Kessler's sizzling sequel to paranormal debut Hell's Bellesputs ex-succubus Jezebel- the now-mortal Jesse Harris, a dancer at a strip club-stage center again. For a month after waking up in a hospital, the former 4,000-year-old, fifth-level succubus who used to seduce humans to claim their souls has been living a happy mortal life in New York with a devoted boyfriend, New York vice cop Paul Hamilton. So when Alecto, a Fury from hell, arrives and demands she return to hell to help Alecto's sister, Megaera (Jessie's former best friend who betrayed her), Jesse balks. Much of the rest of the book is spent convincing her to change her mind, with each sexy escapade topping the last, until (among other things) the demons go after Paul, and Jesse has to "pull an Orpheus." Kessler's raunchy blend of heaven, hell and eros makes for a wild thrill ride, and hot, tough-talking Jesse has gumption and sass. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Road to Hell (Hell on Earth Series #2)by Jackie Kessler
Jesse Harris may no longer be a soul-stealing succubus, but she's got a Hell of a past. She'd love to come clean to her sweet, super-hot boyfriend Paul, but how exactly does a girl start that conversation? Just like some people are worth being monogamous for (shudder), some secrets are worth keeping. Like the fact that bad boy incubus Daunuan keeps popping up from… See more details below
Jesse Harris may no longer be a soul-stealing succubus, but she's got a Hell of a past. She'd love to come clean to her sweet, super-hot boyfriend Paul, but how exactly does a girl start that conversation? Just like some people are worth being monogamous for (shudder), some secrets are worth keeping. Like the fact that bad boy incubus Daunuan keeps popping up from the Underworld to put some toe-curling moves on her, and that her former associates are trying to strong-arm her back into the fold. But someone in the Underworld isn't ready to play nice (go figure), and this time, the stakes are nothing less than Paul's immortal soul.
Praise for Jackie Kessler's Hell's Belles:
"Had me hooked from the first sentence…I'll be reading this one again and again." -MaryJanice Davidson, author of Undead and Unpopular
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THE ROAD TO HELL
By JACKIE KESSLER
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Jacqueline Morse Kessler
All right reserved.
"I'm from Death Valley."
"Really?" I smiled as I poured champagne into two long-stemmed flutes. Death Valley. Heh. People had such a sense of humor when it came to naming things. Take Slaughterville, Oklahoma, or my personal favorite: Hell, Michigan. There's also Paradise, Pennsylvania, but I don't hold that against them; they also have the spiffy town of Intercourse.
Handing a glass to the dark-haired man seated across from me, I said, "I've never heard of anyone actually being from Death Valley before. Scorpions and vultures, sure. People, not so much."
He grinned, and a blush crept up his cheeks until it stained his big ears. Bless me, he was so endearing-he embarrassed easily and he was free with his money. What more could a girl ask for?
"Actually," he said, "I just work there. I'm a park ranger."
Ooh, a do-gooder. The last ranger I'd met had been of the bow-and-arrow variety, many years ago. Different beastie altogether. That ranger, a Royal Forester by trade, had been all too happy to bloody those he'd been sworn to protect in between bouts of raping women. Charming fellow. Sexy, in a pond scum sort of way. Remembering forest and frost and picking twigs out of his beard before our last romp in the crisp snow, I sank back onto the black leather sofa, feeling a smile stretch across my face.
Those had been good times.
"A ranger," I said to my latest client, rolling the word on my tongue. I tucked my legs beneath my body as I inclined on my left elbow, making sure my boobs almost, but not quite, spilled out from my low-cut red gown. Why give something away when Ranger here would be all too happy to pay me? I flashed him my best Utterly Smitten smile. "I'd love to hear more about what you do."
His blush deepened. "I guess that depends on what day it is. Sometimes I'm a tour guide. Sometimes I'm a naturalist. And then there's times I have to be a cop."
Ah. No wonder I'd taken a shine to him. Thinking of my own cop-who would actually be home tonight the same time I was, huzzah!-I asked, "Is there really that much trouble in the desert?"
"Well, not so much as like in the cities. But we get our share." The redness faded from his ears and cheeks as he spoke, and something hard and proud flickered in his brown eyes. Watching Ranger transform from a blushing boy into a seasoned man sent a delicious tingle up my spine. Yum.
Stop that, Jesse. Don't get all hot and bothered by the nice customer. A friendly chat, a little drink in the mega-expensive Champagne Room, a private dance or two, clothing optional. No more. "What kind of trouble?"
"We get our ravers, our smugglers, our scrappers. We even get our full-fledged homicidal maniacs."
Ooh, really? How cool was that? "What sort of maniacs? Serial killers?"
