Excerpt for Zadekiel Path of Angels Book 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Zadekiel: Path of Angels Book Two


Patricia Josephine






Zadekiel

Path of Angels

Book Two


Patricia Josephine



Copyright 2015 by Patricia Josephine (Patricia Lynne)

http://www.patricialynne.com

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places of incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by: Alexandria N. Thompson; GothicFate.com






Acknowledgement


I want to say thank you to all my cheerleaders. The writing friends I’ve made, who pushed me and never let me slack off. Family and friends who bugged me about the next book. My hubby for putting up with me when all I wanted to do was write and not worry about dinner.

Thanks to Alexandria for the beautiful cover. We sure had a tricky time getting it right, but once we did, everything else fell into place. Thanks to my beta readers and critique partners, Melissa, Elsie, Erin, and Marie. Your feedback was invaluable. Also, thanks to J.T., my editor. You helped me polish this story so it shined.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who has read my stories, whether it be this new series or my young adult novels. I’ll eat a cookie in your honor.






Other books in the Path of Angels Series


Michael, Book One

Jophiel, Book Three

Gabriel, Book Four






Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

About the Author






Chapter One

Sparks burst into the air, shooting into the plumes of smoke and reaching for the stars above. Zade watched the dancing yellow and orange flames. Fire held no prejudice. It devoured everything with equal vigor. Wood. Grass. Flesh. It consumed all, leaving nothing but a pile of ash.

When the flames died and the embers cooled, Zade, Gabe and Joe sifted through the warm remains. They broke up pieces of bones and spread the ash. Fresh dirt covered any evidence. The sun was rising as they finished, birds singing to welcome the new day.

Silence hung between the three brothers as they trudged, soot-covered, back to the hotel. Joe and Gabe collapsed on the bed and were asleep in seconds. Zade slumped into a stiff chair next to a table in the corner. His thoughts flitted to a nice hot shower, but his legs refused to carry him to the bathroom, and sleep claimed him quickly.

Light streamed through the curtains when he woke. The sun was slowly disappearing behind the skyscrapers. Muscles protested as Zade pushed to his feet. He shuffled past his unconscious brothers to the bathroom. The water turned black as he washed the grime and dirt away. A quick shave rid the stubble from his chin. He ran a hand over his hair. He’d need a haircut soon. When he was a toddler, his mother had let his hair grow into an unruly Afro and he remembered the pain whenever she had tried to tame it. Never again. But that had to wait for another day; it was time to wake Joe and Gabe.

“Hope you didn’t use all the hot water,” Joe grumbled, stretching.

“Don’t be such a baby.” The remark earned Zade a glower. He turned from his moody brother to Gabe, who was sprawled across the bed, snoring softly. Zade smacked his shoulder. “Get up. Sun is setting and the Fallen don’t stop.”

Gabe muttered a string of obscenities, pulling the pillow over his head. Zade punched him once more, then turned to the small coffee maker. The brew the hotel offered was horrid and bitter, but the aroma was enough to stir Gabe better than Zade could.

Zade returned to the chair he had slept in, cup of coffee in hand, and watched the street below. People lingered in the dying sunlight and pigeons scurried among their feet. A movement drew his attention to the building opposite the hotel. Through a window, a couple argued. The woman threw a shoe at the man, and then stormed across the room. The man followed, arms waving angrily as he shouted at her. Zade tore his gaze away from the scene, looking past the city to what couldn’t be seen.

Gabe joined him. “You think Mikey’s okay?”

Zade looked at his brother, seeing his worry mirrored in Gabe’s dark-blue eyes. “Yeah, he’s fine.”

Four years had passed since Zadekiel started this journey with his brothers. Archangels born into the human world, it was their duty to find fallen angels and send them to Hell. The task became more difficult when they discovered that the Fallen were mingling with humans and having children. Half-breeds were harder to spot; their bodies weren’t withered husks and didn’t possess the same level of coldness their parents did. Zade had to risk getting close to identify a half-breed. Even then, the faint chill could easily be a benign breeze.

The four brothers hadn’t been dissuaded. With Michael at the helm, they had marched the path faithfully. Never once did Zade dream that the mantle of leader would pass to him.

A lump rose up his throat. The memory of their last conversation filled his thoughts, Michael’s voice echoing in his head.

Don’t we deserve more than our path? To love and be loved?”

Zade shrugged. “It’s probably better we don’t have time for love. A girl would only be in danger.”

