Home > Unwelcome (Archangel Academy #2)

Unwelcome (Archangel Academy #2)
Michael Griffo

Prologue

Outside, the earth was cold.

The New Year brought with it an early frost, burying the past, at least temporarily, beneath a thick layer of snow. Archangel Academy was practically empty, most of the students spending their holiday break with family, so the campus was a sea of white, an enormous unsoiled blanket with only a few patches of brownish-green grass, bruised yet resilient, peeking out every hundred yards or so as a reminder of what was and what will be again. Tomorrow when classes resume, the sprawling blank canvas will be tarnished with footsteps, the imprints of students making their claims on the land, their own private piece of the world. Looking out from his dorm room window at the wintry landscape, a landscape that would soon be altered, Michael was once again amazed at how quickly everything can change.

Only a few months ago he was looking out of a different window at an entirely different landscape, wondering when his life would begin, when it would change. And now here he was, half a world away, his life transformed in more ways than he could ever have imagined or even thought possible. Sometimes he didn’t know what was more incredible: the fact that he was a vampire or that he had a boyfriend. He looked over at Ronan sleeping in the bed that they shared, the moonlight making his skin look almost translucent, his thick black hair tousled like a little boy’s, a faint smile on his full red lips, and Michael’s breath caught in his chest for he was fully aware that Ronan and everything else that had happened to him since he left Weeping Water were the answers to his dreams. It was just that everything had happened so quickly.

He didn’t hear the sound until a few seconds after it began, a sound like teeth, sharp and strong, clicking, chattering. It had started to rain and the raindrops, more ice than water, were hitting the window, striking it, as a welcome, a warning. That’s why Michael loved the rain; it could be so many things. It could cleanse, destroy, interrupt, change. The first time he saw Ronan, it had rained. The memory of rainwater riding down Ronan’s cheeks, clinging to his lips, still stirred feelings within the pit of Michael’s stomach, still made him feel nervous and excited and passionate, still made him feel incredibly alive, even though technically he wasn’t.

He watched two drops of rainwater travel down the window. One moved swiftly in a straight course from the top to the bottom, never slowing down, never hesitating, bubbling at the bottom of the window until it could no longer hold its shape, then bursting into the air to continue its journey elsewhere, maybe fall into the snow-covered earth below and wait for the rest of the world around it to melt. Or perhaps become something completely new, a glade of ice, hard, silver, and sleek.

The other drop of rain moved with caution, traipsing slowly to the left, then the right, pausing a moment almost as if to ask Michael toward which direction it should travel. But Michael had no advice, so the raindrop was forced to make its own decision. Slowly it continued to move down the window on a slight angle, hugging desperately to the glass so it wouldn’t fall, so it wouldn’t stray too far and too quickly from what it knew, moving in its own time. Finally, it reached the base of the window, long after the other raindrop had disappeared, and made the decision to stay, content in its travel, content to allow life to continue to move around it as it stayed unchanged, a simple drop of rain, nothing more, nothing less. For a moment Michael felt regret, just for a moment, but the presence of the emotion, no matter how fleeting, was profound because he was beginning to realize that nothing in his life would ever be simple again. Not even his reflection.

In the window, through the crisscrossing currents of rain, among the grayish-black shadows of the moonlight, he was reminded once again that his image was forever changed. Changed by a drop of red, one tiny drop of red blood that clung to his lip.

Before he came here to Double A, before he met Ronan, he would have thought a spot of blood would spoil his image, ruin it, but now he knew that it enhanced his reflection and gave him strength and courage and power that he had yet to fully comprehend and employ. He flicked the dash of red, the stubborn blood drop, with his tongue and savored the taste, the taste that reminded him of a feeding earlier in the day, the taste that reminded him of Ronan and of himself. And he couldn’t help but smile. Michael thought how fascinating it was that something like the bitter taste of blood, someone else’s blood, that a few months ago would have been repulsive is now a vital aspect of his life. And it was all because of Ronan.

Before Michael could turn to look at Ronan, a thunderclap roared somewhere far above him, somewhere out of reach but somehow right next to him, and his gaze remained with the rain, with the cold, with his grotesque face. Because the rain, falling with more intensity now, had altered his reflection. He saw that he wasn’t the Michael he remembered, the Michael he was still trying to hold on to, he was something different, something much, much different from who he was when he began his journey to this new place.

It was as if each drop of rain latched on to the window, sliding in a multitude of directions to create dark, watery veins that sprawled across Michael’s face like sins as they begin to etch into a soul. His image, torn and dissected, heightened and distorted, looked back at him as if to announce, This is who I am now; that other Michael is no more. But strangely he wasn’t afraid. He didn’t know exactly how he felt, but he knew that this harsh truth didn’t frighten him. Maybe it was because he was stronger now or because he was learning to accept the unacceptable. Or maybe it was simply because he knew he was no longer alone.

There was no more time to ponder his misshapen reflection or how his present was so vastly different from his past, because he heard his name. Ronan’s husky whisper never failed to arouse Michael, never failed to remind him how lucky he was, how grateful that he was exactly where he was born to be.

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