Okay, nipples, that's enough. Down, girls.
"Well, the Manson Family hid out in the Panamint Valley."
"That part of Death Valley?"
"It's part of the larger park, yeah."
"Sounds like it can be dangerous," I said, putting an extra purr in my voice. He shrugged, but the flush returned to his cheeks. My Ranger was modest. "I patrol in a Hummer, and I wear a bulletproof vest. That's with the temperature soaring well past a hundred degrees. And my M16, of course. I wouldn't go anywhere without it."
Broiling hot sun combined with assault weapons. Sweet.
"Tell me more," I said, taking a tiny sip of champagne. I hated the stuff-it was so light and airy that even angels would have bitched about it-but my current Tall, Dark, and Handsome had ordered it as soon as we'd entered the Champagne Room. Maybe he thought it was obligatory. "Why'd you become a ranger?"
"I'm third generation. My parents both were rangers, and my grandpa before them. I love being part of the park service. And I love our mission."
He took a deep breath, then said in a practiced singsong: "'To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.'" He grinned at me before taking a deep swig of champagne. "National Park Service Organic Act, 1916."
"Impressive." Me, I preferred the Orgasmic Act of the here and now. "It's good that you're doing something you really believe in."
"What about you, Jezebel? Why'd you become a stripper?"
"Oh, I needed a career change," I said, toying with my drink. "I love dancing on stage, feeling the music moving through me. And I like taking off my clothes," I added with a wink. "So I decided to become an exotic dancer."
He said nothing for a moment as he stared at my face, a goofy smile on his lips. Based on how he was making with the soulful looks, Ranger seemed more turned on by my large green eyes than by my breasts doing their own rendition of "June Is Bustin' Out All Over." Crap, I'd guessed wrong; I'd been sure he was a boob man. There'd been a time when I automatically knew what Hook worked for each client-long hair, dangerous curves, narrow ankles, you name it. Now all I had to go by was my gut. Clearly, that dandy hunch factor wasn't as fine-tuned as my sex drive.
Mental note: Work on the whole women's intuition thing.
Finally Ranger said, "You're about the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."
Ooh. Flattery. Right up there with chocolate. "You're a sweetie."
"No, I mean it. Your eyes, your smile ... God, your tits ..."
Hah, I'd been right. Smiling, I took another sip of champagne.
He broke away from my eyes to slowly look me over, eating me with his gaze. He ogled the swells of my breasts, the curve of my hip, the V of my crotch. As he feasted on the image of my flesh, I swallowed my drink, knowing that all I was to him was eye candy, a snapshot of sexual gratification. Nothing more.
I grinned at him, my lipstick shining in the softly lit room-enticing, advertising the things I could do to him with my mouth. That's right, sweetie. You want to taste the alcohol on my lips, want to pepper my flesh with your kisses ...
As Chris Rock once said, there's no sex in the Champagne Room. But that didn't mean I couldn't think about there being sex in the Champagne Room.
In the background, the music from the hidden speakers switched to Patti LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade." Excellent tune, sultry vocals. I let my shoulders move with the beat, felt my skin humming from the sound of the piano keys.
"Say," Ranger said, his voice husky, "would you mind dancing for me now?"
"Love to." I placed my glass on the side table, then rose to my feet. With my stiletto-clad foot, I nudged his legs apart. Standing between his knees, I leaned forward, shoulders back, until my rack was inches away from his sweating face. I ran my hands over my twin mounds until they nipped out, straining against the material of my gown.
He groaned, then parted his lips as if he were dying to give suck. "Oh, Jezebel ... you're killing me ..."
Heh. Not even close. I don't do that anymore.
"I'm supposed to start in the middle of the song, charge you for a full. But I like you." I raised my arms high and shimmied, getting all jiggly and wiggly. "I'll just consider this a warm-up. No extra charge."
Ranger said something like "Argghluh" and proceeded to drool.
Winking, I teased him with a teeny nip slip. Peek-a-boob.
"Jezebel," he breathed, "would you mind if I ... um ... touched myself while you dance?"
"Sweetie," I said, lowering myself into his lap, "I'd be honored."
One thing about a guy coming while you're giving him a lap dance: it's damn sticky.
I dashed to the women's room as fast as my five-inch heels would allow me. It was one thing to give the nod to Ranger doing the hand-over-fist thing with his salami; getting his jizz on my gown was something else entirely. I'd assumed he'd have enough control to hold back until I'd stripped down to my G-string. But no-as soon as I popped my tits out of my dress, blastoff. Blech.
