Influencers are the voices that whisper in our ears. Tiny Angels and Devils sitting on our shoulders and guiding our choices. They are sworn to thwart the other. It is their duty.
Or so they thought…
Nothing is as it seems and questions are piling up. Do Kale and Ariel have the strength to face the truth? Will Tony and Landon be forced to choose a side? Can Soleil break through to Kemuel? Three tales, three choices: Light. Dark. Or the shades of gray between.
Which one will win?
Influenced is a sweet romance fantasy short story collection about the angels and devils who sit on our shoulders and whisper in our ears.
Coming August 2020
Influence of Love James Arnold didn’t blink an eye when the minuscule woman appeared out of thin air with a loud pop. He ignored her as he read the morning newspaper at the kitchen table. The small woman hovered in the air a moment, smoothing her white dress and wings. She combed her slender fingers through her golden hair then perched on his shoulder and whispered in his ear. He continued to read, ignoring her as if he didn’t even know she was there.
But that was the truth. He didn’t know she existed. She was nothing more than a tiny, invisible, angelic figure perched on his left shoulder, offering guidance that would lead him to the Light. And if he knew she was there, would he mind?
The voice came from James’ other shoulder, a rich tenor—the opposite of her soprano voice. She wrinkled her button nose as her opposite flitted in front of James’ face, purposely smacking the mortal on the nose in the process before landing next to her. James gave no sign he felt the blow, but she felt a bolt of irritation.
“Kale, we are not to disturb the mortal.”
Kale grinned impishly. His brown eyes sparkled under a mess of reddish-brown hair. Sticking out of the mop were two small, red horns. “Oh, come on, Ariel. It’s not like he notices. We could do the waltz in front of his face and he wouldn’t see.” He grabbed her by the waist and spun her in front of James’ face.
The world swam around Ariel and she struggled to free herself. Acidic thoughts not befitting an angel churned in her head. She leveled an icy glare at Kale but didn’t speak. Instead, she reined her emotions in and returned to her spot on James’ shoulder. Kale followed, still grinning.
“You’re impossible.” She sighed.
“Impossible?” He feigned hurt. “I think interesting is a more fitting term.”
Ariel snorted and focused on James who had started to rise from his chair but had stopped, as if unsure what to do next. She laid a hand on James’ ear and leaned in to whisper guidance. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kale take note. Before she could think to delay him, he bolted to his side. Feeling James’ decision waver, she spoke quickly, hoping and praying the mortal would heed her words and not whatever mischief Kale sought to lure James towards the Dark with.
Balance of Love Tony dubbed herself the black sheep of Light Influencers. She prided herself on going against the grain. While her brothers and sisters were blond-haired and blue-eyed, she opted for short black hair and brown eyes. They wore white robes. She chose black pants and shirts. She also lined her eyes in black and painted her nails black. They displayed their wings proudly while she kept hers tucked under her shirt with only the tips showing. When they gathered, she stood out like a sore thumb, but no one batted an eye. The angels never even commented on Tony’s appearance. Couldn’t they show some outrage when she tried to ditch her golden halo? The damn thing refused to leave the space over her head unlike some of her other siblings who were able to make the halo come and go at will.
Watch your language, Tony, her siblings would chide her before ignoring her again. They were good, waiting patiently for the angels to send them to the mortal world so they could do their part in the war between the angels and the demons. The war was all that mattered to them, and their devotion rubbed Tony raw. Whispering into a mortal’s ear had yet to win them any battles. The mortals weren’t even aware of the war. If they could see it, would they believe? Tony doubted that. Even God’s truest believers were skeptics.
Tony grimaced. Crap, Iswore out loud.
Her siblings vanished when white light wrapped around her. It glowed so brightly that her eyes watered. She squinted, looking for the angel who would scold her for her potty mouth.
A masculine voice sighed. “As vexing as it is that you will not watch your tongue, that is not why I have called you.”
Tony opened one eye.
The light was gone. An angel sat under a lone tree in a field of grass. Like the Light Influencers, he wore white and had golden blond hair. A scowl marred his flawless face.
Tony looped her thumbs in her belt loops. “Oh. What do you want then?”
“It’s your time. You must go to battle.”
A scoff rose up Tony’s throat and burst free.
The scowl deepened. “You undermine your importance. Each one of us has a part to play if we are to win the battle.”
“Yeah, sure. Me whispering in a mortal’s ear is going to do sooooo much.” Tony rolled her eyes and folded her arms. “This is so Goddamn—”
Thunder split the air. Electricity jolted through Tony and threw her to the ground. She curled up, protecting her head with her arms.
The angel towered over her. “You will do your duty so we can banish Darkness from the world.”
The light swallowed her surroundings again and Tony plummeted. She flailed her arms as she fell. Wind roared in her ears. After a few moments, her descent slowed until she floated as gently as a feather.
She appeared in a bedroom with a sharp pop. Clothing was scattered on the floor, and books were piled on a shelf. A laptop sat on a desk in the corner, and the screen showed two animated people in fighting stances.
On the unkempt bed sat a mortal boy. He looked no more than seventeen. He cradled a guitar in his lap, and his fingers danced over the strings. Headphones covered his ears, but the music was so loud Tony understood the words.
The mortal, Jimmy—Tony knew his name instinctively, along with every detail about his life—looked too old to be getting an Influencer now. Usually, Influencers were assigned to a mortal when they were around ten years of age. The Influencer then spent as long as it took to sway the mortal toward Light. Sometimes, it took a few years. Other times, decades.
Tony groaned at the idea of spending years on this mortal’s shoulder. Seriously, what did it accomplish?
Tony’s head whipped toward Jimmy, but the teenager was looking at his phone, unaware of the small being perched on his shoulder.
The voice, Tony realized, came from Jimmy’s other shoulder.
She blinked. What could her opposite want with her? They were rivals. Their sole purpose was to thwart each other in this stupid war. This Dark Influencer couldn’t possibly have anything to discuss with her.
Curiosity prompted Tony to float to Jimmy’s other shoulder. When the Dark Influencer came into view, Tony ground to a halt. Her breath caught. Atop his head, spiky platinum blond hair hid all but the tips of his red horns. His skin was pale, rivaling Tony’s fair complexion. Eyes bluer than any angel Tony had ever seen watched her. A polite smile tipped full lips.
“Hello, I’m Landon.” The Dark Influencer held out his hand.
Tony hesitated a moment before shaking Landon’s hand. “Tony.” She took her hand back quickly. “What do you want?”
Landon chuckled. “To say hello.” His gaze raked up and down Tony. One blond eyebrow rose. “I have to admit, you’re not what I was expecting.”
Tony shoved her hands into her pockets. She threw a glower at the Dark Influencer. “Sorry to disappoint.”
“I’m not disappointed.”
Tony’s heart fluttered, and her knees trembled. She kept her voice indifferent. “Wish I could say the same.”
What was she saying? Landon was nothing like what she expected of a Dark Influencer. They were dark and brooding, like Tony, but unlike her, they sported red horns and tails. She peeked at Landon.
A devil’s tails swished back and forth behind him.
“My eyes are up here.”
Tony snapped her gaze away. She folded her arms. “Whatever.” She shot a glare at Landon, who grinned back. She might as well play along. He was talking to her to throw her off and to distract her from what he believed was an important duty. “You won’t win. Darkness will never win.”
“Is that so, Tony?” Her name rolled off Landon’s tongue and made Tony’s knees shake. He stepped closer. Again, he raked Tony with his vision. Heat flushed up her neck. “May the best Influencer win.”
Revelation of Love Kemuel rushed through the ornate golden doors. An open field littered with small flowers stretched before him. In the center, figures gathered under a large tree full of bright, green leaves. Everyone was dressed in white. They had light hair and fair skin. Their musical voices drifted on the breeze. When they noticed Kemuel, silence fell over the field like a heavy blanket.
A woman broke from the group. Worry creased her forehead and shimmered in her blue eyes as she approached him. “Please tell me you have good news.”
The weight of the situation sat heavily on Kemuel and dulled his voice. “I’m afraid not, Maria. We have been unable to call another Influencer back.”
The other angels murmured nervously.
Kemuel understood their anxiety. For eons, the war between angels and demons had waged. Most battles ended in a stalemate with both sides retreating. Dissent spread among the angels. How could they win? Some even dared to ask if fighting was needed.
“Let the demons live in the Dark.”
Irritation glowed through Kemuel, and he clenched his fists. Did they forget the dangers demons presented? Souls were at stake. The angels needed to win!
No one had any ideas. Finally, they consulted with the Creator.
How do we win?
The answer was brief: Look to the mortals’ souls for the truth.
After much debate about what the Creator meant, the angels decided to send others down. But who would go into the mortal world? Angelic power weakened there. No one wanted to submit themselves to that. Kemuel couldn’t recall who suggested it, but they took shards of their souls and crafted new beings—Light Influencers. These wouldn’t be affected by the mortal world, and were sent down to secure mortal souls. Maria chewed on her lip. “And what of the mortal’s soul? Have the demons claimed it?”
Kemuel’s muscles loosened a fraction. “No.”
