A Damned Novel
From the writer of the international bestselling WINGED series comes a look at the other side… where it’s good to be bad….
I was thirty years old when I chose to die–or rather to give up my soul.
Eternal youth, endless money… and sex.
Mind blowing, life changing, otherworldly sex.
For all those things, being damned is a small price to pay.
WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND EXTREMELY GRAPHIC SEX SCENES. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
“I’m Lacey Jackson.” She stuck out one hand, something in her eyes daring me to not take it. “And you are…?”
“Julie Watson.” I took her hand, making my reluctance more than obvious. The second my skin made contact with hers, a spark of energy shot through me so violently I couldn’t help but gasp. Swallowing, I said, “What brings you to Savannah?”
“Oh, I’m here for work.” Without releasing my hand, she slipped out of her seat and slid in to the one across from me. Leaning in, she lowered her voice and said, “I was fully prepared for it to be another dull, routine trip but now… well, now I think I’m glad I got assigned this route.”
“Oh.” The low fluttering in my stomach wasn’t unfamiliar—I was far from a virgin and I’d not only done Mardi Gras and Spring Break in Miami but I’d also spent a month in Europe after my college graduation. But this… this was something different. And not because it was caused by a woman.
This was… raw. Visceral. Almost feral. Like she’d tapped in to some hunger I wasn’t even aware I’d had and now that I did the idea it would go unfulfilled was almost too much to bear.
“You should come work with me.” She lifted our joined hands, brushing her lips over my knuckles. “I have a feeling you would be… amazing.”
“What?” It was as if all my attention was focused on the small bit of skin where she’d kissed me, tendrils of lust spooling out through the rest of my body in lazy ribbons. “What do you… what do you do?”
“I collect souls.” Her eyes darkened, her breath catching in her throat and I realized for the first time I wasn’t the only one affected by our contact. “Or rather the energy from them. The actual soul is taken up by someone else—it doesn’t matter, the details can be explained later.”
“You collect….” I trailed off, part of me sure she was joking and an even larger part of me sure she wasn’t. “Really. Why?”
“Because I can.” She flicked her tongue over her lips and I sucked in a shallow breath. “Because it’s fun.”
“But that would make you….”
“A demon, yes.” This time when she smiled, a dimple appeared in her left cheek and I was caught with the sudden urge to kiss it. “More specifically a succubus.” My confusion must have shown because she laughed. “I fuck people for their energy—sometimes to death, sometimes not. It all depends.”
“And you want to do that to me?”
“Oh, no.” She shook her head, her hair sliding across her shoulders, the tips curling over the swell of her breasts. “I told you. I want you to work with me and my sisters and Lilith.” She leaned closer and I breathed deep, the scent of her perfume almost painfully exotic. “I want you to join the ranks of the Morning Star and spend eternity tempting the weak and the wicked.”
What she was suggesting was lunacy. Madness. Even if I believed her, the idea of giving up my life to be some sort of demonic minion was ridiculous. Although….
What would I be giving up? A lifetime spent catering to David’s whims, denying myself the things I truly enjoyed because it would be bad for his reputation or his political chances or his weight? A lifetime attempting to please my parents and knowing it would never happen because nothing would ever overshadow Joanne’s sacrifice? A lifetime being nothing but the substitute?
What, exactly, would I be giving up?
“Jules.” The nickname I hated hearing from David sounded and felt like a caress coming from Lacey. Lifting our hands again, she ran her tongue over one of my fingertips before nipping lightly. Her voice was heavy with promise when she spoke again. “Come play with me.”
“Yes.” I breathed out the single word before leaning over the table and crushing my mouth to hers.
Who needed a soul anyway?
A Damned Novel
All things truly wicked start from innocence. —Ernest Hemingway
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?”
A Damned Novel
I can resist everything except temptation. — Oscar Wilde
But what happens when temptation is everywhere?
Cam is tempting to me toward the darkness.
Barry is tempting me toward the light.
And I want them both. I want it all.
Temptation will be my salvation. Or my ruin.
“Is it done?” Cam strapped the saddle bags he’d somehow managed to stuff all my clothes in to the little bike—not quite a motorcycle but bigger and less dorky than a scooter. When I didn’t answer right away, he stepped over to me, grabbing my face in his hands and squeezing. “Coniglietto. Is it done? Did you take care of her?”
“Yes.” Even to my own ears my voice sounded dull and lifeless. Considering the fact I felt high as fucking kite, I could only assume it was shock. “I took care of her.”
Not in the way he meant, not exactly, but I’d taken care of her the best way I knew how.
I’d done a lot of horrible things, on purpose and accident, and I had no doubt I would do more horrible things still. But I’d be damned even more than I already was before I actually killed my sister.
“Good girl.” Cam pressed a quick, hard kiss to my forehead before steering me toward the bike. “I have little doubt the archangels will be here soon—so we shouldn’t be.”
“Where are we going?” It didn’t matter. I had, for all intents and purposes, hooked my wagon to his. If anyone threw doubt on my commitment to the so-called cause, all Cam would have to do was point out what I’d done to Joanne. Sure, there might be trouble when it came out she wasn’t actually dead but it could all be explained away as yet another newbie mistake.
After all, they taught us how to not kill people. Not the opposite.
“I’m thinking Prague.” He settled himself on the bike, gesturing for me to do the same. He handed me a helmet, his lips curving upward when I stared at it blankly. “Safety, little rabbit. And a disguise. It’s safer for us to blend in at the moment.”
