Ariel Rising is the first episode in the Ariel, Between Two Worlds series.
"Love it. I love to read books about angels and this one didn't disappoint me. Ariel and Davin make a wonderful couple. Can't wait to read the next book..." [Clarissa's review on Amazon]
My dreams were simple. College, a career, and let’s see what happens. But things don’t always go according to plan.
My name is Ari Worthington and I’ve had a very eventful week. A life-changing week. The kind of week that would make the average person whimper. It started when my ex-boyfriend Luke accosted me in the woods.
How badly was I injured? Not a scratch. And Luke? Not so lucky. Nope, I whupped him good. It surprised the heck out of him—once he woke up.
And then I met Davin. Handsome, witty, amazing Davin. Perfect in every way, unless you think being an alien, from a planet called Olympus, might be a liability.
“Seriously? Your planet is named after a Greek mountain?” I ask him.
“Actually, it’s the other way around,” he tells me. “The mountain was named after us. We’ve been visiting Earth for a very, very long time. As a matter of fact, we are responsible for human evolution.”
Imagine that. Shocking? Yeah. But there’s more. Davin’s an angel, which I could have handled, would have handled, if only he hadn’t told me I was one, too.
“But we don’t have wings,” I say.
“Real angels don’t need wings,” he counters.
“Ah, that explains everything,” I reply.
So, you think this is just another angel story? Well, it’s not. It’s got humor, romance, adventure, science, tragedy, and…did I say romance? It’ll make you think, and laugh, and cry.
Davin and I, you see, are part of a larger plan. A noble plan. A plan to save the sons and daughters of man, or what’s left of them, after the war. A big war.
Okay, enough of my rambling. Davin and I need to get back to training. And you’ve got some reading to do, yeah?
Portal City, Olympus
Book 2 of the Ariel Between Two Worlds series is due to be released first quarter of 2017.
The Jacuzzi tub in the Presidential Suite of the Willard Hotel feels wonderful as it massages my dry skin. In a way, the turbulent water reminds me of what my life has become. In little more than a year, I’ve gone from being a high school senior to an immortal angel—a member of the angelic Royal Family, to be precise. It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve killed a fallen angel; I’ve healed my best friend from what would have been a fatal knife wound, turning her into an angel in the process; I’ve fallen in love with a Warrior Master, blissfully committing myself to him in a traditional angelic binding, only to see him nearly killed the very next day. But with the help of my sister, and the grace of the Creator, I healed him—triggering a genetic change that made us the most powerful angels in existence. We are like two halves of a raging star. We are the most lethal creatures ever to walk the mortal worlds. We can fly like eagles, bend light to our will, and fill the sky with terrifying bolts of lightning. We hold the power of Thor’s hammer in our hands. We are the wrath of God—And it’s a good thing we are, because our mission is to save the human race from enslavement.
Washington DC, Earth
When it comes to being a husband and wife (or wife and husband) writing team, there are advantages, or benefits. Chief among them is that you get to practice the love scenes. He writes, she steers, and…well, it’s fun. He is a software designer and she is a doctor of education. AJ and CS Sparber live in the lovely town of Hudson, Ohio, with their son Ryan, their daughter Melanie, and the blessed spirit of an Aussie shepherd named Hunter.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
It’s fast-paced, smooth-flowing, grammatically strong, well-edited, extremely difficult to put down, and contains a perfect balance of adventure, peril, and romance.
Do you have any writing projects you are currently working on?
We are currently working on the second book in the Ariel, Between Two Worlds series.
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
We frame a very broad outline, covering major plot points, chronology, and character descriptions. From that point, we tend to let the characters pull us through their story. In many ways, they develop a life of their own. Perhaps it can be called FI (fictional intelligence). Yes, our characters do speak to us. They really do. As a writing team, we assume very clear roles. For example, AJ is the lead writer for this series, and I (CS) am the lead editor. Each chapter, when completed, gets uploaded to our Kindles, where we use the Notes feature to make edits and recommend changes. We then discuss those edits and commit them to the manuscript. We’re not sure how many writers work this way, but we’ve found it amazingly productive.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a published author?
