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Angelic Hosts Series, Episode 3
Outside, Cam looked around. Seeing no one, he spread his wings, taking flight. In a matter of moments, he alighted on a mountainside and walked into the massive cavern set into the rock cliff facing out to sea. Inside, the stone walls were covered in ancient symbols and angelic script. Spells for protection, and words of praise in a language older than time graced the smoothly sculpted archways and columns. Over the millennia, the old ones had carved out a temple accessible by no human, and not even visible to human eyes. Only the angelic orders, from low to high, could sense it.
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A tall man with brown curls and blue eyes flew in behind him and, folding his sable wings, walked to where Cam stood.
“Michael. You called?” Cam kept his hands locked behind his back as he waited to discover what his leader required of him. The look on his face did nothing to ease his concern. Michael looked angry.
“Camael, what is it you think you’re doing?”
Cam felt like a human boy being taken to task by his father. Michael, the leader of the archangels, was looking at him with disapproval. It was clear that he knew what Camael’s infraction was but waited to hear him admit it.
Cam knew. It was forbidden for any of them to interact with humans unless they were close to death and they were assigned to help them cross over. Punishment for such was never good. It ranged from demotion to a lower order of angels to being cast out altogether; something he did not want, couldn’t even fathom. To be exiled from the light and presence of the Almighty would feel like having his heart ripped out of his chest. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to regret revealing himself to Hannah. There was something very special about her. She was like no other human he’d encountered before, and that was saying a lot since he’d encountered millions in his lifetime.
He bowed his head in contrition. “I know. I’ve erred. I’m deeply sorry, Michael.” His words were sincere.
“She’s a human, Camael. And her life is not at an end.” Michael understood. He’d lived even longer than Camael and had seen many a brother in arms fall from grace as they gave in to the temptations of both the flesh, and the heart.
“She nearly died tonight, Michael. What was I to do? Sit back and watch?” His inner conflict rose to the debate.
Michael sighed. He knew all the details. He’d seen it all as it played out. There’d been no call for Hannah’s soul from above so he knew she would not die this day. However, sometimes their father did not reveal all of his plans, and this one was a mystery even to Michael. He knew Hannah Adams was in dire need of saving. What he didn’t know was that Camael would be her savior. It was highly unusual, but he knew better than to question Him. Instead, he stepped in to help put a quick stop to the budding temptation the human woman presented to his brother. He didn’t want to lose Camael to the fallen.
“It cannot continue. She’s alive, and she will continue to be so now thanks to you. But it ends. You will not see her again.” And then Michael stepped closer looking Cam in the eye. “I can’t lose you, brother.”
Cam felt guilty and torn. This was a new twist. He’d never before felt such an agonizing feeling. He would never betray Michael, and he would never consider disappointing Him, but he also made a promise to Hannah to see her the next day. He didn’t know what to do.
“I sense your conflict. Check on her tomorrow. Satisfy yourself that she’s fine, and then say your goodbyes.” Michael patted his arm and walked a few feet away.
Cam, with his head still down, grinned. He would get to see her one last time. But after that, it would be an eternity without her. His grin faded. An eternity without seeing her face or hearing her voice, and an eternity without ever again kissing her soft lips. He now wished he’d never known the ecstasy of her kisses. The idea of never feeling that way again was as painful as being sent from the presence of the Almighty. Guilt set in again as part of him screamed inside, ‘Why must I choose?’
“Because you must, Camael. There is no choice.” Michael’s voice reached his ears, and swift anger overtook Cam as he threw out his wings and flew with purpose as far from the temple, and from his leader as he could. He knew it didn’t make any difference. Michael knew where he was and was only a horn blast away at any time. There was no place to hide himself or his thoughts and feelings. All was known, at all times, by Him. Angels had no privacy. And for the first time in Camael’s existence, he deemed that wholly unfair.
Hannah awakened with a smile. It was the first one in quite a long time that wasn’t forced. She thought she ought to feel guilty about it, but one of the very last things Jack said to her before he could no longer speak was, “Be happy, mommy.” Then he’d reached out and taken her hand in his small one and patted it. Even with an oxygen mask on his little face, he smiled at her. It was the most beautiful smile in the world as far as she was concerned, until she met Cam yesterday, and now she knew that there was another out there nearly as wonderful as her son’s.
She arose and showered, taking extra time this day to style her hair and apply a little makeup. He said he’d be back to check on her today. She didn’t have any idea what time, but she wanted to be prepared, and she wanted to look her best. God knew he’d seen her at her worst last night. She felt ashamed for having attempted to harm herself. She knew Jack would not have approved. He loved life, and he lived it to the fullest as long as he could. She could do no less. In his memory and honor, she vowed to live each moment as if it were the most precious gift, because she now realized it was. It may have been Jack’s time to depart, but her life was not yet at an end. Somehow, she still had purpose, and it was up to her to find out what it was and fulfill it. In between, she needed to remember to breathe, and enjoy. And Cam was a great place to start.
She spent her morning cleaning. In the last few months, she’d done very little of that. Thankfully, Jen had popped in a few times to dust and run the vacuum, but the house still needed airing out, and laundry did what it did when left on its own…piled up. Two loads in, she sat down at her kitchen table by the open window, looking out over the neighborhood. She figured she’d see Cam coming from this vantage point, so she sat sipping an iced tea and snacking on chips. Her neighbors were going about their usual daily routines. Mr. Farnsworth was out walking Duke, his Great Dane, and Lydia next door was planting tulip bulbs under her tree. As she watched, a man turned onto her street and walked leisurely in her direction. It wasn’t Cam. This was a dark gentleman from head to toe. He appeared of possible Middle Eastern or Indian descent. His skin was deeply tanned, and he wore all black. This was not so unusual, but the long black overcoat was, considering it wasn’t cold out at this time of year. He definitely was not a local.
He turned his head and looked at her house as he slowly passed. Hannah noted he didn’t bother to look at anyone else’s house but hers. Suddenly, he caught her eye in the window, and the feeling of dread that gripped her caused her to drop her tea which promptly spilled everywhere including in her lap as the glass crashed to the floor. She jumped up and squealed, at the same time noting the mess. Then the doorbell rang. Of course!
Dabbing at her jeans with a dish towel, she made her way to the front door. Mumbling a choice word or two, she opened the door to find Cam smiling down at her. And he had flowers.
“Oh! You’re here. I didn’t see you come up.” She tried to hide the wet spot on her pant leg.
Cam’s eyes traveled down to her soggy jeans, then back up to her face. “You were looking for me?” The idea that she was anticipating his visit made him feel good. Still, he couldn’t quite figure out how her current situation played into that. He waited for an explanation.
Hannah laughed nervously. “Well, I was just in the kitchen drinking tea when I dropped the glass.”
“I see. Drinking problem?”
Hannah cocked her head sideways looking at him. His face was quite serious, and she wasn’t sure how to take his words.
Cam realized his joke bombed. “Sorry. Bad joke.” His words faded off. He raised the bouquet of wildflowers and presented it to her. “These are for you.”
Hannah stifled a giggle. This big, strong man was floundering in front of her trying to impress, and she was not helping. She figured it was a joke, but there was one thing she knew, never make it easy for men. They appreciated more that which they had to work for. That theory worked all those years ago on Jack’s dad even if it hadn’t lasted. Sadly, once Ben learned she was pregnant, he took off and she never heard from him again. She’d faced motherhood alone as a single parent. Now and again, it upset her, but then she would tell herself how lucky she was to have Jack all to herself.
Now, there was Cam. A remote part of her brain asked the question, would he leave her, too?
“They’re beautiful. Thank you, Cam.” Hannah sniffed the flowers, and then leaned up on her toes to kiss his cheek.
There was that sensation again. Camael closed his eyes briefly trying to remember every single nuance of a kiss from Hannah. It would be all he had to remember her by at the end of this day. When he opened them again, she was smiling at him. He hadn’t seen her spontaneously smile since his first visit to Jack in the hospital. It was the beginning of the boy’s ending, and although Hannah couldn’t see him, he saw her. She was reading to Jack and creating voices for the characters in an attempt to cheer him up. When Jack finally had enough energy to summon a laugh, Hannah’s own smile burst upon her lovely lips like sunrise after a stormy night. It was truly glorious in his eyes, and the first moment in which she’d captivated his heart.
