33 Days Til Christmas [MultiFormat]
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eBook by J. Paulette Forshey
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Archangel Gabriel is sent to Earth in human form to keep a woman, Zippy, safe for the next thirty-three days. He's not told why, on that he must protect her. After Zipporah is rescued by a handsome man when she's nearly run over, she quickly discovers he could use some saving of his own...especially when she realizes he's not a man after all.
As Gabriel starts feeling things he shouldn't, Zipporach, or Zippy as her friends call her, begins experiencing a rash of near-miss "accidents". His job more difficult than he imagined, Gabriel has to watch over Zippy without falling in love with her. But there's only so much an angel can do.
eBook Publisher: Whispers Publishing, Published: 2011, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2011
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Gabriel Archer hunched his shoulders in his bomber jacket bringing the sheepskin collar up further on his bare neck. His gloveless hands were thrust deep in its pockets. The cold air nipped at the tip of his nose, while his boots crunched the snow and ice beneath them as he made his way among the shoppers. This was his third trip up and down the crowded sidewalks. The people were thick on both sides pushing, shoving, and bumping into each other without an "excuse me" or "sorry."
Most grumbled under their breath, some didn't care and said one of several expletives common to the time. The masses seemed to have no thoughts on their minds other than finding that perfect gift, even if it meant maxing out their credit cards.
Yeah, they had the Christmas spirit all right.
He'd been sent here to find and protect one woman for the next thirty-three days. He hadn't seen any sign of her yet, and day was quickly turning to night. To make matters worse, The Boss sent him here without his powers. He was to do this job as a human. Who said The Boss didn't have a sense of humor? Many didn't think The Boss did, when actually, He had a good one, and at times it could be labeled as twisted. One word came to mind about The Boss's humor, platypus. Gabriel shook his head. He was still trying to figure that one out and why The Boss snorted and guffawed when the word platypus was uttered.
"Excuse me. Happy Holidays!"
The voice yanked him from his morose thoughts.
The voice, clear in the crisp air, rang out over the clash of bodies and traffic. Gabriel focused on the sweet sound and zeroed in on her voice. A dark blur caught his peripheral vision amidst the colorful shoppers snatching his attention away from her for a split second.
A terrified scream yanked him back. His assignment was flying through the air...straight into the path of an oncoming car.
Gabriel vaulted a bench, hit the ground running, and didn't think; he just dove. He was a warrior and fierce as they come.
His six foot six frame wrapped around her mere five foot seven one as he snatched her from the path of the car sliding on the ice straight for her. The throngs on the sidewalk had bumped her into its path.
Twisting his linebacker's bulk to take the impact of the landing, he smacked the frozen ground, breaking their fall. They skittered across the slippery road, causing other pedestrians to scatter out of the way. He slid with her atop him to finally land in a heap against a pile of snow left by a plow.
Great puffs of white escaped from his mouth as his inside warmth met the frigid outside air. He'd never seen his breath before. Holiday lights danced above his head from strings on lampposts blinking their celebratory colors. Quarter-sized snowflakes drifted lazily down on his dark chestnut hair like an afterthought to splat on his nose and cheeks.
All new experiences for him.
"Wow! That was some ride." She squirmed against him. "Hmm, sir, you can let go of me now."
Gabriel lay on his back and dipped his chin to look at the bundle he held tight to his chest. Pansies. Big. Spring. Purple pansies, was his first thought. He'd never seen eyes that shade on a person. Her skin, almost translucent, made the dots of pink from the cold on her cheeks stand out like paint on a doll's face. A red and green knit cap adorned hair as black and shiny as a crow's wing, hair that swooped forward to brush and tickle his nose.
"Sir, are you okay?" said the bundle that wiggled against him, stirring things down below that shouldn't be stirring. After all, he was an angel, and angels weren't supposed to have stirrings. She was asking if he was okay, and he should be asking her that same question. For some reason the power of speech eluded him.
"Sir?" He sat up as she scooted off him.
"Did you hit your head?" Those eyes, huge with worry, searched his face.
Vanilla wafted to his nose and warm sugar cookies came to mind. Wait a minute, he'd never had a sugar cookie or any cookie for that matter, how did he...?
Her mittened hands framed his face, stealing the rest of his thought as she locked her gaze on his.
Gabriel raised his hand to cover hers.
