I found more than religion in an angel’s kiss.
My studies in theology didn’t prepare me to deal with angels from outer space. They’re real. They fly. And in their elevated arrogance, they don’t think they need anyone’s help. So, imagine my surprise when the shy but hunky Zakai asks for my assistance in locating Noah’s ark.
Apparently, it’s not just a religious myth. The massive ship did exist, and it looks like humanity might need it if they’re going to survive an incoming invasion.
As we work to uncover the mystery, we’re stymied by opposing forces doing everything they can to stop us. I’ll admit, I never thought I’d end up fighting demons, just like I never expected to fall in love with an angel.
But when given a choice, will he choose me or God?
“We need someone willing to pretend to be fallen from Elyon’s grace to infiltrate the sinful planet of Ghezabella.” Archangel Remiel, in charge of the recently graduated angelic warriors, sought a volunteer for a dangerous mission. Decadence could sway even those pure of intent, or so Zakai had learned in his lessons.
Always be on guard because sinful seduction is everywhere outside of Heaven.
Seduction made no sense to Zakai. It meant to entice sexually. Who needed a partner when a hand could satisfy? A righteous angel like him had nothing to fear.READ MORE
“I’ll do it.” Zakai offered his services, as did a few others. They undertook some tests to ensure they were strong-minded enough to resist temptation: Making them suffer from thirst and hunger and then offering sustenance. Zakai gave his portion to the weakest of them and passed to the next trial with less than they started—a trickier test as it involved the long-term companion of a superior offering to service him sexually while asking him not to tell. He refused and reported her—the right thing to do.
His final assessment involved dying his pristine white wings a mottled gray and God ordering the removal of Heaven’s Astral Linguistic Ordinance. The HALO was his connection to Heaven, his angel brothers, God, and more. The shock of losing it almost had him begging to quit. He’d always been proud of his plumage, and without his HALO, he felt exposed. Alone.
But everyone knew a fallen angel didn’t keep God’s blessing.
When the time came for him to set out, they offered him a rickety vessel confiscated for trespasses against God instead of equipping him with a slick cantorii or even a rapid skiff. They dressed him in rough fabrics. Took his divinii blade and replaced it with dull metal.
He regretted offering his services. As he undertook his lonely voyage, he prayed for the strength not to falter. God didn’t answer. God couldn’t hear him. Zakai had never felt so alone.
The appearance of Ghezabella, a planet of water with floating islands and perpetual sunny days because of its three suns, proved a relief. Once he completed his mission, he could return to Heaven and his brethren. They’d give him back his HALO and his special blade.
So long as he resisted seduction.
The skiff he limped to the so-called pleasure planet had an archaic communication system that required manual manipulation. He flicked a switch and replied to a gruff query of, “Name and business.”
He used an assumed name. “Zeke. Here to have fun.” An answer given to him ahead of time. Stating he was here to evaluate the level of sinning would have had him blasted out of the sky.
“Cast out of Heaven.” The lie actually hurt him and left a sour taste in his mouth. He had permission to do and say whatever he needed, but that didn’t mean he derived any pleasure from the subterfuge.
Apparently, he’d said something amusing, for the person on the other end of the communicator chuckled. “Another one, eh? Seems we’re seeing your kind more and more often.”
The fact that Ghezabella had any shocked. The implication that the number was increasing? More shocking. He’d never known a fallen angel. Everyone loved Heaven and Elyon. No one ever wanted to blaspheme him.
“May I dock?” He bit off the please. Being too polite would get him caught, at least according to Archangel Uri, who’d briefed him on the mission. One that made little sense. If Ghezabella was sinning, why not just cleanse it?
“Hold on to your halo. Sending you the docking details.”
The rude remark might have disgruntled more if he’d not gotten in. Easier than expected, too. The archangel had explained that he might have to bribe the officials if they posed a problem.
Zakai parked his rickety ship among a multitude of vessels, so many in varied models, their shapes strange, and in some cases, completely unharmonious. Almost all were mechanical, like the one he drove, and he saw only one living ship, a strange one with many tentacles encased in a shimmering bubble. It looked nothing like a squirii or cantorii, the only other living vessels he knew.
Upon exiting his spacecraft, his weapons strapped to his body, he noticed those roaming the landing strip ranged in appearance, just like their transports. Tall and short. Fuzzy to slimy. He’d never imagined such a multitude of beings in one place. Heaven’s population leaned toward the bipedal and soft-fleshed.
He tried not to look too surprised by the two-legged warrior with the chitinous armor and the twitching antenna sticking out of its armored cranium. His lessons had never taught him about giant bugs.
