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Copyright © 2017 by Amy Vansant
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Four
The Angeli Trilogy
Copyright 2016 Amy Vansant.
All Rights Reserved.
Table of Contents
Book 1: Angeli: The Pirate, the Angel, and the Irishman
Book 2: Cherubim
Book 3: Verymor
About the Author
The Pirate, the Angel
& the Irishman
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author.
Vansant Creations, LLC / Amy Vansant
http://www.AmyVansant.com | http://www.TheAngeli.com
Editor: Carolyn Steele http://carolynsteele.ca/
Cover design by Steven Novak: http://www.NovakIllustration.com
Dedicated to my husband, Michael Con Brunell (You’ll see why that is funny in a bit) and Gordon, our son, who also happens to be a Labradoodle.
Sea Isle City, New Jersey. Present Day.
Anne Bonny sat at the outdoor café in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, staring dreamily at the mimosa tree arching above her table. The tree’s fuzzy pink flowers gave her the impression of a Dr. Seuss creation, as if Horton himself had decorated it for a summer holiday.
Anne could hear the rhythmic crashing of the surf, the soothing whoosh serving as a soundtrack to the peaceful setting. Around the restaurant’s wrought iron table tiny sparrows hopped across the backyard eating area, snatching up every spare crumb like little feathered vacuum cleaners. A block away, a seagull cackled its wild, agitated laugh.
With only a young couple in love cooing to each other nearby, Anne enjoyed her hard-earned tranquility. She’d decided to steal a few days away from her apartment in New York City to explore the New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland shores. She doodled on a folded map as she pondered her route: should she pause in Cape May? Or take the ferry to Delaware? The last bit of French toast gone from her plate; she wondered where she would stop for lunch.
The female half of the cooing couple stood, scraping her metal chair across the stone pavers. Anne watched the girl in the form-fitting tank dress twitch her way into the main building. Anne made brief eye contact with the young man still at the table, flashed him a polite “whoops, we made eye-contact” smile, and returned to her thoughts.
Anne reached for an overlooked crumb of bacon on her plate, just as the sparrows flew away in unison. Anne’s sharp gaze swept the area to find the cause of their unrest.
“Great little arse,” said a man’s voice in an Irish accent.
Anne sat bolt upright and trained her gaze on the male half of the couple with whom she shared the patio. The sandy-haired youth, still sitting where his girl had left him, met Anne’s curious gaze with a wicked grin. He stood and dragged his chair to Anne’s table with a teeth-rattling screech of metal on stone.
The boy released an overly dramatic sigh of satisfaction, plopped into the chair positioned beside Anne, and beckoned the waitress as she exited the café and stepped onto the back patio.
“Could I get four whiskeys here?” he asked, dangling his finger over the table and swirling it as if mixing a drink.
The waitress’ head cocked to the side. “Uh, sure, I guess…what kind?”
The boy’s gaze swiveled to Anne, his face beaming like a child’s on Christmas morning.
“Something Irish and as expensive as possible,” he said putting his right elbow on the table and resting his head in that hand, his attention never leaving Anne. “Straight. You can put it on her tab. Or mine. Doesn’t matter really.”
Anne looked at the waitress.
The waitress offered them an awkward smile and left to fetch the whiskey.
“Ooh, Annie, I love that evil streak of yours. You’re going to stick the lad with my tab.”
Anne’s new table guest sat grinning, thin and pale as an untoasted wafer, but with the fiery eyes of a rebellious imp eager to be unleashed. She’d known the minute she heard the accent that a friend of hers, Con Carey, who had lost his own corporeal body some years ago, had appropriated the boy’s body. Like a horror movie ghost, Con had a habit of borrowing other people’s bodies in order to communicate. Unlike a ghost, the only thing horrifying about Con was his otherworldly ability to consume whiskey.
“Hello, Con. Did you ask that poor boy if you could borrow his body?”
“Hello, my love. Absolutely not. They almost always say no.”
Anne noted how Con’s eyes glowed as she acknowledged him and recalled how thrilled he’d been the first time he’d found a way to use another person’s body. He’d pumped his fists and run around the room screaming with joy until he crashed over a sofa, having lost control of his borrowed legs.
“How are you? Did you miss me?” he asked.
Before she could answer, Con leapt to his feet and did jumping jacks. Wrapped in the young man’s bony frame, he boxed an invisible opponent for a few moments, and then clapped himself on either shoulder, pleased with his performance.
“Featherweight,” he said, flopping back into his chair.
“Featherbrain,” drawled Anne. She paused as the waitress returned to set four whiskeys on the table. Unsure how to dole out the whiskeys, she lumped them in the middle of the table.
Con took the first shot and swallowed it before the waitress had released the last glass from her grasp.
“Slow down,” said Anne. “She could have lost a finger.”
“Uhhhhmmmm…” Con groaned, ignoring Anne in his ecstasy.
Anne watched with amusement as Con licked his lips, tilted back his head and closed his eyes. As a disembodied spirit, Con’s lack of lips and a throat made it difficult to enjoy the finer things in life.
Anne snatched the second whiskey from the table, shot it back, and slapped the empty glass into Con’s hand.
Con jerked his paw from the empty shot glass as if it burned his fingertips. His jaw clenched as he clamped his fingers around the next full shot. He trained his eyes on Anne’s, daring her to touch it.
He raised the third shot to his mouth. With lightning-fast reflexes, Anne snatched the glass from Con’s fingers and put the glass against her lips, threatening to drink it.
“Harpy!” Con roared, slamming his fist to the table. The glasses jumped and clattered on the wrought iron.
Anne paused, allowing the drama to grow, and then handed back the glass with a bow of her head. Visibly relieved, Con downed the shot without delay.
“Surely, you know better than to break my heart like that,” said Con, wiping his mouth. “You might have spilled it.”
Anne grinned, incapable of staying annoyed with Con for long. She was happy to see him again, even if he inhabited the body of yet another innocent passerby. He hadn’t made one of his appearances in months.
