He Fell For Her
Nicole St. James was a nice woman. An innocent, pretty, twentysomething schoolteacher with her life ahead of her. But as the angel of death, it's Keenan's job to take that life away. So when a vampire attacks Nicole, Keenan is not supposed to snap and take out the vampire instead. It cost him his wings--but she's worth it.
Except when Keenan catches up to his pretty schoolteacher, she's not so innocent anymore. Hot red lipstick, tight black shorts and long white fangs--she's ready to kick the asses of anyone who helped turn her into a damn bloodsucker. Unless that ass is unusually shapely and attached to a certain fallen angel. Even with all of heaven and half of hell after them, someone will have to teach Keenan about the fun kinds of sin. . .
"Cynthia's on my must-buy list." --New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox
Praise for Cynthia Eden's novels
"Highly sensual and definitely dangerous." --Shannon McKenna on Hotter After Midnight
"A wickedly unique voice in paranormal romance!" --Larissa Ione on I'll Be Slaying You
"A fast-paced, sexy thrill ride you won't want to miss." --Christine Feehan on Eternal Hunter
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November 29, 2011
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Excerpt from Angel of Darkness by Cynthia Eden
He'd been created for one purpose--death. He was not there to comfort or to enlighten. Keenan's only job was to bring death to those unlucky enough to know his touch.
And on the cold, windy New Orleans night, his latest victim was in sight. He watched her from his perch high atop the St. Louis Cathedral. Mortal eyes wouldn't find him. Only those preparing to leave the earthly realm could ever glimpse his face so he didn't worry about shocking those few humans who straggled through the nearby square.
No, he worried about nothing. No one. He never had. He simply touched and he killed and he waited for his next victim.
The woman he watched tonight was small, with long, black hair, and skin a pale cream. The wind whipped her hair back, jerking it away from her face as she hurried down the stone steps of the cathedral. The doors had been locked. She hadn't made it inside. No chance to pray.
He slipped to the side of the cathedral, still watching her as she edged down the narrow alleyway. Pirate's Alley. He'd taken others from this place before. The path seemed to scream with the memories of the past.
That wasn't the past screaming. His body stiffened. His wings beat at the air around him. It was her.
Nicole St. James. Schoolteacher. Age twenty- nine. A woman who tutored children on the weekends. A woman who'd tried to live her life just right . . .
A woman who was dying tonight.
His eyes narrowed as he leapt from his perch. Time to go in closer.
Nicole's attacker had her against the wall. One of the man's hands was over her mouth, the better to make sure she didn't scream again. His other hand slammed against the front of her chest and held her pinned against the cold stone wall.
She was fighting harder than Keenan had really expected. Struggling. Kicking.
Her attacker just laughed.
And Keenan watched--as he'd always watched. So many years . . .
Tears streamed down Nicole's cheeks.
The man holding her leaned in and licked them away.
Keenan's gut clenched. Knowing that her time was at hand, he'd watched Nicole for a few weeks now. He'd slipped into her classroom and listened to the soft drawl of her voice. He'd watched as her lips curled into a smile and a dimple winked in her right cheek.
He'd seen laughter in her eyes. Seen longing. Seen... life.
Now her green eyes were filled with the stark, wild terror that only the helpless can truly know.
He didn't like that look in her eyes. His hands clenched.
Don't look if you don't like it. His gaze pulled away from her face. The job wasn't about what he liked. It never had been.
There'd never been a choice.
They have the choices. I only have orders to follow.
That was way it had always been. So why did it bother him, now? Because it was her? Because he'd watched too much? Slipped beside her too often?
"This is gonna hurt . . ."
The man's grating whisper scratched through Keenan's mind. Neither the attacker nor Nicole could see him. Not yet.
One touch--that was all it would take.
But the time hadn't come for her yet.
"The wind's so loud . . ." The man lifted his hand off Nicole's mouth. "No one's gonna hear you scream anyway."
But she still screamed--a loud, long, desperate scream-- and she kept fighting.
Keenan truly hadn't realized she'd struggle so much against death. Some didn't fight at all when the time came. Others fought until he had to drag them away.
Fabric ripped. Tore. The guy had jerked her shirt, rending the material. Keenan glimpsed the soft ivory of her bra and the firm mounds of her breasts.
Help her. The urge came from deep within, but it was an urge he couldn't heed.
"Don't!" Nicole yelled. "Please--no! Just let me go!"
