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A Memory of Chocolate
By Amy Lane
Because Familiar Angel takes place over the span of 140 years, much of the love story in the present day is twined with events in the past. Like real memories, the important ones don’t always come in a linear development. They often come when someone needs the memory the most. (Shows like The Pretender and Supernatural that stretch long enough for the stars who play the young leads to grow up often run into trouble with this. Fortunately for me, the casting for the young actors are all in your head!)
This is a memory twined with a real-time event. Harry and Suriel are on a “job” or a “mission” to get a group of girls to safety—but time on the road is time on the road, and painful confessions often come to pass.
The real-time moment happens in the aftermath of such a painful confession.
The moment between Harry and Emma takes place long ago, in the past…
A yawn took over Suriel’s body, and Harry had to laugh. Apparently parts of being human took him by surprise.
“You want to use the bed, don’t you?” he asked kindly.
Suriel shook his head and settled down more comfortably. “This is fine,” he said through another yawn. “I just… I want you to know. I know you’re still afraid of Big Cass—of having no faith in the world again, of being all alone. But you rebuilt faith in your heart with the love of your brothers, your parents—on that alone. That took more courage than facing Big Cass ever could.”
Suriel yawned again, and then, like a child, fell asleep.
Harry was left with the roar of the diesel engine and the hum of the tires on the tattered pavement as they rumbled through the night.
Mornings in Mendocino were frequently cold. It didn’t snow there often, but there was usually a sharp, wet wind blowing off the ocean, and the combination of cold and damp could chill a man to his vitals, make brittle his viscera and bones.
Within a week of moving to the tiny, drafty cabin that would become a mansion—and their home—Harry realized that Emma, who had power at her fingertips to command as an old and studied witch, woke up early every morning to start a fire in the Ben Franklin stove in the center of the room.
The boys had gotten used to sleeping as cats very quickly; they preferred it. Cats woke up fully, in an instant—nobody surprised a cat in the way Big Cass had been known to surprise the boys. And they were furry and, if they slept in a huddle, warm.
But Emma would get up early anyway, stoke the fire, and put on hot water for tea or coffee.
After a week, Harry was curious enough to turn human to ask her what she was doing.
First she greeted him with a warm sweater and thick socks to pull on, as well as a stocking cap and a blanket over his shoulders—the cold was stunning.
Then she poured him a hot cup of coffee, wrapped the tin cup in a towel, and pressed his fingers to the warm sides.
“Now what did you want to ask me, Harry?”
Harry stared at her and tried to keep his face composed. “Nothing,” he rasped. “Just… trying to figure out what we did to deserve all this.”
Emma’s smile illuminated stars and warmed planets—Harry was sure of it. “You boys just… just agreed, Harry. Jumped into my carpet bag as cats and came to start a new life. I just don’t want to make you sorry you took a chance on me, you understand?”
Harry nodded and sipped his coffee.
And realized that love came in the strangest of gestures, the most infinitesimal of signs.
They reached Visalia about an hour before dawn, and Harry urged Suriel to stretch out in the back quarter of the truck.
“Come sleep with me.” Suriel yawned. “I’ll set wards, Harry—they’ll wake you soon enough.”
Harry checked in with Edward, who had been dozing for the last hundred miles anyway and was apparently tucked into one of the bedrolls they’d brought. He told Harry he was setting his own wards and then fell back asleep, as a man or a cat, Harry couldn’t tell.
“Okay.” Harry yawned, trusting. Suriel turned on his side, and Harry went furry and glided up against his chest.
Suriel’s hands, stroking his ears back, smoothing his whiskers flat, reassured him on a primal level.
“When we’re less tired, I would love to do this with you as a man,” Suriel whispered.
Harry lapped delicately at his forearm. Well, yes. But not now. Harry was feeling too raw, too wounded now. He would just appreciate that arm holding him strongly, reminding him that he didn’t have to be alone.
He woke up semipanicked, Suriel’s spot next to him cool in the morning chill. Someone was opening the door to the cab, and Harry hissed, skittering back, heart pounding, every alarm in his head going off, when Suriel’s voice greeted him.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I went to get you and the boys some chocolate. I hope that’s okay.”
