from bestselling author

lauren kate


“Angel, rise!” Daniel rose from his chair, spread his wings, and beat them gently, hovering a few feet off the floor as the nine Scale angels in sinister black burlap cloaks swished into the ordinary mortal boardroom in suburban Dayton, Ohio. He bared his wings so they would know he was unarmed. The old angels filed in, barely looking at him as they took their seats on the golden benches that had been specially installed in the boardroom for the trial.


Come eight o’clock this morning, all evidence of this gathering would be gone. “You may ground yourself,” the same voice boomed behind him—a faceless secretary Daniel would never see again. He touched down on the industrial carpet and sat alone behind the long table facing the Scale. He watched the sunrise out the window, unbearably bored as each member ritually turned his back, flicked down the hood of his cloak, and revealed the gold insignia branded onto the back of his neck: each bore a seven-pointed star. As if he cared. As if this display of the Scale’s so-called exclusivity raised them whatsoever in Daniel’s esteem. They were a parole board, plain and simple, albeit a heavenly one. The Scale was composed of power-hungry lesser angels—angels so far down the ranks that, before the Fall, the Throne might not even have been able to distinguish one of them from another. Sure, they had a measure of power now, but . . . Daniel would never have felt so superior to the Scale if they hadn’t made a point of playing superior to him. “Daniel Grigori?” asked the Scale member Daniel thought of as Toadface. None of them had names. That was part of the Scale protocol, too—once an angel joined their sect, he discarded his individuality. The group, they felt, was more important than a single angel. And so Scale members disavowed themselves of their


given angelic names. They were part of a bigger force now, a single entity. “Yes?” Daniel looked around the room and rolled his eyes, as if to say, Who else but me? “I am the one called Daniel Grigori.” He should have been used to their fussy procedures by now, but each trial irritated him all over again. He had been called before the Scale many times over the years, though in the beginning there were so many other angels at the table with him that the procedure had been less painful. Now that Daniel was among a few remaining unsided souls, one of the few who had chosen neither the Throne nor Lucifer, the Scale had made him their pet project. They dragged him in on any excuse. He spent far too little time with Lucinda and far too much time tripped up in their bureaucracy. He resented them for that. Toadface stood and read aloud from a heavy parchment scroll. “You are charged with coercion of an established Host of Heaven.” “Come on,” Daniel said. “That’s ridiculous.” “Did you not converse with Gabrielle Givens on the night of October the twenty-seventh, saying, and I quote”—here Toadface’s voice became brooding and affected—“‘Don’t you ever feel like it’s all worthless? Is it really any different back in Heaven than it was when we were kicked out?’” Toadface narrowed his


warty old eyes. “We have many witnesses who can attest to this heretical statement.” Daniel swallowed. “I said it. I was in a bad mood. Who cares? Gabbe would never give up her place in Heaven. If you don’t know that, you’re—” “And why were you in such a ‘bad mood,’ Mr. Grigori?” “You know why!” Daniel shouted, rising from his chair, rising off the floor. He had had enough. His wings towered over them, dwarfing their small, silly, moonlight-blue wings, casting a shadow on their haughty old faces. A few Scale members reared back in their seats. One rose and wagged a finger at him. “If you so dislike having to answer to us, there is one thing you can do: Learn from your mistakes, Mr. Grigori. Make the choice you should have made ages ago.” Another took up the diatribe. “Instead you chose love. How very quaint.” A third continued even as several of them came around the long table, even as they shrugged off their cloaks, which could double as straitjackets. “You were too weakened by foolish love to make the right choice before. But now you can correct your mistakes.” Toadface finished: “Now you can do the thing you know you need to do!” The four came at him from either side, their binding garments held forth, all of them smiling with anticipation. This, too, was almost part of their protocols: The


Scale relished the punishments they inflicted on angels who didn’t heed them. In that way they were not so very different from those fallen they’d labeled demons. “Never!” Daniel said, even as they leaped upon him, shackling him with their horrible black burlap straitjackets, from which there’d be no struggling free. “Never!” he repeated before the sleeves of the cloak wound themselves around his chest, his arms, his mouth. He would not yield to the Scale. If they bound him up for a year, or for a thousand years. He would not renounce Lucinda.

Text © 2011 by Tinderbox Books, LLC and Lauren Kate. Illustration © 2011 by Fernanda Brussi Gonçalves with Rebecca Roeske.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful