Yet the mating call had no care for the “now isn’t the time” reminder. My cock was as hard as granite for her.
I used my wings to shove aside overstretched branches, so they wouldn’t scratch her.
Fiammetta sent me a glance, her face the usual cold, blank mask. Right, it wasn’t the Wickedest Witch’s style to show any appreciation. I could count the few times she’d ever said, “thank you,” and one of those times was after she’d fucked me. She’d thought I’d climbed to her tower to serve her, so, she’d thanked me for my service before dismissing me.
Pine needles crunched under our feet, though we tried to tread quietly.
The City of Nine was depressingly dim, but this place was worse, as it was in the world of shades. Archangels have super night vision. But Fiammetta might have a hard time to see.
Tiny ice crystals formed on her fingertips and slithered up her arms until her entire body radiated. That seemed excessive, but I wouldn’t point that out while our relationship was in a budding stage. I needed to tend to it instead of snuffing it out, but since she was showing off to impress me, it was a courtesy for me to acknowledge her effort.
“I know you want to look like a goddess, all shining and glorious, but should we attract attention right now, Fia?”
She gave me an icy look.
I sighed. I probably should have taken more care with my words. I should have said something like, “My mate is gorgeous without comparison, and I’ve crossed the universe, traveled light years, and fallen onto this damned planet for you.”
But I’m a straightforward male who speaks his mind. I wasn’t used to holding my tongue or walking around on tiptoes. This relationship thing was harder than I thought.
“Must I explain everything I do, creatu—” She stopped in mid-word as I squeezed her hand gently to remind her who I was. “Gabriel,” she added grudgingly.
That was an excellent start. She’d stopped calling me creature, and she didn’t withdraw her hand from mine, even though I rubbed her the wrong way.
For some moments, we prowled ahead silently.
“How old are you, Fia?” I asked, then realized immediately how dumb the question was.
She couldn’t remember.
Her face darkened. Sadness filled me, and rage followed.
Whoever had made my female suffer like this would pay tenfold when I found them, and I would find them, I vowed.
“Try not to become deadweight, Angel,” Fiammetta said. “I’d hate to get rid of you if you inconvenience me.”
The Wickedest Witch had no shortage of insults.
“When did I become deadweight?”
“When you started asking,” she said.
I knew questions reminded her all over again that she couldn’t remember a thing. All she had each day was the information she gleaned from Kaara’s briefing and a few facts she scribed on her skin with her magic.
The Wickedest Witch wasn’t one to trust or rely on anyone.
“Fia, you need to learn to trust me. Your secrets are also mine to keep, especially now that I know you’re my mate. I’ll protect you above all. Didn’t I kill the vampire to preserve your dark secret, even before I knew about your amnesia?”
“Fine,” I said. “For this partnership to work, we have to pool our resources and share information. We don’t hold back.”
“You first,” she said.
“What else do you want to know?” I’d told her briefly about my race, our civil war, and my mission to track down the Dark Lord of All Angels on the way here.
And she’d interrogated me when I’d first fallen, but I wondered how much her magic could help her remember.
“If Angels conquered one universe after another, as you claimed,” she drawled, “then why did they skip Pandemonium?”
I shrugged. “Who wants to come here?”
“This planet is a dumping ground for many empires, so Angels have to have heard about it. And as conquerors, you must have many enemies. Your Fallen Angels and the Dark Lord’s Reapers are still at war with each other. Isn’t it best to send your foes to suffer a fate worse than death?”
Always thinking like a wicked witch. That was my mate. But what she’d said made sense.
Pandemonium was a unique planet. Why didn’t we have the data about it in our system? My race is vengeful, and we love to punish our enemies.
Then it hit me.
“This planet is hidden in the past,” I said. “It’s hidden from this galaxy’s star chart. My crew noticed it only when it suddenly revealed itself to us.”
“Why does Pandemonium try to hide from Angels? Many other empires have its coordinates and send their exiles and criminals here.”
A dark thought clicked in my mind. Why had my mate’s enemies banished her to a place hidden in time and from the worst of the predators—Angels?
“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” I said. “My ship ThunderSong is still searching for me, but my crew can’t reach me since they don’t know we’re stuck in the past. Maybe I should warn them not to come down here. If they’re sent to a different time period on Pandemonium, we’re totally screwed.”
Fiammetta pondered that for a few seconds before speaking. “I couldn’t find the portal because I’d been looking for where instead of when. Brief me on your time theory.”
As I gave her a quick overview of the time-space continuum, I was surprised by how quickly she picked it up. If only she could form memories, her intelligence would be even more stunning.
“I can’t remember people, events, or places,” she said, glancing at my awed expression. “But my intelligence, inherent knowledge, and inborn magic are still mine. I’m too powerful for my enemies to strip me completely.”
“When we get out of here, I’ll gut each one of them, slowly.”
“They’re mine to take care of,” she said.
“You’re my mate. Your enemies are mine.”
“We haven’t established this matehood thing, and I want to hear no more of it.”
“One day you’ll beg me to tell you all about it, and I’ll tell you in bed.”
“Show me the magical tattoos on your arms, Fia.”
“They have nothing to do with you.”
“Then why are my wings on your arms? You can’t shut me out forever. Let me in, Fiammetta. I’ll never harm you. I need to see your markings. Two heads are better than one.”
“I’m not sure about that. You won’t be able to read my elaborate runes anyway.”
“I didn’t crash to this planet—unlike you, unlike others,” she said. “I woke up in this jungle under a black tree. My enemies must have shoved me through a portal, and I’ve been trying to find it, but I have no memory of anything that happened. Somehow, I found a way to record essential events and threats on my skin with my blood magic. I can’t use too much of my witch blood, since even shedding one drop diminishes me.”
