With Maddy torn between two loves, Guardian Jackson and heroic pilot Tom, and Angels and humans on the brink of an epic war, the Immortal City is more vulnerable than ever. And when demons descend upon Angel City with the intent to destroy, the humans don't stand a fighting chance without the Angels on their side.
Will Jacks find the strength and forgiveness to enter the fray and fight the demons as a stronger-than-ever Battle Angel? Or has the damage been so great that the Guardians will set off for the next place, abandoning Angel City in its darkest hour?
It all comes down to love-wrecked half-Angel Maddy and the strength of her bond with Jackson in this game-changing, thrice-as-sultry series finale that blends beautiful themes of redemption and renewal with heart-pounding action scenes and jaw-dropping twists.
Release date: August 28, 2014
Print pages: 320
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There was everything to say, and there was nothing. But the silence that filled the moment was strangely peaceful, Maddy thought. The push and pull of the water against the pier pilings. Flagpoles making that familiar rope-on-metal clanging sound in the breeze. It could have been an altogether pleasant moment, if only she didn’t have to say anything. But this moment couldn’t last. Finally, Maddy knew it was time to speak. And what she was about to say would change everything.
She looked between the pairs of expectant eyes that looked back at her, the two stares that waited for her answer. The piercing blue eyes belonged to Jackson Godspeed, whose gaze was familiar yet still so thrilling to her. Though she had known Jacks for two years now, she really had never gotten used to the way that glance could pierce straight through her and see the real, vulnerable girl inside her. Jacks’s gaze was perfect, too perfect, all blue fire and insufferable beauty. It was divine, something more than human. It was the gaze of a Guardian Angel. His eyes made her feel breathless, made her pulse go wild, and had always made her feel—in some way she couldn’t quite understand—not quite good enough.
She turned to meet the other expectant gaze. These eyes were green, watchful, and kind. They were newer to her, and yet, strangely, she felt somehow more at ease with them. This was Tom Cooper, who had come into her life at a time when she thought she was utterly alone in this world. Tom’s gaze felt like patience and soft vanilla, like sinking into a warm bath at the end of a long day. It would never spark with the blue electricity of Jacks’s, but maybe that was all right. Tom’s eyes were human eyes, and being held in his gaze was the closest thing Maddy had ever felt to home.
She thought if there was some way to bottle this moment and live in it forever, she would jump at the chance. To live in a constant state of about-to-answer, where neither Tom nor Jacks would know the truth, both hoping for the answer they heard in their heads, the answer each expected. In this moment, Maddy didn’t have to break someone’s heart. In this moment, there seemed to be a strange sense of balance. But it was a balance that could not last.
Maddy shook off her reverie and took in the two figures in front of her. The aircraft carrier holding the fighter jets floated behind them as both Jacks and Tom turned to face one another with jaws clenched, fists at the ready, as if looking to each other for Maddy’s answer. Between them, Maddy formed the tip of a triangle, and she was the only thing that was keeping them from crashing into each other in anger and fury.
Time stretched out like a blade. There was Tom in his olive flight suit. A hero. A human hero. He looked handsome. Perfect, even. What more could she ask for? Then she looked at Jacks in his black battle armor, mechanical wings flexed and ready, gleaming in the sunshine. Jacks was no longer perfect. His journey with her—because of her—had altered him. Studying those sleek, man-made wings, Maddy knew the Jacks she had met at the diner was gone forever.
But couldn’t the same be said about Maddy? Was it really just a coat she was wearing? A coat that she could take off in the end and still be the same girl underneath? Or had the training and the embrace of this new Angel’s life changed her? Had she allowed herself to be altered, in the way that couldn’t be undone? The answer dawned on her bitterly, just like when she thought about those mechanical wings. The answer was yes. Just like Jacks, Maddy Montgomery, waitress and high school student, was gone, too. They had both been affected, irreparably wounded, and now they bore the scars of their journeys. Some journeys change us forever, and the idea filled Maddy with a sudden, welling sadness. There was no going back. There was only going forward now. It was time to choose, not just between mortal and Immortal, but also between two worlds.
