Caleb Sumner is a Demonid. He has seen men and women through the ages cheat on each other to the point that gushy holidays like Valentine's Day literally make him sick. He considers himself far above and beyond any such romantic frivolity; certainly, sparkly pink and red cards and confections every February 14th are as annoying as those who share them. This particular year, however, Caleb is one Grove Nymph away from having his heart and mind completely altered!
Rating: Pretty spicy!
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Mythic
Release date: February 14, 2020
Publisher: Candace Sams
Print pages: 44
Content advisory: Sexual content/Fantasy
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Behind the book
This is the story of one mythic creature's desire to avoid Valentine's Day - a much hated celebration.
When another mythic creature ends up in his apartment, his mind is changed toward the holiday. But not before he gets to kick some Olympian butt!
Celestial Bar and Grill
Lexington Ave, New York
''All right…what are you staring at, Zeke?''
Caleb Sumner rolled his eyes and pushed his now empty glass of whiskey toward his friend and bar-owner, Ezekiel Arrow. Zeke, as his best friend was commonly called, catered to the Mythics in NYC. Sooner or later, all of them ended up in the swank silver and-white, be-glittered bar. For the last hundred years, it was the place to be though Zeke was forced to leave every once-in-a-while, then come back pretending to be his own descendent. After all, humans patronized the bar as well and the owner couldn’t be seen not aging.
Zeke was pure Earth Angel―a newer breed of un-winged angelic hosts choosing to live and work among humankind. Unlike the myth connected to the particular legendary creature, Angels did not live forever. They were granted two thousand years before expiring and going to their just reward. Zeke was only 683. That put him at early adult stage.
As far as Caleb’s race was concerned, his kind lived half that lifespan; only a thousand years or thereabouts. He looked and acted the appropriate thirty-three most humans thought him to be. His race first appeared when a few of the lighter Angels decided to knock boots with a few Angels of the darker ilk. Since the Almighty was disinclined to interfere in these torrid interludes, the resulting offspring became known as Demonids.
Despite their varied interests and natures, Caleb’s father and mother got on famously. His mother was the very epitome of blonde-graced angelic light and heavenly virtue while his sire was just the opposite―dark and seemingly sinister in every way. Somehow, they still loved each other passionately. Furthermore, they loved him with devotion that could only be described as all-encompassing. He couldn’t lay claim to a single family dysfunction. There were no siblings with whom to fight, no old wounds resulting from childhood misunderstandings. His life, compared to others of the Mythic community and certainly with any human existence, was nearly perfect. There was only one peculiarity that dogged him. This was a direct result of his heritage.
Every year, near February 14th, he grew sadistically cynical about humankind and the idiotic holiday historically dubbed Valentine’s Day. Certainly this was a conspiracy originating with candy companies and not the Roman Empire. It existed, as he deemed it, for no real romantic attitude humanity might engage. He spat on the very idea of red hearts and flowers, pink cards with their frills and fripperies, and anything having to do with little angelic beings known as cupids. Worst of all were the little demonic figures that appeared in the card and variety stores; the kind dyed fire-engine red and bearing forked tails, horns and cloven hooves.
There were no cupids. There were no devils. Mankind had devised silly caricatures of the real thing for their own sordid purposes, mostly to explain away having seen real
Angels like Zeke and real Demonids like him.
Throughout history, Angels and Demonids appeared from their various realities to warn mankind about making asses of themselves. None of humanity ever listened which was why, he was quite certain, Valentine’s Day existed. The entire month of February was one asinine, pretend lovefest where people who didn’t really give a flaming damn about each other sent expense chocolates and flowers. In short, he hated the holiday and anything to do with it. Mixing the colors pink and red made him ill. Zeke, on the other hand, thought the entire fallacy sublime. His angelic friend wallowed in the romance of the day which didn’t help his attitude.
''I think you’ve had enough,'' Zeke proclaimed as he took Caleb’s whiskey glass away.
''What are you? My mother?'' Caleb shot back.
Zeke shook his head and put a diet soft drink in front of Caleb, sans any alcohol. ''Why does February 14th piss you off? What is it about this particular time of year that burns your ass?" Zeke doggedly asked. ''Every February you do this to yourself and I have to listen to the bitching, but with no explanation as to why. You end up spending most of the month looking like somebody ran over your foot.'' Zeke leaned forward and put his elbows on the bar. ''Tell me what the fuck is wrong with Valentine’s Day? And this time…I’m not gonna let you walk out of here without an answer!''
