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Luck of the Devil
By Patricia Eimer, Libby Murphy
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2011 Patricia Eimer
All rights reserved.
"You just couldn't help yourself, could you?" Lisa and I stared in revulsion at the freshly dead body of my former boss lying on the carpet in his office, wearing nothing but plaid boxer shorts, a striped tie, and his white lab coat.
"Faith, I'm sorry. I was hungry." She winced and shuffled her feet like a guilty child caught sneaking into the cookie jar. She waved her hand at me, like I should know how it is.
I did. That didn't make the consequences any nicer if we were caught. In a hospital. With the dead body of the head of pediatric surgery.
"You were hungry?" I pushed a lock of curly blonde hair behind my left ear.
"I see a man, I eat his soul. That's what I do. It's not like I enjoyed it or anything. I mean, have you seen Harold?"
"That changes everything, obviously. People will understand. Not. What are we going to do with him?" Some days I wondered why I bothered keeping a human job. Oh, right. I was an adult who didn't want any involvement in Dad's evil schemes. I was capable of being a productive member of society, rather than leeching off the human race like some overgrown demonic tick. And I had bills to pay. Crap.
"Could we shove him in the closet?"
"No, the stench would give him away." I'd done a twelve-hour shift as charge nurse on the pediatric ICU and I was too tired for this shit tonight. All I really wanted was a cold beer and some mindless television. But no, apparently I got to deal with a dead surgeon instead.
Hello, I'm Faith Bettincourt, and this is my life.
Lisa fidgeted with the hem of her skirt, her glossy, caramel waves held neatly in place with a black patent headband. Her wide eyes latched onto mine. Great. She was doing the big, baby animal eyes. Everyone knew I couldn't resist baby animal eyes.
She was tall, she was tan, and she was completely stacked. I wasn't into women, and even I found myself giving her what she wanted to keep her happy. It hadn't been too bad before she'd been turned into a succubus, but now she had enough mojo to turn a convent into a cauldron of simmering sexual tension.
"Maybe it's not as bad as it looks, though?"
"Lisa, you sucked Harold dry. In his underwear. And you're dressed in a cheerleading uniform that's two sizes too small. How can this not be as bad as it looks?" It wouldn't do any good to yell at her. Yelling would just make her cry, and I sucked when it came to tears.
Besides, I felt guilty enough already. Lisa hadn't been a bad roommate before the whole Turning Into a Succubus thing. In three years, she'd never been late on the rent, she'd always kept her parts of the apartment clean, and we'd never had one of those awkward moments where you accidentally walk in on a hookup from the night before in his birthday suit rooting through the fridge. Everything was great until my half-brother decided to turn her into a wild, lust-driven succubus with no self-control.
"Maybe he's not dead? You didn't check for a pulse. Maybe he looks dead and he's just passed out?" My roommate, the succubus, an eternal optimist. It was a good outlook to have when we worked the pediatric wards together — trust me, there's no greater nurse out there than Lisa — but right now? Right now, I wanted to wring her swanlike neck. Barely five-foot-two, I'd be forced to get a step stool to reach her. Stupid, six-foot-tall, size-three succubus.
"He's dead. Trust me. You drained the life right out of him." Not that I could blame her. As a willing, and untapped, donor, he would have made one hell of a meal.
She sniffled and scuffed her feet together. "I have been trying to do better. I mean, he's the first person I've accidentally killed in three months. And it's not my fault, it's Harold's."
"It's Harold's fault you ate his soul?" She didn't expect me to believe he asked her to drain him dry, did she?
"Well, most people sort of get panicky and I know to stop, but he had this big grin on his face the whole time, so I kept eating." She stalked back and forth across the room, wringing her hands.
"Sweetie, I love you, you know I do. We've been rooming together, what? Two years? Three? And you've handled this whole Daughter of the Devil situation great, especially after the whole succubus mess with Tolliver. But I think this Accidentally Eating People thing might be a bit of a problem."
"Oh shit. Tolliver. Do you think he's going to be upset?" She crossed her arms, tucking her shaking hands underneath her armpits. "He told me if I killed one more person he was going to strip my powers."
"And that would be a bad thing?" I leaned against Harold's desk and rested my weight on my hands. Glancing down, I noticed a brown spot on my light blue scrub pants and scratched at it with my thumbnail. It was flaky. Definitely liquid food supplement, then. Good.
"No. Yes, I mean — oh, this is hard. I would be happier if I wasn't a soul-sucking sex demon anymore."
"But once he strips me of my powers, protocol requires he chain me to a rock beside the lake of fire and let demon lords feast on my soul while imps bite off my toes. And you know I can't handle anyone touching my toes. It's just not something I can even think about right now."
"Uh-huh." Lisa was particular about people touching her toes. She only had one pedicurist in the entire city she'd let touch her, and the woman charged out the ass. "That doesn't sound pleasant."