Her attacker lifted his head. Keenan stared at him, noting the gaunt features, the black hair, and the eyes that were too dark for a normal man. "No, baby. I'm not lettin' you go." The guy licked his lips. "I'm too damn hungry." Then he smiled and revealed sharpened teeth that no human could possess.
Vampire. Figured. Keenan had been cleaning up their messes for centuries. A mistake. That's what all those parasites were. An experiment gone wrong.
Nicole opened her mouth to scream again and the vamp sank his teeth into her throat. Then he started drinking from her, gulping and growling and Nicole's fingernails raked against his face as she struggled against him.
But it was too late to fight. She'd never be strong enough to break away from the vampire. She was five feet six inches tall. Maybe one hundred thirty- five pounds.
The vamp was over six feet. He was lean, but muscle mass and weight didn't really matter--not when you were talking about a vamp's strength.
Keenan stared at the narrow opening of the alley. Soon, he'd be able to touch her and her nightmare would end. Soon.
"You're just going to stand there?" Her voice cracked.
His head whipped back toward her. Those green eyes-- fury and fear--were locked on him.
She shouldn't see him yet. It wasn't time. The vamp hadn't taken enough blood from her.
Nicole slammed her hands into the vampire's chest, but he kept his teeth in her throat and didn't so much as stumble. Her neck was tilted back, her head angled, and her stare was on--
"Help me." She mouthed the words as tears slipped down her cheeks. "Please."
Her plea seemed to slip right inside of him. "I will." The words felt rusty, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd talked to a human. No need for talk, not really. Not when you were just carting souls. "Soon..."
The vamp's head lifted. Her blood stained his mouth and chin. "Baby, you taste so good."
Her body slumped as her knees buckled. Keenan's wings stretched behind him even as his muscles tensed.
"Grade Fucking A," the vamp muttered and he eased back. Why stop feeding? The vamp planned to kill her. Keenan knew that. Nicole St. James was dying tonight.
Nicole's hand rose to her throat. Her fingers were shaking. "Y-you're not real . . ." Her eyes never left Keenan.
"Oh, I'm damn real." The vamp swiped the back of his hand over his chin. "Guess what, sweet thing? All those stories you heard? About the vamps and this city? Every damn one of 'em tales is true."
Nicole didn't look at the vamp. She kept her eyes on Keenan as she inched her way down the alley. With every slow move, her hands pressed against the wall.
"You gonna run?" The vamp taunted. "Oh, damn, I love it when they run."
Yes, he did. Most vampires did. They liked the thrill of the hunt.
"Why don't you help me?" She yelled at Keenan, and the wind took the words, making them into a whisper as they left the alley.
That was the way of Pirate's Alley. Sometimes, no one could ever hear the screams.
The vampire seemed to finally realize his prey wasn't focused on him. The vamp spun around, turning so that he nearly brushed against Keenan. "What the fuck?" The guy demanded. "Bitch, no one's--"
Nicole's footsteps pounded down the alley. Smart. Keenan almost smiled. Had she ever even seen him? Or had her words all been a trick to escape?
The vampire laughed, then he lunged after her. Four steps and the parasite leapt at her, tackling Nicole to the ground, and keeping her trapped in the alley. Glass shattered when she fell--a beer bottle that had been tossed aside. She crashed into it and the bottle smashed beneath her weight.
"You're gonna beg for death," the vamp promised her.
Perhaps. Keenan slowly stalked toward them. He lifted his hand, aware of the growing cold in the air. The stories about death's cold touch were true. Nicole's time was at hand.
"Please, God, no!" Nicole cried.
God had other plans. That was why an angel of death had been sent to collect her.
The vamp's hands were at her throat. His claws dug into her skin. The scent of decay and cigarettes swirled in the air around Keenan.
"Flowers," Nicole whispered. "I smell . . ."
Him. Angels often carried a floral scent. Humans caught a trace of that scent all the time, but never realized they weren't alone.
The vamp sank his teeth into Nicole's throat again. She didn't even have the voice to scream now. Tears leaked from her eyes.
Keenan knelt beside her. The first time he'd seen her, he'd thought . . .
Now, covered in garbage and blood, still fighting a vampire, still struggling to live . . .
It was time. His hand lifted toward her and hovered over her tangled hair. His fingers were so close to touching her. Just an inch, maybe two, separated them. But . . .
Why couldn't someone else have come into the alley this night? A cop? A college kid? Someone to help her.
And not someone who was just supposed to watch her suffer.
A fire burned in his gut. She didn't deserve this brutal end to her human life. From what he'd seen, Nicole had been good. She'd tried to help others. His jaw ached and he realized he'd been clenching his teeth.
