The Stained Angel

Published on 19 June 2023 at 01:02

The Created angel Chronicles, book One

Content Warnings and Possible Triggers:

    The Stained Angel is rated M for Mature and contains violence, gore, vulgar language, nudity, crime scenes, serial killings, mind control, some talk or eluding to past traumas such as self-harm, torture, child abuse, and rape.

Please Read with caution.

(2nd Edition Sample! published March 2024)


     Leighla hasn’t had the best luck with her life on Earth and being the first International Preternatural Marshal hasn’t made it any easier. When the Arch-Angel Michael assigns her to an active case, the past comes back to haunt her. Old loves, betrayal, and metaphysical wounds that she thought closed reopen. Leighla must decide whether to confront those who hurt her or let it fester and kill any chance that she has of moving on.

Chapter One

     “What’s she doing here? We’re out in the middle of buttf*ck nowhere, and a girl just happens to show up?” someone muttered as I stepped out of my nineteen sixty-three Volkswagen beetle. It wasn’t anything special, no fancy license plate, racing stripes, or political decals. Just a shiny black bug with chrome accents.

     “Especially one like her. Maybe she heard about it on a scanner,” One officer commented.

     “Maybe she just wanted to see a dead body. She does have that rebel, skater, watches too many crime shows vibe,” another added, thinking I couldn’t hear them. I didn’t know why people, especially cops decided to comment on my height and judge my clothing choice when they first saw me. It was stereotyping bigotry and I hated it. How so many of them ended up in law enforcement, I’ll never know.

     I grabbed my preternatural marshal badge from the special shelf my friend installed under my steering wheel when she restored the bug and slipped its chain over my head. I turned toward the police tape and paused to count the number of officers standing around with their mouth’s partially open. Not making a scene was out of the question today. That was also the last time I listened to dispatch about street clothes being appropriate or not.

     I was dressed for the skate park in my black cut off jean shorts, a Star Wars crop top, and ripped mesh undershirt. This was not crime scene attire, but I’d been at breakfast with my niece, Lovette, and planned to go skating and relax after. Dispatch said that I didn’t have time to change and whatever I was wearing would be fine. I could have shifted clothes in the car, but she said it wasn’t necessary. I wanted to wring her pretty, little neck.

     “Gentleman, I…”

     “This is an active crime scene, get back in your bug and be on your way,” one of the officers, a taller, beefy man with salt and pepper hair called. I stopped five feet from the tape and cocked one of my raven black eyebrows.

     “I’m here by request, Officer…” I let it hang while looking at the nameplate on his shirt.

     “Sergeant Brent Miller, Richmond County Police,” he said, and I nodded as I met his eyes.

     “Wish I could say it was nice to meet you, but I’m not in the habit of lying, and I don’t sugarcoat shit,” I said, keeping my words blunt and unfiltered. It was best to give guys like him shock after shock in order to get them off their game so you could get a word in edgewise. “Leighla Tenebrae, International and Preternatural Marshal. You can call me Tenebrae or Marshal. I was the nearest Preter Officer when you put out the call.”

     “You’re a Marshal? You don’t even look old enough to be out of school let alone out of training and served your time in the field,” he started in on me, and I hardened my glare. It was a good thing he couldn’t see behind my mirrored aviators, or he would have keeled over on the spot. For most Angels, myself included, the death glare wasn't just a figure of speech.

     “I look far younger than I am much like most preternaturals, Sergeant. Now, did you need a Preter cop or not?” I asked. He looked from me to the car then to my badge in plain view. “Or do I need to call Director Angelic and have him contact the local DA and report your stereotyping bullshit. I’m willing to bet this isn’t your first offence either.”

     I took another step, and he spat a wad of tobacco on the ground. I raised my eyebrows and pulled the badge off the chain, knowing he’d want a look at it. I opened it, showing it to him and a few other officers that came to gawk at the smartass female Marshal.

     “It looks legit, Brent,” the younger officer to his left said. Brent glared at him then scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest.

     “I ain’t convinced. How’s a girl like you supposed to help us? You probably couldn’t even decipher the scribblings,” he scoffed. I tucked my thumbs into the front pockets of the shorts and stayed passive.

     “I’ll say it one more time, since you apparently didn’t hear me last time: Do I need to contact Director Angelic or the DA?” I repeated. I hated repeating myself, but I gave dolts like him twice before I assaulted them verbally, physically, or metaphysically. He wasn’t taking the hint. Seemed to be my lucky day.

     “How would that prove you’re capable of telling us what the hell happened here?” he asked. I put my badge back and pulled off the shades, letting him see my bright blue eyes that glowed in the setting sun.

     “Look, Sergeant, if you want my preter type or my history with the department, you’ll have to file the paperwork and probably have your mind wiped or better yet a warrant. So, I suggest you drop it,” I said, hanging the glasses on the chain near my badge. A deep shade of red slid from his hairline down over his face and I kept mine stoic and cold. “Getting angry at me will not help the situation. If a show of power is what you want, I’ll gladly give it to you…”

     “Do it, girl.” He snapped, like a small dog at the heels of a wolverine. I flipped my raven braids over my shoulders with a flick of my head then rolled my shoulders.

     “I warn you. I have no control over how your mortal body might react to my power,” I said, dropping my arms to my sides as he ducked under the tape to stand in front of me.

     “Is that a threat?” he asked, standing nearly toe to toe with me. It must have been some sight. The five eleven if not six-foot, beefy Sergeant standing over me, a five three gangly girl who looked more like a goth teenage skater than a Marshal. I could have simply shifted to be my full six foot two, curvaceous goddess, but I wasn’t about to give the officers any ideas.

     “No, Sergeant. I would never threaten a fellow officer. I’m merely warning you that my powers might have an unpleasant side effect,” I said, keeping my voice even, expression blank, and aura calm. Some called it “cop” face, and it might have set him off, but to me it was normal. I was hard to shock, harder to anger, and twice as hard to make laugh or smile. I had seen too much to be innocent and bubbly. I was judged too harshly to let anyone I didn’t trust see my emotions, thoughts, and fears.

     What I really wanted was to sucker punch him in the face and show him that even small preters can take on bullies like him without help. I took a deep breath, centered myself, and ran through the mental list of things I could do that wouldn’t completely incapacitate him.

     Just as I raised my hand to do it, a car pulled up behind me. I didn’t have to turn to see who it was. I recognized the hum of the engine. I squared my shoulders, and Sergeant Brent looked at the car as my brother, and Director of the Preternatural and Mythical Creatures Agency’s Eastern US branch, cleared his throat.

     “That won’t be necessary, Marshal Tenebrae,” the stern, cool voice of my created brother, Michael called from behind me. I turned forty-five degrees, so that I could see the six-foot, toned, tanned Archangel, and his swath of dark hair so black that without gel or whatever oil he put in it, light wouldn’t reflect off it. His eyes were deeper set than mine, but almost the same shade of winter sky blue.

     His suit looked impeccable and again, I questioned why the dispatcher said it was okay to come in street clothes. Michael gave me a once over and addressed Sergeant Miller as he stepped up behind me.

     “Sergeant Miller, I didn’t want to come down here, but it seems that you’re impeding in the duties of a Preternatural Officer. Is that correct, Marshal Tenebrae?” he asked me. Sergeant Brent opened his mouth to answer, and Michael held up a finger. I’d have chosen a different finger, but that’s why he was a director, and I was a marshal. I never played well with others.

     “Yes, they claimed that I wasn’t who I said and that I was too young to be an officer or even out of school. They also claimed that I wasn’t preter,” I said. Michael looked from my face to Sergeant Miller’s as it paled. He’d noticed the familial resemblance.

     Good for him. Not all Angels look alike in their human vessels. It just so happened that Michael and I did look a lot alike. Those who spend the most time together, tend to. Michael and I had been two Angels nearest the Maker himself and were messengers sent to Earth. The fact that our human vessels were both blue eyed and had black hair with similar facial structures was more than mere coincidence.

     “Are you her father?” Miller asked looking between us. I balled my hands into fists but kept my face blank. I looked from him to Michael and scowled.

     “Can I please punch him?” I projected my thoughts, and he shook his head answering both of us.

     “No. If you want to assign a familial role to us, it would be brother and sister,” he said, and I unclenched my fists. I did not need to hit either of them. It was hard to let it go because I really wanted to.

     “Why didn’t you just come down here in the first place, Mike?” Miller asked, being a bit informal for my tastes. How did Michael know this bully? It made no sense.

     “Sergeant, I can’t come down every time you have a case like this. I have to delegate, and I decided that Marshal Tenebrae was the right fit for the job,” Michael explained. I crossed my arms over my ample breasts. I despised that even in the shorter form I couldn’t get them any smaller. I cleared my throat as Miller opened his mouth to speak.

     “If it’s alright with you two, I’m going to have one of the other officers take me up to the house so that I can offer my expertise and get back to town,” you’re cutting in on my time with Vette. I projected the last bit to Michael, and he straightened his suit coat that didn’t need it.

     “I’ll take you myself. Not like I can’t smell it from here,” he said, stepping around Miller and lifting the tape for me. “Brent and I can talk later.”

     “Director…” the Sergeant and I said in unison. I gave a small shudder at the thought of being on the same wavelength as this bully and ducked under the tape. Michael set a hand to my back and pushed me forward.

     “You and your men can go. We’ll wait for the coroner,” he called. I gulped, knowing what that meant. This wasn’t just a scene he wanted me to look at. It was fresh.

     “Director,” I said, drawing out the word, and he pushed me toward the two-story house. It was done in rustic wood and resembled a log cabin.

     “Marshal, let’s get inside and I’ll tell you more,” he said. I wasn’t going to like this. Not one bit.

     When he dismissed everyone and we were alone inside, he led me to the basement where the stench of death was strongest. Some would tell you that death smells like a port-a-potty that’s been in the baking sun all day. I disagreed. It smells like the back-alleys of Paris near the Canals, mixed with the stench of rotting flesh, but this didn’t smell like that. This scene was too fresh to stink yet.

Michael opened the basement door and gestured for me to follow him. I did, though I wasn’t sure about it.

     “Michael, why clear them out? Why even bring me…” My words stopped as I saw the body. It was hung upside down, held to the wall by ropes or branches and nails, throat slashed, and blood drained into the trench beneath that ran to the sump.

     It took me back to a time, eons ago, hundreds of thousands of miles away in a stone hall. I’d walked in expecting to be married and found my betrothed pinned upside down with iron spikes, his throat slashed and his blood dripping down the wall and running in rivers over the steps of the altar to the floor. I took a step back and bumped into Michael.

     “Leighla, Leighla can you hear me?” he asked, but I couldn’t get my head to bend. I whirled around and buried my head in his shirt, grabbing two fistfuls of the cotton blend fabric.

     I worked so long to get that image out of my head. I hadn’t even loved the man, but I was willing to marry him for a treaty. War had started the next sunrise and I’d fought, but the image that haunted my dreams was the man pinned to the wall with the list of his wrongs all around him. 

