Once a month, a bunch of authors get together and post excerpts from published books, contracted work or works in progress, and link to each other. You don’t have to be published to participate–just a writer with an excerpt you’d like to share. For more info on how to participate, head over to the Excerpt Monday site or click on the banner.
I’m back! This is my demon/angel WIP (which I did NOT finish in time for Samhain’s call, argh). It was once called Devil On My Shoulder, but that title actually referred to an earlier version of the story; I’m sure I’ll rename it soon. These two adversaries are negotiating over a rock star who signed his soul away almost twenty years ago for fame, and now his time is coming to a close. Meet Celeste and Damael. Enjoy!
She held out her hand. “Let me see it.”
Gaze steady upon her own, Damael reached into the breast pocket of his satiny black jacket and pulled out a scroll tied with a black ribbon. One corner of his mouth tugged up with smug triumph as he handed it over. “The wording hasn’t changed since last time. You lost that one too, if I recall.”
Indeed, it was rare to find a loophole. Damael straightened his blood-red tie and lapels as she unfurled the thick parchment and read. The text grew smaller and smaller, and to human eyes would have disappeared altogether before the signature line. There was no way Adam had been able to read what he was signing, but yet there was his hastily scribbled signature amid splatters of blood like obscene teardrops on the pale background.
Her heart fell and cracked. So young. So desperate.
Without a word, she handed it back to him. He watched her, his expression unreadable, as he rolled it up and put it back in his pocket.
“Why do they send you now?” he asked, surprising her with his sudden intensity. “Why don’t they send you to talk some sense into these idiots before they destroy themselves? Perhaps then you could be somewhat useful.”
Secretly, she agreed. “It has to do with free will, choosing one’s own destiny—”
“Blah, blah, blah. If that’s the case, then he’s chosen it. It’s done. Let him suffer the consequences.”
She sighed, folding her hands in front of her as she met his dark gaze squarely. His irises were a starless oblivion. Black and bottomless, she feared they would pull her right into their void and stretch her into nothing if she stared for too long. Yet she would not allow herself to look away. Those eyes were far less frightening now than when he was caught in the throes of lust for a fresh soul.
“What would it take for you to release him from his contract?”
Flashing that singularly gorgeous smile, he stretched his long legs in front of him and laced his fingers across his stomach. Faint tendrils of smoke curled from his shoulders. Amazing, that a creature so beguilingly beautiful could be capable of such cruelty, but she was reminded of his origins with every wisp that rose from his body and every smolder in his eyes. She’d witnessed that cruelty first hand. She’d lost to him so many times. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d won.
The question that came from his lips then stunned her. “How desperate are you to win him?”
Celeste’s brows drew together. “Desperate? That’s hardly the word I’d use.”
“So then…you don’t care that much?”
“Of course I care. I’d like nothing more than to see him continue his life, and then to bring him safely home when his time is up.”
“Even though he essentially renounced all that is holy when he gave himself to me. And he’s lived a life of nothing but debauchery since, hurting everyone who loves him.”
“He’s no more lost than the others who eventually find their way.”
“Oh, I’d say he is,” Damael said. “I’d say he’s quite off the path, and a monster is eyeing him from the bushes, ready to pounce. It’ll strike in about seventeen hours. That monster is me.” He had never looked away from her once, and while she still found that unsettling, she began to relax somewhat. Damael was no threat to her whatsoever; she was off limits to him. “Don’t you get tired of watching it?” he asked softly. “You’re the only one of your kind who stays, you know. The rest of them flee in the final minutes. Why do you not?”
She dropped her gaze to the floor. “To punish myself, I suppose.”
“Because I lost.”
“How?” He unfolded his tall frame from the couch, walking over to stand in front of her. She knew because his black shoes came into her field of vision, a startling contrast to the pristine white of her robes brushing the floor. His voice was sardonic and cold, nothing at all like those she was accustomed to hearing in her realm. “He lost when he signed himself to hell. Just because you can’t undo his stupidity doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.” Two fingers slid under her chin, exerting enough firm pressure to tilt her chin up until she was looking into those extraordinary eyes.
Inhaling sharply, she couldn’t lend voice to her indignation. She should have backed away immediately and exhorted him to never touch her again. She should have, but she couldn’t. No dark magic he possessed could bewitch her as completely as the feel of his skin on hers. She’d never felt it before, had always assumed it would burn, or pain her in some other way, or at the very least, disgust her. It only called forth a desperate longing for the forbidden. For something beyond her realm of experience.
