Cherubim - Amy Vansant - ebook
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  The insane, corrupted Arch Angel Seth has been captured, so Anne, Con and Michael might have a moment to breathe, right?Don’t count on it.Another team of Angels, the Cherubim, have arrived to wipe out the Angeli and kill any human who doesn’t meet their standards. The first-arriving Cherub, Rathe, is a long-haired teen with the face of an angel. He seems like an unlikely villain, but he’s created two Angeli-hunting Sentinels, including an evil ex-mercenary with nasty plans for Anne.While Michael orchestrates the Angeli offensive, it’s up to Anne and Con to find Rathe and stop him before he opens the floodgates to Chaos.  

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CHERUBIM

Amy Vansant

PRONOUN

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy this book, please leave a review or connect with the author.

All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.

Copyright © 2017 by Amy Vansant

Interior design by Pronoun

Distribution by Pronoun

ISBN: 9781508075301

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

CHERUBIM

Angeli Book II

Amy Vansant

©2015 by Amy Vansant. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

ISBN-10: 0983719179

ISBN-13: 978-0-9837191-7-5

Library of Congress: 2015908051

Vansant Creations, LLC / Amy VansantAnnapolis, MD

http://www.AmyVansant.com | http://www.TheAngeli.com

Copy Editing: Carolyn Steele http://carolynsteele.ca/Cover design by Steven Novak: http://www.NovakIllustration.com

DEDICATION

To my first Angeli fans, like Mimi, Christie, Nina and Leslee…you’re responsible for keeping a world going!

CONTENTS

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Other Books by Amy Vansant

CHAPTER ONE

~

ANNE AWOKE IN THE fetal position with her left foot asleep and her right hand pinned to the bed. A shroud of hair covered her face, making it difficult to breathe.

She awoke that way every night, like a body stuffed into the trunk of a car with several other bodies, each demanding more and more space. Only a monster could do that to a woman. Only a being of unspeakable evil could expect someone to sleep like a kidnapped contortionist.

Only a Labradoodle.

Anne grunted and pulled her right arm out from under the sixty-five pound dog lying against her face.

Ah, the comforts of home.

She stretched her leg. The soft-coated wheaten terrier using her ankle for a pillow snorted and stomped to the lower corner of the bed, flopping back down with a grunt. Anne turned her head to avoid breathing through a mat of doodle hair, only to find herself nose to nose with a snoring pug-mix. Each time she inhaled, he exhaled, offering her lungs nothing but pug-infused carbon dioxide.

“You creeps are more likely to kill me than any rogue angel.”

The pug opened one bug-eye and then snapped it shut for fear she’d see him and ask him to go for a walk. Exercise was his mortal enemy.

Anne struggled to escape her tangle of animals and sheets. She slid out of bed, dogs peeling from her body like salted leeches. Standing naked in the dark, she surveyed her bedroom by the light of the bright moon glowing outside her New York apartment. The hole where she’d curled sleeping remained ringed by a snoring halo of dogs. The other side of the king bed remained as empty as a lunar landscape.

“Couldn’t you all just spread out a little bit?”

On cue, the Labradoodle stretched his long legs, filling a little more of the bed with his bulk. The terrier lifted her head to glance at Anne, and then dropped it to the mattress. The pug snorted a fine mist of snot. Only the white mutt sat up, hanging on her every word, tail wagging.

Anne retrieved the sweatpants and t-shirt she’d tossed on her reading chair the night before and dressed. She left the room with only Puffer following her. Younger than the other three dogs, Puff still tracked Anne like a furry Lo-Jack.

“Hey Puffer,” she said, sliding a leash from the wall. “You want to take a walk with me?”

Puff danced at her feet, tail wagging like a flag, tongue hanging from the side of his mouth.

Anne clipped the leash on Puff’s collar and left the apartment. She padded down the hall in her fuzzy slippers and stepped into the elevator.

