Excerpt: Anne Rice's New Thriller 'Of Love and Evil'

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He nodded as though that was perfectly reasonable when in fact it was ridiculous.

"She's going to ask what I've been doing all this time," I said. "What do I say to her?"

"You'll say only what's good for her and for your son," he answered. "You know that."

"Yes, I do," I conceded.

"Upstairs, on your computer," he said, "there's a long document you wrote called 'Angel Time.'?"

"Yes, well, I wrote that when I was waiting for you to come to me again. I wrote down everything that happened on my first assignment."

"That was good," he said, "a form of meditation and it worked well. But Toby, no one must read that document, not now, and maybe not ever."

I should have known this. I felt a little crestfallen but I understood. With embarrassment I thought of how proud I'd been to recount my first mission for the angels. I'd even boasted to The Right Man, my old boss, that I had changed my life, that I was writing about it, that maybe someday he'd find my real name in the bookstores. As if he cared, the man who'd sent me as Lucky the Fox to kill over and over again. Ah, such pride, but then, in all my adult life, I'd never done anything before to be proud of. And The Right Man was the only person in this world with whom I had regular conversations. That is, until I had met Malchiah.

"Children of the Angels come and go as we do," Malchiah said, "only seen by a few, unseen and unheeded by others."

I nodded.

"Is that what I am now, a Child of the Angels?"

"Yes," he said, smiling. "That's what you are. Remember it."

With that he was gone.

And I was left realizing I had some fifty minutes to wait for Liona.

Maybe I'd take a little walk, have a soda in the bar, I didn't know. I only knew suddenly I was happy, and I was.

As I thought about this, I turned around, and looked towards the doors of the lobby, but for no particular reason. I saw a figure there, to one side of the doors, a figure of a young man, who stood with arms folded, leaning against the wall, staring at me. He was as vivid as anything around him, a tall man like Malchiah, only with reddish blond hair, and larger blue eyes, and he wore a khaki suit identical to my own. I turned my back on him to avoid his fixed stare, and then I realized how unlikely it was that the guy should be wearing a suit exactly like mine, and staring at me like that, with an expression that was just short of anger. No, it hadn't been anger.

I turned back. He was still staring. It was concern, not anger.

You're my guardian angel!

He gave me a near-imperceptible nod.

A remarkable sense of well-being came over me. My anxiety melted away. I've heard your voice! I've heard you with the other angels. I was fascinated and oddly comforted, and all of this in a split second.

A little crowd of guests came out of the lobby doors, passing in front of this figure, and obscuring him, and as they turned left to go along another path, I realized he had disappeared.

My heart was skipping. Had I seen all this correctly? Had he really been staring at me, and had he nodded to me?

My mental picture of this was fading rapidly. Someone had been standing there, yes, of course, but there was no way now to check what had happened, to submit it to any kind of analysis.

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