She couldn’t keep stalling. It was time to speak. The moment of about-to-answer had slipped away and was gone. Life was like that. A series of fleeting moments. Maddy faced the two guys who would do anything to protect her, who would fight for her. Maybe even die for her. She’d made her decision. It was the only decision she could make. With a sick feeling, she parted her lips and let a word fall out.
“Jacks.” She said his name but couldn’t look at him. “I can’t go with you.”
Her voice sounded very far away.
“I choose Tom.”CHAPTER TWO
Had she really just said that? Whatever just happened, it was too late to take it back. Life can pivot on a single choice, a pinpoint of time, causing ripples of consequences to circle out endlessly. Now she watched the ripples of her decision engulf and transform everything they touched.
They reached Jacks’s face first, warping it out of shape, twisting his Immortal features into an ugliness Maddy didn’t want to look at, but couldn’t bear not to. Jacks took an almost imperceptible step back, as if the decision were a physical weight that he had to strain against as it pushed him backward. Before the anger came and clouded over his face, Maddy caught the glimpse of another emotion as it flashed across his features. She saw it around the corners of his eyes, and it was impossible to miss. Helplessness. A glimmer of the Jacks whom she had left standing on the platform at Union Station, the Angel who had been on top of the library tower with the demon. It was the Jacks who had watched her go at the viewpoint. Betrayal is worst for the betrayer,Maddy thought.
The ripple wave struck Tom next. In Tom’s eyes, Maddy saw someone plunging into the waters of baptism, as if a new life force surged around him. He looked reborn. If the ripple had knocked Jacks back, it seemed to buoy Tom, making him stronger, making him stand taller. Maddy looked away.
Why was it that she felt compelled to wallow in Jacks’s gaze of helplessness, rather than soak in Tom’s triumph? Why couldn’t she focus on the elation in Tom’s eyes? What was wrong with her? Was she afraid of what she would feel? Was she afraid she wouldn’t be able to mirror his unbridled happiness? Maybe it was that meeting Tom’s gaze would confirm something even worse: that she was happy. That she was just as happy as he was.
“Maddy, you’re not one of them,” Jacks said in that hoarse, bargaining tone, the one that she had heard him use on the train platform. “Listen to me. I have somewhere you can go. Where you’ll be safe. With us.”
Before she could answer, Tom did it for her.
“She made her choice. Have the decency to respect it.” His voice rang with the confidence that comes with victory. “Not that I expect decency from an Angel.”
Maddy saw muscles twitch inside Jacks’s armor, but the Angel stayed put.
“You don’t understand,” Jacks said slowly, carefully, enunciating every syllable. “This is an army that cannot be defeated. At least, not like this.” He pointed at the massive carrier. Up on the deck, the soldiers had their rifles trained on him, itchy fingers ready at the triggers.
“We’re pretty good in a fight,” Tom said, his jaw set.
“This isn’t a just a ‘fight.’ This is an extermination. An enslavement.”
“No one’s making a slave out of me,” Tom growled.
“They will. Before this is over, you will beg for your own death. Or, if you’re a coward, which I have a feeling you are, you’ll beg for mercy and happily become a slave.” Jacks’s eyes narrowed.
In a flash Tom was on him, grabbing at Jacks’s armor, thrusting his forearms against Jacks’s chest. Jacks had his hands around Tom’s throat before Maddy even saw them move. She heard a wet gurgle as the air was forced out of the pilot’s throat.
“Get back! Get back!” shouted a soldier from the carrier deck.
Maddy screamed. “Jacks, no!” Yet even as the words came out of her mouth, she knew Tom wasn’t in danger. Jacks could have killed Tom in the time it took the soldiers on the carrier to react. Even in his rage, he was choosing to restrain himself. For me, Maddy thought.Because he cares about me.
The soldier shouted again. “Get back or you will be fired upon!” Maddy watched Jackson eye the carrier, then slowly release his grip, leaving Tom gasping on his knees. Maddy took a step toward Tom, but he waved her back, almost violently.
“I’m fine,” he sputtered, and stood.
Hate and anger radiated off Jackson. And something else as well, Maddy thought. Fear. Fear for her?
“The humans can’t win,” Jacks said, his expression hard. “Make the smart choice, Maddy.”