She wasn’t sure what to do when the girl returned from the ladies’ room expecting to find her boyfriend waiting for her and not chatting up a busty strawberry blonde at the next table. She hadn’t been in a catfight in ages.
“Iwish you would better time these visits,” she said. “His girlfriend will be back here any second.”
“I’ll be quick.”
Anne nodded and took small solace in the fact that Con chose a boy to borrow. During a past impromptu visit, Con had possessed the body of a young woman and given Anne a sloppy kiss in front of the girl’s grandmother. Anne felt lucky the waitress wasn’t sitting in her lap.
Anne nodded to the empty whiskey glasses. “You know what they say; drinky, drinky, little dinky,” she held up her pinky and waggled it for effect.
Con stopped in mock horror, the last shot nearly to his lips. He put the glass down, pulled out the waistband of his plaid shorts and looked inside. With a shrug, he snapped them shut.
“Sorry, Luv, but it looks as though I might as well drink.”
Anne sighed. “So why are you here, Con?”
“I’ve come to give you a warning. Your pal is on the move.”
Con turned his head to feign spitting on the floor in disgust as he said Michael’s name.
“There’s trouble. I haven’t been able to gather all the details yet, but something is afoot.”
“Is that where you’ve been the last few months? Spying on Michael?”
Con raised one of the empty shot glasses, smelled it, and thrust his tongue inside to reach the last drops.
“I said: have you been spying on Michael?” repeated Anne, taking the glass out of his hand and putting it back on the table. Con pouted.
“Yes, I’ve been spying,” he said. “Among other things.”
Anne played it cool, as if Con’s news meant nothing to her, but her chest felt tight. She opened and closed her fist several times before Con placed his hand on hers to soothe her jitters. She smiled, realizing what a poor actress she was.
“You’ll be fine, you always are,” he said. “I just wanted you to prepare yourself.”
Without warning, Con leaned forward and put his hand on the back of Anne’s head, pulling her face to his. He ravished her with a kiss.
Anne thought how strange it was that the kiss felt like Con and not like the stranger whose lips actually pressed against her own. The smell of whiskey helped.
She gave into the kiss. As she did, Con left his host and Anne found herself lip-locked with a very confused young man.
“What are you doing?” came a screech from across the patio.
Anne’s eyes popped open wide, her lips still pressed against the young man’s. His girlfriend had returned, and now stood, mouth agape, pointing at Anne.
The boy pulled back from Anne’s kiss, holding his arms wide, as if declaring himself safe.
“Wha…?” The boy stood and put his fingers on the table to steady himself as the full effect of three whiskies and a recent possession took its toll on his hundred thirty-five pound frame.
He glanced at Anne and then back at his girlfriend, hoping someone or something could explain his disorientation. He looked back at Anne’s memorable cleavage and tried to squelch the grin creeping to his lips. He burped, putting his hand to his mouth in surprise when he tasted whiskey.
“I said what are you doing?” the girl’s tone still a glass-breaking wail.
“He agreed to test our new line of lipsticks,” she said, gathering her things and beginning to move towards the restaurant’s back door. “In order to get you a free sampler kit from us, which I’ll go get from the car now.”
The girl glowered with anger and confusion, torn between free makeup and an implausible explanation for what she had witnessed. She took a step toward her equally confused boyfriend, tossing her locks with pique.
“Why do you smell like booze?”
“Whiskey flavored lipstick!” Anne called back, attempting to throw the boy a bone. “Irish Rose.”
Anne paid her tab at the register and left the café.
On the street, Anne considered Con’s message. Any time Con noticed Michael acting suspiciously, bad things followed.
Michael was an Angelus, member of a race of extraordinary creatures whose sole duty was to ensure the safety of the human race. Anne was a Sentinel. She worked for the Angeli as a sort of bounty hunter, helping to track and kill Perfidia: Angeli who preyed on humans instead of protecting them. Whenever Michael called her, she knew a battle lay ahead, and while she had once relished such challenges, her enthusiasm was waning. A Perfidian had nearly killed Con, a fellow Sentinel; now Anne felt death was her constant companion.
It didn’t help that Michael and Anne were involved in a complicated romance that added stress to every exchange between them.
Anne wished she could fly away from the whole mess, but today, disappearing would be especially difficult. As she scanned the street outside the café, she found her parking spot occupied by a new tenant. Her Jaguar was missing.
“Blast,” Anne swore, stomping from one end of the block to the other in search of her car. Peering between two beachside duplexes, she finally spotted it parked on the next block.
Anne scowled. She hadn’t parked a block away from the restaurant. Perhaps Con had moved the car as a joke before he visited her at the café? That would be like him. Or, she was going senile. She was slightly over three hundred years old. A long life was one of the benefits of working for the Angeli…assuming Sentinels could stay alive with Perfidia constantly trying to kill them.
Anne cut between the beach houses towards her vehicle, ducking and slipping through a small fence to enter a secluded backyard. Before she could stand upright, the figure of a man appeared in front of her.
Anne lacked even a moment to react.
The man raised a small pistol, and shot her directly between the eyes.
“I can’t believe I just stole a ship,” said Anne, looking out over the Caribbean Sea.
“You’re a pirate now,” said Captain Rackham, wrapping his wiry arms around her waist.
Anne had grown up in Charles Town, South Carolina, after her father, William Cormac, fled Ireland to escape the shame of his affair with Anne’s mother (his maidservant), Mary Brennan. While Anne had not in any way been born to be a pirate, there was no denying naughty ran in her blood.
Blessed with her mother’s milky complexion and copper tresses, Anne had suffered no shortage of attention from boys during her time in Charles Town. At seventeen, she met James Bonny, who hoped to win her father’s fortune by marrying into the family. James was a rascal, a sailor and a small-time pirate. Anne couldn’t decide if James was truly handsome, but he drove her father mad, and that was enough.