     Why would I see this now? Why would someone do this again? Who alive would still know about this, but the original killer and my kin?

     “Marmie,” Michael said my angelic nickname, pulling me from the memory.

I lifted my head to find that my shorter guise had slipped, and I was holding him off the floor by his shirt. His hands were flat to the ceiling, and his head was bent toward me.

     “Sorry,” I said, then slowly set him down, by returning to the shorter form. I started to let go, and he wrapped his arms around me in a hug so tight that his powers touched mine even though they were capped and sealed.

     “It’s alright. You didn’t hurt me. I realized what was going on when you shifted,” he said, setting one hand to the back of my head. “Now you see why I didn’t want them here?” I nodded, but still couldn’t find words. “I wanted to know if this looked similar. Now that I know, I’ll be needing someone to go to Ireland, or I need you to investigate. You have the most information, and I wouldn’t ask, but this isn’t the first body…”

     “It’s not?” I croaked, pulling back. The air touched the cooling tears on my cheeks, and I quickly brushed them back with my black leather fingerless gloves.

     “This is the second in this millennium,” he said, starting to say more, but I continued. “Where was the other one?” I asked. Short. Simple. Pointed.

     “Los Angeles. Thirty miles from your monthly haunt,” he said, and I paled. That meant Lucifer probably knew about it.

     “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I asked, half knowing the reason already. Luce didn’t want me around his kids. He didn’t want them knowing about me, the last third of the Angelic Triumvirate of Light. They already knew about our sister, whom Luce named one of his daughters after.

     “I told Lou, but he thought it would be a one-time thing. He said that they had it handled, and no one needed to get involved,” he explained. I gestured to the wall with one arm fully extended.

     “This, says otherwise,” I said, and he nodded. “You haven’t told them yet, have you?”

     “No.” My eyebrows rose at the monosyllabic reply. I waited a moment, but he didn’t continue.

     “Mike,” I started, and his eyes moved from the wall to me. “Why haven’t you told them?”

     “If the Devil wants this buried, then he’s not going to let anyone else touch it,” he said, stepping toward the Demoki list. Demoki was the Angelic language, the language all preters learned at some point. It looked almost like runes with extra markings, tittles, and diphthongs.

     “Then why investigate? Why not ask his director what’s going on?” I asked. He slowly turned to meet my eyes, and I tilted my head, eyebrows raised. He sighed and tucked his hands in the pockets of the pinstriped pants.

     “I hadn’t thought of asking her. We’re not on the best of terms since her last pregnancy,” he said, and I scrunched my eyebrows.

     “What asshole-ish thing did you say to our niece?” I asked. Sure, she might not remember me from when I helped save her twenty some years ago, but I knew her reputation. She wouldn’t let her father get in the way of that.

     “I sort of said that she was a baby making machine,” he said, and my jaw dropped. That was the last thing anyone of the male gender should call a female, especially Luce’s Heir.

     “And you’re still standing?” I asked, and he glared. “I would’ve thought she’d have struck you dead or at least given you a permanent limp.”

     “Ha-ha,” he said then grumbled under his breath as he looked at the symbols again. “What can you gather from the markings?”

     “If they were the same as the murder of my betrothed, then it’s a list of the victim’s sins,” I said, moving to stand beside him putting him between me and the body. “Trafficking, lying, fraud, r*pe, and cheating for business, pleasure, and would you look at that every other way too. Lord on High, no wonder he’s been killed.”

     “This isn’t a joke,” Michael snapped at my sarcastic tone, and I slowly turned my head. I met and held his eyes, letting him see that I wasn’t joking. “You’re serious. You think the Maker dispatched someone to do this?”

     “Not this exactly, but to kill him, yes. Whoever did it is leaving the list for us to find. As sort of a justification for their actions,” I explained, then my eyes caught an unfamiliar word at the bottom. “What’s this?”

     “Underworld[1], or something similar. It’s Earth and under mixed,” he said, and my mind slid to a halt. “Penny for your thoughts.”

     “They’re much more expensive,” I said, stepping around him. I side stepped over the blood-filled trench and lifted the remains of the man’s shirt from his face. I let out a yelp and jumped back. I slammed into the far wall with wide eyes. The man was a demon I’d talked to not twenty-four hours ago. Michael followed, stepping between me and the victim.

     “Leighla, talk to me. What’s wrong? What’s on his face?” he asked, and I shook my head.

     “I-I-I—” nothing else would come out. My mind was spinning too fast. “When did the last murder happen?”

He blinked at me and looked to the wall then back.

     “Around the nineteenth of June,” he said, and my stomach did a backflip.

     “Do you know who it was?” I asked, mouth going dry. Most days, my mind was a logical, rational place. Right now, that logic was pointing fingers at me.

     “It was one of L.J.’s gang. The bouncer, the tall one that had a thing for Tamisra,” he named my alias, the one I used when I danced at Korah’s club. The same club that was thirty minutes from where the last body was found.

     “Paul or Dustin?” I asked. Both had a thing for my dancing. Neither knew who I really was, and I’d coerced the latter into handing me information.


     That did it. That was the last bit I needed. The finger was now squarely pointed at me and that’s why Lucifer hadn’t wanted his daughter to know about it. That’s why he’d quickly swept it under the rug. He didn’t want her to meet me.

     “I need air,” I said and dashed up the stairs. When I hit the living room, I teleported outside to my car. The breakfast I’d had with Vette climbed up my throat, and I rushed to the tree line making it just in time to hurl in the bushes. Mike appeared shortly after and pulled my braids back. I braced with one hand against a tree and heaved until my abs were sore and my stomach was empty.

     “Leighla, what’s this all about? I’ve never heard of you hurling at a scene,” he said, trying to make a joke. I narrowed a glare at him and held my stomach. How could I explain it to him? Would he even understand? As the saying goes, there was only one way to find out.

     “All the murders have one person in common,” I breathed out as he helped me to the car. I sat on the tailgate, near the boot and engine. He watched me for a moment as I leaned back.

     “Who?” he asked. I closed my eyes and took as deep a breath as I could through my screaming abs.

     “Me,” I said, and he was quiet for a space too long, so I nervously continued, “Íth was to marry me, Dustin was supposed to give me information about the Underworld, and…” I gestured toward the house. “I talked with him yesterday at Nathaniel’s Bar… What’s the name?”

     “The Pirate’s Knight?” he asked, and I nodded.

     “Yeah, that one. We talked about some rumors going around the Underworld, and he sold me some information,” I said, opening my eyes. I picked my head up and met Michael’s eyes that were so much like mine. “I’ve been following a suspicion on my own time, ever since Corona’s been on the run. I tried to find her and found something else. Something worse but I was trying to confirm it before I told anyone.”

     “What could be worse than a bitch who takes the form of others and ruins their lives?” he asked, being sarcastic. My face remained neutral as I stood and walked to the driver’s door. I opened it, sat, leaned across the car, and opened the hidden compartment under the passenger seat. I grabbed the envelope of pictures and pulled one out. There was a dead body, one much like others we’d seen back in the nineties.

     “One that takes on the form of a serial killer and a psychopath who wanted to r*pe me for decades,” I said, handing him the picture. He stared at it for a moment, eyes wide, and teasing aura gone. I pulled out a couple more pictures and handed them over, one by one, until he teleported to the passenger seat.

     “Where did you get…?” his words fell away as he saw the others in my lap. “You know where he is.”

     “No. I’ve been trying to find out. I’ve come close twice, but only with Dustin and the current stiff’s help,” I said, slowly handing him more pictures. “Dustin was supposed to give me more information as was—”

     “Jonah,” he finished for me as he noted the picture with our victim in the frame. “You said you got information from him—”

     “Don’t ask me how. I don’t need to hear the riot act,” I said, dropping the envelope in the space between us.

     “You found them, seduced them—”

     “I do not seduce. I beguile,” I said. He rolled his eyes from the pictures to my face, but I kept my eyes on the killer in the pictures.

     “Whatever you did, it wasn’t right,” he said, coming at me with the ‘holier than thou’ way of thinking that most unfallen Angels had. I didn’t think that way. I didn’t fornicate, kill outside of war, and I didn’t lie, but there were other things that Angels like him didn’t approve of.

     “It was spur of the moment,” I said, reaching under the seat and pulling out the keys. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have to figure out what to do now.”

     “You’re not going to track Jonah’s killer?” he asked, and I stared at him.

     “What kind of hairbrained scheme is that? Besides, I’m already tracking one killer,” I said, slipping the keys into the ignition. “I told you. Ask the Head Director. She’ll figure out which of the Guardian’s is best suited for this case. Don’t you dare sway her because I’m not going to do it.”

     “Why not? You said yourself that the victims all have you in common. If that holds true, the next person you go to for information will wind up dead or worse,” he said, dropping the pictures onto the stack.

     “It doesn’t get much worse than dead, Mikhail,” I used the Demoki inflection of his Angelic name, and his eyes glowed with holy orange fire. “Don’t go all goody-two-shoes on me now, Kitran[2]. I’m not a Demokæ[3]. I hear from Him as you do. If you were so righteous and holy, you’d have returned to Heaven after your last errand.”

     He stayed quiet for a moment too long. I’d hit a nerve. There was something holding him here. Something he didn’t want to admit. Someone he didn’t want to admit that he’d fallen in love with. He found that ellusive soulmate and that’s why he was still here.

     “Lisa wouldn’t make you give that up,” I said, and his head shot up. His eyes snapped to mine and glared so hard that it nearly hurt. Not because he was using his powers, but because I could see past the fury. In those eyes, I saw his torment. He didn’t want to fall, didn’t want to be tempted into sin. “Being with your soulmate isn’t a sin, Michael. We both know soulmates that didn’t fall. Ones who didn’t put the Maker’s will under theirs. Ones who obey His commands still.”

     “Stop. You don’t even know who yours is,” he said, and my chest ached. That was what all Angels strove to find. Their soulmate. The one person on earth that they could be intimate with, mated to, and not fall. A soulmate to have and to hold for all eternity.

     “I thought I did once, eons ago,” I said, and his fire died. “But that time is gone, and I don’t even know if he survived the wars. Now get out of my car so I can go back to the park before Vette leaves.”

     “But—” he started, and I glared.

     “Get out of my car!”


[1] The Preternatural Crime Syndicate, or mafia.

[2] Demoki: Brother

[3] Demoki: Fallen Angel

Chapter Two

     “Leighla, I think you’re being a bit—” he started, and I tuned him out. I grabbed the steering wheel and counted to ten, trying my best to remain calm. I couldn’t hurt him, not without giving away my secret.

Why did my sister have to go and kill so many and spoil it for the rest of us? When he didn’t stop, I pried my fingers from the steering wheel and growled. The passenger door opened, and he stopped talking.

     “Out!” I shouted, slamming my hands on the wheel. He slid out but ducked down to look at me.

