Authors: A. J. Rand
A. J. Rand
Tampa, FL 33543
This is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events,
or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control
over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites
or their content.
2006, 2007 Bo Savino (A. J. Rand).
All rights reserved.
No part of
this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage or retrieval system, without the expressed, written
permission of the author.
ToPS is a trademark belonging to
The ToPS logo design is a
trademark belonging to Bo Savino.
Publishing trade paperback edition / October 2006
Aisling Press trade paperback
edition / July 2007
ToPS trade paperback edition /
Cover Design: Bo Savino
Rand, A. J..
Broken wings: gensis / A. J. Rand.
2. Angels—Fiction. 3. Fantasy fiction. 4. Mythology.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
Life’s Little Revisions…
Beautiful New Beginnings…
A New Dedication…
To my mother first and foremost,
who has supported me in oh, so many ways through the pain of the years and has
always been my biggest fan.
To my editors and friends, who
painstakingly kept on me about revisions, offering encouragement even while
bleeding red ink all over my pages.
To my new life partner, Robert, my
biggest pain in the butt and the one in my life who makes the most demands of
me…always leaving me to strive to be better.
And still to Kenny Redhawk. True
artists create for people an image with their paint, words, and/or music. Each
masterpiece becomes something new in the heart and mind of the person viewing
it. Although I know this is not what you envisioned when writing your songs,
, this series of books came into full bloom in my own heart
and mind from within the words of your masterpieces.
Heaven and hell. I have to laugh.
If I didn’t laugh, I’d start crying and never stop.
Crickets have to be the most
annoying creatures on the face of the planet—at least when you need to
concentrate. The sound of their shrill trilling cuts straight through every
I was on a mission and needed
focus. Lives hung in the balance, and my objective was close. The damned
insects needed to shut up.
With every trill I felt my focus
slipping. I was too close. My heart pounded an erratic tempo to the surging
adrenaline in my veins. The edge of the precipice was in front of me. I could
see the opposite side of the yawning chasm by raising my head.
The pounding of my heart was at a
full throb, filling my ears with the dull roar of its bass beat. Still those
little buggers cut through. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t let my mark know
I was there. Instead, I slammed my hands on the ledge of rock in front of me,
pulled myself forward and looked over the edge. Big mistake.
He looked right at me. I tried to
pull back but couldn’t. My hands were stuck, caught in a sticky web-like
. I hadn’t seen it.
Without taking my eyes from his, I
tried to yank free, but it was a no-go. The more I struggled, the more the
substance entangled itself around my fingers. His expression was amused, almost
contemptuous. His dark eyes absorbed the night, reflecting no light. This man
darkness, all the way down to whatever passed for a soul. He was a true
creature of the night, wrapped in its black arms.
I really needed to focus. I couldn’t afford a misstep.
It would be my undoing.
He started toward me at a slow,
insolent pace across the web strung between the chasm walls. The webbing
vibrated with each step, my hands resonating to his movements on the strands.
He never took his eyes from mine. I was trapped—caught in his web—and I wasn’t
alone. Scattered across the surface were almost a dozen women wrapped in
various layers of silken entrapment, unable to get away from the creature that
toyed with them at his whim.
I tore my eyes away from him and
looked at my hands. They were burning now, the viscous substance of the web
marking my skin with lines of raised red welts where it touched. I winced at
the searing pain, trying to pull away. Each movement tightened its hold on me,
so I stopped. His smile told me that he took pleasure from the struggle. It
made him stronger.
He was close now. Too close. If I
hadn’t known better, he could have snared me with the power of his attraction.
Even though I
know better, I
still had trouble separating what I was seeing from what I knew to be true.
He was almost perfection. The
slight golden tan of his skin was etched in muscled, shadowed relief amidst the
play of darkness. Long, dark hair caressed his shoulders, falling down his
back. The face was like that of an ancient god––squared, chiseled, surrealistic
symmetry––and I know my gods, trust me.
Every inch of him was designed to
call to a woman’s deepest desires. He sucked me in, pulling on my life force,
merging it with his own. I couldn’t stop him.
Then I met his eyes again. I felt
the darkness bore into me, winding around me, choking off my life force…
That was all it took. I thrust my
hands deeper into the web and grabbed tight. If I couldn’t break free, I would
use it to my advantage. I yanked hard and quick, like jerking a rug out from
under him. It worked.
Off balance, he fell back, landing
in the web. He didn’t look happy about it. Neither was I. The weight of his
body hitting the web flipped me forward off the ledge. There was no stopping. I
was going to strike that sticky surface and I would be imprisoned like all
those other women––just one more plaything. His eyes gleamed with anticipation
of my entrapment. I closed my eyes and waited to land.
