QSFer CC Bridges has a new MM sci fi/paranormal book out in her Heaven Corp Series:
Better to reign in hell….
Uriel 3019 has been a cybernetically altered angel since he volunteered for the program fifteen years ago. His devotion to the floating city of Heaven is fierce, and he’ll follow any command he’s given. But Uriel’s orderly world is crumbling. Angels are going mad, even hurting people. Some are rebelling, and the noble families are vying for control—by any means necessary.
Uriel’s latest assignment brings him into a secret society, where his partner, Raphael, is working for freedom and equality for all angels. Could their group be responsible for the angels’ recent erratic behavior? Uriel is determined to find out—and report on his findings. But he doesn’t count on Raphael’s confession—that he has feelings for Uriel—or the memories slowly starting to return from the time before he became an angel.
Is he on the right side? Does he dare to stand against Heaven, even if doing so will save his fellow angels from becoming soulless automatons? Uriel has to decide if his loyalty belongs to his superiors… or to the angel who’s stolen his heart.
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Uriel followed Raphael, his mind filling with more questions the farther they flew. Raphael ducked and closed his wings, diving beneath the waterfall of the Fountain of Grace. Uriel held his breath and then followed. The water surrounded him for a moment, and then he was clear, truly beneath the massive waterfall. He hovered for a moment, trying to spot Raphael.
Raphael had found a tiny alcove carved into the walls, with enough room for the two of them to perch. Uriel flapped his wings once, twice, then settled next to Raphael in the small space.
“Why here?” What could be so horrible that Raphael had to drag them to what was probably the most secluded place in all of Heaven?
“I come here sometimes.” Raphael withdrew his wings and curled up his legs until his knees touched his chest. “It’s quiet.”
Here they were completely surrounded by the water, its rushing sound louder even than Uriel’s own heartbeat. There were no flashing holo ads, no buzz of gondolas, no voices.
Uriel retracted his own wings. His legs hung down, and he curled his fingers over the edge. “Safe from spying ears?”
“No place is safe from that.”
“Tell me, Raphael, what you think is wrong with the glitching angels. That’s why you brought me here, isn’t it?” What did Raphael know? And had it anything to do with Uriel’s mission for Lady Julia? His heart raced in anticipation. Uriel should be able to stop his body’s reaction. He should be in control. But he couldn’t deny that Raphael’s actions were suspect.
“The angels are glitching because there’s something wrong inside of us,” Raphael blurted. “They forced us to forget everything, everything we were. When Gabriel 1089 burst into the network, he set something loose. It’s starting with the older angels. They can’t deal with hundreds of years of memories all at once.”
Uriel frowned. “This is not our concern. Anael is looking for the solution.” They had their assigned roles, and while, yes, most angels had been shifted off their rotations in order to root out the glitching angels, they were still bound by Anael’s orders.
Raphael shook his head and snorted. “You think Anael isn’t part of the problem?”
Uriel drew back, unable to comprehend such a human reaction. Raphael followed, moving close in the enclosed space, backing Uriel against the wall. He’d been foolish to let Raphael corner him like this, when Lady Julia told him that he’d be a target.
Raphael loomed closer, and still Uriel did not reach for his weapon. For the briefest of moments, he had the strangest thought—that Raphael meant only to kiss him. But when Raphael raised his hands, it was not to cup Uriel’s face between them. Instead, he took hold of Uriel’s halo and pulled it from his forehead. The network connection disengaged with a snap.
“Remember, my friend.”
Uriel fell backward, catching himself on the wall of the alcove. His blood thrummed in his ears, and for a moment he could not speak. What Raphael had done was unheard of. One did not touch another angel’s halo, never mind remove it.
He glared at the smiling Raphael. “Are you insane?”
“I’m not glitching, Uriel. Do not fear.”
“If you were, then at least there would be some sort of explanation for this.”
Raphael had the gall to laugh. “Give it a moment. Tell me what you see.”
He bit back a retort, because the edges of his vision went gray. Uriel found himself somewhere else. He looked up, somehow now flat on his back, though the surface wasn’t entirely hard. Someone had tucked a musty blanket under his shoulder blades.
It might’ve been the man standing above him. He’d forsaken a shirt, and his pants were still open at the waist, giving Uriel a tantalizing hint of what was hidden beneath. Uriel’s eyes trailed up the man’s torso, gazing with appreciation on the taut abs, the dusky pink nipples, and the hollow of his throat.
The face, oh, it was familiar. Dark eyes, serious brow, and pink lips that quirked with mischief. His dark hair was already mussed, and Uriel knew that somehow he himself was responsible. The man held out a hand, palm up, ready to help Uriel to his feet. Uriel reached out, his fingertips inches from the other man’s—his lover, he knew now with an earth-shattering certainty.
“Uriel, what do you see?” Raphael’s voice broke through the illusion.
No, not illusion. Memory.
“Ian,” Uriel whispered. “I see Ian.”
Raphael looked delighted and all but clapped. “Very good. Who’s Ian?”
Uriel snapped back to himself, conscious of the hard concrete beneath his ass and the water rushing in front of them. He shivered, though not from the cold. Angels didn’t feel cold. “Ian Caldwell. The man we interrogated and sentenced three years ago.”
Raphael’s eyes widened in recognition. “Ah, didn’t he have something to do with the Abraham boy?”
Of course Raphael barely remembered. They had rounded up and interrogated countless people on suspicion of breaking the morality laws. To him Ian had been one of many.
Uriel had known, at the time, who Ian was. He’d had access to his own records. Ian Caldwell was a name on a list of known associates. He’d used that friendship to twist Ian into revealing every sordid thing about his and Henry Abraham’s relationship.
But during the interrogation, Uriel hadn’t had the feelings, the memories of who Ian was. Ian had been his first lover, and now the taste of him was thick on Uriel’s tongue.
Abruptly, anger filled him. Raphael was his partner. Uriel trusted him. How dare he do this? “Raphael, what have you done?”
Raphael held out Uriel’s halo, and it looked dull and lifeless in his hands, like all of the halos they’d collected from glitched angels. “Our lives were stolen, Uriel. I’ve freed you. It was only a matter of time, anyway. I just accelerated the process.”
“You call this freedom?” Uriel snatched his halo back and cradled it to his chest. Before he hadn’t ached, sore with the memory of what he’d done to Ian.
“It’s a gift, Uriel.”
CC Bridges is a mild-mannered librarian by day, but by night she writes about worlds of adventure and romance. When she’s not busy solving puzzles in an escape room, she can be found diving into comics or binge-watching superhero movies. She writes surrounded by books, spare computing equipment, a fluffy dog, and a long-suffering husband in the state of New Jersey. In 2011, she won a Rainbow Award for best gay sci-fi/futuristic novel.