Addy’s boss has been murdered…
She’s next. She’s been folded into something that supernatural forces want, and it looks like she’ll have no choice in the matter.
Tab’s been through hell to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen – literally. The red-winged Angel of Free Will cares vehemently about individual agency in human destiny. How much he cares about Addy herself may be another thing entirely, but at any rate, she has a better chance with him than with the rest of the Angelic family, Fallen or otherwise.
In a run for her life and a race in which the involvement of the Devil himself is considered among the least of their worries, Addy must find enough moments of calm to unfold the Angel’s Grace inside her, learn from the visions it provides, and find the keys to Heaven and Hell.
“I’m sorry Addy Girl,” he said. “So sorry.” Clasping his other hand against my neck, he stroked his thumb along the curve of my jaw, it was hot and slick with his blood.
“No, I’m not going to let you die, not like this, not in your own store.” Nearby, on a stack of papers under an antique desk that we hadn’t been able to sell, I saw an old-style telephone, just sitting in a spot where I’d never noticed it before. When I pulled the receiver to my ear, I heard a loud noise on the other end, like a trumpet. The receiver fell from my hand as I was startled, and I lost my balance. Knocking over several things under the desk in my effort to get up, I must have triggered some kind of projector. I could see images flashing around the room and hear a man’s voice talking. I looked for the off switch but saw only papers and stacked boxes. In frustration at not making the extra distraction stop, I turned my attention to Piorre.
I heard someone say, “Okay, you called me. Come on out!” from the back of the store where I’d come in. My first thought was that the police had arrived, but before I could react, the lights went out, the talking stopped, and I just sat there stunned.
It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds until the lights came back on, and when they did, there was a guy there, tugging on my arm, babbling something. I looked down at Piorre, the tears slicking down my face, but he was gone, eyes staring sightless and still at the ceiling of his old-as-dirt antique shop. His fingertips slipped from mine, leaving his rosary to dangle nerveless in my grasp.
I sat there through the intensive tugging on my arm and just stared at the old man in shock, before finally turning to look up at the man that had come in after me. He stopped tugging on my arm and said something, and all I could do was blink at him. He was tall and clad in black, from his biker boots, with their silver buckles, to his faded black jeans to the leather coat, with what looked like a black tank-top peeking out low from under the collar. He was beautiful, which I know sounds weird when you are talking about a man, but I don’t know how else to explain him. He was slender and his skin pale, almost white, which was striking underneath the shock of short black hair, so dark that it had blueish highlights, like a crow’s wing, under the dim store lights. Still, the most noticeable feature of this beautiful man was his eyes; they were a pale silvery gray that was just absolutely surreal to look into. He said something to me again, and I blinked and thought hard, finally asking in a voice I barely recognized as my own, it sounded so far away…
He stared at me for several heartbeats, a muscle along his jaw tense and almost twitching with his impatience. Or was it anger? I’m not sure what.
“Are the door I came in and the front door the only ways into this place?” he asked.
“I think so,” I answered and looked back down at Piorre. “I have to call the police,” I said finally and struggled to get up off the floor. The man jerked my arm roughly to help me to my feet, his long slim fingers locking around my forearm as unforgiving as steel.
“Do that, and you’ll be in a cage when they come to kill you too,” he said, his glance shifting around the room, darting from corner to corner.
I looked down at Adelaide and made sure her soul was still attached. “Gabriel, this is serious.” More serious than I’d realized. There was something about that scream… and in looking again, I realized that this wasn’t such a good place to take her after all. I had hoped to be quicker, to not let it reach this point. How had it happened so rapidly? I couldn’t understand it, but decades of pain should have kept me mindful of how little I understood Iaoel. After inwardly cursing myself, I schooled my expression and focused on the situation at hand.
“Yeah, ’cause if she horks, you’re cleaning it up.” Gabriel turned back around and un-paused the game and continued speaking in an annoyed mutter. “I am not cleaning that up.”
Michael looked at her crumpled form, then back to me.
I sighed. “Obviously, things have gone wildly wrong in a very short amount of time. I know we’re not friends…” I let the thought trail off. “However, this goes beyond that.” There was a millennia in that pause. Michael was faithful to the hosts of Heaven, faithful to a fault. Lucifer would have to kill him a dozen times over just to get his attention now; he was so steeped in the power of Heaven. Michael was also expressive of his disdain for all but the most pious of Angels.
“I’m not clear on what part you’re playing in this, Tabbris, except that your presence here is not an omen of good fortune. Worse, it appears you’re once again leaning toward the darkness.”
My presence here wasn’t going to help her or the situation. My wings were a dead giveaway. The feathers had gone black-tipped some time ago, and after that, the entire things had taken on a deep crimson hue. It wasn’t a good sign.
I shrugged. “They’ve been darker,” I looked from my wings to Adelaide on the floor. I preferred her unconscious at this point. It made things less difficult. Especially now that I saw my hopes were in vain, and I had to further hope they hadn’t realized it yet. I readdressed Michael. “I’m fulfilling my responsibility. A mortal vessel has been imposed upon. I’m sure you’ll want the resource of the Grace within her. So you simply extract it,” which I was sure was no longer possible, but I was at a loss for the moment.
Michael peered at me from the third step, still insisting on maintaining a height advantage, just in case. My hand never got near my blade. This wasn’t a place to fight. It was a place for subtlety, so much so that I had to distract Uriel and Michael simultaneously. “Uriel can confirm that what I am saying is true, if you still don’t believe me.”
At the mention of his name, Uriel hopped the couch and walked over to stare down at Adelaide. The glances between him and Michael spoke volumes. I’d had a sliver of hope, even realizing that efficiency and her safety could no longer be combined, that maybe they’d be willing to wait, to do it the hard way. Sometimes, however, individual mortal lives didn’t mean a lot to those who only see the big picture. They were definitely looking at her like a puzzle, not a person. I’d saved the young woman’s life only to endanger it by my misjudgment of both Iaoel and the Archangels.
Text Copyright © 2015 Jeffrey Cook & A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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