His gaze drifted to the vampire. It would be so easy to stop him and take one more monster from the world.
Forbidden. The order burned into his mind. He wasn't supposed to interfere. That wasn't the way. Wasn't allowed. He was to collect his charge and move on. Those were the rules.
He'd take Nicole St. James this night, and someone else would wait on him tomorrow. There were always more humans. More souls. More death.
Her hands fell limply to her sides as the vampire drank from her, and her head turned toward Keenan.
There was gold buried in her eyes. He'd thought her eyes were solid emerald, but now he could see the gold glinting in her eyes. Angels had strong vision--in darkness or light-- but he'd never noticed that gold before.
Her eyes locked right on him. She was so close to passing. He had no doubt that she saw him then.
"Don't worry," he told her. The vampire wouldn't hear him. No one but Nicole would hear his voice. "The pain is already ending for you." His hand still reached for her. He'd wanted to touch her before. To see if her skin was as soft as it looked. But he knew just how dangerous such a touch would be--to both of them.
Keenan well understand what happened to those of his kind when they did not obey their orders.
Despite popular belief, angels were not the favored ones. They did not have choices like the humans. Angels had only duty.
"I don't . . ." Her words were barely a whisper. Had the vamp already savaged her neck too much for speech? "D-don't...want to...die..."
The vamp gulped down her blood, growling as he drank.
"Don't . . . let me . . ." Her lashes began to fall. The fingers of her right hand began to curl inward, and her wrist brushed against the jagged glass. "Die . . ."
There was so much desperation in her voice, but he'd heard desperation before. Heard fear. Heard lies. Promises.
But he'd never heard them from her.
Keenan didn't touch her. His hand eased back as he hesitated.
He'd taken a thousand souls. No, far more. But her...
Why her? Why tonight? She's barely lived.The vamp should be the one to go, not--
Nicole let out a guttural groan. Keenan blinked and his wings rustled behind him. No, he had a job to do. He would do it--
Nicole grabbed a thick shard of broken glass and wrenched it up. She shoved it into the vampire's neck and caught him right in the jugular. His blood spilled over her as the vamp jerked back, howling in pain and fury.
Her throat was a mess, ripped flesh, blood--so much blood. Hers. The vamp's. Nicole grabbed another chunk of glass and swung again with a slice to the vampire's neck.
She was fighting desperately for every second of life that she had left. And he was supposed to just stop her? Supposed to take her away when she struggled so hard to live?
You've done it before. Do it again.
So many humans. So little life. So much death.
"Bitch! I'll cut you open--"
The vamp would. In that instant, Keenan could see everything the vamp had planned for Nicole. Her death would be ten times more brutal now. The future had already altered for her. Because I hesitated.
"I'll rip your heart out--"
Yes, in the end, he'd do that, too.
She'd die with her eyes open, with fear and blood choking her.
"I'll shred that pretty face--"
Her coffin would be closed.
The fire twisting in Keenan's gut burned hotter, brighter with every slow second that passed. Why her? She'd . . . soothed him before. When he'd heard her voice, it had seemed to flow through him. And when she'd laughed . . .
He'd liked the sound of her laughter. Sweet, free.
"Help...me..." Her broken voice.
Keenan squared his shoulders. What did she see when she looked at him? A monster just like the vamp? Or a savior?
"No one fuckin' cares about you..." The vamp yanked the glass out of his neck. More blood sprayed on Nicole. "You'll die alone, and no one will even notice you're gone."
I will notice. Because she wouldn't be there for him to watch anymore. She'd be far beyond Keenan's reach. He didn't know paradise, only death.
She tried to push off the ground, but couldn't move. The blood loss had gotten to her and made her the perfect prey.
The vampire smiled at her. "I'm gonna start with that pretty face."
Nicole shook her head and swiped out with the glass. The wounds didn't stop the vampire. Nothing was going to stop him. No one. Nicole would scream and suffer and then finally--die.
And Keenan would watch. Every moment.
His hand lifted, rising in that last, final touch. His touch could steal life and rip the soul right of a body.
He reached out--and locked his fingers around the vampire's shoulder.
The vampire jerked and shuddered as if an electric charge had blasted through him. Keenan didn't try to soften his power. He wanted the vampire to hurt. Wanted him to suffer.
And that was wrong. Angels of Death weren't supposed to want vengeance. They weren't supposed to get angry. They weren't supposed to care.
Killing the vampire was wrong. Against orders. But . . .
