New York Times bestselling author Larissa Ione returns to the Demonica Underworld…
A fallen angel with a secret.
An otherworldly elf with an insatiable hunger she doesn’t understand.
An enchanted gem.
Meet mortal enemies Razr and Jedda…and the priceless diamond that threatens to destroy them both even as it bonds them together with sizzling passion.
Welcome back to the Demonica Underworld, where enemies find love…if they’re strong enough to survive.
Inside the confines of his boss’s office, demons swirled all around Razr. Screaming, tortured souls that begged for mercy or shouted obscenities and threats.
Razr tapped the ring on his right index finger against his thigh as Azagoth, an ancient being also known as the Grim Reaper, sent tiny bursts of power at each one, making them screech in agony.
Azagoth was playing with them, toying with them the way a cat would a mouse. His plush office, deep in the underworld realm known as Sheoul-gra, had turned into a grim playground of pain.
Pain was something Razr could deal with. Subservience was not, and after a thousand years spent as an elite battle angel, being sentenced to serve Azagoth was humiliating as shit. But it was Razr’s own fault, and ultimately, he was lucky. After all, he’d been kicked out of Heaven, but he hadn’t lost his wings.
No, his angelic wings and their fate would be determined by whether or not he could repair the damage he’d done over a century ago.
So, yeah. Hanging out with Azagoth and his band of freaky minions wasn’t exactly a great gig, but it could be worse. Still, as he stood across from Azagoth, who looked especially Grim Reaper-y in a black hooded robe, his green eyes glowing from the shadows, Razr didn’t see how it could be worse at this particular moment.
Azagoth flicked his hand in dismissal, and a wave of griminions swarmed into the room like ants, their own miniature black robes dragging on the floor, their faces hidden by cowls. They gathered the demon souls and scurried away to whatever hellhole they belonged in. When Azagoth turned his attention to Razr, the chill that settled on Razr’s skin penetrated all the way to his bones.
“I want to know why you wear a damned burlap sack and flip flops every damned day. You have access to anything you want, but the only times you aren’t dressed like a medieval monk are when you leave Sheoul-gra.” Azagoth cocked his head and intensified his focus, leaving Razr feeling like a germ under a microscope. “Is it part of your punishment?”
Razr started. He’d been in living in Sheoul-gra and working in Azagoth’s employ for over a year now, and this was the first time he’d asked him anything that wasn’t work-related.
“Yes,” Razr said, but it was a simple answer to a complex issue.
“Your situation is unique. You aren’t fallen, but you aren’t an angel, either. You aren’t even Unfallen.” Azagoth glided over to the wet bar and splashed rum into two glasses. “Heaven created a new designation of angel just for you.”
“Yeah,” Razr drawled. “Ain’t I special.” Except he wasn’t. There was another who had shared his status, his former lover Darlah, presumed dead after failing to return from a mission.
A mission that was now Razr’s.
Azagoth handed him one of the glasses, and Razr struggled to hide his surprise. And suspicion. Azagoth rarely acknowledged his existence, let alone treated him like an equal. “For some reason, you are special.”
This was really getting weird. Azagoth had never shown any interest in him, but honestly, Razr was shocked that the guy didn’t know more about Razr’s story. He’d figured Heaven would have given Azagoth the full scoop, but apparently not.
“What I can’t figure out,” Azagoth continued, “is why you haven’t managed to take care of your business and get back into Heaven.”
Unable to remain still under this bizarre scrutiny, Razr swirled the run around in his glass. “It’s not like you give me a lot of free time.”
“So it’s my fault?” Azagoth’s voice was smooth as velvet, and just dark enough to raise the hair on Razr’s head. One didn’t just accuse the Grim Reaper of stalling shit. Not if they liked wearing their skin.
“Not at all,” Razr replied carefully, because his skin was pretty useful right where it was. “It’s just that I have limited resources in Sheoul-gra. I need more time in the human and demon realms.”
Instead, he was stuck training Azagoth’s army of Memitim and the Unfallen refugees who had taken sanctuary here. In truth, if Razr had to work for Azagoth, schooling angels on battle tactics wasn’t the suckiest thing he could do. It was a challenge he enjoyed, given that angels were notoriously hard to get to work together, and his specialty was teamwork.
He’d just rather be training angels in Heaven than in Hell.
