I used to be someone who was in control of her life. I was an adult. Responsible and mature. But then I took over the Angel Network, my sister’s demon quashing business, and my life just went to hell…literally!
Part of the problem is, of course, my new partner, Slayer. He’s cocky and opinionated and just so…male. Forget that when he’s nearby my body just about melts with lust. Forget that it’s nearly impossible for us to work together. Forget that dealing with dark worlders on a daily basis is death to my better nature. I just want to prove to Astra that I can run her business as well or even better than she did.
But I can’t catch a break.
What are the chances that one of my first clients would be the Queen of the Hellhounds and that she would drag me to Hell, get me entangled with my dangerously unstable ex-boyfriend, or set me on a path that would nearly kill me a hundred ways to Sunday?
There have to be easier ways to make a living than this.
I dropped my air booger down at the Phelps Castle and sat for a moment, eyes closed, trying to contain a rage that felt bigger than I was. If it was the last thing I ever did, I was gonna get my revenge on the contemptible Slayer for what he’d done.
I shifted against the seat, grimacing as a heavy wetness caused a giant sucking sound on the seat. A sour, butcher shop smell wafted upward and I clenched my fists, which I was holding away from my body because I didn’t want to touch the chunks of gore covering my fine, leather outfit. A bloody string of something I refused to identify trailed from my hair. My cheeks were stiff under a drying coat of blood.
The booger’s elderly electronic brain hesitated for a beat, a confused whirring sound preceding a final click before the door lifted upward. I very carefully shifted my legs outside and straightened away from the car, shuddering when a heavy chunk of something slimy plopped onto the seat behind me.
“I’m going to kill him slowly, one hateful cell at a time.”
“Seal and sanitize,” I told the booger. The door jumped downward and stuck, rising again with a clank, and then finally eased shut. The interior glowed green as the booger struggled to incinerate the goop and gore I’d deposited inside. I didn’t even want to think about what the process would leave behind. If I was lucky it would just be a fine residue of gray ash. If I suffered my usual luck, or lack there-of, I’d be forced to remove a charred hunk of demon flesh from my seat in the morning. I shoved the horrid thought away and buried it under soothing thoughts of my revenge against Slayer.
Sloshing toward the large, arched doorway in the back wall of the castle, I scanned the heights of the dark stone edifice. By habit, I looked for signs that my father, James Phelps, Seraphim in the Angelic choir and God’s right hand man, was home. The façade was dark, the windows like black, unblinking eyes unfavorably judging me as I approached.
I realized as I reached the door that I’d have to touch the handle to open it. My hands were painted in green demon blood with strings of blackened flesh clinging to them. Touching stuff wasn’t an option. Rage flared again and it ignited my last nerve. I’d have to space shift into my room. I hated to do it, but the alternative was coating everything I touched with disgusting refuse and then having to clean it all up. Besides, my father would know what I’d been up to if I left the demon’s magic signature all over the place. I didn’t think I was up to receiving his knowing looks.
Space shift it was.
Picturing an open area of my bed chamber, I closed my eyes and envisioned my body disintegrating on the air, moving through space to that exact spot, and reintegrating there.
The total silence as I entered my shift was disconcerting. I kept my eyes closed because I still wasn’t used to the lack of movement, or the swirling silver sparkles as the magic altered physical properties and changed their location.
It was a great relief when my feet touched the soft rug of my room and the familiar, sweet scent of Lunar Roses dispelled some of my stink.
I opened my eyes and found that I’d landed exactly where I’d planned. Despite myself I smiled. I was a classic overachiever and nobody was as hard on me as I was when I didn’t live up to expectation.
Heading for the cleansing tube, I gave some thought to removing my clothes first and then decided against it. There was no way I was going to try to peel slimy, wet leather off my body while it was covered in chunks. I stepped into the tube and said, “Pulse on full, soap thirty percent, temp one hundred and four degrees.”
Hot, soapy water rained down on me, hard enough to loosen the chunks and scour off the dried demon blood. I stayed under there for long enough to deplete the hot water supply and then exchanged the water for hot air. By the time my below-the-shoulder length hair was close to dry, my televisual was dinging for my attention.
I thought about ignoring it but, being a bit anal about doing the right thing, a complimentary personality trait to go with the over-achiever in my nature, I headed toward the device with a sigh. “Answer call.”
My sister’s pretty face swam online and I mentally prepared for one of our “conversations”.
Astra’s long auburn hair curled wildly around her face, her green gaze widening as she took me in. “Tough day at the office?”
I frowned. “Why do you ask?”
“You have a large, blue eyeball stuck to the top of your head.”
I gave an embarrassing girly scream and reached up to knock the eyeball loose. Unfortunately, it didn’t budge. It seemed to be molded to the strands of my hair like it had been glued there. “Arghhhh! Ish!!”
Astra twisted her lips, obviously trying not to laugh. “You’ll probably need to cut that out of your hair. Demon parts are like chewing gum. They stick hard.”
I barely squelched the desire to growl. “I’m gonna kill Slayer.”
Both of Astra’s slender auburn eyebrows lifted. “What did he do now?”
“He talked me into blasting a Super Demon but he didn’t mention it would implode all over me.”
Astra gave in to the desire to smile. “Let me guess, he was somewhere far behind you when it happened, not a hair out of place?”
I let the growl loose. I figured my sister would understand.
She chuckled happily.
“I’m really glad you’re entertained.”
She flipped a hand upward. “Remind me to tell you about my visit to a dragon roost with the sexy Slayer sometime. Believe me when I tell you I completely understand.”
Though her words mollified me a tiny bit, I was careful not to let her know. “I doubt you know what it’s like to have an eyeball stuck to your hair.”
She cocked her head, narrowing her gaze. “You’re right. But that finger that’s sticking out of your collar, I’m pretty sure that’s happened to me before.”
I shrieked again, smacking at the cold flesh that was stuck to the collar of my leather jacket and dancing around like a Venutian elephant in a room full of mice. “Get it off!”
Giggling emerged from the televisual.
“I swear to god, Astra. You’re second in line for murdering after Slayer.”