Once Upon A Time…Has Never Been This Hot.
“An angel?” Kei scrubbed a hand down his face as he tilted his head forward. “I summoned a fucking angel?”
Fire licked across his skin, the tiny arcs flashing bright in the darkness. Anger fueled the flames, burning the yellow wisps into a deep crimson. Of all the bloody screw ups...
Kei crossed the cemetery, stopping just shy of the symbol he’d inscribed on the ground. Black ash coated the parched dirt, traces of blood baked into the grooves scored on the land. He stared at the man crouched within the circle, muscles straining, skin gleaming in the moonlight. Creamy-white feathers fluttered in the breeze, his wings still unfurled across his back. Sweat beaded the guy’s flesh, trailing down the strong curve of his spine. Summonings weren’t pleasurable for demons. For angels—they killed more often than they succeeded.
Kei frowned. He’d cast a fire enchantment. Used more than a bit of his blood and all the damn power he could spare as payment. A desperate last effort to prolong his life, just long enough to hunt and kill the fallen bastard who’d cursed him to this fucking realm. The god damn human world. The one entity who could destroy this dimension and a dozen more like it if Kei didn’t end the war before it began. He’d expected a blood demon. A soulless vessel he could possess until he’d found his prey. Preserve what little strength he had left before the final battle.
And he’d fucking deserved the creature. Fire enchantments were tricky. Risky. He would have gladly accepted death as a suitable recourse for a botched attempt. But he’d gotten every intonation and ancient pronunciation right. Had known the moment he’d finished, he’d been successful.
And yet, he’d somehow summoned an angel.
Kei crossed his arms over his chest as he braced his feet a shoulder width apart. “Don’t suppose you’re really a blood demon in disguise?”
The man’s ragged breathing filled the air, his head finally lifting enough to meet Kei’s gaze. Pain creased his forehead, his clear blue eyes wide with surprise.
Kei shook his head, leaning his hip against a tombstone. “Guess that’s a no.” He held up his hand, hoping to stop the guy when he looked as if he was going to try to stand. “I wouldn’t do that just yet unless you like falling. Wouldn’t want to bruise that pretty-boy face of yours.”
The angelic man glared at him, pushing to his feet before stumbling across the circle. He hit one of the stone crosses, the dull thud echoing through the graveyard. He sagged against the headstone, anger coloring his eyes.
Kei tsked. “Can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Silence, demon, before I strike you down for simply standing there.”
Kei chuckled. “Yeah, you might find that whole smiting thing a bit difficult. Summonings tend to drain your life force. And I didn’t use near enough energy to fuel an angel.” He cocked his head to the side. “You got a name?”
The man clenched his jaw, drawing himself up despite the ways his limbs shook from the strain. “I’m an angel, not stupid. Names are powerful.”
“Right. Because that’s really what I’d been hoping for. A self-righteous asshole with enough soul to fill this godforsaken cemetery. That was my plan all along.” He sighed. “The name’s Kei.”
“I don’t care.”
“Jackass it is.”
The man sneered. “I won’t fall for your tricks.”
“No, you chose to fall from the fucking sky instead.” Kei closed the distance, wondering when the guy would notice he was buck-ass nude. “How the hell did you get here, anyway? And what did you do with my demon?”
“What did I...” The man arched a brow, his wings fluttering against the stone as the wind picked up, tossing dried leaves into the air like confetti. “And here I thought you might be slightly more intelligent than most demons. You just said you summoned me. There’s a blood token carved into the ground. You figure it out.”
“I cast a fire enchantment. For a blood demon.” Kei smirked. “I’ll admit, ancient spells aren’t my specialty, but even I’m not incompetent enough to fuck it up to the point I get an angel as compensation. Why are you really here? Who sent you?”
“Again. You summoned me.”
“Are you deaf? I said I summoned a blood demon. Fuck!” Kei turned, taking a few angry steps away before spinning. “Why would I raise the one being who can’t help me?”
“Since when do demons require help?”
Kei blew out an exasperated breath, twisting his palm face up before allowing his magic to spark to life. A flicking light appeared above his hand, the heat warning his skin. “Fire mage, jackass.”
“You said you were a demon.”
“I said I summoned one. You decided I was a demon.” Kei allowed the flame to bounce in his hand before racing up his arm then down the other, finally winking out. The feel of his power soothed some of the rawness coursing through him, though the resulting wave of dizziness was just another reminder of how much energy he’d sacrificed. How weak he really was. “Don’t suppose you’ll surrender your soul long enough for me to possess your body—use you as a vessel to hunt down a nasty bastard that needs exterminating?”
