“The two of you,” the male voice told him, “are all that is left of the Folly.”

Amanda tried to keep ahold of her courage and asked the disembodied voice, “Are you Death?”

The chuckle that came back to them didn’t reassure Amanda at all, but his words did. “No, although some have called me different versions of Death over the centuries. My name is Michael.”

Amanda interrupted, “You are the ArchAngel!”

There was a pause in the communication. “No, not the ArchAngel Michael you are thinking of. I am not Christianity’s High Angel for God.”

“But, you saved the two of us when you could have easily killed us for being on the ship,” Amanda argued. Arnold fell in love again with her voice, the purity of her heart evident in her simple questions. Not that she was simple, but she never failed to ask the hard questions. “Why?”

Michael kept one part of his mind focused on the power sources to facilitate the return to the ArchAngel as he pondered her question. Why had he saved them? The old Michael would have killed everyone and not thought twice about it. They were on a pirate ship, obviously then trusted by the pirates.

His voice softened. “Because Love is more powerful than deceit and selfishness. One cannot love as you two do, not only each other but also family and friends, and be truly evil.” They continued to speed towards the ship barely discernible in the clouds. “And because I myself have been changed by Love, and I’ll stay on the path as best I can.”

The two of them allowed their host’s answer to wash over them as they pondered what the hell they were doing when it seemed the Heavens opened and God’s own lightning surrounded them.

The ship they were approaching was hit multiple times, and as their speed increased, Arnold noticed an explosion in the aft section.

Right where the anti-grav technology should be located.

“Find me that ship,” Akio ground out. While their technology was substantial, even with a hundred and fifty-plus years of improvements since Bethany Anne had left they had trouble locating a ship in a storm over the ocean. Separating the power sources from the large natural disturbances was not something Eve had developed any algorithms for yet.

“I am trying, Akio-san,” Eve answered. This time, Akio detected a bit of fluctuation in her answer.

He was stressing the AI too much. Akio pondered his obligations to everyone in a blistering second. His honor to his Queen. His responsibility to Eve, and his friendship, he realized, with both of them.

The grim line of his lips said he was surprised at himself, if you knew this man well enough to tell.

Akio had an AI as a friend. Over fifteen decades, and only now was he willing to accept even he could learn a new trick or two.

“Do not stress, Eve.” He replied. “We will be successful; the Queen is assured.”

Eve, her voice back on track, responded, “We lost the ability to speak to the Queen a long time ago, Akio. How can you be certain?”

“Because, little one, it is time I teach you,” he told her, his reflexes pulling the ship he was piloting hard to the side as he dodged a group of clouds that seemed to be roiling more than usual, “about a human concept called faith.”

“The fact that you took out two other people should have alerted you to the fact the second asshole pirate was mine!” yelled Jacqueline.

They were still arguing out on the deck. Each had a hand on the pirates’ second craft. Captain O’Banion had tried to call the two of them in after their successful eviction of the four pirates. When he opened the door to talk to them, they both turned to look at him.

One set of red eyes, one pair of yellow.

Family arguments weren’t his problem. He shouted, “Thank you!” and shut the door. He told those who had been ready, if not exactly willing, to help them that they could go back to their tasks. Those two were arguing with each other and it was best to let them get the arguing of their system.

Five minutes later, all hell broke loose.

“What the fuck?” Jacqueline screeched as the ship lurched to the side. Both she and Mark slammed their other hands onto the slip of a ship and grabbed hold.

Jacqueline failed to grab anything useful. A second and third bolt of lightning cracked, the sound blasting through their heightened senses, and the electricity ran along all of the metal around the deck. The ship’s capacity for capturing errant lightning bolts had been temporarily overwhelmed.

Mark grabbed Jacqueline’s loose hand, locking on as if he would be her safety belt. He easily moved her whole body to place her second hand on a bar on the craft.

“Goddammit!” he yelled at her. “Don’t you fucking think about falling off or I’ll jump after you and cuss you out the whole way down!”

Jacqueline’s expression was one of maniacal glee as the adrenaline hit her senses. The two of them enjoyed the wild ride as the humans inside fought to keep their ship afloat in the sky.

“Not if you fall first, Vamp Boy!”

Then one last lightning bolt hit the ship and the two of them screamed in incredible pain.

Michael saw his two charges out in the storm, arguing by a boat he knew hadn’t been there when he had left the ship. He had obviously failed to detect the intruders on the way to the pirates’ ship. He wanted to roll his eyes in frustration.

Didn’t the two of them realize they were in a Gott Verdammt storm?

They needed to get over their damned issues and become friends or partners or something. This dancing around was for the young.

Which they were, unfortunately.

God, he missed Bethany Anne.

The ship was in trouble and he had to make a fast decision. Considering their height, he could catch it before they hit the seas below.

He took the two humans onto the ship and rematerialized in the middle of the bridge.


FROM MICHAEL >>>  Ok, we were ‘Words Complete' on Sunday night (I believe) and we have been working on the edited, beta reading and more editing since then.  We have the files ready for JIT for tomorrow morning and release is within 72 hours baby!

YEAH!

Plus, I'm 1,200 words into Forever Defend…Which, actually, is a first.

Like, ever.  I've never started the next book before hitting ‘publish' in the book I'm on and their are multiple reasons.  I'll get more into those later.

Hope you liked the snippet… I'm off to go load the next one!