After the angels had sent Light Influencers to the mortal world, the demons followed suit. Now, the battle waged on two planes. Each side collected souls with the hope of winning.
“But,” Kemuel continued, “we do not have the soul either.” He pursed his lips. “It’s as if it is stuck. I cannot draw it to the Light.”
“What do we do?”
“How will we drive back the demons?”
“We must win the war if we hope to save the mortals!”
The angels clamored.
“Silence, my brothers and sisters.” Maria drew herself up. “Despair works to the demons’ advantage. We must remain strong.”
“But we can’t sit around and do nothing,” Kemuel pointed out.
Maria tilted her head, and her blue eyes bore into him. “What do you suggest we do?”
Kemuel faced his siblings. Unease twisted him like a vice. His plan meant giving up the life he knew, but he could think of no other option. Someone had to be willing to take the burden to find answers. He cleared his throat. “I will go to the mortal world and find out what is happening to our Influencers.”
His siblings gasped and clasped their hands to their mouths.
Maria’s skin turned as white as her robe. “Kemuel, do you understand what you are asking? It may take decades for you to solve this mystery. Your power will abandon you, and you will become an Influencer.”
Kemuel refused to let his unease show. He puffed out his chest. “I have been battling the demons for eons. I am willing to do whatever it takes to beat them.”
Tears pooled in Maria’s eyes. Her voice shook. “Then it will be done.” She motioned to the other angels.
They moved aside so he could approach the tree. The leaves rustled in the breeze. Faces were etched on each leaf. Kemuel examined them until a smiling face drew his attention. The woman on the leaf was laughing, causing the skin around the corners of her eyes to crinkle.
A voice whispered in Kemuel’s head, Go. Find the truth hidden between Light and Dark.
Kemuel plucked the leaf free. “I will take this Influencer’s place and uncover what is happening in the mortal world.”
Light glowed around him and washed out his siblings. The ground from beneath his feet vanished, and he plummeted through the light. Wind whistled in his ears. Soon, his descent slowed, and he landed on a soft surface. His world came into focus with a pop.
Kemuel stood on the mortal woman’s shoulder in a living room. Her focus was on the large TV on the wall. It showed two mortals in an embrace. A bowl of popcorn sat on her blanket-covered lap. Tears slipped down her cheeks. This was her favorite movie. No matter how many times she watch it, it always moved her. The information filled Kemuel’s mind, along with other details of the mortal’s life.
Name: Penny White Age: Forty-five Occupation: Receptionist at Tahquamenon Cancer Clinic Favorite Color: Lilac Favorite Food: Chicken Carbonara Preferred Pet: Cat, but she discovered she was allergic. She had known her best friend, Danie, since they were four. As of right now, her love life was in the dumps.
Kemuel processed the information. He would use it when searching for the truth. If it was a ploy by the demons, then he-- “Cammy! Check it out. What do you think of pink?”
A Dark Influencer flitted around the back of Penny’s head. She was petite with short hair the color of pink cotton candy. She wore a pair of black leggings with geometric designs cut up the sides. Her tight-fitting shirt was the same color as her hair. Red horns poked through the brightly-colored locks, and a red tail was wrapped around her waist like a belt. She ground to a halt when she saw Kemuel, and her eyes widened. “Where is Cammy?”
Kemuel drew himself up and glared at the Dark Influencer. “Why do you wish to know where Cameron is, Demon?”
The Dark Influencer recoiled. “I…we…I-uh…” She screwed up her face, and her button-like nose crinkled. “Cammy kept teasing me about how emo I looked. I was hoping to surprise him.”
Kemuel narrowed his eyes. “Emo? What is that, Demon?”
A blush colored the Dark Influencer’s cheeks. “I have a name! It’s Soleil.”
Kemuel’s mouth dropped open. “Soleil?” he repeated. That was French for sun. Why would a Dark Influencer be named after something from the light?
Soleil folded her arms. “You got a problem with that, Little Angel?” A smirk lifted her red lips.
A surge of anger swept away Kemuel’s disbelief. He bristled, and power fizzled in him. His stomach flopped at how weak the power was, like a storm struggling to gather. He fought to lift himself up above the Dark Influencer. Her smile vanished as he hovered over her. His voice betrayed none of his unease. “Mark my words, Demon. You will be defeated. Dark will never prevail over Light.”
He released the energy. It rolled off him and hit Soleil. She stumbled back, colliding with the side of Penny’s neck. Kemuel gathered another wave and cocked his arm back. Soleil yelped and bolted away, disappearing around Penny’s head.
Kemuel smiled. The bulk of his power had waned, but he had enough to beat any Dark Influencer who tried to stop him. The shoulder he stood on shook as Penny shivered.