Hope Carmichael is on the run. The only question is, from whom?
The mark on her neck has branded her as part of an ancient prophecy, the Bearer of the Key. But the Fallen Angels have misunderstood and think Hope is their long-awaited way to regain Heaven by force. Now Hope is chasing down the artifact that could open Heaven's Gates, while seeking to destroy it before the Fallen catch up with her. Will the Triad crime ring track Hope and exact their punishment before she gets the chance? Is the ragtag band of angels surrounding her now there to protect her, or imprison her? And will Michael, the Archangel sworn to defend Heaven at all costs, be forced to deny his love for Hope and take her life, instead, so that the artifact won't fall into enemy hands?
The epic narrative introduced in DARK HOPE continues in DARK RISING as Hope crisscrosses some of the most ancient sites in Europe and plumbs the depths of history in search of the truth about the Key, herself, and love. Exploring themes of identity, fate, jealousy, trust, and forgiveness, DARK RISING's mythological scope and moral urgency deepen as we come to understand the choices and consequences faced by a young woman determined to follow her heart and chart her own destiny.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.89(d)|
About the Author
Readers can learn more about Monica’s work and passions on her website at www.monicamcgurk.com.
Read an Excerpt
Dark Rising Book
Two of the Archangel Prophecies
By Monica McGurk
River Grove BooksCopyright © 2015 Monica McGurk
All rights reserved.
It was cold.
Not the kind of cold that nips your nose and makes you laugh as you stomp your feet to warm up, the briskness bringing a rosy glow to your cheeks and a sparkle to your eyes.
No, this cold was damp and insistent, working its way into my bones, dull and persistent, slowly eating away at me like nagging doubt.
I coughed, a harsh barking sound that echoed off the cobblestones of the empty courtyard, and three heads swiveled in unison to stare at me.
The looks on the angels' faces couldn't have been more different. Raph held nothing but disdain for me — the whole reason we were in this mess and a visible reminder of all he hated about humanity. Enoch, on the other hand, knowingly searched my face, deftly cataloging each and every sign of frailty or pain as if he could single-handedly take them away and make me whole again.
And Michael? Michael just frowned, his eyes remote, before turning away to stare once again up the crumbling, steep steps that led to the church's gate.
We'd set off for Istanbul only a day ago but now that we were here, everything that had happened in Las Vegas already seemed a distant memory.
More like a nightmare, Henri whispered in my mind.
I sighed, willing Henri, my guardian angel, away and walling off my thoughts from him. I knew he was right. Nothing had gone right since Michael came into my life back in Atlanta. I thought I'd made a new friend, getting off to a clean start after I filed for change of custody and moved in with my mom after years of living with my dad. I was in a new school, where nobody knew about how I'd been abducted as a child. Nobody knew about the Mark and how it had materialized, unbidden, upon my neck during my disappearance.
I traced its strange outline with my fingertip, lost deep in thought.
Nothing was as it seemed. I thought nobody knew about the Mark. But Michael may have, and it may have been the real reason he was interested in me to begin with. It designated me as part of an ancient Prophecy, the Bearer of the Key to Heaven's Gate. And because Michael wasn't just a teenage boy, but the Archangel charged with guarding Heaven's Gate, that meant ...
Even now, I could barely bring myself to think it.
It meant he couldn't have possibly ever loved me. For I was the Bearer of the Key. The one, according to the Prophecy, from whose hands the Fallen would receive the Key that unlocked Heaven's Gate to them, allowing them to overturn Heaven. How could Michael love me when he knew he might have to kill me to prevent that from ever happening?
Unless we found the Key and destroyed it before the Fallen Angels got to it, I reminded myself. If they got it, they'd use it to storm Heaven and fulfill the Prophecy. But we could find it first if we could only figure out where to look.
That's what took us to Las Vegas. We'd gone to see Enoch, Heaven's Librarian and an angel who had once been human himself. Enoch gave us the entire Prophecy but left it to us to decipher. We made no headway until after The Incident.
That's what I call it. The Incident. It sounds so innocuous, so clinical. It helps me skip over all the confusion of Before and After, the jumble of emotions that welled up in me when I remember what happened.
We were playing a dangerous game, talking our way into gambling with the Chinese syndicate that was responsible for the human trafficking ring that whisked my friend Ana from her hometown in Mexico to Atlanta and, eventually, to Vegas. I made Michael promise to help me find her, my own condition for going willingly with him to Las Vegas to search for the Key — the ancient artifact that would somehow open Heaven's Gate. The Prophecy mentioned it but didn't tell us what it was. The Fallen Angels — Michael's rival, Lucas, chief among them — mistakenly believed I was the Key. Our only chance of beating the Fallen, then, was to find the real Key before they caught up with us. If we found it, we could destroy it and prevent them from using it to gain entry into Heaven, overthrowing it, and casting the entire world into chaos. Michael grudgingly went along with my condition, impersonating my father in order to skirt airline procedures and accompany me, a minor, to Las Vegas. Once there, he pretended to be one of the traffickers, weaseling his way into their good graces in hopes of finding Maria. While doing so, he went hot and cold on me and treated me so callously it was easy to believe he wanted me dead.
I still felt a twinge of guilt, thinking of how my mother would blame my father for my disappearance, knowing that he would fall under suspicion and that it might make things even worse between my estranged parents. Michael assured me that the best way to protect my father was to create a trail of evidence that meant it was impossible for him to be with me. But still, as crazy as he might seem sometimes, he is my father, and I wish we'd been able to avoid dragging him into this. I couldn't help but wonder if our attempts to protect him made it worse for him instead.
In our search for the Key and Maria, we shut everything out. I was isolated and alone, unsure of whether I could trust Michael. As the Head of God's army, Michael had a special responsibility to defend and protect the innocent on Earth — refugees persecuted for their religious beliefs, peoples ravaged by war or brutalized by their own governments. Throughout history, he guarded them and saved them in the most improbable of ways. Yet, because of me, he has now abandoned his charges, blocking out their insistent cries for help in order to focus on me and our search. Whether it was as a reminder of his neglected duties, or a punishment for failing to take my life, God hounded Michael with unrelenting, crippling pain. He was warping under the weight of it, so that I couldn't tell if he really did hate me, or if it was part of his act.
When he surprised me with dinner on the night of my birthday, I let down my guard, believing him when he told me that he loved me. So naïve, I thought bitterly. But how could I have known that an Angel's love was not meant for humankind? What started out as a gentle kiss grew into much more, until the intensity of our need, the depth of Michael's emotion, literally turned him to flame.
My love is meant only for God, he'd explained, too late, when I'd woken up in a hospital bed to find that the flames had engulfed me, too.
I looked at my shiny skin, scarred everywhere he'd touched me. I bent my fingers, forming a fist and winced at the tightness, the pain.
Was it love or hate that caused him to throw me into that inferno? Did he mean to hurt me that night? I could never know for sure, but my marred skin would serve as a painful reminder of what happened.
That, plus the new powers of intuition that transferred from Michael to me. "God's cosmic joke," Henri called it. Just in case a human survived an encounter with an angel, He'd rigged it so the human would absorb the angel's powers. Just as our search was getting more dangerous, Michael was drained, unable to rely on the unerring instinct that guided him in the past. My own hunches often felt like stabs in the dark, but they helped us find and free Maria from the traffickers. And my newfound instincts revealed to me that the Key we were looking for wasn't a literal key; it was the rock that Cain used to slay his brother, Abel, millennia ago, a symbol of the divide over mankind's fate that rent the angelic host in two. How fitting that if it were recovered, the Fallen would use the very thing that had turned them against humanity — and God's authority — to overtake Heaven's Gate?
Henri would have called it another of God's jokes. It was because of Cain's crime that so many angels turned against humanity. And it was because Michael had protected Cain that so many angels hated Michael. Michael hated that rock, which humans came to treat as a sacred relic, twisting it into something to be venerated. He'd wished it away, resenting that it came to be associated with him. And now we must find it before it is too late.
That's what brought us here. My gut told me we would find the rock somewhere sacred to Michael, perhaps lost along the pilgrimage routes of the Crusades or buried under rubble along the way. When Michael told me about the Michaelion, the ancient church that the Emperor Constantine had dedicated to him, it sounded right. So we came to Turkey to look for it.
That was my first mistake.
The ancient sanctuary was gone, of course. What was once wild, isolated countryside had now been swallowed up by the waves of growth that turned Constantinople into modern-day Istanbul. The distant shores of Istinye were now just another city neighborhood. Where the shrine had stood, a modern shopping mall, all polished steel and glass, now reigned exultant.
We stood in the center of the mall, surrounded by shops that could have been in New York or Paris or Tokyo, and waited for some inspiration to guide me.
But nothing came.
Nothing but bitter accusations from Raph, the other Archangel whom Michael had roped into joining us, ostensibly as protection. Whether he was to protect me from Michael, or Michael from me, I wasn't sure.
Enoch — the other part of the security detail, and the one who'd revealed the full Prophecy to Michael and me — had told me to ignore him, but it was hard when I knew Raph blamed me for leading Michael astray and putting him at risk of Falling.
"So much for her vaunted skills," Raph spat out in anger, oblivious to the happy din of shopping that swirled about us. "We're lucky she didn't lead us straight to Lucas and the Fallen Ones."
"She's young," Enoch interjected, "and new at this. She is just learning her own powers. We shouldn't expect her to do it all alone. Plus, she's tired. She has barely slept since Las Vegas."
"Ah, yes, human weakness. How quaint. Just what we need at a time like this," Raph retorted. "What are we supposed to do now? Shop?"
The bickering escalated until Michael made what he called "an executive decision," forcing us out of the mall to wander the rain-swept streets of Istinye, dragging our duffels and backpacks behind us. It was an assault on my senses — the incessant honking of traffic; the booming horns, blasted by ships as they passed; the way modern streets would give way to narrow alleys, punctuated by coffee shops and fruit stalls and bakeries that seemed to have grown in that very spot hundreds of years ago; the juxtaposition of mosque with high rise; the strangeness punctuated by the sight of a woman wrapped in her headscarf climbing one foot out of her apartment window, high above the street, vigorously washing the glass in the sputtering rain; and, every now and then, the haunting song of the call to prayer, wafting over the chill air. After hours of searching, slowly winding our way down the hill and closer to the water, we found ourselves in the most run-down of alleys. I would have said we were lost, but Michael — far ahead of me now — had somehow found these crumbling steps and was climbing them with purposeful, renewed energy.
