Seize the Day

“So he’s dead then?”

“Yeah,” I said as I looked out the windows of my office.

“Pity, we could have gotten another full-page spread if he’d just snapped and went on a binge instead.”


“Yes, Lou?”

I turned as I pulled the pins out of my bun.

“I quit.”

“Oh, now don’t be like that. You can’t possibly feel any sort or remorse for his death. It’s not like you engineered his reaction to those photos,” Jake said as he looked at the tweets coming in from people all over, reacting to the man’s death.

I was incredulous as I packed my briefcase and looked around at my office.

“I’ll be back in the morning for the things in my office.”

“No, you’ll be back to work.”

“I’m not coming back to work, Jake,” I said as I closed the top of the bag and picked up it and my purse.

“Your contract-” he started to say before I cut him off.

“Has been in negotiations for months. I haven’t signed the new one yet. I’m free to go as I wish. I’m done with this quasi-journalism you call ‘reporting the news.’ This isn’t news. This is sadness. This is making a dollar off someone else’s demise,” I stopped and took a breath. “I’m sick of it.”

“You’re female, I expected this to happen eventually. Thank god you showed your true colors before I put you in charge,” he said, getting up from where he had been sitting on the corner of my desk.

I laughed. I couldn’t help the noise coming out of my mouth. I was so angry that it was the only reaction I could come up with.

“You’re an asshole, Jake. A true, blue, asshole.”

“So? At least I’m not pretending to have a conscience now that someone’s dead. You didn’t have any feelings when we posted those photos of the princess and her nipple slip,”

“Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, I can show you the tweet that I posted after the photos went live. That’s what kicked off my contact negotiations. I knew you’d been trying to get rid of me for months,”

Jake smiled, but it was cold.

“Finally happened, too.”

I smiled back at him, pulled my phone out and opened up the word file I’d been keeping for months. Jake waited while I selected my photos, then uploaded them one at a time, with the headline “Executive for Daily Celeb caught with pants down” to the main site.

“Check today’s post. I hope you have fun in divorce court,” I said as I walked out the door. He was bending over my computer, when the post loaded. I heard the cursing down the hallway. The reporters in the cubicle farm looked on as I passed by, I waved at the desk clerk as I stepped into the elevator. She smiled and waved back, giving me a thumbs up as I took the lift to the roof. I stepped out just as a helicopter landed on the pad.

“Busy day, Lou,” the pilot shouted as he stepped out to open the back door for me.

“Very busy,” I shouted back as I climbed in.

He nodded and as soon as I settled in and put the headset on, he climbed back into the front and did his pre-check before taking off. As we flew over Chicago, I smiled. Tomorrow was going to be much better.

“So, what happened?” the pilot asked.

“Well Roger, I took down an asshole, lost a hero and quit my job,” I said back with a smile.

“Very busy day,” he said.

“Yes, I would say so.”

“Tomorrow going to be just as busy?” he asked.

“I don’t know, but I’ll take whatever it brings with a smile,” I said.

“Carpe Diem.”

“Yes. Seize the day.”


Blaze Tuesday and the Case of the Night Surgeon Release Party!



I have a friend who’s currently in the middle of releasing her first book. Her name is Kai Kiriyama and the book is Blaze Tuesday and the Case of the Night Surgeon. I’m really excited for my friend and her accomplishments. I’ve personally read the book and I liked it very much. There’s more information on her website, and be sure to pop over tomorrow, August 5th, because she’s hosting a release party with giveaways and an interview on her youtube channel. Details are listed below!

Decorative Frame

If you wish to pick up a copy of her brook, the links are as follows:

Paperback (through Createspace):
I hope you all like it as much as I did!

A Night Flight

The breeze she caught lifted her up and had her soaring above the city, feathers feeling every vibration in the air and letting her know when to shift her wings or tail feathers. She rode the wind, owning it and reveling in being alone on wing. As she flew across the city to her meeting place, the woman inside the feathers knew to be careful. While owls were seen in the city, she knew she was a little large for the species she was pretending to be.

Catching a good breeze, the owl flew to the park on the edge of the city. She took her time checking the area out, making mock runs at small rodents that would run when they saw her. Anyone watching would think she was just any other owl, note her large size and move on. Letting out a loud cry, she mocked catching and eating a small field mouse. Looking the area over, she noted a birder in the bushes and actually had to start eating the mouse she caught. The woman inside the owl mourned the loss and gagged on the thought of eating something that wasn’t cooked.

Finishing her meal, she took wing again and flew to another area of the park, performing the same check she had at the previous spot. When she was satisfied that no one was there, she changed forms under a tree. The woman who emerged from the owl’s shape was taller than normal, at five-foot-eight and had short brown hair. Her eyes were a golden-brown and she gave off the vibe that while she was kind and motherly, she would not be toyed with.

The woman shook out the cloth of the deep purple dress she wore and started walking. Her back was ram-rod straight, she held herself like a queen as she made her way out of the park. The noise of nails clicking behind her made her pause for a second, then smiled when a familiar wolf came around the corner.

“Hello, Brother,” She said softly.

The wolf bowed to her, then changed shape into a man. His wolf’s reddish-brown fur became a head of auburn hair. The muzzle of the wolf changed in to a face that while long, held light-green eyes that laughed at some private joke. He shook out the jacket of his dark green suit and looked her over.

“I’m impressed with you, Sister. Only a month and you look as though you’ve belonged with us for a millennium,” he said.

She smiled at him and held out her arms.

“I missed you too, Loki,” she murmured into his ear as he hugged her.

“Not as much as I have,” he replied.

She laughed. It was an old joke, one that had been going on since she was old enough to understand that her playmates were real.

“I do love you, Brother,” she tossed back with a grin and hooked her arm through his. “Let’s go see what the Old Man has for us tonight.”

“Be careful, if he hears that he’s likely to take offense,” Loki warned as they walked along.

“He can take offense as he likes, I only tell the truth. He knew that when he gifted me,” she relied in a clipped tone that let him know she was not pleased with the man that they spoke of.

Loki laughed. “You are one of us. That attitude of yours is hilarious.”

“As long as you find me funny and not one to toy with, I’ll keep myself.”

“I couldn’t toy with you now. You’re too precious to me. The only one who’s consistently on my side.”

“Logically, letting those photos leak of that movie star was a perfect check for his personality. Himself won’t see that, of course. He only knows that we’re not supposed to meddle,” she stopped and looked up at him. “The woman in the photos, however, did not deserve it. You’ll remember that the next time, I hope?”

Loki laughed again when she referred to his latest prank.

“See? You’re my sister, not my bedroom playmate. To toy with you now would be a disservice to the both of us.”

“You still haven’t responded to my question. I’ll let it go for now, but you have to remember that there are some people who don’t deserve to be outed like that. Do better.”

He hunched his shoulders at the chastising. “You always expect too much of me.”

“I expect more because I know you can do more,” she said as she stopped walking and looked up at him. “You can do more and do better. I’m disappointed you let the innocent get caught in that mess.”

When he went to speak, she held up a hand.

“Collateral damage, I know. You could have blurred her face, but chose not to. You made her an example when she didn’t need to be one for loving the wrong man.”

He closed his mouth and looked her over.

“That’s a better chastising than He ever would have given me,” he said with a bow.

“I love you, Loki. You’re family. Even if you are a knuckle head,” she said with a smile and tugged on his arm. “Come on, we’re going to be late and I wish to see my husband.”

They walked along until a giant bear came ambling toward them. They stopped again and waited, neither one of them raising much alarm at the sight of the huge creature. She smiled up at Loki when the bear changed shape in to a man of powerful height, topping over six-two with a bright head of red hair. A beard was under laughing blue eyes and when he held out his arms to her, she laughed and ran in to them.

“Hermod! I thought you weren’t coming?” She said as he enveloped her in a huge hug.

“Miss the chance to see my new favorite sister? Never,” he said. “How are you, Nor?”

She smiled up at him. “Much better. How are the kids?”

He laughed and regaled her with tales of his children as the finished the walk to the meeting. They stood outside the 1800’s manse, whose red brick was covered in ivy. The marble statuary that covered the building laughed down at her as she studied the shape. She snorted with disgust.

“Not much for subtlety, is he?”

Both men laughed so hard they bent over.

“I’m so glad you said it and not me,” Loki said when he got his breath back.

“Truth, honesty and clear-thinking. That’s our Nor,” Hermod said as he clapped a hand on her shoulder.

She smiled up at both men. It didn’t matter if she wore heels or not, they still towered over her.

“I can’t imagine what you’d do without me to make your lives interesting. I imagine you’d still be lying to each other,” she mused.

Both men shrugged. It was true she forced them to talk things over and clear the air. They were better friends now than they’d ever been.

“So, the All-father sent the two of you to escort me. It makes me think that he doesn’t trust me to be alone,” she said as she made her way across the street and up to the house.

The men followed behind her silently.

“He has his reasons,” Hermod said.

“Most of which are bullshit,” she replied over her shoulder as she opened the door and walked in.

A servant met them and took them to the living room, which was already crowded with family of every shape and size. There was only one that mattered though, and he was standing off to the side, brooding in to his glass.

“Ah, young love,” Loki said as he caught on to who she was staring at.

Elbowing Loki in the stomach and leaving him there, Hermod laughing at him, and she headed for the dark-haired man in the corner with the deep blue eyes. She loved those eyes. She could get lost in them for hours as they lay in their rooms at home. When he looked up, she smiled brightly. He lost his brooding air and set his glass down before coming to her.

He cupped her face and looked down in to her eyes as she looked up at him. When he bent to kiss her, she smiled and closed her eyes, leaning in to him as they came together.

“You go away all together too often for me,” he said softly.

“I was only gone two days to visit my mother,” she replied as she kissed him again.

“Too long and too often.”

“Five minutes is too long for you,” she replied.

He laughed. “I’m not that bad,”

She raised an eye brown and opened an eye to look at him. He had the sense to look embarrassed.

“Okay, I am that bad.”

She laughed softly and tugged him down. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d be worried you’d be one of those men I hear on the news while I’m in Midguard.”

“Never, you’re too precious to me,” He said as he scooped her up. She laughed as he dumped them both in to a recliner.

There were smiles from the family scattered around the room who saw them together in the chair. Nods of approval when she caught their eye. It felt good to be wanted by not only family, but a man who loved her unconditionally. When he ran his hand through her short brown hair, she smiled up at him. Leaning in, she nuzzled his ear.

“I have something I need to tell you.”

“Can it wait?”


“Do we need to go into another room?”

“If we do, we’ll be lynched,” she replied. “but you have to promise not to say anything just yet. If he drops bad news on us tonight, we’ll need the pick me up after.”

He tucked her in closer and kissed her temple.

“You’re pregnant,” he murmured.

“Yes. Twins.”

He laughed and kissed her hard. Heads turned to them, gave a puzzled look and then turned away. Before questions could be asked, two people walked in and the room fell silent. Nor looked over and nodded to the woman when she caught her eye. The woman with the golden hair smiled at her and winked.

“Frigga and I want you all to know how happy we are to have you here to celebrate the wedding of Tyr and Nor several months ago, as well as her ascension,” the Old Man said to the crowd.

There was a round of applause and congratulations.

“We also would like to announce their impending pregnancy,” he said.

Nor jerked in Tyr’s arms and he laughed. A louder round of applause and whooping followed. As they filed over to give their congratulations, there were several crude jokes from the men and soft praises from the women. Nor looked up at Tyr and smiled down at her. They eventually dispersed as Odin and Frigga came over. Frigga held out her hands and Nor gripped them tight.

“I’m so happy for you, darling. Do you know what it is?”

“Twins,” she replied.

Frigga smiled back at her. “Even better.”

“Good job, young lady,” Odin said.

Nor stiffened at the tone of voice he used and her smile was tense.

“Thank you, All-Father.”

His attention went back to Tyr and she relaxed a little against him. Tyr looked down at her and smiled, running his hand over her back.

“My friend, good job as well. I’m sure they’ll be sons,” Odin said.

“I’ll be happy with whatever they are, Odin. You know that,” he said, standing up for her and the babies she carried.

“I’m just glad she kept her vows and they’re not His,” Odin replied.

Nor’s eyes narrowed at the man in front of her and she opened her mouth to speak, but Tyr’s hand on her back went to her shoulder and gripped it tight. Before Tyr could speak, Loki stepped up and stood next to her.

“Be very careful with what you say about my Sister. I’m very protective of her,” Loki said softly. There was enough edge in his voice to have Odin’s eyebrows raising in surprise.

“I meant no offense,”

“I’m taking it,” she said.

Odin looked down at her, even more surprised that she spoke.

“I’m tired of constantly being suspected of infidelity because I claim Loki as my brother. I’m taking the offense, on his and my behalf. I’ve kept my vows. On the day I took them, he vowed to me that he would be a brother to me,” the edge in her voice had Odin stepping back and Frigga smiling brightly at her.

She felt Loki put his arm around her and Volstagg dropped a hand on to her other shoulder.

“I built a family here, All-Father. I’m not likely to let go of that so easily by breaking a vow I took and still take very seriously,” she said. She stepped out of the embrace of her family. “If you’ll excuse me, I wish to lay down. The air in here has become very foul and I’m likely to swoon.”

She stepped away from the group and made her way out of the room in silence. A servant appeared as she made her way down the hall to the front door and redirected her to a bedroom where she could lay down. As she stepped in to the room, Loki was already there.

“Of all the people, I think you would know better than to claim offense.”

“He deserved it. I’m tired of the suspicion. I expect you are too,” she said as she made her way over to him and turned. “Zipper, please.”

Loki unzipped the back of her dress and she stepped in to the closet. Five minutes of cursing and fumbling later, she stepped out again, dressed in pajamas. Loki raised an eyebrow at her.

“I wasn’t lying when I said I wasn’t feeling well, I just used it as an excuse to slap at him,” she said as she sank down on to the sofa that was pushed against one wall.

A knock on the door stopped Loki from saying anything else.

“Come in,” Nor said.

Frigga stepped into the room. She looked it and them over and looked surprised.

“Well, certainly not the scene I wanted to walk in on. The two of you look as though you’re going to bed together,” she stopped them before they could retort. “I said looked. I know the nature of your relationship.”

Nor settled in to the sofa and Loki scooped up a blanket, dropping it on to her lap.

“Before you catch a chill and Tyr yells at me for it,” he said when she raised an eye brow.

Laughing, Nor spread the blanket over her legs. Frigga watched them both.

“I’m glad to see you’re both acting like this. I would actually think you meant what you said about taking offense.”

“Oh, I meant it. I’ll place formal charges in the morning. Tonight, I’m just too tired. Carrying twins will do that to a person.”

Frigga shook her head and sighed. “Reconsider in the morning, Nor. Enough people saw what happened tonight for you to be satisfied. I’m sure they’ll congratulate you for standing up to him.”

“I meant what I said, Frigga. I’m tired of the suspicion. The babies I carry are Tyr’s. He’s the only man I’ve been with since taking my vows.”

“I know that, Nor. The slap he gave you tonight was not entirely yours. It was to Tyr as well, who’s currently torn between fuming at Odin for being an ass and proud of you for not taking it.”

Nor laughed. “He was pretty angry, wasn’t he? I’m sure he’ll do something about it in the morning.”

Frigga’s smile was thin. “You’re young yet. You don’t realize how precarious your position is,”

Nor went silent and looked at her. “I’m acutely aware of just how thin the spot I’m in is. If I take formal charges, there’s a chance that I could lose everything. If I let it go, he’s likely to do it again. Next time, it might even be worse. Loki can’t level the charges because it was the truth, even though it was a slap to the face.”

Frigga nodded and Nor continued.

“Tyr could level the charges, but since he was the wronged party the last time; He’d look petty. Odin knew exactly what he was going when he insulted me tonight. He didn’t expect me to slap back. That was his mistake. I am no one’s play toy.”

Frigga looked her over, Loki standing at her side.

“I think you’re exactly what was needed within this family. Someone who knows her position, uses it and always tells the truth. They don’t know what to do with you,” she said.

Loki snorted and Frigga looked at him.

“They expect lies. When they get someone who tells only the truth, they don’t know what to do with her. It’s why I hang around.”

“and here I thought it was my charming personality,” Nor said wryly.

Loki laughed. “That too,”

Frigga smiled at them both.

“Loki’s charmed because you don’t hold back. He’s protective because you call him brother and mean it. You treat him like you would your own blood kin.”

“He is my brother. He’s accepted for who he is, even if I do think he’s a bonehead sometimes.”

Loki laughed and kissed her hair. “I’m going to get your husband. I’ll be back.”

Nor watched him leave with a smile on her face. When the door closed behind him, she looked at Frigga.

“He’s embarrassed and near tears that he doesn’t want anyone to see,” she murmured.

“Accepted. He’s so full of love for you. Almost as much as his own wife.”

“He’s family, Frigga. Just as you and the rest are. I claimed you all the minute Tyr brought me inside your circle. I love you all. Even Himself, though he can’t see it.”

Frigga came over and kissed her forehead. “I love you too, little one. I’ll leave before Tyr gets here. I know the two of you will want to celebrate.”

Nor smiled up at her. “Thank you.”

Frigga smiled and left, just as Tyr went to open the door. He was a little surprised at finding her there.

“I’m just leaving, I needed a word with my new sister about tonight’s events.”

Tyr shook his head. “I’ve already taken care of it. Go back to the party little sister, I’m for my wife.”

Frigga patted his arm and left. Tyr came in and closed the door behind himself. He walked over to Nor and sank down beside her.

“Just where Loki said he left you,” Tyr said as Nor moved over so she was curled into his arms. “I would ask though, that you not ask him to do your zippers.”

Nor smiled and nuzzled his neck. “You should have seen the look of horror on his face when I asked. It was priceless.”

Tyr laughed. “No wonder the two of you get along so well. You’re constantly pulling crap on each other.”

“Well, he is fun to do that with. You’re more fun though.”

“How am I more fun?”

“Come to bed with me and I’ll show you.”

“Now that’s an invitation that I’ll never refuse,” he said as he stood up with her in his arms and strode over to the bed.

Nor waved a hand and turned out the lights as Tyr undressed. He climbed in to bed and pulled her close, neither one getting much sleep at all.

Bad Day

Grace struggled to wake up hours later. She realized that it was raised voices outside of her door that woke her. With a groan she reached over and pulled a knife out of her nightstand. With a flick of her wrist, she flung it at the door and it hit the door with a solid thunk.

The people outside her door suddenly went silent. Grace smiled to herself as she listened to the knife vibrate in the door. Rolling back over, she tucked the covered around her shoulders and snuggled down in to the bed. Grace wasn’t aware that someone had entered the room until the bed dipped behind her. She was up and had a knife in her hand before the person knew what to do.

“Whoa! Grace Ann! It’s me,” Gabriel said.

Grace shook her head and pulled the knife back from Gabriel’s throat. With a sigh, she collapsed back in to bed, arm over her eyes.

“What are you doing here, Gabe?”

“I missed you?”

Grace lifted her arm and looked at him. He had a sheepish smile on his face.

“Michael sent you.”

Gabriel snorted. “You were always able to suss out what happened without my telling you. Why do you bother asking anymore?”

“It gives people a chance to lie to me. That way, I know who I can trust.”

Gabriel laughed and laid down next to Grace after taking the knife out of her hand and putting it on the nightstand. Grace pulled the covers over the both of them and sighed.

“I assume he told you what happened?”

“I can’t believe you shot him.”

“He had me by the throat. I had to shoot him.”

Gabe went still. Grace heard him snap his fingers and the lights came on. She sighed as he pulled the covers down and took a look at her neck. Grace knew the bruises were still there.

“I’d have killed him,” Gabriel said softly.

“I can’t kill him yet. I still need him. As do you.”

Gabriel growled softly and Grace opened her eyes.

“It’s done. It’s over with. You can help me kill him after we’re done using him.”

Gabriel was nowhere near mollified with that, but he ducked his head down and kissed her. Grace sighed and pulled him closer, hooking a leg around his.

“I missed you,” Gabriel murmured in to her ear when they broke apart. “I wasn’t lying about that part.”

“I know,” Grace said as she hooked another leg around him and rolled them both over so she was on top. “Did Sloane let you in?”

Yes,” Gabriel rolled them back over and kissed her, then whispered in to her ear; “Wanna pretend we’re in Reno?”

Grace laughed. “We killed the bed, destroyed a nightstand and pissed off our entire floor, almost getting us kicked out.”

“I know what happened, I was there. That’s not an answer, through.”

Grace nuzzled his neck. “I’ve got things to do today. I can’t spend it in bed with you, as much as I want to.”

Gabriel slid his hand up her thigh and gripped her hip. “Who said anything about the whole day?”

Grace rolled her hips up and snickered when Gabriel groaned. “I know you.”

“You’re wicked,” he said and slid her shirt up while kissing her shoulder.

“Demon,” She said while sitting up far enough so Gabriel could get her shirt off. There was a crash after he tossed it to the side and it took out a lamp.

Grace laughed and Gabriel looked up, giving her a smile before claiming her nipple and sucking on it, rolling it between his lips.

Grace gasped and it ended with a laugh. “Ooh, you wicked Angel.”

Gabriel laughed and looked up at her. “Says the not-quite-a-demon,”

“I would know, wouldn’t I?” Grace said with a grin as she yanked off his shirt and tossed it to the other side. There was another crash and Gabriel laughed. “What?”

“I wonder what’s going to break when I lose my pants.”

“Lets find out.” Grace said and she slid her hand down, tugging on the button of his jeans.

Gabriel grinned and tugged her hands away from his jeans. “No yet.”

Grace whined a little in her throat and it ended with a moan as Gabriel claimed her other nipple.

“Gabe,” she sighed and threaded her hands through his hair.

Gabriel slid his hands over Grace, touching and testing her response. He followed his hands down her body, tugging off her panties and tossing them aside as soon as he got them down her legs. Her body was tingling everywhere he touched. Grace bit back another whine and wrapped a leg around Gabriel, pulling him close.

“Gabe,” Grace said.

Gabriel chuckled. “Grace, patience.”

Grace sighed as he ran his hands over her legs. She shivered.

“Never had any.”

“I know, but you’re going to need to find some.”

Before Grace could make a comment, Gabriel moved forward and dipped his head between her legs and she could feel his breath on her sex. As he licked and nibbled, Grace arched up and moaned, wrapping a leg around his shoulders. Gabriel winces when she dug her fingers into his hair, but kept going. When he slid a finger in to her, then two, she moaned louder and shivered again as she climaxed with a gasp.

Gabriel laughed as she moved up her body.

“Don’t say it, just lose your pants.”

“That was fast,” Gabriel said as he kissed her.

“I missed you too,” she said as she kissed him back and slid her hand down his chest.

Gabriel moaned against her lips when Grace pushed her hand in to his pants and under his boxers before gripping him tight.

“You win.”

“I always do. Lost the pants.”

Gabriel pushed his pants over his hips with Grace’s help and when he tossed them over his shoulder, they hit the dresser and scattered everything on top. Grace laughed and rolled over, opening the nightstand drawer and pulling out a condom before tossing it to him. Gabriel looked at her.

“I’m not having what I’m trying to be. Dress that solider and let’s go to war.”

Gabriel laughed and with a wink, opened the package and took the condom out. As he rolled it on, Grace got up and crawled over to him. She pulled up to meet his lips while kneeling. Gabriel pulled her close by her hips and nudged her legs apart as they fell backwards.

They landed with a laugh. Grace nudged Gabriel closer, wrapping her legs around his hips and kissing him. He kissed her back, adjusting himself so he could slide in to her. They both moaned, but Grace was the first to move. She lifted her hips up and rocked them against Gabriel, who gripped her hips. He took the hint and started moving against her.

Grace arched back, digging her nails in to his shoulders. Her body was still tingling from her earlier orgasm and building for a new one. Gabriel gritted his teeth as his as built inside of him. His own legs quivered against hers as they rocked with each other, rolling across the bed till Grace was on top. As she moved on top of him, Gabriel groaned.

“You’ll kill me yet,” he panted.

“Mm.. not trying.”

Grace sped up and he surprised her by rubbing her clit in time with the way she was moving. When her eyes flew opened and looked down at him, he grinned up at her and rolled them over. His hand was still on her button as he sped up, his orgasm building. Grace groaned and wrapped her legs around him, letting her head press back in to the pillow as each thrust brought her closer to falling over the cliff with him.

As they raced together, Gabriel started murmuring her name over and over again. Grace gasped out his and stiffened, going over the peak. Gabriel tumbled after her a minute later and dropped his head to her shoulder. He was panting as hard as she was. After a minute, Gabriel rolled off her and got rid of the condom.

When he came back to bed after cleaning up, Grace opened up her arms and cuddled him close. They lay like that, catching their breath together. Eventually Grace yawned and looked down at Gabriel.

“A hundred years. Do you think we’ll ever get tired of this?”

“Never,” he whispered in to her ear as they fell asleep together.


Gabriel was the first one to wake later that afternoon. He looked down at Grace who was in his arms and smiled. He eased out of bed after his bladder demanded relief and was on his way back to bed when Grace woke. She sat up and smiled at him.


“Hey back,” he said from the end of the bed.

Grace pushed her hair back away from her face and looked at the time. Yawning, she pushed out of bed. Gabriel frowned at her. She caught the frown out of the corner of her eye and laughed.

“I’m not getting back in to bed. I have things to do today, remember?” she said as she walked in to the bathroom, stopping to wiggle her butt at Gabriel. “if you’re coming, you might as well shower with me.”

Gabriel grinned and followed her in to the bathroom. “I like where your mind goes.”

When they emerged later, laughing and wet, they found Henry entering the room. He turned bright red and slammed the door shut. Gabriel burst in to laughter.

“Oh dear. Poor Henry.”

“Poor Henry? He just got a show from the both of us without paying for it!”

Grace snickered as she made her way to her closet, picking up discarded clothing along the way before dumping it in to the basket just outside of her closet. Gabriel followed her in to the closet and goosed her as she hunted for clothes. Slapping his chest and thrusting clothes at him, Grace kicked him out of the closet while she dressed. He whined and pouted the whole way, but Gabriel went out and got dressed.

Grace emerged from the closet clad in jeans and a t-shirt. She carried her shoes to the chaise and sat down, pulling on the sock that she had tucked in to the shoes before leaving the closet. The chucks weren’t the most practical of training shoes, but with Gabriel here, she might not need to train with Henry today.

Gabriel whistled when Grace bent to strap a knife to her leg and smoothed her jeans over the blade. Grace wiggled her butt at him and stood up straight.

“Come on. I’m hungry and I need to check on Henry.”

“Can’t we just go back to bed?” Gabriel asked.

“No, you letch. I have to take inventory of the weapons room and call Father O’Brian,” Grace said over her shoulder as she walked out of the room.

Gabriel followed. “Oh yeah? He’s still alive?”

“Yeah and as feisty as ever. His congregation took out a were pack a couple of months ago. He’s been recovering ever since,” Grace caught Gabriel’s look of concern. “Shoulder slash. No bad damage. I sent Sloane to take care of it.”

“How’s my favorite doing?” he asked as they made their way downstairs.

“She’s restless. I have a feeling that she’s going to start demanding to go on more hunts after she finishes school.”

“That’s going to be trouble.”

“I know. I’ve planned for it, or at least, I hope I have.”

“Wanna let me in?” Gabriel asked as they walked in to the kitchen.

There was no one there, so Grace pulled out all the makings for a couple of omelets.

“Ham and green pepper still?” Grace asked as she turned on the skillet.

“Hard to change a habit. Hand over the peppers. I’ll clean and wash.”

Grace handed them over and the two worked in near silence as they made breakfast together. Just as they were sitting down to eat, Henry walked in. When he saw them his cheeks turned bright red.

“Sorry about this morning. Sloane told me to check on you. Said that Gabriel had arrived,” Henry said as he sat down. “she also wanted me to tell you that he passed the password check.”

“I knew that, he wouldn’t be in the house if he hadn’t. The wards in the foundation won’t allow anyone to enter the house if they don’t know the password or intend to harm anyone inside.”

Gabriel grunted in assent around a mouthful of omelette. Henry nodded.

“So what’s the plan for today?”

“First? Food. Have you eaten?” Grace asked.

“Yeah. Earlier. Sloan made french toast.”

“Good. Then you’re going to train with Gabriel today. Hand to hand and sword if there’s time,” Grace said as she shoveled more omelette in to her mouth and chewed. She swallowed before speaking again. “I have to take inventory of the weapons room and call Father O’Brian for more blessed silver. Sloan says we’re nearly out.”

“Okay.” Henry said.

Grace pushed away her empty plate and looked at Henry. “I know I haven’t given you much of a chance to take all of this in, but you’re doing pretty well. Are you sure you’re not freaking out and just too scared to say anything?”

“It’s okay if you are, Henry. We won’t judge you,” Gabriel added.

“It’s a lot to take in, that’s for sure. But,” he paused. “Everything you’ve said would happen has happened. You haven’t lied to me about anything so far. I’ve seen things down in the Arena too that make all this, more preferable to being there.”

Grace nodded. “Any time you have trouble with anything, you need to speak up. I will not have you going through a mental break down in the middle of a job. Understand?”

Henry nodded. “Understood.”

“Good. Now that Gabriel has finished eating, he’ll take you to the training room. It was the old ballroom.”

Gabriel nodded and rose from his chair at the table. He clapped a hand on Henry’s shoulder.

“Come with me if you want to live.”

Henry gave Gabriel a wan smile and followed him out. Grace chuckled as she placed all the dishes in the sink for her housekeeper and made he way to the weapons room. Stepping in to the room, Grace smiled at what she saw. Sloane was at a table in the center of the room, polishing a broadsword that Grace had used to decapitate a vampire nearly ninety years ago.

“Ah, Edgar the truly disappointing. He wasn’t that much of a vampire without his head.”

Sloan gasped and spun around to glare at Grace.

“Not funny. I’m on edge. I can feel something building.”

Grace frowned. “Your mother had that power. She said she always knew when trouble was brewing. Said she could see if in her dreams.”

“Well I think I’m coming in to more of my gifts, because the dreams are getting stronger. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about last night,” Sloane said as she pushed out the chair opposite her.

Sloane studied Grace’s ease and smile, then shook her head.

“You’re going to get in to trouble for banging that Angel.”

“That Angel has been my friend and constant companion for nearly a hundred years. Watch your words carefully,” Grace warned.

“You’re in love with Michael, who doesn’t want you. Gabriel loves you, but you don’t love him. Not that way, not yet at least. Himself’s Son professes his love, but you used it to break the binding.”

Grace sighed. “You’ve been reading the chronicles again, haven’t you?”

“You don’t tell me nearly enough to satisfy my curiosity.”

Grace made her decision then. “You start training with Gabriel today go to the ballroom.”

Sloane’s head snapped up. “You mean it?”

Grace nodded. “I can’t keep you here forever. You will finish school first though.”

Sloane nodded, but Grace could tell she was going to practically bounce out of her chair.

“Go, Gabriel is training with Henry too.”

“Not yet. I still need to go over inventory with you.”

Grace sighed. “When was it last taken?”

“Right after the boys left. I was pissed and needed something to do,” Sloane said as she put down the sword and pulled out a notebook

“Okay. Hit me.”

“The boys took a box of flares, two flare guns, two bang rods, four 9mm pistols,” Sloane said as she flipped the papers “One Glock, two Sigs and a Smith and Wesson.”

“What? No Remington?”

“They took one of the rifles, but it was a Winchester.”

Grace sighed. “Well at least they were well prepared.”

“They also took four boxes of ammo for each gun.”

Grace rubbed a hand over her neck. “Okay. Anything else?”

“Yeah, besides the blessed silver? We’re low on yew stakes, rosaries, and gunpowder.”

“Have Alan cut another Yew tree for the stakes. He and his brother can do the initial carving for us. I’ll place the orders for the rest today after I speak with Father O’Brian.”

“Alan’s on vacation this week. We’re not likely to need the stakes any time soon. I’ll have him cut it when he gets back. We will need lamb’s blood though. There’s a nasty Djinni in Vegas attracting a lot of attention,” Sloane said as she got up from the table and handed over the lists.

“Fucking wonderful. That’ll make Cooper happy.”

Sloane grinned. “I’ve already alerted him and the Council wants to talk to you about making Eden in to a Haven.”

“It already is, just not for what they want it to be. I’ll take care of it,” Grace said as she flipped through the pages. “Thank you, by the way.”

“You’re welcome,” Sloane said as she slipped out of the room.

Grace was left alone to make her calls. The first one was not to Father O’Brian. It was too late to call him. She’d have to wait until three am to make that call. Grace walked to her office at the back of the weapons room and entered with her list. Bookshelves that were packed lined every wall of the room and a huge oak desk dominated the center with a matching chair. Grace turned on the lights and pulled the chair out. She sat down, list in hand and sighed.

“You’re going to end up in an early grave if you keep it bottled up inside.”

Grace yelped and threw the letter opener at Michael who appeared in one of the two chairs that were on the opposite side of her desk. He caught it easily and look at her.

“Damn it, Michael! I knew putting your name on the foundation was going to be trouble.”

“Yet you still haven’t changed it.”

“It’s a pain in the ass to chisel something out of the foundation in the basement.”

“No it isn’t. You’re still hoping I’ll come visit.”

“What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here.”

“I missed you.”

Grace studied him. “You’re a terrible liar. Which is surprising.”

Michael sighed. “You believed Gabriel when he told you.”

“Gabriel tells me all the time. You don’t. I hear the words from him that I want to hear from you.”

Michael looked at her reproachfully. “I told you I can’t explain why I can’t be what he is to you.”

“Then this has to stop. I can’t keep loving you and getting rejected. My heart isn’t strong enough anymore,” Grace said as she sat back in her chair, eyes downcast and wet.

“Do not cry. I couldn’t handle it if you cried.”

“Then you shouldn’t make me cry.”

Michael rubbed a hand over his face. “I’ll be right back.”

He left in his usual fashion, there one second, gone the next. Grace sighed and picked up the phone. She called The Hunter’s cell phone first, left a message when no one answered. The Wanderer was the same thing. Grace was about to call The Librarian when Michael reappeared.

“I can’t love you because I’ve been bound.”

Grace dropped the phone, in shock. “Bound? Bound to who?”

Michael sighed. “Your daughter.”

Grace sat back and stared at Michael. “You mean to tell me that all this time you’ve known what’s going to happen between us and couldn’t say anything until I pushed you to go away?”

Michael nodded.

“You prick.”

His head snapped up and fire lit in his eyes. “I’m bound. I can’t do anything about it. I didn’t want to be bound, but He did it anyway. I cannot refuse His order.”

“Then why not say anything until now? You could have said you were bound to someone else instead of giving me hope!”

“I tried, but you’re so stubborn and you know I can’t lie.”

“Won’t. You won’t lie. There’s a difference!” Grace said as she surged forward and pounded a fist on her desk.

“Won’t, then. I won’t lie to save your heart, which I know is breaking. I am not for you, I never was.”

“You had a hundred and fifty-seven years to tell me,” Grace said softly as she sat in her chair again.

“I didn’t know until twenty years after I gave you the order.”

Grace looked up at him. “Is Gabriel bound to me?”


Grace laughed. “Figures.”

Michael sat back down in the chair across from Grace. “I’m sorry. I’ve always been sorry about all of this.”

“Well, at least it solves one of my problems today.”

“So does that mean-?”

“No. You are not forgiven yet. I need time to think about it and work out my anger,” Grace said, looking at him. “I need to talk to Gabriel as well.”

“He has his own orders.”

“Which became void the second I found out he’s bound to me. I know His Law just as well as you do. You’re the one who taught me.”

Michael groaned. “You’re going to get us in so much trouble.”

“You deserve it.”

Michael eyed her, but Grace was not giving an inch on her position.

“Speaking of bonds: my daughter? A little creepy,” Grace said.

“His orders,” Michael said with a shrug.

“You’re not talking about Sloane, are you?”

Michael shook his head. “No. Not Sloane. Yours and Gabriel’s child.”

“He’s an Angel, I’m a Demon. You know what that would bring.”

“You are not quite a demon.”

“You should be wanting me dead then. Not living.”

Michael sighed. “Despite what you may have heard, I do not hate you for who you are. I hate myself for wanting you when I have no right to hope for what Gabriel has.”

Grace rubbed her temples. “I hate this. I hate how He plays shove a penny with us all like we were toys.”

“I would say it’s more like chess.”

Grace eyed Michael. “Did you just make a joke? Stiff-necked, stick-up-his-arse Michael made a joke?”

Michael sighed and Grace snickered. He studied her.

“You’re not funny.”

“I’m hilarious, you just never appreciated it.”

Michael snorted and Grace decided that she’d had enough of interrogating him, so she dropped a bomb on his brain. She picked up a pen and sketched the symbol that she saw in the church. When she was done, Grace pushed the sketch across the desk.

Michael took it, looking down at it. His eyes widened.

“This is Nathanael’s symbol.”

Grace nodded.

“Oh shit.”


“Bring them in.”

“I was just about to put in a call to The Librarian. I called The Hunter and The Wanderer already.”

“No Grace,” Michael said as he stood up, sketch in hand. “Bring them all in. Every single hunter you’ve trained on my orders. Bring them in.”

“You want me to bring twenty hunters in? They’re all out on jobs!”

“Bring them in,” he said, punctuating every word.

