Her Black Wings (The Dark Amulet Series Book 1) (26 page)

BOOK: Her Black Wings (The Dark Amulet Series Book 1)
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CHAPTER SEVENTY

 

 

Amalya

 

Damn.

Amalya’s intention had not been to teleport away from Brandon. Her mind, however, had other ideas. The buzzing in her ears ended, signaling her arrival at the chosen destination. Once again the
poofing
only managed to take her as far as the upstairs men’s bathroom inside Eternity. Like last time, Elliott wasn’t in there.

What the hell?

How the toilet fit into the mix was a mystery she’d hopefully be able to tackle next.

She rode the elevator and found Tanner. Holy shit, he had wings. Did she hear bells ringing? Pure joy lit across his puss, brightening his eyes and making him appear younger. Or was he actually more youthful? Angel laughter apparently was contagious because she smiled too. Joining the group gathered around the Guardian eased some of the pent-up tension she’d been feeling. When Max saw her approach, he stepped to the side and welcomed her to the party. “Congratulations,” she said.

“Thanks,” Tanner gushed. “Can you believe it?”

“You deserve them,” Max told him.

Amalya wanted to agree but she wasn’t sure what he had done to earn them. However, the grin stayed on her face and she was elated for him.

After the angels went back to doing what angels do, which seemed to be mainly lounging around and eating, she pulled Max aside.

“Any sign of him?” The worry in her voice couldn’t be masked.

“Tell me what happened.”

“Nothing…”

He rolled his eyes.

“Okay, Elliott kicked me out. I couldn’t stay anyway. I got sick and—”

“Watch out!” Max picked her up, moving her out of the way. Tanner whizzed by them and careened into the wall out of control, narrowly missing them.

Max snorted. “Rookie.”

Tanner bounced up, taking a bow. “That’s all for the show this evening, folks. I’ll be signing autographs in the lobby.”

A few angels clapped and someone said, “You’re an idiot.”

Tanner laughed. “Thank you. Thank you.”

“Anyway,” Max said, returning his focus to her, “Elliott was pretty freaked when he left. You talked to him?”

“Yes. Then I noticed his back, where his wings—”

“Oh man, they healed, didn’t they…the wounds?”

Her nose started dripping snot the same time her eyes teared up. “Y-Yeah.”

“This is a switch for you, doing all this blubbering. It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

“What’s amazing?” She sniffled.

“The perspective one gains
after
their death.”

“I guess.”

“Would you have cared so much about anyone but yourself before dying?”

Amalya didn’t bother with a protest. “Probably not.”

“Probably?”

“Okay, okay. I wouldn’t have given a shit, all right! I would have told him he deserved to lose his wings for going after me when I didn’t ask him to. Would’ve pushed him away like everyone else in my life. I could sit here and blame the Taint, but it wasn’t…I did this. I made the choices I made. My fucked up life was all
my
fault!”

The outburst gathered the attention of the other angels in the room. They didn’t interfere or stick their noses where they didn’t belong. But their eyes were shiny as they looked on—someone over here was having a breakthrough.

“Not entirely. Taint is powerful.”

“Don’t you dare let me off the hook with that crap!”

“Why did you save him? Why did you try to save Elliott in Netherworld?”

“I almost dusted him. I almost condemned Elliott f-forever.” Her voice caught in the back of her throat.

“You didn’t though. Why?”

“He did his light thing, blinded me.”

Max shook his head. “Bullshit. That’s not why and you know it.”

The staring contest between them seemed to last days. “What do you want from me?”

“The truth, Amalya. Stop lying to yourself.”

“Fine,” she sighed, “I’d given up. I wanted to stay there, with Aba. I don’t know…it stopped feeling like my choice. Blaming the Taint or the Devil for ending Elliott would’ve just been an excuse. I held the knife.”

“Then Aba wanted to do it himself…” Max prodded.

“Not really. I had been the intended target. He plays games.”