But apparently, everyone knew about angels—or at least fallen ones.
None paid him much mind, lending credence to the allusion that others with wings had passed through. Or perhaps they made the mistake of thinking him a lower-caste demon, who were similar in build, though demons’ wings were leathery versus the angels’ feathered. Not all hellspawn sported horns, but they were universally evil and depraved.
To his surprise—and chagrin—Ghezabella proved more intriguing than Zakai had expected. There existed a colorful vibrancy to the market he strode through. Everything drew the eye, whether it was bold fabric or heavily scented perfumes. Past the vendors’ stalls, he encountered aromas of foodsmiths, displaying a variety of edibles he’d never even imagined. He’d been raised on ambrosiana liquid that perfectly suited his needs. But he had to wonder what it would be like to eat such strange foodstuffs.
The contemplation had his mouth watering, and in that moment, he became horrified. Almost tempted. And he’d barely left his ship... He’d have to be careful.
While decadent, the markets for goods and sustenance weren’t exactly evidence of great sin. Marketplaces weren’t banned. After all, while Elyon could use suul to create and feed, other races weren’t as blessed.
Zakai’s journey took him farther into Ghezabella, past housing stacked at dangerous angles. The people on the streets and sidewalks were loud and mingling. Miniature versions of the citizens, children never seen on Heaven, ran amuck, not kept in the safe bosom of a creche. Did they not realize these were the formative moments? By exposing their offspring to the chaos, they risked their progeny’s future. In the creche, all received equal measures and followed the same rules.
While not a sin, the Ghezabellian method of raising their young did strike Zakai as inefficient. He kept going, past the neighborhoods and a park where animals were kept caged to entertain those wandering. He didn’t care for it, but even Heaven had a zoo to entertain the Heavenly Host.
As he neared the far end of the park, a strange vibration filled the air that intensified as he passed into a new area. It took him a moment to realize the screeching of stringed instruments. The thumping and wailing voice were meant to be music. The discordant noise brought a moue of disappointment to his lips that others didn’t seem to suffer.
On the contrary, beings danced—or so he assumed by the gyrating and swaying of those in this section. They spilled from buildings into the street, some holding beverages of strange colors. Not as shocking as his gaze alighting on those in the midst of fornication, though. In the open. And not only as pairs. Before he looked away, he counted at least four individuals involved.
Hedonists. Here was the first real evidence of sin.
As he cataloged the depravity, much of it involving acts he’d not known were possible, he found himself getting lightheaded from the smoke hanging in the air. Redolent of spice, it caused him to blink, and he found himself suddenly thirsty.
A female stepped in front of him, a sarong around her waist only, revealing her six breasts with their dark green nipples. Iridescent scales covered her body, glinting as movement caused light to catch. Her four arms each held a different object. A smoking pipe in one. A set of bells in another, while the last two held beverages, one of which foamed.
“Hello there, handsome,” she hissed, eyeing him up and down.
“Hello,” he replied to the first being who’d acknowledged his existence.
“Nice wings. Are they real?” she asked as the hand with the bells reached to touch.
He shifted to avoid her groping. “Yes. I am a fallen angel.” He couldn’t have said why he blurted that out. Blame the smoke for making him lightheaded.
“And what sin did you commit to be cast off?” She held his gaze, her eyes strange with their vertical pupils.
He knew this answer. “I coveted.”
“And what did you want that you couldn’t have?” she purred as something tickled his leg. A glance down showed a tail sliding up his calf, part of her lower body peeking from her sarong.
It took effort not to jerk away. “I coveted the companion of another.” It was the most common reason for rebuke. Jealousy proved stronger than teachings sometimes, especially since female angels were so rare. But it even happened among the males who formed attachments.
“Then you’ve come to the right place. Here, you can have anyone you want. Have anything you need.”
It sounded tempting and wrong all at once. Blame the dizziness for him saying, “Even you?”
Her lips curved. “Do you want me, fallen one?”
The word no waited to be shouted. Instead, he managed a feeble lie. “I’ve only just arrived.”
“And have yet to shed some of your old inhibitions. A good thing I have something for that. Have a taste,” the woman with the scaly green skin encouraged, offering him the foamy drink.
“I shouldn’t.” He couldn’t have said why, other than being discomfited by the glint in her slitted eyes.
“Are you sure you’re fallen? You still seem too obedient to your God.”
“Yet you refuse a taste.”
“Because I don’t want it. It appears foul.”
“How would you know if you’ve never had it?” was her quick riposte.
“What is it?” Judging by her frown, that was the wrong thing to ask.
