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Broken Wings (An Angel Eyes Novel)

By:Shannon Dittemore

Broken Wings (An Angel Eyes Novel)
Shannon Dittemore

       Book Two in the ANGEL EYES TRILOGY

1

Pearla

Hell is loud.

Talons scratch at the stone floor and clack against the pillars circling the chamber as the great hall fills. Hisses and snarls sound all around, but the noise doesn't unsettle the Cherub.

She's been here before.

Carved into the earth, deep against its core-in a realm undetectable by human technology-lies the stronghold of Satan. A massive structure formed out of darkness, molded and hardened into stone, Abaddon sits at the very center of the Prince's domain.

Pearla's velvety black skin goes unnoticed as she slides behind a chunky pillar, pressing against the outer wall.

But the cherubic spy isn't deceived by the darkness that surrounds her. This place was created for the Prince, given to him by the Creator. And while the light of the Celestial won't permeate these walls, even here the Father cannot be escaped. Unlike the demonic crowd scratching and biting at one another, this created one experiences peace.

Her celestial feet are silent against the icy floor, her wings folded tight against her back. She keeps her white eyes pinched tight. Nothing draws attention like shards of light piercing the darkness.

And darkness is everywhere.

Pearla slinks from pillar to pillar, feeling the rough rock with her hands, searching for a familiar crevice. When at last she reaches it, she slides inside, deep into the rock wall. Facing away from the chamber, she opens her eyes just wide enough to guide her climb. She's nimble and fast, scaling the wall with precision. Pearla locates a crag high above the pillars circling the room, high above the crowd of demons pushing and shoving and jockeying for position, and wedges herself far into the wall. The silky black wings-characteristic of cherubic spies-whisper against rock as she unfurls them and covers herself. Her gaze penetrates her wings and she watches.

And she waits.

The circular hall is ringed by rows and rows of demons. She's seen some of their grotesque faces before. As members of the Prince's guard they rarely leave Abaddon without the Prince; if they do, they do so in small numbers. His guard is made up of the most loyal, the most trusted demons. But there are others here: fallen angels with smaller, less important roles in the devil's stronghold. With so many in attendance, Pearla wonders if the Prince himself will preside over this assembly, a task he normally delegates.

Rumors lend credence to this idea-reports that indicate the entire Palatine legion is on the move. Sources insist they've returned to Abaddon to receive new orders. But it defies logic. Why return thousands and thousands of the Prince's best warriors to their fortress when a small council would suffice? But the rumors persist, and as the commander of the Creator's forces, Michael is giving them due consideration. If they're true, a movement like this indicates an attack of ambitious proportion.

But where?

With a victory in Uganda imminent, the legion of light will be ready to move. And there's no Warrior better suited for a war against the Palatine than Michael, the Commander himself.

Pearla closes her eyes against the chaos below and imagines herself back in the Throne Room of the Father. Magnificent in its beauty with everything in good order. The Father glowing bright, a river of gold flowing from His throne. The Thrones-wisest of the angels-wrapped head to toe in feathers of white, hovering about the Father, singing His praises, echoing one another back and forth. Pearla fights to control her lips as memories of the Creator's goodness well up in her soul.

Worthy! Worthy! No one else is worthy! she thinks.

And then another sound, a terrifying sound, pulls her back to hell. It's the sound of bondage. Of slavery. She wills herself to remain steady as the hiss and spit of fiery chains against the cold, moist floor draws excitement from the Fallen crowded about.

A lone demon is led into the hall by a small band. They prod and poke at him like a wayward cow. When they reach the center of the room, they latch his chains to the floor. With little ceremony they leave him to stand alone before a pathetic replica of the Father's throne.

The Prince's seat of power is not without grandeur, but where the Father's throne is constructed of the purest gold and gemstones, here an extravagant dais has been carved out of rock. Behind it, a slab rises high with strange symbols and designs cut into the stone. Chief among them is a dragon, his teeth menacing, his scales polished to a shine. His tail wraps around the platform, and clutched in his serpentine coils are thousands of brightly jeweled stars. The image, a symbol of the great dragon's rebellion, has always disturbed Pearla.

