Chapter One – Lucifer
The door to my study opened, and I snarled at the interruption not bothering to lift my gaze from the thick file on my desk.
Images were spread across the surface.
Blinding light blurred their faces, but I knew them just the same.
My brothers were in full flight, wings out stretched, knees buckled as they punched from the earth’s surface on their way home once more.
I hated them and loved them at the same time.
Hated their freedom, loved their purpose.
I once felt purpose like that. But not anymore.
The hinges creaked as the door opened. “Sorry, my Lord,” Helkor growled.
Darkness dipped into the soft white light from the lamp on my desk. I lifted my head at the leader of my Hounds. Blue flames of Hell raged in Helkor’s eyes, but in the last few days they were washed out and dull. It seemed fatherhood was Hell.
We lived outside of the pit, high up on the rocky ledge in a castle carved from Hellstone in the shape of a dragon, and my commander had been performing double duty, both at my side, and to his mate, Helene with her litter of four rowdy pups.
Helkor handed me a thick stack of envelopes. Inwardly I groaned, not ready to reach out and take from him the nightmare that waited.
“It’s that time again,” he muttered.
I jerked my gaze from the yellow and white paper to his gaze. “Will they never learn?”
“Doesn’t seem that way.”
I swallowed and left the black and white glossy image to take the thick stack. I could already see the scrawl…the shaking hands, thick black ink. Tiny blue flowers drawn into the corners.
There was always fucking glitter.
I’d only just finished vacuuming the fragments out of the Persian run from last year.
And now it was here again.
I winced at the child’s handwriting and looked at all the envelopes before I snarled and reached underneath for the top drawer under my desk. I grabbed the fountain pen and the bottle of ink, slamming it down on the desk in front of me so the midnight liquid splashed the sides. Helkor flinched but said nothing.
I inhaled hard and stilled the shudder. Little human’s haunted me. Their smiles. Their piercing, shrill screams of delight. Their damn sticky fingers.
I snatched the stopper off the ink and dipped the pen inside before taping once and the stilled, poised over the first letter.
One black strike and I fixed in an instant the goddamn issue.
One simple second was all it’d take. One goddamn second to check the address before these parents slapped—I yanked the envelope closer and peered at the stamps in the corner, counting them before I looked to my commander once more. “Ten dollars? Ten goddamn dollars of stamps, and they can’t address it correctly?”
Helkor just shrugged. I ground my jaw and put a strike through the name on the front of the envelope and then scrawled the correct name next to it. Dear Satan Santa. “Dear Santa…Dear Santa…” I snarled. “Why the Hell do I still get these anyway.”
“It’s part of your job, my Lord—”
I snapped my gaze upwards, glaring at the man who’d served at my side for three hundred years. He wouldn’t make three hundred and one if he opened his mouth one more damn time.
Dear Satan Santa.
Dear Satan Santa.
Dear Satan Santa.
Hearts and flowers decorated the corners and the rear of the envelopes. Polkadots and glued glitter came free as I touched them. I winced, staring at the tips of my fingers as I moved one envelope after another from one pile to another, until I stilled.
The small white folded corners had no glitter. I flipped the letter onto it’s back and in a child’s stick figure drawing was a man dressed in a black cape with fangs.
You. The word was scrawled underneath the image, with an arrow pointed to the figure’s arm pit. Beside it was a small girl with a very big head and curly blonde hair. Me, was written underneath, and beside her was the biggest, ugliest dog I’d ever seen.
I lowered the pen onto the desk beside me and stared at the mess of a drawing. I couldn’t help but smile. I lifted my gaze to the name scrawled in a child’s block letters.
1587 Morrison Avenue, South Harbor.
“South Harbor,” I murmured and lifted the envelope closer. Purity, what a perfect name.
“My Lord?” Helkor murmured.
My hands moved on their own, catching the corner of the paper and yanked. The rip tore through the room, before I delved inside. This was no ordinary child. No boring goddamn slip of the pen. My heart gave a weak thud.
The letter inside came free in an instant and tumbled onto the desk. I smoothed the paper, and took my time, reading line by line.
