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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Heather Killough-Walden is a California native currently living in Texas with her husband and child. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling e-book author of the Big Bad Wolf series and the October Trilogy, as well as the print and ebook Lost Angels series which includes ALWAYS ANGEL and AVENGER'S ANGEL. Heather's educational background includes religious studies, archaeology, and law. She has traveled all over the world but hopes to one day live in a town with a world-class hockey team. (Let's go, Pens!) Visit Heather's Web site at www.killough-walden.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter. Also, be sure to keep in touch with her and other fans through her Facebook page and Twitter (killoughwalden)!Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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...
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.
“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.
“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.
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 yea...
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