Strange Angels

Strange Angels, by Andrea Speed
Author: 
eBook ISBN: 
978-1-62649-050-5
eBook release: 
Sep 16, 2013
eBook Formats: 
pdf, mobi, html, epub
Word count: 
35,000
Page count: 
138
Type: 
Cover by: 
Ebook $2.99

Death is the family business, and Brendan Connolly is about to come into his legacy. Nobody warned Bren that Dad was a death god, or that someday he’d inherit his powers. So far, falling in love with the angel sent to protect him has been the only good thing to come out of this whole mess.

Bren’s guardian angel, Lorygdarain, knows the aura of a ticking supernatural time bomb when he sees one. Add to that the angel’s first taste of the human emotion called love, and protecting Bren from the god who killed his father could be Dar’s hardest job in an eon.

Snakes, amnesia, and a mysterious god named Bob might not be much of a rescue plan, but one guardian angel can only do so much. With a veritable pantheon on his heels, and the universe hanging in the balance, Bren must learn to lock and load the most dangerous weapon of all: himself.

This title comes with no special warnings.

Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.

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Chapter One

He came to with the taste of blood in his mouth and a certain sense that he was about to be killed.

He lay on the cold asphalt, content with playing dead, until he realized he was hearing the sounds of battle—metal against stone, pained grunts—very close, and thought that he might be in actual danger. He opened one eye halfway, but couldn’t see anything except filthy ground. He braced himself and opened his eyes all the way.

It took a long moment to understand what he was seeing. Two men with ornate swords were being held off by a man wearing a metal mesh shirt and leather pants, wielding a flaming blue sword. The sword didn’t appear to be on fire—it was fire, the blade translucent blue flames he could see through, even as it chopped through the metal swords like they were made of ice. The broken metal shards bounced on the pavement, and when they came to rest, they were melted.

What he was seeing was insane, but that really wasn’t a surprise somehow. Perhaps because the man wielding the flame sword looked like he was carved from bronze, reasonably muscled but hard in some instantly quantifiable way, his shoulder-length hair a metallic copper like finely spun wires. In other words, totally fucking crazy. He was both strange and beautiful, and also . . . familiar? And looking at him evoked feelings of . . . protection. And love. Yes. The word—name?—Dar occurred to him, and it seemed right. That man who looked like a living statue was named Dar.

So who was he?

He sat up, his back to a cold brick wall, and looked at his hands. Some kind of dark marks circled both wrists, thick black lines he understood to be tattoos, even if he wasn’t sure what those were. His skin looked to be a lighter bronze than Dar’s, but didn’t seem to have the . . . what? Grace? Hardness? Neither made sense. Oh hell, nothing made sense right now.

The men attacking Dar looked unremarkable, save for the fact that they had swords, which struck him as weird. Dar was having no trouble taking them on with his fire sword—how was he holding it, or more specifically, how was it not burning him?—but he felt he should do something besides sit here.

He stood up with help from the wall, and realized that someone had already noticed him—a woman who had been lurking at the mouth of the alley, wearing a dark coat and built like a refrigerator. The Fridge started lumbering toward him, holding a knife that gleamed silver, even in the dark. How was that possible?

A sickly purple-black glow emanated from him, and he looked down to see it was coming from a pendant around his neck. It was just a chunk of crystal or glass, but it seemed to be pulsing with the sickly, ugly light. He grabbed the pendant, and the energy radiating through it gave him courage he hadn’t realized he’d needed until then.

He glared at the approaching woman, only vaguely aware that the tattoos on his wrists were starting to glow. The Fridge finally noticed and paused, looking as puzzled as he felt.

Then Dar threw something, a small spike of blue fire that sizzled right through the woman’s chest and buried itself in the wall barely a foot away. The Fridge wavered on her feet, then collapsed, first to her knees, then onto her face, the knife falling from her hand and bouncing across the asphalt. After a second, the knife dissolved into a puddle of liquid silver.

