Authors: Heather Killough-Walden
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Heather Killough-Walden Reading List
The Lost Angels series:
Always Angel (eBook-only introductory novella)
Samael (release date TBA, 2015)
The October Trilogy:
Sam I Am
The Big Bad Wolf series:
The Heat (no longer available separately - purchase in the Big Bad Wolf Romance Compilation)
The Strip (no longer available separately - purchase in the Big Bad Wolf Romance Compilation)
The Big Bad Wolf Romance Compilation (all four books together, in proper chronological order)
The Kings - A Big Bad Wolf spinoff series:
The Vampire King
The Phantom King
The Warlock King
The Goblin King
The Seelie King
(future The Kings books TBA; at least 13 total)
The Chosen Soul Trilogy:
The Chosen Soul
Drake of Tanith
Queen of Abaddon (release date TBA)
A Sinister Game
The Third Kiss series:
Aleksei's Dream (release date TBA)
(future The Third Kiss books TBA; open-ended series)
Note: The Lost Angels series (not including Always Angel
or Warrior’s Angel) is available in print and eBook format. All other HKW books are currently eBook-only.
By Heather Killough-Walden
Book four in
The Lost Angels series
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I would like to thank my husband, for being the kind of father that does pretty much everything from cleaning to cooking to taking care of the kid for days straight so that I can meet my deadline, and for never once complaining about it. You rock.
I would like to thank my friend and editor, Cherie Brewster, for her careful eye and valuable time, and my friend Mary for her grammatical assistance. And my Facebook guardian angels – you know who you are (and so do I). You rock too.
And lastly, I would like to thank my daughter. For her Pokémon expertise, for her bright eyed enthusiasm, for her uncanny ability to find errors no one else can, and for her never-ending encouragement. You rock probably most of all. When you’re not being a pill.
“Do you really think it is weakness that yields to temptation?
I tell you that there are terrible temptations which
it requires strength – strength and courage – to yield to.”
- Oscar Wilde
The Lost Angels
By Heather Killough-Walden
Book Four: Warrior’s Angel
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 shone 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….
Central Park was New York’s most obvious park, of course. Sam could have technically been referring to any park in the world, but because Michael lived in New York and because the rapes he had been investigating had occurred here, Michael had a feeling the enigmatic man had meant this one.
Tell him to take a walk in the park.
That was what Sam had told Azrael when they’d made the contractual deal that had eventually robbed Michael of his ability to heal.
Many people claim to find the answers they seek there.
It was the first of May, and gardeners were working around the clock to trim hedges, prune trees, and fertilize flowers and grass throughout the park. At this time of the day, late afternoon, there were people everywhere, from families with Frisbees to drunks and drug addicts who were sleeping in the shade and hopefully not dead.
Michael stood on the walkway beside a park bench and slowly scanned the area. A few yards away, a hot-dog stand filled the air with the smell of cooking quasi-meat and mustard. Pigeons pecked at leftover pieces that had been swept off of the main path, and the occasional dog on a leash attempted to chase the birds.
Everything looked normal.
But if the last two thousand years had taught the Warrior Archangel anything, it was that nothing was ever as normal as it looked. And time would always tell.
So it was with well-learned patience and senses on high alert that the Warrior Archangel and NYPD plainclothes detective sat down on the park bench, reclined against its backrest, and crossed his legs at the ankles.
An hour passed. And another.
A man sat down beside him on the bench and propositioned him. Michael politely declined. A few women smiled at him as they passed by. A group of teenage girls in the green expanse before him tried to get his attention by acting ridiculous. But for the most part, everyone kept their distance. He gave off a certain vibe—intense, perhaps a bit frightening. Maybe they could tell he was a cop.
Maybe they could sense he was something more.
When night fell on the park, the buzzing overhead lamps popped on one after another, shedding a weak aura onto the walkways beneath them. Bugs swarmed around the bulbs, thickening in numbers as the hours passed. People began clearing out, and the park’s “clientele” changed. Families were nowhere to be seen. Lovers dared to walk closer to one another and some tucked themselves away beneath trees or between bushes.
Bottles of alcohol made their brown-bagged appearances. Lighters flickered in the darkness here and there, and Michael was well aware that not all of them were lighting cigarettes.
The cop in him might have cared
have, but for the fact that walking for generations among humans had given him a very clear understanding of their pain and their need to escape that anguish. It was an intrinsic right of all life to strive to live that life with as little suffering as possible. It was only when the choices that one made brought harm to
that his blood heated and he came forward.