When the doors opened, Anne entered the lobby of the Gramercy Hotel. Her apartment was located in the residences above the guest rooms. She liked the full service feel of living in an apartment connected to a hotel. Her job reaping corrupted angels kept her on the road and the hotel always had staff handy to accommodate long distance requests. The Gramercy had recently added an Italian restaurant, Maialino, and she could call for room service any time she felt too lazy to cook or shop, which happened more often than she liked to admit. She was reasonably certain that cooking was part of her assistant Jeffrey’s job description, but he’d morphed from eager-to-please employee to annoying little brother years ago. There was no turning back.

Anne caught a glimpse of herself in the hall mirror as she walked out of the elevator bay. She appeared younger than Jeffrey now. She remembered when his father worked for her and she’d taken the boy on outings, pretending to be his mother. She couldn’t have children of her own and usually didn’t know what to do around other people’s kids, but Jeffrey felt like hers. He was the perfect real-life doll for make-believe.

Of course, he’d been a lot less snarky at six. At that age, he’d believed everything she said. Then something went horribly wrong. It was as if he’d developed his own mind. Terrible thing, though she’d read it was a common affliction amongst teenagers.

Twenty-two years later, creams and potions littered Jeffrey’s bathroom counter, but no anti-aging cream could ever compete with Anne’s aging cycle of one year for every hundred human years. Her eternal youth made Jeffrey crazy, which offered her some consolation for his constant pranks and acid tongue.

Anne walked into the lobby on her way to the park. Gramercy apartment owners received a key to Gramercy Park, the only private park in New York City. When the twitching bodies of four sleeping dogs awoke her in the middle of the night, the park was a lovely place to stroll.

Anne glanced to her left and spotted Front-Desk Pete operating the helm. The freckle-faced young man waved to her.

“Hey Pete.”

“Hello Ms. B!”

Pete beamed. Anne liked to think he adored her as a person, but she knew she inspired his eager attentions in a very different way.

He thought she was a vampire.

Pete once observed Anne lifting a three-hundred-pound bureau by herself. It happened to be nighttime. Supernatural strength, plus nightfall, plus an overactive imagination and an addiction to all things vampire equaled Anne Bonny the Vampire for Front-Desk Pete. He told her so. At first he’d hinted; stretching and scratching his neck when she was near, telling her that the Italian restaurant could make dishes without garlic, finding ways to slip his blood type into casual conversation. Then, one evening when she’d caught him enjoying a quick beer with the bar staff, he whispered, “I know what you are,” in her ear. The alcohol had provided him the bravado to share his suspicions.

At the time, his confession worried her. Could he know? Could Pete know she was a Sentinel working for the Angeli?

No. Front-Desk Pete couldn’t know that the Angeli created Sentinels to hunt Perfidians, rogue angels who killed humans and fed on their energy. He couldn’t imagine she was a member of the Angeli’s personal execution squad. The Angeli helped the humans and Sentinels like her helped the Angeli.

One big happy family.

Pete couldn’t know, but he was acting strange. After his confession, Anne extended her energy field to feel if he was a Sentinel like herself.

He wasn’t.

It had been a longshot that he was, but new Sentinels came and went and she couldn’t keep track of them all. She didn’t want to keep track of them all. It was less painful that way. Many didn’t last.

Life as a Sentinel did have its benefits. She would live one thousand years, if she managed to survive that long, and she had supernatural strength, speed, healing and agility. Well into the twenty-first century, she also only appeared only a few years older than she had in 1720.

Yet, she’d never been offered a make-up commercial contract.

Life could be cruel.

Youth was nice and supernaturally enhanced strength was handy when moving heavy bureaus, but she’d been so busy avoiding the elevator cameras that she’d forgotten to look for plain-old human Pete. It wasn’t like her to be so careless. She didn’t know how he’d been able to sneak up on her.

Well…

That was a lie.

She knew.

Michael.

She’d been thinking about him. That was how he surprised her. She’d been distracted.

She grinned at the memory of Pete’s face, his jaw slack with surprise. She remembered how he’d shuddered, later, when she’d mingled her energy with his own.

