Sometimes love is messy.
In exchange for some witchy powers, Ashley promised the Devil her firstborn, but when the time comes to pay her due, she has nothing to give.
With Lucifer insisting that she fulfill the terms of her contract, Ashley turns to Grim Dating for help. There’s only one problem—they’re having a hard time finding her perfect match.
Which is where Derrick comes in.
He’s the company’s problem solver; however, even he has no idea how to get a prim and proper witch to let loose. Frustration leads to him kissing her, but he never meant to seduce her.
…or fall in love.
However, his witch isn’t interested in more than a one-night stand. And when an angel gets involved, the reaper realizes he’d best do a better job of sweeping Ashley off her feet.
Or risk losing her forever.
***For more Hell books featuring Lucifer’s meddling, check out The Welcome to Hell series.
The man wearing the hooded sweater, with his hands jammed into his pockets, sauntered down the street without a care in the world. He even whistled. He wanted her to know that he followed.
Ashley crossed the road to the other side, tucking her coat tight, keeping her head down. In making herself small, she’d only made herself a bigger target.
The steps neared and kept pace as she passed from one block to the next, lit only by scattered streetlights that only barely lifted the shadows. This time of night, no one else wandered. Windows were dark. No cars prowled the streets.READ MORE
The man following Ashley waited until she was level with an alley before he rushed her. Running at her, he hissed with malicious intent, “Come quietly, or I will hurt you.”
“Where do you want me to go?”
He’d chosen the alley for a reason. He knew the electronic code to punch in and unlock the metal door cemented into the brick wall. He grabbed her by the upper arm and yanked her inside.
She spared a quick glance, noticing that they were in a vast space, mostly empty, only a few crates lying around.
“What is this place?”
“Quiet. Or I’ll gag you with something to make you shut up.”
“Are you alone?”
“Not anymore.” He leered, his teeth a jagged, black-and-yellow mess.
Revolting. “Haven’t you heard of a toothbrush?” She wagged her fingers and murmured a chant, more of a low hum, the noise a spider makes as it spins some web. In her case, she spun magic, spooling it out to wrap around her attacker. She twirled him in a binding cocoon of power until the only thing he could move were his eyes. Not exactly an ideal situation for him. Ashely would know. She’d once been bound in much the same fashion. On her fifteenth birthday, she was to be the virgin sacrifice offered during a blood moon, gifting her parents and the cult they ran with untold power.
Just one problem. Having heard of their decision to spill her blood, Ashley had decided to ruin it. She gave her virginity to Herman Juxtapose, which canceled out her ability to be offered up. It was kind of amusing that her parents and their cult friends had spent years grooming her for that moment, and she managed to ruin it in thirty-four seconds.
A mumble of protest from behind the tight gag drew her attention. Her captive tried to wiggle free.
“I wouldn’t bother. I learned the Shibari Magical Knot pattern from an expert.” She’d had extensive studies when it came to the magical arts.
The body thrashed and mumbled some more.
A frowned creased her brow for only a moment. She smoothed it quickly. Wouldn’t want to encourage wrinkles. “That is quite enough,” she intoned in a soft yet firm voice. “While I applaud your impatience in wanting to turn yourself in to the proper authorities, it will have to wait until I am done with my lunch.”
She drew out a cloth from her pocket and set it on a crate, the surface rose under the fabric to just the right height.
The hanging body complained some more.
“Did you know,” she said, pulling out a small tripod that stretched as it snapped into shape, forming a stool, “that dietary experts recommend eating at the same time every day so as to keep our body humors in balance?”
Her captive, Bracuus Notail, escaped resident of Hell, glared.
“Perhaps had you followed a more cohesive eating pattern, you wouldn’t have gotten into trouble.”
His eyes widened in derision, and Bracuus snorted from behind the gag. A criminal through and through, who couldn’t grasp the bad life choices he’d made—starting with skipping breakfast she’d wager. To compound his ill manners, he seemed intent on ruining her appetite.
As if she’d let that happen.
She flicked her fingers, and the bound Bracuus lifted from the floor and flipped upside down. She lifted him high above, dangling him from the rafters. Bracuus might be a demon, but on the Earth plane, they were susceptible to harm.
She pulled out her Bento box containing her lunch, everything packed in its little compartment. No junk food for her. She retrieved her napkin-wrapped utensils. Laid everything out and readied to eat.
Heard some whining from above. She twirled her hand and let Bracuus plunge a few feet.
Things got quiet after that. Perched on her stool, she ate her rice, then her protein, followed by her fruit. While daintily eating her berries, she occasionally flicked her fingers, spinning her prey lest he become complacent.
She drank from the water bottle she’d filled just that morning.
When done, she packed her things away inside her pocket that actually existed on a different plane. It had cost her more than she liked at a bazaar in Jersey, but it proved handy.
Once she’d tidied her things, she glanced around the warehouse and grimaced. It never failed. Those skirting the law always chose to hide themselves in the dirtiest locales. She’d never understand why, though. Just because they owned an evil gene didn’t mean they needed to live like pigs.
Look at her? A witch in the service of the Dark Lord, and you could eat off every single floor in her house.
Pity she didn’t get more choice in which jobs she was assigned. It would have been nice to have the liberty of selecting more sanitary conditions. However, she comforted herself that each misbehaving bounty taken into custody cleaned up her city—and the money was good.
Glancing down, she noticed a speck of dirt on her white slacks. That wouldn’t do. She flicked it with magic, then, using a magical tether, began dragging her prey behind her. She’d drop him off at the OAB—Office for Abnormal Beings—on Fourth Street, then head to the salon for a pedicure.
A plan ruined as a familiar smell stopped her. Brimstone could only mean one person.
