Monday, January 7, 2013
Saving Gabriel by Zoe E Whitten #excerpt
Recently I beta-read Saving Gabriel by Zoe E Whitten, and when she let me know that the title was released, I was more than happy to have her over here. Today she's sharing an excerpt, and if angels and YA fiction are your thing, then you're probably going to dig this.
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Gabriel is a fallen guardian angel who assigns himself to hard luck cases despite being banned from heaven. When his current ward, Rosalinda Fernandez, is targeted for a soul harvest by another fallen angel, Gabriel is tasked by the archangels to investigate the real purpose behind the plot. All he has to do is keep his ward safe without falling in love with her. There's just one small problem: after years of watching Rosalinda grow into a proud young woman, Gabriel is already deeply in love. Even if he can expose the plot surrounding Rosalinda, will Gabriel's growing relationship with her lead to damnation for both of them?
As I crossed the lot, I wished I could call my mother to get a ride. But she was busy at work, being a card dealer at Caesar’s Palace. She couldn’t leave work for any reason, and even if she could, she’d have to ride a bus to find me. I’d catch pneumonia before she showed up, so it made sense to find a bus and make it home before she did.
Once I got to the dark entrance, I dug in my bag and took out my phone. It was about the nicest thing I owned, a touch screen Android phone that let me listen to my music and snap pictures whenever the mood struck me. We couldn’t afford a good plan, so I couldn’t use it to chat online like some of my friends at school did with theirs. But nobody teased me when I took out this phone, something that couldn’t be said with the monochrome hand-me-down brick that Mom “gifted” me in my freshmen year of high school.
When I opened my email app, the white background lit up with added light, and I turned the screen out toward the door to search for the address. I found the faded lettering that confirmed this had been a Circuit City, and the address below it. But I didn’t read the address before I noticed the pair of bare feet at the fading edges of my phone’s meager light output.
I raised my head and tilted the phone up, the light barely strong enough for me to make out a pair of legs clad in dark jeans. The man inside those skintight jeans took a step forward, making it easier to see his rippled bare stomach. His skin was dark brown, almost black in the inky darkness surrounding him. The light from my phone bounced off of his skin as if he were oiled down.
He took another slow step toward me as my gaze met his, and I gasped when his mouth split in a wide, lewd grin. I realized I’d just gotten away from a potential date rape with a boneheaded boyfriend and walked into another rape from a homeless guy.
I fumbled with my bag with one hand, the other still keeping the phone on the smiling man. I had to admit, he didn’t look homeless. His skin was clean, though perhaps a little slick with sweat. Given how cold it was, I guessed this oily sheen meant he was on drugs. Which explained why his pupils were so dilated, I couldn’t find his irises.
He was taller than me, and despite my bulky frame, he was also heavier. Worse, all his bulk was made of muscle. No muffin top or beer gut on him, just taut abs wound tight like steel springs. If this guy was homeless, he had to be using all his daily spare change collections on a gym membership and protein shakes.
My probing fingers found my wallet and I took it out. “I don’t have much money, but you can have it.” I didn’t want to sound scared, but my voice wavered all over the place.
The man chuckled. “I don’t want your money, Rosalinda.”
How did you know my name? I thought, but my mouth wouldn’t work to form the words. I was so scared, I couldn’t move. Then it occurred to me that I’d heard him though the glass door, but his voice wasn’t muffled. It was so illogical, like something that might happen in a dream.
The man reached out to push the door, and it swung open with a quiet hiss from the pneumatic pump. The door was locked. It must have been locked for years, but it just opened for him. At the back of my mind, I heard a voice yelling that this had to be a nightmare and I needed to wake up now.
The grinning man laughed again, a low and wicked rumble that sent ripples of fear down my back and wet my skin in a cold sweat. “I have no interest in your body for any reason either, so you don’t need to worry. I’m just here for your soul.”
Okay, that’s a line I’ve never heard before. My panicked thought made the man laugh, and I gasped, terrified that he could somehow read my mind.
I thought to run, but as I stepped back, the grinning man snapped a hand out to grab the front of my shirt. He yanked, and even knowing what was coming and resisting him, I was slung to the ground so fast I hit the pavement and rolled over twice. My panicked mind insisted that I was way too big to be tossed around this easily.
My phone slipped out of my hand, and I guess it landed screen down because everything got real dark real fast.
I came up on my feet, ignoring my pain and taking off at a full run. Behind me, I expected to hear slapping footfalls catch up to me. But there was no sound made before two hands connected with my shoulder blades and shoved me to the ground again.
I whimpered and rolled over, looking up at my smiling attacker. I could only see his brilliant white teeth, and even the whites of his eyes were impossible to find under his flared brow ridge.
In the shadow-pitched darkness, I barely recognized the outline of another man behind my attacker when a blade sprung out of his chest and his grin vanished.
The shining blade rose, seeming to reflect more light than I could find in the surrounding area. Black blood exploded from the growing wound, spraying me in a gruesome misty shower.
A thick drop splattered on my cheek, and I hit my limit for shocks. I drew in a breath and screamed, and then I got up and ran for my life.
At first, I thought the whooshing sounds were from my blood rushing too fast through my veins. My panicked panting had taken on a loud wheeze, and my stomach clenched with every step, threatening to revolt the moment I stopped to catch my breath. I’m not opposed to lifting weights or doing a few laps in the pool to keep my not-so-dainty butt from getting any bigger, but my body is not made for running, and just then it was punishing me for making a sudden unplanned effort at a marathon sprint.
