A Wings of Faith Novella
Twin Angels Jophiel and Ariel are servants of Heaven bound to help the humans of a world headed for ruin. But for them to become the independent Angels they need to be, their bond must first be broken.
Jophiel takes his duties seriously, answering a call from an artist struggling with his dominant, sadistic nature. But Ariel, embittered after being tortured and killed by human captors and returning to Heaven in shame, hesitates. The choice is taken from his hands when he is sent to Earth, wingless and without any memory of who or what he is. Until he regains the faith in the humans he’s meant to help, he’ll never reach his full potential and be readmitted into Heaven. From somewhere within himself, Jophiel must find the courage to let go of his twin and trust Ariel to be strong enough to Rise again... or they will never be together.
A Bittersweet Dreams title:It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
The crack of heaven’s whip, the rending of a soul, the drift of a feather; deafening silence all.
“YOU will give him back.” I let my voice boom, shaking walls, making the windows vibrate in their casings, causing the puny human to quail and nod.
How I wished it could be that simple—to descend and take my Jophiel back with me. The image in my mind of this creature bowing, acquiescing to my will, was almost too gratifying to ignore. I knew it could not be so straightforward. Nothing about the world was ever so simple. Perhaps, though, if I tried….
“He came to me. I’m not holding him here against his will.” The tiny man, Yan, puffed out his chest and gathered his will. “Jof!” He lifted his chin. “You’ll see. He won’t leave with you.”
Jophiel shuffled into the room “Yes, master?”READ MORE
Oh, those words slipping from his lips broke my heart. He’d given himself to this animal. Fury burned in my chest, rippling just under my skin and lifting my wings to thrash against the walls, dislodging bits of rotten plaster and peeling paint. How could he Fall this far?
Then he saw me. In a flash, his bowed body language changed. He straightened, his brown eyes growing wide in astonished happiness. “Ariel!” With a rustle of feathers, Jophiel’s wings spread wide, mimicking mine, but in an infinitely gentler gesture of welcome that I’d corrupted with my rage. “You’re here!”
I folded my wings tight in remorse over using them as a threat. “I am.” Hopeful, I held out a hand. “Come. It is time to go.”
“Go?” The happiness in Jophiel’s expression died, extinguished by confusion. “Go where? I live here.” He glanced at Yan. “Don’t I, master? Didn’t you say I was safe here?”
“Of course you are, Jof. You know you are.”
“This is no place for an Angel.” I glared around the tiny space, my anger growing, a mushrooming cloud of disquiet choking me, making it difficult to breathe.
The center of the room, taken up with a long, battered wooden harvest table, was lit by the skylight, allowing entrance to the meager glow from the overcast sky. Candleholders along the walls spoke of the dim illumination afforded by their flames at night. The rundown house had no electricity, and I had seen the yard. The soil, cracked and broken, would not even support the stubborn crabgrasses and weeds that infested much of the city’s outskirts. Raphael was home now, but his work to save this dismal place had only just begun.
“Angels go where we are needed,” Jof reminded me gently, reaching a hand for me.
Yan stopped the motion with a tight grip around Jophiel’s wrist.
“Don’t we, master?” He turned his confused gaze on the small man holding him fast. “You said so. Angels are drawn to those in need. That is what we do, and you need me.” He glanced toward the table. “For your work.”
I followed his gaze. The tabletop was strewn with sketches, all of Jophiel. All nude. In some, he was bound, and in one in particular, he was suspended by his wings, a look of such pure, unadulterated pain on his face it made my heart twist ruthlessly. What else had my brother endured at the hands of this savage?
“This is no place for an Angel,” I repeated, the pain reflected in the painting scratching out through my throat and surfacing in my gruff words. I turned away from the sight. “Jophiel, come.” I lifted my arm, reached for him. “This is no place—”
“My master needs me.” Jophiel remained firm, boldly speaking over me. His brown eyes glowed as he met my gaze. “This is what I do, Ariel.” He shuffled, drawing his wings in, moving to stand behind the artist, who lifted his chin higher.