Ashely turned and arched a brow. “You. Long time, no see.”
The Devil, his hair trimmed short and hinting of silver at the temples, scowled. “I see you are still disrespecting me.”
Her lips curved. “If you wanted respect, you would cut your hair and wear the right clothes.”
“What’s wrong with my outfit?” he blustered.
She eyed him. His green pinstriped suit. The yellow shirt, the flamingo tie, and matching socks peeking at his ankles. His spats were green. “Did you dress yourself in the dark?”
Lucifer huffed, smoke curling from his nostrils. “I didn’t come here for criticism.”
“Obviously you did, or you’d have dressed better. I assume you’re here for my target.” She yanked the bound demon close.
Lucifer grumbled. “Bracuus! Again! No going to jail this time. Straight to the latrines for you.” He pointed, and her target was gone.
She frowned. “This still better count at the OAB.” Only confirmed captures got the bonuses. “I’ve got my eye on a new Dyson vacuum. You should think about getting one. And a new dry cleaner.”
“My creases are perfect!” Lucifer huffed.
“If you say so.” She crossed her arms. “Are we done?”
“Then can you get to the reason you’re interfering with my evening?” She hadn’t seen the Devil in years. Not since his relationship with Mother Nature meant no more naked bonfires. No more orgies—not that Ashley participated. All that icky sweat and body fluids. Gross.
“I’ve come to collect on the terms of our contract. Namely, it’s time for you to give me your firstborn child.”
Ashley blinked innocently at the Devil. “Excuse me?”
“Section eight, paragraph B.” The Devil pulled out the scroll with the original contract. It spun out, several feet in length with tight, inked writing—and her signature in blood at the bottom. The Dark Lord pointed.
But she didn’t need to look. She knew which clause he spoke of. The one she never planned to fulfill.
“Afraid I don’t have a child to give you.”
“Then make one.”
“Would you accept a golem?”
“No!” the Dark Lord exclaimed. “Make a baby.”
“With who? I’m not in a relationship.”
“Who says you need to be? Just have sex. Preferably with a citizen of my kingdom.” He smiled with a few too many teeth.
“I’d rather not. Have a child, that is.” Slobbery, dirty things. She couldn’t help grimacing.
“Do you like being alive?”
“You can’t kill me for refusing. The contract says I will give you a child or be sent to Hell when I die.”
“Which I accept. I’ll see you in Hell when I’m dead.”
“If you insist.” Fire formed in his hand, and she gasped.
“You’d murder me?”
“Without a second thought. I’m the Devil. The one you signed a contract with, promising me a child.”
She stalled. “To do what with exactly? Eat?”
He recoiled. “What kind of savage are you? Of course, not for eating.”
“Then why do you want a baby from me?”
“Because the Devil can’t have too many minions. Dark times are coming. Dark, dark times that will require a legion like we haven’t seen since Heaven and Hell last went to war.”
“Can’t I just donate some eggs to your cause?”
“No!” he huffed. “The baby has gotta be baked in your witchy oven for it to be any good.”
She sighed. “Do you know what kind of mess a pregnancy would make of my body and routine?”
“I do.” The Devil grimaced. “I swear my children are trying to break the record for who can puke on me the most. The boy has almost caught up to my most impressive streak.”
“Way to sell it. Do I have to?” The very idea of something spitting and puking on her… She shuddered. Raising kids was something the less tidy chose to do.
“Yes, you have to. Unless you’re ready to give up your witchy powers and become a regular damned soul in Hell.”
Give up the magic? Die while she was still young? Perish the thought. “I’ll need some time to find a compatible partner.”
“You’ve had twenty years. You’re thirty-five, Ashley, not getting any younger.”
“Thanks for the reminder.”
“I don’t usually like the truth. However, in this case, it’s really not in your favor. Which is why we need to speed up the process. You need to be fucking someone pronto. Lucky for you, I can help.”
“I thought Mother Nature put her foot down on your extra-marital activities.”
“She did.” The Devil scowled. “Which is why you’ll be relying on Grim Dating to find you an acceptable partner.”
She frowned. “You’re going to set me up with an agency?”
“Not just any dating place. Mine.” He flicked out the company card, and she snared it. Ashley raised her brows at the cartoon image of a reaper stabbing a heart with its scythe.
“Kind of macabre.”
“My marketing team assured me its edgy. And it suits the business. After all, who else is so well-suited to deal with demons and vampires and even werewolves than the reapers.”
“Meaning you’re going to set me up with weirdos.”
“You’ll never know because they’ll be wearing human glamours. Maybe I should give you one, too.” Lucifer eyeballed her.
“Nothing wrong with my outfit,” she huffed.
“Says you. All white? Really? You’d be more attractive with some color. Maybe fewer layers. You keep hiding your shape, and you shouldn’t. You have lovely curves and—”
The thunder overhead stopped whatever perverted compliment the Devil planned to pay. He scowled at the sky. “Calm your tits.”
“Excuse me?” Ashley exclaimed.
“Not you. The wife. Thinks I’m flirting with everyone on account of her hormones going fucking wild since the baby.”
“See what I mean?” The Devil shrugged.
“Tell her she has nothing to worry about. I am not interested. At all.”
The clouds broke apart enough that the moon emerged and shone on her.
The Devil didn’t look happy. “It’s because I look like I’m married with children, isn’t it? I’m unattractive to the opposite sex. I have a dad bod now. I am ruined because of parenthood.” He started going off again, and she headed him off.
“This Grim Dating service… How effective is it in finding compatible matches?”
“Extremely. Trust me. The people working there are experts.”
As it turned out, they were experts at getting it wrong.COLLAPSE