Authors: Shauna Allen
Table of Contents
BOOK III OF THE CUPID CHRONICLES
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
Praise for Shauna Allen's Cupid Chronicles:
Tattoos, cupids, and bad boys: Shauna Allen delivers one heck of a read. Fresh, sassy, and witty—she brings a new voice to romance that readers are gonna love!
New York Times Bestselling Author, Christie Craig
A charming romance from start to finish. Shauna Allen's fresh, new voice makes
Inked by an Angel
a must read.
The Trouble with Cowboys
Seduction Under Fire
from Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Melissa Cutler
An impressive start to a sassy new series. When Shauna Allen writes, “The Angel made me do it,” how could you not read more? This delightful, witty, unpredictable romance is downright heavenly.
2012 Golden Heart Finalist and author of
The Halo Effect
is the second book in the Cupid Chronicles, and it doesn’t disappoint. Michael continues to work in the Love Detail, helping Noble find true love with the only woman that can help him heal his bruised heart. Braelyn is a spunky female who fights for what she believes in and loves. Shauna has an amazing ability to write compelling characters that are real and relatable.
Christie Palmer Reviews – 4 1/2 of 5 Stars
With a cupid in the mix love finds a way to conquer all things and Kyle and Jed find their happy ever after. I must say that I loved the book and the characters in the book. I hope we see more from this talented author.
Night Owl Reviews 4/5 Stars
A well-written, clever romance with a twist,
Inked by an Angel
reminds us that love exists in the unlikeliest places, and that we may need a “guardian angel” to help us find what was meant to be all along.
Gillian’s Tattooed Book Reviews 4/5 Stars
Cover Design by Rae Monet, Inc.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Published in the United States of America by
Soul Mate Publishing
P.O. Box 24
Macedon, New York, 14502
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
For Jan Nash.
the world may have never had Elijah’s story.
Thank you for pushing me.
I love you.
This book is so near and dear to my heart. As you may know, this wasn’t originally supposed to be the third book in the Cupid Chronicles series. But, one fateful day, I was brought into contact with the wonderful Hope Ramsay and Carla Kempert, who listened to the tale of my little Cupids and not only encouraged me, but started asking the tough questions. “What is the worst thing an angel can do?” Great. “Well, what will happen?” That sparked my writer’s imagination and started a fire in my gut. And, suddenly, Elijah was born, who had done the worst thing an angel could do, and I had to know what happened next. So, truly, his story of redemption, and ultimately true love, was born from that conversation with Hope and Carla, so I thank you, ladies, from the bottom of my heart.
And to everyone else who has laid eyes, hands, or love on this book, I appreciate you. To my editor, Debby Gilbert, thank you for whipping this baby into the best shape it can be. Even when it hurt. Jaye Garland, I can’t thank you enough for the brainstorming and input on the pivotal love scene. Jenn Uthoff, you are my goddess, always. Jan Nash, you know you’re my girl. Susan Muller, you do more for me than I could ever say and I can’t thank you enough. To my boss ladies, Christie Craig and Lori Wilde, thank you for all your love, support, and encouragement. You’re the best. And, of course, my hubby and kiddos, love ya to the moon and back—couldn’t do this without you.
But, lastly, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention two very special places. I know it’s not usual to acknowledge locations, but it must be done. You see, the Texas Hill Country fills me up spiritually, and specifically my parents’ back porch, where I’ve started and completed many of my books, so it’s worth mentioning and saying thanks. But, second, and most important to this book, I simply must say thank you to Patti Thielen for the use of her Trinity River getaway. It was there that Elijah’s story was started one beautiful spring weekend, and finished the next. Thank you for the inspiration.
Elijah moved to the open window on legs that felt wooden and gazed at the mourning crowd, all dressed in somber shades of black and gray, gathered in the yard below his garage apartment. Someone’s stifled laughter floated up.
Anger coursed through him. Didn’t they understand? This wasn’t just any other overcast, drizzly December afternoon. Nothing would be the same again.
Grief unlike he’d ever experienced—or even knew existed—plagued his every breath. Every cell in his body burned like fire. It was painful to draw air and he wished it wasn’t a sin to end that very act.
She was gone.
How could God have ignored his pleas? He knew death was a blessing, but he’d simply wanted her with him a little longer. A few years. A month. A day. A minute. Was that too much to ask?
He glanced down at the heavy kitchen shears in his hand. It was time.
He turned to the bedroom mirror, but didn’t recognize his own reflection anymore. He traced a finger across the cool glass, down the deep grooves lining the reflection of his exhausted face. The nights without sleep and the sheer emotional torture had taken a heavy toll.
In one brilliant flash of intention, the room filled with Heavenly light as he unfurled his wings to their full, luminous glory.
He stretched behind him for the first wing, then held it still. Its pearlescent white feathers pulsed with their celestial essence. He gave a moment’s pause, waiting for Father’s voice to stop him, or perhaps punish him, before he lifted the shears with a sure grip to the base near his shoulder blade.
