Blurb in Progress (will change):
Aqua Vitae is an Urban Fantasy about two biologists, Dr. Rhydian Jasper and Dr. James Sauveterre, who work as post docs by day and Divine Warriors for the Guardians by night. Their current assignment is to retrieve the world’s literal source of water from a group of rogue Guardians known as the Prophets. There are angels, daemons, magic, and sex!
~~~~Chapter One (also subject to change)~~~~
Northwest Ohio. Seriously?
Rhydian Jasper sped around a Kroger semi-truck and wondered what the fuck the Guardians had been thinking this time. Ohio? Shouldn’t he be where the drought was actually happening? He drove by yet another farm and then gasped in horror as he drove by what he guessed was Lake Erie. The thawing water was brown and thick looking. Disgusting. He spotted his exit ahead and left the highway only to find another long stretch of road with fields on either side that would most likely be corn.
Rhydian hated corn.
What he wanted was a decent cup of coffee, breakfast, and then to sleep for the rest of the day. Driving from New York to Ohio wasn’t his finest idea, but when the Guardians didn’t bother to issue divine credit cards, flying wasn’t an option. One thing going for Ohio was that an apartment was a hell of a lot cheaper here than in New York.
He pulled into the apartment complex ten minutes later, glad that no one was out and about, and went to get his key. The superintendent wasn’t in his office and Rhydian had to ring the bell ten times before he got a groggy response. He felt a pang of sympathy. It wasn’t quite 6am yet. He shouldn’t really expect this small Ohio town to have the pace he was used to. Still he was tapping his foot and counting tiles on the ceiling by the time the portly, middle-aged man unlocked the door. The portly man did a double take when he saw Rhydian.
Rhydian knew what he was looking at. Knew what everyone fixated on when they saw him the first time. He had medium length, red hair and a red, close cropped beard. Being ginger had stopped embarrassing him years ago, but the freckles still bugged him as did having a green eye and a hazel eye. It was as if his genes couldn’t decide and just went “fuck it” and chose both. The gauged ears, septum piercing, and lip ring were just the icing on the cake. He knew he cut an interesting figure. Likely too interesting for this Ohio town. Didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be here long.
Politeness overrode the man’s initial shock and they exchanged inane pleasantries and the man gave him the key. Rhydian hauled his luggage from his car and up to the apartment. It was 6:15am now. It gave him a few hours to sleep before he had to go to his day job. Another grand decision on his part, going to work after a long trip, but working as a post doc in a top university’s biology lab was pretty awesome. He opened the front door and stopped short when he saw that his apartment was fully furnished. Awe turned into annoyance when a tall, robed being rose from the couch and held its hands out to Rhydian.
“Jahaziel,” Rhydian said, bracing himself for the eerie tingle of the angel’s touch.
Jahaziel batted its eyes, which were icy blue and could turn just as icy when the angel had to perform its holy duties.
Holy, my ass. Rhydian thought. Angels were more trickster than anything. Had to be given their jobs as messengers, but this bastard took it too far. Barging into his apartment. Decorating. Rhydian kicked off his shoes and flung his jacket on the couch.
“A housewarming gift,” Jahaziel said its voice just as androgynous as its appearance. It had black skin and a puffy nimbus of blond hair held down by an elaborate ruby circlet. It stood over seven and a half feet tall.
Rhydian frowned and Jahaziel giggled. Red geraniums bloomed in the window box at the sound. The angel turned, all grace and fluttering, red robes, and pulled a lab coat from the closet. It was so white and pristine, that it seemed to glow in the dim lamp light. Rhydian took the offered coat and examined it. Pale blue protection magic flowed through it and from it. So it did glow after all.
“Why do I need a magical lab coat? Am I in danger at the university?”
Jahaziel only winked at him and sauntered to Rhydian’s fully stocked kitchen. “I have another gift for you. Look.”
Greeks bearing gifts was one thing. He could handle that. Angels bearing gifts? Rhydian followed, half expecting to find a portal to Gehenna or an imp Jahaziel had imprisoned. He watched the angel, hoping for a hint at its game. The beatific expression on its face hadn’t changed, but that didn’t mean anything. Its true intentions were in its eyes this time…which were innocent and strangely expectant.
Jahaziel kneeled. “Come on, ladies. Meet your new Daddy.”
A soft mew sounded from behind the kitchen island and two stubby kittens, one calico and one black and white began to climb up Rhydian’s legs. Jahaziel rose.
“Do you like them?” the angel asked.
Rhydian cradled both purring kittens in his arms, already half in love with them, and then suspicion hit. Jahaziel hadn’t just come to shower him with housewarming gifts. “Pets? The Guardians think this job will take a while?”