A girl,” Michael murmured, his gaze distant. “What about a man?”

Zade’s mouth dropped open. He waited for Michael to say something––anything––but his brother was silent. “Mike, what are you saying?”

Michael took a deep breath, a tremble shaking his body. It was the first time Zade had seen him nervous. He was the strong one. The leader. Zade felt as if he were looking at a stranger. “Remember when I said I kissed someone? It was another man. He was at the club last night and instead of following the path like I should have, I went with him. I love him and… I don’t know what to do.”

For the first time in his life, Zade wanted to lie. He wanted to tell Michael everything was okay. But he couldn’t speak the words. Instead, he said something that felt a thousand times worse.

You have to ask Father to forgive your sins.”

Michael left a few days later and never returned. Joe and Gabe insisted on looking for him, certain one of their enemies had captured him. But Zade knew better. Michael was gone and it was his fault. He drove Michael away, letting him believe his own brother wouldn’t accept him.

Zade turned from the window and his guilt. A deep breath pushed the toxic feeling farther to the recesses of his mind. Joe and Gabe watched him, waiting for their new leader to take charge.

***

Without Michael, the path was invisible. Most nights were fruitless. Zade, Gabe and Joe walked the city until blisters formed. They bribed their way into dark and dirty places, only to be kicked out for disturbing customers.

The green from the stoplight illuminated the three brothers as they stood on the street corner. Across from them was a dingy bar, the windows blacked out. Garbage filled the parking spaces in front of the building. If not for the muffled, mournful tune drifting through the open door, Zade would have thought the place was abandoned.

“We’ve been down 4th Street already,” Joe said.

Gabe sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “No, we haven’t. We went down 4th Avenue. We haven’t been to this part of the city yet.”

“Are you blind? We checked that place last week.” Joe stabbed a finger at the crumbling bar. “We found nothing.”

“Whatever,” Gabe growled. “You just want to go back to the room and sit on your ass.”

“No. I don’t want to waste time searching places we’ve already searched.”

“We haven’t looked there!”

Joe shoved Gabe. “Yes, we have, asshole.”

Zade threw himself between the two before more blows could be exchanged. “Arguing isn’t going to get us anywhere.” He examined the bar closer. “Joe is right. We searched this area last week and found nothing.”

Gabe glared at Joe and muscles in his jaw twitched. Joe met the hostility, his fists clenched at his sides.

“Guys, come on, cool it,” Zade said softly. “I know things have been tough since Mikey left, but we can’t give up on our duty. We have to find the Fallen and the half-breeds. Bickering lets the Fallen win. Do either of you want that?” He released a breath when his brothers backed off, apologies muttered and their heads hung. Close one. Next time he might not be able to stop the fight. Fuses were short.

He clapped their shoulders, forcing his lips into a smile. “I didn’t think so. How about we call it a night.” He eyed the bar. “This place might have… okay drinks. Tomorrow, we’ll go back out and find some Fallen.”

The three entered the dimly lit establishment. It was exactly the same as their last visit, right down to the patrons. Blue-collared workers getting a drink before heading home after a long day of hard labor. Men hunched over their drinks, cigarettes leaving their lips only for a swig of beer. A few women sat among the men and seemed equally worn out. One woman’s arms were covered in tattoos. Zade examined the faded ink, imagining the once-vibrant colors. The idea always intrigued him, but he’d never do it. He didn’t believe in defacing his body, and wasn’t sure how well the ink would show up on his skin. Still, the secret wish often whispered seductively of a simple design winding around his bicep.

Gabe and Joe claimed a table in the middle of the room while Zade flagged down the bartender––a balding man with huge beer belly. He scanned the rows of half-empty bottles and beer taps with peeling labels. A cracking sound made him jump. He turned and spotted a pool table in the corner, a game in session.

Zade pulled his ID out of his wallet and presented it to the bartender. The plastic was flimsy, but the weight of its importance made it feel much heavier. He still remembered the day it arrived as if it had happened yesterday. It had been their twenty-first birthday and five years since they had left home, but instead of celebrating, they were planning their next hunt. A knock on the door had interrupted them. The surly-looking manager offered Zade a slim package containing the licenses. Zade could barely recognize the person on his. He was no longer the round-raced boy full of innocence. Instead, the picture was of a grown man, dark eyes lit with determination to fulfill his mission.

Apparently, their path required IDs.

