When tall, dark and oh-so-sexy walks into her store, Mia suddenly finds herself marked by a god. Saddled with a curse that rips her world apart on a nightly basis, she decides bargaining with Hades to remove it might prove beneficial. Of course, requesting a favor from the lord of the Underworld comes with a huge price. Namely thirty days in Hell as his guest.
Hades is only out for some fun, but Mia isn't playing his games. She intends to get through her agreement despite the yearning she feels for him. Problem is, the longer they are together the more she begins to see beyond the lord of evil to the troubled man beneath. Now she must decide if he is worthy of the only thing she has left to give.
Release date: February 12, 2019
Print pages: 172
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Hades drilled an intense glare into his latest victim. The man, who had been a child molester in his human life wore a smirk across his mouth as he looked up at Hades from where he knelt. The god of the Underworld intended to wipe that smile off the bastard personally. With his boot.
“Do you know where you are?” Hades asked, not really giving a shit if the man did or not. He was bored with torturing these days and contemplated new ways to make the afterlife an eternal hell.
The man shrugged. “You’re definitely not god. Maybe his lackey?”
Hades never flinched at the insult. He had certainly been accused of many things. All of which were mostly true, but he was a god. The god of dark, terrifying torture. He flicked his wrist and the man was instantly naked. His genitalia forever changed by Hades’ hand into that of a female. The man looked down and screamed.
“What the fuck?” He cupped where his junk had once been. “Fix me!”
Hades yawned. “Your howling bores me. Since you liked playing games with little girls, I thought you might enjoy becoming one.” He leaned closer. “Hundreds of demons will enjoy fucking you to death.” He laughed. “Oh, wait. My bad, you’re already dead.”
He snapped his fingers and four demons appeared. “Remove this filth from my sight.” His minions quickly grabbed arms and legs and dragged the screaming condemned from the room. With that out of the way, he summoned one of the many succubi that resided in the palace. Aster appeared, her thick locks of raven hair caressed naked hips as she moved to him, a crystal goblet in hand. Stopping before him, she offered the glass. “My lord, how may I please you?” She licked her lips, green eyes flashing, and her desire thickened the air.
He accepted the glass and sipped the burgundy liquid. “Be creative. I’m bored.” He eased onto his throne. When she reached for him, he moved her hand away. “Dance for me.”
“Yes, my lord.” She began a slow seductive sway, and Hades wondered what was wrong in his world that his cock didn’t even stir. Perhaps it was the fact he saw the truth inside every living soul. He was privy to their weaknesses, their desires, and the darkness so many sought to hide. He saw through it all. The demon who danced for him hoped to gain favor and power by giving Hades what she thought he wanted.
Hell, not even he knew anymore what he truly desired. His mind was so numb and his body unresponsive to everything around him. The Underworld had become his own eternal hell. As he watched Aster dance, he tried not to fall asleep. The markings on his right forearm tingled once more, indicating another fucked-up soul had entered Hell. Each time a person was condemned, his power grew. The only thing that kept him in check was to transfer some of his energy to his army. Just enough to keep his demons powerful, yet not even they were able to best him. He doubted that even his eldest brother, Zarek, the king who presided over them all held more power.
Soon, he would be able to find out. His time here was ticking. One way or another, he was getting free of his prison.
Mia walked down the sidewalk, having left early enough so she had time to stop along the way and help those less fortunate. New Orleans wasn’t unlike many of the cities across the U.S., according to the news. Buildings were covered with soot from the fires that burned continually, and the sky was filled with grayish-black smoke. She wondered how they had ended up with demons destroying their world. The obvious answer was everyone had lost faith, and this was humanity’s punishment.
Some demigod calling himself Lowan, along with his minion demons, torched everything in sight as a way of punishing the humans who chose not to follow him. Or in some cases, humanity itself did the burning so there was nothing left for the demons to take.
The world was bleak.