The door to the office opened, and Zhubaal, Azagoth’s right-hand man and Razr’s direct superior, escorted a broad-shouldered male who smelled of sunshine inside. The angel, a big blond bastard who went by the code name of Jim Bob, strode past Azagoth and stopped in front of Razr, which was odd, considering the angel tended to keep conversation limited to Azagoth.
Which probably meant he wasn’t being straight with his fellow angels about his business here.
“What happened to your head?”
Razr jammed his fingers through his short, dark hair. “What, you liked the bald look better?”
“Yes. Also, this is for you.” He held out a thick gold business card embossed with silver letter that spelled out, “The Wardens.”
“What is it?”
“It’s where you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Razr stopped breathing even as his heart revved from a sudden injection of hope-fueled adrenaline. “Are…are you sure?”
“I have it on good authority.”
Razr’s hand shook so hard he nearly dropped the card. This was it. The way to repair some, if not all, of the damage he and his teammates caused when they’d lost three of Heaven’s most valuable weapons, the Gems of Enoch, and got their human custodians killed. One gem, the Terra Amethyst, had been recovered, but two remained; Darlah’s Fire Garnet and Razr’s Ice Diamond.
Finding either or both would return Razr to full angel status and erase the stain on his reputation…and his soul.
Azagoth, clearly knowing what Razr was thinking, nodded. “Go,” he said. “Take as much time as you need.”
Razr was about to thank him when the angel wing glyph on the back of his hand, usually invisible, began to glow. Fuck It had been less than twenty-four hours since the last time. He usually got thirty-six, give or take a couple of hours. Although once he’d gone barely eight. The random nature of this particular angelic punishment was a pain in the ass.
“That was shitty timing.” Azagoth, the King of Demon Souls and Understatements, pulled a well-worn cat o’ nines out of his desk drawer. Because of course one must always be prepared for spur-of-the-moment torture. He held up the weapon with way too much enthusiasm. “Mine or yours?”
Razr’s personal flogger was in his pocket, and he swore he felt it burning through his robes. “Yours,” he said, figuring it was always better to get someone else’s stuff bloody.
Grinning, Azagoth held the cat out to Jim Bob. “Want the honor?”
Razr bit back a groan as the angel took the weapon and stroked it like an old lover. “It’s been a long time.”
“Really?” Razr said. “Because you seem like the type who gets off on torture.” It was a stupid thing to say to someone who was far more powerful and who was about to turn Razr’s back into hamburger, but he’d never been known for having a lot of tact.
Jim Bob, who never even smiled, laughed. Clearly, the guy’s sense of humor circled the gallows. “Will you stand or kneel?” Razr would respect that if he weren’t the one swinging by the rope.
“Well,” he drawled as he dropped his robe so he was standing naked in front of Azagoth, Jim Bob, and Zhubaal. “I figure I’ll start on my feet and end on my knees. That’s usually how it goes.”
Jim Bob made a “turn-around” gesture, and after taking a deep, steadying breath, Razr assumed the position, his hands bracing himself against the wall. “How many?”
“Six,” Azagoth said. “I don’t know why.”
“I do.” Jim Bob’s soft reply hung in the air and reeled through Razr’s mind. How did Jim Bob know? Sure, everyone in Heaven probably knew about Razr’s screwup with the Gems of Enoch, but few were privy to the specifics of his punishment. The guy must be well-connected in Heaven, which would explain why he had a code name for his dealings with Azagoth.
Razr’s thoughts were interrupted by the whistle of the nine leather straps, each tipped by sharp bone spurs, singing through the air. Pain exploded across his shoulder blades and forced a grunt from him. But not a scream. He never screamed.
The second blow was worse, the third so intense that he sagged to his knees. Usually he made it on his feet until the fifth strike, but Jim Bob was strong, and he wasn’t holding back. That was the thing about floggings in the angel and demon worlds versus the human one; Razr could take hundreds of lashings from a human. Hell, he could take thousands and not die.
But when someone with superior strength and mystical capabilities was wielding the whip, the damage increased by a factor of holy shit.
The fourth blow knocked the breath from his lungs, and the fifth made him see stars.
The sixth, placed low on his hips, knocked him onto the cold floor, sprawled in a pool of his own blood.
Maybe this was the last time. Please let this be the last time, he thought, just before he passed out.