     “Don’t do anything stupid,” he said. I turned the key and the bug started. I wrapped my hands back around the wheel and stared out the windscreen.

     “If you get out of my way, I won’t,” I grumbled. He shut the door and backed away with his hands raised. I glared at him in the circular rearview mirror until he was at his car. I peeled out onto the back road, narrowly missing the coroner’s van. I flipped Mike off as I drove away.

     My mind reeled with thoughts of things I couldn’t control. Thoughts of death, marriage, and treaties long forgotten. The Fall of the Tuatha, the fall of Ireland to the invading humans that enslaved the humans who lived there already, and then of Dustin and Jonah. I prayed to the Maker that they were dead before they were hung, but I had no way of knowing until I looked at the coroner’s reports.

     Stripping the victims bare was an act of shame. Covering their face was a mercy. Hanging them upside down to drain the blood was excessive. Writing their sins on the wall was justification.

     I still didn’t know who’d killed Íth. It was the only mystery that I hadn’t solved. Every other one, I’d solved within months. Íth had been kind to me, a bit cold, but still kind and even compassionate about my situation, and someone killed him.

     Tears slid down my face before I registered them, and I teleported the car from the road in Georgia to Wyoming near my cabin. I couldn’t let Lovette see me like this. She didn’t know about Íth. No one knew my true feelings about him. I hadn’t until the morning of my wedding, which had turned into a war.

     His people blamed me for his death, and I narrowly escaped. I made it back to the Tuatha and Íth’s nephew pursued. Míl and his family had slaughtered anyone associated with the Tuatha and only stopped after a treaty that banished us underground. In theory we’d stayed above but hid ourselves from the Morts that couldn’t handle our existence. I’d fought with them, but without some of our line, we lost more than we saved, and I left Ireland, my first Earthly home.

     I turned into my driveway and pulled into the four-car garage, noting that neither of my roomies were here. Vette was in Georgia with her husband for the rest of the week and Missy, another of my nieces, would be the MD preforming Jonah’s autopsy in an hour. She’d no doubt tell me what happened when she got home, knowingly or unknowingly, and I needed to deal with it better.

     Right now, I needed a nap or a nice long, hot bath with some essential oils to calm my nerves and raging emotions while I pondered who to contact about Corona taking on the disguise. It wasn’t a good disguise really. There was no need for her to pretend to be her long dead father.

     “Why can’t anything be simple?” I asked the air as I levitated the photos up and into the envelope. I slipped them under the seat before I tucked the keys into the hidden compartment and got out. I was feet from the door when my phone rang Broken Angel by Boyce Avenue, which was Lovette’s ringtone.

     I cursed, groaned, and pulled it out. I forgot that she had my phone geo-tagged so that when I showed up here, she’d know. I tapped the green phone and opened the door into the living room.

     “Yes, Vette. Sorry, I couldn’t stay,” I apologized not letting her get a word in.

     “Yeah, and Michael called me,” she said. I wiped the tears from my face and sighed. “He said you blew chunks…”

     “Don’t remind me,” I groaned, shutting the door behind me. I slunk to the couch in the middle of the large, rustic living room complete with a stone fireplace and stag over the mantle. Granted it was a Fomor Stag with four antlers, three eyes, and fangs protruding from the top and bottom jaw. It looked like a Halloween decoration, but it was a real stag. I sat on the arm of the couch and dropped back onto it. The nap seemed the quickest option.

     “What happened? You don’t normally lose your cool while on the job,” she said, sounding like the mother hen she’d become over the years. I groaned, and she stayed quiet for a moment. “You aren’t going to tell me, are you?”

     “Nope,” I said with a pop of my lips. She sighed, and I heard the swoosh of someone skating passed her.

     “If you’re going to be that way, I can just call Michael back and…”

     “Manipulation is not going to work this time,” I sniffed at the end.

     “Are you crying?” she asked. I brushed my tears and sighed again.

     “No, my eyes are just sweating,” I said, teleporting from the couch onto the surround of the eight-person jacuzzi tub. I slid off as she chuckled, but it was hollow and empty of its usual mirth. She was worried about me.

     “Do you need me back at the house?” she asked. I pulled the phone from my ear and set it on the surround, so I could undress without juggling it.

     “No. You won’t get anything out of me anyway,” I said and undressed sending my clothes to the hamper in my room. “Plus, I need to be alone for a few hours before everyone gets here. Are you gaming from Georgia or going to teleport home for the night?”

     “Damn, I forgot. I’ll be busy,” she said. I rolled my eyes. Of course, she would be. She was working a case for her team, digging up information for the Head Director. A question slapped me in the face and this time I decided to ask it, even if I didn’t want to know.

     “Hey, Vette, why haven’t you told your sister-in-law about me?”

     “Wait, she hasn’t met you?” She asked, surprise clear in her tone. “But you attended her wedding with Chaos and I…”

     “Yes, we crashed it, but Chaos and I stayed away from her and her father,” I said, remembering that day. The two of them practically blackmailed me into going, since most of my siblings were there. We had spoken to the groom and his father who was another of my brothers, but I steered clear of the bride’s family.

     “Why?” she asked, bringing me back to the present. I turned the water on and manifested a homemade bath bomb that smelled of cherry, rose, lavender, and citrus.

     “Because we didn’t want her to relapse,” I said. We’d rescued her from the realm of time. When she was returned, she had no memory of it or her now husband. He was back, but she still didn’t remember everything.

“You’re talking about a PTSD episode,” she phrased it like a question. I swear sometimes she was the blondest brunette I knew. Maybe she had one too many blows to the head when she was small, or when she was a general in Lucifer’s army.

     “What else would I be talking about?” I asked as the water rose.

     “What’s gotten into you lately?” she asked, changing the subject. My powers bristled at the attack, and I wanted to give her what for, but I wouldn’t fight sarcasm with sarcasm. Not after what she told me at breakfast.

     “It’s nothing important,” I said, sliding into one of the body shaped indents of the tub. ‘It never is.’ I added in my head, blinking back another wave of tears that threatened to fall. I set my neck into the u-shaped, padded curve. I looked at the ceiling and wrestled with my emotions. I didn’t really have someone to tell everything too. Those I had told unjustly judged me, and now I had a don’t ask don’t tell policy.

     “If it’s bugging you enough that you puked at a crime scene, then it is important,” she countered, and I tuned her out. I didn’t need this riot act again. We’d gone over it at least ten times in the last month. She’d say I needed a confidant, someone to vent my feelings to, and she’d bring it all down to the fact that I bottled everything up until I snapped at someone. I’d done it for thousands of years. Why stop now?

     “What about Chaos?” she asked, and my ears perked up. Chaos was the same angelic sibling who made me crash my niece’s wedding. We’d been friends since before the Fall of Ireland and fought together during the Fomor wars. She’d know if the Killer returned or if it was simply Corona in disguise. She or Jethro Cryptic, Angel of Truth and Justice, would know for sure.

     “If I promise to call her, will you drop this?” I asked. She let go of a breath she’d been holding, and I blinked. Was she that worried, or was it hormones?

     “Yes, if you promise, I’ll drop it,” she said, but my mental train had switched tracks. Her voice was neutral, the “talk jumpers from ledges” neutral. I hated that. I slowly sat up and turned off the water, just before it reached the overflow holes.

     “Does everyone think I’m on the brink of a nervous breakdown?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question, but Captain Sarcasm wouldn’t let it go.

     “Do you want me to answer that honestly?” she hesitated, and the freckles on my skin began to glow with angelic fire. “Because you’re not going to like it.”

     “Lovette,” I said, voice low. It wasn’t a growl per se, but it was close, too close for comfort.

     “You’re upset, I get that, but you’ve been… How did Garret put it?” Hearing the name of her resurrected soulmate twisted the knife in my heart. It hurt that she’d found her soulmate young, lost him, and regained him before I found mine. I didn’t even know if I wanted one after what my siblings went through with and for theirs.

     I also didn’t like that Garret, Lucifer’s oldest child, knew enough about me to spot a difference. He and Lovette only moved in three months ago, and the first time I met him was at their wedding a year ago, where I’d avoided the rest of his immediate family. Being a bridesmaid hadn’t made it easy, I was just grateful that her sister-in-law was too busy to corner me. Lovette cleared her throat, and I tuned back in.

     “Leighla, did you tune me out?” she asked. I groaned and splashed back into the tub, turning the knob for the jets.

     “Yes, but you know how I feel about sharing-” I didn’t get to finish.

     “He’s my husband. I’m not going to keep anything from him. Secrets ruin marriages,” she said. I ground my teeth and counted to ten, then twenty, then fifty. It didn’t help.

     “No, they don’t. Lying, cheating, backstabbing, and a failure to communicate are what ruin marriages. Someone else’s secrets are not a factor. Husbands and wives can hold other’s confidence and not ruin their relationship. I told you and Missy things that were never to be repeated. I trusted you,” I said, voice choking as that hit an emotional scar. I’d said that exact same line to one of my created sisters once. One of the Tuatha, and I refused to speak of or to her now.

     She’d told her husband private things that he’d jokingly mentioned during battle. I nearly took his good eye and was wounded in the side with an enemy sword. I hadn’t forgiven either of them for it.

“Leighla, please, I didn’t tell him anything you told me not to,” she said, but it was too late. The wound was open and even if I didn’t feel a lie in her words the damage was done.

     “I have to go. I need to calm down before everyone gets here or online,” I interrupted her, before I could further damage our relationship. I didn’t want to lose Lovey over this. I needed to engage the logical side of my brain and her hormones weren’t helping.

     “Ok,” she said, voice small. She was on the verge of tears. I shoved down my pride and covered my wounded heart in a layer of stone.

     “I’m sorry, Lovey. That wasn’t right of me. I’m not mad at you,” I said, turning the jets down. “Can you accept a wounded Angel’s apology?”

     There was a pregnant pause, a muffled breath, a sniffle and a second as she composed herself. Being pregnant wasn’t for the faint of heart. The emotional and physical toll it left on the body was nearly the same as a soldier in the height of war. I’d never carried a life within me, but I helped a few of my sisters through it, and one betrayed my trust.

     “Yes, I forgive you, Aunt Leighla. Please, take care of yourself,” she said. It was my turn to let go of a breath. Granted, I did it subtly and added a silent prayer of thanks to the Maker for her willingness to forgive me.

     “Thank you and I’ll do my best,” I said, pausing a moment. I contemplated not giving my normal send off, but she needed to hear it as much as I needed to say it. “Vette, I love you. I always have and I won’t stop. No matter what.”

     “I love you, too.”

     I hung up with Lovette and set the phone on the tile near my head. I turned up the jets and let my body relax. I closed my eyes and thought about Chaos. I didn’t need the phone to contact her and if I was lucky, she’d be busy and not come in the flesh.

