Dust of My Wings
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Dante’s Circle Book 1
Humans aren’t as alone as they choose to believe. Every human possesses a trait of supernatural that lays dormant within their genetic make-up. Centuries of diluting and breeding have allowed humans to think they are alone and untouched by magic. But what happens when something changes?
Neat freak lab tech, Lily Banner lives her life as any ordinary human. She’s dedicated to her work and loves to hang out with her friends at Dante’s Circle, their local bar. When she discovers a strange blue dust at work she meets a handsome stranger holding secrets ñ and maybe her heart. But after a close call with a thunderstorm, she may not be as ordinary as she thinks.
Shade Griffin is a warrior angel sent to Earth to protect the supernaturals’ secrets. One problem, he can’t stop leaving dust in odd places around town. Now he has to find every ounce of his dust and keep the presence of the supernatural a secret. But after a close encounter with a sexy lab tech and a lightning quick connection, his millennia old loyalties may shift and he could lose more than just his wings in the chaos.
Warning: Contains a sexy angel with a choice to make and a green-eyed lab tech who dreams of a dark-winged stranger. Oh yeah, and a shocking spark that’s sure to leave them begging for more.
For a visual representation of Dust of My Wings, come on over to my
Nominated for Best Magical Characters for the Sizzling Awards
Nominated for Best Paranormal Romance at THE ROMANCE REVIEWS
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and ARe Bestseller
Nominated Best Indie Book Cover by the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards
Nominated for Best Fantasy and Futuristic Romance by the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards
Cocktails & Books Favorite Read of 2012
“This author better write the next books quickly or I will Occupy Her Lawn until she releases more! Pure romance enjoyment here. Now go put this on your TBR pile—shoo!”
“Reading this book was like watching an incredible new movie. Better than watching a movie, in fact. Each page turn brings humor, passionate characters (and some characters that aren’t so passionate, for sure!) and leaves the reader with a satisfaction beyond words. Five Books does not come close to doing this book justice. From werewolves to angels, Ryan knows what her readers want and just how to deliver it! I am highly anxious to read more of Dante’s Circle books, especially Ambrose’s story! Now that’s another sexy angel for another review … … .oh and did I mention I adore the cover on this book? (Why are you still sitting there? Go grab a copy now!:))”
“I have read other Carrie Ann Ryan books and she always manages to transport me to a world of love,magic and a twist that I never see coming but in the end always love ! The characters were so powerful that they had be shouting out loud at the book wanting to jump in and give me a piece of my mind … Absolutely brilliant read and the perfect magical snuggle up for any day!”
“This is the first book in Carrie Ann Ryan’s Dante’s Circle series and all I can say is its one hell of a beginning … As far as first books go, this was fantastic. The sparks between some of the secondary characters comes through every page. I, for one, will definitely be following the series to see what happens to the seven.”
“WOW, what a start! The story is well written and the characters come to life as you read them, a rare treat, sadly. This is a love story, a mystery, an action story that combines love, loss, passion, pain, and hope.”
“This book was an exciting read that left me immensely satisfied. It had the perfect balance between action and romance with a nice bit of suspense and political intrigue thrown in. Fans of the paranormal will find much to like in this book and they’ll want to continue the journey in the future with Ms. Ryan’s romantically charged series.”
“Dust of My Wings introduces an ever expanding group of supernaturals and I can’t wait to see what happens next to this amazing group of people. The possibilities are endless. Suspense, intrigue, friendship, humor and love, within a crazy group of humans and “supers” what could be better?”
“I loved the cast of characters that Carrie creates and am looking forward to more books to learn more about them … I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the world that Carrie created and am looking forward to more books in this series.”
“Take one incredibly gorgeous angel, stir in one human woman with expressive emerald-green eyes and curves to die for and you have the recipe for a very hot explosion. Carrie Ann Ryan has written a wonderful love story of a gorgeous Warrior Angel named Shade and Lily, a young woman who has no idea of her abilities, true worth, and how others truly see her. Carrie Ann takes us on an amazing journey through their lives as they experience adventure, heartache, discovery, surprises, character growth, loyal friendships, power hungry angels, and a love that will outlast eternity.”
“Carrie Ann has done it again. She has managed to get me hooked on yet another series of hers.”
“The story was very well written and has action galore. The love story is touching and you are really rooting for the two to get together. A great start to a new series. I am really looking forward to see what is in store for Ambrose. Awesome start to what will be a great series.”
