A Touched by a Demon Novel
Passion, revenge and a night destined to overturn the power structure of Hell...
Samael, Demon of Pride and Devil’s Advocate, rarely leaves Hell. He has everything he desires there—except his ex-wife. He divorced her after Satan decided their popularity was a threat to his supremacy, but eons later Sam still burns for Lilith—and she still loathes him for knuckling under to Satan’s tyranny. Now an Aboveworld assignment forces them together for three weeks—weeks Sam plans to spend in her bed. His powers of persuasion are legendary, but Lilith’s ability to hold a grudge is even more renowned.
Over the past ten thousand years, Lilith has clawed her way to the top of Satan’s Operations staff. Aboveworld assignments are her get-out-of- Hell-free card, allowing her to escape her history as the dust wench who married into Hell’s elite and then got dumped. Her next assignment is as assistant to the Demon of Pride himself in her favorite stomping-ground, the Big Apple. She’ll never get a better chance to even the score—if she can keep her own tangled feelings under control.
Sam’s determined to seduce his beloved. Lilith’s out for revenge. Sparks fly, and a moment of weakness yields consequences that could upend the universe.
Lilith stepped off the elevator onto Ring Four and shook the last maggot from her hair. At least, she hoped it was the last one. She shuddered as the tiny white body dropped to the rock floor, writhing sightlessly.
She’d spent the past month swimming in larvae and her pantsuit reeked of ammonia. It would be great if she could shower before answering Satan's summons, but she couldn't afford to keep him waiting. Not if she didn’t want to wind up back among the tiny white worms. She broke into a trot.
Whatever the boss had in store for her, whatever disagreeable task he wanted her to perform, no matter how onerous, humiliating, or downright disgusting, she needed to keep that in mind. Otherwise, she’d be back in the maggot pit faster than a fallen angel could claim credit for work he didn’t do. So, no smarting off. No being difficult. Today would be all "Yes, my lord," and "Of course, my lord."READ MORE
Now, where in Hell was conference room 4H? She pictured the layout of the fourth ring in her head. Was 4H the one with the stalagmites on either side of the door? That sounded right.
A pair of limestone columns flanking a metal door came into view. At the sight of it, she slowed to a stroll. Survival in Hell required catering to Satan's whims but self-respect demanded not letting it be too obvious.
In the middle of the door was a small window made of wire mesh sandwiched between thick panes of glass. She checked her reflection in the greenish glass. Her hair was in good order, but the lapels of her crimson silk suit were rumpled and stained. Grimacing, she awarded herself a C+. Not bad for someone who had spent the past three weeks up to her armpits in fly larvae.
The only demon she could see through the window was Satan. He appeared to be talking to someone—some over-rewarded and underperforming member of the old demons' network, no doubt. The boss’s face was darker than normal and a haze of smoke hung in the air above him.
Apparently, it was not a good day in Hell.
She took a deep breath. Respectful, she reminded herself. Accommodating. She opened the door and stepped inside.
"You wanted to see me?" She tried to strike the right note—polite but not boot-licking.
Satan scowled. “What took you so long?”
Jeez Louise, who peed on his Pop Tart? It was tempting to remind him that the maggot pit was seven levels below Ring Four, but all she said was, "I got here as quickly as I could."
He grunted. "I have a mission for you. If you’re successful, I’m prepared to be very generous."
Despite a hundred centuries of experience warning her not to get excited, a tiny bud of hope sprouted inside her. Was this the mission that would finally prove her worth to Satan and elevate her to the position she coveted—Director of Demon Resources?
She inclined her head gracefully. "Whatever I can do to further the cause of Hell.”
"At least someone down here is a team player." He shot a nasty look at the sitting across the table from him.
Who had pissed him off this time? She followed his gaze and her pulse spiked. The object of his ire was her ex-husband, Samael, Demon of Pride, Devil’s Advocate and Hell's chief counsel.
For a moment she couldn’t stop herself from drinking in the sight of him. He wore a charcoal suit and a snowy white shirt with a red silk tie. His beautifully tailored jacket showcased his shoulders to perfection. No doubt the pants did the same for his tight little tush, a tush that was perfect for gripping when… She banished the image. He was also a soulless jerk.
