Reaping Angels, p.1Laura Thalassa
Table of Contents
Had I known I was going to face down death today, I totally would’ve bought myself the Slurpee.
Instead, I walked out of the convenience store with a single packet of mints and a magazine. I touched the homeless man who lingered outside. His bloodshot eyes cleared a bit, that too-bright edge to them dimming to a more normal sheen.
I ignored the onlookers who snapped photos of me from their smartphones and headed for my white Mustang.
My cleavage buzzed. A second later, “Bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you …”
I groaned. Perfect timing for a call from the L.A.P.D.
They were the sister organization to the Los Angeles Supernatural Department, or L.A.S.D., which I was a part of, and we often teamed up to fight crime in southern California.
I reached down the front of my gold jumpsuit, noticing that even more people had stopped to take pictures while I fished the device out. I waved at them and smiled.
Really needed to invest in pockets.
“Hey Ramirez,” I said, lifting the phone to my ear as I hopped into my car, “thought you lost your phone.”
“He found it,” said an unfamiliar voice. “Bottom of his locker. This is Officer Jensen. Ramirez told me to call you on his behalf.” I’d never heard of Officer Jensen. Had Ramirez gotten a new partner without telling me?
“Why isn’t he calling me himself?”
“He’s talking to the fire department at the moment.”
Shit. I gripped my phone tighter. The police and the fire department in one location? Something happened.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“An electrical fire broke out at the K–12 Reading Center in South Central, just off of Slauson Avenue.”
My stomach bottomed out. “What?”
“Know the place?” he asked, hearing the tone of my voice.
“Yeah, I do.” I went to the Reading Center during my free time and hung out with the at-risk kids.
I rubbed my eyes. “How bad is it?”
“Bad. Firefighters haven’t been able to get inside. Place is locked up, windows are barred.”
My palms were already beginning to sweat. Not the kids. I hated emergencies with kids. “How many are trapped inside?”
“Don’t know. We think two to three dozen.”
“M’kay, I’m on it.”
I started up the engine and flipped on my siren.
Move the hell out of the way people, I’ve got some kids to save.
I screeched to a halt behind the fire trucks and ambulances that surrounded the burning building. Just beyond them the area had been cordoned off.
I slammed the car door shut and approached the nearest officer. I didn’t need to pull out a badge; they knew who I was by my outfit alone.
“Angel, just the woman I wanted to see.”
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Has anyone been able to get inside yet?”
“No. We’ve been working on the door, but the thing’s built like Fort Knox.”
Not surprising given the area. The Learning Center would get robbed blind in this neighborhood without the extra security measures. My eyes cut to the door. A fireman wielding an axe swung at the knob. As I watched, the handle snapped off, and he kicked the door open.
I pushed past the officer and charged after the fireman, steeling myself for the heat.
I fucking hate getting singed.
I stepped through the flames, only pausing on the other side of the entrance.
That … didn’t hurt.
I blinked, glancing down at my bodysuit. It still shone a burnished gold. My exposed skin remained unblemished.
“Well, I’ll be damned.”
I squinted at the hallway in front of me. The fireman who ran in here before me was nowhere in sight. My skin prickled as an eerie silence replaced the roar of the flames.
Behind me the door slammed shut.
I swiveled around, and the first thing I noticed was that it was not the door to the Reading Center. That door currently had handprint turkeys plastered across it.
The second thing I noticed was the building’s unblemished interior. The flames that had risen into the sky hadn’t scorched the walls, or the floor, or the ceiling. In fact, now that I was inside, the fire had disappeared altogether, as though it had never existed in the first place.
I’d walked right into a trap.
Just for the hell of it, I tried the doorknob. Locked. Big surprise.
I rotated to face the rest of the building. It appeared abandoned, but I knew better.
I strode down the hall, poking my head into the empty office rooms I came upon. Old furniture and tagged walls greeted me. Wherever I was, it wasn’t the Reading Center.
What kind of super could weave an illusion this powerful? And why would they target me? I was a medic; all I did was heal the wounded.
As I continued down the corridor, the hair on my arms stood on end. Someone hidden watched me.
“I know you’re there,” I said. “You might as well show yourself.”
A thud sounded behind me as that someone dropped to their feet.
I turned, and when my eyes fell on my assailant, I sucked in a breath of air.
For every superhero, there was a supervillain. Standing in front of me was one of the worst of them, the Executioner, the killer of superheroes.
Imposingly tall and clad all in black, he was L.A.S.D.’s boogeyman, someone I’d hoped to never cross. He was the Cruel Countess’s right hand man, and supposedly responsible for dozens of superhero disappearances over the last two years.
