WHISPER TO A SCREAM

Whisper-to-a-Scream-3D-webAn Alexa O’Brien Huntress Novella: Willow’s Story (Book 6.5 – unofficially)

 

A prostitute who can’t afford to love. An angel who can’t afford not to. A tragic love story.

Willow knows well the wicked lure of temptation. An angel with an important job to do, he has been consistent in his resistance. Until now. A chance meeting with Christina puts his strength to the test. It’s dangerous to love a human. It is forbidden. Willow must decide if it’s worth the risk and how much he’s willing to lose.

 

This novella does stand alone so it can be read by anyone.

For Alexa readers following the series this story is somewhat of a prequel as it takes place during the Book 1 (Once Bitten) timeline but it is best read after Alexa book 6 (Darker). 

 

 

Available in ebook at: 

amazon-icon  nook  IbooksText  kobo  Smashwords_Icon

 

Available in print (included with Sunset to Sunrise): 

amazon-icon

 

   

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Novella
Editor: B. Leigh Hogan
Cover Artist: Michael Hart

 

Chapter One:

Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night, and I don’t know who I am. My name, identity and reason for being is stripped away, leaving me hollow and confused. Then, it all comes rushing back, hitting me with the startling truth.

Everything you thought you knew changes in a heartbeat when the tough choices come. You must adapt or crumble, accept or deny. You must embrace the change or succumb to the tragically sweet pain.

Reality’s bite is a vicious thing. The wound still runs deep.

I ask myself if I would make the same choices again. Selfishly and desperately, I know I would. Having those precious moments, knowing that kind of wholeness even for just a day would still have been worth it. Nonetheless, I hate myself for feeling this way.

A case of mistaken identity can have so many outcomes. This one altered my very soul, my reason for being. It led me to question everything I thought I knew. A man will risk himself for many things: money, power, fame, and the greatest of these, the most beautiful and the most deadly, love.

It rains now as I write this. Staring out into the night, I recall a time and place that circumstance has stolen away. I remember the soft caress of lips, the delicate scent of flowers in freshly shampooed hair and the sound of laughter, an enchanting sound created for my ears alone.

 

* * * *

 

Our meeting was unexpected, a chance encounter. As a guardian angel, I was waiting for the arrival of my charge, but Christina stepped into the ballroom instead. Only she saw me sitting there alone.

Long, dark hair cascaded over her shoulders. Deep brown eyes sparkled with intrigue as she glanced about the room. She moved with natural grace, heading straight for my table.

“Mr. Duchane?” She asked, continuing before I could correct her. “I’m Christina, your date for this evening.”

“Excuse me?” I accepted her outstretched hand, marveling at the softness of her skin. “I’m afraid you have the wrong man. Such a shame really. I don’t have a date.”

“My mistake,” she said with a smile. “I was told to look for a man in a grey suit. Since everyone else here is in black, I expected it to be easy. Sorry.”

Shadows lurked in her eyes. Her smile was forced. I’d witnessed enough human pain in my time. She wore it like perfume.

“Don’t be sorry,” I heard myself say. “This is the best part of my night so far.”

“That’s sweet. Have a nice evening.” This time the smile was real. It was enchanting, gifting me with the briefest glimpse into her soul.

I watched her go, gliding through the formally dressed crowd like a slow-falling star in a dark sky. The long silver skirt of her dress flowed around her legs with each step. I couldn’t take my eyes from her.

It didn’t take her long to find her mystery date. He sat across the room drinking champagne. He couldn’t be bothered to take her hand much less to pull out her chair. I questioned the circumstances of their date.

She took a seat across from him and immediately caught me staring. I averted my gaze and reminded myself that I was there to do a job. Yet, I snuck several covert glances her way.

The crowd thickened as people poured in. A band played in the corner, creating and maintaining the appropriate mood for a charity dinner and auction. Businessmen and women attempted to smooth talk one another, each seeking to create or uphold their reputation. I had little interest in the event; I was there for only one reason.

That reason swept into the room with her blonde hair bound atop her head and uncertainty quirking her lips into a comical frown. Alexa looked uncomfortable. She grabbed quickly at a passing tray laden with champagne flutes.

I didn’t look at her any longer. Capturing her attention was not my intent. My purpose was to ensure she didn’t leave before midnight.

Alexa was a werewolf, a creature of the night that most would assume to be fictitious, but she was so much more than that, a powerful being, created to battle evil. She just didn’t know that part yet. A slayer of problem paranormals, she was likely here hunting for someone on her hit list. I merely protected her from demonic forces. Whatever the worst monsters of the city were up to that night, I was to ensure she stayed away from it until she was ready for the fight.