Harry turned abruptly human, perched on his knees on the uncertain ground of the mattress.
“That’s….” Suriel handed him the paper cup, and he took it automatically, smiling shyly into Suriel’s eyes. Harry lost the reason he was frightened and upset and took the hot chocolate, dazed and stunned. Suriel’s eyes, that warm, rich chocolate brown, mesmerized him.
“That’s what?” Suriel asked, teasing.
“You’re here,” Harry said. “In the morning again. That’s wonderful.”
Suriel’s smile spread, went blinding, and Harry felt as though he’d said something brilliant instead of something obvious.
“I’ll go see how the girls are doing.” Suriel placed a pastry bag in his hand.
Then Suriel disappeared, closing the door behind him, and Harry was left in the rapidly heating central valley, drinking hot chocolate and remembering the feeling of his fingers wrapped around a towel-insulated tin cup in a drafty cabin next to the ocean.
Harry wasn’t stupid. He knew what it was that bound the two memories together.
They twined around his heart as he closed his eyes and sipped his chocolate.
One hundred and forty years ago, Harry, Edward, and Francis met an angel, a demon, and a sorceress while escaping imprisonment and worse! They emerged with a new family—and shapeshifting powers beyond their wildest dreams.
Now Harry and his brothers use their sorcery to rescue those enslaved in human trafficking—but Harry’s not doing so well. Pining for Suriel the angel has driven him to take more and more risks until his family desperately asks Suriel for an intervention.
In order for Suriel to escape the bindings of heaven, he needs to be sure enough of his love to fight to be with Harry. Back when they first met, Harry was feral and angry, and he didn’t know enough about love for Suriel to justify that risk. Can Suriel trust in Harry enough now to break his bonds of service for the boy who has loved his Familiar Angel for nearly a century and a half?
“Hide!” Harry had just enough presence of mind to grab Francis’s other side to help Edward pull him through the thicket of brambles that lined the river. Bleeding, dirty, breathless, they slid to a halt in a hollow between the blackberry bushes and the hill, lying on their stomachs, Francis sandwiched between them. Francis, who had received a terrible scratch from the corner of his mouth to the corner of his eye, moaned in pain. Harry shushed him, and Edward placed a gentle hand over his mouth.
A woman, clothed in blinding, glowing white, burst into the clearing with a man—man?—draped over her shoulder. His clothes were red velvet, and thick curly hair grew all over his face and large skull, like a goat’s.
His back feet were cloven.
“Leonard,” she begged. “Leonard… darling. Wake up. Wake up. I need your help.”
Leonard—the thing… man—rolled his head, much like Francis had done, and moaned. “Emma, leave me. If they find me with you… if they find Mullins here….”
“Mullins!” the woman whispered. “Mullins—I’m losing him. Oh please—Mullins, he’s losing himself again.”
“I’m losing myself again!” came a terrible growl, and another Leonard-like thing stepped into the clearing—this one very obviously glowing red. “Emma, we need to do the ritual. I can’t….” The monster thing, Mullins, let out a horrifying series of snuffling grunts and growls. “I’ll turn,” he said, sounding tearful—if a beast could be in tears. “I’ll turn and gut you both.”
“I understand,” she whispered. “You’ve been very brave. Here.” She set Leonard on the ground then and started to pull items from a leather satchel across her shoulder. “We’ll do it right now.”
“This isn’t the ceremonial place!” Mullins said, sounding despondent. “It’s not cleansed, it’s not prepared—”
To Harry’s surprise, Emma put a tender hand on the beast’s cheek. “My sweet boy, you’ve been too long in hell. We don’t need the trappings of the spell—although the things in those hex bags should help us focus. We just need ourselves, and our good intentions, and our desire.”
Mullins’s grunt was self-deprecating. “The road to hell is the one paved with good intentions,” he said gruffly.
“That’s only because the demons trying to get to earth walked that path first,” she said, sounding cheeky. In their quiet interaction, Harry got a better look at her. Not young—over twenty—but not old either, she was beautiful in every sense of the word. Straight nose, even teeth, perfectly oval face, and blonde hair that streamed, thick and healthy, to her waist, she was what every boy should dream about when he went to sleep hoping for a wife.
