Home > Battle Angel (Immortal City #3)

Battle Angel (Immortal City #3)
Scott Speer

CHAPTER ONE

There was everything to say, and there was nothing. But the silence that filled the moment was strangely peaceful, Maddy thought. The push and pull of the water against the pier pilings. Flagpoles making that familiar rope-on-metal clanging sound in the breeze. It could have been an altogether pleasant moment, if only she didn’t have to say anything. But this moment couldn’t last. Finally, Maddy knew it was time to speak. And what she was about to say would change everything.

She looked between the pairs of expectant eyes that looked back at her, the two stares that waited for her answer. The piercing blue eyes belonged to Jackson Godspeed, whose gaze was familiar yet still so thrilling to her. Though she had known Jacks for two years now, she really had never gotten used to the way that glance could pierce straight through her and see the real, vulnerable girl inside her. Jacks’s gaze was perfect, too perfect, all blue fire and insufferable beauty. It was divine, something more than human. It was the gaze of a Guardian Angel. His eyes made her feel breathless, made her pulse go wild, and had always made her feel—in some way she couldn’t quite understand—not quite good enough.

She turned to meet the other expectant gaze. These eyes were green, watchful, and kind. They were newer to her, and yet, strangely, she felt somehow more at ease with them. This was Tom Cooper, who had come into her life at a time when she thought she was utterly alone in this world. Tom’s gaze felt like patience and soft vanilla, like sinking into a warm bath at the end of a long day. It would never spark with the blue electricity of Jacks’s, but maybe that was all right. Tom’s eyes were human eyes, and being held in his gaze was the closest thing Maddy had ever felt to home.

She thought if there was some way to bottle this moment and live in it forever, she would jump at the chance. To live in a constant state of about-to-answer, where neither Tom nor Jacks would know the truth, both hoping for the answer they heard in their heads, the answer each expected. In this moment, Maddy didn’t have to break someone’s heart. In this moment, there seemed to be a strange sense of balance. But it was a balance that could not last.

Maddy shook off her reverie and took in the two figures in front of her. The aircraft carrier holding the fighter jets floated behind them as both Jacks and Tom turned to face one another with jaws clenched, fists at the ready, as if looking to each other for Maddy’s answer. Between them, Maddy formed the tip of a triangle, and she was the only thing that was keeping them from crashing into each other in anger and fury.

Time stretched out like a blade. There was Tom in his olive flight suit. A hero. A human hero. He looked handsome. Perfect, even. What more could she ask for? Then she looked at Jacks in his black battle armor, mechanical wings flexed and ready, gleaming in the sunshine. Jacks was no longer perfect. His journey with her—because of her—had altered him. Studying those sleek, man-made wings, Maddy knew the Jacks she had met at the diner was gone forever.

But couldn’t the same be said about Maddy? Was it really just a coat she was wearing? A coat that she could take off in the end and still be the same girl underneath? Or had the training and the embrace of this new Angel’s life changed her? Had she allowed herself to be altered, in the way that couldn’t be undone? The answer dawned on her bitterly, just like when she thought about those mechanical wings. The answer was yes. Just like Jacks, Maddy Montgomery, waitress and high school student, was gone, too. They had both been affected, irreparably wounded, and now they bore the scars of their journeys. Some journeys change us forever, and the idea filled Maddy with a sudden, welling sadness. There was no going back. There was only going forward now. It was time to choose, not just between mortal and Immortal, but also between two worlds.

She couldn’t keep stalling. It was time to speak. The moment of about-to-answer had slipped away and was gone. Life was like that. A series of fleeting moments. Maddy faced the two guys who would do anything to protect her, who would fight for her. Maybe even die for her. She’d made her decision. It was the only decision she could make. With a sick feeling, she parted her lips and let a word fall out.

“Jacks.” She said his name but couldn’t look at him. “I can’t go with you.”

Her voice sounded very far away.

“I choose Tom.”

CHAPTER TWO

Had she really just said that? Whatever just happened, it was too late to take it back. Life can pivot on a single choice, a pinpoint of time, causing ripples of consequences to circle out endlessly. Now she watched the ripples of her decision engulf and transform everything they touched.

They reached Jacks’s face first, warping it out of shape, twisting his Immortal features into an ugliness Maddy didn’t want to look at, but couldn’t bear not to. Jacks took an almost imperceptible step back, as if the decision were a physical weight that he had to strain against as it pushed him backward. Before the anger came and clouded over his face, Maddy caught the glimpse of another emotion as it flashed across his features. She saw it around the corners of his eyes, and it was impossible to miss. Helplessness. A glimmer of the Jacks whom she had left standing on the platform at Union Station, the Angel who had been on top of the library tower with the demon. It was the Jacks who had watched her go at the viewpoint. Betrayal is worst for the betrayer, Maddy thought.

The ripple wave struck Tom next. In Tom’s eyes, Maddy saw someone plunging into the waters of baptism, as if a new life force surged around him. He looked reborn. If the ripple had knocked Jacks back, it seemed to buoy Tom, making him stronger, making him stand taller. Maddy looked away.

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