FATED BONDS EXCERPT
ANGEL’S FATE: BOOK 1
I’d thought he was the one.
The moment I’d locked eyes with him, the ghostly swirling white lines of my not-yet-awakened angelic mating brand had started to ache, which meant he was my destiny.
Except the magic in the mark hadn’t risen to the surface of my skin alight with the golden glow of our soul bond. It had remained buried, a constant throb, reminding me that he hadn’t been ready. It hadn’t been the right time. I’d needed to be patient.
And I had been. I’d been blessed with the sacred angelic mark and promised from the moment I was born that I’d have a love so rare and great and beautiful other angels would talk about it for centuries. The brand was eternal, destined, and could never be broken. I would wait centuries for him — if by a twist of magic his mortality let him live that long before our bond extended his life. I’d already waited one and a half centuries, keeping my secret because I didn’t want all the curious looks and questions a formed but not awakened brand would get. What was a little more time?
I’d do whatever it took.
At least I thought I’d been willing to do whatever it took.
Until I met her.
Essie Shaw. His actual mate.
She’d shown me how horrifying the brand was, how it stole her independence and all her choices. She’d been crazy with fear and on-her-knees shattered when her mates had been injured and in trouble, and I had no reason to believe her situation was unusual. The angelic mating brand created a soul bond deeper than any other bond in all the realms. The death of one mate caused the death of the other — or drove her insane, which wasn’t the better option.
I shuddered and wrapped my arms tighter around me even though the summer’s night was still warm and muggy with almost no breeze sweeping across the Joined Parliament Operations Building’s rooftop.
No, the cold was soul deep and had sunk into my core the moment I’d seen Essie on the floor, screaming in agony and fear.
I didn’t want that. I couldn’t live with that. I’d lost my freedom once before, and I swore I’d never lose it again. Just the thought of being trapped made my pulse race. And yet I was already branded, the ache growing stronger every day.
Another shudder slipped down my spine. My soul mate was drawing closer. It was the only explanation for the growing pain — although I had no idea why it had started four and a half years ago when I hadn’t really met my true mate.
I swept my gaze over the skyline of Union City’s Supernatural Quarter. This part of the city had been restored after Michael’s war of extermination as a place to live for those supernatural beings who’d come out of hiding to defend humanity, and where I’d called home for the last twenty years.
Except I wasn’t sure I could call it home any more. I hadn’t really lived since I’d met him.
I’d been waiting.
Like a good angel.
And I’d escaped that nightmare by the skin of my teeth… for now.
Before me, in an apartment building a few blocks away, a light turned off, while a streetlight on the next street over flickered off then back on. A car with blue neon glowing from underneath it sped by most likely headed to the vampire section of the Quarter, the heavy thump thump from its stereo so powerful I could feel it in my chest even five stories up.
If I looked to my right and slightly behind me, I’d be able to see the UV-blocking purple-glass canopy over the vampires’ section, catching hints of the light of the half moon along with the strobe lights from the half dozen nightclubs occupying the vampires’ main strip.
There were some vampires and shifters who’d indulge in a flashy, obnoxious vehicle like that, but given that the car had come from the direction of the park separating the Quarter from the human part of the city, the occupants were more likely young human males out to party with the creatures of the night.
Which surprised me a little. But then the path to humans accepting supers hadn’t been as rocky as I’d expected. The monsters who’d hidden in the dark had become saviors and for the most part humanity was welcoming, or at least tolerant, of supernatural beings. Yes, there were a handful of humans who still feared supers, and many who still didn’t want to live next door to them, but the terror of extinction from a common monstrous enemy had certainly eased a lot of fear between species.
It also didn’t hurt that supers had representation in government in the Joined Parliament — and therefore weren’t fighting to be recognized as citizens — as well they had laws to abide by and an enforcement agency — the Joined Parliament Bureau of Supernatural Law Enforcement — with JP teams to uphold those laws.
And for the last three years, I’d been the chief physician for Union City’s JP Operations’ Building because he had joined Union City’s JP team.
