Authors: Michelle Scott
Mother, teacher, wanton she-demon
That was who I was now, Lilith Straight, Hell’s newest employee. I’m getting pretty good at it though, letting the succubus inside me take over and Miss Spry had nearly agreed to let me save my daughter from this fate. Everything was going pretty well, even if I was causing trouble everywhere I went.
That is until I end up horns-to-halo with a guardian angel determined to rescue my next victim. To make matters worse, William Benedict, the hottest demon in Hell, is trying to undermine my mission with some temptations of his own…
Nothing is ever what you expect in Hell, but really I should have known that already!
Straight to Hell
Straight to Heaven
has been a fiction junkie all of her life. Although she’ll read everything from literature to mystery to modern classics, she has a special penchant for urban fantasy. She is also a huge nerd and an unapologetic Doctor Who fan, preferring Tom Baker above all others.
In college, Michelle earned her BA in psychology and met the guy of her dreams. Thirty years later, she has never once used her psychology degree, but is still married to Mr. Right which proves that a good college education is worth every penny.
Currently, she is a straight-laced community college English teacher by day, while at night, she stalks supernatural beings in her hometown of Detroit. Michelle lives with her husband and three children, all of whom are addicted to Doctor Who (and urban fantasy) as much as she.
To my wonderful family with love.
Worried, I glanced at my watch again. I’d been waiting for twenty minutes under the broiling July sun, and still there was no sign of my client. Ordinarily, my assignments were perfectly timed because being a temptress meant that I had to reach my victim when he was most vulnerable to temptation. The tipping point, as it were. But this morning, something was off.
Where was he?! The post office parking lot held a few cars, and several people had gone in and out of the building, but my inner demon told me that none of these were my victim. Had I gotten the time wrong? Maybe I’d missed the entire event! I started nibbling my cuticle before deciding it wasn’t worth ruining a sixty-dollar manicure.
As more time ticked by, my anxiety increased. In the past six months, I had gone from a bungling failure to a highly effective succubus. In fact, I’d had thirty-five successful temptations in a row, an accomplishment that even Miss Spry, my demon overlord, had applauded. It wasn’t that I was on board with the whole tempting people to do wrong thing. No, I’d finally come to understand that it made my life much simpler to follow my destiny, rather than fight it. Rebellion only ended in heartache.
Plus, I didn’t want to wreck my winning streak.
I looked at my watch again and muttered a curse. Even though it was only nine-thirty in the morning, the humidity was so high that I’d perspired through my silk tank top. I wore my auburn hair up in a sloppy bun, but a few loose strands were glued to my sweaty neck. Heat from the sidewalk burned through the thin soles of my sandals.
Michigan, in summer, bears an uncanny resemblance to Hell.
Not only was it hot out under the blistering sun, this was also not the best part of town. It was a local job for once, but one on the wrong side of the tracks. The post office itself was okay, a fairly modern structure untagged by graffiti, but across the street was a seedy strip mall with a liquor store, a boarded-up nail salon, and a check-cashing place. All of the businesses had bars over the windows and inch-thick bullet-proof glass between the customers and the owners.
During my wait, I’d watched two men piss in the dying bushes, had six or so vagrants hit me up for spare change, and witnessed what had to be a drug deal. When three teenagers in jeans so baggy that the crotches hung below their knees swaggered by, I realized how vulnerable I was. Unfortunately, the closest otherworld doorway was across the street, which was too far to run if things got dangerous. True, my demon could get scary when I was angry, but I wasn’t Super Woman. I couldn’t do anything like stop bullets with my bare hands, or fly, or shoot lasers from my eyes. If those teens ganged up on me, or if someone pulled a gun, I’d be in trouble. Despite the demon living inside of me, I was human, and I could get injured. Even die. And if I
die, my sweet daughter – the one who slept with a stuffed dog named Crumbles and still believed in Santa Claus – would automatically go into the family succubus business.
Screw the manicure, I thought, and began nibbling my cuticle.
Ten more minutes went by. Maybe this was
mistake, I thought. Or perhaps the client had a change of heart en route and had decided not to show up. I wondered if either of these things would count against me.
After another few minutes, I decided it was useless. The man wasn’t coming. But as I walked away, I noticed that my client had arrived after all. In fact, when he got out of his pickup, I realized that he’d been there the entire time. He simply had been sitting in the cab of his truck, waiting. Good! I rubbed my hands together, ready to add another mark to my tally of successful temptations.
From the looks of things, my victim wasn’t from this part of the city. In fact, I didn’t think he was from anywhere nearby. The plastic frame surrounding his license plate read “Orland Chevrolet”, Orland being a small town about thirty miles north. The truck even had a rebel flag sticker in the rear window, something no urban Detroiter would have ever displayed. Finally, there were about a dozen bales of straw in the bed of his pickup. It was like he’d made an epic wrong turn and ended up in southeast Detroit instead of the farm where he belonged.
I mulled over this information, letting my inner demon make of it what she would. My succubus was kind of like computer software that ran in the background until it was needed. Then she came to the forefront, ready to give advice and lend a hand. In her opinion, it made perfect sense that my client had driven far from home to commit his debauchery. After all, most people don’t like to sin where they live. Yet, we both agreed that the post office was a strange place to pick. Especially since there were three different nudie bars within half a mile. If he was going to be naughty, you would have thought that strippers would beat out USPS workers. But to each his own. It wasn’t my job to judge, just to tempt.
When my client left the truck and walked into the post office, I quickly followed him into the blessed cool of the air-conditioned building. The man wore a Detroit Tigers baseball cap pulled low over his forehead and a clean, white T-shirt. He looked to be in his early thirties, close to my age. Beneath the brim of his cap were a pair of flinty, gray eyes, and his chin was covered in stubble. In one hand, he clutched a box about the size of a ream of paper. He looked nervous enough to jump out of his own skin, but he grudgingly held the door open for an elderly woman who was using a walker.
My assignment was to convince my client to mail his package. It sounded innocent, but I wasn’t fooled. If this was Miss Spry’s business, then there was nothing innocent about it. Although I couldn’t understand why an act as simple as encouraging one man to buy a lacy camisole, or talking another into signing a political petition, should make any difference to the Devil, it always did.
My client dithered by the Ship-It-Yourself machine. There was something in that package making him nervous. Although I tried not to wonder what was inside the brown cardboard box, I couldn’t help but be curious. Did it hold explosives? Contraband drugs? Kiddie porn? True, I’d resigned myself to being a succubus, but that didn’t spare me from feeling twinges of guilt whenever I worked a job. Miss Spry always insisted that I know as little as possible about my jobs, and now I understood why. My work was easier if I could plead ignorance to my conscience.
Instead of dwelling on what might be in my client’s box, I planned my strategy for tempting him. My succubus advised me to use the direct approach, so I smiled playfully as I walked up to him. I put my hand on the Ship-It-Yourself machine like I was a store employee trying to make a sale. “This is really easy to use. You put your package there and follow the directions on the computer screen.”
He muttered “thanks” but didn’t make a move to do it.
“Would you like me to help you?”
His eyebrows shot up. “No. I got it.”
Okay, he was going to be difficult. Unfortunately, this job wasn’t about sticking a few stamps on a box and sending it off. If it had been, I would have grabbed the thing out of his hands and done it myself. No, this was about making my victim
to mail the package. That was much, much harder.
My devilish instincts told me that if I didn’t get to this guy within the next few seconds, he’d leave the post office altogether. It was time to quit fooling around and go into full glamour mode. I let my inner demon take over, radiating that irresistible charm that we succubi are famous for.
I gave him a killer smile. “If this is an urgent package, you could opt for the ‘overnight’ delivery. It costs a little more, but it’s worth it.” Okay, maybe that wasn’t the sexiest thing for me to say, but in the mouth of my demon, those words were like an invitation to an orgy of supermodels. Trust me. Once I was almost seduced by an incubus, and I know how it is.
My client’s steely eyes softened, but he still clutched his package against his stomach. “Okay, thanks. It isn’t urgent, though.”
“Is it a present for someone special?” I gave a throaty laugh, moved in a little closer, and risked touching his wrist. The ordinary, human me could have never gotten away with something like this, but I was no longer human. I was a seductress. “Or maybe it has some important information? Overdue taxes? License plate renewals?”
The man still looked ready to flee. If I didn’t find a way past his moral barricades, I’d lose him. Then he shifted the package he held, and I realized that the box had no return address. No wonder he’d driven so far from home to mail it. He wanted to remain anonymous.
My inner demon crowed. Finally, a foothold! “This machine takes cash,” I told him. “If you don’t use a credit card to pay for delivery, no one will ever know it was you.” I pressed a finger to my lips and winked conspiratorially.
Instead of agreeing, he backed away from me. Although it was quite chilly in the post office lobby, sweat dampened his T-shirt. Even the brim of his baseball cap had darkened. “Never mind,” he said. “I’ll mail this later.”
Damn! The guy looked tough, but he had the moral conviction of a Puritan. Seeing that he was about three steps from the door, I had to act fast. I wasn’t about to break my winning streak because I couldn’t seduce some hayseed.
Desperate, I took another stab. “Look at it this way. The payoff for mailing it will be so worth it. Am I right?” At this, he slowly nodded. I didn’t have him yet, but I was close. “Just think of the reward.” I was speaking as softly as a lover. “All you have to do is mail that package to make it happen.”
I held my breath, hoping I’d finally struck him in the right place. To my delight, he returned to the machine, set the box on the scanner and began using the keypad to enter the shipping information.