What was he doing here, anyway? He hadn’t dirtied his hands with operational work in a thousand years. Maybe longer. Then she registered the identities of the remaining six demons in the room. They were the Deadlies, so-called because they headed up Hell’s deadly sin divisions. Whatever was going on must be something big.
“I’m willing to do what you ask.” Sam folded his arms across his broad chest, his body language at odds with his statement. His gaze focused on Satan like she wasn’t even in the room. “All I’m requesting is time to finish up the acquisition I’ve been working on.”
She breathed in but she was too far away to smell his signature scent of leather and lime. Then she realized what she was doing. Her face heated and she stopped inhaling. After ten thousand years, why did he still have this power over her?
"What's the job?" she asked.
“It's a great opportunity,” Satan said.
It must be a real stinker. On the other hand, it couldn't be any worse than finishing out her sentence in the maggot pit. A truck carrying a new load of fly larvae had pulled up just as she left. That truckload would bring the depth to chin level.
“This is the one you’ve been waiting for,” Satan said. “Make a success of this mission and I’ll give you that promotion to D.R. director you’ve been pestering me about.”
She couldn’t believe her ears. As Director of Demon Resources, she would finally have some influence down here. She could set up personnel policies to enforce some accountability on the wingless slackers that lounged around Hell doing nothing to earn their keep.
“What’s up?” she asked. And what, exactly, constituted success?
“Heaven has requested trade talks.”
Interesting. Open warfare hadn’t broken out between the spheres in centuries though there were constant squabbles. Angels and demons were immortal, but when they fought, humans sometimes got killed in the crossfire. “On which front?”
“Global warming, the increase in gun violence, the rise of social media, the future of space, the status of women—the whole shebang.”
The status of women. As a human, she was the logical representative on that topic. She couldn’t repress a smile. For the first time in her very long history down here, Satan had asked her to join a delegation representing Hell. Maybe he really was grooming her for that directorship. “Who else will be part of the delegation?”
Satan swept one skinny arm to encompass the room. “All my division heads.”
This was a major deal, then. Maybe, just maybe, his offer was the real deal this time. It wouldn’t do to seem too eager, though. She needed to play it cool. “How long will the conference last?”
It was apparently the right question because Satan beamed at her. “Three weeks.”
Hosanna, it was really going to happen this time. She tilted her head and smiled. “And what will my role be?”
“Administrative.” Satan pronounced the hated word like he was conferring an honor.
Her lips flattened. She should have known it was too good to be true.
Satan smiled his smarmiest smile. “You’ll make all the arrangements—reserve hotel rooms, plan meals, interface with the staff at the conference venue and so forth. The last time we got together for a trade summit, Heaven hosted and we met in a monastery.” The curl of his lip made his thoughts on that clear. Then he rubbed his hands together. “I’ll give you the budget to do it up right. I want to blow their wings off.”
She swallowed and forced the next words out, all too aware of Sam watching and listening. “And once the conference begins?”
He beamed like he was doing her a favor. “You’ll keep things running smoothly.”
In other words, she’d be a go-fer. There was no direct line from this assignment to her dream job. Satan was dangling the directorship in front of her as bait so she would do what he wanted. Which meant he expected her to resist, which meant he thought she’d view this assignment as worse than returning to the maggot pit. But why? What could be worse than the maggot pit? With a sinking feeling, she asked, “Who is the mission lead?”
Her gaze flew to her ex-husband’s face. It was as calm as it had been on the day he’d told her he had accepted a promotion in exchange for divorcing her. Three weeks later she was working as a succubus and he was dating a she-demon with red hair and breasts higher than her IQ.
She couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t. “No way in heaven.”
Satan’s face, which had lightened to an affable shade of rose, darkened again. “You’ll do as you’re told.”
“You can’t put her on this mission.” Sam’s voice was devoid of emotion.
Satan whirled on him. “Why not?
She tensed, waiting to hear Sam’s objection. As Satan was her witness, if Sam insulted her, she would yank off her shoe and drive its stiletto heel straight through his eyeball.
“She can’t be part of a cosmic summit,” Sam said. “She’s human.”
