Sometimes loving someone means finding yourself first.
Colton Najex, an incubus, has spent a month in Hell contemplating his life. The royal supernatural has grown tired of the decadent parties and wild sexcapades with forgettable females and males. Something’s amiss in his world.
Colton craves a more humane, laid back way of life with someone special.
Jeremiah Jones, a struggling musician, has spent the last few years chasing the impossible. He wants a little solitude and a life spent making music with a special someone—a person of destiny according to a celestial prophecy. Unfortunately, Jeremiah seems to only attract a long interlude of Mr. Wrongs.
Jeremiah’s ready to give up and merely live in a world alone—just him and his music.
But an innocent wish from Colton to his grandfather, the king of Hell, changes everything forever.
When two souls—one from Heaven and the other from Hell—collide, can they put aside rhetoric and just embrace love?
A native of Detroit, Michigan and a graduate of Western Michigan University, SF has fed her creative brain through a variety of jobs from customer service to working with animals. Although the work title has changed, one thing remained true—her desire to be a writer. As a kid she could often be found writing stories or with a book in her hand. It didn’t matter where the location, SF could be found reading (even at the beach).
Her debut novel, Regress—a dystopian set in her home state—developed from a dream. When she’s not concocting tales in her sleep, SF has been known to come up with entire dialogues in the shower.
SF prefers writing stories which answer the “what if” question in life. Her protagonists are strong and diverse set in post-apocalyptic or paranormal worlds.
Facebook Alliance Chronicles page: https://www.facebook.com/jointhealliance/
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/SFBenson/e/B01DI9Z58Q/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
In the ensuing quiet, Mother’s words come back to me. Soon I’ll have to return home and face my father. Despite the fact I abhor Hell, being here has given me a reprieve from his constant torture. Where Grandfather dotes on me and will do whatever for me—I’m his favorite grandchild—Father despises me and will do whatever to me—his fucked-up spawn.
“Music on.” The sounds of Chopin, much better than the techno-dribble at the club, fill the space. Thanks to my father’s ghouls, I can’t tolerate absolute quiet for too long. Evil lurks in silence.
Loosening my tie, I sink down on the king-sized bed. In my father’s eyes, I’m the worthless sack of shit who’ll never amount to much. The demon has never approved of how I conduct my life. He has said repeatedly that quality female consorts and offspring don’t come with fluidity. To be honest, neither of my parents have had high opinions of me and my lifestyle. The time I’ve spent with Mother in the realm, however, makes me wonder if her behavior is simply an act to please Father. If it is, it’s damned convincing.
My existence hasn’t always been so distressing. For years, I did whatever I wanted to do—partied hard, fucked harder—with whomever I chose. My parents confused my self-assured demeanor with arrogance. They gave me a wide berth, and I assumed there would be no consequences for my actions. Then my first consort match fell through. It wasn’t my fault, but Father said it was. He decided I needed to learn from my transgressions. His intense harassment shook my confidence while Mother’s nagging shredded my nerves. It’s why I kidnapped Qadira. I’m not an ass. Truthfully, I wanted an end to the agony, nothing more.
Lying back, I stare up at the stalactite ceiling. How long have I’ve studied the pointy protrusions? I pull back the dark, heavy curtain covering the window overlooking the fiery corridors and count the bloody hash marks.
I’ve been in Hell for thirty damned days.
Unfortunately, I also know the number of lavacicles hanging overhead—exactly one hundred and eighty of various lengths. What would happen if I knocked them down? Would smoke drift out? Or would Hell collapse in on itself? A sight to see for sure. If I spend another day in this place, I might just do it.
For the hell of it.
Someone raps on my door, and I drop the heat-resistant fabric. “Who is it?”
“Come in,” I say, thankful it’s not the chatterbox. “Music off.”
The metal barrier to the rest of Hell creaks open as Nocturne Number Two stops. A dense cloud of heat sneaks in followed by my grandfather. He’s dressed in his greeting-souls attire—black suit, black shirt, and a blood-red tie like an exclamation point. Gathered at the nape of Grandfather’s neck is his long, black hair. That’s not normal. It’s a look reserved for going amongst humans.
“Colton.” His solemn welcome matches his expression. The King of Hell doesn’t smile.
