THE HOT DAMNED SERIES
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Welcome to Hell. Literally.
The Hell where the Prince of Darkness is hotter than Hades, Hell Hounds smell like brownies and the Seven Deadly Sins are addicted to Facebook…Not to mention the soundtrack in the Underworld is Journey. For real.
I should have known no good could come from offing my parents in the space of twenty minutes no matter how psychotic and evil they were…
Now I find out my family tree includes almost every deity and mythological being alive while Ethan, the one and only love of my undead life has a limited time down under before he turns to dust. In the land of Sin, you’d think I’d get some nookie time with my man, but no. Baby Demons, cousins and grandparents put the kibosh on that. Blue balls are the new normal. What the hell does a half-Vampyre Half-Demon have to do to catch a break?
Apparently find a freakin’ sword, calm Mother Nature’s unmedicated mood swings and make sure Mister Rogers keeps his sticky fingers to himself during weekly poker with the Devil. And I have three days to do it.
By all that’s unholy, I thought Ethan’s Vampyre family was crazy…Trust me, they have nothing on the Demons.
READ AN EXCERPT
Pain—then ice—then intolerable heat. A second took years, yet time stood still. The claws of those that trapped me were razor sharp. They tore through my flesh as the ones who owned them grunted and screamed with delight. I struggled for balance, but realized I was standing on air. Violet and silver dust engulfed me as I choked on smells of burning flesh and anger. How was this happening? I was supposed to be planning my wedding to my hotter than Satan’s underpants Vampyre Prince . . . not taking a ride to Hell with smelly and disgusting Demons. Shitshitdamnitshit.***
Journey? The soundtrack in Hell was Journey? I would have thought Nine Inch Nails or AC/DC, but certainly not Journey . . . Don’t get me wrong, I loved Journey, but Don’t Stop Believing just didn’t seem like an appropriate anthem for the Underworld. Was I even in Hell? Maybe this was Purgatory or some other random plane of existence? Although I would expect Barry Manilow, John Tesh or Kenny G if I was stuck in Purgatory.
“Where in God’s name am I?” I muttered as I gingerly pried my dry eyes open.
One thing I was absolutely sure of—I definitely wasn’t on Earth. The ride to wherever the hell I was with the stinky Demons had sucked the big one. It was violent, smelly and it hurt like a son of a bitch.
Easing my body to a sitting position was difficult but doable. Now, to figure out where I was . . .
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I moaned, both from the pain shooting through my limbs and the simple fact that Faithfully was blasting from invisible speakers hidden somewhere in my cell.
Wait. Was this a cell? A trap? A bedroom?A bedroom? I was in a bedroom?
This couldn’t be Hell. It had to be some kind of holding area. The Underworld was supposed to smell like sulfur and look like post-Armageddon. This place looked more like some douchenoggle with big bucks and debatable taste had shopped at all the most expensive home stores on Fifth Avenue . . .while they were drunk.
My body ached like I’d been beaten and I checked myself for wounds. Surprisingly I was fine. Maybe all that flesh tearing had been an illusion. Being a Vampyre I healed quickly, but the trip to Hell, or wherever I was, had been rather turbulent. Turning my head took effort, but I needed to figure out my location and how to get out.
Interesting. I was on a large bed draped in cheesy and predictable slippery black silk. The walls of what I decided to assume was a massive bedroom were all done in burnished gold leafing. Thick and ornate crown molding framed the walls. The shades of the molding were more muted and depicted horrific scenes of mutilation and decapitations of some kind of animal-looking thing. Okay, this was more like the Hell I expected. The artwork added to the ambience—frescos of orgies and graphic depictions of group sex and death graced what had to be twenty foot high walls. The floor was so highly waxed it literally sparkled—the uninviting cold black marble stretched from one end of the huge room to the other.
Trying to block out Steven Perry singing Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin’ was almost impossible. I had a bizarre urge to sing along . . .
Wait a fucking minute . . . were the walls breathing?
Stop. Pull yourself together—walls didn’t breathe. I needed to deal with the situation at hand. I would not let Steven Perry or walls with a heartbeat derail me from getting the hell out of Hell.
First things first—I needed to get up. I wasn’t chained to the bed. I was able to move as freely as my battered body would allow. I suppose the most unnerving part was that no one was around . . . or were they? I hadn’t seen anyone or anything since my forced arrival. Could Demons cloak themselves like I could?
“Astrid,” a disembodied voice hissed from out of nowhere.
“Holy Hell,” I screamed and dove under the bed, slamming the side of my head on the metal frame and bending back all the fingers on my left hand. “Who’s here?” I shouted, nursing my painfully throbbing fingers and head, not to mention the rest of my body.
“Al Pacino lives in Hell? I didn’t even know he died.” Plus, he seemed more like a Purgatory guy to me. “Bullshit,” I muttered, cautiously peeking out from under the bed. There was no one in the room but me. Maybe the walls were alive. “You are not Al Pacino. You don’t even sound like Al Pacino. Who in the hell are you?”
“I’m part of you,” the wall whispered.
“I’m a fucking wall?
”The wall laughed heartily. So heartily it pissed me off. “So, did you enjoy your trip, Astrid?”
“Are you kidding me? It sucked,” I snapped and scanned the room for a hidden Demon. There had to be someone in here. Walls did not talk.
“What on earth did you expect, my dear? You’d just killed their leader who happened to be your father,” the voice informed me. “Not to mention you offed your psychotic bitch of a somewhat human mother not even ten minutes before your father arrived.”
“My father was no prize either. He was a gross, stinky, disgusting and evil Demon and wasn’t even upset that I snuffed out my mother,” I shot back. Fine. I’d lost it. I was talking to a wall . . .
“Darling girl, if you were able to kill both your parents, why didn’t you stop the Demons from taking you to Hell?”
“Well, Wall, you seem to know quite a bit already. I’m sure you know exactly why I couldn’t stop the Demons.”
“Couldn’t or didn’t?” the wall inquired politely.
I’d had enough of the wall. “What does it matter? I was a bit tired from offing my parents and I had, um . . . other reasons.” Damnit, this was impossible. Was I really talking to a wall? Yes. Yes, I was.
“Ah yes,” the wall said lovingly. “Your unborn child. That child will also be part of me.”
“Look, no offense, but you’re a freakin’ talking wall. I don’t really see the connection between you, me and my baby.”
“If you’re not going to be pleasant, I’ll leave,” the wall huffed and the heartbeat disappeared. WTF?
Fucking. Awesome. The wall was gone because I pissed it off. Not only had I made myself an orphan earlier and earned a lovely unplanned trip to the Land of Damnation, but I’d made a talking wall in Hell angry with me. What did a girl have to do to catch a freakin’ break? I’d done everything that was expected of me and still I got the shaft . . . I’d fulfilled the crazy Vampyre Prophecy. I’d saved the Vampyre King and proved I was indeed their Chosen One. Although I might have reconsidered the job had I known ending up in the Abyss of Darkness was part of the description.
“Are you screwing with me?” I shouted at the wall as Open Arms surrounded me on all sides. The incredible urge to sway and sing along was almost debilitating. There had to be something subliminal going on here . . . Was Journey part of some evil plan? Was it laced with hidden references to Hell and debauchery? Was Steven Perry a succubus? Either someone down under was obsessed with 80s pop music or I wasn’t in Hell at all.
“Oh my God,” I gasped as crawled out from under the bed. I very slowly stretched out my cramped legs and arms. “I clearly fucked someone over in a former life to have to deal with this.”
“Why would you think that?” the disembodied wall voice hissed.
“Motherfucker,” I screeched, grabbing a pillow off the bed and hurling it at the wall. “Do not scare me like that. I’ve had enough surprises today.
”The wall chuckled in reply.
The Demons had unceremoniously dragged my ass through the portal to Hell insisting I was their new queen—like that was ever going to happen. If they hadn’t arrived in such large numbers, I might not be sitting in Hell right now talking to a wall and trying to make my body work, but I was . . . and I was furious.
