Those Who Walk Among Us
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by Margaret Marr
Description: A race of angels called the Ancients believe Sally Ann Myers can defeat Xaphan, or at least slow him down, but they won't be sure until she passes the ultimate test--a test she's not aware of. She became an angel after death to watch over Rick Stanton, keeping him safe from all harm, whether she's allowed to or not. She loved him in life and that love carried over into death. And as far as she's concerned, Rick is her only assignment. John Barnes, an angel who made it to the highest rank and lost it all after one fatal mistake, is sent to keep Sally Ann safe until the Ancients know for sure she's the right woman to go against Xaphan. John's second chance turns into a nightmare as he falls in love with Sally Ann and tries to keep her from breaking all the rules to protect Rick. One slip-up and they could be demoted to ghost status, leaving the world at the mercy of Xaphan. A spooky graveyard, a ghostly girl, a peculiar old woman, and demons in black hooded robes help draw John and Sally Ann toward a sinister climax, and it'll take all their strength and knowledge to beat back the darkness and remain in the light.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2006 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: September 2006
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [232 KB]
Reading time: 155-218 min.
Sally Ann rushed through the trees and undergrowth, ignoring the low-hung tree limbs slapping her face and slashing at her arms.
From his hiding place, John whispered, "You can't do anything yet." He almost shouted a warning, but the Big Guy wanted him to keep his presence a secret from Sally Ann unless it was absolutely necessary to get involved.
Sally Ann tripped and landed on her hands and knees, but jumped back to her feet almost as quickly as she'd taken the spill.
"What is she in such an all-fired hurry for? He hasn't even fallen in yet." Suddenly it dawned on him. She wanted to get there before he fell in. Dang it! She can't do that. John sprang out of the bushes, chased after her, and prayed he'd get to her in time.
She dashed out of the trees into an open field, and after a slight hesitation, she raced across the meadow. The grass grew tall and daises bloomed below a threatening, overcast sky. A furious wind blew down from the mountains, flinging her red hair in all directions.
As John suspected, she didn't stop at the river's edge. Instead she rushed headlong into the water. He snagged her around the waist and dragged her back to the shore, kicking, screaming, and splashing until they both were soaked to the skin.
"Let go of me!" She twisted her body and fought like a mama cat protecting her young.
"No!" John tightened his grip on the redheaded spitfire. She flipped around like a fish in his arms, slipping out of his embrace. "Dang it, be still." He grabbed her around her waist again and pulled her snug against him once more.
"You don't understand, I have to get to him," she said through gritted teeth.
"You can't. Not yet. You have to wait like the Big Guy told you to."
"I don't want him to be hurt." Slender fingers pried at his hands.
Halfway across the river, the fisherman cast his line, oblivious to their presence. Even if he could have heard them, the roar of the river would have drowned out all sounds as it sped downstream at a dizzying pace.
Sally Ann's heart thumped out an erratic beat against his arm. She squirmed and lunged once more toward Rick. John restrained her with a firm but gentle embrace, understanding her pain. "No," he whispered against her ear.
Suddenly the fisherman lost his footing, and as his arms wind-milled in a futile attempt to save himself from a fall, his other foot slipped, spilling him backward into the muddy river.
"No!" Sally Ann screamed as he disappeared beneath the murky water. "Rick!" She shoved against John's arms, broke free, and slogged through the water, headed toward where they'd seen him go under.
John watched her fumble around below the surface.
"Where is he?" she shrieked, before she plunged into the swift river. She popped up to the surface, fighting against the current.
"Help me find him!"
John paced back and forth at the edge of the river. The Big Guy said he wasn't supposed to interfere with the work of other angels. He had no choice but to obey.
Frantic to find the man she called Rick, Sally Ann thrashed around in the water. She was such a tiny thing. How on earth was she supposed to pull a man Rick's size from the water all by herself? She is an angel. She can do it.
"I can't find him!" She dove into the waist-high water again.
Several long seconds passed. She didn't resurface.
John stopped pacing and held his breath, ready to dive in after her if she didn't rise to the top. He'd risk his rank in Heaven again to protect Sally Ann.
Finally she broke through the surface several feet farther down the river, coughing and spluttering, dragging Rick with her.
John splashed out to meet her halfway and helped haul the man to shore. He hoped the Big Guy wouldn't come down on him too hard for this little bit of interference. He'd always reached out to lend a helping hand when he'd walked among the living. Even in the afterlife, it was hard to stand back and let the other angels do their work without wanting to help.
Sally Ann collapsed on the muddy riverbank and cradled Rick's head in her lap. She laced her fingers with his and stroked his wet brown hair with her other hand.
His eyes fluttered open and he looked at her. A frown etched his brow. "What...?"
"I'm your angel," she whispered and stroked his cheek.
Rick's eyes closed, and his head relaxed sideways.
"We have to go now." John warned her with a gentle touch on her shoulder.
"Now? Can't I stay here for a few more minutes?" Sally Ann traced the lines of Rick's face. The tenderness and love in her voice and actions stabbed painfully at John's heart.
What he would give to be loved so affectionately--especially by her. For once just do your job and control your feelings.
Thunder boomed off in the distance and a cool wind rustled the tall grass around them.
"Sally Ann." John warned again.
She kissed Rick on the forehead. Then, with a sigh, she eased out from under him and stood. "I don't want to leave him here like this."
John echoed her sigh. Gently, he took her arm and steered her back across the field. "I know, but you have to."
"He's bleeding. What if a wild animal smells the fresh blood?"
"That's why the Big Guy is sending rain now, to wash away the scent." He tugged on her arm as a soft drizzle began to fall.
"I don't want to leave him here," she repeated, her words husky with tears.
"Sally Ann, you're gonna get us both in trouble." He slung an arm across her shoulders and pulled her close. "It's not his time to die." Dropping his arm, he turned and resumed his trek across the field. He hoped it would be awhile before the Big Guy decided to schedule Rick's death.
Sally Ann would save him; John was sure of it. He would lose her forever, and it clawed at his stomach and twisted it into painful knots.