Learn to write well. Paint with words. Alliterate. Command the English language. Understand that Tom and me did not go to the mall. Tom and I did. And know that Jill did not follow Bob and I. She followed Bob and me. If you do not have a seasoned command of grammar, then seek out someone who does, and have him or her read your manuscript. If a bad report is had, then you will want to find and hire a good editor.
As a writer, do you have plans for world domination, or do you have a day job as well?
Ah, we can dream, can’t we? Actually, we do have day jobs. Since we are a team, I guess we have two. My husband is a software engineer—co-owner of a successful company that makes plugins for Adobe web authoring platforms. I am a doctor of education, holding research and teaching positions at Kent State University.
Do you ever experience writer's block and if so, how to you overcome it?
A good Zinfandel often does the trick. Walks in the woods have been known to give us a nudge. And we regularly practice scenes out loud. But if none of our typical remedies work, we never force it. We wait it out until it passes…and it always does.
If your book became a movie, who would be your first choice to play the lead roles?
Well, there is a reason Jennifer Lawrence worked so well for the Hunger Games. Ariel would be a great role for her. Ryan Guzman seems to project Davin’s best qualities. They’d make an awesome team.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
We did a lot of research into genetics and aging. The mechanics of cell regeneration borders on the magical. The fact that we can observe how it works, and how it stops working, tells us that aging may well be a solvable process. When Davin jokingly offers to cut off a finger and have it regenerate, to prove to Ari that he is not human, the process is not as far-fetched as it might seem. We all know of animals with amazing regenerative capabilities, but did you know that research into mammalian cell regeneration is advancing at a brisk pace…and with very positive results? Of course, we should remind you not to try this at home.
If you had to have one word or phrase written on your forehead for an entire week, what would it be?
What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
Hopefully fictional characters count, because no one has ever provided me with better advice than Master Yoda: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
What was the scariest moment of your life?
Jumping out of an airplane the first time…with a parachute, of course.
What is your favorite line from a book?
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." George Orwell, 1984
You just woke up in an alternative universe. Can you describe what it would look like and tell us what your first reaction would be.
I’m open to what it would look like, but once I found out where I was, there is no doubt my first reaction would be a huge belly laugh, followed by a fist pump. Yes!
I lock the front door behind me, do some quick stretches in the driveway, then hit the street running.
There’s nothing like a good, brisk afternoon run. It’s a transcendent time. A time when I can breathe deeply and be alone in my thoughts.
My love of running comes from my mom, Dr. Andi (Andrea) Worthington—a pediatric surgeon and serious fitness advocate. She trained me well because, by ninth grade, I could run like a doe—probably faster than any girl on the track team. But committing my time and energy to a team sport is not my thing. Getting good grades and going to the right college is far more important in the grand scheme of things. In life, it’s all about return on investment.
My regular route takes me into the Shenandoah Valley National Park, Virginia’s own version of paradise. As I run, the afternoon sun wraps me in its warm caress, and my mind drifts.
Here I am, three weeks removed from my eighteenth birthday, graduation just a couple of months away, and then the countdown to college. My life will have meaning. I can make a difference. I will make a difference. And although it was not specifically mentioned in Bryce Institute’s marketing brochures, there is a very good chance the Institute will have a decent inventory of men with fully functioning minds—and in full command of their hormones. How good will that be?
The sound of a car door closing brings me back to reality, and I look up to see a large shape barreling toward me from across the road. As his face comes into focus, I groan. It’s Luke Blanton, star of the Edgewood high school football team, and my idiot ex-boyfriend. We dated for six months, and it was not a good relationship. I wanted to take things slow. He wanted it all. And that was not going to happen. I never loved him. I hardly even liked him. I tolerated him. And, ultimately, I told him to get lost.
