Demon slayer Michael Archer longs for the old days when his work required a lot less strategizing and a lot more ass-kicking. Unfortunately, his current boss at Hot! magazine, a.k.a. Central Demon Intelligence, is more concerned with bad press than beheading. . .
Hot! fashionista Liza McLane has been possessed by an exasperatingly chatty demon that can only be hushed by high doses of Benadryl. But when Michael spots her gulping a handful of pills, he assumes it's a suicide attempt. Next thing Liza knows, she's under Michael's sizzling watch. . .
Now Michael's in the bind of his life. He's just saved a demon--who happens to be stuck inside a woman he's wildly attracted to--which goes against all his principles. What's a demon slayer to do?
"Devilishly fun. . .and utterly entertaining. With hot demons to boot!" --Heather Graham
Praise for the novels of Kathy Love
". . .a compelling concoction of dread, desire, and delight." --Erin McCarthy on What a Demon Wants
"Fangs for the Memories will make you laugh until milk comes out of your nose. No, really." --MaryJanice Davidson
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By KATHY LOVE
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Kathy Love
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe couldn't suppress the low growl of satisfaction as he thrust, plunging deep in one smooth stroke, fully, to the hilt.
"God, that feels so good," he groaned, his eyes rolling in their sockets with pure exaltation.
His rough words were answered with a low, desperate moan that filled him with more delight.
It had been far too long. No man should go so long without this. This moment of pure ecstasy. And he wasn't too humble to know he was damned good at it. Damned good.
He pulled out, positioned himself again, his fingers tightening around the thick girth in his hand, heavy and hot. A fine shaft, if there ever was one. He couldn't help taking a moment to admire it in his hand. Beautiful. An old, dear friend.
Then he sank it in again with unerring accuracy. Deep to the hilt once more. And that was all it took.
He remained totally still, allowing himself to feel that moment of total surrender. The shudder, a tiny, almost imperceptible quiver, then complete release.
He stared at the limp body pinned to the wall by his sheer, unrestrained strength. Eyes closed, head flung back, lips parted in a silent cry.
Now that was true beauty.
Finally he pulled out, and before the object of his determined onslaught could start to sag into a boneless, spent heap, he grasped his powerful shank for the very last stroke. The most satisfying of them all.
With a powerful sweep of his arms, he struck and a gush of warm stickiness covered his hands, his forearms. Even his chest and face. He didn't care.
He watched with a strange combination of pleasure and utter dispassion as his target's head disconnected from his body, flying through the air. It rolled across the cracked and oil-stained concrete and came to a wobbling stop under a parked car.
The headless body crumpled slowly down the concrete wall with a faint thud.
Michael pulled in a deep, satisfied breath. God, it was good to be back.
"Holy shit," came a voice from behind him.
Michael spun, his sword raised, blood gleaming along the edge of the long, sharpened iron of the blade. But as soon as Michael saw who had joined him, he grinned and lowered his weapon.
"Gabriel," he greeted his longtime friend. Seeing his old comrade still filled him with a sense of amazement. To finally be free.
He jerked his head toward his prey, smiling with pride. "Not too shabby for being out of the game for so long, huh?"
Gabriel gaped at the decapitated body with a look of horror that Michael would have expected from a normal human. Not from one of his brethren.
"You killed him," Gabriel finally said as if he couldn't believe it.
Michael made a face, confused. "Yeah. That's what we do. Kill demons."
Gabriel looked away from the body of the dead demon, and for a moment, Michael thought he saw something akin to pity in his eyes. Then the tall blond shook his head and said in the way one sibling might speak to another about a parent, "Eugene isn't going to be happy about this."
His sense of satisfaction vanished, leaving Michael somewhere between deflated and annoyed.
Eugene. His boss, quote, unquote.
Gabriel gave Michael another dismayed look, then reached for the small handheld electronic gizmo that sat in a holster on his hip. He tapped the rectangle a few times, then held it to his ear, waiting.
Michael watched, half-wondering if Gabriel was tattling to Eugene right this minute, and half-trying to recall what that small device was called. It was a phone, but it had a certain name. What the hell was it? A ... cell? Yeah, cell, that was it. A cell phone.
"Hey, Simon," Gabriel said after a moment, answering Michael's first question. Simon, another of his brethren. Not Eugene. That was a good thing.
"Yeah, we've got a big problem out here in the parking garage. Level three, section ..." Gabriel glanced around him until he located the large letter painted on the wall in yellow paint. "E."
Gabriel nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, it's Michael again."
Again. Michael frowned. Here he was glad to be back with his brethren, but clearly they just saw him as a nuisance.
"Send out the cleaning crew." His old friend's voice did not sound even remotely pleased.
Michael's frown deepened. He waited as Gabriel made a few more curt responses, then hung up the phone.
Gabriel stared at Michael for a moment, before he sighed and said, "Michael, you know this isn't how we handle the diabolically challenged now."
Michael gaped at his friend. "What the hell kind of jive talk is that? That"—he pointed with his sword toward the headless heap—"is a demon."
Gabriel barely glanced in that direction, then said in a low voice, almost as if he was embarrassed, "Don't say that. We don't call them that anymore."
