Zayne stood only a few feet from me, the surprisingly cool July breeze lifting the edges of his blond hair off bare shoulders.
Or that was what I believed I was seeing.
I was slowly going blind. My line of sight was already severely restricted with little to no peripheral vision. Eventually, there’d be nothing but a pinprick of sight left. To make seeing things all the more iffy, cataracts had formed in both eyes, causing my central vision to be blurry and eyes even more sensitive to light. It was a genetic disease known as retinitis pigmentosa, and not even all the angelic blood pumping through my veins could prevent the disease from progressing. Bright light of any sort made it difficult for me to see and low light wasn’t any better, making everything shadowy and hard to see at night.
So, with only the lampposts inside Rock Creek Park lighting the walking path behind me, it was more than possible that I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was. I’d also gone through a hellish trauma mere days ago, handed a beatdown of epic proportions by the psychotic archangel Gabriel, also known as the Harbinger of Overlong Monologues, so God only knew what that had done to my eyes.
Or my brain.
Zayne could be a hallucination, one driven by brain damage or grief. Either of those two things actually made more sense. Because how was he standing in front of me? Zayne was...oh God, he had died, his body having turned to dust by now, as all Wardens’ did upon death. The bond that had linked us together, made him my Protector, gave us both strength and speed, had turned on us the moment I truly acknowledged how much I was in love with him. He’d been physically weakened, and Gabriel had taken advantage of that. I’d heard Zayne say his last words. It’s okay. I’d watched him take his last breath. I’d felt that cord that had connected us together as Protector and Trueborn snap inside me.
He was dead.
But he was right there, standing in front of me, and I smelled freshly fallen snow and mint—wintermint. It was stronger than before, as if the summer air was soaked in winter.
Because of that scent, for a moment, I wondered if he were a spirit—someone who’d died and crossed over. When souls who’d moved on to the great beyond came to check in on loved ones, people often smelled something that reminded them of the person who’d passed on. A perfume. Toothpaste. A cigar. Bonfire. It could be anything, because Heaven...Heaven had a certain scent; it smelled like whatever you desired most, and I wanted Zayne to be alive more than I wanted anything.
I smelled Heaven right now.
But even with my funky vision, I could see that Zayne wasn’t a spirit. That he was flesh and blood—glowing flesh and blood. His skin held a faint luminous glow that hadn’t been present before.
Dizziness swept through me as I stared into eyes that were no longer the palest blue. Now they were an intense, vibrant hue, reminding me of the brief moments at twilight when the sky was the deepest shade of sapphire. Wardens didn’t even have eyes like that, nor did they glow like one of those old Glo Worm dolls Jada had once found in the attic when we were kids.
And Wardens sure as Hell didn’t have the kind of wings spreading out from Zayne’s broad shoulders. They weren’t Warden wings, which often reminded me of smooth leather. Oh, no, these were feathered—white and thick with streaks of gold glowing with heavenly fire, with grace.
Only two things in this world and beyond, outside of God, carried the potent and all-powerful grace within them. I was one of those things.
But Zayne hadn’t been a Trueborn like me, and neither had he been like the few humans who had an angel perched on their family tree, giving them a watered-down, way less powerful grace that either enabled them to see ghosts and spirits or caused them to display other psychic abilities. I’d been told my whole life that I was the only Trueborn, a first-generation child of an angel and a human, but that hadn’t been exactly true. There had been Sulien, Gabriel’s offspring, but Zayne had killed him, so I guessed I was back to being the unique person that I was. All of that was irrelevant, because Zayne had been a Warden.
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