Authors: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
“Where the hell have you been?” he growled. “And what the hell do you think you’re up to?”
Her turquoise eyes—the exact same color as his and the other deities—shifted around the room. “I am getting ready to serve my time for my crimes. Boy, we really need to get some color going in here. What do you think of a clown theme?”
He noticed Tula peeking behind Cimil.
“I’m talking about the human,” he whispered.
“She is our employee,” Cimil whispered back.
“Don’t fuck with me. You’re up to something.”
“Why would I be up to something?”
“Because you’re Cimil.”
“Good point. But I assure you that Tula is our helper and nothing more. She’s also taken, Zac, head over heels in love with a nice young human man named Gilbert whom she is to marry.”
Oh great. Even worse
. After all, he was the God of Temptation, and stripped powers or not, he was who he was. He liked tempting people. He liked it a whole hell of a lot. And Cimil had hired a human who’d be irresistible to him. He’d want to tempt her every which way possible.
“And,” Cimil added, “because her heart is so pure, she’s in no danger from you.”
Zac lifted a brow, still not believing Cimil.
“Okay. So.” Cimil clapped her hands together. “That was a tough workday. See you tomorrow!”
“You’ve been here all of two minutes, Cimil. And I don’t know about you, but I want my punishment over as fast as possible.” Living in the mortal world without any powers was already beginning to grind on him. How did his brethren who voluntarily spent their time in this world stand it? It felt like being confined in a small box.
I much prefer the freedom of our realm and being disembodied.
Cimil tilted her head, studying him with curiosity.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked.
She stared for another long moment and then her eyes widened in shock.
“Cimil?” He snapped his fingers, but she remained zoned out.
He hated when she did that because it usually indicated she was having a vision or an incoming message from the dead. Generally neither were good. “What, dammit?”
She blinked. “Woo! That was horrifying.” She shook her head from side to side. “Zac, are you feeling a little agitated lately?”
“Your abilities to discern the obvious are impressive. What did you just see?”
“I’m not certain, but I sensed something is going to be wrong with you.”
“Yes. And its name is Cimil. That’s definitely it.” And knowing he’d be stuck in the human world for a very, very long time while having to be around that little temptress Tula. How would he get anything done around here? He’d be obsessing over how to corrupt her. And help her, too, of course. Because he was a god and needed to help humans. Yes, they were all quite fucked up.
Cimil puckered her bright red lips, looking genuinely concerned—a rarity. “I have a feeling that this sentence of ours is not going to be easy on you, dear Zac. So given the kind and generous sister I am, I’ll hurry things along. Which makes it very convenient that I’ve identified the first client and laid out the entire game plan to avoid any hurdles, including recruiting—or blackmailing—same diff—our client’s BFF.
Victimo numero uno
is as good as in the bag.”
This was good.
Only ninety-nine more immortals to match up.
She continued, “So I suggest to make things move faster, I focus on our first client while you work with Tula there to set up a mixer. We can throw a wild lovefest for all of the eligible immortals looking for love.”
“Oh.” Zac rubbed his chin. An immortal singles mixer would surely result in a shitload of matches.
It’s fucking genius.
Not that he would admit that to Cimil.
But she does have her moments.
“Now, get out,” she said. “I don’t want anyone in my office. Lots of confidential stuff lying around.”
There was nothing but a cold computer and an empty desk.
“You’re not getting this office,” he said.
“Hey, it’s the least you can offer after everything I’ve done for you,” she squabbled.
“You mean the fact that I’m being punished because you lied and manipulated me?” She’d promised everything would work out with his brother’s woman if he followed her advice. Of course, Cimil claimed everything
worked out. Just not for him.
“Exactly.” She shrugged happily. “And stop your whining. I got banished, too, and the only thing I did was tell a few lies, torture a few innocent souls, and save the world from ending. How fair is that?”
“Uh, because you were secretly driving the world to its end at the same time?” Of course, she couldn’t really help it. Like him, she had her dark side, but ultimately served the greater good. Very twisted.
That Universe and her sense of humor. What a riot.
“Now shoo!” She swept her hands through the air. “Minky needs her rest.”
Zac shook his head. Minky was Cimil’s pet, a bloodthirsty and invisible unicorn. It was better not to speak of such things.
He followed Cimil out, and she closed the door behind her and locked it. “Okay. I have my womba class—boy, those four little monsters really stretched the old uterus right out—then Roberto and I have our daddy-vampire and mommy-goddess class. See you both tomorrow.”
Zac was about to ask about the class, but then realized he didn’t give a fuck.
“Tootles!” Cimil said, wiggling her pale gaunt fingers in the air. “And keep your paws off Tula! She’s taken!”
. She knew that saying that would make him want her more. He hoped she was joking about the taken part.
“Wait,” he said. “You never told me who our first ‘in the bag’ client is.”
She flashed a devilish grin over her shoulder. “The infamous Andrus Gray.”
Oh, hell. That guy? Definitely not in the bag.
“If that’s the case, then we are going to need his best friend’s help.”
New York City
Andrus Gray gazed down into Helena’s sky-blue eyes, the hate and rage bubbling off her face like overheating spaghetti sauce.
This was bad. Very bad. But not his fault. Did she not understand that?
“I can’t believe you, Andrus. And in my own home, too? Get. Out,” she growled, pointing toward the steel-reinforced door of the lavish penthouse.
She was going to blame him?
Of course, what should he expect? She wasn’t going to fault the real culprit for starting the fight: her husband, Niccolo DiConti.
Andrus knew she loved them both, but Niccolo was her mate and he was merely the “manny,” aka bodyguard slash nanny. Still, he had fucking hoped she would choose him regardless of the improbability.
At the very least, I expected her to side with me.
Niccolo entered the room with a familiar black duffle bag. “Here’s your shit. Now get out,” he said with a scowl he’d perfected over thirteen hundred years. “She—correction—
don’t want you here anymore.”
Andrus glanced out at the spitefully sunny, panoramic view of Central Park, biting down on his tongue and trying not to lose his cool. Truth was, he’d fucked up because he’d known this arrangement was a mistake from day one. Niccolo—once a vampire but now a demigod like himself—had been away, working with the gods to stop some ridiculous end-of-world rubbish. Meanwhile, Cimil—crazy, untrustworthy goddess—had had a vision foretelling of an attack on Helena and her soon-to-come baby while Niccolo was away. As luck so had it, Andrus had been the only immortal warrior qualified to protect Helena in his absence.
And…you owed her a considerable apology.
A long story, and partially why he had agreed to take the role, but Andrus had once kidnapped Helena, wishing to use her as a pawn when they first met. Then she grew on him while being his captive. Everything worked out for the best in the end more or less—
however, he hadn’t been able to say no to assisting Helena after all that he’d done to the woman. Even if it meant taking on the demeaning task of watching over her infant once it arrived.
But then she came.
The sweetest, smartest child in the world, with golden locks the color of sunshine, hopeful blue eyes that reminded him of his long departed sister, and laughter made from pure joy—the kind he once knew before he was made immortal against his will. He laid eyes on Matty and immediately loved her like his own. He didn’t even mind that the other immortal men made fun of him for being the manny. Nor did he mind when the child bit him, which happened quite frequently because she had Helena’s vampire blood. Little Matty had given him a peace he hadn’t known for over three hundred years.
And now, it’s over.
For something that wasn’t his fault
. Niccolo crossed the line. I merely reacted.
Of course, that didn’t matter to Helena. She had a very strict no violence rule inside their home.
“May I say goodbye to Matty?” he asked, looking only at Helena. If he looked at Niccolo, he would end up throwing a punch. Again. Because the man was a smug son of a bitch who thought he could treat him like a servant.
I am a fucking assassin, goddammit. Over three hundred years old, infused with the divine light of the gods, trained to hunt and kill evil vampires.