“Grandfather.” My eyes drift over his frame. The pleats in his slacks are a little too sharp. There’s starch in the shirt collar. He’s definitely dressed to go up. Wonder what soul requires his personal touch today? “Going somewhere?”
“Yes. I’m escorting you back home today,” he says as if it’s obvious.
I do a double-take. “What about Mother?”
“Sybil is content here. Possibly too content, but I’m allowing her to stay a bit longer.” Grandfather inclines his head. “Between the two of us, I think she prefers Hell over living with my son.”
She’s not the only one. Like I said earlier, I really don’t want to return to my father’s version of purgatory. “What if I don’t want to go home?”
“You wish to stay here with me? You’re more than welcome to do so.” Grandfather lifts an eyebrow. “Or is it my newest dark angel persuading you to stay?”
“No, it’s not.” I shake my head, although parts of my anatomy don’t agree. But even a few hours of bliss with that handsome demon wouldn’t change my truth. “I strictly don’t want to go home.”
“Then don’t go.” Grandfather holds his palms out. “If I recall correctly, you do have an apartment.”
“Had. Father kept showing up at all hours, harassing me.” My shoulders slump forward. “Consequently, I gave it up. Moved back home and took my torture like a man.”
Grandfather’s silvery eyes narrow. “You do realize you’re not a man?”
Holding onto the sarcastic retort resting on the tip of my tongue, I reply, “Don’t remind me.”
As Grandfather takes a seat beside me, the smell of sulfur flickers beneath my nose. “Is that your problem? Do you think life would be easier for you as a human?”
“It has to be better than this, Grandfather.” I sigh, side-glancing at him. “No offense.”
“None taken.” He purses his lips for a moment. “What if you could live as a human, what would you do differently?”
I shrug. How am I supposed to answer a question I’ve never considered? “Not sure. But at least I’d be free to find out without my parents interfering.”
“Humans have parents, Colton. They constantly interfere in the lives of their offspring, but I understand what you mean. Tell me, is there anything specific you desire?”
“I can’t answer your question.” Personally, I don’t think there is an answer. “All I can say is I’m tired of feeling this way.”
“And how is that?”
“Lost. Alone.” I take a deep breath, attempting to calm the storm waiting to erupt. “If I keep this up, I won’t make it. Grandfather, I’d rather give up living than feel empty all the time.”
He pats my knee. “You’re not dying anytime soon. Perhaps I can help by doing for you what my father did for me years ago.”
“I’m going to grant your wish.”
My head rocks up. “Huh? What wish?”
Grandfather stands and stretches. “When I was your age, I too was at a crossroads, unsure of what I wanted. Frankly, I sucked at being a demon. Couldn’t agonize a hellhound, but my father wouldn’t let me give up. He said I needed to find myself. He speculated if I took a little holiday, I’d come back renewed and ready to assume my duties.”
“Did it work?” I ask sheepishly.
“Where do you think your father got his skills from?” Grandfather rests a hand on my shoulder. “This will be good for you.”
Moths erupt in my stomach. I’ve never handled change well even if it has the potential to be positive. “What exactly is going to happen?”
“Don’t worry.” An eerie expression—maybe it’s a long-lost smile or even a grimace, hard to tell—crosses his face. “It’s only for thirty days. Go live amongst humans as a man. Discover what you truly want in the world. I’ll restore your supernatural status after your time is up.”
“You can do that?” I rub the back of my neck, astonished at what he’s telling me. “But why?”
“To answer your first question—I’m Ashmedai, King of Hell. Who, other than Lucifer, would tell me I can’t do as I choose?”
“True.” I’m sure anyone who has ever questioned Grandfather’s actions is no longer alive.
“I’ve watched you during your time here, Colton. You’re miserable. Your agony rivals the poor souls cast into the kingdom. My grandson, a prince destined to rule one day, shouldn’t experience such pain.”
Grandfather holds up his hand. “I’ve seen your dreams and heard your thoughts too. Besides granting your wish, I’ll have a talk with my son about the shit he’s filled your mind with.”
“You don’t have to do that,” I mutter.