I’d thought if I was near him, my mating brand would be awakened and our bond would fully form and we become more than just friends. I yearned for our bond, for him. He was passionate and strong and fiercely protective. His shifter nature gave him a wild edge that I knew I’d never find in another angel, and I’d thought our bonding meant I needed a counterbalance to my reserved angelic nature and my need to always be in control.
I just hadn’t realized how much our bond— any bond would rip away all control. I liked my life, liked who I was, liked how I had freedom and a job that released the constantly building pressure of my healing magic. A bond would take all that away.
And yet my heart ached for the loss of something I no longer wanted.
Which didn’t make any sense.
How could I mourn something that terrified me?
Except it wasn’t the angelic mating brand and everything it entailed that I was mourning. It was the loss of what could have been, the promise of joy, passion, unconditional love and acceptance, and the dream of a soul-deep connection with someone.
Well, no more! So the brand wasn’t what I thought it was and its terrible fate was headed my way. I wasn’t going to just accept its inevitability. Yes, a soul bond, once formed, was impossible to break, but my brand hadn’t awakened yet. Maybe there was a way to remove it, or block it, or something before my soul bonded with a complete stranger’s and made me fall in love with him.
And maybe I only believed a soul bond was impossible to break.
I’d been wrong about how beautiful the mating brand was. I could be wrong about the finality of its soul bond. The only way to know for sure was to stop feeling sorry for myself and do something, gather information, find someone powerful enough who might be able to break or suppress my mating brand—
I bit back a groan. There was only one person who could possibly be strong enough, and I really didn’t want to see the arrogant, lascivious faekin again.
Except Sebastian Bane wasn’t a faekin — half human half fae — glyph witch. He was a full fae sorcerer in hiding… probably because he’d slept with someone’s mate, or sold stolen magical artifacts to the wrong super, or done something stupid and had a hit out on him.
He’d proposition every woman I’d seen him come in contact with, and while that hadn’t been many, he was still at a hundred percent propositions to encountered women — myself included.
I’d promptly turned him down of course. There wasn’t any way I’d have sexual intercourse with a man like him. I was saving myself for my soul mate—
Except I didn’t want a soul mate any more.
And if I wasn’t going to have a soul mate, why wouldn’t I take a lover?
Because that lover could end up being my soul mate… although Sebastian and I were such opposites, there was no way he could be my mate.
Another shudder swept through me. I couldn’t believe I was actually thinking of saying yes if he propositioned me again… which he wouldn’t, because I’d already clearly and firmly turned him down.
The door to the stairwell opened, and my heart skipped a beat. Essie liked to come up to the patio, her angelic nature drawing her to rooftops and open sky as much as it did me. And while I knew I needed to work on creating a truce between us — since I’d been less than kind to her when I thought she was going to emotionally shatter my mate — I wasn’t ready. Every time I saw her, I saw my wasted years — thank goodness only four! — and my lifetime of naiveté.
Thankfully, Cassius stood in the doorway and not Essie, although he appeared harder and more imposing than I’d ever seen him before, even in those darkest days during Michael’s war. He looked like a statue who’d been sculpted by a master with his broad muscular shoulders straining his simple black T-shirt, strong chiseled jaw, and piercing blue eyes. He wore his blond hair buzzed short — something he’d started doing during the war — and it made him look like the dangerous warrior I knew he’d made himself into. Gone was the thoughtful warm angel I’d become friends with almost a hundred years ago, replaced with a solemn soldier.
And now that soldier was even more solemn, acting cold and angry toward everyone, including me. But then Essie Shaw’s life hadn’t been the only one to be turned upside down in the last couple of months, and while things had turned out all right in the end, it wasn’t just Essie who’d gotten scars.
Except Cassius’s scars weren’t anything I could heal. My magic only worked on physical injuries, and the one person who could help him emotionally — Essie Shaw with her empathic healing magic — was the one person he was angry at.
“They’re about to leave,” he said. “Did you want to say goodbye?”
“They’re only going to be in Rome for a few weeks. Why would I?” I asked, my anger at Cassius’s anger making my tone sharper than I intended.
