Ruby’s skin is smooth and warm, silk-fluid under Anna’s hands. This is new: they’ve had sex; they’ve even done what romantics might have called making love. But hell-forged Ruby—Ruby who always knows where all threats, all weapons, all exits are—has never turned her back on an angel, has never drifted towards sleep exposed to the world.
Anna trails a finger up the groove of Ruby’s spine, knowing where each vertebra is, sensing the arcs of Ruby’s ribs springing away from that center. Ruby’s heartbeat is tide-steady, soothing beneath Anna’s touch. She would sear protection into Ruby’s bones if she could, but Ruby’s real bones are long-gone.
When Anna traces Ruby’s shoulder blades, Ruby makes a startled sound.
“What is it?” Anna asks, going still.
Ruby turns her head toward Anna, not rolling away from Anna’s touch. “My wings,” she says, voice honey-thick with sleep. “Feels good.”
Anna lets the narrow focus she holds slip, sees how Ruby fits inside her body better in some places than others: how she fills the head and chest and hips, slides in narrowing cords down the arms and legs to pool again in fingers and toes.
And along the back, she presses so close that she seeps through the skin, her wings rising soft as a blown-out candle’s breath.
Anna reaches out, tries to touch the shadow-smoke curve of them, but her bone and flesh fingers are too clumsy. She wishes that she could peel off Anna Milton’s hands like a glove, could touch Ruby with the electric urgency of grace that crackles and quivers under the fragile shield of her skin.
Ruby feels nothing like grace; she’s icy-slick and dark as old secrets. “Oh,” Anna says, breathless as Ruby slides against her skin, fills the ridges of her fingerprints like oil spreading over water. Ruby is between Anna’s palms, against the quick unnecessary beat of Anna’s pulse—she’s a ghost under Anna’s fingertips, an echo whispering against a memory shaped into a shell never meant to contain a storm.
As Ruby’s breathing slows and deepens with sleep, Anna wishes that she could take the time to make Ruby chocolate cake, just like Amy Milton had taught her. That they could lick the beaters, kiss the mess from each other’s lips. Have morning sex on a bed that was theirs and not some cheap motel’s, spend the day at rest, no longer pawns on the battlefield.
Instead Anna forces her cresting grace back from the edge of her flesh as she pulls Ruby even closer to her. Anna watches her sleep, watches the window for the demons and the angels and the humans hunting them both, looks beyond to the night sky, bright with galaxies that she could touch, before sealing kisses at the base of Ruby’s wings, shadow and flesh shuddering under her mouth.