I expected the springy web to
absorb my landing. Instead, the painful impact knocked the breath out of me. It
was hard, solid and cold. Part of it wrapped itself around me, warm, soft and
cocoon-like. I lay still for a second, re-orienting myself.
The sound of the cricket was near
my head now. I was lost, struggling for awareness, trapped in a state of
Then it hit me.
It had all been a dream. I lay
on the cold wooden floor of my bedroom, with blankets entwined about my body
like webbing. I shook off the feeling, still caught in the state between the
dream world and my waking one.
I groped for the sound of the
annoying insect and grabbed hold of it like a lifeline to anchor me in a moment
of physical reality. I let loose a long, shaky breath and flipped open the cell
phone. It had been the cricket, cutting through the wandering realm of my
“This had better be good.”
My voice sounded dry and harsh to
my ears. As my mouth formed the words, I tasted the rich, coppery flavor of
blood. I must have bitten my tongue. I moved it around, testing. A brief flash
of pain made me pull it back further into my mouth. Nope. I had bitten my lower
“Yesh?” The voice on the other end
of the call was hesitant.
What time was it, anyway?
I looked around the room and then turned
over to look at the clock on the bedside table. The red numbers burned through
. The alarm would
have woken me up in another two minutes. Chaz was saved from the worst of my
crabbiness this time.
I thought about the dream and
shuddered, pulling the blanket tighter around me for what—warmth? Protection?
The kid had actually done me a favor. But I was irritated enough not to tell
“Yeah. I’m here.”
“Fine.” I snapped, trying to get
my annoyance under control. “I’m fine. What’s up?”
“I’ve got another one for you.”
His voice held the kind of excitement that always spelled trouble.
“Like the last one?”
“No.” I could almost feel the heat
of his face rising to embarrassment. I knew he wouldn’t likely make the same
mistake a second time––at least not so soon after the first. “This one’s for
real, Yesh. I think––I’m pretty sure anyway.”
“What is it, Chaz?”
“I think we have a dream stalker.”
Of course. What else would it be?
The thought of the piercing gaze
of the man from my dream made my stomach turn over. Or maybe it was the
combined taste of blood with the morning breath still thick in my mouth. The
alarm clock went off and I reached to shut it down.
“Yeah. I’m still here. Where am I
Chaz shot me an address that I
fixed in my mind. I wasn’t about to scramble for a pen and paper in the dark.
There wasn’t any in the bedroom anyway. I made a vague promise to be there when
I could and snapped the phone shut. It took me a few minutes to get motivated.
I used them to collect my thoughts and center. I leaned back against the bed,
still semi-wrapped in my blanket and surrounded by the dusty darkness of the
People are afraid of the dark.
There is something about darkness that makes them uneasy, twitchy. It sets even
the bravest on edge, ready to jump at a glimpse of movement, or sometimes to
freeze in fear, unable to move at all. When light dispels the shadows, they
laugh at their own foolishness to find nothing there.
I stopped laughing a long time
I have learned over the years not
to be afraid of the dark. It’s the things that hide in the dark that scare me.
Occupants of darkness wear it like a shroud, hiding their true nature from eyes
that wouldn’t understand what they’re seeing anyway.
The worst part is that in the
light, they look the same as you or me.
They don’t have to hide––they do
it only because it’s something deeply ingrained into their nature. People have
forgotten how to see them for centuries. Or most people have. Not me. I’ve
always been able to see them. Sometimes I wished I couldn’t. Life would be so
Time to get moving. Chaz could be
A dream stalker.
thought made me want to puke. I forced myself to get off the floor and
extricated my body from the tangled blankets. As I headed to the shower, I
snagged my robe from a pile of clothes at the foot of my bed.
I flipped on the light and tossed
the robe onto the hook on the back of the bathroom door. It stayed in place.
Must be one of my better days.
didn’t feel like it yet. While I went through the physical rituals of morning
absolutions—like getting the fetid taste out of my mouth by brushing my
teeth—my mind wandered, starting to wake up.
Chaz was a good kid. Maybe a
little overly enthusiastic for someone like me, but that’s okay. We need a
little enthusiasm in this world. I’m cynical to tip the balance against a dozen
of his kind. Chaz was once one of my rescue victims. I get a few of those,
tossed my way by the church that raised me.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a
religious person. I was raised in an orphanage funded by the church. That’s
where my old man dropped me off after my mother died in childbirth.