Up north in the adirondacks, deep in a cave in Black Snake State Park, the male who had collapsed at the coming of the dawn two days ago could not understand why the sun was shining on him and he wasn’t up in flames. Unless he was in the Fade?
No . . . this couldn’t be the Fade. The aches and pains in his body and the screaming in his head were too much like what he felt on Earth.
Except, what about the sun? He was bathed in its warm glow, and yet he breathed.
Man, if all that vampire-no-daylight shit was a lie, the race was an idiot as a whole.
But, wait, wasn’t he in a cave? So how were the rays reaching him?
“Eat this,” the sunshine said.
Okay, going with the idea, however improbable it was, that he remained alive, clearly he was hallucinating. Because what was
shoved in his face looked like a McDonald ’s Big Mac, and that was impossible.
Unless he actually was dead, and the Fade had the Golden Arches instead of the golden gates?
“Look,” the sunshine said, “if your brain’s forgotten how to eat, just open that mouth of yours. I’ll cram this fucker in and we’ll see if your teeth remember what to do.”
The male parted his lips, because the smell of the meat was waking his stomach up and making him drool like a dog. When the
hamburger was stuffed into him, his jaw went on autopilot, clamping down hard.
As he tore a hunk off, he moaned. For a brief moment, the tingling approval of his taste buds replaced all of his suffering, even the mental shit. Swallowing brought another whimper out of him.
“Take more,” the sunshine said, pressing the Big Mac back against his lips.
He ate it all. And some fries that were lukewarm, but a godsend nonetheless. Then his head was lifted and he sucked back some
slightly watery Coke.
“The nearest Mickey D’s is twenty miles away,” the sunshine said, like it was looking to fill the silence. “That’s why it’s not as hot
as it could be.”
The male wanted more.
“Yup, I got you seconds. Open wide.”
Another Big Mac. More fries. More Coke.
“I’ve done the best I can with you, but you need blood,” the sunshine told him, like he was a child. “And you need to go home.”
As the male shook his head, he realized he was lying on his back with a slab of rock for his pillow and a dirt floor as his mattress.
He wasn’t in the same cave as before, though. This one smelled different. It smelled like . . . fresh air, fresh spring air.
Although . . . maybe that was the sunshine’s scent?
“Yeah, you need to go home.”
"No . . .”
“Well, then we got a problem, you and me,” the sunshine muttered. There was a shuffling like someone big was sitting down on
their haunches. “You’re the favor I need to return.”
The male frowned, dragged in a breath, and croaked, “Nowhere to go. No favor.”
“Not your call, buddy. Or mine.” The sunshine seemed to be shaking its head, because the blurry shadows it created in the cave
shifted like waves. “Unfortunately, I gotta deliver your ass back to where you belong.”
“I’m nothing to you.”
“In a perfect world, that would be true. Unfortunately, this ain’t heaven. Not by a long shot.”
The male couldn’t agree more, but the whole going-home thing was bullshit. As the energy from the food seeped into him, he found the strength to sit up, rub his eyes, and—
He stared at the sunshine. “Oh . . . shit.”
The sunshine nodded grimly. “Yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel about it. So here’s the deal, we can do this the hard way or the
easy way. Your pick. Although I would like to point out that if I have to find your place without your help, it ’s going to require
some effort on my part, and that’s going to crank my shit out.”
“I’m not going back there. Ever.”
The sunshine put a hand through his long blond-and-black hair. Golden rings glinted on his fingers and flashed from his ears and
winked from his nose and glittered around his thick neck. Brilliant white, pupil-less eyes flashed with a boatload of pissed off, the
bright blue ring around those moonlike irises flashing navy.
“Right. The hard way. Say good night, Gracie.”
As everything went black, the male heard the fallen angel Lassiter say, “Mother. Fucker.”
Behind Trez, a lovely glow pierced the horizon.
“Oh, shit, is it that late,” Rehv said, diving for the remote that closed the steel shutters on the house.
Except it wasn’t the sun. At least, not the sun that pin-wheeled in the sky.
A figure of light was coming up the lawn toward the house, walking with a saunter.
There was only one thing that Rehv could think of that could get that effect.
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” he muttered, sitting up. “Man, is this night over yet?”
Trez was already on his feet. “You want me to let him in?”
“Might as well. He’d just walk through the glass anyway. ”
The Moor slid one of the doors back and stood to the side as Lassiter came into the den. The guy’s gliding walk was the physical
manifestation of a drawl, all smooth and slow and insolent.
“Long time, no see,” the angel said.
“Not long enough.”
“Always with the hospitality.”
“Listen, GE,” Rehv blinked hard. “Mind if you dim your disco ball?”
The brillant glow drifted away until Lassiter appeared normal. Well, normal for someone with a serious -ass piercing fetish and
aspirations for being some country’s gold currency standard.
Trez shut the door and stood behind it, a wall of youfuck -with-my-boy-and-angel-or-not-ima-show-your-ass-a-beatdown.
“What brings you onto my property?” Rehv said, cradling his mug with both hands and trying to absorb its warmth.