The man shook his head, finally glancing down. Kei smiled. Despite the fact the guy was far too pure for his tastes, Kei had to admit he was more than attractive. Messy brown hair tousled about his head, strong smooth features that curved in perfect symmetry—the man was beautiful. Breathtaking, in fact. Even his body seemed flawless—pale skin covering lean muscles that flexed with every small movement. If it weren’t for the fact the angel had been drained of his grace, Kei bet his ass the other man would be a tough opponent to best. That’s if the guy would actually fight. Hell, who was he kidding? Without direction from a much higher power, the guy wouldn’t lift a finger to help Kei, worthy mission or not.
Kei slumped his shoulders as he braced his weight on one of the gravestones. “Of all the creatures I could have gotten by mistake, it had to be you.”
“Do you really expect me to believe this was an accident?”
“I don’t really give a fuck what you believe, jackass. I wanted a blood demon.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“Then give me something else to call you.” Kei snorted. “Bloody hell, it’s not like I can kill you. Even weakened, you’ve got far too much raw power for me to challenge. Especially when I haven’t come close to recovering from my offering.” He raked a hand through his hair. “And why the hell would I summon an angel? I need a creature that can kill, not a holier-than-thou prick who can’t so much as nick someone’s skin without having a moral crisis.”
The man straightened, his chest thickening as he drew himself up. Kei did his best to ignore the way the man’s cock rose, heavy and hard, between his legs. The end shiny in the waning light. Damn it. Now wasn’t the time to get distracted, especially by the one being he couldn’t have.
“You’re mistaken if you think I’m incapable of destroying you the moment I regain my power.” The man smiled at Kei. “Even my soul can stand the pain of seeing the rest of your blood stain the ground.”
“Great. I cast a spell for a demon and get the one angel who doesn’t seem to have an issue with slaying a mage. Must be my lucky day.”
“Then perhaps you shouldn’t have cast the spell at all.”
“I didn’t summon...” Kei cursed under his breath. He’d failed. One last chance to stop a war before it destroyed a thousand worlds, and he’d somehow failed without ever getting close enough to try. He met the man’s heated gaze. “If I had enough strength to send you back...” He huffed. “Guess you’re stuck here until I recharge, though I’m not sure exactly how to return you, seeing as I didn’t ask for your presence in the first place.”
“Like you’d send me back.”
The man’s grim expression faltered. “Why did you summon a blood
demon? You’re a mage. Far more powerful than some empty shell of a beast.”
“I needed something I could control—a creature that could blend in, not to mention take one hell of a beating. A way to conserve my power without abandoning my quest.”
“Quest?” A harsh laugh rumbled free. “Since when is killing a quest?” “Since it’s the only way to prevent a war that won’t end until every living creature in every damn realm has been purged from existence.”
“War?” The man tilted his head, staring at Kei as if seeing him for the first time. “Who is it you seek?”
“Bastard’s got a lot of names. You’d know him as Abaddon.” Kei arched one brow. “I believe he used to be one of yours before he fell. Only, he chose his destiny.”
“Abaddon? That can’t be. He died when he was cast...” Disbelief shaped his features before he motioned to Kei. “Where’s your army, Mage?”
“Why do you think I tried to summon a demon?”
“You’re alone?” The man’s mouth pinched tight, his focus shifting to the symbols still visible within the circle. “Are you mad?”
“From the moment you appeared.”
The man sighed, his gaze finding Kei’s again. “Gabriel.”
Kei frowned. “What’s that?”
“My name. It’s Gabriel. And you just got far more than you bargained for.”
Kei’s mouth hinged open as he stared at the angel—Gabriel. Surely, the man was lying. He couldn’t truly be who he claimed.
Kei drew himself up. “Gabriel? As in the archangel? All-fucking- powerful? Can kill damn near anything with a snap of his fingers...Gabriel?” He shook his head. “This isn’t funny. Getting an angel is one thing. And despite the fact I sacrificed more energy than was wise, there’s no way it was enough to summon a being that strong.”
“Do you think I’d give you my name lightly?”
Kei backed up, his gaze sweeping the length of Gabe’s body. Muscles flexed and released under his perusal, the pure beauty of his form sending a shiver down Kei’s spine. He glanced away, rerunning every step he’d taken. Every word he’d uttered before he’d finished the spell, and somehow gotten... him.
Kei shook his head. “It simply can’t be.”
Gabe lifted his chin, a knowing smile tilting his lips. “Why would I lie about who I am, Mage?”
“The name’s Kei. And I can think of a dozen different reasons as to why you’d lie to me, least of all because you’re pissed.” He pushed his hand through his hair, wondering what in the hell he’d done to deserve this.
Gabe’s smile faded, the muscle in his temple jumping as he clenched his jaw.