“You’re not like the other fallen,” she complained.
A comparison that had him grabbing the glass and downing the contents.
Then coughing as he literally swallowed fire. He gasped and choked while the serpentine woman laughed.
“Easy there, fallen one. That kind of drink is meant to be sipped.”
He swiped his arm over his mouth as a languorous sensation spread through his body. “I feel strange,” he admitted as his sight split in two.
“That’s the alcohol kicking in. Nice, isn’t it?”
Alcohol? Archangel Uri had warned that he might have to partake to fit in but told him to be careful as the potent brew could affect his reactions.
“Come. Let’s go somewhere a little quieter. You don’t look so good.”
He didn’t feel so good.
She snared him by the hand, and he followed, if clumsily. His feet weren’t cooperating. He kept blinking his eyes, but his vision still blurred.
When she shoved him onto a stool, he didn’t protest. And when a glass of clear fluid appeared in front of him, he drank, assuming it was water—a safe beverage.
It was more liquid fire. This time, he controlled his coughing, even as it burned its way down. His head grew heavy. His eyelids, too.
“Don’t sleep yet, fallen one.” The serpent lady’s voice cajoled. “We’ve paperwork to complete.”
“Whhhhaaat?” he slurred. A prick of his skin had him frowning at his thumb, where a bead of blue blood formed.
A green-scaled handheld his and pressed it firmly onto a glassy surface covered in writing.
He tried to focus, but the letters kept moving.
The female whispered, “Say, ‘I agree to the terms set forth in this agreement.’”
He shook his head and tried to rise, but a firm grip kept him in place.
“Say it,” she hissed.
When he didn’t, a yank on his hair dragged his head back, and he cried out, only to choke as someone poured more liquid into his mouth.
And then, darkness took him.
He woke in a cell—a victim of his stupidity.
The first time I met an angel, he rescued me from a prison cell—not a sentence I ever thought I’d get the opportunity to say. I should add that I wasn’t imprisoned because of a crime but because an alien Hell prince needed me for my brain. Also, not something I ever thought would happen to me.
I was never more shocked than when the door to my cell swung open, and a man stood there, lean and stern of countenance, his hair dark and his jaw unshaven. But more astonishing were the snowy white wings at his back.
“Hello,” he said. “Fear not. I’m not here to harm you.”
I admit my mouth might have gaped longer than it should have, especially considering I knew angels existed. My good friend Lilith was enamored with one. Still, nothing could truly prepare a woman to meet an angel—especially one this good-looking.
“Hi. I’m Tamara.” Because, of course, I should introduce myself at a time like this.
His lips quirked. “A pleasure to meet you, Tamara. I am Zakai.” He offered me a nod before adding, “If you’ll excuse me. I should release the other captives.”
I exited my cell to see my savior freeing the others. Cindy-lu, Bruce, Paola, Peter from engineering, and more—all former employees of Novae, working for a man they called Mr. A but I knew as Astaroth. A rotten fellow, as it turned out. In my defense, when he hired me, saying, “I’ve found some ancient religious texts that could use study,” I’d not known just how depraved and manipulative he could be.
I soon learned. When I began to grasp that Astaroth might not be the altruistic billionaire he made himself out to be, he locked me up and forced me to continue my research for him. Work I was ashamed to say I quite enjoyed. I only wished it didn’t help a supposed Hell prince.
Everyone who emerged from the cells had questions.
“What happened? What did you do with Mr. A?” Bruce, the worm who’d been helping Astaroth, worried about the bad guy lining his bank account.
“You’re not Aziel. Who are you? I’m Cindy-lu.” The petite woman held out her hand.
The angel eyed it with confusion and caution. “I am Zakai. Aziel is dealing with the Hell prince.” Because Hell wasn’t just a concept in the religions I studied. It actually existed.
“Can you fly?” Peter asked wide-eyed.
“Um.” The poor angel appeared quite overwhelmed.
I took charge. “Folks, rather than pester him with questions, let’s get out of here.” A suggestion that led to a stampede as everyone raced for the exit—all but me and the angel.
He eyed me. “You aren’t joining them?”
My shoulders rolled. “I am not one for crowds.”
His lips curved into an almost smile. “Me, either.”
“Are you alone? You should be careful. There’re guards all over this place.”
“Not anymore. The choir has secured this location.” The choir being what the angels called their crew, or so my friend Lilith had said. Apparently, angels came from outer space on a living ship they called a cantorii. That was the junior version of an ark, which, like Noah’s, could store goods and species. If the angels were to be believed, humanity evolved because of them.
