slipped out of the club, giving a little wave to Kayce, whose body was still entwined with her conquest. She was my ride home, but I really didn't want to wait for her to finish. And who knew if she even
finish. She might be intending to take him back to her placeâin which case, I'd have to see Paul again. No, thank you. I clutched my purse to my chest and prepared for the walk home. It wasn't a long walkâand the streets in Vegas were always bustling. Checking my phone, I noted that it was only a little past midnight. Not late at all by most standards. Early for Vegas.
There was a chill in the air. A dry, cool October breeze caught my hair, whipping it about my face. Kitschy Halloween decorations adorned all the local businessesâsmiling jack-o'-lanterns and witches with green skin hung in the windows. It was a fun holidayâone of my favorites since moving to the states. Being alive for close to three centuries meant you saw a lot of customs and various holidays around plenty of countries.
Seeing the green witch made me immediately think of AdrienneâDrew's ex-girlfriend, a detective who studied witchcraft, who had given her life for me a few months prior. Contrary to popular belief, witches are not immortal beingsâ
; they are simply humans with a gift. The whole time she and Drew dated, I was certain she was this horrible person . . . a cheating slut. I couldn't have been more wrong; she was Vice and couldn't blow her coverânot even for the man she loved. Drew.
Drew. And now she was an angelâthat's how good a person she was. Not only Heaven-bound . . . but a motherfucking angel. All of her spell-casting managed to hide that part of her aura . . . especially since she worked to catch so many immortal bad guys; she had to be able to conceal her true goodness as an undercover detective. When she'd died to save me, I'd absorbed some of those powers. As I walked down the street, I practiced snapping my fingersâa small flame igniting at my fingertips.
I lived a few blocks over from the main Vegas Strip, right down the street from Drew's coffee shop. As I approached, there was the tiniest sliver of light coming from inside. It was awfully late for Drew to still be working, but he did sometimes lose track of time while updating the books.
I walked up to the windows, planning to just take a small peek inside to make sure he was okay. I found Drew perched on a ladder, hanging a string of orange paper lanterns from the ceiling. His muscles rippled through his fitted V-neck T-shirt and his carpenter jeans hugged his legs just enough so that you could see the definition of his butt and thighs. I sighed and leaned against the window.
Tap, tap, tap.
I rapped the window with my knuckle. He startled, gripping the ladder, and put a hand to his chest with an exaggerated exhale. Smiling, he held up a finger, signaling me to hold on a moment, and climbed down slowly, carefully from the ladder.
A warm feeling swirled around the pit of my stomach and spread through my limbs like honey. He walked over, unlocking the door.
“Hey,” he said.
It was such a simple greeting, but it sent shivers coursing through my body.
“Hey back,” I said.
There was a moment where neither of us said anything. We stood there locked in each other's eyes. He licked his lips and the sight of his tongue made my stomach clench. A few months ago, after years of sexual chemistry and denying ourselves physical contactâwe finally slept together. I had lost my powers as a result of a power-hungry succubus and a revenge-happy ex on a killing spree. With no repercussions, I couldn't resist his touch. Back then, I wouldn't have dreamt of sleeping with a man like Paul or Drewâor any moral human who was Heaven-bound. But for that one night with Drew, I got to experience what a normal passionate evening should entail. And now we were back to our awkward sexual tension.
I sighed. “Putting up some decorations, I see?” I said, breaking the moment.
He nodded and held the cafe's door open so that I could enter. As I did, he leaned in to give me the ceremonial hello, a half hug and faux kiss on the cheek. It was stiff, and I was getting to a point where I loathed the greeting. He sniffed as he pulled away and looked me up and down. “Tequila?”
I shrugged. “Sure. Among other things.”
He inhaled again as though remembering a long, lost friend. As a recovering alcoholic, it didn't occur to me that the smell of alcohol
someone would mean something to him.
I walked inside, looking aroundâthe holiday dÃ©cor was far nicer than it typically was. He's usually among the crowd that buys some plastic, cartoon Halloween icons and using scotch tape, hangs them in the windows. But these decorations were understated and classy. Ceramic pumpkins and cornucopias on each table. Tea lights and paper lanterns in orange and black hung from the ceiling. “Wow,” I whispered.
