tagNonHumanWindswept Ch. 01

Windswept Ch. 01


Twenty Years Previous

The pregnant woman was going to die. Ryder couldn't stop that -- but if he wanted to, he could postpone it. He could give the baby in her womb a chance to live. He had explained that to her, but he had left off a very important piece of information. That was why he was hesitating.

"Please," the woman whispered. Ryder gazed sadly at her, looking past the skin and seeing the cancer growing in her cells. If he didn't heal her, both she and the baby would die. "Please," she said again.

"You have to understand something," Ryder began.

The woman shook her head. "Anything," she hissed between clenched teeth. Her fists balled the sheets of the hospital bed. "Anything is better than this."

Ryder closed his eyes. The woman had given him permission. He had no reason to withhold his help. "Very well," he said. He turned and stuck his head outside the door, peering through the darkness of the hallway to make sure he wouldn't be interrupted. Satisfied that they were alone, he closed the door and returned to the woman's side.

He took her wrist in his gentle hands and plucked the IV from it. Rubbing his thumb over the drop of blood that came from the hole, he sealed the wound. He looked around for a chair, but finding none, perched on the edge of her bed.

"I need to know your name," he said. "Your full, given name."

The woman swallowed, and for a moment, Ryder believed he was too late. Then her lips parted and she breathed out. "Anna McCallum."

Ryder let her name flow through his ears, listening to its unique melody. "Anna McCallum," he said, and the air sparked with his power. Even Anna, in her terribly weakened state, sensed his power and tensed her body. He saw fear dance in her eyes for a moment, as if she was regretting her decision to let him help her. He murmured reassuringly, pressing her hand between his. Gradually, her pulse calmed and he was able to move forward.

He sought for the connection that would allow him to banish the cancer. He reached out mentally, gently probing the recesses of Anna's mind. He found the connection there, weak as it was, and clamped his mind on it.

He began forcing power through the connection. It was still raw at this point, pure and unfettered, tearing through her system to cleanse her of the disease. If he had been better trained, he would have been able to refine it and perhaps give her a few years to live, instead of a few months. But he was still young, and Anna was his first charge.

Anna jerked, almost tearing her hand away from him. He leaned against her hip, trying to keep contact with her skin and keep her from moving at the same time. She could seriously hurt herself if she jerked the wrong way with his power flowing through her.

Her body bucked, and Ryder closed his eyes, feeling the energy reaching its breaking point. He steeled himself, and as he pushed a final time, the back of his shirt ripped with an obscene tearing sound. If Anna had been in a healthier state, she would have noticed that a large pair of jet-black wing had appeared out of Ryder's back.

He slowed his breathing, willing the power flow to stop. Gradually, it trickled off, and Anna sank back into the sheets, gasping for air.

Ryder got to his feet and smoothed his rumpled clothes. He sheathed his wings with a sigh. "I'm finished," he said, turning his back and walking toward the door. He paused, his hand on the doorknob.

"Thank you," Anna said. "I thank you with all my heart. And my child does as well."

Ryder felt a pained smile cross his face. As he stepped out the door, he wondered if her child really would thank him, when the time came. Or if she, for the child was a girl, would hate him for what was to come.

He put his face in his hands, leaning against the wall. "What have you done?"

Present Day

Angel peered over the top of her sunglasses at the man sitting at the bar. He looked nervous, out of place, and generally alienated from the rest of the clientele. A slow grin spread over Angel's face. He was just the kind of man she was looking for. His jet-lagged face told her he was most likely a West-Coaster, and his clothes said his annual income was over three hundred grand. She was surprised he didn't already have a posse of girls around him.

Ignoring the look she got from Jordan, her associate, she went up to the bar and pulled a chair out beside the anxious-looking man. He did a double-take when he saw her, which Angel was used to.

She smiled at the man, then turned to the bartender and ordered a Cosmo. When he'd gone to mix her drink, she propped her head on her hand and swiveled in her chair to look at him.

He was about thirty, and of the business class. Here on vacation, she guessed. She smiled again and extended her hand. "Angel," she said, and shook his hand when he offered it.

"Jim." He put his hand back on the bar when she let go. Angel let her body shift closer to him, and when he didn't tense or lean away, she leaned against him. She could smell the alcohol on his breath, and she mentally calculated how long this was going to take.

"Off from work?" she asked when the bartender had brought her drink. She turned her head up to look at Jim.

He managed a smile down at her. "Yeah. Three fucking days in New York City. As you can tell I'm having one helluva time."

Angel put her hand over his on the bar. "Well maybe I can help with that."

Jim met her eyes with a harshness that surprised her and almost made her flinch. "I'm married, you know."

Angel shrugged, making as if she was going to get up. Jim grabbed her arm. "Hold on there, sweetie, I never said no."

She turned back, flashing that radiant smile. "Come on, then. Let's blow this joint."

She looped her arm in his and guided him off the barstool. Her eyes met Jordan's as they walked past his table, and despite his previous mood, he nodded at her, getting up to follow.

Once outside, the rest happened quickly. Jordan came up behind them and stuck a gun in Jim's back. He demanded the businessman's money, which he got after Angel begged him not to let her get hurt. Then Jordan put the gun to Angel's head and pulled her away, telling Jim to keep quiet if he wanted the girl unhurt.

When the turned the corner, he dropped the gun to his hip and stuck it in his pocket. He handed her the wallet. "Count it, why don't you," he said. "Since this one was your idea."

Angel pulled a thick wad of cash from the genuine leather folds. She whistled softly. "Unbroken hundreds. We hit the jackpot." She looked at Jordan. "Still irritated I picked him?"

Jordan snorted, meeting her eyes. "What can I say? You're a natural." He looked away. "If not a little disturbing."

Angel shrugged. She was used to that. She had naturally strawberry-blond hair, which since she hadn't bothered to cut it for months, hung in her eyes and fell around her shoulders in a very attractive way. Her eyes were more violet than blue, by far her best feature. Jordan had told her more than once that she had a very angelic look about her, which was why their marks trusted her almost implicitly upon meeting her.

Also, that was why she'd picked the nickname Angel.

She felt herself about to go off into a reminiscing trance. She shook herself, pocketing the wads of cash. "Five hundred seventy-two," she said. Jordan mimicked her whistle. That one take was more than they made in three weeks, most of the time. "What's it after Whit's take?"

As good as she was at putting her marks at ease, Angel didn't have a head for numbers. "Four hundred and change," Jordan answered. He squinted, looking up. "Four hundred and forty cents, to be exact."

Angel grinned, patting the fabric of Jordan's weathered jacket. "We can get you some new threads."

Jordan smiled back at her, and for the first time in a long time, Angel felt like things were finally going her way.

Then all hell broke loose.

A hand clamped over Angel's mouth, and at the same time, her knees went out from under her as someone viciously kicked them. She struggled, but before she could do any damage, her hands were flexi-cuffed behind her back and her attacker pushed her to the ground.

In the dim glow of the streetlights she could see that Jordan was tied up like her. His eyes met hers, and the look there scared her more than being tied up. There was one thing Jordan was scared of. She swallowed.

"Look at this, two trespassers."

Angel winced at the sound of the unfamiliar voice and the caress on her face that accompanied it. She turned away from the hand, but all that earned her was a slap.

"We're not trespassing," Jordan said. "It's joint territory. You know that."

The man who'd slapped Angel laughed. His partner remained silent and immobile. "Hornet," Jordan continued, "let us go before you really fuck something up."

The laughter stopped and Angel's eyes barely registered a flash of silver before she heard Jordan cry out in pain. "If we say it's trespassing, then it's trespassing, kid," the voice growled. Jordan whimpered, curling away from the knife.

Angel wished she could see who their attackers were, but the lights weren't positioned right to show their faces. She cursed herself for allowing them to sneak up on her and Jordan. If she got out of this alive, she promised herself, she'd be more attentive.

Now she just had to work on getting out alive.

The sharp point of the knife on her throat pulled her out of her head and into the current situation. "Hey girlie," the voice breathed in her face. She could see the outline of the man's face, but no details. His hand came up to her face, and traveled down her neck, coming to rest cupping her right breast. She squirmed under him as his knees straddled her waist.

"Get off me," she hissed. The man chuckled. He leaned forward, and Angel felt his erection press against her. She felt a scrap of fear in the back of her mind, but she didn't allow herself to be scared. Fear would paralyze her, she knew. Anger wouldn't, so she let herself be angry.

"Get the hell off me," she said louder, bucking her hips up. The man shifted, and then he flew backwards off her. Angel just stared, because she hadn't had that much force in the movement.

As she sat up, she saw two figures wrestling on the ground, hissing and swearing at each other. She didn't have much time to watch her rescuer, though, before the second attacker jerked her to her feet and pushed the cold metal of a gun barrel to the nape of her neck. "Walk, blondie, or I'll blow your brains out."

Angel swallowed, her fear rising up and taking over her mind. The gun was too real, too solid, and too dangerous. She took a step forward, but a grunt behind her and the removal of the pressure to her neck stopped her. Slowly, she turned.

Two figures lay on the ground, obviously unconscious. Now that they were in the light of the streetlight, Angel could tell that they were Quinn's thugs, her boss Whit's enemy. Their street names... she thought hard. Hornet and Reaper. Off to her right, Jordan was also on the ground, although his intermittent moans told her he was still alive and conscious.

Angel saw all that in one or two seconds, and then her sight was filled with the image of her rescuer. Before she could get a good look, he spun her around and cut the ties at her wrist. She rubbed them and turned back.

"Are you okay?" he asked her. She looked up, surprised by the tenderness in his voice. His gorgeous voice, her mind corrected. She shook herself slightly.

"I'm better than I was, thanks to you." She flashed a little smile. "I'm Ang-"

"I know who you are, Jenna."

Angel froze, her violet eyes widening. She took a step back, and then another one. "How do you know that?" she asked, almost whispering. As a general rule, people who knew her real name were after her for bad things. That was why she went by Angel. She'd tried to disappear.

The man brought a hand up to her face. Angel sucked in a breath at his touch. His fingers felt like fire on her cheek, making the skin there tingle. She turned into his touch, pressing his hand against her cheek before she realized what she was doing. Even when she did, she didn't want to stop. It felt so good.

"I know a lot about you," he said. His voice was closer, right in front of her face. She felt the tingling on her cheek and imagined how it would feel on her lips. The small part of her mind that was till sane tried to rouse her, but failed. Hesitantly, she leaned forward, pressing her lips against his.

His mouth opened to welcome her. The pleasant burning spread to her lips as their tongues collided. She moaned in his mouth, and all of a sudden her back was against the alley wall and he was pressed against her, her breasts crushed to his chest. He nipped at her lips, cupping the back of her neck with one hand and pulled her head into him. His other hand encircled her waist, pulling her body against him. She felt the heat of his body through her clothes, she was surprised at how much it excited her.

The pleasant burning captured her neck and back as her hands found the bottom of his shirt and crept up under it. The man moaned involuntarily as her hands touched the bare skin of his stomach. He growled deep in his throat and Angel felt the vibrations on her lips.

She heard another sound, and it took her a moment to realize that the man in front of her wasn't making it. She tore her mouth away, meeting his eyes. His pupils were huge with arousal, and she knew hers were as well. She almost leaned back into him, but she remembered why she'd pulled away to begin with.

"Shakespeare's hurt," she said, her voice rough and straining. She swallowed, trying to regain some of her composure. What the hell had this guy done to her? She pointed at Jordan, her hand shaking. "They did something to him."

She could feel the man's reluctance, but he slowly pulled away from her. "I'm sorry," he said, his voice as coarse as hers. Angel felt the tingling fade as his hands left her, but she resisted the urge to press against him again.

She knelt by Jordan, and the man followed her, cutting his ties with a long, wicked-looking knife. Angel pulled him up into a sitting position. "Shakespeare," she said softly in his ear. "Hey, Shakespeare. They're gone, it's ok now."

She went to put an arm around his waist to help him to his feet, but stopped cold when her arm encountered something wet and sticky. Her heart dropped into her stomach. Jordan's shirt was covered in blood.

Oh, gods. While she'd been getting to know their rescuer, he'd been bleeding out on the ground. Angel closed her eyes and felt the man's hand on her shoulder. "We'll get him taken care of. Come on."

Jordan's limp figure was lifted from her arms. She opened her eyes and looked up, seeing the man holding Jordan as if he weighed nothing more than a child.

"We can't go to the hospital," Angel began.

"I know. I have a friend who will look after him.

Follow me."

The man's friend lived only three blocks away. At three a.m., there weren't too many people around to see the strange trio, and they got there without having to answer any uncomfortable. The walk gave Angel some time to think about what had just happened.

Who is he? She asked herself it over and over again. She felt like she should know him. She touched her lips unconsciously as she remembered the passionate kiss they'd shared. Hell, she felt like she did know him. And he knew her given name, which meant he came from a part of her past she didn't want to remember.

The man's friend let them in and quickly got Jordan laid out on a table. He examined the knife wound to his side, which looked fatal to Angel. He quickly explained that it looked worse than it actually was.

"He's lost a lot of blood, sweetie. That's what makes it look so bad. I'll get him stitched up and he'll be fine. I promise."

The man put an arm around her shoulders while they waited for the doctor to finish sewing Jordan's wound closed. After a few minutes she turned to him, intending to thank him again for everything. As she turned, his scent assaulted her nose, pulling a low moan from her. He smelled like sweat and leather and smoke, an intoxicating combination. His arm tightened around her at the sound.

"Thank you," she managed to say. "Thank you really doesn't begin to cover it, but it's about all I can do right now." She took a breath. "You're going to have a hell of a lot to explain in the morning, you know."

She felt his chuckle in his chest. "I'm aware, Jenna. Or Angel, if you prefer. I'll explain everything. But right now, you should sleep."

As soon as he suggested it, Angel felt her eyes grow heavy. "Good idea," she murmured. The last thing she saw before she fell into dreamland was a pair of the most stunning blue eyes she'd ever seen in her life fill up with huge black pupils. She snuggled closer to him, feeling safe in being close to him. He wrapped his other arm around her, and like that, she was asleep.

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