“Right.” My hands felt thick and clumsy as I struggled to strap on the protective headgear and I cursed under my breath when Cam finally took pity on me and did it himself. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Change is hard, little rabbit.” He brushed his lips over mine before flicking the tip of my nose. “Now, let’s go take over the world, hmm?”
The Damned Series
Enemies are so stimulating. — Katherine Hepburn
If you can look past the part where they’re trying to kill you.
The Damned want my head on a platter. The Winged have similar plans.
As for Morning Star and the Power… well, only They know.
One false step… and everything is lost.
CONTAINS SCENES OF GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL ACTIVITY. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
“You’ll catch cold if you stay out here much longer.”
I didn’t turn around, continuing to study the skyline. “I’m fine.”
“It’s three in the morning. You should be asleep.” He didn’t sound angry about the fact I wasn’t or the fact I was standing outside in late September in sleep pants and a thin cotton tank. If anything, his scolding sounded as if it was for form and nothing else. “It’s been a long day for all of us.”
“Yes.” Now I did turn around, studying Barry with the same intensity I’d shown the various buildings of Prague. “Why are you mad at me?”
“I’m not mad.” He pulled a cigar from the pocket of his sleep pants but didn’t light it, staring at the tip for a moment before sliding it back in his pocket. “I’m tired, Julie. As I said, it’s been a long day. The next few days—weeks, rather—promise to be equally long. We all need to sleep, to keep our strength up for what lies ahead.”
“You haven’t touched me since we got back.” Since he stood in front of my sister and ripped her heart out and then walked away without a backward glance. “You’ve barely said anything all night long.”
“As I said, I’m tired.” He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a long sigh. “There’s been quite a bit of upheaval in the last thirty-six hours or so. Quite a bit. Forgive me if I’m not my usual charming self. You have more than enough people here to pay you attention if you’re feeling uncared for.”
“That’s not what I meant.” I turned back to the city view, widening my eyes and blinking rapidly in an effort to keep the tears at bay. I didn’t have a problem with using tears as a weapon when they were called for but I wouldn’t use them with him, ever. “You’re right. It’s late. Go to sleep. I’m fine.”
“We both know I’m not going to sleep until you do.” I heard the sound of metal scraping over concrete and glanced over my shoulder to find he’d pulled one of the patio chairs free of the table. Sitting down and stretching out his legs, he said, “As long as you’re here, I’m here.”
“Arguing will only frustrate us both, Julie Elizabeth, and we’ve had enough frustration for the day.” He slid further down in the seat, almost slouching, and crossed his arms. “As long as you’re here, I’m here.”
“But do you want to be here?” The question tumbled out before I even realized it was in my mind and I bit my tongue, already regretting it. “Never mind. You don’t have to answer that.”
“Come here.” When I didn’t move, he uncrossed his arms and held out one hand. “Please.”
Crossing the balcony, I took his hand, curling up in his lap and resting my head on his shoulder. We sat in silence for a few minutes before he cleared his throat. “I don’t know any other way to say it. I can simply say as long as you’re here, I’m here. When you want to leave, we’ll leave.”
“And where would we go?” Joanne’s face in the instant after Barry verbally sucker punched her, Asmodeus’s face the second after I shot him, flashed through my mind and I hunched my shoulders as if the memory carried a physical blow. “There’s no place left. We burned all those bridges today.”
“The thing about bridges is they can always be rebuilt and when they are, they’re stronger than before they burned.” He brushed my hair away from my face, stroking one hand down my back and pulling me tighter against him. “But since you don’t want to leave, the discussion is moot.”
“We’re doing the right thing.”
“The right thing done the wrong way is no longer the right thing.”
“If there was a way to do this differently, we would have taken it.” We’d tried to take it. We’d tried to meet the others halfway. Nobody—Lilith, Asmodeus, the Power, Morning Star—wanted to bend.
So we would have to break them.
“After the raids begin today, there is no turning back. You and your supporters will be branded traitors. There will be bounties on your heads.” He pressed his lips to my hair, breathing deep. “On all our heads. You’ve never lived through a war.”
It wasn’t a question but I answered anyway. “No, I haven’t.”
“I’ve been through more than my fair share, even considering my age. When it’s impossible to die from manmade weapons, you tend to fight in wars simply to alleviate the boredom.” He turned, pressing his face in to my hair. “And they’re nothing compared to supernatural wars. So far you’ve only seen the pretty side of Hell. There are things which will be unleashed which should never exist out of nightmares.”
“On us or by us?”
“Both.” His hand shook as he stroked my back and I wasn’t sure if he was trying to comfort me or himself. “Some things can’t be unseen or unfelt. You’ll carry it with you until the day you die.”
“Are you trying to scare me?”
“I’m trying to warn you. Up until now, everything about this war has been theoretical. Until today, no true shots were fired.” He drew back, his face unnaturally somber, even for him. “I know you did what you had to do and I don’t fault you for that decision.”
“But I officially started the war.” I nodded. “I know. I’ll live with it.”
“Things will get worse.” He pressed a kiss to my forehead. “They always do.”
“And then they get better.” I had to believe that. If I didn’t, then there was a good chance I was wrecking and ruining lives for no reason at all. I pressed my lips to his, lightly, for comfort more than anything else. “Things will be better. We’re going to make them better.”
We didn’t have any other choice.
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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