Caleb glared at his blond-haired, blue-eyed friend then jerked his head in the direction of a couple; a pair happily ensconced in the corner of the bar. ''You see those two? Do you see the big Valentine he just handed her…the big red glittery monstrosity sitting on the table?''
''Yeah, I see the damned card, Caleb. They’re probably gonna end up in bed before the night is over…so what?''
''He’s cheating on his wife and she’s engaged…to somebody else.''
Zeke sighed. ''Look…who died and made you judge and jury over every human life? Besides, if you’d quit using your powers to crawl around in folks’ heads, you wouldn’t be subjected to their failings. That’s the biggest problem with you Demonids…the fact that you can read some humans’ minds puts you on the cynical end of everything.''
''So…it’s my fault they’re cheating on those they’re supposed to love, and his handing her a glitter-covered card makes it all right?'' Caleb bitterly groused.
''No, it’s just your fault you go reading human thoughts when you aren’t supposed to. It’s rude. Besides…did you ever stop to think her fiancé and his wife are probably better off without ‘em? And maybe those two will go on to be happier with each other.''
''That’s a load of crap that only an Angel could justify! Cheating is cheating and you know it.''
''All right…okay…I’ll give you that, Caleb. But Angels see love…of any kind…as better than hate. The world is full of animosity. It’s eating mankind apart.''
''And those two fools in the corner aren’t making things any better,'' Caleb insisted. ''I’ve had my gut full, Zeke. I’m tellin' you…I can’t stand it anymore.''
Zeke sighed heavily. ''So what are you gonna do…let a few humans who mistake lust for love turn you into Beelzebub every February?''
''That’s amusing,'' Caleb sarcastically sounded off. ''Veeeery funny!'' He gathered up his coat from a nearby barstool, threw a few bills on the counter and stood. ''I’m gonna go back to my apartment and spend the rest of the winter in bed! Call me when it’s March.''
''All people aren’t like that couple,'' Zeke insisted. ''Surely, you’ve come across some righteous lovers on Valentine’s Day?''
''No. Not one. It’s all deception. Smoke and mirrors and a box of conversation hearts,'' Caleb denounced. ''It’s bad enough to lie about loving one another during the Christmas season. But to devote an entire month so soon after that holiday…to supercilious posturing about couples and romantic meanderings…well I can’t take it. It makes me want to puke.''
''That statement smacks of someone who’s never experienced the emotion,'' Zeke suggested.
''Why should I? It’s easy enough to pick up some woman whose fiancé doesn’t do it for her. What’s love got to do with it?'' Caleb derisively finished as he walked away. As he did so, he heard his friend bark out a command.
''Take over, Gabriel. I’ve got a call to make."
Caleb entered his apartment and closed the door behind him. His acute senses picked up the scent of wildflowers and sandalwood. He immediately backed against the inside of his door. ''Who’s here!'' he loudly demanded.
From the recess of his bedroom, a tall, lithe figure appeared in a dark green, hooded cloak. She―for it surely was a woman―moved with all the grace of a gentle spring zephyr.
Her curves were readily apparent even through the folds of her gilt-trimmed garment. She glided more than walked.
As she moved very close to him, he felt no hostility or menace. Still, he cupped his hands and gathered ambient energy. He did so in case he needed to throw a couple of good-sized power orbs in her direction. Mythics, from all realities, carried powers that could be summoned in an instant. And since he didn’t know her intent―and because she’d entered his apartment without asking―he assumed the worst.
''You don’t need to do that,'' a gentle voice soothed as she lifted a green-gloved hand toward his energized palms. ''Zeke sent me. Power down, Caleb…I mean you no harm.''
With those words, the tall figure shook back her hood and the air almost left Caleb’s lungs. He dropped his hands and let the energy he’d summoned with them filter away.
Before him stood the loveliest creature he’d ever seen. Her clear, violet-colored eyes―with their honest and sincere expression―were as mesmerizing as her perfect face.
The girl’s high cheekbones, bow-shaped mouth and arched brows were characteristic of a noble race. Her long, light brown hair hung over her cloaked shoulders in silken, shining waves.