“Yeah,” he said. “I know.”
“You should have told me you were doing this tonight. I could have stayed late and helped.”
He shrugged and his eyes slipped down to my strapless dress that sparkled with hundreds of rhinestones. It was shortâcame just below my crotch and sat low across my cleavage. “It seemed like you had more exciting places to be tonight.” His smile faltered and he cleared his throat, looking away. “Besides . . .”
“Where do you want to carve the pumpkins . . . ?” Adrienne walked out from the back room holding two medium-sized pumpkins in her arms. “. . . oh.” She shifted one pumpkin onto her hip and set the other on the counter. “Hi, Monica.” She walked over to hug me, only to pull back as though I could burn her. Her eyes raked over me and I knew she could sense my recent hunt. Could probably still smell the sin of him clinging to my body. She leaned in for the hug anyway, keeping as much space between our bodies as possible. Her nose scrunched as she pulled away from the halfhearted embrace. “We were just about to carve some pumpkins, if you want to join.” There was a slight edge to her voice that I couldn't put my finger on. I looked her up and downâhead to toe. Her hair was still a bright, platinum blond as it had been back in her prostitute/detective days and her skin still bore a slightly orange tan, reflective of too much time in a carcinogenic coffin. But she was beautiful, despite these traits. A beauty that brought bile up my throat.
“Speaking of”âDrew rushed past us toward the back roomâ“I should grab some of my tools.” It was just Adrienne and I, left in a stare-down.
Her eyes shifted under my glare and she cleared her throat. “We've only got two pumpkins, but you and I could share.”
I held her stare and my mouth hardened into a frown. “Don't you think we've shared enough for one lifetime?” I forced a sickeningly sweet smile.
She blinked, her own grin flickering away as her eyes darted to the back room. “I, uhâ”
“Does he know that you're an angel? That you died six months ago to save me?”
She swallowed and shook her head. “You know I can't tell him any of that.”
I snorted, my lip curling back with the noise. “I guess that's what you did best as a human, too. Keeping secrets.”
“And what did you do best as a human, Monica? Oh, that's right, Jules told me . . . you just loved to tease the boys in your village.”
Jules told her? About my past?
My voice was hard and I looked down my nose at her radioactive skin. “I didn't realize they had spray tans in Heaven, too.”
One side of her mouth tilted into a delicate half-smile and she shrugged with a nonchalance that only an angel could master. Her eyes were still hard and stone-like. “What can I say? I love my tanning beds.”
Drew entered from the back room with a small metal toolbox in hand.
“I'd love to stay, but I've got to get home,” I said, back to my normal voice. I knew myself well enough to know that I shouldn't be around Adrienne with a knife in hand.
Drew stepped over to her, picking up the pumpkin that had been set on the table. “Why don't you lay down some newspaper in the back? It'll be easier to clean up in the stock area. I'll be there in a minute.”
“Sure. G'night, Monica. Maybe next time, huh?”
She turned around, her long, platinum hair fanning out dramatically behind her.
“So,” I said once she was gone, knowing that she could still probably hear us. Fucking angels had even better hearing than demons. “You two are back together?”
One shoulder touched an ear as he shrugged and shifted his weight from foot to foot. “Not . . . officially. She's finally back in town from whatever her case was and we're just . . . spending time together. It's the least I can do since weâsince I . . .” His voice broke and he stared at the floor as if it had all the answers to the universe.
“Since we fucked on my kitchen table?” I offered him a syrupy smile.
He exhaled a gush of air, head shaking back and forth. “Don't do that, Mon. Don't make it sound so cheap.”
I couldn't help but laughâthe noise catching in my throat. “Gotta call a spade a spade, Drew.”
His voice dropped to a whisper. “You don't think I owe this to her? After cheating on her? You don't think I at least need to try to make things work between her and me?” His eyes raised to meet mine, catching my chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Please tell me you understand that.”
The lump in my throat grew to golf-ball size and I swallowed it down. “You two were breaking up when weâyou weren't cheating.”
“It felt like cheating. Look, we're just . . . we're reacquainting ourselves with each other.”