He’s been trying to get me back for months and it’s really getting annoying.
“Hey, Ari,” he says through a crooked grin. “You look really hot.”
He is leering like a bear in heat. I remember that leer.
“Well, I’ve been running for half an hour and it’s kind of warm out. Yeah, I’m hot.” I roll my eyes. “What are you doing around here, anyway? Are you lost?”
Luke lives at the other end of town. He’s stalking me.
“Can we talk?” As he asks, he nudges me off the road and down toward the forest trail.
Alone in the woods with Luke—this is not going to end well. I begin to assess my escape options when, without warning, he grabs me around the waist and pulls me into him.
“Let me go!” I growl.
Luke is six foot two and well over two hundred pounds. I’m five inches shorter and tip the scales at just over a hundred and thirty—soaking wet.
“Chill. Hear me out, Okay?”
“Let go of me and maybe I’ll listen.” I’m trying really hard to suppress the dread that’s building up inside me.
He loosens his hold, but is still very much in violation of my personal space. “Listen, I was a jerk last year.”
“Uh-huh. Talk about understatements.”
“I should’ve given you more time to warm up to me. But that’s all water under the dam. I think we can move past that.”
“Move past what? Attempted date rape?” I probably should be less confrontational, but Luke is playing me, and I’m getting seriously cranked. “By the way, Einstein, it’s water over the dam—or under the bridge,” I add with a scowl.
“Whatever. But date rape? That’s a little extreme, Ari. I really do care about you, and I just wanted to show it. How about we start over. Let’s kiss and make up and we’ll—”
“Damn it, Blanton!” I snap. “We’ve had this conversation before. There is nothing between us. I may wind up being the last virgin in Virginia, but I want more out of life. Read my lips, meathead. I—”
“Meathead? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“All in the Family. TVLand. Classic sitcom. It means dead from the neck up.”
I realize, probably too late, that antagonizing him is not a tactically sound approach. He leans into me, his lips dangerously close to mine, and whispers, “You got spirit. Makes me want you even more.”
Oh great, he’s trying to sound romantic.
Then he kisses me. Hard.
I manage to disengage my mouth from his, grab a breath, and tear into him. “I don’t want you. I don’t like you. And if you don’t take your hands off of me—I’m going to hurt you.”
Can I hurt him?
“I’ll get my hands off you after we settle up,” he says, sneering.
“Exactly what are we settling, Luke?”
“I want us to go to the prom.”
“I’m not going to the prom with you.”
“Are you going with that college dude…Gale?”
“His name is Galen, and what goes on between us is none of your damn business.”
“I’m making it my business, Ari. We belong together.”
“We do not belong together, and you’re really starting to aggravate me. You need to leave me alone. Go home, Luke.”
He’s beginning to scare me a little. And then something strange happens. My scalp begins to tingle. The tingle turns into a buzz that reaches the middle of my chest. It’s like a fuse was lit. I feel charged, coiled, and ready to spring. Anger and fear is displaced by focus. My mind yields command to my body.
Luke leans in for another kiss.
Before I can think, my left arm shoots out like a piston, and the heel of my hand connects with his nose.
He yelps like a puppy and staggers backwards. Blood gushes; and he looks extremely pissed off.
“You’re dead meat,” he says, glaring at me, as he struggles to regain his balance. Then, without warning, he charges.
Luke’s expression is pure evil, and I know I’m in serious trouble. But something is off. Everything slows down. Luke seems as if he’s moving in slow motion.
I dip to the left, easily avoiding his punch, as my right hand explodes into his jaw. Luke crumples to the ground in a heap. His eyes are shut tight. He isn’t moving.
What did I do? Will he get up and attack again? Will he ever get up?
I turn and dart into the woods, accelerating at a frightening rate, as my body maneuvers over and around obstacles—like a guided missile.
