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When this deal breaks, Heaven will fall.
Catching two demon burglars is routine for Gabriel 1089, who’s one cog in an army of cybernetically modified humans protecting the sky city of Heaven. Until two turns into a twenty-demon ambush. When he wakes up, he’s missing his network-enabled halo—and one of his metal wings.
The down-level junk dealer tending Gabe’s wounds has hands that spark nerve endings he never knew he possessed. But for an angel cut off from Heaven, an attic in Old Trent feels more like a trap than a sanctuary.
Demons on his doorstep are nothing new for Jeff Werth. Ever since they saved his daughter’s legs, they’ve been calling in their marker. In exchange for his services—nursing Gabe back to health so they can use him as a pawn in their war with Heaven—they’ll consider the debt paid in full. Except having a powerless angel at his mercy feeds a rising desire that has him rethinking the deal.
Then the de-haloed Gabe begins having dreams that become visions…then memories. Until he’s not sure whose side he’s on. Heaven, or the simple family man who healed his broken wings…and made his heart whole.
Product WarningsThe sexual awakening of an angel, some wing porn, abuse of heavenly clichés and a dog who steals the show.
Copyright © 2010 C.C. Bridges
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The dispatch came in just at the end of his patrol, when he should have been flapping his wings for the upper aeons and home. He did not question the order, as it was his duty to protect Heaven from the demons who flew in under the cover of darkness, who tried to steal from the supply stores or threaten innocent people into giving up their tech.
“Gabriel 1089, you’re the closest,” Metatron’s deep voice intoned. The location of the warehouse being attacked appeared as a pulsing blue mark on the map of Heaven in his mind.
“On my way,” he sent back. The connection simmered, never truly severed. Gabriel relished the contact, always hearing the voices of his fellow angels, the streams of data constantly cascading behind his eyelids. It was the strength of the Angel network that none of them were ever alone.
His metal wings cut the air as Gabriel dove for the twelfth aeon, skimming past the other silver spires and glastic platforms, the bright lights winking in the dusk. Few gondolas dotted the skies—most commuters were safely home by now. Daylight faded quickly between the towers, and the demons would be using darkness to cover their misdeeds.
Why this warehouse? Gabriel soared beneath the pillared supports holding the midlevel aeons. He ducked beneath a row of arches, banking into a left turn around a tall spiral antenna. As he grew closer he focused his augmented vision, zooming in on the two demons working on the entrance.
Perching on one of the metal support beams just out of sight of the demons, Gabriel accessed the warehouse data. He crouched, skimming the information. The warehouse only held storage supplies, which didn’t need a designated security angel. Perhaps the demons had gotten wrong information. They were more likely to go after food stores or the more precious medical technology, the things most valuable in Heaven.
Zooming in again, he saw that only one of them had a weapon, an old-style projectile rifle, aimed haphazardly at the skies. The other worked on the door lock, his back to his partner. They were both easy pickings.
“Send a gondola for prison transport,” he sent to Metatron. “These two won’t take any effort at all.”
It was tempting to just pick them off, use the pulse blasts from his sidearm. Gabriel unclipped the smooth tube from his belt to do just that. But then he grinned. It had been a long time since he had a good physical fight. Angels rarely got their hands dirty. A shift of his wrist had the tube elongating into a spear.
Gabriel pushed off the metal and concrete support, using the extra momentum to take flight. The first demon saw him coming but didn’t get his weapon up in time. Gabriel swept it from his fingers with his spear. He kicked the first demon in the chest, sending him crashing back on the platform, black and bronze wings all askew.
The second demon whirled around at the commotion, eyes glowing bright yellow, fangs bared in a hiss. Gabriel dodged the sharp metal claws as the demon took to the air with long, leathery wings almost too large to navigate the area under the warehouse platform. He used that to his advantage, ducking underneath pillars and supports, moving out of the way at just the right moment to force the demon to fly headfirst into a thick wall.
“Not on my watch,” Gabriel declared. The demon dropped to a support, shaking its head at the shock. Gabriel tightened his grip on his spear, ready to take the demon down. No one threatened his people.
Hands seized his ankles, tugging him off balance. Gabriel kicked out, swinging his spear wide in an attempt to catch the first demon. But it wasn’t just the first demon. There were more than just two.
There were dozens.
He struggled, flapping his wings hard to get out of their reach. Strong arms pulled at his spear and Gabriel let it fall, fighting for air. He sent a brief call for help through the network, transmitting video feed, but couldn’t focus on anything more detailed.
If he could stall them long enough until help arrived, Gabriel might have a chance. He came up through a platform opening, checking to see if he were followed. Something sharp pierced his left wing, pinning it to the metal behind him and sending pain shooting through his entire body.
Gabriel cried out at the shock, suddenly face-to-face with another demon whose features were twisted into a grotesque mockery—elongated jaw, fangs over pulled-back lips, horns against a heavy brow. “Night, angel boy,” he snapped, holding something to Gabriel’s forehead. There was a sharp burst of light, like lightning beneath his eyelids, and then the whole world was silenced.
Jeff startled awake at the pounding on his front door, coming right on the heels of the proximity alarm blaring throughout the house. He reached for the rifle he kept next to his bed. No one should have gotten this close to the door so soon after setting off those alarms.
“Dad?” Kayla stumbled into the hall after him, Trixie padding along beside her. “The alarm?”
“Demons,” Jeff said. His cameras were working just fine. The view of outside showed up on the screens taking up most of the main room, piling on top of each other like the bits of junk they’d been refurbished from. He’d wired them all himself, each programmed to display a specific area. Only one screen, the tiniest with the flickering image, showed the front porch and the group of demons waiting outside. They stood close together, dark wings tucked away as if this were a social call.
Kayla pulled on Trixie’s collar, tugging the dog away from the front entrance when she growled. “I’ll go wait out back then.”
“Keep Trix with you.” Jeff set the rifle down near the narrow stairs that lined one wall. Time to do some business. He slapped his hand on the wall switch, stopping the blaring alarm. The sudden silence was a relief.
“Yes, Dad,” she sighed, slipping out the back door.
Jeff waited a beat for her to leave, making sure Kayla hadn’t dawdled to get a glimpse of what the demons wanted. But no, she still respected his wishes on this much at least. She was too young yet. Jeff wished he could keep her a child a little longer, protect her from whatever business the demons wanted this time.
They pounded against his door again, and Jeff pulled it open with a snarl. “Normally you call first.”
“Sorry, Werth. Bit of an emergency, dig?” Nazaro winked at Jeff, his face twisted into a haughty smirk. Of all of Luca’s minions, Jeff hated dealing with him the most. The demon knew too much about Jeff’s situation, how much he owed to Luca and his demon connections. As if to remind Jeff of that debt, his eyes shined yellow for a moment before fading back to dark brown. With his wings tucked away and hidden, it was the only sign that the man in front of him was anything but human.
“So you trespassed onto my property without even a netcall first? How big of an emergency?”
Nazaro tilted his head and the group of demons around him moved to the side, revealing a crumpled form on Jeff’s porch. It took him a minute to notice the golden wing slumped over the figure’s shoulder, covered in dirt and smears of blood.
“Christ.” Jeff knelt by the body. He had his fingers searching for a pulse before he caught sight of the ring of metal surrounding the man’s forehead, ducking around his ears and under reddish blond hair. Jeff stumbled backwards, his hands burning from the touch. “It’s an angel. What the hell have you done?”
“He ain’t dead.” Nazaro crouched down and pushed the angel over on his side. Jeff could see the shallow rise and fall of his chest.
Jeff straightened. He wasn’t surprised that Luca wanted an angel. It could make for good bargaining when dealing with the upper levels, if he didn’t bring the wrath of the other angels down on him instead. “Lucky for you. What the hell does this have to do with me?”
Nazaro tapped the halo around the angel’s forehead. “Can you get this off without destroying it? Or killing the angel boy?”
Of course. They wanted his technical expertise. Jeff let out a frustrated breath. He didn’t want demons in his workshop any more than he wanted them in his home. At the moment, while Kayla was hiding out back, he figured the house was the safer bet. “Bring him inside.”
Jeff turned, not waiting for them to follow. He pulled an old mattress from the pile of crap along one wall and set it in the middle of the main room. “Put him there. Don’t get any blood on the carpet.”
He moved to the far end of the room, the half designated as the kitchen, and turned to dig in the cabinets, hoping to hide the shaking of his hands. Showing weakness to a demon wasn’t just stupid, it was suicidal. Any downsider knew that, and Jeff knew better than most. Better get them out of here as quickly as possible.
When he turned back, the first-aid kit in one hand, his portable toolbox in the other, the demons had dropped the angel on the mattress, single wing hanging over the edge. The angel looked small and fragile, his narrow body not even filling the entire length of the mattress, his hands curled into tight fists. Jeff knelt, trying not to notice the young-looking face, full lips, pale eyelashes against dirty cheeks.
“He’s just a kid,” Jeff blurted, brushing the ragged hair out of the way to get at that gold circlet.
Nazaro laughed. “No, they just do damn good work up there. Bet my right wing that kid is over fifty. Maybe one twenty.”
Jeff shuddered at the thought, virtual immortality thanks to the right cybernetics and regular flushing of body parts. Of course, Heaven Corp expected absolute obedience in return for the service.
He wiggled the halo gently, noting the places where it connected to ports molded into the angel’s skin. Jeff pulled out his network meter, hovering the sensor tube over the dulled metal. “It’s dead,” he said. “No signal.”
“That’s from the pulse. Don’t worry about it. Get it off without damaging it.”
“Is that all?” Jeff murmured. The bigger problem would be getting it off without killing the angel. Nasty piece of hardware like this was bound to have some kind of failsafe in it.
This was the part where Jeff wished he had medical training. He set up the vitals monitor, watching the angel’s brainwave flip across the screen. The halo was tied into that, even though it had stopped transmitting. Maybe he could trick it into thinking the angel had died. No reason to trip any security measures if he didn’t have to.
The problem intrigued him and Jeff lost himself in the connections and wires, surprised when the halo popped off in his hands the moment he sent the fake brainwave signal. He double-checked the vitals monitor, relieved when the angel’s readings kept steady.
Jeff nearly jumped. He’d all but forgotten the demons were there, once again so lost in the challenge and his machinery that he’d disconnected from reality. Damn it, this was why he didn’t jack in anymore. He didn’t need the problem without any of the pleasures involved.
Nazaro picked up the circlet and tucked it safely in a pouch he attached to his belt. “Wait outside,” he told his entourage, and they scattered, finally leaving Jeff’s house. He wished Nazaro had gone with them.
“What do you want, Nazaro?” Jeff stood, brushing his hands on his shirt.
“Ain’t what I want.” Nazaro grinned, eyes flashing yellow.
Jeff closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Fine. What does Luca want?”
Nazaro turned away and stared, perusing the wall of screens, tapping on the glass of the smallest. Right next to it a flat panel showed Kayla and Trixie running through the east part of the junkyard, ducking behind tall piles of twisted metal. “Keep the angel here. Nurse him back to relative health.”
Jeff stiffened. “Take him to a real doctor. You’ve got the connections.”
“He’ll heal. They’re made out of tough stuff. What’s more important is that you make sure he knows nothing about this…” Nazaro patted the pouch at his waist, “…or who brought him here.”
“So what do you want me to tell him?”
“Don’t give a crap, Werth, just as long as you don’t let him contact his posse.”
Jeff shook his head. The last thing he wanted was to get right in the middle of the conflict between the angels and the demons. “And make my home a war zone? No way.”
He expected Nazaro to rage at him, to bare his claws and snarl. Instead, showing remarkable restraint, Nazaro only walked over to the one window in the room, tilting his head towards the glastic that filled the old frame. “Haven’t things been good since Luca took over Old Trent?”
Jeff looked away, knowing, just knowing, where the demon was going with this. And damn it, but he couldn’t disagree. Luca had cleaned up the streets, got rid of the aimless demon gangs, made the place safer for the unaltered human.
“All he asks is that you do this one thing. A favor in return for the kid’s legs, Werth. Dig?”
He swallowed, unable to keep from looking over to the screens, where he could still see Kayla running with Trixie. She wouldn’t even be walking if it weren’t for Luca. “It’s an angel. A real angel. If they find him here…”
“Ain’t nobody going to find him. He took an EM pulse straight to the head. And we got this.” He touched the halo again. “Luca just wants you to keep him around, case we need him.”
There had to be more to it than that. “How long?”
“Just worry about getting angel boy up and talking. I’ll be in touch.” Nazaro nodded and went out the front door.
Damn it. Jeff moved to the door and closed it. He needed to get the proximity alarm back up, maybe tweak the thing so it would signal before the demons landed on his property. And explain to Kayla about their houseguest.
The angel continued to breathe unsteadily, lying in the middle of the room, among the piles of old tech and useful junk they’d brought in from outside. Jeff resisted the urge to kick the mattress. Of all the things he didn’t need, babysitting an angel would be at the top of the list.
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