Guarding the Vampire's Ghost [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Amy Lane
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: or four millennia, Shepherd, Angel of Repentance, and Jefischa, Angel of the Fourth Hour of Dark, have worked as a team to provide heavenly assistance to those who call their names. Shepherd's work has made him dark and dour, but he's determined to protect Jefischa from all of the terrible pain the mortal world has to offer. Now an accident of divine politics has put Adrian, a twice-dead vampire, in heaven, and angels have been falling to Earth to engage in forbidden activities ever since. Shepherd doesn't know how, and he doesn't know why, but he's heaven-bent on keeping the impressionable Jefischa out of Adrian's clutches. But how is it that someone who was supposedly not human can teach two angels so much about the best of humanity? And how is it that--as long as he has Jefi by his side--no duty on earth or in heaven is as pleasurable as guarding the vampire's ghost?
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2011
A brief window into the Great Quarrel
9 Reader Ratings:
The row that allowed Adrian, vampire prince and consort to Green, Lord of Green's Hill, in Foresthill, California, to be allowed into the Realm of Heaven caused two major earthquakes and a tsunami. Nobody in the Realm of Heaven was sure how it happened--it violated all of the laws that had been set down since the split of the God and the Goddess (or She Who Would Not Be Named), and it was just flat out wrong.
Vampires were not supposed to end up in heaven. They were the Goddess's creatures, along with the elves, sorceresses, were-folk, and the sons of man and the other. These folk should end up with the Goddess in their afterlife--that was the rule. But Adrian had gone out in a shower of blood defending the people he loved best--two lovers and a brother of the heart among them--and suddenly, the Goddess was there petitioning for him to be allowed where vampires should not be
More specifically, she was petitioning for him to be allowed in the antechamber
"His lovers need him," she'd sniffled. "You know they're important to me--and they might not make it without some assurance that his spirit continues."
Of course, God had put up a front about faith and belief and the resulting crack across His face had resulted in one of the earthquakes and the destruction of a mini-mall that night, and that particular line of reasoning had been dropped right quick
But in the end, it didn't matter. The Great Quarrel (as the angels called it) could only be resolved by the Goddess's plan that involved Adrian's lovers and his best friend, and this meant that she had God over a barrel. The deity hadn't had his Goddess by his side in over two thousand years, and the state of the world showed that He was hurting. He'd give her almost anything to help her plan come to fruition--a vampire in the anteroom to heaven was really no big deal.
So the details didn't matter. What mattered was that an accident of divine politics put a vampire in the anteroom to heaven, and now he was the angels' problem.
And the angels really didn't know what to do with him.
* * * *
Shepherd, Angel of Penitence, looked at Saint Peter unhappily.
"Us, really? Me and Jefi? We're the best people for the job?"
Saint Peter looked Shepherd blandly in his angel-hazel eyes.
"All of the host of heaven are more than qualified," he said dryly, and Shepherd gave him a pointed look. They both knew what he wasn't saying, and damned if Shepherd was going to let it slide.
"Yeah, but you usually give this assignment to people you're trying to get rid of. The angel of chickens--seriously? You think we didn't notice that he...."
"She--she chose a gender when she fell...."
"Yeah, when she fell with the angel of oak trees!" Who was now an actual "he" and not just the gender-neutral sort of "he" that sounded better than the sexless "it."
Saint Peter shrugged. "Some angels are simply ready to fall. It's not permanent exile, you know. They can restore their grace whenever they repent."
But they didn't. And neither had the two angels after them or the three angels after them! There was something about this assignment that seemed to send angels tumbling down to earth like baby birds out of the nest. The last three angels had landed in Las Vegas, and they were currently organizing a brothel. Shepherd was understandably upset.
"But... but Peter... it's Jefischa!
And that was the crux of the matter right there. Jefischa was the Angel of the Fourth Hour of the Night. It was sort of an unstable time--and Jefi was just like it. He could be quiet and big eyed, all contemplation and expectation, or he could be playful, like a child escaping before bedtime. He could be melancholy and sad, like a mother after hearing a poignant story before sleep, or raucous and rowdy, like a young man on his last beer. He could be all of these things at once. Shepherd knew, because they'd been partnered since forever. Literally. The fourth hour of the night was an excellent time for repentance. Shepherd got a lot of calls in Jefischa's company, and the dour, placid Shepherd was grateful for the one angel in heaven who didn't roll his eyes and groan when Shepherd walked into the room.
