Original Sinby Lisa Desrochers
Luc Cain was born and raised in Hell, but he isn't feeling as demonic as usual lately--thanks to Frannie Cavanaugh and the unique power she never realized she had. But you can't desert Hell without consequences, and suddenly Frannie and Luc find themselves targeted by the same demons who used to be Luc's allies.
Left with few options, Frannie and Luc accept/p>… See more details below
Luc Cain was born and raised in Hell, but he isn't feeling as demonic as usual lately--thanks to Frannie Cavanaugh and the unique power she never realized she had. But you can't desert Hell without consequences, and suddenly Frannie and Luc find themselves targeted by the same demons who used to be Luc's allies.
Left with few options, Frannie and Luc accept the protection of Heaven and one of its most powerful angels, Gabe. Unfortunately, Luc isn't the only one affected by Frannie, and it isn't long before Gabe realizes that being around her is too…tempting. Rather than risk losing his wings, he leaves Frannie and Luc under the protection of her recently-acquired guardian angel.
Which would be fine, but Gabe is barely out the door before an assortment of demons appears--and they're not leaving without dragging Luc back to Hell with them. Hell won't give up and Heaven won't give in. Frannie's guardian exercises all the power he has to keep them away, but the demons are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell's grasp.
And not everyone will get out of it alive.
Frannie turned her demon boyfriend Luc into a human with her magical Sway inPersonal Demons(2010). Now he's living in his own apartment while barely resisting Frannie's seduction attempts. Frannie divides her time between Luc, her summer job and her increasingly distant friends. Frannie and Luc's dating is complicated by the constant presence of Matt, Frannie's guardian angel, who was once her twin brother but died during childhood. Through alternating, brief first-person accounts, all three narrate the continuing saga of Frannie vs. Hell. Lucifer wants to punish Luc for his defection and gain control of whatever power turned him human; luckily, Hell doesn't know about Frannie's Sway. Meanwhile, Matt is distracted from his duties by uncontrollable feelings for Lili, a strange new girl in town. The protagonists pop in and out of Hell like there's no tomorrow; secondary characters are merely damned for all time. The battle against Hell is punctuated by frequent steamy encounters: There's "crippling desire," lust that's "totally raw and all-consuming" and characters who "sink into the sheets, into each other." For all that sex, it's a shame that the sexuality of all the girls other than Frannie is subject to disturbingly intense slut-shaming.
Fans of sexy encounters between celestials and infernals will eat this up.(Paranormal romance. 14-16)
Read an Excerpt
ORIGINAL SIN (Chapter 1)You Can Take the Demon out of Hell…
Not that I’m complaining, but one serious downside of being a demon-turned-human is that I’m no longer indestructible. I stare at my bleeding face in the mirror and rinse the razor in the sink. As I examine the multitude of seeping wounds, I wonder how much blood a mortal can afford to lose.
Which brings me to another downside of being human: personal hygiene. Why the Almighty would design humans to require so much maintenance is beyond me. And all these millennia, I thought we demons were the ones who got off on torture.
I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around all this—my new life. Frannie. I woke up in my car this morning and my heart ached because, for an instant, I was sure it had all been a dream. But it was my aching heart—and the fact that I was asleep in the first place—that convinced me otherwise. Brimstone doesn’t ache.
Which brings me to yet another downside: sleep. Now that I have to sleep, I can’t protect Frannie like I want to. With some assistance from Starbucks, until last night I was able to hang on. But four o’clock this morning found me sound asleep in my car in front of her house, leaning over the steering wheel and drooling on my sleeve. I’m going to have to discuss shifts with Matt.
Frannie insists she doesn’t need a guardian angel, but I’m glad for the help. Of course, I haven’t been quite honest with her. She doesn’t know that I’m still watching every night. She’d probably beat the crap out of me if she did. It’s a little embarrassing to think that my five-two, hundred-pound girlfriend could kick my ass, but unfortunately, it’s true.
“Frannie’s on her way over.”
Even though the voice sounds smooth and musical, it still scares the hell out of me. It’s a good thing the razor is in the sink, because if it’d been on my face, it would have left another gash.