Beers ordered, Zade joined Gabe and Joe. Guilt twisted Zade’s gut as he sat, the fourth chair painfully empty. He held up his bottle. “To Michael. May he find his path.”

Gabe and Joe clinked their bottles against his, murmuring in agreement. No more was said as they sipped their drinks.

The door groaned open as Zade was ordering another round. A gentle breeze blew in, causing shivers to run down his spine. Out of habit, he tensed, ready to call his weapon. But no foul tang filled his mouth, nor were his senses jumping to high alert. The chill was nothing more sinister than the wind sneaking inside.

“Be with you in a minute, Zephyr,” the bartender grunted, popping the tops off Zade’s refills.

“No rush, Mannie.”

The low, feminine voice drew Zade’s attention. His jaw dropped to the floor. Wow.

Skintight jeans showed long legs, holes ripped up and down the fabric hinted at smooth, creamy skin. Underneath a loose, sheer flower print hoodie was a neon-pink shirt. But it was her hair that held Zade’s attention rapt. Bright yellow tresses like a sunflower peeked out from under the grass-green locks like they were keeping a secret. Long tendrils of green fell over her face and she swept them aside to reveal sapphire eyes framed by thick black lashes. She perched herself on a barstool, dropping a patchwork bag between her buckle-covered boots. One dark eyebrow quirked up as she met Zade’s stare.

“Can I help you?”

Zade snapped his jaw shut, his teeth clicking together. “No, no. I…I didn’t realize I was staring. Forgive me.”

“Well, you’re still staring and I like to drink without an audience.” Her voice was unlike any other. Each word purred like a cat.

“Sorry,” Zade stammered and focused on the rows of alcohol. But he could still see her reflection in the mirror behind the bottles. The smile on her red lips made his knees shake.

The bartender cleared his throat. “Nine bucks, buddy.”

Zade fumbled for the cash, his focus scattered. The woman kept drawing his gaze like a magnet. Zephyr, the bartender called her––a unique name for a unique-looking woman. A smile twitched her lips and he realized he was staring again. He slapped the money on the counter and hurried back to his table.

***

“So I tell the guy, ‘You get your sorry ass out of here and don’t let me catch ya digging through my dumpster again.’ Bums, I tell ya. This city is overrun with them… Are you listening, Zephyr?”

Zephyr LaCoy glanced up from her drink. A slow smile spread across her face. “Of course, Mannie. I always enjoy hearing you gripe about the less fortunate. Tell me more of your woes and I’ll write them down for you. ‘Mannie’s Laments’ I’ll call them. They’ll be a New York bestseller in no time.”

Mannie blushed. “Like people would want to read the rantings of an old geezer like me. You’re better off writing about yourself.”

Zephyr sketched a picture of her beer in the margin of the notebook. Words filled the lines, only a few pages blank. Time to get a new one and store this with the others. “I doubt anyone would want to read about me either.”

“Why not? One look tells a story. I bet there’s plenty of layers hidden under your clothing.”

“And I bet you’d love to see,” Zephyr teased.

Red exploded across Mannie’s face. He muttered about decency and how he had manners. Zephyr chuckled. This was one of the reasons she loved the small bar hidden in the bowels of the city. Honest people sat on the stools. No one pretended to be something they weren’t or told tall tales. The people were themselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly. She stepped through the door and was accepted without question––something she didn’t always get.

Even before Zephyr had colored her hair brightly, judgment hung over her like a dark cloud. Friendship with her peers was hard to forge, and as a child, the isolation had left her self-conscious. It was a cold and lonely way to grow up––if not for her father. His encouraging words taught her to hold her head high.

Words can only hurt you if you let them, my angel.”

Zephyr’s throat tightened as her father’s voice echoed in her mind. His death had been sudden. One day, he was happy and healthy, and the next he was gone. She hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye; he was dead when she woke. She had been ten years old.

Forcing her thoughts from the loss of her father, Zephyr watched the man who had been staring at her when she arrived. He sat in the middle of the room with two other men. They didn’t speak; each seemed to be off in their own little world.

Now that he wasn’t gawking like a fish, she took the moment to examine him closer. A plain, dark blue shirt showed well-defined muscles. Probably compensating for what was lacking in his pants. She smirked at the thought. His face wasn’t bad, though. Well shaven, nice lips and beautiful eyes that she couldn’t tell if they were black or dark brown. His neatly trimmed hair would be cuter if he let it grow out into long dreadlocks. She loved the style and thought it was beautiful.