The last of the sword-wielding men fell, leaving him and Dar all alone in the alley. The crystal around his neck was no longer glowing, nor were the tattoos around his wrists.

“What the fuck is going on?” he asked. “And who the fuck am I?”

Dar stared at him, his eyes a startling, deep crimson, like the irises were made of garnets, and he felt strangely light-headed. “These had to be trackers sent by Eris, but I think they just lucked on to us . . . oh, you lost your memory again.”

Trackers? Eris? He was pretty sure he knew what the first word meant, but not the latter. He got a sense he should, though, and scowled. “Again? Do I forget a lot?”

“Only when it’s an arduous transition between dimensions.”

“Huh?” Was Dar making sense, or was this all just completely insane?

Confirming he was insane, Dar pressed the flaming sword to his own leg, and not only did he not burst into flame, but the sword disappeared. “It’ll pass, it always does. Just relax.” Dar walked over to the small flaming spike, which was still sticking out of the wall, and plucked it out like it was made of cold steel, even though it was fire all the way through. He pressed it onto the back of his hand, where it seemed to melt into his skin and become a light blue tattoo, a tiny outline of a knife etched in cobalt.

“How the hell did you do that?”

Dar looked down at his hand, then frowned at him. “I’m not explaining this again.”

“How are you not burned? Where did those tattoos come from? I don’t—”

Dar grabbed his face and yanked him into a kiss.

Their lips had barely made contact when the energy hit him like an explosion in the middle of his brain, a hot rush of power, white light bursting behind his eyelids. The light became images—flying, fighting very strange creatures, snuggling up with Dar—knowledge engulfing him like a tidal wave and carrying him away.

Dar let go of him, and he staggered and fell against the wall, feeling like he was going to pass out.

“Sorry, but that’s the fastest way to get you up to speed.”

“My name is Bren? What kind of a name is that?” he wondered, just as it popped into his head that it was short for Brendan. Okay, maybe that made sense.

He understood things now, but in a jumbled, random way, and his head was pounding like the world’s worst hangover. He understood Dar’s swords and knives were literally energy he pulled out of his own body and put back when not in use, because his people could do that. His people? Wow, he didn’t know who they were right now. But they were not human. Bren thought of himself as half-human, which was a little disturbing, because if he was only half-human, what was the other half? Not what Dar was, but that hadn’t stopped them from being together, even though it should have. He had the sense that Dar was really weird, although compared to what, he didn’t know.

Dar was standing in front of him, looking remarkably normal for a person who appeared to be an S&M robot. “Can you walk?”

Bren nodded carefully so as not to aggravate his headache. “Why are you barefoot?”

“I like to keep in contact with the ground. Although I do see your point that Earth is not the place for such things.”

“Not unless you like tetanus.”

Dar looked confused. “What’s that?”

“I have no idea.”

Dar held Bren’s arm and helped him as they walked out of the alley and onto a rather quiet street. In fact, it was an all but abandoned urban landscape of cracked sidewalks and slowly crumbling buildings, and Bren wondered if they’d returned to Earth after an apocalypse. Then a rusty Toyota drove by, blasting some loud, repetitive bass line, and he realized that no, they were simply in a bad part of town where no one in their right mind would be out on the street. Luckily, he was pretty sure right minds didn’t apply to him and Dar.

Slowly, he was making sense of what Dar had transferred to him. They were on the run from . . . something—what, he had yet to figure out—and they’d come here searching for a particular kind of help. Bren was at a loss for details, but at least he knew more than he had a few minutes ago. He also knew he trusted Dar. After spending three months on the run together, two of them as . . . what, boyfriends? . . . Dar had earned that much.

Eventually they passed people on the street, people who never gave them a second look. Why not? At the very least, a barefoot guy should have attracted attention. Even a guy who looked like a potential mugger ignored them completely. Not that Bren would have ever mugged a guy who could pull a flaming sword out of his leg, but presumably this guy didn’t know that Dar wasn’t human.

“We’re here,” Dar said, pulling him toward a sagging ruin of an abandoned building, his hand lingering a moment longer than necessary. Where windows should have been were plywood planks, as well as graffiti and police crime-scene tape. The door was hidden behind a metal plate and an industrial padlock, as well as a rather large “Condemned” sign.

“You’re kidding, right?” Bren pulled back on Dar’s arm. He was almost overwhelmed by a bad feeling as they neared the place; his skin was crawling. He wanted to leave as fast as possible.

Dar raised an eyebrow at that. “Right, you can’t see it. Just hold on to me; you will.”

“See what? A crack den?”

“Good, you’re getting your memory back.”

“Was that a joke?”

“Did it sound like one?”

Good question. “I don’t know.”

Dar paused and looked him straight in the eyes. It seemed as if there were glints of energy inside his irises, tiny flecks of mica reflecting the sun. It was mesmerizing. “I need you to trust me, Bren. Do you trust me?”

Bren nodded, even if he could barely remember a thing about Dar.

Bren let Dar pull him toward the abandoned shell of a building, and the creeping sense of dread became a monstrous thing. He wanted to run away, screaming. But why?

He closed his eyes, gripping Dar’s arm so tight his own fingertips went numb, but Dar didn’t complain once. Suddenly, terror gave way to rock music and the smell of beer and something odd, like a foreign spice, while the sense of immense, imminent dread disappeared. Bren opened his eyes to see that Dar had opened the pristine mahogany door of a well-lit, neat bar. Bren looked behind them, but they were still on the seedy street corner where the abandoned building was supposed to be.

“It’s called a glamour,” Dar told him. “It’s a type of spell. It makes humans afraid to approach what they think is a run-down building. It keeps them from stumbling into this place.”

Bren looked back at the bar. It seemed real. “Oh. But I thought I wasn’t totally human.”

“No, but you’ve believed yourself to be, and your power is new to you. Until you fully embrace it, what vexes humans may vex you.”

“Okay.” Power? What power? It was a good thing this was a bar, because he needed a drink.

The bar had lots of dark wood and chrome accents. Worldly, masculine, showing off a class that Bren just bet came from overcompensating. There weren’t any patrons at all, save a guy hunched over a drink at one end of the horseshoe-shaped bar, which looked like polished rosewood. And the bartender was . . . a green woman with a tail. Of course she was. She was wearing an AC/DC T-shirt and polishing a glass with a rag while her whip-thin green tail twitched behind her like a maestro conducting an unseen orchestra. “Help you two?” she asked in a way that suggested she’d rather do anything but that.

“We’re here to see Bob,” Dar said.

Bob?

The green woman twitched an eyebrow. Had Dar not noticed she was green and had a tail? Or did the fact that he could pull a flaming sword out of his leg make everything not weird at all? “I’m sure you are, but he doesn’t just see anybody.”

“He’ll want to see us.”

“Will I?” a man’s voice said.

They looked to a small hallway branching off from the bar, which Bren would have sworn hadn’t existed before. The crystal around his neck was glowing a bright blue, and suddenly he knew the crystal somehow gauged threat levels. What did bright blue mean?

The man who’d emerged from the appearing hallway was insanely handsome, male model good-looking, although in a friendlier way. His artfully mussed hair was light brown with golden blond highlights, and his eyes were a rich, startling, neon cobalt color that simply couldn’t be real. He was wearing black leather pants that looked painted on, black biker boots, and a tight T-shirt that inexplicably had the words “Sausage Victim” written across the chest. The man—Bob?—looked at him, but for a moment, Bren could have sworn he was staring right through him. He then moved his head back as if pushed, and rubbed his eyes.

“Holy fuck, angel, what’d you bring me?” He had an odd accent that Bren belatedly realized was Australian.

“This is a thing to be discussed in private, for all our sakes,” Dar said.

Bob made a show of looking around the bar, which only held them, the green woman, and the guy hunched over at the far end. “Nobody here but us chickens.”

