Authors: Debra Dunbar
Tags: #angels, #demons, #Paranormal, #Romance, #urban fantasy
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Samantha Martin may be the leader of Hel, but she is also an imp in debt to a sorcerer. Luckily he’s vowed to wipe away all the favors she owes for one job – retrieve a stolen gem.
But Gregory also needs her help. Interdimensional rifts are opening, spilling supernatural creatures into the world of the humans. Locating and closing the gateways takes a team of two – an angel and a demon.
It’s the opportunity Sam has been waiting for, the very thing that might allow demons and angels to put aside nearly three million years of hate. But the gem has a dark power - one that could shatter any hope of peace between heaven and hell. Which task takes priority? Sam is at a crossroads, where either choice leads to a dark future.
Kingdom of Lies
Copyright 2015, All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
o Dr. Hadley Tremaine (1939-2001), Chairman of the Department of
English, Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, who taught me that there is great treasure to be found in what others consign to Hell.
The man screamed. It was more high-pitched than I’d expected a three-hundred-pound dude packing two .45s and covered in gang tattoos to make. He probably wouldn’t have normally reacted this way to an unarmed brunette woman, but lots of his buddies had gone missing lately, and the word was out on the street that bad shit had happened to them. The few that reappeared had stories—stories that were making grown men wet their pants.
I consulted my pocket-sized notebook, licking my index finger as I flipped through the pages. “Let’s see... ah, here we go. Damien Morez: five counts of armed robbery, two first-degree assaults, and an animal cruelty. Tsk, tsk.”
The man backed away from me until his ass hit the crumbling brick of the condemned South Street building. “No convictions. I ain’t got no convictions.”
I stuffed the notepad back into the rear pocket of my jeans. “Do I look like the fucking police to you? I don’t give a shit about convictions. All I care about is you’re in my territory, and your credit sucks giant donkey balls. Dude. The repo man is after you, Citibank is after you, the motor vehicle administration is after you, your ex-wife is after you, so now I’m after you. Pay your fucking bills and I might be willing to overlook the armed robbery and assault. But not the animal cruelty. That just pisses me off even more.”
“I’ll pay. I’ll pay,” he screamed. “Just don’t kill me.”
And now his pants were wet. Great. I hated having to transport guys who’d peed themselves. It was damned near impossible to get that stench out of my clothing.
“I’m not going to kill you. There’s too much fucking paperwork involved in that.” I huffed in exasperation. “Trust me, I’d like nothing more than to fly you up and drop you. I’ve gotten pretty good at hitting targets if I keep it under five-hundred feet in the air. Bet I could get you to splat on top of the carillon in Baker Park if I tried.”
Ugh. I shouldn’t have mentioned that. Now there was a hideous odor combined with the urine smell. Better get this over with before he added vomit into the mix. I revealed my wings—my enormous matte-black wings—and shook them slightly to rearrange the feathers. I didn’t need my wings out to teleport, but it added interest to the stories they told if, and or when, they made it back.
The guy slid down the brick wall and prayed in another language. “Come on, dude. Let’s get a move on.” I walked over and picked him up by one arm. Damn. Motherfucker was heavy. I mean, I’m a demon, and I still had to put some back into it to get him to his feet.
His panicked eyes were doing a rapid back and forth between me and my wings.
“Borel, Khnar, or Prentiss Mississippi?” I asked.
As if he had a choice. As if
had a choice. Teleportation was a new skill that came with my wings and my pseudo-angel status. I had no idea where the fuck I’d end up. And getting back wasn’t exactly a cakewalk either. Still, the man managed to pull it together enough to reply.
Yep, because getting back from there would be a whole lot easier than Haiti or Cambodia.
“Bayou and crawfish it is, buddy.” I tugged the guy’s arm again and jerked back as two darts flew past my face and lodged into the brick wall beside him.
Not darts, barbs. The red brick turned blue in an expanding circle around them. Morez’s reflexes kicked in, and he ducked, using my outspread wings as cover. I heard a rush of air, and another dart hit the wall, but not before tearing through one of my wings.
Holy fuck, that hurt. Not just physically either. That sharp missile punched right through my spirit-being with pain that would take a day or more to recede and leave a scar that would never go away.
Numbness followed the pain, spreading like the blue on the brick throughout my wing. So much for flying. Until this wore off, I was one-winged.
Another dart hit the wall, missing me. I tried to conceal my wings, but the combination of pain and numbness meant all I could do was tuck them behind me to keep them from being such a gigantic target.
Morez was probably long gone. I headed in the direction I’d seen him run, jumping behind a dumpster just in time to hear the ping of something sharp hitting the metal side. Stupid fucking wings. I barely fit between the building wall and the dumpster, especially since there was someone else crouched there—Damien Morez.
“Get out,” I hissed, elbowing him.
“Get out yourself, you freak.”
I should have just grabbed him and gated him away to outer Mongolia, or whatever random place we ended up, but I’ll admit I was curious—curious as to what sort of creature launched barbs at an angel with big black wings and a big scary human packing two pistols.
There was a noise, one beyond the heavy breathing of the man huddled next to me. I heard the scrape of nails on pavement. One, two, three, four. Four legs. Shoots poisonous darts. Was this a demon sent to kill me? Someone who took particular exception to my new sort-of-angel status? If so, I was going to need to get serious.
“Look around the edge of the dumpster and see what’s out there,” I hissed at Morez.
“No way.” The human curled himself tighter, jostling me in the process.
I slid sideways, my numb wing crushed against the asphalt as I peered under the dumpster. I saw four golden furry feet and the swish of a matching tail with a dark brown barb at the end. Clever. How did he manage to shoot them from his tail with any degree of accuracy? And how many barbs did the tail hold? Was his tail the equivalent of a semi-automatic, or did he need to create and launch each barb individually?