"Don't say demon? I sure as hell am not saying 'diabolically challenged.' That's retarded."
"No," Gabriel said. "Don't say 'jive talking.' No one says that anymore. And you really shouldn't say 'retarded' either. It's not PC."
PC? What the hell did that mean?
Michael lowered his sword. Defeat and frustration pressed down on his chest, making it hard for him to breathe. How the hell was he supposed to fit back into this world?
Gabriel regarded him, the embarrassment in his eyes turning to something that looked far too much like pity.
Michael gritted his teeth, irritated at how lost he felt in that moment.
"Listen," Gabriel said, his tone no longer dismayed at all. Michael suddenly longed for dismay rather than the pity he now heard. "I'm going to have to report this incident to Eugene."
Eugene. Of course.
"No need," Michael said, his own tone hard and cool. "I will go tell him what happened right now." He started in the direction of the stairwell at the bottom of the garage ramp.
Michael stopped to look back at his oldest friend. Or rather the man who had once been his oldest friend. It was amazing that even though they had damned near an eternity to live, Michael's lost thirty-three years, a span of time that should have been nothing more than a mere blink of the eye, could be an eternity in its own right.
Gabriel pursed his lips. "You can't go talk to Eugene."
Really? Was this more damned rhetoric? Gabriel had to report him? He couldn't go talk to Eugene like a man responsible for his own actions? This was bullshit.
"I think I'm capable enough to talk to the man myself without you running interference." Michael strode more determinedly toward the stairs.
"It's not that," Gabriel called after him. "You are covered in blood and carrying a massive sword. That might attract a little attention in the hallways of an office building."
Michael came to a halt, looking down at himself, realizing Gabriel was right. Maybe he wasn't capable. Not in this new world.
"I've got some gym clothes in my car," Gabriel said, his voice back to sympathetic, and Michael wanted to growl with complete frustration. Instead he straightened his spine and turned back to his once good friend.
"Great, where are they?"
Michael looked at himself in the men's room mirror. Maybe he should reconsider the offer of borrowing Gabriel's clothes. Gabriel was a large man, but not as tall and brawny as Michael. That was more than obvious from the way Gabriel's T-shirt threatened to expose Michael's stomach every time he moved his arms. Not to mention the way Gabriel's sweatpants clung to his legs more like leggings than the baggy sweats they were intended to be. Add to that Michael's work boots and he looked like a complete—well, complete turkey.
He already wasn't being taken seriously, and this wasn't going to help. He'd be seen as the poor chump who'd been out of the game for far too long. Maybe he was.
No, he belonged with The Brethren. They were his family, and being a demon slayer was who he was. No amount of lost time could change that.
He tugged at the shirt, trying to stretch it. Okay, so this look wouldn't help his credibility, but he wasn't a man who shirked his responsibilities, and he was responsible for the slaying of a demon. He was certain Gabriel had already reported to Eugene what had happened. So he'd go into that office, dressed like a total idiot and present his case like a man. Like a slayer.
Sighing and pulling at the skintight shirt again, he headed for the exit of the men's room. He pushed open the door with a confident shove. Hell, if he was going to walk down the hall in this ridiculous getup, he might as well own it. Of course, it was a little easier to be self-assured here, in an empty, back hallway unused by the majority of the people in the building.
He strode in the direction of the elevators that would take him down to the lower level of the building, where Eugene waited. The hallway was quiet except for the low hum of the air-conditioning. So when the elevator at the end of the hallway dinged, the sound was almost startlingly loud.
He came to a stop in front of it, waiting. Finally, the metal doors parted to reveal a lone woman. Or at least he thought she was alone—until she spoke, her tone angered.
"Will you just be quiet?"
Michael leaned forward, wondering if someone stood to the side, just out of sight. Nope, no one.
"Do you ever stop?" the woman demanded, still oblivious to Michael watching her. Then she waited as if she was listening to "the other person's" response.
"Oh, for God's sake, just give it a rest!"
Okay, it was pretty clear that the woman believed she was talking to someone.
Then Michael recalled the earpiece he'd seen Gabriel and several other members of the DIA wearing. A blue something. Blue teeth? Tooth? That couldn't be it. That didn't even make any sense.
Anyway, that had to be what was going on. She was talking to someone, and she was clearly so wrapped up in her conversation that she didn't even notice him, until the door started to close, and he stuck a hand in to stop it.
"Oh," she said, her eyes widening in surprise. The prettiest eyes Michael could recall ever seeing. A beautiful color somewhere between green and blue and fringed with long, black lashes.
"I'm sorry," she murmured, her cheeks coloring a warm pink. She seemed to gather herself, her shoulders straightening, revealing that she was a rather tall woman, maybe five foot eight or nine—at least in heels. She was dressed immaculately in a white silk blouse and fitted black skirt. Expensive and well tailored. Of course that wasn't unusual in this building, given that it was the home of HOT! magazine, the United States' number-one selling fashion magazine. People tended to dress well and expensively.
Well, except for him. He glanced down at his own outfit.
Although her clothes were spotless and unwrinkled, her long dark hair looked far less tidy, as if she'd been repeatedly running her hands through it. As though hearing his thoughts, she ran a hand through the tumbled locks, which didn't do much to straighten them. But it did manage to make her look more tousled and lovely.
Michael's body reacted instantly. He fought the urge to look down at himself. He just hoped the tight sweatpants weren't revealing his reaction.
If they did, she didn't seem to notice. She was too busy gathering herself, her posture straightening further. Then she stepped out of the elevator, twisting slightly to edge past him.
When they were practically touching, she seemed to notice how he was dressed. A frown creased her brow as her pretty eyes scanned his outfit. Her original embarrassment was replaced now by a moment of unconcealed confusion. In that moment one of the heels of her open-toed pumps snagged on the carpet and she lurched forward, directly toward him.
He started to reach for her, but before he could touch her, she managed, by sheer will, to balance herself and actually step away from him. As if his touch was the last thing she'd want.
He glanced down at himself. Yeah, he'd be a little wary too.
"I'm—" She couldn't seem to stop her beautiful eyes from roaming over him again, her face even more nonplussed, if that was possible. In fact, her expression might have been comical, if Michael didn't feel so damned ridiculous.
"I'm sorry," she said again after a moment, but he wasn't sure what exactly she was apologizing for, her clumsiness or her reaction to him. Either way, she didn't owe him an apology. Neither was her fault.
But again, before he could react, she glanced around herself as if she had no idea where she was or why she'd been on her way down to this floor. Then she nodded, seeming to remember what she'd been about to do. "I—I have to, umm, go this way."
She gestured vaguely in the direction from which Michael had just come.
Before Michael could even say anything, the woman hurried away as if someone was chasing her.
Maybe she was afraid someone as crazy looking as he was could have the potential to follow her. He suspected he looked like a crazy person who might have wandered in off the streets. Or off the set of some horrible roller-skating movie. Crop top and skintight pants. Yeah, that screamed skates and disco. Both of which, Michael had been informed, were now considered retro.
He glanced in her direction again as she fled down the hall. And although he wasn't sure over the hum of the air-conditioning, he thought he heard her mutter, "Just leave me the hell alone."
And he realized when she'd been brushing back her hair, he hadn't noticed one of those earpiece things. But that didn't mean she'd actually been talking to herself. And he was pretty sure she had been talking to someone with that last comment. Him.
Liza McLane clenched her teeth, fighting back the scream that threatened to erupt from her throat and potentially never stop. She couldn't take it anymore. No more!
She couldn't even ride an elevator like a normal human being. And then there was her meeting with that man outside the elevator.
She felt her cheeks burn at the thought of her behavior. And of her body's crazy reaction to him. He had been seriously hunky—even in his weird, far too small ensemble. And what had been up with the feathered hair à la John Travolta ... or actually more like Shaun Cassidy.
Maybe HOT! was doing a seventies photo shoot. She hadn't heard about it, but he definitely looked like he could be a model.
Mmm, you should have let me see him.
Liza clenched her teeth tighter and picked up her pace.
Clearly, the man must be a 9 on the hotness Richter scale, because even God himself knows, I have never felt you react this way. Dare I say it, but I believe Miss Dormant Below the Waist seems to be having a little activity down there.
Shut up, she thought in a sharp hiss.
You should have touched him, so I could take a little gander myself. You know I'm always interested in a nice, sexy male. And even Heaven knows I haven't gotten any action being around you. This guy must have been a real specimen.
Before she could catch herself, she growled out, "Just leave me alone." Then she fought back a groan, praying that the badly dressed dreamboat had already gotten onto the elevator and hadn't heard her talking to herself yet again.
Oh, if only she were just talking to herself.
She didn't risk looking back, just in case. He probably thought she was utterly mad as it was.
Instead she kept focused on her mission.
Please tell me he was the tall, dark, and handsome type. I do so love those. A longing sigh echoed through Liza's head. But let's face it, at this point, I'd settle for anything. How do you live without a good fu—
"Shut up," she practically hollered as she stepped out of the HOT! building. Thankfully, the small alleyway that led from the building out to the main sidewalk was empty. If only the hallway had been too.
Another long-suffering sigh filled her head.
You do realize that if you got laid on a regular basis, neither of us would be so cranky. There was a pause. Just sayin'.
Liza told herself not to react, to stay focused on the task at hand. Getting to Duane Reade's. Pronto.
But not for the first time, she did wonder how her life had gotten so messed up. It was bad enough that she had to be possessed by a damned demon. But somehow she'd managed to get taken over by a demon who was gay, bitchy, boy crazy, and sounded remarkably like Uncle Arthur from Bewitched.
Was it really a mystery why she didn't get laid?
Chapter TwoMichael shifted, willing himself not to tug at his shirt, even as he felt the hem creeping up his abdomen. It didn't help that the silence in the room was getting absolutely unbearable, but he was determined to remain collected and as dignified as possible. Even essentially wearing a crop top.
Excerpted from Devilishly Sexy by KATHY LOVE Copyright © 2012 by Kathy Love. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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