“You’re smiling,” he said.
“So are you!” She laughed and motioned for him to come in. Cam entered and followed Hannah as she walked back to her kitchen. There, she placed the flowers on the counter and searched the cabinets for a vase. She found one and filled it with water.
Cam noticed the spilled tea and broken glass on the floor by the kitchen table. He could see that’s where she’d been sitting with a clear view of the front yard and sidewalk. The fact that she was watching for his return warmed him in ways he didn’t think possible. He bent and began picking up the shards in his large hands. A little magic while she was occupied arranging flowers and the smaller pieces disappeared. He stood and dumped the bigger chunks into her garbage can.
“Oh, Cam. No. Let me get that–” She stopped and reached for the paper towels.
‘I got it, Hannah.” He took them from her and continued the cleanup. “So, what were you trying to do when this happened?”
“I wasn’t doing anything, really. Just looking out…daydreaming, I guess.” She didn’t want to admit out loud that she’d been sitting there watching for him. “I saw a man walking down my street. I know I’ve never seen him around here before; he didn’t look local. Anyway, it’s silly.”
Cam turned and looked at her as he rose to toss out the wet paper towels. “What’s silly?”
“I don’t know. He just kind of scared me a little. I know it doesn’t make sense, but he wasn’t looking anywhere in particular until he passed my house, and then he suddenly seemed to look right at me through the window, which was strange. I know it was only a coincidence, but something about his eyes spooked me. I don’t know how better to explain. See? Silly.”
Cam’s eyes narrowed. “What did he look like?” His questioning tone was casual, but his interest was keen.
“Foreign, maybe Middle Eastern. It really wasn’t how he looked that struck me odd, but how he was dressed.” She finished arranging the flowers and carried the vase to her table where she set the bouquet down and fussed a little more.
Cam waited patiently, and when she didn’t continue right away, he prompted her. “How was he dressed?” He leaned against the kitchen island.
“He was wearing all black.” She looked over at Cam. “Kind of like you, actually.” She turned back to her arranging. “But he had on a long black overcoat; like a Trench coat, you know? And it’s not even cold out. Bad guys are always dressed like that in movies. I guess it just freaked me out.”
Cam’s alarm bells went off. He stood. “What happened next?”
Hannah turned and saw that Cam suddenly looked very serious. “Oh, nothing. I jumped, and dropped my tea as you saw,” she indicated her pant leg which was almost completely dry now, “and next thing I knew, you were at my door. So, I guess he just went wherever it was he was going.”
Cam was furious.
A dark angel, one of the fallen, had been by Hannah’s home mere moments before he arrived. Why? Was it looking for him? Did he somehow lead one to her? Why would a Dark One be following him? Why would one seek out Hannah? Something was very wrong, and he needed to find out as soon as possible. One thing was for sure, there was no way he’d be able to honor Michael’s command until this was resolved. He couldn’t leave Hannah vulnerable and unprotected.
He kept his expression neutral. No need to alarm her until he knew more. “That’s certainly unusual, I suppose.” He needed to contact Michael. “May I use your restroom?”
“Oh, sure. It’s over there.” Hannah pointed to the hall bathroom.
“Thanks.” Cam locked the door once inside and turned on the faucet. Then, he quickly disappeared. In the blink of an eye, he was inside the temple on the mountainside.
“Michael?” He called out for his commander; his tone urgent.
“Camael.” Michael materialized before him in a flash of white light. “You’ve seen her? Did you say your goodbyes already?” His blue eyes bore into Camael waiting for his answer.
“No. There’s a problem.”
“A problem?” Michael’s eyebrow rose. “What problem could a human have that is yours?”
“A Dark One.” Cam waited.
Michael stopped and looked sharply at Cam. “Explain.”
“Hannah said she saw one of us, one dressed as we do, walking past her home this morning. Middle Eastern appearance, wearing all black and an overcoat.”