I made the rounds, browsing auction items and engaging in senseless small talk. It wasn’t my world, but playing the part was easy enough.

An abstract art piece crafted across the surface of a mirror caught my eye. In between swirls of color, I glimpsed a flash of my dark blond hair and a flicker of my green eyes. My human appearance carefully concealed my angelic nature.

Scrawling a phony signature on the silent auction sheet, I placed a modest bid. Time was crawling. I longed for midnight when I could flee this stuffy gathering.

“I saw you looking at me,” a soft voice whispered in my ear.

Christina smiled up at me, peering from beneath lowered lashes. Though she was coy and sensual, I saw through the façade. It was too perfect, too practiced, as if she’d given the same look to countless men in her time.

My smile was authentic enough, but I was suddenly wary of this tragic beauty. Glancing around, I was unable to locate her companion. Odd.

“Have you lost your date? I can’t imagine why he’d be willing to let you out of his sight for a moment.” I searched her, seeking the truth beneath her carefully constructed appearance.

“Oh, well thank you for that, but apparently business comes first. He stepped outside to take a phone call.” She let her gaze travel longingly over the busy dance floor before fixing me once again with those shadowed orbs. “I thought perhaps you wouldn’t mind keeping me busy until he comes back. I don’t know anyone here, and I’d rather not sit alone waiting.”

The tension thickened between us, laced with intrigue and attraction. Sure, I could have said no and made myself look like an ass. I could have feigned a phone call myself. Could have, should have…it doesn’t matter now.

“But of course, I’ll keep you company. I’d be honored to.”

Taking her hand, I led her onto the dance floor. Her skin was soft and so warm. The band played a spirited waltz. I pulled her into my arms, and the rest of the room seemed to disappear.

“Have you got a name?” She laughed, a tantalizing sound that made me want to laugh with her.

“Willow,” I replied, hoping she was oblivious to how deeply I searched her. I needed to know what it was about her that drew me this way.

“Interesting name for a man. I like it. Your parents must have been hippies or something.”

Her words cut fast and deep, reminding me why this was stupid. It was deceitful to play the human role while she was none the wiser that she was, indeed, in the arms of an angel.

I forced a smile. The arrival of her date would have been perfect then, an easy out without anyone coming to harm. But no, that would have been too simple. The music continued, and I was content to feel her against me.

Christina didn’t ask the typical small talk questions. In fact, she seemed quite happy for the silence. Her gaze strayed often to the couples dancing around us, and an almost wistful grin decorated her face. This mysterious beauty longed for something, and I yearned to know what that was.

Her scent was a pleasing aroma of tropical flowers and her own feminine musk. The sudden urge to bury my face in her neck was shocking and unbidden. What would she taste like if I kissed her?

The inappropriate thought brought a rush of heat to my cheeks. She was staring at me with a silly little half smile.

“I feel like I know you from somewhere.” With her head cocked to the side studiously, she pursed her full lips. “I just can’t place it though.”

“Perhaps we’ve passed on the street before,” I offered, unnerved by her proclamation.

“Maybe,” she said, but she didn’t believe it. I could see her still trying to place me. “What do you do for a living? Are you part of this wannabe Wall Street circus?”

I chuckled. She wasn’t far off on that description. “Not me, no. I’m just here for a friend.” It wasn’t in my nature to tell a lie. However, I did not intend to share more than was acceptable.

“Oh, I thought you were alone.”

The song ended, and the band slowed down the next number. I made as if to release her, but she held tight. We shared a frozen moment, gazing into one another.

“Do you ever get that feeling you’re in the right place at the right time?” She asked. “Call me crazy, but I think I was supposed to meet you.”

“Is that so?” My mind raced for a way to excuse myself from the situation. Instead, she pressed closer to align her body to mine, and I was at a loss for words.

“Let me guess. You’re probably married or something, and I’m just setting myself up to look like a jerk. I’m sorry. I tend to speak before I think.”

Her apology was less than authentic when paired with her mischievous grin. What was she looking for that led her to me? I felt like the butt of a cruel joke.

“Definitely not married,” I assured her. “And, most certainly happy to have made your acquaintance.”

As we moved about the dance floor, a strange sense of comfort taunted me to pull her closer, even to slide a hand down her back to the curve of her hip. A rush of white noise filled my ears as I gave in to the urge. Her hand in mine tightened. Something like guilt flashed through her eyes, and she dropped her gaze.

“I suppose this is pretty crappy of me, to lure you in like this, but you’re easily the most attractive man in the room, and I just had to know what it felt like to be in your arms.” The confession fell from her lips as if it pained her. “That’s pretty weird, isn’t it? Wait, don’t answer that.”