However, as unhappy as I was about my new address, I would hazard a guess that my beautiful mate Ethan had gone ballistic. He would have arrived at the caves by now where my deadly family reunion had taken place and would know that I’d been abducted. My gut clenched at the thought of what he would do. His father, the King of the Vampyres, would have clued him in to the somewhat unbelievable story of my pregnancy and Ethan would . . . Shit, I didn’t know what he’d do, but I needed to get out of here quickly before he attempted to come to Hell and rescue me.
I’d lost enough. I would not lose the man who was my world and I flat out refused lose my baby. Unease skittered up my spine like little mice and I shivered involuntarily as Steven Perry began to belt out Wheel in the Sky. OMG.
Could the talking wall keep me from leaving? Time to find out.
On the far left side of the room was a bay window. I wondered how high up I was and if I could jump. What was I thinking? I could fly, for fuck’s sake. I grimaced and stood. I just needed to find a way out of the garish bedroom and make my way to a portal that would take me back to Earth.
Of course since I had no idea what that portal might look like or where to find one, that might prove to be a clusterfuck in the making. Awesome. I needed to figure out where I was.
Walking hurt so I decided to fly to the window and check out the landscape. After two pathetic attempts that resulted in my ass hitting the floor—hard, I realized my powers weren’t the same in Hell as they were on Earth. Not. Fucking. Good.
“Looks like you lost some power, my dear,” the wall said.
“Ya think?” I snapped. Why was I even talking to the wall? It was a wall. I would ignore it and if it got mad—so be it.
My eyesight, hearing and sense of smell were still bionic, but my ability to cloak myself was gone along with my ability to fly. I needed to get the hell out of the room. Staying low and away from the walls just in case they had hands too, I slipped out of the bedroom and made my way down a massive hall. Ironically—or maybe not—Steven Perry belted out Separate Ways. Who in the hell knew Journey had so many hits?
Something was off besides the fact that the walls talked. Why was I able to breath and why in the hell did Hell smell so good? Was I even a Vampyre anymore? If descending to I-have-a-shit-ton-of-money-and-no-taste-and-Journey-is-the-best-band-ever-land meant that I had turned into a full Demon, someone was going to pay.
Not wanting to show fear, but filled with dread that made my heart beat like the drum section of a percussion happy high school band, I stood in the center of the dimly lit hallway. If the Demons had wanted me dead they would have already killed me. I was creeped out that I’d been talking to a wall and had seen no one. It felt like I’d plopped down in the middle of a game with no rules . . .
This world was filled with dark magic and Steven Perry . . . and strangely, I found that combination appealing. Very appealing. It was unlike the foul magic of my mother or my father and his minions. This was smarter and a whole hell of a lot more dangerous. Thankfully my body was becoming my own again. The pain was receding although I was still without my undead powers . . .
Voices. I heard voices . . . and they didn’t belong to Steven Perry or anyone from Journey as far as I could tell. A man and a girl.
Oh, I wanted to go home. Where were my ruby slippers or at the very least a fairy godmother? This was bad . . . very, very bad.
Moving quietly toward the sound with as much outward calm as I could muster my stomach roiled. Why, why, why did shit like this seem to happen to me on a daily basis? My karma couldn’t be that bad . . . Suck it up and deal with it. I’d just defeated massive evil. I killed my vicious father and my bat-shit crazy mother in the space of twenty minutes. Not something I was proud of or wanted to brag about, but it was me or them and clearly I had more to live for . . . I was a kick butt half-Vampyre half-Demon who was pregnant. I was a virtual impossibility. I could do this. I’d talk my way out and go home. Or I’d whack a bunch more Demons and go home. Done. No fucking problem.
However, when I reached the source of the voices my courage disappeared. The sheer amount of magic in the room was like nothing I’d ever felt. The darkness wound around me like a perfectly cut cashmere wrap and the magnetic pull was intoxicating. There was no turning back. It felt right to be where I was in this very moment. I was positive this was where I would get some answers. Luckily I slipped into the room unnoticed. In the spirit of self-preservation and utter terror, I quickly hid behind a massive black brocade curtain as Steven Perry appropriately busted into Who’s Crying Now.
