The Secret Page 1

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Prologue

SHE WALKED AS SHE always walked in these dreams. Slowly. With no thought of where she was going. She only knew that, within this forest, a dark angel walked on her right and her mate walked on her left. Sometimes she could smell the soft damp rot of the forest; sometimes she couldn’t. Sometimes she could hear her footsteps as she walked over leaves. Often the birds chirped and called, but this night they were silent.

She might see his shape, but often the angel was only a presence lurking on the edges of her mind.

This night, her mate was beside her and the angel’s dark form walked at her side, his presence tangible. His power muted.

“Why do you visit me like this?” she asked him.

“Because I want to.”

“There is another reason.”

“If I am here, then the other cannot be.”

She glanced at the warrior beside her. “But he is here.”

“He belongs here. The other does not.”

A tendril of anger threaded through her dream. “I don’t understand you.”

“You will.”

“Why can’t he hear you? See you?” She glanced at the warrior. In the low light, his talesm glowed with a silver sheen. He didn’t touch her, but she felt his presence as if the whole of him were wrapped around the ephemeral thought of her, anchoring her mind to her body.

She would drift away without him.

“Your mate is not mine as you are.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“You will.”

“When?”

The dark angel paused. “Soon. You will know soon.”

They walked, and the night grew darker. Colder. She shivered, and her reshon reached out, taking her hand in his. That was all he did, but the cold fled and she was drawn into his light. The mating marks on her arms lit. Her shoulders grew warm, and the fog that surrounded them grew thinner.

The angel stopped, so she did too. He stepped closer, until his face was lit by the light that glowed from her body. Her own marks. Before her, he grew. And he was not a man. He was more, but she was no longer frightened.

“This is how it should be,” he said, one hand hovering over her rune-marked shoulder. “Thousands of years, and I finally understand.”

She felt her mate draw closer, but the dark angel held up a hand. He was forced to retreat. The scribe said something she did not hear because her eyes were locked on the familiar gold gaze of a man who was not a man.

“I want you to remember now.”

Remember what?

He sent an image to her, but it was not one of the visions that were familiar and frightening. It was a narrow room, and two men were there with a woman. With her. One sat next to her. The other in a corner.

This is a memory. This is mine.

“Remember, Ava.”

“You are… Irin scribe house.”

“Istanbul.”

“What are you?”

“…angels.”

Angels? Her eyes closed. Her mind focused. Angels.

“Did you think the angels—”

“Ava!”

SHE woke with a sharp breath, sitting up as her eyes flew open. Malachi was beside her, his hand on her arm. It was early morning, and grey light shone around the corners of the curtains in the house by the sea. The room was cold, but she was covered in a sheen of sweat.

“Ava?”

“I’m awake.” She cleared the rasp from her throat. “I’m okay.”

“Was it Jaron again?”

“Yeah.”

She took a soothing breath as he pulled her into his arms. She no longer had to ask. He no longer hesitated.

In the month since he’d come back to her, they’d grown more familiar, though they still handled each other with care. Malachi was cautious about certain topics. Their past in Istanbul was safe. Their months apart were not.

Part of Ava felt as if she’d woken from a nightmare when Malachi came back.

The other part waited in terror to wake from the dream of him being alive.

“Better?” he whispered into her hair.

“Yes.” She breathed again, closing her eyes and listening to the steady surf in the background. “Yes, better.”

He held her against the solid wall of his chest, anchoring her to his body, holding her in the circle of his arms.

Safe. Safe.

Some mornings Ava woke feeling as if she could drift away. She was smoke on those mornings. The thin fog that hung over the ocean in the moonlight. They clung to each other in sleep, no matter what had happened during the day or how distant she felt.

Sometimes she woke and he was watching her, frowning as if he was trying to remember.

On the best mornings, she woke and Malachi was the man he had been, light in his eyes and a teasing smile at the corner of his mouth. They made love on those mornings with playful passion. The joy of new lovers in familiar skin, hiding away in his grandparents’ house on the edge of the sea.

On those mornings, they didn’t speak of the other times he woke her. The hours when she cried in her sleep. Stifling screams. Weeping with remembered loss. In the bleak darkness of those nights, they held each other desperately.

“I’m here,” he’d whisper. “Ava, I’m here.”

Once, she bit his shoulder hard enough to break skin, and the taste of his blood had lingered in her mouth for days.

“I’m here.” He said it over and over again.

And in the mornings, she believed him.

But the nights always came. The dark angel walked with Ava in her dreams, and she woke crying, seeing Malachi’s face dissolve into gold dust that rose in the damp air of the cistern where he had died.

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