“Got a problem.”
“I can’t fix your personality, sorry.”
Lassiter laughed, the sound ringing through the house like church bells. “No. I like myself just as I am, thank you.”
“Can’t help your delusional nature, either.”
“I need to find an address.”
“Do I look like the phone book?”
“You look like shit, as a matter of fact.”
“And you with the compliments.” Rehv finished his coffee. “What makes you think I’d help you?”
“You want to toss in a couple of nouns and verbs there? I’m lost.”
Lassiter grew serious, his ethereal beauty losing its SOP fuck-yourself smirk. “I’m here on official business.”
Rehv frowned. “No offense, but I thought your boss pink-slipped your ass.”
“I’ve got one last shot at being a good boy.” The angel looked hard at the coffee mug between Rehv’s hands. “If you help me, I
can pay you back.”
When Lassiter tried to take a step forward, Trez was on him like paint. “No, you don’t.”
“I’ll heal him. If you let me touch him, I’ll heal him.”
Trez’s brows came down, and he opened his mouth like he was about to tell the angel to heal himself right out of the goddamn
“Hold up,” Rehv said.
Shit, he was so tired and achy and miserable, it was hard not to imagine himself feeling like this when night fell. A week from
“Just what kind of address is it.”
"Ha. Even if I knew it—and I don’t—I couldn’t tell you that.”
“I have something they’ve lost.”
Rehv was about to laugh again when his symphath side fired up. The angel was an asshole, but he was totally serious. And, shit . . . could it be true? Could he have found—
“Yes, I have,” Lassiter said. “Now, are you going to help me help them? And in return, ’cause I’m a stand-up guy, I’ll take care of
your little problem.”
“And what problem would that be?”
“The MRSA infection in your forearm. And the fact that, at the moment, you’re about two more exposures away from anaphylaxis
with that scorpion venom.” Lassiter shook his head. “I’m not going to ask any questions. On either account.”
“You feeling okay? Usually you’re nosier than that.”
“Hey, if you want to share—”
“Whatever. Rock out if you want.” Rehv extended his gutted forearm. “I’ll do what I can for you, but I can’t make any promises.”
Lassiter shot Trez a smile. “So, big guy, you going to take a breather and step aside? Because your boss has consented—”
“He’s not my boss.”
“I’m not his boss.”
Lassiter inclined his head. “Your colleague, then. Now, you mind getting out of my way?”
Trez bared his fangs and clapped his jaws together twice, the Shadow way of telling someone they were walking a thin trail on the
edge of a very tall cliff. But he did step back.
Lassiter came forward, his glow resurfacing.
Rehv met the guy’s sterling-silver, pupil-less eyes. “You fuck with me, and Trez will damage you till your packaging can’t even be
taped back together. You know what he is.”
“I know, but he’s wasting his hard-on. I can do no harm to the righteous, so you’re safe.”
Rehv barked a laugh. “He should still be worried, then.”
When Lassiter reached out and made contact, current licked into Rehv’s arm, making him gasp. As a wondrous healing started to
pour into him, he shuddered and lay back in his nest of blankets. Oh, God . . . His exhaustion was lifting. Which meant the pain he didn’t feel was backing off.
In that gorgeous voice of his, Lassiter murmured, “You’ve got nothing to worry about. The righteous do not always do right, but
their souls remain pure. You are untainted at your core. Now close your eyes, numb nuts, I’m about to light up like a bonfire.”
Rehv squinted and had to look away as a blast of pure energy slammed through his body. It was like an orgasm on steroids, a huge rush that carried him away, splintering him apart until he drifted down in a shower of stars.
When he came back into his body, he sighed long and hard.
Lassiter let go and rubbed his hand on the low-slung jeans he wore. “And now for what I need from you.”
“It’s not going to be easy to get to them.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“I’m going to have to verify what you have first.”
“He’s not in his happy place.”
“Well, of course not, he’s hanging with you. But I don’t fly the flag until I see the sights.”
There was a pause. And then Lassiter inclined his head. “Fine. I’ll come back at nightfall and take you to him.”
“Fair enough, angel, fair enough.”
On the outskirts of caldwell, in the temperate summer night, the Brotherhood was gathered together under a fat, heavenly moon— and wondering what the hell was going on. As the Escalade pulled up next to their tight group, John was amazed to be among them.
Popping his seat belt free, he got out as Rhage shut the SUV down. Blay and Qhuinn fell in side by side, and together, the three of
them walked over to the Brothers.
The meadow up ahead stretched out between a collar of pine trees, the grass marked by stands of goldenrod and the occasional
Vishous lit one of his hand-rolls, the scent of Turkish tobacco drifting over. “Fucker is late.”
"Easy, V,” Wrath said under his breath. “I will relieve your ass if you can’t stay tight.”
“Fucker. Not you, him.”
“Butch, chain your boy, would you? Before I muzzle him with a goddamn pine tree.”
The glow came from the east, starting out small as the flick of a lighter, then growing big as the sun. As it gathered in the forest, the light was filtered by trunks and branches, and John thought of the nuclear bomb test films he ’d seen in school, the ones where the trees and everything were leveled flat after the great burst of illumination.