An awkward tension settled over us. My thoughts were a jumble of questions. I sought a way to regain the ease with which we had just been speaking. Christina had stiffened; each movement was more awkward than the last.

“I’m flattered to have been chosen by a gem such as yourself,” I offered, needing her to look at me. When she didn’t, I reached to grasp her chin, tipping her gaze up to meet mine. “Are you alright? Would you like to go somewhere and talk? Perhaps I should help you find your date.”

For a moment, she was silent, regarding me with such intrigue that I couldn’t help but fear she somehow knew my true identity. Her tongue darted out to glide over her red lips. “You have the most amazing gold sparks in your eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Thank you,” I murmured, sure now that some part of her knew. Suspicion gripped me. Perhaps she was a plant, sent to distract me from my task.

I glanced around frantically for Alexa, finding her seated at a table with another, engaged in conversation. She appeared to be perfectly fine.

I opened my mouth, ready to demand that Christina tell me who had sent her to distract me. However, her date returned before I could. He tapped me on the shoulder, but when I turned, his irritation was directed at Christina.

“What the hell are you doing?” he demanded.

She looked at me with sudden fear as she replied, “It’s rude to leave a lady waiting. I was just passing some time.”

The man guffawed, a loud, ugly sound. “Good thing you’re not a lady then.” He grabbed her hand and gave a tug before saying to me, “Sorry, pal. You’ll have to pay for your own escort.”

They disappeared into the crowd as he dragged her from the dance floor. She didn’t look back. I stood there for a moment, processing what had just happened. Disappointment settled in my gut, gnawing like the unwelcome intruder it was. Another uninvited guest, harsh and foreign, made itself painfully known: jealousy.

I stalked from the room, feeling humiliated and chagrined. It was getting late. Soon enough, I could vanish from this human playground. Until then, I would dutifully watch Alexa.

The clock struck midnight, and I immediately left the disappointing charity dinner and dance. I walked down the busy city street, an illusion of humanity among those who called the streets home.

A young woman flipped me off, slurring something derogatory as she stumbled away. I winced when she almost went down on her pretty face. Unable to watch her any longer, I turned away.

Honestly, watching them self-destruct never got any easier. Centuries passed, and though time meant nothing to me, it meant everything to mankind. The humans had so little respect for the power of each passing day. They knew nothing of the greatness meant for them. No, they wasted every gift, every precious moment until they had nothing left. Then, once it was too late, regret claimed them.

The city streets were dangerous. Many creatures of the night lurked in the shadows. Most of them were human, broken people lost in the sins of the flesh. The sorrow that I felt for the lost souls tore at my heart.

A homeless man, who leaned against a bus shelter, glanced up as I approached.

He squinted and muttered, “I’ll be damned. Look at those wings.”

No one should have been able to see me as anything more than a man. Humans could see my wings only when I allowed it, although many things were beyond my control. If he saw me, my true self, then surely he was meant to see.

“Bless you, friend.” I paused to lay a hand on his shoulder. With a smile and a gentle squeeze, I nodded but didn’t linger.

Walking among humans didn’t come without a price. They were many things, all of which tugged at my heart in ways beyond my understanding. Those broken, beautiful, lost humans, with their tragic stories and self-inflicted cages, straggled by me. They knew so little of the power they possessed and the wonder they could create. In this dark world, it was far too easy for a creature of the light to step too close to the abyss, then be lured over the edge.

I continued toward the lights of the intersecting street ahead. There was a twenty-four hour coffee shop on the corner. I enjoyed their caramel macchiato. Fabulous little drink.

I ducked inside, greeted by the warmth of the well-lit establishment. It wasn’t busy, but even at this late hour, there were patrons inside. I approached the cashier and placed my order, thinking about Christina. A prostitute, I would never have guessed. I imagined that to be a very painful life. A casual glance around at my fellow customers revealed that pain was present here, too.

A couple near the door sat stiffly across from one another. The woman was tense; fear filled her dark eyes. Please God, don’t let this be real. She projected her small prayer out into the unseen world around us, allowing me to hear her desperation and rage at her companion’s unfaithful betrayal.

Thoughts withheld within the mind, sacred and private, were protected from creatures like me, both light and dark. However, a freely projected thought was open for all to hear. She was fortunate when she wished both her husband and his lover to hell, since no demon was near enough to hear her.

While one couple broke up, another united. Laughter from the back of the coffee shop drew my attention to two teenage kids talking in loud, boisterous voices. The boy reached across the table to take the girl’s hand, and she giggled, a blush coloring her cheeks. Young love begot so much nostalgia in a human life.