“Yes, I do.” His brow furrows. “Demons only plague their own when it’s needed. You’ve done nothing to deserve it. Khan’s treatment went beyond what’s normal or acceptable. Trust me, his time is coming. Until it does, accept my gift and use it well.”
Fearing a very real possibility, I say, “What happens if, at the end of my time, nothing’s changed? What if I’m still lost?”
“You won’t be,” Grandfather replies with a gleam in his eye.
Making deals is enjoyable to him. Maybe it’s time for me to make my own arrangement. “Grandfather, I’ll make you a deal.”
He cocks his head to one side. “I’m listening.”
“If at the end of thirty days I’m no different, I’ll gladly return to Falls Creek and do whatever I need to do as a royal incubus. But…” I need to phrase the alternative carefully.
“But what, Colton?”
“But if I do change… If I’m finally happy…” A ball of fear, so immense it rivals the one Sisyphus is charged with, forms in my stomach. My mouth goes dry, and the words lodge in my throat. Unless I utter them, the deal is merely a whim. All bargains made with Grandfather must be verbalized and sealed with blood. Squeezing my eyes shut, I force the letters together until the request bubbles up my throat. “I stay human.”
Grandfather’s eyebrows knit together. A wisp of smoke curls from his lips as he exhales. “I’ve never denied you anything, Colton, but—”
“But you’re denying me this.” My heart sinks with the statement. Of course, I can’t have a permanent escape from my father’s torture. I’m fucking royalty.
“Let me finish.” Grandfather leans close and says in a lowered voice, “Out of all my grandchildren, Colton, you know you’re my favorite. As much as it pains me to grant your wish, it hurts more seeing you suffer at the hands of your father. Trust me when I say he will not enjoy the agony I inflict upon him.”
Nice sentiment, but it doesn’t change facts. “What do I do in the meantime?”
“In the meantime, I’ll grant your request with conditions.”
Naturally, he’d place stipulations on it. He doesn’t maintain the throne by being lenient. “Go ahead.”
Grandfather clasps his hands behind his back. “First off, there will be no sealing this transaction with blood. I’m giving you an automatic way out.”
“I’ll uphold my end of the bargain,” he continues. “After all, I am a demon of my word. What would it look like if I reneged on promises?” He paces the well-worn floor—I may have worked a few extra grooves in it. “Second, in order to remain human, you will need to prove you can live as one.”
“How?” An icy panic creeps into my chest.
“Show me the trappings of humanity—a means to earn money, a place to live, a few friends, and someone special to share those things with. If you fail in any of those areas, you return to Falls Creek and live out your days as an incubus. You’ll make monthly trips to Hell and begin your training to rule after I’m gone.”
Hell without my grandfather? He’s existed for a thousand years. Surely, he’ll be here another millennium. I’m sure there’s more, and I hate to ask. But I do. “Anything else?”
“I will not allow you to die or get sick. Defeats the purpose, don’t you think?” Grandfather faces me. “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t put yourself in any predicament that might cause your early demise.”
It seems simple enough. Find a job and a place to live. Make friends and find a significant other. I can do this. A ray of hope, the first one in a long time, shines through the darkness.
Grandfather raises a finger. “Before you accept the terms, there are two more things. One, there’s a number for me in your phone. Only use it if you get into a situation you can’t get out of. Something that will bring about that untimely death I mentioned. You may also call me if you change your mind and find humanity too much to deal with.”
“What’s the other thing?” I ask cautiously.
“I’m sending a guardian demon with you. A being to report back to me on your progress and help out should you get into trouble.”
I frown. “Grandfather, I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Trust me, he or she will not be babysitting. Besides, you won’t know who it is.” He sinks his hands into his trouser pockets. “Those are my terms. Take them or leave them.”
His conditions weren’t nearly as stringent as I imagined they’d be. A pressure I didn’t know existed lifts off my chest. Could I really live like a human? If it allows me a chance to be free of my father, possibly forever, it’s worth whatever risks come with it.
Extending my hand toward Grandfather, I say, “I accept.”
His fingers surround mine in a claw-like grip. A thread of smoke rises between our flesh. Flames lick and scorch my palm, but there isn’t any pain. The smell of burnt skin dissipates, and I withdraw my hand. The covenant is formed and bonded.
I have thirty human days to find me. Whoever that might be.