“Are you glamouring me?” he’d asked, stepping back and nearly stumbling over a crushed-velvet sofa.

“Am I what?”

“I’m on to you.”

Anne put her hands on her hips.

“Pete, what exactly do you think I am?”

“You know…”

“No, I really don’t know. Say it.”

Pete touched the point of his own, very human, canine tooth with the tip of his tongue.

“You know,” he repeated, offering her an awkward wink.

That’s when she realized he thought she was a vampire.

She’d laughed. She walked in daylight all the time. She even had a bit of a tan, though it really only made her fair Irish skin human tone. Pete worked the nightshift and had never seen her during the day.

If you only saw a person at night, naturally you’d assume they were a vampire, right?

“Okay, well, let’s keep it our little secret,” she’d whispered to him.

Pete’s face flushed and his pulse quickened.

If she was a vampire, she would have found it arousing.

As she made her way out of her apartment in the middle of the night, Anne knew Pete thought he’d caught her popping out for a midnight snack. She offered him a toothy grin as she walked past the Jade Bar to the front door.

He looked smitten.

The park was less than half a block away. She unlocked the gate with her resident’s key and entered, walking slowly, enjoying the crisp fall air. Puff sniffed every leaf and tree, searching for the perfect place to leave his scent. Alone with her was his only chance to be alpha male. Back in the apartment, he’d be demoted back to fourth place, behind two males and a female terrier of very strong opinions.

Anne strolled around the statue of Edwin Booth, located in the center of the park. Booth had been an actor, and, more infamously, John Wilkes Booth’s brother. Poor Edwin, one of America’s greatest actors, was doomed to a life and afterlife of shame by association. Anne had seen Edwin play Hamlet before the 1865 death of Lincoln at the hands of his brother. He’d been quite good.

She noticed a figure sitting on one of the park’s benches. This one moved.

Due to its exclusivity, the park had few visitors and fewer still after midnight. This person’s presence held her full attention.

The visitor’s build was slight and vaguely masculine. She suspected he was a teenager by both his shape and the moody way he stared at the ground; the hood of his sweatshirt pulled low across his face. Anne walked toward him, unafraid but alert. No ordinary human could kill her, but she didn’t like to put her dogs in danger. If a human hurt one of her dogs, there would be one less human for the Angeli to protect.

Five feet away from the boy, Anne sensed something strange about his energy. She reached forward with her aura to inspect his. He snapped his head to face her.

He felt me.

Pete, a human, had shuddered; a normal response to her probing. This man reacted before she’d touched him. He’d sensed her presence.

Anne froze. The two stared at each other. The stranger’s face remained cloaked in darkness, but now she saw two pinholes of red light where the man’s eyes should have been.

“You’re exactly what I’ve been looking for,” he said.

Puff barked. The hoodie bobbed downward. Anne traced the man’s glowing gaze to her dog.

Here we go.

Anne scooped Puffer into her arms and with inhuman speed bolted from the man to the nearest edge of the park. She felt his pursuit. She jumped the tall, wrought-iron fence with ease and gently placed Puff on the ground outside. She turned and leapt back in, meeting the man in the air just inside the fence line as he soared upward to follow her. The collision sent them spinning to the ground.

Puff stood outside the bars, barking, too big to squeeze through and join Mommy for tumble class.

Safe, thought Anne hearing Puff bark as she spiraled through the air. She wished the mutt would run back to the hotel and wait for her, but she couldn’t even teach that one to give paw. At least he couldn’t get back into the park.

Now I just have to make sure this thing never leaves the park.

The boy took the brunt of the fall, landing on his back with a crunch of gravel. Anne landed on top of him, one elbow striking the ground as she balanced to keep him pinned beneath her weight. She touched his bare neck with her left palm, siphoning his energy into her own body.

She gasped.

The creature was not a Perfidian.

