Excerpt (Faithless) Guardian
She had just found the willpower to stand when a familiar hand grasped her arm. Dover turned toward Elise Porter, expecting the usual warm smile and kiss the bubbly blond woman had to offer.
When neither appeared to be forthcoming, Dover understood something had happened to her friend. She allowed Elise to move her toward the far corner of the worship room, dodging the other Guardians.
What astonished Dover the most as Elise pulled her away, was the silence. Normally, even with the usual number of Guardians, it took someone an hour to get out of the room between the hellos, the goodbyes, and the ‘I saw a Reaper demon last night!’ shop talk. It seemed they were all too preoccupied with their own worries to bother with the idle chit chat common in any profession.
“Dover, my dear,” Elise said in a low tone. “Are you alright?”
Unable to focus completely on her friend, Dover’s eyes continued to consider the Celestians present at the Arbor. She nodded absently in response to Elise before she managed to drag her attention back to her mentor.
“Yes.” Dover answered, finally. She met the intense blue of her friend’s eyes. “Are you? What’s going on?”
A few small clumps of Guardians remained in the room, all of them seemingly lost to bitter solemnity that hung in the very air of the worship room.
“Half a dozen Guardians were called to new Charges last night,” Elise explained. “I ended up with two new ones in the space of a few hours. It’s all so strange.”
At this, Dover allowed a frown to crease her face. She hadn’t heard of anyone receiving more than one Charge at a time, even within a few weeks could be considered uncommonly frequent.
“You already have six,” Dover whispered. “I’ve never heard of any Guardian having more than that, even one on extension.”
Elise’s blond curls whipped around her heart-shaped face, her plump bottom lip dry with nerves. “I had a run-in with a Summoner and its hounds as well.”
Startled by this, Dover felt her own eyebrows fly up into her hairline. The hand she’d entwined with her friend’s tightened, unwilling to release her in the wake of this revelation. Little could truly terrify a Guardian, especially since they typically died in violent manners. Summoners were created as the antithesis of Guardians. They drew on death and darkness the way Guardians fed on light and life, fierce warriors fueled by demonic blood.
For Dover to have encountered Summoners bothered her, but that Elise found herself pinned by them herself brought her to near-panic.
Typically, demons, even those of high rank, tended to be sketchy, secretive, and secluded. Three Legions attacking Guardians could not be a coincidence.
“I need to see Hanael,” Dover told her friend. “If Summoners are becoming active on the human plane, something devious is going on. I barely got to Embry’s last night in one piece.”
She quickly explained the previous evening’s events to her friend, including the injuries she sustained by Sliding with her Charge.
“We aren’t the only ones,” Elise replied when Dover finished. “Every Guardian I spoke with last night had some sort of odd encounter with demons.”
“As though they wanted to test us,” Dover mused. “Pushing at our defenses in one swoop. Did anyone else report two separate legions?”
Elise shook her blond curls once more. “No.”
“Were any Charges lost?”
“No,” Elise sighed. “Thank God.”
The younger Guardian nodded her agreement. Losing a Charge could be likened to a parent losing a child. Failing a Charge, severing that link between angel and human, could lead a Guardian to do the unthinkable.
His voice sounded the way she thought an angel’s should; deep and strong, though utterly inviting. The low timbre of his words washed over her, giving that urge to ignore the summons so he might be forced to say her name one more time.
Hanael represented the heavenly host on earth, one of a few dozen angelic beings given human form on a one-century rotation. Fortunately for him – and those like him – when they needed a human body, they were not forced to possess one. Each came from the Host for one-hundred years at a time, watching over the corps of Guardians as mentors, as guides, and as disciplinarians.
The leader of Atlanta-based Guardians stood incredibly tall, with a lean, muscular frame he frequently covered in fine, tailored suits. Today’s selection shone in a shade of blue so dark it might have been mistaken for black. This seemed somehow out of place in the light-filled worship room, even with the added solemnity of the Guardians gathered there. Hanael’s face, though handsome, had an ancient air to the sharp lines. Dover once likened him to an artist’s rendering of a Norse god come to life, though she never said as much aloud. His eyes caused her plenty of distraction, their deep green irises encircled by a gold ring that announced his angelic lineage.
If his eyes weren’t taking her concentration, it might be the supple perfection of his generous mouth, especially when he curved it into a rare smile.
Thinking about the leader of Guardians had really become a problem.