James’ visits always coincided with the disappearance of household items. When Anne’s father made it clear that Anne had to choose between her inattentive family and her thieving boyfriend, Anne gathered everything she could carry and eloped to Nassau, Bahamas.
Just a few months later, in the summer of 1718, English Governor Woodes Rogers came to Nassau and James Bonny ended his fledgling pirate career to become an informant for Woodes, ratting on the very scoundrels he once claimed to be. Snug in the pocket of the new Governor, Anne’s husband increasingly ignored her in favor of his glamorous new friends.
Anne found herself spending idle time at the local pub with the charming Captain John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a real pirate who called Nassau his homeport. Rackham had a kinder face, quicker wit and easier humor than James. More importantly, he promised to whisk Anne away from her life in Nassau.
When the opportunity arose, Rackham, Anne, a stolen sloop called The Revenge, and a makeshift crew of rascals escaped Nassau and sailed miles away before dawn the following day.
Anne Cormac Bonny had become a pirate.
The Revenge sat three days from a much-needed stop in Jamaica when Blue, the afternoon lookout man, spotted something off the port bow. It was a small boat with a figure inside, lost or cast adrift.
Three of the crew took a small rowboat to investigate, returning with only a woman wearing tattered brown robes.
Anne didn’t know what to make of the woman retrieved from the dinghy. Her features were foreign. Her brow was heavy; her eyes like those of an exotic Anne saw once in St. Croix. On boarding, the woman smiled at Anne, displaying fine white teeth. As quickly as her brilliant grin appeared, it was gone, and the woman resumed her solemn, almost regal demeanor as the men led her onto the ship.
Anne marveled as the usually rowdy crew gave the strange woman wide berth. They seemed afraid.
Anne offered the woman water and food, but for someone plucked from the sea, she was strangely uninterested in both. She refused to speak. Often, Anne caught the woman’s gaze on her.
“Why do you stare at me?” Anne asked, unnerved.
The woman smiled, and pointed to the sea.
Anne opened her mouth to ask why and was thrown to the deck as the ship lurched.
The Revenge was under attack.
Anne scrambled to her feet.
“Hide,” she hissed to the woman.
The woman smiled.
Shortly after the initial attack, Jonathan Barnet, a man charged with ridding the local waters of pirates by the Governor of Jamaica, boarded The Revenge with his men.
Anne had no idea what to do. There was no handbook for fledgling pirates, or if there was, Captain Jack had not shared it with her.
Anne looked at the strange captive woman, smiling and squatting on the deck beside her, and had an idea. The attacking ship was crewed by British soldiers. There was no reason for anyone to think that Anne herself wasn’t a captive. After all, she’d only been a pirate for a little over a day...
Anne grasped the woman’s arm and tried to pull her to her feet. She needed to take her to safety in the belly of the ship, where the two of them could pretend they’d been kidnapped by pirates. The woman felt as though she weighed as much as the ship itself. She would not move.
As Anne tugged on the woman, she felt a shadow fall across them both. Pulling her blade from her side, Anne whirled and thrust at her attacker. The man yelped and fell back.
Anne looked down and found her knife covered in blood. It dripped and oozed across her white-knuckled grip on the hilt.
Stunned by the sight of death on her weapon, Anne never sensed the second soldier approaching. His sword plunged deep into her lower abdomen.
Anne clutched her stomach and fell to her knees. Her knife clattered to the deck. She slumped and followed it to the ground.
The sounds of battle receded as she struggled to breathe. Her eyes fluttered shut. When she opened them again, she found the pearly-toothed grin of the strange woman inches from her face.
Anne lay on her back, her head bent awkwardly against the wall of the upper deck, powerless to move as the woman began whispering in a foreign language.
The woman’s breath smelled like cinnamon and ginger.
When Anne next awoke, it was daylight. She tried to move, but her arms felt bound to her sides. A scratchy fabric covered her face. Her legs, too, were immovable.
Anne took a deep breath and tried to find her voice.
“Help!” she croaked.
Anne heard a collective gasp. Hands fell on her, scrambling to rip the covering from her face. She felt a rush of relief as her bindings gave way and she could once again move her arms and legs.
Freed, she sat bolt upright.
Anne was on the deck of The Revenge, surrounded by what remained of the crew. On either side of her lay a dozen human shapes wrapped in burlap. They were very, very still.
Anne scrambled away from the bodies.
Mary Read, a tavern server who had followed Anne to The Revenge, burst from the living crowd to embrace her friend. Anne hugged her, still reeling with confusion.
“You’re alive?” Captain Rackham moved towards her. “My God, girl, how?”
Anne punched the Captain in the chest with the underside of her fist.
“You were going to throw me into the sea?” she screamed. She was stunned by her own ear-splitting voice, but thought nearly being thrown into the sea, bound and alive, warranted a bit of volume.
Rackham plucked at Anne’s middle where the fabric was torn and stained reddish brown. Anne pulled back the cloth to reveal her smooth, unmarked belly. She remembered being stabbed and searched for the wound.
“You were a goner, I swear.”
Anne didn’t know what to say, but knew rising from the dead would gain her no friends among the superstitious crew.
“It must be someone else’s blood? I am unharmed. I must have fainted. You should have checked more carefully!”
Calico Jack Rackham gripped Anne’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. He seemed to be trying to read her. She didn’t flinch.
“You should probably lie down,” Rackham said, pulling her toward his cabin.
Anne heard the splash of the corpses as she followed Rackham. She turned and saw the crew give each body a good poking before pushing it overboard, just to be sure.
In his cabin, Rackham had Anne disrobe and inspected her flesh for injuries. Anne could only shrug at his confusion. Physically, she felt amazing.
“What happened to the woman we pulled from the sea?” she asked.
Anne tried to recall what the woman had whispered to her, but could only remember one line in English: “Find the angel.” She assumed the woman had been praying for her.
Captain Rackham admitted defeat in his search for Anne’s wounds. He kissed her, and pulled her ample hips against him for what would be the last time. He pressed his face against Anne’s neck and inhaled deeply.