“What about Uncle Kevin? What about Gwen?” Maddy’s voice came out almost as a wail.
“Why don’t you ask your president-elect?” Jacks shot back, then caught himself and softened. “Linden made their choice for them already, Maddy. It’s too late for them to be helped. But it’s not too late for you.”
“Everyone can be helped.”
“No! There is no hope!” Jacks’s voice was raw, naked.
“There is always hope,” Maddy cried. “And even when there’s not, we still stand with each other, because that’s what people do.” Maddy looked to Tom, who had quietly lifted a hand to tell the soldiers to stand down. He returned her gaze. Resolute. Determined.
“Explain that logic to me,” Jacks grumbled.
“It’s not logical,” Maddy said. “It’s human.”
“You are not human!” Jacks roared. “You are a Guardian Angel! You belong with us!”
“My place is by my uncle’s side. By Kevin’s side. By Tom’s side. My place is beside anyone who isn’t strong enough to protect themselves. My place is beside anyone I can help.” Maddy was gasping for air. “That is the true purpose of the Angels.”
Jacks shook his head. “Your human side . . . ,” he muttered to himself. Then he looked to Tom. “They turned their backs on us, Maddy,” Jacks said. “We don’t owe them that. You don’t owe them that. We don’t owe them anything.”
“Spoken like a true Immortal. You’ve got quite a sense of duty, Guardian,” Tom quipped.
Jacks ignored him and instead did something Maddy didn’t expect. The anger in his face flickered away, leaving only that raw helplessness Maddy had glimpsed before. Jacks let the helplessness wash over him and fill out his features completely.
“Please, Maddy,” Jacks said quietly. “Why don’t you get it?”
He was whispering now.
“I can’t lose you.”
Even Tom’s confidence seemed to waver for a moment. There the Battle Angel stood, guard down and emotionally naked. Jacks looked at Maddy, and Maddy felt herself being pulled into one of their moments, where the outside world just slipped away, leaving only the two of them. She could not let it happen. She set her feet, moved her shoulders back, and pushed the words out in breathy, raw bursts as a new tidal wave of emotion broke over her.
“I will always cherish what we had, Jackson, but I don’t feel that way about you anymore. Too much has changed. You have changed. And my place is here with Tom.” She stood firm as a sudden sea gust blew her hair forward and whipped it around her face. “I love him,” she whispered.
Jacks flinched and spoke through his teeth. “I will not come for you. Neither will any of the others. The demons will make sure you’re torn apart. Limb by limb. Your wings will be ripped out of your back—”
“That’s enough, Godspeed!” Tom barked. Maddy felt Jacks’s words prickling her skin all over. Torn. Ripped.
Jacks yelled. “You are choosing death, Maddy!”
“Then I choose it!” Maddy choked, and the tears finally spilled over. She didn’t bother to stop them. “This is my decision.” She reached out to him and let her fingers rest on the armor covering his arm.
Jacks pulled his arm away as if she had burned him. Shocked, Maddy watched as something changed behind his eyes. An uncoupling. Just then, an image jumped into Maddy’s head, of a train that uncouples from a car and leaves it behind on the track. Before, whenever Jacks was angry with her or felt betrayed by her, his eyes had always burned with a kind of frustrated loyalty, a refusal to give up on her. But Maddy saw now that those fires had been snuffed out. She watched, helpless, as Jacks unlinked her from his life, and from his heart. It only took an instant, and it gutted her completely. Jacks’s eyes were cold now and held nothing for her. She knew it just as sure as she knew anything.
She had done it. She had lost him.
“It’s time for you to go now,” Tom said, his tone even, or as even as it could be after Jacks’s vise-like grip around his throat.
“Don’t worry, I’m going,” Jacks said. Maddy lifted her gaze to meet his, and for the first time, it wasn’t waiting for her. “There’s nothing for me here.”
And without saying anything more, Jacks rocketed into the sky, robotic wings hissing through the air, and was gone.
Maddy felt a gentle warmth as Tom took her hands in his.
“Maddy? Will you look at me, please?” Maddy realized her face was still turned up to where Jacks had disappeared into the sky. She turned and met the green eyes that were waiting for her.