“Carrie Ann Ryan has woven a tale of the supernatural that is spellbinding and one that I could not put down! Fabulous beginning to this series. I cannot wait for more.”
“Cute,sexy, and funny!”
“The story was faced paced and sexy.”
“Fantastic introduction to new paranormal series by Carrie Ann Ryan! Ryan has left us begging for the sequel! Prepare to become a Carrie Ann Ryan addict :)”
A summons from the council never led to good things. Shade Griffin’s millennia worth of experience told him that. No matter what he truly desired, he’d do what he was told. He didn’t have another option, and why would he disobey now? He never had before. Though whatever demands they dealt might seem tedious to a long-lived being such as him, he didn’t have anything else better to do.
Such was the life of an angel in his predicament. A vast and endless sense of being, yet no one to share it with.
Shade shook off the misery that threatened to creep along his skin and suffocate him. The idea of sharing his endless life with someone else, someone special, had long since burned away. No need to think about it again.
The sun broke from the clouds, warming his cool, honey-colored skin. He lifted his face, letting the rays soak into his pores. His eyes closed, and he took a deep breath, not really wanting to leave the spot. He rolled his neck, stretching his muscles, and then opened his eyes. His back ached from the long flight to the enclave. He stretched his wings, the light shimmering off his midnight black wings that trailed to a rim of deep blue. The wind picked up, his blue-black hair flowing behind him.
Shade arched his back, his wings flared, and blue dust trickled off.
Damn stuff kept doing that, and there was nothing he could do about it. He clenched his fists and winced in pain. He looked down at the healing abrasions on his knuckles and muttered a curse.
He’d just come back from a punishment of a young angel. A cocky one at that. He hated doing it, but the unrepentant jerk had decided it would be fun to fly in broad daylight without cloud cover over Area 51. Really? ClichÈ much? It was easy enough to downplay the event as another UFO sighting, which would certainly bring out the crazies, but it didn’t negate the fact that the reckless angel had broken the angelic law by letting humans see him flying.
Because he had decided to laugh about it to his friends and merely shrugged it off, Shade had to step in. If he’d apologized or realized the severity of his mistake and what could have come of it, then Shade wouldn’t have had to use his fists. But no. The young one mouthed off and challenged him, so Shade had to accept. After all, as a warrior, he could not ignore a challenge. Doing so would negate his authority.
And he won.
He still hated punishing others, even though it was his job. Between him and his best friend, Ambrose, who was practically his brother, they dealt with most of the enforcing the angelic laws. Together they’d done what they had to do for centuries, and in Ambrose’s case, even longer.
Shade was a warrior angel. In the times of the Angelic Wars, he’d fought alongside the best of the best. Hell, he was the best of the best. Well, maybe tied with Ambrose, but he wouldn’t tell the other angel that.
Shade chuckled as he envisioned Ambrose’s reaction to his thought. Ambrose was sure to want to prove just the opposite, and Shade would be more than willing to give it a go. If you couldn’t fight for supremacy with your best friend, how else would you even know how good you were?
Now those wars were long since over. Times of awkward peace were at hand, meaning the warriors herded the other angels and made sure they followed the rules the council members set in place.
The followed the rules, even if the rules were sometimes, in his opinion, too strict for their own good. But he would never voice it. He was merely a warrior angel.
He wasn’t even a godly one like in the fables of mortals. Their race wasn’t of a god. Yes, if theolgy was correct, a god at some point had created them. But they weren’t God’s right hand men who were the symbol of goodness and hope. Far from it. They were just another species with rules, regulations and a seemingly endless long life in order to be subjugated.
Wow. Bitter much?
He shouldn’t be. He had everything he wanted, didn’t he? His forehead scrunched as he though, and his wings fluttered a bit in agitation.
He certainly had all the money, titles, glory, and privileges a warrior of the finest caliber could have. Yet why did he feel like he was missing something?
Shade shook his head and looked around. He stood at a midpoint on the mountain side, the enclave circling him. Stone buildings jutted from rock faces, thousands of feet above the surface, old as time. No stairs or elevators here. Open the door and without wings, they’d drop to their death. Marble and crystal twinkled in the sunlight from the adornments and windows on all of the structures. Though it may have looked cold to some, to Shade and his angelic brethren warm and inviting. It looked like home.
If only he had someone to come home to.