I spin and survey my studio apartment for the source of the proclamation. Matt leans against the wall next to the unfinished edge of my wall mural, thumbs hooked into the front pockets of his torn jeans.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s rude not to knock?” I say. But seeing an angel standing there, next to a floor-to-ceiling painting of Hell, is more than I can take, and I burst out laughing.
Matt’s sandy blond curls are almost to his shoulders, and his tanned face is positively angelic—except for the fact that he’s glaring death at me. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was an avenging angel, not a guardian. But, as I get myself back together, a hint of a smile creeps into those baby blues.
“She might have mentioned something about that.”
I hate that Frannie needs a guardian. I hate that I can’t protect her anymore. But my power has completely dried up. There’s no spark in the plugs. I do miss being able to shoot Hellfire out of my fists and blast things into oblivion.
But would I go back to what I was?
I raise an eyebrow at him. “So, if Frannie’s on her way over, why aren’t you watching her? Falling down on the job so soon? What the Hell kind of guardian angel are you?”
A grin spreads across Matt’s face as he shrugs away from the wall. “She drives so fast not even the Hounds of Hell could catch her between there and here.”
I smile thinking about her driving that midnight blue ’65 Mustang convertible, top down, music cranked. She does drive dangerously fast, but it’s kind of sexy.
“Thanks for the backup last night, by the way,” I say as Matt glides over to my bookshelf and scans the titles. “I was hoping this whole sleep thing was overrated. Guess I was wrong.”
Pulling my original run Dante’s Purgatorio from the volumes, he scowls. “I knew you were going to be useless. Why Gabriel thought you’d be any help at all, I’ll never understand.” He fans the pages and then turns his glare back on me. “You’re going to slip back into your old ways. I just know it. Demons don’t change.”
“But I’m not a demon anymore. There are no ‘old ways.’ Clean slate and all.”
“You’ll slip.” He flips me a self-satisfied smirk, then slides Dante back onto the shelf. “And when you do, I hope it’s a good one. I’ve been dying to smite someone. Nothing would make me happier than if it was you.”
“I thought only the hand of God could smite.”
An enigmatic smile turns the corners of his mouth. “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
I walk back into the bathroom, shaking my head, and wipe the last traces of shaving cream from my face with a towel. “When will she get here?” I say, reexamining my wounds in the mirror and tugging at the dark circles under my eyes.
My finger courses along the bloodred scar twisting down the right side of my face—Beherit’s parting gift—as Matt peers over my shoulder into the mirror and says, “Now.”
I push him aside and cross my studio to the window, throwing up the sash, just in time to see her pull in next to my black ’68 Shelby Cobra and climb out of her car. Her face beams as she waves up at me and makes her way toward the door of my building. I sprint down the hall and meet her on the stairs.
She rushes up, smiling. “Hey. Missed you.”
Frannie’s long, sandy blond waves are windblown and unruly. And I can’t help but admire how that white tank top and those well-worn jeans hug every contour of her body without being tight. A large tear in those jeans teases me with a hint of skin, and I shudder.
“Hey,” I say. I loop my arms around her shoulders and run my hands through her hair, tying it in a knot at the base of her neck. “I missed you too.”
She pushes up onto her tiptoes, stretching her petite frame as far as it will go, but I still need to lean down and meet her halfway for our kiss. I guide her up the rest of the stairs and into my apartment.
She bounds through the door, and when she sees Matt, her eyes light up. Just watching them together, how happy she is to have him back, I have no doubt that it was her Sway that influenced Gabriel to choose Matt as Frannie’s guardian. And, the best part: she looks at him with a light heart and clear eyes now. The guilt is gone. She had to forgive herself for Matt’s death in order for Gabriel to tag her soul for Heaven, so I knew she had, but something lightens in my core to see it so clearly on her face.
“Hey, Matt. Long time no see,” she says.
Matt’s expression is warm and genuine as he regards his sister. “Thought you were going to break the sound barrier on the way over. I was pretty sure you’d beat me here.” He hooks an arm over her shoulder. “If you won’t drive more carefully, I’m going to have to wrap that Mustang in celestial Bubble Wrap.” He rolls his eyes toward the ceiling, contemplating. “And maybe rig the accelerator.”
“Touch my car and you’re dead, little brother.” As soon as the words leave her lips, her eyes widen. “I mean…”
Matt chuckles and pulls her back to his side. “Yeah, good luck with that. And I’m not your ‘little brother.’”