My eyes moved from the leather hood that covered half his face to the gloves he wore. My pulse picked up as I stared at those gloves, knowing what lay beneath. Charred bodies. Twisted faces. He burned people alive with his touch.
“What do you want with me?” I fought the urge to back up. I was a superhero, damn it!
The corner of the Executioner’s wicked mouth lifted. “Your cooperation.”
I steeled myself. “Doubt that’s going to happen.”
The Executioner sauntered towards me, the leather straining over his muscles. “Perhaps you need a little convincing.”
For every one of his steps forward I took one back, until I bumped the far wall of the building. My escape lay on the other end of the hallway, and I’d need to outmaneuver him to get there.
I followed him with my eyes and tried to ignore the fact that I was probably going to die today.
“So the fire … ?”
The Executioner took another step forward. “An illusion.”
“And Officer Jensen?” Another step.
Now I know who stole Ramirez’s phone.
He stopped in front of me. “Don’t sell yourself short. If you weren’t powerful, I wouldn’t be here.”
My heart rate escalated. “Why are you here?”
“The Cruel Countess has use of you.”
So the Cruel Countess was involved with this. Shit.
If I agreed, would I find out where the missing superheroes were, or would I simply become one of them?
Tread carefully, Angel.
“Where would we be going?” I asked.
“Away. If you come quietly, you can save yourself torture.”
Don’t look at the door, don’t look at the door.
If I chanced a glance, he’d know I was trying to figure a way past him. Curious as I was to find the missing superheroes and see what the Cruel Countess planned for them, I wasn’t going anywhere with him.
The Executioner held out a gloved hand. “This doesn’t have to be hard.”
But it did.
I brought up a boot and kicked him in the chest. The move wasn’t very powerful or all that well placed, but the fucker was surprised, and really, that was all that counted.
He stumbled back and, sidestepping him, I sprinted for the door. Dipping a hand down my top, I fished for my cellphone, which was once again nestled in my cleavage. I seriously needed pockets.
I pushed my legs harder while I pulled the device out. I would live through this. I’d be the exception.
The Executioner plowed into me from behind, his arms wrapping around my waist. He tackled me to the ground. The phone flew from my hand and skittered down the hall as my jaw cracked against the floor.
Well, there went that plan.
Pushing me onto my back, the supervillain straddled my torso. He gritted his teeth and yanked my wrists above my head.
“Care to reconsider, Angel?” He stared down at me, and I could see his eyes glint from the shadows.
“Get off of me.” I twisted against him, struggling to free myself. He might as well have been made of metal.
“Not an answer.”
The Executioner pulled off a glove with his teeth. I eyed the bare skin like it was a venomous snake and bucked against him.
“Last chance to do this the easy way,” he said, his voice deep.
I thrashed under the weight of his body, but he was simply too big and me too small.
My heart beat madly as his hand crept closer. He drew out the action, probably believing that fear would make me reevaluate his offer.
I lifted my chin and squared my jaw. “Screw. You.”
Warm skin caressed the nape of my neck. The Executioner’s hands were surprisingly gentle for a seasoned torturer. My eyes moved to his face, cloaked in the shadow of his hood. A long moment went by.
And then another. And another.
I blinked. The skin should’ve bubbled and blistered, my insides should’ve been lit on fire. Instead, only the soothing warmth of the Executioner’s body heat seeped into mine.
It wasn’t working. The fiercest villain in the entire world had come here to break me, and he couldn’t.
Harry Potter ain’t got nothing on me, bitches.
At some point, the Executioner also realized it wasn’t working. He removed his grip from my neck and stared at his hand. “It didn’t hurt you,” he said, stunned.
He reached out once more.
Oh come on.
For a second time his deadly hand touched the skin of my neck. There it rested.
I’d seen photos of his victims. The bad ones were nothing more than charcoal, roasted from the inside out. Those that held on a little longer … they could cling to an agonizing existence for something like a week before they finally succumbed to the burns.
The Executioner and I stared at each other. My heart beat steadily, and other than being crushed under a huge dude, my breathing was stable.
Still wasn’t working.
You would’ve thought someone had hit the man upside the head, he looked so stunned.
Rather than removing his hand, the Executioner began stroking the skin of my neck. His touch was cautious, almost … wondrous. His hand glided up my neck to my jaw and his thumb grazed my lower lip. I heard his breathing hitch and felt his body shudder.
I swallowed. Quiz me this: what would a man want to do with the first woman he couldn’t willfully burn?
He lifted his hand long enough to pull back his hood.