Pulling energy from an Angelus or Perfidian filled Anne with power, though, with one exception, only the lesser angels contracted the disease. Mighty Arch Angelus like Michael seemed immune, or so they thought, until the Arch Seth fell ill. It had been she who siphoned Seth, and his energy made her sick.

She thought Seth had been the only anomaly in her predictable, if strange, career as a Sentinel, but this man, just beginning to catch his breath and squirm, felt different, even from Seth. Anne felt a rush of power. She didn’t feel sick.

She felt angry.

The teen bucked beneath her and Anne clawed to hold him, siphoning energy as fast as she could. Whoever or whatever this creature was, he was powerful.

Had another Arch become infected?

Anne’s heart filled with dread. The Angeli didn’t even know what to make of Seth yet…if another Arch had fallen…

The creature roared in pain and thrust forward with both hands, lifting Anne away from him and throwing her into a nearby bush. She scrambled to her feet as he stood and charged, catching her just below her rib cage and slamming her against the wrought iron bars of the fence.

Anne heard her ribs crack as the air rushed from her body. She turned her face away, gasping for breath as the man grabbed her throat, squeezing her windpipe with the force of a python. She felt him siphoning energy, felt herself growing weaker. She clawed at his fingers, trying to escape his grasp while Puff barraged them with a string of barks and yelps.

With eyes about to pop from her head, Anne stared into the face of her attacker. As she suspected, he wasn’t a grown man. She wasn’t very good at judging people’s age, but the pretty boy with fine, almost effeminate features couldn’t have been more than nineteen. His eyes were solid black with a small ring of glowing red, but other than that, he looked like an ordinary young man. She didn’t recognize him and didn’t know why he would want to kill her. His skin was pale and he squinted with the strain of choking her.

Poor thing.

Anne didn’t know what her assailant was, but she guessed he didn’t know exactly what she was either. Even if he recognized Sentinels, he didn’t know Anne Bonny. She had one parlor trick her fellow Sentinels did not; a power she’d inherited after defeating Seth in battle back in the late seventeen hundreds.

Anne stopped clawing at the ever-tightening fingers pressed against her throat and allowed her arms to fall loose. Power rapidly dwindling; she used her reserves to summon her swords. Orange light burst from her hands like fire, forming two-foot-long short swords of pure energy.

Anne saw the boy’s eyes glance downward, curious as to the orange glow in his peripheral vision. Before he could react, Anne brought her hands together like a thunderclap on either side of his head, sinking both swords into his skull.

The young man seized and squeezed her throat one last time before his arms fell limp. His eyes rolled into his head as he crumpled to the ground.

Anne fell with him to her knees, careful to keep the swords embedded in his skull. The power rushing into her body soothed her wounds and healed her broken ribs. In seconds, she felt invincible. With her left sword phased through the teen’s forehead, pinning him to the gravel, she removed the right one and retracted the energy blade into her raised fist.

Anne heard Puff barking. As if awakening from a dream, she looked at the dog. He’d pushed his head through the bars of the fence and stared at her with large brown eyes. He seemed…disturbed.

She followed Puff’s gaze to her own upraised fist.

Why was her hand above her head?

Why was it covered in blood?

She looked down at the young man.

She’d pounded his features into a bloody mess.

Anne rolled away, both horrified and furious. Breath jagged, she fought to regain control. Something about the creature’s power had filled her with an uncontrollable rage. She absorbed her left sword, its orange glow dissipating. Her foe remained motionless. Anne stood, panting, taking another step back to ensure no contact remained between them.

Puff stopped barking. Anne reached into the pocket of her sweatpants with blood-soaked hands to retrieve her phone, nearly dropping it as she hit the speed dial listed as “A.”

She’d once told Michael the A stood for Angelus. Usually, it did. It depended on how annoyed she was with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. There were other words that began with A. Words that rhymed with ShmassShmole.

“Hello?”

“Michael, where are you?”

“Toronto. Why? What’s wrong? Why are you out of breath?”

“I need you here,” she said, staring at the broken knuckles on her right hand. She wiggled them and watched them heal.

