Always ange, p.1
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       Always, Ange, p.1

           Heather Killough-Walden
 
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Always, Ange


  ALWAYS, ANGEL

  A Novella of the Lost Angels

  Heather Killough-Walden

  New American Library

  New American Library

  Published by New American Library, a division of

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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  80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Published by New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  First E-Book Printing, October 2011

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  Copyright © Heather Killough-Walden , 2011

  All rights reserved

  NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  ISBN: 978-1-101-53359-8

  Printed in the United States of America

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this e-book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  Dear Readers,

  I am very excited to be launching a brand new paranormal romance series next month called The Lost Angels. It’s the story of the four favored archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Azrael, who come to Earth in search of their perfect mates. You will be meeting these men up close and personal very soon, beginning with Uriel’s book, Avenger’s Angel. In the meantime, I thought you might like a sneak peak at someone very special in the series . . . someone who is not what she seems in the full-length books and who knows much more than anyone realizes.

  Meet “Angel,” and read about her and the powerful, dark men in her life in her own novella, Always, Angel.

  Enjoy!

  Warm wishes,

  Heather Killough-Walden

  Introduction

  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. . . .

  Chapter One

  It actually hurt when the little girl landed. Angel could feel the impact as if she’d suffered the fall herself. It was always like that for her. If she tried hard enough, concentrated deeply enough, she could sometimes pull away from the pain, separate herself from the suffering. But not always. Especially with children.

  It was something about their innocence, the fact that they weren’t expecting it, and the fact that they couldn’t comprehend it that made their pain so much worse. But Angel gritted her straight white teeth, swallowed hard, and forced the discomfort to a dark corner of her consciousness. It wasn’t as easy as it should have been. She was distracted.

  As the little girl who had fallen rolled to a stop, a second female child dismounted gracefully from the swing upon which she’d been seated. She was a beautiful girl, her skin porcelain, her features perfect and fine, her hair raven-dark and shimmering blue in the sunlight. Angel watched as this second girl ran to meet up with the first child and then kneeled beside her. Without a word, she placed her small hands upon the fallen girl’s chest. A second later, a bright white light began to emanate from beneath her palms.

  And this was why Angel was here. But she wasn’t alone. There were others there watching the children. Two others—two men.

  The Adarian was a bit of a surprise. Their kind had more or less lain low for centuries, having given up in their battles against the other supernatural creatures on Earth. The tall, strong archangels had turned in upon themselves and, for the most part, disappeared, leaving mortals and immortals alike to their own fates.

  And this particular Adarian was the most impressive of the bunch. He wasn’t only an ancient and powerful soldier, long since forgotten by the powers that had created him. He was the leader of the Adarians—the Adarian general, Abraxos.

  He watched the little girl from where he stood in the shadows between two buildings across the street from the park. His keen blue-eyed gaze missed nothing. Angel knew that he was well aware of who the black-haired girl was.

  She was Eleanore Granger, an archess. She was the first of four. And she was still a child.

  However, despite her tender age, she was both powerful and priceless. A fact she proceeded to prove when the light beneath her palms spread until it engulfed the fallen child’s unmoving body. A few moments later, the light once more disappeared and little Eleanore rocked back on her heels, clearly spent. Her hair hung around her lovely face, wisps of it moving with every soft exhale.

  Beside her, the fallen girl shifted where she’d landed in the dirt. After opening her eyes and looking around, she sat up. A quiet exchange passed between the two children. Eleanore Granger shook her head. The little girl who had been mortally injured felt her cheek with dusty fingers and then smiled. Her laughter drifted across the dried grass and dirt of the playground to where Angel stood beneath a willow tree near the parking lot.

  From where he had been watching in the shadows, the Adarian general smiled as well. Angel watched as he then turned toward the darkness behind him and slipped into it, vanishing from sight.

  Angel let him go. She was under no misconceptions that Abraxos intended to pursue the archess. As a child, Eleanore wasn’t nearly as powerful as she would be once her powers had been given a chance to grow, so most likely he would be back later—in the years to come—to make his move. The archess had something he desperately wanted. In fact, she had just demonstrated it in
healing her young friend. That healing power was something Abraxos had desired for a long time. Angel was also well aware of the fact that the Adarian general was strong enough, powerful enough, and resourceful enough that there was a good chance he might succeed in whatever plan he hatched between now and then. However, Angel didn’t intend to try and stop him.

