.
“The pain of the broken bones might distract me from the pain inside,” Fallon answered just as softly.
“You told me you did not love me. That you never wanted to see me again. That I could rot in the deepest pits of Lucifer’s realm for all you cared,” Sapphira reminded, her voice holding the anger and hurt those words had caused. “Why would destroying something you obviously no longer wanted hurt you in anyway?”
“I had to tell you something to stop the torture, for both of us,” Fallon explained into the silence that followed. Those words he had whispered to her so many years before he regretted from the moment he uttered them. Afraid Sapphira’s wings would be next on the pyre, that he would finally break and tell the secret he had held for what seemed like an eternity, pushing her away was the only thing Fallon could think of to save her. Too late he would realize that the pain he would see in Sapphira’s eyes was far worse than anything Lucifer could have done to either of them.
“Are you telling me they were lies?” Sapphira asked in disbelief.
Fallon looked down at his hands where they were absently picking at something that was not there. “You did not belong in those filthy cells, Sapphira, and I could not bear to hear you begging him for mercy any longer.”
“No! You decided to abandon me to him instead. Leaving me defenseless against all those…gasp… All because you chose to mate with me. A little detail you neglected to tell me about, and so he…,” she could go on no longer. Suddenly Fallon’s arms were around her, his wings enveloping them with their softness. Holding her as she cried years of abuse Lucifer had heaped on her because of a mating bond she had not known existed.
“I am so sorry,” Fallon breathed his lips on her hair. “If I even thought he would do those things to you, I would have never pushed you away.”
“Why didn’t you come for me?” she asked her voice small, unsure.
Closing his eyes he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I had no choice. If my master knew of our relationship, he would have used me to find you. I could not allow that to happen. I did not want to hurt you any further than I already had.”
“Why did you give him your allegiance?” Sapphira asked looking up at him. “You owe him nothing.”
A long ago memory, prophecy given to him by his master that had haunted him for the last how many thousands of years he lost count flashed through his head. “There will be a time when you will lose all hope and you will call me. Then you too shall be mine and you will bring her to me.” While he did lose hope and he did call that bastard for help, Fallon had refused to tell him what he wanted. Where Sapphira and her true mate were hidden.
“He freed me. He gave me my wings,” Fallon said instead, noticing her eyes were once again the blue he had fallen in love with. For some reason that one change in the many he could see and feel around her was comforting.
Sapphira stared up at Fallon in shock for a moment. “No, he didn’t,” she corrected.
There was something in her voice that stopped Fallon from automatically contradicting her. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“After Lucifer took you away, I wanted to feel closer to you, so I went to where he,” she hesitated not wanting to bring up the burning of Fallon’s wings. Something that would be painful for any of their kind. “I found a feather that had not been touched by flame. It took some time, but I convinced Damien to help me cast the spell that returned your wings to you.”
Fallon stiffened in anger. He had been lied to, done things that made him ill to think about all because he thought his master was the one who gave him his wings. A debt Fallon knew he could never repay.
“She tells you the truth,” a deep voice said.
In the blink of an eye Sapphira was behind Fallon who had his wings flared out to protect her.
“Well, about the wings part, anyway. You did beg me to free you, which I did,” the voice continued thoughtful. “So you do owe me for that little favor.”
“How did you find me?” Fallon snapped.
The creature before him held up his hand, showing a tarnished gold ring around one of its fingers. “I have always known were you were,” he smiled wickedly.
Fallon suck in his breath through his teeth. Where he knew that ring connected him to Sapphira in a way that was far more permanent than any mating bond, he had not realized that others could use its power, too.
“It also seems everything is in flux,” the voice continued with a sigh that said the whole subject was rather tedious. “All barriers, wards, binding spells are no longer working. There are things that have been waiting for a chance to climb from their dark dank holes to wreak havoc on the universe, and word is spreading fast. Very soon everything we have ever known will be destroyed. Unless she does what she was reborn to do.”
Something in the back of Sapphira’s mind tried to find its way through to the front. Something that had been hidden far longer than her existence as Lucifer’s daughter. Something important about the being standing on the other side of Fallon. She wanted to see him, thinking that maybe having a visual would help the memory surface; but Fallon had closed his wings around her as if to hide her. But the being knew she was there.
“What do you mean what she was meant to do?” Fallon asked suspicion thick in his voice.
