The Darkest Angel

By: Gena Showalter
CHAPTER ONE

FROM HIGH IN the heavens, Lysander spotted his prey. At last. Finally, I will end this. His jaw clenched and his skin pulled tight. With tension. With relief. Determined, he jumped from the cloud he stood upon, falling quickly... Wind whipping through his hair...

When he neared ground, he allowed his wings, long and feathered and golden, to unfold from his back and catch in the current, slowing his progress.

He was a soldier for Germanus, the leader of the Sent Ones—winged warriors, like angels, but...not. Sent Ones were far more, and Lysander was more than most. He was one of the Elite Seven. With as many millennia as he’d lived, he’d come to learn that each of the Elite Seven had one temptation. One potential downfall. Like Eve with her apple. When they found this...thing, this abomination, they happily destroyed it before it could destroy them.

Lysander had finally found his.

Bianka Skyhawk.

She was the daughter of a Harpy and a phoenix shape-shifter. She was a thief, a liar and a killer who found joy in the vilest of tasks. Worse, the blood of demons—his greatest enemy—flowed through her veins. Which meant Bianka was his enemy.

He lived to destroy his enemies.

However, he could only act against them when given permission from Germanus, who had to gain permission from the Most High—the absolute, final authority in the heavens. The Most High loved humans and wanted them protected. Wanted them trained to fight evil, not destroyed by it. But Bianka wasn’t exactly human, was she?

Bianka was more like him, and she had cursed him with a taste for what the mortals referred to as “desire.”

Something had to be done.

He’d seen her for the first time several weeks ago, long black hair flowing down her back, amber eyes bright and lips bloodred. Watching her, unable to turn away, a single question had drifted through his mind: Was her pearllike skin as soft as it appeared?

Forget desire. He’d never wondered such a thing about anyone before. He’d never cared. But the question was becoming an obsession, discovering the truth a need. And it had to end. Now. This day.

He landed just in front of her, but she couldn’t see him. No one could. He existed on another plane, invisible to mortal and immortal alike. He could scream, and she would not hear him. He could walk through her, and she would not feel him. For that matter, she would not smell or sense him in any way.

Until it was too late.

He could have formed a fiery sword from air and cleaved her head from her body, but didn’t. As he’d already realized and accepted, he could not kill her. Yet. But he could not allow her to roam unfettered, tempting him, a plague to his good sense, either. Which meant he would have to settle for imprisoning her in his home in the sky.

That didn’t have to be a terrible ordeal for him, however. He could use their time together to show her the right way to live. And the right way was, of course, his way. What’s more, if she did not conform, if she did finally commit that unpardonable sin, he would be there, at last able to rid himself of her influence.

Do it. Take her.

He reached out. But just before he could wrap his arms around her and fly her away, he realized she was no longer alone. He scowled, his arms falling to his sides. He did not want a witness to his deeds.

“Best day ever,” Bianka shouted skyward, splaying her arms and twirling. Two champagne bottles were clutched in her hands and those bottles flew from her grip, slamming into the ice mountains of Alaska surrounding her. She stopped, swayed, laughed. “Oopsie.”

His scowl deepened. A perfect opportunity lost, he realized. Clearly, she was intoxicated. She wouldn’t have fought him. Would have assumed he was a hallucination or that they were playing a game. Having watched her these past few weeks, he knew how much she liked to play games.

“Waster,” her sister, the intruder, grumbled. Though they were twins, Bianka and Kaia looked nothing alike. Kaia had red hair and gray eyes flecked with gold. She was shorter than Bianka, her beauty more delicate. “I had to stalk a collector for days—days!—to steal that. Seriously. You just busted Dom Pérignon White Gold Jeroboam.”

“I’ll make it up to you.” Mist wafted from Bianka’s mouth. “They sell Boone’s Farm in town.”

There was a pause, a sigh. “That’s only acceptable if you also steal me some cheese tots. I used to highjack them from Sabin every day, and now that we’ve left Budapest, I’m in withdrawal.”

Lysander tried to pay attention to the conversation, he really did. But being this close to Bianka was, as always, ruining his concentration. Only her skin was similar to her sister’s, reflecting all the colors of a newly sprung rainbow. So why didn’t he wonder if Kaia’s skin was as soft as it appeared?

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