When he caught her staring at him, she didn’t flinch. He quickly dropped his gaze to his hands.

Odd. Most men she crossed paths with had two reactions to her: either puffing out their chest like a strutting peacock, or sneering at her like it was an insult she was looking. Excuse her for checking a guy out. She turned her attention back to her notebook, dismissing him. Irritation bolted through her when she noticed a new poem scrawled around the doodle she had been working on.

They left behind their home

In you they seek the truth

With dark eyes the path lies

Truth revealed when he speaks

Listen please

Thy breath to keep

Less you sleep eternal sleep

She shoved the notebook into her bag quickly. A wary glance around showed no one paying her any mind. What a relief. The last thing she wanted here was questions about her poetry.

All her life, her hands had refused to listen to her. They wrote even as she slept. Every morning she woke with ink on her arms, cryptic messages smudged. When conscious, the urge was stronger. Her fingers twitched to abandon whatever task she was doing. Over time, she learned to keep plenty of spare pens around and a few notebooks handy.

Cautiously, she pulled the poem back out and reread it. It wasn’t much different from the others she had written. Someone seeking the truth through her. A few times she searched for the meaning of her words. Who were her poems talking about? And what knowledge did she possess?

She traced the words ‘dark eyes’. What a weird choice of words. Why not blue or green? A color that popped and drew attention. She sketched an eye next to the poem. Well, maybe dark eyes wouldn’t be too dull. Not if paired with ebony hair and brown skin, and a clean-shaven face… She whirled around, almost toppling off the barstool. The table the man and his friends had occupied was vacant. A few bills were tucked under the empty beer bottles.

Zephyr blew out a breath. Whatever. It was probably a coincidence. She had noticed his eyes and that’s how they wound up in the poem. Ignoring the feeling of something more, she waved Mannie over. “You got a tip.”

Everyone watched Mannie as he picked the money up and counted it. No one left tips.

“How much?” someone called.

Mannie’s voice was weak. “A hundred dollars.”

Saddie, a regular who Zephyr was certain slept at the bar, cackled. “You need your eyes checked, Mannie. The water you serve here isn’t worth a penny.”

Laughter rippled through the room. Mannie glared at his customers. “Shaddup or I’ll kick you all out.”

“How much did they leave?” Zephyr pressed when he returned behind the bar.

He showed her the five twenties before quickly stowing the money in the cash register. “A hundred.”

“Must have been really drunk.”

“They only had a two rounds.”

Zephyr choked on her beer. “For real? It’s got to be a mistake. They must have thought they were leaving ones. No one is that generous.”

Mannie shrugged and resumed his work. Zephyr noticed he stayed close to the cash register, his gaze darting around suspiciously.

After three more drinks, she paid her tab and headed home. The city streets were empty, the clomp of her boots the only sound. A shiver rolled up her spine as she walked. It felt like someone was watching her. More than once she thought she saw movement in the shadows, but when she looked there was nothing. Relief washed the paranoid feeling away when she reached the bus stop. She settled next to a woman who gave her a sour look and scooted away. When the bus rolled up with a groan, she let the woman go first.

“Hey, Zephyr.” The bus driver gave her a toothy grin.

She planted her hands on her hips. “James, haven’t you quit yet?”

James laughed, the wrinkles around his eyes deepening. He gave the steering wheel a loving pat. “They gonna have to tear me away from my girl once I’m dead.”

A smile filled her face. “I believe it.” She paid the fare and took a seat. As the bus resumed its route, she began to write in her notebook. These words she picked herself, dictating her day as if it were a grand adventure and not the same boring routine. She attended classes at the community college for eight hours, worked at the gas station across the street after class for another five hours, and stopped by Mannie’s bar for a few drinks before finally heading to her studio apartment, housed above a beauty salon.

Home, she tossed her keys on the kitchen counter and made the short trip to the living room. The teal sofa she picked up at a garage sale called to her and she willingly fell into its soft embrace. She debated watching a movie from her vast collection piled haphazardly around the TV, but decided against moving to find the remote. It was late anyway. Morning would come too soon.

A meow drew her attention as she powered on her laptop. Her silver-and-black tabby, Phoenix, jumped onto her lap, either oblivious to the laptop or not caring. Probably the latter. She adjusted the device to accommodate the cat. It would be futile to tell him to wait. Patience was not one of Phoenix’s virtues.


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