Tucking her basket closer she continued her journey, intent on helping someone. As she rounded the corner, she spotted a woman with two small children huddled together on the sidewalk against an abandoned building. With the sun filtering through the thick mass of smoke, the demons were not likely to be out, but she laid her palm on the knife tucked in her pocket anyway.
“Hello.” She made sure her voice carried over the breeze yet remained gentle.
The woman looked up, her eyes filled with fear and sorrow and it tugged at Mia’s heart. The woman remained quiet and pulled her children closer. Mia knelt so she was on the same level.
“I have food and blankets.” She set the basket down and pushed it toward the woman. “Please take it.” Mia didn’t have much, but she would share what little she did.
The woman’s gaze darted to the other buildings as if she feared the darkness would snake out and snatch her prize away.
“The demons are not likely to come into the daylight.” It was something she had learned the hard way when wandering into an abandoned building.
The woman reached for the basket and it was then Mia saw her twisted arm. The lady shook her head. “Not them. The others who live here.”
Mia looked around but didn’t see anyone; however, she sensed they were being watched. “What happened to your arm?”
While the woman pulled food from the basket and handed it to her daughters, she gave Mia a quick, tear-filled glance. “I was only trying to feed my girls when one of the men guarding the buildings refused to let me in. My arm was broken in the scuffle.”
Her anger flared. The war with the demons had succeeded in bringing the worst out of most, and she was simply done with it. “I wish I could do more, but this is all I have.”
“I can mend her,” a soft voice spoke from behind Mia. She rose and whipped around to face a beautiful woman with intense green eyes.
“I’ve seen you somewhere.”
“My name is Cassie. I’ve been to New Orleans a few times.”
Mia searched her memories. “No. I think it was on the news or something.” She would never forget eyes that color.
The female moved closer. “Yes, I’m one of the guardians. I used to be human before I mated with Marcus.”
Mia stepped in front of the injured woman and her children. How she intended to protect them against the female in front of her, she hadn’t a clue.
“I’m a healer. I can fix her arm.”
Mia glanced behind her and gave the other woman a questioning look.
“I trust her. I’ve seen her around doing god’s work,” the woman replied.
“Fine.” She stepped aside.
Cassie knelt and touched the deformed arm. A white light encompassed the injured woman. “What is your name?” Cassie asked.
“Marion. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” When the guardian finished, she rose, and Marion’s arm appeared normal.
“Wow. That’s amazing.” A sudden idea came to Mia. “Can you cure me?”
Cassie looked at her, a frown on her face. “I need to touch you to see what your ailment is.”
Mia swallowed shame then nodded. Cassie laid a gentle hand on Mia’s arm and closed her eyes. Several minutes ticked by before she opened them again and spoke.
“I’m afraid I can’t help. I am so sorry.”
Mia batted away unshed tears. “It’s okay. I didn’t think there was anything you could do. Maybe you can help make these demons go away?”
Cassie stared into the distance before she brought her focus back to Mia. “What is your name?”
A sad smile creased her mouth. “Mia. I wish I could make all of this go away, but it seems we are at the mercy of something bigger than us.” A fiery spark ignited the green in her eyes. “However, I have a plan that might at least give all of us a reprieve.”
Lileta flared out her power and summoned a portal that carried her to Katie’s home. She placed a platter of finger sandwiches on the kitchen table. “Ladies, we have turkey with swiss and ham with cheddar.”
“I. Am. Starved.” Katie grabbed two sandwiches and practically inhaled them.
Cassie laughed. “Of course, you are. You’re not carrying any ordinary baby. I know when I was pregnant, I thought I would starve to death.” She stirred the pitcher of lemonade Katie shoved in front of her. “I was constantly sending Marcus out in the middle of the night for all kinds of crazy concoctions.”
Ranata stepped up with a cake that seriously looked like death by chocolate. “I can’t wait for Baal and me to have kids, but I’ve got way too much on my plate right now to even think about it.” She set the platter holding the round perfection that was coated in dark frosting and decorated with chocolate shavings on the table. With a sly grin, she looked up. “You can’t have a baby shower without chocolate.”
“You have just become our bestest friend,” Lileta laughed. “I’m so happy we could get together for this. But where’s Gwen?”
“She couldn’t get away but sent a gift,” Cassie responded.
The girls filled their plates and headed to the patio. “I feel guilty sitting here with the sun on my face eating all this wonderful food,” Katie replied, rubbing her large belly. “I could be helping, but Seth insists I stay here.”
“Our mates can be overbearing at times.” Ranata chuckled. “Try being mated to a demon.” All the women nodded in agreement.
“All of us have certainly had some adjustments to this life.” Cassie picked at her bread crust.
“You were the first. Right?” Ranata asked.
Cassie laughed. “Yeah. I remember the first time I saw Marcus. I nearly fainted.” Her cheeks flushed. “I never told you this, but I had dreams. Very sensual dreams and when I actually met the man in person...” She shook her head. “Later I found out he wasn’t who I thought, but so much more.”
“How did you take it when you found out?” Katie asked.
“I freaked the hell out and told him I never wanted to see him again.” She played with her napkin. “It was Aidyn who told me I was pregnant, and Marcus had gone missing. The fear in his voice convinced me I needed to help.” She shrugged. “And here we are now. I mated a vampire and now I’m a guardian.”
Lileta stared at her cake. “I knew Caleb was different when he rescued me first from Odage and later from Lowan.”
“At least you had the benefit of being a demon and knowing immortals existed,” Cassie pointed out.
“True. But our species––a dragon and a demon––were never meant to be together, and I fought it for as long as I could.” Her smile turned wistful. “He taught me to trust again.”
“I always knew I was different.” Katie flashed a nervous glance at Lileta. “I feel like I should apologize. I had no idea there were good demons when I was busy killing them.”
Lileta leaned over, her jet-black hair falling forward when she patted Katie on the arm. “It’s okay. Your own story is crazy.”
Katie laughed, her emerald eyes flashing. “Boy, you’re not kidding. To find out my mate was the first guardian created and was on a fast train to nutsville. Top that with discovering my real father was the Phoenix god and I went from human to goddess in a burst of flames? Nope, just another day for me.”
The girls laughed.
“Katie, you were a wise choice for Seth and I’m so glad he found you. I don’t think anyone else could have saved him,” Cassie said.
The goddess winked at her. “I’ve always been a ball of fire.”
Laughter echoed across the patio again.
Lileta turned to the newest member. “Ranata. You’re the newbie and I’m so proud to call you sister.”
The woman flashed a bright smile. “I thought my story was strange, but after getting to know you ladies... Not so much.”
“Oh, I don’t know. You found out you were not only half fae but now their queen.” Cassie tipped her head. “Your Highness.”
Ranata rolled her blue eyes. “Stop.”
“How is that whole thing going anyway?” Katie asked. “Will your people be joining the fight?”
“Soon. My warriors are preparing.”
Silence fell with the talk of war and they went back to stuffing their faces. Several minutes passed, with only the songs of the birds breaking the silence, before Lileta finally decided it was now or never to reveal the plan she and Cassie had hashed out.
“I have an idea I wanted to present to you guys. It’s kinda farfetched, but... I think we can make it happen.” She set her plate aside and prepared herself for any rebuttals she might receive. She looked to each woman in front of her and knew that every one of them had faced their own inner battle when they realized they were fated to spend eternity with an immortal. Life for them had changed in so many ways.
“Cassie and I want to have Christmas.” There, she blurted it out but now it needed a follow up with an explanation.
Cassie jumped in. “We don’t mean only us. We mean there has to be a way to give the people at least a day of peace. Let them celebrate however they wish but without the worry of demon attacks.” Cassie took a slow breath. Obvious tears threatened to spill. Lileta knew that every day Cassie cried for the children. The guardian had spent too many years as a nurse watching terminally ill kids either fight and live, or fight and lose the battle not to have this weigh on her too.