     “Marmie,” Chaos purred from nearby. Today seemed to be my unlucky day. I pried one eye open and spied her sitting on the opposite side of the tub. Her hair which was four shades of red ombre and would reach her waist, was tied back into its usual faux mohawk braid and low ponytail.

     I didn’t need to see lower than her shoulders to know that she was naked. Angels spent most of their heavenly life nude, so it wasn’t weird to be nude around one another. It was only weird if you made it that way and my mind tried. It was one side effect of being around humans for too long. I stared at her mismatched red and orange eyes and opened the other eye.

     “I was hoping to speak with you telepathically,” I said, before my eyes slid to the bottle of what looked like amber liquor in her right hand. “What’s that?”

     “Chaos Theory,” she said, turning the square bottle that looked like a knock off of Jack Daniel’s whiskey. “Like the new labels and bottles? Our niece had them made after Jethro and Lou started stocking it at their bars.”

     “What’s the fine print on the side?” I asked. She stood, water dripping down her scarred, tattooed body as she walked to me. My eyes stayed glued to the bottle in her hand not the bats that encircled her large breasts or claw marks that started at her shoulders and trailed over them and down her back. She held it out to me, and I took it as she sat beside me.

     “Chaos Theory a mix of fine Liquor. Two-hundred proof,” I read the front then turned the bottle on its side to read the fine print. “Not recommended for Morts, underaged Preters, or pregnant Preters. Angelic Distillery by the Angel of Death. Chaos Theory is a preternatural drink and a mix of the strongest alcohol on the market brewed and aged to perfection.”

     I blinked a few times then looked at her. She dipped her head toward it, and I raised an eyebrow.

     “I thought you might need a drink,” she said, summoning a whiskey tumbler to her hand. “Pour yourself a splash and hand me the bottle.”

     “You don’t think I can handle a full glass,” I said, and she mimicked my eyebrow raise. “You know I’ve been drinking straight Euphoria since the Fomor wars ended—”

     “I’ve also listened to you spill your guts and all your secrets to someone after a stein of it. This is more potent. Go easy,” she warned, gesturing with the glass to the bottle. I unscrewed the cap and didn’t bother with the glass. I took two mouthfuls and the moment the smoky, yet fruity amber liquid hit my tongue my entire body buzzed with warmth and my powers pushed against my metaphysical shield. She snatched the bottle as I went for another drink and shook her head.

     “Setium, you’re not ready for that,” she said, calling me a foolish child in Demoki. I scoffed and tried to grab for the bottle, but she shot across the tub. “Marmie, I’m serious. If you were to drink a full bottle, I don’t know what would happen.”

     “Maybe I’d forget what that Scubaid did to me,” I said. I covered my mouth with both hands, and my eyes went wide. I’d refused to use the English word bitch and instead the Irish equivalent came out. Maybe she was right.

     “Now you get it. Do you want to tell me why you called, or would you rather I keep you from talking the whole night?” she asked. I almost asked what she meant, but it hit me before I opened my mouth. She knew my created name and how to say it correctly. If she said it and commanded me to do something, I had to do it. I took a deep breath and leaned back again.

     “Did you hear about the murder in June?” I asked. The water swirled around my legs as she sat in the spot beside me.

     “Which one?” she asked. I was about to give another sarcastic remark but stopped myself. I lifted my head and eyed her. Were there more murders?

     “The one thirty miles from Korah’s club.” She nodded and I lay my head back down but kept an eye on her. “Dustin, the victim, was supposed to get me information. He didn’t show up to our meeting the day after he was murdered. I thought he blew me off or chickened out…” she opened her orange right eye and looked at me.

     “When did you find out he was dead?” She asked.

     “What time is it?” I volleyed, and she lifted both eyebrows.

     “About time for lunch here,” she said.

     “About an hour, maybe two,” I said, keeping my eye on her. She lifted from the indent and turned to face me, resting her bicep on the neck padding.

     “You didn’t go looking for him?” she asked. I shrugged and looked away from her.

     “When he didn’t return my calls or come back to the club the last two nights I was working, it simply cemented that he chickened out,” I said. She shook her head and took another swig. “Besides Lou swept it under the rug.”

     She sputtered and coughed. She tapped her sternum with her fist a couple times before she knocked it loose. She took a few deep breaths and stared at me.

     “He did what?” she asked, drawing out that last word.

     “You heard me,” I said, shutting my eyes again. The moment they were closed I saw Íth, Dustin, and Jonah transposed over each other. I sat bolt upright, eyes thrown wide, and shut the jets off. A strong metaphysical presence wrapped me in warmth and my freckles glowed. It was the Maker, and I stilled, knowing that this might change everything.

Chapter Three

     “Marmaroth, I want you to find him, find the killer.” The Maker’s deep voice commanded, and I set my elbows on my knees. Glass clinked as Chaos set the bottle on the tile surround. She leaned forward, and I covered my face with both hands.

     “How am I supposed to find a killer You sent?” I prayed aloud and His presence lifted, leaving me in the dark, again. I slid my hands back into my hair and moaned as I breathed out. Of course, He wasn’t going to tell me. He would want me to find out on my own.

     “Leighla,” Chaos said, and I turned toward her as my hands rested on my shoulders, still entangled in my hair. “Did Packana just say what I think he did?”

     Packana was the Demoki word for daddy, or beloved father. I nodded and dropped my hands into the water. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to go after a killer. I didn’t want to call Michael and tell him. I… My thought was cut off by my phone ringing.

     I scrunched my eyebrows, and Chaos held it out to me. I took it and looked at the number. It was the Preternatural and Mythical Creatures HQ in Los Angeles.

     Constrida eh Valkarah[1]?” I asked, then hit the green phone. “You’ve reached Marshal Tenebrae. What can I do for the PMCA?”

     “Leighla, you can drop the formalities. It’s me,” a sarcastic alto said, and I smirked as my muscles relaxed. It was Jael, another of our gaming group and a Guardian of Justice.

     “Does this mean you aren’t going to make it for gaming night?” I asked, and she scoffed. Chaos lifted an eyebrow, I motioned for her to lean in, and tilted the phone so it was between us. “Chaos is here too.”

     “Hey, Chaos, and of course, I’ll make it. I still have a few hours. I was actually calling because Lee asked me to assign a Guardian to look into the case that Michael…” the phone slipped as my jaw dropped, and Chaos grabbed it before it submerged. She turned it on speaker and held it between us.

     “He actually called her?” I asked in disbelief. Jael had to stop her info dump to think about what I’d said.

     “Yeah, I was shocked too. Wait, how do-”

     “I was at the scene with him this morning. I told him not to influence her and not to suggest me,” I said, giving her as little as I had him. A chair groaned as she leaned back and took a deep breath. She let it out slow as if blowing out a long drag and I scrunched my eyebrows. Hadn’t she quit smoking last year?

     “I’ve started again. Don’t read into it,” she answered the thought then trudged on. “He didn’t mention you or anyone else. The Director and Rex are on a two-week staycation. Michael called just before they left the office, and she handed the phone to me, since she left me in charge of the Guardians.”

     “Good luck with that. You do know that’s nigh impossible, right?” Chaos teased, and Jael blew out more smoke.

     “Thus, the Nevay. I’d smoke a Nev, but I ran out last week and haven’t had time to call Maeve for more,” Jael said, losing the conversation. I took a deep breath and wished I had a preter cig. I could use a Logos cig right about now. Chaos nudged my shoulder and I turned to her, tuning back into the conversation. “Leighla, can you do this?”

     “It’s not a matter of can or can’t anymore. I’m doing it,” I sighed and there was a bit of pause. “I have a direct order that’s higher than anyone at the agency.”

     “So, the Maker’s still in contact,” Jael breathed out, and I bristled. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t like her tone.

     “Jae-bird, is there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class, because Leigh is now glowing,” Chaos warned her. I glared up at her, and she took a step back cringing as if I’d slapped her. I toned down the righteous fury in my chest as Jael appeared on the steps of the tub. She blew out a line of purple smoke, and Chaos hung up.

     “What’s with this job, Leighla? Why would He send you if it’s affecting you like this?” Jael asked, motioning to my body with its glowing freckles. She kicked off her high heels and shifted into a bikini before sliding into the water with a moan at how good it felt. My eyes drifted over her tanned, heavily tattooed body, watching the water slide up it. I met her blue eyes and noticed that the left looked lighter today. She usually hid her heterochromia with glamour. What had changed? She took a drag of the Nevay and brushed one hand along the shaved left side of her head.

     “Jae, I…” I began and she held the cigarette toward me. I shifted into my own bikini and levitated the cig from her hand to mine. “Thank you, but I’m not sure why. There is a reason. There always is. I’m just not sure what it is. I know this isn’t the best time to ask, but shouldn’t you tell The Director that her dead husband is back before she starts to wonder why her Lady Justice is suddenly absent for a few months?”

     They stared at me, eyes wide, trying to decipher that. I took a drag of the Nevay with a satisfied grin and wondered how far along she was. Lovette was about three months along. Jael, who’d eloped with her soulmate almost a year ago, hadn’t gotten pregnant right away, but I could see it in her aura now that she was in front of me. Even if she hadn’t shown other signs yet.

     There was only one reason for my power to react this way after she started talking. One reason for me to feel this aggressive toward her. It was something I’d been fighting since my sister betrayed me. I had an unnatural ferocity toward pregnant mated females and Jael checked both boxes.

     “You’re pregnant. You didn’t know?” I asked, blowing the smoke out toward the ceiling. Chaos looked from her to me and back again before dropping into the seat beside Jael. The tan ginger leaned back, staring at me like I’d just announced that she was going to die in the next hour.

     “I… I what now?” she asked, a hand subconsciously dropping beneath the water. The moment it touched her toned abs, it shot back out and raked through her curls that were just below her shoulders. Her hand was shaking so hard that it tangled in the curls, and the rings on her left hand caught the light.

     Constrida Eh Valkarah? M’ sakca jok[2],” she proclaimed in Demoki as if that would make it so. I nodded and ground the stub of the Nevay on the surround next to the Chaos Theory. I grabbed the bottle and took another swig before Chaos teleported to me and snatched it away.

     “By the Eight realms! Leighla! Are you insane? Chaos Theory by itself is potent enough, add Nevay and you’ll be crossfaded for hours,” Chaos rambled as she held the bottle away from me. Jael moved to grab it and Chaos sent it away. “No way, not if you’re carrying.”

     It was supposed to be a joke, but Jael turned a shade of green I’d only seen on one other preter, her mother. She leapt from the tub and did a knee slide, stopping in front of the toilet just in time to heave. I started toward her, but Chaos beat me to it. She rubbed Jael’s back and looked at me.

     “Just stay in the bath and don’t go anywhere. I’m not done with you,” she said, holding Jael’s hair back. Jael’s thoughts invaded mine before I could say anything.

     “How did you know? Constrida eh Nev[3]! How do you know these things?” She asked in quick succession. I knelt on the seat nearest them and set my elbows on the surround.

