Excerpts

Chapter One...

Chapter One

Cloudy with a Chance of Angels

On the day Sasha Christian's boyfriend got sucked into the fiery maw of Hell, she baked cookies.

This is not to say baking cookies will trigger abduction into the Underworld, but it is important to understand that this was not the sort of day on which one might expect one's significant other to be kidnapped by demonic forces.

It was a Tuesday. And Christmas Eve.

Thirty minutes prior to the abduction, Sasha stood in the ten-items-or-less line at Ralph's, holding a single bottle of molasses and fighting the temptation to count the items in the basket of the woman in front of her.

If she counted even eleven items, Sasha didn't think she'd be able to stop herself from tackling the woman and bludgeoning her with her own canned yams until she retreated in blood-spattered shame to the three-mile-long non-express line. Since this would likely result in Sasha's ejection from Ralph's and force her to locate another grocery open at four-twenty on Christmas Eve where she could buy unsulfated molasses to finish her gingerbread cookies, she decided it was best to avert her eyes.

Instead, Sasha concentrated on the flat-screen above the checkstand where a twenty-four-hour news channel recapped the holiday frenzy in a highlight reel. Tinsel, holly, rosy-cheeked celebrity faces, blah blah blah.

She'd already seen the segment twice. Her oh-so-brilliant idea to pop out to the store had turned into a marathon shopping expedition. Just finding a parking space had taken more time than she'd planned for the entire trip.

Damn holiday crowds.

Sasha gritted her teeth and reminded herself that she loved the holidays. Jay was the Grinch in their relationship. During the rest of the year she might be the misanthropic one, but at Christmastime she was Tiny Tim, bouncing around God-bless-us-ing everyone...when she wasn't entertaining violent fantasies about women who got in the ten-items-or-less line with at least eleven items, making her even later than she already was.

Four-twenty. Jay was due at her place in ten minutes and instead of the Christmas utopia she'd planned as a surprise for her bah-humbug boyfriend, he would find an empty apartment with a bowl of gingerbread goo in the kitchen.

If the apartment was still there at all. Sasha was reasonably certain she'd left the oven on.

The fact the news channel hadn't broken in with a live aerial shot of her apartment building in flames was somewhat comforting. The holiday montage continued with footage of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels from earlier that afternoon.

A slow, panning shot of the courtyard showed a throng worthy of Times Square on New Year's Eve, jostling and chorusing a barely identifiable rendition of "Hark the Herald" as they stared skyward. The first angel mass always did draw a crowd.

Dark clouds—imported from Seattle for the occasion, no doubt—layered the Los Angeles sky above the blocky, geometric cathedral. On cue, as the bells began to peal, a hole opened in the clouds like a camera iris widening. Spears of sunlight streaked down to gild the tan stone of the cathedral, lighting the alabaster cross that thrust out over the plaza, but no one in the crowded courtyard was looking at the building.

All eyes were on the gap expanding in the clouds as a figure appeared, riding the rays of light.