Authors: Debra Dunbar
Tags: #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Romance, #demons, #angels, #nephilim, #contemporary fantasy, #urban fantasy, #paranormal romance, #fantasy humor
Angel of Chaos
Copyright 2014 by Debra Dunbar. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
To Dr. Hadley Tremaine (1939–2001), Chairman of the Department of English, Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, who taught me that there is great treasure to be found in what others consign to Hell.
ny offspring judged to be Nephilim shall be terminated. Reinstatement of the sire into the angelic ranks is pending, blah, blah, blah.”
Okay, so Gabriel didn’t really say the “blah, blah, blah” part, but he might as well have. I’d much rather have gouged my brains out my ear with a dull knife than sat through this Ruling Council meeting, but it was part of my duties as the Iblis — the leader of the demons. You’d think Satan would be able to shirk this sort of thing, but the big angel beside me ensured I sat through every boring second. There was no hiding from him. I’d tried last month and he’d found me in a Dutch brothel, dragging me naked down the very hard wooden stairs before gating me to the meeting. Yes, I’d remained naked for the whole interminable thing, since I haven’t figured out yet how to create clothing. Not that any of the angels cared. They were far more interested in the other, much newer, additions to my anatomy.
I swept a wing back and forth, the tip tracing a gentle figure eight across the beige carpet. Like steel to a giant black–feathered magnet, every angelic eye in the place watched. They were cats, riveted by the red light of a laser pointer. I expected them to pounce at any moment.
One did. Power radiated from the angel beside me, almost painful against my skin. He reached out with his spirit–self, caressing along my non–corporeal self.
Stop. You’re driving us all crazy. Poor Rafi is on the verge of a heart attack.
He wasn’t the only one. The new guy hadn’t taken his eyes off my wings since I’d arrived, and Sleepy, or was it Sneezy, looked ready to shoot a load into his pants.
Two angels had gone missing from the Council while I was away in Hel. New Guy had taken one spot, and an empty chair held Uriel’s place. Gregory refused to discuss their whereabouts or the circumstances of their absence, claiming it was an internal matter.
I glanced over at him, lifting a finger to run along the ridge of one of his primary wings. The guy had six of the things. Even hidden from sight, I could “see” his and the other angels’ wings. They appeared as wispy tracings of golden light here in this physical plane, visible only to angelic eyes until they were revealed in corporeal form in their feathered glory. I’d learned to hide my own too, but every so often my control slipped and a pair of huge black wings burst into being, knocking all sorts of shit over. I didn’t even try to hide them at the Ruling Council meetings — it was too much fun watching the angels drool over them.
Cockroach. Stop. Now.
Uncharacteristically, I heeded the warning note in my beloved’s voice and relaxed my wings, holding them still. One by one, the angels around me focused their attention back to the stacks of papers before them.
“On to the kill report.” All the angels turned their stacks of paper to the appropriate page as Gabriel continued. “We have several items of old business to review before we move on to recent occurrences.”
I doodled on my documents, wishing I had a Danish nearby, or at least a donut. This meeting really needed a food fight to liven things up a bit.
“… long overdue. All in favor?”
Did sloths have tails? No, no they didn’t. I was going to draw one anyway.
I raised my hand. No matter what it was, I was pretty sure I was going to be against it.
“Oddly unanimous. Shall her punishment begin immediately following the meeting?”
Wait — what the fuck? “Whose punishment? Not mine. I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Well, beyond killing an angel and exploding an entire island.
Gabriel lifted his fists up, only to bring them down hard upon the table. “The four–nine–five report for Joseph Barakel?”
I frowned. “Who the fuck is Joseph Barakel?”
Rafael put a restraining hand on his brother, who had turned an interesting shade of red. “The human in Northern Virginia who you claim died of natural causes in your presence? The one with a seventeen golf handicap and elastic–waist pants?”
Oh yeah. I’d thought he was the human sent over to guard Amber by her elven mother, but it turns out he was just a socially inept pedophile and murderer.
natural causes. Why is this still coming up in meetings? The guy had a heart attack. Happens to humans all the time.”
“It’s not the death itself that we’re judging at this point, but your tardiness in delivering the revised report.”
New Guy. Pretty balsy of him to bust my chops when he’d only been on the Ruling Council for a few months. I glared at him, and he squirmed, dropping his eyes and fiddling with the papers in front of him.
“Fine. But there are extenuating circumstances to my so–called tardiness. An
tried to kill me, and I was recuperating in Hel. I think we need to vote on whether I get an extension or not.”
There was a rumble noise from Gregory, and I realized he was trying to hold back a laugh. Unsuccessfully. “Darling Cockroach, we
vote. And you yourself voted against an extension.”
Shit. I needed to start paying more attention at these meetings. If only they weren’t so fucking boring.
“Are we to assume you don’t have the report for Tyrone Cochran completed either?” Gabriel had a little smirk on his face. Asshole.
“No. I was excused for a special project on behalf of the angelic host—“
“Extended,” Gregory interrupted. “Not excused, just given additional time.”
I glared at him. “Yes, but then I was
. At the very least, I should be given another forty–eight hours.”
“You were in Hel for months. The report should be complete,” Gabriel interjected.
“There’s no internet in Hel.” I looked around the table, searching for something to throw at the angel. All I could see were reams and reams of paper. “I didn’t have a copy of the form, and it’s not like I’ve memorized all two–hundred pages of it. Or that I had
most of my banishment to complete the fucking thing.”
“Oh, give her an extension.” Rafael grinned at me. With Uriel gone, he was the only one I could halfway count on to vote in my favor. “She’s already got three rotation cycles naked and restrained for the other report.”