I wanted to heal him, heal all of them, everyone. It was a compulsion deep within my soul, one that had pulled me into the mortal realm when Michael had started his war, one stronger than my need for order, control, or open sky. I’d felt all those wounded souls crying, their physical agony making my magic burn through my whole body even while I was in the Realm of Celestial Light, and even if Cassius hadn’t asked me to join the Angelic Defense with him, I would have joined.
“Right.” The muscles in Cassius’s jaw flexed and he turned his gaze to the Quarter’s skyline.
The weight of his judgment sat heavy between us. I wasn’t being a team player. I’d been purposefully mean to Essie to get her to leave in order to protect Marcus and the rest of the team… and, if I was being honest, to protect myself. I knew I should have chosen a different way to protect everyone, but I’d been shocked seeing her there in my office. Four and a half years ago, she’d been the cause of enormous physical and emotional pain to Marcus, pain my magic hadn’t been able to ease, and I didn’t want that for him again or anyone else.
Except I’d been fighting destiny, and it didn’t care who it hurt to reach its outcome.
At least everyone had survived the terrible battles that had happened about a month ago — although I had no idea how — and life had returned to a new normal with Essie as part of the team.
But that meant I needed to admit I was wrong and make nice with the new girl. And I would. I wanted to. Just as soon as looking at her didn’t remind me of the nightmare coming my way, and the heartache of an illogical loss.
And really, Cassius should talk. Really. He should. As far as I could tell, he’d barely said more than a dozen words to Essie or anyone of her guys with the exception of his brother. He needed to make nice as much as I did.
“The sooner you work it out with Marcus—”
“There’s nothing to work out.” Jeez. Did everyone know that I’d been an idiot over him? Cassius had been on assignment out of town for the last two and a half years and had only returned for a visit once. Someone must have told him about Marcus… probably Cassius’s brother, Gideon. Gideon had seen and heard enough to have known how I’d felt about Marcus.
And while yes, I’d admit, I’d had an emotional attachment to Marcus, everything I’d done had also been practical. Essie hadn’t branded him at the time, and her bonds with her other men would have made her love them more. Marcus hadn’t deserved to be slowly abandoned, his love unrequited. No one did.
And no one deserved the nightmare of the angelic mating brand. Not even Essie Shaw.
Another shudder swept over me and I pushed my fear at my fate as deep down inside me as possible. “I was looking out for the health of Union City’s JP team. That’s my job. She didn’t understand the nature of the mating brand.” And neither had I. “If they hadn’t had a soul bond, it would have eventually shattered him no matter how strong his will.”
“But they do have a bond.” Cassius kept his gaze locked on the skyline, his posture rigid, and for a second it felt like he was talking about his brother, one of Essie’s other mates, and not Marcus.
“And now we have the strongest JP team in the mortal realm,” I said. This wasn’t the conversation I wanted to have. As much as Cassius and I had been good friends, we’d never really talked about our romantic relationships— or rather, he never talked about his, since I’d spent my life secretly and stupidly waiting for my soul mate and hadn’t had any. “Have you talked with Nathaniel and Chris?”
They worked as operational support but the head office had decided that with Cassius as team leader, the three of them could handle the day-to-day activities of the JP in Union City, first for the two and a half weeks while the primary team was out of commission recovering from their terrible ordeal, and now when they went to Rome for advanced training.
“They’ve been briefed. They—” He cocked his head to the side and squinted as my magic swelled under my skin. It rushed into my palms not yet manifested and visible, but ready to burst free at my command.
Someone was in desperate need of immediate medical attention, and my magic had latched onto them. I gritted my teeth. I hated when my power did this, hated the lack of control and choice. But there wasn’t anything I could do once my healing magic had connected with a soul in need, so I yanked my gaze to follow Cassius’s, and caught a hint of shadow rushing past a pale gray cloud. The shape hurtled across the front of the Quarter’s tallest building and a bank of windows with the lights still on.
My pulse stalled. “Is that a person?”
The big, bulky shape took out the top of the spire of the next building, careened off the wall of the six-story high rise beside it, and crashed into the park ring forest with a resounding boom.