How long have I been punching that boy?

“Where are you? New York? I can be there by mid-morning.”

“No, now. You’ll come here now. As in now now. As in, five minutes ago. Fly little birdie.”

Michael huffed. His voice sounded muffled now, as if he’d covered his mouth to ensure his privacy.

“I’d rather not do that.”

“Then, is there something in particular you’d like me to do with the young man lying at my feet, moments from death, who is neither Angelus, Perfidian, Sentinel, human or whatever the hell Seth is?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You heard me. Gramercy Park. The actual park. Now.”

Anne hung up. She squatted beside the boy, her fist raised, ready to push an energy blade through his skull at the slightest movement.

Puffer whined and sat on the opposite side of the bars.

“Sorry baby,” she said as soothingly as possible. “Mommy might have to kill someone.”

CHAPTER TWO

~

MICHAEL APPEARED BESIDE ANNE with a rush of wind and a flash of blue light. His dark hair flopped to his forehead and he swept it back into place with the flick of a perfectly manicured hand.

“Twenty minutes. You’re getting slow in your old age,” said Anne.

Puff barked.

“Shush,” said Michael. He looked down at the dog. “Both of you.”

Anne eyed his suit.

“Armani?”

“Please. Brioni Vanquish II.”

“I thought maybe you were slumming.”

Michael studied the man on the ground, sitting on his heel beside the body. He used a pen from his breast pocket to push back the young man’s hood, exposing more of his bloodied face to the moonlight.

“What happened to him?” he asked, his lip curled in disgust. “Did he used to have a nose?”

“I was a little angry. Something about his energy filled me with rage.”

“You’re sure it was his energy? You do have a temper…”

“Not like that,” she said, pointing at the boy’s face. “I was out of my mind, pounding on him, for I don’t know how long. It took all my strength to calm down. I had to get away from him.”

“I don’t think inspiring rage in your opponents is an effective defense mechanism. We could just let natural selection rid us of him.”

“Oh you’re a hoot. You know I can’t resist Darwinian humor.”

Michael touched the only remaining patch of clean skin on the boy’s forehead with his fingertips.

“I can’t drain him.”

“So he has to be some variation of an Angelus, right?”

“Presumably.”

Anne squinted, peering at the boy’s face.

“You know…he looks like he’s healing. He looks better than he did. You can almost make out an eye socket… You think I should hit him again?”

Michael stood, scowling. He inspected the pen for blood and slipped it back into his pocket.

“Anything else?”

“He had black eyes, no white, with a red iris. Glowing. Oh, and when I first spotted him he said you are exactly the person I’ve been looking for.”

“So he ended the sentence with a preposition?” Michael unbuttoned his jacket, pulled a handkerchief from an inner pocket and wiped his hands.

“Yes, so we can rule out the possibility that he’s an English professor. Excellent job, case solved.”

The young man groaned and his finger twitched. She shot forth her blade, plunged it into his head and then retracted. The creature fell silent.

“You just lobotomized him with all the emotion of pushing a card key into a hotel room door,” said Michael.

“I didn’t lobotomize him. And I’ve had to do that twice since I called you. He’s as powerful as an Arch. He’s drained to almost nothing, but he’s healing as we speak.”

Michael looked around.

“We have to move him. We can’t stand here in public stabbing him in the head with light sabers all night. As much fun as that might be.”

“Take him to my apartment. I’ll meet you there.”

“I’m a little afraid to fly him. If we don’t know what he is, we don’t know how teleporting him might affect his situation. It could heal him or kill him.”

“Okay, then throw him over your shoulder. We’ll walk him there the old-fashioned way.”

Michael ran his tongue across his teeth and stared back at her.

“I don’t know. Maybe you should carry him.”

Anne glared at him.

“Pick him up. You didn’t even buy that brioche suit of yours. You manifested it. If you get blood on it, you can re-manifest it. It will look a little suspicious if I carry a man into the hotel. I need to be free to explain to prying eyes why you are carrying a man into the hotel.”

