Even in the fathomless depths of the underworld and the bleak chambers of a damaged heart, the bonds of love can heal…or destroy.
He holds the ability to annihilate souls in the palm of his hand. He commands the respect of the most dangerous of demons and the most powerful of angels. He can seduce and dominate any female he wants with a mere look. But for all Azagoth’s power, he’s bound by shackles of his own making, and only an angel with a secret holds the key to his release.
She’s an angel with the extraordinary ability to travel through time and space. An angel with a tormented past she can’t escape. And when Lilliana is sent to Azagoth’s underworld realm, she finds that her past isn’t all she can’t escape. For the irresistibly sexy fallen angel known as Azagoth is also known as the Grim Reaper, and when he claims a soul, it’s forever…
You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper. — Robert Alton Harris
“There’s very little that frightens me more than the Grim Reaper when he’s horny.”
From his desk chair, Azagoth snarled at the fallen angel standing in his office doorway. “I’m not horny.” He frowned. “Okay, maybe a little.” Or a lot. For six months he’d refused to bed the females Heaven had sent his way, but those halo-pushers didn’t give up, because apparently, there was another angel outside waiting to get some hot Grim Reaper action. “But I’m not backing down. I’m sick of being used to create Heaven’s little army of hybrid angels.”
That was true enough, but there was far more to it than being tired of being used like a prize stallion. Satan himself had threatened Azagoth with an ultimatum, and while Azagoth and his realm were untouchable, his children were not. And no one fucked with his children. Not even the Prince of Darkness.
“My lord,” Zhubaal said cautiously, “your deal with Heaven–”
“Deal?” Azagoth snorted as he reached across his desk for the expensive-ass bottle of Black Tot rum that Limos, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, had brought him earlier. “It wasn’t a deal. I volunteered to fall from grace to run this horror show of a demon graveyard. They changed the rules. After I gave up my life.”
Yep, just a few decades after he’d been expelled from Heaven in order to create Sheoul-gra, a unique realm designed specifically as a holding tank for demon souls, Heaven changed the game. The archangels suddenly decided they needed a special class of angel to watch over anyone living in the human realm who was important to the fate of the world, and they insisted that Azagoth should father those angels.
And he had. For thousands of years he’d taken the angels they sent into his bed and created lots and lots of earthbound, hybrid angel children known as Memitim. But now he was done. Aside from Satan’s threat hanging over his head, Azagoth was tired of screwing females who looked down their noses at him or who just laid there like sacrifices until he was done.
Oh, sure, there were the curious ones who at least made an attempt to participate, and there were the lusty few who figured they’d enjoy doing a bad boy. But for the most part, he might as well have been banging blow-up dolls.
Yeah, it was awesome.
Archangels were asshats.
“But sir, you need to do something. You’re…testy.”
Testy? Zhubaal hadn’t seen testy yet. Testy had gotten Azagoth’s last assistant disintegrated. “Send the female back, and have her tell her superiors that…no, wait. Send her in.” Kicking his booted feet up on the desk, he broke the seal on the alcohol bottle with a vicious twist. “I’ll give her my message personally.”
“As you wish.”
Zhubaal gave a deep bow and left, returning within seconds with a tall, stately brunette in white and ruby robes, and Azagoth groaned. This wasn’t an angel who had come for a roll in the hay. Mariella was a Heavenly messenger who swept in the way she always did, as if she owned the place, her head held high, her long strides sure and brisk.
“Azagoth,” she said, all snooty and shit, “it’s time to stop whatever game you’re playing and get back to work.”
He raked his gaze over her in a blatant show of sizing her up for sex. She wouldn’t lower herself to screw him, but he got a measure of amusement out of screwing with her.
“So you’re volunteering to spread your legs for me?”
She cringed at his crudeness as he knew she would. Most angels were so uptight. “I’m a liaison, not a bedmate. I’m here to convince you to stop being a fool.”
“Ah.” Keeping his gaze on the angel, he put the bottle to his lips and took a deep, long pull, savoring the sweet burn of the liquid pouring down his throat. He drank until Mariella’s pinched, judgmental expression threatened to make her skin crack, and with exaggerated relish, he smacked his lips and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Well, here’s the deal. I’m not doing your bidding anymore.”
“Yes, you are.”
Carefully placing the bottle on a pad of paper, he pushed to his feet and moved around to the front of the desk, noting how she managed to keep that pinchy expression even as her copper eyes assessed him from head to toe. She liked his black slacks and turtleneck…and the way she went taut said she despised the fact that she liked anything about him.
Man, he loved messing with angels’ heads. “Or?”
“Or,” she said, her tone pitching low with gloom and doom, “we replace you.”
He barked out a laugh. “Good. Replace me. I’ve been stuck in this realm for thousands of years, dealing with nothing but demons, evil humans, and the angels Heaven sends for me to service. Someone else can have this shitty job.”
“I don’t think you understand,” she said silkily. “Replace is a nice word for destroy.”
Azagoth’s pulse kicked up a notch. It was fun when someone threatened him. Game on. “And I don’t think you understand. You can’t destroy me. I’ve put safeguards in place.”
Her eyes narrowed into slits. “What kinds of safeguards?”
He gave a dramatic pause, partly to irritate the angel, and partly because he totally got off on dragging out the win. Finally, he steepled his fingers together like a cheesy cartoon villain and said, “The kind that will release all demon souls from Sheoul-gra upon my death.”
She gasped in outrage. Because sure, it was okay for her to threaten him, but turnabout was clearly not fair play. “And Hades allowed this?”
Hades, who ran Sheoul-gra’s Inner Sanctum where demon souls were kept, had little say in what Azagoth did, but they’d long ago hammered out a working relationship that gave the fallen angel independent authority over the Inner Sanctum. Azagoth could overrule him if needed, but in general, he left Hades alone.
“Actually,” Azagoth said as he casually propped his hip on the desk, “it was Hades who suggested it.”
“That blue-haired bastard.”
He’d give her that one. Hades was a world-class dick. Azagoth liked that in a fallen angel. “Now,” he said, “you get to listen to my demands.”
“Which are?” she said through gritted teeth.
“I want a female.”
She shot him an exasperated look. “What do you think we’ve been sending you? You keep turning them down.”
“I don’t want a female to fuck,” he said, still being as raunchy as possible. It drove angels nuts, and sure enough, her lips puckered as if she’d sucked a lemon. “I want one to keep.”
Outrage mottled her perfect, ivory skin. “You want an angel to keep? As what? A pet?”
“As a mate.”
“Oh, that’s precious.” She laughed, and the blood that usually ran cold in his veins started to steam. “You want a mate? You? Why?”
Because I’m lonely. That was only part of it, but it was a big part. He could have simply told Heaven to stop sending him females because Satan had threatened to start killing Memitim if even one more was born, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of eternity alone. He’d seen one of his daughters, Idess, willingly sacrifice so much for the male she loved, and she’d risked her life on more than one occasion to make sure other couples were happy. The depths to which people felt love had stunned him, and deep inside, it had sparked a desire to have that for himself.
That was assuming he could love. He hadn’t felt anything but anger and amusement in thousands of years, and even those emotions rarely reached a level beyond what he’d consider mild.
“My reasons are my own,” he said. “Send me a female to keep.”
“I’m sure this female you want will be so happy to be constantly pregnant,” she drawled.
“Oh, did I give you the impression that I’d keep making Memitim angels for you?” He pushed off the desk and moved toward her, enjoying the way her eyes sparked with anger and superiority even as she inched backward. “Well, newsflash, you Heavenly puke; no children that come of the union with my mate will ever be handed over to you.”
She flared her cinnamon wings in annoyance, but he kept his own wings tucked away. When he took his out, it usually meant he was on the verge of killing.
He wasn’t there yet, but he had no doubt this angel could push him to it.
Not that it took much.
“I’ll inform my bosses, but don’t expect an answer you’ll like.”
Even now, after he’d made clear that he held all the cards — or the souls, as it were –, she continued to think she had the better hand. Amusing. Mildly amusing, of course.
“You’re still not getting it, are you? I’ll get what I want. There’s no other choice.” He halted in front of her, so close she was forced to look up at him. “And tell them that the next angel they send better be prepared to stay, because I’m keeping her.”
“How nice,” she said snottily. “Are you going to keep her in chains? Rape her if she refuses to bed you?”
Suddenly, his hand was clamped around her throat, almost of its own volition. Angels did that to him, made his body parts act independently of his brain. He felt her reach for her angelic ability to strike at him, but this was his realm, and here he controlled the use of power.
“Send someone willing.” He bared his fangs, giving the angel an up-close-and-personal look at one of the things that made them so very different despite their angelic origins. “I’m warning you. Because the next angel who steps through that doorway won’t be leaving. Ever.”