She swallows hard and offers a wily smile. “Yes, you are. By eight and a half minutes, according to Mom.” She shoves away from him and heads to the small wooden kitchen table, where she drops her bag onto a chair.
Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t need to eat, so the only furniture in my apartment was a big, black, king-sized bed—for recreational purposes. The addition of the table and two chairs became necessary when I kept finding food in my bed. And now that laundry is also a necessity—downsides of being human are racking up fast—we eat at the table.
I twine my fingers into hers. “Did you eat? I was going to make omelets.”
She gazes up at me, tracing a finger along the scar on my face, and I get completely lost in her eyes.
“Sounds good,” she says.
A devilish smile breaks across her face. “Omelets?”
“Not hungry, thanks,” I say.
They both look at me and Frannie cracks a smile. “That’s ’cause you’ve never had one of Luc’s omelets. He got the recipe off Rachael Ray’s Web site. They’re to die for,” she says, then cringes.
“I got it, sis. They’re good. So, what’s the plan for the day?”
Frannie shrugs. “Well, lunch, I guess. Then…” She looks at the demon, and an impish grin pulls at her lips. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking…?”
I roll my eyes and glower at Luc.
He leans back into the table and smirks at me as Frannie heads for the fridge. “Get your mind out of the gutter, cherub. The Mustang needs an oil change.”
Luc pushes off the table and moves to the kitchen, bringing a pan and bowl out from the cabinet below the stove. Frannie retrieves the eggs, milk, and a few bags of veggies from the fridge. As they move around the kitchen, they don’t speak, but as they work, they seem completely unaware that they are always touching—connected. And perfectly in sync.
Suddenly, it feels too intimate. How can cooking lunch be intimate? I clench my teeth to keep from groaning. I can’t stand this. I have to get out of here.
“So, if you guys don’t need me, I guess I’ll go.”
Frannie turns back to me and smiles. “Sure you don’t want an omelet?” she says, holding up a tomato.
I can’t help smiling back. “Got to watch my girlish figure.”
She cracks up as I push through the wall into the hall, where I stand guard.
I slide down to sit on the floor, my back against the wall. When Gabriel pulled me out of training to work with me himself, he said he had a special job for me. A job no one was better suited for. When he told me I was going to be Frannie’s guardian, I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t proud of how I’d treated her in life, and being seven was no excuse. This was perfect. How many people get the chance to make amends with their twin sister from the other side?
What he failed to mention is that my sister is in love with a freakin’ demon. How did he let that happen?
So here I sit, banging my head against the wall helplessly while my sister is in there—in danger. Gabriel was clear. I can’t interfere. He says it’s her life. Her choice. He says things will work out.
I don’t believe him.
And it’s only a matter of time before the demon does something to prove me right.
“Gabe has me experimenting with this Sway thing,” I say after lunch, handing Luc the cast iron skillet to wipe down.
His eyes tighten and he doesn’t even try to hide the jealous edge to his voice. “Let me guess: late at night, all alone in your room.”
I can’t help the flutter in my stomach or my blush, and I hate that I feel guilty. But I do. I still don’t have a grasp on what I feel for Gabe. All I know is that I need him. When he’s around, I can almost believe that things are gonna be okay, and when he touches me, all my panic seems to melt away.
I plunge my hands into the soapy dishwater and start scrubbing dishes madly. “Sometimes. But if the only person I can Sway is Gabe, that’s not gonna accomplish much.”
He slams the pan down onto the counter with a crash that shakes the floor and stares at his hands, splayed on either side of it. “I sincerely doubt there’s much you couldn’t get Gabriel to do for you just by asking.”
I start, because it’s Gabe who can read my mind, not Luc. But the way he’s looking at me makes me wonder.
I sigh deeply and take a second to get myself back together.
“Anyway…we’ve been hanging at the park, mostly.” I feel my chest tighten as I push back the frustration that threatens to take charge of me every time I think about this whole stupid thing. “He thinks kids should be easier to influence. But I seem to be better at instigating stuff than stopping it.”
He yanks the pan off the counter by the handle. “Well, that bodes well for world peace.”
