Demon Bound

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Authors: Meljean Brook
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eyes again, and saw that the good humor had deserted his smile. “Golly gee, Alice. I never thought of it that way. Maybe Drifter should make me shape-shift into a girl and crawl around on my hands and knees.” His brows lifted, and the texture of his psychic scent was tipped with sardonic barbs. “But what if I liked it too much?”
    Alice held his gaze, her own expression cool. No, Jake didn’t appreciate a lecture any more than she did. But she had no intention of letting him see that he’d managed to make her feel like a pedantic prig.
    And there was obviously only one topic they could discuss that wouldn’t result in a mutually annoying exchange.
    She turned back to the panel. “Ninth century BC,” she said, and as he mulled over the date, she waited, wondering if he’d reach the same conclusion she had.
    The distinctive naturalistic style had only flourished for a short period—beginning after Akhenaton had converted to monotheism, and ending when an heir restored the polytheistic religion of the earlier kingdoms. The formal art of the earlier kingdoms had been restored, as well—and rigidly enforced.
    And although it was possible that a secret sect of monotheists had carried on the Amarna tradition for five hundred years, another group was far more likely to have created these—particularly considering the subject of the frescoed panels.
    “So either you’ve got a bunch of rebels hiding out for centuries—and building big temples isn’t such a smart way to hide,” Jake said. “Or you’ve got someone—or someones —who saw this style in person. And liked it enough to use it five hundred years later.”
    She could forgive his thoughtlessness, Alice decided. “An immortal,” she agreed.
    “But obviously not a demon.” He gestured to another fresco from the Abu Simbel temple, that one depicting a scene from the Second Battle. A figure’s status could be determined by his size—and the demons were half as tall as the seraphim.
    And Lucifer, at the head of the dragon, was the smallest of all the demons.
    This time, Jake didn’t go on alert when she smiled. “Obviously not. And you’ll note the Guardians are equal to one another—even Michael. Only the angels are given divine rank.”
    “But no wings. Here, or on any of the other pieces.” Jake scanned the room again as if making certain, then glanced over at her. “In Tunisia, I assumed the female was a goddess figure. Nike or Nemesis, maybe. Until I saw the friezes.”
    Alice nodded. “I believe it’s the same woman who is one of Michael’s companions in the early transformation scenes—but if so, it is also the first time I have seen her winged.”
    Jake returned to the Mycenaean figure. “Yeah. Her sword, her posture, her position. The hair and clothes change a little, but . . .” He trailed off, leaning in before slanting an assessing look at Alice. “Actually, she’s kind of like you.”
    “Pardon me?”
    He nodded to himself. “Yeah. All angular. Her—I know it’s the style. But you, you’re just kind of sharp and bony. And she’s softened by her clothing instead of being all buttoned up and choked by her—” Jake clasped his neck in both hands. He glanced at her, froze. His arms fell back to his sides, and he cleared his throat. “But, uh, you’re American, right? Not Greek.”
    “My father was American.” Alice held out her hand. Her self-control was truly remarkable, she thought. When the five-dollar bill appeared in her palm, she vanished the money without tearing it to pieces. “My mother was Egyptian. Like that panel. ”
    Not so remarkable then; her irritation had slipped through. But he looked almost grateful for her pointed change of subject.
    “What about Michael?”
    She might have looked stiff to Jake before, but she felt stiff now—her braid pulling too hard on her scalp, her arms crossed too tight. “What of him?”
    “What does he say that all of this is?”
    “He says it is ‘something best

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