“It has been gone for centuries,” Jahaziel said. “Its absence can truly be felt now.”
“I’m the best they have,” Rhydian said, putting the kittens down. They climbed back up his leg. “It won’t take long to find it. Although letting me know what this mysterious it is would help.”
The angel cracked a smart ass grin that Rhydian wanted to punch off. Had once too. “Maybe I’ll tell you. And you’re one of the best by the way,” Jahaziel said.
Rhydian extricated the calico kitten, which had climbed perilously close to his crotch and put her and the black and white kitten near their food bowl. “What?”
“You’ll have a partner.”
It was suddenly hard to breathe. A partner? The Guardians had been pleased with his job performances despite their initial reluctance in taking him on. He’d made sure to prove his worth to them every time. Had he made some kind of minor mistake on his last job? Would he ever be as good as his grandmother had been? He regained control of his thoughts. “I work alone.”
Jahaziel’s grin went from smart ass to highly amused. A messenger not giving the entirety of its message. “I’ll go now. The Guardians call.”
“Tell the Assholes of the Sky that I made it here safely.”
Jahaziel’s eyes widened and it gave a surprised laugh. “One last thing.”
It was Rhydian’s turn to be surprised when the angel moved toward him. The intent in its eyes was serious. No more trickster. Jahaziel pinned Rhydian against the refrigerator and kissed him. Rhydian’s mind finally caught up to what was happening, as divine energy flowed through his body strengthening his magic, will, stamina, faith, and bravery. The weariness from travel disappeared. An infusion. Jahaziel could’ve just held Rhydian’s hand to do that, but the angel knew him too well. Knew his vices. Knew about his sexuality. Not that it was a secret. Knowing Jahaziel, it was also getting back at Rhydian for his “assholes of the sky” quip.
By the time the angel finished kissing him, they hovered near the ceiling. Rhydian felt amazing and hornier than he had been in months. Jahaziel had definitely done that part on purpose. It smiled at him, ruffled his hair, and then disappeared, leaving Rhydian floating near the ceiling. Androgynous my ass. Jahaziel is male.
The kittens looked up at him and meowed.
“I know, I know. I’m coming down,” Rhydian said. The gravity spell wouldn’t take much stamina. Not with the amount of energy Jahaziel had infused into him. That was worrisome, but he felt too good to let it affect his mental state or his cock at the moment. Glowing white and purple light spiraled around him and medium pressure on his shoulders pushed down. Soon he stood on the floor again. He looked at the kittens, who didn’t appear impressed by or afraid of magic. Either the angel had trained them well or they were just being cats.
Fucking Jahaziel. Angels supposedly had no sexual organs and no sexual desire, so how in the hell did it learn to kiss like that? He moved the thought to the back of his mind where he filed it in the Crazy Shit Angels Do folder. Rhydian grabbed his dying phone and the charger and walked to the bedroom. Sigils around the door glowed at his approach, warning him to stay back, but it was only the magical lock protecting his quarterstaff and summoning sphere. He drew a series of unlocking sigils around the doorknob with his finger and smiled down at the kittens, who were batting at the shimmering tendrils of blue-green magic still flowing from his fingers. The lock finally clicked and he sat on the bed and looked at his phone to see if he could learn anything about his new boss and coworkers.
He chuckled and closed the gay porn website that had been up. Watching two burly, biker guys going at it on a nightclub’s patio wasn’t really his thing, but he’d been bored at the last rest stop. Seeing it again hadn’t calmed his cock down at all. It had been over two years since his last date, unless he counted his right hand. He hadn’t had time while he was getting his PhD and working for the Guardians. Rhydian couldn’t even remember the guy’s name. Brian? Byron? It hadn’t ended well. The guy had seen Rhydian’s Prince Albert piercing, freaked out, and fled. It was just as well. One-night stands weren’t really his thing either.
Rhydian stopped shy of unzipping his jeans unsure of how thin the apartment building’s walls were. The last thing he needed were complaints about loud jerking off. Or loud, gay sex for that matter. Not that he planned on having any with another person in the near future. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and decided to kick Jahaziel’s angel ass the next it came around. Still his mind wistfully wandered about as he tapped in the university’s URL. Maybe he’d meet someone at a Pride event. Not one here though. If they even had one. Maybe in one of the bigger cities nearby. Detroit. Cleveland. Chicago. Columbus, even, although given the Ohio State University football fanatics he’d met, that was a scary thought.
