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  Hush, Hush

  Becca Fitzpatrick

  … GOD SPA­RED NOT THE AN­GELS THAT SIN­NED, BUT CAST THEM DOWN TO HELL, AND DE­LI­VE­RED THEM IN­TO CHA­INS OF DARK­NESS, TO BE RE­SER­VED UN­TO JUDG­MENT…

  2 PE­TER 2:4

  PROLOGUE

  LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE NOVEMBER 1565

  CHA­UN­CEY WAS WITH A FAR­MER'S DA­UGH­TER ON the grassy banks of the Lo­ire Ri­ver when the storm rol­led in, and ha­ving let his gel­ding wan­der in the me­adow, was left to his own two fe­et to carry him back to the cha­te­au. He to­re a sil­ver buck­le off his shoe, pla­ced it in the girl's palm, and watc­hed her scurry away, mud slin­ging on her skirts. Then he tug­ged on his bo­ots and star­ted for ho­me.

  Ra­in she­eted down on the dar­ke­ning co­untry­si­de sur­ro­un­ding the Cha­te­au de Lan­ge­a­is. Cha­un­cey step­ped easily over the sun­ken gra­ves and hu­mus of the ce­me­tery; even in the thic­kest fog he co­uld find his way ho­me from he­re and not fe­ar get­ting lost. The­re was no fog to­night, but the dark­ness and ons­la­ught of ra­in we­re de­ce­iving eno­ugh.

  The­re was mo­ve­ment along the frin­ge of Cha­un­cey's vi­si­on, and he snap­ped his he­ad to the left. At first glan­ce what ap­pe­ared to be a lar­ge an­gel top­ping a ne­arby mo­nu­ment ro­se to full he­ight. Ne­it­her sto­ne nor marb­le, the boy had arms and legs. His tor­so was na­ked, his fe­et we­re ba­re, and pe­asant tro­users hung low on his wa­ist. He hop­ped down from the mo­nu­ment, the ends of his black ha­ir drip­ping ra­in. It slid down his fa­ce, which was dark as a Spa­ni­ard's.

  Cha­un­cey's hand crept to the hilt of his sword. "Who go­es the­re?"

  The boy's mo­uth hin­ted at a smi­le.

  "Do not play ga­mes with the Due de Lan­ge­a­is," Cha­un­cey war­ned. "I as­ked for yo­ur na­me. Gi­ve it."

  "Due?" The boy le­aned aga­inst a twis­ted wil­low tree. "Or bas­tard?"

  Cha­un­cey uns­he­at­hed his sword. "Ta­ke it back! My fat­her was the Due de Lan­ge­a­is. I'm the Due de Lan­ge­a­is now," he ad­ded clum­sily, and cur­sed him­self for it.

  The boy ga­ve a lazy sha­ke of his he­ad. "Yo­ur fat­her wasn't the old due."

  Cha­un­cey se­et­hed at the out­ra­ge­o­us in­sult. "And yo­ur fat­her?" he de­man­ded, ex­ten­ding the sword. He didn't yet know all his vas­sals, but he was le­ar­ning. He wo­uld brand the fa­mily na­me of this boy to me­mory. "I'll ask on­ce mo­re," he sa­id in a low vo­ice, wi­ping a hand down his fa­ce to cle­ar away the ra­in. "Who are you?"

  The boy wal­ked up and pus­hed the bla­de asi­de. He sud­denly lo­oked ol­der than Cha­un­cey had pre­su­med, may­be even a ye­ar or two ol­der than Cha­un­cey. "One of the De­vil's bro­od," he ans­we­red.

  Cha­un­cey felt a clench of fe­ar in his sto­mach. "You're a ra­ving lu­na­tic," he sa­id thro­ugh his te­eth. "Get out of my way."

  The gro­und be­ne­ath Cha­un­cey til­ted. Bursts of gold and red pop­ped be­hind his eyes. Hunc­hed with his fin­ger­na­ils grin­ding in­to his thighs, he lo­oked up at the boy, blin­king and gas­ping, trying to ma­ke sen­se of what was hap­pe­ning. His mind re­eled li­ke it was no lon­ger his to com­mand.

  The boy cro­uc­hed to le­vel the­ir eyes. "Lis­ten ca­re­ful­ly. I ne­ed so­met­hing from you. I won't le­ave un­til I ha­ve it. Do you un­ders­tand?"

  Grit­ting his te­eth, Cha­un­cey sho­ok his he­ad to exp­ress his dis­be­li­ef-his de­fi­an­ce. He tri­ed to spit at the boy, but it trick­led down his chin, his ton­gue re­fu­sing to obey him.

  The boy clas­ped his hands aro­und Cha­un­cey's; the­ir he­at scorc­hed him and he cri­ed out.

  "I ne­ed yo­ur oath of fe­alty," the boy sa­id. "Bend on one knee and swe­ar it."