Not that I particularly minded being covered in bodily fluids. But I drew the line at cum dripping off my work clothes. A gal's got to have some standards. And technically, it's a no-no for customers to touch themselves, or us, even in the privacy of the Champagne Room. If any of the bouncers-or, gah, the floor manager-saw the lewinsky drying on my dress, Ranger would be banned from the club. Forcibly. Premature ejaculation aside, Ranger was a decent guy; I didn't want him to get roughed up.
Besides, the poor dear had been so embarrassed that he'd emptied his billfold to make up for it. A five-hundred-dollar tip goes a long way to forgiving such a faux pas.
I rounded the corner and saw the women's room at the end of the hall. One of the other dancers kept a supply of oxi-something in one of the bathroom cabinets for just such a stainage emergency. If I had another gown in my locker, I simply would have shucked the dress off, poured another one over my body, and not looked back. Problem was, all my clean gowns were currently balled up in the hamper at Paul's apartment, doing their dirty clothing impersonation. Mental note: Do laundry.
Mental note, part two: Learn how to do laundry.
Yanking open the door to the bathroom, I was greeted with a stink foul enough to curl my hair. Yow, someone recently visited the fudge factory. Waving a hand in front of my nose, I beelined it to the sink-the one farthest from the rows of toilet stalls-and was about to turn on the water when I heard a soft groan.
Breathing through my mouth, I saw Circe seated in the far corner of the room, at the end of the huge vanity table. The raven-haired beauty was staring intently at her reflection in the wall mirror, clutching something to her chest. I glimpsed her pale face and dark eyes in the mirror, but it was the hugely muscled man looming behind her that grabbed my attention.
Dressed in a sleeveless tank and biker shorts that left nothing to the imagination, he stood behind her, massaging her shoulders. Leonardo da Vinci would have creamed his pants to have this guy model for him. His body was perfectly proportioned, perfectly sculpted, and he radiated confidence almost to the point of arrogance. Slurp! Score one for Circe. After her shift was over, I'd have to corner her and get all the juicy details about her latest love. Last I'd heard, she'd fallen hard for some skinny blond guy. Guess that was yesterday's news.
Mister Gorgeous bent over and whispered something in Circe's ear. She sucked in a hitching breath, then let out a soft moan, closed her eyes.
Humph. Maybe there was no sex in the Champagne Room, but it looked like the ladies' room was up for grabs. I must have missed that memo.
I opened my mouth to ask Circe how she could even think about foreplay with the smell in the bathroom as overpowering as it was, when I realized three things. One, Circe was crying. Two, Mister Gorgeous cast no reflection. And three, there was a dull red glow around Circe. This wasn't a freshly fucked glow, either. It pulsed around her like a dying heart-slow, sickly, erratic.
I didn't know which was worse-that the aura around my pal meant she was perilously close to dying, or that there was a demon giving my pal a backrub. Of course, the latter explained the former.
Okay, Jesse. Play dumb. Most mortals can't see the nefarious. Ignore the obscenely huge-and hello, very turned on-demonic entity. Hmm. Actually, there was one place where he wasn't so huge. Must be the infernal equivalent of steroids.
"Circe? You okay?"
"Ignore her," Mister Gorgeous said, casting me a long look. "She couldn't possibly understand the pain he's caused you. He doesn't love you."
Circe said, "He doesn't love me." Her voice cracked, shattered into a thousand pieces.
"Who doesn't?" Right, keep your voice steady. Don't look at Mister Gorgeous. You don't see him, la la la ...
"Larry." Circe said his name with a sob.
Pasting a smile on my face, I did something very brave, and completely stupid. I walked over to her, sat in the chair next to her, within spitting distance of the hulking demon. Pay no attention to the evil creature behind the curtain. The stench emanating from him was strong enough to make my eyes water. Now I recognized it for what it was: brimstone.
I said, "Larry? You mean the skinny blond guy? Sweetie, you can do better than him."
"You gave him your heart," the demon said. "He chewed it up and spat it at your feet. Show him how much he hurt you, how you can't live without his love."
Circe's breath was coming in hitches. I reached over to pat her hand, and that's when I saw the bottle of prescription pills she was holding in a death grip by her chest. "Whatcha got there?"
"He doesn't love me," she said again. "I gave him my heart, and he chewed it up and spat it at my feet."
Uh oh. Cyrano de Bergerac, infernal style. Very bad news. "Sweetie, there are other guys out there."
"I can't live without his love." Her voice faded as if someone had turned the volume way down, and something went dead in her eyes. She unscrewed the bottle cap. In a tiny voice, she said, "I'll show him."
I grabbed her arm, but she wrenched it away. Shit, she was strong. Massaging my sore hand, I darted a glance over her shoulder. Yup, the demon still had his hands clamped onto her shoulders. Not quite possession, but definitely influencing her actions.