She will hurt no more.
The vamp would not slash her pale skin. He wouldn't carve open her chest or defile her body.
He'd just die.
The vamp fell to the ground, his body as hard as the stones beneath him.
Keenan didn't worry about the creature's soul. Those headed to the pit needed no courier. But Nicole . . .
Her breath rasped out as her chest heaved. She was still alive, but barely. His hands lifted to her savaged throat, the move an instinctual gesture.
Stop the blood.
But he didn't touch her. Couldn't. Because, this time, he didn't want to kill.
"Help..." Her desperate whisper made his chest ache.
His wings beat against the air. No humans were close enough to save her.
She was suffering, but she'd keep living. Until he touched her, she wouldn't die, no matter how bad her wounds were.
Help. Right then, killing her would be kinder than the nightmare she faced as she fought for every breath.
"L-live . . ."
But she didn't want to let go. He'd met a soldier like her once, lifetimes ago. A man who fought on, determined to hold back the cold touch of death. The soldier had been gutted, but he'd fought, desperate to stay alive, despite the pain.
Keenan hadn't expected to find that same fierce spirit in the schoolteacher. He should have remembered the lesson humans had taught him before: Appearances could be deceiving.
Her lashes began to flicker, yet her heart still beat. He could hear the too- fast rhythm.
End this. Death would be kinder than this pain.
But he couldn't touch her.
His hands clenched and he tossed back his head as he yelled into the night.
That was when the wind hit him with the force of an avalanche, slamming into his body, lifting him up, and tossing him in the air, higher, higher. The wind took him away from the woman who fought so valiantly below.
The night sky whipped past him as the whisper of a thousand voices filled his ears. A dim light appeared, growing brighter, brighter--beckoning him upward, then blinding him when he got too close.
Keenan blinked and found himself on his knees. He'd been tossed onto a gleaming marble floor. Keenan knew who would stand before him even before he allowed his gaze to lift.
Azrael. The leader of the angels of death.
"What have you done?" Azrael--Az-- demanded.
Keenan closed his eyes and saw a woman bleeding out in an empty alley. Shivering with cold. "She still lives." He rose to his feet, letting his wings spread behind his back.
Az shook his head. "No."
Fear gripped him. "What? I didn't touch her, I didn't--"
"You confess to disobeying your orders." Az's face tensed. "You disobey--"
She was dead? Determined to get back to Nicole, Keenan spun away from Az. No one else would take her over, not after what he'd risked.
"You knew the penalty for such an act." Az's words froze him.
Yes, he knew he had to answer for taking the vampire's soul, but--
"I'm sorry, Keenan. You... you were a good angel."
Wait. Keenan whirled back around to face the blond angel. "I didn't--"
"No, you did not. That's the problem." And there was sadness cloaking the words, when there was never any emotion in the angel's voice. Never much emotion in any of them.
No love. No fear. No hate. Only duty. That was the way it should have been.
Except when I looked at her, I ...felt.
"Temptation can destroy us all." Az's all- seeing bright blue gaze raked him. "You had the chance to obey. You knew when the moment of her death was at hand, but you killed one not on your list."
"He was a vampire!" The rage was new--something that had developed only when he saw the pain Nicole suffered. "He was torturing, killing, he deserved--"
"We all get what we deserve." Az's chin lifted. "Beware, my friend, this will hurt."
"I've heard it's the fire that makes you scream the loudest."
There was no fire--
The wind hit Keenan again, wrapping around him, but this time, its grasp felt like the edge of a hundred blades.
Az watched him with a hard stare. No more emotion. Maybe it had never been there. "Did you think we did not know the lust you held in your heart?"
What would angels know of lust? What would they know of anything but following orders, protecting the weak, living in that vast, blank world of nothing?
"Why do you think she was given to you?" Az asked.
And he finally understood. A test. One he'd failed because he hadn't been able to watch Nicole slip away.
"You broke our rules. You took a life not yours to extinguish." Az's cold voice floated to him. "And you failed in your duty."
To take Nicole's life. But, no, Az had told him that she didn't live; he'd said--"Where is she?" He'd had to shout to be heard over the fury of the wind.
But there was no answer. Nothing but the wind howling. And then the fire came.
The fire ripped through his body, starting at his feet, burning up, up, even as Keenan fell, plummeting from the sky.
Expelled from my home.
He flapped his wings as he tried to fight that controlling wind, but--
He cried out in agony as the fire spread to his wings. This was no phantom fire--real flames ate at his skin and burned his flesh. Burned his wings, his wings-- No!