     “I can’t explain it. There’s like this flip inside me that switches when a pregnant, mated female is nearby. I just get feral, and my flare causes the power to light,” I said, mixing up some of the words as if I were drunk. “No, switch inside that flips. What am I saying? Jenn…” I covered my mouth with one hand before I could get Chaos’ full angelic name out and stared at the back of her head. Her head slowly turned to me, and her eyes were pure, sightless white from corner to corner. I just Nev’d up bad.

     “What did you just call me?” she asked, and I shook my head.

     “I’m sorry. I stopped. I didn’t mean to. Please, please don’t be mad at me.” I projected as tears blurred her face from view. She was the only one of my angelic sisters that I still got along with and enjoyed spending some time with every week, gaming and laughing together. I didn’t want to lose her like I’d lost Iduna.

     The tears spilled out as Jael stopped heaving and turned toward me. She looked at Chaos then at me as I backed up. I didn’t stop when I got to the other side of the tub. I stepped onto the seat and out of the tub but slipped on the wet tile. I shut my eyes as I fell and braced, but four arms caught me.

     I slowly opened my eyes to find Chaos on my left and Jael on my right. Each had a hand behind my back and the other on my biceps. They slowly lowered me to the floor, and I stared up at them. Jael blinked down at me as if she’d never seen me before and Chaos shook her head.

     “I forgive you, but I’m not sure gaming would be the best option for you right now. I think a nice strong cup of coffee over some mint leaves and a granola bar are the best things for you,” she said. I lifted my hand to ask for help up and it wasn’t pale. I yelped and shot up, looking at my skin that was onyx black with bright white freckles. I looked like the night sky. Something that resembled nebulas danced across my skin and bright white hair slid into my face. I yelped again and grabbed a chunk of it in both hands. I stared at it for a few minutes and tugged it twice to make sure it was mine before I looked at Chaos.

     “What…? When…? Why…?” I asked, not finishing any of the questions. I couldn’t. My mind wouldn’t even finish them for me.

     “That’s your angelic form, it slipped while you were falling, and I think it was a defense mechanism seeing as we’re harder to hurt in our full angelic form,” Chaos listed. Jael stared at me like the thing that crash landed from outer space.

     “You look like a piece of the heavens,” Jael said as she knelt and reached toward me. She stopped with her fingers near my face and started to pull back. I took her hand, and she jumped a little. She tilted her head as she gazed into the ten-pointed stars that were my pupils in this form.

     “Maker above, you are gorgeous,” She whispered. I remembered another deeper, darker voice saying that. I put my hands over my ears and curled up as I pushed that thought from my mind. I forced my eyes closed and wrapped my arms around my legs.

     No! He’s no longer here. I don’t have to worry about him taking me or hurting anyone. I reminded myself. He’d been lethally injected over seven years ago. There was no need to worry. No need to guard so hard. No need to keep everyone at arm’s length. No need to hide.

     An all-too-familiar power brushed against my metaphysical shield from the outside and fear sunk it’s claws into my subconscious. Something was there. A nagging at the back of my mind like a physical hand caressed the shield. It was large, dark, warm, and inviting. I moved toward it then froze. No, this was how it always started.

     “Curiosity killed the cat, Marmie. You must not let your mind betray you,” the deep voice called from outside my shield, and my heart skipped a beat. That voice—

     “Pretty Marmie, Beautiful Darkness, won’t you let me in,” he called, and I shook my head.

     “I never have. Why try from the grave?” I asked, knowing all too well who it was. He’d tried to get in. Tried to hurt me physically, but when that didn’t work, when I thought he’d given up, he changed tactics.

     “The grave cannot hold Darkness,” he said. My entire body trembled as his voice slid like cashmere along my skin. I shoved back with my telekinesis, but nothing happened.

     No! It can’t. They can’t disappear. I thought as I dropped to my knees and my shields dropped with me. My hands slammed, palm down into the hard ground, and my breath came in shaking gasps.

     “Come now, Escas[4]. Why can’t they? Chaos warned you. You’re cross faded. You’ve never been so out of control,” he said, voice and power caressing my skin now. I slowly looked up, trying, and failing to move away from him. Burning orange eyes stared at me from the darkness and terror hit me like a semi-truck. “And now, you’re stuck here with me in the dark.”

     “No, no, no! Please, Maker, don’t let him do this.” I prayed, dropping my head as my muscles trembled and spasmed. His slow steady footfalls were a stark contrast to the staccato of my heartbeat. No, he couldn’t be here. He couldn’t be alive. No one would raise a psychopathic serial rapist like him. If they didn’t raise him, then who could impersonate him and enter others dreams like this? 

     “Impersonation? No, Setium. I have returned from the grave, and I have not forgotten your part in my demise, Marmie,” his voice came from above me. My back tensed as his hand caressed my head. Terror, memories, and utter helplessness came over me.

     I wasn’t like this. I wasn’t some helpless mortal. I was an Angel: powerful, strong, and protected by the Maker. But even an Angel’s mind could be infiltrated and manipulated under the right circumstances. Even we could fall to a Mentakinetic, someone with the power to control and tamper with the mind, if our defenses were already dulled with drugs and alcohol.

     “Get your filthy hands off her, Ak’Nævêh!” Chaos voice shouted from behind me. His hand didn’t move, and neither did I. “I will not say it twice, Vretil.

     Metal scrapped as a sword cleared its scabbard and armor clinked as his hand dropped to one side of my face, combing a section of my snow-white hair.

     “Come now, Chaos. Abuser, really? Must we call names?” He asked. Heat flared at my back, and darkness swelled around him like swirling torrents of twisting black smoke.

     “I speak the truth. I know what you’ve done, and I won’t let you take another sister,” Chaos said, voice growing deeper. Her power shoved against him, but he only moved five feet. She appeared between us in full battle regalia. Her red metal armor was adorned with spikes and skulls whose eye sockets glowed. Three sets of obsidian horns slid from her head, and they cracked, showing glowing orange lava like veins under human skin.

     “We have no quarrel, Angel of Death,” he said as a shield of red and orange energy that looked almost like electricity surrounded me. She was shielding me from him. My powers slowly poured back into me, and I breathed deeper again.

     “You attacked Mi Li Kita.[5] La justice ne souffrira pas un homme de violer sa sœur[6],” she said switching between Demoki and French with such ease that my head spun. Knowing more than one language made it hard to stick to one when you were passionate or enraged and she was righteously angry at him. She manifested a shield and tapped her sword against it. “Lutte ou partir[7], Akram[8].”

     Je préfère ravir que de me venger,” He replied in kind. I stared at him trying to rap my mind around that. I would rather ravish than ravage…

     “Chaos, what is he talking about?” I asked. She didn’t move or stiffen. She stood her ground and probably glared at him, but I couldn’t see her face.

     “It isn’t worth explaining,” she said, and took a step toward him. “Fight me or leave. I will not let you take her.”

     “Come with me,” he said, all his energy focused on her now. “Rejoin us and you can leave your restrictions behind.”

     “I will not forsake the Maker for you like he did. I will never come back,” she said, and my mind slid to a halt. She had been with them. When? She’d been with the Tuatha and then her triumvirate of Death Angels, the Deadly Sirens. Then she’d gone with Saga to the Aesir.[9]  When had she been with the Triumvirate of Evil?

     “I think I’ve inflicted enough damage,” he said, glancing at me. “There is no need for war,” he started to fade and just before he was gone completely, he offered one last mental jab. “Je vous ai aimé une fois, Chaos. Je suis désolé que cela signifiait si peu à vous[10].”

     Je suis désolé qu'elle vous viciée[11], Kitran[12],” She replied, and he disappeared. Her shoulders dropped ever so slightly as she turned around and her armor became a fashionably ripped, baggy tee-shirt, and distressed jeans. She turned as her horns retracted and her skin changed from obsidian to pale with dark freckles. “Leighla—”

     “No,” I said, slowly rising to my feet. My legs shook as she reached from me. I took a step back, but the leg didn’t hold, and I fell back, landing on my ass on the hard stone. “Don’t touch me.”

     Her eyes dimmed and she took her hand back. She reached it across her torso and wrapped it around her opposite elbow. She looked at the stone and nodded.

     “As you wish,” she said, quoting one of our favorite movies. “But Jael is worried about you. Rebuild your shields and I’ll reassure her that you’re okay.”

     She started to fade, and guilt banished my fear. I teleported to her and took her free hand. I pulled her to me and hugged her close. She stiffened, and we returned to Jael.


[1] Demoki: What the Hell?

[2]Demoki: I can’t be.

[3] Demoki: What the fuck?

[4] Demoki: Sweets

[5] Demoki: My little sister

[6] French: Justice will not suffer a man to rape her sister.

[7] French: Fight or leave

[8] Demoki: Betrayer

[9] The Norse Angels

[10]French: I loved you once, Chaos. I’m sorry it meant so little to you.

[11] French: I’m sorry that she tainted you.

[12] Demoki: Brother.

Chapter four

     I returned hugging Chaos as she held me in her lap. She gave me a squeeze as a sign to back off, but I didn’t. I rubbed her back, being sure not to pause on her scars.

     “Leighla,” she whispered my name, but I refused to let go.

     “No, not until I know you’re ok,” I said. Her aura shifted then settled into a state of contentment that was as close to happy as she ever got. I pulled back and looked into her eyes for a moment before someone cleared their throat. We turned to find Missy, my second roommate, and Kôrt, Jael’s life partner in the doorway with Jael.

     “Are we gaming, or bathing?” Kôrt asked, breaking the ice. She wrapped her arm around Jael’s shoulders, and Jael wrapped one around the deathly pale succubus’ waist that was bare in the crop top.

     “Gaming,” I said, shifting into my usual leggings and hoodie. “Enough sappy stuff. The boys are waiting for us and probably complaining. Miss, you got the food?”

     “Pizza, wings, mountain dew, some chips, and sushi,” she listed counting on her fingers as we passed. “Did I miss anything?”

     “Yes, I brought Euphoria from the Rotting Corpse,” Kôrt said, and Jael looked a bit green around the gills. Kôrt turned to her and tilted her head. “You okay, Nev’da[1]?”

     Jael nodded, then shook her head, and backpedaled. Chaos stepped out of her way as she went back to the toilet. Kôrt looked from Jael to Chaos and back.

     “Is she sick?” she asked, and Chaos shrugged with a smirk.

     “Nothing she won’t get over in nine months,” she said as she passed the taller demon who turned to me. She pointed to Chaos then to Jael as the latter heaved.

     “She’s pregnant?” Kôrt asked doing the mental math in her head. “Maker in Heaven.”

     “Language,” I said, reminding her of rule number one in my house. No saying any of the Maker’s names in vain under my roof. She went to Jael instead of giving her usual comment, or changing the language of her swearing. I smirked and walked out of the room to find Kotys in the kitchen with Missy.

     “Did you bring her with you?” I asked Chaos, who was hooking up the gaming consoles to the projectors in the living room.