Dar blinked at him. “Chickens?”

“It’s an expression. So whose court are ya from, angel?”

“Why does he keep calling you ‘angel’?” Bren asked.

Bob uttered a small, startled laugh. “Your bodyguard is one of the highest of the high badass motherfuckers, mate, a bona fide guardian angel. What, do you have amnesia?”

“Dimensional relocation trauma,” Dar said, as if that were actually a thing.

Bob nodded. “Bummer. But the energy readin’ I’m gettin’ from him says demigod. How’s that even possible?”

“He hasn’t tapped into his abilities. I’ve been trying to train him for three months, but he’s believed he was human all these years, and I’m not a god.”

Bob snorted derisively, and Bren nearly did the same. “The old ‘hide him from my enemies’ trick? Has that ever worked? So who you workin’ for, angel?”

Dar’s spine stiffened, making him look even more manly and imposing than he already did. That seemed impossible. “I have a name. Dar.”

“Dar is not a name.”

“It’s a shortened form of Lorygdarain.”

“Dar it is. And who are you, sport?” Bob leaned against the end of the bar, looking deceptively casual.

Bren stared at him for a very long moment before realizing Bob was talking to him. “Um, uh, Brendan, Brendan Connolly.” He was pleased that he remembered his last name.

Bob’s smile turned smirky, but he was still prettier than anyone real had a right to be. “I meant whose spawn are ya? Mum, Dad, who was the god in your family?”

Bren waited for him to laugh, but he didn’t. “God? You’re serious? I, uh—”

“His father was Arawn,” Dar interrupted.

Bob did a sharp double take. “Holy fucking shit. Are you serious? Crap in a hat, I thought Eris took that guy out a while ago.”

“She’s trying now.”

Bob’s expression became almost painfully serious, and he stared at Dar so intensely that Bren would’ve sworn he could feel it. “Don’t tell me you led her straight here.”

“No. We’ve been hiding in Culsu’s realm for a while. She attacked, and we fled.”

Bob looked a little relieved, and gestured toward an empty table, tacitly suggesting they all move there. “Culsu? Eris attacked her? How?”

“Eris is getting help. We’re not sure from whom. That’s where we’re hoping you can help. Until Bren can gain control of his powers, knowledge is our only hope.”

Bob stared at a nothing point at the end of the bar, as if he could see through the wall. Maybe he could. “This is bad,” he concluded. He glanced at the green woman. “Think you can hold the fort for a while?”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Bob, you’re not really going to get messed up in this shit again, are you?”

“I’m already messed up in this shit, Hel. Just being who I am. I’m in.”

“And what is going on exactly?” Bren asked. Would it be rude for him to order a beer?

Bob sauntered closer to them, a maddeningly attractive half smile lighting up his face. “You, mate, are gonna catch up with the rest of us.” Bob tapped him on the forehead.

And just like that, a tide of memories pulled Brendan down.

Chapter Two

The green woman, whose name was Helga, brought Bren a beer in a tall glass, which he pressed against his forehead in hopes that the chill would numb his aching brain. So far, it wasn’t working.

It wasn’t fair at all. His dad was supposed to be a second-rate stage magician who’d walked out on him and his mom when he was three. Bren didn’t even remember what he looked like. But somehow his father had managed to fuck up his entire life.

Bren closed his eyes and remembered the day he’d opened his mailbox and found the envelope with his name on it. Inside was the stupid crystal necklace he’d thrown out the day before and a note that read, “Be careful. Wear this. It will help. —Dad” How was he to know that’d be the last sane thing that would happen to him? Who would have guessed that Alan Connolly was the human guise of the disgraced god Arawn? Or that gods existed at all?

