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Avenger's Angel

A Novel of the Lost Angels

Heather Killough-Walden - Author

ePub eBook | $7.99 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9781101558690 | 416 pages | 01 Nov 2011 | Signet | 18 - AND UP
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Read an excerpt from the eSpecial prequel to the "Lost Angels" series.

When four female angels were created for the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Azrael, a chaos spurned by jealousy erupted, and the archesses were secreted to Earth. The four favored archangels followed, prompting a search that has lasted millennia. But for Uriel, the former Archangel of vengeance, the search ends the moment he lays eyes on Eleanor Granger, his one true archess. Can he protect her from the danger lying in wait for her - and win her heart?

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Introduction

Long ago, the Old Man gathered together his four favored archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Azrael. He pointed to four stars in the sky that shined brighter than the others. He told the archangels that he wished to reward them for their loyalty and had created for them soul mates. Four perfect female beings—archesses.

However, before the archangels could claim their mates, the four archesses were lost to them and scattered to the wind, beyond their realm and reach. The archangels made the choice to leave their world, journey to Earth, and seek out their mates.

For thousands of years, the archangels have searched. But they have not searched alone. For they are not the only entities to leave their realm and come to Earth to hunt for the archesses. They were followed by another…


 

Chapter One

2,000 years BCE

The archangel Michael gripped the rock in his right hand so hard that his fingers left imprints in the stone. His jaw was clenched, his eyes shut fast against the pain coursing through his veins. The woods were sparse this far north, and the ground beneath him grew colder and harder as the strength was sapped from his inhuman body.

His brother, the archangel Azreal, transformed as he was to a predatory creature, had his fangs embedded deep in the side of his throat, and with each pull and swallow, Michael experienced a new and deeper agony.

“Az…that’s enough,” he ground out, hissing the words through gritted teeth.

I’m sorry, came Azrael’s hesitant reply. He didn’t speak the words, but Michael could hear the genuine regret skating through his brother’s mind. Azrael had yet to pull out—to stop drinking him down.

Not for the first time, Michael knew he would have to use force. He picked up the rock that his fingers grasped, and after another grimace and wince of pain, he slammed the stone into the side of Azrael’s head. His brother’s teeth were ripped from his neck, tearing long gashes in his flesh as Azrael toppled to the side, catching himself on strong but shaking arms.

“Az,” Michael gasped, dropping the rock to cup his hand to the side of his neck. “Az, I’m sorry.” He slowly rolled over, propping himself on one elbow as he attempted to heal the damage. Light and warmth grew beneath his palm, sending curative energy into his wound. But Azrael’s head was still down, his long sable hair concealing his features from Michael’s sight.

“Az?”

“Stop, Michael. I can’t bear it.”

Michael felt the healing complete itself, heard his heart beat steady within his body and closed his eyes. His brother had an incredibly beautiful voice. And yet now, it resonated with despair.

Michael let his hand drop and sat up the rest of the way. He opened his eyes again and looked upon his brother’s bent form. “This pain you’re going through can’t last much longer,” he said, softly.

“A single moment longer is too long,” Azrael whispered. Slowly, and with what appeared to be great effort, his tall, dark figure straightened. He raised his head to meet his brother’s gaze and Michael found himself, once more, staring into eyes of glowing gold, eerie and mesmerizing, in the handsome frame of Azrael’s face.

“Kill me,” Azrael said.

Michael steeled himself and shook his head. “Never.”

If any one of the four archangel brothers could have summoned the will to kill the other, it would not have been Michael, or even Azrael, but rather Uriel. He was the Angel of Vengeance. Only Uriel would be capable of comprehending what it would take to smother empathy and reason and love long enough to deal the final blow Azrael begged for.

But Uriel was not with them. He and their other brother, the archangel Gabriel, had been lost in their plummet to the Earth two weeks ago. The four archangels had been separated and scattered, like dried and dead leaves on a hurricane wind. Michael had no idea where the others were, much less what they might be going through.

He only knew that he had gone through a transformation as he’d taken on this human form. Michael was not as powerful as he’d been before their descent. The nature of his powers was the same, more or less. But the scope of those powers had diminished greatly. He was only able to affect what was immediately around him, and only for a relatively short period of time. His body grew weary. He knew hunger. He often felt weak. He had changed drastically.

But not as much as Azrael.

As the former Angel of Death, Azrael’s change was different from Michael’s. It was darker. It was much more painful. It was as if this new form were steeped in the negative energy he had collected during his seemingly endless prior existence. As the reaper in the field of mortal spirits, Azrael had taken so very many lives. There was a weight to that many souls, and they carried him down with them now. His altered form bore the fangs of a monster, a sensitivity to sunlight that forced him to hide in the shadows of night. Worst of all, it demanded blood.

Always blood.

“Please, Michael.” Azrael’s broad shoulders shook slightly as he curled his hands into fists, and the powerful muscles in his upper body drew taut and pronounced. His skin was pale, his hair the color of night, his eyes like the sun. He looked like a study in contradiction as he gritted his teeth, baring his blood-soaked fangs. “Don’t make me beg.”

Michael got his legs beneath him and stood. He backed up against one of the few trees in the area and opened his mouth to once more refuse his brother’s request when Azrael was suddenly blurring into motion.

Michael’s body slammed hard against the tree’s trunk and the living wood splintered behind him. He was weaker than he’d been several minutes before; blood loss drained precious momentum from his reflexes. Though he was able to heal his wound, he was not able to replace the blood that Azrael took from him.

He’d been here before. He and Azrael had been here every night for two weeks.

