Angels, Art, and Avarice: 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.
“What the hell are you doing, Michael?”
Luke’s voice intruded on my thoughts as I viciously scrubbed the kitchenette in my cabin. I resisted the urge to snap at him as I threw down the sponge and turned to face him.
“What the fuck are you doing in my cabin?” Okay, so I sucked at resistance.
“Damn, who pissed in your Cheerios?” My older brother raised a golden blond eyebrow as he tipped his head. “I mean, I’m not expecting rainbows and unicorns, but usually you’re usually a lot more mellow. Someone piss you off?”
He could say that. After we took the victims of sexual assault and forced prostitution to the shelter, the fury over their hurts hit me at odd moments. Like now. I stared hard at the bubbles in sink, trying to find beauty and peace in their iridescent marbled surfaces as I strove to calm down.
“What do you want, Luke?”
He tried to look innocent. Heh, the devil innocent? Not likely.
“Can’t I stop by to see my younger brother?”
“Seriously, I don’t need your poking. What do you want?”
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.