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Damian is supposed to escort sexy Amanda to Hell. But he’d much rather keep her.
This Christmas, Damian Noire’s assignment is to bring beautiful Amanda Wright to stand before the judgment assembly, and then take her to her assigned circle of Hell. It sounds simple. But it’s about to become the hardest assignment he’s ever performed. Amanda might not belong in Hell at all. The problem is, Damian really kind of likes her. And if he gets her the judgment she truly deserves, he’s probably going to lose her forever. But if he doesn’t help her, an innocent may spend eternity in Hell. It appears to be a lose/lose situation on all fronts. Proving once again that holidays truly are hell!
Damian Noire was inches away from escape. Mere inches from finally getting the time off he needed. But in his weariness he apparently hadn’t moved quickly enough. A burning sensation flared painfully and he swore, looking down at the flame-shaped tattoo on his arm and hand. Three of his fingers were tipped with flame. A three-alarm blaze. Shit! His initial thought was to make a run for it. Once he got through the door he’d be temporarily immune to the summons. But he couldn’t ignore a three-alarm summons. He’d be sent to the lowest circle of Hell for a month if he did.
Damian threw back his head and roared his frustration. He didn’t feel any better for it. Ten minutes. Only ten minutes until midnight on Christmas, and somebody had to go and achieve room temperature. Muttering under his breath, he turned around and headed back toward the assembly vault. He’d been so close to hitting the sparkling black beaches of the boiling sea. So damn close.
Damian bumped into a tall, heavily muscled demon he recognized from the vault. The big demon’s name was Abaddon but they called him Don.
Don laughed, fire flashing in his bright green eyes as he shoved past Damian to the door. “I’ll build a sand castle in your honor, Damian.”
“Not today, demon. I’m off to get a Brazilian wax. Maybe next time.”
“Real men don’t wax their balls.”
Don laughed, wiggling his fingers at Damian as he walked out into the broiling suns of Hell to start his post-holiday vacation.
Damian watched him go, feeling sour. He’d really been looking forward to some time off. The holidays were a busy time for the perdition guides. For some strange reason, more people died around the holidays, and about a third of them had to be dragged South to much warmer climes when they did. His only consolation was that the guys in white were even busier than the perdition guides.
As always, it sucked to be an Angel. Not only did they walk around with giant, metaphorical sticks up their asses, but they never got a vacay. At least Damian knew he’d finally get his time off once he finished whatever hellish task the assembly had lined up for him.
Walking against the tide, Damian glared at all his fellow guides as they headed out. They all gave him some version of the grief he’d gotten from Don. It wasn’t exactly a compassionate group.
He walked through the black onyx double doors and past the few guides and their clients still sitting in hard-backed wooden chairs. They were waiting for their time in front of the assembly, to learn which circle of Hell they’d be placed in for eternity.
He scoured a gaze over the despondent, torn and blood-covered faces waiting to be placed. Unlike Heaven, when a body was brought to Hell, the guide didn’t waste any time making them look better. There was no point getting pretty and then heading into the fiery, monster-strewn environs of Hades. Tears and glowers dominated on the pale faces. Supplicants rarely liked waking up from death to discover they were being taken South rather than North. That was usually when your average damned soul embraced his or her inner politician. Much to their chagrin, they quickly learned that lies and obfuscations didn’t go quite as far in Hell as they did in Washington, DC.
Worm, the assembly clerk, scowled at him from across the room. The small, round man wore wire-rimmed glasses and stood in a haze of smoke that rose from the cigarette dangling between his lips. Worm didn’t like when people entered the vault without checking in.
Waiting his turn, Damian ignored the clerk and stood impatiently to the side of the high, curved platform where the assembly judges looked down on the damned. One by one, the supplicants were dragged before the judges and their guides were carefully questioned about their lives. Then the judges would briefly discuss the facts and decide where the supplicant belonged. Once it was decided, the guide stepped back, and the chief judge pointed his pitchfork at the damned. In a burst of light, the supplicant would be dropped into the fiery pits beneath the floor, or transferred to his new home in an outer circle of Hell.
No muss, no fuss.
An hour later, the chief judge turned his red countenance toward Damian and inclined his head. The overhead light sparked against the razor-sharp tips of the judge’s horns. When human mythology created its first representation of Satan, it had been an assembly judge they had depicted. Only the judges were squat and red with white horns and forked tails.
By contrast, the perdition guides looked like exceptionally attractive humans.
Damian moved to the spot at the center of the room where supplicants were meant to stand. He bowed slightly as five massive, red heads turned his way. The chief held his black pitchfork upright in one hand, leaning on it as he peered down at Damian. “PD Damian, I trust you have come before this assembly ready and willing to perform your duties?”
Damian glared at the judge, knowing him well enough to understand the asshole was tweaking him. “Sir, I’ve never been more ready, and the only other time I’ve been this willing was when I had two supra demon females naked and writhing on the black sand beside the boiling sea. But of course that couldn’t possibly compare to this.”
The assembly chuckled darkly.
“I’m glad to hear it. However, I trust you don’t intend to whip your dick out this time,” the chief added with a wicked gleam.
“Not just yet, sir. Though I wouldn’t get me too worked up if I were you, or I won’t be responsible for the results.”
More chuckling ensued. Damian stood waiting, trying not to show his impatience. Not because he thought he’d be punished for it, but because he knew the assembly would delay his departure all that much longer if they knew how much he wanted out of there.
“I’ll bear that in mind.” The chief looked down at the granite tablet before him, running a curved, yellow claw over the words inscribed there. “Woman kills spouse when he admits her ass does look fat in her new jeans. Wait, that was last night.” The chief shook his head with disgust. “Human males are so stupid. You never tell a woman she looks fat. Even I know that. Hmm, oh yes, here it is.” He glanced up. “Your client’s name is Amanda Wright. She made the list for killing someone while driving under the influence. Ms. Wright apparently ran over an old man with her car. She’ll be ready to pick up in about two minutes. You’ll want to hurry. The white ones have instigated a quota system, and they’re not above taking ours along with theirs just to fuck us up. We always get them back, of course, but it takes hours of bookwork to set things straight.” He glared upward, his claws digging into the stone tablet with a grinding noise. “I’d like to twist those pearly sticks in their asses until they scream.”
Giddy with his timeline, Damian grinned. “Sir, when you talk like that it makes me want to reach for my dick.” It would only take him a few minutes to grab the girl, drag her to the vault, and wait for the judges to proclaim. With any luck, he’d be on the beach within a couple of hours. The chief shook his head, chuckling, and slammed the pitchfork into the ground to dismiss him. Damian had about a minute to get up to the earthly plane. He started to run, barely holding back a joyful whistle as he went.