When her sibling goes missing, Ranata finds herself at the mercy of those who intend to make her Hell's next sacrifice. With the world embraced in the wrath of a power-hungry demigod, and a sister now in his clutches, she discovers she is not fully human and now must face the biggest challenge of her life. Mating a demon is an insane idea, but she will do anything to save her sister. Falling in love with him might be even crazier.
Release date: January 22, 2019
Print pages: 171
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Baal had never been turned down before. Not once. Ever. He stared at the woman behind the bar who had so much as refused to even give him her name. He’d closed the place down a couple of nights ago with Seth, or had it been longer? He couldn’t remember after taking a couple of those damn pills. Either way, he did remember craving a piece of the vision currently giving him the evil eye. Still did. He hadn’t come across a female like her in a long time.
“Seriously, why are you working in this shit hole? You should be strutting your stuff in designer clothes and high heels.” Black hair curled around her shoulders, blue, almond-shaped eyes were fringed with thick lashes, add to that high cheekbones and pouty lips and you had exotic perfection. Not to mention the curves he wanted to sink his fingers into while he fucked the hell out of her.
She laughed. “I suppose you’re going to promise me a starring role in your next movie?”
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a card. “Nope, but I need a hostess for my casino.” He tossed the card on the bar. She rolled her eyes then threw her towel aside and picked up the card.
“Dragon’s Cove?” She eyed him suspiciously. “I’ve heard of it.” She snorted and tossed it back on the bar. “Right, and I suppose you’re gonna tell me you own the place?”
He shrugged. “Okay, I won’t tell you that, but I do.”
“Please, I’m not that stupid. Why would someone who owned a highly successful Vegas club be here in––as you called it––this shit hole?”
“I came to help a friend who was down and out.”
She reached for a dirty glass and ran it through the washer. “The dark-haired guy? He seemed like he’d seen better days.”
“He has, but I think things will be improving for him soon. Now back to my offer. I was serious when I said I need someone. You think about it and if you’d like I’ll fly you in for an interview and to talk terms.”
She wiped her hands and picked up the card again. Stared at it while pulling her bottom lip through her teeth. He could almost see the smoke coming out her ears. “I don’t get it. Vegas has to be full of people who qualify for the job. What do you want from me?”
No way in hell could he tell her what he really wanted was to strip her, toss her on top of the bar and taste every inch of her. He’d have to work his way up to that one. “You desire more than this, I can tell.” No lie there. The ability to read a human’s desire was bred into every demon. It’s how the evil spread, some chose to use it for bad and others good. In this case his intentions were for a little of both. “Your beauty shouldn’t be wasted here.”
“I’ve always wanted to leave, but have never had the means to do so.”
“Well, this is your chance.” He tipped back the last swill of his beer and set the glass on the bar. “I have to leave and head back. You can Google me all night long and see that I’m who I say. Call that number and I will send a limo and my private jet to pick you up. You can have a room in the hotel. I promise, no strings attached.” His charm and demon good looks would bewitch the pants right off her. He just needed the chance.
“I’ll think about it.” She tucked the card into her back pocket and suddenly he was jealous of the tiny piece of glossy paper.
He tipped his head. “Fair enough.” Then headed for the door.
He stopped dead in his tracks and held his breath. Had she changed her mind already? “Yes?” he asked and turned slowly.
“My name, it’s Ranata.”
“Beautiful name.” He pulled open the door and stepped into the cool night air. Took a deep breath and scanned for any humans before he flashed.
Ranata shook her head as she watched the man walk out of the bar. She might consider his offer, except she needed to find her sister. Raven hadn’t returned her calls in over two weeks, and Ranata was worried sick. She suspected her younger sibling had gotten mixed up in some cult activity. When she’d searched Raven’s room for clues, she’d found things that scared the shit out of her. Books on devil worship were hidden under her sister’s mattress. Then there was Clive, the jerk Raven had taken to hanging out with. Most people would be scared of him solely due to his tattoos and piercings. However, Ranata didn’t judge people on how they looked. No, there was something inside him that gave her the creeps. She just couldn’t put her finger on it.
She washed the last of the glasses and finished cleaning off the bar then headed to lock the front door. With a quick glance around to make sure everything was in place, she made her way to the back room. The cook had left half an hour ago, so she was the last one to close up the place. After grabbing her purse, she stepped out the back door and into the dim light, making a mental note to ask the owner to change out the old, fading light bulb. She hated closing up alone, and walking across the dark, gravel parking lot at three in the morning made her hair stand on end.
Halfway to her car, she got the distinct feeling of being watched. She picked up the pace and prayed it was only her imagination freaking her out. The relief she experienced when she grabbed the car door handle was short-lived. An arm snaked around her waist and jerked her backward.
A large hand slapped over her mouth. “Bitch, you should have minded your own business and left things alone.”
She recognized Clive’s gruff voice and tried to jerk herself free while raising her foot and giving a swift kick behind her.
She made contact with his knee.
“Fucking shit! You’re gonna pay for that.” His hand moved from her mouth to around her neck and squeezed. He spun her to face him and slapped her across the cheek. A coppery taste coated her tongue. “You’re fucking lucky they want you to stay scar-free, or I’d bash in that pretty little face of yours.”
Ranata tried to claw at him, but he shoved her against the car and pinned her arms between them. “Though I doubt they’d care if I had a piece of you before I hand you over.” He loosened his grip around her neck then grabbed the collar of her tee and ripped it down the middle.
She spit in his face, managed to free one hand and clawed at his cheek. Clive let loose, and she ran screaming across the parking lot. The chance of anyone hearing her was nil since the bar was located in the middle of nowhere. Her best bet was to head for the woods and pray she could lose him in the thick brush.
Her lungs burned as she gasped for air and headed for the tree line. She scurried into the thicket, tripping over something. She went down with a hard thud. Before she could get up, someone grabbed her ankles and dragged her backward. She screamed and clawed at the ground. Bile gagged her at the thought of what Clive would do to her now.
“You little fucking slut!” He was on top of her and jerked her jeans past her hips. “You should have just played nice and taken what’s coming to you. Now, I don’t give a shit what condition I deliver you in.”
Her heart beat wildly as she tried to calm herself enough to form a plan. “Clive, don’t do this. Think about Raven and what this will do to her.” She hoped to appeal to any scrap of humanity he had.
He laughed. “I don’t give two shits about your sister. She’s served her purpose, and now, I’ll have you then hand you over to the devil himself.” He tried to kiss her, and she bit his lip.
He hit her so hard her ears rang. She knew there was no way to win against him, but she’d die fighting. Just as he ripped her panties, he was jerked off her.
Ranata scrambled to grab her jeans and jerked them back on. “Oh, thank god, Father.” She’d never been so happy to see the church’s priest, Father Ryan, in her life.
He shoved Clive to the side and reached his hand out. “Are you all right?”
She gladly accepted, and he helped her to her feet, but as happy as she was to see him, she had to wonder what he was doing out here. When she felt a needle sink into her arm, shock filled her.
“Sorry, Ranata, but I need you to placate the devil,” Father Ryan whispered.
“Wha— B-but I don’t understand.” Whatever was in that syringe had already begun to work. Darkness swirled in her head, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
“This is like old times, my friend.” Baal settled in for a long wait with his friend Marcus. The guardian next to him was as lethal as any, but also a healer. It was a rare gift among their kind that had come in handy on several occasions. Hopefully, they would not be in need of such skills tonight.
Planted in a spot deep in the forest of the Black Hills. The location was remote and had all the indications of being a sacrificial ground used by devil worshippers. Baal shrouded them in magic so they could get a close-up view without being detected.
“Sorry, but you are not who I wanted to spend my evening with.” Marcus ran a cloth over his dagger, polishing it to such a high sheen the moonlight reflected off it and nearly blinded Baal.
“Well, I can’t say I blame you. Hell, I’d rather spend time with Cassie than your sorry ass, too.”
Marcus flashed the blade under the demon’s nose. “Careful, old friend. You know how I get about my mate.”
Baal snorted. He knew first-hand and had seen the vampire’s fangs on several occasions when Marcus had hissed out warnings to other males. Baal couldn’t blame the man, though. Marcus had been to hell and back and seen more heartache than any man should. Baal was glad the guardian had finally found happiness. It had improved his mood immensely, as well.
“What about you?”
Baal flashed a glance at the vampire. “Me what?”
“Do you wish for stability? A mate? Children?”
The demon clutched his gut and tried not to laugh. “I thought you knew me better. I’m allergic to being with one woman.” He shuddered. “I break out in hives at the thought.” There was a time when he would have given anything to have those things. Instead, the gods had ripped his heart out and ground it under their heels. It was then he’d vowed he’d never love again. Ever.
Marcus laughed. “One of these days a female will chop your balls off.”
“A few have tried. Unsuccessfully, I might add.” Though he’d never admit it out loud, there had been a couple of close calls. Yeah, human women didn’t much care for sharing their men, so he mostly stuck to the immortal variety. They could care less and were happy to share in a good time until their mate came along. He inhaled. “I smell humans.”
“Ditto. I’d say the show is about to start,” Marcus replied.
They didn’t have long to wait before several people appeared in the clearing. All of them wore hooded, black robes. The one in front carried a tall staff with a skull on the top. It was evident he was the leader. Another shoved a young female, dressed in a white gown with a black sack over her head, toward the front. Both warriors stiffened.
“I don’t like the looks of this.” Marcus pulled a second dagger from his boot.
“Neither do I. It seems as though they plan a human sacrifice.” Baal freed his own blade. “We can’t simply rush in there, or we’ll break our cover.”
The guardian pinned him with a lethal glare. “Then you’d best come up with a plan and fast. I cannot sit here and watch them kill her.” He looked back at the gathering crowd, his lips in a thin line. “I, more than anyone, want to find Lowan, but not at the expense of a human’s life.”
“It’s possible she volunteered.”
“Don’t give a fuck,” Marcus snarled, his fangs extending.
“Okay, I’ll go in if I have to, but let’s see what they’re up to first.”
Twenty people gathered around the one who carried the staff and grew deadly silent. The girl was dragged to a makeshift altar while she tried to fight off her captors. Okay, so much for her volunteering.
“Brothers and sisters. Tonight, I am pleased to tell you that our god has finally answered our call,” the leader spoke out. “He has sent his own grandson to guide us and show us the way.”
Baal rolled his eyes, knowing damn well that Hades hadn’t sent Lowan to the human realm. Stupid humans.
Whispers grew among the crowd. Some questioned the validity of the one who carried the staff but kept their tones hushed enough that only Baal and Marcus heard them.
“Tonight, all our brethren across the world will show their thanks by offering the blood of a human female. Let this moment mark the coming of the darkness.”
The others chanted in Latin as they tied the struggling girl to the altar.
“Baal, now would be a good time for your plan.” Panic edged Marcus’s voice.
The demon smiled. “Watch this.” He flashed then reappeared at the foot of the altar. He’d shifted his form, so he had thick, black skin and red eyes. Two horns protruded from the top of his head and the top of his shoulders. He’d enlarged his small fangs until they would make even a vampire cringe.
The crowd stepped back, including the two who’d been heading toward the female, their fists wrapped around the daggers meant to bleed her.
“Release the female.” Baal lowered his voice several octaves until it was a low rumble.
The gang dropped to their knees, including the one who had led the clan to the stone slab. He was the first to speak.
“M-my lord, doesn’t the female please you?”
“She will please me more alive.” He sensed the woman’s heart rate increase. Hell, he scared her as much as the assholes in front of him had.
“Of course, whatever you wish.” The leader snapped his fingers at the two goons in front. “Untie her.” They scrambled to do his bidding and pulled the female from the altar, dragging her to Baal.
“Now, leave us so I may enjoy her at my leisure.”
The people jumped to their feet and scurried away. Baal detected the sounds of car doors being slammed and engines revved as they squealed out of sight. Before he could react, the girl ripped off her hood, screamed at him and took off on a dead run. Shit, he’d forgotten to shift back, and now that she was untied, she had no trouble escaping into the darkness.
Marcus flashed next to him. “I’ll fetch her and erase her memories.”
“No. I’ll get her. You wait here.” Before he could move, demons attacked. Coming from all directions, they managed to take Marcus and Baal by surprise.
Baal produced a sword, swung and made contact with one head then a second as he spun on the ball of his foot. Marcus, with a dagger in each hand, used a crisscross action that took out two more. Both men spun and wielded their weapons, but the demons didn’t relent.
A scream pierced the night’s sky.
“Shit, the girl,” Baal yelled.
“Go! I’ll be right behind you.”
Baal flashed, found himself behind a tree. Two demons came out of the darkness, straight at him. He summoned his magic and launched a fireball at each. It knocked them back, but they were only stunned. He tuned his senses and picked up a struggle ahead. He flashed again. This time hitting pay dirt. The woman fought with a lone slasher. The creature looked the part of pure evil with its taloned fingertips, rows of razor teeth and horn-lined shoulders and arms, but it was dumber than a box of rocks.
Baal whistled. “Hey, dumbshit.” The beast turned to pin beady green eyes on him. “Yeah, I’m talking to you. Come get me, fucktard.”
The demon lunged, but his seven-foot size made him slow. Baal produced his sword at the last second and decapitated the beast. The girl screamed and took off running again.
“Damn it, woman,” he growled.
“We need to hurry and get out of here. There are more coming,” Marcus yelled from behind him.
This time, Baal took off running, following the scent of fear, and in seconds, he was behind her. “Wait, I’m one of the good guys,” he yelled.
The girl was apparently too terrified to register what he’d said so he flashed in front of her. She ran right into him, and he wrapped his arms around her slender, trembling frame.
“It’s okay.” He gripped her arms and pushed her back to get a look at her. Wild eyes looked up at him, and he was sure the color drained from his face. “Ranata, how the hell…?”
Marcus came up behind him. “We need to get out of here, like yesterday.”
Baal nodded, pulled Ranata into him and flashed.
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