“Protect the innocent. That’s our motto. I can’t knowingly bring in every single hunter I’ve trained in the last thirty years! I’d be leaving the whole of the US without any kind of protection!”

“You’ll bring them in or this is going to dissolve in to World War three.”

Gabriel opened the door to the study and walked in with Henry and Sloane in tow.

“I can feel his agitation from across the house,” Gabriel said.

Michael showed him the sketch.

“Hey that’s the symbol that we saw in the church,” Henry said.

Gabriel swore. Grace had never heard that particular phrase in Arabic uttered quite so eloquently.

“Whatever he says to do,” Gabriel said. “You do it. I’ll gather the brothers.”

Michael nodded to Gabriel and he kissed Grace before leaving.

“I’ll be back with them,” Gabriel said and then he was gone.

“Bring them all in, Grace. Every single hunter. We’re going to need them.”

“Okay. I’ll bring them all in.”

“All your spies too,” Michael said. “in both courts.”

Grace winced. “You knew?”

“I’ve always known and admired your tact. Now’s the time to start calling in favors.”

Grace nodded and Michael turned to the two new hunters.

“You’ll train with me while Gabriel’s gone. We’ll need you up to speed faster than usual. Follow me.”

Grace watched Michael leave and then nodded to the two who were staring at her.

“Go. Train. He’s right. We’re going to need you.”

They nodded and left, already looking like a team. Grace smiled. They’d be good together. Grace opened up her drawer and picked up her black book that kept every number for her hunters. It was going to be a long day. Grace turned on her radio and kept it low while she made her calls. While waiting for a hunter to get back to her, she noticed the song on the radio long enough to smile.

“You had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day”


Grace leaned against her arms as they were propped on top of the guard rail of the bridge just outside of Cadillac, Michigan. She watched the sunset as Henry puked up his lunch on the other side of the bridge. Looking over her shoulder with a smirk, she shook her head and looked back out at the sky.

“You should have listened to me when I told you not to eat the fish at that diner.”

More retching followed before Henry spoke. “Fuck you.”

Grace laughed so hard there were tears in her eyes. She stumbled back to the car, still giggling and plopped herself in the front seat, legs hanging out the side. She leaned back against her hands as she waited for Henry to stop puking. She was humming along with Michael Buble’s version of Home when Henry opened the door and sat down. He groaned as he leaned his head back against the seat and Grace grinned.

“Feel better?”

“Fuck off.”

“Such language.”

“Can we go?”

“Not until you’ve finished puking,” Grace said as she continued to watch the sunset.

“I’m done.”

“No, you’re not.”

Just as Grace finished talking, Henry clutched his stomach and ran for the bridge again. Grace laughed until a yawn interrupted her enjoyment of Henry’s situation. Shaking it off and rolling her shoulders, Grace started the car and turned the radio on. She was settling in behind the wheel when a patrol car came up behind them. Grace sighed and turned the car off again.

Henry was still dry heaving on the side of the bridge when the cop inside the car stepped out and walked up to Grace. She closed the door before the cop asked her to and held her license, the Athlete’s license, the Fury’s registration and insurance papers out the window. He smiled.

“Good to know there’s still some citizens who are willing to follow the law.”

“It makes my life easier,” Grace said with a laugh.

The cop laughed with her. Grace read his name plate and decided that Officer Dillow seemed like a pretty jovial guy. He looked her paperwork over and then flashed his torch over at Henry.

“He drunk?”

“Nope. Got himself in to a bit of a spot with bad diner fish,” Grace said with a grin.

Officer Dillow shuddered. “Poor bastard. He gonna be okay?”

“Well, he’s emptied his stomach three times. I’m assuming he’s almost done since there can’t be anything left in there at this point.”

The officer laughed along with Grace and handed her information back. Grace tucked it into her bag.

“Where you headed?”

“My cousin and I are headed home to Calumet. Family emergency.”

“That’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear that. It would probably be best if you moved along before night fall. This bridge doesn’t have any lights and we’ve had more than a few accidents from people stopping on the bridge.”

“Gotcha. We’ll be off as soon as he gets his stomach under control,” Grace said with a smile for the officer.

Before the officer could keep talking, Henry stumbled his way back to the car. He pulled up short when he saw the patrol car.

“Officer,” he said with a nod.

“Henry get in the car so the officer doesn’t shoot you,” Grace said with a sigh.

Officer Dillow laughed. “I’m not going to shoot him, but I would prefer it if you did get in to the car.”

Henry nodded and climbed in to his side. Grace looked up at the officer.

“You’re all good to go,” the officer said. “Stay away from the diner fish.”

With a wink he was off and walking to his car. Henry groaned and Grace started the car. She was pulling away when the officer got back in to his car and turned off his lights.

“How much farther?”

“About seven hours. Go back to sleep,” Grace said as she pointed the car north.

“Why’d you put this place so far north?”

“I had to have a place where people wouldn’t find it weird that the same family had owned the property for over a hundred years,” Grace said. She stole a glance at Henry, who was pale and sweating in the seat next to her. “I also needed a place where it wouldn’t be odd if that same family named all their first-born daughters Grace.”

Henry shook his head and curled up in the seat tighter. He was shaking again. Grace reached in the back and pulled a blanket from the seat. She tossed it to him and went back to driving.

“Relax. I have indoor plumbing and a brick paved drive way. You’ll be fine. I even have a healer on the property.”

“A healer?”

“Yeah. She’s fifth generation on the property. The family takes care of it while I’m gone. They know who I am and what I’m trying to do,” Grace said as she glanced in the rear view mirror for the fifth time. The officer was following them, she was sure of it.

Grace gunned the engine and whipped around a turn, heading in to a national park. She killed the lights and the engine after hiding the car behind a group of buildings. Henry shot her a look that clearly expressed his annoyance with her. She touched a finger to her lips and dug her gun out of her bag.

Grace left the car quietly, circling around to where she could get a clear view of the road that they just came down. Grace settled in to wait and wasn’t surprised when the cop turned down the lane, lights on and spot light searching for the car. Grace was just about to get up when a hand landed on her shoulder. Another came around and closed off her scream.

“Ssshhhh.. Grace Anne.” Gabriel said.

Grace relaxed and elbowed Gabriel to let go of her. They both couched down and waited while the cop circled the lot and buildings before driving off again. Grace waited until she was sure he was gone before getting up and turning to look at Gabriel.

“Let me guess, Michael?”

Gabriel nodded. “He’s packing a hole in the floor of his office because he can’t talk to you.”

I grinned. “That’ll show him for being a dick and refusing me.”

“That’s Michael,” Gabriel said as he followed Grace down to the car. “Not please tell me you weren’t going to pop that cop?”

Grace stopped and looked at Gabriel. “You’ve never said that before. Not since I turned you and made you one of mine.”

Gabriel’s features dissolved and Luke was standing there. He grabbed Grace by the throat and lifted her off her feet.

“I warned you not to betray me,” he growled.

Grace lifted her gun and shot him. Luke dropped her and she gasped out a breath as he roared in pain.

“You bitch! Those are laced bullets!” Luke howled.

“I always lace my bullets. I never know who’s going to attack me and now that you’ve taken the contract off,” She said as she raised the gun again and fired, hitting him in the forehead.

Luke dropped to his knees, clawing at his face. “I’m going to kill you.”

“No you’re not, lover. You always did like it when I got frisky.”

He glared up at her. “I’m going to kill you eventually.”

“That day will be very sweet indeed. I’ll finally be free of you and this whole existence.”

He was healing as Henry ran up holding a shotgun. He dropped it when he saw Luke.

“Grace?” he asked.

“We’re fine, Henry. Just a little disagreement between lovers.”

Henry nodded and retreated a little bit away, but still kept Grace within eyesight. Luke glared up at her.

“You did not turn Gabriel the Avenger.”

“Shows how much you really paid attention to me. Imagine, I managed to build a whole network of spies and backstabbing in both courts because you were too busy trying to bang that princess of yours,” Grace spat at him.

Luke eyed her from where he was on his knees and then got up.

“Both courts?”

Grace nodded.

“How many in father’s?”

“I’m not telling you, but it’s more than you’re thinking.”

“I still say you’re a liar.”

“Says the man who just found out I turned an Arch Angel.”

Luke glared at her. Grace sniffed and turned on her heel, walking back to the car.

“Where are you going?”

“Calumet. I have to collect a contract.” She said over her shoulder.

“but what about me?” he asked.

“You’ll heal, or you won’t. Either way, you’re not my problem. You’re his,” Grace said as she pointed at Satan in his dog form.

She got immense pleasure from hearing Luke scream as he was being dragged into Hell by his father.

“You’re going to pay for tonight later, aren’t you?” Henry asked as they got in to the car.

Grace laughed and started the car.

“No, I’m not. I’ll get another fucking medal for the lie I just told.”

“Another medal? How many do you have?”

Grace thought about it for a minute and then responded, “One hundred and thirty-two.”

She peeled out of the parking lot and headed back to the highway while Henry stared at her.

“Do I even want to know how you got most of them?”

Grace grinned and headed north on the highway. “No. You’re stomach is still too tender for my battle stories from the Wars and the Arena.”

“You’re insane.”

“Probably. Now you know why I didn’t want you in the Arena. Hunting is one thing, the Arena is something else entirely.”

Henry went silent and Grace was grateful. They drove in silence for nearly an hour before he spoke again.

“So, what exactly was in those bullets?”

Grace laughed. “Blessed silver.”

Henry snorted and joined Grace in laughing.

Grace hiccuped, laughing harder. “Those are going to sting when they come out in a week. He’s going to have a hard time doing anything.”

Henry looked over at her, still laughing. “Are you sorry you shot him?”

“Only that I didn’t shoot him in the ass,” Grace replied.

They dissolved into laughter again. They got themselves together again by the time Grace had to make a turn on to another highway. Both Henry and Grace were breathing hard and laughing at each other whenever they caught an eye. They eventually settled down and Henry soon fell asleep, leaving Grace to drive the distance with just the soft sounds of the local radio stations coming from the Fury’s speakers.

She drove like that for over two hours before her cell phone rang. Swearing, Grace snatched the device off her purse and answered if before Henry woke up again. She was started to feel for him what she felt for her sisters long ago.

“Hello?!” Grace said in a hushed tone.


It was Michael. Grace sighed.

“What are you doing calling me? I thought I told you to stay away. It’s not safe,” she said.

“I’m worried. Last thing I need is to lose you before we’ve gotten you out.”

“Then you need to stay away. Keep sending Gabriel. They think I’ve turned him.”

There was silence on the line and then laughing.

“How’d you pull that off?”

“I shot Luke when he disguised himself as Gabriel.”

The laughter suddenly cut off.

“You shot him?”

“He pissed me off.”

“What’d you shoot him with?”

“Blessed silver.”

The laughter started up again and made Grace smile.

“Oh that’s going to sting.”

“It’s going to sting even worse with the fact that I’m the one who shot him.”

Michael snorted on the other end of the phone.

“He shouldn’t have underestimated you.”

“You don’t.”

“I can’t afford to. Especially when I know how devious you can get when it comes to contracts and promises.”

“I can’t afford to make a promise without knowing I have a way out.”

Michael sighed. “I know and I wish you didn’t have to be that way.”

“Doesn’t matter what I used to be, it’s the way I am now. I’ve accepted that, Michael. I just wish you hadn’t asked me and then held it against me,” Grace said with a sigh.

Silence followed Grace’s declaration. Grace almost pulled over to the side of the road so she could cry, but changed her mind. She needed to get to Paradise and check in with Eden. When Michael didn’t answer her after five minutes, Grace pressed the end call button.

“You know, you’re going to have to make a decision about him sooner or later.”

Henry was awake.

“I know.”

“He’s not going to change who he is for you and apparently, he’s not ready to forgive himself or you for being what he asked you to be,” Henry said with a yawn. He shifted and settled down in the seat, falling back asleep before Grace could answer him.

“He’ll never forgive me for saying yes,” she said into the darkness, the only light coming from the Fury’s headlights as they headed north on the highway. If she cried, well, Henry wasn’t awake to see.

It was nearly dawn when Grace pulled in to the brick covered drive of her Eden. The driveway was nearly a mile long and the forest that surrounded the grounds was thick. They came across a huge stone fence with a lychgate. She beeped the horn at the gate twice and woke Henry up, who stared at the huge wrought iron gate as it swung back.

“Where are we?” he asked as he looked around at the woods.

“Eden,” Grace replied as she drove through the lychgate and stopped, waiting for it to close.

When she was sure that the gate was closed and no one had followed them inside, Grace continued up the driveway. The house came into view as they rounded a thicket of blackberry bushes. Henry’s jaw dropped as he saw Eden. The lights on the house cast an eerie glow in the fading night. It looked almost haunted.

“How the hell did you get all that stone up here?” He demanded as he took in the four towers faced with stone.

Grace laughed. “It took two years and I nearly killed my architect, but I got my Eden.”

Grace pulled through the porte-cochere and to the carriage house behind the walls of the castle that Grace had built into the woods. The Carriage house itself felt like a mini-version of the main house, with only one tower in the middle. The garages underneath made Henry think of horses in stalls instead of cars.

“How big?” Henry asked.

“The main house? Twenty-one thousand square feet in forty-nine rooms,” Grace said as she parked the car outside the garage.

“What kind of architecture is this?”

“Châteauesque, I think. I didn’t pay much attention to it in 1888 when I commissioned the house,” Grace said as she got out of the car and went around to the back to start pulling things out of the trunk.

“Who designed it?”

“Louis Kemper. He did it for a song when I agreed to forget about his contract.”

That brought Henry up short. “You forgot about the man’s contract? You wouldn’t forget about mine.”

“and I paid for it when he finally showed up. I spent twenty human years in the Arena,” Grace said quietly.

Henry nodded.

“I couldn’t forget about yours because it meant that I would have to go back into the Arena. Too many people want me dead in The Pit, Henry.”

Henry sighed. “I guess you did what you could to get me out.”

“You were only in there an equivalent to one Earth month and I only put years on to your contract. Compared to some of the others, you got off with a song,” she said as she went to the driver’s side back door and opened it. Grace pulled out her purse and left Henry to grab his things.

She was halfway to the backdoor of the house when a woman swung out, laughing. Grace dropped her things and ran for her, laughing as they came together in a tight hug. When they separated, Grace kissed the younger woman’s forehead, laughing.

“Auntie Grace I missed you so much!” she said. “You go away entirely too often.”

“I’m sorry, my poppet. I can’t stay here all the time. Though I wish I could,” Grace said as she tugged on a black strand of the woman’s hair.

The woman sighed. “I know, I just wish you’d stay longer.”

“Well you’re in luck. I’m going to be staying at least a week this time. Possibly longer.”

The young woman cheered and hugged Grace again. Grace laughed and swung her around.

“Hey! Who’s this?!” She demanded when she let Grace go and caught sight of Henry.

“This is my latest charge and newest hunter, Henry.”

“Newest charge? Does that mean he’s contracted?”

“Yes, I’m contracted,” Henry said as he came forward.

“Henry, This is Sloane Dajani. Her family has been keeping Eden since it was built.”

“and damn proud to assist you,” Sloane said.

She tucked her hair behind her ear and adjusted her t-shirt. The woman’s distinctive Indian features combined with her grey eyes made for a striking combination as Henry eyed her over.

“You’re probably thinking what I’m doing out in the middle of the Michigan woods when I look like I belong in a Bangladesh market square,” Sloane said with a wry grin.

Henry sheepishly ducked his head and nodded. Sloane tucked her arm through Henry’s and marched him forward. Grace smiled as she picked up her things and followed.

“My family was fortunate to find Miss Grace and her home. They came in with the construction crews and when the house was completed, asked to stay on as servants,” Sloane said.

“I was taken aback because I wasn’t exactly planning on having anyone here.”

Sloane laughed. “No you weren’t, but my family has a long history of magic and when my ancestors saw what she was building in to the foundation, they were intrigued.”

“They knew I was building a sanctuary for myself and others who were orphaned by what I was being forced to do. I would bring the children who were orphaned by a contract collection back here and Sloane’s family would protect them.”

“Proud to do it, too. She eventually realized that she needed to keep us around and made my family caretakers, which was unheard of back then. An Indian family promoted above a white family!? The scandal,” Sloane said with glee dancing in her eyes.

“The white families I employed left after that and more of her relatives arrived to take their places,” Grace said as she put her bags down in the hallway and stood with Sloane and Henry. “It was an improvement. I never had to worry that her family was going to leave, because they were happy to be accepted for what they were.”

“Magic. I’m a fifth generation Healer. My brother is the warrior mage,” Sloane said.

“Your father was as magicless as a stone.” Grace said with a laugh.

Sloane laughed too. “That he was, but my mother loved the outsider. Even if he was considered beneath the family.”

“True, but he loved your mother,” Grace said, tucking Sloane in to her arm and kissing her forehead. “Okay, are the rooms ready? I’m exhausted.”

“They are, Aunt Grace. Leo helped before going back out on a job,” Sloane said as she scooped up one of Grace’s bags and started up the stairs to the top floor.

“What job?” Grace asked.

“He and Ward are in Colorado for that windigo.”

Grace stopped dead. “They’re what? They know better than to go take care of that without more help.”

Sloane flinched. “Sorry, Aunt Grace. I tried telling them, but they laughed and said they could handle it.”

Grace sighed. “Well there’s nothing I can do about it now. I am going to give them a good thrashing if they come back in one piece.”

Sloane sighed and it made Grace smile.

“I’m not mad at you, hon. I’m pissed they went without proper back up. They could have asked anyone to go with them, but they’re twenty and twenty-four. I can’t expect them to behave properly at that age.”

Sloane nodded. “I’m still sorry I didn’t do more to stop them.”

“You couldn’t have stopped them,” Henry spoke up. “I was that age once. They’re not likely to listen until one of them gets hurt or worse. Then they’ll realize they still have more to learn.”

Grace nodded and wrapped an arm around Sloane. “I raised the three of you as my own when your parents were killed. I love all three of you. Your brothers test my patience though and I will deal with them. You don’t have anything to feel guilty over. Understand?”

Sloane nodded.

“Good. Now you might be the youngest at nineteen, but that’s not going to stop them from trying to blame you. Don’t take it and say it’s okay, because it’s not,” Grace stopped and tipped Sloane’s chin up. “You are not to blame for their bone-headed decisions.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Now come on. Show me to my room so I can shower and collapse for twenty hours. Then you can catch me up on the kids.”

Sloane grinned. “I put Henry in the room next to yours.”

Grace grinned and continued up the steps with Sloane and Henry.

“Had to put him in the Armor room.”

“Armor room?”

“The room is filled with suits of armor from different periods,” Sloane said.

“It’s her favorite room in the house, with exception for the one she uses. You are still in the Japan room, right?” Grace asked as she turned to the right at the top of the stairs and headed down the hall.

“Yes’m. We’re still in the same place we’ve always been. Leo and Ward still use the carriage house.”

“Not feeling the loneliness in this big ass house?” Henry asked with a smile.

Sloane laughed. “Hell no. I’m glad they’re out of my house. The only time they come in here is for the library and the weapons rooms. Speaking of those rooms, we’re low on blessed silver.”

Grace laughed. “I’m not surprised. I’ll talk with Father O’Brian tomorrow and see if he can ship us more.”

Sloane nodded. “There’s more we’re low on, but I’ll save it for tomorrow. The bullets are the more important one.”

Grace patted Sloane’s arm. “Thanks, luv.”

They stopped outside of Henry’s room and Grace nodded at the doors.

“This is yours. I’ll be next door in the Sky room.”

“Why’s it called that?” Henry asked.

Grace laughed. “It’s the tallest room in the house and I had it painted like the night sky in high summer.”

Henry grinned. “That sounds incredible.”

“It is. If you don’t like that one, there are others to choose from on this floor. You’re welcome to any one of them,” Grace said as she and Sloane continued to the next door in the hallway. “Sleep yourself out, Henry. You were sick today and you need to heal.”

“He was sick?” Sloane asked and turned to Henry. “Do you need anything for that?”

“No, I’m better, but Grace is right. I do need to shower and sleep.”

Grace nodded. “Goodnight, Henry. Sleep well.”

Sloane echoed Grace’s goodnight and slipped in to the room with Grace.

“So how are your brothers?” Grace asked as she put her bags down on the chaise lounge at the foot of the bed.

“The same as always. Tiresome, annoying and I’m happy they’re gone half the time.”

Grace looked over at the woman. She noted the bags under her eyes.

“Are you getting any sleep?”

Sloane ducked her head. “Mrs Davenport helps with the kids, but Jason has colic and Declan has the flu.”

“So you’ve been helping out with the kids and then studying for your college classes at night,” Grace said. She put her hands on her hips and studied Sloane. “I thought I warned you about that.”

Sloane sighed. “College isn’t for me, Auntie. Its boring. I feel listless and disinterested in anything other than being a herbalist.”

Grace sat down on the bed. “Okay. Isn’t there a college for that?”

Sloane’s head snapped up and her mouth tumbled open. Grace laughed.

“What? You thought I meant going to a real college like U of M? No honey. I wanted you to go find your own passion and follow it. If that means you become a Herbalist instead of a medical doctor, then that’s what you do. It’s your passion.”

Sloane launched herself at Grace, hugging tightly. “I was so worried you’d be disappointed that I didn’t want to be a traditional doctor.”

Grace hugged Sloane tightly and rubbed her hand down her back. “I want you to be happy. If this makes you happy, then that’s what you’re going to do. First though, you’re going to find a good program to go to.”

“I’ll give you all the research I’ve done later. For now, you need a shower and then bed. You smell.”

Grace laughed and cuffed Sloane on the back of the head. “Then get out, silly girl.”

Sloane laughed as she danced for the door. “It’s good to have you back, Aunt Grace.”

The door closed and Grace was left alone.

“It’s good to be home,” she said to the empty room.

Grace got up and started pulling out night-clothes from the drawers of her dresser and flipped on the radio. The strains of Michael Buble’s Home drifted out and she laughed. Singing along, Grace showered and dressed again. She collapsed in to bed after turning off the radio as she passed, but the song stayed in her head until the long drive caught up with her and she drifted off.

“Let me go home
I’ve had my run
Baby, I’m done
I gotta go home
Let me go home
It’ll all be all right
I’ll be home tonight
I’m coming back home”

Bad Moon Rising

Author’s note: While I think the people of Sibley, Iowa might be incensed that I took liberties with their town, this particular story needs an abandoned church. So I created one for my alternate universe. All names and places in this part of the story have been changed to protect their owners. Thank you.

“So tell me again why we’re going to the middle of no where, Iowa to see an Angel who is misbehaving?” Henry said about mouthfuls of his burger.

“because the Angel in charge is sending us to kill said Angel for not acting like an Angel should,” Grace said as she pulled in to the parking lot of the local inn.

“This is bad because the Angel could become another Lucifer?”

“Yes and that’s bad. No Angel has fallen in years. The last time, we had two world wars.” Grace said as she got out of the car.

“Whoa, that did not happen because an Angel fell.” Henry said as he got out of the car and followed her.

Grace spun around and faced Henry. “You didn’t know Demons existed until ten years ago, when you sold your soul to me. I fought in the wars. It was not pretty to see what one Fallen could do to an entire people if given enough power.”

“So Hitler?”

“Not Hitler at all. A prick in a skin sack that decided to take a gentle man and turn him in to a racist who wanted to eradicate an entire people because of a damn prophecy.”

“and the prophecy?”

“That one of those people would grow up to become a catalyst for avoiding the apocalypse.”

Henry stopped. “So all those people died because of something that might or might not have happened?”

“Fucked up, isn’t it? Millions dead because of one Angel who claimed he was tired of watching over humanity decided to start a couple of wars to kill us all so the apocalypse could happen.”

Henry watched her face change from anger over what she’d seen in the war to sadness.

“You’re not a normal Demon, are you?”

Grace laughed. “No, I’m not. I fought for Hell against the Angels because I was forced to. I’ve killed more than my fair share of Michael’s brethren while trying to save those I could at Michael’s command.”

“You’ve been doing this a lot longer than fifty years.” Henry said.

“It started at the end of the first world war. So I guess its closer to a hundred now,” she said as she pulled open the door to the inn and ended the conversation.

Henry followed her in and looked around the reception area. It was decorated in LL Bean Americana, but felt like home that people actually lived in. Henry smiled at a Russian nesting doll on the mantle of the fireplace. He didn’t notice that Grace was standing next to him again, nudging his arm with her elbow.

“Got a thing for blondes?” she asked.

Henry laughed. “My grandmother had one.”

Grace smiled. “Come on. Let’s get the bags. They had two rooms, other wise dear cousin, we’d have to share.”

“Well, small favors. You snore,” Henry said as he walked out of the Inn.

Grace heard the Inn Keeper snort and smiled over at her.


Grace followed Henry out and cuffed him on the back of the head.


“Just getting in to our new roles,” Grace said as she opened up the trunk of the car.

Grace pulled out her bags and scooped up another duffel before closing the trunk again. Henry reached in to the backseat to pull the bag that had the athlete’s clothes. They hadn’t had time to stop and get him new clothes yet, which Henry thought about as he hefted the bag.

“I’m going to need new clothes soon.”

“I know. We’ll go out tomorrow. Tonight we’re going to scout the town.”

“How do you propose we do that?” Henry asked as he slung his bag over his shoulder and followed her.

“The local diner for dinner, then the town bar. I’ve been in a hundred towns like this one over the years. There is always both and in those places, there are busy-bodies who know everything,” Grace said as she climbed the steps and walked in to the inn.

Scooping up the keys the inn keeper left on the counter, Grace headed up the stairs without stopping. Henry followed her as she climbed to the second floor and went down the hall to a door painted bright yellow.

“You’re in the blue room, which is across from mine.”

“Key?” Henry said and caught it on the fly when Grace tossed it to him. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll see you in an hour. I need to shower and change,” Grace said as she unlocked her door and stepped in, closing the door behind her.

An hour later, Grace emerged with wet hair and pulling on her coat. She tossed her bag over her shoulder and settled it cross body before locking her door. Henry stepped out of his room just as she turned to knock on his door.

“Oh good, you’re ready.”

“Yeah, but did you have to pull out the sledgehammer?” he said as he gestured to her dress.

Grace laughed. “The cut is a little much, isn’t it?”

“That’s not the word I’d use, but we’ll go with that.”

“Henry you are so stuck.”

“In what?”

“The mud,” Grace said as she started down the steps.

“I’ll have you know I am not stuck in the mud. I just don’t see the point in flashing your bits to everyone.”

“The point is to get noticed. I want people to talk to me. The more information I get, the better off we are.”

Henry sighed.

“Let it go, Henry. You’re not the same person you were before you sold your soul. You are a Demon’s familiar now,” Grace said as she walked the rest of the way down the steps and out the front door.

Grace would have slammed the door behind her, but she saw her Prince and stopped short.

“Luke, what are you doing here?” she asked.

“I’m here because of you. You left in quite a hurry after we spoke at Bell Harbor,” he said as he stepped forward and cupped her chin. “Father said he saw you with an Angel. I came to see if it was true.”

“It’s true. I was trying to turn the General.”

He hissed out a breath. “How could you be so stupid? He’ll never turn. Being anywhere near him is dangerous.”

“I was only thinking that he’d make a great addition to your father’s plans.”

“I’m thinking I made a mistake taking you,” He growled out.

Grace looked down. Her nerves were wire thin and she prayed he didn’t see her fidgeting as a sign that she was lying to him. She had to play it just right so he wouldn’t kill her. Luke sighed and pulled her close.

“You couldn’t have known that we already tried to turn him,” he kissed her hair and continued. “Stay away from him. I know Father already talked to you, but I’m asking you not to go near him. I don’t want to have to put the chains on you again.”

“I won’t. I’ll stay clear.”


“I’ll do my best.”

“I’ll have to take that. I don’t want to have to kill you either. I’d hate for my prize to be sullied by an Angel,” He said as he stepped back. He was gone a second later.

Grace sighed and pushed her hair back. Henry came out the door finally, followed by Gabriel. Grace narrowed her eyes at the Angel.

“What are you doing here?”

“Michael,” he answered.

“The worry-wort.”

Gabriel laughed. “You’re his best agent, it’s not like he’s going to freak out when you leave such a cryptic message.”

He stepped forward and gave Grace a hug, whispering in to her ear; “I miss Reno too.”

Grace laughed. “I bet you had a blast teasing him over that.”

“You gave me the best fuel I’ve had in a long time for embarrassing him.”

“He deserved it for making me feel like I’m unclean for doing something he asked me to do.”

“I don’t blame you for being who you are now or then,” Gabriel said as he ran a hand over her cheek. “just be careful. Luke isn’t to be trusted. His father either.”

“His father has been making noises about forcing me to take The Blood. I can’t become one of them, Gabe. I won’t,”

Henry finally spoke up. “The Blood?”

“It’s the final rite for Demons. To take The Blood is to become a full Demon. Grace here has resisted and they’ve let her because she’s valuable to them.”

“Taking it means I don’t have a chance anymore of going to purgatory. It means I’ll never get my freedom and my forgiveness.”

“I’ll let him know about what’s going on, but you have to promise to keep a lower profile. No more politicians,” he warned.

Grace smiled. “That was a masterwork, if I do say so myself.”

“It was. I enjoyed it even more when I found out you were responsible for that trash getting what he deserves, but Michael is partially right about how it’s going to affect the family.”

“I know he is, but at least this way they cannot just sweep it under the rug. They actually have to deal with what happened,” Grace said as she blew her bangs off her face with a huff of breath.

Gabriel smiled. “I know what you were aiming for. Michael is Michael though.”

Henry coughed. “I hate to interrupt the love-fest going on, but we’re here to hunt.”

Gabriel looked over his shoulder. “I like this one, Grace Anne. Where did you find him?”

Grace hooked her arm around Gabriel’s waist and smiled.

“He was one of my contracts. Sold his soul for his wife’s health so they could have babies. Three kids and ten years later, he ended up in the Arena.”

“Kid, that’s a tough break. I’m glad she pulled you out of there before you were too far damaged.”

Henry shrugged. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“They were dosing him.”

Gabriel looked at Grace sharply and then back at Henry.

“All the better that she got you out. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, being contracted to her, but you’re really in the best hands. She’s one of the better demons.”

Grace smiled up at Gabriel. “I only made him promise years for the mark. Other Demons would have bound him to be much darker.”

Gabriel laughed. “Years? In exchange for a chance at topside again? You softy.”

“Your fault. I’d have gone mad in the Arena if it wasn’t for you and Bill.”

Henry looked at Grace. “You were in the Arena?”

“The Black Banshee, that was me.”

Henry’s eyes bulged out. “but they still tell stories about your viciousness in battle. How did you stay sane?”

“Gabriel and Bill smuggled me out every couple of years, showed me what the world was like and what I was fighting for. If they hadn’t, I don’t think I would have survived.”

“You made it easy, Grace Anne.”

Grace elbowed Gabriel in the side. “Stop. Go back to Michael, tell him what was said and what we’re doing.”

“All right.”

Grace watched him step away and walk off. He stopped and turned back to her.

“Oh, the Angel? Rumor has been going around that it’s Araqiel.”

Grace swore. “The Earth Guardian?”

“Yeah. If its true and it’s her, you’ll need more held than one fledgling. Contact the Hunter and the Wanderer. You’ll need them both.”

Grace nodded. “As soon as it’s confirmed, I’ll bring them both in. Thanks, Gabe.”

Gabriel nodded and walked off whistling the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Grace smiled.

“So that’s the Avenger?”

Grace nodded.

“How did you two meet?”

“World War One. I pulled him off the battlefield and into a rat infested bunker where he tried to kiss me as I cleaned his shoulder wound,” Grace laughed.

Henry smiled, but gave her a skeptical look. “I assume that Michael sent you to look for him?”

“Nope. I was looking for Michael on the battlefield to tell him that I would accept a mission. I found Gabriel first and let him in on the secret so that he could send a message to Michael.”

Grace walked over to her car and got in. Henry followed, slipping in to the other side. As Grace started the car and backed out, Henry was watching her.

“Whatever it is you want to ask, now is the time to ask it.”

“Why me?”

“You got a raw deal, even though I had to take the contract. I’m giving you the second chance I’ve always wanted,” she said as she looked over at him. “You don’t like that answer.”

“You took the contract anyway.”

“I had to. I was under orders to take it when you called for me. To disobey would mean my death.”

Henry fell silent again. “I still don’t like it.”

“I don’t either, but here we are.”

Henry snorted and Grace sighed. She pulled to a stop in font of a small restaurant. The place was packed.

“Popular place,” Henry said as he looked around.

“This kind of town usually has one or two places like this that are always packed. Great way to find out information,” she said as she tucked the keys in to her bag.

Henry opened the door for her and followed Grace inside. There were several people who stopped what they were doing to look at the new comers.

“You’re not from around here,” The Hostess at the stand said.

Grace smiled. “Passing through. We’re here for research.”

“Research?” the Hostess asked as she walked them back to a table.

“I’m writing a book about local urban legends. I was tipped off that there was something good here.”

The Hostess laughed. “You could say that. We’ve got ourselves an abandoned church outside of town that folks say is truly haunted.”

“Now that is interesting. Haunted by what?” Grace asked.

“Some say it’s the ghost of one of the teenagers that were killed in the fire, others say it’s something else. Something like a demon or a Fallen Angel.”

“Well, that sounds interesting enough to have us stay for a couple of nights. Don’t you think so, Cousin?” Grace asked Henry.

Henry smiled. “I think so.”

The Hostess smiled. “Well now, Ya’ll go talk to my Uncle down at the library tomorrow. He’ll give you all the good bits about the Church.”

“I think we’ll do just that,” Grace said as they sat down at the table.

The Hostess smiled. “Ya’ll enjoy your dinner now.”

Grace watched her walk off, then turned to Henry.

“Now tell me again why it wasn’t worth the dress?”

“Shut up,” Henry said as he opened up his menu.

Grace laughed.

Grace knocked on Henry’s door the next morning and kept knocking until he answered. Somewhere around the fifth round of drinks last night at the local bad, she’d lost him to a drunken stupor. Grace wouldn’t make that mistake again and she doubted that Henry would either. He slept through her visit to see the Hostesses Uncle.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m coming.”

“Hurry up. I’ve got news.”

“So do I. If you don’t quit knocking, I’m going to puke on your shoes,” Henry said as he opened his door.

Grace eyed him over. He looked like he’d been in bed for a week with the flu. Grace held up a container of coffee and waved a huge omelette under his nose. Henry got one whiff of both and was clutching his stomach and stumbling for the bathroom. Grace grinned.

“It’s for your own good.”

The sound of Henry throwing up followed her statement. Grace grinned and stepped inside his room, putting the coffee and food on the little table against one wall. She was reading the paper when he came out of the bathroom ten minutes later.

“You’re evil,” he said.

Grace laughed. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“Right now it is.”

“Eat, drink. I’ll tell you about what Maisy’s uncle had to say about the church.”

“You went without me?” Henry said as he stopped mid-pour of the coffee.

“You wouldn’t get out of bed. Threw something at the door.”

“Who’s Maisy?” Henry asked.

“The Hostess from last night. Anyway, her uncle says that ten kids died about five years ago when the church burned down,” Grace said as she watched him sit down and tentatively start eating the omelette.

“and? What’s that got to do with us and our Angel problem?” Henry asked around a mouthful of egg.

“Fallen Angels tend to pick sad spots like this one to start their dirty work. Even the ones who haven’t yet Fallen gravitate to spots like the one outside of town,” Grace explained. “We’re going to head out there tonight after nightfall to take a peek. With luck, we can kill him tonight. I don’t hold much hope for that though.”


“The Angel isn’t in the area right now. Bob, that would be Maisy’s uncle, says that the biggest activity is around the full moon. That’s in a week.”

“So you mean we’ve got to stick around here for a week?”

“No. We’re going to head out tomorrow so I can pick up a soul or two. I’ve still got to collect contracts that have come due and you’re going to read my journals.”


“Every evil thing that I’ve come across I’ve written down how to kill. The journals will give you information about what you’re up against while helping me.”

“So you’re telling me you’ve got a set or journals with that kind of information just sitting around?”

“Not really. They’re in my library.”

Henry ran his hand over his face. “I know I’m going to regret this, but where is the library?”

“Paradise, Michigan.”

Henry laughed. “Yeah, I knew I was going to regret asking.”

Grace grinned. “I had to keep them safe some how. The house is well guarded and protected. Not even Himself could get in without me.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, that’s so. Don’t worry, Henry. I’ll train you to take care of yourself. Who knows? You may even like doing this sort of thing,” Grace said as she stole a piece of bacon out of the take out container.

Henry frowned at her. “I doubt it.”

“I’m not talking about the demon part of this whole business. I’m talking about the hunting part.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.”

“You were a police officer, this sort of thing should be normal for you.”

“I was a street cop. I don’t know anything about being a detective.”

“That’s why you’ve got me. You’ll be fine… ish. I can’t guarantee that you won’t get banged up.”

“Define, ‘Banged up’,” Henry asked.

“Well, the last time I ended up killing an Angel I had to switch bodies. That was twenty years ago.”

Henry let his head hit the table. “I do not like this. At all.”

“Cheer up. At least your soul can now transfer between new bodies. It’s a lot better than waiting to be reincarnated.”

“How would you know?”

“I’ve met a couple of them. Not fun. Came back as a dog. Anyway, get cleaned up. We’re going shopping later. You need new clothes for sulking around in a church,” Grace said as she got up and let herself out.