The deep chuckle that followed Fallon’s question shuddered through Sapphira’s body and wings. “Don’t play coy with me, boy. Out of all the idiots in this game, you know exactly who and what she is. Why do you think I wanted to control you? Because of some so called mating bond that neither of you had a choice in? You and I both know your connection to her goes far deeper than that.”
Sapphira felt Fallon stiffen around her. What did Fallon know about the mating bond that she did not, aside from the fact both parties have to be consenting. As soon as those words were thought, Sapphira realized something she should have a long time ago. There was a ritual, words that needed to be said, witnessed, for a mating bond to be completed. They had done none of those things. No wonder Lucifer never believed her when she told him over and over she had no idea what he was talking about.
She had to see who this being was. The voice was familiar, but her memories still had holes in it so she could not place it. If only she could see his face. When she tried to move out of Fallon’s wings, his arm snaked around behind him and held her close to his body. He did not want to put her at risk, but she was much stronger now. Whoever this was, he did not frighten her.
The being went on, “This time I will have my way. This time chaos will reign and the universe along with Sapphira will be mine!”
This time Sapphira was the one that stiffened. No!
“I don’t think so,” Damien’s voice growled.
“Ah, there you are. I was wondering when you would show. I figured claiming her as mine would bring you running,” the being sneered. “I proved my loyalty to you both, showed you that I would protect her with my life time and time again, and when she chose me, you refused to release her.”
“She never chose you, you self-centered bastard.” Damien ground between his teeth. “You deceived her into thinking you were pure of heart. That you wanted what we all wanted. Peace. Love. It wasn’t until the rebellion that she finally saw what the rest of us already knew. That your heart had turned to ash and what you truly wanted was to rule us and everything we had built. The final betrayal was when you pulled our soldiers, our children, into your web of lies and brought them down with you. That’s when she learned to hate you.”
“She loves me!” the being roared slapping his chest hard with his hand, the ground shaking as he took a step forwards. “As far as your children,” he sneered the last word with such loathing it left no doubt how much he hated them. “Creating those abominations to protect her, to keep me from her. They should be the first destroyed. Especially this one.”
Sapphira felt Fallon push back, forcing him to relinquish his hold on her, as if someone was suddenly too close to him, but at the same time he held his ground. He would not show the being in front of him that he was afraid. The slight tremor in his wings that encircled her said otherwise. Whoever this was must be a powerful dangerous being. Nothing else would shake Fallon’s nerve. What the being said next pushed Sapphira to a level of pissed off she did not know she had.
“You were created to protect her,” the being snarled, the nearness of his voice tell Sapphira she had been right. He was in Fallon’s space. “Not fuck her.”
The silence was deafening.
A hand clamped down on Sapphira’s arm, stopping her from stepping from the safety of Fallon’s wings. She looked up so see Quinn. He was standing next to Fallon facing forward, so his eyes were on what Sapphira could not see, not on her. A slight squeeze of his hand told her to stay put. Gritting her teeth, she released a frustrated sigh. A slight twitching of his lips as he released her was all she needed to know what he thought. Good girl. Not for long.
“Enough,” Damien snapped.
“No,” the being countered heatedly. “You cannot blame this on some memory wipe. Even though you had been separated in every conceivable way, even though you did not understand why, you were drawn to her. Just like he was.” Fallon was pushed back, his foot sliding back to keep him upright. “You, one of the few who had their memories left intact, knew exactly what you were doing. Who she was. I should kill you for touching her.” The power behind that snarled threat singed the edge of Fallon’s feathers.
“You can try,” Fallon sneered.
“Back away, Santon,” Damien ordered, moving to stand halfway in between Fallon and the being. “What happened between Fallon and Sapphira is none of your concern. What you need to do is move away from both of them.”
Santon. Why was that name familiar?
There was a tense moment and suddenly the air around them was cooler. This Santon must have conceded and moved away.
“No matter,” he said as if he did have a care in the world. “Soon enough she will be mine.”
“You will never touch her,” Fallon snarled. This time Damien had to hold him back.
“And I have told you before, never is a very long time. Besides, who will stop me? You?” Santon sneered. “That paltry band of rejects Gideon has banded together? I don’t think so. It’s time I took back what has always been mine.”
The sound of swords unsheathing, wings rustling, metal clinking filled the air. Quinn was not the only one who had joined the party.
