An eSpecial from New Amerian Library
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Big Bad Wolf paranormal romances, a brand-new novella in the world of the Lost Angels. For millennia, the archangels have searched for their destined mates on earth. Now they are beginning to unite, but for Angel, it is a time of danger and fear. For with this culmination, her true nature will finally be revealed—opening her to the impossible desire, and the one man, she desperately craves…
Excerpt from Always Angel, the exclusive eBook introductory novella for the "Lost Angels" series by New York Times bestselling paranormal author, Heather Killough-Walden.
“Hesperos,” she whispered, nearly out of breath with the shock of him. Memory was a strange thing. Most people couldn’t recall what they’d had for lunch the day before, but they could remember events and people from decades past. It was that way for Angel now.
The man on her window ledge looked the same as he always had, just like she remembered. His clothing had changed. Instead of the armor of a soldier of ancient Athens, he now wore black jeans, black boots, and a black leather vest over a bare chest. But his appearance was as it had always been: Tall, strong, chiseled. Perfect.
Hesperos may not have been quite as otherworldly as Samuel Lambent. No one was, and for good reason. But Hesperos was a king.
And it showed.
Maybe he won’t recognize me, she thought desperately. Her mind was spinning end over end, her heart thumping painfully in her chest. Angel was far from defenseless, even when it came to battling things not quite human. However, Hesperos was special. If it came down to a struggle, she would lose.
The last time he had seen her, she’d been sporting long red hair and hazel eyes. She’d been wearing the robes of a Celt. On the outside, she had looked nothing like she did now. Maybe, if she was lucky, he wouldn’t see past her outer shell any more than a human male would.
But even as she hoped it, she knew she was fooling herself. Hesperos was an incubus. The incubi, or “Nightmares,” as other supernatural creatures referred to them, were notorious for hunting beauty in its purest form. Outward appearance often meant little to them. They appreciated it, to be sure. But if a woman was not as lovely on the inside as she was on the outside, they quickly lost interest and went elsewhere.
Nightmares could easily tell what rested in a woman’s heart. Despite the fact that Angel had become very good at hiding her true nature over the decades, Hesperos was their Nightmare king. Two thousand years ago, he had managed the tiniest peek at her real form. And now? If anyone could see her, or at least glimpse her, as she truly was, it would be him. Well… him and Samuel Lambent, anyway.
Very slowly, Angel turned from the mirror, her fingers clasping the thin spaghetti strap of her slip where she’d been about to let it fall off her shoulder. It was her last remaining vestige of clothing. It was all that remained between herself and the literal lord and master of the sexiest men on the planet.
Hesperos watched her from where he stood on the ledge, framed by the light of the moon and her slowly swaying curtains. His raven black hair was shot through with streaks of blue beneath the illumination. He bore an intriguing black tattoo on the left side of his neck, and another across the swell of his right bicep. A third peeked from beneath the leather edge of his vest. To most people, they simply appeared to be tattoos, “manly” perhaps, intricate and well drawn. However, to Angel, they were symbols of his power, his status, and a reminder of the fact that he was king.
After a few moments, he stepped down from the ledge and the moonlight struck the steel of his eyes. It had always been his eyes that turned Angel’s head the most and weakened her to the point of danger. They were a mixture of green and gray that she had never seen before. They looked like jade shot through with metal, and their powers of perception were incredible.
Nothing escaped Hesperos.
That was perhaps what scared her the most.
She swallowed hard now and watched with a wariness she hadn’t felt in centuries as the incubus king moved from the window, his boots sounding loud in the hollow silence between them. It wasn’t that Hesperos was a bad man. He never hurt women – not that he would ever need to – and he never let his seed impregnate anyone as did the majority of the incubi. Compared to his minions, the Nightmare King was a teddy bear in those regards.
But he hadn’t gotten to be king by accident.
Hesperos possessed a great deal of power. In fact, Angel was a little surprised that he hadn’t yet attempted to subjugate her mind in order to make this easier for himself. It wasn’t that he necessarily needed to be able to control the minds of his victims to get what he wanted. Most women melted at a single glance from him. But he wasn’t stupid. He never left anything to chance. Another reason he was king.
The fact that he hadn’t tried to infiltrate her thoughts only fortified Angel’s fear that he knew damn well she was something more than human. He wouldn’t bother to try taking her over until he knew what he was dealing with. He was sizing up his prey. A good hunter did whatever was necessary to keep the claw and bite wounds to a minimum.