"You have the most beautiful eyes," he gushed. Wait! When did he ever gush?
A smile with enough wattage to light up the Eastern Seaboard flashed before him, followed with a laugh reminiscent of silver bells.
"Come on let's get you on your feet. I don't think you have a concussion, and there doesn't appear to be any bleeding anywhere." She stood and placed her small hands under his left arm near the elbow, urging him up. Gabriel shook his head at the audacity of such a slender woman assisting him, and scrambled up. The bundle began dusting off the snow from his coat and pants, front and back.
Jaw clenched, eyes scrunched tightly shut, he tried willing the stirring away. It retreated, but to his mortification didn't completely dissipate. Thankfully, she didn't seem to notice.
"Well there, no worse for wear." She raised her face with those eyes to meet his and stuck out her hand. "Thank you for saving my life. I'm Zipporah, Zipporah Campbell, but everyone calls me Zippy."
"Nope, not married." She stuck her tongue out to catch a snowflake, and Gabriel's groin tightened. He concentrated on what she was saying. "Do I really look that old?" Zipporah laughed as she smoothed a lock of hair from her face. "Don't answer that."
Gabriel stuffed his hands into his coat pockets suddenly unsure what to do with them. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean--it's an old name, one I haven't heard in a long time."
"No apology needed. I was being a smarty. Blame it on my mother, the wit and the name." She chuckled. "She had a weird sense of humor."
"My family is, was, Wiccan, and Mom thought it was funny to name me after a person from the Bible."
"Nope, got back at Mom for the name by switching sides." Zipporah giggled. "Don't worry, Mom liked irony, and she was happy I found something to believe in."
"So you do believe?"
"Of course, especially," Zipporah raised her hands and face to turn slowly letting the snowflakes hit her cheeks and tongue, "this time of year." Her eyes locked with his, and for a moment, Gabriel thought he heard clear sweet music.
He realized they were standing in the middle of the sidewalk. She shivered; the temperature was dropping. He, on the other hand, felt rather warm. He spotted an old-fashioned railroad car diner tucked between two buildings. It looked odd in the row of buildings because the rest towered over it. Gabriel grasped her arm, nearly pulling her off her feet in the wake of his lengthy stride. Zipporah's mittened hand beat against him.
"Hey, where do you think you're taking me?" One good swat missed his arm and hit his nose. Gabriel stopped, nose tingling, but didn't let go of her. Those earlier gentle pools of purple now blazed and sparked. "Just because you save a person doesn't mean you can treat them like..."
One brow rose. "Like?"
"Well, I don't know, but nothing nice I'm sure." Zipporah stamped one foot and, slipped. He caught her. He put his arms around her in a flash pinning her to him causing that stirring again.
"I just wanted to get you inside."
Two delicate brows rose.
"It's cold out; you're damp from the snow, I thought." Gabriel let go of her, stepped back to run a hand through his hair, then let the hand drop to his side. "You should be in where it's warm, have a bit to eat, and a hot drink to chase away the chill." He thrust his hands back in his pockets. "Maybe I should take you to a hospital to be checked out."
Panic flashed in her face, but just as fast, determination replaced it.
"Nope, no hospitals, I'm fine." She tucked her arm in his. "By the way, I'll let you in on a little secret. A woman likes to be asked; the whole caveman thing of dragging a woman off and all, is a real turn-off." With a tug, she started them toward the diner. "I know you saved my life and all, but I really hope you're the one buying. I'm broker than broke."
Gabriel adjusted his stride to match her smaller one. "Yes, of course."
That million-watt smile flashed at him again.
Zipporah breathed deep, still trying to catch her breath from the scare and marathon dash to the eatery. The hunk, who'd moments ago saved her life, held the door open for her. Funny, he hadn't given her his name yet. She stepped into the warmth and wonderful aromas of the diner. Her mouth watered; despite everything, she still had a healthy appetite most days. He placed his hand to the small of her back, guiding her to an empty booth.
She caught her lower lip between her teeth, halting the tiny gasp before it escaped her mouth. His hand seared through all the layers of clothing and her winter coat. She felt the heat and strength of his touch as if she'd been standing there naked.
He leaned in, his breath tickling the delicate skin on her ear. "Are you all right?"
Zipporah didn't trust her voice at the moment and shook her head yes. A waitress found them a quiet booth; as they sat she, handed them each a menu.