Or that a god was sitting across the table from him? Bob, also known as “Maximum Bob” for reasons that weren’t too clear just yet, was a “fallen” god who owned this bar, called the Way Station, and it was what Dar called a “universal junction point.” According to him, there were thousands of dimensions, stacked up side by side like soap bubbles, with the walls kind of blurring into one another. It just wasn’t easy to find these “blur points” to cross over from one world to the next. But gods could do it because they were gods, and angels like him could do it because that was their job: to keep the human rats from ever finding their way into the gods’ paradises.

But that, apparently, was another story.

“Don’t worry, mate, I didn’t give you a full shot of power.” Bob was still aggressively cheerful. “If I had, your head woulda popped like an overfilled balloon. Which, by the way, is why there ain’t too many demigods.”

It felt so weird to hear that term applied to him. Should he point out that he was an agnostic? Of course he was. He was Irish, so his parents were disgruntled Catholics. Okay, only his mother. “Which means what, humans are weak?”

Bob shook his head. He had a beer of his own, but the label on the bottle read “Old Peculiar,” a type of beer he’d never heard of before. He’d have thought it was a microbrew, but he didn’t know of one with a logo of a blue rooster the exact color of Bob’s unearthly eyes, wearing boxing gloves. “Nope. Gods are energy beings, more or less. Our frequency levels usually cause human flesh to liquefy.”

Bren stared at him, hoping he was kidding. “Liquefy?”

“Rumor has it you have many offspring with humans,” Dar said. It was almost an accusation.

Bob only smirked. “Yeah, I do, but I was trapped in a human form for a great deal of my existence here. That was my punishment.”

As if things weren’t confusing enough already. “You’re not human anymore?”

Bob grinned, showing off white teeth so bright they could have blinded him in stronger lighting. “I got better.”

Before Bren could ask him what the fuck that was supposed to mean, Bob shifted his gaze to Dar. “Give me the scorecard. Who snuffed Arawn? Eris?”

“No. If she had, she would have absorbed him, and Bren never would have gotten his power. That’s partly why she’s mad.”

“Okay, so who whacked him?”

Dar reluctantly shook his head and made his version of a shrug. Bren had been trying to teach him how to shrug properly, but for some reason, Dar thought just turning his palms up toward the ceiling was enough. Angels weren’t great at social graces, which was weird when you thought about the hype they got. “We don’t know. Several people took credit, but then Eris started getting homicidal about it, and suddenly no one was responsible.”

“Typical.” Bob slumped back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked like an ideal physical specimen, just the right amount of muscle, almost perfect without being exactly perfect, and it was strangely unsettling. If he wasn’t human anymore, why did he look like one? “Rags, you eavesdropping?”

The guy slumped at the corner of the bar stirred. “Not ’cause I wanna.” He had a thick Cockney accent, and he sounded stuffed up, like he had a cold.

“Think you can hit your contacts, see if any of the Persaids know what actually happened to Arawn?”

The guy swiveled on his barstool to face them, and Bren was so startled he almost fell off his chair. “Holy shit! What happened to your eyes?”

The man blinked at him. He looked totally normal, like a career drinker with scraggly dishwater blond hair and a five-o’clock shadow, but his eye sockets were filled with crystal. Faceted ones with a slight yellowish tinge, as if a pinprick of light was buried beneath them. “Oi! I ain’t makin’ fun of you, fleshie.”

Dar put a hand on Bren’s arm. As always, his skin had the strange cool/warm feeling of a marble statue that had been in the sun for a few hours. “He’s a Persaid demon. That’s what they look like.”

Oh yes, demons. He remembered those: “lesser” beings that populated other dimensions, often lackeys of a particular god. They could look pretty strange, like the kind with a head shaped like a goldfish, and one that was just a pile of feathers. He and Dar had run into a few since they’d been on the run. This kind was new.

Bren leaned over and whispered to Dar, “How can he see? Is he blind?”

“I can see better than you, arsewipe!” the demon snapped.

Bob nodded. “They see in the energy spectrum wavelength. Really handy for tracking down dimensional gateways.” Bob glanced at Rags, and Bren assumed that Rags was looking in Bob’s direction, but who could tell? Those crystal eyes didn’t move. “I’ll take it off your bar tab, okay?”

Rags (what kind of a name was Rags?) grunted what was probably an affirmative, sliding off his barstool. Bren noticed he was dressed in jeans and a ratty sweatshirt, making him look like anybody from the neck down. It was the part above his chin that gave the game away. “Can I get a free drink out of the deal?”

“Don’t press your luck.”

Rags shrugged and shuffled off to the men’s room. Once he was gone, Bren just had to ask, “Why does he have a Cockney accent?”

Bob gave him a look that suggested he was stupid. “He’s from London.” He pointed at Dar. “You’re from Edain’s court.”

Dar shook his head. At least Bren had taught him that much. “Rhiannon’s. She had a debt to Arawn; I’m the repayment.”

“Damn it! I was close though. That’s good. I don’t think she and Sekhmet ever traveled in the same circles.” Oh good, more names that he didn’t recognize. Bren felt he should be keeping a diary, writing them down as they popped up. Maybe he could create a word bingo out of it. Bob gulped down the rest of his beer, slammed the empty bottle down on the table, and bolted to his feet. “Woo! That’s good ambrosia. C’mon, mates, we gotta hit the road.”

“We just got here,” Bren said.

“This is the Way Station,” Bob replied. “Nobody stays here, you just pass through.”

Bren had a billion questions, but he probably wasn’t going to get to ask any of them here, because Dar stood up. “Why Sekhmet? From what I understand, she doesn’t take kindly to anyone bothering her.”

“Oh, she doesn’t. But she’s my ex-wife, and she’s crazy fucking powerful. You want your charge to survive the night, we need her power and name on our side.”

“Ex-wife?” Dar repeated. He and Bren shared a slightly disbelieving look. Gods got married? Gods needed to get married? Oh, and they got divorces? How did any of that work? At least Dar looked as thoroughly baffled as Bren felt.

Bob made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “You know what I mean. It’s easier to put it into human terms than try and explain it otherwise. Now, we gonna go or what?”

Dar was on his feet, but Bren wasn’t so sure about this. “We’re not gonna do a dimension thing again, are we? I really don’t like those.”

“Sorry, mate, hafta. Sekhi doesn’t travel.”

Dar gave Bob a look like he was a rabid dog. Bren was beginning to think that was a fair assessment. It made him wonder what Bob used to be the god of, what his real name actually was. Did becoming a fallen god, forced to live in another universe, trapped in a single form, drive you nuts? “Sekhi?”

“Only I call her that,” Bob said. “Don’t even think that, or she might disembowel you. She’s kinda . . . impulsive.”

“I will not allow Brendan to be hurt.”

Bob dipped his head. “I got that, angel, and don’t worry. Just let me do the talking, don’t stare at her, and we’ll be cool.”

“I want a guarantee of safe passage.”

It was Bob’s turn to give him the crazy look, which seemed unfair. “Nothin’s gonna happen to you while you’re with me. Okay? I promise.”

Dar’s eyes narrowed, and Bren could almost hear what he was thinking: he didn’t really trust this fallen god, but it was clear they had no choice in the matter. Bren stood with a sigh, abandoning his beer. “Leave it, Dar. Just kick his ass if he’s lying.”

That made Bob grin. “Yeah, angel. Take it out of my hide if I’m lyin’.”

“Stop calling me angel, god.” Dar paused deliberately. “Ex-god.”

“Ouch.” Bob grabbed his chest. “That hurt! I may never forgive you for that.”

It was a joke, but Dar seemed unamused. “You need forgiveness more than me.”

What was that supposed to mean? Bren looked between them, confused, but the grin fell from Bob’s face. Without saying a word, Bob turned and headed back into that narrow, inexplicably appearing corridor. Bren walked up to Dar and asked quietly, “Is there some backstory I should know?”

“No. We should be wary about completely trusting him. You can never trust a god, especially one who’s been kicked out by the others. That makes him a liar amongst liars.”