He sighed. He really needed to stop thinking such depressing thoughts. Taking one last look at the place he called home, he jumped off the ledge, his wings spreading to catch a drift, as the cool breezes hit his skin. He flew past other angels in the air, nodding to a few, but kept to himself. He was a warrior angel, the last face some would see as they stared beyond the end of his blade. Tough to make life-long friends outside of certain circles that way.
Shade descended, the wind whipping his hair back from his face, until his feet touched the stone balcony set off of the council chambers. He set his wings back, making sure they didn’t trail on the floor. He was exhausted, but that didn’t give him a reason to be lazy. He walked through the ornate doors that reached tall to the roof. Despite his thousand years of living, sometimes the immense beauty of the council chambers had him at a loss of words.
Gold and crystal adorned the walls. Intricate carvings and art filled the room. Eons of pride and talent gave the room a sense of grandeur and honor that made Shade feel young in relation to the other angels surrounding him.
But in all reality, he was the youngest warrior angel of them all, and second in command to Ambrose, the leader of the warrior, the best at the job. That wasn’t pride talking, just fact.
Shade walked to the center of the room and took in the five council members perched high on their thrones, their noses turned up towards him. Another presence worried him. Ambrose stood off to the side, a frown on his face. What was going on?
“I see you have finally decided to grace us with your presence,” Caine, the leader and all-around pain-in-the ass, admonished, and Shade held in a scowl. The brown-haired angel lifted a lip as if the mere sight of him disgusted the ruler.
Shade bowed his head. “I’m sorry I was late. I had just finished my dealing with the young angel and needed time to clear my head before I came. I didn’t not want to taint the council with the thoughts and actions of a warrior.” There. That didn’t sound like sarcasm and distain, did it? Well, maybe it did, but it was the best he could do. He wasn’t overly happy with Ambrose here. It felt like an ambush.
Caine snorted and shook his head.
Okay, apparently he couldn’t quite mask his true feelings. Oh well.
He didn’t hate the council. He just didn’t like the fact that they held all the power and didn’t seem to do anything but hand out decrees and punishments that were enforced by the warriors. There were only three classes of angles, the council, the warriors, and the others. He didn’t like all the power on the top that trickled down to nothing. But who was he to speak out of turn?
“Enough of your pleasantries. We need you here, now.” Striker, the second-in-command, cut in. Dish-water brown hair and plain features made him look human. If it weren’t for the brown wings coming out of his back, he’d look human. Maybe that’s why the man was always an ass.
“Okay.” Shade nodded. “What is it that you need?” He once again wondered why Ambrose was there? Why did they need two warrior angels? Tingles of dread filled his belly. Had the other faction of angels done something? They’d hadn’t destroyed the rebels completely in the war and it was always a cause for trepidation and concern that they others would come back and start something.Were they on the brink of another war? He’d not heard anything along the wind, but he couldn’t be too sure.
“We have been alerted to a breach of security,” Caine announced “Our secrets may be unraveled soon if this is not fixed.”
“You mean the secrets of the supernatural?” Shade asked. “How can that be?”
Striker gave a laugh, filled with bile rather than humor. “You dare ask this when it is your fault we are in this predicament in the first place?”
Shade froze. “What?”
“Your dust.” Striker sneered. “Your oh-so-favorable blue dust has been collected by a human. If it falls into the wrong hands, do you understand what will happen? Everything that has been held secret for eons will be lost because you have a dusting problem.”
As a child, he’d had a problem with his dust. Whenever he got excited or angry, he’d sprinkle dust where he flew or stood. Beyond a few occurrences recently, he’d thought he’d conquered it years ago. How had someone gotten it? Did they even know what it was?
“I didn’t know,” Shade whispered.
But that was a lie. He did know. Just that morning he’d seen a sprinkle of his dust flowing on the wind and thought nothing of it.
My God. What have I done?
“We know you didn’t,” Agnes, a sole female member of the council said. Her piercing blue eyes filled with understanding.
Of all the council members, Shade liked her best.
“But,” Agnes continued, “you must finish this. Fix it, Shade. Find your dust and reclaim it before someone finds out what it is. We don’t have the power to wipe the memories of this as we once did. The humans don’t believe anymore, and in doing that, we’ve lost our ability to shield us the way we should.”
Shade nodded, sadness and frustration setting root.
“I will fix this,” Shade promised. “You have my word.”
The council nodded and dismissed him. With a glance toward Ambrose, Shade left the room, his best friend on his heels.
