What happens when you’re a professional assassin and your fiancé is murdered in retaliation for your latest kill?
Just ask Evangeline Heart, who is visited by the Archangel Metatron soon after burying her soul mate, Griffin, and told she must rescue Griffin’s soul from the dungeons of Hell.
In the first segment of The Evangeline Heart series, Evangeline (Lina) will join forces with a professional thief, a bumbling scholar, and an archangel who together will battle the forces of evil in hopes of saving the future for mankind.
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Read the first chapter here!
The Archangel Agenda
A blast of air conditioning hit me in the face as I opened the door, home from the funeral. I shivered as it kissed the wet tear tracks on my cheeks. Griffin’s mom wanted to have him buried in the family plot, and who was I to argue, even if it meant standing outside in the sweltering Manhattan heat.
I avoided my reflection in the mirror above the small table by the door and dropped my keys on the polished surface. My damp hair stuck to my neck and I dug through a plastic bowl filled with odds and ends for a hair tie. One of Griffin’s cufflinks rattled in the bottom and my breath caught. I picked it out from the nest of rubber bands and loose change, and cradled it gently in my palm. The cool feel of the silver buckled my knees.
He’d refused them at first, telling me they’d been too expensive. If he’d only known just how expensive, he’d have blown a gasket. It was one of the many secrets I’d kept from him.
“These are diamonds, Lina,” he’d said, brushing his hand through his dark wavy hair and eyeing me with light green eyes that took my breath away every time I looked into them. “They are.” I smiled. They weren’t just any diamonds, but canary diamond square cufflinks.
“Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Why?”
I touched the collar of his button down and pulled him closer to me. “Because, you deserve them. You, Mr. Griffin Jacobs, have just passed the New York State bar, for God’s sakes! We need to live a little. And, you totally deserve them!”
“You’re crazy and sweet and wonderful and I don’t deserve them.”
“Shut up and just say thank you and kiss me.”
He’d obliged with a slow and lingering kiss. Later, naked and curled in each other’s arms, a moment embedded forever deep within my soul took me a little by surprise. My head on his chest, Griffin played with the long tendrils of my hair. He leaned over me and kissed the top of my head, and said for the first time, “I love you, Evangelina Heart.”
As I stood dazed staring at the cufflinks that had cost me a pretty penny, I almost felt his breath on my face as he whispered the words and I wanted so desperately to hear him say them again in that very moment, for just one last time.
I was smothering in my new black dress and I frantically searched for the zipper. In my fumbling, the cufflink slipped from my sweaty, shaking fingers and skittered across the hardwood floor. “Dammit,” I said, dropping to the floor and scrambling after it, looking nothing like the poised, controlled assassin I’d been trained to be. Tears burned my eyes and blurred my vision.
“Dammit! God dammit,” I repeated over and over again. I crawled across the floor, the knees of my pantyhose snagging and running but I didn’t care. I had to find that cufflink. I stretched one arm beneath the couch and my fingers grazed my Glock and the handles of three knives, but not the cufflink. I pushed the gun out of the way and patted the bare floor, searching, needing this one thing of Griffin’s, this one final “I love you.”
Where had the damn thing gone to?
I finally found it and rolled over on my back, clutching it to my chest. No one would have been proud of the sniffling, snotty disaster I was right now but I didn’t know how to make it stop. I let myself cry for longer than I should have, then I forced myself to stand up and channel those emotions into a ball of revenge. That would serve me far better than being a sorry hot mess. A well of anger started in my gut and I planned to utilize it—to make something come from all of this.
I walked to the kitchen and poured a glass of water. The air conditioner kicked off and silence hung in the air like Griffin’s aftershave.
There wasn’t going to be a good time to pack his stuff, so I carried the cufflink to the closet and pulled down a box, dumping out last year’s tax returns and pushing them into a pile in the corner with my toe. I’d worry about them later.
The box was too light with just the cufflink in it, but I carried it to the bedroom and set it on the end of the bed. Waterworks threatened again but I swallowed them down and added them to the quickly growing revenge-orb. That was the only way emotions served me—as fuel for action.
I stared at the small wooden statue and bowl on my nightstand. They were the only pieces I had left of Mom. They could fit in the palm of my hand, and I’d carried them with me everywhere since we’d excavated them together all those years ago. Was Griffin up in heaven with her and Dad? Was there even such a place? I rested my hands on the edge of the box and bowed my head. I hadn’t prayed in over a decade but I didn’t have anything to lose. The South African rebels had made sure of that.
“Um, God?” I paused.
That wasn’t right. Mom had never prayed to the usuals—she’d spent too much time digging up religious relics and hunting history to offer up her prayers to a generic god. She’d always prayed to the archangels, trusting them to carry her most precious requests straight to God’s ears. It had been so long since I’d heard her prayers, and her favorite archangels weren’t Michael and Gabriel. She’d picked the two who’d first been actual human men on earth. I knew my mother had been eccentric but her connection to the archangels always appeared real and deep to me. In my grief, my memory seemed to lapse as for some crazy reason I couldn’t remember the angels she constantly prayed to. What was wrong with me? It was like a blurry block was watering my brain down.