The cheating bastard.
"Show him you still have your pride," Mister Gorgeous said. "Swallow the pills. All of them."
"I still have my pride," she said, her voice a monotone. She opened the bottle.
I touched her elbow. "Circe, listen to me. Unrequited love is a bitch, but it's not worth dying over. Come on, girl, this is stupid."
She spilled some blue pills into her palm.
Fuck. Okay, let's try some shock therapy. I slapped her, hard. The crack echoed in the room.
Blinking, she turned away from the mirror to look at me. My handprint stained her cheek an angry red. "Jesse ...?"
"Forget about the skinny blond asshole," I said. "He's not worth it."
"She doesn't understand how he hurt you," Mister Gorgeous said.
Circe echoed, "He hurt me ..."
"Sweetie, he has no idea what he's missing out on. You're a sexy, funny, wonderful girl. And if he doesn't want a part of that, he's an imbecile."
She looked down at the bottle, at the pills in her hand. "You think so?"
"Probably impotent too."
That brought a faint smile to her lips. "Yeah?"
I said, "I read it somewhere, in one of those business magazines, that it's been proven that the higher the level of imbecileness, the higher the likelihood of impotence."
"What, it's a word."
Her smile slipped. "I really love him. Why doesn't he want me?"
"Because he's an imbecile. I thought we covered this. It's not even his fault. Imbecileness runs rampant in the male sex. Comes with all the testosterone."
"Yup." I held out my hand. "Care if I hold your pharmaceuticals for you?"
In her ear, the demon roared: "Swallow the pills!"
Circe frowned, turned her head. "You hear something?"
"Just the hum of the fluorescents. Know what you need?"
She shook her head.
"A glass of wine and a good vibrator."
Circe barked out a surprised laugh. "Jesse!"
"I'm telling you, it's a surefire cure-all for everything that ails you, from a broken heart to the common cold."
"I thought that was chicken soup."
"I have never heard of pleasuring yourself with chicken soup," I said. "But I'm willing to give it a shot." I made a gimme gesture. "Fork it over."
With a sigh, she plopped the bottle into my hand, then the loose pills.
Behind her, Mister Gorgeous said nothing, radiated pure rage. Gleep.
"Come on, sweetie," I said, doing my best not to eye the invisible demon. "Let's cut out early. First round's on me."
Circe stood, looking vulnerable and beautiful, like a sculpture of flowers. "You sure?"
"Absolutely. Let's tell Jerry to move us off the stage lineup, then we'll tip out." The DJ was a real prick about dancers missing their rotation; I'd have to slip him an extra twenty to mollify him.
"Okay." She smiled at me. "Thanks, Jesse. I ... Jesus, I don't know what I was thinking. Suicide's a sin."
"I keep forgetting you're so damn religious."
"I'll find Joey, tell him we're cutting out. Meet you back here to change?"
No freaking way was I staying in a bathroom with an angry demon. I started to get up when I felt a crushing weight press down on my shoulder, my neck. The demon squeezed, and suddenly I couldn't breathe.
Excerpted from THE ROAD TO HELL by JACKIE KESSLER Copyright © 2007 by Jacqueline Morse Kessler. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Having finally been freed from an eternity as the centerfold of HELL¿S BELLES, Jezebel starts life anew in New York City. Changing her name to Jesse Harris, the former succubus no longer uses sex as a weapon to steal souls or shoot fire and brimstone and she stopped torturing humans. Of course she still teases and titillates the males as Jesse uses sex to earn a living as a mortal exotic dancer. She also lives with New York cop Pete Hamilton, whom she loves with all her new soul............... However, back in her hometown of Hell (not the one in Michigan), Jesse¿s former demonic compatriots are outraged by her conversion and the drop in soul harvesting productivity since she became a born again mortal there is also envy in their rage. These demons want her back in hell enticing humans to cede their souls for a taste of her instead of this inane monogamous relationship with a cop. The scheme to bring her back is simple abduct the expendable pawn Pete so that Jezebel follows on THE ROAD TO HELL with the good intention of rescuing her beloved if they cannot re-convert her to soulless state, they will steal her soul anyway................ The second Jezebel saga is a fabulous amusing fantasy as the heroine provides a laugh out loud account of her new life in the Big Apple (where else would a succubus formerly from hell live but in a city nicknamed for Satan¿s favorite fruit) and her rescue attempt of her lover. THE ROAD TO HELL may be paved with good intentions, but when Jezebel traverses it, all hell breaks loose on earth, the road and back in her hometown. Fans will appreciate this well written tale starring a beautiful female who rips skin off opponents with her acid tongue that goes quite well with her shimmering body.................. Harriet Klausner