Kei raised his hand in seeming defeat. “Fine. You’re...Gabriel. Archangel and current pain in my ass.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “So, why are you really here?”
“Are we really going to argue this again? You summoned me.”
“And again, I shouldn’t have gotten an angel, let alone you. The spell was fairly specific. And the last time I checked, demon and angel were pretty much opposites.”
Gabe copied Kei’s stance, crossing his massive arms over his chest, apparently obvious to how the simple act made his cock jut out from between his legs. He looked at the sigil carved into the ground. His brow furrowed, a hushed curse mumbling free.
Kei chuckled. “Easy, Gabe. Wouldn’t want you to start sinning so soon.”
Gabe glared at him, making his way over to one of the symbols on the ground. “If this is your idea of specific, you have much to learn, Ma...” He sighed. “Kei. Do you have any idea what kind of power is hidden within some of these markings?”
“Just followed the instructions, buddy. And for the record, I didn’t really think I’d survive the procedure, so I didn’t spend too much time worrying about what every damn symbol meant. It was supposed to grant me a worthy vessel. That’s all that mattered.”
Gabe shook his head. “I suggest you take better care in the future because this set of tokens has more than one translation. As for a worthy vessel...” He looked at Kei over his shoulder, tsking. “You’re lucky you didn’t summon Lucifer, himself, with the mix of angelic and demonic sigils you carved into the earth.”
“Right, because like I said...today is definitely my lucky day.”
“I’d think not summoning my older brother is considered extremely lucky.”
Kei groaned as he walked over to Gabriel, making a point of studying the markings before shrugging. “Whatever you say. But the fact still remains... I never should have been able to summon you in the first place. Your power alone puts you in a completely different league. It doesn’t make any sense.” He blew out an exasperated breath. “Christ, I don’t know how you even survived. But regardless, looks like you’re stuck here for a while. Assuming you know the ritual to unsummon you, because that...” He waved at the circle. “Is all I could dig up on this particular spell. And it was harder than hell to decipher. I never planned on sending that demon back.”
“It would appear you didn't plan on much of anything...other than dying during your ceremony.”
Kei drew a shaky breath, doing his best to calm the fire licking just below the surface of his skin. If he'd known angels were this irritating, he’d have walked away and left Gabe to figure everything out for himself.
Kei motioned to the man. “You sure your brothers didn’t give you the boot? Because I’d understand why they’d want to kick you out of their little club. You’re annoying as hell.”
Gabe straightened, his sheer presence making the air feel charged. “Only my Father or another archangel would have the strength to cast me out. I doubt it’s something I’d forget.”
Kei backed up a few steps. “Easy, buddy. I wasn’t serious. Damn, you angels don’t have much of a sense of humor, do you?” He arched a brow. “So, this is what an archangel looks like.”
“What were you expecting?”
“Clothes, for one thing. Maybe more refined, less warrior worthy.”
Gabe’s frown intensified. “Michael isn’t the only one among us who fights.”
Kei chuckled. “Got some brother issues, Gabe? All I said was that you’re not what I expected. Though, honestly, never thought much about angels. The one I’ve met isn’t exactly a benchmark of greatness.”
Gabe’s brow furrowed as a flash of white fire gleamed in his eyes. “If what you claim is true, Abaddon isn’t an angel.” He turned away, adding, “At least, not anymore.”
Kei felt the mixture of pain and anguish churning inside Gabriel as if the emotions were his. He rolled his shoulders against the unusual sensation, hoping it was simply a byproduct of sacrificing so much of his power. His blood. He closed the distance, nudging the other man. “I’ll make you a deal.”
Gabe snorted. “I don’t make deals. Demons do.”
Kei cursed under his breath. The jackass was infuriating at best. “It’s a figure of speech. What I was going to say was...you don’t second guess everything I claim, and I’ll believe you in return.”
Gabe drew his brows together. “I’m an angel. Why wouldn’t you believe what I say?”
“Fuck. What you are is a piece of work. And incredibly naive. Fine. We’ll discuss this later, but for now...we’d best find you some clothes and get the hell out of here before that heavenly glow of yours attracts every damn paranormal being within fifty miles. And I’m still not strong enough to start picking fights with werewolves and demons who have a hankering for angel blood.”
“I don’t need you to defend me, Mage.”
“It’s either me, or...” Kei chuckled. “Right. There isn’t anyone else. Just... stick close. Full moon’s not that far away, and with Samhain this close, evil is a bit stronger than usual.”
Gabe huffed but fell in behind Kei as he stalked across the cemetery, the echoed cry of a wolf ringing through the surrounding trees. He could figure out their next move later—after he’d recharged. Had half a chance of surviving a confrontation. Until then, he’d babysit Gabriel. Even if the man didn’t think he needed it.