I drop my face into my soapy hands and groan. “I suck at this. I don’t know what he thinks I’m supposed to be able to do, but I can’t even break up a sandbox scuffle over a pail and shovel.” I hate the tears seeping from my eyes into my hands. I hate everything right now. “I can’t do it. It doesn’t work.”
I don’t look at him as he turns me and presses me against the counter, his body hot against mine, his voice suddenly soft. “I’m sorry, Frannie. You know how hard this is for me…sorting all these feelings. Everything is going to work out.” He lifts my chin with his finger and wipes the suds off of my forehead with his hand. “It’ll all come together.” He quirks an eyebrow. “I’ll let you practice on me.”
I sniffle and wipe my nose on the back of my arm. “I did already.”
He grins and looks down at himself to be sure he’s still intact. “Should I be worried?”
I sorta smile back. “No. I already did my thing on you without even knowing it. You were like my lab rat or something. My first victim.”
Before I even knew what Sway was, or that I had it, I was using it on Luc. ’Course, at the time, I also didn’t know Luc was a demon. But I wanted him. A lot. And I got him by sorta accidentally turning him mortal with my Sway.
He pins me tighter against the counter, and I can’t ignore how his body against mine makes me feel—like Jell-O. The look in his smoldering black eyes sends my heart racing. “And how did that experiment work out?”
I feel myself getting hot all over despite the cool dish suds running down my arms. I loop my soapy hands around his neck and watch him grimace as the cold water drips down his back.
“I don’t think I’m done finding out. It’s an ongoing investigation. You know, like…” I press myself harder into him, “What happens if I do this.”
I feel his body react, muscles tensing, his breathing becoming faster. I smile.
“Or this,” I say, reaching up onto my tiptoes to kiss his Adam’s apple.
“Interesting reaction,” I say when he tips his head back and shudders. “I’ll have to log that in my journal.”
“So, it sounds like when you do what comes naturally, your Sway works just fine. Maybe you’re just trying too hard.” He drops his head and looks at me, those fathomless black eyes still on fire. But then he pushes away. “If only I could finish what I’ve started.”
I tug him back to me by the waist of his jeans. “Why can’t you?”
“Because the woman from the library told me to call her at one.” He nods to the clock on the microwave, which reads 12:58.
I shove him away and turn back to the soapy sink full of dishes. “You’re such a tease.” I shake my head, frustrated. “See how well my Sway works? I couldn’t even entice you to blow off a phone call.”
His hands slide down the curve of my hips and I look over my shoulder at him. “Oh, you enticed me just fine,” he says with a beautifully wicked grin. “The only reason I can resist right now is because I’m fairly certain we can pick up where we left off when I’m done.”
“Don’t be so sure,” I say, knowing he’s right. “You snooze, you lose.”
He looks genuinely concerned for a heartbeat; then his face clears. “We’ll see about that.” His smile is back, and all kinds of wicked ideas flash behind his eyes. He sits in one of the kitchen chairs and pushes back, balancing on its back two legs as he dials.
He hangs up ten minutes later while I’m stacking the last of the dishes, an old set of my mom’s, back into the cupboard. Lowering all four legs of his chair back to the ground, he says, “I start Saturday.”
“I don’t know why you think you need a job. You should be able to live forever….” I catch myself as he grins. “I mean, for the rest of your life, anyway, on your insane bank accounts.”
His gaze settles into mine. “And so could you.”
I turn back to the counter and ignore the thrill that races through me with everything he’s implying. “I’m not taking your money, Luc.” We’ve done this already.
“Fine. So, you’ll be working, and I could spend all day hanging around that pizza place, or I can attempt to become a productive member of society.”
“I guess it’s best,” I admit.
Luc tended to distract me when he was around. My first week at my new job was pretty rough, culminating with the pizza Ricco made me pay for after it slid off the tray and onto the floor on my way to a table.
I hang the dishcloth over the faucet and turn back to face Luc. “Ricco would probably have you arrested for stalking me and scaring away all the customers if you hung at his place all day. You still have that dark thing happening, you know. They’d lock you up and throw away the key.”
“Speaking of keys…” He slides his hand into his pocket and pulls out a shiny silver key, holding it up so it glimmers in the dim lighting. “It’s to the apartment. I know it’s only for another couple of months, but I want you to be able to come and go as you please.”