I sucked in a breath of air as I got my first good look at the supervillain.
The Executioner was hot. No, hot didn’t begin to cover it. He was come-in-my-pants beautiful.
And of course, he had to be evil. Why do all the sexy guys have to have issues? Why?
Strands of nearly black hair swept back from his face. Deep, dark eyes gazed back at me.
He leaned in, so close I could feel his cool breath against my skin. His hand went to my cheek, his fingers trailing over the skin there. His expression was full of wonder. Oh, and lust. A crapload of lust was there as well. He glanced down at my mouth.
“Don’t,” I warned him.
He smiled. And then his lips met mine.
She can endure my touch!
No one had before—not completely. Not my father, not all the hits I’d made in the years between then and now. Were all healers immune to the ravages of my ability? I’d never considered it. Why had I never considered it?
Sure my skin had grazed others without hurting them too badly; there’d even been other women. Debasing acts done in the dark and me sweating with the effort of holding back my punishing power. But not until today had I met someone who could neutralize that power in its entirety.
And my God, this woman tasted like heaven.
How long I have waited for this.
Her lips were softer than I’d imagined, but even that contact couldn’t satiate my hunger. My fingers skimmed along Angel’s jaw again, reveling in the feel of her skin.
The Fates had finally delivered me a woman. Just when I’d been sure they’d turned their backs on me, too.
My mouth continued its languid perusal of hers. Countless times I’d hoped for this … normality. Hoped until the wanting nearly crushed me. At some point I’d had to stop.
But now … now those hopes came rushing back to the surface.
The Cruel Countess would have to find another superhero to take Angel’s place. There was no way I was giving this woman up.
Now that I’d found her, she was mine.
The Executioner was a good kisser. Really good. So good that, in a moment of weakness, I might have kissed him back.
His tongue caressed mine, and I made a small, satisfied sound. Damn me and my traitorous mouth; I was being seduced by a very handsome, very dangerous man.
His hand brushed down my body, and the spell was broken.
The Executioner tried to roast me alive, and now I was making out with him.
Only, he still held my hands in place. I wasn’t getting away from him unless I got creative.
I smothered my rising anger; that wouldn’t do me any good at the moment. No, this called for trickery.
Pinching my eyes shut, I pressed myself against him. Just as I suspected, the Executioner’s strength was also his weakness. He wanted to touch everything.
He let my wrists go to run his hands over my torso. The moment he did so, I fisted my hand and swung. The right hook landed exactly where I wanted it to—his temple.
The Executioner swayed, and I pushed him off me so I could scramble away.
Not fast enough.
His hand shot out and latched onto my ankle. I pulled my other leg back and kicked him in the crotch. “That’s what I think about your offer, asshole.”
The Executioner let me go to clutch himself. He groaned. “You … play … dirty.”
“Oh, like you’re one to talk.” I picked up my phone w
“Get the hell out of there.”
“Wait, seriously?” My captain wanted me to … run? From danger?
“Do you really want to take on the Executioner? Tonight?”
I turned further away from my villain-turned-victim. “I just did.”
“The man is wanted in twenty-seven different countries. Nations that can’t even agree on basic human rights agree that the Executioner needs to be stopped. You’re great at what you do, Angel, but I’m afraid that someone with your abilities won’t be able to take him down by yourself.”
I clenched the phone in my hands. Someone with my abilities. As if I couldn’t also kick ass and take names. As if being a healer and being a weakling were synonymous.
“You know what?” I said, turning to face the Executioner, “I will bring him—aw damn.”
The Executioner was gone.
The Cruel Countess’s henchman was in town, and he was after me. I clenched the steering wheel tighter and worried my lower lip.
I was immune to his power. Was there any precedent for this?
It made sense. I healed with my touch. He injured with his.
I clicked on the car’s police radio for any nearby shootings. Now was one of the rare times the radio had fallen silent. Just when I needed a good fix too. Some people are addicted to coffee, others alcohol, others gambling. My power was my addiction.
Unconsciously, I began steering my car in the direction of the nearest hospital.
Shouldn’t be doing this. I’d made a promise to myself to only heal in the line of duty. Too many miracles affected the balance of life and death. Yet here I was, considering it—again—and not even because I was such a damn softie. Nope. The Executioner had whittled me down to a junkie hankering for my next fix.
I survived the Executioner.
I suppressed a shudder. Today would not be the last day I saw that man. Not after that kiss and the possessive look in his eyes. Nope, he’d be coming back for more, and not just on behalf of the Cruel Countess.
Reaping Angels by Laura Thalassa / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes