Angel's Evolution

( 12 )

Overview

I'm a monster, but with one kiss, he changes everything I believe.

I'm a monster and I'm imprisoned in a world I hate and fear. As heir to my father's title, I'm expected to marry, but my secret desires may keep me from fulfilling those expectations. One night, a stranger kisses me. In his touch, I see the possibility of a life beyond my prison. My name? Just call me Angel and this is my evolution.

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Angel's Evolution

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Overview

I'm a monster, but with one kiss, he changes everything I believe.

I'm a monster and I'm imprisoned in a world I hate and fear. As heir to my father's title, I'm expected to marry, but my secret desires may keep me from fulfilling those expectations. One night, a stranger kisses me. In his touch, I see the possibility of a life beyond my prison. My name? Just call me Angel and this is my evolution.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608207237
  • Publisher: MLR Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2012
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It is late April in London and a faint mist falls as our carriage makes its way through the jam of traffic on the street outside the Sheffield home. I huddle in the corner of the seat, longing to return to the safe haven of our country estate where I've spent all twenty-three years of my life in relative obscurity. Being in Town has turned my father even more violent than usual.

The carriage stops and the door swings open. I hesitate too long and Father rams an elbow into my back, forcing me to tumble from the coach. A cry tries to crawl from my throat as my injured back protests his touch. I bite it back, struggle to my feet and stand on the sidewalk, staring up at the brightly lit mansion. Nausea makes my stomach roil, trying to drive what little supper I'd eaten earlier from me. Having had very little contact with any one other than my family, I'm not sure how to act around strangers.

Lord and Lady Sheffield are hosting the first ball of the Season. As we arrive, she greets my father as if he's her long-lost brother, then completely ignores me. I am only my father's heir and a rather pathetic one at that. The Sheffields have no daughters to marry off, so I'm of no import. Honestly, she might not even know who I am. My father has never introduced me to Society, for I'm an embarrassment to him. Because of that, I'm rather confused as to why he's forcing me to make an appearance before the Ton. He's got something up his sleeve, he always does.

Pain lances through me as I walk into the ballroom. I can't move without the fabric of my shirt scraping against the welts on my back. At least my coat is black velvet, so should any blood leakthrough no one can tell.

The room is decorated like a Venetian palazzo, the colors and flowers reminding me of the books I've smuggled from my father's study that describe the mansions of the Italian upper class.

As I scan the room, I'm happy for the large plants and alcoves that afford me places to hide. I slide to stand behind a large potted palm and feel a measure of relief for the first time this evening. I don't know anyone here, so no one will make an effort to speak to me.

I'm used to being invisible. Father ignores me unless he's angry, then I'm his whipping boy. I push my sleeve up and stare at the bruise circling my wrist. He'd dragged me out of my room and forced me to get dressed, saying I need to go out in Society. That maybe the Ton will rub off on me.

I shiver as a woman's piercing laugh rings over the music. There is no way I want to be a part of them, for they are cold like my father and that frightens me.

As a child, I never had much contact with adults. I was allowed to run around outside as long as I did my lessons. After my tenth birthday, all that changed. For the past thirteen years, I've never been allowed to be in the same room with anyone except my family, and I only see them when Father wishes to punish me for something.

People crowd into the sweltering room. The cloying perfume from the Society ladies burns my eyes and I feel a headache beginning to build. Sweat beads on my forehead and I resist the urge to wipe it away, shunning any unnecessary movements. The pain may keep me centered on who and what I really am, but I'm not about to make it worse. I edge closer to the door leading out into the garden. The air is getting heavy, making it hard to breathe and I fight not to panic or faint. Father wouldn't approve of me making a scene, and I know all too well what the consequences will be.

Like any creature held captive for too long, I'm unsure what to do and how to live without those bars in front of my vision.

An earthy scent fills my nose. Someone around me has been drinking whiskey. I inhale a slow, deep breath and my panic starts to disappear. Whiskey has always meant there wouldn't be a beating, for Father would be too drunk to take his anger out on me.

Someone brushes against my arm and I murmur an apology, not making eye contact. Father has taught me the folly of showing any type of defiance.

