I fell from the Talmadge Bridge the week before I turned thirty.
I was given a choice: Go to Heaven. Go back to my life in Savannah. Or spend eternity fighting evil under the direction of the archangels.
I chose the demons--and the angels.
I chose the Winged.
Winged Book Two
In the last year, Joanne Watson has died, fallen in love, fought demons and earned her Wings.
None of that compares to what's coming next....
Life as a member of the Winged isn't perfect--or easy. There's always some new camp drama. There's always a demon ready for a fight. There's always death.
And now there's the Resistance.
Joanne must choose again, this time between her fellow Winged and their burning desire for change or the archangels and the eternal vow she made.
Even in the afterlife, one truth remains--everything ends
“Men will do lots of stupid things when they think they’re in love.”
“Spoken from experience, right?” Ignoring James’s sputtering denials, I started searching my jeans for the tiny crucifix all full-fledged Winged were ordered to carry. I found it after a few minutes of frantic digging and equally frantic cursing. Pulling the small silver cross out, I held it up, exhaling loudly. “Thought I lost it in the jump.”
“That would have been unfortunate to say the least.” He pulled his out of his inside jacket pocket, bouncing it in his palm. “Holy Water?”
“We should be able to find a room service cart somewhere.” If not, we’d be forced to swipe something from the mini-bar when we broke into the room. Something told me the powers that be wouldn’t see the same humor in blessing a bottle of vodka as I would. “Did you bring any weapons?”
“Of course.” Reaching in to his jacket again, he pulled out two arming swords, tossing one to me. “This isn’t my first rodeo.”
“No, but it is our first succubus.” My blood started to race as the elevator rose higher, the lighted numbers clicking by faster and faster. “I haven’t decided yet if I love it or if I hate it.”
James didn’t bother to ask what I meant. Instead, he started swinging his sword in loose circles, his wrist cracking with each rotation. I crossed my right arm over my chest, opening up the muscles in my shoulder before switching to my left. My calves still ached but I forced myself through a series of lunges while James did the same.
The elevator dinged, the doors sliding open to reveal an opulent foyer. We stepped out, our footsteps muffled by the thick, lux carpet. The bronze numbers glinted in the low light, the key card lock glowing a steady green. A room service tray sat on the floor outside the door, the silver dome smudged with fingerprints, the champagne bucket dripping condensation.
“Bingo.” Sliding my sword into a belt loop, knocking it awkwardly against my ribs, I knelt down. I scooped the few remaining ice cubes from the bucket, my fingers going numb almost instantly. “You want to do the honors or should I?”
In response, James knelt next to me, holding his crucifix over the silver container. “Dear friends, this water will be used to remind us of our baptism. Ask God to bless it, and to keep us faithful to the Spirit he has given us.”
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.” We crossed ourselves, me stumbling through the motions while James executed them with unerring precision. I huffed out a breath, shoving my crucifix back in my pocket. “Now comes the fun part.”
“I say I kick the door in, lure her out, and you throw the Holy Water on her.”
“As long as your plan to lure her out doesn’t consist of you dying in the throes of sexual passion, it sounds like a winner to me.” Reaching down I hefted the bucket up, doing my best to ignore the biting cold. “On three.”
“One.” James drew his sword, his fingers clenching around the hilt.
“Two.” I shifted my grip on the silver, prepared to sling the water at the first opportunity.
The door opened, a thin film of red fabric wafting into the hall on some invisible breeze. “Well. Looks like the slob in the bar is finally getting the picture.”
James’s eyes glazed over, his jaw slackening at whoever—whatever—he saw standing in the doorway. His fingers loosened on the sword and he took a step forward, his chest rising and falling with every frantic breath.
So much for not falling prey to her sexual lures.
Darting in front of him, I tossed the water at the entranceway, not bothering to aim. The crystal sconces in the hall shattered in response to the succubus’s scream, my eardrums following suit seconds later. Dropping the bucket, I drew my sword, thrusting it into her rapidly disintegrating chest.
She spit at me, the salvia burning like acid as it sprayed over my skin. Bright red lips twisted in a snarl over blinding white teeth—teeth sharpened to narrow points. “Bitch.”
“I’ve been called worse.” Yanking the sword free I plunged it in again, slicing diagonally down through her stomach. Tanned, taunt skin gave way to rolling, slimy ropes of intestines. A month ago I would have been sick. Now I was just annoyed when blood and viscera splashed on my jeans. “In case you’re wondering, we’re sending you back to Hell. Or wherever it is you came from.”
“You think you’re the first?” Somehow she managed to laugh, more flecks of blood spewing out. I wiped my face, the acid burning through the sleeve of my lightweight jacket. Her knees buckled and I yanked my sword free seconds before she hit the floor. “I’ll be back. I always am.”
“Try not to do it on my watch.”
My blade sliced through her neck without hesitation, ending further comment. Her head bounced once on the cream colored carpet before rolling to a stop next to my feet. I shuddered, inching backward until I bumped into James.
“Next time, you get to kick in the door.”
I turned around to find James slumped back against the wall. Sweat dripped down his faces, soaking his shirt. He smiled at me, or tried to, his lips barely moving. “My penis is apparently my Kryptonite.”
I stared at him for a moment before bursting in to slightly hysterical laughter. “Oh, my God. You made a joke. James, you made a joke.”
“Laugh all you want.” He pushed to a standing position, the smile blossoming with a wicked edge. “We’ve got another jump to do.”