He'd never known pain, but after this day, he would never forget it.
The wind stopped. His body hovered in the air, his shoulders hunched and his wings burning. He tried to move his wings, tried--
He dropped, falling straight for the earth below, and he burned as he fell. Burned and burned.
Az had been right. The fire made him scream the loudest as he became the one thing he'd always dreaded.
Nicole St. James screamed and bolted upright. The night was quiet around her. Too quiet. Stars glittered above her and, for a moment, she didn't know where she was. Didn't know--
Pirate's Alley. She'd taken a shortcut on her way home. She'd wanted to get inside that church. After hearing her doctor's news and crying all day, she'd needed to get inside.
But the doors had been locked, and she'd taken the shortcut home.
Her hand lifted to her throat. When she swallowed, it burned, and her fingers touched something wet and sticky-- blood. But she didn't feel any wound. The skin was smooth.
She glanced around as her heart drummed way too fast now. She'd been attacked. She remembered that. One man. He'd shoved her up against the side of the alley, and then--
There was a dead man beside her.
Nicole screamed and did a fast, backward crab- walk away from him. The guy's eyes were wide open, and his throat-- it had been slashed good and deep with... oh, damn, with the glass that was next to her.
I did that.
Vaguely she remembered her hand wrapping around the glass. She'd lifted it and--
She'd killed a man. Her eyes closed as nausea rose in her throat.
He tried to kill me. The reminder blasted through her head. She'd defended herself, that was all.
The guy had bitten her. He'd ripped into her throat. She'd fought back, and he'd wound up as the dead one.
But ...but she didn't have a wound anymore.
Nicole rose on shaky feet. Her throat burned, but it wasn't so much from pain as from thirst. Her throat seemed so dry. Parched. Just how long had she been screaming?
Nicole's gaze scanned the alley once more. This time, she saw the dark liquid on the ground. Blood. Her nostrils flared a bit. The coppery scent was strong. She licked her lips and realized she was starving.
"Ma'am?" A voice called from the darkness.
Nicole's head whipped to the right. A man stood at the far end of the alley. She could see his long, tall shadow. Actually, when she narrowed her eyes, she could see his dark hair, the hard lines of his face, and the gleaming badge on his chest.
A cop. Finally.
The beam of his flashlight hit her, and she lifted a hand against the bright light.
"Shit. Ma'am, is that blood?"
Yes, she had blood on her hands. Her blood? His? Probably both. "I was...attacked." For all the dryness of her throat, her voice came out perfectly normal. Actually, she sounded way too calm. Maybe she was in shock because she sure didn't feel calm. Her insides were churning, her heart racing, and--really, really weird--her teeth were starting to ache.
The cop crept closer. "Where are you hurt?"
Nowhere. "I-I killed him." She'd never lied to the cops before. Why start now?
Silence. Then she followed the slow sweep of his light toward the ground and the dead man.
"He was biting me . . ." But she didn't have the bite- marks anymore. And surely, she'd just imaged those too- long teeth. "He was so strong. He wouldn't let me go and I--"
Shoved a chunk of glass into his throat.
The wind whispered against her cheek and the breeze brought the scent of blood to her. Blood and ...the faintest aroma of flowers. "Someone else was here." The certainty filled her. She tried to remember the other guy, but could only recall a dark shadow. A big, strong shadow of a man.
And . . . his eyes had been blue. Bright blue.
"A second assailant?" The cop came even closer. "Ma'am, I want you to lift both hands for me."
She lifted them, aware of the clench in her gut. Why was she so hungry?
"That's good, that's real good . . ."
A pounding filled her ears. A fast, wild pounding. And suddenly, she could smell everything--blood, flowers, sweat, cigarettes, alcohol, and even incense from the cathedral. Too much.
"I'm gonna radio for backup and we're gonna get you taken care of, okay?" The cop was right in front of her now, and Nicole realized the pounding seemed to come from him. Her eyes drifted over his face and on down the strong column of his throat. There. His pulse hammered against his flesh in a double- time beat.
His pulse. His blood. So close.
Her hand lifted toward him.
"Is all that blood his, ma'am?"
She shook her head and the move made her feel dizzy. "II think some of it's mine." Nicole couldn't take her eyes off his neck. Then the ache in her mouth turned into pain, and she cried out as she slapped a hand over her lips and tasted the blood on her fingers. As she hunched over, Nicole's hair formed a curtain over her face, blocking her from the cop's view.
The blood slipped into her mouth.