Hesperos continued to watch her as he moved through her room, a shark making slow circles around his dinner. His expression was a wickedly handsome mixture of curiosity, caution and determination. “Oh, little beauty,” he said, his voice raising goose bumps of anticipation across her skin. “What are you, I wonder?”
Angel said nothing, but her heart’s quick pace was surely giving her away. He doesn’t know, she told herself firmly. He doesn’t remember, so don’t tip him off. Be strong.
“You seem familiar to me,” he said.
Angel’s breath caught. She felt her eyes widen just a little. Stupid, she scolded herself. She was out of practice, it would seem. Hesperos was sure to notice slip ups like that.
The king stopped at the center of her room and cocked his head to one side, narrowing his gaze on her thoughtfully. In that moment, he reminded her of the calculating Greek soldier he’d once been as he’d gone slumming among the mortals out of sheer boredom. He’d been a veritable god of war, pulling back from the role only when he’d realized that if he’d wanted to, he could have slaughtered the entire human population. That wasn’t him. Hesperos wasn’t a killer.
But he looked like one now. Machiavellian. Cunning…. Bad.
Without speaking, the Nightmare King took a step toward her. Angel thought fast, steeling her nerves. She raised her chin, and with a slight twist of her wrist, she finally let the slip that she had been holding slide through her fingers. Hesperos’s metal green eyes watched the thin sheen of material drift to the floor and pool at her bare feet. For the slightest of moments, he paused, a small smile playing across his lips.
Then his gaze slid back up her long body, taking everything in. He took another step. “My, my,” he said, shaking his head as if at the wonder of her. “But you are a rare bird.” Several more boot-echoing steps and he had closed the distance between them. Despite her tall frame, the king stood half a foot taller than she did and towered over her as he crowded her with his imposing presence.
“You’re rather impressive, yourself,” she admitted softly, unable to help herself. He was getting to her. She may have been inhuman, but she was still a woman and Hesperos was very much a man.
“You know me,” he said. “You’ve spoken my name.” He smiled then, revealing straight, white teeth with canines that were ever so slightly longer than the norm. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.” As he spoke, he locked her gaze in his, capturing her attention in a nearly literal sense.
She found it impossible to look away as he raised his right hand and delicately brushed his fingers across the top of her collarbone. A hard shiver raced through her. “I hardly believe that’s possible,” she told him.
His smile broadened and a chuckle of real amusement rumbled up from his broad chest. “I wouldn’t have thought so either,” he admitted easily. “And yet, here we are. You know who I am….” He lifted a curly lock of her black hair and wound it around his fingers. “And it isn’t mutual.”
To this, Angel said nothing. She was afraid that if she dared to speak, she would inadvertently say something – anything – that would give her away.
Hesperos watched her eyes as if he were reading the play of thoughts that ran through her mind. And then he narrowed his gaze and she felt it. The swell of his power. He’d obviously realized that she wasn’t going to reveal herself to him willingly because he had decided he was no longer playing nice. She sensed the arms of his magic reach out and grab her, holding her fast as his mind scraped hers, scouring it for the secrets she was hiding.
“Stop, Hesperos,” she said, her own gaze narrowing in turn. “Stay out of my head.” Anger clenched her jaw and gritted her teeth. She had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but his curiosity was piqued. He’d always been like that. Relentless.
Again – he was king for a reason.
“Who are you, little one?” he asked, his steel green eyes sparkling with almost cruel amusement and curiosity. “The walls you’ve put up are ancient,” he said, shaking his head as he brushed his knuckles across her cheekbone and then gently cupped her chin. “As ancient as I.”
And then, suddenly, he stilled – and she knew her battle was lost. The recognition flashed before his beautiful face like lightning and his grip on her chin tightened. “Angel,” he whispered. His gaze darkened, his pupils expanding. For a moment, he seemed thrown. Off his game.
Angel felt her muscles tighten, preparing for a literal fight or flight.
But he was faster. His hands came down around her upper arms, gripping them with vice-like strength. It didn’t hurt – not yet. But it was clear she wasn’t meant to go anywhere.
Two thousand years ago, Angel had spent a single night with Hesperos. A single, hot, wanton, intense, burning and delicious night. And then she’d fled – and though he’d looked for her, sending out his Nightmares to search high and low for decades, she had successfully eluded him.
Eventually, he and his kind had taken to the shadows along with the rest of the paranormal creatures on Earth. They’d disappeared from the sight of humans as readily and easily as she had vanished from Hesperos’s sights.
Only now, he was back. And he’d found her after all.
Angel felt her hopes sink and her need rise as Hesperos bent over her and leaned in, his grip tight, his eyes unflinchingly resolute. “Long time no see, precious one.”
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