In the many thousands of years that the world has been given over to humanity, angels have watched over our violent and irrational race—but not to protect us as the myths like to suggest. These powerful, passionless beings have been waiting. Waiting for the one true sign that their second chance to claim earth’s paradise for their own has finally arrived...That time is now.
Amelia took the final step up to the seventh floor and rounded the stairwell. Her long, black coat flared out behind her, hinting at the length of burnished steel strapped comfortably to her waist as she headed for the last door at the end of the hall. The dirty corridor was empty and dark. Only one light flickered erratically from the water stained ceiling overhead, but it was enough to reveal the yellowed paper peeling off the walls.
Reaching for the tarnished and dented door handle, she wasn’t surprised when the thin wooden barrier swung inward on its own. She had no idea why she’d been called from the realms to this place, at this time, but had dared not ignore a summons from Michael himself.
Taking a deep breath, she entered and quietly shut the door again behind her. She took in her surroundings. Michael stood in the center of the room with his back to her. She noted the understated clothing and absence of wings. Despite that, he wouldn’t have fooled anyone, still managing to look distinctly out of place in the shabbily kept human dwelling.
Michael’s always fierce expression, imposing height, and the exaggerated breadth of his shoulders tended to make humans nervous even without the six-foot wingspan. Those who saw him wouldn’t have known—or believed—what he was, but they could feel it. The unlimited power. It was one of the reasons why Archangels rarely descended to the earthly planes, and it meant his presence tonight did not bode well.
As if in agreement with her unvoiced consensus, outside the apartment a violent storm raged. The flash of lightning came almost in time with the flickering light out in the hall, and the crack of thunder caused the single, dusty painting on the wall to rattle in its place. But even nature’s anger was not able to drown out the hoarse and agonized scream that filtered through the closed bedroom door straight ahead of her.
A woman’s pain.
The distinct smell of newly spilled blood flooded Amelia’s sensitive nostrils. Behind the same door, she heard a male’s voice murmuring encouragement as he tried unsuccessfully to hide his fear.
A compelling certainty filled her. The time had come.
At that moment, as if to affirm her suspicion, a babe’s first-born cry rang out, the sound coming from the other room pure as angel song.
The mighty Archangel turned to face her, his jaw set. As always, Amelia was struck by the absolute knowledge and logic that shone from his clear crystal eyes, visible to her now even in the low light of the apartment.
“Michael, can it be true?” It was impossible to believe that after so many years Lucifer’s ancient threat might actually come to pass, but what other reason could this particular Archangel have for attending the inauspicious birth of a human child?
He nodded. “Yes. This is the beginning. It’s what we have been warned of.”
Another cry, but Michael seemed to have already dismissed the child on the other side of the door. Instead, he lifted his gaze to a point beyond Amelia’s shoulder, as if seeing right through the apartment walls to the dank corridor and staircase beyond. “Unfortunately, it is what a lot of angels have been waiting for.”
Suddenly she felt it too, the presence of another of their kind closing in. “Ezechiel approaches.”
“You know what must be done.”
She paused under Michael’s cool and immovable regard. Yes, she knew her duty. Squaring her shoulders, Amelia readied herself. “Of course. I will do what is necessary.”
“You understand that from this point forward you will be alone in this mission. I cannot become involved any further.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, I understand.” Even though the reasons why hadn’t been explained to one such as her, Amelia would not have expected anything different.
“The babe is to be protected, but most importantly, his existence must be hidden from all our kind. If you fail and he should be discovered—”
“It won’t happen.”
Michael just looked at her.
“If I fail, all that shall follow will be on my head.” She nodded. “I am aware of the consequences. Michael, you have my word.”
“Then I wish you good luck.” With a final nod the Archangel disappeared. The small apartment seemed dingier without the beauty of his golden light, not that Amelia noticed.
“Luck doesn’t play a part in such as this,” she murmured softly to herself. With swift efficiency, she stripped the long coat from her shoulders and dropped it to the floor, letting her wide white wings unfurl behind her. She flexed them outward, the tips extending longer than the ends of her fingers stretched out at her sides.
Drawing the sword from the scabbard at her hip, she opened the door.