“Thank you.” I accepted my drink from the barista and took a moment to inhale the sweet scent. Conflicted, I wondered if I should have let Christina go like that, without another word.

“No, don’t bother. I’ll send movers for my stuff.” The jilted woman’s voice was loud as she quickly stood. She cut off her companion before he could say anything to further the sting. “Save the apology. Sorry doesn’t mean a damn thing after you’ve screwed another woman.”

She paused to pour the rest of her coffee in his lap before storming out of the coffee shop, fighting back tears every step of the way. Then, she was gone.

Angry curses followed her departure. The man piled napkins in his lap to sop up the mess. He had been unfaithful, broken his lover’s heart, but his concern was for his own embarrassment and his dry cleaning bill.

Leaving the busy streets behind, I sipped the sweet, frothy drink as I walked several blocks down a side street until the burnt out remains of the church stood in the distance. It was little more than a shell of what it had once been. Soon, the husk would be razed, though the ground would remain consecrated.

A figure stepped out of the shadows ahead, falling into step with me. I wasn’t surprised to see Serene. We walked in silence until we reached the soot-stained front step of the church. The stink of burnt wood, metal and plastic mingled into an ugly scent that marred the otherwise crisp night air.

“I don’t suppose he found anything here.” Serene pushed the blackened double doors open. One of them fell from its hinges, collapsing at our feet. A puff of dust and soot rose up in a suffocating cloud.

“I doubt there was anything to be found.” I crossed the threshold, pausing to survey the destruction.

Most of the stained glass windows had exploded from the heat of the fire. The pews were lined up in perfect rows though nobody would ever sit in them again. The floor moved slightly as I approached the charred, overturned altar. The interior of the church was beyond repair, though the fire had been put out in time to save the foundation of the structure. We sifted through the rubble, seeking a sacred scroll amongst the debris.

I took in the remnants of lingering residual energy. It was faint but detectable. “Shya murdered a man here. While others watched.”

“Human casualties.” Serene gave a nod of his blond head and let his wings expand in full. They fringed his tall frame in a burst of iridescent white feathers. “A small price to the demon.” Shya was acting recklessly.

The heavy negative energy of a violent and bloody death clung to the air. It was almost tangible.

“He’s a fool. It will end badly.” It would; I knew that undoubtedly.

It would end terribly for all of them if Shya saw this ridiculous farce through to the end. Shya wouldn’t be the first demon to believe it was possible to control humanity by manipulating supernatural forces. However, Shya was particularly dangerous since he was among the few demons who might succeed.

Things were changing. They were always changing, but in this century, things had taken a turn. Humanity was advancing in leaps and bounds. People saw their technological breakthroughs as a success, but they couldn’t see it from the outside. The more they advanced, the more they lost themselves. With the people so distracted, demons were already taking advantage of every temptation. Every day, the humans edged faster toward their downfall.

As life got easier due to the invention of various convenient gadgets, the plight of their souls grew. Detached from one another and even from themselves, humans were coming apart at the seams, though they were none the wiser.

Serene reached to touch the scorched pages of a hymnbook that lay open on a nearby pew. The blackened pages crumbled, staining his fingers with soot. “I don’t like this, Willow. I can feel the power of the underworld shifting.”

“He’ll be expecting us.”

I wasn’t sure what to anticipate from Shya. It had been a long time since we had been brothers. Shya’s fall had been a time of great sadness. He’d embraced the darkness wholeheartedly and never looked back.

“That’s alright,” Serene assured me. “We’re not here for him. We’re looking for the scroll, just as he is.”

I refocused on Shya again, but every few moments, my thoughts strayed to Christina. I replayed our brief time together, wishing I had said something after her date’s rude revelation. It was not my place to judge, nor did I, though I was sure she now assumed otherwise.

Had she been trying to distract me from protecting Alexa or to sell herself to me for a price? Or, was she honestly a lonely woman seeking love?

“Is something wrong?” Serene’s question pulled me from my reverie. “You seem preoccupied. Is everything ok with your charge?”

“Yes,” I breathed a sigh of relief that his question had been one I could answer honestly. “Yes, she’s fine. It’s just this woman I met tonight. She seemed so lonely and in need of comfort. I regret that I was not able to help her.”

Serene clapped me on the back. “Maybe you did, and you just don’t know it.”

“Perhaps.” I nodded, following him out of the church. He was wrong. Of that, I was sure.

Still, I felt I owed Christina an apology, otherwise, I would regret forever my silence. Finding her might be a challenge, but it was far from impossible. That wasn’t the real question though.

Would it be a mistake? I refused to ask myself that question; I’d already made up my mind.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: