NEPHILIM, by Mary Ann Loesch, Lyrical Press, Kindle Edition, $4.52.
Tattoo artist Nathan Ink is more than he seems. An angel living in secret on earth, he forces his clients to face their flaws by tattooing images of their sins on their bodies, but this glimpse into the soul often results in his clients’ deaths. Although Nathan avoids the other angels, when they ask him to keep an eye on Faye, a nephilim being stalked by another of her kind, he reluctantly agrees.
The angels have kept Faye in the dark about her stalker, but to keep her close to Nathan, they’ve tasked her with investigating the high mortality rate of Nathan’s clients. Despite her distaste for his methods, she finds herself fighting a growing attraction to Nathan, and discovering he’s not a rogue after all forces her to question her own mission. When Faye learns her stalker is another nephilim who intends to use her to breed a new race of hellish beings, teaming up with Nathan may be the only way to prevent a genocide.
Up ahead a homeless person stepped forward from the shadows. In his hand, the silver blade of a knife flashed under the streetlight. With a quick thrust, he stabbed a female passerby. The woman dropped to the ground, her hands instinctively coming up to shield herself.
“Call 911,” Faye shouted to a bystander. She grabbed the arm of the homeless man and shoved him against the wall. His hazel eyes moved back and forth frantically, and then for a brief second focused on hers. With a guttural cry, the homeless man kicked himself free and took off into the dark night.
Faye dropped to her knees and placed a hand on the woman’s forehead. Blood pooled around the body, but Faye saw she still breathed, though her eyes were wild with pain. She pressed her hand harder and the woman’s name popped into her head. Julie.
“Julie? Can you hear me? Blink if you hear me,” Faye instructed.
“Good. Hang on, honey. Help is on the way.”
Faye probed with her power, getting in Julie’s head. Flashes of her as a child.Julie at five with a gap-toothed smile.Julie in high school as the prom queen, brown feathered hair fluttering.Kissing her first serious boyfriend in college. Pissing off the homeless man who’d stabbed her. He’d asked for money and she’d blown him off.
“Further. Go further,” Faye murmured, feeling the beginning of the pain.
There. Faye’s mind probed past the images and into the warmth of the human body.
“Too late.” A deep sadness washed through her as she observed the fatal wounds that even now caused the lifeblood to drip away. “Julie, look at me. I know you’re scared, but I can help. I can make the cross easier.”
Panic fluttered in Julie’s dark eyes. She struggled to speak. “H…help…me…”
With as much power as she could muster, Faye focused on the wounds in the torso. All sounds muted and fell away as she delved into the ocean of pain Julie felt, and using her power, removed it. She gasped at the cold shock of taking it in, and watched the young woman give a small peaceful sigh as life slipped away. Closing her eyes, Faye whispered a quick crossover prayer, feeling the soul lift from the body.
Sirens screamed and pandemonium ruled the street. Someone grabbed her shoulder, pulling her back. Nausea built within Faye, and though her vision clouded, she managed to stand. The hand on her shoulder moved down to her elbow, and she blindly followed the person guiding her away from the chaos.
“Stop please,” she whispered. “I’m going to throw up.”
She bent over and vomited on the sidewalk. Clouds of black dust came from within her, dissipating as they hit the ground, leaving only a foul smell behind.
“Jesus, lady, what the hell did you eat?” A Goth kid leered down at her, his lip ring shimmering in the night.
“Move on,” a voice instructed the kid. The deep, rumbling tone carried the hint of a threat, and the Goth kid scurried on his way.
“Thanks for your help.” Faye wiped her mouth and looked up at her rescuer.
Two inky black eyes stuck in a harsh pale face stared down at her. Long, shiny black hair framed the face, falling to just below the man’s massive shoulders. Just above the collar of his dark T-shirt, a long black tattooed line appeared, running around to the back of his neck. She knew exactly who the man was.
– Excerpt from Nephilim by Mary Ann Loesch. Visit the author’s website at www.maryannloesch.com.