I drew a shaky breath and dug through my memory where I’d hid all the tender ones of Mom. There were so many nights when I’d come across her standing in the middle of one of her digs, arms outstretched, head tilted back, lost in prayer. Enoch was one, but she used his holy name—his name after he became an archangel—Metatron? No, she’d told me there was a different one, one who carried the prayers… Mom had told me his name more than once… Elijah’s holy name, Sandalphon? Yeah, that was the guy.
“Hello, Sandalphon? I have no idea what you need to know to make this one a priority prayer, but it’s a rush job.” I sighed, feeling the weight of the last month’s events settle heavily onto my shoulders. “Can you just let me know that they’re all okay? That they’re in a better place? I know…” I closed my eyes and choked back the tears. “I know Griffin didn’t go in peace, so can you at least let me know that he’s found some up there in heaven or wherever? Okay, thanks, um, bye.”
I felt like a moron, talking to myself. But it couldn’t hurt, right?
A knock echoed through the apartment and I stilled. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but the men who’d killed Griffin weren’t the type to knock. It was probably Ms. Finnick from down the hall. I tugged at my pencil-lined skirt, wishing I hadn’t gotten distracted and would have changed. The visitor knocked again and I hurried down the hall and checked the peephole, grateful to see Malcolm.
I flipped the deadbolt and pulled the door open. His face was drawn and sad today, making him look older than his sixty-one years. He’d held his age well, but gray tinted the black hair of his sideburns and a few wrinkles creased the lines of his dark brown skin. “Hey, girl. Doing okay?”
I forced a smile and nodded, blinking back the tears. “Yeah.
He closed the door behind him and pulled me into a hug. We’d been together since he’d rescued me from the foster system fifteen years ago when I was an angsty teen. Even so, we didn’t do a lot of physical contact. Maybe it was our line of work—I didn’t know a lot of killers who were big into hugging. But right now, I needed the solidity of him. His big frame engulfed me and I pressed my cheek to his chest and held on tight.
“I really am sorry, sweetheart.”
“I know,” I whispered against the crisp fabric of his dress shirt. He’d been at the funeral, but we hadn’t ridden together. Griffin’s mom had asked me to stand in line with them, but it had been a mistake. All anyone could say to me was how sorry they were. I saw the sympathy and, while I might have been hyper-sensitive, I could have sworn some held condemnation in their eyes, that I’d caused this, even though they couldn’t possibly know that. Not a single person there had any reason to believe that my cover as a freelance travel journalist was anything other than what it was.
Not one of them knew that I had indeed caused Griffin’s death and that the retaliation for the assassination of the Cambodian kingpin who led the largest sex ring in Southeast Asia would be one that would never leave my mind. I sighed heavily and Malcolm squeezed me tighter, then pulled away, his big hands cupping my shoulders while his warm brown eyes searched my face. “We’ll get them, you know?”
I nodded and inhaled a shaky breath. “I know. But that won’t bring him back.”
“No,” he agreed. “Nothing can bring him back, and I’d do anything to take that hit back, Lina. I shouldn’t have let you go after that group so early, we should have seen the retaliation coming and pulled you out. We didn’t have enough intel.” He shook his head. “I knew better.”
I patted his cheek. “We saved a lot of girls, though.” I was trying to justify the lack of intel we had before I pulled the trigger on the bastard Chan and his minions. If the situation was different and Griffin had been someone else’s fiancé, I knew in my heart that he would’ve been considered collateral damage. Griffin had been the one who paid for my mistake in the end, an innocent pawn…
He sighed and withdrew a folded paper from his pocket. “This is incredibly bad timing, but you’re up again.” I took the paper from him, impressed my fingers barely trembled. “I think you should formally request a leave until you can process all of this.”
I scanned the assignment. He was right. I didn’t even feel like I could feed myself, let alone tackle the necessary prep for an assassination. There were few details on the paper, like usual. A name—Gemini Wilaby (most likely an alias). A last known location—Frankfurt, Germany. And a photo of a striking woman in her late thirties. The barest of details I’d need to research further, but enough … if I wanted. I touched the woman’s jugular and tried to hold on to my cool, detached work mode, but it slipped away beneath my grief. I handed it back. “I can’t, Malcolm. Not yet. Will you ask them if they can give me some time?”
“Of course. How long?”
I shook my head and stepped away. This time I wasn’t quick enough to avoid my reflection. I hardly recognized the woman with the waves of dark brown, nearly black hair falling to my shoulders in curls (only because I’d tried to look nice for Griffin), with bright blue eyes rimmed with dark circles, and with red lips as a stark contrast to cried-out pale skin. This look wouldn’t terrify anyone and while it would be easy to wander around unnoticed looking like I did, this wasn’t how I ran my missions. What I couldn’t see in the reflection was my broken heart and my tortured mind. I needed time to repair both.
Would a month be enough, or was I looking at a much longer timeline before I felt like myself again? “I don’t know how long. I’ve never…” My voice cracked. “I was supposed to be planning a wedding… Not this.”
He lifted his arm like he wanted to reach for me again, but he seemed to realize the futility of offering me answers and it fell to his side. “I’ll ask. But don’t take too long. Sometimes, it’s in the returning to normal that we find ourselves. As normal as our lives can be.”
I gave him a watery smile and returned to him for another hug. He’d never been short on fatherly advice, even when it fell into that Buddha space of help.
His arms wrapped around me. It felt good to be touched, to have contact with a warm and alive person. My lips were still icy cold from kissing Griffin one last time.