“Tell me again why we’re out here?” Henry asked as he followed Grace in to the church.

“We’re looking for the Angel’s symbol. Every Angel has one,” Grace said as she pushed her way through the doors.

Grace hissed as the holy power of the church slid over her skin. Her nerves were strung thin and she itched between her shoulder blades.

“What’s wrong?”

“Consecrated ground has power, which doesn’t mix well with Demons. Even ones who haven’t taken blood, it affects us,” Grace hissed out. “You’ll feel it, the more time you spend as a Demon. For now, just keep an eye out for anything weird.”

Grace lifted her flashlight up and shined it over the walls. She knew what she was looking for and prayed it wasn’t the Earth Guardian’s symbol she found. Henry moved away to search the walls on the other side, but kept her within view. Grace approved. She concentrated on her side and moved along the other wall, searching for anything that might give her a clue.

“Grace, over here.”

Grace moved over to Henry’s side carefully, there was still debris from the fire on the ground. She made her way over to an alcove that would have held a saint statue, but now the statue was broken and on the floor. When Grace saw who the saint was, she smiled.

“Michael the protector. Well it looks like he’s not protecting much here,” Grace said.

“Very funny. That’s not what’s weird. Look at the podium,” Henry said as he shined his light over a graffiti tag.

Grace saw the symbol and cursed. “Well shit. Looks like this just got a whole lot worse.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s not the Earth Guardian’s symbol. That’s an Seraphim’s symbol.”

“Which one?” Henry asked.

“If I had to guess?” Grace said as she looked overt the symbol. “Nathanael or Kemeul.”

“That’s bad, right?”

“Well, World War One was started by an Authority that Fell. This is two ranks above that,” Grace said as she grabbed Henry’s arm and hauled him out of the church. On the way out, she tripped over a cell phone laying in an aisle. Grace scooped it up and then grabbed Henry, pushing him out of the door.

“Hey, hey! Not so rough,” Henry said. He stumbled down the steps.

“We’re leaving,” Grace said as she practically ran for the car. “I need to call for more help and let Gabriel know what’s going on here. This is the worst kind of not good there is.”

Grace opened the trunk of the car when she got there and wrapped the cell phone in a length of warded cloth.

“What’s that?”

“Something I picked up on our way out and before you ask, I’m wrapping it in the cloth so if it is bespelled with a tracking charm, it won’t lead whomever put it on there straight to us.”

“Oh. That’s good.”

“Thanks. Now get in the car,” she said as she tucked the cell in to a bag and closed the trunk.

Grace got in to the car and started the engine, threw it in reverse and sped back to the Inn. She ran up the steps and to her room, Henry on her heels. As Grace was stuffing her things back in to her bag, Henry came in and saw what she was doing. He went to his own room and grabbed his things.

“What’s going on?”

“We’re getting out of here now and we’re not coming back until we’ve got more help. I can’t kill a Seraphim with only a familiar. Hell, I probably couldn’t do it with an entire fucking garrison of level three Angels.”

Grace hauled her bags down stairs and checked them out. The Innkeeper looked at them funny.

“Family emergency. Our Grandmother is in the hospital,” she said.

The Innkeeper nodded and didn’t ask any questions. Henry waited to talk until they stowed their gear in the car and were on the way out-of-town, heading north.

“So what’s going on?”

“I told you, we need more help. We’re going to my house so that I can put the call out,” Grace said as she pulled out her cell phone.

Henry stayed quiet as she dialed Gabriel’s number and left a message.

“Gabe, it’s Grace. We’ve got a bigger problem. It’s a Seraphim. Heading to Paradise and Eden. Calling in help from the Hunter and the Wanderer. I might even pull in the Librarian. Stay on guard. Stay safe. Warn Michael,” Grace said as she hung up the phone and tossed it on to her bag, which was laying in the middle of the seat between them.

“So who’s the help we’re pulling in?” Henry asked.

“They’re the good guys, Henry. I’ll explain more when we get to Paradise. It’s not safe to talk about it until then. Not with a Seraphim in danger of Falling,” Grace said as she checked her rear view mirror again.

“What would happen if one of them were to Fall?”

Grace looked over at Henry. She knew the fear in her eyes was there. Henry looked at her and the fear crept in to his heart.

“Nothing less than the Apocalypse,” she said.

Henry nodded. “Okay then.”

“Okay,” Grace said as she reached down and flipped the radio on to settle her nerves.

Bad Moon Rising came through the radio and she laughed. Grace started singing along with the radio. Henry looked over at her like she lost her mind.

“I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.”

Flirtin With Disaster

The diner smelled of home fries and eggs when Grace stepped through the door. She smiled and walked to the back booth, nodding at the waitress along the way. Michael was sitting in the booth, sipping a cup of coffee and faking a bored expression. She was sure that he was watching the whole diner from where he sat.

Sliding in to the booth across from him, Grace tucked her helmet down on to the seat next to her.

“Took you long enough,” Michael said.

“I had to make a pit stop for a politician’s soul in Kansas City,” she murmured.

Michael looked at her over the rim of his mug. “That was you?”

“I thought it was fitting. Heart attack while he was banging his new mistress.”

“You hurt the family.”

“They were already broken. What happened isn’t going to change that, but maybe they’ll heal a little faster now that his poison is no longer in their lives.”

“You really believe that?”

“I have to. It’s the only way I keep what little I have of my humanity,” Grace said.

She stopped talking when the waitress set a cup of coffee down in front of her.

“What can I get you, hon?”

“Triple stack with home fries, two eggs over easy and bacon,” Grace replied.

“All that for a skinny thing like you?” the waitress asked with a smile tugging her lips.

Grace smiled up at her. “It’s Sunday and I’m not working. I’m going to indulge.”

“I hear that, honey. I’ll be out with your order in a bit.” she shuffled away.

Grace could see that her ankles were giving her trouble and after a life time of being a waitress, it looked like she was heading for a wheelchair soon. Wiggling her fingers at the lady’s feet, Grace used some of her magic to ease the woman’s pain. When she was done, she turned back to Michael, who was smiling at her.

“Don’t say it. Just don’t.”



“Watch it.”

“You first.”

Michael sighed. “Why do we have to fight?”

“Because it’s fun,” Grace said with a grin as she doctored her coffee the way she liked it and took a sip.

“I have an assignment for you.” Michael said as he watched her drink.

“If it’s going to be unpleasant, can you at least wait until after my breakfast has been eaten?”

“No. I have to leave soon, before anyone realizes I’m gone.”

“They still having an issue with my switching sides?”

“Well they don’t exactly know that I recruited you from the very beginning.”

“Why not?”

Michael sighed and set his mug down. “Can you imagine the chaos it would cause if they found out I’ve had an agent inside for the last one hundred seventy-eight years and haven’t done anything about it until now?”

“You’d look incompetent, at the very least,” Grace murmured.

“For starters. If they found out that I’ve been using you to investigate disturbances? I’d be cast out for giving secrets to the enemy, never mind that I’ve got you bound so that you can’t,” Michael said.

“I wouldn’t anyway. I want my soul back and getting it back means keeping my mouth shut.”

“You’re still a demon and you still can’t be trusted, according to them.”

“According to them,” Grace said as she looked Michael’s face over. “Not getting any sleep?”

Michael’s eyebrows drew down and he shot her an annoyed look.

“Angels don’t sleep.”

“Angel’s skin sacks need sleep.”

“I’ll thank you not to talk about my vessel that way.”

“You’re the one who’s ignoring the needs of your own borrowed body. At least the soul was dead inside mine before I took it over,” Grace huffed out.

“Well yipee for you,” Michael said.

“Now I know you haven’t been getting any sleep. Are you at least eating?”

“Does coffee count?”

Grace laughed. “No it does not.”

The waitress brought over Grace’s order and set it down in front of her. Grace smiled brightly up at her.

“Can I have an extra plate? My friend here is going to split this with me. He hasn’t eaten,” Grace said with a roll of her eyes.

The waitress laughed. “Sure thing, honey. If you need anything else you just holler.”

“You got it,” Grace said and held up a hand for Michael to wait to talk until after the extra plate was dropped off.

The waitress brought over the plate and set it down in front of Michael, along with silverware. She smiled and hurried off to answer another customer’s call. Grace cut her pancakes in half and slid them over to Michael, then gave him an egg and half of her bacon.

“Eat or I’m not doing your assignment,” Grace said as she tucked in to her food.

Michael stared at her. Grace refused to look at him, instead concentrated on the plate in front of her. With a sigh, Michael started eating. Two bites in he became ravenous and started eyeing her egg after polishing off the plate in front of him.

Grace pushed over the plate that had her egg on it with a smile.

“Told you,” she said and tucked into her bacon after polishing off her half of the pancakes.

“Shut up.”

“Make me.”

“What are you? Six?” Michael said.

Grace grinned and put her foot on his crotch and started rubbing.

“No, I’m definitely older than that.”

Michael tried to wiggle away from her foot, but he was trapped in the booth.

“Be very careful, Demon.”

“I’m a demon, we’re not made to be careful.”

“You play with fire.”

“Yours or mine?” she shot back.

“Mine. You don’t want any part of this.”

“You sure? Because we’ve been dancing around it for nearly two hundred years now.”

Michael sighed and looked at her.

“I want what I cannot have.”

Grace pushed her plate away and pulled her foot back. “Cannot or Should not?”


“I don’t belong to him, you know.”

“but you’re a demon. Nothing’s going to change that right now.”

“I’ve officially lost my appetite.” Grace said as she picked up her coffee again.

Michael stared at her and sighed and finished off the last of the meal and her bacon before talking again.

“I would love to love you, Grace. It’s just not that simple.”

“Never is. Even if I earned my soul back and went to purgatory, you couldn’t.” she said looking at him.

“No, I couldn’t.”

Grace felt the slice through her heart and sighed. “Well it’s not like I didn’t know. I just hoped anyway.”

“Then it’s a waste of hope.”

“My hope to waste,” Grace said.

Shaking his head, Michael stacked up the plates and pushed them to the end of the table.

“What have you got for me?” Grace asked.

Michael reached under the table and picked up the file that was sitting next to him on his side of the table. He handed it over to her.

“Three weeks ago we started hearing chatter through the ranks that someone had defected and was using a church in Iowa as their headquarters.”

Grace swore. “A church? Michael you know how I get around churches.”

“I know, but I can’t send anyone else in. I’m being watched.”

“Then how did you get out to meet me?”

“Gabriel is covering for me. He sends his love, by the way.”

Grace smiled. “Send mine back and tell him I miss Reno.”

Michael snorted his coffee and started coughing. Grace started to laugh.

“You did that on purpose.”

“I did.”

“You were naked in bed with him.”

“We had fun and he got something you turn down repeatedly.”

Michael clinched his jaw and growled out. “For good reason.”

“Gabriel never played by the rules and never will. I like that about him. Plus, he doesn’t constantly remind me of something I was asked to do on His behalf.” Grace said as she dropped bills on the table and picked up the folder.

“Grace, wait -” Michael said.

Grace wasn’t listening. She picked up her helmet and took herself and the file out the door. Michael caught up with her outside.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yes, you did. I’m a Demon. You can’t sleep with a demon or be in love with one because it ruins your precious image,” Grace said as she slipped the folder in to her saddle bag with her laptop.

Michael grabbed her and spun her around. “Damn it, listen to me.”

“I’m tired of listening to you when all you do is remind me of what I am, not who I am.”

“I can’t sleep with you or be in love with you. Not until all this is over with.”

“Why? What’s so different about then and now?” Grace demanded. “I’ve been patient and you still deny me, no, us. You deny us. Why?”

“I can’t talk about this now. Not in public with you.”

Grace felt like she’d been slapped and it hurt worse than what her Prince had done to her. “Then there’s nothing to talk about. Send Gabriel next time. I don’t want to see you again.”

Michael let go of her arms and stepped back. “I won’t, because next time I’ll be able to talk about this.”

“Then I’m not coming.”

“That’s your choice, but that file? You’re going to need a partner. Find one. Make it someone you can trust, since you can’t trust me.”

“I’ll take it under advisement.” Grace said as she put her helmet on and climbed on her bike. “I’m ditching the bike for the winter. She’ll be in storage until May at least.”

“If you must,” Michael said as he dug in to his pocket and tossed her a set of keys. “Take my car. I’m not using it right now.”

Grace looked at the keys in her hand. “Same storage place as before?”


“Thank you.”

“Grace just because I can’t be what Gabriel is to you, doesn’t mean that I don’t care.”