“The suit is Brioni. A brioche is a French pastry.”

“Just pick him up,” said Anne through gritted teeth. She was trying to be scary, but now, all she could think about was a warm brioche and a cup of coffee.

She opened the gate and picked up Puff. The dog covered her face with kisses.

“Did you miss Mommy?”

The intensity of Puffer’s kisses increased and she realized love had nothing to do with his attention.

“Blood spatter. Little sicko.”

Michael lifted the young man, holding the body in front of him like a serving tray.

“Won’t the people in the hotel say something? His face looks like the chopped toro appetizer at Nobu.”

“The Gramercy gets a lot of famous people. A lot of arty people. They’ve seen everything. The kid at the desk thinks I’m a vampire anyway.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Anne turned and looked at Michael. The head of the man in his arm hung down, blood dripping from his mangled face.

“Michael, You can’t carry him draped over your arms like a bolt of fabric. First, a normal person couldn’t hold the weight of a man away from his body that way. Second, the kid’s face is in clear view. They train the staff to deal with quirky personalities, but basic humanitarian instincts might inspire them to call the police if we drag an unconscious, bleeding boy to my apartment. We need to make it look like he’s just drunk.”

“Like he’s drunk and fell face first into a wood chipper.”

“Oh, come on! It’s not that bad. Look, his eye socket’s perfectly round again.”

“Fine.” He tossed the man head first over his shoulder like a bag of rice.

“Better?”

Anne shook her head. “Walk with him. Make it look like he’s trying to walk.”

Michael huffed. He dropped the man’s legs and held him to his right side with one arm tucked under the young man’s right armpit. The head lolled against Michael’s shoulder, smearing it with blood.

He pursed his lips and took a deep breath through his nose.

Anne adjusted the boy’s hood to cover as much of his face as possible.

“Close enough. Let’s go.”

Anne opened the door and stepped into the lobby. Both the Jade and Rose bars to the right were closed for the night. The restaurant to the left was dark. The lobby was empty, except for Pete standing at his station behind the front desk.

“Okay. The coast is clear.”

Michael dragged in the body, shaking his arm to make the unconscious boy’s feet dance on the ground like a marionette’s. If Pete looked closely, he would notice the hooded stranger’s toes dragging loosely beside the Angelus. Hopefully, he wasn’t so obsessed with proving her a vampire that he’d look for oddities.

Michael scanned the lobby.

“Lovely. It feels very Julian Schnabel, am I right?”

“It looks like Beetlejuice’s vacation home. I know.”

“Beetle what?”

Anne waved a dismissive hand and walked in front of Michael to obscure Pete’s view. Pete looked up as they hurried towards the elevator area.

“Hey Ms. B,” he said, his brow knitting as he strained to see Michael and his friend. “Do you need some help?”

“We’re good.”

“Are you sure?”

“Back off, Pete.”

He blanched. “Sorry.”

Anne and Michael ducked into the elevator bay.

“Still angry?” the Angelus asked as they waited for a car.

“You’d rather Pete come and investigate?”

He shrugged and the boy in his arm danced accordingly.

“Fine. I am still angry. I didn’t mean to snap at Pete. I’m telling you, something about this creature’s energy affected me.”

“At least you were able to drain him.”

The elevator to the private residences opened and they stepped inside. Turning to face forward, Anne spotted a small pool of blood on the marble floor where they’d been standing. A spotty trail of it led back to the front door. Her shoulders slumped.

“Dammit. Blood. I can’t leave the lobby covered with blood.”

“It will affect your apartment prices?”

She rolled her eyes. “And maybe draw a little unwanted attention.”

He shrugged. “If he’s as much like an Angelus as we think, as soon as he switches to his energy form all the physical evidence will return to him.”

“Well we’re not planning on letting him heal like that any time soon, remember?”

“Good point.”

“Go on up,” she said, placing the dog on the floor. “Take Puff. I’ll be there in a second. Don’t get blood—”

She cut her comment short. Blood was already dripping from the boy’s nose. She winced as Puffer began to lap it from the floor of the elevator.

