Happy Birthday Amber, thank you for including me in your celebration.
Cael & Frank
I had not counted on the glowing.
“You’re gonna hafta go wait in the car,” I told my husband, love of my life and newly minted—it hadn’t been quite a year yet—member of the heavenly host.
“Whatever for?” He snapped, brows furrowed, glaring at me as I prepared to cross the busy street to meet my cohort, and partner, on the other side.
“You’re illuminated,” I said distractedly, watching for my opening so I could make a run for it.
“I’m sorry what?”
“Car, now,” I reiterated and would have darted but the hand on my bicep, holding tight, preternaturally so, kept me where I was.
Turning, I was surprised at the wintry blue gaze I was on the receiving end of.
“What’s the matter?”
“I want to go with you.”
“Well you can’t,” I informed him with a shrug. “I can’t very well walk into the bowels of that club with an angel tailing me.”
The glare just darkened.
“You get that I have to transact with an alpha and a draugr in there right?”
“I understand that you have to broker a business deal between a werewolf and a vampire, yes,” he said petulantly, crossing his arms. “But I’m telling you right now—if I don’t go with you, you’re not going.”
I shook my head. “We agreed that I would keep my job and that I wouldn’t work for you anymore and because I don’t work for you anymore that I would then be freelance.”
“And because I’m still a courier, there will be those times when I have to go places that are a bit––”
“Dangerous, horrifying dens of iniquity that make Sodom and Gomorrah look tame?”
“––shady,” I said, ignoring him, taking a step back so he had to either let me go or yank me toward him. As expected, he freed me. “You know nobody’s gonna touch me in there, I’m there to get signatures from both men for Madam Lamont and then I’m out of there. It won’t even take ten minutes if everyone’s sitting down.”
“The fuck is the hold up?” James Castile, or Charming as I called him, snapped as he jogged down the sidewalk to me. He was my partner, and a werewolf and the guy who’d been patiently waiting in front of the club on the other side of the street. He had apparently gotten tired of making rude hand gestures at me and crossed over to find out what the hell was taking so long.
I indicated Cael with a sweep of my hand. “He wants to come in with us.”
Charming took a breath and I understood why. When Cael was a demon, he was terrifying. He could transport anyone he wanted to the pit of hell and drop them off. He could also blow you up with a fireball, eviscerate you, eat you, and just the smite you into oblivion with a wave of his hand. His name alone would make other demons piss their pants if they knew he was even slightly vexed. Both the man and beast that lived in Charming lived in awe and dread of his rage. Since becoming an angel, due to loving me, his power was no less apocalyptic—we were told—but we hadn’t actually seen it in a punishing sense. Basically, he wasn’t scary anymore.
We weren’t sure, we didn’t actually know. Since becoming an angel, beings that Cael had known before, steered clear of him. Nothing unnatural or unclean came near him. Witches, warlocks, vampires, every kind of shifter, fairies, and elves, all of those were suddenly fine with him. No one got that wide-eyed stare anymore or ran for their life and while I knew that Cael enjoyed talking to more people, from humans to every permutation under heaven, he was also not digging the loss of the fear factor. After living for a thousand years, he’d gotten used to people not taking their safety for granted in his presence but now everyone did, including Charming.
“You can’t come with us,” Charming assured Cael, speaking words he would not have had the balls to utter close to a year before.
“And why not?” Cael growled at him.
Charming indicated all of him. “You’re glowing.”
He huffed out a breath and turned back to me.
“What? I told you that already. There’s a soft white glow coming off of you like the lights we have in the library.”
He looked down, staring first at his black Tom Ford suit and then at his Prada wingtips before looking back up at me. “I don’t see anything.”
I squinted at him. “Baby I’m telling you, you look like a klieg light.”
Midnight blue eyes narrowed in half. “I refuse to let you walk into a club filled with demons and whatever else just because you won’t let me take care of you.”
I sighed deeply because this was an old argument.
“I don’t suppose we can table this conversation until after we broker this deal and get paid?” Charming suggested, arms crossed, looking tired suddenly. “One of us is not married to a rich demon.”
“Angel,” I corrected.
He threw up his hands with a groan.
“If this is about money,” Cael began. “I will give you your own bank––”
“I make my own money,” I told him for the billionth time. “You don’t provide for me, I provide for me.”
“Which is why everything must be separate, yes?”
“Why is that?” He asked, clearly irritated if his tone and the set of his jaw was any indication. “Why do you get a say and I do not?”
“Because you’re not responsible for me,” I insisted, taking a step closer to him.
“Am I not?”
“You’re my husband but you don’t have to take care of me. We take care of each other.”
“And yet you won’t let me use my money to allow you to do what you want.”
“Which is?” I said, trying not to sound like I was daring him to dazzle me but failing. I was placating him and being a bit snide.
“You want to teach.”