“You smell fantastic. Like cinnamon...”
Anne pushed Rackham back to look him in the eye.
“Yes!” said Rackham. “Now that you mention it; cinnamon and ginger.”
THAT SAME NIGHT, THE British captured the entire crew of TheRevenge. The British attacker, Jonathan Barnet, had retreated, only to reorganize and raid The Revenge once more.
Jack Rackham and the remaining crew, other than Anne Bonny and Mary Read, hanged.
Aware that pregnant women could not be hanged, Anne and Mary ‘pled their bellies.’ The two proposed the idea after Mary mentioned to Anne that she actually was pregnant with Captain Rackham’s child.
Anne let that go.
After a month in their Jamaican prison, Mary Read suffered complications and died, curled on the floor of the jail cell, wrapped in Anne’s arms.
Anne was devastated, and for the first time in her life, truly alone.
Sobbing on her filthy cot over the death of her friend, Anne glanced up to notice the eldest jailer looking on her with pity. The white-haired Englishman with red, watery eyes offered a shy smile whenever he passed Anne’s cell, and Anne thought he might be her best hope of escape. She began to seed his mind with the idea of her freedom.
“I am a foolish girl, fallen in with a terrible lot who corrupted my soul,” she moaned to him as he passed one day.
He pretended not to hear.
The next day, when the old man brought her lunch, Anne sighed theatrically, shifting her bodice to slip artfully from her shoulder.
“Surely this jail will steal the light from my eyes, sooner than not,” she whispered as he passed her the tray. She touched his hand. He stared at her hand on his own for a moment before pulling it away and leaving.
“Strong men break under the pressure and heat of this tropical jail,” Anne said to her elderly jailer as he stood guard alone one steamy evening. “What chance does a young girl like me have? It has already taken my only friend and her unborn child. Soon it will take me and mine.”
The old man refused to look at Anne as he sat in his chair, chewing on his lip. Anne felt her heart sink. Perhaps the looks she and the old man shared were not looks of pity at all.
Anne was running out of creative ways to lament her fate.
She crawled into her small cot and stared at the dark brown stain on her cell floor, the remnant of Mary Read’s bloody end. Anne wouldn’t meet her death by miscarriage, but she felt sure that the heat, poor food and filth of her miserable cell would leave her dead before her twentieth birthday.
The prison held other dangers. The youngest of the jailers entered Anne’s cell late one night, drunk and lustful. They wrestled, and Anne surprised both herself and the boy with the speed and strength of her defense. Shocked at how quickly the tables had turned on him, the boy pulled a small dagger and slashed at Anne as he jumped out of her cell and slammed it shut behind him.
By the sliver of moonlight slipping through the small window of her prison, Anne could see blood on her hands and the deep gash where her attacker’s blade had crossed her palm. She tore away a bit of dirty bed sheet to wrap the wound, still shaking with fear and adrenaline.
Anne spat on her palm and rubbed away the drying blood to prepare her wound for bandaging, only to find smooth, uncompromised skin. She knew the blood had not been the boy’s, but her own. She had seen the gash.
It was gone.
Anne fell to her knees and sobbed.
In addition to filthy conditions, poor food and fear of attack, Anne now worried her mind might be slipping. Certainly, she wouldn’t be the first person to go mad in prison.
Anne spent the rest of the night staring at her hand, a fog of depression descending on her. The next day, she didn’t respond when the jailer brought her food. She left the tray on the floor for the rats and insects. The old man watched her from his chair, but she refused to engage. Anne lay on her bunk, curled in a fetal position, staring at the chipping wall. Her chest felt tight. She sat up to take slow, deep breaths in a vain attempt to soothe her shattered nerves. Soon, they would move her to Fort Cromwell and she’d disappear in the dark stone belly of the fortress.
If she could not find someone to help, her odds of survival would decrease even further following the move.
That evening, as Anne listened to one of the other guards snoring in the room adjacent to her cell, she heard the creak of the main door. Anne sat up to find the old jailer creeping toward her. In the moonlight, she could see his eyes dart to the room where the other guard lay sleeping.
Anne stood, preparing to defend herself from attack. This time, she would not be too stunned to overwhelm the guard, missing the opportunity to escape. This time she would run out the door the moment it opened.
Bracing herself, Anne watched the man pull a set of keys from his pocket and point to them. He put his finger to his lips to encourage Anne’s silence. Gently, he turned the lock to Anne’s cell and opened the door.
“Be gone,” the man whispered. “I’ll lock the door behind you. They’ll think you a witch. Some already do.”
Anne stared at the man, her eyes welling with tears of gratitude.
“I know what they have planned for you, child,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “Tisn’t right.”
Anne placed a palm on either side of the old man’s face and kissed him hard on his forehead. As she released him, he stumbled back and wiped at the spot, embarrassed by her unbridled act of joy.
Anne scurried from the prison on tiptoes, her blood racing with excitement and fear.
Anne made her way to the docks. Slipping through the alleys, she found a fish cutting station and used the knife there to cut her hair as short as she could butcher it. She stole a cap from a man she found passed out in an alley. Seeing that he did not stir, Anne poked him. He remained still. Anne touched his face and felt his cheeks were cold. He was dead.
Anne removed her dress and pulled the man’s rough linen shirt, boots and trousers from his lifeless body. She tied the trousers tight around her waist, and slipped her feet into his boots, praying whatever had killed him did not still live in his clothing. She draped her dress over his nearly naked form and said a quick prayer for him.
Disguised as a man, she loitered near the taverns, her head tucked low beneath her stolen cap, until she identified a ship bound for Barbados. The ship was large, its crew filling the pub for a last night of revelry.
Anne ran to the ship and held her breath as she walked aboard with all the confidence she could muster. The lone crewman stationed to watch over the ship nodded as she passed, his eyes never leaving his whiskey.
Anne scurried to the belly of the ship and fashioned herself a hiding place made from strategically placed bags of grain and barrels of coffee beans. She wrapped her arms tightly around her chest and fell asleep.