Max chuckled. “You’re right about that. Everything is a joke to him. It’s a goof to see what he can get away with. Her crossed Deus once with you. Even he wouldn’t try it twice.”

“Once?”

“They make deals for souls that are borderline.”

Oh, great.

“Like me.”

“Yes, although I think they were both mistaken. You were never borderline.”

“Wait, God makes mistakes?”

“I didn’t say that, but nobody’s perfect, Amalya. He always has hope.” Max studied her intently.

“Can I ask you something? Not sure if you’ll know but…”

He took a few steps away from her. “You can ask me anything, although I don’t have all the answers.”

“Am I…an angel?” Expecting him to laugh, she cringed, waiting for the answer.

“I think you are whatever you want to be. I think that’s the point.” He patted her on the shoulder. “Welp, give it some thought.”

Why did she just feel like she’d been tricked into figuring out who she was now? The person she was meant and had always wanted to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER

SEVENTY-ONE

 

 

Brandon

 

Prove this, bitch!

Those were the words Brandon yelled as he gave the empty bedroom the finger. Although he couldn’t refute the notes and black feathers, he questioned whether or not Amalya existed in the here and now. When she was in front of him, talking and flapping her wings, she looked real. Concrete. Something he could touch. Then she would disappear without a trace and he was left wondering. People didn’t just pop in and out. There were walls and law of physics involved.

Questioning his sanity, he finished getting ready. He had a couple of errands to run before tonight. First, he wanted to stop by his neighbor Angela Bishop’s house, needing to thank her for the kindness she showed him.

He knocked on Angela’s front door and waited. She always took fifteen seconds to answer no matter where she was in the house. He counted.
One…two…three…four…

“Coming!” she called from the kitchen end of the house.

Five…six…seven…
Impatient, Brandon knocked again.

“Just a
minute
,” she snipped, her voice sounding lower and less chipper.

Eight…nine…ten…

The door flung open. Mrs. Bishop stood at the threshold with her hands on her hips and a poisonous look on her face.

Brandon recoiled. “Angela? Are you okay?”

“Yes, of course.” Her face brightened but her eyes stayed flat. She stared through him, not at him. He waited for her to ask him to come in; cleared his throat.

She always invited him inside, offered him something to eat.

“I, uh…wanted to stop by and let you know that you won’t be seeing me anymore.”

“Are you moving out, dear?”

Dear? Since when did…

“Something like that. I just, well, thank you for being—for your hospitality. I’ll always remember your—yeah.”

“Is that all, dear?”

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

“Never better, dear,” she said.

Bam!

The door slammed in Brandon’s face. A whoosh of wind blew loose flower petals around the porch. If the old lady had not been so anal about her blossoms, he wouldn’t have even noticed. His eyes scanned the area. None of Angela’s impeccable blooms appeared disturbed on the right side of the porch and down the steps. However, on the left, almost every plant was wilted in varying degrees. Had she forgotten to water both sides of the porch?

As he walked down the cement path away from the house, a noise like a muffled thud made him pause. Turning around, he listened for any signs Mrs. Bishop needed assistance. No cries for help came. Scratching his head, he shrugged and walked on.

 

***

 

Brandon pulled into the parking lot of Peace Park Memorial Gardens off of Piker Road. He drove under the gateway, entering the burial grounds. He made a sharp right, curved around, then went straight, veered to the right past a fountain, left, then made a right turn. He drove forward until he reached the Garden of the Forever Blessed and stopped, the brakes squeaking.

After gathering the black feathers, he stepped from his borrowed car. This wasn’t the first time he’d visited her grave. An understated bronze plaque marked her final resting place.

 

Amalya Olivia Rivers

1973–1995

 

“I expected more.”

Jesus Christ!

His heart skipped, lodging in his throat. “Will you
quit
doing that?”

“Well, they could’ve sprung for a few extra dollars and had it inscribed with ‘Beloved Daughter’ or some crap like that.”

“Maybe you weren’t.” He smirked.

“Nice,” she said.