“I love the idea, but how are we supposed to stop a war?” Ranata whispered.
“Katie, you’re a goddess. Maybe you can talk to Zarek and convince him to stop this?” Cassie pleaded. Perhaps the god could be convinced.
The redhead rubbed her belly. “I fucking love your idea, but Zarek forbids any interference. He would lock us all up until his temper tantrum was over, which for him could be centuries.”
Cassie sighed. “I refuse to give up. We need to show the human race some kind of hope. I mean, they still don’t trust us and how can we ask them to fight if we don’t give them something in return?”
Aidyn, the guardian king had recently gone public with the existence of the guardians. Not exactly what people had considered the angelic beings that protected their world to look like. Instead, they ended up with a race of ancients with fangs who drank blood for strength. Aidyn hadn’t dared let on about the others. Demons who were friends, dragons that shifted into humans, and fae? The world wasn’t ready for that yet. Hell, they weren’t ready to place their faith in the guardians. At least not until Lowan was dead.
Lileta cleared her throat. “Ladies. I happen to know a certain someone who is powerful and thinks I’m the best thing since canned ham.” She waved her hand. “Or whatever.”
“Lileta, while I’m sure your mate would be more than happy to kill Lowan on the spot.
“I wasn’t referring to Baal,” Lileta stated.
“Then who?” Katie asked. All the women stared at Lileta, willing the answer to pass her lips.
“But he’s a god and therefore follows their stupid rules.” Cassie flashed a quick glance at Katie. “No offense.”
“It’s not like we’re asking him to kill Lowan, only make him cease for a day. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and I don’t mind.” Lileta pushed her raven hair from her face. “Hell, I bet he would even come here, and if we plead our case together, he might be happy to defy the others.”
Katie’s face paled. “Come here? Can he do that?”
The god of the Underworld had never been known to leave his realm.
“We could go to him. That might actually be better anyway. Zarek would be less likely to find out and try to stop us,” Lileta said.
“Our mates will be sorely pissed.” Ranata grinned.
“Let's go,” Cassie said, determination filled her voice.
Lileta set down her glass. “I'm in. I say we go now.” Then looked to Katie who tossed aside a napkin.
“Well, count me in. I’m bored sitting around here anyway.” Katie pushed herself up belly first. “Besides, I've never been to Hell. Could be fun and I’d get to meet my uncle.” She let out a hysterical laugh. “I’m fucking related to Hades. How unreal is that shit?”
Lileta sucked in a breath. Her nerves were a little tight. After all, while Hades was her god, she wasn't sure how he'd take the four of them popping in unannounced. Not to mention what they were about to request him to do. Granted, he loved breaking rules, but he was also about what he'd get out of the deal. Perhaps being his great-granddaughter would hold some weight.
“I have to admit, I've never met Hades,” Cassie stated.
Lileta reached out. “Everyone hold hands.” Once they were linked, she flashed them to the Underworld where they appeared directly in Hades’ main living area. The god was busy nuzzling the neck of a female. One hand held a glass of wine, the other was firmly wrapped around her breast. He raised his head, apparently sensing the intrusion.
“Who the fuck dare disturb me?” he growled.
“Shit. You didn’t mention he was hotter than sin,” Katie blurted out.
“Eww. Seriously? You two are related.” Cassie wrinkled her nose.
Lileta groaned at the goddess tact or lack thereof. Sure, Hades was dressed in black leather pants, a white tee stretched tight across his broad chest and biker boots. His raven hair fell loose past his shoulders and a shadow darkened his jaw. Black glyphs marked his right forearm and appeared to pulse. While all the gods were pleasant to look at, Hades was exceptional. He was dark and dangerous. A predator no one wished to mess with. Even the evilest of evil dared not cross him.
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