“Dagon.” Michael said the name with supreme distaste. Dagon was a fallen archangel of the third sphere of hell. He served the Morning Star, Lucifer.
“What was he doing at her home, Michael?” Camael’s anger started to go from simmer to boil.
“I don’t know, Camael, but if he was there, we must find out.” Michael’s horn blared, a call the angels could not ignore. Only the one sent for ever heard it, or those inside the walls of the temple. Light flashed and Zaphkiel appeared before them. One of the seven archangels, Zaphkiel was the confidante of the Almighty and the Keeper of Knowledge. If anyone knew what was going on, it would be Zaphkiel.
“You could turn down the volume on your horn blast, Michael.” Zaph walked to them wearing golden robes. His attire indicated he’d been visiting the throne.
Michael was not amused, but he rarely ever was. “You know why I called?”
“I do. A Dark One has made himself known to a human woman,” he said. Then he looked at Camael. “His woman.”
Camael sputtered. “She’s not my woman–”
Zaphkiel continued to Michael. “It has begun.”
Michael’s eyes narrowed. He did not like being kept out of the loop. “What has begun?”
Zaphkiel, who enjoyed needling Michael after all these millennia, remained cryptic. It was his duty to carry out orders, and his orders were to keep details to himself, and explain only that which needed to be known. “Camael is to stay by the human woman’s side and protect her.”
Cam was conflicted. On one hand, he was overjoyed to be told to stay with Hannah, but on the other hand, he was now in fear for her life; nay, her very soul, for the Dark Ones didn’t stop with destroying the flesh. They obliterated souls as well.
“What does he want?”
“They.” Getting information from the Knowledge Keeper was like pulling human teeth.
“The legions?” Cam’s alarm shot sky high, and Michael stepped in.
“What do the legions want with this human, Zaphkiel?” Michael was tired of the drops of information doled out and sought to spill the torrent.
Zaphkiel knew he would need to tread carefully. “They want the key, Michael.”
Michael’s blue eyes grew large. “If that is so, what does Cam’s woman have to do with it?” He didn’t like not knowing, and he struggled with keeping his temper.
“She’s not my–”
“It’s not for me to say, Michael. The truth will bear out, and until then, Camael is charged with the duty to protect this woman at all cost.” With that, Zaphkiel disappeared.
Michael paced. Hearing that the legions sought the key changed everything. This really wasn’t anything new except now they sought the key within the human realm. This meant they knew something he did not, and that did not sit well upon his large shoulders.
“What does this mean, Michael? What key?” Camael, too, was clearly agitated, but for other reasons. His attachment to the human was the reason for his increasing anxiety.
Michael stopped pacing and turned, locking his gaze on Cam. “The key to the pit of hell, Camael. The sands have nearly run out on the Clock of a Thousand Years.”
“What? Surely that’s only lore? There was never really a clock. A thousand years has already passed millions of times over.” Cam was in shock. All angels knew of the legend of the clock and the pit of hell where the Light Bringer was thrown after his fall from grace. It was largely thought to be allegory, and that the Morning Star was relegated to another realm by the Almighty where he could never escape. No one ever really took the whole time limit seriously.
“Time in His realm works differently than what we’re accustomed to, different, even, than what the human realm is familiar with.” Michael ran his fingers through his sable curls, frustration clearly evident on his face. “The time is, indeed, nearly upon us. If the legions find the key, they’ll unleash hell on Earth, and in the heavens.”
Cam sucked in a breath, the seriousness of the situation weighing heavily upon him. And he’d left Hannah alone to come here. Michael sensed his panic.
“Go. Go back to her now and don’t leave her side. If I need to inform you of anything, I’ll come directly.”
Cam knew Michael was worried because he never offered to come to any of them. He always summoned the angels to the temple.
He vanished and materialized back inside the restroom in Hannah’s house mere minutes after departing. He reached out and scooped up a handful of cold water and splashed his face. His Hannah was marked, somehow involved in this war between heaven and hell. He could not, would not leave her side. He shut off the water and went back into the kitchen.
