Aiden Lobo is a graduate student in a world where magic, gods, and demons are part of everyday life. After a terrible betrayal, he is cursed with a Crack in his heart, slowly turning him into a living doorway for an ancient war demon. If Aeshma breaks through to Earth, he will kill millions.
But before Aeshma can open the Crack, Aiden is rescued by his guardian angel, who uses his own Light to seal Aiden's heart. As a servant of the divine, the nameless angel was supposed to kill Aiden to avert the growing cataclysm inside him. But he loves Aiden too much to end his life, even to save the world.
It's impossible for Aiden not to love his warm, generous guardian in return. He names the angel Eskandar, but then learns to his horror that because Eskandar was created for him, when Aiden dies, Eskandar will too. The angel has long since accepted this fate, but Aiden refuses to. He will do anything to keep his beloved angel safe. But with no other recourse than to sacrifice himself to prevent the apocalypse, there's only one way for Aiden to save Eskandar: a terrible betrayal of his own.
Aiden cried out. He staggered, clutching his chest as if that would do any good. He managed to snag the doorframe before he fell, and leaned against it, panting and gagging from the pain. Heart attack, he thought. But it wasn’t; it wasn’t. There had been a knife, and now something was inside him trying to claw its way out, come through --
“Ow, ow. Fuck.” Aiden lurched toward his couch, trying to get to the phone. He managed to stay on his feet until he got there, and then ended up mostly draped over the ratty couch arm, straining for his messenger bag and Greg’s phone. He snagged the closed flap, but when he pulled the bag toward him it overbalanced and slid off the couch cushion, pulling him with it onto the floor. Aiden landed on his side, knocking his glasses off, then flopped onto his back, tipping over the crappy coffee table. The noise he and everything else made hitting the floor reverberated loudly around the room.
Aiden disentangled his fingers from the bag then heaved himself over onto his stomach. His whole body was slick with icy sweat and he was freezing. His heart felt heavy and cold and gods, it hurt.
He hauled his unresponsive body the precious distance he needed to reach into his bag and fumble the phone out. It was difficult to tell the little icons apart without his glasses and with the sweat running into his eyes, but he found the keypad. He hit the 9 right before the phone shut off.
“No. Come on!” Aiden dropped it out of shaking, nerveless fingers.
He started crawling toward his door, pulling himself along with his elbows and knees. If he could get to one of his neighbors, maybe they’d be able to help him.
A new, worse spasm ripped through him, so bad that he couldn’t even crawl anymore. He slid his hand between his body and the floor, and felt the skin on his chest splitting like a seam.
Aiden didn’t know if he lost consciousness, but everything was suddenly dark and he was completely prone. Then he was vaguely aware of being gently lifted and moved. Then warmth was trickling into him, until he was suddenly fully awake and surrounded by searing light.
He was on his back and the angel was there, holding Aiden down with his hands on Aiden’s chest, looking both scared and determined. His wings were spread wide and golden as the sun, and it felt like he was channeling the sun right through Aiden’s body. Aiden cried out and tried to push the hands away, but he might as well have been pushing a wall.
“Shh,” the angel said, so quiet that his lips barely formed the word. Aiden’s muscles instantly relaxed like he’d lost his bones.
He’s almost finished. Just hang on.
It wasn’t as if Aiden had a choice now, but he grimly clenched his eyes shut and gritted his teeth with a jaw weakened by the angel’s magic voice or whatever the hells it was. He endured the burning until the light dimmed all at once and the pain was suddenly, completely gone.
“Ow. Ah, gods. Fuck.” The angel’s aegis was gone too and Aiden sat up. He leaned against the end of the couch, still panting and rubbing his chest with remembered pain. “That sucked.”
The angel was still on the floor too, sitting cross-legged with his hands in his lap and his head hanging. But he glanced up at Aiden’s words, grinning in tired apology.
He looked like hell. The angel was weaponless but back in his Persian warrior garb, but even that seemed washed-out and almost colorless. And he was frighteningly pale and hollow-cheeked, like he’d been sick for a long time. His clasped hands were trembling, and the halo surrounding him was so dim it was practically nonexistent.
“What’s wrong?” Aiden rolled up onto his knees so he was close enough to put his hand on the angel’s shoulder.
He just closed a Crack in your heart. What do you think’s wrong?
Aiden glanced over his shoulder before he remembered that Cassandra wasn’t there. It was the Little Cass voice from before, like someone speaking directly into his ear. “Eudaemon?”
“I thought I hallucinated you.”
No, you didn’t really think that. You weren’t sobbing your guts out in grief and anger just now over a hallucination, were you?