     “Nope, she came of her own accord after she found out I’d teleported earlier,” she said, holding out the black and blue controller to me. “How exactly did you know that she was pregnant anyhow?”

     “Same way I knew Ronnie and…” I paused before I would have said the Scubaid’s name and cleared my throat. “Others were in Ireland.”

     “Ah,” she said as I took my controller. “You still have that unfortunate handicap, huh?” I nodded and sat on the couch. “You should probably grab something to eat before we start gaming.”

     “Not really hungry,” I said, and she stopped what she was doing to turn around and watch me. “And you’re one to talk. Half the time you forget to eat at all.”

     “Jae said you blew chunks. Was it that bad?” she asked, turning back to the consoles.

     “The MO mirrored what happened to Íth,” I projected, and she turned again. “It’s either a copycat, or the same Angeles[2].”

     “How do you know it’s one of us?” she asked, and I gave her the dead eyed, ‘duh’ stare. “Alright, since you seem so sure of that. Who would Packana choose that would leave such a message?”

     “No one I can think of,” I said aloud. She lifted her eyebrows as Missy came around the couch.

     “Director Angelic said you were on the case with Jonah Ruffman,” she said, sitting down with a plate full of food. “You mind if I eat while I tell you what I found?”

     I said yes, Chaos said no, and Kotys, Chaos’s adopted daughter strolled in from the kitchen. Kotys wore a pair of pajamas so skimpy that, if she were anyone else, I would have asked who she was trying to impress, but it was just how she dressed when none of the guys were around. It had me thinking a time or two about her sexual orientation, but I didn’t question it.

     “Are you talking about a case?” Kotys asked and we all said yes, or nodded in Missy’s case as she took a bite of pizza. “Should I take this into Lovette’s room and let you all talk then?”

     “If you’d like to have plausible deniability and not be swayed by anything we say, should you have to defend the murderer, then yes,” I said, pulling one of the throw pillows into my lap and hugging it close. “If I could, I’d join you.”

     “Understood, I’m going,” she said, turning on her heel and walking up the stairs next to the hall. She jogged up to Lovette’s loft room, and Missy swallowed. She took a swig of dew and squared her shoulders.

     “The cut to the throat wasn’t what killed him,” she said, and we both turned to her, eyes wide.

     “Come again?” Chaos asked, knowing that I wouldn’t.

     “He suffered Cardiac arrest ten minutes before his throat was slit,” she said, taking another bite of pizza. “He was hung upside down and then his throat was cut. There would have been more blood at the scene had he been killed, like Dustin, after he was hung.”

     “That’s quite enough,” I said, summoning my wireless headphones with the cat ears onto my head. Missy looked from Chaos to me, and it clicked.

     “This is the same killer from back then?” she asked to confirm her suspicions. Chaos nodded, and I logged into the chat server that the boys and Kotys were already connected to.

     “Hey boys, we’re just getting things set up,” I informed them.

     “Took you long enough, Tenebrae,” the familiar deep voice of our long time gaming friend said, and my entire being relaxed. 1Forset1 always had that effect on me.

     We didn’t know his real name, or at least I didn’t. 1Forset1 was invited to game with us by Beelzebub, Chaos and my nephew, who was Lucifer’s second oldest son, though that wasn’t common knowledge. Fors, as we nicknamed him, was never formally introduced to our group, but I didn’t much care. I was here to game not to exchange details for a job, or interrogate him, and I wasn’t looking for another friend. We mostly referred to each other by usernames, or shortened versions of them.

     “We had a bit of an issue, but we’ve got it handled,” Chaos said as she joined the voice chat. Chaos had the best hearing of us. She didn’t even really need a pair of headphones, but she had a pair and controller that matched mine in her color scheme of red and orange.

     “Hey! Nice to hear from Death so soon. Did you and Law skip across the pond for the night or you still in the City of Love?” Beelzebub chimed in, and I rolled my eyes. That boy needed to learn to keep his witty remarks to himself. I would have told him that had a third Male voice not chimed in.

     “Are we gaming or chatting?” Jules asked. He was the main reason we went by usernames and not real names. Those of us Lucifer’s children didn’t know, did not want him finding out who we were. Once Julian knew, it was only a matter of time before they did, since he was friends with more than one of them and couldn’t keep his mouth shut, typical Mort. I logged onto our current campaign in Missy’s latest FPS Military style game. She’d designed it to cater to larger groups like ours.

     “Gaming. We can talk about locations over text Demon King,” Chaos answered Beelzebub.

     “Is this it? Just you four and us guys?” Fors asked, and I looked at our list.

     “Apparently, I’m not sure what Eternal is up to tonight,” Missy said, referring to Lovette’s username Eternal_Dancer.

     “Morgue! Good to hear your voice,” Fors said, and Missy smiled in spite of herself. “Missed you last week. The girls weren’t nearly as good without you.”

     They all argued that for the next four hours while we gamed. I stayed quiet, content to just listen to them, and not think about the case.

     Kôrt interrupted after half an hour to say that she was taking Jael to the Bat Cave, which was code for the Four Horseman of the Guardian’s hideout and to tell Michael, Jael’s soulmate and husband, should he call looking for them. Yes, the Guardians had their own Four Horsemen of the apocalypse. Not the Apocalypse, just a lesser one. The Maker’s Four Horsemen were unknown by almost everyone. I knew them personally.

     I was thinking about my dilemma with the killer, when Chaos stood from the bean bag that she’d summoned at hour three and turned to me. Her headset was off, and their console packed.

     “Leighla, everyone but Fors has logged off. He wanted to be sure you were okay,” she said, lacing her fingers together and stretching her arms over her head. “He had to grab some food and he’ll be back in the chat.”

     “Did you tell him anything?” I asked, eyeing her. She shook her head and her eyes paused on someone behind me.

     “He noticed that you were quieter than normal. I said you were having work related issues, and you were spacey. He said he’d be back in ten minutes. He’s still connected but his mic is muted for the moment,” she informed me as Kotys stumbled down the stairs looking half asleep. There was an eight-hour time difference for them which would make it about ten a.m. their time. “When he gets on, try to be nice.”

     “Yeah, yeah,” I said. I offered the ASL sign for I love you; my pinky, index, and thumb extended while my ring and middle fingers were curled toward my palm. She mouthed an ‘I love you too’ and they disappeared as If they’d never been here.

     “So,” Missy said from behind me, and I jumped, dumping the paper plate of chicken bones that were on my lap. “Calm down, crouching tiger hidden past.”

     “Don’t do that,” I groaned, levitating the bones and plate to the trash can that Chaos had hauled out of the kitchen in hour one. “Gracious, Missy. I could have hurt you.”

     “But you didn’t and admit it, you knew I was around,” she said, jumping over the back of the couch and landing on the far cushion. I dropped back to my seat and sighed. “The case really has you shook.”

     I slowly turned to her, and she stared back, waiting for a verbal response. Missy was one of the only ones to get through my defenses after I left Ireland.

     Her parents were Tuatha, and they’d asked me to watch out for her after her first and, to my knowledge, only love had died. I took that job seriously and asked her to move in. It gave her a place to spread out, somewhere she didn’t have to constantly watch out for her parents. She shared things with me, and I reciprocated. We’d grown from Aunt and Niece to “ride or die” friends as the kids were calling it these days.

     “It’s gotten to me, yes,” I said, pulling my legs up under me and summoning the last of the Mountain Dew bottles from the kitchen. “Because of what happened way back when that was never resolved, I’m having mixed feelings about it—”

     “But you don’t have a choice,” she said, reading between the lines. I nodded and draped one arm over the armrest as I rested in the indent my body had left over the years of gaming on this couch.

     “I think we should upgrade the couch,” I said, changing the subject. She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

     “Y’know, for someone who takes pride in her interrogation skills, you suck at staying on point,” she noted. I chucked a pillow at her, and she dodged. It sailed over the end table and slid across the floor. “Alright, I’ll leave you to your date.”

     “Date?!What date?” I asked as the blood drained from my face. She stood and stretched like Chaos had with a playful smirk on her cupid’s bow lips.

     “Oh, you know, Fors wanted to talk and,” she looked at the clock in the bottom of the screen that was still projected onto the wall. “He’s due back right about… now.”

     I started to object and call her back, but the chick-chat cheeped, and I pulled my headphones back up as I saw the private message from Fors. I switched from the group chat to the private messages and blinked.

     1Forset1: You still here? I stared at it for a moment before I tapped into my technopathy and typed back a simple yes.

     He replied quickly: Jump off the group chat and let me call. I promise not to be intrusive, but something tells me that you need to talk.

     I ended the group voice chat and flipped back to the private message. The clucking that was the voice chat ringtone instantly started, and I stared at the symbol that he used for his icon. It was a rune that I’d seen all over the place recently, but because of the growing popularity of the show Vikings it wasn’t strange. I didn’t know what to do. As I used my technopathy to answer the call, my hands shook so much that the controller fell, and I said the Irish F word.

     “Okay… I can call back if this is a bad time,” he said. I quickly grabbed the controller with my telekinesis and levitated it to the table.

     “No. No! Now’s fine. I just… Focáil.” I said it again and sighed as I summoned the pillow I’d tossed. Missy giggled, and I glared over the top of the couch at her as she put the kettle on the stove.

     “You’ve been out of it all night. You were getting killed left and right because you weren’t paying attention,” he said, practically in one breath, letting me know that he was just as nervous as I was. “This isn’t a date. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

     “Are you a telepath or just really good at reading silence?” I asked, watching the screen as if he’d appear there, though he most likely wouldn’t.

     “I’m good at reading people: Their voices, silences, and body language, when I can see them,” he said, still sounding nervous. I hugged the pillow to my chest, and he sighed. “Morgue teased you about this being a date too, didn’t she?”

     “She did— wait,” I looked at her again, but she was in the bathroom. “She teased you too?”

     “No, Demon King did,” he said, and I hesitated. Beelzebub had teased Fors about this being a date? That made sense. His being the king of the sex demons and all. He usually only had one thing on his mind.

     “I can see Bub doing that. The brat,” I said, and he coughed a few times, choked on something, and I capped my powers so that my third eye wouldn’t open to check on him. “You okay?”

     “Yeah,” he choked out then coughed a few more times. A couple hard thunks sounded and he took a deep, if wheezing, breath. “Does he know that you call him that?”

     “Call him—?” Then it hit me, I’d said Bub not Zeb or Demon or King. Was the Chaos Theory still in my system or were my filters disengaged from being crossfaded. “Right! Yeah, him knows I call Bub that. Strike that, reverse it. Bub knows I call him that.”

     The Chaos Theory was definitely still in my system. Focáil, this wasn’t going to be a good talk.

     “Are you drunk? Is that why you’ve been off all night?” he asked, and I sighed. I did not want to have this deep a conversation with Fors.

     “No. I got a bit cross-faded earlier and why the Focáil am I telling you this?” I asked, letting it slip again. I groaned into the pillow, and he chuckled.