Bren didn’t understand much about this new world he was inhabiting, but he was starting to get that everybody who ever interacted with gods fucking hated them. They were petty, cruel, greedy, maniacal, capricious, childish, hardheaded, mean, egotistical, stupid, flighty, and ignorant. In other words, they were exactly like human beings, only with the ability to destroy entire worlds with a sneeze. Bren had no idea how any universe had survived, or how anyone worshipped these people. It’d be like worshipping his Uncle Ed, the pot dealer/deadbeat dad who, last he’d heard, was in a Tijuana prison.

He shrugged. “So what do we do? Is there a Plan B?”

Dar could only frown. “Not at the moment. Just stick close to me.”

“Haven’t you noticed? I’ve been sticking so close to you I might as well be your backpack.”

Dar flashed him a smile. “You’re a very sexy backpack.”

“Go on.” Bren shoved Dar ahead of him. Dar hadn’t quite gotten the hang of compliments or emotional expressions, but Bren was sure he’d have him acting like a normal human being in twenty years or so. Assuming they both lived through the next few days. Eris was hunting him, and she had other gods on her side, but how many and who was still an open question—as was whether Bren’s so-called powers really existed, and if so, if he’d ever learn how to tap them.

The hallway led to what seemed to be a storeroom turned back office, with anonymous crates piled by a very basic wooden desk, although the poured concrete floor and the biohazard warning labels slapped over almost everything gave the place a strange, low-rent air. Bob stood in front of the desk, holding an ornate dagger. “’Kay, who wants to go first?”

Dar stood even straighter, which seemed impossible. If he were any more rigid, his spine would snap in half. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Bob snorted. “Where’s your sense of humor, mate? Gods, you’re pent up.” Bob used the knife to slice open the tip of his index finger. Blood started to trickle out in the most startling blue color, like his eyes, only a bit darker.

“Your blood is blue?” Bren asked. Could it have been paint? Was he playing a trick on them?

“Yep. It’s kinda hard to explain, so just go with it.”

Bren looked to Dar, but the angel only shrugged. It was either new to him too, or he had no answers.

Bob dropped the knife on the desk, then turned to the wall behind him, where he used his bloody finger to make a large, blue circle on the wall. He drew an odd pattern in the middle that almost looked familiar, but seemed to dodge Bren’s awareness whenever he felt he was close to understanding it. “Okay, I think we’re ready to go.”

As if on cue, the circle of blood started to glow, then became a dark vortex with a sense of movement inside. Bren belatedly recognized it as some kind of dimensional wormhole, or whatever the hell they called those dimensional travel things. Not that he could remember ever seeing one before. “I can’t go through that,” he said, hoping he didn’t sound as scared as he was. “I forget everything.”

“That’s an easy problem to solve.” Bob came right up to him and used his bloody finger to draw a pattern on Bren’s forehead. The blood felt strange, too warm and a little thick. Bren reached up to rub it off, but Bob stopped him. “You’ll remember from now on. Just leave it where it is.”

Bren looked to Dar, who nodded, but he didn’t find it very comforting. He had someone else’s blood on his forehead, blue blood to boot. It was just incredibly gross. And how was this supposed to keep him from forgetting everything?

He had no time to ask further questions as Bob clapped his hands. “See you on the other side. Try really hard not to stab anyone, Dar.” He stepped into the hole and disappeared completely. Bren wanted to believe it was the best magic trick he’d ever seen, but his luck wasn’t running that way today.

Dar came over and took his hand, trying to will some reassurance into him. “It will be all right. Just stay behind me.”

“That sounds familiar.” He sighed, but Dar had already turned away, although he was still holding his hand. The angel led him toward the incongruous swirling black hole in the wall, and Bren closed his eyes, hoping this would all work out.

from Rainbow Book Reviews

I really enjoyed this story and can only hope that there will be more. Please, Ms. Speed?

from Creative Deeds Reads

[A] perfect quick late night read.