I settle into his lap. “I thought that’s what I was doing.”
“You shouldn’t have to knock.” His arms circle me and pull me closer.
“You’re not afraid I’ll walk in on you doing something you’re not supposed to be?”
“The only person I’d be doing that with would be you.” His expression takes on a suggestive edge as he slides his hand under my shirt. “And you’ll already be here.”
When I press my lips to his, my heart rate doubles. He starts to pull my shirt over my head.
“Don’t mind me….” Gabe’s voice comes from the door and scares the snot out of me.
I turn and there he is, leaning against the doorframe looking all angelic: glowing smile, platinum waves, and insanely beautiful blue eyes shining out of a strong, tanned face. Nobody should be allowed to look that good.
Luc blows out a frustrated sigh and eases my shirt back down. “For the love of all things unholy, what is it with you celestials? Will you please learn how to knock?”
“And miss the show?” he says, smiling at me as I yank at my shirt.
I extricate myself from Luc and stand.
“For an angel, you’re quite the pervert,” Luc says.
Gabe relaxes back into the wall and tucks his hands into the pocket of his jeans. “Some things are worth losing your wings for.” His smile is gone and his blue eyes pierce mine. “Anyway, I really just came to say good-bye.”
“Good-bye?” The panic that lives constantly in my gut creeps into my voice. As guilty as it makes me feel, there’s nothing I can do to stop my heart from fluttering when he looks at me like that—like he’s seeing my soul.
Luc notices my awkward stare and the color in my cheeks. He pulls himself out of the chair and glares at Gabe. “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”
“Won’t be using the door, dude.” He saunters over to Luc’s wall mural. “You know you’re playing for the other team now. You’ve really got to do something about this,” he says, running a finger over the roiling orange and gold molten surface of the Lake of Fire.
“Hey, you can take the demon out of Hell, but you can’t take Hell out of the demon.” Luc’s grin makes my heart go from fluttering to sputtering.
Gabe’s eyes slide back to mine. “You’re going to be fine, Frannie,” he says. And a part of me hates that he’s in my head—reading my mind. That he knows how I feel about him, even if I don’t.
But then I register what he’s saying. My sputtering heart speeds up as an overwhelming sense of alarm takes over at the thought of Gabe leaving. “You can’t go.” It’s all I can say without sounding totally hysterical or giving away the shake in my voice.
He steps forward and brushes the hair out of my face with a sweep of his hand. “It’s better this way. For everyone,” he adds, glancing toward Luc.
“You’ll be in good hands, Frannie. Matt will be here if you need him, and Luc…” His jaw tightens and his eyes narrow almost imperceptibly. “Luc won’t let anything happen to you.”
Luc, perceiving the challenge in Gabe’s words, steps forward and loops his arms around me. “You’re right, I won’t.”
I pull out of Luc’s grasp and step toward Gabe. “Why?”
He lifts a hand and brushes his cool fingertips along the line of my jaw. I breathe in his cool winter sunshine and feel calmer just standing here next to him. When he answers, his voice is soft and low—meant only for me. “It’s really not wise for me to spend too much time around you, Frannie.”
“You’re both tagged for Heaven, and if you need to leave, your celestial Shields will keep both of you hidden. With Matt watching, you’ll be fine. But I can’t stay here.” His gaze drops to the floor.
I swallow thickly past the lump in my throat. “Okay,” I say, knowing he’s right, because there’s a reason that I’m dreading turning around and looking at Luc. I can’t deny that, as much as I love Luc, I have some deep connection to Gabe. Luc is my heart and my soul, but Gabe is my anchor. I hug him and pull away as I feel tears sting my eyes. I step back and Luc’s arm eases around my waist, feeling much less possessive. I look at him, sure of what I’ll see, but his eyes are soft and full of compassion. He gives me a gentle squeeze and a reassuring smile.
I turn back to Gabe and stare into his blue eyes, endless as the sky. “So, when will I see you?”
“I’ll be back here and there to check on you.”
“You promise?” I know how desperate it sounds, but I don’t care.
He lifts his eyes, but not his head, gazing at me out from under his long white lashes. “Promise.” He continues to stare at me, and even though his lips don’t move, I swear I hear him add, “I’ll always be here for you.”