They didn’t speak once they reached the end of the balcony. They simply jumped off, their wings catching the wind, and flew toward another mountain top. Shade needed time to think. To calculate.
He was damned fine at his job. Strong and fierce. Yet a childhood problem of dusting could take down a civilization. He would have laughed at the ridiculousness of that statement if it hadn’t been true.
They landed, their feet settling on the soil. Shade looked behind him at the place he called home. They didn’t live in heaven because they weren’t godly angels, far from it.. He wasn’t even sure there was a heaven beyond their time. Their world was in the same realm as the humans, but tucked away in a pocket of space between two mountain ranges, hidden from the eyes of the unknown.
A few raindrops fell from the sky before turning to a slight mist. The other angels down below flew to the safety of their homes, the rain weighing heavy on their wings. Only the strongest could fly in anything more than mist. Another reason they didn’t live on the clouds like humans seemed to think they did. One flight through the dense cloud and the water seeped into their feathers, and the weight caused them to fall unless they had the strength in their back muscles to bring them back up.
And most didn’t. Despite the vast strength they possessed, angels were weak in some respects.
“Are you going to stand there in the rain and watch others while everything falls around you, or are you going to fix this?” Ambrose’s deep voice cut through his thoughts, and Shade turned toward him.
Tall with white blond hair pulled back from his pale face in a braid, with white, almost crystal wings, Ambrose was the light to Shade’s dark. Yet the colors masked the personality. For where Shade saw the humor and light in some things, his best friend was the dark, the edge to the blade. Though Shade, too, held his own fury, he just didn’t show it as often.
Dangerous and agile, his mentor had taught him everything he knew. Shade lowered his head in shame. He’d failed.
“You didn’t fail, Shade,” Ambrose whispered.
“I didn’t say that aloud.” He was always doing that; he was practically a mind reader
“You didn’t have to. We all leave trails of angel dust. You are no different than others except that you leave great quantities. It’s not something to be shameful of.”
“I beg to differ.”
“It’s only different this time because it got into the hands of a human. I’m worried how it got there, which is why I was in the room when you came in.”
Intrigued, Shade lifted his head. “What are you saying?”
Ambrose shrugged. “I don’t know yet. Something just seems off to me, but I will work on it.”
“Okay, what else do you know?”
“Only that the dust may be in the hands of a woman.”
“A woman?” Interesting.
The motorcycle vibrated beneath Shade as he pulled off the side of the road and parked. The rain pelted him, the cold seeping into his bones, but he shrugged it off. He was in northern Washington and this seemed to be the norm in terms of weather.
He lifted his leg and got off the bike, ignoring the stares of the women around him. They watched him stroll, his powerful legs leading to long strides. He’d tucked his wings into the slits in his back to hide the fact he was an angel, but he couldn’t hide his face or the fact that women seemed to fawn over it.
It had been a long time since he had a woman, not since that jaguar shifter a century or two before on a night of deep depression and loneliness. But the heat, claws, and desperation had served to fill only a physical need that left him even lonelier than before. From then on he left his carnal needs up to his hand. Before the jaguar, it had been even longer, but he didn’t want to think about her. The one he’d lost. She was long since gone.
Shade walked into a nearby cafÈ, the smells of baked goods and coffee filling his nose. He ordered a small coffee then went back to sit at a table near the window so he could watch those who passed by. A male pixie passed by the window in human form and nodded toward him. There were so many things not human, hidden from view in the world that Shade couldn’t even count them.
All humans were diluted forms of supernaturals. For millennia, the supernaturals had bred with one another and mixed the species until finally their powers had dwindled in most, and they stopped believing in things that came out of fairy tales. Those with so little non-human blood running their veins that they seemed ordinary were now called humans, ethough each had at least something beyond human laying dormant in their DNA.
The council had failed to mention who the human was who held his fate, but they’d filled Ambrose in before Shade had arrived. Ambrose had told him on the mountain that the woman lived and worked near here and Shade wanted to get a look at her. She was the girl with answers, and his shame … his blue dust.
Who was this Lily? Ambrose had only described her from her file as a brunette that wore a brown trench coat in the rain. He’d said she would be near this cafÈ as she was every day. Not much to go on, but he had to have something.
A woman with large, emerald-green eyes passed by the window, a small smile on her face and those side-swoopy bangs woman loved so much. She was average height and held delicious curves. He looked over every inch of her—a small waist, large, perfect breasts to fit his palms, slightly wide hips that would serve well when he gripped them, and sexy legs benath the hem of her brown coat …
That had to be her. He didn’t know why he knew, but he was sure of it.
His groin tightened.
She was human. Not a lick of anything else came from her. Yet why did he want her so from just a look? He’d never looked at a human this way before. Why now? Was it because she might be the one who held his dust?
Lily stopped under the awning right in front of the window, careful of where she stepped—odd—and brushed the hair out of her eyes, before smiling at a passerby. She was radiant. Absolutely gorgeous. Shade held back a groan and shifted uncomfortably in his seat when she bit into her lip. She smiled again then walked to what must have been her car, got in, and left before Shade even thought to stand.
Some warrior he was, completely frozen in shock by his reaction to her. He was, however, unrepentant. He didn’t want to follow her today anyway. A town small as this would know of Lily and aide him in his research. If the supernaturals were revealed, chaos would rain. Humans could feel threatened, start wars, do untold atrocities when they met with what they didn’t know and therefore feared. And if the supernaturals felt threatened … Shade didn’t want to think about that. He had to know more before he did anything.
So many questions flashed through his mind. Who was she? Why did she have his dust? What would she do if she discovered his secret?
And most importantly, he wondred if she was single and how she would look underneath him, blushing in ecstasy.
Shade shook his head, dispelling those annoying thoughts. He’d find out what he needed to about Lily, save his dust, and save the entirety of the supernatural world. Maybe along the way he’d learn a little more about a pretty brunette whose very presense threatened to make his wings stretch to the sky.
Yep. Easy for a warrior angel such as him.
Lily Banner hated her job. Hated it. There was nothing worse than being on the bottom of the totem pole and knowing there was nowhere to go but down. Was that even possible?
She blew her bangs from her face in frustration. It was late in the day, way past her usual time off. She desperately wanted to go home, but work was never ending. Every day seemed to drag a little bit more of her soul out of her body. God, she hated her job, and it wasn’t as if the work she did meant anything. She had a chemistry degree, but she didn’t do anything with it. Not being at the top of the class, she really couldn’t have gone on to graduate school and made anything of herself. Frankly, she had no interest in pursuing higher education. School had been a chore, and it made her feel like she was nothing. So, now she was just a lab tech at a soils testing lab for a company she hated. For a boss she hated.
Oh, yeah. For a man. Lily rolled her eyes and held back a snort. Why on earth had she changed her life for a man, particularly for a man like Bryce? Wasn’t she supposed to be a strong new age woman? Apparently, not so much.
Bryce, her ex-fiancÈ, was a cheating asshat. He now lived with Miss Fake Boobs and their three bratty kids.
Lily sighed. Whatever. She was over the whole thing. She really was.
She straightened the stack of folders on her desk for the third time. They just couldn’t get straight enough. Though the lab was clean, it still didn’t feel clean enough for her. Still, she organized everything on her desk at precise angles, and there wasn’t a lick of dust on any surface around her. That was workable.
Her entire system had been blown several days before. It still irked her.
“Lily, I have something for you.” Her boss, Glenn, had strode to her desk, his permanent smirk on his face. At the age of forty-three, his body looked a decade older with thinning hair and an increasing waist. He always smelled of sweat and greasy burritos.
He wanted her and wasn’t afraid to make it known.
She’d held back a shudder as she always had at the errant thought of those greasy hands groping her.
Not in this lifetime. Or the next.
“Do a run on this.” He’d thrown a sealed, clear pack containing a vile on her desk.
She’d winced as it hit the wood hardtop, leaving a line she’d have to clean later. The plastic knocked her stack of papers askew, and she quickly picked up the package and ordered her desk again. God, how she hated that man. About as much as she hated messes.
“Sure, I can do that. What type do you want on it?” She’d picked it up and peered through the plastic. The vials contained some kind of blue dust, but she couldn’t really determine anymore than that just from a site analysis. “Do you want a liquid or solid?”
“Don’t alter it. No liquid, just a solid.”
Lily had nodded. That made sense. If they didn’t know what it was, there was no use trying to dissolve the sample in a solvent and cause a reaction, because, if she tried to do that, it might destroy it or cause an explosion. “I’ll do a proton and maybe a carbon on it then. The 400 will be open soon once I spin down the current sample, and I can to the proton first.” The proton NMR was the easiest one to do and would help identify what was in it.