Michael frowned as he considered that. It had been countless ages since he’d flown at the head of an angelic army, but the sword he’d once carried had left an imprint in his palm. It was invisible, but it was there, deep and grooved, and it dictated most of the actions he took as a police officer, and as a man. He was a defender—a warrior—that much was true.
But he was also a healer. And at the moment, Azrael was in possession of Michael’s magical ability to mend wounds. It hadn’t reverted to Michael yet, no doubt as per Samael’s underhanded and mysterious machinations. Who knew what the Fallen One was up to? Michael was painfully aware that a part of him was missing, and he could only pray that he wouldn’t need it anytime soon.
Michael took a deep breath, let it out silently, and stood. The path stretched in either direction, more or less the same. He chose a direction and walked, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, his eyes and ears open to the world around him.
The night grew darker, the shadows deeper, and the surrounding foliage quieter. Michael’s boots beat out a harsh and lonely rhythm in the growing silence. A cool breeze prickled at the back of his neck, and he absentmindedly turned up his collar.
Something beckoned behind him. It was a pull in the air, a shift in sound, and Michael was spinning. But the path was dark and empty. The night breeze gently rocked a branch of an overhanging willow. Nothing else moved.
There was a brief flash of something blue to his right, and again Michael was turning, but once more, nothing out of the ordinary presented itself. The green expanse of lawn that led to a small pond beyond was still. The shadows were stationary and the moon cast a diaphanous glow on a static field.
But something was wrong.
Michael’s skin pricked at the rather abrupt change in the night. It was as if it had been waiting to breathe but now inhaled, filling its lungs with the murky electric miasma of magic. He could feel eyes on him. He could almost hear the hiss of released air through sharp teeth. His blood felt as though it bubbled in his veins, reminding him of his battle with the blue dragon two weeks ago.
The wind picked up around him, and out of what had been a clear sky only moments ago, thunder rumbled. Michael looked up to witness the swirling eddies of building clouds, coalescing at their center like a massive cumulus whirlpool. The trees answered the growing wind, bowing in its presence, their leaves quaking and dancing with fervor. A flock of birds erupted from a copse not far away, their black bodies forming a swarm as they left the park and headed for calmer territory.
And then, with such unexpected and violent force that it actually caught the Warrior Archangel off guard, something slammed into him, knocking him to the side. Michael caught a whiff of faint perfume and saw a flash of red as he stumbled slightly, regained his balance, and turned to face what had hit him.
I was right
he thought. But it was a fleeting, disturbed, and confused thought. Before him indeed stood a tall man in a black leather jacket that was encrusted with countless sapphires and aquamarines. A blue dragon.
But between the dragon and Michael stood someone else. She was tall and lean, with the build of a woman who trained several hours a day. Her long red hair was filled with waves that made it look as though she’d just come in off the sea. It whipped around her figure in the building gale, the thick carmine locks falling clear to her waist. She was dressed in black jeans, a black T-shirt, and black boots.
He couldn’t see her face because her back was turned to him, but her stance was broad and defiant, her arms out at her sides as if she were preparing to cast some sort of sorcery.
Michael was divided among several equally strong and equally distracting reactions. That the woman had shoved him aside as if to protect him from a man she clearly recognized as something
than a man was enormously perplexing. How did she know the man in the blue jacket was so dangerous? He wasn’t as large as Michael. And Michael was armed—every tall inch of him screamed undercover cop.
And what gave her the impression that she would be more capable of fighting the stranger than Michael would? Who did she think she was?
And that was perhaps the most confounding distraction of all. The issue of who she was.
There was something so fundamentally familiar about the woman, even from behind, that a part of Michael was transfixed by the image of her. It spoke of storms and ancient promises and eons of searching. There was a component of him that
what that thing was—it really did. The knowledge was branded on him. But it would take time to realize that knowledge. And time was something they did not have.
Even as Michael attempted to rush forward with the intent of facing off with the dragon himself, the beast struck with the incredible speed of its kind. It was clear at once that the monster’s mark had never been Michael; it was the woman all along. The dragon completely ignored the archangel and had yet to even make eye contact with him.
Lightning scorched the ozone nearby, and Michael’s progress was roughly halted as he was once more slammed into, this time by a third party. This impact was intended to deal harm, and the brutal force sent the archangel flying back several paces to contact with the pole of a park lamp. The metal bent beneath his body, groaning as it crumpled inward. Overhead, the bulb hissed, flickered, and just before it went out he saw the auburn-haired woman duck beneath an attempted backhand and then jump to kick her dragon opponent squarely in the chest.
The lamp popped and went out, casting the area into darkness as Michael again got to his feet. From this inky black came the sounds of horrible battle, painful impacts, and grunts and hisses of agony. Michael had barely righted himself before whatever hit him before was on him once more.
By the cold of its touch, the sudden frost in the air, and the icy stench of its breath, he labeled it immediately. Phantoms had once been called upon solely by those most powerful in the supernatural community. They were the elite assassins, difficult to come by and almost impossible to pay. Yet they seemed to be coming out of hiding in droves lately, pooling together in impossibly large numbers and working toward a goal as impossibly elusive as the man in charge of them. Gregori.
Was he at the heart of this attack?
As Michael sent the phantom flying with a single strike, he couldn’t help but wonder. And if so, were the phantom and dragon working in tandem?
Were they all there
in Central Park for the woman?
A sudden spike of sharp ripping pain in Michael’s right shoulder brought his thoughts to an agonizing halt. He looked down to see the claws of a second phantom extending from his chest, the shirt and skin around the open wound crackling to fleshy rime with horrid, unbearable speed. Gritting his teeth with the effort it took not to cry out from the pain, Michael grabbed hold of the appendage and tried to break it clean off. However, the phantom was well ahead of him, switching into incorporeal form before Michael could get a firm grip.
To his left, the night parted and a third phantom made its untimely appearance, creeping closer to Michael as if homing in on dinner.
As if by fortuitous irony, at that thought, Michael noticed yet a fourth intruder arriving upon the scene, skulking near the ground and slipping from its magic invisibility to a more comfortable, goblin-like appearance. Catlike eyes reflected magical light back at Michael as it slithered toward him. An Icaran—a “leech”—no doubt drawn to the scene by all of the magic.
If Michael’s luck didn’t change rapidly, it would get the meal of a lifetime.
Lightning slammed into the ground not fifty yards away, sending a burning, buzzing kind of silence into Michael’s ears. His head felt puffy, wrong, and light in the aftermath of the blast. But the phantom behind him cruelly yanked its claws from his chest, bringing his attention back into sharp focus.
The Icaran in front of him bared his glowing, neon-white teeth, crawling ever hungrily closer as the phantom he’d sent flying picked itself up off the ground and rushed him. The phantom to his left attacked at the same time, and the one behind him grabbed him by the back of the neck, sending a popping, crackling frost down his spine. In the near distance, the woman who had initially attempted to protect him continued to fight her own battle, moving with incredible speed and agility. That she wasn’t yet dead was mind-boggling.
. . . it wasn’t. He understood. Deep down.
But if he allowed himself to come to grips with the truth, he would be numb with fear for her—and they would both die.
Instead, Michael allowed his blood to sing an ancient tune. He remembered who he was and where he’d come from. He closed his eyes, allowing this age-old truth to infuse his body like an elixir. When he opened his eyes again, he could feel the heat of their glow. The park spun around him as his body moved of its own accord. He was no longer consciously in charge of his actions, and the world moved out of time and space as it, too, remembered.
Within seconds, two phantoms lay dead, the Icaran had turned invisible in fear once more and had no doubt slunk away, and Michael was facing off against the final phantom.
The black dragon that stepped from the shadows in front of Michael sent a rivulet of fear, like a hiccup of doubt, through the magic of the Warrior Archangel’s attack. He faltered, missed a block, and felt the return of agony as a second wound was opened in his body, iced at its core, and crackling with a spreading, frozen pain.
But that was nothing compared to the jolt of terror that engulfed him when he heard the woman scream. It was a gut-wrenching kind of wail filled with defeat, deep and true and hopeless. It punctured the night and brought a temporary halt to the turning of Earth. It was the sound a person made before dying.
Electricity split the heavens a final time, striking a nearby tree and rending it in two. Michael didn’t know exactly what happened next. Sound left. The world became a buzzing strangeness. Time skipped and life blurred, and suddenly there were a lot more people around him, their forms indistinct but real. Though the struggling seemed to continue, it apparently went on without him as he made his way with both supernatural speed and horrible, dream-like slowness, to where the woman lay, half on the grass and half on the trail. Her hair spilled across the park walkway like a waterfall of shimmering blood.