I nod again and choke back the threat of tears. I open my mouth, but there aren’t words, so I close it again. But my eyes say what my mouth couldn’t. And I know he sees it, because his eyes mist and he swallows hard as he disappears.
“Sorry, Frannie,” Luc says, pulling me to him. “I try not to be jealous, to understand your connection….”
“It’s not your fault.” I hold him tighter. How can I expect him to understand it when even I can’t figure it out?
His hand drifts to my face and he pulls me into a kiss, his lips gentle on mine, as if he’s afraid of breaking me. I wind my fist into his hair and pull him closer, but it lasts only a second before I draw back, ashamed. I’m looking for something in his kiss that isn’t there. Something that I’ve felt in only one other kiss. I’ll need to find a different way to calm my nerves.
I ignore the question swirling in Luc’s eyes as he gazes down at me, his brow creased.
“Help me change that oil before work?”
I can tell by his resigned sigh that he knows I was thinking of Gabe, and I hate that I’m so crappy at hiding it.
“Your wish, my command,” he says. “What time do you have to be there?”
He glances at the clock in the kitchen. “We better get on it. You have everything?”
“In the trunk.” I pull my keys from my pocket, jingling the two keys that now dangle from my rabbit’s foot key chain with a tentative smile.
He smiles back and takes my hand, leading me to the door. “I forgot to test your key,” he says. “Try it.”
I jingle my keys again as we step into the hall and use the shiny new one to lock the door behind us. I pull the key from the lock and feel him press into me from behind, his hands gliding gently around my waist to my stomach. His lips trace a line across my cheek to my ear, where he whispers, “We’re in this together, Frannie. Everything’s going to be fine.”
I spin in his arms and kiss him again, this time wanting only him. Warmth from his kiss spreads through me till I’m burning with it.
Twisting my finger down the scar Beherit left on his cheek, I shudder and think about how close I came to losing him. I want to tell him how much I trust him and that I know he’d do anything for me. He proved that when he risked his own life to save me from Beherit. I want to tell him I’d do anything for him too. But I can’t manage words past the lump in my throat. Instead, I turn back to the door, blinking away tears, unlock the deadbolts, and pull him into the apartment.
I lead him to the bed, then pull him into another kiss. We sink into the sheets, and I just want to lose myself in him—not to have to think about anything for a little while. But when I reach for the button of his jeans, he twines his fingers in mine and brings my hand up to his face, where he kisses the back of my fingers.
“Not like this, Frannie. Our first time isn’t going to be because of him.”
“It’s not ’cause of him. I just want us to be closer.” But even as I say it, I’m really not 100 percent sure it’s true, because those blue eyes and that glowing smile are there in my head. I feel the hole in my heart where he’s supposed to be. I miss Gabe already.
“Soon,” Luc says, and kisses me. “But not now.”
Gabriel filled me in before he pushed through the wall into Luc’s apartment. I’m on my own. When I started to follow him through, he motioned for me to wait in the hall. He said he needed a private moment with Frannie. How he planned to accomplish that with the demon in the room is anybody’s guess.
Frannie and the demon came out a little while later, and she looked seriously shaken. But he whispered something to her and they disappeared back through the door.
And I’ve been sitting here ever since, thinking about what their deal is—the three of them.
Gabriel is a Dominion. One of Heaven’s most powerful. Third in line to God Himself. But when I watch him with Frannie, everything about him changes—softens. He’d do anything for her. And the look in his eyes when he told me he was leaving…Agony. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was in love with her.
Could he love her? Angels love everyone. It’s what we do. But, I mean…is it more than that? Does he seriously love her?
I’m still pondering that when Frannie and the demon step out into the hall again. I follow them toward the stairs as they lock step, arm in arm. Just as we reach the bottom of the stairs, the door from the parking lot swings open. Frannie holds it as a stack of boxes with legs walks through. The stack of boxes bumps into her, and the top one slips, revealing the face of a girl. She’s about our age but taller than Frannie, with stringy, chocolate brown hair hanging across her green eyes.
“Shit. Sorry,” she says just as the top box slips off the stack. The demon grabs it before it hits the floor.
“Got it,” he says. “Where you headed?”
“Two eighteen,” she says.
He glances at Frannie. “We’ll give you a hand?”
“Sure,” Frannie says, grabbing a box off the stack. “Are you moving in?”
“Yeah,” she says, diverting her gaze. “Thanks, but you guys don’t need to help. Looks like you’re headed somewhere.”
“No biggie. The oil can wait,” Frannie says, and turns for the stairs.
Apartment 218 is next door to Luc’s. I watch as the three of them haul boxes from the bed of the girl’s beat-up hunter orange Ford pickup up the stairs and into her apartment. In three trips, they have everything. The girl wipes beads of sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her gray sweatshirt.
“I need to get to work,” Frannie says. “You got it from here?”
The girl stares at the floor, not meeting Frannie’s eyes as she speaks. “I’m good…. I don’t have that much.”
I look at the small stack of boxes in the middle of the room. If that’s all her stuff, she’s right.
I watch her scan the room. Other than the cabinets in the kitchen, which are painted a cheerful tangerine color, the place looks pretty bleak. Just an open space with peeling grayish walls. Like in Luc’s apartment, there’s a large window that overlooks the parking lot. The upper windowpane is cracked in an intricate spiderweb pattern that looks sure to explode into hundreds of shards at the least contact. Along the wall to the right of the window is a worn green sofa with a large tear in the middle cushion, which has belched a pile of crumbling foam stuffing onto the floor. Looking around, it’s hard to understand the excited glint in the new girl’s eyes. To me it’s just depressing, which is saying something, since angels don’t get depressed.
Frannie holds out her hand. “So, I’m Frannie and this is Luc.”
The girl takes Frannie’s hand tentatively and shakes it. “Lili.” She ducks her head like it embarrasses her to be the center of attention.
“So, where’d you come from?” Frannie asks.
“Oh…um…nowhere really. I just moved here because I’m going to State in the fall. This was the closest I could afford to the city.”
“Well, I’m next door, so if you need anything…,” Luc says as he and Frannie move toward the door.
“Thanks,” she says, and runs a hand through her hair, pulling the damp strands off her sweaty forehead and giving me a brief glance at her face.
It’s a good thing I’m invisible, because as the demon and Frannie disappear down the hall and onto the stairs, I find myself rooted to this spot. I can’t stop staring at her. She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever seen before. Or felt. There’s something completely foreign about her soul. I can’t read her very well; I get only snippets—fleeting sensations. There’s a dark side to her, and her soul is already tagged for Hell, but there’s also a wounded side, begging for help. And something in those green eyes makes me want to be the one to help her.
I’m so mesmerized by her that I forget myself and don’t get out of the way in time as she moves to the door to lock it. As she passes through me, I feel a rush of…something.
I think so. I shiver as an electric tingle shoots through me, then spin and watch her shut the door and twist the deadbolts.
It suddenly occurs to me that I’m on the wrong side of the door. Those locks are meant to keep others out. I back off, but hesitate before pushing through the wall out into the hall. Those eyes. There’s something in those eyes.
I step closer and reach out for her face, feeling like a moth drawn inexplicably to a flame. I need to touch her. But just before my hand makes contact, she spins away and moves toward the stack of boxes.
Sweet Heaven above. What am I doing?
I shake my head, then push through the wall and just stand in the hall for a long minute, trying to get myself together. What was that? I’ve never felt need like that before—raw desire, stirring something feral inside me. Breathing deep, I jump up and down a few times to shake the tension out, but I’m still not quite myself when I phase into Frannie’s backseat. I stay invisible as she pulls out of the parking lot, and it’s not until we’re halfway down the street, me in the back of the convertible, the wind clearing the fog from my head, that I fade in and allow Frannie and the demon to see me.
“Nice of you to join us,” he says as I reach for my seat belt and fasten it around me.
I slouch back into the seat, still feeling a little shaky from whatever just happened with Lili. “So…what do you think of that girl?”
The demon shoots me a sidelong glance. “Well, I think she’s a girl.”
I scowl. “Ha, ha. I mean did she seem, I don’t know…like she needed help or something?”
Frannie glances into the rearview mirror at me. “Maybe. She seemed really shy and sorta scared. I’ll keep my eye on her.”
So will I.
ORIGINAL SIN Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Desrochers
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