Angel of Darkness

By: Cynthia Eden

Once upon a time, two romance writers met for milk shakes at the RWA Conference. A bet was made. A bet was lost. And now, a promise must be kept.





Rebecca Zanetti, I bow to your mad, bad, very dangerous mentoring skills.





PROLOGUE



He’d been created for one purpose—death. He was not there to comfort or to enlighten.

Keenan’s only job was to bring death to those unlucky enough to know his touch.

And on the cold, windy New Orleans night, his latest victim was in sight. He watched her from his perch high atop the St. Louis Cathedral. Mortal eyes wouldn’t find him. Only those preparing to leave the earthly realm could ever glimpse his face so he didn’t worry about shocking those few humans who straggled through the nearby square.

No, he worried about nothing. No one. He never had. He simply touched and he killed and he waited for his next victim.

The woman he watched tonight was small, with long, black hair, and skin a pale cream. The wind whipped her hair back, jerking it away from her face as she hurried down the stone steps of the cathedral. The doors had been locked. She hadn’t made it inside. No chance to pray.

Pity.

He slipped to the side of the cathedral, still watching her as she edged down the narrow alleyway. Pirate’s Alley. He’d taken others from this place before. The path seemed to scream with the memories of the past.

“No!”

That wasn’t the past screaming. His body stiffened. His wings beat at the air around him. It was her.

Nicole St. James. Schoolteacher. Age twenty-nine. A woman who tutored children on the weekends. A woman who’d tried to live her life just right ...

A woman who was dying tonight.

His eyes narrowed as he leapt from his perch. Time to go in closer.

Nicole’s attacker had her against the wall. One of the man’s hands was over her mouth, the better to make sure she didn’t scream again. His other hand slammed against the front of her chest and held her pinned against the cold stone wall.

She was fighting harder than Keenan had really expected. Struggling. Kicking.

Her attacker just laughed.

And Keenan watched—as he’d always watched. So many years ...

Tears streamed down Nicole’s cheeks.

The man holding her leaned in and licked them away.

Keenan’s gut clenched. Knowing that her time was at hand, he’d watched Nicole for a few weeks now. He’d slipped into her classroom and listened to the soft drawl of her voice. He’d watched as her lips curled into a smile and a dimple winked in her right cheek.

He’d seen laughter in her eyes. Seen longing. Seen ... life.

Now her green eyes were filled with the stark, wild terror that only the helpless can truly know.

He didn’t like that look in her eyes. His hands clenched.

Don’t look if you don’t like it. His gaze pulled away from her face. The job wasn’t about what he liked. It never had been.

There’d never been a choice.

They have the choices. I only have orders to follow.

That was way it had always been. So why did it bother him, now? Because it was her? Because he’d watched too much? Slipped beside her too often?

Temptation.

“This is gonna hurt ...”

The man’s grating whisper scratched through Keenan’s mind. Neither the attacker nor Nicole could see him. Not yet.

One touch—that was all it would take.

But the time hadn’t come for her yet.

“The wind’s so loud ...” The man lifted his hand off Nicole’s mouth. “No one’s gonna hear you scream anyway.”

But she still screamed—a loud, long, desperate scream—and she kept fighting.

Keenan truly hadn’t realized she’d struggle so much against death. Some didn’t fight at all when the time came. Others fought until he had to drag them away.

Fabric ripped. Tore. The guy had jerked her shirt, rending the material. Keenan glimpsed the soft ivory of her bra and the firm mounds of her breasts.

Help her. The urge came from deep within, but it was an urge he couldn’t heed.

“Don’t!” Nicole yelled. “Please—no! Just let me go!”

Her attacker lifted his head. Keenan stared at him, noting the gaunt features, the black hair, and the eyes that were too dark for a normal man. “No, baby. I’m not lettin’ you go.” The guy licked his lips. “I’m too damn hungry.” Then he smiled and revealed sharpened teeth that no human could possess.

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