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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:24

“An old name for those Irina who are gifted—or some say cursed—with visions. Different angels bore different gifts, depending on their role in the heavenly realm. Their children bear a fraction of their fathers’ powers, but it is still formidable. For Irin, we learned over time that we could work magic—control it, mold it for our own uses—through the written word.”

Rhys shook his head. “The Fallen were not gifted as the Forgiven were. Their children are more than human, yes, but they cannot wield magic as we can. A Fallen may loan some magic to a Grigori occasionally, but it is not really theirs. When we Irin tattoo spells on our bodies, we permanently make that magic a part of us.”

“It’s like armor,” he said.

“That’s one way of looking at it. We use it to strengthen our bodies. Make ourselves stronger. Increase our longevity. A mature and trained Irin scribe is practically immortal.”

Malachi rubbed the back of his neck. “But not entirely.”

Silence fell between them, with nothing but the tick of a mantel clock filling the air. Rhys watched him with some unspoken question burning in his eyes.

“What?” Malachi finally asked. “Are you tired of telling me all these things? We should take a break. I feel like running.”

“You generally do after a day cooped up inside. Or when you’re irritated.”

For some reason, Rhys’s knowledge of his habits irked him. Why did this stranger know more about him than he did?

“Will my talesm come back?” he asked. “Or are they lost? Will I have to tattoo them all over again? How long will it take to be strong enough?”

“We have no idea.” Rhys shrugged a single shoulder. “You need to do basic protection spells, at the very least. Once we find Ava—”

“And when will that be?”

“I don’t know.” Rhys’s eyes flashed. “I told you, we don’t know where Damien took her. We’re doing our best, but you’re going to have to be patient.”

“I am being patient,” he growled.

Rhys made a disgusted noise at the back of his throat. “You’re still so… you. Even when you’re not.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” His shoulders tensed.

“Never thinking ahead. Rushing into danger with no thought to—”

“I’m thinking of my mate,” Malachi bit out, rising to his feet. “She needs me, and I must go to her.”

“To do what? Protect her?” Rhys stood up, glaring at Malachi from across the table. “You can hardly protect yourself right now. You need to—”

“I need her,” Malachi said. “And she needs—”

“She needs her mate back!” Rhys snapped. “Right now, you’re only a shadow of who she needs.”

Malachi bit back the rage on the tip of his tongue and narrowed his eyes at the man who had called himself his friend. Or, he’d called the old Malachi his friend. Perhaps the two were no longer the same.

“You are angry with me,” he said, crossing his arms. “Resentful. Why?”

His old friend’s head snapped back in surprise, and his green eyes widened. “I…I’m not.”

Rhys’s mouth dropped open, but he did not speak. When his words finally came, they were almost inaudible. “I love her, you know. Maybe not like you did, but I do love her.”

He shoved back the instinctive anger and spoke calmly. “She is my mate.”

“She is.” Rhys looked down, shuffling the papers they’d been looking at into a pile. “She is, without a doubt, your reshon. A true soul mate. I saw it even before you did, I think.”

Malachi didn’t know how, but the emotion was there, wrapping his mind with certainty. “I love her.”

“I believe you,” Rhys said, before clearing his throat. “You love your mate. But… you don’t love Ava. You can’t, because you don’t know her anymore.”

The hollow loss rang in his chest, and he knew, in part, that Rhys was correct. As much as he hated it, Malachi knew the other man spoke the truth. And there was nothing he could do about it.

“She needed you back. And you are. But you’re not the same man. I don’t know if you ever will be. And that—that is why I am angry.”