Helpless to control every detail, she jumped out and jogged to the front desk. Pete seemed both surprised and frightened to see her.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you,” she said.

As she spoke she trained her eyes on the security camera above Pete’s head. She moved to the far end of the front desk and hopped over it as if it were a foot high instead of four. Pete watched slack-jawed. Positioning herself beneath the camera, she jumped and touched it. The red light blinked out.

Pete took a step away from her. “Um, it’s okay, you didn’t snap. I—”

Anne lunged forward and touched Pete’s neck. As her fingertips made contact with his skin, he collapsed. Anne caught him and lowered him gently to the floor.

A burst of energy shorted out humans as easily as it did cameras.

Anne dipped below the desk and grabbed paper towels and a bottle of spray cleaner. She ran to the lobby, cleaned the drips of blood leading to the larger pool in front of the elevator, sopped up that mess and recalled the car. She ran the bottle back to its place behind the desk and propped Pete in a chair. She returned to the elevator just as the doors opened, one last clump of paper towels in her hand for cleaning any mess Puffer might have missed.

Anne entered her apartment to find her assailant lying on the hardwood floor behind the sofa, surrounded by curious dogs. Now the pug was happily licking blood from his face.

“Don’t let them near him!” she said. She shooed the dogs into her bedroom and closed the door.

“Sorry,” said Michael. “It’s like herding sheep.”

He perched on a bar stool and stared at the man.

“Do you recognize him?” she asked.

“While a face tenderized by your loving fists is difficult for anyone to identify, I can definitively say no. He’s not an Angelus.”

“Has he moved? What do you want to do? I can’t keep him here.”

“We’ll keep him penned like Seth until we figure out who and what he is.”

“Is Con still watching Seth?”

Michael nodded. “He is. Seth retains the amorphous state he assumed the moment we trapped him. Con sits outside the cage, day and night, waiting for a chance to steal back his energy. I’d never let him interact with Seth, of course, but it makes me feel better having a Sentinel nearby.”

“And you can’t stop him from being there.”

Michael scowled. “No. Con is worse than trying to herd sheep.”

“He’s like trying to herd cats.”

“Why would someone herd cats?”

Anne sighed. She missed her fellow Sentinel, Con. A century earlier, he’d lost his corporeal body in a battle with Seth while trying to save her. He’d lived like a ghost until a month ago, when he again confronted Seth on the streets of Annapolis, Maryland. Through this second interaction, Con regained ninety percent of his physical body. He was convinced Seth retained the final ten percent of his form, but couldn’t siphon any energy from the Perfidian as long as he remained a nebulous ball of light locked in an energy cage. He couldn’t tear himself away from the possibility that Seth would reform and he could be whole once more.

“Hopefully your Perfidian cage will hold whatever this creature is as well as it holds Seth.”

The boy’s face remained covered in blood, but his nose seemed more prominent than she remembered. She manifested a sword.

“I better—”

Before she could finish her sentence, the body collapsed into a swirling pool of dark red light. The man’s human features dissipated, until only a man-shaped glow remained. The light phased through the floor as Anne yelped and thrust her sword through the floorboards, hoping to make contact before he dropped out of reach. She felt no transfer of energy.

Michael transformed into his own energy form, crackling with his angelic blue light. He slipped through the floorboards in pursuit.

Anne bolted into the hallway. She stared at the elevator call buttons, unsure what to do. She couldn’t phase through the floor like an Angelus and using the elevator to guess their location in a building this size was a hopeless endeavor. The creature could be on any floor of the hotel or miles away by now. Michael didn’t think to phase her with him, of course. Even Angeli were idiots sometimes. If he caught the creature, he wouldn’t have the power to hold him without a Sentinel in tow.

Anne stamped her foot.

“Dammit!”

She ran back to her apartment hoping Michael might return for her. She stared at the floorboards.

“What’s going on? It sounds like you’re having a rave out here.”