“Are you okay?” Tom asked. Maddy was done being strong. The fearless Guardian Godright was all used up, and only the vulnerable Maddy Montgomery was left.
“I’m so afraid, Tom,” she said, her voice small. “If something happens to you—”
“I’ll be fine.” Tom smiled. “I’ve got you. That’s all I need.”
Maddy’s smile was tight, and her throat was closing in. Her cheeks were hot and wet. The truth, Maddy thought. What was the truth, anyway? The truth was that no one knew what to expect. Not even Jacks. Not even the Angels. So why did she know he was right? They couldn’t win. What had Jacks called it? Not a fight, an extermination. An enslavement.
Just then, Maddy became aware that they were no longer alone. The dock had filled with sudden life as the carrier and the soldiers prepared to leave port. Families were saying goodbye to their loved ones, wishing farewell to fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. Children. She wanted to know what was going through their heads. Did they feel hopeful? Were they scared? She wondered what Tom was thinking, too. In her mind, there was only the ringing of Jacks’s words. An extermination.
Maddy put on her bravest face.
“Take care of yourself,” she managed.
“I better.” Tom grinned. “I have to get back to you.”
He kissed her, and Maddy kissed him back, but it felt strange on her lips. Not like a kiss of love. A kiss of goodbye.
And before she could process the feeling, he was gone. She stood alone as Tom walked toward the gangplank, eventually disappearing into a small sea of officers and sailors. It was all Maddy could do to fight the awful feeling that she would never see him again. She closed her eyes and tried to push the thought away. She listened to the wind. To the clanging rope-on-metal sound of the flagpole. To the flap of the flag. She opened her eyes to find it was the American flag that was flying, the Stars and Stripes. She hadn’t noticed until just then, but there it was, fluttering overhead on this near-perfect day. This, she realized, might be one of the last. Very soon, there might not be any more nice days for Angel City. Only time would tell what they were in for.
At least she had done it. She had to focus on that. She could hold on to that, couldn’t she? She had come here today to tell Jacks it was all over, that it was Tom who had stolen her heart, whom she had fallen in love with. She had told Jacks she didn’t love him anymore. She had done it.
So what if it wasn’t true?CHAPTER THREE
In the car, the tears came again. She still hated the feeling of the hot liquid spilling over her cheeks, the quiet dap dap as the tears found her jeans. Crying made her feel weak. But she couldn’t do anything to stop it. Holding on to the wheel with one hand, she pulled her sleeve over her palm and wiped her face with the other. This, she thought, was a very human moment: driving and crying at the same time. She wondered how many trips people had taken in tears, having to balance those two things, steering with one hand and wiping with the other. It should be called cryving, Maddy thought. She should trademark it. She gave a crooked half-smile through her tears.
Maddy turned onto an on-ramp to send her gleaming Audi racing down to the freeway. But she was stopped at the entrance by a National Guard roadblock.
Two soldiers holding machine guns and wearing Kevlar helmets stood there in front of a Humvee.
“I’m sorry, miss, but by order of the governor we have closed off all freeways to all nonemergency vehicles. Any citizens who are still in the area are advised to seek shelter and await further instructions.”
Maddy pulled her sunglasses off and tried to smile at the soldier. It was funny; she had always thought using the Do you know who I am? move to get something you want was a terrible abuse of Angel celebrity, but she needed to get back to Kevin.
And it worked; another soldier off to the side lit up in recognition.
“It’s Maddy Montgomery!” the soldier said.
“I just got here,” Maddy said. “I need to get back to Angel City. How could I know you’d be blocking the freeways?”
The first soldier looked unsure, but the second one, who was obviously an Angel fan, approached and intervened.
“Let her through, Ernesto,” the second soldier said. Maddy tried to maintain the smile, even though on the inside she was crumbling with sadness and fear.
“I don’t know . . . ,” the first soldier, Ernesto, said. But the second soldier was already moving the barricade.