“This”—I sniffed and flung a hand in the direction of the drawings—“will not be allowed to continue.” I looked to Jophiel. “I will be back for you. I promise.”
“YOU can’t expect me to leave him there!” My voice rose, anger elevating it to Haniel’s level. “Do you not see what that human is doing to him?” I’d come home empty-handed, but I was not going to leave the younger Angel to the mercies of a man who had no scruples against using him in such hurtful ways.
“I see an Angel who answered a call,” Haniel said quietly. “I see a young, troubled man and an Angel trying to help him.” But his voice was as filled with sadness as my heart was with fury.
“He’s brainwashing Jophiel. Our brother thinks what that creature is doing to him is okay, Haniel, and it isn’t.”
“I understand your concerns, Ariel.” He looked at me with such sympathy.
I could claw his eyes out for turning that pity on me rather than using his sense of truth to help our fellow Angel.
“But you speak from the heart of someone who feels more than brotherly love. There are things you cannot see past that barrier.”
“You have never set foot outside this sanctum,” I spat. “You have no idea. My concerns—” I shot a hand out, and a flash of livid light splashed across the open expanse of the sanctum. “You don’t know, Haniel.” Anger tossed me about, breaking down my ability to think, forcing me to sporadic movement across the limitless space. “You just don’t—” I stopped and then winged back to stand once more before him. “And Jophiel will not stop that man from doing anything he wants, all in the name of art and creativity. He’ll twist everything that’s good and giving and honest in him. He’ll—”
“Jophiel doesn’t understand what’s happening. He’ll just give and give—”
“Like you did?”
I whirled, fury giving me power, sparking in my gut and drawing my wings out to full splendor. “This is not about me. It’s about him, and the false safety everyone thinks is down there because Michael and Gabriel stayed behind. Angels aren’t safe. We never will be safe. Not among humans.”
Deeper sadness infused Haniel’s eyes, burning the blue to dark indigo. His wings drooped slightly, silver tips disappearing into the hazy divide between the worlds. “You have lost your Faith.”
“I have lost nothing!” Panic rose to fill the spaces left empty by anger. “I know. I was there.” The memories crowded, one piling on top of the next: the clipped wings, the pain, the annihilation of every good thing….
Until a bullet in the back was not betrayal. It was freedom.
“We know how it ended for you, Ariel.” A host drew near, figures appearing from the haze around Haniel. My brother Angels, drifting close to witness.
“Of course you know,” I snarled. “Everyone knows. Raphael was there. He sent me home, even if he didn’t know what he was doing at the time.” I wrapped my arms around my stomach, well aware how pathetic the gesture was. I folded my wings forward, inadequate to hide the hurt or protect what was left. “He showed you all how it ended. Shot in the street. A dog.”
I closed my eyes. How could I ever forget how it ended? How I had loved and the only way for my lover to save me was to kill me. A bullet in my back. How it felt to feel his anguish wrap around my heart as he pulled the trigger.
“Go back, Ariel,” Haniel said gently.
A breeze brushed over my face.
“Make it right.”
A gust blew across my bare chest. An updraft lifted my wings, prying them open and out, supporting me, lowering me until my feet touched soil. The wind sharpened, a hot, heavy gale driving me to my knees. Agony ripped through my back. If the plucking of living feathers from my wings had been painful, this was a thousand times worse. It was a knife-sharp torture that ripped through flesh and bone into my soul, a hurt that would never, ever heal.
Black feathers blustered past my face, catching in the tall grass, wavering against the stems of the daisies that had found precarious life in the parched soil. I grasped one. The rest gusted away, charred to black from the delicate, shimmering green they’d been, oh so very long ago. Gone forever.
I moaned and dropped to my side, twisted in around myself. It was over. Haniel had spoken. My bid for Jophiel’s freedom had been heard and denied. What difference would it make if I stayed here, curled in the long grass—wingless—for eternity?COLLAPSE