Authors: Amber Hughey
Death Takes Wing
Published Through Createspace
Amalia swished her dress and sighed, making the full skirt of her ball gown sway in the dim candlelight. She glanced around, slightly bored, waiting for the new Coursaire couple to make the rounds of greeting all of the happy guests at their tables. She looked at Vicki and thought that she looked amazing in her lacy, princess-style gown. She had that happy-bride glow that Amalia was slightly jealous of, but wasn't in a hurry to get herself.
She watched her friend, glad that Vicki’d found someone to share her life with. With a slight frown, she leaned back against the textured wall, watching the winged attendants gather around the beautiful woman.
She and Samantha had shared a few discussions about being excluded from the wedding party, but had both decided that it wouldn’t be worth it to cause trouble for Vicki on her wedding day.
Samantha leaned over towards Amalia, and gently touched her forearm. "Hey, you ready to sit?" Sam tossed her thick, chocolate hair behind her, the ringlets tumbling down to the top of her waist, the hair clips sparkling in the candlelight.
Amalia nodded and began walking towards the round tables placed artfully around the dance floor. Glancing back and forth at all of the nametags, she found hers, and sat down, careful not to wrinkle
her dress. She grabbed the glass of water at her spot and swished the water around, watching it dance in the flames.
"You think she's happy?" Sam asked her quietly, motioning with her chin towards Vicki.
Amalia grimaced and set her glass down. "I hope so. I know she's one of the few that made it through the...transformation...I just wish..." she trailed off at the painful memory, meticulously adjusting her silverware.
Sam questioningly arched a dark eyebrow. A slight smile curved her lips as she looked over her shoulder and saw a familiar angelus.
Vince, Amalia thought, placing a name to the man. Sam hadn’t formally introduced them, but she’d talked to him a couple times at a party Sam had thrown. It was easy enough to recognize him, even though he was across the room, based on the mint hue his full wings had, edged in a pale lemon.
Sam turned back to Amalia, concern in her pale brown eyes. “You just wonder about Donovan,” she said softly.
Amalia nodded, “Yeah. I just wonder about Donovan. I just-“ she stopped as a lump filled her throat. It had been two years. She could talk about him without crying. She was sure she could. “I just wish that I could have seen him get married. Instead of – instead of-“ she couldn’t bring herself to finish. Not yet. Tears stung her eyes, and she shook her
head. She couldn’t cry for him today. Not today. Not on Vicki’s happy day.
Sam reached out and gently rubbed Amalia’s shoulder. “I know, Lia. I know.”
“He was just so close. A week away. A week away from marrying her. Then he has his bachelor party. And – and-“ She stuttered on the memory that she unwillingly dredged up from the dark confines of her mind.
“Don’t,” Sam said simply, shaking her head, “Don’t. Put it behind you.”
She pushed away from the table and stood as the tears blinded her. “I need to get out,” she muttered as she stumbled away from the table and the painful memories. Not caring if Sam was following, she made her way to the small balcony.
She shoved the door open, unwittingly hitting the person on the other side. “Sorry,” she muttered as she made her way to the opposite side. She put her hands on the stone wall, feeling the rough texture beneath her fingers. She closed her eyes, but couldn’t get rid of the image of Derrick, of the wings clinging to the wall.
She felt herself hyperventilating, but couldn’t stop. Her breath came fast and furious, loud to her ears.
“You all right?”
She spun around and stared at the angelus that leaned against the balcony, near the door.
His dark eyebrows were furrowed out of concern, his pale eyes narrowed as she stared. He repeated himself before she shook her head, finally understanding the words.
“Fine,” she said, sharper than what she’d intended, warning him off any further contact.
Unfortunately for her, he didn’t pay any attention to her warning.
The deep baritone flowed around her, seemed to roll around her head. The words rolled together, forcing her to focus on each syllable. “Nothing.”
“Something is. People don’t usually barge through a door, hit a man with said door, then stare at them like he’s an orc in a room of elves,” he said simply, leaning against the cold stone. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to block out the wind that rustled through the trees.
“Just a bad – nevermind,” she said, closing her eyes, trying to banish the memory of Derrick.
“Bad day?” he asked as he wrapped his arms tighter, wishing he’d thought to bring his jacket. He pulled his dark wings close, glad for the windbreak they provided.
She gave him a quavering smile. “You could say that.”
He gave her a slight smile and walked over to stand next to her. He glanced at her before looking out over the river. “I’m Gabriel,” he offered.
“Amalia,” she responded, glad for this bit of normalcy that she unknowingly craved.
“Amalia?” he repeated, unsure if he’d heard her right.
She nodded and gave him a soft laugh. “Yeah, Amalia. Not Amelia. If I could ever be that lucky…”
He chuckled. “So, who do you know?”
She glanced inside and saw Vicki framed in a candle-lit arch, posing for pictures. “Bride,” she answered softly, making him strain to hear the answer.
Vicki’s blonde hair glimmered in the dim light, her white dress accented by the bouquet of deep red and maroon roses, accented with shining white lily-of-the-valleys. Her pale, cream wings hung loose against her back, feathers almost brushing the floor. The groom, Owen, stood stiff against her, his white-blonde hair making him look almost bald from where Amalia stood. The only sign of color she could see was his maroon tie. Even his wings were so pale that they looked almost translucent. The thought of Owen losing all his hair made her snicker, drawing a glance from Gabriel.
