Chapter One excerpt — 2016 Love, Christmas Collection — HARK THE HERALD ANGEL FALLS by Michele Hauf
Hey! It’s a christmas story! And…it’s May and 80 degrees outside. It never ceases to make me laugh at how my writing tends to have me working on winter stories in the summer and vice versa. Today I’ve got an excerpt from HARK THE HERALD ANGEL FALLS, a paranormal novella featured in the Love, Christmas anthology due out in September. This story is set in my world of Beautiful Creatures. I added a bit more than Chapter One because well, you’ll see why.
Crisp snowflakes dusted their faces and stirred up laughter as Merit and Luke Dawson swished their arms up and down across the packed snow. They lay side by side beneath the quiet glow of a streetlight in a corner of a Paris city park. Luke stood and clasped his wife’s hand to pull her up beside him as they looked over their handiwork.
“Not bad,” he decided.
“Not bad? We rock at snow angels.” Merit’s bright blue eyes danced as she landed his embrace and gave him a cold, wet kiss laced with snowflakes. “I love you so much.”
“I love you more than the world,” he replied.
“I know you do. Sometimes when I’m home alone, I can feel you thinking about me.”
She nodded effusively and snowflakes sifted from her thick, wavy black hair. “When the loft is quiet, I can feel your love for me as if it’s something I can reach out and grasp. Don’t ever leave me, Luke.”
“I swear I won’t. You’ll always feel my love, wherever you are. Now, are you sure you want to go with that image?” he teased as they looked over their impromptu snow angels. “Really? You? An angel?”
Mocking outrage with a pout of her snow-kissed pink lips, Merit nudged him with an elbow. “You love my devilish side.”
“No halo for Merit Dawson, and that’s the way I like it. Especially when you get that wicked, sexy glint in your eyes—like now—and I know what’s coming next.”
She plunged against him, wrapping her legs about his waist and kissing him hard and sloppy. Her attack kisses always ended in their laughter, and, if they were anywhere near a bed, long and lingering sex.
“Happy first anniversary, lover,” Luke said against her mouth.
“And Merry Christmas,” she added.
“Only you could have convinced me to get married on Christmas Eve.”
“I love Christmas. It’s the one day that bursts with love. Can you feel it?”
He did, and the feeling radiated from deep in his soul. “I almost forgot. I have a surprise for you. It’s in the car. Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
Merit dropped from their embrace and then lunged to grab a stray branch from the snow. “I’m going to draw a halo on your angel.”
“Don’t forget the horns and tail for yours!” Luke called as he strode toward the Renault parked around a hornbeam hedge and at the curb.
Running, he performed a slide across the slick, packed snow and landed the car door with a slap of his gloved palms and a chuckle. Merit did that to him. Lifted his heart and made him feel like a kid who’d just been gifted a sleigh full of Christmas toys. A year of marriage had felt like a mere day. His job as a traveling jewelry salesman allowed him to set his own schedule, and sometimes take Merit along. The next year promised great and wondrous things standing alongside his gorgeous wife and seeing the world through her optimistic eyes.
He opened the door and popped open the glove compartment. From inside, he drew out the heart-shaped diamond necklace. He tapped the five-carat diamond. “Adamant, like my love for you.”
Merit’s scream shattered Luke’s happiness. Dread curdled in his throat. He took off toward the park, leaving the car door open, and the necklace dangling from his clasped fist.
Frost etched the hospital window. The glow of a star topping the Christmas tree in the neighboring churchyard winked defiantly at Luke. The ambulance had delivered he and his wife to Hôtel Dieu half an hour earlier. They’d rolled Merit into another room, a creased white sheet covering her face. A young male doctor stood at his side now, talking, saying…something.
Luke wasn’t listening. He couldn’t hear. He didn’t want to hear.
She was gone. And he remained.
Something wrong with that. It should have been him.
The church bells clanged roughly, marking the eve of a great savior’s birth. Luke swallowed and the air pressure adjusted, siphoning into his brain the doctor’s voice on quiet but cutting words.
“…we did all we could.”
Sitting on a plastic chair outside the room where his wife had been treated, Luke gritted his jaw, wincing at the pain from the wounds on his neck. A nurse had bandaged him and asked if he’d like something for the pain. The pain? What drug could take away the pain he felt from the indelible wound to his heart where Merit had been viciously cut away?
“I can tell you she didn’t feel a thing,” the doctor continued. “When she hit the back of her head, it knocked her out. She wasn’t conscious to experience any pain.”
Luke tilted his head back against the wall and bit his lower lip. “You’re lying. I saw her while three of them held me back. There were two of them on her. She screamed. She didn’t stop screaming.” He met the doctor’s bloodshot eyes. “She felt it all.”
“Just leave,” Luke said. “Get away from me.”
The doctor receded, as did the blurry haze of the Christmas star. Snowflakes fell over the world. Including Luke’s heart.
Clasping the diamond heart necklace he hadn’t a chance to give his wife before the vampires had attacked, he strode out of the hospital.
Paris, almost a year later…
Snowflakes sifted across the Seine and floated a few seconds before melting into the icy waters. Luke leaned against the river wall, watching the last bateaux mouche pack up for the night. Even in this chilly weather crazy tourists hopped onto the boat ride that would sail them by the famous monuments and buildings. Christmas landed in a week. Shouldn’t those mortals be home, snuggled next to the ones they loved?
At least they had loved ones.
Sighing heavily, he tilted his head and his skull hit the limestone wall hard as he stared into the charcoal sky. Difficult to find a star standing here in the center of the City of Light. A bright and beautiful star reigned up there in the heavens somewhere.
“Merit,” he whispered his dead wife’s name. “I miss you.” His throat closing up, his heart muscles clenched.
“They’re lighting the tree tomorrow night at the Galeries Lafayette,” said the bum standing beside him.
Francois was a riverside regular. He knew Luke would hand him a few euros if he was quiet while Luke muddled in his usual late-night pondering before he went out to scam for a thief to provide the sustaining blood he required.
Luke hated drinking blood. Not so much the taste of it, but the whole living off another’s life to survive thing did not sit well with his morals. Did he need to survive? He’d lost everything that meant anything to him that night the vampires had attacked he and his wife. He could still hear Merit’s screams. Until that moment, he’d not heard terror touch her voice. She’d always been happy, fun and sexy, and a bit of a smart ass.
He’d give anything for that sassy little tongue to slip out the corner of her mouth right now, followed by a twinkle in her bright blue eyes. Just to see her one last time. Not screaming. To kiss her. To hold her so tightly nothing could ever rip her away from him.
“You’ve never been in the Galeries Lafayette,” he said to the bum.
“Right, but I can look in the windows. Pretty things in there.”
There was but one pretty thing Luke wished for, and he could never have it now.
“I was going to make an early night of it,” Francois said.
Luke got the hint. A roll of ten euro notes were coiled in his pocket. He shoved a hand in to forage for a few bills—and decided to hand Francois the whole roll. Francois hooted.
And a burst of brilliant light flashed across the river.
Something hit the water with a crack. Impact landed in the center, yet it spread out in waves of shimmering light in a definite shape.
“Did you see that?” Francois hooted again. “It was a bloody angel!”
It had looked like a person. With wings? That had been the shape he’d seen shimmer in the water. Impossible. Yet if it was a person, they’d never survive the freezing water.
Luke shrugged off his leather jacket. “I have to save her.”
For more info on Michele’s books visit michelehauf.com