He’d never seen her ilk but had heard of their existence. It was the color of her eyes that gave her away. There was only one kind of Mythic who could boast such an unusual and strikingly awesome violet gaze.
''An Aseid,'' he whispered.
In the world of Mythics, she was as rare as a giant red diamond. There couldn’t be more than a dozen of her kind. They were a recessive-gene creature; a mixture of many magical beings. Their birth was quite coincidental in any family of Mythics. Stories abounded about them because they also preferred to keep to themselves; finding their own secluded sacred woods between realities. The better-known name for her kind was Grove Nymph. There were no males of the race known to exist.
His shock at seeing her was compounded by the fact that she’d somehow entered his apartment. ''What are you doing here?'' he blurted.
''Zeke told me it would be all right. I’ve just flashed in from my reality, but I’m quite comfortable walking among humans. I’ve done it for hundreds of years.''
He dragged a hand over his face in confusion. ''Okay…but why did you flash into my place, and why would Zeke or anyone else tell you it was okay to do it?''
''It’s…well…it’s a long story. I just went back to my grove to gather some clothes and other personal effects. I couldn’t stay long since my reality is being watched.''
''By who?'' he prompted.
She twisted her gloved hands together. ''I knew this wasn’t a good idea. But I couldn’t stay with Glorianna any longer. Some of Calibos’s henchmen were hanging around her apartment. A few of Zeke’s Angelic friends saw them and I had to leave or risk getting her involved―''
Caleb put up both hands to interrupt her abrupt blather. ''Stop! Let’s start over.''
She closed her mouth and stared at him.
''Just tell me who you are, then we’ll go from there,'' he slowly instructed.
''My name is Lorus. I use the surname Birch when I’m in this reality.''
''All right…Lorus Birch…tell me why you’re here and what has Zeke got to do with it?''
She took a deep breath and continued more slowly. ''Until a few months ago, as humankind measures time, I was happily ensconced in my sacred grove, guarding a herd of rare purple horses. Calibos took it into his head to invade my territory. He wanted to hunt the herd into extinction, and I wasn’t about to let that happen. He and I had a little…confrontation. He then got it into his narcissistic, snail-sized brain that I wouldn’t have stood against him unless I was trying to prove myself worthy of his filthy attention.''
''I know Hera bestowed immortality on him centuries ago, but I thought Zeus put a stop to his hunting rare animals in exchange for becoming a Mythic.''
''Hera, or as we refer to her…Mommy Dearest… gave him free reign to do whatever he wants!''
Caleb rolled his eyes. Zeus would turn his omnipotent head if it meant not having to listen to Hera bitch from one end of Olympus to another. Anyone speaking ill of her misbegotten offspring drew forth her vilest side and that was saying something. Thankfully, only Calibos seemed intent on breaking his oaths to Zeus and others. As Hera's most beloved son, Calibos was one of the cruelest and despotic tyrants to ever exist and was shunned by every one of his Mythic compatriots. He’d probably never meant to honor his vow to leave the sacred animals alone.
''Zeus might have control over his domain,'' Caleb announced, ''but the Almighty rules even him and Hera. They can’t allow Calibos to run from one reality to the next, doing whatever he pleases.''
''Eventually, what he’s done will catch up with him. But that’s only half the problem.''
''Since you confronted him and he’s an egomaniac, he still sees you as a prospective mate,'' Caleb stated as fact.
She nodded vehemently. ''The bastard won’t leave me alone. Ever since I stood against him, he’s chased me to ground wherever I go. I came to this reality because Zeke’s sister, Glorianna, is a very good friend. I knew she’d hide me until Calibos found some other woman to stalk or until Zeke could take up his behavior with the Almighty. If Zeus won’t control Hera…and Hera won’t control her bastard son…then I’ll go to the highest source to see he gets what’s coming to him.''
''I don’t understand,'' Caleb announced, ''if you stood against Calibos to protect your sacred herd of horses, why can’t you stand him down on your own behalf?''
''Because. He told Hera a lie about me; a lie that pisses me off to the point that I lose rational thought. I can’t talk to Hera about him without raising her ire.'' Lorus lifted her gloved hands until energy balls formed within her palms and threatened to smash everything in sight.
He gently pressed her hands downward, until the enraged girl got her feelings under control. Her violet eyes flashed with anger that he’d have never attributed to such a reputedly gentle race.