"Jefischa is perfectly capable of maintaining the integrity of his own soul," Peter said mildly, and Shepherd glared at him.
"Jefischa," he said fiercely, "is an innocent--"
"So whatever unholy wiles the vampire is working on him should not have any effect at all." Peter's voice was firm and growing firmer, and Shepherd usually would have stood down, but... Jefischa! Sweet, mercurial, melancholy, playful Jefischa. He needed to be protected, even from himself.
"So he's more easily led astray!" Shepherd countermanded, and Peter glowered at him until Shepherd finally stood down.
"Have a little faith in your partner, Shep," Peter told him, gentleness in his voice. "Lord knows, being his partner is something you've not once had to repent."
Peter disappeared, and Shep glared at the white fuzzy halo where the archangel used to be. "Oh ha-ha," he grumbled, but then Jefischa appeared at his side. It was serene, "retiring for bed" Jefischa, and he smiled at Shepherd and asked him what was wrong.
"We're guarding the vampire," Shep said, keeping it short. Maybe if he didn't give Jefi the details, he wouldn't find out anything that could make him fall.
"Ohhh...." Jefi was suddenly all big eyes and child-at-a-bedtime story. The fourth hour after dark, indeed. "We get to guard him? Wow! Do you think we'll find out why all those people fell? Why do you think they fell, Shep? I mean, I knew Anpiel--she was the sweetest thing. And she and Zerachiel--they were always fighting! I have no idea how they ended up down on earth together." Jefi gave a mock shudder. "Weird."
Shepherd raised a sour eyebrow. "Yeah. Weird. Look, Jefi. You've got to promise to follow me on this one. No...." If Shepherd hadn't been a vague form of personified energy, his hands would have waved in the air. "You know how you get. No acting human, okay?"
Jefi bobbed his head and then stopped, puzzled. "Do I act human, Shepherd?"
Shepherd looked at him, feeling helpless. "You act... compassionate, Jefi. Empathetic. You... you forget, sometimes, that our job is to be a beacon of guidance for them. You seem to want to be their friend."
Jefi's energy--his "wings"--turned an unbearable color. It was a murky sort of brown/orange/green, and Shepherd hated it. He suddenly found that he would say anything, do anything, to make that color go away.
"You... you don't like me when I do that, Shep?"
"No! No... no, I like you fine. It's one of the things that makes you, well, um, you, Jefi! No. Don't change that. Just... I don't know... keep it in check this time, okay? There's something about this guy. We're falling like mortals around him, Jefi. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Jefi's wings brightened up a little, but they were still a troubled brown/green. "Okay, I guess. You'd... you'd let me fall alone, Shep?" There was a moment of absolute shock, and then Jefi covered his eyes. "Ouch, Shep... that color hurts. Make it stop--whatever you're thinking, make it stop!"
Shep was thinking of Jefischa, alone on the cruel, barbaric surface of the planet below. He was thinking of him being abused and suckered into the worst of what humanity had to offer, the drug hells, the brothels, the places where humans routinely threw away their lives, their souls, their humanity. He had no idea what his wings looked like, but the painful terror of Jefi left alone was enough to paralyze his very being for a moment.
"No," he said roughly after a moment of getting himself under control. "I'd never let you fall alone, Jefi. No worries. That's why we need to be careful on this one. We like it up here, right?"
Jefi smiled, his wings going bright and iridescent, and Shepherd knew his own appearance brightened up considerably. "Absolutely, Shep. Anything you say. Besides, what do we have to worry about? He's not a human. He's a vampire. I'm sure he'll be very different."
The two of them appeared over the entryway to the anteroom and paused. It was, after all, the gateway from a soul's seat on earth to its destination in heaven.
"Shep, what're the ropes for?" Jefi asked. He was naturally curious; the fourth hour of darkness was often a time for digging into secrets or children pattering down a darkened hallway.
Shepherd stared at the golden cords and frowned. "I have no idea." The cords seemed to be attached to all of the souls drifting about. They were brighter on the side near heaven and growing dimmer by the moment on the side near earth, and neither of the angels had any information on what those cords were supposed to be.