The website popped up, showing the school’s president and his ten member council. All men. All roughly the same age. The only differences were hair and eye color. He clicked a random council member. The man could’ve done toothpaste commercials. He had a buzz cut and blue eyes. Whoever had edited the pictures bordered between genius and madman. “That’s a lot of Photoshop,” Rhydian said to the black and white kitten who playfully nipped his toes. The calico kitten cheek marked his hand. He scratched her ears and then tapped the Biological Sciences link. He had to scroll a bit before he found his new boss. Dr. Lakshmi Patel. She had one post doc, two graduate students, a student on a research fellowship, and a lab assistant. Rhydian would be her second post doc. He scrolled a bit more, looking for names or at least pictures and found nothing.
The alarm on his phone sounded. He had a half hour before he had to go to work. He stood and stretched. Despite its delivery, the angel’s infusion had done him a great deal of good. He didn’t need food, drink, a shower, or sleep. He grabbed his lab coat from the closet, made sure Jahaziel hadn’t left any surprises in the pockets, locked the door with a regular key and a magical one and headed to work in the bright, late March sunshine.
Rhydian’s inner ten-year old snickered at the building’s abbreviation on the map: BO. For the Bertram-Odell labs. He entered the blessedly dim building and paused at the aquariums lining the walls. Exotic fish, aquatic plants, and sea creatures thrived in each tank. His fingers tingled with magic and he had to shove his hands in his pockets. Warnings or not, he was here for his day job. Knowing that this place had something to do with his night job was a bit disconcerting, but the Guardians never gave their warriors a break.
He continued down the hallway and the tingling in his fingers increased until he had wait for a group of students to file into a classroom before pressing his hands against a stone wall. He closed his eyes, letting the magic flow out of him and waited for a signal of any kind to come back to him. There was a flash of alliance. It was gone before Rhydian could completely register it and he stared at his now tingle-free fingers.
“Must be the infusion making me extra sensitive.” He’d gotten false signals before with lesser infusions, but he made sure his quarterstaff and summoning sphere were within magical reach just in case.
He checked his phone. He still had ten minutes to get to the lab and followed the wall signs to the elevator. Of course it was occupied, although Rhydian didn’t mind once the doors closed and he got a good look at the person. He was a light-skinned black man the same height as Rhydian. He wore his hair in locs pulled back, so Rhydian couldn’t really tell how long they were. Two silver rings pierced the cartilage of his right ear. His arms were crossed and he leaned against the elevator wall with his eyes closed behind wire-framed glasses. He also wore a lab coat. The man sighed. A hint of irritation. He was on the phone.
“Not today,” he said, in a British accent. “Good-bye.”
Rhydian wanted to melt at that voice. It was rich and deep like soothing darkness after a bright, sweltering day. The man still hadn’t opened his eyes and Rhydian kept staring. The elevator opened again before it could ascend and two young ladies, freshmen by the look of them, got on and hit the button for the second floor. Rhydian rolled his eyes, but he was too interested in the hot guy to pay them further attention. The ladies drew the man’s attention though. He stood up straight and Rhydian caught a whiff of the man’s cologne which smelled like the morning dew in a forest.
“You realize it’s easier to take the stairs to the second floor, don’t you?” the man said.
The ladies started and turned to look at them. The one wearing a flower in her hair spoke.
“We get lost when we take the stairs.”
“You go up,” the man said.
Rhydian choked on a laugh and studied the wall when the ladies glared at him before they got off the elevator. He opened his mouth to say something to the man, but he’d leaned against the wall again and closed his eyes. Shit. What floor did he need to go to? Rhydian checked his email and his face warmed. Dr. Patel’s lab was on the fifth floor. He was on the…where the hell was he? He looked at the digital display in the elevator. Six. Only one floor up, but still annoying. So much for making a good first impression. Now he only had five minutes to get to his lab. Rhydian followed the man off the elevator so he wouldn’t look stupid and waited a moment to see which way he’d go. Maybe they’d meet again. The man walked to the bathroom across from the elevator, leaving Rhydian frustrated. He didn’t have time to flirt with the guy right now, so he stepped back into the elevator, pressed the right button, and banged his head against the wall gently. This was not how he wanted his first day in a new city to go. Tongue kissed by an angel. Finding out that his new job was connected with his current one somehow. Now he’d seen an attractive man who’d left the lingering scent of the forest in his wake. Rhydian held his breath as he left the elevator. He didn’t want to walk into Dr. Patel’s lab with a hard-on from smelling a hot guy’s cologne. Cologne usually didn’t turn him on like this. Damn. Now he was thinking about it too much. He put his lab coat on. It was long enough to cover any unfortunate bulges. It was cold enough in the building to wear it. Seemed this place was just as cheap as his last university had been. It was early April and most of the snow was gone, so the maintenance had turned off the heat. The cool environment was better for the computers and lab equipment though. The lab was near the other end of the hall and mild nerves had set in by the time he arrived. He knocked on the door and wiped his sweaty palms on his lab coat. No one liked a clammy handshake.