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The Condemned By M.M. Cox

The final book in The Hunt For The Fallen trilogy

The Condemned

Elijah relaxed his posture and smiled at one of the wedding guests passing his way. The young woman smiled shyly back and batted long lashes, while her date, a man with a narrow face and hooked nose, glared at him. Elijah shrugged his shoulders.

It wasn’t his fault angels were gorgeous. And hey, sometimes an angel had to enjoy the silver linings when the world was against him.

The man yanked the woman along and scurried past Elijah, but not before the woman flashed him one more smile. Her hips swayed gently, and her curvy figure moved with the practiced grace of someone who knew how to get noticed. As soon as she passed, Elijah rolled his eyes. He’d never complete his task if people kept filing by.

But this wasn’t a culture that cared much for punctuality, so he’d just have to wing it. Ha ha.

He entered the unoccupied garden atrium leading to the side door of the villa. Satisfied he was alone, he shrugged off his suit jacket and pushed up the arms of his white dress shirt. His tattoo, a vicious snake wrapped around a dying tree, poked out, but he wasn’t too worried about exposing it in this crowd. No one would know what it meant.

The vest he wore hugged the heat to his body, but it wasn’t an unwelcome warmth. Back in Texas, the summer heat could suffocate anyone, even a mighty angel such as himself. But at this secluded villa that overlooked the ocean, just a few miles from bustling Buenos Aires, the breeze was cool, causing the women to shiver in their sleeveless dresses. It was winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

And yet, he was sweating. But this was due more to his state of mind than his physical temperature. He glanced around one more time to check that the area was clear and then placed the small bundle of fireworks behind the garden wall. The explosives would do no damage, but the noise would be enough to scare the guests. Elijah smiled at the thought of the flirty young woman trying to run out of the mansion in her ridiculously high heels. He doubted her cold-hearted escort would offer to carry her.

There you go again, making snap judgments about people. Elijah growled back at his inner voice. His conscience could be so annoying at times. Then again, too bad it hadn’t been louder at the one moment in his life when he had truly needed its guidance.

Well, the past was the past.

He crossed the stone walkway and placed another bundle of fireworks beside the hedge. As he studied the beautiful flowers, he moved the explosives farther away, not wanting to destroy such stunning examples of nature in his team’s quest to flush out their quarry. Here he stood in one of the most beautiful gardens in Argentina, and he couldn’t even stop to smell the roses. He momentarily savored his pun before his attention was diverted to a young, statuesque blonde standing before him.

“Are you finished yet?” she hissed. “We’re supposed to create a diversion while Cassie and Annetta get into position to set these off.”

Ex-angel hunter Sophie Moreau stared at him with her usual coolness, blue eyes like ice in a perfectly proportioned face framed by silky blonde hair, which fell in soft waves to her shoulders. Her sparkling navy dress, which clung to her upper body but flowed out around her hips, was slit high, exposing legs that, although lean, could probably kick through a brick wall.

He smiled. “Why, Miss Moreau, would you do me the honor of allowing me to escort you inside?”

She arched her brows and shrugged. “If you must.”

His grin widened, and he offered her his arm. She huffed, but his breath quickened when he saw the corners of her lips tugging upward.

How long are we going to play this game, Sophie? She was eighteen years old, and he was, well, over a million or so, created at the same moment as every other angel. They kissed every night, which sounded romantic but wasn’t. The kiss transferred Sophie’s power, renewing Elijah’s body and recharging his waning strength. However, it had begun to stir his emotions, and he wanted to say so much more to her beyond the customary “Thank you.” But the words never passed his lips.

Now they strolled into the party, a large ballroom filled with a few hundred guests. The afternoon sunlight reflected off white marble and crystal chandeliers. But even the beauty of the room couldn’t eclipse the two of them together, Elijah thought. The angel blood running through them both would only accentuate their striking features. Elijah held his smile in place as heads turned to watch them. Yes, we make quite the pair, don’t we? Scores of hungry, envious looks gave him his answer.

“So…this diversion. What would you suggest?” he whispered to his companion.

He watched Sophie glance around the room, keenly examining the crowd. “It’s a bit too quiet for a wedding reception, don’t you think? Maybe a dance?”

He turned a startled gaze on her. “A dance? The stern Sophie Moreau dances?”

Her eyes narrowed as she stared across the room, but her ire was aimed directly at him. “I am not stern, Elijah. And I think a ballroom dance would be the perfect distraction.” She started to tug her arm away, but he held on tightly. “A salsa?” he asked.

“No. Can you even do that?”

“Sure. Or, a rumba? I hear it’s very sexy if you know how to move your hips.”

“Uh…no. I’m not really the booty-shaking type.”

Elijah buried his smile at her response, keeping his face even. “A paso doble? That seems to fit with our grim task.” “Oh seriously, Elijah. Don’t be so melodramatic.”

He pulled on her hand, the one she was trying to yank away, and swung her around to face him, chest to chest. He wiggled his brows. “A tango then. The Argentine tango.” “Isn’t that a little bit of a cliché? Don’t they do that in every spy movie?”

“Exactly,” he replied. “But the real question is, can a girl from the Texas panhandle, such as yourself, dance a respectable tango in its very birthplace? We will have strict critics here.”

“Respectable or not, I’m certain the two of us dancing anything will be adequate distraction for Cassie’s plans.”

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