Gabriel writhed against the tree, flames entering her robe from the ground up. She cried out, the burn attacking her toes and climbing her legs, melting and burrowing through her skin. This was the end—her end—here in this grassy field. Here under a darkening sky before the eager eyes of all the human men who had captured her. Here—alone.
With agony consuming her on the outside, Gabriel retreated into her mind, away from the smell of her cooking flesh and the sound of her bloodcurdling screams. No longer able to feel the wet tears that forged tracks down her face, she conjured the memory of her last encounter with Lucifer.
He had come to watch her. To observe her down on Earth.
But of course she had known the moment he landed nearby. As always, she had felt him.
At first her heart had taken off in her chest, soaring like a bird’s rapid wings on the breeze. But her heart did not make the rules.
“I want you to leave, Lucifer. Leave me be.”
And he had, despite the tears she could not hold at bay. Despite how clearly his heart was breaking as he staggered away and took flight up into the twilight sky. Clinging to the image of his shell-shocked face, she remembered the sheen to his wide silver-blue eyes, the bunching of his tan brow, the way his lips trembled over clenched teeth as if he were fighting the temptation to refuse her demand. Her hand cupping his jaw had been their last touch, a touch that could never compare to the slide of his rough hands over her bared body or the hungry pressure of his mouth against hers. But that would never happen again.
“As you wish.” Lucifer had surrendered to her refusal. He had granted her wish. And now…
She would die alone.
Gabriel’s screams shattered her memories as the blaze engulfing her robe-clothed body licked even higher. Legs bared and bloody, flames now lashed her stomach and arms. Renewed panic made it feel like her insides were smoldering too. This couldn’t be her end. It couldn’t be their end.
Yanking her arms up to evade the burn, the lowest rope snapped around her hips, ripping skin away in its wake. Gabriel hissed at the sting, swallowing her screams. Raw hands snatching and tugging at the higher ropes, they refused to budge, her strength failing her.
Darkness fell, teasing her senses with the promise of cold that could never combat the inferno of flames that climbed ever higher and renewed her tortured cries. Wings trapped to the tree behind her catching alight rapidly, even escape from her bindings would not spare her. Those men stood by, spears in hand and murder painted in their eager gazes.
Strands of her windblown hair sizzled up to her scalp with flaming embers, and Gabriel’s eyes pinned shut. The burn attacking her arms had a hold of her ribs, eating away inside her, breaking her. Her heart felt hot, too hot. Soon her screams would turn to fire—with her final shriek.
Unable to speak, parting words formed in her mind. A telepathic message, a goodbye…that would never reach its source. Never blame yourself, Lucifer. This was not your doing. It was mine. I was wrong. I need you. I have always needed you.
A sudden commotion sounded, a booming ruckus as the ground shook. But the cause mattered not. Nothing mattered anymore. Her end was imminent.
And then everything changed.
Gabriel’s bindings suddenly released and she fell like the dead. A blanketing weight covered her, blocking the cooling breeze and dousing the consuming fires that coated her sticky body and wings. Skin stuck and peeled away, the sound joining her rattling sobs. And then she sucked in a choked breath—and smelled him.
Unable to believe her senses, Gabriel cracked her melted eyelids open.
Staring down at her was the one face she had never expected to see again. Tan, rugged, and filled with a fear of losing her that resonated in his eyes with silver tears. “Lucifer. You came—” she rasped, realizing this was real. Realizing Lucifer had returned to this field on Earth and was surrounded by murderous men. Tongue feeling like it was on fire, she gasped out, “No. Oh, no. Please. Leave before they get—”
There were screams, men barking orders out of sight that refused to break through the sound of rushing blood in Gabriel’s ears. The look of relief across Lucifer’s face morphed with animalistic fury. “No being will ever hurt you again. I vow it.”
And then he was gone.
Chilled air swept in at his absence, fighting the burn that clawed at her bloody body and causing a fresh wave of agony to dance across her melted skin. Grunts and shouts rose up, and then wet thumps—bodies hitting mud. Dread hooked into her insides as if worms had suddenly risen up to devour her charred remains. Murder of men was a heinous sin. A sin so much worse than her forbidden interactions with Lucifer. She needed to stop him. She needed to—
With a gasp of pain, Gabriel rolled to her side, seeing movement through the long brown grass as men fell injured but still alive. Her eyes scoured through the mass of men screaming commands to kill. Finally locating Lucifer, she saw a dagger in his hands as he caught the throat of the man who had led this village of men and ordered her death. The man’s face turned red then purple as he was lifted from the ground. Spit sprayed from his lips, but no sound escaped. The grip on his jugular was too tight. A death grip.
“You attacked the wrong angel, you disgusting excuse for a human.” Lucifer’s smile was a promise as he pointed the dagger at the man’s wide eyes.
Gabriel struggled to her hands and knees, the grass ripping more of her raw skin away. About to fall in a heap, she grunted through the agony.
“And now you die.”
Gabriel pushed upright, choked words flying from her bloody mouth. “Lucifer, no!”
Dagger freezing mid-air, Lucifer’s head cranked sideways. His eyes widened and flung the man aside to run at her. “Gabriel, look—”
Something punched into Gabriel’s back, stealing a gasp from her as it tunneled through her heart and exploded out through her chest. Her head fell forward, and a bloody spearhead gleamed up at her.
The end of Gabriel and Lucifer’s story was upon them…but this is far from where this devastating love story began.