This Christmas you can keep your Barbie dolls, and your new bikes. I want one thing. I want a puppy. Not just any puppy. I want one of yours.
I promise to love him, feed him every night and morning. I promise to lie to Mum and Dad when they ask why the house is on fire. I promise above all not to make him change. If he’s then trouble, then I want to be too.
P.S. Momma doesn’t know, okay? So can you put a bow on him and leave him on the doorstep. Just ring the bell, I’ll be waiting.
Yours forever and ever.
“Trouble, huh?” I muttered and lifted my gaze.
Helkor just looked at me like I’d stroked out. Maybe I had. That hollow pit inside my chest gave a tremble again, fighting for a fucking reason to pulse once more.
I glanced at the black and white images shoved to the side once more.
Maybe this was it? Maybe this was all the reason I needed? I lifted my gaze to my exhausted battle-weary warrior, and yet he hadn’t stood on the front lines for more than a hundred years. I snatched the letter from the desk and rose to my feet. “How about a trip topside, Helkor?”
He blanched and his eyes were filled with panic. “Lord…I…”
“I what, you don’t want to accompany me?”
“It’s not that…I just…it’s…”
I sighed, pushed my hands against the end of the desk to stand. “It’s what?”
There was a mixture of horror and trauma the likes I’ve never known, and hopefully will never know. “It’s my turn to take care of the heathen.”
“Ah,” I murmured and nodded.
“I’m sorry, I…” he started.
I lifted my hand, stopping him mid sentence. “Don’t be. It’s fine, I can go on my own.”
Torture filled his gaze. “No. I cannot allow that. Let me talk to Helene. I can just change my day.”
“Don’t be silly. I’m perfectly fine in a city filled with mortals.”
“Half a city,” he corrected.
He was right. Harbor had the highest population of immortals hiding in its city streets. But they remained confined to the darkness, hidden by contacts and high-collared shirts. Even witches remained quiet, practicing in hidden lairs and secret rooms, unable to stand tall for the powers they possess.
I had hope that one day the mortal world would come to understand the myriad of creatures they shared, to take strength and a sense of kinship for all creatures.
But not today. Today immortals remained hidden, and I…I was without a companion. “Don’t even worry. I can take another. That young pup, Rival. I can take him.”
Helkor’s top lip curled. “No, not him. He’s not ready.” There was a grumble and a mutter under his breath.
I hadn’t had much time for the new recruits, leaving the training and the supervising to my second. I looked at him, at his slumped shoulders and his lackluster hair. Maybe I had put too much responsibility on him.
I stepped from behind my desk and took as step closer. There were very few people in this god forsaken realm that I had any time for, but he was one of them. He was more than my commander. He was a friend.
I lifted a hand, and placed it onto his shoulder. “Don’t even worry yourself. It was a silly idea. Go, take care of your litter, and that wife of yours.”
He lifted his head, eyes widening. “Are you sure?”
I forced a smile. The thing felt alien on my lips. But for him I tried. “Positive. Off you go. Give my best to Helene.”
With a nod I left him, sliding my hand from the to of his shoulder and turned back to the mess on my desk.
I remained quiet, returning to my chair without another glance in his direction. He knew me too well, hovering for a moment before he turned on his heel and strode from the room.
I stared not at the photographs, but at the letter and the back of the envelope. The child had drawn me as a damn Vampire. But I was willing to forgive her mistake.
I reached up and smoothed the slick black mane from my forehead. It’d been ages since I left Hell’s realm. Twenty, thirty years? A nerve jumped near the corner of my eye. It was too long. Too long to grace the Harbor’s city streets with my presence.
I lifted my gaze, listening to the fading steps of the commander of the Hellhound army before I grabbed the letter and slid it back inside the envelope.
Helkor was concerned about my welfare. I glanced to the images of my brothers and felt that twinge of jealously rear its head. Gabriel and Michael came and went as they chose.
Now it was my turn. I closed my fist around the letter, glancing once more at the address on the back and made for the door.
It was time to have a little Hellish fun.