A small, black-robed figure materialized, the cowl of its cloak pulled low to disguise the fact he was nothing more than a disembodied demonic spirit. Great. Malachi. Now my night was shot to hell. Although, he might have an idea about how to get rid of Harold's body. He may look like a demonic pixie, but Malachi had serious power. And the connections to get things done when he needed it. "Tolliver is exaggerating."
"Really?" Lisa asked.
"No, not really. But if it makes you feel better, the imps will give you a ceremonial nibble, and ignore you to fight with each other for scraps from the table."
"Oh." Her bright smile turned into a frown and her shoulders slumped forward.
"Not helping," I said through clenched teeth. I should have known Malachi would be a pain in the ass. He was supposed to be my bodyguard, but more often than not I kept him out of trouble and not the other way around.
"What are we going to do about Mr. Bag O'Bones here?" He hovered over Harold's body and twirled to face us. "I take it this is your handiwork, Lisa? Sloppy, but effective. I'll give you a ten for effort but a two for style. Cheerleading outfits were out years ago."
"I was actually going to ask about that," I said. "We're nurses — that's like the most-requested stripper outfit of all time. Every guy's got a Naughty Nurse fetish."
"Not if their mothers were nurses like Harold's. His turn-on isn't Naughty Nurses, it's Cheeky Cheerleaders, so I had to think fast. It wasn't planned or anything. Give me a break. I wouldn't even wear this crap when I was in high school. Polyester double knit doesn't look good on anyone." She stalked to Harold's couch and plopped down, making her skirt flounce upward. I winced and averted my eyes. I didn't need to see those parts of my roommate. "It isn't like I ate his entire soul on purpose. He enjoyed it!"
"At least he died happy." I picked up his 'World's Best Pediatrician' trophy and tossed it from hand to hand.
Malachi chuckled. "I'm sure you made him very happy. After all, that's the whole point of being a succubus. Men give their souls in return for the pleasure you provide."
Lisa's frown drooped.
"But you're supposed to take the soul back to Hell, not eat it yourself. His Excellency won't be pleased with you. He's big on sharing, you know." Malachi wagged his sleeve at her like some sort of demonic schoolmaster and I coughed to hide my giggle.
I sat the trophy down and started playing with the pens in Harold's cup. I had one of those weird issues with clutter and disorganization in my workspace — blame nursing school — and Harold was a slob. If he had been this disorganized in surgery he would have been lucky not to have killed someone from a completely preventable mistake. "As much as it pains me to say this, Dad isn't our problem right now."
"He isn't?" Malachi sounded surprised. "And why is that? Don't tell me this is going to be another one of your cute little acts of rebellion against His Majesty. Do you know how much of an administrative hassle those are for me? Can't you just be content playing Florence Nightingale and give me some peace?"
"This is not an act of rebellion. Besides, he'd be happy Lisa's doing what she's made for. He's still not our biggest concern because, let's be serious, what's he going to do? Ground me for letting her drain him? He hasn't grounded me since I tried the whole chastity pledge thing in high school."
"I remember that fight. The other demon lords and I took bets His Excellency would suffer a heart attack right there on his throne."
"Well, he didn't have a heart attack and everyone managed to survive." I pushed myself away from the desk and sat in the overstuffed black leather chair — why did doctors always get such nice chairs? — and crossed my feet on top of the desk.
"I know. I won four souls and an addled incubus."
"See? Everybody won off the deal." I grabbed the glass apple on Harold's desk. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Clever.
"Except your mom with her fourth husband." Lisa gnawed on her thumbnail. What a waste of her $30 manicure.
"Oh yeah, Henri." I smiled at the memory of my mom's fourth husband and the demise of their marriage. "I was so glad to be rid of him I quit the chastity club the next day."
"And His Evilness's fatherly instincts kicked in and snatched young Mr. Taylor's soul," Malachi said.
"Always with the downsides, aren't you?"
"Sorry," he said. "So what are we doing with Dr. Wilkins? Since he's dead and all?"
"Could you send him to the lower demons to get rid of? They do that sometimes, don't they?"
"We could," Malachi said, dragging out the words.
"Really?" Lisa sat up and stopped chewing. "We could let them eat the body and no one would ever know?"
"They might. But Tolliver will hear about it and you'll have to explain why you screwed up and drained him."
"Damn." She slumped back against the couch, the very picture of dejection. Desperation rolled off of her. Or maybe that was eau de Harold? I wrinkled my nose. Most likely Harold. Desperation smelled like a guy's locker room, and this was worse. More like rotten meat and old coffee. Definitely Harold.
"So what else can we do?" I asked.
"Leave him in an alley?" Malachi suggested.
"Oh, please. You don't think someone's going to notice?"
I laced my fingers together and stretched them over my head. My wings were killing me, my tail itched, and my horns were starting to come out on their own accord. They usually stayed hidden while I was in public, folding underneath my skin like a demonic Swiss Army knife, but keeping everything in check took way too much effort when I was tired. Stress always made my self-control slip and it became harder to keep the human part of me firmly in place. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and focused all of my energy on keeping my extra bits hidden.
"We want someone to notice," Malachi explained, allowing me to focus on something other than my own discomfort. "We want someone to find poor Harold and think he died of a heart attack while in the back alley with a hooker."
"Hey!" Lisa said, and bright red flames erupted around her hair. Apparently, someone else was exhausted, too. And more than a little touchy.
"Or he got mugged," Malachi continued. "Or any other logical explanation for why he's dead in nothing but a pair of cheap boxers and a lab coat."
"But look at him." I stood up and pointed at Harold's corpse. He reminded me of a pruned version of his former self, all gray, with his veins adding a nice touch of purple for color. "You don't think they'll find that a bit odd?"
Malachi floated closer. "You were hungry, Lisa. I think you pulled every bit of his soul out of him. You even loosened his fillings."
"I couldn't help it." She sniffled again.
"There, there." Malachi bounced next to her, brushing his cloak against her shoulder in what I thought was meant to be a consoling gesture. "Stop crying. You've already sucked him dry, might as well enjoy the high."
"Here's what we'll do. Get the horrific rug that's in front of the elevator. We'll wrap him up and throw him into the biological waste dumpster."
"But what about the security cameras?" Lisa stood in front of the desk, next to Harold's body. "They'll see Faith getting the rug and the two of us carrying him out."
"Oh, in the name of all that's evil." Malachi shook the cowl of his cape back and forth. "You really aren't the brightest demon, are you? Let me clarify. Faith, summon the rug, and once Harold's wrapped in it, transfer him into the dumpster outside."
"Right." I closed my eyes, resting my hands on Harold's desk, and focused on the green patterned rug in front of the elevator. Once I had the edges defined in my head, I willed Harold's final resting place to heed my commands. I saw it dissolve, and I opened my eyes to watch it appear on the floor underneath Harold. I tucked the ends around him and fixated on the overlapping edges, willing them to glue themselves together and secure his body.
"Sorry, Harold," I whispered, walking around the desk to kneel beside his head. I touched the seam over the spot where his prune-shaped heart should have been. "I would've liked you if you hadn't grabbed my ass every morning. Come to think of it, I'm not all that sorry you're dead. You kind of had it coming."
"How touching," Malachi said. "What a truly eloquent eulogy."
"Shut up." I closed my eyes and concentrated on transferring Harold's body from his office to his temporary resting place, my arms tingling with the power flowing through me. When his body dissolved under my hand, I opened my eyes and exhaled.
"Oh man, he stained the carpet. How gross! I don't want to be the janitor who cleans that up. Uck, human juice," Malachi said.
"Malachi?" I stood and moved away from the spot. Nasty. Man, I was glad my vacation started tomorrow.
"Go float in front of the cameras to short them out so it explains why we never left this evening."
"How far do I need to go back?"
"Say about seven o'clock?"
"Right. One demon disruption at seven o'clock. Be back in two seconds, kiddies." Malachi faded out of the room.
"Lucky us," I said once he disappeared.
"So that's it?" Lisa asked. "No one's going to know? I mean, Tolliver won't find out and it'll be okay, right?"
"I hope so. And if he does find out just tell him I ordered you to drain Harold. Dad will be so happy I'm embracing my evil side, he won't let Tolliver punish you."
"Tolliver won't be happy about that." She walked to the couch and grabbed the trench coat she had been wearing to hide her costume.
Malachi reappeared. "Won't be happy about what?"
"Tolliver won't be happy if I tell him Lisa killed Harold because I forced her to. He'll think I'm trying to embrace my inheritance."
"And that will piss him off," Malachi agreed.
"If it comes down to it, I'll just do what I always do with Tolliver." I held Lisa's hand while Malachi floated close enough to brush my shoulder.
"Plead in terror?" Lisa asked.
"No, bribe him."
I closed my eyes and visualized my apartment. With a quiet pop and the metallic smell of the burnt fragments of reality, we phased through the portal I'd created between Harold's office and my living room. The fabric of reality stitched itself back up around us.
My tail slipped free, wrapping around my left leg, and my wings opened, cramped inside my scrubs. Teleporting always pulled too much of my power for me to keep the rest of my anatomy in check. But morning rush hour in downtown Pittsburgh was a pain, especially when the Liberty Tunnel was under construction, and Lisa and I were running late this morning. Concessions were made.
"So, how long until we know if Tolliver's going to catch us?" Lisa's own wings strained her trench coat. I didn't want to think about what a six-foot wingspan had done to her cheerleading uniform.
"If he's going to find out, he'll know by tomorrow afternoon, at the latest." I walked into the kitchen area to make myself a cup of tea. "I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. If it comes back to anyone, it's me. Dad won't let him cause me too much trouble."
Lisa followed me into our tiny kitchen and leaned against the island. "I don't like the idea of him causing you any trouble."
"Says the woman he turned into a succubus for grins and giggles. Why don't you go change and I'll make you a cup of tea to help you calm down? I bet you're still buzzing pretty hard after eating Harold."
Excerpted from Luck of the Devil by Patricia Eimer, Libby Murphy. Copyright © 2011 Patricia Eimer. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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