Aurora sat at the tiny patio table in front of Heaven Sent, a detective agency that searched for lost children. She waited for Mackenzie Hudson, her latest lost soul to walk past.
Sister Marie, one of three retired nuns that had started the agency, set a steaming cup of mint tea in front of her.
She took the seat next to her, sipping from her mug. “People watching today, Aurora?”
Sister Marie knew her better than she knew herself. “How did you know?”
She gave her the serene smile that always calmed Aurora.
“You are so easy to read,” she teased.
Aurora cringed. She couldn’t have her apprentice angels—Ruthie James and Flynn Reilly—her latest duo, thinking she was a pushover. She wanted to be seen as mysterious, sassy, with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, and a smidgeon of hard-ass because there were times she used tough love with them.
Sister Marie patted her hand. “Only with me, Aurora, only with me. Your subordinates will see you as you want them to see you. Have no worries about that.”
Aurora relaxed. It was downright scary how easily Sister Marie read her. Few people did that. “Thanks, Sister. You always seem to know how to keep me grounded.”
“So, who are you watching for today?”
“Another lost soul?”
Aurora nodded. “Her mother died two Christmases ago, and she’s been struggling ever sense. She thinks her boss will fill the emptiness within her.”
“But you don’t think so?”
“No. He’s a decent man, just not her man. More importantly, she’s afraid to follow her heart.”
“Sometimes that can be difficult after you’ve experienced deep loss.”
Aurora sipped her tea and silently agreed. In the distance, she saw Mackenzie—Mac, as her friends called her—heading their way.
Beautiful, but not in the classic sense. More the girl-next-door look with a peaches-and-cream complexion, honey blond hair, and eyes the color of the deepest sapphire. Friendly and warm, she drew the attention of friends and colleagues, but she wasn’t over-the-top vivacious, and definitely not the kind of woman for Richard Murphy.
Mac wasn’t driven the same way Richard was. He needed a woman who’d appreciate that aspect of his personality.
Mac walked toward them, soaking in the sights around her even though she’d seen them daily for years. She appreciated the simple things—a basket of flowers, a puppy tugging its leash, an unhappy toddler ready for a nap, or an old woman struggling with a load of packages. She took it all in, nodding and smiling to each, offering her assistance where she could.
Loneliness radiated through Aurora as Mac drew closer. She desperately wanted to fill the emptiness within this young woman, and she knew the perfect man for her.
Sister Marie made a slight nod in Mac’s direction, her expression serene as Lake Washington on a calm day. “That’s her, isn’t it?”
“A quiet beauty.”
Aurora swiveled to look at Sister Marie. “That’s exactly how I would describe her.”
Sister’s Marie’s dark gaze studied her closely. “There’s a sadness about her,” she mused.
Aurora watched Mac pass, her gaze tracking her down the block, until she turned and walked out of sight. She leaned back in her seat. “There is. There are so many lonely souls, Sister. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to help them all.”
“I feel the same way about our missing children, and Sister Esther continually reminds me our job is to save one child at a time. Yours is to help one lost soul at a time.”
Aurora took another sip of her tea, then rose. “Thank you, Sister. You always brighten my day and remind me all is never lost.”
Sister Marie clucked her tongue. “Take care, Aurora.”
Aurora walked inside, going through the Heaven Sent lobby to the back, where the glass elevator waited to take her up to the heavens. For humans, the elevator went to the fifteenth floor, but for angels, it continued to eternity.
The doors swooshed open as soon as she approached. She stepped inside, studying the Seattle skyline as the sun dipped low in the sky. Christmas lights flickered on across the city as she continued her ascent.
Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. The numbers spiraled, spinning faster and faster with each floor until the door opened, and she stepped onto the sparkling marble floors of Angel Headquarters. Her black combat boots clomped against the floor as she headed to her apartment.
Striding past the Postal Angels, Lost Pet Angels, Cooking Angels, she kept walking until she reached the Lost Souls division. She pushed open the door and entered her small apartment. The beaded glass rattled as she entered her living room. She walked out onto the balcony and stared down as the Seattle skyline transformed into San Francisco.
Each angel’s apartment reflected the life they’d lived on earth, and she’d lived in San Francisco when pot and promiscuous sex had seen its heyday.
Inhaling the damp air, she watched as the fog roll in, then retreated into her cozy living room and dropped into the Lotus position.
She began humming Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. In death, she’d become the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights appeared behind her in a firestorm of blues and greens, illuminating the night sky.
She finished her nightly show of lights and went into her small kitchen to prepare Santa-faced deviled egg appetizers for her apprentice angels due to arrive shortly. Carrying the platter into the living room, she set it on the squat, round coffee table that also served as her dining table, then set a pot of tea to brewing.
She’d barely finished setting everything out when Ruthie knocked on the door. She ushered the petite, strawberry blonde into her living room. Her angelic face, combined with her upbeat disposition drew people to her, but she wasn’t a pushover.
Ruthie James had a backbone made of titanium.
Aurora poured her a cup of tea.
Ruthie perched on the sofa, adding cream and sugar, then faced Aurora. Her smile lighting up the room. “Why did you summon me?”
“Why don’t we wait until Flynn gets here, and I’ll fill you both in at the same time.”
Ruthie’s cheery expression vanished at the mention of her longtime friend and fellow apprentice angel. Two weeks ago, she’d requested a transfer to another department, and Aurora had turned her down. Forced to take action, Aurora informed her superior, Lydia, former head angel of the Lost Pet Division, that she was sending Ruthie and Flynn on a joint mission.
“Why is Flynn coming?”
“I have an assignment that requires two angels.”
Before Ruthie could respond, Flynn burst into the room, a whirlwind of energy. Hair as black as the midnight sky, and eyes alight with mischief, he whistled off-key, a congenial smile on his face. The man towered over Ruthie, and he was the complete and the total opposite of her sweet nature. He took the world by storm and embraced all that life and death offered.
Unaware Ruthie had requested a transfer, he didn’t realize she wanted more from him than friendship.
Pouring another cup of tea, Aurora handed it to him, then settled back with her own mug.
“What are we doing here?” Flynn asked, getting straight to the point.
Aurora responded with equal directness. “I’m sending you and Ruthie out on an assignment. I want you to bring Mackenzie Hudson and Spence Murphy together. Mackenzie, or Mac as her friends call her, is going to Paradise Falls with her boss, Richard, Spence’s brother. Your job is to not only bring them together, but help Mac see Spence is the man of her dreams. Right now, she only has eyes for Richard, but he’s the wrong man for her.”
“We’re going as a team?” Ruthie asked.
“Yes. I often pair my apprentice angels, especially on tough assignments. Is there some reason you two can’t work together?”
Flynn glanced between Aurora and Ruthie, confusion furrowing his brow. “Not from my perspective. Is there some reason you don’t think we should work together?” he asked Ruthie with his usual candor.
Ruthie cast a glance at Aurora, but the head angel didn’t waver from her position. Resigned, Ruthie looked at Flynn and said, “No, no problem at all.”
Aurora clapped her hands together. “Excellent. My date is due to arrive at any moment.” She handed them each a file with the details of their assignment. “Keep me updated on your progress,” she said, then shooed them out onto the balcony.
A silver Aston Martin pulled up beside Aurora, the engine a sexy rumble of sound, the same as the blue-eyed James Bond in the driver’s seat when he murmured sweet nothing’s in Aurora’s ear. She waved to her angels, hopped into the car, and flew off into the night. She leaned into the driver and whispered, ”Bond, James Bond.”
With a wink, he punched the gas, tossing Aurora back, her long, dark tresses leaving a trail of stardust over the night sky.