The two other angels moved about him, subtly shifting with his and my every move, shielding him from my view, and building a buffer of wind-driven space between us. They served as a wall — a wall of flesh and bone, meant to keep me away.
I trailed behind them as they climbed, watching for worn spots and crumbling rock, wary of falling. Their heated whispers bounced off the old brick and stone.
"You're lucky to have found it," Raph muttered. "There's not even a here, here. And after she said she knew where it was ..."
"She never said that," Enoch grunted with the effort of the climb. "She simply said she felt we were supposed to come to Turkey."
"Enoch's right," Michael added quietly, sighing. "I was the one who said we should come to Istanbul. The Michaelion was my idea. It seemed as good a place to start as any. And to be fair, I should have realized it wouldn't be here any longer. It's as much my fault that I didn't know where to find the church that had been rebuilt from its ruins. At least, not without some searching."
"It's a wild goose chase," Raph protested. "She has no idea what she's doing. How can you entrust this to her?"
"It's her Prophecy, Raph," Enoch chastised gently. "We have no choice but to trust it to her. Without her, we are all lost."
A metal gate, as gray as the weary sky, arched gracefully over the steep steps, and I stopped beneath it to rest. The delicate ironwork didn't seem of this age. I reached out my hand to touch the filigree, tracing the symbols, wondering what they meant. Droplets of water clung to the metal until my finger interrupted their tenuous hold, and they fell, one by one, like tears, my finger leaving a track against the cold metal.
"Better keep up now, Hope."
I looked up, startled, to find a red-faced Enoch had descended and was waiting a few steps above me. He reached out and proffered a bottle of water.
"Important to keep hydrated."
I took the bottle and skeptically eyed him as he wheezed with obvious strain.
"You're a funny one to be handing out health advice."
He snorted with a smile, waving me up the stairs. "Such impudence. Come on."
We began to climb slowly, side by side, Enoch leaning heavily on his cane. The frigid wind carried a faint whiff of his cologne past my nose.
"Enoch," I began, my curiosity piqued. "If you can choose how you materialize when you appear here on Earth, why do you choose ..." I paused, trying to find the right way to phrase my question. "Why don't you pick a human body more like Raph's, or Michael's?"
He fixed me with a stare from behind his aviator glasses. "You mean all 'hot'?"
He saw my embarrassment and laughed, a hearty sound that bounced off the ancient bricks and stones, filling up the emptiness around us.
"That is the word you teenagers use, isn't it? Why?" he demanded, sweeping an arm over his overweight, lumpy body like a showgirl. "Is the view not to your liking? Or are you worried I won't be able to protect you, if it comes to that?"
I blushed, hurrying to correct myself. "It's not for me. It just seems so hard for you. And unnecessary. Why not at least have a younger and healthier body?"
He leaned into the cane and hoisted himself up the final step, then stopped to catch his breath.
"I loved being human, Hope. Perhaps I didn't realize how much until my human life was gone. When I have the chance to be human again, I like to take the form I had back then, to remind me of what it was like."
He peered ahead into the dark shadows of the church's portal. "Some look at human frailty and see only weakness and heap their scorn upon it. Others see it as an invitation to put themselves in the hands of God and accept his grace. How one views it is a choice."
He reached a hand down the steps and pulled me up, gently. "This is what is left of Michael's famous shrine, the Michaelion: a chapel built from its rubble. They are waiting for you inside." With a tiny push, he sent me ahead of him.
I quickly took in the church, moss growing in the cracks between the stones, modest on a patch of dirt and worn grass. It seemed built into the surrounding buildings and hillside, engulfed — or perhaps protected — by the shelter they provided. A cement sidewalk ran the width of it, leading to some distant apartment buildings. The yawning distance to the stoop of the church seemed impossible to cross, but I forced my feet to shuffle across the stones and ducked slightly to enter. As I did, a fat cat perched in one of the windowsills looked at me imperiously and, with a whisk of its tail, disappeared from the ledge.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The few high windows cast little light in the fading shadows of late afternoon, leaving it to the stands of flickering candles to show the way. A gallery graced by pillars marked off the entry, which gave way to a small, open space, cut in half by an aisle that led in a straight line through a jumble of folding chairs. Stained glass windows, a simple pattern of circles, ran the length of the chapel, casting a dull glow of scarlet, peacock, and emerald, even in the day's gloom. A simple altar stood at the end of the aisle. Above it hung a stylized crucifix, flanked on either side by portraits of a winged, armored angel wielding a flaming sword, striking down a serpent whose long tail was entwined about the soldier's feet.
Excerpted from Dark Rising Book by Monica McGurk. Copyright © 2015 Monica McGurk. Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
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