Anne awoke the next day to the rocking of a ship at sea. Cramped in her hiding spot, munching a bag of nuts she’d stolen, Anne had little to do but consider her future. In addition to suffering the loss of her lover, Captain Rackham, to the hangman, and the crushing death of her friend Mary Read, something very strange was happening to her.
She needed to know she wasn’t going mad.
Anne pulled from her waistband the fish knife she’d used to cut her hair. Moving into the tiny shaft of light that beamed through the boards of the deck above her, she carefully sliced the flesh on the back of her left hand. The cut hurt like any other, but she watched as the wound closed before her eyes.
Anne’s stomach lurched. She stabbed the knife into the side of a sack where it stuck, buried to the hilt. She stifled the sobs welling in her chest. Raising her hand to cover her mouth, she felt something brush her wrist.
It was her hair.
Forgetting to stay low and hidden, Anne sat bolt upright, and with both hands, felt the back of her head, her fingers tangling in the long tresses.
Anne swallowed hard to stifle the scream building in her chest.
The boat on which Anne had stowed away stopped in Barbados, and she disembarked as soon as she felt safe, her re-grown hair tucked in her stolen cap. She walked to the shore and bathed, the cool water doing much to improve her mood. In the sunlight, she washed and dried her stolen clothes and then lay down to sleep, nestled just inside the tree line. Exhausted and hungry, she slept for nearly fifteen hours, having spent most of her time during the long journey from Jamaica keeping a watchful eye for anyone who might discover her hiding place amongst the cargo.
Anne heard the voice and rolled to her back, her fingers clamoring to find the fish knife.
“Are you looking for this?” said a woman standing above her. The woman held the fishing knife pinched between two fingers at the handle, dangling in the air above Anne.
Anne crawled away from the woman and scrambled to her feet, nearly falling as she tried to steady herself in her oversized, stolen boots.
Anne estimated the dark-haired woman holding her knife was only five feet tall. She wore a short black tunic tied around her waist with a black sash, black leggings and small black slippers. Her skin had a yellow hue. Though Anne scanned her from head to toe, she found her gaze drawn to the woman’s eyes.
“You have...” Anne’s mind failed her and she pointed to her own eyes.
“My eyes?” said the woman. “What about my eyes?”
“I am not squinting.”
“I saw eyes like yours on another woman. We found her in the sea.”
The woman shook her head.
“I am Japanese. The woman you found, Jia li, was Chinese, but I understand your confusion. There are very few Asians in this region.”
“Jia li?” Anne echoed. “You’re saying the name of the woman we found was Jia li? How would you know?”
“I was there when she rowed out to find you.”
Anne snorted a laugh. “We found her adrift. We were miles out to sea.”
“No. She rowed to find you. This I know.”
For the first time Anne noticed the woman had a glow around her. Though subtle, it was as if she were backlit by a blue light. Anne blinked and rubbed her eyes. She was tired from her journey and poorly nourished from her time in jail. She was worried her eyes were playing tricks on her and concerned she might swoon before she could identify the tiny woman as friend or foe.
“Who are you?”
“I am Yuko.”
“How do you know about the woman on the boat?”
“Jia li was a Sentinel in my charge. She moved on to the next life. I told her to pass her energy to you, so she rowed out to you and gave you her light.”
“You don’t make any sense,” Anne said.
“I have much to tell you. Follow me.”
Anne shook her head.
“I am not going to follow you. I have to—”
Before Anne could finish her thought, Yuko threw the fish knife directly at Anne’s throat. Though she could not recall registering the movement, Anne found herself standing with the fish knife in her hand, the blade an inch from her throat. A single drop of blood dripped to the ground as she gripped the blade.
“How did you do that? Catch the blade?” asked Yuko.
Anne shifted the blade so that she gripped the handle and held it out towards Yuko.
Yuko rolled her eyes.
“How did you do that?” she asked again.
“How did I catch the knife? You tried to kill me! What choice did I have?”
“It was a good catch. Don’t you think it was a very good catch? And your hand is cut?”
Anne opened her palm and inspected it. Her hand, though bloody, had no wound.
She looked at Yuko and said nothing.
“You have noticed this before,” said Yuko, smiling. “Would you like to know how you move so fast and strong? How your wounds heal?”
Anne took a deep breath and expelled it just as quickly.
“Then follow me,” Yuko repeated, turning to walk deeper into the jungle.
Anne remained motionless for several moments, still holding the knife before her. As Yuko disappeared into the jungle she looked to the shoreline and then back where the tiny woman had walked.
Anne had a choice. She could run to the shoreline, try to find a place in Barbados to live and work until she could find a ship to Charles Town and beg her father to forgive her. Or, she could follow the strange woman who just threw a knife at her throat.
Anne turned and followed Yuko into the jungle.
Yuko made her way deeper into the brush and Anne did her best to reassure herself all would be well, her stomach growling its protests. Other than the knife trick, she had no reason to mistrust the woman who seemed to know so much about her life. With no other friends in sight, part of her felt grateful that someone had taken an interest in her at all. Although weak, she also outweighed the pixie-like woman by a good forty pounds, and felt that in a fair fight, she had a good chance of winning. But when she remembered the inhuman speed with which the woman had thrown the fish knife, she again felt her fears rising.
“Do you have any food?” asked Anne, finding it hard in her clunky men’s boots to keep up with the woman’s graceful stride.
Yuko stopped and turned to face Anne.
“Food. I always forget that,” she said, shaking her head. She turned and walked on.
Anne sighed and scanned the trees for something edible. Finding nothing, she stopped and removed the large boots to better keep up with Yuko. The sand felt good between her toes, though the rocks and thorns that littered the path through the trees made walking barefoot nearly as uncomfortable as her boots had.
Yuko continued walking. Compared to Anne’s struggles, the tiny Asian woman seemed to glide through the foliage, unbothered by hazards. Anne watched as a thorny patch of vines passed through Yuko’s body, leaving her unscathed.
“I must be hungrier than I thought,” Anne mumbled to herself. She yelped as she stepped on a thorn, and then dropped to replace her boots before continuing.
The pair broke through the tree line into a clearing. In the center of the clearing was a deep pit, its sides chalky with the coral that composed most of the island. Anne walked to the rim and peered down at the crystal blue water forty feet below.
“It’s known as a blue hole,” said Yuko. “Sit down.”
Anne turned to find Yuko seated on the ground. She walked to the woman and sat across from her.
“Tell me how you knew about the woman on the boat,” said Anne.
“I am here to tell you everything. What do you remember about the woman?”
Anne searched her memory. Much of that day on The Revenge remained foggy, but during her time in jail, bits and pieces had returned.
“We found her adrift,” Anne began. “Then we were attacked. We were fighting, and I was stabbed...” she drifted off, recalling the pain in her belly.
“Go on,” prompted Yuko.
“I don’t remember very much. The strange woman was near me, she whispered something. A prayer, I think. The next thing I remember I woke up, wrapped in burlap. The crew thought I was dead and were about to dump me in the sea. I screamed, and they freed me.”
“Why do you say the woman said a prayer?”
“I remember something about angels.”
Yuko smiled. “Ah. Angeli.”
“Yes!” Anne pointed at Yuko. “Angeli. That sounds right.”
“I am Angeli,” said Yuko.
“I thought you were ‘Yuko?’”
“I am Yuko. But I am an Angelus. Not a human.”
Anne stared at the tiny woman, unsure of what to say.
“The Angeli watch over humans,” began Yuko. “We have done this since time began. Humans do not know about us. But many years ago, some of the Angeli became sick. Instead of helping humans, they began to kill humans.”
Anne tried to process the idea of angels killing people and the fact that she was talking to an angel. It occurred to her that she had just followed a crazy woman into the jungle.
“What did you do?” asked Anne.
“Angeli cannot kill their own. They are made of the same energy. Not even an Arch Angel can kill another Angel.”
“An Arch Angel? They’re stronger?”
“Oh, much stronger. There are twenty-one Arch Angels and one hundred twenty-three Guardian Angels. The Arch Angels command the Guardians to do what needs to be done.”
“Are you an Arch Angel?”
Yuko laughed. “No. I am a Guardian Angel.”
“And Jia li? She was an Angel too?”
“No. She was a Sentinel, like you.”
Anne sighed. “I am lost again.”
“When the Angeli fall ill they become Perfidia, traitors to the Angeli. We cannot kill them, but we cannot allow them to kill humans, so the Archs chose skilled humans to become Sentinels. The Archs lent some of their energy to the Sentinels, which empowered them to reap the Perfidia.”
“Reap? You mean kill?”
“They do not die. Cannot die. But the Sentinels can send the energy of a Perfidian away. The energy disperses. Over time, the energy finds its way back and the Angelus lives again, healed of Perfidia. He or she is cured and may begin again.”
“And you’re saying I am a Sentinel?”
“Yes. It was Jia li’s time to leave. She took the energy given to her and bestowed it to you, continuing the cycle.”
“What do you mean it was her time to go?”
“She had been a Sentinel for a thousand years.”
Anne’s eyes grew wide. “Are you telling me I am going to live for another thousand years?”
“If you are lucky.”
“What does that mean?”
“Reaping Perfidia is not easy,” said Yuko, her tone like that of a parent warning a child about the dangers of the world. “You may not survive. But I am here to train you.”
“What if I don’t want to kill Perfidia?”
“Do you know something about my cuts and how they keep healing?”
Yuko nodded. “Sentinels heal very rapidly. This enables you to protect yourself against the Perfidia. You are very hard to kill, but it is not impossible.”
“What if I were stabbed?”
“You would heal.”
“You would heal.”
Anne’s stomach growled loudly.
“What if I starved?”
“You would grow very weak and perhaps fall unconscious if you did not eat for a very long time, but you would not die.”
“Really?” Anne blinked. “I might. I get very hungry.”
“No. Only the energy of a Perfidian will kill you. If a Perfidian drains you of your energy, it will be lost to you forever, and the Perfidian will be empowered. It may take two or three Sentinels to reap that Perfidian.”
Anne rubbed her face and tried to absorb the new information.
“What if I ran? What if I didn’t want to reap Perfidia for a thousand years?”
“We would find you and remove the power that saved your life when you were stabbed.”
“And I would die.”
Anne sighed and looked off into the distance for several minutes.
“How do I know what you say is true?”
Yuko stood and Anne leaned back, unsure if the little woman would again try to attack her. As she kept a wary eye on her, the Angel began to glow with a bright blue light. Her form receded into the glow until only the light remained, taking a humanoid shape that resembled Yuko in size.
Anne gasped. Yuko was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
Yuko’s form rose until she hovered two feet from the ground. Wings woven from glowing webs of blue light stretched nearly seven feet on either side of her figure. When the wings moved, showers of light fell from the lower edges, giving them a feathery appearance. Anne could only compare the vision to how she might have imagined fairies as a child. Fairies, or, she realized, angels.
“Do you believe me now?” Yuko’s voice emanated from the humanoid blue light floating before Anne.
“I do,” said Anne. “I do.”
New Orleans, 1745
Anne popped the last peanut in her mouth, her eyes lazily surveying the squalid room around her. She wore a dingy gown and sat perched on the edge of an equally filthy bed. She stretched and yawned in an exaggerated fashion, amusing herself by pantomiming her boredom for an invisible audience.
Anne’s gaze fell on the small pile of empty peanut shells on the makeshift table beside her. Scooping them into her palm, she tossed them into the air, scattering them across the rough wooden floor. She pulled a small cloth bag from beneath the bed and dumped the contents, six coins, on the sheet beside her. Choosing one from the pile, she took a moment to aim, and then threw it with ferocious speed at a peanut shell sitting four feet from her seat. The coin stuck into the floor, pinning the shell to the ground. She smiled.
