This is probably pretty spoilery for those who haven't read Angelfire, but it won't ruin your life or anything if you go ahead and read it.
Will laid a hand on my shoulder and his fingers tightened. I turned my head to look up at him, but instead he bent over and whispered into my ear, “Don’t be angry.”
That was random. “What are you—?” And then I saw him.
The reaper stood just inside the doors everyone used to get in and out of the basement without bothering Kate’s parents. He hadn’t even taken two steps into the party and already he was surrounded by girls. He stood a head taller than most people there, so he wasn’t easy to miss. Plus, he was hot and he was fully aware of that, which probably made girls flock to him. Even in the low light, I could see that sweeping smile across his face that made him even more attractive.
Of course I wasn’t fooled.
I shot to my feet, but Will grabbed my hand before I took a single step.
“He’s not going to hurt anyone,” Will said with a serious expression.
That wasn’t even the point. He was a reaper, and I didn’t want my human friends exposed to the supernatural world. Will was more than enough. Despite my annoyance, I couldn’t help but admire Marcus for plainly displaying his gnarled burn scar around his collar as if he wore it proudly and felt no shame at all.
When Marcus spotted me, he waved and pushed through the gaggle of girls. Blatant hate twisted their faces when they saw him ease right toward me.
“Ellie, Will, how are—?”
“What are you doing here?” I demanded.
He blinked in surprise. “Well, I—”
“You shouldn’t be here,” I said, not letting him finish. “I told you not to come.”
Will’s voice was gentle in my ear, soothing. “He doesn’t mean any harm.”
I glared at him. “Don’t defend him.” I turned to the other reaper. “Marcus, you need to leave.”
“Oh, I’m not leaving,” he said with a soft laugh.
“Who’s your friend?”
I practically leaped into the air and spun around to see that Kate had walked up behind me. I slapped the back of my hand against Marcus’s chest, hard enough to force him back a step. “This is Marcus. Ignore him. He’s a bad seed.”
As she checked him out, that growing smile of hers told me she was up to no good. She held out a hand for him to take. “Hi. I’m Kate. I’m a bad seed, too.”
Instead of shaking her hand, he swept it up and bowed his head to press his lips against the back of her hand. “A pleasure.”
If I were Kate, I would have swooned. But I wasn’t Kate and she wasn’t me. Instead of doing something apocalyptically uncool, she let two simple words roll off her tongue as if we were all in some classic Hollywood movie: “All mine.”
Marcus let go of her hand and she turned to me. “Where did you find this one?”
I thought quickly. “He’s a friend of Will’s . . . from . . . school.”
She glowered at me. “Why do you always get the hot college guys, and why didn’t you tell me you were bringing an extra?”
“Oh, I’m even more shocked than you are,” I said through my teeth as I smiled bitterly at Marcus. His eyes were glued on Kate. She had that effect.
“So, Marcus,” Kate said. “You go to college with Will?”
His smile widened almost imperceptibly. “Foreign exchange.”
“Interesting. Where are you from?”
“Spain,” he answered smoothly, voice like cream. “While I’m here, I hope to explore every last inch of America.”
Her brow arced suggestively. “Oh?”
I looked up at Will pleadingly. Strangely, he didn’t feel bothered at all by Marcus’s interest in a normal human girl. Was it common for reapers to date humans, or did they just sleep with them? If Will seemed to think it was okay for Marcus to do so, then was he guilty of it himself? The thought of Will with another girl was sickening, but I had to accept the fact that he was a guy, even if he was a reaper. Mortal girls practically threw themselves at him. Not to mention, there was Ava and whatever history I suspected they had together.
“Would you like a drink, Marcus?” Kate offered.
“I’d love a drink,” Marcus replied.
“Okay then.” She beckoned for him to follow her into the kitchen.
I looked at Will. “Stay right here.”
He frowned. “I’m not a dog, Ellie.”
“Fine,” I chirped. “Then no biscuit for you.”
When I smiled at him, he grinned and rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to throw him out. Just leave him be.”
“I’m only going to talk to him,” I assured Will, and jogged to catch up with Marcus. I put a firm hand on his arm, stopping him before he went into the kitchen.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.
“As I please.” He gazed down at me, his eyes challenging me. He had no fear of me.
“Why would you come here, when I asked you not to, and then shamelessly flirt with my best friend? Who is human, no less.”
His expression darkened, and he leaned over me so close that I felt his breath on my cheek and no one else could overhear us. “Need I remind you, Preliator, that I am not your Guardian? You cannot control me.”
The way he said that reminded me of how very dangerous he was, no matter how well I had known him in past lives or the fact that he was an angelic reaper. But I wasn’t about to let him walk all over me. “But you serve the angels. I am the archangel Gabriel.”
He took a deep breath through his nose, brushing the tip of it across my cheek, very much like an animal. “You smell human to me.”
Reapers were very weird. At least Will didn’t sniff me like I was dinner. When I tried to speak, I realized I’d been holding my breath. “What are your intentions with her?”
He drew away, and that devil-may-care attitude returned in a heartbeat. “They’re entirely chaste, I assure you.”
“If you hurt her, reaper, I will take both of your balls.”
He stared at me for a moment before he huffed and smirked. “You’d try.” That momentary hesitation told me he knew I sure as hell would try. I’d probably succeed, too.
Marcus knew me just as well as I knew him from decades ago, and he knew what I was capable of. I didn’t quite remember his full strength, but his pause after my threat gave me hope that I could handle myself if things really went down.
Marcus walked past me into the kitchen without another word.
I closed my eyes, rubbed the bridge of my nose with my thumb and forefinger, emotionally exhausted. These reapers were going to kill me. Again.
I entered the kitchen to find Kate and Marcus laughing and joking. Marcus had on a genuine smile, rich and gracious. It was strange to see him act so normal, like he was just another guy at a party talking to a pretty girl, and not an immortal Hellspawn fighter. The other vir I’d known acted aloof, like they thought they were better than humans. Or they were like Will, who felt he just didn’t belong around humans. Even Nathaniel didn’t attempt to make friends with humans other than Lauren, and in that case they’d met under special circumstances.
“So really,” Kate said, touching his shoulder. “Where did you get the scar?”
His grin was playful, but I could tell he was dead serious. “I told you. It’s from a fight. The guy had a knife that was practically a sword.”
There was puzzled look on her face behind her smile. “But it looks like burn scars, a very clean line of burn scars.”
“I’m not lying.”
I crossed my arms over my chest when they noticed me. “Well, aren’t you two just hitting it off?”
Kate kissed me on the cheek and petted my hair when she saw my frown. “Marcus was just telling me stories of back home in Spain. We should go backpacking through Europe this summer after we graduate. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
It would, but only if I survived to see my diploma. “Definitely, as long as we avoid any hostels. I saw those movies.”
Marcus laughed. “That was fiction, Ellie. The hostels are a great place to stay, and you meet incredible people from all over the world.”
“Mmm-hmm,” I said sarcastically. “I’m sure.”
I sensed a body behind me and knew instantly it was Will. I turned to see him.
“So are you and Marcus finally getting along?” he asked.
“She threatened to castrate me,” Marcus said.
I nodded. “Sure did.”
Will blinked and stiffened uncomfortably. “Oh.”
“That’s not nice, Ell,” Kate scolded. “Boys need those.” She turned to Marcus and looped her arm through his. “Let’s go enjoy the rest of the party, shall we?”
As they left the kitchen, Kate flashed me a gentle smile, but it didn’t make me relax. I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing.