It’s not that rain was bad, but when you add cold and then dark, then that’s when he had a problem. Winter rain was the worst. It was bad enough that it was dark when he went to work and when he got off, but the misty, depressing, barely there rain was enough for him to wonder why suicide numbers didn’t go up. He pulled up the collar of the navy pea coat and hunched his shoulders. That was a terrible thought so he changed his mind and hoped those unfortunate pretend souls instead decided to just stay in bed with a good book or watch TV. Seth Kane had never married but dated regularly. He was considered one of the more promising eligible bachelors in the small city. Just shy of six feet tall he was of average build and weight. His crowning glory was the head full of thick snow white hair that he wore proudly. He was funny and had reasonably good looks. His one bad vice was he smoked. A habit he’d picked up from his college roommate. He loved his job. He had found a satisfaction in it that surprised him.
Seth worked at the city’s only half-way house. He’d gone to college with visions of becoming a wealthy man. His job at Guardian House was supposed to be a stepping stone for bigger and better things: big house, luxury sedans, and island vacations. Instead he found himself happy. Not to say that wealth and happiness couldn’t go hand and hand. With no wife or children he was a solid upper middle class.
Guardian House had started its life as a plantation. But like so many of the old majestic estates it was almost ready for demolition when the matriarch of one of the oldest families in town founded the facilities after the tragic death of her beloved grandson. The overdose of one of the elite had shocked the small community but addiction didn’t discriminate. The old antebellum was in desperate need of a paint job but the budget was tighter than Dick’s hat band and he could hardly afford to allocate the money needed. Penelope Voltz had died last summer and the remaining family wanted no parts of supporting the program that the great lady had held so near and dear to her heart. They’d divided the money and walked away from the woman’s legacy and now charitable contributions and money from Seth’s own pocket kept it afloat.
For thirty six years he had been watched over, protected…guarded. The man had no idea. The angel walking behind him picked up the pace as he stepped off the curb and made a dash across the street a second before the light turned green. All considered he was an easy enough human to protect and the angel wondered, not for the first time, why exactly was he there.
Guardian House was opened twenty-four hours and the front door was always unlocked but Seth entered every morning through the french doors to the left of the main entrance, directly into his office. In the beginning it was his way of having a little alone time to get organized for the day. Now the tale-tale beeping of the alarm system would alert the front desk of his arrival.
It was dark in the office as Seth stepped in the shadowy comforts of his home away from home. He threw the newspaper he’d been carrying under his arm to keep the thing from getting soaking wet on his desk before turning on a small desk lamp. Preoccupied with the thought of how nice it would be to have motion lights he didn’t see the man standing in the corner.
The demon was not hiding his presence but he was more blending in with the shadow rather than standing in it. He watched as the human turned on the lamp. The appearance of the angel was unexpected but didn’t bother him. The angel was hidden from the man but the demon could see him just fine. They watched each other with identical expressions of indifference until they both took steps at the same time.
“Seth Kane, I’ve come for the key,” the demon announced.
Seth’s head snapped up at the sound of the voice but it took a second before the words registered. Dressed in head to toe black; the man was taller than Seth by at least a foot and even fully clothed and in poor lighting, Seth could see how big the man was. “I…I’m sorry,” he said. As the last word passed his lips he connected the dots and slowly reached in his pocket and took out his key ring. There was a small floor safe in the office but there was no money in it. Actually, there was nothing in it. Before the stranger moved to take what Seth offered the door to his office was opened and with movements too fast for a human the demon pulled a small dagger and stabbed the new comer in the chest before he spoke a word.
“What business do you have here demon?”
What the –. Seth nearly fell over the chair he’d been standing in front of, he’d turned so fast. The voice had come from behind him. He hadn’t locked the door after coming in but he was sure he would have heard someone coming in. Especially since the door was no more than two feet behind him. Seth’s already wide eyes bulged bigger each time he turned his head to look at the two unexpected guest; one dressed in black and the other man in white and were those…wings?
“Ansiel,” the demon said. With the effort it took to kick a soccer ball, he kicked the body lying at his feet away from him, sending it sliding the length of the room where it stopped in the opposite corner.
Seth felt the granola bar he’d eaten for breakfast getting ready to make a reappearance as he looked at Royce’s dead body. The keys he’d taken from his pocket were still dangling between the fingers of his outstretched hand. Royce had been a new addition to their family. He was the only client that would come to Seth’s office early. He had been a good kid, just eighteen.
“I’ll ask you once more Baal. What business do you have with this human?” Just to keep things clear, to make sure there was no misunderstanding of intent. Ansiel pulled his sword. There was no sound as he unsheathed it from his back.
The angel’s words brought Seth’s attention back to the more pressing matters in the room. As intimidating as the large black mass in front of him was, his eyes were drawn to the man in white standing slightly behind him. His massive white wings crowded the space he stood in. They produced a soft white light that Seth first thought was strong enough to light the angel himself but then he realized, no…the angel was glowing too. The blade of the sword was gold and long and big, so big that Seth could almost make out the ornate design on it. From hilt to tip it looked to be about four feet long, its tip almost touching the ceiling as the angel held it with both hands. Stupefied Seth slowly turned his head. His feet remained planted as he watched the demon pull an equally impressive sword of his own, only it was black, smooth and shone like glass. Baal didn’t answer the question he made a move.
The angel shoved the desk, causing Seth to back into the corner opposite him out of the demon’s reach. Baal grabbed the desk and flung it aside. Seth, too scared to even close his eyes, prepared himself for certain death. He knew he would be killed with the same quiet efficiency of poor Royce, he had no doubt. Seth watched Baal’s hand advance in slow motion towards him when all of a sudden the forearm of the demon was covered in gold. Confused, both human and demon, first looked at the gold bands and then followed the thong of the whip back to its owner.
The petite figure in the doorway could have been a teenager. At first glance, he could also be mistaken for a girl. His androgynous features made him an equally beautiful man or woman. His long black hair hung past his shoulders. He had on a pair of faded and ragged blue jeans and a dark grey t-shirt that had a Chinese dragon on it. Seth noticed he didn’t have on shoes and on the heels of that, the insanely inappropriate thought that those delicate and seemingly perfect feet were so out of place. Who thought of feet at a time like this?
With an open mouth, Seth watched a second whip wrap around his attacker pinning his arms to his sides, the tip of the whip passing a fraction of an inch from Seth’s very nose. The hell with this; adrenaline finally kicked in and Seth’s self preservation took over. Seth stood up and pushed past the demon and made a break for the set of doors he’d entered not very long ago with thoughts of simpler things, like motion lights.
“No,” her angel said for the thousandth time. Even without their bond she knew that answer was absolute He had not wavered in it since he’d answered the first time and it was the only answer he’d ever given on the subject. He didn’t try to explain or defend it.
Armaros thought it was time for Wila to meet with Azriel. They all did. Lucius’s first answer had come before Armaros had even finished the sentence. Feelings of anger and fright flashed over her body through their bond and then a steadfastness that could only be described as a brick wall. They’d all taken turns trying to talk sense into him, individually and as a group, but his answer was always the same. There was no discussion, no negotiation and no reasoning with him.
Today they stood in her closet for their latest standoff and Wila huffed in frustration at her husband’s stubbornness. With her hands on her hips and the round of her growing belly poking out of the robe she wore Wila looked at her bare-chested husband. No one needed for Lucius to speak the words why he didn’t want her to go. They all had just hoped that he would eventually see that it was needed that she did.
Lucius’s long strides crossed the small space between them in a few steps. He knelt in front of his wife and put his hands on either side of her stomach before closing his eyes and pressing cheek against it. He breathed deep as he felt his daughter move for the first time this morning through touch. Their unborn daughters name is Maia and she moved on command for her father. Wila watched the gentle wave across the taunt skin of her stomach as their daughter repositioned herself. Lucius kissed a spot above Wila’s bellybutton before speaking to his daughter, his lips still on her skin.
“Good morning Maia.”
What a way to end an argument. It was impossible for her to be anything but in complete and absolute adoration for him. Wila ran her hands through his hair, ready to drop the subject for the time being. As the Queen Mother Lucius could not stop her from going to Azriel but she would never go without his blessings.
“Lucius,” she said pulling his hair tight in her hands. He didn’t look up and kept his lips planted on the swell of her belly.
“Yes my love.” She didn’t know if he was speaking to her or their daughter. He’d taken to talking to Maia. It was adorable but sometimes Wila wondered if he really did communicate with their unborn child. “I love you,” she said in a low voice.
It always started the same. In the center of her body. It filled her until her limbs felt heavy and her heart rate and breathing slowed
as it consumed her. First taking over her heart and then spreading out into her shoulders and down her arms. A million butterflies took flight in her stomach, followed by the sensation caused by the first exhilaration drop of a roller coaster ride, lastly, the tingling that went from hip to toe. She was completely engulfed in Lucius’s love.
She felt the smile that formed on his lips on the skin of her stomach. “I love you too, more than you will ever know,” he said.
How could her heart take it if he loved her more? Since the breath Lucius had given her at Ife passing, the bond that she thought could get no stronger she realized was infinite. Each morning he offered his love and she wore it like a suit of armor. As it settled in for the day she pulled his hair trying to get him to look up at her.
“No kiss for me?” she said smiling down at the top of his head.
He kissed her belly once more before standing. The arm around her pulls her closer and she is taken into the strongest embrace since she told him she was pregnant. It’s a pleasant surprise from the gentle touch she has become accustom to. The kiss was rough and commanding, almost savage in its passion. The calming effect of Lucius love was replaced with the intense desire of them both. Their heart race, their breath fast and hard to come by. Wila does know who much he loves her. She felt it every second of the day on a cellular level. They were one being in two bodies and she’ll never go where he won’t follow. In this kiss was the reason she would never ask him again about going to see Azriel.