“Really?” Loghan’s sarcastic voice piped in. “Is that the best you can come up with? ‘That paltry band of rejects?’ he repeated in a bad imitation of the being’s voice with a British accent. Then he became serious. “For one, we are not paltry. We are fearsome and scary. You, on the other hand are…well I’m not sure what you are. Some sort of bull? Goat?”
It was then the angel realized everyone was looking at him with a mixture of painful resignation, disgust and shaking of heads. The only one that seemed amused was Sapphira, who was smirking at him from behind Fallon’s wings. He gave her a wink before turning to the others and snapping indignantly, “What!”
“Shut up, Loghan,” Talon snapped.
“You are right, brother. The time for games is over. You cannot hide behind him forever, Sapphira. Come out from behind your lover and face me like the warrior I know you are,” Santon coaxed, ignoring Loghan’s taunt.
Fallon’s arm once again wound around her and tightened.
“No,” he said flatly.
“No?” the voice asked with amusement. “I think you are forgetting to whom you are speaking to.”
“I know exactly what I am speaking to,” Fallon spat. “And as I said before, I will not allow you to touch her.”
“Allow?” This time he laughed. An all-out belly laugh that made everyone uneasy. Everyone, that was, except Damien and Fallon. “I own you, boy,” he snarled, all pretenses of mirth gone. “I gave you your freedom and in return you were to bring her to me. A tasked you have failed in doing. You know the consequences in disobeying me.”
“I cannot serve that which does not own my allegiance,” Fallon retorted. When the voice did not say anything, Fallon continued. “I entered into our agreement because I was under the impression you gave me back one of the two things I held closest to my heart. My wings. Now I know the truth, that it was Sapphira, not you, that returned my wings our agreement is null and void.”
“And you think you will now she knows who she is she will stay with you? You may think you hold her heart, but in the end he holds her soul, and she will always go back to him,” he spat.
Sapphira was pretty sure Santon was talking about Damien. He was right. Damien did hold her heart, but he was not the only one. Reaching up, she gently placed one hand on Fallon’s back, just below his wings. Then she rested her forehead between his wings. You are mine, she breathed. For now and always you will both be at my side. She knew Fallon had heard her when she felt a small tremor in his wings.
“Unlike you, I will always have a place at her side,” Fallon reminded, a certain amount of satisfaction in his voice at that unwavering truth.
“We will see,” Santon spat. Then he growled, “Do not think I will allow you or that white bastard touch her again. I know what you are, where you came from. I know what you have done under the guise of protecting them. It makes me look like a saint.”
Fallon’s fists clenched and unclenched in rage, yet Sapphira could feel the indecision inside him. Did he believe what Santon was telling him? That he was not deserving of her affection? What exactly had Fallon done?
“You are not worthy to stand in her presence let alone touch her with the blood on your hands,” Santon sneered.
He tries to put doubt in your mind, my love. While our existence is not without blood and sacrifice, nothing is secret between us. We all knew the price for our actions, Damien’s voice float through Sapphira’s mind along with images of other encounters with the being they had had over the…years. Memories that had been lost to her for a very long time and she finally understood why Santon despised Fallon and Gideon. They had what he coveted. Her love and affections.
Unfortunately, some beings never learn, Sapphira sighed. It was time to regain what was lost and right what had been wronged for far too long. The first wrong had already been righted. Now it was the warrior that held her gently in his wings, the warrior that had been her friend, her confident, her protector and her lover for more centuries that any being mortal or immortal could comprehend turn.
Reaching out, she brushed her fingertips through Fallon’s glossy black wings. Unable to stifle the groan, Fallon’s body shuddered under her touch. Gasps around them told Sapphira the glow that now emanated from those wings, making them shine with darkness, was seen by all. A mark or show of favor.
With a sigh of weariness that she felt clear to her toes, Sapphira gently pulled away from Fallon and his protection. When she walked so she stood between him and Damien, the others fanning out behind them, she regarded the figure in front of them as if he were something sticky on the bottom of her shoe.
Clove hooves, thick muscled legs clad in black leather that sat low on his narrow waist. Thick muscled arms ending in clawed hands. A chest covered by a black leather vest that was open in the front, baring his deep red skin, that would put a body builder to shame. A prominent chin, mouth full of white straight teeth that did not seem to fit with amber eyes that sparked with flame, thick black eyebrows and the finishing touch protruding proudly from the top of his head. Long black horns that stood over two feet base to point from his head, curving not unlike a Longhorn cow’s horns.
Behind him towering over his head, while the tips touching the ground bent even at his ten feet of height, were red leather wings. As if he felt her eyes on them, he flexed them, showing off their massive size. Impressive. Enough to put the fear of God, or in this case the Devil, into anyone with the brains to know death when they saw it. Satan to the mortals, Santon to the immortal.
Sapphira absently thought she wished it was Death standing before her. At least, even with his single mindedness, he could be reasoned with. What stood before her….not so much.
The expression on Santon’s face as he regarded her was a much different look. One of open admiration and lust as his eyes took her in from head to toe, undressing her in his mind. Just as slowly as they went down, they moved back up until they rested on her wings. The two men beside her growled in warning, not liking what they were seeing in those eyes as they flashed hungrily.
“I always did love your wings,” Santon whispered huskily, his hand reaching out as if he wanted to touch them. “They were always so soft against my skin.”
Sapphira cringed inwardly at the gasps that suddenly surrounded her. It was a time in her existence now she remember she wished she could once again forget, but he would never allow it. Although, at that time he looked much different. As if he read her mind, his form began to change, moving, shrinking, until he stood before them at over seven feet of muscled beauty, clad in the same black leather, hair long black and luxurious as it framed his face, his wings covered in iridescent red feathers.
“You always did prefer this form,” he said quietly his amber eyes on Sapphira’s brilliant blue ones as she stared impassively back.
“That was a long time ago, Santon,” she said just as quietly. “Another life time when I was too blind with what I thought you were to understand what you had become.”
“I never lied to you about my feelings, Sapphira,” Santon corrected stepping forward. The sound of rustling and metal clinking, the stretch of a bowstring he knew held an arrow dipped in a poison that would not kill him, but would put him out of commission for far too long pointing at him. Wisely he stopped.
“We created you, nurtured you, trusted you, Santon. But you could not be happy with everything we gave you. You wanted more.” Damien reminded reaching out and taking Sapphira’s hand, lacing his fingers with hers. In turn she moved closer to him. A show of unity that did not go unnoticed. “You wanted what was not yours, so you betrayed us. Most of all you betrayed her.” He raised Sapphira’s hand to his lips kissing the back of it gently, his eyes never leaving Santon. Damien smiled when he saw the immortal’s eyes narrow in hatred. “It will not happen again,” Damien finished his voice even.
The smile on Santon’s lips as he glared at Damien was not pleasant. “It is unfortunate your memories have returned,” he sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. “Well, that does change things,” his voice thoughtful as he turned away to look out at the mountains. After a moment, he turned back to them. “I would be worried, but you are still down one,” he smiled.
“No, they’re not,” Gideon said from the cave opening.
Everyone turned as he stepped out of the darkness into the light, the brilliance of the enormous white wings that flared out behind him blinding them all. There was a moment of stunned silence, a smug smile from Sapphira as Santon looked from Gideon’s eyes, to his right hand were a gold band rested on the third finger. The mark of favor that had restored Gideon’s memories. All of them.
Santon turned his eyes rage filled eyes to Sapphira.
“You have reclaimed him,” he hissed.
“I never forsake him,” Sapphira shrugged.
Suddenly the finger that held Fallon’s ring burned as if it had been dipped in acid. “No!” Santon cried reaching for his hand with the other, trying to stop what was happening. When his hand closed around the other the ring was already gone. Looking at Fallon, he watched as Sapphira laced her fingers with his and he brought them to his lips, much like Damien had. Wrapped around his finger was the once tarnished ring, shining gold.
“Either of them,” Sapphira finished.
Santon eyes narrowed on Damien. “You think by reuniting them you have won?” he hissed.
“I know we have won,” Damien answered confidently. “She has always and will always be ours.”
“I remember my place all too well, my lord,” Santon sneered the last as if it were an insult. Bowing at the waist with a flourish, his arms and wings flaring out to the sides, he looked up, his eyes locked on Sapphira with hunger. “That does not mean I will forget or forgive, and I will never give up that which was given to me.”
With blinding speed Santon lunged, but Sapphira was faster, launching into the sky with him following closely behind. With the same speed only the supernatural could comprehend, Damien, Fallon and Gideon followed, leaving the others standing in stunned silence.