Before I know it, I’m standing beside Renegade Falls. My chest is heaving and I’m sweating profusely.
A nervous chuckle escapes me, because the Falls is over a mile from where I left Luke. It doesn’t make sense. Sure, I can run a mile. Easily. But not at a full-out sprint. Nobody can do that. But…
I shake my head rapidly, trying to force myself to think clearly. But I can’t, because every muscle and nerve in my body seems on fire, and my eyes won’t focus, and then my head begins to spin.
I gingerly lower myself to a seat on a large rock and play back my confrontation with Luke. When I get to the last scene, I shiver.
“Did I k-kill him?” I ask myself.
A man’s voice, deep and clear, answers, “He’ll be okay.”
I turn toward the voice, and a tall stranger steps into view. He’s dressed for a run in black training pants and a sleeveless black tee. His neatly-trimmed hair is black as night; his eyes a vivid shade of green. He looks to be in his early twenties. He is strikingly handsome.
Before I can complete the question, a wave of nausea hits me, and I treat Whatshisname to a Broadway-quality puke show.
He crouches beside me, pulling the hair away from my face as he gently rubs a hand over my back. I heave again and again until everything I’ve ever eaten spews out—at least it feels that way.
“I’m Davin Andersen,” he says softly.
“Oh, I’m so embarrassed, I—”
“It’s okay. I saw what happened. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Here, drink some water,” he says, handing me a bottle.
I want to crawl into a hole and die.
“How much did you see?” I ask in a small voice, as I take a drink.
“Pretty much the important parts. He grabbed you, you told him to let go, he wouldn’t, so you hit him.”
“How did you happen to be there in the first place?”
Is he friend or foe?
“You’re Ariel Worthington. Right?”
“You know me?” I turn to face him. He is watching me intently, with a look that seems to express compassion and concern. “I don’t believe we’ve ever met.”
“I know of you.” His eyes lock onto mine, and he smiles, showing off a pair of dimples that are impossibly cute.
“And how is that? I’m not very famous.”
“I’m your new neighbor. Your mom stopped by earlier this afternoon to welcome us. When she saw that I was dressed for a run, she told me what an avid runner you are. So, when my aunt saw you leave for a run, she suggested I go make friends with our new neighbor. The rest, as they say, is history.”
“Oh. Well, that’s a unique way to meet people,” I say in a teasing tone.
“It’s not easy to meet nice people these days. I guess I jumped at the chance. Or ran at the chance. Anyway, you were maybe two hundred yards ahead when your friend showed up. I stopped where you and he entered the park and it occurred to me that he was probably your boyfriend, so—”
I cut him off.
“He’s my ex-boyfriend. I ended our relationship last year.”
Davin is tall, taller than Luke. And while Luke is built like a grizzly bear, Davin is more like a large cat—lithe, lissome, and imposing.
“I see,” he says, giving me an appraising look. “I was about to turn back when I heard yelling. So I headed toward the voices to make sure you were safe. Before I could react, he was on the ground. I started to call out to you, but you took off like a missile.”
“Yes, I was really moving pretty fast.”
“Extremely fast. I’m surprised I was able to catch up with you.”
“You look like a fast runner,” I say. “Why did you follow me up here?”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Maybe chivalry isn’t dead, after all. “Thank you, Davin.”
He nods. “The boy who attacked you…Luke?”
“Has he harassed you before?”
“Not like this. Ever since I broke off with him he’s been trying to get me back. He’s a hotshot football player and he thinks all females should grovel at his feet. He’s…”
“That works,” I say with a little smile.
“Well, I’m glad you were not injured.”
“I appreciate your concern.” I am genuinely grateful.
“You could have been seriously hurt, Ariel.”
“I know…and please, call me Ari.
“So, you moved in today?” I ask, trying to be neighborly.
“Early this morning.”
“Did you move here for work?”
