​Dani Cojo

Excerpt from ​The Art of Falling 

A warm sensation washed over him. It was an unnatural feeling and it made his stomach churn. He paused and stared out the front window in surprise. Watching hard for a moment, he waited for the warmth that surrounded his body to fade. Instead, it came back even stronger as he caught sight of a thin man walking toward the diner. His face was hidden underneath his mop of blond hair that glistened under the “OPEN” sign in the window. Fixating his gaze on the stranger, Regal caught sight of glowing blue eyes.

Dammit, he’s here?

Regal turned around, holding tightly onto the woman in his arms for balance. He hissed under his breath with annoyance. Who would have thought he would think of searching for him in a place like this?

“Are you okay, Eric?” Jen asked with concern, her voice slightly higher from being spun around. She noticed that Regal was considerably paler in complexion and seemed nervous.

“Yes, fine,” he said quickly, his mind reeling as he tried to think. He was so close to claiming another victim, but he couldn’t stay here. It was too dangerous now. With a soft sigh, he pulled his arm from the woman’s waist. “I’m sorry, beautiful, but I have to go. An emergency turned up.” He turned, cupping her face in his hand before placing a soft kiss on her cheek. “Perhaps next time.”

As soon as the last syllable fell from his mouth, he left her side and headed for the back exit, pushing people out of his way as he fled. The bell on the front door jingled as it opened and another strong wave of warmth crashed into him. He wove around tables and chairs until he reached the back exit. He shoved the door open and hurried out, not bothering to make sure that it was closed as he fled from the diner.

Guided by the barely-present crescent moon, Regal sprinted down the back alley toward the edge of town. The darkness of the night charged him, making him feel stronger, but it did nothing to protect him from the light that was close behind. The Art of Falling 28 He could sense Keir on his tail. Regal glanced behind him, catching sight of the ethereal glow reflecting on the brick walls. He kept running and examined his surroundings. The alley was too tight; he would never be able to escape upward. His only choice was to run straight.

Clearing the end of the alley, he headed for the woods across the dirt road. Like the flick of a switch, Regal activated the innate celestial charm of invisibility that hid him from the sight of humans and mythos alike. However, those like him could still see him. His only chance at escaping was to get lost in the cover of the trees and put plenty of distance between them.

He sprinted for another several feet, his shoes crushing the grass and weeds of the unkempt meadow. As soon as his foot hit the edge of the forest, he let out a deep breath and leapt into the air. His wings shot out from his back, the tips brushing the ground as he attempted to become airborne. His feathers caught in the tree branches. The forest was denser than he expected. Cursing, he grabbed a thick branch and curled his wings in. He’d have to climb to the top before he could fly freely.

He only made it halfway up the tree before he felt a hand grip his ankle. Hissing, Regal kicked back at his assailant. His eyes turned black with rage as he swiped at his attacker with a clawed hand.

“Regal, stop!”

Regal ignored his pleas and continued to climb. He yanked on a tree branch and let it whip back. It smacked Keir in the chest. A mixture of green, red, and yellow leaves fluttered to the ground as Regal pushed his way to the top of the canopy. However, Keir was persistent and climbed up after him with little hesitation. Although he was not as nimble, he managed to catch up to Regal.

Unfurling his dark wings once more, Regal leaped off the top of the tree. Black feathers dropped behind him as he pumped his wings, desperately trying to climb higher into the air.

“Please, wait!” Keir called out as he chased after him.

Regal grunted with annoyance, forcing himself to fly faster and higher. Yet no matter the power he put into each stroke, his stalker could match it.

If I can’t outpace him, I’ll have to outsmart him.

He suddenly changed direction, dive-bombing toward the ground. He tucked his wings in, gaining speed as he headed for the forest. The rush of wind in his face, tugging at his feathers and pricking his skin, was exhilarating.

Regal glanced behind him and smirked when he saw no sight of Keir. Before he hit the ground, he extended his wings again, catching the air to slow him down. He angled his feet for the floor, landing smoothly as his heels dug into the soft dirt. He began to sprint once he was on steady ground again. Tucking in his wings, he ran under the cover of the canopy of trees.

He panted, walking toward a natural cave near the edge of the forest. Welcoming the darkness, Regal sighed and sat down against the wall and closed his eyes, basking in the cool dampness of the cave. Soft squeaks of bats greeted him, and he couldn’t help but smile.

This was his domain, his home. Any dark cavern or shadowed room was his safe haven. He felt protected here.

He wasn’t expecting the warm—almost affectionate— sensation to hit him so hard again and ruin his moment of peace. Before he could even pull himself to his feet and flee, his stalker was blocking the exit.

“Didn’t think you’d lose me again with that trick, did you?” Keir said smugly, proud of cornering the demon.

Regal hissed, flaring his wings in an attempt to prevent the man from trapping him. However, all it did was cause the other man do the same, his wings casting a bright light into the cave. Regal winced and hid behind his wings to block out the holy aura with darkness.

“Please don’t run anymore. I need to talk to you.”

The demon peeked through his feathers, groaning as the glow shone through. With the walls of the cave reflecting the light and trapping the heavenly essence inside, it was like flying too close to the sun. “Put those damned things away and maybe I’ll listen.”

Keir did as he was told. Regal sighed, his body aching from the concentrated exposure to the warm aura. He stood up straighter, in an effort to look strong and unaffected by the other’s holy essence. Keir smiled warmly, causing Regal to sneer.

“Thank you—”

“Tell me what you want.”

Keir stepped back a bit, his expression growing nervous. Regal watched as he toyed with his hands, as if uncertain of what to say.

“Spit it out!” he barked impatiently.

“I can’t just spit it out,” Keir replied, his voice wavering with apprehension. “I have to word it carefully.”

Regal sighed heavily, moving from his place in the shadows to walk closer to Keir. “You have been chasing me down for over a year. I suggest you say what you want before I rip your wings from your sockets,” he growled. The guttural sound ripped from his chest as his fangs flashed again in warning.

Keir’s eyes widened in fear. He knew Regal could easily dislodge his wings if he wanted. “I... I want you...” he squeaked quickly, his face flushing.

Regal laughed, his voice echoing in the cave and making him sound louder. “I knew I was good, but not that good.

Keir’s flustered expression hardened at Regal’s reaction. He looked Regal straight in the eye and continued, “I mean… I... I love you.”

Regal’s stroked ego deflated as he stared at Keir, his lips curled in a repulsed snarl. “No, you don’t.” “Yes, I do.” The demon reached out to grab the collar of Keir’s shirt in his hand, dragging him closer until they were face to face. “Then you’re delusional.”

The angel yelped, his hands flying up to claw at Regal’s grip. “I’m not delusional! Ever since I met you, I’ve loved you,” he all but screamed in panic.

“That’s not how I remember it.”

“Who cares how it happened?”

“Angels don’t fall in love with demons. It’s wrong. Even for a demon, it’s wrong.

“But isn’t that your specialty?” Keir shot back, growing a bit braver as they argued.

Regal scoffed. “I’m an incubus. I don’t play with your concept of love.”

“Haven’t you already proven how talented you are? Because here I am, and I will not leave so easily.”

They stood in the mouth of the cave, their eyes glowing dangerously in the dark as they stared each other down. Around them, the wildlife grew silent. Crickets stopped chirping, deer huddled in high grass, and families of rabbits shook with fear. They could sense the struggle that was mounting between two beings much more powerful than anything in their world.

A demon from the deepest pits of Hell and an angel from the gates of Heaven were never meant to interact except in battle.

They were never meant to be friendly toward one another. They certainly were never meant to fall in love.