The Assigned Risk: A Dreamseer Novel, by Collins, Dawn E.
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- ISBN: 9781449755041 | 1449755046
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 6/29/2012
He pierced through the roof of the ivy-thatched colonial home unobserved by mere mortals. Vibrant colors flashed like lightning from his garment with every calculated advance. Intricately tiered wings adorned his fiery, bronzed figure—four wings in total. Two afforded movement between the earth and the second heavens, where the battles waged. Two served as an impenetrable armor. Fully extended, the contoured appendixes spanned the breadth of the subject's house. Lariel's stature bore the markings of a distinguished warrior. His towering, majestic frame cast a striking silhouette as he descended upon the bedroom. The guardian surveyed the remainder of the house without leaving his station. His eyes burned with unwavering purpose. Nothing escaped his view, for the walls were as glass. Outside, the darkened, deep blue skies tingled in weighty anticipation. Peculiar shadows sifted through the night, distorting the natural rhythm of the clouds. Everything was in place. The stage had been set. Hovering above his unsuspecting subject, Lariel positioned himself beneath the vaulted ceiling, creating an impregnable canopy over the four-post bed below. There would be no interference. His cherubic brilliance gradually faded as he settled in for the evening. He sensed an atmospheric shift in the room. The guardian had a visitor. "My prince." Lariel bowed before his commander, Michael, whose presence exuded formidable authority. "You've been briefed on the urgency of this mission." It was not a question. "Yes," Lariel reported. "Gabriel has reviewed the matter with me." "We're picking up an unusual amount of activity in the heavens." Disdain flittered across Michael's face. "The enemy has learned of this chosen one's assignment. His minions are posted nearby." "I have canvassed the premises. The house is secure." "Excellent. You will guard your subject throughout the night and resist every threat of intrusion. There is no room for error. Everything must go according to plan." "Understood," Lariel assured his superior. "I will keep them at bay. Do you anticipate direct confrontation?" "Possibly. Although I suspect the Deceiver is merely placing his feelers out there for now. He will not engage until he believes he has obtained full disclosure. But if he does strike, you must not withstand him entirely—only to the extent necessary," Michael instructed. "My prince?" "The subject must engage. The Highest has given the order." "He will not be disappointed." "For the Highest and for the Lamb!" "For the Highest and for the Lamb!" Lariel echoed, bowing as the prince departed, leaving a violent trail of radiance. Lariel extended his wings to full battle position. He had discerned the peripheral presence of enemy forces maintaining their safe distance. The contingent was well acquainted with the guardian. Their unveiled contempt electrified the air, but they would come no further. Prince Michael's unannounced appearance had undoubtedly caused a flurry of activity. A dispatcher was most certainly on his way back to their headquarters to deliver the news. The Deceiver would not be pleased. Lariel considered his mission. He had been appointed to this human before she was conceived. Lower ranking officers kept him abreast of her status. Every movement had been monitored with the meticulous accuracy of a master surgeon. However, this was a special assignment. Lariel's presence was specifically ordered, and the instructions were clear. He was not to leave his post for any reason. The prince alone had the authority to relieve him. Such undertakings generally required special forces, but a series of conquests over the last century had changed that. Lariel was capable of overseeing this operation without immediate reinforcement. Gabriel would dispatch additional troops to provide assistance if need be. The guardian had learned from past confrontations that the tactics of the adversary were never to be underestimated. He had the battle scars to prove it. His status had been hard won, yet he understood only too well the eternal penalty for pride and arrogance. He would not let his guard down again. Lariel turned his full attention to the task at hand. His sword was drawn. The subject stirred beneath crumpled sheets, unaware of the celestial activity infiltrating her home. She lingered in the shadows of her subconscious, struggling to wake up. But she could not. Suspended between dream and reality, Samara Daniels wrestled with her destiny. She sensed the presence of a curious element, even in her precarious state. It hinted at the existence of something near yet, at the same time, far off. Wearied, she curled in a fetal position, reluctantly surrendering to the dream. She was late, even in her dreams. Samara thrust the titanium blue, five-speed, Mustang GT convertible in reverse. Her rear bumper scraped the curb as the car cleared the sidewalk. Backing out of the driveway, she turned onto the tree-lined street and careened toward town, driving faster than normal. Normal for her, that is. Her friends called her "Ms. Daisy" because she typically drove just under the speed limit, no matter what it was. But this time she was driving more recklessly than she cared to admit. She was actually doing the speed limit. Her ex-husband, Anthony Daniels Sr., had texted her on her Blackberry. "Meet me for dinner?" She read the text again. "Please come. It's important." Samara's stomach lurched and churned as she shifted to third. She reckoned it either butterflies or nausea. Whichever way the pendulum swung, she was far too anxious. The very idea of seeing Tony face-to-face resurrected feelings she thought were pronounced dead and properly buried. He had deserted her and the kids nearly three years ago and had not been heard from since the divorce. Samara had come home from work to find all traces of his things gone. Without notice. Without discussion. Without his family. He was simply, and painfully, gone. And suddenly she gets this mysterious text message. Samara checked the digital clock on the dashboard again. "Let him wait." She said, as she reached for the Pepto tablets nestled in her center console. "See how it feels." Tony had asked to meet at a sports bar located on the corner of Delancey and South. It was just like him to set up a meeting in a crowded, noisy place. She clenched the steering wheel with a death grip so tight that it would take the Jaws of Life to wrench it loose. The bar scene did not suit her at all. Dark places made her nervous. But if Tony was reaching out, he needed help. Not that he deserved it, but he was the father of their children, after all. She pulled onto Delancey, shifted to neutral, and killed the engine. "What am I doing?" She plopped her ponytailed head against the headrest. "Repeat after me: I do not want him back." Samara digested her surroundings. Summer had beckoned the neighbors outdoors. Giggling little girls jumped double-dutch in rhythmic splendor on the asphalt sidewalk. Their intricately woven braids bounced gracefully with every skilled maneuver between the ropes. Samara smiled at the thought of joining them. Local teens gathered around a makeshift basketball court, choosing sides and predicting impending conquests. The contest was mostly about who could out-talk whom. Carefree laughter floated through the summer breeze. Discarded sneakers dangled from phone lines high above the friendly mayhem, indifferent to the relentless clamor. It was a typical midsummer evening in the city. The wafting aroma of the sports bar's famous Philly cheese steaks seeped through the car window. Samara had not eaten all day. Her stomach growled on cue in angry confirmation. She glanced in her rearview for a final makeup check. Satisfied, she stepped out of the car and onto the busy street in her favorite pair of Steve Maddens.