I summoned my Iblis sword in the shotgun form that I could use with moderate skill. Unfortunately, one angel/demon with big wings, one oversized, never-convicted criminal, and a shotgun were too much for the tiny space behind the dumpster. My shotgun appeared with an echoing clang as it dented the side of the container.
The creature sprang. Luck was on my side, because instead of rounding the dumpster at my end, it chose the side closer to the human. My vision was mostly blocked by the wall of muscle that made up Damien Morez, but I saw the tan, furry body and a mass of red fur—a ruff—framing a face I couldn’t see.
The human screamed, punching and kicking me as he was dragged from behind the dumpster. I scrambled around the other side to get a clear shot. What I saw was a lion—a giant fucking lion with a tail like a scorpion. Morez screamed again. I aimed my shotgun. Gold ass. Gold midsection. Big red furry ruff. I sighted the spot just behind the front leg and pulled the trigger.
Even with the gun firmly planted against my shoulder, it knocked me backward nearly a foot. My shot went high but still hit, blasting little black holes all along the side and back of the lion.
When I’d first started using the Iblis weapon, it caused debilitating damage to demons and angels. The last few times I’d been unable to calibrate the effectiveness, and those hit had been killed, dissolving into a pile of sand. It seemed that during the past year, my phaser was never set on stun.
This time, the shot did nothing. No pile of sand, no lion demon writhing on the ground in agony. The only thing it did was discolor the lion’s fur and piss it off. Oh, and make it drop the human and come after me. That’s when I got a good look at its face, and it was not lion-like. The creature’s face was like that of a human with light-blue eyes pigmented barely enough to contrast with the white. It opened its mouth wide to snap at me, and I saw three rows of pointy teeth, like a shark.
Weirdest fucking demon form I’d ever seen. Although my magical shotgun seemed to be malfunctioning, I went ahead and unloaded it on the beast anyway.
Again, nothing. Well, nothing except some giant lion-man with a scorpion tail jumping on top of me and knocking me flat on my back. The Iblis shotgun went flying, and I used both hands to grab the thing around its furry ruff and pour a stream of energy into it. Its fur turned a lovely shade of crimson, but the only reaction I got from the monster was the snap of those teeth inches from my face. Oh, and the tail with those nasty-ass darts waving around above me. This thing, because it was now clear to me I wasn’t battling another demon, was getting irritated at my thrashing around and was trying to numb me into an easily digestible state.
I’d been around a lot of snakes in my life, both real ones and demon ones, and had seen the poison-your-prey-and-eat-it-at-your-leisure method many times. It gave me an idea. I let go of the lion’s ruff and reached up, grabbing the flicking tail just as the beast sunk his pointy, multi-rowed teeth into my shoulder. Flesh ripped and tore. My vision went white from pain, but I held on, twisting the tail around and plunging the barbed end into the lion’s back.
The teeth yanked out of my shoulder and I was nearly deafened from the scream right next to my ear. It seemed to be working, so I kept jabbing the thing with its own tail, hanging on tight as it spun away from me. I held on as it ran, dragging me across the blacktop and slamming me into the dumpster. My wings were still revealed, which meant the worst of the road rash was happening on the sensitive appendages. I couldn’t reach any of the lion to jab the tail into, but I gripped it tight, swinging wildly across the pavement and over the top of my dropped Iblis shotgun as the monster tried to jerk me free.
The shotgun. The shotgun that had turned itself back into a sword. A knife, actually. Fuck it. I freed one hand, nearly separating my shoulder as the lion played crack-the-whip in the alley. After a few tries, I managed to grab the now-Iblis-knife on a go around.
Something had to give. Either this lion was going to get worn out and take a nap or I was going to lose my hold on his tail and wind up dinner. The second option was looking more likely, so I reversed my grip on the knife and tried to see if I could cut the tail off this thing. That way I’d have a reasonably effective weapon against being eaten.
Sawing at a tail while being spun around in circles wasn’t easy. And the magical weapon that used to cut through anything like it was wet tissue paper didn’t seem to be making more than a dent in this fucker’s tail. Just as I felt I’d managed to accomplish the equivalent of a paper cut, I slammed into the dumpster, sliding under it. The lion-thing tried to keep going. I slid against the metal support underneath the dumpster and braced against it with my feet, wrapping the lion’s tail around a vertical support.
The monster pulled, and the container screeched as it dug grooves into the asphalt. I held my wings as close as I could to my sides, trying not to have them pinned under the moving dumpster. And I sawed at the tail like I was trying to win a lumberjack contest.
The lion shrieked, pulling the dumpster with its tail. The Ibis knife finally broke through the tough skin, flying through muscle and bone as if it were air. One strip of skin and fur was all that held the lethal tail on the creature—one nearly impenetrable strip of skin and fur.
The dumpster rocked side to side, and I hacked away at the tail. From the racket above my head, it seemed the lion-creature was determined to get to me through the metal of the dumpster. Not the brightest monster, even if he was amazingly resistant to my magical weapon.
With a snap, the tail broke in two, leaving me holding six inches of fur tipped with a brown pointy end that dripped blue liquid. The rest of the tail vanished out the front of the dumpster. I heard a crash and yelp followed by silence.
Silence usually didn’t signify good things. With the tail in one hand and my knife in the other, I rolled from under the dumpster and sprang to my feet. The garbage container was now in the middle of the alley, about fifty feet from where it started. The lion-thing was nowhere to be seen. And Damien Morez was facedown in a pool of blood. I walked over and rolled him over. His sightless eyes stared upward.