I believed. I’d even done a paper on it in college, which had gotten a very rude grade. I wondered what my professor would have to say now.
“Would it be possible for me to grab some notes and stuff before we leave?” I queried as we walked to the exit.
“Why would you wish to retain anything from your captivity?” He sounded surprised by my request.
“Because I’m a scholar. Astaroth, the guy who imprisoned us, had me studying some old texts. Some of which might interest you.”
“I doubt it.” His arrogance didn’t stun me much. I was used to assertive people.
“And if I said those old writings mention weapons made by God?”
He paused almost imperceptibly. “We have our own weapons and have no use for those left behind.”
“Are you sure? Because Astaroth was plenty interested. You should have seen how excited he was when we found the spear.”
He turned a frown on me. “His excitement was most likely misplaced, as divinii weapons are keyed to their owners and are virtually useless to anyone else.”
“What’s a divinii weapon?”
“A tool created by God for his warriors.”
“Oh.” I should have been impressed; instead, I countered with, “Astaroth didn’t seem to have a problem wielding it.” I was there when it arrived, after months of me digging through references and finally locating it in a private collection in Australia. The crate for it was long and narrow, packed with straw. Astaroth dug through it like a child and grinned when he held it aloft. He continued with that maniacal smile as he first slashed his hand and gripped the spear, then used its tip to pierce the chest of the person who’d delivered it. The man died. The spear lit as if from within, and Astaroth declared, “I shall kill Elyon’s Warriors with his own creation.”
I told Zakai what happened, and what did he say?
“That’s disturbing news. Thank you for telling me.”
After that, the angel went silent, his expression flat with contemplation. He remained by my side as I led us to the workroom that used to contain us—a windowless space with computers that didn’t connect to the outside world.
My desk was the one piled high with reference texts, scrolls, bits of parchment kept between glass, and notebooks. So many notebooks.
Zakai eyed the mess and then me. “I do not think you can carry it all.”
I chewed my lower lip. “I might need to make more than one trip.”
“Not necessarily.” Zakai tapped his temple, and his HALO appeared. However, judging by his expression, it wasn’t doing what he wanted.
“Problem?” I asked.
“I cannot get a signal to the cantorii.”
I pointed at the walls. “Reinforced with lead and other sound and signal-proofing to prevent any leakage. Astaroth didn’t want this place found.”
“I hate clever demons,” he muttered as he stalked to the nearest wall. He drew his blade, a sword that glowed like the spear had but with a much cleaner light. It sliced through the concrete and stone as if it were butter. He carved a large square that he pushed until it fell out, leaving behind a window that let in the daylight.
“Let me guess, divinii blade?” I asked, curious about the metal that defied known science. Or, more accurately, it defied Earth-based science.
He sheathed it as he nodded. “It is a gift from my God. My second such blade since the first was forcibly taken from me.”
“Doesn’t matter now.” His expression shuttered as he turned from me. “It is time to go.”
“Do I have to? I mean, if Astaroth is gone, what’s the hurry?”
“This location is to be destroyed to prevent it from being used against God.”
“But my research…” I snatched my most recent notebook and clutched it to my chest.
“Is no longer your concern.”
I might have wondered at his words, only my desk and everything on it suddenly disappeared.
I blinked. The spot remained empty. “What did you do?” I might have screeched the question.
“Divinii articles were never meant for humanity. The choir will handle their existence.”
“You can’t do that.” Never mind that I’d worked for a literal Hell prince; the research I’d been doing had historical merit. And this guy thought he could just take it from me?
“It is time to depart.”
“And go where? How am I supposed to get home?” I bluntly asked. “I don’t even know where we are.”
“You are on Earth.”
“Which is pretty big. I could be anywhere and with no credit cards or cash.” At his puzzled expression, I sighed. “I have no funds to pay for transportation.” I knew enough from my conversations with Lilith to grasp that that angel likely had no concept of money being used in exchange for services or goods.
His brows lifted. “Transportation has a price? This world never ceases to surprise. Where do you wish to go?”
“Home.” If I couldn’t have my notes, then I wanted the familiarity of my place.
“A moment, please.” He went silent, even as his lips moved. His HALO glowed steadily, and I had to wonder who he spoke with. I was startled when I finally heard him. “I’ve received instructions.”
“What about me?” I asked with a frown.
“Metatron wishes to speak with you.”
“And who is Metatron?” My frustrations mounted with his short replies.
“The principality for our choir.”
With that announcement, a bright light suddenly enveloped me. When I finally blinked the spots from my vision, I just about fainted because I found myself aboard the angels’ spaceship.
Also known as having a religious experience.COLLAPSE