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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:46

The city of Oslo would never understand why the sudden rash of attacks against women suddenly dropped off with no arrests by the police. There were whispers of organized crime but no complaints. The collapse of an old apartment building near Aker Brygge was only one more mystery that no one tried to solve. There had been rumors about the place for years. Suspicious men coming and going. Strange noises. Rumors of corruption during redevelopment.

The column Ava read in the English edition of the online paper held no answers, only question after question that she knew would never be answered. Not if the Irin had anything to do with it. She sat in the kitchen of the scribe house, drinking coffee and relaxing while everything was still quiet.

“What are you reading?” Malachi asked, sitting next to her with a mug of dark tea.

She snapped her laptop shut. She had no idea why Malachi had carried it while he ran around Europe looking for her, but she was grateful to have it back. “Nothing. Just some news online.”

“Anything that will give Lang a heart attack?”

She smiled. “Lang is paranoid.”

The watcher was convinced that Irin exposure was imminent. He’d been on the phone with every contact he had in Vienna, trying to figure out what was going on, but he was getting nowhere. The lines of communication were only getting more tangled, and Sari and Damien were no longer debating going to the city. They were planning on it.

Malachi held out his hand, and she passed him the computer, curious what he would do. It was password protected, after all. It wasn’t as if he could—

He typed in the password with rapid fingers.

Malachi shrugged. “Remember how I said that some things just came to me? Well, that was one of them.”

“I don’t remember giving it to you in the first place!”

“I suppose I must be very observant, canim.”

She ignored the sweet rush she felt with his endearment and tried to scowl. “That is my computer, Malachi,” Ava protested as he pointed and clicked. “You don’t have any right to—”

“This,” he said quietly, angling the screen toward her. “Will you tell me about this?”

He had the photo gallery open. Pictures of Topkapi Palace littered the screen. There were hundreds of thumbnails, but he’d opened the one she’d taken of him while he sat near the cafe, drinking a cup of tea and watching her from behind his sunglasses. He was wearing a linen suit and the sun caught streaks of red in his hair. She put her fingers to the picture, touching his serious face. It was when he was still pretending to be her bodyguard. Before she knew… anything.

“I’ve looked through them all. I tried to start at the beginning, but I still don’t remember much. Will you tell me?”

“Yeah.” She blinked back the tears. “I can tell you about it if you want.”

He looked like her mate. Felt like her mate. But in many ways, Malachi was still a stranger to her. This quiet man held only hints of the arrogant, reckless warrior she’d fallen in love with. He was different. More serious. But then, Ava imagined that she was, too.

“You kept following me around the city.” She started to smile. “I was pissed, but I can’t deny I was enjoying the scenery.”

He smiled back. “And you weren’t suspicious?”

“You have to understand about my stepfather. I thought he’d hired you.”

“Why would your stepfather hire someone to follow you?”

“Carl… he has this accountant who worries…”

He peppered her with questions until she started yawning. Then he guided her up the stairs and into their small room. She let him hold her because she slept better in his arms. So did he. Because, even though her mind didn’t know him, her heart and her body did. She let him hold her because Malachi kept the worst of the darkness away.

It still haunted her. She worried about using her magic for more than the most basic protection. Worried about the marks on Malachi’s arms that he told her appeared when she sang to him in their dreams. She worried about the strange visions Jaron had given her. And she worried about going to Vienna.

Malachi didn’t like the idea either, but if Damien, Sari, and Orsala were going, they both agreed they should follow. She still needed lessons from Orsala. They both needed the protection of friends. Vienna was a hotbed of politics, but it was also the repository of ancient secrets Malachi felt sure would shed light on Ava’s origins.

Plus, her father had a concert there in two months. And according to Rhys and Malachi, Jasper Reed might be the one human who could answer questions about the strange blood that made her an Irina.

And why she’d attracted the favor of a powerful fallen angel.

“Tell me what you wish, my daughter. Tell me, and I will grant it.”

Ava worried. But for the first time in months, she also hoped.

She drifted to sleep in Malachi’s arms, surrounded by the comfort of her mate. And as she drifted, her shields fell. His soul’s voice whispered to her, soothing murmurs of love and desire. They wrapped around her heart, fed her soul, and carried her when the darkness beckoned. In her mind, she saw them as they’d been in her dream, light and dark, bound together by heaven.

Not even death had been able to part them.

In her dream, the great circle rose, like the sun after a long night. Gold and silver twisted together, it climbed the sky until it shattered and a thousand points glistened in the darkness. Endless stars lost in blackest night.

And Ava stood below it, staring into the darkness, with Malachi at her side.