“School, actually. I’m transferring from UC Santa Barbara to Bryce Institute. They were gracious enough to offer me a masters scholarship, which could have something to do with my aunt being recruited to head their genetics lab. Hopefully, I won’t embarrass her.”
“Well, that’s a coincidence. I’ll be going to the Institute, too. And to tell you the truth, I’m a little worried that I’ll embarrass myself.”
“If my first impression of you is accurate, I think you’ll do just fine.”
“Thank you, Davin. And I have a feeling you will do your aunt proud. What’s your major?”
“Military history. And yours?”
“I’ll be studying paleoanthropology,” I say, feeling a little more geeky than I would like.
“Ah, a fascinating field,” he says with an adorable smile. “Perhaps you will one day discover how mankind really evolved.”
Usually I get a really blank stare at the mention of the word paleoanthropology. Davin actually knows what it means. I’m impressed.
“That’s the plan. The Institute has a phenomenal program.”
Bryce Institute is a very exclusive college, run by the Bryce Foundation, which is part think tank, part research facility, and conveniently located right here in the Valley, at the foot of Mt. Evan. Ostensibly, the best scientists and engineers in the world work there. You don’t apply to the Institute—they recruit you. I’d been planning on going to Virginia Tech when I received an offer from Bryce—a full-ride scholarship. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
“Have you taken the campus tour yet?” Davin asks.
“Uh-huh. Last week, actually. I’m really amped up. The place is awesome. What about you? Have you taken the tour?”
“Not yet. But according to my aunt, it’s a remarkable place.”
“So is Santa Barbara, I think.”
Southern California. I imagine him balanced on a surfboard, rippling muscles glistening in the sun, shorts riding low on his hips, abs tensed. My cheeks begin to heat up and I know it’s time to leave the beach.
“It’s kind of quiet around here. Hope you don’t get bored.”
“That’s good,” I say with a coy smile. “Oh, my! I almost forgot—do you think Luke is still back there?”
“He woke up a few seconds after you ran off. Looked really embarrassed when he saw me. I’d say he’s going to need a nose job.”
“I thought I hurt him badly.”
“You defended yourself, Ari. How do you feel?”
“Better. So, did Luke say anything before he left?”
“We had a little chat. The notion of being defeated by a woman did not sit well with him. He wanted to go after you, but I told him that would be extremely ill-advised—and possibly painful.”
“You really said that?” I am moved. Davin is my knight in black running clothes.
“Then what happened?”
“He came at me swinging, so I hit him…in the ribs. As he knelt, doubled over, I informed him that I saw what happened—all of it—and that if you wanted to press charges, I would gladly volunteer my services as an eyewitness.”
I chuckle. “I like your style.”
“Thank you,” he says with an unassuming smile.
I feel comfortable with him. At ease.
“I’m going to call a friend to pick me up,” I say. “Would you like a ride or would you rather finish your run?”
I really hope he’ll stay with me.
“I don’t think I should leave you here alone.”
I call Ella and give her a shortened version of what happened. She’s an hour away—give or take. Frankly, if it means more time alone with Davin, I kind of hope traffic is seriously backed up.
“She’ll be here in about an hour. You really don’t have to wait with me if you’ve got things to do.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Nah. I just wanted to give you an option in case you really want to leave.”
“I’ll stay. Besides, it’s really pretty up here,” he says, giving me an appraising glance.
Is he flirting with me?
“This is one of my favorite places,” I remark.
“Perhaps you could show me around someday? You know, give me a tour?”
“I’d love to,” I say, because I really would.
“So you don’t have a current boyfriend?”
He is flirting with me.
A blush spreads across my cheeks, and all I can do is stare, because my voice refuses to work.
He looks apologetic. “I didn’t mean to pry—”
I cut him off because his question is not out of line and I really want him to know that I’m unattached. Mostly.
“It’s okay,” I say with a shy smile. “And it was a fair question. I date occasionally, but I am not in an exclusive relationship.”
