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The Serpent and the Angel

The Shifter Chronicles 8

by M.D. Grimm

In the year 1866, Sheriff Tobias Goldstein guards a small mining town in the Colorado territory with a cold and merciless hand. A rare rattlesnake shifter, he lives by a code and expecting others to do the same has kept the peace— until a nameless stranger wanders into town. Intrigued by the lone man, Tobias names him Angel Smith, and sensing he’s trustworthy, he deputizes Angel.

A guardian at heart, golden eagle shifter Angel protects the townspeople, but his dedication is to an ancient scroll capable of great destruction. For generations, Angel’s family protected the artifact with their lives. Now something has returned to hunt down the scroll. Forced to leave his tribe, Angel enjoys the quiet he’s found with Tobias, who hides a warm heart under his aloof exterior. Angel knows the quiet will not last and fears the battle on the horizon. But with Tobias at his back, Angel might stand a chance against his enemies.

Second Edition with revised and expanded text.

Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artists:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Demisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Fated Mates / Soul Mates, Interracial Relationship
Word Count: 47,130
Setting: Colorado Territory
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters

“Sheriff, I—”

“Was causing trouble.” Tobias kept his pistol out as he stepped to Mr. Sawyer. He stared down at the miner, at his wind-roughened face, the coal dust imbedded deeply into his wrinkles, and narrowed his eyes. “Find something useful to do with your free time, Mr. Sawyer, or I might decide you got no use at all, just like the old sheriff.”

Mr. Sawyer scowled and scrambled to his feet. His men began to stand as well. “Arrest that varmint, Sheriff. He’s a criminal.”

Tobias raised his eyebrows. “A criminal?” He looked at the stranger. “And what crime, pray tell, have you committed?”

The stranger’s eyes flicked back and forth between Tobias and Mr. Sawyer before he stood up straighter and looped a strap of his bag over his shoulder. “I wouldn’t give them my bag.”


He had a nice voice. Tobias turned back to Mr. Sawyer. “Is that a crime now? Not allowing strangers to have a look-see into personal belongings?”

Mr. Sawyer flushed, his eyes narrowing. “He was causing trouble, Sheriff Goldstein. He—”

“I was not,” the stranger said in a low voice.

“I’ve heard enough,” Tobias said at the same time the stranger spoke. “You’ll pay the standard fine, gentlemen, for your stupidity”—all the men groaned at that—“and I expect it by end of day. Now go back to work, Mr. Sawyer. Go on, get. Consider this your only warning. We want useful folk here, gentlemen, you best remember that.”

“How you know he’s useful?” another man, a Mr. Williams, said indignantly.

Tobias barely resisted rolling his eyes. He lifted the brim of his hat a fraction. “He knocked you all flat on your dumb asses, didn’t he? I’d say that’s mighty damn useful.”

Mr. Sawyer appeared to want to argue some more, but Tobias sent the man a hard stare, and Mr. Sawyer backed away, resentment evident in his eyes. Humiliated and chastised, the men left, with several glances back. Tobias knew they weren’t finished with the stranger yet. He would need to keep his eye on them. Tobias then turned his attention back to the stranger.

“I’d like to say welcome to our humble little town, but I fear you might find that rather damn insulting after what just happened.”

“It might,” the man said with a shrug. He wasn’t even panting anymore. He was certainly in fine shape. “If anyone else said it.”

Tobias inclined his head and holstered his gun. The man had a slight accent, one he couldn’t place. It was subtle and only appeared on a few words. “I’m Sheriff Tobias Goldstein. You would be?”

The man didn’t answer immediately. He scanned his surroundings, as if searching for a name. Then he looked back at Tobias. “I don’t have one.”

Tobias tilted his head slightly. “Really? A nameless man. Lord knows, there must be a story behind that.”

The man shrugged again. Though his eyes showed little emotion, Tobias sensed wariness and exhaustion. Tobias debated whether to push, as he was curious, but decided against it. He wasn’t a curious sort by nature—he frankly didn’t care enough to be—but a nameless man did present a challenge. However, he knew better than most that secrets were secrets for a reason, and everyone had a right to their own. Besides, many people who traveled west had a past they’d rather forget about. The man obviously had the blood of native peoples in him, though Tobias couldn’t determine which tribe. He’d been trained as a warrior, and was nameless, wandering around alone. Had his tribe been massacred? Had they disowned him? Many possibilities bounced around inside Tobias’s head. His gut instinct, however, was to trust this man… as much as he trusted anyone, that was. Tobias always followed his gut. He grabbed Shadow Dawn’s reins and started walking farther into town.

“I’d be much obliged if you’d come with me.”

The stranger fell into step beside him.

It was late afternoon, and the town was at its busiest. Ladies walked past them in small groups, whispering and giggling. Men lounged against the walls of buildings, sharing the latest news from Denver or other larger cities. Children had been released from school and were now yelling at each other, running down the lanes. Tobias noticed the Reverend Mason in his formal black speaking with the barber. Neither looked very happy.

Tobias also noticed the stranger observing these interactions just as Tobias did.

“We must call you something,” Tobias said. “I reckon you came here for work?”

“I did.”

“Work as a coal miner?”

The man eyed him. “Yes. Is that a problem?”

“No, no problem.” Tobias met the man’s gaze. “I do have a few questions for you if you’d oblige me with answers.”

The man stared straight ahead. “It seems I owe you for running those men off. I will answer.”

“Much obliged. Are you an outlaw or bandit?”


“Did you come here to start trouble?”


“Then why have you no name?”

“The name I had was connected to my past. I have separated myself from my past, as well as the name.”

Interesting. “Do you have your heart set on being a miner?”