Helena growled under her breath and then jerked her head toward Matty’s room. “Make it quick.”
Andrus walked to the nursery, where Matty still napped in her favorite dress—the one with a fangy pink bat on the front. He didn’t want to wake her, but he needed to hold her one last time.
He gently scooped the little girl, almost two years old now, into his arms and cradled her to his chest. He buried his nose in her blonde curls, inhaling her sweet scent. “I love you, little one. Don’t ever forget that. Uncle Andrus will always be here for you if you ever need anything.”
He felt his dark immortal heart tearing in two. But if he stayed, he and Niccolo would end up killing each other. And as much as he despised the man, Niccolo was Matty’s biological father. He did not want to be responsible for detaching the bastard’s fat head.
Andrus laid Matty back down, took one last look at her, and sighed. When he turned, he saw Helena standing in the doorway, her eyes filled with tears. Niccolo stood behind her, still snarling like the considerable prick that he was.
Bastard. He doesn’t deserve Helena
. Couldn’t he see that his jealousy was hurting her? And fucking prick that he was, he refused to give even a modicum of appreciation. It didn’t have to end like this. Niccolo made it so.
“Would it kill you to simply show a little gratitude, Niccolo? For once in your long, pathetic existence?”
Thank you for looking after Helena and Matty? Thank you for acting like a gentleman and never once making a pass at Helena?
Or at least, since those two got married. He lived by a code of honor.
“Thank you, Andrus,” Helena said. “Thank you for making sure Matty and I were safe while Niccolo,” she elbowed Niccolo in the ribs, “was away.”
Well, at least Helena has some class
. But that wasn’t so unusual. It was one of the reasons he adored her.
Niccolo grunted. “Hey, I was fighting to save the world from destruction. You should be thanking
Helena rolled her eyes and looked at Andrus. “We’re
Andrus bobbed his head. “Goodbye. And…my best wishes for the baby on the way.” It was the final slap in the face: Helena was four months pregnant with Matty’s little sister. He would not get to be there to see her first few hours of life or watch the look on Matty’s sweet tiny face when she first held her baby sister.
Because you’re nothing to them. You never have been.
He slid past Helena and Niccolo, using every ounce of restraint he could muster to not go at it with Niccolo again.
He walked out the front door with his supply of leather pants, his weapons, and a few personal grooming items; however, the only thing worth taking was a picture of him and Matty playing samurai—yes, with real swords—never too young to learn the fine art of decapitation—which he always carried with him.
He rode the elevator from the penthouse down to the lobby, managing to maintain his calm, disciplined air; meanwhile his insides were a fucking mess.
When he walked outside, it was an unusually warm late October day, and it occurred to him he had nowhere to go. He had money, more than enough to last an eternity, but he had no real home unless he counted his family’s old castle outside of St. Petersburg, Russia.
No. Filled with too many sad memories.
His family had long since perished. Every last one of them.
Fuck it. I’ll go get my Hummer out of storage and drive to Miami.
His phone rang the second he held up his hand for a taxi.
He slid the device from his pocket and saw the caller ID displayed “Tommaso,” another demigod—not born that way, but infused with the light of the gods—like him. Really, all that meant was they were immortal and tougher to kill. No real superpowers.
“What is up?” Andrus grumbled curtly.
“Hey, bro,” Tommaso said with a slight Italian accent. “I need a favor. And do not fucking tell me you can’t get time off from watching Matty. Niccolo is back.”
Yes, no shit
. “What do you want?”
“Come out to L.A.”
“For?” Andrus asked. He’d already set his mind on someplace warm and tropical where he might do some spearfishing, kill something pretty, and pretend it was Niccolo.
“Just get on a fucking plane and get out here. I need you for a few days.”
First off, he loathed flying. It felt unnatural to be tens of thousands of feet up in the air. “I am not putting my ass inside one of those mortal death traps simply so you can tell me what you want.” With his luck, it would be some inane errand for Cimil. “Wait. Isn’t Cimil in Los Angeles?”