The ringing pierced his ears. The wind whipped against his face. The forest around him became a green blur.
He didn’t feel the man behind him until they were clear from the explosion. “R-Remi?”
He blinked; with his vision cleared, he could see the faces of his prince and their court all around him. “Uh. Hi, guys.”
Connor, who was sandwiched between Frankie and Chris, offered the advisor his hand as he shook his head. “I told you it was a trap.”
“Yeah, ‘cause now is exactly the time for that,” Monty grumbled. He took his friend’s hand and pushed himself off the ground, throwing a gracious smile to the man who had delivered him to safety. “Thanks, Remi. I owe you.”
The old speedster waved off his appreciation with a smug grin. “Nah, don’t worry about it, kid. I think we all learned something from this experience–like how we need to work on Chris’ ‘smash and grab’ technique.”
“I’m really not convinced that I won’t roast my passenger alive by doing that, but okay,” muttered Chris.
His father, Christian, smirked at his son’s reluctance. “I’ll explain how it works later on today, alright? Let’s just be grateful that everyone’s alive.”
The old teleporter glanced around at the other council members. “You old fucks ready to go?”
“Speak for yourself, asshole,” Desideria clapped back. “Remi and I have a date.”
“A date this early?” Ricky began, only for Sam, Nat and Cici to interject.
“Bro, do not get them started,” Sam warned.
“ ‘ What’s more romantic than ending a date at sunset?’ ” Cienna mockingly asked, quoting their uncle. Natalie joined her for the second half: “ ‘Ending the date the following sunrise!’ ”
Frankie interrupted their friends’ laughter to announce in a curt tone, “We’ve all had a hell of a start to our weekend, so everyone can go home now. Alexa and I are going to debrief Monty.”
When both Lorenzo and Matteo, Frankie and Monty’s respective fathers, began to protest, the prince added, “And I will give the council my full report in a few hours after we’ve all rested.”
Though hesitant, the elder men nodded and gathered around Christian. The council’s teleporter held out his arms, allowing the other members to take hold of him. Aldo Palladino, Sam and Ricky’s father, kissed Desideria goodbye and nodded to Remi before joining the council. With a boom, lightning smashed onto the earth where they stood, taking the group of elder angels away.
“You kids have fun–and get home,” Remi insisted. He then lifted Desideria into his arms bridal style and sped off into the morning light, leaving the younger angels at the fort.
“Chris, can you get everyone home–” Frankie began, only for Connor to protest. “Oh, hell no–you guys aren’t leaving the rest of us out of the loop again. What the hell is going on?”
Sal, Sam, and Natalie all joined in, urging the prince to let the rest of them stay. He was unconvinced.
“It’s cool with me if it’s cool with you,” Monty muttered. He hadn’t realized how tired he was.
Frankie gave his royal advisor a nod, prompting Monty to sigh and step forward. The remaining members of the court–Alexa, Chris, Connor, Cassidy, Sal, Sam, Ricky, Natalie, and Cienna–all circled around him, eager to hear his accounts of the previous night and that very morning.
“Last night, I was making my rounds through the park when I found a human.” He kept his tone steady, and made eye contact with several of his subordinates as he spoke. “Her name is Lizzie–she’s the daughter of Jeb Peters and Kitty Shaw, the leaders of the two most dangerous bandit clans this side of Kansas City. Suffice to say, she experienced a lot of neglect and abuse at their hands. She told us that she was brought here by her brother, Clint, but she was asleep when they arrived, so she has no idea how he got her to the park. I got Kris to heal her, and she’s staying at my place with Mona until we can find her a family.”
“A bandit kid?” Natalie asked, just as Cienna whispered, “That poor girl…”
“You’re just going to let a bandit stay in our territory?” Sam directed his question at Sal and Frankie. The prince shrugged, while his brother and predecessor muttered, “She’s just a kid, guys.”
“Let Monty finish,” Alexa urged them, her hazel eyes taking on a violet sheen. She easily silenced the commotion, allowing their royal advisor to continue.
“Anyway, the whole thing felt off to me, so I sent Leah to look for any outsiders. If Lizzie’s brother were still around, she would find him. It wasn’t until right before Alexa called me that I got Leah’s report about an intruder at the edge of our territory. The intruder was Clint Peters, and he asked for me because he knew that I was the one who found Lizzie.”
“How the hell can a human make it so deep into our territory without you sensing them?” Connor asked Frankie.
“I’d like to know the same thing,” he muttered.
“Clint Peters isn’t a human,” Monty revealed. “He’s a demon from the Nýchta Tribe–a Plutonian.”