The Archangel gestured, and the room around him melted away into the blackness of space. Looming over an asteroid half his size, he shone so brightly it eclipsed the light of distant stars.

On its surface stood a groveling man. “My Lord Gabriel,” he said, taking a knee.

“Rise, my child.”

Lowell Marino, Gabriel’s agent on Earth, stood uneasily. “I’ve been trying to reach you for two days now. Why have I been ignored?”

Gabriel stared hard at the man. Insolence.

After moments of silence, sweat broke out on Lowell’s balding head. “I’m sorry, my Lord, I meant no offense.”

Satisfied with the reaction, Gabriel gave a curt nod. “Our enemy is powerful, and has demanded my attention of late. Exactly why is none of your concern. You have news?”

“So you don’t have her?”

Gabriel narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Rachel’s dead,” he whispered.


Cowering, Lowell’s voice trembled. “She was murdered. By the Lassetters.”

This is against the pacts. They wouldn’t dare. 

“Tell me what happened,” Gabriel said, fighting to control his rage.

“A fire took us by surprise. It grew so quickly, we barely had time to escape. Rachel’s rooms were unreachable.”

“Fire? I thought measures had been taken during its construction to prevent such a thing.”

“I’ve had my men investigating the remains,” Lowell said, licking his lips. “It was no ordinary fire.”

It has to be my enemies. “They’ll pay for this,” Gabriel growled.

Lowell risked a glance upwards, his lip trembling. “So she’s not in Heaven?”

Gabriel paused a moment. Has she been reborn? Certainly, I would’ve been told. 

“I haven’t been notified of her presence.”

Slumping, Lowell said, “Then she must be in Hell.”

How long could she go unnoticed? Certainly not two days.

“We must assume our enemies planned the attack to steal her away.”

“How could this happen?” Lowell asked, his tone bordering on impertinence. “She was scheduled to die soon anyway. You’ve been preparing for her arrival.”

Gabriel enunciated his reply so sharply the man winced. “You would have been given the proper rituals for performing her sacrifice, her rebirth here assured. Hell is responsible for this death.” A tightness formed in the archangel’s stomach. If Hell has the girl, they’ve won.

Lowell fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face. “I didn’t get the chance to say good-bye.” His voice fell to a whisper. “I’d been waiting for that moment for so long.”

“Fool,” Gabriel snarled. “She was never yours.”

 Eyes wide, the wretched man looked like he didn’t realize he’d spoken out loud. He leapt up. “There’s more you should know.”

The archangel’s gaze focused on Lowell like a gun barrel. 

Lowell gulped. “The Lassetter boy — the one like Rachel — was there.”

Shock crossed Gabriel’s face for an instant before he managed to compose himself. “What do you mean?”

“He came during the fire. By himself. He asked about Rachel, and when I threatened him, he ran into the house.”

“Did he live?”

“It’s going to take at least another day to search the debris. I don’t see how he could have survived.”

This makes no sense. Why would they sacrifice the boy? 

As the archangel mulled over this new information, Lowell stood patiently. Finally, he offered his own thoughts. “Perhaps their child was a failure.”

Gabriel bared his teeth. “Yes. He was no longer any use to them except as assassin.” Eyes gleaming, he said, “And how was Rachel’s progress before she was taken?”

“She’s ready. There’s no doubt.”

Anger welled up in Gabriel’s breast, and this time, he didn’t bother to hide it. Bending his head back, he let out a howl. They will pay for this outrage in blood and souls.

The act abated his fury, at least for the moment. He pressed Lowell again. “Have you confronted the Lassetters?”

Lowell’s eyes darkened. “They denied everything. That bitch Lily even accused us of kidnapping their child.”

“Deflection. The boy was sent to kill her, and slow us down. It will not work.”

Lowell stood up straight. “What are your instructions, my Lord?”

“Keep up the pressure on our enemies. This move is a sign of desperation. Perhaps they think they can turn Rachel to their side.” He smirked. “If so, they’re in for a fatal surprise.”

“One more thing, Lord,” Lowell said. “Do you think there’s a chance the boy might be in Heaven?”

Gabriel’s heart skipped a beat. The unidentified man in the scuffle today. He’d considered the incident a prank. Sent his angels to punish the troublemakers. Could it be more? He lifted his chin. “If he is, we’ll find him. And he will be destroyed.”

With a flick of his hand, Gabriel dismissed the vision. He stood in the plain, white room, dressed only in a pair of knee-length breeches, and mulled over what he’d learned. Gritting his teeth, he exited through the only door into a large, ornate chamber.

Decorated with the colors of royalty, golds, greens and purples, the great hall was designed to impress. Paintings by Da Vinci, Picasso and other masters adorned the walls, and a replica of Michelangelo’s David towered over an ornate fountain in the room’s center. None drew Gabriel’s attention as he strode across the room.

Hell may be desperate, but they had the advantage. He needed to take action immediately.

We must get Rachel back. At any cost.

Metal shards were strewn on the floor under an archway leading to a balcony beyond. Gabriel lifted his arms and they spun in place around him, melting together to form his suit of armor. A helmet lowered itself onto his head as he exited outside.

But first, we must find the boy and kill him.

The Archangel stepped off the edge and flew down to command his armies.

Death to the Lassetter boy, and any who dare try to aid him.