|“Ángel de Muerte,” she spit the words at him. “Who gave you the right to decide who
lives and who dies? Will you tell my children their father is dead? Will you tell my son
his father’s life was worth less than these other men?”
He had turned and walked away from her.
Now James looked down, not wanting to see the hate flood those eyes.
He jumped when he felt the touch of a hand on his arm.“Thank you,” the voice with its
Latin inflection whispered. “Thank you for looking after my children.” Slowly he lifted his
eyes to hers and saw pain and regret. She reached out carefully and lifted the little girl
from his arms. The child woke and fussed briefly until she realized it was her mother’s
arms that held her. The small voice spoke quickly. He caught only the word Papa.
Whatever she had said made the woman’s eyes close briefly. A sad smile curved her
lips as she set the girl on her feet and knelt down to face her two eldest. “Gabriela,
Elian, this is the man who was with your Papa when he died.”
James felt his chest contract and the air fled his lungs. He looked quickly at Leah and
caught her expression. It was filled with concern, concern for him. He looked away and
steeled himself for what was about to happen. He was going to be revealed. Revealed
as the monster who haunted the nightmares of these children. “He is the man who held
Papa’s hand, who helped him to pass on to become the angel who watches over you.”
James stared uncomprehendingly into the woman’s eyes. She wasn’t cursing him. He
felt a small hand slip into his and tug at it. He knelt down to the little girl. Her eyes
watched him for a long moment. Then she leaned in and pressed her soft child’s mouth
to his cheek.
“Gracias, Señor,” Elian’s sober face tugged at his heart. He stood up quickly and ran
his hand through his hair.
“It was my job,” he muttered.
“No,” the woman said softly. “This is twice you have comforted those I love when I could
not. I should have said this then but I could not…”
“Don’t,” James half groaned. The well of emotion he kept so tightly contained was rising
up like a flood, threatening to overflow its banks.
“Thank you,” she finished. She again touched his arm before she took her older two
children by the hand and led her family away.
James turned on his heel and walked the opposite direction. He felt Leah beside him in
the way that one feels the presence of the sun in a windowless room. He knew it was
there but gave it no thought as he believed it was useless to him. They had just reached
the Red Section corridors when he lost control.
It had been her intent to get James onto the couch but that plan failed. He stumbled just
inside the door and collapsed. He pushed her away from him and supported himself on
his hands and knees. “Leave me,” he growled out at her.
“No,” she said simply, lowering herself to the floor next to him. “I’m not leaving you like
“Get away from me,” he turned a face filled with pain and fury to her. Fear fluttered in
“James,” she started.
“Damn it!” he pushed himself up, staggering toward the bedroom. “I said get away from
She stood and watched him try to walk away. The emotions she felt made her head
spin. Such anger, such pain, such hate. He took a few steps and would have fallen
again had he not grabbed onto the edge of the desk. The force of his actions caused
the photos she had placed there to rattle, one of them falling over. The shattering of the
glass froze him in place.
He turned, his breathing like that of a wild animal trying desperately to escape its
pursuers. He lifted the photo. His face contorted with pure rage, the anguish that burned
inside him as visible as if it was a flame burning in his eyes. “Useless,” he ground out.
“Useless.” He looked up at her.
What had only fluttered inside her before began to beat like the wings of a caged bird in
her chest. The aura of hate that pulsed around him, the angry, almost mindless look on
his face made her afraid. In that moment she knew that somehow she had become the
focus of the emotions he could no longer contain.
“Pointless,” he snarled. “All your remembering and platitudes and foolish sentimental
bullshit. It means nothing. It won’t bring them back and it doesn’t make living without
them any easier.” He took a step toward her. She held her ground, though every
thought in her head cried out for her to move away. “They’re dead. They’re dead, Leah.
Rotting somewhere, probably without a decent burial. Lying rotting on the ground, food
for the scavengers and predators that outlived them.”
A scream rose inside her. “Stop it, James. Stop,” Her voice trembled. She fought the
urge to cover her ears with her hands and forced herself to swallow the fear and anger
his words caused.
“At least you didn’t have to watch them die,” the words choked in his throat. The
photograph fell from his fingers to the floor. His shoulders drooped and she felt the
anger drain out of him to be replaced by pain so deep nothing else could stand in its
wake. He turned and tried to make it to his room.
She moved to his side as she had in the corridor and supported his weight. He let her
touch him, the fight seeming to have shattered, leaving him nothing to cling to for
strength. She moved him to his room and would have sat him on his bed but he slid
down to the floor, back braced against the bed, legs drawn up. He crossed his arms
over his knees and laid his face on his hands. She watched his shoulders shake, heard
the staggered intake of breath and knew he was crying. She reached her hand out and
caressed his shoulder.
“Just go, Leah. Please go,” his muffled voice pleaded with her. His pride wanted her to
leave. He didn’t want her to see what he perceived as his weakness.
“I won’t leave you, James,” she replied. “How could I leave you?” She slipped her hand
across his back and leaned her cheek against his shoulder.
A soft moan moved through him and he lifted his head. His face was flushed and wet,
his eyes so filled with his hurt that there was no part of her that could conceive of
abandoning him to it. She pressed gently and he let her pull him onto her shoulder. Her
arms wrapped around him as he buried his face against her neck. Her hands stroked
the black hair from his face. “I won’t leave you, James,” she whispered. “Don’t be afraid.
We owe them and ourselves our tears.”
|Romance Junkies 4.5 Blue Ribbons
"ACCESS DENIED kept me pretty much spellbound
the entire book."
"...the love story of Leah and James stayed with me
long after I read the last word."
eMuse 5 Plumes
"This character driven masterpiece will leave you
breathless and aching for the type of resolution that
only occurs in fairy tales."
Fallen Angel Reviews
"Jacqueline Roth has amazed me with her
imagination and characters who haven’t given up the
will to survive."
|Available in print