Satan shrugged that off. “She’s immortal. That makes her as good as demon.”
Not to Sam, who knew to which heavenly order each and every demon had once belonged. Humans were a rung beneath even the lowest of them. When they met he had nicknamed her “dust wench.” At the time it had seemed like a term of endearment. It was only after their split she realized it described how he really felt about her. How in Hell had she lived with him for two thousand years without realizing how much he despised her?
“You said you needed a competent admin.” Satan raised his skinny eyebrows at Sam. “Are you saying she’s not competent?”
She eased her heel out of her shoe.
“She’s a brilliant operative.” Sam’s tone remained flat and unreadable. “Everyone knows that.”
Somewhat appeased, she settled her heel back into her shoe. Sam considered her brilliant. He’d never told her that, not even when they were a couple. Of course, she’d had little opportunity to display brilliance back then, keeping house in what was essentially a cave. As bad as their breakup had been, at least it had gotten her off her duff and onto an actual career path.
“She’s very emotional,” Sam said. “The trait appears to be a result of her humanity. It makes her the most difficult demon to deal with in all of Hell.”
Around the room, the other division heads murmured their agreement. She raked them with a scorching glare. They needn’t think she’d forget this. The next time Lust wanted a wingman while seducing a Hollywood starlet, or Gluttony was on the hunt for barbecue made from some endangered species, or Greed wanted the inside scoop on a pyramid scheme, they were on their own. Under her baleful eye, they slouched in their chairs. The murmur died away.
“It’s not going to work, Luce.” Sam used Satan’s nickname from their Heaven days. He was reminding everyone how far back their alliance went. “If you coerce her into doing this against her will, she’ll sabotage the talks.”
Satan stiffened. “She wouldn’t dare.”
So that was what Sam really thought of her these days: brilliant, but thorny, deceptive and vengeful. And he was absolutely right. If she took this gig, she would use the opportunity to earn Sam some quality time in the maggot pit. The thought of him wading chest-deep into smelly fly larvae in his immaculately tailored suit filled her with glee. It wouldn’t do to appear too eager, though.
“Forget it.” She turned toward the door but Satan’s claw-like hand shot out and grasped her elbow, stopping her in her tracks.
“You will work on this mission.” His tone was low and deadly. “You will cooperate with Sam and you will do your best to make the negotiation a success for Hell.”
His talon dug into her arm, puncturing the skin. The wound burned like acid.
What was going on here? Ten thousand years ago, he’d bribed Sam to split up with her but now he wanted them to work together? Even as she framed the question, she knew the answer. The central goal of Satan’s existence was to best the Enemy. This trade summit was one such opportunity. She was the best tactician down here and Sam was the best strategist. Together they were unbeatable. That was why he’d split them up in the first place.
She yanked her elbow from his grasp. “Or what? Back to the maggot pit? Do you really think that scares me? I’ve spent so much time down there I have my own coffee cup.”
Satan’s face darkened to the color of a pinot noir. His horns streamed filthy smoke and his pupils squared into goat-like rectangles. Uh-oh.
“Have I become too predictable?” His silky purr sent a shiver down her spine. “Perhaps we should change things up. Instead of returning to the maggot pit, which you find so dull, how about if I send you to Bolgia Five for a while?”
Well, that went from zero to sixty in no time. In Bolgia Five, the damned swam in pools of boiling pitch. If they tried to climb out, guards prodded them back into the bubbling tar with pitchforks—and they weren’t careful about where the tines landed, either.
Sam made no attempt to intervene on her behalf. No surprise there. When Satan had ordered them to separate ten thousand years earlier, Sam had made no effort to resist, choosing a promotion to Devil’s Advocate over her. Prideful bastard.
Had he intended to get her into trouble today? Or would he say this outcome was a product of her own choices, as he’d claimed about their breakup so long ago? One thing was clear—he was as reluctant to have her on this mission as she was to go.
She couldn’t be seen to give in too easily, though. She waited for another beat, until Satan’s grasp on her elbow became unbearable. As well as giving her a shot at undermining Sam, it might also let her finally achieve her dream job.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll do it.”COLLAPSE