I’d taken off back across the lot, crossed the road, and poured on extra speed to cross the vast expanse on unused land. Far off in the distance, the porch lights of a residential block twinkled like stars. They were my haven, my sanctuary to escape whatever crazed killer was hot on my heels.
I was no closer to safety when the whooshing noise got much louder. Horror filled my veins with ice once I recognized the sound wasn’t coming from me.
A chill wind struck my back, and I looked over my shoulder. My voice croaked in a dry-throated shout when I saw the outline of a man with giant wings swooping down on me.
I tripped on my own legs, and I was dropping to the ground when strong arms closed around my waist. I doubled over in this unbreakable embrace, crying out again when my feet left the ground and we rose into the sky. My eyes bulged as the twinkling porch lights grew smaller rapidly, and my stomach finally gave up on threats and sent a hot stream of bile to burn my too dry throat.
I’d barely emptied my stomach when I heard a voice command Sleep.
Panic and terror slid off of my mind like discarded clothing, and my eyes closed. Even though my mind was shutting down, I had a few seconds to ponder why the voice in my head was so familiar.
Trying to look everywhere else but my work, I managed to clean Rosalinda and dress her in clean underwear and pajamas before I settled her back on her bed. I’d still seen more than I was supposed to, and my cheeks were bright red when I slipped the sheet over my ward.
She made a quiet whimper and snuggled her pillow, evoking a smile from me. Then, despite her almost adult size, to me she once again looked like the little girl I knew the first time I’d saved her from herself.
She’d grown so much from the first time I’d met her, looking more like one of our people than her tiny-framed mother. She’d added a bit of padding over her muscles thanks to a steady diet of junk food, but she was just as pretty to me then as she’d been when I first caught her. I leaned over and brushed her black hair out of her face, and my touch made her sigh in her sleep.
Healing her minor bruises took less than a minute, but my hand lingered on her cheek as I stared at her. Her light brown skin was flawless, and her round face trapped my gaze and made my chest hurt. If I had a human heart, it would beat faster at the sight of my ward.
Perhaps to some humans, Rosalinda seemed too plain, but I thought her wide nose and strong chin made her look unique in a world obsessed with lean cheeks, thin noses, and pointy chins. I liked her thick eyebrows, unplucked and allowed to grow into their own natural curved shape. I liked her plump lips, never adorned with more than some waxy balm to keep them from chapping. To the human boys who courted her, she was just okay, but to me, she was a flawless work of art, a real gift from God who no one else seemed to appreciate.
As I sat there watching her sleep, a soft glow of color raised on her cheeks, giving her the appearance of a cherubim indulging in a happy daydream. She was so pretty to me that I wanted nothing more than to lean over and lay kisses on her cheeks and lips.
But the law was the law, and Rosalinda was as forbidden to me as the gates of heaven were. Acknowledging this hurt, and my smile melted into a frown as I stood up.
Covering Rosalinda with a blanket, I took her stained clothing and the now stained washcloth into the bathroom to clean everything in the tub. While I worked, my mind whirled at what I’d done. It was true that Israfel had broken the law, and had I not killed him, an avenging angel would have arrived shortly to dispatch him to hell. But that angel would have let Rosalinda die, and I could not let that happen.
I sensed the arrival of the angel before I saw him. My kind feel instant revulsion at the presence of angels. Their connection to heaven fills them with a positive energy that we had long ago been denied, and it hurts to feel that loving radiation and not be able to contain it within ourselves.
However, I did not feel any negative reaction. Because of my continuing acts of rebellion, I’d been hounded by angels so long, I’d overcome my aversion to them. So I continued working at scrubbing blood from Rosalinda’s shirt as if I were still alone, waiting for the angel to speak.
“It’s not like you to attack one of the fallen, Gabriel,” Michael said, condescending as ever. “You normally prefer policing human criminals.”
“I’ve committed no crime to require your presence,” I said, keeping my voice even.
“That’s not entirely true. You know how we feel about your interest in the child.”
“I’m simply doing my job,” I said.
“Your were fired from your job.”
My face tightened in an annoyed wince at the flat tone of Michael’s voice, but I covered it up with a slack expression quickly. “You dismissed me from my post. I chose to remain self-employed.”
“Still, killing Israfel in front of—”
“She’ll wake up tomorrow and think it was a dream,” I insisted. “I’ll leave no evidence to convince her it was real.” Michael said nothing. “It’s not like I could wait for you to save her. The archangel council stopped respecting her kind long before I fell from your favor.”
“I suppose that’s fair.” A long pause followed, but Michael hadn’t left yet. I refused to look at him, to acknowledge his presence or my anger at him, still fresh from his betrayal despite all the centuries that had passed since that dark time.
Michael drew a long breath, an affectation that irritated me because angels don’t need to breathe. “Still, it does seem odd, doesn’t it?”
“Israfel said he’d come for the child’s soul. I understand your decision to jump in and play the hero for your ward once again, but had you not interfered, we could have learned why Israfel needed her as a sacrifice. We might have learned what his motivation was and planned our affairs around him. But you killed him without seeking a confession, and now we have a mystery.”
“What mystery?” I snapped, unable to bite my tongue.
“The mystery of whether Israfel was acting alone. If he wasn’t, it seems probable that the child’s life is still in danger.”
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If you’re curious to see more of Rosalinda and Gabriel, the ebook Saving Gabriel is available on Amazon for mobi users, and Kobo and my blog bookstore through Gumroad for epub readers.