“What is that?” said a man’s voice behind Anne.
Anne whirled to face the intruder, grabbing another coin from the bed and flinging it in the direction of the voice as she turned. Her eyes focused in time to see a tall man snatch her coin from the air, seconds before it struck his throat. He opened his palm and Anne could see the coin embedded there, resting in a halo of blood.
The man scowled at the bloody coin in his hand. The edges of the Dutch penny were filed down to form two sharp points. He looked at Anne.
“You sharpened this coin?”
“Why did you do this?”
Anne took a half step back. “Why are you here? Who are you?”
“I asked first,” said the man. “Why did you do this?”
Anne shrugged. “You surprised me.”
The man huffed. “No, I know why you threw the coin. I ask why you sharpened it.”
Anne held other coins in a balled fist behind her back. She maneuvered one between her index finger and thumb, ready to throw it should she need it. She never missed twice.
“It’s a hobby,” she said.
“Interesting.” The man gazed at the coin in his palm. “Do you also round the corners off sharp things or just sharpen dull things?”
Anne laughed before she could stop herself.
“Just the latter.”
“Where are the rest of them?”
“Honestly, it’s like talking to a child,” sighed the man. “There were five coins on the bed when I entered and one in the peanut shell on the floor. One was flung at my throat—”
“Your eye,” corrected Anne.
“What’s that?” he asked, leaning forward slightly.
“I threw it at your eye, not your throat. But I rushed and you’re unusually tall.”
Anne could tell the man was an Angelus. No mortal man could have snatched the coin from the air with this visitor’s speed. In addition, his aura glowed with a blue energy she had only seen radiating from her Angelus trainer, Yuko. Anne had become much more adept at identifying the auras of others, but while Yuko’s glow became more apparent to her over the time they worked together, it had never been as powerful as the light around the man now standing in her room.
The Angelus plucked the coin from the flesh of his palm and laid it flat in his hand, which he then held out to Anne.
“Either way, there were six in total. One is embedded in the floor, one I have here. The rest are behind your back. Give them to me.”
Anne hesitated, clutching the coins more tightly.
“I do not intend to be peppered with copper all evening,” the man added, the corner of his mouth twisting with disapproval.
Anne presented her closed fist and then opened it to sprinkle the other coins in his open palm.
The man slipped the pennies into his coat pocket. One of the sharp edges sliced him as he did so, and he shot an angry look at his pocket as if it had bitten him.
“Who are you?” asked Anne.
“I am Michael,” he said, smoothing his pocket flap closed with his four uncut fingers. He put his sliced index finger to his lips to clean away the blood and then inspected it to be sure it was unmarked.
“Michael,” echoed Anne.
Since becoming a Sentinel, Anne had heard Michael’s name uttered many times by Yuko and fellow Sentinels, always with respect. Though never, she realized, with warmth.
“I’ve heard of you,” Anne said, her eyes locking on his. “How did you sneak up on me?”
Anne caught a flash of pride in Michael’s face.
“I’m not like the Perfidia you hunt, Sentinel. I’m an Arch.”
Anne considered this. “I’ve never met an Arch before.”
Michael moved to take a seat and then, his lip rising in disgust at the disrepair of the only chair, reconsidered. He turned back to Anne.
“Nor are you likely to meet another, Sentinel. We do not travel in the same circles. Sentinels only ever meet the Arch in charge of their legion, which, in your case, is me. Occasionally, a Sentinel may be called on to team with other Guardians for a particularly nasty job. Otherwise, you’ll only meet the corrupted.”
“Perfidia,” confirmed Anne.
Anne smiled and looked down, tracing her toe across the floor in front of her.
“From what I’ve been told, the first Guardian Angel fell to Perfidia in the year twelve and at that time, the Angeli created the Sentinels to conquer them,” she said, following the back and forth movement of her foot. “Before that, the Angels were thought to be incorruptible.”
“Yes. You have a point?”
Anne placed her outstretched leg back beneath her and raised her gaze to Michael’s. She held it a moment before speaking.
“So isn’t it possible someday an Arch will need reaping, as well?”
Michael made a noise in his throat as if he’d just swallowed a fly.
“You’re being ridiculous,” he said, his face flushing red with anger. “And rude.”
“Rude? You’re the one who just came into my home, uninvited.”
Michael stared at Anne, his body tense. He ran his tongue along his teeth until the silence became uncomfortable, his gaze sweeping the squalor of the room to show his distaste for her home.
“I’m here to be sure you’re ready to reap the Perfidian Alexandre,” Michael said, his words slow and deliberate. “This is your first reaping without a partner, is it not?”
Anne nodded and self-consciously straightened her ill-fitting gown. She had been working undercover as the runaway cousin of a prostitute and the clothing choices at her social level in this role were not expansive. The prostitute with whom she now lived worshipped a Perfidian named Alexandre, a former New Orleans-based Guardian Angel now posing as an ancient god. He had gathered a devoted following of ill-educated locals, who thought it their mission to provide him with live sacrifices for him to drain to empower himself.
“Tonight is the night. They plan to sacrifice you to Alexandre this evening. You—” Michael stopped mid-sentence and glanced around the room, his lip again curling in disgust.
“What is that smell?” he asked.
Anne shrugged and sat on the edge of her bed.
“I’ve stopped asking.”
Michael pressed his jacket down with both palms, swiping them down his chest as if trying to rid them of dirt.
“As I was saying, they’re coming tonight. You did a wonderful job inspiring your filthy host to sacrifice you.”
“Thank you. Though I don’t believe I’m the first to inspire her that way.”
Anne studied the imposing Angelus from her spot on the edge of the bed. Michael wore tan breeches and black boots, a clean linen shirt with a high collar, a perfectly tied cravat and a fine evergreen waistcoat. His hair was dark and short; some of the fancier men had abandoned their wigs in favor of a Roman-style short cut. He didn’t look as though he had ever worked a day in his life.