''Sorry,'' she immediately apologized as she shook her hands to safely disperse her power, ''but a more insidious lie concerning me has never been told.''
''What…exactly…did Calibos say?''
''That I willingly seduced him and am happily carrying his damned love child!''
Caleb blew out a long breath and dragged his hands through his hair.
''Hera won’t be satisfied until she locks me in a room on Mount Olympus. And she has more power than any host of Mythics from any pantheon, never mind one lone Grove Nymph. She’ll throw the key away so she can control a grandchild that doesn’t even exist. And if I’m locked where Calibos can get his hands on me, he’s not beyond―''
''Overpowering you until he can get you with child,'' Caleb finished.
She pointed an index finger at him and heatedly nodded. ''Now you’ve got the picture! I’d be outnumbered and overpowered. Calibos would see to getting me knocked up if for no other reason than to keep Zeus from knowing he’d lied to Hera.''
''So you were hiding in this reality, with Zeke’s sister Glorianna, until this is straightened out?'' he clarified.
''Didn’t I just say so?'' she affirmed. ''Sooner or later, he’ll tire of this game and go find someone else to harass. At least that’s my hope. I mean…I know the Almighty is busy with more important things…but I am not letting that foul-mouthed, stinking, cruel, dirty son of-a-bitch put his hands on me. He smells like a shore full of dead flounder!''
Caleb did his best to keep a straight face, but the idiocy of the situation was a bit much.
''A-Are you laughing at me?'' she caustically asked as she put her hands on her hips. ''Do you think this is funny?''
''No. I-I’m sorry,'' he chuckled. ''It’s just that if Zeke was looking for a way to perk me up, he’s done the job. Oddly, he never said anything about all this when I was at his bar tonight. I’m wondering why.''
''He couldn’t talk freely there. There’re too many Mythics hanging around who might overhear. Some of Calibos’s stinking pig-trolls were seen on Lexington Avenue a few nights ago. I don’t want them to know where I went. Besides, I think Zeke may have been considering some other hiding place than your apartment…at least until this blows over. For some reason, he changed his mind and suggested I should come here. Glorianna was in complete agreement.'' She lifted one shoulder and let it fall. ''What could I do? I don’t have an apartment in New York, and I didn’t want to impose on Zeke and his extended family more than I already have. To make matters worse, Calibos is very dangerous around humans. He can certainly do a lot of harm in this reality…threats from Zeus notwithstanding.'' She turned abruptly and walked back into his bedroom.
Caleb quickly followed.
''I can go someplace else. A hotel will do,'' she informed him. ''I’ll keep moving until Calibos gets bored or someone higher up puts him in line.'' She grabbed her belongings and began to search the room for anything she might have missed.
He took her large bag from her, put it on the floor then gently pushed her into a sitting position on his bed. ''Zeke sent you here…probably because you were close to being discovered. And you’re right about humans getting in the way. Calibos and his followers could harm somebody. It’s no skin off his nose if some innocent person gets in his way.'' He studied her for a moment. ''You’re angry right now and pissed-off Mythics sometimes make poor decisions.''
''I know this situation sounds bizarre. But it’s all true. Calibos is so arrogant…he can’t bear the thought of some woman turning him down or standing up to him.''
''You don’t have to convince me. I’ve heard all about his antics, and of Hera’s defense concerning his lies. It’s just…this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Zeus letting things go so far…even to keep Hera’s shrewish mouth shut. He’s let this thing spill into the human realm and that can cause him some serious trouble.''
''I hope it does! Some Mythics, like Calibos, need their balls turned into tobacco pouches. If Hera can’t control her mistakes, and Zeus doesn’t care, then maybe the Almighty will curse their reality and they’ll finally have to stay where they are and quit inflicting themselves on Mythics who’re minding their own business!''
Caleb couldn’t help responding with another smile. This little Grove Nymph was gorgeous when she was spitting fire. ''Whatever happens in that regard, you don’t want to be in the middle of it. There’ll only be one winner. The Almighty doesn’t put up with shenanigans like this for long.''
''That’s my fervent hope!'' she assertively responded.
He gazed down at her for a long time and watched as the lovely enchantress gathered her composure. Not sure if this was all some setup devised by Zeke, he decided to go along with the plot and see what happened. Besides, he’d never been in the company of an Aseid. Something told him this could be the most interesting winter evening he’d ever spent.
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