Maddy shot him a thank you wave and stepped on the gas pedal before the soldier could change his mind. As she zipped down the on-ramp, she peered out the windshield at a sight she had never seen before. The Angel City Freeway was completely empty. It was eerie. And just another reminder that this was not a normal day. Because normal days were over. The massive five-lane freeway looked naked with no traffic, no honking drivers, no cars changing lanes without signaling first. Deserted, Maddy thought, just like the humans. And empty, just like she felt. There was a strange silence to driving down this empty open stretch, with only the hum of her car and the whistle of the wind to remind her she was alive. If she closed her eyes, she would be able to convince herself she wasn’t driving at all. She could be running. Nowhere in particular, just running away.
She switched on the radio and heard nothing but a long, monotonous tone for several seconds before a voice broke in.
“This is not a test,” an electronic female voice announced. “This is the Emergency Broadcast System. A state of emergency has been declared. All residents of Angel City and immediate areas are ordered to stay indoors at this time. A citywide curfew has been put in place—”
Maddy switched the station. The message continued. “I repeat, this is not a test. Emergency shelters are located at—”
Maddy switched the station again. Same thing. Every station was broadcasting it. When the message ended, it simply started over again. Something about that message made this whole situation even more real. Made it worse. She listened to the robotic voice play again and again. This is not a test. This is not a test. She glanced up at the sky, which was beginning to darken. The sunny day was growing dim as a gray blanket of clouds stretched over the city. Wind gusts shot past the Audi now, almost shrieking. What was going to happen? What kind of hell were they in for? Gradually Maddy began to recognize her all-too-familiar surroundings. She was headed toward the heart of Angel City—home. She pulled her fingers through her hair and wiped her puffy eyes. The exit for Angel Boulevard approached, and she pulled onto the off-ramp.
Angel City,Maddy thought darkly. It was both the place she had always dreamed of leaving and the place that seemed destined to keep her. Every time she had tried to escape it, something about it only drew her back in. She felt caught in its web of crisscrossing streets, the allure of its bright downtown lights. It was capital city to the Immortals, and the unrivaled symbol of Angels and their power around the world. More than a city, it was an idea. It was synonymous with wealth, celebrity, and power—the perfect icon to represent the lavish Angel lifestyle that most of the world envied and craved. Maddy swung down Highland, passing under glowing billboards showing famous Angels selling handbags, cars, and perfume. On one of the billboards was her own face, smiling seductively and holding a bottle of Chanel perfume. Maddy felt her stomach turn. On any other day, she wouldn’t have been able to bear looking at it, but now she couldn’t look away. Someone had spray-painted TRAITOR over her face in an angry red scrawl.
She drove down the world-famous Angel Boulevard, past the tourist shops and the Walk of Angels. Angel Stars blurred by on the pavement. How many millions of people had come from all over the world to pose next to those stars and take pictures with them? She used to weave around those tourists on her way to school, wondering how anyone could care so much about a sidewalk. Now she had an Angel Star of her own; now her name was etched in gleaming gold in the ground. It still felt strange. She was a famous Guardian Angel. The most famous Guardian Angel. She shook her head, thinking of how much she had wanted to just leave two years ago. Would she ever get out of this city? Maybe the bigger question was, would she ever get Angel City out of her?She used to think so, but now she wasn’t so sure. Just as the ground had been etched with her name, she felt the city had been etched on her, too. As permanently as a tattoo. The tourist shops were all closed up now. No plastic wings for sale. No T-shirts with slogans like SAVE ME! or PROTECTION. The metal doors were all rolled shut.
Maddy squinted as she looked down the street through her windshield. There was life up ahead, a crowd gathered around the Temple of Angels. The last thing Maddy wanted right now was to be recognized. She sank down in her seat as she approached, but she couldn’t help but ease up on the gas and look as she passed. In spite of the danger that was close at hand, a grab bag of fans, thrill seekers, and stranded tourists had gathered outside the temple in a bizarre, circus-like display. Several people stood in a huddle, holding a candlelight vigil. Others danced. Still others fought. There were young Angel-crazy girls, Angel experts, and families. There was even a man wearing nothing but a white loincloth, Rollerblades, and neon sunglasses. He had taped styrofoam wings to his back and rolled around the crowd while others tried not to stare at his loincloth. It seemed the die-hard Angel fans had already managed to splinter themselves into even smaller categories. One group appeared to be anti-Maddy, calling her a traitor to the Angels, while another equally sized group held up signs that glorified Maddy and praised her for being a “true” Angel. Maddy groaned. It was worse than she’d thought. She cut the wheel and swung up a side street to avoid the rest of it.
