Angels, Art, and Abduction: The magic of an angel’s heart…is written on his skin.
Haley Michaels, Reporter
I was minding my own business, trying to escape a party, and walked straight into a murder. Which would’ve been the scoop of a lifetime if my phone hadn’t died. And the door hadn’t locked. Now I’m stuck in a cabin in the mountains with a hot guy who appeared on the street like my knight on shining motorcycle, and I should be more worried than attracted. I mean, he’s covered in tattoos and is VP from the notorious Concrete Angels MC, the same group I’m investigating. Because I know they’re involved with the deaths of a U.S. Marshal and two FBI agents. My love life luck sucks.
Michael, Concrete Angels’ VP
Love isn’t something that archangels ever expect to feel. At least not the all-consuming, no-holds-barred kind of love spoken about in films and songs. But that’s what I felt the moment I laid eyes on Haley. She doesn’t know I’m not human, or just how inhuman the rest of my MC is, but I can’t stay away from her if I tried. Now I have to protect her – not only from the men hunting her, but also from the truth. The question is: will she stay when she finds out what I really am? Because if she can’t be trusted with the truth, Loki will make sure she can’t pass on the information. Permanently.
Luke sighed as he ran his hand over the angel wing tattoo on the back of his bald head. “I just wanted to check on you. You haven’t been yourself since you raided that make-shift brothel. I half expected to come in here and find everything painted black. What’s going on?”
I sighed. Anger was exhausting, but I couldn’t seem to shake it. “Nothing.”
“Come on. We’re not teenagers anymore.” He smirked. “Come to think of it, we never were teenagers. That would’ve been fun. Can you imagine cruising the streets, lookin’ at hot chicks?”
I snorted. “I suspect you’ve done that thousands of times already.”
“Hey, no one ever told those kids to do shit like that, I just never bothered to rein ’em in.”
I rubbed my forehead and reached for what was left of my legendary patience. “Why are you really here, Luke?”
He lost his smirk. “I really am worried about you. I’ve never seen you like this. You always bounce back. What happened.”
I dropped the sponge and turned on the water to wash my hands and rinse the sink. “I seem to have lost my faith in humanity.” As his smirk widened, I held up my hand. “Don’t. I don’t need to hear it. I just don’t understand how humans could do such horrible things to each other for the simple gain of money.”
Luke frowned. “Come on. You’ve seen this for millennia. The powerful hurting and killing others for gold, land, hell, even water. They create wars just to make a buck. What makes this time any different?”
I shook my head. “I dunno. I guess I’m tired. Tired of battling the same shit, different century. Tired of comforting the victims of all these atrocities brought on by their own people. I’m tired of the love of money decimating everything around us.”
“Are you listening to yourself, Michael? You’re part of the Concrete Angels MC, a group that runs drugs and weapons to make money. Drugs and weapons hurt people every day. Isn’t this a bit hypocritical?”
I scowled. “I joined Loki’s crew to keep him in balance with you. We’re two sides of the same coin and we balance out Loki’s chaotic neutral. We balance the scales of action and consequence”
“Right, and without us, Karma wouldn’t have anything to do. None of this has changed, but you’re still pissed off. What gives?”
I sighed again and slumped into a chair, rubbing my face. “I don’t know if I can keep doing this. It’s all the same shit, day after day, year after year, nothing getting any better and nothing to look forward to. I think I’m losing faith in the world. Why defend people who seek destruction, pain, sickness, and the very atrocities they claim to abhor? What the hell am I doing here?”
For the first time, Luke wore real concern on his face. “Michael, you’re the one who told me to look for the good things in times of darkness, and glory knows, I’m supposed to be the harbinger of darkness. But one thing my millennia of being the Devil has taught me is people only let the darkness rule for so long, then they rise up with light bright enough to blind. There’s an ebb and flow to their love of light or dark. It’s a cycle they have to learn from. Without the dark, they can’t appreciate the light. And they totally need us both.”
He reached out to grip my shoulder. “They need me to be the Dark One, the one they revile and blame for all the wrongs in the world, including their own choices. And they need you to be the bright, shining example of love, compassion, and determination that allows them to swing back the other way. You’re not really fighting for them, Michael. It’s more that you’re fighting to show them the very best they can be and how to vanquish their own inner demons.”
I considered what he’d said, wondering who would fight my inner demons. No one knew my brother very well, though they claimed they had an insight into him. But only myself and a few others knew his secret. He’d been asked to take this role rather than “fell from Heaven” as the humans told it. And he’d accepted, with far greater grace than even I possessed. He’d become the Dark One everyone blamed, because he had the most compassion of all of us.
He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “I can’t believe I’m asking you this, but isn’t there some brightness you’ve seen that helps you find the good again?”
I opened my mouth to deny it when the face of the woman who’d taken the kids filled my mind. Her name was Haley. Like my big brother, she’d shown nothing but compassion to the child victims, listening to them as she led them through the shelter. She had a strength in her kindness and presence that called to me with a yearning I’d forgotten in all my millennia with humans.
“Ah ha, what just went through your mind?”
Damn Luke’s sharp perception.
Luke snorted. “Don’t hand me that. I can tell when you’re thinking of something good. You actually glow, you know that? Might want to tone down your grace a little when you think of…them. It’s a them, isn’t it?” He batted his eyes with excited delight. “Oooh, tell me about them. Tell me everything!”
I rolled my eyes and pushed him away. “Sod off, you wanker.”
“Oh, no. Not after that reaction. I told you all about Angelina, now you have to tell me who it is that makes you find the light in the dark.”
I didn’t want to tell him about Haley, not until I knew her better myself. But Luke had a way of pestering people until they either threatened to kill him—which was never a good idea—or they gave in. I was stronger than most, but it was usually easier just to give him what he wanted.
I’d only met her once—and stole a kiss from her—but she’d seen my wings, which weren’t normally visible. Except to those who are our true mates. True, other angels could see our wings, and sometimes the other Elder Races could as well, but humans were usually oblivious. I’d originally blamed her momentary vision on my distraction.
I’d only been at the museum because we’d been tracking one of the cops on our erstwhile member Roy’s list of Backlog members. He’d quit the Fort Collins PD and hired on as a security guard at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. I’d managed to get one of Viper’s little spy gadgets onto his phone, but he thought I was trying to pick-pocket him when I put the phone back and that engendered the chase through the museum.
I don’t know what made me kiss her. Maybe it was because I knew the goodness of her heart after I’d seen her take in those kids at the shelter. Whatever the reason, once I’d kissed her, I couldn’t get her off my mind, and it worried me. She’d been there with the press, which meant she was a reporter of some kind. Not a good combination with a biker with dubious humanity.
“I don’t really have someone.” I shook my head and he dropped his chin with a dry look. “Seriously. I’ve never actually met her.”
Luke laughed. “You know, your shoulders twitch when you lie. You should really try to curb that tell.”
I scowled. “I’m not lying. I’ve spoken maybe three words to her.”
“What and? How do you know there’s an and?”
“Because I know you. Have your doubts about your worthiness of love totally derailed you?”
“What the hell has love got to do with it?”
“Hey, hell is my bailiwick, so let’s just leave that out of it.” Luke grinned and thumped my shoulder. “Love has everything to do with it. Well, at least to do with you.”
My scowl deepened. “I’m the Archangel Michael, for glory’s sake. I’m a warrior not a lover. The lover is Gabriel’s role.”
“And I’m known as the Devil in most circles, but we both know the truth. Or at least I do.” Luke squeezed my shoulder. “It’s okay to fall in love. Anyone would be lucky to win your heart.”
I shrugged him off. “She didn’t win my heart and I didn’t win hers. She doesn’t even know me.”
“Well then.” He gave me his best wicked grin. “That’s the first thing we need to change.”
I swallowed hard. When Luke wore that look, it usually meant things didn’t go as expected or remotely well. At least, not for me, or the person he had in mind. I just hoped the woman I’d kissed wouldn’t hate me for it in the end.