Michael didn’t know how long he would be able to engage in this nightly battle with his brother. Azrael was very strong. Even half-crazed with pain, he was most likely the strongest of the four of them. The monster that he had become was eating him up inside. It was devouring the core of his being, leaving him an empty shell.

Life was different on Earth. There had been no discomfort before this. No hunger. No thirst. These sensations were novel to Michael, but whatever discomfort he was experiencing because of his new, more human form, Azrael was obviously suffering a thousandfold. His transformation was brutal, and it was killing him.

But Michael wouldn’t give up on him. Not now—not ever. With great effort, he shoved Azrael off of him and prepared himself for another senseless battle with his brother and best friend.

Somewhere, Uriel and Gabriel were most likely struggling as well—either with themselves, or with each other. Or both. Michael had to find them. He had to find them, and bring the four of them back together. They were on Earth for a reason. They had come in order to find the women, the soul mates that the Old Man had created for them. They’d come to Earth to find their archesses. And they didn’t stand a chance at finding their archesses until they found one another first.

Worse, Michael knew that they hadn’t made it to Earth alone. He knew the four of them had been followed. Samael was the one archangel they had reason to fear. He had always been stronger than Michael, and at one point, he had been the Old Man’s favorite himself. But that was a long time ago, and now, due to his jealousy over the archesses, he had come to Earth to find the women for himself.

Over the years, Samael had proven himself to be a charismatic, cold, calculated, and wholly dangerous rival.

Michael didn’t know what would happen if Samael got to the archesses first. He had no idea, in fact, what would happen if he and his brothers found them, as they were meant to. All he knew for certain was that he wasn’t willing to leave this to chance. Each archess was too important. Michael and the others had experienced loneliness for too long. These women would be the end to that. They meant everything.

Time meant everything. Michael gritted his teeth, narrowed his gaze, and rolled up his sleeves. Azrael came at him like lightning, and like thunder, Michael met him halfway.



 

Chapter Two

He’d been warned, hadn’t he? Again and again and again. . .

The archangel Uriel blew out a sigh and ran his hand over his face. Then he clenched his jaw and looked back out the limousine window. He watched, distractedly, as the car passed several shop windows decorated in larger-than-life movie posters of the blockbuster, Comeuppance. It was late afternoon on Saturday and the town was small; the shops were closed. But the posters were still larger-than-life. He flinched when his own ice-green eyes stared back out at him from a backdrop of crumbling castle walls and lightning-marred skies and beautiful co-stars that hung on his well-muscled arm.

“Christ.” He looked away and sank further down into the leather seat.

“You’d better not let on to Gabriel that you’re regretting this in any way, because he sure as shit won’t let you live it down.” Across from him, Max Gillihan, Uriel’s agent, sat with crossed legs and a knowing smirk, his own dark brown eyes glittering from behind his wire-rimmed glasses. As usual, he wore a three-piece business suit in muted colors, and his brown hair was cut short and styled neat. He smiled, flashing white teeth. “Ever.”

“Tell me about it,” Uriel mumbled under his breath.

He was more than aware of what his brother would think of his newfound sense of regret. Especially since Gabriel had repeatedly warned him against taking on the world of fame and fortune, shaking his damned raven-haired head and touting his counsel in his deep Scottish brogue. He’d warned against becoming too well known and having his face plastered to the sides of buildings. The archangels were immortal; they didn’t age. What kind of fake disaster was Uriel going to have to fabricate in order to keep the world from noticing that he hadn’t grown any older in decades? Gabriel was right, as much as Uriel hated to admit it. Forget that he was drunk when he had doled out his unwanted advice. Whether he was sober or not, Gabriel was never wrong.

And that irked Uriel to no end.

“You shouldn’t be regretting it anyway, Uriel. Hell, you’re Christopher Daniels and he’s a big movie star now,” Max told him, using Uriel’s stage name.

Uriel’s right brow arched in that irritated way that drove women crazy on the big screen. “And I care about that why?” he mumbled.

Max threw back his head and laughed. “You cared plenty enough a year ago, when you signed the Comeuppance contract.”

Uriel crossed his arms over his chest and looked away. It was as good as admitting defeat.

Again, the man across from him chuckled, this time adding a head shake. “Two thousand years and you never get any credit. Give yourself some now, Uriel. You’re an archangel, for Christ’s sake. You’re supposed to be in the limelight.” He paused for effect. “Right?”

“You sound like Samael when you argue like that,” Uriel muttered.

“I bet I do. He may be a royal pain in the ass, but you have to admit he’s got great business sense.” Gillihan’s smile never wavered. The man was multi-talented. He was Uriel’s agent, and he was also their guardian. As a guardian, he was a very old, very wise man, despite his wrinkle-free face and the youthful glint in his chocolate brown eyes.

Uriel shook his head. He felt strange in that moment; displaced. He was an archangel—or he had been many years ago. Give or take a century, two thousand years ago, he and his brothers had given up their positions with the Old Man and elected to come to the mortal realm in order to find the one thing they lacked in their own realm—a mate.

Being an archangel was a gift and a curse. They were the favored ones, closest to the Old Man, and together, they had all of the power in the universe. The Old Man had created his archangels as perfect male specimens. But a male naturally desired a female. And because there were no female archangels, they each felt a gaping loneliness that nothing seemed to fill.

So, two thousand years ago, the four favored archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Azrael had been gathered to speak with the Old Man. He’d told them that as a reward for their continued loyalty, he had created for each of them the most precious gift of all: a female mate.

These, he called archesses. Uriel closed his eyes as his memories turned dark. He and his three brothers had never had a chance to claim their archesses. Before they could accept them, disaster struck and the women were lost; scattered on the winds of Earth.

