by China DeSpain
Calael stood at the edge of the rooftop, the city glittering beneath her like a thousand stars. It was early, the sun just contemplating awakening, and the sky and its clouds were the rich, dusky blue of night’s farewell. Calael was dressed for the summer heat, in a thin T-shirt and minuscule lavender shorts, her dirty blond waves streaming free. She extended her arms—bedecked in tattoos and beaded bracelets—and felt the wind stir the tiny hairs on her skin.
With a grin, she plunged headfirst off the building.
The ground rushed toward her, speeding the wind’s caress, which strove to lift her up. With a laugh, Calael extended her wings. They were small, nothing like her father’s, a rosebud pink to his gleaming white. But despite their limited length, they caught the air current and lifted her, allowing Calael to glide three blocks before gently setting down on the street outside an all-night cafe.
She shook out her wind-tumbled hair, folded her wings behind her, and pushed open the door. The mortals here wouldn’t see her wings; it was an angel trick that she had inherited, though she was no angel. To them, she would look like an average girl, pretty but unremarkable.
She strolled to the counter at Vine and Bean and ordered her customary espresso.
The caffeine hit her in a rush; while the human half of her metabolism could process it normally, her seraphic side experienced it like the jolt from a particularly intense drug. She smirked as she drained the tiny cup. There were highs and thrills all over this city, you just had to know where to look. Of course, it helped if you were a nephilim, a halfling who could experience the mortal plane while still enjoying the occasional angelic delight.
By the time Calael reached the street again, the sun was fully up, heat and light pulsing on the concrete. She laughed and threw her arms up, twirling in a sunbeam. She was a hundred years old, and she still found childish delight in the simple things: a sunbath, a rainstorm, a car accident.
And what nature wouldn’t provide…well, that she would make herself.
Calael considered herself a conductor of chaos. She could and did orchestrate events that entertained her, things that gave her the rush she always, always sought. With a final spin, she marched down the street, searching for something new and thrilling.
It didn’t take long to find it.
She’d gone only two blocks when she spotted a couple arguing. The girl was red-faced and gesticulating, and the boy frowned in response, arms crossed across his chest. It was most certainly a lovers’ quarrel. Calael gasped in delight.
Laughing, she strode up to the man, planted her hands on his face, and kissed him with all the passion roiling inside her. “There you are!” she said. “I’ve been wondering when I would see you again.”
The angry girl had gone speechless, and Calael sent her a wink before giving the boy a second smacking kiss. “Call me sometime,” she said. And with that, she sauntered down the street, searching for a good hiding place to observe the fallout from her actions.
She tucked herself in a nook behind a dumpster and watched, waiting for the jilted girlfriend to pop.
But for once in her long, long life, Calael was disappointed.
The anger had disappeared from her victims’ faces. Instead, wonderment had spread across their features, and the girl engulfed the boy in a giant hug.
Calael hissed through her teeth. This was all wrong.
The pair separated, the girl smiled broadly, and then they went their separate ways. Calael slouched out from behind the dumpster and leaned against a building, prow puckered in thought. What had happened? she wondered. How could kissing another girl’s boyfriend make the girl so happy?
Even as she thought it, the boy approached her. She hadn’t even realized he was walking in her direction, and now he was practically on top of her. He smiled at her, his hazel eyes crinkling at the corners.
“You forgot to give me your number,” he said.
“You asked me to call you. But you didn’t give me your number.”
Calael glared at him. “You know I wasn’t serious.”
He was unperturbed. “Maybe not, but I am. You’re a hell of a kisser. I’m pretty sure I need to get to know you better.”
“What about your girlfriend?” she asked.
Calael flapped a hand in the direction the girl had gone. “Your girlfriend. The one I just kissed you in front of. The one you were fighting with.”
The boy laughed. “Is that what you thought? Lola’s not my girlfriend. She’s my stepsister, and she spends entirely too much time worrying about me. I can’t tell you how thrilled she is that we’re dating.”
“We are not dating,” Calael huffed.
He shrugged. “We could be.” He reached toward her, trailing a finger over the matryoshka doll tattoo on her forearm. Her skin tingled at the contact, as though it were coated in menthol.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Sebastian Lightfoot, at your service. You can call me Bast. You?”
“Calael,” she muttered.
“It’s nice to meet you,” he said. “I can’t help but notice that you seem to be in a bad mood. Can I help with that? Maybe take you to breakfast?”
She shook her head. “I’m not hungry. And I have to get to work.”
“Suit yourself.” He turned, and from one blink to the next, shook out a pair of huge, shimmering gray wings.
“Wait!” Calael cried, stunned. She was certain he wasn’t an angel, and she’d never met another winged creature. “What are you?”
He glanced over his shoulder and smiled again, and there was something in that smile Calael recognized. A hint of danger, a tinge of power. His smile had bite. Her own small wings unfurled in response.
He extended a hand. “Come with me and find out.”
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