Glenn had waved away her words. “Fine, fine. Whatever. Just get it done. ASAP.” He turned on his heel and walked away without another word.
The nerve of the guy. Didn’t he know it wasn’t a simple plug and chug system? That she had to go through tons of work before she could even set up the probe? Then when she got the results, she had to go through the analysis to see if the peaks could tell her something about the composition of the sample and what exactly was in it. Lily shook her head. Of course he didn’t know. When was the last time he’d done anything concerning chemistry?
Regular work, however, had taken precedence, and now, several days later, Lily was finally getting around to analyzing the substance. That is, if she had time before she had to leave.
She grabbed the package and walked to the lab. She opened it and took out the vial then went about cataloguing it into the system. Now that she could get a closer look, she held it to her eyes. Were those flecks of silver and black in the blue? What the heck was this stuff? It didn’t look like chalk and there wasn’t much out there in terms of silicates and ceramics that were naturally blue. Maybe it was a synthetic. That would make her job that much harder since it then would be a man-made substance and really difficult to figure out.
She shrugged. No use in worrying too much about it now. She spun down the sample currently in the NMR, saved the data to the backup hard drive, and shut down the system. With a quick look at the clock, she cursed because she was running late. Well, late for her. She still had time, but she always liked to be early. She walked back to her desk and locked the new sample in her desk. Any work would have to wait until tomorrow, or else she knew she’d be stuck in the lab until after midnight for sure. She’d just get it done tomorrow.
Lily blew the hair from her eyes and bit her lip. She hated putting things off for the next day again, but there wasn’t really a choice. Glenn wanted things done immediately. He didn’t understand that each run took hours. She wanted to leave now, but she still had a couple more things to do. With a sigh, she sat back down at her desk and re-opened a program file she’d been working on and began an analysis of a previous sample. It seemed never ending.
At twenty-seven, she’d never thought she’d be where she was. She always thought she’d be married with children at this point in her life, but that wasn’t a possibility considering she couldn’t remember the last time she had a date. She wasn’t ugly; she knew that, but, apparently, she wasn’t suited to anyone’s taste. Her medium-length, chestnut brown-hair had natural highlights, and she’d just trimmed the swoopy bangs she loved so much. Her pale skin didn’t have many freckles since she was such a homebody. As a kid, she’d been afraid of sunburns. She wasn’t skinny, but she wasn’t overweight either. Just a nice average woman with curves.
That was what she was. Average. Average looks, average intelligence and an average life. She wanted something more. Something, anything, to fight back the loneliness. Sure, she had a family, if you could call it that. There was a dad she never talked to and who was on a second honeymoon with his fourth wife. He said he was trying to rekindle the magic, but everyone involved knew it was only a matter of time before that faded away and he found Mrs. Number Five. She had a mom who was more passive-aggressive than the mom from the television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. She liked to belittle Lily and her choices every time she had a chance. But, other than that, Lily was alone.
No, that wasn’t true. She had her non-blood family: her six girlfriends. They were her family of choice. They were seven women of different ages and professions who came together at least once a week to celebrate their lives, even if sometimes there didn’t seem to be much to celebrate. They’d all met at their favorite bar, Dante’s Circle, over the years and ended up being best friends. In fact, she was meeting them tonight, so she had to get moving.
“Hey, Lily, why are you still here?” Thad, the other lab tech on her floor, came up and hitched a hip on her desk. She held her breath but didn’t say anything as he moved her pens. His eyes widened, and he moved back then straightened them.
“Sorry about that. I know how you get,” he teased.
She flushed and shook her head. “It’s fine. Really. I hate being a dork.”
“You’re not a dork. You just like order. Nothing wrong with that.” He smiled, and his face lit up as if he wanted something.
“So, Lily, you want to go grab a bite to eat tonight?”
She looked up at the younger man and tried not to groan. His dishwater-brown hair fell in his eyes like those skater boys, and he still hadn’t filled out his lanky body with muscle. He was only working here before he went off to graduate school. At twenty-one, he still had his life ahead of him. She felt old and worn out, and not at all interested in a romantic relationship with him.
“Sorry, Thad, I can’t. I’m meeting the girls for drinks, but thanks anyway. Maybe another time.” Or never.
Disappointment filled his eyes, but he kept a smile on his face.
Oh, God, I’ve just kicked a puppy.