“How d’you know her?”
She ran a finger over the stone, pausing when she found a smooth river-rock. “I went to school with her. College, I mean.”
She surreptiously looked him over as he stared over the river. He had black hair, wavy, to just below
his shoulders. Broad shoulders, she thought, enjoying the view. The dark wings framed his bulk, making him look even more muscled. She couldn't tell his eye color in the dim light, but she knew it was a lighter shade. Blue, maybe green, she guessed.
"You?" she asked shyly, kicking herself at the stupidity of the question. Of all the questions to ask as an icebreaker, she berated herself, of course she’d pick the worst one.
He grimaced before answering. "Neither, actually. I'm a guest due to my family's social standing. If they could have gotten around not inviting me, they would have," he finished sourly, casting a wry look at the happy couple, then glancing back at her, slowly appraising his new dinner companion.
"Why? Someone kill someone else?" She said as she leaned forward, finding the potential scandal more interesting than her silverware.
"Nothing that exciting," he chuckled, shaking his head. "It's the natural rivalry you find between the solan and the umbren. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s not like we’re the Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s or anything, but it makes for interesting get-togethers when we’re forced to invite the other or face social catastrophe.”
"Oh," she said, deflated. She sighed and stared at her empty plate, the boredom returning in full force. “And so here you are, at the wedding of
someone whom you probably can’t stand, because if you didn’t show, your family would be very upset with you?”
With a laugh, he agreed. “Upset is very low on the scale of the reaction my mother would give me. If I pulled that on her, she would go ballistic. I may be – old,” he said, just barely managing to keep from telling her how old he was, “but she would have no problem locking me in a bedroom for a few decades to remind me exactly what that little gaffe cost the family.” With a laugh, he recounted a story for Amalia about a previous social blunder he’d made concerning him bringing an uninvited guest that had not only made his mother furious, but had made the opposing family equally furious at him. They’d relegated him and his guest to a table hidden by a pillar and a potted plant. And served them after everyone else, just in case he didn’t get the message clearly enough the first time.
She had an amused thought of the burly angelus sitting on a naughty chair in the corner, behind a pillar, and quietly giggled to herself, covering her mouth.
“We should probably get back in there,” he said as he pushed himself off the wall with a sigh. He wasn’t looking forward to surrounding himself with solan, but if it meant the night would go by quicker, he’d risk it. That and he knew if Owen could see him, that it would annoy the solan more than anything.
And annoying Owen was one of the only decent parts of being here, aside from Amalia, of course.
“Probably,” she muttered unwillingly, but followed him into the warm building.
“So, did you think you’d know anyone other than Owen?” she asked curiously as the wall of warm air coursed over her.
He paused as he waiting for her to catch up, considering her question. “I thought it would be mostly angelus, but figured there’d have to be at least a few humans, since the bride,” he said, gesturing towards Vicki, “started out life as one. Didn’t plan to be the only umbren at the party, though. I was sure that I’d heard a few others had been invited.” He shrugged as he sat down, after first waiting for her to seat herself. “I don’t blame them for not coming, but being the only umbren has been…an adventure.”
“Oh?” She leaned towards him, a hand on her chin, an interested look filling her green eyes.
“Oh yeah,” he replied, propping an ankle on his leg. “Most of them,” he gestured blithely towards the solan that littered the room, “wouldn’t give me the time of day if left to their own devices. Most have been barely civil, and that’s only because they would like the humans attending to believe that they are prim and proper, unlike us nasty, uncouth umbren.” He shrugged lightly, as though it didn’t matter. “Luckily I do have a few acquaintances milling about.”
He shook his head before taking a sip of wine. A slight British accent tinted his words, make them seem darker, more foreign, she thought, listening to him tell her about the people in the room who he had the ‘pleasure’ of being acquainted with.
“So have you spent a lot of time around humans?” she asked curiously, as she sipped her glass of lemon water.
He nodded, and then explained, “I’m an Enforcer of the angelus, and so while I deal primarily with angelus matters, I’ve been known deal with humans.” He shrugged, “Despite what most angelus think, the humans I’ve met aren’t all that bad.”
She gave him an odd look before shaking her head with a slight smile. “Such a kind review!”
He laughed softly, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to insult you. It’s just most humans are either afraid of umbren, or they seem to think that we need to be worshiped for some ungodly reason.”
“Who doesn’t like a good worshiping?” Amalia said philosophically, a small shrug on her shoulders.
He felt a smile brush across his lips. Oh, he found
intriguing. It had been years since he’d found a human worth conversing with past work topics. Since Ivy, really. He gave a slight shake to his head, turning his mind away from her, and back to Amalia. “Not that I’m against a good worshiping, but it does get a little old when you’re worshiped by one person, and then a few feet away is a woman, crossing herself and covering her child’s eyes because
just by seeing me, I’m going to contaminate her child. Not exactly sure
I’m going to contaminate the child with, but I’m sure she’d think of something horrible. With my luck, she thinks it would be something like leprosy,” he said, pale eyes glittering in the candlelight.