As an angel sent to help a struggling soul, getting kidnapped isn’t even a blip on Zylen’s radar. Before he can connect with Howard, the human he’s sent to help, he’s taken hostage. He’s rescued by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Zylen recuperates in the Horseman of Pestilence’s realm, sharing everything he knows, before continuing on his mission. Finally meeting Howard, he experiences something he never has before—attraction. At first, he thinks it’s a by-product of spending time in the demon realm. Then Zylen has an epiphany. Howard is his stella guida—his guiding star—the only human in existence whose life would give him more purpose than his duty to his creator. Zylen knows he can’t reveal his true nature unless Howard chooses him. Unfortunately, the whole reason he was sent to Howard was to offer guidance as he struggles with a choice—find a girl to date, appeasing his mother, or finally come out. From what Zylen’s angelic gifts have shown him, the odds aren’t stacked in the coming out category. Between meddling family, homophobic females, and the threat of hunters, can Zylen show Howard what can be between them without revealing his true nature and damning them both?
“How are you feeling?”
Zylen turned upon hearing the melodious tenor. Spotting Pestilence to his left and a smidge behind him, he dipped his head in welcome. “I am well. Thank you, Horseman.”
With his hands clasped behind his back, the pale-featured Horseman of the Apocalypse offered a small smile. “You may call me Pestilence, Zylen. I wouldn’t mind.”
Sighing deeply, Zylen shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I know this. I apologize for my formality, Pestilence.”
The habit was ingrained and difficult to break, even after spending five days in Pestilence’s demon realm. He’d been there recuperating from the drugs the human hunters had pumped into his system to keep him sedated. It took a lot to knock out the standard paranormal and even more for Zylen’s kind—an angel.
When Zylen had been charged by his creator to search the thoughts of a man named Howard Burnside and offer him a helping hand in choosing the next direction for his life, he’d left his own realm to enter the human one. He’d materialized in a secluded glen north of town. At the same time, he’d put a glamour over his appearance, hiding his angelic aura and large wings covered in feathers of various shades of brown. He’d also clothed himself in a dark gray tank top, cargo shorts, and sandals. It was hot that time of year in Virginia, after all.
Before he’d had a chance to track down the human, someone had shot him with a dart. Zylen had been shocked and turned to see three humans in black t-shirts and camo fatigues standing there. All of them had a side-arm attached to their hip as well as some other larger type of gun in their hands, which had turned out to be dart guns.
“Shit, he’s not goin’ down,” the one on the left had muttered.
The guy on the right responded by lifting his rifle and shooting at him again. A second dart pierced his pectoral.
In hindsight, Zylen realized he should have returned to his own realm. It would have been simple to do. Instead, he stood there gaping at the men as his mind grew fuzzy, and he swayed on his feet.
Shock could do that to a being, even one as powerful as him.
The fourth dart had finally felled Zylen, and he didn’t remember much after that.
“Do you intend to leave soon?” Pestilence asked, cutting into Zylen’s thoughts. “I see you staring at the mists.”
Zylen nodded. “I’m nearly back to my full strength, and I have neglected my duties for far too long already.”
The mists were used to leave the demon realm, allowing the minions of the horsemen to travel to the human realm. Zylen had paused at the top of the knoll and stared, unable to get his feet to move him closer. His stomach remained in knots, and bile filled the back of his throat.
Unease and shame flooded him at his weakness.
“And yet you linger.” Pestilence reached over and rested one fine-boned hand on Zylen’s shoulder and squeezed. “Do you wish to talk about why?”
“How did those men know I was not human?” Zylen mused, frowning. “And how could they know where I was going to appear? What if they show up again?”
Zylen had learned from Pestilence that he’d been asleep for two days after being rescued. It had taken another day for whatever he’d been pumped full of to clear enough for him to rise. He’d been weak and uncoordinated, and he hadn’t been able to reach his magick until the fourth day.
It had been…disconcerting, to say the least.
“We are still searching for answers,” Pestilence replied, squeezing his shoulder once more before releasing him. “But I believe part of it is due to witches helping them. Casting spells to monitor ripples in the ether and along lei lines.” Shaking his head, Pestilence’s expression turned pained. “As for you being caught, that was an unfortunate instance of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
As much as Zylen hated to admit it, he figured Pestilence was right. “Which would explain why they were so confused as to why one or two darts didn’t take me down.”
“Right.” Pestilence nodded, his long silky-looking pale hair sliding over his shoulders. “Now you know what to look for and can be on your guard.”
Pestilence smirked, his thin lips curving. “We sent a message to your creator so he could give other angels warning.”
Zylen barked a laugh, unable to help himself. “You and your brethren sent a demon to the creator’s realm?”
“Several, actually.” Pestilence grinned broadly as he waggled his pale eyebrows. “The ripples it created were…entertaining.”
Imagining that, Zylen chuckled softly. “I bet.”
Demons and angels did not traditionally travel in the same circles. Getting in and out of each other’s realms required a lot of power. It would involve the combined efforts of all four horsemen to send a demon to the angel realm, just as it would require substantial preparation for the creator to send an angel to the demon realm.
Zylen had been an exception, since he’d been brought by the horsemen themselves.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse each had their own crew of demons that worked under them. Just as the demons traveled to the human realm to help balance nature, the angels did the same to balance humanity in a different capacity—emotionally and spiritually.
Judging by the fact that humans threatened paranormals, Zylen thought perhaps they were not doing their job quite as well as they’d thought. Otherwise, why was there so much rampant hate and prejudice? There needed to be more love, understanding, and acceptance.
Which means I better get my rear in gear and go see my charge.