The archangels decided to go after them.

They’d thought it would be easy. They were archangels, after all. Nothing had ever been difficult for them. But decades passed and centuries crawled by and the four brothers found no trace of their archesses. Instead, they found themselves trapped in bodies that were more human than archangel. They experienced human emotions and felt human agony. After a while, they found that just the struggle to survive the human condition was a constant distraction from their search for their archesses.

Michael was the first to make his stand in the human world. He was the warrior among them and joined every army, fought in every war, and volunteered for every dangerous job humanity required: spy, fighter pilot, rebel. He moved from village to village, town to town, and city to city, leaving friends behind as time passed and it became clear he wasn’t aging. Life was hard, but as the years went on he assimilated, along with his brothers. Michael was now a police officer in New York City.

Gabriel, the former Messenger Archangel, lived in Scotland off and on since his arrival on earth. He possessed an affinity for the land and its people, but he, too, needed to be exceedingly careful with the passage of time. Every twenty years or so, he regrettably departed the land of the Thistle and was away for some time. He was on one of those breaks now and working as a firefighter in New York City, not too far away from Michael.

Azrael, the former Angel of Death, didn’t keep to any particular place on Earth. His existence was even more difficult than that of the other three brothers. At first, they hadn’t understood what happened to Azrael when they all came to Earth and were transformed. His form had been altered in a cruel and painful manner. But now the archangels now knew what to call his transformation. They knew what he was. He’d been the first, in fact—the first vampire.

As such, he visited a different city every night. He stayed in the shadows, he fed, and he moved on. He never killed when he fed. He drank from abusive drunks and addicts, evening out the score for the humans they would have harmed, and he was never hurt by the taint in their blood.

For centuries, Azrael had kept to this pattern of constant movement. However, in the last few years, he’d changed his behavior somewhat. Now when he wasn’t or sleeping or drinking from some unsuspecting mortal, Azrael was onstage, dressed in black leather and a single black mask. That was the costume he used when he performed his music, hiding half of his face from the prying eyes of his millions upon millions of screaming fans.

Azrael was the Masked One, lead singer of Valley of Shadow, an immensely popular rock band that had taken the world by storm ten years ago. He had always had an amazing voice. It was mesmerizing, literally, and it had propelled him to the top of the charts in no time flat.

Occasionally, Az was approached by someone who recognized him for what he was. A rare individual would sometimes come forth, knowing that Azrael was a vampire, and desperately wanting that vampirism for themselves. Seldom did Azrael oblige. However, once in a while, he felt the choice to turn a mortal was the right decision. He would feed from that individual a certain number of times—and the change would take place. Over the course of thousands of years, even a seldom-granted request will add up. Whether he approved or not, vampires now roamed the Earth, claiming Azrael as their father.

Uriel, for his part, had never really felt that there was a niche in the mortal realm he could comfortably fill. He’d once been the Angel of Vengeance. He had once punished the plethora of evil-doers that the Old Man had created and unleashed upon the world. Along with the conception of humans had been the making of various animals and creatures. Some of these creatures had come to be known in the mortal realm as demons, devils, ghouls, and goblins.

When he’d resided in the archangel realm, it had been Uriel’s task to seek out these creatures and the humans who joined them. But now that he was on Earth. . . . It wasn’t as easy to tell the monster from the human. And punishing them was no longer his task anyway.

He still knew right from wrong. He still hated evil and felt the need to protect innocence. But finding a way to do so on the mortal plane was not easy. It hadn’t taken Uriel long to tire of his role as human assassin for the troublemakers in human history, as sharpshooter in war after war, as a sniper, as a double agent, as a killer. In the end, he’d realized that he was tired of being Uriel. He wanted to be someone else for a while. And so he’d answered a casting call pinned to the wall of a coffee shop in California. After all, acting was all about pretending to be someone you weren’t.

And now here he was, in a limousine on his way to a signing because he’d suddenly become as popular as the Masked One. The movie, Comeuppance, had been so overwhelmingly successful, they’d turned it into a book and now the cast members were signing copies of it all over the country.

Outside the car window, the blur of buildings passing by slowed down and the car pulled to the right, gently rounding a corner into a drive. Overhead, a built-in speaker came to life.

“We’re here, Mr. Gillihan.”

Max sat up a little straighter and nodded at Uriel. “All right, here’s the deal. The bookstore said there would be a pull of two to five hundred people today—”

“Here?” Uriel was certain his expression matched his emotions. He was an actor, after all, and expression was everything. “In this podunk little town?”

“There are teenyboppers everywhere, Uriel,” Max explained calmly. “When it comes to you and your fake set of fangs, they’ll come out of the woodwork if they have to eat their way out.”

“Nice visual.”

“I know, isn’t it?” Gillihan laughed again.

The limousine slowed to a stop and thunder rolled over the top of the car. Uriel frowned. A storm was coming? He hadn’t sensed it, and usually he could. He must have been incredibly distracted not to notice.

“I told Nathan to pull to the back of the store to give us a little time to prepare before we head in,” Gillihan continued, suddenly all business again.

“Did you hear that?” Uriel asked, interrupting him.

Max frowned and then blinked. “What? The thunder?”

“Yeah,” Uriel replied, peering out the window at the gathering darkness as he pulled on his leather jacket. “Did you notice it coming before?”

Max seemed to consider this for a moment. He glanced out the window and his brow furrowed a little more. “Actually, no. But this is the Southwest. These things come up out of nowhere and all of a sudden.” He shrugged as he pulled a few new pens and a file folder filled with photographs out of his briefcase. “I grew up down here.”