“Gabriel isn’t what you are to me. Gabriel is fun. Neither one of us takes it seriously,” Grace said as she kicked her bike to life. “You just think it is because you’re jealous when you don’t have to be.”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so. I have to go if I’m going to make it to my next stop before nightfall.”

“Be safe. Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m never stupid unless it’s you,” Grace said with a smile as she flipped her visor down and backed out of her parking spot and headed down the road for the storage unit where Michael’s car was stored.

Grace pulled in to the garage where she was going to pick up the car and parked the bike. Her senses had been driving her nuts for the last hour and she was fairly certain that she was being followed. As soon as she swung her leg off the bike and turned around, she spotted the black dog at the entrance to the garage.

“Your Majesty.” Grace said with a bow.

“You’ve disappointed me, Grace.”

“How so?”

“I saw you with the Angel.”

“Then I’m happy to report that I have not displeased His Majesty. I met with the Angel to convince him to switch sides,” Grace answered, trying not to sound terrified.

Satan growled. “Michael will never turn.”

“Then there’s nothing to worry about. I haven’t told him anything. You’re welcome to check my memories.”

“You speak the truth,” he said, studying her face. “You wouldn’t offer memories if you spoke falsely.”

“I make it a habit to tell the truth to my King. If one doesn’t, they run the course of losing their existence. I very much would like to keep mine.”

“I will not forget this, Grace.”

“I’m hoping you won’t. I took a big risk to try to turn the General. I hope his Majesty would be pleased that I took such initiative.”

“Michael is dangerous. Stay away from him.”

Grace curtsied. “As you wish.”

Grace waited until he was gone and then let out the breath she was holding while looking down at her hands, they were shaking. Clinching her fists, she walked to the storage bay where the car was located. Grace fumbled with the keys. Taking a few calming breaths, she slid the key in to the lock and turned. The light on the bay went from red to green and she pushed the button to release the door.

Grace waited while the door opened before she got a good look at the car inside. Laughing, she rolled her eyes. It was a 1972 Ford Fury in a deep purple.

“Hello Mister,” she said as she strolled inside.

Grace ran her hand over the car as she walked to the driver’s side, opened the door and sat down behind the wheel. Running her hand over the steering wheel, she stuck the key in to the ignition and started the car. A deep rumble and then a purr greeted her and made Grace smile.

“Oh yeah. We’re going to have fun.” she said and pulled out of the bay.

Grace put the bike and helmet in to the bay, closed the door and locked it before going back to the car and starting the engine again. She pulled out of the garage and headed towards Iowa.

Grace was on highway 81 heading for Nebraska when she remembered Michael’s warning about getting a partner. With a sigh, she pulled off the road in Concordia, Kansas and checked in to a motel. Hauling her gear in to the room and dumping it on one of the two double beds before looking around.

“A dump. This is what you’ve stooped to Grace,” she muttered to herself as she set up her laptop to look for recent coma patients in the area. She would need a body for Henry when he accepted the deal. An hour later she struck gold with an athlete who got drunk and ended up in a car accident. There was no family, just the town keeping him in a coma until he was declared brain-dead.

Grace scribbled down the address of the hospital and then checked the doors to make sure the room was locked. She didn’t want anyone coming inside while she was in the pit. Closing her eyes, Grace snapped her fingers. She hated traveling below with her eyes open.

The smell of blood and stink of rotting souls told her she’d arrived. Opening her eyes she smiled at the guards to the cells.

“Open. I need a lackey,” she said to them as she stared forward.

“Yes Miss,” the guards said as they opened the doors.

Grace walked along the cells until she found what she was looking for. Henry was laying on a cot, looking up at the ceiling. There were fresh bruises and cuts on his chest and arms.

“Well, looks like they’ve been keeping you busy,” she said.

Henry looked up. His eyes were dull and glassy. Grace growled.

“Have they been dosing you?”

“What do you care? You sent me here.”

“You made a deal. You sent yourself here. Now answer me. Are they dosing you?”

“Yes. Every time I fight in the arena.”

Grace growled. “Get up. I have the deal for you.”

Grace ignored the pleas from the other souls, begging to be offered the deal.

“I think I’ll stay here, thanks.”

“Ten years.”

Henry looked up. “Just years?”

Grace nodded and watched Henry mull it over.

“No other terms?”

“Just a small incantation that prevents you from speaking whatever I’ve told you,” she ground out through gritted teeth. “I need a partner. You’re it.”


“Take the deal and I’ll tell you.”

Henry sat up and looked at her. “Is it serious?”

“Yes. Take the deal, Henry and get out of the pit and the arena.”

Henry walked to the cell door and held out his arm. “Done.”

Grace heated her hand and pressed her brand in to his arm. Henry screamed, then sagged against the bars. She waited until he recovered and then turned to go.

“Follow me.”

Henry’s bars dissolved and he followed her out. When they got to the transportation sigil in the hallway, Grace clamped her hand on to Henry’s arm.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

Henry closed his eyes. Grace closed hers and snapped her fingers. The smell of the hotel room told her she was back topside. Henry was standing next to her, but in ghost form.

“Don’t talk, just listen. You’re in your soul form. This means that you can’t do anything until I get you in to a body. I’m going to put you in a soul globe until I can do that, okay?”

Henry’s ghost nodded. Grace pulled a globe out of her pack and pushed Henry’s soul in to it. A flash of white light and the globe turned from clear to being full of a rolling blue mist.

“Stay put. I have things to do yet before we head to the nearest hospital,” Grace said as she put the globe in to her messenger bag.

Tossing the bag strap over her head, she headed out of the hotel room and down to the car. Grace started the car up after sliding in and headed to the hospital. Before she got there though, she pulled off to the side of the road and called Michael on her cell phone and left a message when it didn’t go through.

“He saw us. Send Gabriel until it’s safe. I have a partner. Heading to Iowa next,” Grace fought the urge to add an I love you and hung up. She pulled out in to the road again and didn’t stop until she reached the hospital.

Using her gifts to mask her presence, Grace headed up to the third floor where the athlete’s body was still on life support. Grace jogged down the hall and in to the room. Tossing a handful of sleep dust at the doctor about to pull the plug on the athlete, she caught him before he fell and pushed him in to a chair.

Grace walked back over and peeked out the door before closing it and pulling Henry’s globe out of her bag. Looking down at Henry’s new body, she smiled. The athlete was twenty-one and in prime health.

“Perfect,” Grace said as she set the globe down and put the athlete’s hand on top.

There was a flash of light and then the body sat up.

“Hello, Henry.” she said.

Henry coughed and swung his legs over the side.

“What the hell, Grace? You couldn’t pick someone a little older?”

“Nope. I need a partner. That means you need to be healthy. I’ve switched bodies too many times to count in the last one hundred fifty years.”

Grace went to the closet and found a bag of clothes that someone had brought for the athlete in case he woke up. Tossing the bag on the bed, Grace peeked out the door.

“Get dressed. We don’t have a whole lot of time. They’re going to notice that you’ve woken up soon.”

“Should I be worried that there’s someone in here with me?”

“No. He was declared brain-dead this morning. It’s on the chart on the wall behind the nurse’s station.”

“So that means the soul leaves?” Henry said as he pulled off all the electrodes from his new body.

“Yep. No soul means it’s a free skin sack for demons and angels alike.”

“I don’t like you talking about my new body that way.”

“Too bad. That’s what it is now,” Grace said. She came over and helped Henry remove the IV from his arm before going back to her station at the door.

“What if the doc wakes up?”

“I’ll sleep dust him again.” Grace said.

“You can do that?”

“Sleep dust is hard to get, so I don’t like to very often. I tossed enough on him to keep him asleep for a couple of hours, but hurry up. I want out of here. Hospitals give me the willies.”

“Says the demon.”

Grace glared at him over her shoulder and saw that he was nearly dressed. She watches as he pulled his shoes on and then walk over to her. Grace took his hand and tugged him out the door, pulling her magic in place to hide their passage.

“Can they see us?” Henry asked.

“Not unless you bump into someone so try to avoid that,” Grace said.

“Got it. Where are we going, anyway?”

“For starters? My motel. Then we’re headed to Iowa.”

“Iowa? Why Iowa?”

“I’ll explain later,” Grace said as the took the stairs down to the ground floor and out to the garage.

Grace jogged over to the car and hopped inside. Tossing her bag on the seat beside her, Henry crawled in to the backseat and kept his head down.

“Nice car.”

“Thanks, I borrowed it.”

“Is the owner going to be pissed it’s gone?”

“Nope, he gave me permission.”


“I’ll explain later. Keep your head down,” Grace said as she drove out of the parking lot.

She was back at the motel before she would let Henry sit up in the back seat. Henry stayed quiet until they got up to the motel room.

“So what’s going on?” He said when she closed the door and warded it against outside ears.

“I’m working for the Angels to kill the Prince and weaken Satan’s hold on Hell,” she said.

Henry’s mouth dropped open. “Holy shit.”

“Yeah, that’s almost what I said to Michael when he commanded me to trade my soul for my husband’s health,” Grace said as she sat down in the chair.

“So you pulled me out of the pit for what?” Henry asked.

“Michael’s got something he needs to take a look at and advised me that I needed a partner. So I pulled you of the pit because I knew I could trust you. Between your natural goodness and the mark on your arm, your pretty much stuck.”

“The mark does what, exactly?”

“Well it proves you’re mine and seals your mouth so you can’t talk about anything I’ve told you without my permission.”

“If I try to say anything?” he asked.

“The mind vice will clamp down on your head and leave you in agony,” Grace said. “It’s not pleasant, so don’t even think about betraying me.”

“You got me out of the pit, I took the deal. I won’t go back on it.”

Grace laughed. “You will. You ran from me.”

Henry bristled and sat up straight. “I didn’t want to leave Abigail, that’s why I ran.”

“You’ll still try to betray me. It’s all right, I’ve learned that everyone does eventually, but I’ve got you for ten years,” Grace said as she stood up.

Grace gathered her bags and made like she was going to leave the room. When she looked back, Henry was still on the bed.


“I won’t betray you,” Henry said.

“I believe that you mean it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still ran from me when it came time to collect your soul. You’ve got to prove that you won’t before I can trust you. Now come on, we need to move before the police start looking for the man you are now.”

With that, Grace left the room and headed to the car. She tossed everything in to the front seat so that Henry could lie down in the back until they were out of the town. When they pulled out of the parking lot, Henry waited until they were fifteen miles down the road before talking again.

“So where are we headed?”

“A little town called Sibley, Iowa. There’s a rogue Angel who thinks he’s god setting up shop and we get to take him out,” Grace said over her shoulder.

“We’re going to kill an Angel?”

“Yep. One who’s not acting like an angel should. That’s bad, by the way. It means he’s going to fall and the last thing the world needs right now is another Fallen like Lucifer.”

“He’s real?”

“As the sky is blue. You’re going to learn a lot over the next couple of weeks. I’ve been doing this kind of work for nearly fifty years now.”

“Why do you do it?” Henry asked.

“I want my soul back, Henry. To get it back, I need to do penance. This is my penance.”

“So you clean up messes of other people while taking contracts from others.”

“It never quite balances out, honestly. I’m hoping for something big so that I can at least make it in to purgatory. From there, It’s not so clear.”

“Why purgatory?”

“It’s a waiting area, basically. I’ll end up waiting for my chance to come back and do the same job again, only this time as a Nephilim.”


“Half angel, half demon and all kinds of powerful. Only a few are chosen.”

“and you want to become an abomination like that?”

“I have to. I want to be free, Henry. I want that more than anything.”

Henry went silent in the backseat and stayed that way until they’d driven out of the town and on to the highway. He moved all the bags from the front to the back and climbed over the seat.

“When do we stop next?” he asked.

“When we’re in Iowa. I can’t take the chance that they’re going to alert the FBI about your body theft.”

“So what do we do until then?”

Grace reached in to the back and pulled her messenger bag to the front seat. She flipped the top open and pulled out the file on her next assignment.

“Read that. When you’re caught up, I’ll explain how this is going to work,” she said.

“Any chance we’re stopping for food soon?” Henry said as he opened the file.

Grace laughed. “Yeah, we can stop soon.”

Henry smiled over at her. Grace smiled back and turned on the radio. Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin with disaster” floated out of the speakers and Grace smiled wider. Tapping her fingers on the wheel, she sang along:

“I’m travelin’ down the road and I’m flirtin’ with disaster
I’ve got the pedal to the floor, my life is running faster
I’m out of money, out of hope, it looks like self-destruction
Well, how much more can we take with all of this corruption

We’re flirtin’ with disaster, y’all know what I mean
And the way we run our lives, it makes no sense to me
I don’t know about yourself or what you want to be, yeah
When we gamble with our time, we choose our destiny”