"Oh my God, Ash!" I gasped.
He laid on his back but I could see one of his wings peeking out from underneath him. What few white feathers remained were stained red with blood. The rest were charred or missing. And the angle of his wing seemed wrong, like the broken wing of a bird.
Only then did I notice the dark, tender bruises and welts on his side, wrapping around to his back. He looked as if he'd been burned, whipped, and pelted with rocks all at the same time.
But his eyes cracked open and he smiled at me like it was a typical, lazy Sunday morning.
"Hello, my love." His voice was gravelly with sleep as he reached for me.
"Ash, you're hurt!" I shrieked, too panicked to register his term of endearment.
"It's alright. Lucifer gave me something for the pain." He draped an arm across my waist and looked at me adoringly. "And with time, all will heal."
"But what happened?" I cried, hating that he'd been hurt so badly in the first place. I felt utterly helpless.
"We finally did it." He looked pleased, if a bit drugged out from whatever Lucifer gave him. "We rebelled. We took the fall. And I brought you with me."
"The fall?" I repeated as my mind scrambled to connect the dots.
"Yes, you're safe now." He reached for my hand and laced his fingers with mine. "No human man will ever make you submit to him again. You have all the same rights and powers as anyone else. All you have to do is take them."
As my thoughts raced, my eyes caught a mirror across from the bed and the reflection shocked me.
My eyes looked exactly the same golden-brown color. But other than that, I looked completely different. My hair was much longer, nearly down to my waist, and a coppery auburn color. With one glance down at my naked body, I saw I was much shorter and thinner. This was not the body I, Deja, was born in, and yet it was still mine.
"Lucifer suggests you form a legion to protect yourself," Ash continued in his lazy, sexy tone. "You won't be immortal like us but as the first human on our side, he will grant you powers over them." He eyed me curiously. "Or maybe he already has."
This had to be another one of my dream memories, right? There was no way I could wake up in a different body in a completely different place. But everything felt so real, from the sheets beneath me to Ash's arm wrapped around me.
And this raw power within me felt unmistakably real.
When I sat still and focused, I felt it traveling through me like millions of tiny high-speed trains. I closed my eyes and saw the Garden that was no longer my home. Yet still, wherever we were, I could draw the energy from the earth and will it to obey me.
"Turn over," I said abruptly. "Let me see your back."
Ash looked puzzled but obliged, rolling over on his stomach. I choked back a cry at what I saw. His injuries were far worse than I imagined. While the front of his torso was painfully beautiful and perfect, his back was a mess of deep gashes, mottled bruises, and painful welts. His left wing was a twisted deformity of broken bones with just a few feathers holding on. The right wing was gone completely, with a painful-looking, bloody hole where it once was.
If he were human, he simply would not have lived.
Steeling myself, I placed my palms carefully on his back and closed my eyes. I drew upon the resilient energy of the earth first up through my tailbone and collecting it in the center of my chest. I had no idea what I was doing, and yet I did. It was pure instinct.
I drew on the healing powers of nature, which always returned with a vengeance even when the last little leaf fell from the tree. From the center of my chest, I willed the magic of the natural world through my arms and out my palms. I willed for it to heal my lover, my savior, like it healed the earth. To take away his pain, and to give him great black wings fit for a ruler of Hell.
I didn't open my eyes for the longest time, too afraid to see if I failed him. But when I saw my palms pressed against smooth, flawless skin and rippling muscles, I collapsed with relief and joy.
"It worked!" Tears sprang to my eyes as I smoothed my hands across his back, unable to believe it. "You're healed!"
Ash sat up and checked the mirror, looking over his shoulder with adorable fascination. He stretched his majestic black wings carefully and my breath felt stolen from my body. I never saw a creature that looked so beautiful.
"I'll be damned," he breathed.
"Well, considering we're in Hell, you already are," I giggled.
"No, my love."
With an impish grin, he folded them against his back again and dropped on top of me. An explosion of love and warmth spread from my chest as he pulled me into a tight embrace and peppered my face with kisses.
"I'm not damned in the slightest, even if I am a demon now." He shifted to look at me with his crystal blue gaze. "Because of you, my love, I am truly blessed."