Harry didn’t dream about girls, but he could look at this one and know the appeal.
But it was more than the physical beauty—and she had it all, soft hips, small waist, large breasts—there was the kindness to the beasties. The gentleness and calm she radiated when Mullins had threatened her.
Suddenly Harry had a powerful yearning for his mum, when she’d been dead for nearly five years.
“Here,” Emma said, breaking the sweetness of the moment. “Take the hex bags—there’s ten. Make a pentagram with me and Leonard in the center. I’m summoning an angel, love. You may want to leave when you’re done. I’ve no guarantees he’ll be friendly to you.”
“That’s not news,” Mullins said dryly and began his task. “Do you…. Emma, I know you’re powerful. You summoned my master for knowledge on power alone. But all else you have done, you have done out of love.”
“Including persuade you to our side,” she said. While he set the hex bags, she was stretching Leonard out before her, stripping his shirt with deft, practiced movements. The skin underneath the clothes was smooth and human, and Harry felt nauseated at the abomination of beast and man.
But Emma seemed to care for him.
“It would be worth any torture,” Mullins said softly, pausing in his duties, “to know Leonard will live.”
“Come with us!” Emma begged. “I may not love you like I love Leonard, but you’ve been a good friend to us. Please—”
Mullins shook his head. “It’s not enough to break me free,” he said, and his bestial smile would haunt Harry and Edward for years. “Someone would have to love me enough to sacrifice for me, and make no mistake, Emma. This will come down to your sacrifice. You will be stripped of your power, your youth—are you sure you want to do this?”
Emma let out a sigh. “I would live a mortal lifetime without worry,” she said softly. “But I do not want him all alone without me. ’Twould be cruel.” She closed her eyes for a moment, and then—
Harry gasped and heard Edward do the same.
She was looking right at them.
“I’m about to do something very wrong,” she said, great conviction carrying in her serenity. “But I think something very right too. Carry on, Mullins, but run as soon as you are done.” Her voice dropped. “Please, my friend—I’ll have enough weighing on my soul for tonight’s doings as it is.”
Mullins continued to bustle, and as he set the last hex bag down, Emma began to chant. Mullins traced a circle in the dirt around the outside bags, and then, when the circle ends touched, he pulled out a knife.
Emma nodded unhappily at him and then bit her lip as he cut a line on his palm and let the blood drip on the sealed ends of the dirt line. He and Emma looked at each other again, a strong friendship locking their gaze, before he turned and lurched away, his gait awkward and crippled on his cloven hooves. Harry felt some compassion for him then, poor beast, good friend—but his gaze didn’t linger.
He was too busy watching the white light around Emma grow larger, filling the space inside the pentagram like a bowl.
The light exploded outward, filling the clearing itself, and then one more time, just a few feet more.
Harry and Edward stared at each other, terrified.
They were in the light circle as well.
“Glory!” Edward whispered, and Harry was too shaken to quiet him.
Francis stirred between them and opened his eyes slowly. For a moment Harry feared that he’d startle and scream—Harry certainly would have raised a bloody great hue and cry—but then, Francis wasn’t Harry.
He parted his bruised lips and smiled.
“An angel,” he breathed, and Harry turned his attention back to the center of the clearing.
Where an angel appeared.
Harry’s heart stopped in his throat. Tall—because of course, right? An angel would be tall. Clothed in robes that glittered like diamonds, whiter than pearls he was. His hair was a marvelous flame-gold color, red like a sunrise or an ember. His face was more handsome than sin—bold, straight nose, full lips, a square jaw, eyes of warm, solid brown.
Harry’s groin gave a painful throb, and he almost wept. Those things—those dirty, filthy things that were done to him by rough miners and haughty bankers with gold in their grubby fists—those things were not right here.
Not with an angel.
Not with this angel.
Harry’s eyes burned with the perfection of this angel.
“Suriel,” Emma breathed.
About the Author
Amy Lane has two kids who are mostly grown, two kids who aren’t, three cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and gay romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.