Uriel rolled his eyes. Max Gillihan hadn’t “grown up” anywhere. He’d simply existed for two thousand years. But, for some strange reason, he always waxed nostalgic when they visited a new location, and insisted that he’d been raised there.

“In a place not too far from here, actually. Called Lovington. It was a crap-smudge on the map thirty years ago, and it’s even less than that now,” Gillihan continued, shaking his head as he effortlessly doled out the lie. “But I remember the storms. Blew the roof off of our house one summer.” He handed the pens to Uriel and turned in his seat to signal to the driver.

“Wait.” Uriel held up his hand. Gillihan paused, his brow arched.

Uriel felt uneasy. Something was off. This was supposed to be just another signing. . . . And yet something told him that it wouldn’t be. “I’m not ready yet.”

Max’s gaze narrowed and he sat back in the leather of the opposite seat. “You’d best get ready, my friend. Because it’s going to be a long night.”

Uriel blew out a sigh and ran a hand through his thick brown hair. “That’s what I’m not ready for.”



 

Eleanore Granger glanced up when she heard the thunder. She’d known the storm was coming. She smiled to herself. She always knew.

She glanced back down at the gathering crowd beyond the front doors of the store and couldn’t help the out-and-out grin that lit up her face. “They couldn’t have picked a worse day, could they?” Within minutes, the rain would be falling. Everyone outside would get soaked.

It was probably wrong that the thought gave her a thrill of satisfaction. But she was tired and she was frustrated and she was sort of sick to death of seeingComeuppance posters in every store window from here to Timbuktu, interviews with all the cast members on the news, and new fashion designs in department stores that mysteriously resembled what the characters wore throughout the film.

And all because the main characters were attractive.

A jet plane carrying 236 passengers had gone down over the Pacific last week and the news slot that covered the horrific story was composed of a single live hour, and a revisit that night and the next morning. Meanwhile, the handsome visage of Christopher Daniels, the actor who played Jonathan Brakes inComeuppance, seemed to be plastered nonstop on the 50-inch plasma TV screen above the fireplace in the café of the bookstore. Whether in movie trailers, on interview shows, or in news clips, he had been there for two weeks straight.

He was up there again, in fact. It was late Saturday afternoon and Denna’s Daywas airing their interview with the star. Yes, he was gorgeous. Ellie had to admit as much, though she did so only to herself. The actor was quite tall and trim and broad-shouldered, and his thick, dark hair was slightly wavy where it hit the collar of his shirts and jackets. His nose was Roman, his chin strong but not too strong, and whether clean-shaven or darkened by a shadow of stubble, his face forced a double-take.

It’s his eyes, Ellie thought distractedly.

Those eyes. Christopher Daniels had eyes of the lightest green she had ever seen. She had thought they were contact lenses when she’d first seen them on the big screen. But interview after interview later, it was clear that the eye color was his own. Ellie had dreamt about those eyes a few times. Not that she would willingly share this information.

He was most certainly a stunning man. His voice was smooth, and he moved with a nearly unnatural grace. Ellie had to force herself not to gaze at his pictures when she passed them – everywhere. On store windows, the sides of buses, in Wal-Mart.

Were the women of the world truly that desperate for a pretty face? Including herself? Since when did a handsome man trump a tragedy in the news? It was crazy.

Ellie refused to play into that craziness. At least when she was awake.

The walkie-talkie on the customer service desk a few aisles away came to static life, and someone in the stockroom asked her if she was there. Eleanore finished shelving the books she had with her and strode to the desk to pick up the walkie-talkie. “I’m here, Shaun. What’s going on?”

“The bigwigs are here. But they pulled up to the back door instead of the front door. You want me to tell Dianne or Mark? What should I do?”

“Um. . . ” Eleanore thought for a minute. Why would they have pulled up to the back? Were they hiding for some reason? Did they need to talk to a manager? “Give them a minute, I guess. Maybe they just need some time to get ready. If they’re still back there in five, we’ll tell Dianne.”

“Oh my God!”

Eleanore jumped and turned to face a group of three girls who were standing at the entrance to the science fiction aisle behind her. One of the girls was pointing at Eleanore.

“I heard you! Christopher Daniels is here, isn’t he?”

“What? No, I—”

“I heard that guy on the other end, Shaun! He said that they were pulled up by the back door!” The girl’s voice dropped to a very loud, conspiratorial whisper and she turned frantically to her two companions. “Oh my God, guys, we can head to the back of the store and see him before anyone else does!”

“Wait!” But before Eleanore could even contemplate stopping the trio, the girls were off like Abercrombie-armored rockets, weaving through the store to the front door while trying not to draw too much attention to themselves.

“Crap.” Eleanore pressed the talk button on the walkie-talkie and put her hand on her hip. “Shaun, do me a favor?”

“Sure, babe.”

“We’ve got a threesome of Brake’s Flakes racing toward Christopher Daniels’s limo. Can you head them off for me, please?”

Shaun managed to click the talk button on his handset in time for Eleanore to catch his laugh. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks.” She put the radio back on the desk and ran a rough hand through her hair. “Shit.” She squeezed her eyes shut tight. Then she picked up the phone at the desk and addressed her boss. “Dianne, I’m afraid I need to head back to help Daniels. There’s a group of fans racing through the store.”

It was clear from her heavy sigh that Dianne wasn’t pleased. “No kidding. The kids in front just noticed, and there are more heading back there now. I’ll get someone to cover for you temporarily. Hurry and help Shaun,” she replied and hung up.

Eleanore whirled around and left the customer service desk to head toward the exit beyond the bathrooms, but just as she was passing the women’s restroom, the distinct sound of someone retching stopped her in her tracks.

Oh no, she thought. Someone’s sick.

The sound came again, this time followed by the low whine and sniffling sounds obviously made by a child. Eleanore’s heart broke. Not only was the person sick—she was just a kid.

“Crap,” she whispered. Double crap.

She glanced once toward the locked back door and then down at the key that hung on a lanyard around her neck. She had a choice to make. She could go and save Christopher Daniels from his fans, and in turn, save the bookstore from any resulting reprimands, and hence, save herself from losing her job.

Or she could go and save the child instead.

As Eleanore pushed on the swinging door to the women’s restroom, she realized that there had really been no choice to make after all.



 

Uriel stared out the window at the falling rain. He sighed. One of his given powers was that he could forecast the weather; he could accurately determine what the sky was going to do a good while before it actually did it. However, today, the storm had come without warning.

Which left Uriel a bit befuddled. Perhaps he was more distracted than he’d realized. He had to admit that he’d been busy. Filming for the second movie had been nonstop and trying. Promotional interviews for the first movie took up the majority of whatever time was left. Add to that signing autographs and answering fan mail and finding dates for red carpet events. . . .

“Shit,” he suddenly swore under his breath.

“And here I was hoping that you were just about to tell me that you were finally ready to go in and lay down in the bed you’ve made for yourself.” Gillihan sighed. “What is it now?” He still sat back against the opposite seat, his legs crossed, his hands resting casually on his perfectly creased trousers. He arched one brow and waited for Uriel to answer.

“I have to find a date for Thursday night.” He had a gala in Dallas to attend that night.

“Ask one of the multitude of women who come to your signings.”

“I’d rather not.” Uriel shook his head. “It feels wrong—like I’m pitting my fans against each other or something.”

“Oh, listen to yourself.” Gillihan rolled his eyes.

Uriel cocked his head to one side, his green eyes sparking with warning.

Gillihan sighed again. “You and your brothers are more trouble than you’re worth. You wanted this, remember? You swore you had to have it.” Max leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees. “I bet you don’t even remember why you were sent down here in the first place.” He shook his head and gazed at Uriel over the tops of his glasses.

Uriel frowned. “To Texas?”

Max shook his head. “Earth, genius. A few piddly thousand years go by and you all get so mired in what it means to be human that you take your very existences for granted.” Here, he paused and considered something. “Except, perhaps, for Michael. He rides the other end of the spectrum and takes himself too seriously.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Uriel told him, firmly. And it was true. He hadn’t forgotten why he and his brothers had been given human-like forms and allowed to reside on Earth two thousand years ago. It was just that they had been looking so long without finding any sign of even one archess that they’d gotten to the point where they just didn’t think about it most days.

That was all.

“The least you can do is quit your whining and get on with your increasingly meaningless existence without giving me any more trouble,” Gillihan told him flatly.

Gillihan’s words were abrasive, and were meant to be. But Uriel knew that, deep down, it wasn’t the guardian’s fault. He’d been down here for as long as Uriel and his brothers had, and it was simply too long for anyone to go without accomplishing something and gaining a sense of fulfillment—no matter how immortal he may be.

“I’m sorry, Max,” Uriel said, softly.

Gillihan blinked. He sat up straight, and then blinked again. “You are?”

“You’re right.” Uriel shrugged and slapped his hands on his jeans in a gesture of defeat. “What have I got to complain about? Chicks dig me. I should be happier than a pig in shit.” He smiled that smile that had women swooning in the aisles. “That is what they say down here, right?”

Max laughed. “It’s what they used to say, mostly. But close enough.” He shook his head and turned in his seat to reach his arm through the opening between their cabin and the driver’s seat. Just as he was signaling for Nathan to head back around to the storefront, a shrieking sound drew his attention to the windows.

Uriel looked too. And then his eyes grew very wide. “Is that what I think it is?”

“I’m afraid so,” Gillihan replied.

“They’re blocking the exit,” Uriel said, his tone laced with shock.

There was no time to formulate a plan. He could either stay inside the car indefinitely and wait for the cops, or escape from the car and run. Fast.

Uriel threw open the door of the limousine and bolted out of the back seat. Behind him, he heard Max calling, but he ignored the guardian and headed directly for the bookstore.

Later, and in retrospect, he would realize that heading toward the bookstore instead of away from it was, at the very least, a bizarre decision. Especially considering that the throng of teenage girls now racing toward him like a medieval village mob was coming from said store.

However, there was little thought involved. The girls were coming around the corner from the front of the store, which gave him a clear shot at the back door. It was mostly instinct that propelled Uriel across the lot to the locked back exit of the establishment. And it was superhuman strength that then allowed him to wrench the door open against the lock and rush inside.

He sensed that the alarm wanted to go off. He used his powers to silence it and pulled the door shut behind him, making sure to yank it in tight enough that it warped a little and held.

The girls outside reached it just as it shut and their fists pounded furiously on the metal of the barred exit. They were getting soaked out there. He was more than a little damp himself.

He wondered if they were also hurting each other as they shoved toward the door. He sincerely hoped not. But whatever was happening, the sheer number of them suggested that the door wouldn’t hold for long. All they had to do was work together and it would come open.

Uriel passed the restrooms on his left and strode toward the science fiction section of the store just beyond the exit foyer. There, he stopped and grimaced. Another mass of girls, nearly as large as the first, was grouped around the front of the store. There must have been a hundred of them. . . . Maybe more.

The door behind him creaked and then scraped.

Uriel thought fast and ducked into the women’s restroom. Once inside, he closed his eyes, pressed his back to the wall beside the door, and listened. The exit door of the bookstore gave way beyond, and he could hear the group of girls rush into the hallway. They raced by, their Converses squeaking with rain water on the linoleum tile.

“You have to memorize a script to act, and the movie you starred in was also turned into a book, so I assumed that you could read.”

Uriel’s eyes flew open to find a woman and a little girl standing a few feet away beside the door of the first stall.

“I was obviously wrong,” she continued. “Because you’ve mistaken the women’s restroom for the ridiculously famous sex symbol restroom—which is next door.”

Uriel’s heart stopped beating. His jaw dropped open.

He couldn’t be seeing what he was seeing in that moment. He couldn’t be feeling what he was feeling. Not now. Not here, in a bathroom—after two thousand years. Maybe he’d slipped in the rain outside and hit his head.

No, that was impossible. He was relatively invincible. Being hit on the head would do nothing to him but make him a little cranky.

She was really standing there before him. She was real; he could see her, hear her—he could even smell her. She smelled like shampoo and soap and lavender.

Jesus, he thought, unable to refrain from letting his gaze drop down her body and back up again. She was everything that he had ever imagined she would be, from her tall, slim body to her long, jet-black hair, and those indigo blue eyes the color of a Milky Way night. Her skin was like porcelain. Her lips were plump and pink and framed perfect, white teeth. She was an angel.

She was his archess. And she was . . . scowling at him?

He frowned.



 

The door to the bathroom had shut firmly behind Christopher Daniels., and he clearly had heard what she’d said, but he still just stood there like he was frozen, and Eleanore could not figure out why. “Mr. Daniels, is there something I can help you with?” Eleanore asked.

She had to admit to herself that when Daniels had first entered the women’s restroom, she’d been taken completely and utterly by surprise. First of all, he was even more handsome in real life than he was in his plethora of press photos. And that wasn’t supposed to be the case at all. Wasn’t there supposed to be loads and loads of makeup involved? Tricks of the light? In real life, didn’t actors have acne and scars and wrinkles and undyed roots for miles?

In real life, an actor’s eyes didn’t seem to glow the way they did in the movies. But Christopher Daniels’s eyes did. It was nearly eerie, they were so intense. They instantly called to mind the dreams she’d had of him. It was always his eyes she saw just before she woke up. All of the pictures he had plastered across the nation didn’t do them justice. His eyes were the color of arctic icebergs, so very, very light green that they seemed . . . more than human. They were incredibly beautiful.

She was standing in a restroom, face-to-face with a famous actor who was, quite literally, the most attractive man she had ever seen. And yet he was looking at her as if she were the gorgeous movie star instead.

And, so, she was more than a little surprised at herself when, instead of feeling faint and falling all over him like all of the other girls in the world seemed to do, her first instinct had been to stand up to him. For what, exactly, she had no idea. For coming into the girl’s restroom, she guessed. Of all things! What kind of crime was that, exactly?

Eleanore’s subconscious mind knew the truth. She wasn’t mad at him for coming into the wrong restroom, of course. She was mad at him for being who and what he was. Gorgeous—and famous. It was an old brain kind of thing.

He was obviously hiding. That was clear. And from the sound of the giggling school girls beyond the door, she would wager a guess that it was his fans he was hiding from. The nerve! First, these guys fight tooth and nail to climb their way into fandom and then they balk at being loved by the masses.

What was up with that?

Meanwhile she’d forgotten Jennifer, the little girl she’d come into the bathroom to help in the first place. But Jennifer had clearly noticed Daniels as well. Her hand slipped out of Eleanore’s own as she spoke up. “Miss Ellie made my stomach feel better!” she chimed in, completely out of the blue. “I was throwing up, but she touched my tummy and made it stop.”

Eleanore paled. Oh no, she thought. Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet—don’t say any more!

“Which is a good thing,” Jennifer went on, nodding emphatically, “because the throw up made me want to throw up some more.” Jennifer was only about five, but she wasn’t shy. She grimaced and seemed to want to push the memory away with her little hands. “It was so gross.”

Eleanore felt herself blanching further. She pulled her gaze off of the famous actor and looked at the wall. She needed to compose herself. She needed to get a handle on the situation—take control.

Finally, she rolled her shoulders and looked back up at him.

She blinked. He was still staring at her in abject fascination. That wasfascination, wasn’t it? Not amusement? Maybe he just thought she was mental. . . .

“Mr. Daniels, I’m going to find Jennifer’s parents, and then I would be happy to announce your arrival over the intercom, if you’d like—”

Daniels pushed himself off of the wall and stepped toward her. His motorcycle boots made a heavy sound on the linoleum floor. It sounded dangerous. A warm, erotic warning thrummed through Eleanore’s body.

“You’re the reason it’s storming,” he said. “Now it makes perfect sense.”

Eleanore’s world tipped on its axis, and fear gripped her. Her vision began to tunnel. “P-pardon me?” she asked. Her voice sounded hollow to her own ears.

What is he talking about? He can’t know.

She almost shook her head against the possibility. She thought about taking a step back, suddenly needing space. But there was a tiny hand in hers, squeezing tight, and she couldn’t escape.

“You’re a man and this is a girl’s bathroom,” little Jennifer said.

Christopher Daniels glanced down at the child. Jennifer’s nose was scrunched up and her gaze was reprimanding. The actor seemed to be considering the girl for a moment, and then he looked back up at Eleanore.

“Ellie,” he said softly.

Eleanore swallowed hard. Her mouth and throat had gone dry. “It’s—it’s Eleanore,” she stammered. And then, realizing that she’d just given out her name and that, perhaps, she shouldn’t have, she looked away from him and shook her head. “Mr. Daniels,” she tried again. “Excuse me. I really do need to find Jennifer’s parents. She’s just been pretty sick.”

She brushed past him to push open the door, and as she did, the air seemed to thicken around her; it suddenly felt cloying and confusing. It took forever to get by the actor; she could feel him watching her as she came near, and he made virtually no move to get out of the way. His nearness was electrifying and disarming, his body tall and hard and very real. Time seemed to slow down as she opened the door and stepped out into the store.

But once she was past him, she walked as quickly as she could with a five-year-old tethered to her arm, which wasn’t very fast at all. She heard footsteps behind her and glanced back to see that Daniels was following her. He kept pace easily, a small, determined smile playing about his lips.

Christopher Daniels is behind me, Eleanore thought. The famous actor, Christopher Daniels is behind me! He’s probably looking at my ass. She tried not to groan out loud at that thought. As if it mattered!

She wasn’t sure what her bottom looked like from his vantage point; she never bothered with the mirror that much in the morning. And she was nearly as horrified by the fact that she cared what she looked like to him as she was by the fact that he seemed to be looking at her. Was he looking at her butt?

Of course he’s looking at my butt, she thought. He’s a guy! That’s what they do!

She berated herself for the internal monologue of Clueless-worthy concerns and once more wondered what he’d meant by his storm comment. Did he know that she’d caused the storm? If he did—how?

There’s no way, she thought. He must have meant something else.

Eleanore stopped beside the customer service desk and bent to whisper into Jennifer’s little ear.

“This is our secret, okay?” she said, hoping against hope that the child would catch the urgency with which she made the request.

Jennifer looked up at her and then glanced over at Daniels, who was leaning against a bookshelf a few feet away, his arms crossed over his chest, his expression both bewildered and amused. Then she nodded and smiled up at Eleanore, and Ellie’s fear dropped down a notch.

Eleanore straightened and picked up the phone at the customer service desk. She saw Daniels peek over the racks at the crowd by the front doors. A woman dressed in a suit with a name tag glanced nervously at her watch and then stood on her toes as if to look for someone. They were wondering where their star was.

There was a tall man in a suit with them. He was pushing his way through the women—and a few men—to the front of the store. Eleanore wondered vaguely who he was, but let it go as she made a “lost child” announcement over the intercom to get the attention of Jennifer’s parents.

When she’d finished, she put the phone back in its cradle and turned to face a harried-looking couple who instantly knelt before Jennifer to console her. Jennifer’s mother scooped her up into her arms, and with a quick “thank you” to Ellie, they were on their way out of the store.

Now Ellie turned to face Daniels, who was still leaning against the bookshelf, watching her. In the next split second, he straightened from the shelf, closed the distance between them with two purposeful strides, and pinned her to the customer service desk, one strong arm braced against the counter on either side of her.

Eleanore inhaled sharply and her heart did a somersault in her chest.

“I have to go to a big party on Thursday night. Come with me,” he said. He was so close, his breath whispered across her lips; licorice and mint.

“Wha…” she stammered. Then she dry swallowed and tried again. “What?”

She heard a faint cracking sound and glanced down to see that his grip on the desk behind her had tightened. She turned back to face him and watched as his gaze flicked to her mouth and back.

“Ellie,” he said, as if testing her name out on his tongue. “Here’s the thing,” he continued softly. “I need a date to a big promotional party in Dallas. A gala. I don’t know anyone in Texas. You were kind enough to let me hide in the women’s restroom.” He smiled an incredibly charming smile. “And I appreciate it,” he added. “So, I would be honored if you would consider being my date next week on Thursday.”

Eleanore took a few seconds to digest this. There was a part of her that simply couldn’t believe her position at that moment. She was being cornered by Christopher Daniels, against her own customer service desk, and asked out on a date. But despite the impossibility of it all, she knew she wasn’t dreaming. This felt too real.

He was so big. So tall and . . . he looked hard—everywhere. And his nearness was doing strange things to her. He smelled good. The leather of his jacket and whatever aftershave or shower gel he’d used were a heady, highly tantalizing combination. There wasn’t an ounce of him that wasn’t pure masculinity, from the set of his jaw to the smooth, determined sound of his voice.

“You’re not answering,” he said, once more glancing at her lips as he’d done before. He seemed to be leaning in closer now, and Eleanore was finding it more difficult to breathe. “Does this mean you’re considering it?”

Christ, I’m falling for this jerk. I’ve barely met him and I’ve already got it bad.

She tried to swallow past a spot in her throat that had gone dry. She wondered, then, as she gazed up into those impossibly colored eyes, how many women he’d done this to lately. He was good at it.

He’s an actor, she told herself. Of course he’s good at it.

That was a sobering thought. She blinked and felt her own gaze harden. He seemed to notice, because something flashed in his eyes and his gaze narrowed in response.

“You’re serious,” she said in a low voice. “You don’t know anything about me and you want me to just agree to go out on a date—in another city—with you.”

“I know enough,” he told her plainly. “And yes. I want you to go out on a date with me.” He paused, and then added meaningfully, “Very much so.”

She stared back at him for several more hard beats, and then, before she realized what she was doing, she had the customer service desk phone to her ear and was pressing a button behind her on the carriage.

Daniels seemed as surprised as she was and only watched as she put the speaker to her mouth.

“Attention guests! It is my pleasure to announce to you all that the star of the evening, Mr. Christopher Daniels, is here with us now and is making his way to the front of the store to begin signing autographs for all of his much appreciated fans.”

The sound of cheering rose from the front of the store and spread through the aisles. Daniels glanced up, not moving from where he had her ensnared between his arms.

Eleanore glanced behind her to catch frantic movement at the front of the store.

When she turned back to face him, it was to find Christopher’s jaw tensed and his teeth clenched in obvious irritation. But his ice-green eyes returned to Eleanore’s face and once more trapped her gaze in his. He took a deep, calming breath and seemed to ponder the situation.

Then he smiled and straightened, stepping away from the desk. Eleanore stayed where she was and watched him warily. For a moment, his eyes flicked to her neck, her shoulders, and back up again. She could have sworn she saw a troubling indecision cross his handsome features. He looked as if he were tempted to grab her, throw her over his shoulder, and abscond with her.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Ellie,” he said instead, locking gazes with her a final time. “I’ll be seeing you again soon.”

With that, he turned and strode down the aisle toward the front of the store.

Eleanore was too stunned to move. She watched him go, and as he disappeared, she listened. The ecstatic greetings started up almost immediately. They were crazy about him.

And now she could see why.

He asked me on a date, she thought. The gorgeous, famous movie star fromComeuppance asked me on a date.

A part of her wanted to be thrilled at the thought. But there was another part of her that knew better. It was that other part that had forced her to cut their exchange short by announcing his arrival. Because that part of her had a feeling that Christopher Daniels was not who he pretended to be. Not just on the screen—but in real life.

He knows something, she thought.

She didn’t know how it was possible; even the very idea was unfathomably weird. But somehow, Christopher Daniels seemed to know that Eleanore had caused the storm. He’d told her as much. You’re the reason it’s storming, he’d said. She was willing to bet a dollar that he even suspected her healing powers after Jennifer’s untimely exclamation in the bathroom.

And now he also knew her name and where she worked.

Several more long, tense seconds passed, and Eleanore’s body finally relaxed a little and slumped against the desk. She closed her eyes and ran a somewhat shaky hand through her long hair.

Life had just gotten a little too interesting for her taste. Maybe it was time to move again.

t¢iHadPF ¢G me.” He paused, and then added meaningfully, “Very much so.”

She stared back at him for several more hard beats, and then, before she realized what she was doing, she had the customer service desk phone to her ear and was pressing a button behind her on the carriage.

Daniels seemed as surprised as she was and only watched as she put the speaker to her mouth.

“Attention guests! It is my pleasure to announce to you all that the star of the evening, Mr. Christopher Daniels, is here with us now and is making his way to the front of the store to begin signing autographs for all of his much appreciated fans.”

The sound of cheering rose from the front of the store and spread through the aisles. Daniels glanced up, not moving from where he had her ensnared between his arms.

Eleanore glanced behind her to catch frantic movement at the front of the store.

When she turned back to face him, it was to find Christopher’s jaw tensed and his teeth clenched in obvious irritation. But his ice-green eyes returned to Eleanore’s face and once more trapped her gaze in his. He took a deep, calming breath and seemed to ponder the situation.

Then he smiled and straightened, stepping away from the desk. Eleanore stayed where she was and watched him warily. For a moment, his eyes flicked to her neck, her shoulders, and back up again. She could have sworn she saw a troubling indecision cross his handsome features. He looked as if he were tempted to grab her, throw her over his shoulder, and abscond with her.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Ellie,” he said instead, locking gazes with her a final time. “I’ll be seeing you again soon.”

With that, he turned and strode down the aisle toward the front of the store.

Eleanore was too stunned to move. She watched him go, and as he disappeared, she listened. The ecstatic greetings started up almost immediately. They were crazy about him.

And now she could see why.

He asked me on a date, she thought. The gorgeous, famous movie star fromComeuppance asked me on a date.

A part of her wanted to be thrilled at the thought. But there was another part of her that knew better. It was that other part that had forced her to cut their exchange short by announcing his arrival. Because that part of her had a feeling that Christopher Daniels was not who he pretended to be. Not just on the screen—but in real life.

He knows something, she thought.

She didn’t know how it was possible; even the very idea was unfathomably weird. But somehow, Christopher Daniels seemed to know that Eleanore had caused the storm. He’d told her as much. You’re the reason it’s storming, he’d said. She was willing to bet a dollar that he even suspected her healing powers after Jennifer’s untimely exclamation in the bathroom.

And now he also knew her name and where she worked.

Several more long, tense seconds passed, and Eleanore’s body finally relaxed a little and slumped against the desk. She closed her eyes and ran a somewhat shaky hand through her long hair.

Life had just gotten a little too interesting for her taste. Maybe it was time to move again.




"With the launch of her new Lost Angels series, Killough-Walden offers readers a sizzling novel populated with highly intriguing characters, not the least of which is the "villain." Good story pacing, believable characters and sizzling sex add up to an author and a series to watch!"
-Romantic Times Book Reviews, Top Pick, 4 1/2 stars

"Avenger's Angel is a fantastic addition to the paranormal romance genre, with sexy Archangels and a strong, beautiful heroine. The world is intriguing and the action is fast-paced. I for one can't wait to read future installments. Fans of paranormal romance will lap this up-a great start to a new paranormal romance series."
-Book Chick City

"From the moment I picked up the book I was hooked! Heather Killough- Walden has the rare ability to transform seemingly mundane scenes into moments of pure suspense and intrigue."
-Cali Girl Book Blog on Hell Bent

"But perhaps what I love most about this author's writing, is her ability to put an awesome imagination on the page in a way that makes it feel tangible."
-Romance with Bite!

"HKW's Lost Angels series is going to create an entire new paradigm on the subject of Angels and in particular one specific fallen angel we all know well. Over the course of the book each and every one of the characters managed to worm their way into my affections, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next three books in the series so that I can spend more time with them."
-Sugar & Spice


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