By Elle Hill
Available at Amazon
Genre: Science fiction romance
Heat level: Sensuous
Blurb: “Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert, where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.”
No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who: the “unworkables,” those with differing physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.
Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while finally learning the meanings of friendship, community, and love.
How funny that she had to be sacrificed to find reasons to live.
The lights in the Great Room went out.
No flickers, no dimming, no sizzling sounds—nothing. Just darkness where light used to be.
A man cried out and several people gasped.
“It’s all right, everyone,” Marcus called. Really, he was beginning to annoy Josh, too. He didn’t know that. No one did. “I’m sure this has—”
A whooshing sound, like air displaced, sliced through the room. For a tiny, tense moment, no one spoke.
“Is it an angel?” a child’s voice asked.
Several voices broke out then, some in shouts, some in startled cries, one or two in terror.
Just like the night before, the fold and crack of feathered wings in motion breathed through the room. Weak light from the multiple hallways leaked through the perimeters. Now that her eyes had adjusted to the sudden darkness, Josh found she could identify vague outlines.
Someone a few seats down leapt to her feet and hurled herself toward Josh, perhaps seeking the sterile safety of the kitchen. She stumbled over Josh’s outstretched legs and hurtled to the ground. Josh gasped in pain.
And still, the snap and sigh of wings overhead.
Josh wanted to stand up, to defend herself. She wanted to shrink into the upholstery, to make herself as small as possible. In the end, she sat still, trembling in indecision.
“The angels!” someone cried in something like terror, or perhaps ecstasy.
“Keep them away from me!” Someone—she thought it might be Len—shrieked.
Several people jumped to their feet and pushed their way through the room, seeking some kind of safety. The woman who’d tripped over Josh lay whimpering on the ground.
Whump, whump . . .
A warm arm encircled Josh’s shoulder. She shrieked before realizing it belonged to Blue. The baggy sleeves of his black tunic partially covered her head. She turned to him, and he pressed her closer.
I don’t think I want to court you, she remembered him saying, and almost sprayed laughter. Who knew they’d practically snuggle later that day?
The thump of wings grew closer. An outline of a human-sized object hurtled through the air and the darkness toward her. What had to be its wings spread around it, moving and tilting. Some stray ray of light gleamed whitely off the area where eyes should be. They seemed fixed directly on her.