Authors: Kristina Douglas
I was silenced by his mouth on mine as he pulled me into
It was no sweet kiss of seduction, no chaste, heavenly kiss. It was ful and openmouthed and carnal, and I stood frozen in shock as he put one arm around my waist, pul ing me up against his hard body, while the other caught my chin, his long fingers cradling my face.
I’d been kissed before, of course. But never like this, with an almost cosmic sense of urgency and longing. I could feel my nipples harden against the lace of my bra, the clutch of longing in my bel y.
Who the hel was I trying to fool? I was turned on, every time he was in the room.
“Stop thinking,” he said, his voice hot. “I want you. Al right? I don’t want to—you’re nothing but trouble. I wish I could just walk away from you. But I can’t.”
The first book in Kristina Douglas’s
captivating debut series
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Anne Kristine Stuart Ohlrogge Al rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Pocket Books paperback edition February 2011
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Cover design by Lisa Litwack
Cover il ustration by Craig White
Manufactured in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ISBN 978-1-4391-9194-1 (ebook)
For Abby and Jane.
One kicks my butt, one keeps me sane.
Together it works. Smooch.
Baileyd @ Demonoid.me
IN THE BEGINNING
AM RAZIEL, ONE OF THE TWENTY fal en angels spoken of by Enoch in the old books. I live in the hidden world of Sheol, with the other Fal en, where no one knows of our existence, and we have lived that way since the fal , mil ennia ago. I should have known there would be trouble on the horizon. I could feel it in my blood, and there is nothing more powerful than blood. I had taught myself to ignore those feelings, just as I had taught myself to ignore everything that conspired to betray me. Had I listened, things might have been different.
I rose that day, in the beginning, stretching out my wings to the feeble light of early morning. A storm was coming; I felt it throbbing in my veins, in my bones. For now the healing ocean was calm, the tide coming in, and the mist was thick and warm, an enveloping embrace, but the violence of nature hung heavy in the air.
Nature? Or Uriel?
I had slept outside again. Fal en asleep in one of the wooden chairs, nursing a Jack Daniel’s, one of the many pleasures of this last century or so. Too many Jacks, if truth be told. I hadn’t wanted this morning to come, but then, I was not a fan of mornings. Just one more day in exile, with no hope of . . . what? Escape? Return? I could never return. I had seen too much, done too much.
I was bound here, as were the others. For years, so many years that they’d ceased to exist, lost in the mists of time, I had lived alone on this earth under a curse that would never be lifted.
Existence had been easier when I’d had a mate. But I’d lost too many over the years, and the pain, the love, were simply part of our curse. As long as I kept aloof, I could deprive Uriel of that one bit of torture. Celibacy was a smal price to pay.
I’d discovered that the longer I went without sex, the easier it was to endure, and occasional physical matings had sufficed. Until a few days ago, when the need for a female had suddenly come roaring back, first in my rebel ious dreams, then in my waking hours. Nothing I did could dispel the feeling—a hot, blistering need that couldn’t be fil ed.
At least the women around me were al bonded. My hunger wasn’t so strong that it crossed those lines—I could look at the wives, both plain and beautiful, and feel nothing. I needed someone who existed in dreams only.
As long as she stayed there, I could concentrate on other things.
I folded my wings back around me and reached for my shirt. I had a job today, much as I hated it. It was my turn, and it was the only reason the détente existed. As long as we fol owed Uriel’s orders, there was an uneasy peace.
I and the other Fal en took turns ferrying souls to their destiny.
Death-takers, Uriel cal ed us.
And that’s what we were. Death-takers, blood-eaters, fal en angels doomed to eternal life.
I moved toward the great house slowly as the sun rose over the mountains. I put my hand on the cast-iron doorknob, then paused, turning to look back at the ocean, the roiling salt sea that cal ed to me as surely as the mysterious siren female who haunted my dreams.
It was time for someone to die.
I AM URIEL THE MOST high, the archangel who never fell, who
never failed, who serves the Lord in his awful majesty, smiting
sinners, turning wicked cities to rubble and curious women to
pillars of salt. I am his most trusted servant, his emissary, his
voice in the wilderness, his hand on the sword. If need be, I will
consume this wicked, wicked world with fire and start anew. Fire to
scourge everything, then flood to follow and replenish the land.
I am not God. I am merely his appointed one, to assure his
judgment is carried out. And I am waiting.
The Highest One is infallible, or I would judge the Fallen to be a
most grievous mistake and smite them from existence. They have
been damned to eternal torment, and yet they do not suffer. It is
the will of the Most Holy that they live out their endless existence,
forced to survive by despicable means, and yet they know joy.
Somehow, despite the black curses laid upon them, they know joy.
But sooner or later, they will go too far. They will join the First,
the Bringer of Light, the Rebel, in the boundless depths of the
earth, locked in silence and solitude throughout the end of time.
I am Uriel. Repent and beware.
WAS RUNNING LATE, WHICH WAS NO surprise. I always seemed to be in a rush—there was a meeting with my editors halfway across Manhattan, I had a deposit to make before the end of the business day, my shoes were kil ing me, and I was so hungry I could have eaten the glass and metal desk I’d been al otted at my temp job at the Pitt Foundation.
I could handle most of those things—I was nothing if not adaptable. People were used to my tendency to show up late; the secretary over at MacSimmons Publishers was wise enough to schedule my appointments and then tel me they were half an hour earlier. It was a little game we played—unfortunately, since I now knew the rules, I’d arrive an hour late, ruining her careful arrangements.
They could work around me—I was reliable in al other matters. I’d never been late with a manuscript, and my work seldom needed more than minimal revision. They were lucky to have me, even if biblical murder mysteries weren’t a big moneymaker, particularly when written in a smart-ass tone.
had done even better than the previous books. Of course, you had to put that in perspective. Agatha Christie I was not. But if they weren’t making money they wouldn’t be buying me, and I wasn’t going to worry about it.
I had just enough time to make it to the bank, and I could even manage a smal detour to grab a hot dog from a street vendor, but there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about my stupid shoes.
Vanity, my uptight mother would have said—not that she ever left the confines of her born-again Idaho fortress to see me. Hildegarde Watson trusted nothing and no one, and she’d retreated to a compound fil ed with other fundamentalist loonies where even her own sinful daughter wasn’t welcome.
I didn’t need my mother to tel me how shal ow I was. I embraced it.
The four-inch heels made my legs look fantastic, which I considered worth any amount of pain. On top of that, they raised me to a more imposing height than my measly five foot three, an advantage with obstreperous middle-aged male editors who liked to treat me like a cute little girl.
However, the damned stilettos hurt like crazy, and I hadn’t been smart enough to leave a more comfortable pair at my temp job. I’d been hobbling around al day without even a Band-Aid to protect my poor wounded feet.
I’d feel sorry for myself if I hadn’t done it on purpose. I’d learned early on that the best way to accomplish anything was to grit your teeth and fight your way through it with the best grace you could muster, and wearing those damned shoes, which had cost me almost a hundred and eighty dol ars, discounted, was the only way I’d ever get comfortable in them. Besides, it was Friday—I had every intention of spending the weekend with my feet up, working on my new book,
. By Monday the blisters would have healed enough, and if I could just tough it out for two more days, I’d be used to them. Beauty was worth the pain, no matter what my mother said.