People who didn’t know him would say that it was his angelic senses that told him the truth of what was in my heart but really, it was just good old fashioned observation. He listened whenever I said anything and filed it away.
“You want to open a center where kids of all species, human, shifter, magical and non-magical alike can come together and be educated about each other. You want to give kids answers so they don’t grow up hating or fearing, but instead being confident in their knowledge and ready to reach out to another creature that may be alien to them. You want to stamp out the dread of difference.”
Yes I did. “I’m working on getting the money together.” I reminded him.
“But you and your pet here––”
“Hey,” Charming groused at him.
“––could be the first people employed at your—what? Shelter? Learning Center? Whatever you’re going to call it, it could be yours if you simply put aside your pride, accept my help, and let me pay Charming until you get on your feet and the donations start rolling in.”
I couldn’t take charity and especially not from the man I loved.
“Yes you can,” he said as though he were reading my mind. “If you simply realize that you doing what you’re doing now only makes me worry and that doesn’t do anything good for either of us.”
And that was true too. I was working hard which kept me out late and up early and gone before he rose for the day. We were doing the ships in the night thing lately and that was taking a toll. I wanted my dream and him and lately I was feeling that something had to give. As I would not, could not, lose him…it was looking like my dream would have to be left by the wayside.
“Why do you have to choose? Why can’t you have both?”
I stared into the deep, dark, midnight blue depths of his eyes as he took a step close and captured my face in his hands, tilting my head back before he kissed me.
It was gentle, loving until I parted my lips, offering, and he clutched me tight, claiming what was his.
My moan was loud and I leaned my heavier, thicker frame against his, no longer feeling what I did in the beginning, that me not being the perfect specimen that he was would turn him off. Once upon a time I’d thought that not being a male model would matter to my mate. It didn’t. Not that I stopped me from working to be healthier, but the drive for the flawless physique was no longer an obsession. To him, I was beautiful and desirable and knowing that, knowing that was what he truly saw when he looked at me, turned me to a puddle of goo at his feet every single time.
Standing on the sidewalk across the street from a club that had a line a mile long to get inside was no exception. I slipped one hand up the carved line of his muscular chest and curled the fingers of my left over his hip wanting to slip them under his belt so I could tug on his shirt tail until I touched skin. The sultry roll of arousal tumbled through me and I jolted in his grip when his tongue rubbed over mine.
“Let’s forget this,” he murmured softly, seductively, teeth nibbling over my bottom lip as my eyes fluttered shut and his fingers slid up the back of my neck and sifted through my hair. “Just give in. For the second time in your life just let me take care of you.”
I had been stubborn before and it had ended when I was finally honest and submitted to him. He loved me so my place was not subordinate, but equal, always, in all things and I had a niggle of doubt that perhaps, again, I was being blind.
Charming cleared his throat and the spell was broken. I took a step back, smiling sheepishly at my mate, and turned to my partner.
“If Cael wants to start us in our business, why is that bad?”
“Because we can’t take charity,” I told him.
“To help people?” He looked confused. “Won’t we be asking other people to do the same?”
I opened my mouth to protest.
He put up his hand to stop me. “C’mon Frankie,” he said, cajoling. “Listen to the angel huh? Don’t you kinda have to now?”
I turned quickly back to Cael whose very evil, very un-angelic cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin was making his eyes glitter under the street lights.
“But he’s right,” he asserted, taking a step toward me as I took one back. “I’m an angel now, incapable of deception. I can’t do things for personal gain, only for the good of others.”
“I suspect that there’s some demon still in there.”
“And yet,” he husked, the silky rumble of his voice calling to me as much as the curl of his mouth and the daring cant of his eyebrow. “I’m glowing.”
He was, in fact, still glowing like Claire Danes had in Stardust.
I huffed out a breath. “I’ll think about it.”
“After this job,” I said quickly. “And you have to stay out here.”
“But it’s my birthday,” he said like that changed everything. “You can’t say no to me on my birthday.”
I walked backward, stepping off the curb. “I can if I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“We have no idea about the limits of your new angelic power.”
“And you can’t glow in the club.”
“Why not?” Charming asked me.
“C’mon, people will just think it’s some cool new gadget that’s turning him into a human glowstick,” he said, gesturing at Cael.
“Fine,” I relented and got a smile from my mate in response as he moved to my side, took hold of my hand and then tugged me after him, ready to cross the street.
Alone, I would not have gotten in. But I was flanked by Cael, who looked like some anime character come to life with his flashing blue eyes and platinum blond hair, and Charming, who resembled a rock god with his inky curls and porcelain skin, so the doorman lifted the velvet rope and ushered them, as well as me, in fast.
Inside, we were met instantly by a stunning succubus demon, Miranda, who normally charged up to Cael whenever she ran into him. This time she stopped, her green cat eyes turning their true blood red color in an instant and she winced.
“So it’s true, my lord Caelenh,” she gasped, “you’ve been unmade.”