I’d make sure she didn’t waste another drop.
“I don’t have enough skin for recording things,” she added. “As of today, I’m nearly out of space. If we can’t leave this planet within a week or two, we’ll be done for.”
“It won’t happen, Fia. We’ll get out of here. I’ll get you out of here.”
“Do not tell me pretty words again. I hate promises,” she said, but she kept her hand in mine.
It pleases me that we’re beginning to building a connection.
“Show me the runes on your arm, baby,” I urged again.
“I need to check the map anyway,” she said.
A sequence of glyphs beamed on her arm, forming a sketched map.
My eyebrows drew together. “How do I read them?”
“It’s not for you to read,” she said, raising her gaze from the map and surveying the forest.
Birds chirped eerily, and animals bellowed. I was sensitive to every sound. Fia had mentioned that noises were good, so, we were probably in the safe zone. Regardless, I had no fear of predators, but the poison fog was another matter. Last time, it had eroded a patch of my feathers.
Fia’s hand tensed in mine.
“What is it?”
“The forest has shifted again since last time,” she said.
“What do you mean shifted?”
Before she could answer, everything blurred. The jungle started spinning. I pulled my mate into my arms, my wings forming protective walls around her.
Her darkness shoved me away.
“Don’t ever do that!” she hissed. “You’re blinding me. I’m not some weakling who needs your protection. I need you to fight for me, not suffocate me!”
I forgot that my mate was the Wickedest Witch, who didn’t do gratitude much. Which was fine. I shouldn’t hope for sweetness from her, but she wasn’t as heartless as she thought, either.
She’d never abused her subjects. She struck only when she was threatened. She cared for Kaara Nightshades a great deal and had refused to leave the girl and her subjects behind if we ever found the portal.
Even if my witch was a coldhearted bitch, I’d still protect her. My primal male instinct required that I put my mate above anyone and anything.
A blink, and the jungle stilled.
We were surrounded by a cluster of snakelike plants. Their sprawling vines extended and crawled toward us. I flashed my sword, ready to cut them if any dared to move closer.
A gust of icy wind blasted from Fiammetta to meet the vines, and the plants recoiled, withdrawing their vicious reach.
“The nasty plants want to attack us,” I snarled. “I’ll cut them down to the root.”
“What do you expect? They’re cannibal plants,” Fiammetta said, padding between them as they reluctantly opened a path for us. “Stay close to me, and you’ll be fine.”
“You’re protecting me, mate,” I said with appreciation.
She ignored me.
“Does the forest often shift like that?” I asked. I liked to hear her talking, even when her voice sounded icy and harsh.
“It requires a good amount of energy to do that. Akem is toying with us.”
I darted my eyes around, my hand tightening on the hilt of my sword. Instinctively, I wanted to wrap Fiammetta in my wings again, but I tucked them tightly behind me, given how she’d reacted when I’d done that a moment ago.
My witch wouldn’t be treated like a helpless maiden.
Perhaps it was for the best. When I’d stretched my broken wings like that, their ridge was torn again. The throbbing pain from the wound had never stopped. The planet was still fucking preventing me from healing.
“Is this Akem around somewhere?” I asked. “What does he look like? What’s his true form?”
When I met him, I would cut him down for allying with the vampire Dark Prince and trying to hurt my mate.
“No one who has seen his true form is still alive,” Fiammetta said. “When he’s near, you won’t need me to tell you. You’ll know.”
Just then, I perceived a sinister dark power looming near.
Danger! My Archangel High Sense flared.
I wheeled, trying to position myself on the side from which the strongest dark power seemed to be emanating, but it was coming from every direction. I spread my wings and formed them around Fiammetta, not caring whether she’d be pissed off again.
I wouldn’t let any threat reach her. Any nasty thing would have to go through me first.
The jungle turned eerily quiet. Not even a wind passed through, and the air smelled damp, sulfurous, and smothering.
“Fia,” I called.
Fiammetta became very still, her icy storm twirling around us in currents, forming a shield. Her darkness traveled through the edge of the storm, hissing.
I gripped my angelblade, its surface flashing a killing light.
“Akem’s here,” she whispered. “Don’t try anything stupid unless I say so.”
Something dark, malicious, and powerful beyond measure touched my mind. I snarled, and my Angel Flame burst in me, enraged.
An Archangel’s mind is a forbidden field, and no force should mess with mine.
The dark power slinked back, but before retreating, it brushed my wings.
A bad chill climbed up my spine.
What kind of foul power was that?
“Show yourself!” I growled.
As if in answer, a silky black feather swirled in the air and slowly floated down.
It was my feather!
“Face me!” I shouted in fury. “If you want a battle, fight me alone!”
That thing could touch me, which meant Fiammetta’s darkness and icy storm couldn’t keep it out. My Angel Flame would prevent it from invading me. But unfortunately, my fire couldn’t manifest outside me, unlike High Prince Seth’s black lightning. Otherwise, I’d have burnt the foul entity.
“Akem, what do you want?” Fiammetta asked, her voice cold, dry, and inhuman.
I had never heard her sound like that before. I wanted to kill this Akem for terrorizing my mate.
The silence stretched. Then the unbearable pressure in the air dropped.
A second later, I heard birds flap their wings and take flight, their sharp calls like a monkey’s scream. A few animals scuffled in the bushes, whimpering.
My High Sense said the threat had departed, but I didn’t withdraw my wings from shielding Fiammetta. She touched my feathers and I shivered with pleasure, even though we’d just confronted a malevolent force.
“He’s gone,” she said.
“What did he want, other than to check us out?”
Worry formed lines at the corners of her mouth, her lips thin.
“Let’s go find the shuttle. Hurry,” she said.