Gabriel sat in Mr. Qualey’s rooftop garden, alone in the dark, watching Hope through the window of her apartment. The police and the ambulance had come and gone hours ago, and all was quiet.
The night wind set the plants rustling, and lifted his hair. Gabe stayed in the shadows, wondering about the woman who thought him a murderer, and what had happened to make her so quick to see evil where there was only good.
He was drawn to her, perhaps more than he should. Her boyish blond hair and her air of tragic fragility should’ve inspired nothing more than protectiveness, but Gabriel the Archangel, Servant of Truth, never lied to himself, and knew that despite the hurt and anger that had almost driven him away, what he felt for Hope was something more than mere protectiveness. He’d aided many beautiful women through the centuries, yet not once had he pictured them the way he’d pictured her in his mind’s eye, those few moments after the old man’s death. Women were mortal, and he was not. Women were human, and he was not. Why then, had he imagined her smiling up at him over a bridal bouquet, lying in his arms, perhaps even holding his child?
Troubled, he chose to put his momentary lapse aside, and concentrate, instead, on keeping her safe, even if he had to do it from a distance. He’d watched her for hours after the police left: first as she’d moved around her apartment, occasionally weeping, then as she sat at her computer, her face illuminated by whatever she was looking at on her screen. He’d seen the cat leap into her lap, observed how—as it grew dark—she’d gone through the apartment room by room, turning on all the lights. She was still afraid of whatever had driven her into his company today; he could see tension in the set of her shoulders, wariness in her eyes. Strangely, she hadn’t closed her drapes, almost as though she were afraid to hide herself away from the world, perhaps for fear something else might creep in.
“I see I’m not the only one with a weakness for gardens,” came a familiar voice, and his old friend Sammy stepped from the shadows. “Or is it a weakness for something else?”
Unfazed by his old friend’s appearance, Gabe regarded him silently before he spoke. Samael looked every inch the Prince of Darkness this evening, clad in a crisply tailored black suit, eyes hooded. The only light thing about him was his hair, cropped short and carelessly mussed, and the glint of silver from an earring in one ear.
“Why are you sneaking around in the dark, Samael? Haven’t you tired of it yet?”
Sammy didn’t answer, and it was this that told Gabe his barb had struck home, so he pressed a bit further. “You look as though you have a party to go to… Black Mass at Dante’s Inferno, perhaps? Virgin sacrifice at dawn, champagne to follow?”
“I came to check on my newest recruit,” Sammy said smoothly. “How’s our darling Hope this evening?”
The hair on the back of Gabriel’s neck rose, for he knew a challenge when he heard one.
“You can’t have her,” Gabe said flatly. “I’m going to drive the Darkness away from this one.”
“You’re too late,” Sammy answered, with a smile. “She’s already mine.”