“Were you stripped of all your demonic power?”
“There are many who will come for you now,” she said almost sadly. “I will mourn when you are killed but as a human it will be quick.”
I was going to correct her but he squeezed my hand to keep me quiet. She turned then and we followed her through the teeming club and then back through a short hallway to stairs that led down, three flights in all, deep into the basement.
There was a large area at the bottom that reminded me of a Victorian drawing room with the antique furnishings, the velvet and lace, and the crystal chandeliers. There was an assortment of creatures along with humans willingly donating blood to vampires and demons. Following where Miranda indicated with a sweep of her hand, we reached a heavy wooden door and inside there were ten men milling around while two others sat across from each other at a small round table.
“Finally the courier arrives,” the draugr, a Celtic vampire, said brusquely gesturing me over. “The ice age didn’t last this long.”
Moving quickly, releasing Cael’s hand before I went, I drew the envelope from the inside breast pocket of my suit jacket and passed it to him. “You sign first, then the alpha, then I’ll deliver it back to Madame Lamont and she’ll transfer the title of the Delon property.”
His eyes flicked up to my face as he took hold of my wrist. “I appreciate my gift alpha.”
Crap. Trying to pull free was useless; it was like being held by stone.
“Both are yours.”
He glanced over at the werewolf. “You’re giving me one of your wolves as well?”
“No man, he’s not one of mine.”
I turned to the alpha. “You told Madam Lamont you guaranteed our safety.”
“Yeah I lied. The only way to seal a deal with an old world vamp is in blood so…what can I tell you?”
“She’ll never transfer the property,” I assured him, trying again to yank free but there was no way.
“She will if she wants to get paid. What are a couple couriers to her?”
He had a point.
“I just need to unload that fuckin’ building because the taxes are killing me.”
The vampire signed the document and then passed it over.
“Our business is done,” the alpha said, tucking the signed pages into the pocket of his peacoat. “Enjoy your dinner.”
“Thank you alpha.”
The scoff was loud.
Everyone turned to Cael.
“If you don’t unhand my mate it will be your end.”
The draugr chuckled. “I was saving you for last Caelenh.”
“Have we met?”
“No, but I know of you and I know what was done to you.”
“Perhaps,” Cael sighed and one second we were all standing there, not moving, and the next every man but me and Charming was plastered to the walls of the room.
“Holy shit,” I said.
“I thought he wasn’t strong anymore,” Charming gasped.
Cael let out a breath and there were suddenly wings. Big, seven foot tall white wings covered in feathers, edged in gold that folded neatly behind him. He coughed softly, crossed his arms, and then gave the draugr and the alpha his full attention.
“The best part about being made an angel is the new lack of uncertainty. Before, when I was a demon, I had to go on gut instinct about whether people were good or bad, but now, all I have to do is look at you to know whether you’re damned or not. And if you are, in fact, damned, I can simply––” He snapped his fingers and the guy next to the alpha went off like a blood bomb splattering several of the others. “Judge.”
The yells, screams and general horror was instantaneous.
“Whoever told you I was human was misinformed.”
“I thought angels were sweet and stuff,” Charming said, moving up beside me.
“Angels are warriors,” I told him. “Haven’t you ever seen pictures of Michael or Raphael or Uriel? They’re scary as hell.”
“Hell indeed,” Cael said smugly as the light coming off him got brighter and brighter.
“Shit,” Charming muttered and we were suddenly outside, across the street where we’d started. We had enough time to look over at the club before Cael dashed across the busy street and swaggered over to us.
“What did you do?” I asked gently, reaching for him as he got close enough.
He walked into my arms and I hugged him tight, loving, as always, the feel of him against me and how we notched together like we belonged together—which we did.
“No one lays their hands on you,” he said icily. “Ever.”
That I knew. “Look at me.”
Lifting his head so he could see my face, our slight difference in height making me have to look up at him as close as we were, he waited for whatever it was I was going to say.
“Are they dead?”
“All but two, yes.”
So matter-of-fact. “And you’re allowed to do that?”
“Yes. Angel. Did you know?”
I groaned. He chuckled.
“So I’m thinking that Charming and I are gonna be out of the courier business.”
“Are you fucking around?” Charming wanted to know.
“No. It’s time to start a new path.”
“Yes it is,” Cael said, beaming. “Happy Birthday to me.”
“I think I can do a lot of good.”
“And this way imagine all the trouble you’ll keep me out of,” he teased, glowing again, clearly happy.
“Now can we go home so I can have my real birthday treat?”
“Yes please, I’d love to go to bed with an angel.”
His smile was luminous.
Mary Calmes believes in romance, happily ever afters, and the faith it takes for her characters to get there. She bleeds coffee, thinks chocolate should be its own food group, and currently lives in Kentucky with a five-pound furry ninja that protects her from baby birds, spiders and the neighbor’s dogs.