Chapter 1

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My Ward, Daniel Michael Wheaton, was a special assignment, direct from the Council of Seraphim—the highest rank of angel in Heaven—and I was determined to prove myself with him. My past failures as a Guardian were of no consequence. All that mattered now was keeping him on the right path. After all, he’d chosen that path, so guarding him shouldn’t have been that hard.

But it was.

Being a Guardian angel is so… exhausting. Humans create their Incarnation Plans before being born on Earth, and it’s a Guardian’s sacred duty to ensure nothing interferes with following that Plan—including the humans themselves. Constantly trying to help them live their lives the way they wanted drained me. But I had to do it right this time.

On an afternoon in May 1759, in a rural part of colonial Maryland, the Wheaton family was eating their midday meal together. I stood behind Daniel, hands nestled in the small of my back under relaxed wings. Daniel’s head bowed as he planned the work he needed to finish before twilight.

Daniel’s heart rate was strong, his breathing was even, and he seemed calm. The breeze sweeping through the cabin cooled him, despite the unseasonable afternoon heat. The only thing that could go wrong was yet another emotional outburst, and I would do everything I could to stop that.

Though angels can’t directly interfere in the lives of the humans we’re charged with guarding, we can assist. I wasn’t good at helping prevent Daniel from lashing out, but I tried to keep him serene by pressing soothing thoughts toward him through whatever bond we supposedly share. For now, he seemed stable.

Daniel’s wife, Lily, cut up their son’s pork, her cutlery clinking against the plate. Eleven-year-old Caleb chattered about a game he and the neighbor boy had invented that morning. It involved leftover scraps of fence, long grass strands, and large insects. “It was my idea,” he said.

“Caleb, finish your mush.” Lily slid the plate toward him.

“I don’t wanna finish my mush.” Caleb shoved aside the bowl. His Guardian, Jersihod, didn’t move. “It tastes like cow dung.”

Lily clanked down her knife and gave Daniel a sharp look.

I felt Daniel’s temper flare. Before I could react by again pressing placid emotions toward him, he said to Lily, “It’s my fault your mush is dry?” He didn’t look up from his peas.

Lily’s Guardian, Oronis, stared at me from where he sat on the windowsill. I resented his stares. I was doing what I could. I tucked my hair behind an ear and pressed calm thoughts into Daniel’s mind—another weak attempt to quell his anger.

Every human has a Guardian, and I wasn’t pleased I had to work with Oronis. He’d changed his aspect to a grey-bearded man with laugh-lines crinkling the corners of his eyes, an affectation that annoyed me. All eternal creatures can modify their aspects. Changes range from the mundane—such as Oronis’ grey beard—to the bizarre—such as shape-shifting to an object or animal. But humans can’t see us, so what’s the purpose?

For that reason, I didn’t change my aspect from how I’d been born: white robe, feminine shape, white-blond hair, eternally youthful. Simple. Oronis was probably younger than me by centuries anyway. I’d seen so much more than he in the many years I’d lived. We experience time with our humans, in the same way they do, as we watch and do our jobs, invisible to the Wards we’re assigned to protect.

Lily’s face twisted into the look she wore whenever Daniel was curt. She touched the cross that hung from a cord on her neck and stood. I kept myself from glancing toward Daniel’s neck, naked of religious symbols. Lily grasped Caleb by the shoulder and pulled him from his chair. A tear glimmered at the corner of her eye as she grabbed the wooden paddle from its place on the wall.

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