“Dixie, this behavior is unacceptable!” the man bellowed.
He was magnificent and frightening. His magic was stronger than any I’d ever witnessed. I slipped farther into the shadows so I wouldn’t be seen. Fuckity fuck fuck. Every instinct in my body screamed at me to run away, but that was impossible . . . they would see me. This was a mistake—possibly a deadly one. But I’d been drawn here by an unmistakable pull. As much as I wanted to disappear, I wanted to stay even more.
The beautiful man stood at least six feet six inches tall and had long raven black hair—identical to the girl named Dixie he was displeased with. She was stunning, yet her demeanor was meek. Their eyes were golden like mine, although his turned a ruby red as his anger mounted. Was the girl related to the man? Who in the hell were they?
Their skin color differed. His was more of a pale mocha and hers was a peaches and cream. They were both long and lanky and reeked of magic. The girl, Dixie, appeared to be about nineteen or twenty and the man? Who knew . . .
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, staring at her fingernails. She picked nervously at the chipped black polish.
“Would you like to explain these grades?” The air crackled with his anger and energy. He threw the paper to the ground at her feet.
Grades? WTF? This was Hell . . . people got report cards in Hell?
“Um . . . I studied?” she whispered, ducking her head to avoid a blow.
“No child of mine receives straight As.” His voice was soft and menacing.
I was so fucking confused I almost stepped out from my hiding place, but sanity prevailed and I stayed put.
“I said I was sorry, Dad. I’ll try harder to fail next time.”
One question answered . . .
“Where did I go wrong?” he lamented. I watched him pace. His presence filled the room completely, leaving little space for anyone or anything else. His very expensive black leather pants and black silk shirt matched his hair perfectly. It was clear the girl loved him and was upset with his displeasure.
He threw his hands up in disgust, “I’ve given you everything, and this is how you repay me?”
“Didn’t realize there was a price,” she muttered quietly.
“Everything has a price,” he hissed.
Damn, he had really good hearing.
Dixie shrunk down low and waited. I held my breath, wishing I hadn’t chosen this particular room to explore.
“You will drop the goody-goody act. You will be rude, promiscuous and scandalous. You will not be compassionate unless I am concerned and I expect you to flunk out of the Demon College just like all of your sisters did. Do you understand me?” he demanded.
“I’m really sorry, Dad.” She sounded like a broken record—this was clearly a familiar conversation for them.
“I am Satan,” he bellowed and the room vibrated. “I have a reputation to uphold. You are a Demon Princess, you have a Porsche, your own bungalow in the most exclusive zip code in Hell and certainly more money than anyone your age should have access to and yet you throw all this in my face? Why Dixie, why?” He wearily dropped down on the couch next to the girl and she put her arms around him.
“I love you,” she whispered.
A ghost of a smile touched his lips. “And I you.” He wrapped his arms around her and looked into her eyes. “Is it true that you donated one million dollars of my money to feed hungry humans on Earth?”
“Yes,” she said and buried her face against his chest. “I did.”
He heaved an enormous sigh, “I have to punish you, you know.”
“I know.”He put his finger under her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes. “If I don’t punish you, all hell will break loose down here. No pun intended,” he grinned.
“Daddy, that pun was totally intended,” she giggled.
“That it was.” He stood up and ran his big hands through his hair and turned his mesmerizing gaze on her. “You are so like your mother.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” she challenged.
“It’s an . . . interesting thing,” he conceded. His voice was melodic and hypnotizing.
“What’s my punishment?”He gave her a terribly evil and intoxicating smile. “I’ll have to think about it.” He turned and walked toward my hiding spot. Shit. Why did I have to be so freakin’ tall? Please walk by me. Please. He stopped a foot from where I hid. I held my new found breath and prayed to everything and anything I could think of . . . including him.
“Come out, Astrid. I’ve been expecting you.”
Sweet baby Satan, this day couldn’t get any worse. Actually, it probably could…