Dying didn’t get rid of his heart.
Grim Dating is a hit with the underworld and running like a smooth machine, which is why the commander and his mate decide to go on a vacation, leaving Julio in charge.
It’s his chance to show the Dark Lord he’s got the sinning it takes to move up in the ranks. You won’t see him getting distracted from the job by a nice pair of legs or a fetching smile. Settling down is not in the tarot cards for Julio.
Yet when an angel walks into the office asking how babies are made, he’s quick to volunteer. But seducing angels is not allowed.
Helen stood alongside Michelina in the gestational receiving area—a fancy name for a rooftop where they awaited a pair of incoming storks—trying not to collapse out of boredom. Notice had been received to expect two deliveries, but they weren’t given an exact time. It necessitated them getting in place just after dawn.READ MORE
From their spot, Helen could see the entire nursery quadrangle. Rather than walls to protect the cherubs within, they’d erected a massive windowless building several stories in height, shaped as a hollow circle with only an arch leading out. The gestational receiving tower that they stood on squatted in comparison, jutting from the middle of a park bisected by winding stone paths.
Helen rocked on her heels, restlessness making her fidget. The noon hour had come and gone without seeing a single bird.
“Would you stop jerking around?” Michelina snapped from where she prayed on her knees. She had her head down and hands clasped. She had no problem dropping into a deep prayer for hours on end, whereas Helen had been having issues with patience of late and didn’t know why.
She found herself bored. A word that was blasphemy. Boredom didn’t exist, just idle hands. She tried keeping busy. Had washed her robe for the next day. Cleaned her room. Not that it ever got dirty. She’d enjoyed the perfect sun with others, sitting on fragrant grass, doing nothing because she’d already read the seven accepted versions of the Bible so many times she knew them by heart.
On days when she didn’t have to monitor receiving, she worked in the nursery itself, which she did mostly enjoy. Babies tended to be unpredictable. Helen worked as one of the early caretakers, handling the very youngest with their stunted wings and incomprehensible babble. She changed their diapers and fed them, made sure they got their allocated stimulation time and exercise. During their infant stage, they were malleable, their grace and perfection still to be created. The lessons started young, and by the time they’d reached their adult size, they were ready to receive their task from God and join the other angels.
New batches arrived sporadically, delivered by stork, with the children ranging from very small and useless to able to sit up and babble. She wondered where they came from.
“Where does what come from?” asked Michelina, moving from her knees to stand beside her, patient and serene. Her robes always perfect, her hair blonde and falling in a shiny, straight curtain. Unlike Helen whose curly black hair refused to be tamed, and she always managed to spill something on the front of herself.
“Babies. Where do they come from?” Helen asked.
“The storks,” Michelina replied as if it were a matter of fact and in a sense it was. Except…
“But where do the storks find them?” She eyed the perfectly blue sky. She’d never seen it any other way. Never seen anything outside the nursery actually. She’d been raised and then assigned a duty within it.
“I don’t know where they find them. Why does it matter?”
Wasn’t Michelina curious at all? “I heard someone say they grow in cabbage patches.”
An incredulous gaze turned on Helen. “Cherubs are not grown in the dirt.”
“Then how? Trees? Eggs?”
“Why does it matter?” Michelina crinkled her nose. “The Lord makes us new brothers and sisters then gives them to the storks to deliver.”
The answer didn’t satisfy Helen. “How can the Lord be making them? Isn’t our Father, who art in heaven, currently being detained?”
Formerly known as God, some said his insistence on being called Elyon was a sign of his madness and why he had been placed inside a secret and secured location by his son, Jesus Christ—who preferred to go by Charlie. He’d said his dad had served the world long and well, and now just needed to rest.
However, if Helen listened to rumors—which she never ever did because everyone knew they were spread by evil minions—their Lord had not only suffered a mental break, he’d tried to start a war with his brother.
Obviously, that was a lie since their Father was a pacifist. The same couldn’t be sure about his son. Charlie was in charge, and things had been changing. Which led her to question if they were all God’s children, why was Charlie the chosen heir? There were angels older than him. Why didn’t they handle things while Elyon recovered?
“Just because our Father, who gazes upon us in heaven, is currently enjoying a retreat, doesn’t mean he’s not taking care of us. I also don’t understand your obsession. What does it matter where the cherubs come from?”
“Aren’t you curious about how babies are made?”
Helen, however, didn’t feel the same. “Remember Loreanna?”
“The one who tried to jump off the building and forgot to fly?” Some said Loreanna tried to commit the sin of suicide.
“Yes. Her. She was taken to a healer for repair, and when she returned”—Helen’s voice dropped as she whispered the next juicy tidbit—“she told me humans make babies via a ritual called fornication, where two individuals, a male and female, slot their opposing genital pieces together and create an infant.”
Michelina’s eyes widened as she exclaimed, “How dare you repeat such filthy gossip. I am going to report you to Archnanny Rafaella.” The head angel in charge of all things nursery related. Someone had to manage the cherubs and their caretakers.
“Don’t do that.” The last time Helen dared to question she spent five hundred days in quiet contemplation in the room of nothing. Meaning she was put in a space with no light, sound, or sensation. She hadn’t felt like herself since, and it hadn’t cured her desire to know things. And not just where babies came from, but why they couldn’t leave the nursery, or better yet, why couldn’t she see what lay outside of Heaven? She knew there was a world out there, a dangerous one called Earth. Only the soldiers with the deadly task of defending their realm from the forces of evil—aka Lucifer’s legions—could leave Heaven, along with those specially chosen for Guardian Angel duty. Every other angel stayed in their section. Did their job. Lived a perfect life under the eye of their Father—who was being detained in Heaven.
In the last decade, though, she couldn’t help but notice the boredom. The stagnancy. The lack of risk of any kind.
They weren’t allowed to run, because they might trip.
Laughter, especially the loud kind, was forbidden, as it might interfere with those in quiet contemplation.
No nudity so that no one could feel as if another person’s flesh was better than theirs.
The only books allowed were those approved by the Archangels who ran things. Seven books. Only seven and yet she remembered Loreanna telling her that, on Earth, there were millions of stories.
Millions. It sounded impossible. It had to be a lie, but how to know for sure? Helen couldn’t ask, or she’d be sent to the quiet place.
She also couldn’t scream. Screaming was frowned upon.
No going past the walls of the nursery. No standing on them to gaze longingly at the outside either. The funny part being there was nothing technically stopping her from going, just the rule that said she mustn’t.
The list of things they couldn’t do filled a scroll several feet long. Some which she didn’t understand, like no skateboards. What was a skateboard?
She had no one to answer her questions. As a nursery worker, she was kept to an even stricter set of rules than other angels, or so she was made to understand. As the shaper of young angelic minds, nannies had to remain the purest. The austerity supposedly made them God’s favorites.
But if she was favored, how come she’d never even met him? In the Bible, Fathers cared for their children.
A speck in the perfect sky, blue without end, grew into a massive bird, its wings longer than her arms. It banked, and its cargo tilted, the bundled fabric clutched in its talons shifted. A pudgy arm waved free.
And then a body tumbled out