"Choose whatever you want." He tapped the plastic coated list with a finger.
"Thank you, Mr....?"
"Gabriel, Gabriel Archer."
"Gabriel, that's an angel's name, and just like a guardian angel, you saved my life." Zipporah placed her hand on his, which was resting on the table. A current like electricity zapped them both. Jerking their hands back, they laughed. While hers appeared to have bubbled up from nerves, his sounded forced, and she noted, didn't reach his eyes. Who was this man?
Gabriel shifted in his seat. What the Hell was that? Where had it come from? Muscles in his arms, legs, and body tensed, ready for battle. He reached for his sword at his side and grabbed air. Jaw clenched, eyes narrowed, he searched the diner looking for whatever had caused the spark, while he remembered why he was sitting there defenseless. To protect the woman across from him, because it had been deemed she be allowed one more Christmas.
Gabriel snorted. The Boss thought he could learn some, in His words, "valuable insight into His creations" by doing the job as one of them; his Boss might as well have tied both his hands and his feet.
Zipporah's body sagged as the excitement and adrenaline started leaking from her. She rubbed her shoulder to ease the ache settling there. The sleepiness from the cancer pulled at her making her wish for a hot bath and her bed. She slumped in her seat. A large hand slipped under her chin gently lifting it. Caring eyes of chocolate brown with tiny gold flecks searched her face. Zipporah gave a weak smile.
"I'm okay, just a bit worn out. Thank you again for saving me."
"I haven't saved you."
Zipporah straighten in her seat. "Why did it sound like there was a 'yet' after that sentence?"
Gabriel's shoulders lifted in a noncommittal shrug. "Let's get our order to go before you fall asleep here."
One arm around her shoulders he guided her to a small, dark, late-model sedan. A wry grin touched his lips. The Boss had thought of everything even down to placing the memory of the car's location in his mind to the money in his pocket. Gabriel had frozen for a moment when the bill came before he took a breath and reached into his back pants pocket. Finding a wallet with cash, he said a little prayer of thanks. He thought he heard a chuckle in response, but it had come from the elderly, white-haired man in the booth behind them reading the paper.
Gabriel helped Zipporah into the car noting the dark circles under her eyes for the first time. He knew where she lived, but he couldn't tell her that. "Zipporah, what's your address?" She gave it to him while clutching the bag of food and leaned her head back on the headrest.
It wasn't that far, only a few streets down, and they arrived in a scant few minutes. She was fast asleep by the time they pulled in front of her apartment building. Gabriel opened the car door and scooped her up in his arms. She held a death grip on the take-out bag in her sleep. He walked up the two flights of stairs with her in his arms marveling at how light she was.
Gabriel reached the top of the steps with the sleeping woman in his arms, only to face the closed door of her apartment. He started to open the door with his mind then remembered he didn't have his powers. He was trying to figure out how to get her keys out of the messenger bag anchored across her body and not wake her, when his foot tapped the door. It swung open; so much for security.
One fleeting look of her dwelling assured him, and anyone who would bother to enter, she didn't have anything of value to steal. Seeing no conventional bed, he laid her down on what appeared to be two crib-sized mattresses shoved end to end in the corner. Besides being too small, they were too thin. They were better than the hard wooden floor, he guessed, but not by much.
He debated whether to leave her coat on for warmth, but decided against it, as there appeared to be enough blankets piled on the bed. The room's temperature was more or less acceptable. She never stirred when he removed her coat, hat, and boots or when he tucked the blankets around her. Gabriel sat on the floor against the opposite wall since there wasn't any furniture to speak of and took in the tiny room. It wasn't what one would call an efficiency apartment but more of a huge bathroom. Okay, large.
Huge might be stretching it, as the room couldn't be any more than eight by ten with a tiny six-by-eight bathroom attached. Crammed into that bathroom was a standard-sized, claw-foot tub and toilet. The sink was outside in the main room. Back in the larger room, her "bed" occupied a corner, and a miniature end table with the smallest microwave he'd ever seen was in the other with a hot plate and an eclectic cooler for a fridge. The last corner held an opaque plastic container with what appeared to be clothes neatly stored inside. Gabriel sat watching Zippy sleep.
With one sweeping glance he'd "toured" her entire living space. "End Excerpt"