     “By the sound of it, Death brought her home brew,” he said, and I lifted my head eyebrows furrowed.

     “You know Death too?” I asked and he went silent.

     “Not personally. We keep Chaos Theory stocked at the Club I occasionally work at—” I tuned him out as I tried to remember which bars Chaos said stocked it. They were bars owned by Created Angels, right? Why the Focáil couldn’t I remember?

     “Brae, I’m heading to bed,” Missy said, and I jumped again, but this time I only gave a small yelp. Her eyebrows went up and she offered me a steaming hot mug. “Coffee with natural peppermint creamer, a dash of cinnamon, and a scoop of hot chocolate mix. Just how you like it.”

     “Is she a barista or just your personal maid?” Fors joked, and I gave a small start. By the Eight Realms, what was wrong with me tonight?

     “She’s my niece, and we live together,” I said, then cursed and took the cup as Missy’s eyebrows slid ever higher. “Maybe you shouldn’t ask personal questions tonight. I think the Chaos Theory and the Nevay were a bad idea.”

     “I’d say catastrophic,” he said, and Missy nodded.

     “Extremely fatal for her conscience, and she’ll most likely regret it in the morning,” she replied, leaning with her forearms on the back of the couch holding her own steaming mug.

     “Ah, would it ease your conscience if I gave you a bit of personal information every time you slipped up?” he asked, and I looked at her. She stared back blankly, and I sighed. Definitely a hard conversation.

     “Maybe? I’m not really sure,” I sipped my coffee and let out a pleased sound halfway between a purr and a moan. “You’ve outdone yourself again, M—” I barely stopped before saying her real name and she dipped her head.

     She stood and walked toward our rooms that were on the opposite side as the loft. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs to the raised platform “hall.” I still wasn’t sure why the rooms were built four feet higher than the main floor, other than for aesthetic purposes. She lifted the mug and went to her room without another word.

     “So, I owe you two pieces of information,” he said as I took another sip. I nodded and it took me a moment to realize he couldn’t see it.

     “Yes, if you think that will help. I’m not sure if it will or not and I don’t want to endanger you, if the information gets out or is leaked, but Eclipse is good with information after the whole Antionette thing,” I rambled, and he chuckled. I stopped and took another drink, hoping it would stop my motor mouth.

     “I’m fine with it. Not much about me that someone couldn’t find out with a simple database search anyhow,” he commented, and I smiled, but said nothing. “I’m a part time bouncer at the Cryptic Dance, and I have a pure black cat named Raven.”

     At that precise moment, there was a meow and a loud purr as something bumped his microphone.

     “Yes, Rave, I’m talking about you. Do you need to say hello?” he asked the cat, and she meowed again. “You mind if Raven says hi?”

     “Not at all, put her on,” I said, giggling as the headphones slid over his head, then there was another louder meow. “Hello Raven, you taking care of Fors?” There was an answering meow and a loud purring. “Good girl, make sure he gets proper sleep and enough to eat.” Again, another meow and the ruffle of the headphones sliding.

     “Have a good talk?” he asked.

     “That’s confidential,” I joked, and we laughed together. When our laughter died Raven meowed, and we started up again. It was five minutes later with both our ribs sore that we stopped, and I couldn’t help myself.

     “You have a very infectious deep laugh,” I said, remembering a time and a place with someone else that had a laugh similar to his. I sighed, and he caught the mood shift.

     “Thank you, I’ve heard that a time or two. Are you alright?” he asked and again I found myself talking where I usually wouldn’t.

     “Just a memory from a time long ago. Nothing that I can change or get back now,” I said, sipping my coffee. There was a pause for a moment too long and I set my half empty mug on the table to my right. “Are you okay?”

     “Yeah, just thinking of something to say,” he answered so honestly that a smile lifted my lips. “If it’s not too personal, what were you thinking about in your crossfaded haze?”

     “Work. You can ask Morgue and Eternal, I bring work home more than I should,” I offered, and he scoffed. I lifted an eyebrow even though he couldn’t see it, and his chair groaned as he shifted.

     “The way they talk, you have an office at home, and home is work too,” he said, and I blinked for a moment. What had the girls told him while I wasn’t here? Was it the girls, or Beelzebub? Or was it Garret? “You still there? You got all—”

     “Who talks about me when I’m not here?” I interrupted, and he sucked in a deep breath.

     “It’s never bad things, Brae. At least not from your roomies. You don’t need to be defensive. The girls and Sun always defend you if someone mentions you out of turn,” he said. The girls and Sun… Sun-of-Light was Garret’s username, so we just called him Sun. Why would he defend me, who would be talking about me? His chair shifted, and he added. “Penny for your thoughts.”

     “They’re much more expensive,” I replied with my usual comeback. He belly laughed again, and it pulled me from the thoughts. “Never heard that one?”

     “No, no I hadn’t,” he said, when his laughter calmed enough for him to breathe, he added. “How much?”

     “Gabh mo leithscéal[3]?” I asked in Gaelic.

     “Cá mhéad[4]?” he translated flawlessly, and I sat straight up.

     “You know Gaelic?” I asked, not answering the repeated question.

     “Yes, I have since my first step on this Earth,” he said, and my mind spun.

     “Et’shta Demokæ[5]?” I asked, switching to Demoki.  

     “M’ga Angeles[6],” he said, correcting me. Angel not a Fallen Angel. I dropped back and stared at the projected screen. That wasn’t possible. I mean, it was, but how hadn’t I met him. The only face I had to go with a voice that deep was one streaked in warpaint and splattered with blood.

No, it couldn’t be. There was no way he could survive, and I not see him for six thousand years. There was no way. None.

     “But what if he purposefully avoided you?” my subconscious argued, and I waved her away.

     “Brae?” he asked, and I ignored him.

     “There’s no way he could be him,” I said aloud, and my eyes went wide. Oops. 

     “That I can’t be who, Tenebrae?” he asked, and I held my breath. When I didn’t respond he rephrased the question. “Who do you think I am?”

     Well, now I had to ask, right? There was only one way to know for sure. My heart skipped a beat, and without my filter the thought came out.


[1] Demoki: Lover (Female form)

[2] Demoki: Angel, one who still follows the Maker.

[3] Irish:Excuse me?

[4] Irish: How much?

[5] Demoki: You’re a Fallen Angel?

[6] Demoki: I’m an Angel

Chapter Five

     “Forseti,” I said the name of the Aesir warrior I’d fought beside six thousand years ago during the Fomor wars.

     It was their Aesir leader that I’d almost blinded during our last battle with the monsters. Forseti kept me from attacking the giant of an Angeles, and I’d charged him in a blind rage. He’d defended himself but hadn’t attacked me. It was a Fœmoræ[1] that had nearly run me through. They would have run me through had he not tried to push me out of the way.

     “How do you know that name?” he asked, and my throat tightened. I reached for my mug and knocked it off the stand. The mug tumbled toward the floor and time froze. The time count paused, the connection buzzed, and I tried to think of something to say.

     How could I answer him? There was no real way without giving him my name. Would he even know my name? Had he asked after me back then? I knew his name, but I don’t think he knew mine. I levitated the coffee back into the mug, then the mug to my hand, and took a deep shaking breath as time resumed. 

     “I fought beside you in the Fomor wars,” I said, voice shaky and small. Raven meowed and the tone was different, almost concerned.

     “You’re a Created Angel too?” he asked, and I swallowed.

     “,” I said in monosyllabic agreement. He let out a slow breath and his headphones slid off, he cursed and put them back on.

     “Apologies, are you…  Stjarna[2]?” he asked, and tears filled my eyes. It was his nickname for me. He did remember me.

     “,” I repeated. There was a pause and Raven meowed again.

     “Where have you been? How have you been? I heard so many things from the rest of the Vanir[3]. I didn’t know what to think,” he rambled on, and the tears slid down my face. I smiled and sipped the coffee, listening to my comrade in arms. “Some said you died, others said you left Vanaheim[4] and never returned. I heard that you joined a cult, were captured, slain, and worse. Tell me everything.”

     I held the mug in my hands and curled my knees to my chest.

     “That’s a lot of history to go over. I don’t think that I could tell you even in five years,” I said, trying not to let the tears be heard, but he paused for a moment too long, and I sniffled.

     “Stjarna, I’m so sorry that I wasn’t there to help you. When I found out about the treaty, and your impending marriage, I tried to find you,” he said, and the crossfaded haze hadn’t stopped yet.

     “Do you know who killed him?” I asked, point blank. There was a long pause, Raven meowed, and he cursed vulgar enough for my cheeks to turn red.

     “Apologies, Raven startled me. Killed who?” he asked. It wasn’t odd. There were so many murders, so many of us fell. He probably thought I meant one of the Tuatha De Danann, or the Vanir as the Aesir called them.

     “Íth, my betrothed,” I said, and again he went quiet. This time, Raven didn’t meow. Instead, she hissed and growled.

     “Hey, don’t take that tone with me. I could put you back out in the dumpster where I found you,” he said, and I sighed.

     “If you don’t know, just say so. I can call Dagda,” I said using Jethro’s Vanir name. The line went completely dead for a few minutes, and I dropped my knees enough, so I could check that we were still connected. “Forseti? What’s going on? Do you need to go?”

     The mic buzzed back to life, and he cleared his throat.

     “No, I don’t. I’m fine. I just had to talk some sense into Raven and apologize,” he said, and I furrowed my eyebrows. “I’m unsure who killed him. All I know is that M’naga sent them.”

     My mind blanked as he said one of the Maker’s many Demoki names. M’naga was the same as the Hebrew word translated, I AM, in the Old Testament. It was the name we gave to other preters when He sent us on a Holy Errand. They were obliged to help, or at least not hinder us.

     “Are you sure?” I asked, hoping that wasn’t so. I didn’t want to know just how out of line I had been to fall for Íth. I’d asked forgiveness for the venture, but Míl still slaughtered so many of us because of it.

     “Stjarna, you know the answer to this already,” he said, and the tears returned.

     “Forseti, you have to help me. I-I, Damnu,” I swore in Gaelic again.

     “What do you need help with?” he asked, and I couldn’t speak. I was sobbing too hard to get it out. I reached out to Missy, and she teleported to me. She wore a camisole and shorts that matched her black hair that looked like she’d dip dyed it turquoise, though it was natural. I hit the mute on my mic and handed my headphones to her.

     “Leigh, what happened? What’s wrong?” she asked, and I pointed to the headset.

“You have to tell him that I can’t talk. Tell him I’m fine but I have to go.” I projected, and she shook her head. She put the headphones on and turned the mic on again.

     “Fors, it’s Morgue. Yeah, she’s sobbing uncontrollably,” she said. I shook my head and set the mug down because my hands were shaking too hard to hold it. “She told you about that. Oh… I see. She’s probably asking about the case.”