“It’s okay. I understand. Well, I’m on my way out. Make sure you don’t stay too late. I don’t like you being here all alone. Do you want me to wait for you and walk you to your car?”
He was just so cute. In that ëlittle brother’ way.
Lily shook her head. “I won’t be long, so you don’t need to wait for me. I’ll be fine. I promise. I have my whistle and pepper spray.” The town was relatively safe, but it never hurt to be prepared.
Thad grinned and tilted his head. “Okay, then. If you don’t really need me. Good night, and be safe. Have fun with the girls.”
“Thanks. Have a good night.”
With a wave, he walked out, and Lily shook her head. He really was kind of cute, but not for her, and way too young.
Lily glanced at the clock again. Okay, she had about twenty minutes before she really had to go. She didn’t have time to go home to change, so what she had on would have to suffice. It was just a drink with the girls. Something she desperately needed.
Her fingers flying across the keyboard, she worked at fitting peaks and labeling what she could. Before she knew it, her twenty minutes were up, and her head hurt. She really needed that drink. Sighing, she shut down her computer and packed up her purse. She straightened everything one last time and made sure her drawers were locked. With one last thought to that odd blue dust—if not tomorrow, then Monday, for sure—she shrugged and walked to her car.
Outside the wind howled and rain began to fall as thunder rumbled in the distance. Oh, great, a storm. She brushed her bangs out of her face. Should she just go home? Was being out tonight worth the aggravation? Her back ached and her head throbbed, and a bubble bath sounded divine. But, after her lonely thoughts during the day, she really needed to be with her friends. Decision made, she ran through the rain and unlocked her car door. Once inside, she shivered and turned the car and heater on to warm herself.
Yep. She really needed that drink … and maybe a dark, handsome stranger.
A giggle escaped, and she shook her head. Well, maybe just that drink.
Striker paced in his room. Shade had been gone for two days after the human woman. The warrior hadn’t reached the council for updates or help as of yet, and Striker was getting annoyed.
With a huff, he turned again, his brown wings dragging on the floor. He hated the damn things. They were boring. Average. Angels of every caliber had better-looking wings than him, but he at least held the power where most didn’t. Other than his fellow council members, he was in charge, and if enough things went his way, and if his plan stayed on track, then he would be above the other members soon.
That thought brought an ease in his shoulders, and the tension he’d held since the dark warrior angel had walked into the council chambers faded away. He hated being relegated to a group of leaders. He wanted all the power. He wanted to rise above his average looks and reign supreme, and he would.
He’d been close—so close—before. Once, long ago, during the Angelic Wars. He’d led his armies and reveled in it, though that part of his past remained in secrecy. He couldn’t let the other angels know that he’d been the masked angel behind the greatest army that spread fear and instigated rebellion. No, that wouldn’t do at all. The current council—sans him—had fought and used their warrior angels to bring down Striker’s army. But that had been a calculated move on his part; at least that’s what he told himself. He let his second-in-command take the fall. The other angel had lost his wings—and his head—for the act.
Striker shrugged. At least it hadn’t been him. This time, instead of an all-out war of opposing forces, he’d take over from the inside. The other council members were old, unaccustomed to fighting in these times of peace. Even though angels were immortal, age did matter. As time passed, they became stuck in their ways and refused to embrace new things. With their experience came selfishness and haughtiness. They were the easy ones to mold and bend to his will.
It was the warriors who created the problem for him. Shade and Ambrose, in particular. Ambrose was older than he was and would be hard to take down. Angels’ powers increased as they aged, a fact that pissed Striker off to no end. No matter how far he progressed, the bastard went even farther. Ambrose did have one large weakness—his protÈgÈ and best friend, Shade. Luckily, Shade had a more immediate problem involving his dust. Shade needed to clean up his mess or risk exposing the supernatural. If he were to fail, then the warrior would lose his wings, and he’d be out of Striker’s way when the time came. If Striker worked it right, then Ambrose’s need to help his friend would lead to his downfall, as well.
Striker laughed and wrung his hands. Yes. This would all work. It had to work. He just had to make sure the human woman figured out something was wrong with the dust, and exposed everything that was hidden. Striker would rule them all with an iron fist one way or another, but would she find it fast enough? He might have to intervene. That was what he did best. After all, he was the one who’d given the greasy human male, the woman’s boss, the dust in the first place.
Once the warriors failed, Striker would have his opening, and he’d finally get what he deserved after he lost it in the Angelic Wars. Power.