My thoughts lurched as my power surged, burning up my forearms to my elbows. That was a person. A man. A big one by his size and build. Even if I hadn’t clearly seen him, my magic knew it.
I reached for my phone but realized I’d left it in my office and there wasn’t time to go and get it. There also wasn’t time to change out of my pastel blue silk camisole and tan linen pantsuit. But this wasn’t the first time I’d ruined my clothes to save a life, and I doubted it would be the last.
“Tell Cassey to prep triage.” I pushed a trickle of power into my back and, with a white flash of angelic light, released my wings, the magic allowing them to manifest through my clothing without damaging what I was wearing — something I highly appreciated. I didn’t release my wings often, but when I did, it was usually an emergency and while my clothes might end up bloody, they could sometimes be saved. Very little would save them if my wings had ripped massive holes in the back.
“Amiah, wait.” Cassius grabbed for me, but I leaped off the roof before he could stop me. Light flashed at the corner of my eye as he released his wings and flew after me. “Just wait.”
“Some supers can survive a fall like that, and my magic says he’s still alive.” But he wouldn’t be if I didn’t get to him right away.
I pushed myself to fly faster headlong into the breeze that hadn’t been there moments ago. It whipped my long blond hair out of its tight chignon and away from my face and cut through my thin clothes, chilling my skin everywhere except for my hands and forearms where my magic pulsed.
Everything within me narrowed to a pinpoint focus on the man. I could get to him in time. I could save him. I had to save him—
My thoughts lurched at that. I’d never had to save anyone before. The possibility of death had always been an option. My magic knew that. As long as I did everything in my power to save someone, I didn’t experience any backlash. If I didn’t do everything possible, my magic turned inward, sweeping through me and painfully incapacitating me.
“Stop. I’m the agent in charge. We know nothing about this situation.” Cassius flew close and tried to grab me again.
I jerked away and held up my now-glowing palms. “We know someone down there needs medical attention.” I dove into the alley between two four-story buildings. There was no way I could shake him or even out fly him. He was the stronger flyer, the stronger angel in every way, but maybe I could dodge him long enough to get to whoever had fallen out of the sky.
I took a quick turn out of the alley onto the next major street. Cassius drew close and reached for my ankle again, but I darted back into another alley and jerked to the side narrowly avoiding the metal fire escape clinging to the building’s red-brick wall.
“I don’t want to write you up,” Cassius said. “Amiah, please. We have to follow protocol. We’re already on probation with head office.”
“You know I have to go to him.” He knew how my magic worked, knew that if I fought it when it locked on to someone like this, I’d be useless for hours, sometimes even days.
“I promise. You’ll go to him. But we have to follow protocol.”
“I can’t wait for protocol. If I don’t want to be useless tomorrow, I can’t.” No matter how much it made my heart race to disobey the rules, the call of my magic was the stronger compulsion. It always was.
I shot out of the alley, across the empty two-lane street at the edge of the Quarter, flying so low I skimmed the roof of a small silver sports car parked at the curb, and barreled into the dark shadows between the thick tree trunks into the park ring.
My magic urged me on. Fly faster. Save him. Go go go.
I twisted avoiding branches and kept low to the ground, half trusting my night vision that allowed me to see reasonably well in low light and half trusting my instincts as I followed a dirt path heading deeper into the forest.
Cassius was right on my heels. If he put in a push, he’d be able to grab me. I didn’t know why he didn’t, but I was grateful he let me keep going. Probably the practicality of not wanting Operations’ chief physician incapacitated by something that could be avoided. And with the amount of magic building in my hands, if I didn’t try to save whoever had fallen out of the sky, I’d be out of commission for days.
My magic jerked me to the left toward thick underbrush and dense evergreens. With a pulse of power to my back, I yanked my wings into my body, hit the ground running, and shoved through the foliage.
I broke through into a clearing illuminated by the pale light of the half moon. A wide deep groove had been cut into the forest floor, the dirt pushed to the sides and heaped at the back, and broken branches littered the area.
At the far end, Sebastian Bane, his skin so pale it seemed translucent and radiating a pale icy blue light, knelt beside the broken, bleeding body of a massive, completely naked man.