     I tried to grab her camisole, but she stepped away. I cursed my wireless headphones and stood up. My legs buckled instantly, and I dropped onto the couch again. I set my elbows on my knees as my head spun, and I blubbered trying to calm myself down. What the Focáil was wrong with me?

     “I’m on the case too,” she said from the kitchen, and I brushed the tears from my face. My hands came away with blood and I let out a yelp of surprise. Missy teleported in front of me and the fireplace behind her roared to life so she could see my face. “Shit, Fors, I have to go. She’s bleeding. Yeah, I will. I’ll talk to you on Friday for the gaming marathon. Don’t forget again.”

     She hung up the phone and manifested a wet cloth.

     “Leighla, you need to calm down. Breathe,” she said, and I gasped for air. When had I stopped breathing?

     Constrida Eh Focáil! I thought, mixing two languages, and apparently projected because she set the cloth down and grabbed my shoulders. She looked into my eyes, and I saw that she was afraid for me. Afraid of what just happened. Afraid that this case might kill me or drive me insane. She might not be too far off the mark.

     This was getting out of hand already and I only agreed a few hours ago. I prayed that this was just a side effect of Chaos Theory and not something permanent or scarring in any way. Maker knew that I had enough scars of all three types. I did not need any more trauma to live through. I didn’t need more therapy. I just needed sleep.

     “Bed, please,” I said, and Missy nodded.

     “Let’s get you cleaned up first then you can sleep,” she said, slowly letting go of me. I shook my head and teleported us to my bed. I lay down and the moment my head hit the pillow I was out.


     I don’t remember dreaming. I simply woke hours later. Missy sat cross-legged on the bed beside me, lit by the blue glow from the TV, as she gamed with a pizza box on the bed in front of her.

     “Suck that, Noob,” she said as I blinked up at her. “She’s awake, I’ll be back.” She exited the game and pulled her headphones down. “Hey, Leigh, you okay? Haven’t seen you zonk that hard in years.”

     “I’m not sure. How long was I out?” I asked, slowly sitting up. Something smelled of lavender, sage, and rosemary as I pushed my braids back over my shoulders. I pulled my hands to my face and breathed deep. Yep, she must have washed them with her essential oil soap.

     “Long enough for this to be our gaming marathon,” she said, watching my face as my hands dropped.

     “What?!” I summoned my phone and stared at the screen. I’d been out for two days. It was early Saturday morning and judging by the state of the room, Missy hadn’t left my side. “Shit, you didn’t have to stay the whole time—”

     “You stayed with me when I needed you. I’d never leave someone else to watch over you. It’s not like there’s anything really pressing going on at the Agency, and I needed to work on my next book. Your peaceful presence actually helped me concentrate,” she said, pushing her kinky black and turquoise hair behind her shoulders. “Did you have nice dreams?”

     “I don’t remember dreaming at all. Wait, what do you mean, ‘there’s nothing pressing?’ What about the case of the hanged men?” I asked. She shrugged and sent a message to the chat about logging off before she did.

     “There’s nothing there, Leigh. No evidence, no prints, nothing to analyze, and I autopsied the victim days ago. There’s nothing more than what I told you,” she said, and I blanked. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

     “Um… Jael blew chunks, we gamed, there was mention of a heart attack, but to be honest most of its hazy.” There was only one thing that was clear near the end. “Did I talk to Forseti the other night?”

     “Forseti… You mean Fors?” She asked and I nodded, remembering that she hadn’t known his real name. “Yeah, for nearly an hour almost two before you reached out to me all panicked. Your nose started bleeding, and you were crying bloody tears. He’s been worried sick about you ever since he hung up. He’s asked about you almost every hour,” she said, and the chat cheeped. “Speak of the devil.”

     “Miss,” I groaned, and she grabbed my headphones from the hook on the nightstand. She held them out to me, and I blinked. “Food first.” She pushed the box of pizza toward me, and I groaned again, but took the last piece. It was relatively warm, and I started to ask how when I saw the heating pad and the indent left by the box. Laziness is the mother of invention. “Thanks.”

     “You’re welcome. Now, talk to him so I can write,” she said picking up her fourteen-inch notebook from the nightstand.

     “Code, fiction, or non-fiction?” I asked. She lifted one eyebrow and smirked as she pulled the top up. She swiveled the screen around to use as a pad and pulled the stylus from the top.

     “Been doing a bit of both, but right now, Fiction,” she said, setting the pen to the screen. “Now, talk.”

     “You know this isn’t going to end well,” I said folding the pizza in half lengthwise and sticking it in my mouth. She rolled her eyes but didn’t comment. I was stalling. I didn’t want to deal with the aftermath. Not after what I remembered. I didn’t need another flashback.

     “Leighla,” she said, a nagging tone to her voice. I rolled my eyes to her as I tore off the bottom half the triangle of pizza and chewed it aggressively.

     “Food first.” I projected, looking at the chat on the large flatscreen mounted to the wall.

     1Forset1: Hey, you feelin any better? Did you sleep off the crossfaded haze?

     I didn’t know how to answer that. I hadn’t been awake long enough to know for sure, but I guessed yes. Guilt gnawed at my conscience reminding me what I said the other day, how much information I’d given him, and the connection we shared. Damn, it was a first date. I hated it. The headphones cheeped, and I looked back at the screen.

     1Forest1: we don’t have to talk about the other night if you don’t want to, but I’d like to hear your voice again.

     Missy whispered a suggestive Ooo, and I slapped her thigh.

     “If you’re going to be violent, I’ll go to my room,” she said, and I took a deep breath.

     “Don’t set me up and I’ll be nice,” I said, removing my headphones.

     “Where are you going?” she asked as I slid off the bed. I set the pizza crust back in the box and motioned to the bathroom.

     “I drank a mountain dew and coffee before I slept for two days. Where do you think I’m going?” I asked as I waddled into the bathroom.

     “What about Fors?” she called after me.

     “Tell him I’ll be ready in five,” I called over my shoulder before shutting the door.


     Five minutes later, I exited the bathroom with freshly washed hands, which no longer smelled of organic soaps or essential oils. She took my headphones off her head and held them out to me.

     “He just called, and I didn’t want to worry him, so I picked up,” she said. I noted that the mic was off and looked into her turquoise blue eyes. “He didn’t say anything about your conversation. He just sounded relieved that you’re awake and around.”

     “Thanks,” I said, taking the headphones from her and slipping them onto my head. I turned the mic on with a touch to the remote on the left ear and cleared my throat. “Hey Fors, sorry about the other day.”

     “Maker above, it’s nice to hear your voice. You wanna hop on and do some gaming, or do you have something else you need to do?” he asked, not commenting on the other day.

     “Well, I should probably go for a run, take a shower, and find a bit more to eat, but I do need to talk to you about,” I trailed off and eyed Missy. “Things.”

     “I get the hint. I’ll leave you two love birds alone,” she said, and we objected at the same time, so we didn’t hear what the other had to say. “Chill your buns. Hellfire and Brimstone, can’t anyone take a joke anymore?”

     “We don’t joke about stuff like this,” Fors said, and I nodded. Missy turned and rolled her eyes.

     “Fine, Fine. You do you boo-boo, and I’ll go be miserable in the other room,” she said, shutting the door as she walked out. I stared at the door, and he was silent for a moment.

     “Did she just say—”

     “Yep,” I said then cleared my throat. “Don’t repeat it. Once you say it, it’s bound to come out again sometime when you’re not expecting it.” He laughed at that, and I smiled.

     “Where did she hear that?” he asked.

     “Probably Preter-tube or that newfangled app with the videos, the minute-long timer, and the weird dances,” I said, not really knowing where she’d gotten it. She was a model on some social media platform in her spare time. I didn’t know where she found this spare time being a Coroner for the PMCA in Atlanta, Game programmer, and designer, whilst writing. It was enough to make my head spin.

     “Does she make videos, or does she just watch them?” he asked, and again I shrugged before it hit me that he couldn’t see it.

     “I’m not really sure. I don’t do the social media presence thing. I’m too old school, I guess, but then again, most Angels are. Unless you do,” I said, and he scoffed.

     “Nah, I watch videos here and there when a niece, or friend, sends me one, but I don’t go looking for them. Too much other stuff to do,” he said. I sighed as I thought about what else I could grab to eat.

     “Me either. I barely even do that, unless it’s something about Morgue, or the Agency, or such. I barely even watch the news anymore. It’s too depressing,” I said, looking at the pizza box. “Just like this empty pizza box.” He let out a belly laugh and cleared his throat to cover it.

     “Do you need to go and take care of your list?” he asked as I slid off the bed.

     “Well, I’m unsure what Morgue would think if I go for a run in the snow,” I said, stretching. I let out a satisfied moan as I did it and he cleared his throat. “Though I wouldn’t end the call. I can just switch my headphones to the phone and take you with me. If you aren’t busy.”

     “I’m not. Everything’s closed right now, and I doubt Raven would be happy if I stood up,” he said, and I had a moment of wanting to see him, but I shoved it down. “She’s sitting in my lap.”

     “That makes sense,” I said, pulling one ankle up until it touched the back of my thigh and held it. “Are you up for a debriefing while I run?”

     “I’m up for anything, so long as you don’t get hurt,” he said. I blinked and let my foot down slowly. “Did that sound too eager?”

     “A little, but I sort of understand. You just reconnected with me, and I ended our conversation with a bloody face and panic attack,” I explained it away as I held the opposite ankle for a count of thirty.

     “When you put it that way, I don’t sound crazy,” he said, and a smirk raised the left side of my mouth.

     “I didn’t say you were,” I said, pausing and when he didn’t answer, I added. “But I didn’t say you weren’t either.”

     “Oh, burn. Rave, I might need some ice,” he spoke to his cat, and I imagined him giving her fur a long stroke or two.

     “I mean, I don’t know you well enough to know either way,” I added, doing a couple lunges to stretch my other muscles.

     “Yet you want advice from me,” he pointed, and I paused in the downward position.

     “Unless you can think of someone better,” I said. His headphones jostled, and there was a deep purr.

     “Raven seems to think you need to hear her opinion, but I figured you’d have someone closer to talk to. You work with the Agency, right?” he asked, as Raven purred loudly. “Sorry for the purr machine. She’s planted herself on my shoulder.”

     “That’s perfectly fine. It’s soothing,” I said, not commenting about the agency at first. I opened the door and summoned my boots to my feet. I shut the door to my room and silently crept toward the front door. I opened the settings on my phone and felt compelled to answer his question. “I’m freelance actually. They just call me in when they need an expert—”

     “I see,” he said, his voice a bit distant.

     “What’s on your mind?”

     “Right now, I’m thinking about a run too,” he said, and I stopped as I flipped the call to my phone.

     “Well, if you’re gonna run, I’d suggest asking Raven nicely to move.”


[1] Demoki: Corrupted Angel

[2] Old Norse: Star

[3] The Aesir’s name for the Irish Angels aka the Tuatha De Danann

[4] The Aesir’s name for Ireland.

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