All things truly wicked start from innocence.
Being a demon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Especially when you make a massive mistake your first month on the job.
Even more so when your sister is one of the all-star players on the other team.
Add in the rumors of not one but two coups and it’s not hard to see—something wicked this way comes….
“Julie, is it? When you died, what did you see? And please don’t insult us or waste our time by claiming you saw nothing.”
I studied him for a moment, torn between doing just that and telling the truth. There was something about meeting the be-all-end-all as far as the creation of everything went which made me want to keep our conversation to ourselves. On the other hand, I didn’t relish having to go through the whole dying thing again and I had a feeling the key to my miraculous return rested in those few minutes when I was, to quote the younger dead, all dead.
“There was a white room. And a woman.” I paused, hesitating another moment before continuing. “She said She was the Power.” I took a deep breath, holding it a few seconds before exhaling. “And when I asked if She was going to kill me, She said no, it wasn’t my time to die. And then I was back here.”
“It’s not enough.” Joanne shook her head, her hair sliding over her shoulders. “Michael, it’s not enough. You know how She is. She could have been playing one of Her fucking word games and any minute now—.”
“I know, girl.” The almost giant next to her knelt down, kissing the side of her head before murmuring something in her ear. Whatever he said reassured her enough to have her letting up some of the death grip on my hand although she still didn’t let go. Michael turned to Gabriel, standing silent and watchful in the back of the room. “Can you speak with Her?”
“You think She’s less likely to lie to me?” Gabriel snorted. “You know She doesn’t play favorites.”
“And we all know that’s a lie. She was willing to sacrifice innocents to keep you whole, if not happy.” Gideon’s gaze flicked to the tall redhead who, if I was keeping up with the names being thrown around earlier, had to be Lucinda. “She’ll answer your questions, even if She doesn’t want to.”
“I didn’t say She wouldn’t answer me. I said there was a good chance She would still lie to me.” Gabriel sighed. “But fine—as the patron saint of women and children—.”
“We already know your resume.” Joanne’s voice was so acidic every person in the room, archangel or not, flinched. I lifted my brows but stayed silent. This Joanne wasn’t the one I remembered. This Joanne seemed as if she could not only reduce a person to tears with a few words but she would enjoy doing it. “Now go do your job.”
“As the queen wishes.” Gabriel offered a bow which was just a shade shy of mocking, his smile dying away when he glanced at Joanne. “Right. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
His departing flash was enough to blind me but thankfully sulphur free. Although I was feeling less and less like death with each passing second, I wasn’t quite ready for the scent of brimstone.
“You had to piss him off, didn’t you, Mom?” Olivia widened her eyes, blinking rapidly. To be fair, the majority of the people in the room were reacting the same way, the only exceptions being Joanne, Barry, Raphael, and Michael. “You know how he feels about being ordered around.”
“Much the way you feel.” Joanne’s face softened ever so slightly, her lips curving upward. “In case you wondered where you get that particular quirk from.”
“Yes, blame it on my brother.” Michael kissed her cheek again, tucking her hair behind her ear and studying her face. Whatever he saw there had him nodding. “Why don’t we all go in to the other room for a few minutes? Leave the two of you alone?” He glanced over at Raphael and Gideon, standing silent and watchful with matching looks of suspicion. “Do you think that will be a problem?”
“If she were human, hell, yes—she had multiple seizures leading up to a massive cardiac episode and she was dead for damn near ten minutes.” Gideon paused, sighing and shaking his head. “But I’ll admit, I don’t have a goddamn clue what’s happening here. Even when the Power is generous enough to provide a miracle, She still tends to make it hurt, just so you don’t mistake her kindness for weakness.”
“Gideon, please.” Joanne’s voice broke and once again the entire room responded, although this time there was a definite degree of panic. People all but tripped over themselves in an effort to exit the room, the sole exceptions once again being Michael, Raphael, and Barry. “Just a few minutes.”
“Fine. Yes. Fine.” Gideon shoved Lucinda toward the flap which apparently served as a door, nodding rapidly. “If anything happens, yell.”
“If you need us, we’ll be outside.” Olivia scooped up Douglas, ignoring his whines to stay with Nana. She paused with one hand on the flap, glancing over her shoulder. “Do you want me to go get the others?”
“Not yet.” Joanne shook her head, clearing her throat before continuing. “I need a few minutes.”
“Okay.” Olivia shifted her gaze to Barry. “Are you coming?”
“In a moment.” Striding across the room, he nudged his way between me and Joanne, kissing the top of her head and then mine. “Let me know if you need anything.”
It was a tossup as to who his statement was directed toward and right then it didn’t matter. Joanne nodded, stretching up and kissing his cheek. “I don’t know why you were there but thank you.”
His only answer was a nod before he followed Olivia out of the room.
“We’ll be right next door.” Raphael leaned across the bed, giving Joanne a hard, brief, almost possessive kiss. Glancing at Michael and lifting his brows, he said, “Call if you need anything.”
“Don’t be a hero, girl.” Michael didn’t kiss her, instead simply pressing his forehead to hers. “Call.”
“We’ll be fine.” She glanced at me, her smile clearly forced. “I promise.”
The two men exchanged another look before leaving the room, the flap dropping shut behind him. For long minutes, there was only silence. Finally, Joanne sighed and shook her head.
“Julie—what the fuck have you gotten yourself in to?”
About the Author:
L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. She knows this because she’s killed bamboo. Twice. She is the author of the Winged series, the Plaisir Coupable series, Jude Magdalyn series, the Moon Rising series, and Taken: A Frankie Post Novel.
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