“I see,” he replies, politely. “May I call you later?”
“Yes,” I say, as I remove my phone from the porta-pocket strapped to my upper left arm.
We exchange numbers and stroll back toward the road—at a leisurely pace.
Davin is just what I need after my encounter with Luke. He has a calming effect on me.
Curious. Very curious.
Davin looks surprised when he sees the bright red Jeep Wrangler bouncing down the path toward us. “Your friend?”
“Yes, that would be Ella.”
“She drives a very capable vehicle,” he remarks.
“She is a very capable driver.”
Ella pulls up in front of us, gets out of the Jeep, and rushes to my side. “Are you okay, sweetie? Luke didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“I’m fine, Ella. Not a scratch.” I place my hand on Davin’s arm. “This is Davin Andersen. He’s my new neighbor.”
She’s gawking. Guess I can’t blame her. “Howdy, neighbor! Nice to meet you. Did you scare Luke off? You look as if you could,” she says, offering her hand.
Davin smiles and shakes her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Ella. I’m not sure if I scared Luke away. Let’s just say I helped him to decide that hanging around would not be in his best interest.”
Ella chuckles. “I like your attitude, Davin. Confidence without arrogance. It’s a real skill.”
“You should know,” I say with a wink.
She gives me a big smile. Ella and I have been friends since we were toddlers. She’s classically pretty—tall and graceful, with wavy, straw-colored hair, hazel eyes, a fabulous figure, and a perpetually impish grin that masks a razor-sharp mind. And she probably knows me better than I know myself.
“Let’s go folks,” Ella says, as she slides into the Jeep.
Davin hops in back, and I ride shotgun.
Ella puts the Jeep in gear and we bounce up the rocky path toward the road as if we were shot out of a cannon. Had I asked Ella to slow down, she’d have sped up—so I hold my tongue and the large grab handle on the Jeep’s dashboard.
As we speed along Valley Road, toward home, I tell her what happened. But I sense that Ella is not buying it.
“Come on, Davin administered the beating. Right?”
Davin shakes his head. “It was all Ari.”
“It was,” I say. “Perhaps I had an adrenaline surge?”
She gives me a strange look, so I try again.
Ella wrinkles her brow. “You hit him in the nose? Then you hit him in the jaw…and knocked him out?”
“Okay, sweetie. If you say so.”
Nope, she’s not buying it at all.
There are issues I cannot explain. Issues that defy explanation. When Luke attacked me, he seemed to be moving in slow motion. There was no way I could have missed hitting him. And how was I able to run so far, so fast? Did I lose track of time? There is no logical explanation.
But if I did run that fast, Davin must have, too. Oh, man.
Davin’s house is just across the road from mine. Ella drops him off, makes a quick U-turn, then pulls into my driveway.
“He’s really hot, sweetie. Let me know right now if you want him, or he’s mine,” she says with an exaggerated drawl.
“For heaven’s sake, I just met the guy today.”
“Yeah, me too,” she says with a smirk.
“Stop it!” I say, as I roll my eyes. “You already have a boyfriend.”
“So you do want him. I knew it! But you’ve got Galen. What about Galen, huh? He’s pretty dang hot, too.”
“There is nothing serious between Galen and me.”
“Well, I’ve heard he’s totally into you. You better tell him you just met the man of your dreams, sweetie, because the way you just watched Davin walk away from this car was very PG-13, in my humble opinion.”
“Ella, you don’t have humble opinions. Why don’t we go inside so we can start planning the wedding. Okay?”
“Nice!” Ella exclaims. She’s grinning from ear to ear.
But I’m not grinning, because I can’t figure out what changed. This morning I liked Galen. A lot. Now? Not so much. It’s as if Davin entered my consciousness and made himself right at home. I can’t stop thinking about him, which frightens me, because I never obsess over guys. Never.
End of Excerpt