“You stay and subject yourself to the terror of those you’re trying to protect. Why?”
“Because…” She couldn’t find any more words, lost in the roiling black sea of his eyes. Usually flat and glassy, just now they were turbulent.
She didn’t owe him any answers, but… “Because in that moment you rip their soul from their bodies and take them down, I don’t want you to be the only thing they see. I want them to see me, and feel my love for them, and know they were loved. That they didn’t have to choose this path.”
“That’s noble of you. But under the circumstances, rather cruel.”
“Maybe my compassion for them is something they can hang on to throughout the torment they face.”
“Most of them deserve it.”
“No,” she said, finding firmness at last but not the strength to step away from him. He held her completely bound with nothing but his fingertips nudging the tender flesh under her chin. “If I allowed myself to believe that, I couldn’t do this.”
“So again I ask you, little angel, what you would do to win him back. To not have to witness the horror this time.”
She swallowed thickly, a tiny flare of hope and excitement coursing through her. “You keep asking me what I would do, but I have the suspicion you already have something in mind.”
One black wing-shaped brow edged higher in his forehead. His fingertips fell away, and all at once she felt as if the power that had been holding her upright buckled and collapsed. She almost stumbled, but managed to catch herself. “Perhaps.”
His gaze roved down from her face then, taking in the folds of her white gown. A liquid ache pooled at the juncture of her thighs, spreading farther the longer he looked at her. Why did he have to always have this effect on her? She wasn’t unaccustomed to this sensation where he was concerned, but still it dismayed her every time. Wickedness seeped into his expression…nothing perceptible, really, but a subtle shift she could sense rather than see. She had the terrible feeling that he knew exactly what sensations he was creating in her.
“W-what do you want?”
That flat black stare lifted to her face again. This time she felt certain it was pulling her in. “You.”
She blinked, pressing her thighs together in a feeble attempt to squelch the unsettling throb between them. “I don’t understand.”
“I think you do.”
“You want me to take his place? I cannot—”
“No. I want you naked and writhing beneath me.”
Stunned outrage flashed through her, followed too closely by a rush of heat that could have blown up from the very depths of hell. She should have stepped back, or struck out at him—at the very least, she should have demanded for him to not speak to her in such an appalling manner. It wasn’t proper, it couldn’t happen—
But his voice drew her along as easily as a bit of tissue caught up in a strong draft, blown this way and that, helpless as to the direction or the destination. “I want you, your sweetness, your light. I want to bury myself in it. You, crying out my name…that’s what I want. And I’ll set him free.”
“I’ll never say your name,” she snapped, as if this were the most offensive suggestion he’d made. “You want to ruin me.”
“Oh, no,” he murmured, and she closed her eyes as his hand came up and stroked her hair. “You’re the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen. For all my centuries of hatred, death and decadence, you…” He exhaled shakily, and she opened her eyes in time to see him close his own. “You are somehow perfection.”
He was insane. Or was she, for even allowing that sort of talk? This proposition from any other of his kind would send her fleeing. And as he implied, he should be repulsed by her, not tempted. Why he’d wanted her throughout all these centuries was a mystery to her. She’d always felt it, sensed it, though he’d never put his desire into words. Until now.
Gathering her frazzled senses at last, she straightened and lifted her chin. “There will be no deals struck between us. I want to take the matter before the mediator.”
He looked at her, his brow wrinkled. “For what? We have a contract. Adam agreed to this. Don’t make yourself look foolish because you’re angry at me.”
“No foolishness. I simply think it could be argued Adam was too young and impulsive to fully understand the consequences of his agreement. I’ll plea for intercession on his behalf.”
Damael scoffed. “They’re all too young, whether they’re eighteen or eighty. Don’t you think?”
“My mind’s made up.”
“Very well. But keep in mind, there’s an easy way to get through this, with guaranteed victory on your part.” His gaze took another journey down the length of her body and she fought the urge to wrap her arms around herself even though she was completely covered. “Easy, and dare I say, far more pleasurable than listening to Nicolae’s prattling.”
Still reeling from his suggestion, Celeste turned and exited the room. She had to get him out of her sight. Had to. It wasn’t because she was tempted—
Well, all right, she was. To the tips of her wings, she was tempted. If she let him see just how much, she’d be lost.
But Adam might be saved.
Links to other Excerpt Monday writers:
Note: I have not personally screened these excerpts. Please heed the ratings and be aware that the links may contain material that is not typical of my site.