“Better?” Hannah asked as she sat at the table waiting for him. Her smile reached her eyes, and she was obviously very happy he was there. He could read it all over her face, and in her thoughts. The idea that the Dark Ones would come anywhere near her made him crazy. He would lay down his life for her without a doubt. In fact, it was Jack’s final request. Unknowing of how things worked, the boy who so bravely took his hand as he escorted him home, stopped and looked up at Cam with earnest brown eyes so much like his mother’s, and said, “Take care of my mom, okay?”
Cam knew now he would do exactly that. He smiled and walked to her. Leaning down, he kissed her lightly on the lips. “Much better. Now…” He placed his hands on either side of her chair and looked into her lovely eyes. “What would you like to do today, Ms. Adams?”
Hannah blushed having him so close to her. He smelled like heaven itself, masculine, warm, and sweet like a breeze on a spring day. “Well, it’s gorgeous outside, so maybe we can take a walk?” She hadn’t really thought much about it, but suddenly it seemed being outdoors with this handsome and very sweet man was a very good idea.”
“Then a walk it is.” He offered his hand, and she took it, rising to her feet.
Michael paced the length of the temple. His mind was clearly working, mulling over all possibilities. Behind him, Cassiel appeared, and seated himself upon a smooth boulder.
“You’re troubled, brother.”
Michael turned hearing Cassiel’s voice. The watcher of children and Keeper of Sorrow and Tears sat with his feet crossed in a meditative posture. His hair was so white, it glowed, and his large, dark eyes held millennia of melancholy.
“Yes, Cassiel. You always come in my hour of need.” Michael sighed.
“I could feel your anxiety thousands of miles away.” He chuckled. “What is it that has you so tied up in knots?”
“The legions are seeking the key,” Michael stated simply.
Cassiel sat unfazed. “The legions are always seeking the key, brother. Why does this bother you now?”
“Because now they are seeking it in the human realm; specifically, with one human woman.”
Cassiel’s eyes grew large. “A human woman? She has the key?”
Michael closed the distance and joined Cassiel on the rock. “I don’t know. Zaphkiel didn’t fully explain.”
“Zaphkiel rarely does,” he acknowledged. “So, what is the Order to do?” he asked, referring to the angelic hosts under Michael’s command.
“Camael is charged with her protection.”
“Camael? That young pup?” Cassiel was far older than most of the angels. He was one of the first, created even before Michael, but only just before. Cassiel took on the role of older brother to the archangel, and their service to the Almighty stretched through the fabric of time into what humans would term eternity. “Why him, not that he won’t serve his duty with honor?”
“She’s his woman, apparently.”
Cassiel’s surprise showed in his eyes. “He has fallen?”
It was Michael’s turn to look surprised, and contrite. In his focus on the situation, he’d spoken badly. “No, certainly not. Camael’s loyalty is not in question. What I meant was…” Michael stopped to think, attempting to explain. “…he is absolutely smitten with the human woman, it’s true, but he has not fallen. He recently escorted her young son to the other side. He admits he is drawn to her, has even fraternized to a small extent. I’d ordered him to end it when we discovered that Dagon had made himself known to her.”
“Dagon!” Cassiel’s signature calm was gone. In its place was shock and concern. “This is, indeed, serious.”
“I know, but we have yet to track Dagon down. He’s cloaked.” Michael began running off on a tangent.
“I didn’t mean Dagon. I meant Camael.”
Michael stopped talking and turned to his brother. “What do you mean?”
The calm returned to Cassiel’s brown eyes. He placed a hand on Michael’s shoulder. “Brother, you’ve just stated that Camael made himself known to a human woman, that he ‘fraternized’ with her, even to a small extent, and yet he is not cast out. What does that say?”
Michael mulled over his words, chewing on his lower lip. “That He knows.” He looked skyward. The situation grew clearer.
“Yes.” Cassiel patted Michael on his back. “You are vexing yourself for not. He knows. This is His plan.”
Michael puffed out a breath. “But Camael is in danger. He doesn’t know.”
Cassiel stood. “Of course not. It is not for him to know, but for him to do.”
Michael looked at his friend. “She’s the vessel?”
Cassiel’s light steadily grew brighter as he prepared to leave, but his voice remained strong stating, “And together, they shall create the key.”
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