  Cha­un­cey com­man­ded his thro­at to la­ugh harshly, but his thro­at const­ric­ted and he cho­ked on the so­und. His right knee buck­led as if kic­ked from be­hind, tho­ugh no one was the­re, and he stumb­led for­ward in­to the mud. He bent si­de­ways and retc­hed.

  "Swe­ar it," the boy re­pe­ated.

  He­at flus­hed Cha­un­cey's neck; it to­ok all his energy to curl his hands in­to two we­ak fists. He la­ug­hed at him­self, but the­re was no hu­mor. He had no idea how, but the boy was inf­lic­ting the na­usea and we­ak­ness in­si­de him. It wo­uld not lift un­til he to­ok the oath. He wo­uld say what he had to, but he swo­re in his he­art he wo­uld dest­roy the boy for this hu­mi­li­ati­on.

  "Lord, I be­co­me yo­ur man," Cha­un­cey sa­id ve­no­mo­usly.

  The boy ra­ised Cha­un­cey to his fe­et. "Me­et me he­re at the start of the Heb­rew month of Chesh­van. Du­ring the two we­eks bet­we­en new and full mo­ons, I'll ne­ed yo­ur ser­vi­ce."

  "A…fort­night?" Cha­un­cey's who­le fra­me tremb­led un­der the we­ight of his ra­ge. "I am the Due de Lan­ge­a­is!"

  "You are a Nep­hil," the boy sa­id on a sli­ver of a smi­le.

  Cha­un­cey had a pro­fa­ne re­tort on the tip of his ton­gue, but he swal­lo­wed it. His next words we­re spo­ken with icy ve­nom. "What did you say?"

  "You be­long to the bib­li­cal ra­ce of Nep­hi­lim. Yo­ur re­al fat­her was an an­gel who fell from he­aven. You're half mor­tal." The boy's dark eyes lif­ted, me­eting Cha­un­cey's. "Half fal­len an­gel."

  Cha­un­cey's tu­tor's vo­ice drif­ted up from the re­ces­ses of his mind, re­ading pas­sa­ges from the Bib­le, tel­ling of a de­vi­ant ra­ce cre­ated when an­gels cast from he­aven ma­ted with mor­tal wo­men. A fe­ar­so­me and po­wer­ful ra­ce. A chill that wasn't en­ti­rely re­vul­si­on crept thro­ugh Cha­un­cey. "Who are you?"

  The boy tur­ned, wal­king away, and alt­ho­ugh Cha­un­cey wan­ted to go af­ter him, he co­uldn't com­mand his legs to hold his we­ight. Kne­eling the­re, blin­king up thro­ugh the ra­in, he saw two thick scars on the back of the boy's na­ked tor­so. They nar­ro­wed to form an up­si­de-down V.

  "Are you-fal­len?" he cal­led out. "Yo­ur wings ha­ve be­en strip­ped, ha­ven't they?"

  The boy-angel-who­ever he was did not turn back. Cha­un­cey did not ne­ed the con­fir­ma­ti­on.

  "This ser­vi­ce I'm to pro­vi­de," he sho­uted. "I de­mand to know what it is!"

  The air re­so­na­ted with the boy's low la­ugh­ter.

  CHAPTER 1

  COLDWATER, MAINE PRESENT DAY

  I WAL­KED IN­TO BI­OLOGY AND MY JAW FELL OPEN. Myste­ri­o­usly ad­he­red to the chalk­bo­ard was a Bar­bie doll, with Ken at her si­de. They'd be­en for­ced to link arms and we­re na­ked ex­cept for ar­ti­fi­ci­al le­aves pla­ced in a few cho­ice lo­ca­ti­ons. Scrib­bled abo­ve the­ir he­ads in thick pink chalk was the in­vi­ta­ti­on:

  WELCOME TO HUMAN REPRODUCTION (SEX)

  At my si­de Vee Sky sa­id, "This is exactly why the scho­ol out­laws ca­me­ra pho­nes. Pic­tu­res of this in the eZi­ne wo­uld be all the evi­den­ce I'd ne­ed to get the bo­ard of edu­ca­ti­on to ax bi­ology. And then we'd ha­ve this ho­ur to do so­met­hing pro­duc­ti­ve-li­ke re­ce­ive one-on-one tu­to­ring from cu­te up­per-class guys."

  "Why, Vee," I sa­id, "I co­uld've sworn you've be­en lo­oking for­ward to this unit all se­mes­ter."

  Vee lo­we­red her las­hes and smi­led wic­kedly. "This class isn't go­ing to te­ach me anyt­hing I don't al­re­ady know."

  "Vee? As in vir­gin?"

  "Not so lo­ud." She win­ked just as the bell rang, sen­ding us both to our se­ats, which we­re si­de by si­de at our sha­red tab­le.

  Co­ach McCo­na­ughy grab­bed the whist­le swin­ging from a cha­in aro­und hi