As I make my escape into the night, someone runs into my back and I bite my lip to keep from crying out. Tears swim in my eyes and I feel a dribble of blood as one of my lash marks opens. If Father sees the stain against the stark white shirt beneath my jacket, I'll face the whip again tonight. I rush down the path so I can hide without anyone noticing me. I throw my head back and fight tears while I glare up at the moon. Silver light caresses my face. I long to be home in the country, where it is reasonably safe.

I will never fit in here. My differences are more than just shyness. Father says I have the devil inside. He claims my secret longings are the path leading me to hell. I don't know how he knows about them. He has yet to understand that he makes my life hell, so perhaps finally following that path would ease the pain.

Looking back at the veranda and the doors leading into the ballroom, I see the silhouette of a man. He stands, staring out into the darkness as if he is searching for something or someone. I shrink farther into the shadows. I know he isn't searching for me, but I won't risk getting caught and pulled back into that room.

The darkness holds me and allows me a few moments of freedom. I take the opportunity to stare at the trim form of the man. I have never had the chance to indulge the desires running through me. Despite that inexperience, I can't stop wondering what it would feel like to have the stranger's arms wrap around me. A blend of horror and desire burns through me. I know I shouldn't feel this way, but even Father's beatings haven't taken these longings from me.

The man stays outside for a few minutes. I don't move, and finally he turns and heads through the doors. Before he disappears into the swirling kaleidoscope of the ball, he looks back. I stumble as I move away from him, deeper into the darkness. It feels as if his gaze touches me, yet he can't possibly know I'm out here. As he melts into the crowd, I see the glint of gold as the light hits his hair. I'm reminded of copies of paintings I've seen in Father's books of Apollo, the Greek god of the sun. The gleam of his hair brings the same odd feeling of awe as I felt looking at those pictures. Though I would never dream of even speaking to such a man ... he is too far above me, in every way.

I make my way back into the ballroom where Father waits for me. Even as he drags me from the Sheffield mansion, berating me, I search the crowd to see if I can find the golden-haired stranger who brightened my dark world, if only for a second.

* * * *

It's late at night and I'm lying on my stomach to ease the agony coursing through my back. While Father didn't punish me, he isn't happy with my performance tonight. I didn't get introduced to any of the young women looking for husbands. He's told me the next ball we go to, I have to mingle ... or else.

My stomach rolls. The thought of talking to anyone makes me break into a sweat, which stings as it creeps into the open cuts. I close my eyes and try to put a face to the shadow on the veranda. Nothing comes to mind except a fantasy of kind eyes and a gentle smile.

As I fall asleep, I imagine his arms wrapping around me. My shadow man holds me safe and makes the pain go away.

* * * *

Two nights later

The Duchess of Lincolnberg's house is beautiful. I feel like a serf who has been invited to the ball by mistake. I'm hoping to blend in, but can a donkey ever fit in with a stable of Thoroughbreds? I tug at the cuffs of the same black velvet frock I wear to every ball we attend. Father so dislikes spending money on me that I'm surprised he doesn't make me come here in my normal rags.

I'm not in as much pain tonight, having managed to avoid Father's wrath the last several days. He has had no reason to beat me, though that has never stopped him before. I mingle, as ordered, but don't stop to speak to anyone. I have no idea what the people milling around me are talking about, since the country house is isolated and gossip doesn't reach my ears. The servants don't even talk to me. Sometimes I wonder if Father forbade them to.

Keeping his orders in mind, I make my way to the punch bowl and begin dipping out a glass. I'm wondering what to do next when a woman stops next to me.

"Hello."

I glance around me to make sure she's talking to me. Shock rushes through my body. Why would she wish to speak to me? My hand shakes. I'd fear a trap by my father, but I don't see him, so perhaps I won't make a fool of myself. When I look at her, she's staring at me with expectant eyes.

I take a deep breath and say, "Hello."

She laughs softly. "I was afraid you would ignore me. Nothing worse than being ignored by a handsome man."

Heat fills my cheeks. Handsome? I wonder if she is blind. I'm not handsome. Father tells me that every day. Not knowing what to do, I hand her the glass of punch. She takes it and thanks me.

"I know it's not proper for us to talk to each other without being introduced." She laughs and for some reason, it makes me smile. There is a lighthearted air in it that I envy. "I've never been accused of being particularly proper. My name is Alice, the new Marchioness of Beckenworth. This is my first ball as a married woman and I'm a little nervous about how to act around Society." She holds out her free hand.

I rub mine on my thighs and bow over hers. I stutter over my name. I have no real connection to my name. It's my father's and therefore I have no claim to it. Nor do I wish to.

Her kind green eyes smile at me and I don't feel like such a fool. Alice isn't beautiful like many of the ladies I see circling the dance floor, but there is a prettiness in her face that tells me she is a gentle soul. Alice seems to be studying me and I wonder what she's looking for and if she found it. She looks out into the crowd and nods.

"It's nice to meet you. Unfortunately, I'm being summoned. Maybe we will meet again soon." She brushes her hand over my arm and disappears into the mob of people.

I dip out another glass of punch for myself. As I turn to face the dance floor, someone bumps into me but the jostling isn't enough to spill my drink. The intriguing scent of whiskey and man drifts to my nose. I've smelled it before, though I can't remember what ball I was at when this scent first soothed me. Something about it makes my body tense and the oddest sensation courses to my groin, making my prick hard.

I abruptly set my glass down and move away. Feeling that way is wrong ... punishment comes with the rising of my manhood. I wind my way around the room and wander onto the veranda, escaping the crush of people and perfume. I stroll to where the rail meets the wall and creates a small alcove to hide in. Shadows cover me as I stare into the garden.

Couples are slipping off farther down the paths. Part of me wonders what they do in the darkness, away from prying eyes. I have no experience with the opposite sex, not that I want any. I've found, to my pain, that my interest lies in another direction.

A boot scuffing the stone steps catches my attention and I shrink closer to the wall, praying the ivy will hide me.

A man stands just outside the doors. He stares out over the garden and sighs. If I were anyone else, I would ask him why he sighs with such melancholy. Instead I pray he doesn't see me.

A gentle breeze blows towards me and I catch the same comforting scent of whiskey and man I had smelled earlier. My body tenses and I press farther into the shadows, but strain to see the face of this elusive man. His features elude me, despite my efforts.

Another man joins him on the veranda and I bite my lip to keep from whimpering. I can't be seen. If Father knows I snuck away, the lash will greet me tonight.

"Why are you out here instead of fending off the ambitious mothers?" The newcomer gestures back to the house.

"I can't think while I'm in there, Harry. There's too much noise and it's far too hot for me." The first man looks up into the night sky.

"Thinking? What's bothering you that you need to run away to think about it?" Harry glances over his shoulder. "You can't spend too much time out here. Someone will come and drag you back in soon."

"An angel, Harry. I'm thinking about an angel." The longing in the man's voice brings tears to my eyes.

"Do you really think one exists?" Harry squeezes the man's shoulder.

"You found yours. Mine eludes me at every turn. But some day, I'll be able to hold mine. I know it." He glances up at the stars once more and turns to face the ballroom. "Let's go back in. I have no wish to be dragged back by some simpering maid."

I edge from my hiding place as they walk through the door. I want to look at this man who longs for an angel. It is Apollo from the other night, and again the light haloes his blond hair, turning it to glistening gold. He's tall and masculine, dressed in black. He turns as if he knows I'm watching and our eyes meet. His brilliant sky blue eyes light with joy. He steps toward me and I whirl, running from the terrace into the dark garden.

I know I'm being foolish. The delight in his eyes is not for me. He must have seen another friend or a lady he loves. But I can't control the shivers racing down my spine. It would be my ultimate dream to have such a man look at me with that much happiness in his face.

I drop to my knees, retching as fear tangles in my heart. My back begins to ache. I can't think these thoughts. I would be chained in my room for days if Father knew I grew hard at the sight of that stranger. He calls me crazy ... and this is one of those moments when I wonder if he's right. For only an insane man would wish for the touch of another male.

Yet a voice deep in my soul tells me that love is the most precious thing in the world.

But it's hard to believe in love when the old wounds on my back begin to throb.

I climb to my feet, shaking with fear and despair. Love is not for me. I'm chained to this dark world and haven't the courage to break the links holding me down. An image of a golden god with blue eyes flashes through my mind and I know I'll always have a secret fantasy of someone wanting me, no matter who or what I am.

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