As she turned off Angel Boulevard, a familiar sign came into view. Although it was off, she could still make out the neon lettering against the fading paint. Kevin’s. Her uncle’s diner, where she had worked all through high school. And the place where she had met Jacks. It was dark inside now. No one sat in the booths; no food was being served. How could it have been just two years ago that she was a waitress there? It felt like another lifetime. She pulled past the diner and into the driveway of her uncle’s house just past the restaurant. She looked up at the small, two-story bungalow where she grew up. The simple, aging house stood bravely in the gusts of the oncoming weather. With all that had changed in her life, there had always been this dependable house. A companion. A friend. An island of consistency in the ever-changing sea of time. She cut the Audi’s engine and stepped out.
There was Kevin, standing in the doorway, his face creased with concern. He wore old jeans and a worn, flannel shirt—his uniform.
“You’re back,” he said, and Maddy could tell he was trying not to appear like he had worried too much. He searched Maddy’s face with his intelligent gray eyes. “And . . . Tom?”
“He’s gone,” Maddy said, trying to keep her voice steady. “The fleet is going to fight.”
Kevin’s face darkened. After a moment, he nodded.
“Jacks was there, too,” Maddy added.
“What?” Kevin’s tone took on a harshness. “What did he want?” Kevin’s opinion of Jacks had been like a roller-coaster ride over the past two years. Of course, he didn’t care for Angels on principle, and had downright hated them after what happened to his sister. He had done his best to give Jacks a chance when it became clear that he was in Maddy’s life, like it or not. But now he had hardened his heart toward Immortals once again. Kevin was pro-Maddy until the bitter end. He would do his best to support her in whatever she wanted, despite his own reservations or opinions. It was the reason why Maddy loved Kevin so much.
“He offered me a choice,” Maddy said quietly. “To go with him and the other Angels.”
“I see. . . . Well, what did you say?”
Maddy bit her lip. How would Kevin feel about her decision? She might be the most famous Guardian Angel in the world, but she would always care about what Uncle Kevin thought of her and her actions. She just couldn’t help it. Just like when she was a little girl, part of her always wanted his approval.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” she said at last. Then she quickly added, “Tom asked me to wait for him.”
Kevin paused, as if searching for the right thing to say. But when his response finally came, it was simple. And just what Maddy needed to hear.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said. “Tom is going to be okay. We all are.”
“Do you really believe that?” Maddy asked softly.
“I have to, Mads.” Kevin gave his most reassuring smile. “And so should you.” Then he grinned even wider, the corners of his mouth wrinkling up in the way she knew so well. “Want some ginger tea?”
“Okay.” Maddy smiled. She wasn’t going to argue with ginger tea. Kevin always made ginger tea for her when she was sick, or just feeling under the weather, with lemon and loads of honey.
• • •
Kevin headed into the kitchen, and Maddy walked into the little living room, with its secondhand furniture and the pictures of her as a kid. There were some new photos, too: pictures of Maddy from Angels Weekly and the newspaper, which Kevin had cut out and clumsily fit into frames. Maddy heard from the kitchen the familiar sounds of the gas stove snapping on, the whoosh of the flame, and the kettle being placed on the burner. As she listened to the heating water begin to murmur, she let herself lie back and sink into the couch. For this one small moment, there was suddenly nothing for her to do. After everything that had happened, she now found herself in a little pocket of calm. She sat quietly, just listening to her uncle make the tea. Her gaze settled on the new flat-screen TV, the only piece of furniture or technology in the house that had been manufactured after 1998. She grabbed the remote and turned it on.
“And the question on everyone’s mind is,” said a stoic-looking woman in a blue suit, “where are the Angels? Guardian Angels in the Immortal City have disappeared overnight, leaving everyone to wonder where they have gone, and whether they will be coming back.” A graphic of an Immortal Ring appeared next to the women’s head, cueing Maddy to play with her own. “The An
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