“I have heard quite a bit about you, nearly all of it positive,” he said.
He picked a piece of lint from his jacket, his eyes making a suspicious sweep of the room as he did so.
Anne laughed aloud, covering her mouth to stifle her giggle.
“Why do you laugh?” snapped Michael.
“The room isn’t trying to make you dirty on purpose. You might even have gathered that piece of fluff from your own home.”
“Doubtful,” Michael muttered. He brushed the front of his jacket again, an act that inspired another giggle.
“So,” Michael continued, a little too loudly. “Have you been siphoned yet?”
Anne scowled. “By a Perfidian?”
“No, by a local Creole.”
“A joke!” said Anne, genuinely surprised.
Michael pursed his lips.
“Stand up, Sentinel.”
Anne blanched at Michael’s imperious tone but found herself standing before the idea of rebellion could gel.
“Now, don’t fight me,” said Michael, stepping close to her. She braced as he reached for her and gently clasped her upper arm, just below the sleeve of her dress. Placing his other hand against the small of her back, he drew her toward him, as if they were about to dance.
Michael stared down into Anne’s green eyes. She could feel the rise and fall of her own breathing against his hard, muscular body. Michael released his grip on her right arm and she felt his hand slide across her exposed back, his palm flat against her, inhumanly warm. He leaned in, his lips close to her ear and took a deep breath.
“I’m going to siphon you,” he said in a low, soft voice. “I think it is important that you know what it feels like so you don’t panic if something starts to go wrong.”
Nearly overcome by a rush of adrenaline, Anne cleared her throat and took a deep breath to regain control of her nerves.
“Are you sure you’re not just hungry?” Anne’s voice cracked as she attempted the joke. She could feel his energy clamoring for her own, the pull much greater than that of Yuko’s during her training.
“This is for your own good,” Michael said, more sternly. “And so I don’t have to train a new Sentinel because you were killed. I am sure Yuko simulated siphoning, but Perfidia are unique. It would be difficult for a common Angel to recreate the experience. As an Arch, I am better equipped to prepare you for the intensity of a Perfidian attack.”
Anne nodded and laid her head against Michael’s chest. Part of her wanted to run; the other part remained consumed with curiosity. She heard the sound of a heart beat beneath his breast.
“You have a heart...”
She looked up to meet Michael’s eyes in time to see him roll them.
“Of course I do. My human form is a perfect human form, naturally.”
Anne could find no argument.
“Ready when you are.”
Michael began to siphon energy from Anne. It wasn’t unpleasant, as Anne had feared, but quite the contrary. She felt as if she was falling into a peaceful slumber. After a moment, the sensation became increasingly pleasurable. Sweet drowsiness gave way to arousal, her thighs and pelvis tingling with heat. Anne heard an involuntary moan escape from her lips.
Anne reached with her left hand to grab Michael’s shoulder and pull his body closer. She wanted more. She felt powerless to stop her growing desire for the Angelus. Her right hand moved upward to stroke his cheek, his skin unusually warm to the touch. Anne stroked Michael’s hair as her long fingers pressed on the back of his skull, pulling his lips toward her own.
A moment before their lips touched, pain shot through Anne’s veins like venom. Her eyes opened wide with shock as she tried to push away from Michael’s grasp. He held tight, seemingly oblivious to her torment.
In growing distress, Anne used her left hand to grab for a small dagger she kept hidden in a pouch sewn to her dress. Not a moment too soon, she felt the metal of the blade slip into her palm.
With one quick motion, Anne buried the knife in Michael’s side. Michael released his grip and stumbled back, taking with him one last powerful draw of energy that dropped Anne to her knees.
Michael caught his balance and jerked open his jacket to inspect his wound. The silver blade protruded from above his pelvic bone. Wincing, he plucked the small knife from his side and dropped it clattering to the floor. A red stain crept across his crisp white shirt as he looked down at Anne.
“You’ve punctured my kidney.”
Anne remained on her hands and knees, breathing heavily.
“Your perfect kidney?” she said between ragged breaths. Anne eyed the knife, now two feet from her grasp and smeared with Michael’s blood.
Glancing up, she saw Michael notice her interest in the knife.
“Don’t even think about it,” he growled.
Anne pulled herself up to sit on the bed, her eyes never leaving Michael’s.
“You stabbed me,” Michael said, closing his jacket with disgust.
“Sorry,” Anne said, rubbing her body, still sore from the siphoning. “You neglected to mention you were going to try to kill me.”
Michael’s eyes flashed with anger. He strode towards Anne, stepping on the dagger and kicking it across the room away from her. In a blur of supernatural speed, Michael grabbed Anne by her hair, gathering her long locks in his grasp and pulling her to a standing position. Her head held back, her long, narrow throat exposed, he leaned down and hissed in her ear.
“You don’t stab Angeli,” he said, his breath hot against her neck. “You drain us. I know that your trainers taught you that much.”
Michael released her and stepped back.
Anne felt her face grow hot with embarrassment. “I know that,” she snapped.
“Then do it!” he roared. “Or the Perfidian you stab will certainly kill you!”
Furious at the manhandling, Anne made a move to slap him. The Angelus caught her hand easily and spun her against the table near the bed. Anne’s eyes darted to the knife on the floor.
“No,” said Michael, his hand on hers before she could begin to move for the blade. “No, no, no!”
As quickly as he had grabbed her, Anne’s free hand clutched Michael’s wrist. With everything she had, she pulled at Michael’s energy, absorbing it into her own body, the warmth of it easing her own pains.
The power flowing into Anne’s body infused her with a surge of strength unlike anything she had ever felt. She had siphoned Yuko in the past during practice sessions, but never with such force, and never had the power tasted so sweet.
Michael went slack long enough for Anne to free her other hand. She grabbed his head in both hands and launched herself on him. Together, they fell back on the bed.
Michael found his right hand pinned by Anne’s left, his face pressed against her bosom as she tried to wrap herself around him. Anne pulled energy from every inch of exposed flesh she could touch.