  She couldn’t—for so many reasons. And, at that very moment, she had more immediate fish to fry.

  The Adarian hadn’t been the only one watching Eleanore heal her playmate. Angel could feel the second creature’s essence like a kind of thick, sluggish slime in the air. She wondered whether the Adarian had noticed it as well. Probably not. He’d been rapt with Eleanore, caught in the pull of her like a moth to a flame.

  The Icaran had more than likely gone utterly unnoticed by Abraxos – but not by Angel.

  “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she whispered into the breeze, her eyes scanning the sky and treetops for any physical sign of the supernatural creature. Icarans were notorious for being found lurking, slinking, and sulking anywhere that magic was being used. The fresher the magic, the newer the user, the hungrier and more eager the Icaran. Also known simply and rather derogatorily as Leeches, Icarans fed off of magic, absorbing the essence of a magical being to the point of death—either the victim’s death or the Icaran’s. A Leech often couldn’t prevent itself from continuing to feed, caught in the frenzy of orgasmic pleasure the magic afforded, until finally he exploded.

  It was never a pretty sight. Luckily, they were relatively incorporeal creatures, existing on the outskirts of human dimension, and when they went pop, the mess they left behind went unnoticed by all but those with supernatural abilities of their own.

  Angel went still as the air around her shifted and something unpleasant brushed the edges of her consciousness. The Icaran had been closer than she’d thought.

  “Thissss one’s miiiine,” a voice hissed nearby. It was a whisper like wind through reeds, and it echoed around her as if by magic. It made sense; you are what you eat. Icarans were chock-full of magic.

  Angel concentrated, honing her senses until the world around her became one of stark contrast between what was magical and what was not. There, she thought as she zeroed in on where the creature crouched on the lower branch of a neighboring tree. He was no longer watching Angel. He must have recognized her as out of his league. But the child . . . she was so tender and young and vulnerable—and delicious.

  “Poor, delusional little Leech,” Angel taunted softly, her gaze slicing through the no-longer-invisible being. His head snapped up and he looked at her, leveling her with a strange and slightly surprised catlike gaze. “You’ve bitten off more than you can chew this time,” she told him, shaking her head ever so slightly.

  The Icaran bared his teeth, a glowing, neon-white maw, razor-sharp and deadly. They were good for ripping magic from a person’s body and chewing it to smithereens before swallowing. This particular set of choppers still bore the residual “blood” of the being he had last devoured. Magic always glowed. Angel supposed it was slightly less disgusting than a mouth full of entrail bits. But it was foreboding, all the same.

  “You’re quite the little piggy, aren’t you?” she asked as she left the shelter of the willow and paced toward the neighboring tree and its perched beast. Eleanore Granger and her friend didn’t notice her. Almost no one noticed Angel if she didn’t want them to. “Best be careful, Leech,” she warned softly. “Or you’ll paint the sidewalk with your insides before night fall.”

  “Sssstaayy out of thisssss,” the Icaran warned, his razor-sharp claws curling around the branch beneath him. His coal-black skin shifted over the bones and muscle of his body, slithering as if composed of tar or oil. A wall of stench slammed into Angel, and she barely managed not to let it stop her in her tracks. It smelled like death, but of a different kind. It was the odor of a hundred eaten magical spirits, taken and digested as no more than food.

  It was a warning. And Angel blatantly ignored it.

  The Icaran was aware of it the moment she was going to attack. The beast was built on magic, and it sensed the swell of that power within Angel just before she unleashed it upon him. He dove for the young archess, leaping from the lower branch of the tree like a massive black, hairless cat. But he wasn’t fast enough.

  Angel had been fighting creatures like him for a very long time.

  It took only moments for her to finish him off. When it was over, she cleaned up the mess using more of the substantial power she possessed. And then she stood still on the sidewalk and watched as Eleanore Granger’s parents arrived on the scene. They gathered their daughter and made their way to their car. They’d been in this situation before; they were well aware of the special nature of their daughter’s abilities. Angel could feel their worry, their fear, and their sense of urgency. But they knew what to do.

  For now, the young archess would be safe.

  For now.

  Chapter Two

  It had been a long day. The Icaran was draining enough to deal with, but then she’d had to transport back to Chicago. Despite having been created with an abundance of magiclike ability, Angel became drained after a series of events such as the ones that had taken place over the course of the last few hours. It was tiring trying to save the world from itself.

  The first thing she did when she entered her apartment on tired feet that night was close the door behind her, dead-bolt it, and then pick up the remote on the side table so that she could switch on the television. The massive flat screen across the living room blasted to life, filling the space of her apartment with noise and light and shoving the quiet shadows ruthlessly out of the way.

  It was discordant and chaotic and distracting. But it was what she needed. It was as close as she would ever come to being with the one she loved.

  He was there now, just as she knew he would be. He’d recently negotiated various very large contracts with some very important and influential people. As a result, he was taking his first steps down the road to becoming the most powerful media mogul in the world.

  Angel crossed the room, her eyes glued to the screen where several news crews and reporters crowded around a limousine and the man getting out of it. She tossed the remote onto the couch nearby and stood still at the center of the living room, her breath catching as the man on the screen straightened to his full impressive height and scanned the faces of the people around him with stark, stormy gray eyes.

  He was dressed as she’d always seen him of late, in a crisp charcoal gray suit, tailored to perfection. His tall, strong frame fairly towered over those near him, his ash-blond hair in stark contrast to the dark material of his clothing. He was painfully handsome. He always had been.

  But now, draped in the finery that his wealth afforded him and highlighted by the luminescence of the streetlights on the sidewalk, he was living, breathing charisma. Angel found it hard to look at him. Her chest felt tight, her mouth dry, her throat constricted.

  His jaw was strong, his nose roman, his chin darkened lightly by a touch of scruff he had yet to shave. The lightning in his eyes sliced across the crowd, and Angel knew he was taking everything in. A more keen gaze had never existed.

  They shoved microphones at his handsome face—but not too close. They asked question after question, but not too demandingly. The world wanted to know; they wanted to suck up every tiny piece of information they could about Samuel Lambent—this man, this glorious, gorgeous, larger than life man.

  “Sam,” Angel whispered, not even realizing she’d done so. As if he had heard her—clear across town and before the television news crews, Samuel Lambent stilled, his gaze cutting to the camera whose angle now aired the picture before her. For the tensest of moments, it appeared as though he looked right at her.

  Through her.

  She held her breath. It was meaningless and ridiculous, but it was impulse. A heartbeat passed. Another. And then Lambent was once more glancing away, his attention app
arently caught by one of the multitude of questions the public was hurling at him.

  Angel released the breath she’d been holding and ran her hand over her face. She felt feverish. It was too easy to see him these days. It was far too easy to torture herself. It was bad enough that she’d chosen to live here, in this city, mere miles from where he kept his residence. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to take things too far one day—and give herself away.

  That wouldn’t be good. Whatever happened, whatever she did, it was essential that she not allow Sam to know about her the way she knew about him. She could look and she could fantasize, but she must never slip up and reveal herself. If she ever did . . . it would all be over.

  The Culmination would begin.

  Angel let her hand drop in aching frustration and glanced at the screen one last time before diving for the remote and forcibly turning the television off. The screen went black, the room silent. She remained where she was, laying on the couch, her gaze unseeing as she stared at the ceiling.

  She couldn’t see the speckles of paint that dotted the panels above her. All she could see was a set of storm-laden eyes, piercing the distance and holding her fast in their sway. Lightning flashed in their tumultuous depths, a portent of danger. A warning.

  She’d never felt more like throwing caution to the wind in her very long life.

  With a moan of helplessness, Angel closed her own eyes and ran her hand over her taut stomach. She felt empty inside, incomplete. She had for a long time.

  Sleep would be a long time coming.

  Angel sighed heavily and sat up. A long, hot shower and a cup of cocoa would help. Earth could be a very uncomfortable place to exist and the mortals forced to live upon it had learned the hard way what helped ease their suffering and what didn’t. Hot cocoa and hotter showers were more precious than gold to a weary body and a wound-up mind.

  Angel needed the recharge. She had a feeling that when sleep finally did come, it would be haunted by dreams of a man named Sam . . . and the delicious, dangerous things he would do to her if he ever found her.

 
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