Their puzzlement was greeted with a soft laughter from a person coming out of the anteroom. There were plenty of people drifting in to the anteroom, and usually there was someone to greet them. That was the purpose of the anteroom: it was like an airport greeting area. Most of the people going through were in transit, and most of them had people waiting for them. Those that didn't, well, they had angels to help them through the transition--Yahudia and Zaranpuryu being the main two, but they often recruited help. Either way, the anteroom was mostly an exclusively one-way proposition. Except for the young human with the white-blond hair and the sky-spangled eyes, weaving his way gracefully between oblivious souls.
He was so solid in appearance, so full of flesh and vibrancy that he was nearly blinding.
"Hey there... wait a minute!" Jefi said. His energy vibrated; his wax-perfect human shape all but bounced on its pale bare toes. "You're not supposed to be coming out there!"
The young man laughed. "Yeah, mate, I am. I was a little out of it, but I swear even I heard the row that got me my weekend-pass privileges set in stone. Check with your boss, duckies, but do it on your own time. I've got somewhere I've got to be."
Shepherd didn't really have a mouth, but he knew that what looked like his jaw was swinging on its hinges. The young man faded out of the walkway to the anteroom, leaving Shep and Jefi staring at his narrow, retreating back.
"Was he wearing a black motorcycle jacket?" Jefi asked out of the dark of the night.
"Yes, Jefi. Yes he was." And ripped jeans and a white T-shirt. He'd looked like James Dean--only better. The pale hair was in a layered, curly halo around his face, and the blue eyes had been open and guileless, inviting people in as opposed to smoldering and warning people way.
"He was very beautiful," Jefi said in an admiring way. "By human standards, he would have been very coveted."
Shepherd blinked his eyes, feeling very stupid. "Oh for the sake of heaven...." His angel form washed the color of softest rose. They weren't supposed to swear. "That was Adrian, Jefi. Who else could it be? Weekend pass, inhuman beauty... dammit. We just let the vampire escape."
Jefi was silent for a moment, considering. "Well, technically he's got a pass. We didn't really let him escape."
Shep looked at him. Just looked at him. Jefi smiled charmingly, and Shepherd blew out a great chuff of air and threw his ass on a cloud with enough force to dislodge that sucker so it could float free. Jefi put his angelic "hands" on the cloud--it was about chest high--and instead of levitating or sweeping his mighty wings to and fro, he heaved himself up and clambered into a sitting position next to Shepherd like a toddler getting into bed with his big brother. Shepherd watched him silently, and when Jefi smiled that great, open grin into his face, Shep had no choice but to return it with a little smile of his own. You couldn't stay mad at Jefi. This quality wasn't one of his gifts as an angel. It wasn't in his realm of power--it was just Jefischa. He was probably the only reason the fourth hour of darkness had so much possibility--because the fifth hour of darkness was dark, brooding, and violent. Drunks got mean in the fifth hour of darkness when they were happy and sloppy in hour number four; Shep was pretty sure that was because Patrozhin was a dour, unsympathetic bastard who should have been made the angel of misers with pancreatitis.
"You're right," Shepherd said, just to reassure Jefi that all his goodwill wasn't for naught. "He's got carte blanche. I don't know why, but it's out of our hands."
"Mmm...." Jefi sounded distracted. "I still don't know what those ropes are for." Jefischa put out his hands and made stroking motions. "They look... soft... and warm... and sweet to touch. I want to touch one...."
"No," Shepherd said uncertainly. "I... Jefi, there's something very... mortal about those. Look. They're a direct link to earth. And did you see the size and the thickness of the vampire's? It was...." He flailed for a comparison.
"As big around as the vampire's wrist!" Jefi said excitedly. "Yes! And the cord leading to heaven, it was much finer than those of these people here. You're right, those are mortal things." Jefi turned a look of pure adoration toward Shepherd. "It's a good thing you spotted that! I would have just run right in!"
Shepherd ducked his head and looked away. "Just looking out for us, that's all." And then, irritably, "You know, I really wish Peter had given us more of a head's up about this place. It's really complex!"
"That's because you're not filtering out the white noise!" Peter tutted from behind them. Shepherd rolled his eyes. St. Peter liked to just pop in unannounced when someone was on assignment. The humans had a word for it, but one did not call the right hand to the Lord of Heaven an "officious asshole."