The Singer
asked. “Who is… Are you talking about the angel?”
    Max looked at Malachi as if he’d just spit on the floor between them. Leo laughed, and he could see Rhys trying to stifle a smile.
    “Do you think archangels go for jaunts on the earthly realm?” Max said. “Of course not the angel Gabriel.”
    “Then who—”
    “Gabriel is Damien’s brother-in-law,” Rhys said. “Or he was. His mate was Sari’s twin sister. She was killed during the Rending.”
    “But why does he hate Damien? You said many scribes lost—”
    “Sari’s sister was killed during battle,” Max said. “Not an ambush on a retreat. Damien took Tala into battle because of her foresight, and Volund’s Grigori killed her.”
    “Oh.” Suddenly, the bad blood between Damien and his brother-in-law made more sense.
    Leo cleared his through. “As you can imagine, they don’t really get along.”

    It was Leo who was left teaching Malachi the next night. The two scribes were practicing Malachi’s writing in the library, practicing the spells in the Old Language, which he would scribe on his hands and arms to give himself the most basic protection before they left. Max and Rhys were still arguing about the best way to approach Gabriel, who was an assistant to one of the senior elders on the Irin council. They were going to Vienna, but everyone agreed that Malachi needed more strength before they left.
    “Your talesm prim will be much better this time,” Leo said with a smile, holding up his hand. “For scribes, our first tattoo is always the shakiest, because we do it when we’re young and first starting. Nothing can really prepare you for the pain of jabbing an ivory needle into your own skin over and over again.”
    Malachi tried to remain stoic. “I suppose not.”
    “We get better with practice, of course. But your writing is very good. Muscle memory, I imagine. We’ll have to see how you do with the needle.”
    Malachi wrote carefully, always stopping short of completely finishing a sequence. Leo told him he must only finish the spell when he was casting it on his body. For now, he would simply practice. He looked at the book the other man had given him, a scribe’s primer with dotted lines instead solid, to train the boys who would become warriors and scholars.
    “What was your first spell?” Malachi asked. “After your talesm prim , what was your first?”
    Leo smiled bashfully. “To be taller.”
    Malachi laughed. The man towered over everyone in the house except his cousin, who matched him in height. Yet, despite his great size, there was a playfulness about Leo that Malachi found endearing.
    “Well done. It worked.”
    “You think it’s funny now, but the summer I started scribing my talesm , Max had shot up a few inches on me. I was worried.”
    “You’re cousins?”
    He nodded. “Our mothers were twin sisters. Most Irin couples only have one pregnancy, but twins do happen. It’s considered a great blessing. Our mothers were very close. Max and I were born within months of each other, so we’re really more like brothers than cousins.”
    “Always a competition?”
    “When we were younger. Not as much now. We’re very different.”
    “Max is… intense.”
    Leo smiled. “He’s very passionate about the future. He questions everything, especially the politicians.”
    “It’s good that someone does.”
    “And I know he desperately wants a mate,” Leo said in a quieter voice. “We all do.”
    “It must be frustrating.” Malachi knew that Irin males couldn’t touch humans. He had no desire for anyone except Ava—even though he barely remembered her—but for unmated males like Leo and Max…
    Malachi saw a faint tinge of red on Leo’s cheekbones. “I believe that heaven has already chosen my reshon . I must simply be patient and wait for her. Though human females are… tempting. I cannot lie.”
    Malachi stopped his practice and put a hand on Leo’s shoulder. “She will be worthy of your patience,

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