“Why do you keep showing up when no one’s around?”

“What, you think that means I’m not real?”

“You’re not, so…”

“Then why do you have some of my feathers if you think I’m not here?”

Brandon knelt down and ran his fingers over the grave marker. A ritual. He curled his fist around all the feathers, crushed them together, and stuck them into the ground.

“Oh, I get it. You wish I wasn’t real, so you can continue—”

Brandon jumped to his feet and took a step closer to her. “If you
are
real, I’m not crazy and never was.” He took another step.

“And it means you screwed up. Used what you saw as an excuse your whole life. ‘Oh, poor me, I was traumatized. I can’t possibly be a productive member of society.’”

Clamping his hands around her biceps, Brandon shook her twice. Once for each word. “Shut. Up!”

“Ah…you might want to let go of me now.” Amalya motioned with her eyes at something behind him.

He glanced back. Nearby mourners strode toward them. “Whatever. Like they can see you.”

“You can’t be serious with that. They totally
can
see me.”

A woman in her mid-forties and a man old enough to be her father stopped at a non-threatening distance from her and Brandon.

“You all right, young lady?”

Amalya smiled smugly, her satisfaction obvious.

Brandon snarled at him. The man flashed his palms. “Whoa there, take it easy. I wanted to make sure everything was—”

“Well, it is.” Brandon let go of Amalya’s arms, keeping his eyes on her.

“I’m all right.” She smiled. “He’s just upset. Could we have our privacy please?” The older man nodded, and reluctantly, the couple walked away holding hands.

Looking toward the sky, Brandon blew out a breath.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Amalya whispered. “This is my grave.”

“I
know
.”

“How many times have you been here?”

Brandon ignored her. No way was he answering that one; too many to count.

“You try to come across like some bad ass, but you know what? You’re not.
I
was a bad ass.”

“Humph.”

“How do you think I ended up in Hell? I wasn’t some Girl Scout.”

“Didn’t think you were.” Reaching for the car door, he put the key in the lock, twisted it, and opened the door. The dead girl stepped clear.

“I met this girl and her boyfriend. I sold them drugs.”

“I don’t care. I’m not a priest. I don’t want to hear your confession,” he told her, slamming the car door shut.

Amalya
poofed
into the seat next to him. “Too bad. The girl, shit, I can’t even remember her name. She OD’ed and while she was dying, I had sex with her boyfriend. I can’t remember his name either.”

“My
God
, why the hell are you telling me this?” He started the engine and sped off with the tires squealing, well over the speed limit. They passed the couple from earlier. He could tell they shouted something at him by the expressions on their faces but he couldn’t hear them.

“The dude I banged took off when he couldn’t wake her. For weeks after, I wondered when I would be arrested. It was sad really, he never cared about her. Or at least not enough to call the police on me.”

“And you just left her too?” Why did he ask her a question? He wanted to be done with her and out of his car.

Amalya breathed in through her nose and out her mouth. “I called the police from her phone and left the house.”

“Didn’t they have your fingerprints then?”

“I’m not an idiot. I wiped the phone clean. And I never touched a stranger’s stuff on a drug deal.”

“Except her ole man.”

Amalya looked down at her hands then out the side window.

He glanced at her and sighed. “Hey…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t’ve said—”

“It’s okay. You aren’t wrong.” When their eyes met a few moments later, her expression held regret. “Listen, Brandon, you’re not a killer. This isn’t you. Please, think about this man’s family. I don’t know what Damien told you about this guy or what wrongs he’s done, but believe me, they can’t possibly be deserving of death.”

“You let someone die.”

“I didn’t know she was dying. I will tell you what, though, I’ll never forget her face.”

“No, just her name.” The brakes rubbed as they rolled to stop, waiting to turn right out of the cemetery lot.

“All right, that’s it. Don’t you have a filter? I’ve had enough punishment for one day.” Then she was gone, leaving behind another feather.

BOOK: Her Black Wings (The Dark Amulet Series Book 1)
2.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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