A car started outside as someone left the memorial service at her family’s home. Again, grief’s painful claws gripped his heart unmercifully.
In the mirror’s reflection, he stared himself in the eye. So much lost.
And he’d committed the ultimate sin in loving her, a mortal.
Before he could change his mind, he took a deep breath and clamped the handles of the shears together, the sound of tearing skin and bone reverberating through the silent room. How easily he cut through his own flesh, as if his wing was only held in place by a shimmering string. With one final slice, the wing fell from his body. But the pain was absolutely blinding. All consuming. He crumpled to his knees and dropped the bloody shears, which hit the floor with a dull thud. Through tear-filled eyes, he watched as his amputated wing lost its Heavenly luster, its lifeforce, then seemed to wither away and disintegrate into pearl dust, then dull ash, before fluttering toward the ceiling, a lifeless shadow of its former glory. Then it was gone.
As blood dripped in a hot stream down his back, he felt nearly paralyzed. How could he possibly endure that white-hot anguish again?
He’d amputated a piece of his very soul.
Oh, God . . .
He stopped himself before the prayer left his lips. This was his punishment—his judgment. He must see it through.
The decision had been made.
Three months later . . .
Elijah rolled up to New Destiny, Arizona, with only three things on his agenda. A full tank of gas, a Denver omelet, and keeping on the road to get as many miles between him and New York’s bad memories as humanly possible.
Humanly possible. He was still getting used to that concept.
His 1989 sedan gave a painful last chug and died in front of the New Destiny Diner. A positive step in the direction of his omelet plan, but it did not bode well for him getting on the road anytime soon.
He rounded his hood, which was puffing out ominous gusts of overheated air, and noticed a loud clacking noise that hadn’t been there before. Maybe he’d have to break into his meager reserve of cash and have a mechanic check the engine over before he moved on. Unfortunately, he had zero mechanical skills to draw upon. Frustratingly, he had very few humanly skills to draw upon, which had gotten him laughed at more than once, and very nearly into trouble a time or two on the road. What he wouldn’t have given for a few more earthly assignments to learn human ways before . . .
He’d had no idea humans were so . . .
of simple misunderstandings.
He eyed the front of the diner. It was typical of a hundred other small town diners he’d been to. Worn brick exterior, wide glass windows with shoe polish writing extolling the latest special or, in this case, the high school football team. Next door, a small bakery—Vi’s Sweet Spot—had delectable scents drifting out, making his stomach grumble. Across the street sat a hardware store and a floral shop with bags of mulch already stacked on the sidewalk ready for spring planting. Two doors down was Delaney’s Beauty Parlor.
But, by far, the diner was obviously the center of this town and the parking lot was crowded with cars, even at six-twenty in the morning. New Destiny seemed like a nice town and he had an idle thought that he could see the appeal of living in a place like it, but as quickly as the thought occurred to him, he dismissed it. He was moving on. Where, he wasn’t sure, but he’d know it when he found it, and peace would hopefully find him there one day. If he was lucky.
Deciding he’d eat first, and worry about the car later, he pushed open the door to the diner and was greeted by the hustle and bustle of customers joking and greeting each other, dishes clanking, the morning news streaming from an overhead flat screen, the cash register ringing up orders and banging shut. The scent of perfectly brewed coffee welcomed him and he scanned the area, wondering if this was a seat-yourself kind of place. With no sign to instruct him, he took a chance and perched on a stool at the counter, which was nearly the only available seat other than a large table in the center of the place and a lone booth.
Behind the kitchen window, an overweight cook, sweat dripping down his face, didn’t appear to be in any hurry to get any of the numerous orders off of his turnstile as the waitress shoved them up at an impossible rate.
Finally, a sweet, young slip of a girl jogged up to him. “Mornin’. What’ll ya have? Special is French toast with a side of sausage links and hash brown casserole.”
“Good morning . . .” He glanced down at her nametag. “Maura.” He smiled up into her surprised blue eyes as she offered him a tentative half-smile and waited for his order as the customers behind him roared with laughter, momentarily distracting them both. “Just orange juice and a Denver omelet. Please.”
She wrote it down. “You want any bacon or sausage on the side, or picante sauce with that?”
“No, thank you.”
She rushed off to place his order on the rack with the multitude of others, then brought him back a tall glass of cold, fresh-squeezed juice. He thanked her and took a sip, picking up the discarded paper next to him. He tended to mind his own business in each new town he came to, as it kept him out of trouble and he didn’t have to talk to many people that way. But, the news was sparse and uninteresting, and the people-watching was far more entertaining. Besides, he knew he really needed to learn human ways. As awkward as it was at times.
A man, apparently the Sheriff, sat in a far booth laughing with an elderly gentleman about something that got away. The way they spoke, it became obvious it was simply another human colloquialism Elijah didn’t understand. He withdrew his pocket-sized spiral notebook and made a note to research what that meant. Right after “time flies,” “screw yourself,” and “yo, dog” that was obviously not the canine version. Oh, and he needed to find out what that Spam stuff was. He’d been among humans, in and out, for centuries, but they changed so rapidly he had trouble keeping up. Especially when so much of his previous work was not on Earth.
