Fallen warrior angel, Caden Silverwind, lives alone in Colorado's rugged Rockies, healing from physical wounds as well as the mental anguish suffered during battles with dark demons. Then he finds a woman barely clinging to life after a horrendous beating. He is not prepared for the entanglement she brings to his life, nor the feelings she awakens in him.
Bureau of Indian Affairs Agent, Mystic Rayne’s personal dilemma and assignment nearly gets her killed. Divine intervention is a complication she never expected and her growing attraction to Caden is undeniable. Can she trust him with her secret?
Their quest to uncover her attacker takes them from the pristine mountains in Colorado to the wilds of Wyoming. Along the way, they find answers which may place them in more danger. Determined to solve the mystery, they must also navigate their feelings and fears to find love and unite heaven and earth.
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Screams of terror accompanied by mournful howls pierced the crisp night air as Caden Silverwind settled into his chair in front of a crackling campfire. Shadows from the flames danced across the dark tree trunks, curling and twisting in mesmerizing shapes. He had heard it all before, but tonight the usual ceremonial chants ended with menacing growls and a sudden eerie silence, rather than the quiet winding down of previous nights.
Maybe he should investigate the unearthly sounds that echoed against the canyon walls, but he just couldn't. The last battle with dark demons had nearly destroyed his body and shattered his soul. He'd known it was coming for nearly a year. The darkness seeped into his consciousness a little more with each battle.
He talked with his legion commander who ultimately decided the feeling would pass. It didn't. At least he hadn't endangered the mission when he'd failed to act. Once shimmering marble-gray wings, now hung charcoal black. At first, his muscles were weak. He was barely able to bring them forth from his back to brush the air. Even the slightest movement causing severe pain and fatigue.
Against the advice of his superiors, he'd chosen an indefinite sabbatical in the Colorado Rockies. The rugged strength and majestic beauty allowed him the serenity to pick up the pieces, face his fears, and contemplate the future. If there was one. Perhaps I should've remained among the warrior angels and used the facilities above to heal physically and repair what is left of my damaged soul. He shook his head slowly taking in the bounty of nature around him. With daily exercise, his wings were getting stronger and his stamina increasing, still he had a way to go. No, I made the right decision. Leaning back in his chair, he relaxed and watched the dancing flames consume the logs until glowing embers were all that remained in the fire ring.
He stood and stretched his arms above his head, letting out a jaw-popping yawn as he walked over to a five-gallon bucket of water. He tossed the water on the embers, trod up the steps to his home and fell into bed. Tossing and turning, dreams kept him awake for most of the night.
Sunrise brought an orange glow spreading over the top of Independence Pass, bathing the valley in warm golden sunlight. He stood on the ridge with wings spread, brushing the breeze and absorbing the sun's warmth. Feels better than yesterday. Finally, I'm gaining some strength back. It was time to move on to Maroon Bells and the lake to enjoy summer in the Rocky Mountains. Carefully, he tucked his wings in and picked his way down the trail. Dislodged rocks and sticks bounced down the path ahead of him as he stopped to admire the view and noticed something in the brush.
A woman lay naked, battered, and beaten several yards off the trail. Her long, straight black hair fanned around her head, tangled with twigs and bits of grass. He moved silently toward her, stopped, and picked up a Bureau of Indian Affairs ID a few feet from where she lay. He stuffed it in his pocket while watching the surrounding area for signs of her attackers.
Kneeling at her side, he saw scratches and bruises on her high-sculpted cheekbones and her full lips had a tinge of blue around them. He placed his hand lightly on her chest, felt a weak heartbeat, and sensed a brave soul unwilling to give up. God, this is the last thing I need.
Summoning medical help was futile. The altitude at 12,092 feet, combined with rocky terrain, made it difficult for most rescue vehicles. They'd be too late to save her. He slid his hands under her body. At his touch, a scene unfolded in his mind of snarling wolves, the valiant fight she waged against a male until she was too weak to defend herself any longer, then blackness. Anger surged through him as he carried her along the rocky path to the fifth wheel trailer he called home.
Settling her gently on the bed, he retrieved a sponge, a washcloth, and small tub of warm water from the bathroom. He began gently cleansing the deep gashes inflicted by canine teeth along with several long deep rows of claw marks. Turning her over carefully, he swore, wincing as he wrung out the sponge exchanging it for a soft washcloth. It appeared she'd been dragged a long distance over rough terrain leaving small rocks and gravel embedded in her back. She'd lost a large amount of blood and her backside was a raw bleeding mess. Without his intervention, she wouldn't survive.
Still healing himself, he wasn't sure if he had the strength to heal her on his own, or what it would cost him, but there was no other choice. He finished cleaning her wounds and shrugged out of his shirt and jeans, slid his warm muscular body next to her frigid one, then wrapped his arms around her, lifting her gently. Finally, he wrapped his wings around both of them. His dark hair fell across his forehead, and a subtle silver light enveloped them as the sun rose high in the sky.
When he awoke, the full moon was drifting across the star-strewn western sky. As he lay staring out the bedroom window, he considered the situation. Above the jagged mountain peaks streaks of pink and orange mingled in the dusky-blue sky. Dawn had arrived. Somehow, they'd both survived the night. Her breathing was regular, her body warm and relaxed against him. She was still unconscious.
Slowly, he opened his wings and carefully slid away from her. A bright patchwork quilt lay folded at the bottom of the bed. He drew the quilt over her, stood, stretching his arms above his head, then leaned over and placed his palms flat on the floor, willing his stiff muscles to relax.
After several minutes, he straightened, rolling his shoulders, and tucking his wings gingerly into his back while pulling on a pair of jeans. Wearily, he dropped into a chair beside the bed to wait. He picked up her Bureau of Indian Affairs ID from the nightstand, turning it over repeatedly, considering the possibilities. Leaning back in the chair, his body relaxed, but his stomach rumbled loudly. He pushed up out of the chair.
Warm sunlight streamed through the kitchen window as he stirred a pot of oatmeal on the three-burner stove. A low moan came from the bedroom and he breathed a sigh of relief. She was coming around, finally. He flipped off the burner, poured the oatmeal into two bowls, grabbed a couple of spoons, and silently ascended the three stairs. He shouldered the curtain aside that separated the bedroom from the bath and living areas. Huge chocolate- brown eyes wide with terror watched him enter and move slowly to the side of the bed. Using his powers of persuasion, he created an aura of calm around her.
"Don't be afraid. You're safe here," he murmured. "You've slept a long time. Hungry? I've a warm bowl of oatmeal ready. It'll put you right, I guarantee." Smiling he eased himself down on the foot of the bed and put one bowl on the floor beside him. The other bowl and spoon he extended toward her.
Warily, she watched him, carefully licking her swollen, cracked lips. Slowly, she reached for the small bowl. He slid up the bed, placing it in her hand, his hand supporting hers.
"Can you sit up a bit?" He wanted to slide his hands under her, but the fear in her eyes, made him reconsider.
She nodded, pushing herself up with a groan, keeping her eyes on his as she reached for the spoon.
He picked up the bowl from the floor and scooped a spoonful into his mouth, savoring the warm oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. He swallowed the bite and glanced sideways at his patient. She hadn't touched her food yet. "Eat. I'll get you a glass of water and be right back. Oh, by the way, I'm Caden, and you are?" He gave her a friendly smile, held up one finger, then disappeared around the corner.
When he returned with a bottle of water, she blinked at him as if to clear bleary vision while she studied him. After several minutes, in a hoarse scratchy voice, she blurted. "I'm Mystic ... Mystic Rayne." Her bronze cheeks pinked when she glanced down at her naked body. Grimacing, she yanked up the quilt to cover herself. The bowl of oatmeal careened off the bed, he caught it before the dish hit the floor and offered it to her. A quiet moan slipped from her lips as she eased back on the bed, then reached for the bowl.
Wincing, he watched the pained expression cross her face. He moved to the closet, took out a well-worn flannel shirt and gently tossed it to her. Returning to the bed, he picked up his oatmeal bowl. "Be right back, then we can talk. Okay?"
Not waiting for an answer, he popped another spoonful of lukewarm oatmeal in his mouth and left the room. Frowning, he cradled the bowl in his hand and padded down the stairs into the kitchen. He shoved the bowl in the microwave for a minute then took it out and grabbed another bottle of water from the fridge and returned to the bedroom. He twisted the cap from one bottle and set it on the nightstand next to her.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, his eyes met hers for a brief moment. He took a swig of his water and shifted his gaze out the window, hoping the lack of direct eye contact would make her feel more comfortable.
He listened to the metal spoon scrape the ceramic bowl as she ate. When the sounds stopped, he ventured a look in her direction. She watched him intently while taking a sip from the water bottle.
In a gentle voice, he asked, "Feel like a little conversation?" Shifting his body farther onto the bed, he spooned up another bite, this one hotter than hell. He sucked in a breath.
She shook her head slowly and leaned against the pillows.
"Don't want to talk? I understand, but there are a few questions that need answered to assure our safety in the short term." He gave her his best devastatingly charming smile as he tucked the blanket around her legs, noting the shirt he'd offered her still lay on the bed. "Who did this to you? Will someone come looking for you possibly to make sure you're dead or finish the job?"
"I don't know," she murmured. A single tear rolled down her cheek. Sighing deeply, she turned her face away from him and stared out the window. After a few minutes, she closed her eyes.
"Okay." He patted her leg, took her empty bowl, and stood. "Get some rest. I'll be back in a little while."
He returned to the kitchen, washed the bowls and spoons, and set them in the drainer to dry. He gulped down the remainder of his bottle of water, tossed it in the trash. Pausing at the door, he flipped the lock from the inside, stepped outside and closed the door quietly.
What now? His breath fogged in the early morning air. Spring was slow in coming to the lands above timberline, but small greens shoots were quickly covering the barren ground. He let his mind wander away from the problem lying in his bed and took a deep cleansing breath in the crisp mountain air.
Independence Pass intrigued him. Part of the Continental Divide where the watersheds divided flowing downward in opposite directions to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the pass offered the solitude he craved during off- season, but the winters were too harsh even for him.
Well not personally, but it took more than divine intervention to keep the trailer's lines from freezing. The haul truck was a bit cantankerous about starting at thirty to forty degrees below zero. Not to mention the large amounts of snow the pass got all winter long. He'd spent the winter at a lower elevation and recently returned.
He walked around the trailer, touching the sleek insulated panels fondly. At one time, he considered renting a comfortable cabin somewhere in the Rockies, but he was too restless to stay in one place. Instead, he chose a thirty-eight foot, three-axel, deep burgundy fifth-wheel trailer, with matching haul truck. It was the right choice.
He enjoyed the panoramic rear window offering spectacular views from one of two frosty gray upholstered recliners that sat on either side of the window. An oak coffee table with pole lamp attached to the floor held his drink of choice. He was comfortable here, and no one bothered him, yet. Another month the area would be crawling with tourists and he'd move on.
The trailer was equipped with a generator and solar panel charging system. He didn't depend on typical campgrounds for services. He was free to pick a campsite anywhere his rig fit that allowed overnight or long-term camping.
He divided his time between primitive camping areas or campgrounds around Maroon Bells, and occasionally wandered as far as Cripple Creek. All this to avoid contact with humans or other creatures and the problems they created. Yet, here he was smack dab in the middle of one hell of a mess. Lifting his eyes toward the heavens, he shook his head slowly. "Just couldn't leave me alone in peace."
Tapping his hand once more on the trailer, he turned on the balls of his feet and silently sprinted down the trail surveying the surrounding area. The physical activity helped clear his mind and relax his body. After running a couple miles, trees dotted the landscape and he slowed his pace. Suddenly icy fingers shot up his spine. Soundlessly, he spun on his heel checking the immediate area then ducked behind a huge tree. Agitated male voices rose in the wind as he crouched listening.
"Yeah, boss we got a problem. We found where she apparently bled out, but there is no body." One of the voices said. Then a couple minutes of silence hung in the air. "I know she didn't disappear into thin air, but there are no signs of her either."
"Got it." The man cursed loudly and ended the call.
"You hung up on the boss?" the other voice inquired incredulously.
"What did he say?"
"He said don't fucking come back until we find her, if we value our skins." The first voice was clearly angry.
"We look some more," the second voice stated. "We gotta be missing something."
"No. We just don't go back. This is Ethan's mess let him clean it up. He shouldn't have attacked her in the first place. Especially in front of the tribe."
"Where do we go? He'll hunt us down and dispose of us."
"Not if the law finds him first."
"What are you saying, we turn him in?"
"Not yet. He's in Wyoming, busy with casino business. He can't leave right now. Find out how many of the tribe members were present last night and remember what happened. Most were shit-faced."
"That's just stupid. Got a death wish? I sure don't."
"Shut up. Let me think."
He crept down the trail toward the voices, careful to stay out of their line of sight. All he could think about was getting a good look at these men, so he could sketch their faces for Mystic. Rounding a bend in the path, a small clearing spread out in front of him. He froze like a deer in the headlights for a beat, backpeddled, then stepped to the side of the path. Crouching low, he hid behind a clump of evergreen shrubs and a huge tree.
Approximately forty feet in front of him stood two individuals. They were darker skinned, one with short black hair, tall and muscular build. The other man had long stringy dark hair, short and stocky. Both dressed in jeans and T-shirts with faded writing on the front and jean jackets, they stared menacingly at each other.
The stringy haired man said, "Don't tell me what to do. I'm going to clear out of here and disappear for a while."
"You're not going anywhere. We gotta stick together, if we're going up against Ethan. Which is the only way we won't end up like her. Unless of course ..." The black-haired man shoved a finger into the other guy's chest causing him to stumble backward. "... you know where the body is."
Lunging forward, he grabbed the front of the other man's shirt. "Ya know damned well I don't."
Wrenching the guy's fingers from his shirt, the taller man shoved the other man to the ground and stepped over him. "Let's get back to the car and get out of here."
The second man got up and dusted himself off, glancing around nervously, then followed.
Gravel crunched under foot as they headed directly toward him. He held his breath and watched as they drew closer. Sweat beaded up on his brow. They made a sharp right not more than four feet in front of him, followed the path up to the road and away from him. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his jacket and leaned back against a tree.
It seemed like an eternity before he heard the roar of an engine and squeal of tires on pavement. He bounced on the balls of his feet, his wings still too weak to carry him very far and took off at a run toward his home. At last, the trailer came into view, he slowed to a walk, his muscles aching as he trudged up the path. He stopped just outside the door to compose himself and listen for any movement. Silence.
The key turned in the lock with a click. He walked through the door quietly, and over to the stairs. Glancing to the right, through the open curtain to the bedroom, he saw her still asleep. Relieved, he tiptoed to the couch, reached underneath it, and pulled out his sketchpad. He sat down, toed off his shoes and swung his legs onto the couch, bending his knees to prop the pad against his thighs.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "An Angel's Unintentional Entanglement"
Copyright © 2018 Tena Stetler.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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