“So you haven't had sex yet?” I blurted the question out without stopping to think how it would sound. He dropped my chin, his hand pulling away as though I were poisonous. And who was I kidding? I
All those damn Long Island iced teas lower your ability to censor. Angels can have sex with humans, but the relationship should first be blessed by an ArchAngel. And once the two consummate the relationship, if the human betrays the angel, he or she will have a black mark on their soul for which the only redemption is then in turn saving another angel or angel-bound human. It was a dangerous line to cross.
He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before answering. Hands on his hips, he looked up at me through long lashes. “No. We haven't, not that it's any of your business.”
“Well, good,” I said pointedly and loudly, in the hopes that Adrienne could hear me. She'd be risking his soul forever for a selfish reason and she should know it. Sex with me might take time off his life, but sex with her ran the risk of banishment to Hell. Take a guess at which would be worse.
“Yeah,” he responded, his voice growing louder, scowl deepening. “It
good. We're talking a lot more. Discovering things she couldn't tell me before. We picnic together and find the excitement in the little things like holding each other's hand.” He continued his rant, every now and then hushing his own voice so that she wouldn't hear. He said the words, but there was a catch in his voice. And I didn't buy it. It was too sickeningly sweet and it didn't sound the least bit like Drew. “I see things differently with her, Monica. Roses for exampleâshe's shown me just how many colors are in a single petal.”
“Really, Drew? Roses are red and I had sex an hour ago.” I threw my bag over my shoulder and huffed out of there.
He didn't bother coming after me and I didn't bother to look back. There was a time when Drew would have never let me walk away angry, but those days were long gone.
I was only a block and a half away from my house when I heard a shriekâno, more like scream. Shrill and loud in my head, it stopped me in my tracks and I bent over, clutching my temples in pain. As quickly as it had come on, it disappeared. I stood straight, looking around to see if anyone was around to have noticed my weird behavior. On my right at the stoplight was a couple making outâthey hadn't seen me and obviously hadn't heard the scream.
I shook away the uneasy feeling and checked my phone. There was a text from Kayce waiting for me.
Where'd you go? George and I are at The Lounge.
I hadn't seen George, my incubus friend, all week. The night was still young and The Lounge was only a few blocks east. I turned past the couple making out, the shrill scream pushed to the back of my mind.
t was well past noon by the time I woke up the next morning. I had to work the two to eight shift at the cafe. Never before had I
wanted to go to work and see Drew.
My head throbbed and I popped two aspirin in my mouth, downing them with a glass of water. I could still feel the effects of alcohol and the resulting hangover that came with thatâthough it took a whole lot more alcohol to affect us demons than most humans. While I normally enjoyed the ritual of a hot shower and brushing my teeth in the mornings, after a long night of partying with my friends, I just wanted to be ready without any fuss.
I shifted into a slim-cut pair of jeans and a scoop-neck T-shirt. My hair was dark blond and a little past my shoulders with soft curls that twisted around each other. Looking in the mirror, I thought better of the outfit. I usually dress conservatively for my job, but I wanted Drew to look at me and drool. I wanted him to remember the body that once knelt over his face. I shifted instead into a halter top that was cut low, revealing impressive cleavage that wasn't too over the top. The halter tied at the nape of my neck as well as across my lower and middle back. All that kept the shirt in place were three easy-to-untie bows.
“I liked the first outfit better,” a baritone voice said from my bedside and I screamed, reaching for the gun that I kept in my purse.
“Too late,” he said. “You'd already be dead.”
“Julian!” Fucking angels. Sneaky little bastards.
“For someone who's got a hit out on her, you're not so good with being aware of your surroundings.” He was, of course, speaking of the bounty Lexi had mentioned was on my head back when she tried to kill me a few months ago. Hence my gun and holy water bullets. I had definitely been on edge since then, but certainly didn't want my old mentor to know that.
“If it's an angel who's out to kill me, I'd say I've got bigger problems.”
Jules meandered around my room, walking over to the bookshelf where I kept a few tchotchkes from the various countries and centuries I've lived as a succubus. He picked up a scarf my mother had knitted for me in my human days. The wool was so old that it was damn close to being brittle. He turned it over in his hand. With a sigh, I walked over, gently took it from him, and placed it back in its spot on my shelf, running a finger tenderly over my family's crest knitted into the base.
“What is it you want, Jules?”
He rocked back on his heels, tucking his thumbs into his front pockets. “Just checking in on a friend. Can't I do that?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Uh-huh.”
He responded by arching his eyebrows innocently. “What?”
“It just seems unlikely that you would come here without a specific reason.”
He said nothing, just stared at me with those intense crystal-blue eyes. After a few more seconds of no response, I sighed and rolled my own baby blues. “Fine, then I've gotta get going.”
“Well, there was something. . . .”
“I knew it.”
“I wanted to see if there was any way I could convince you to warm up to Adrienne a little? She's trying so hard with you.”
I folded my arms. “Is she, now? Tell me Julesâwhy is it that you were telling her of my human days? Because for someone who's âtrying so hard' she sure has a funny way of throwing my past in my face.”
Julian's chest collapsed, shoulders sagging in the process and he ran a hand over his face, across his blond stubble. His hair was blond, wavy, and tickled his collarbone with a shine that models would envy. “I'm sorry. I thought it would help for her to know.”
send you to talk to me?”
He shook his head. “No. Not at all . . .” He paused, choosing his words carefully. “She would never ask for my help in such a personal matter. Is it so much to ask that my oldest friend and my mentee get along?”
“Yeah,” I answered brusquely. “Actually, it is.”
He paused, looking me over from my bedhead-styled hair to my open-toed kitten heels. “I see you're . . .
your succubus nature. Quite the change, isn't it?” He tipped his chin up, looking down at me through half-open eyelids.
“Yep. You could say that.” I grabbed my purse, pretending to be fascinated by which lipstick to take with me. Something we both knew was bullshit since I could affect any shade I wanted. I slid my arm through the purse strap and stood taller, all my weight shifted onto one foot. “Why fight a losing battle?”
His face remained stoic and he nodded. “I believe in you. You'll come out of this.”
“Sure you do. Why don't you go work with your replacement Monica. Better keep her away from any vampires . . . it would probably inhibit your chances of being promoted to ArchAngel if you lost another angel mentee to lust. I'm sure I'll see you around.” I fumbled around my purse for my keys and when I looked up again, Jules was already gone.
I arrived at the cafe already in a bad mood. Boo-fucking-hoo, Adrienne. Your Heavenly existence is so hard.
So you can imagine just how excited I was to see Adrienne and Damien sitting together having a cup of coffee. Drew stood next to Adrienne's chair, his hand resting lightly on her back. They all looked up as the bells over the door announced my entrance. Mine and Drew's eyes connected, the muscles in his neck tightening.
So much for just slinking past them. I cleared my throat and found the courage somewhere down deep to approach. “Hey, guys.” My voice sounded rough, like I had swallowed a fistful of gravel.
Drew nodded with a single head tilt.
Adrienne's smile was brittle. “Hi, Monica.”
Damien simply stared, amusement twitching at the corners of his mouth. His olive skin smelled of aftershave and his dark hair looked as though he had recently trimmed it. The layers fell on each other with a precision that looked both sexy and expensive. Gray eyes regarded me with a warmth I couldn't help but feel skeptical about.
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. “Soâyou two working?”
Adrienne nodded. “Yeah, we just got a call about another out-of-town case. This one's in Utah, and we thought”âher eyes shifted to Drewâ“you might have a little insight on it.”
“Me?” I raised my eyebrows and then looked over at Damien.
He raised his hands in an “I surrender” sort of position. “Wasn't my idea.”
Drew chuckled and rubbed his forefinger across his top lip. “I don't think Monica's the right person to help in an investigation,” he said quietly as if remembering a fonder time. “Remember when she cut her leg a while ago? The slightest bit of blood and
.” He clicked his tongue with a quick twitch of his head motioning to the floor. “She was out.”
I glared at Drew, jaw clenched.
At this, Damien leaned back, arms crossing his chest. “Oh yeah? I wouldn't picture you as being one to pass out after a little blood.”
,” I said, the heat rising to my cheeks. “That was . . . an extraordinary . . . circumstance. It had been a rough week.”
Damien's twitch of a smile was officially a full smirk now.
“Whatever. I need to get to work.” I swung around and headed to the back to put my stuff away.
When I finished, I spun around to find Adrienne there with a file in her hand, long acrylic fingernails clutching it tightly. “Please,” she said. “Just take a look at this. Any insight you can offer would be helpful. Our chief is on us to help out this other precinct and so far, D and I can't come up with anything new.”
I took the file, halfheartedly flipping through it, not even bothering to read. “And why exactly do you think I'll be able to find anything? I'm not a detective. I'm not an angel. I'm not even a blip on Saetan's radar.”
“Well,” she said, quieter, “we both know that's not true.” After a pause, she sighed. “About last nightâI'm sorry about what I saiâ”
“I'll have a look at the file when I find a little time. My schedule is
full these days, though. That reminds meâI was going to dance as a naughty cop tonight. Have any suggestions for me?”
Adrienne's jaw clenched and she wrenched the file from my hands, opening it up to an image. “Lookâthere are runes surrounding her body. They're Celticâold Celtic magic. I had once tried a spell similar in my witch days, but before I could master it, Iâwell,
know.” She looked to her hand, rustling the papers pointedly in front of me. “Julian mentioned that the two of you spent time in Ireland a few centuries ago and that you may be able to help.”
“Why doesn't Julian help you? He
“He can't interfere with human practices. You know that. Not without the blessing from the council.”
“I received permission after I became an angel to continue my work as a detective as long as I was no longer Vice. They felt it would best utilize my natural gifts.”
“Ah.” I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from saying anything more.
“Please. Just take a look.”
I didn't answer right away. Just stood with my arms crossed. She looked so hopeful there with her perfect posture in her classically cut navy blue suit. Her bright blond hair was pulled tightly into a high ponytail with two tendrils framing her face. Her makeup, though subdued, oozed sex. Damn her. Grabbing the file back, I tossed it into my locker and slammed the door shut. “Sure. I'll have a look.”
Her face, which had been all business before, lifted slightly into a smile. “Thank you, Monica. I'll go tell Damien you're on board.”
A couple hours or so into my shift, Damien was still sitting at the same table near the window. Adrienne had long since left. Genevieve was working the register and I was making the orders as they came in. Vanilla skim latte. Iced cappuccino, extra foam. Caramel mocha latte. Okay, so that last one was for me. I brewed a double shot of espresso. Quick and potentâjust how he likes it.
“You're still here,” I said, setting the espresso down in front of him.
He leaned back in his chair, resting his arm over the back casually. “Hello to you, too, succubus.”
I sighed. “Ya know, I'm going to start calling you elemental from now on.” That's what Damien wasâa human who could speak to and hear the elements: earth, air, fire, metal. Though he was still technically a mortal, elementals lived much longer lives than typical humans. Hundreds of years, even. They didn't age like your average human. Hence the reason a succubus, or incubus for that matter, wouldn't be able to steal any portion of their souls.
He looked down at the double shot I had placed in front of him. “I didn't order anything.”
“It's on the house,” I said. “Drew hates it when people sit for hours and don't order anything.”
“Well, then.” His eyebrows hung low over his eyes, “I guess I owe you a tip, then, don't I?” His mouth curved into a smile that didn't reveal any teeth.
I leaned on the empty chair next to him. “Or you could just tell me why the Hell you're still here.”
He sighed and leaned forward, resting both elbows on the table. “Adrienne seems to think you're gonna be able to help in our next case. I don't have quite the faith in you that she does.”
“So?” I let the sentence drop off.
He held my gaze and licked his lips. It was a game of chickenâwho would look away first? He picked up his espresso and took a sip, maintaining eye contact the entire time. After setting it back on the table, he cleared his throat. “I was wondering if you wanted to get dinner with me sometime.” His hands clasped in front of him and he straightened his back, shoulders squared directly at me.
I laughed out loud, laughed right in his face. “You've got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Is that a no?”
“Considering you've spent the past six months either ignoring me or sending me hateful glares from across the roomâI'd say,
, that's a no.” I narrowed my eyes and turned my head to look at him from the side. “What changed? You wanted nothing to do with me after the battle at my place.”
“Adrienne is like a sister to me . . . and when I thought she died saving you, I needed someone to blame. But now she's back and she's fine.” After another moment of holding my gaze, he sighed and fell back in his chair. “C'mon. Just go to fucking dinner with me. You obviously want toâyou bought me a coffee.”
“Technically Drew bought you that coffee. Take him to dinner instead.”