Raphael, or as he was currently known, Raph Masters, stared out through the lodge window at the snow covered peaks sparkling under the moonlight. His thoughts far away from where he stood. Their focus? A fair haired, blue eyed female by the name of Miranda Dove. The first time he had seen her he’d known she was the part of his soul he had been searching for. Her light would stop him falling into the dark, condemning him to an eternity deprived of that which his kind needed. Unfortunately for him she was completely oblivious to that which made his situation more difficult than it already was.
Needing to clear his head he walked into the small hallway, removing his shirt and shoes before opening the front door and stepping out into the freezing night. His exhales of breath visible in the air he stood unphased by both the freezing temperatures and the light flakes of falling snow. Walking a few feet away from the lodge he stopped and waited.
Imperceptible at first the air began to shimmer around him as his back rippled, the change suddenly growing in intensity as two large wings exploded outwards, stretching out as far as they could as if relishing the freedom they now had. Moonlight danced across the feathers, the slightest movement making them shimmer in the light – well most of them. The translucent ones were a stark contrast to the white. The intruders were a reminder of his beginning decent into the dark, and at the rate they were starting to appear, Raph figured he only had just over three days before the last feather faded and his light was extinguished forever.
Turning his gaze towards the sky he looked at the twinkling dots of light, each struggling to cast its glow on the world. How much longer would he be able to soar upwards, to see their beauty up close? How many hours were left before the blessing of flight was stripped away, leaving him locked into a world which was alien to him. His only hope, his only salvation was a female who had no clue as to his true nature, and to save himself he had to bare that secret and pray she accepted his words as the truth they were.
“Not tonight,” he whispered as he flexed his wings and soared skywards. Tonight was for reveling in what he was and what he could do – while he was still able.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Miranda stood by the window of her lodge, a steaming cup of hot chocolate held in her hands to chase away the cold of the night. Her decision to take the vacation had come out of nowhere, a sudden impulse she couldn’t fight which was unlike her. She was always the one to weigh up the pros and cons of any situation, never leaping in to anything feet first. Caution, that was her watch word. Well it had been until the day she’d started walking past the travel agents and a picture caught her eye. Before she knew it she had gone inside, booked the vacation, and walked out with the tickets and itinerary in her hands.
A sip of her rapidly cooling drink taken, she moved away from the window and over to the high backed chair by the burning fire. If there was anything good that had come out of her crazy decision, it was meeting Raph Masters. Black shoulder length hair, gun metal gray eyes set in a face male models would kill for, and a body women would lust and drool over. She had first seen him sitting in one of the outdoor hot baths; his broad shoulders and muscular chest had quite a few of the females visiting them ogling him, and as much as she was ashamed to admit it she had been one of them. Her mind began wondering what had laid hidden beneath the bubbling, steaming water. Just the memory of that had her body waking up and paying attention. “I’m not here on a man hunt,” she chastised herself. Unfortunately, her body wasn’t paying any attention to her words.
Placing her cup on the small table to her side, Miranda let the heat from the fire seep into her body to chase the chill away. Slowly she relaxed allowing sleep to creep up on her. Cushion behind her back shifted so she could rest her head on it, she turned slightly onto her right side and drifted off.
The first rays of sunlight breaking through the cloud cover warned Raphael of the approaching dawn. It also told him it was time to return to earth and resume his pursuit of Miranda. Three days left in which to not only convince her to bind herself to him for eternity, but to get her to accept that not only did angels exist, but that he was one. “That’s going to be so easy,” he muttered, sarcasm lacing his words as his feet touched the snow covered ground. As his wings disappeared from view he walked back to his lodge, the sound of the layer of freshly fallen snow crunching under his bare feet echoing into the air.
Pushing the pine door open as he reached it he walked inside, the heat from the still burning fire hitting him. A sharp contrast to the cold that had wrapped around his bare torso as he’d soared through the night sky. He’d taken his wings for granted, assumed they’d always be a part of him. Never in his darkest nightmares could he have contemplated the possibility of not only losing the ability to fly, but also losing the light. You knew this day would come. Yes, he had. All of his kind had to find the other half of their soul. That was something they couldn’t escape or avoid. What he’d hoped for was more time before his wings began their change. Unfortunately his time had vanished before he’d realized, leaving him to find his soul mate, convince her of what he was, and to spend eternity with him all in the space of seventy two short hours. “I’m fucked,” he grunted as he sat down.
“Maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t,” called a familiar voice from behind him.
Launching from his chair, Raphael spun around to face the voice’s owner. “Zarall? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you too, brother,” Zarall chuckled before walking to stand with his back to the fire, rubbing his hands on his ass to warm it up. “What is with you and bloody cold climates? Why couldn’t you have picked some place like Bermuda?”
“I happen to like the cold,” Raphael mumbled. “Besides, this time I have more than that reason to be here.”
“I know. She’s here, isn’t she.”
“Why haven’t you claimed her yet?”
“Because it’s not that simple.”
“Sure it is,” Zarall replied, turning to warm his front. “Just go down, tell her what she is to you, what you are, and claim her.”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at his brother, Raphael crossed his arms over his chest as he looked at him. “Human females are different. Do you recall what happened when Camael went down that route?”
“Yes,” came the answer as Zarall turned to face him. “She fled, leaving him to descend into the darkness. Last I heard he was working as a hunter for some demon.”
“That is not a path I intend to walk; therefore, I’m taking it slowly.”
“Slowly? For fuck’s sake my brother, you have seventy two hours left. You can’t afford to take it bloody slow!”
He knew that. He didn’t need a reminder of how dicey his position was. “Tell me then,” he asked, uncrossing his arms as he stepped up to his angelic brother. “What the hell do you propose I do? Well, apart from your previous suggestion.”
“The time you have left isn’t long, which is why I think my original idea is best. But,” Zarall said, raising a hand to stop any argument Raphael may put forward, “with reservations I accept what you have said. Therefore, we need to put our heads together and come up with a sure fired, guaranteed to work plan.”
Raphael shook his head as Zarall moved away from the fire and towards the kitchen. Something told him the next few hours were going to be nothing if not interesting.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
A shiver ran through Miranda as she woke. Her body letting its objections about moving be known as she shifted her position on the chair. Seemed the warmth from the now out fire had been enough to make her sleep soundly. “I’m so going to pay for this,” she huffed, getting to her feet to head into the kitchen for some breakfast.
As she stood waiting for her eggs and bacon to cook, Miranda stared out through the small window. At some point during the night snow had fallen, wiping away any trace of her footsteps. Her unblemished surroundings reminding her just how isolated the lodge was, and she loved it. Her work in a busy office had a tendency to overwhelm her with the noise and hustle and bustle everyday brought with it. Silence was hard to find in the middle of New York City, but the South Tyrol provided her with the peace she wanted.
Once breakfast was done she was tempted to visit one of the villages not far from her location, but the pull of the mountains was just too strong to ignore. So a walk through the snow with only her thoughts for company was chosen. “Breakfast and coffee first though,” she nodded, plating up her food and pouring a coffee before sitting at the small table.
An hour later everything was washed up and put away and she stood in the hall, jeans tucked into her snow boots, jumper and gloves on, and coat taken from the wall hook. “Time to hit the cold,” she smiled, slipping the coat on and zipping it up before stepping outside to sink ankle deep into the fresh snow. It took her a while to find her rhythm but once she did Miranda lost herself in the beauty of the scenery around her. No noise, no people pushing and shoving, no nothing. The only sounds heard were her breathing and the crunch of snow as she continued forward. For two hours she walked before reluctantly starting back towards her lodge to try and warm up her numb extremities. Half way back and with her concentration not where it should be she tripped over something, falling flat on her face and wrenching her ankle as she hit the snow. “Only I could trip over snow,” she grumbled, struggling to get upright. The second she tried to put weight on the damaged ankle, Miranda discovered a big problem – it wasn’t going to co-operate. To make matters worse her lodge wasn’t even in sight. The prospect of turning into a frozen, permanent part of the landscape really wasn’t appealing. If she couldn’t make it back though, that was the fate she faced. “Where’s Santa and his sleigh when you really need them?” Teeth gritted against the pain she knew was coming, she hobbled three steps forward before her ankle gave out again, sending a spike of pain shooting up her leg as she tumbled forward into the snow. Panic now taking hold she turned onto her back, looked towards the sky and started yelling for help, knowing it was going to take a miracle for someone to hear her, let alone find her.
Two hours of listening to Zarall had been all Raphael managed to take before grabbing his jacket and leaving the lodge. He didn’t need to be told over and over again how desperate the situation was. He knew and no amount of talking or chiding was going to change his looming future. What he needed was a miracle, and those were in short supply. “How in the hell am I going to approach her?” he asked the air, receiving an unexpected answer a few seconds later as he heard someone yelling for help. Never one to turn his back on someone in distress, Raphael nonetheless resisted the urge to summon his wings to fly directly to where the person yelling, was. Instead he tapped into his powers, harnessing their strength to give him the speed he needed to get to the area fast.
The moment he arrived and caught sight of the source of the yelling, he didn’t know whether to be pleased or worried. Seemed the miracle he’d thought wouldn’t happen, had, and his soul mate lay on the snow a few feet from him. “What happened?” he asked, walking closer.
“Seems I’m the only person on the planet who can trip over snow,” came a frustrated reply.
“I doubt that,” Raphael replied, resisting the urge to laugh at her comment. “Can you stand at all?”
“Stand, yes. Walk, no. I’ve done a number on my ankle and it’s decided not to co-operate on the walking front.”
“Best not to try then,” he replied. Crouching down he carefully picked her up, making sure she was secure in his arms before standing. The moment she moved and came into contact with his chest, he felt a part of him shift. It was like his soul wanted to leave him to join with hers.
“This is so embarrassing,” he heard her mumble, pulling him away from his confusing thought.
“We all fall over at some point,” he replied in an effort to try and make her feel better as he turned around.
“Have you tripped over snow?”
“Ummm, no I haven’t”
“See that just proves I’m a klutz. By the way, where are we going?”
“My lodge isn’t far from here. Once you are resting I can check your ankle.”
“I don’t want to be a bother.”
“Trust me, you aren’t.”
Gods, could the situation be any more embarrassing? The male her body went gooey over had to be the one who found her. Yep, her luck just kept getting better. Maybe she should wear a sign saying something along the lines of “walking disaster.” At least that way people would have a general idea of what to expect from her.
“We’ve arrived,” said a voice which sent certain parts of her body into party mode. “Please behave,” she mumbled low.
“Did you say something?”
“Me? No, nothing at all,” she replied, struggling to get out of his arms. A move soon regretted as her feet hit the floor and her ankle gave out sending her crashing to the ground. Turning her head to look at her rescuer, Miranda gave him a wry smile. “Just point me to a chair and I’ll crawl over.”
“No you won’t.”
Before she could protest she found herself held in those strong arms again, her body more than thrilled at the closeness. This was all kinds of wrong, but given her situation there was nothing she could do to extricate herself from it. Placed gently down onto a chair by a fire, she watched him as he carefully lifted her leg onto a foot stool before removing the boot to examine her ankle.
“There’s some swelling there, so I’ll grab an ice pack and put it on. Before you ask I doubt you will be able to walk on that for a while, so it seems you are stuck with my company.”
Stuck? That wasn’t the word she’d have chosen. Enjoy would have been better. “I’m sorry to have put you out.”
“You haven’t. Now just relax and I’ll sort out that ice pack for you.”
Watching him leave it took all her strength not to drool over his firm ass which was hugged by tight jeans. Gods what a beautiful sight. For a moment she wanted to see if a quarter could be bounced off it. The second the thought registered she let out a low groan. Her libido was going to be the death of her, she was sure of it.
The sounds of a conversation taking place in the kitchen reached her, thankfully shifting her mind away from ever more licentious thoughts. It was a good job as well because she was worried she might spontaneously combust if she got much hotter.
“This should help,” she heard him say as he returned, ice pack in hand.
Ice pack? Oh yes, bad ankle. Shaking her head, Miranda smiled at him. “Sorry if I’ve interrupted something.”
“I heard you talking to someone in the kitchen.”
“Oh. I was on my phone talking to a friend.”
Gaze narrowing as he placed the ice pack on her ankle, she wondered if he was telling the truth because the phone service tended to be spotty where they were. Maybe he made a connection at the right time. True. She had no clue as to why she’d doubted him. “Thank you for coming to my rescue, Mr. Masters.”
“How do you know my name?”
“I ummm, may have seen you at one of the outdoor hot baths and heard someone say your name.”
“Ah. Well I have a confession to make,” Raphael smiled. “I know yours as well, Miss Miranda Dove. I saw you watching me and asked around for your name.”
The embarrassment she’d felt at more or less admitting ogling him vanished on hearing his confession.
“Is the ice pack helping?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Good. Let me grab a couple of cups of hot chocolate then we can relax.”
With her body doing the internal mambo and her mind creating its own version of the kama sutra, there was no way she would be able to relax. And that was going to make for a long afternoon and an even longer night.
Hands braced against the sink as he rested back against it, Raphael let out a long breath. Zarall had left after being told what had happened, but said he’d return later for a progress report. What the hell did his brother expect him to achieve in a few short hours? He wasn’t sure how to broach the subject he had to. How did one start a conversation which was going to change Miranda’s life forever? “Here’s your hot chocolate. Oh by the way I’m an angel, you are my soul mate destined to save me, so let’s get to it.” Oh yeah, that would work real well – not. Tapping his fingers along the edge of the sink he struggled to come up with a way of at least starting a conversation which would lead down the right path. “Maybe I need to just wing it,” he shrugged, the irony of the words not being lost on him. Pushing away from the sink he made two steaming mugs of hot chocolate. “Guess I’d better make a start,” he sighed, picking up the mugs and walking back into the main room.
“Here you go,” he said as he handed over a mug. “Be careful it’s still on the hot side.”
Their fingers touched, sending a fire coursing through him which threatened to explode outwards. Struggling to regain his composure Raphael sat opposite Miranda, watching as she blew across the top of her mug to cool the hot chocolate. The small o her lips formed making him wonder what they tasted like, what they would feel like when pressed against his skin. “Get back on track you idiot,” he grumbled.
“Nothing. So, Miranda, how long are you here for?”
“This is the second week of my vacation. Seven days left and then I have to return to my job in New York City.”
“I gather from your tone you don’t want to.”
“Not really. I don’t think I’m cut out for the rat race.”
“Ever considered a change of career?” he asked before taking a sip of his drink.
“Sometimes. To be honest there are times I just want to leave everything behind, go somewhere no one knows me to start fresh.”
What he was going to ask her to do would certainly fulfil that desire. “I think that will happen for you soon.”
“It would be nice. Until it does I intend to enjoy the rest of my holiday.”
Tell her what you are. No, now wasn’t the time. When will be? The clock is ticking you know. He did bloody well know! With his frustration building he knew he had to get outside, take to the skies. “Get some rest,” he said placing his half finished hot chocolate down on the side table. “I need to head outside to check on the log supplies.”
“Rest does sound pretty good,” a sleepy sounding voice murmured.
Getting up he took the mug from her hands, placing it next to his before heading into the bedroom to get a blanket to cover her legs with. Once sure she was asleep he slipped his shirt and boots off then walked outside. Even though it was still daylight the area was secluded enough for him to risk taking to the air. Wings set free from their confines he brought them forward to see how many more feathers had faded, noticing to his dismay that over a third on each wing were now translucent. There was no point in dwelling on the changes, he needed to clear his mind enough to speak with Miranda about what he was. Wings stretched out to his sides he leapt into the air, letting them take over as he soared upwards.
~ * ~
The sound of a door clicking closed roused Miranda from the sleep taking hold of her. Looking around she wondered where Raph had gone before remembering he’d said something about checking the logs outside. Shifting her position to move the ice pack, she carefully stood. The moment her damaged ankle took some weight it threatened to go out from under her again. Unfortunately, her bladder decided its need was greater than a damaged ankle, so she hopped from the main room in search of the bathroom, finding it before her lack of exercise caught up with her.
Hopping back into the main room once she’d finished, she went over to a chair by the large glass doors which led out to a deck. As she sat down, Miranda glanced out through the glass and caught sight of something large wheeling through the sky. To her it looked too large to be a bird so what was it? Suddenly it vanished from view leaving her even more confused. If she didn’t know better she could swear her sanity was running away.
How long she continued to stare out the doors she had no clue, it was only when she heard Raph call her name that she dragged her focus from the blank sky. “I’m by the large doors.”
“You are supposed to be resting,” he said, a note of disapproval running through his words.
“I needed the bathroom, then when I came back I decided on a change of view. Tell me,” she asked. “Are there large birds around here, I mean really large ones?”
“Not that I’m aware of, why?”
“Because I saw something wheeling through the sky a while ago and to me it looked like no bird I’ve ever seen.” As she finished talking she caught sight of a strange expression on his face before he took a step back.
“Give me a moment.”
Before she could say anything, he walked away towards the hallway. What had she said that sparked such a strange reaction?
Tapping her fingers on the chair arms she continued to look in the direction he’d vanished to, seeing him reappear five minutes later holding a small box in his hands.
“Do you believe in angels?” he asked, sitting opposite her.
“I guess. Wait, you aren’t going to tell me that thing I saw in the sky was an angel?” The look on his face as she finished speaking had her wondering if she wasn’t the only one with vanishing sanity. “You are, aren’t you. That is crazy.”
“Why? Many things are taken on faith, so why can’t you accept that angels are real?”
“Because, well just because.”
“That’s not a strong argument you know,” Raph replied as he handed over the box he held.
Eyebrow arched as she opened it, Miranda saw a white feather tied with a red velvet bow. Carefully removing it from the box which she placed to one side, she looked at it. No matter which way she moved the long feather, rainbows seemed to dance across the whiteness. Curious, she shifted her attention back to Raph. “What is this for?”
“What you hold is a feather taken from the wing of an angel.”
About to burst out laughing she stopped herself on catching sight of the sincerity of his words shining in his eyes. “You believe that, don’t you? Why? How do you know it came from an angel?”
“Because I took it from my wing. I was what you saw flying through the sky. I am an angel, my name is Raphael, and you are the other half of my soul.”
“I’m…,” the sentence left unfinished as information overload fried her brain, dragging her into unconsciousness…
© Raven Anxo 2016.
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