Winged Book 3
In the last year, Joanne has survived repeated attempts on her life, wholesale slaughter, and the dissolution on the cornerstone of her new existence.
And the hard times are only beginning.
As the line between right and wrong, friend and foe, and good and evil continue to blur, Joanne is forced to face one irrefutable fact.
The hardest demons to fight are the ones you can't see.
“What are you doing out here?”
I took another drag off the cigarette, exhaling slowly. Flicking the ashes away, I glanced over at Michael. The night was too dark to make out little more than his profile but he was close enough I could see the tic in his jaw. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“It’s too dangerous for you to wander off alone.” A metallic scraping sound was followed by a brief flash of flame as Michael lit the tip of a cigar. The woodsy scent drifted toward me, more subtle than the spruce and pine surrounding camp. “The cold probably isn’t helping your wrist, either.”
Against my will I clenched my right hand, biting my lip at the sharp pain that shot up my arm. “I doubt it’s hurting it, either.”
“Raphael tells me you’re not taking care of the injury.” He paused, silence settling between us for a long moment. “From what he gathers during your conversations.”
“We don’t have a lot to say to each other right now.” I’d lost my taste for the cigarette two or three puffs ago but I inhaled another lungful of tobacco anyway. Now was as good a time as any to develop a bad habit or two. “How’s Lawerence doing?”
“He’s healing. Slowly, painfully, but still….” Michael trailed off, coughing once before speaking again. “He’s doing better than Danielle.”
I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat. There’d been no change in Danielle’s condition in the six weeks we’d been camped on East Gros Ventre Butte. Raphael said she could wake up tomorrow or next week, next month, next year—or never. Whatever was wrong with her was supernatural in origin, something he couldn’t repair.
I took one last, long drag from the cigarette, stubbing it out on a nearby rock. Shoving the butt in my pocket, I cleared my throat. “Angus is getting better at using his left hand. For fighting, anyway. He says he still has problems undoing his pants.”
“I wondered why he’d taken to wearing kilts again.” Michael chuckled, the sound trailing off on a heavy sigh. “I thought for sure I’d seen the last of his scrawny chicken legs.”
Laughter welled up inside me, spilling out before I could catch myself. I laughed until I couldn’t breathe, tears streaming down my face. Finally, I sat down, rocking slightly as I tried to gain some semblance of control. “Oh, God. He does have the skinniest legs I’ve ever seen on a man.”
Michael sat down next to me, shaking his head and chuckling again. “It’s okay to laugh, Joanne. You don’t need to take the responsibility for everything upon yourself.”
“Don’t I?” I shifted until I could stare down at Jackson, still lit up like Christmas despite the lateness of the hour. “If I’d been just a little stronger, a little less vulnerable and neurotic, Raphael would have told me your suspicions. We would have been able to convince Christopher to not launch an offensive.” I scrubbed away tears, old ones of laughter and new ones of grief. “People wouldn’t have died.”
“Or Gina would have tipped off George and his forces and he would have brought more people and you would have died.”
“Do you ever wonder if maybe that wasn’t the larger plan all along, if that wasn’t what the Power That Is wants?” I scribbled my nails on the mossy ground, refusing to meet what I knew would be an accusing stare. “After all, how many times have we almost died in the past two years? We must be setting some kind of record.”
“Not even close.” He pinched the end of his cigar, snuffing out the fiery tip. “Are you familiar with the story of Job?”
“I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church.”
“Then you should remember that God, the Power That Is, whoever you decide is in charge of everything, may allow things to happen but by no means does He want them to happen.” Michael’s hand closed over mine, halting my frantic movements. “You are His most prized creation, more so than any creature in Heaven. If He could, He would spare you every hurt, no matter how minor it might be considered.”
I looked up to study his face, solemn and yet somehow earnest. Something passed between us, something electric and wild and… right. I swallowed, forcing out a laugh to break the tension. “I guess if you’re comforting me you’ve decided you like me a little bit.”
“You’re not as annoying and pompous and self-righteous as I once believed you were.” He smiled, squeezing my hand once before letting go. “I suppose if you’re listening and not flying off at the handle you’ve decided I’m not as horrible as you believed.”
“Maybe.” I turned my attention back to Jackson, my lips curving in a half smile. “Maybe you’re catching me in a moment of weakness and confusion and I’ll come to my senses in the morning.”
“I wouldn’t put it past you.” He stretched out on his back, resting his head on his clasped hands. “Although since morning is only a few hours away, you might want to get started on disliking me again.”
“In a minute.” I laid back and closed my eyes. “I think I’ll get an hour or so of sleep first.”
“Here.” Rustling motions were followed by the feeling of being enveloped in a small cocoon of warmth. “It’s always darkest and coldest before the dawn.”
I snuggled down under Michael’s coat, yawning wide enough my jaw cracked. “Literally or metaphorically?”
Meet L.M. Pruitt:
L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. She knows this because she's killed bamboo. Twice. As a result, she's not allowed to walk in the gardening department of any store without supervision. She's also not allowed in the card aisle of any grocery store without an escort since she'll spend thirty minutes opening cards and laughing for no good reason. She is the author of the best-selling Jude Magdalyn series, the Moon Rising series, and the Frankie Post series. She continues to make her home in Florida in spite of the heat and mosquitos and shares her home with two cats--one of them smart, the other not so much.
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