He glanced over as the front door opened again. Startled, he found himself awestruck for the first time since . . . since the night he’d first laid eyes on Sarah.
His heart seized. What could that possibly mean? He studied the woman who’d entered as she walked across the threshold and up to an older woman at the front counter. She looked nothing like his Sarah. Nothing in the way she held herself was similar. Her green eyes shone with a different mystery than Sarah’s open, bright baby blues. She was taller, curvier . . . did not exude the aura of light that Sarah did. So why was his gut churning like he recognized the pretty blonde?
He strained to listen as she spoke.
“Hi, Sharla. Here’s enough stuff to get you through today.” She hefted a basket up onto the counter. “Vi even threw in some of her famous Mississippi Mud cake.”
The lady behind the counter grinned. “Well, that oughta sell out in no time. Thanks, Naomi. Why don’t you stay for a cup of coffee or some breakfast?”
The blonde shook her head. “No, thanks. You’re busy enough and we already ate. I need to go back and help get the shop ready for the rest of the day.” She glanced over toward his waitress, Maura. “Hey. How’s Emma?”
A genuine smile lit the waitress’s face. “She’s good. Thanks for asking.”
“Tell her I said hello. We put a couple sugar cookies in there for her.”
“She’ll like that. Thank you.”
The blonde, Naomi, nodded and stepped toward the door. “Well, I’ll see you same time tomorrow.”
The woman behind the counter waved. “All right.”
Something in Elijah uncoiled as she stepped out the door and he breathed a sigh of relief.
He turned back to try again with the paper wondering who in their right mind would want to eat a mud cake, but had no better luck with the scant news or the crossword puzzle that someone had already done. He glanced toward the kitchen area. The cook was still sweating like he was in a sauna and moving at the speed of molasses, but now the woman from the front counter was in the kitchen speaking with him, her brows slanted down in annoyance. The cook gestured with a spatula, sending rivulets of grease flying through the air.
Elijah sipped his juice and shifted his attention to straightening his salt and pepper shakers, hoping that his omelet was next in line because he was starving and he really wanted to be on his way.
Suddenly, raised voices were directly in front of him as the cook was moving toward the exit, the woman trailing him.
“Chuck! Wait! You can’t just leave. It’s the busiest time of day and we don’t have anyone to replace you.”
“Listen, Sharla.” The cook untied his grease-stained apron from his rotund belly and yanked it off. “I’ve had enough of you telling me to speed it up. I work at my own pace. If you don’t like it, you can try making all that slop yourself.” He tossed the apron onto the counter in a wilted heap and stormed away, leaving the woman nearly in tears.
She swung her gaze to Elijah. “I . . .” She obviously had no idea what to say as she picked up the soiled apron. “What am I going to do? I can’t cook my way out of a cardboard box,” she said to herself. She glanced around the full diner and shook her head.
Darn. He just wanted an omelet.
And to move on. Away from his demons. Or, perhaps, towards them.
She tucked the apron under the counter, and he watched as a lone tear coursed down the woman’s cheek. Something about that tugged at the core of him and was impossible to ignore.
Before he knew what he was doing, he said, “I can cook.”
She lifted wide, watery eyes to him. “You can?”
He may no longer be an angel, but his belief in The Commandments held firm. He couldn’t lie. He nodded.
She tilted her head, obviously appraising his longish hair and stubble. “What kinda experience you got?”
He still had no idea why he was doing this, but the words left his mouth of their own accord. “I was executive chef at Le Gavroche in New York City.”
“Never heard of it.”
“You sure you can sling hash and make eggs to order? That sort of thing?”
He smiled. He’d handled Coq au Vin for heads of state and Boeuf Bourguignon for somebody they called Beyoncè and her husband Jay Something-or-other. He didn’t know who they were, but everyone in the restaurant thought it was a big deal. “I’m pretty sure I can handle it.” For a little while anyway. Maybe just a day or two until his car was ready to drive.
“Hey, Sharla!” someone yelled out from across the diner. “Where’s my breakfast? I don’t have all mornin’, you know.”
She glanced over, then back to Elijah. She sighed, seeming to appraise him one last time and he could nearly feel her anxiety rise as her desperation notched up. “Well, I guess we can try you out for one shift and see how you do, then talk about it later. Whadya say?”
Elijah stood. The sooner he got to the kitchen and got this over with, the sooner he’d get his omelet. Even if he had to make it himself. “Sounds good.”
She smiled and led him to a side opening to let him into the kitchen. “Hey, what’s your name, anyway?”
“Elijah.” He made himself hold her gaze, though he was ashamed and felt it was a dishonor to speak his full angelic name aloud. Had been ever since his fall and he avoided it whenever possible. He swallowed thickly. “Elijah Smith. But please just call me Eli.”