“She does not take her duties seriously. I vote ‘no’.” It was that other guy — Sleepy or Sneezy. I couldn’t tell which. One was gone, so I was going to call this one Sleazy as a compromise.
“Do you really want her in Aaru for six rotation cycles?” Rafi let that uncomfortable idea hang in the air a moment. “Do you really even want her there for three?”
There was a long, awkward silence. “Okay,” Gabriel grudgingly announced. “I vote for one rotation cycle, and forty–eight hours to complete both reports.”
“Forty–eight hours doesn’t begin until after my punishment ends.” I’d learned to clarify these things, otherwise I’d leave Aaru and only have twelve hours to do two reports — two two–hundred–plus–page reports.
“All in favor of one rotation cycle punishment, to begin at sunrise tomorrow, and forty–eight hours following the end of punishment for the submission of both reports?”
Everyone raised their hands, myself included. Phew. Bullet dodged.
Hours dragged on while the angels discussed stupid shit and I struggled to pay attention. Finally the meeting was adjourned, and, one by one, the angels gated back to Aaru. I held back, wondering if it would be wiser to take a bus. My teleportation skills were pretty bad, and it was likely to take me half the day to actually make it back to my house. I looked at Gregory with what I hoped was a pitiful expression. He might love me, but he was just as likely to leave me stranded in a Marriott conference room as offer me a lift home.
“Okay. Come here, Cockroach.” He sighed, but looked oddly pleased at the prospect of escorting me back from the meeting.
I folded my midnight–black wings tight against my back, concentrating to hide them like he’d taught me. The angel’s lips twitched into a smile as his eyes traced the outlines that were still visible to him. I felt myself warm under his gaze as I walked into his arms.
“Home, James,” I teased, rubbing my face against the soft cotton of his navy polo shirt.
Enfolded, crushed against the angel’s chest, I relaxed, resting my weight against him. This was home — being in his arms like this. My spirit–self reached out to his, merging into a line of translucent white where we joined. No matter what happened, I had this. I felt him let out a breath and rest his cheek against the top of my head. We held, frozen in time. Then we moved in a disorienting jolt through a fold in space. I arrived in my kitchen, dizzy and lightheaded but still safe in his arms.
I nodded against his chest, not wanting to let go, just breathing in his odd scent and rubbing the non–corporeal parts of myself against him. We hadn’t kissed since that time so long ago in Alaska. I knew better than to push him, but I desperately wanted more than his arms around me.
Slowly he pulled away and began the routine of preparing coffee, measuring the grounds exactly and carefully adding the water. He pulled two cups from the cabinet, taking the cream from the fridge and a bowl of sugar from the counter.
“Should I meet you in Aaru tomorrow morning, or will you come get me?” My punishment was on my mind, for more than one reason. Yeah, I hated being in the sensory vacuum of Aaru, but I relished having him all to myself for the entirety of my sentence.
“I’ll come get you.” He sighed dramatically. “Sunrise, Cockroach. Please be ready.”
Nope. I’d be in bed. Naked. Hopefully he’d get ideas that would result in us being very late getting to Aaru. The coffee maker beeped, and Gregory poured me a cup. Then he proceeded to dump an obscene amount of sugar in the other cup, add a splash of cream and a slightly larger splash of coffee.
“Would you like a knife and fork to go with your coffee?”
It was hardly liquid at this point, with all the sugar he’d put in it. Gregory still didn’t sit down for pizza and beer with me, but he’d developed a rather sinful addiction to coffee and snack foods — especially potato chips. I took it as a good sign.
The angel took a sip of his drink, eyeing me over the rim of the cup. “So … how are things in Hel?”
It wasn’t like him to make small talk. There had to be something behind his question. He’d have to come right out and say it. I wasn’t very good at subtle hints.
“I would assume so.” He set his cup down on my counter and folded his arms across his chest. “Can you elaborate further? Is there anything notable occurring with the residents?”
I shrugged. If he wanted elaboration, then I’d give it to him. “The demons are the usual bunch of psychotic assholes — nothing new there. The elves are still squabbling between themselves and trying to wiggle out of their agreement concerning the humans. I’ve heard a rumor that some trolls have disappeared from the Pteras Mountains. No big loss. Those things are huge smelly rocks that eat everything in sight. Blech.”
“Speaking of elves….“
Ah, here we go. Finally.
“One of my gate guardians claims to have seen one cross the gates in the accompaniment of an incubus.”
I smirked. Leethu’s household were really skilled at elf–impersonation. How awesome that they were popping around, messing with the angels’ heads this way.
“Was the incubus one of my household?” I totally owed Leethu for this one. How funny.
“No. He was unaffiliated.”
Hmm. That meant he had his own household and hadn’t folded it under another demon’s mark. Either he was high up in the hierarchy, or as stubborn and independent as I was.
“The elf was female. Her clothing was what the humans are currently wearing, and it was torn and bloody.”
Bloody in human clothing
didn’t sound like an elf. “It was probably a demon skilled in form creation. Good prank, though.”
He nodded, picking up the mug to take another swig of coffee. “That’s what I had thought. The guardian insisted that it wasn’t a demon — that she could tell. She chased after them but lost them in the parking lot when they stole a car and took off.”
I laughed, choking on my coffee. “They stole a car? Think about this a moment: an elf crosses the gates, which none have done in over two–million years, and she chooses to do it wearing nasty human clothing, and with a sex demon. Then they both do a mad dash through a shopping mall and steal a car — neither of which an elf has seen or experienced before. An elf in a car — that’s just hysterical.”
“I’ll admit it seems improbable, but then another angel claims to have seen an elf in the southern part of this continent, repairing natural habitat that the humans had damaged.”