“Please tell me that shit isn’t radioactive,” Qhuinn said.
"Nah,” Rhage replied. "But we’re all going to have tans in the morning.”
Butch put his arm up to shield his eyes. “And me without my Coppertone.”
Except none of their weapons were drawn, John noted. Although they were tense as cats.
Suddenly, from out of the trees came a man . . . a glowing man, the source of the light. And there was something draped over his
arms, a tarp or a rug or—
“Son of a bitch,” Wrath breathed as the figure stopped twenty yards away.
The glowing man laughed. “Well, if it isn’t good King Wrath and his band of merry-merry happy-happy. I swear you boys should
do kiddie shows, you’re so fucking cheery.”
“Great,” Rhage muttered, “his sense of humor’s still intact.”
Vishous exhaled. “Maybe I can try to beat it out of him.”
“Use his own arm to do it, if you can—”
Wrath glared at the two of them, who shot him back a pair of who-us? stares.
The king shook his head and addressed the lit figure. “Been a while. Thank God. How the hell are you?”
Before the man could answer, V cursed. "If I have to hear all that Keanu Reeves, Matrix, ’I am Neo’ kind of shit, my head’s going
“Don’t you mean Neon?” Butch shot back. “ ’Cause he reminds me of the Citgo sign.”
Wrath’s head turned. “Shut the fuck up. All of you.”
The glowing figure laughed. “So do you want your early Christmas present? Or you going to keep dissing my shit until I decide to
“Christmas? I believe that’s your tradition, not ours,” Wrath said.
“So, is that a no? Because it’s something you’ve been missing for a while.” With that, the glow dissipated, like someone had
unplugged the light source.
Standing in the clearing now was a man like any other . . . well, sort of like any other, given that he was draped in gold chains.
There was someone in his arms, a bearded male with a streak of white running through his dark hair. . . . John’s whole body tingled.
“Don’t recognize your brother?” the figure said, then looked down at the male he held. “How soon they forget.”
John was the one who broke ranks and ran through the long grass. Someone shouted his name, but he wasn’t stopping for anyone or anything. He ran as fast as his legs would carry him, the wind roaring in his ears, his blood pounding through his veins.
The meadow lashed against his jeans, and the cool August night slapped at his cheeks, and the straining fists his hands had cranked into beat at the air.
Father, he mouthed. Father!
John bounced to a halt and then covered his mouth with his palm. It was Tohrment, but it was a shrunken version of the Brother, as if he had been left out in the sun for months. His face was gaunt, the skin hanging loose from the bones, the eyes sunk deep into the skull. The beard was long and dark, the shaggy hair nothing but a black tangled nest except for the brilliant, snowy white stripe at the front. His clothes were the exact same ones he’d been wearing the night he had disappeared from the training center, all tattered and filthy.
John jumped as a hand landed on his shoulder.
“Easy, son,” Wrath said. “Jesus Christ—”
“Actually it’s Lassiter,” the man said, “in case you forgot.”
“Whatever. So what’s the price?” the king asked, reaching out to take Tohr.
“I like how you assume there is one.”
John wanted to be the person who took Tohrment back to the car, but his knees were knocking so badly he probably needed to
be carried too.
“Isn’t there a price?” As Wrath accepted his brother’s body, the king shook his head. “Shit, he doesn’t weigh a thing.”
“He’s been living off deer.”
“How long have you known about him?”
“Found him two days ago.”
“Price,” Wrath said, still looking at his brother.
“Well, here’s the thing.” As the king cursed, the man, Lassiter, laughed. “It’s not a price, though.”
“What. Is. It.”
“We’re a two-for-one deal.”
“I come with him.”
“The fuck you do.”
The man lost any levity in his voice. “It’s part of the arrangement, and believe me, I wouldn’t choose this either. Fact is, he’s my last chance, so yeah, I’m sorry, but I go with him. And if you say no, by the way, I’m going to level us all like that.”
The man snapped his fingers, a brilliant white spark flaring against the night sky.
After a moment, Wrath turned to John. “This is Lassiter, the fallen angel. One of the last times he was on earth, there was a plague in central Europe—”
“Okay, that was so not my fault—”
“—that wiped out two-thirds of the human population.”
“I’d like to remind you that you don’t like humans.”
“They smell bad when they’re dead.”
“All you mortal types do.”
John could barely follow the conversation; he was too busy staring into Tohr’s face. Open your eyes . . . open your eyes . . . please God . . .
“Come on, John.” Wrath turned back to the Brotherhood and started walking. When he came up to them, he said softly, “Our
brother is returned.”
“Oh, Christ, is he alive,” someone said.
“Thank God,” someone else groaned.
“Tell them,” Lassiter demanded from behind. “Tell them he comes with a roommate.”
As one, the Brothers’ heads snapped up.
“Fuck. Me,” Vishous breathed.
“I will so pass on that,” Lassiter muttered.
Well, everyone except John. And the angel who was pacing in the guest room next door.