And with the prisoner chained before the throne, it seems Pearla was right.

Lucifer himself is expected.                       
       
           



       2



Brielle





I'm alone.

The room is full of people, but I don't see them. Not clearly. They're a blur of summer colors and shadowed faces as my legs push me across the stage. My arms bow and curve, matching my inhales and exhales. Flutes, clarinets, and instruments I can't even name trill from the speakers, the music telling a story. The dance sharing a journey.

My journey.

Getting back to the stage was not an easy path, and my mind is full of the circumstances and the players that brought me here. I rise to my toes and I think of Ali, my closest friend. I think of the life that was taken from her. I think of her boyfriend, Marco, and the case built against him: smoke and mirrors to hide what really happened.

But truth is stronger than lies, and as the music slows, my black skirt whispers against my knees and I remember the first time I saw the Celestial. Light and life everywhere, and on every surface colors that never stop moving.

I think of the first time I saw Canaan, not as Jake's guardian only, but as the angel he really is-his outer wings spread wide, Jake wrapped tightly in his inner wings and pressed safely against his chest.

The music changes, dropping into a minor key, and my movements become more ghost-like. I think of the fear that nearly destroyed me six months ago, of the doubt that ate away at truth and hope.

I think of Jake.

The music is all but silent now. My body moves slowly, deliberately, but my heart trips over itself at the thought of his fiery, hazel eyes, his healing touch.

It's only right that my first performance is here, in Stratus, with him in the audience. With my dad and Canaan looking on, with Miss Macy cheering my feat from the wings. With Kaylee chattering away to Mr. Burns, telling him which pictures to snap.

The song builds, thundering drums that urge my legs faster and faster. The music crescendos and I spin, again and again. My hair pulls free of its knot, wild and free, like an angel in flight.

This choreography is my story. I let it swallow me, stretch me.

Cymbals crash like waves against rock-my doubt against the Father's will-and I drop low, bending to it, letting my fingers brush the floor, allowing myself a moment shrouded in the darkness of my curled torso before I rise once again to my toes. Light streams through the windows, turning everything around me a vibrant gold.

And then it's over. The music, the dance, my trip down memory lane. All of it. I drop into a bow, and the room erupts with applause.

When I rise I see the place clearly. The newly painted basketball court, the groupings of people here and there, standing, clapping, toasting me with plastic cups of red punch. Dad swipes at his eyes with gigantic paws, his ruddy face flushed. Jake stands near the back, whistling, cheering, a tiny orange tutu over his jeans.

I snort.

Where did he get that?

Hilarity joins exhilaration, and I laugh. And laugh.

Kaylee, friend extraordinaire, skips up the stairs and wraps her arms around me.

"You were amazing," she says. "I can't believe you almost gave that up!" She stumbles toward the microphone at the front of the stage, pulling me with her. "Wasn't she fabulous?" she asks the audience. The crowd claps harder, and I smile as the tears fall.

The gathering here is humble-just my friends and neighbors-and the Stratus Community Center is not nearly so grand as the theatres I toured last summer.

But I did it. Really and truly.

It's impossible not to think of Ali now. Not to remember her childlike laugh or the way she pushed and pulled me, made me believe I could conquer the world.

She'd be proud of me.

The tears are thick now, drenching my face, running down my leotard, so I wave my thanks to the crowd and duck into the wings. Miss Macy grabs me before I get too far. She pulls me into her arms and presses her cheek against mine. She's crying too.

"You are grace personified, sweetness. I know that wasn't easy, but . . ." Her voice catches and she pushes me away. "Oh, go. Kiss that boyfriend of yours and get back up here before our little fairies fly away."

I glance at the youngest of our students, lining up backstage. Their mamas are busy corralling them, smearing sparkles on their cheeks, securing tiny wings to their backs. An ache passes through me-the same ache I always get when I realize I never had such moments with my own mother.

What would she have thought of my performance today?

I pull Miss Macy in for another hug and then make my way down the stairs. Kaylee's still speaking into the microphone. She thanks everyone for coming to Stratus Community Center's Grand Reopening, tells them her Aunt Delia's slaved over the pies in the back and to help themselves.

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