The man focused on him again. “I need money.”

Tobias nodded. “I see. Well, there are other jobs in this town that I think you’re better suited for. The truth is, I have one in mind.”


“My deputy.”

The man stopped walking. Tobias halted and turned around. The man blinked. Tobias found his surprise amusing, though he didn’t show it.

“Sheriff, you just met me. I got no name to give you, and I beat up five of your townsfolk. How can you trust me?”

“Instinct.” Tobias smiled slightly, unable to remain expressionless. “You seem a useful sort of person. I reckon you’d make a fine deputy. The pay is better than what you’d get as a miner with less chance of dying in a cave-in.”

“I’d just die in a shoot-out,” the man said dryly.

Tobias chuckled, rather shocked the man’s words had tickled him. He didn’t laugh often, as he didn’t find many things humorous. He also couldn’t help but enjoy the man’s voice: it was smooth, deep. It fit perfectly with the rest of his appearance.

“I suspect, with your reflexes and speed, you’d be hard to shoot.”

“I don’t plan on staying long, Sheriff.”

Tobias shrugged. “Be that as it may, I’d rather have a short time with a competent deputy, than a long time with a useless one.”

The man considered him for a long, silent moment before standing straighter, pulling back his shoulders. “Then I’m much obliged, and I accept your offer.”

“Good man.”

Tobias led him to the sheriff’s office and tied Shadow Dawn outside. He walked inside the narrow, two-story building, and the man followed. While the second floor was his living quarters, the office floor was all business. It was big enough for one desk, and as the building had been built second to the jail, the two structures were attached, with a cell door separating them. Tobias liked it; it allowed him to keep an eye on his prisoners. He walked over to his desk and pulled open a drawer. He pulled out a star and handed it to the golden man. The man took it and stared at it in silence.

Tobias also pulled out a pistol and holster, handing them over. “I reckon you know how to shoot?”

“Those who don’t, die quick.” The golden man took the pistol and the holster and adjusted them competently to his waist. Tobias wondered why the man didn’t carry his own gun, and his curiosity increased. But he wouldn’t ask, not yet.

“You need a name, sir.”

The golden man looked at him. “For each town, I create a name and then discard it when I leave. Nothing permanent.”

“As I said before, there must be a story behind that, more than what you’ve told me. The fact still remains, Deputy, that you need a name. Choose one as you’ve done before.”

The man looked around the office, and Tobias sensed that he was absorbing everything he saw with those remarkable eyes. The closer Tobias looked, the more he realized they truly were a dark gold. Then the man simply sighed in what sounded like frustration.

“Perhaps I would keep the name another gave me,” he said as if to himself. He glanced at Tobias. “You would name me?”

Tobias was rather taken aback by the question but hid his discomfort. He scanned the man up and down and figured he’d use the name he instantly thought of the moment he’d looked into the stranger’s eyes.


The man’s eyebrows shot up. “Angel?”

“Aye.” Tobias paused. “Angel Smith.” He nodded, liking it. “Well, Deputy Smith, put on that star, and let us see if a room can be gotten for you at the boardinghouse.”

Reviews:Christy on Rainbow Book Reviews wrote:

As I mentioned at the beginning of the previous book's review, I am normally not a fan of historicals. However, the period of time the author has written of in 'The Serpent and The Angel' is one I dearly love as it is the time of the Old West in America. A time of lawlessness and passion. A time that left its indelible mark on my country. Since I already knew that two of the scrolls had sunk to the bottom of the ocean during Con and Quincy's trip to the colonies, I was hoping that the author would reveal the location of at least one more scroll during this installment.

I liked Tobias immediately, even though I'm not a huge fan of rattlesnakes. However, when he confronted the owner of the general store about charging the Chinese miners more than the white miners…well, I knew most of what I needed to know about the sheriff right then. Definitely an attitude not well known in the West of the 1860s.

“I only put value in useful people. That’s it. I don’t care if they be Negroes, Chinamen, Injuns, women, purple, orange, or yellow. They got a use, they deserve my protection.”

Tobias was intrigued by the golden man, the nameless man, who showed up in his town. Even more so when the man asked him to name him. Tobias chose Angel Smith, because the man reminded him of the stories about the fierce, golden angels in the bible. Angel found this funny since as a golden eagle, his tribe had often been seen as the messengers between the divine and man.

Unlike other shifters I've encountered who keep their human mind while in their animal form, Tobias doesn't. Tobias, as a rattlesnake, retains almost nothing of his human self in that form, which explains why he's only ever shifted three times in his life. The last two times he managed to retain enough of his humanity to shift back, but it would be remarkably easy to lose himself in the snake. Unfortunately, during a rescue of miners during a cave-in, Tobias is trapped and has no choice but to shift, becoming lost to his snake's instincts. It takes Angel to bring his humanity back.

"He was a guardian. Tobias was a warrior. Was there a chance, even a slight possibility, that Tobias was meant to help him in his mission? Did the spirits have a plan in mind for the both of them? Different tribes, different animals, but both driven from their homes, both searching for meaning. Half-breeds. Skin changers: an eagle and a snake."

Of course, this couldn't be a book in this series if it didn't also include the evil, the former god, coming for Angel and the scroll. In this lifetime it has taken the role of Texas Ranger Silas Black, although it's been many incarnations over the centuries. It wants the power, the worship, the sacrifices it once had, again, and it will stop at nothing to get them.

Another thrilling, exciting, and adventurous journey! It's funny to see how all things come around in a circle sometimes, such as the wind directing Tobias and Angel, and the scroll, to Haven. At least for a while.

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of a review.

Timeless love against an ageless enemy... who will rise victorious?

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About the Author

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier. Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.