Authors: Marie Mason
“Disappeared?” His father caught up with his mother.
“Yeah, he and Julie were talking and a portal opened.” He didn’t have to explain to his parents where the portal had led.
“Oh, sweetheart, how terrible. It must have really frightened you.” She took Julie’s hand and squeezed it in sympathy. Julie smiled at her and Remington was glad when she didn’t break out in tears again.
“Damn it. What was Luke thinking? I’ve had about enough of that demon’s shit.”
“Language, Rav, language.”
His father grimaced at his wife’s scolding tone, but the worry lines didn’t disappear. Not that Remington could blamed his father, he was pissed as hell, too.
“Remington, you go down to hell in case Luke decides to go medieval on Rafe’s ass. I’m calling Ephraim. It’s about time we put Luke in his place once and for all.
Ravjeer Conroy was a high ranking demon despite the fact that he had been in servitude to Luke for decades. Ephraim was another high ranking demon who had confronted Luke when he’d pulled the same shit with Roark and the demon’s daughter, Kayley, who was now Remington’s sister-in-law.
“I’m on it.” He made to open a portal.
“Wait, I’m going with you.” He turned as Julie stepped forward, leaving the comfort of his mother and Clementine’s hold.
“No, you’re not.” Remington’s tone was harsh, but he couldn’t believe she was even suggesting that he take her to hell with him. He may have had the darker, more menacing reputation of the three brothers, but Rafe would chew him up and spit him back out if he let anything happen to her and their unborn child.
“Yes, I am. Luke put a contract out on
. Not Rafe. He wants me for some reason and I want to know why.” Remington had to admire the fight and determination in her face, but still… He had no desire to spend the next fifty years picking up the pieces of his broken teeth after Rafe pummeled him into the floor.
“No. He put the contract out on you to get to Rafe.” He lifted his hand to open the portal.
Julie shook her head. “No, that doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t he have simply summoned Rafe back, like he did tonight?”
Remington ran his hand over his face, frustrated because she was right. Luke could have summoned Rafe back. Even though the curse had been broken, Luke could summon any person—human, demon or angel—to hell. Such was the powers of the Prince of Darkness. “Yes, but—”
“Wait.” A soft hand landed on his arm and he recognized Clementine’s touch immediately. “You need to let her go with you.”
“No, you listen, you damn demon. You need to let her go.” One of Remington’s dark brows rose, surprised at the stubborn set of Clementine’s chin and the command in her tone. Usually, she was as meek as a mouse around him. Tonight she was showing a sassy and rebellious side he liked. A lot. He continued to stare at her until she turned her gaze away.
“I’ve seen.” She stopped and took a deep breath. “She needs to be there, Remington.”
Remington let out the one curse that had been guaranteed to get him grounded by his mother as a teenager, or struck by a bolt a lightning by the big guy himself. He knew he had to do what Clementine said. Clementine was not only an angel she was part psychic, visions coming to her out of the blue. “Right. Well, come on Julie. Let’s go to hell.”
The sickness that had been absent this morning burst forth with a vengeance as Julie walked through the portal Remington had opened. She placed a hand over her mouth and tried to control her rolling stomach. Breathing through her nose she wondered why she bothered. The stench of fire and burning flesh couldn’t smell any worse than her upchuck.
“Damn it,” Remington murmured. He muttered several words that sounded like Latin and immediately the stench receded.
She removed her hand from her mouth and gulped in a deep breath. “How did you do that? Doesn’t hell smell like that?”
“No,” he shook is head. “Luke was no doubt trying to intimidate you.”
“Do you think I made a mistake coming here? What if I just make things worse? What if he takes it out on Rafe?”
“Calm down, honey.” Remington looked so much like Rafe right then she wanted to cry. “Follow your heart. You can’t make a mistake.”
Julie sniffed back her tears. “Says the big, bad demon who lets an angel get to him.”
Julie couldn’t help but smile through her tears at Remington’s shocked expression. He thought no one knew about his feelings for his mother’s personal assistant. He was so wrong. “I followed my heart when I let Rafe make love to me. Look how that turned out.”
Remington placed his hand on her stomach and grinned. “Yeah, look how it turned out. You’re preggers with Rafe’s baby.”
“Preggers? Did you say that to Kayley? I don’t think so because I’m pretty sure she would have turned you into a toad. Or a gnat if you had.” She’d gotten to meet the spunky witch her first night in heaven when she and her husband had joined them for dinner.
Rafe staggered out of the portal, expelled with the force of vomit from a five-year old with a nasty case of the stomach flu. Two sets of hands kept him upright. The Egyptian guards were Luke’s personal doormen to hell, ushering in visitors for an eternity. And here he thought the Conroy family had it bad.
“So, another Conroy brother thinks he can simply walk away after so many years of service?” A deep voice sounded behind Rafe. He turned around to see Luke was propped against his large oak desk, his legs and arms crossed. He was as tall and broad as any of the Conroy brothers. But that was where the similarities ended. Where they were more down-to-hell demons, Luke wore elegance and sophistication like a second skin. Dressed in a suit and tie, he looked as if he was on his way to a board meeting, not about to decide a man’s fate.
Rafe stepped forward. He wanted nothing more than to punch the demon square in the kisser. He didn’t need this shit, he needed to get back to Julie. Had she already left? Run away from what they could have? “The curse was broken, Luke. Do I need to get Ephraim down here again to remind you? Or maybe my father?”
So far, Ravjeer had allowed his sons to fight their own battles with the demon, but Rafe was not above calling on his father for help. Julie, and his child, meant too much for his pride to get in the way. Rafe was happy to see that the mention of his father and his half-demon, half-incubus in-law once removed made Luke cringe. It did not, however, stop him.
“Yes, the curse was lifted, but you had already broken the rules.”
Rafe refused to allow any emotion show. Technically, he had broken the rules of hell, using magic to escape. But, the occupants of hell did that every day. That’s why Luke needed those such as himself and his brothers. The escapees were brought back where they spent a few days—or centuries—in hell jail.
His eyes narrowed, taking in the tense demeanor of his former boss. If he didn’t know any better he’d think Luke was worried. But why? His mind whirled with possibilities. Luke hadn’t been happy when Roark had left, but his brother had signed back on as a paid employee so it couldn’t be because Luke was suddenly shorthanded.
He heard a gasp behind him and realized the large oak door to Luke’s private domain had opened. He felt his heart thud in his chest and his stomach drop with a sickening lurch when he realized who had entered the room.
“Julie.” He hurried toward her, throwing a killing glance at Remington. “Why the hell did you bring her here?”
Remington gave a short laugh. “Like I had a choice. She’s one stubborn lady, bro.”
Rafe pulled Julie against him, cupping her face in his hands. “Why did you come here, baby? I needed to know you were safe.”
Julie’s hands pressed against his. “I am safe. I’m with you.”
“How touching.” Luke’s deep baritone filled the room and Rafe turned, making sure his body was between Julie’s and the demon.
“What do you want, Luke? My life?” Just as Roark had done, Rafe was willing to lose his head to keep his mate safe.
“How unoriginal. Been there, offered that ad nauseam. Couldn’t you be a little more original than your brother?”
Before Rafe could answer, a bright light flashed and suddenly the room was filled with people. Ravjeer, Rachel, Roark, and Kayley. Another flash, and Clementine appeared with Ephraim.
“Yeah, Rafe, can’t you be more original than that?” Roark stepped forward and the three brothers closed ranks, crowding Julie back towards their parents and out of harm’s way.
“What is this, a family reunion?” Sarcasm coated the demon’s voice, before it darkened with intent. “It doesn’t matter how many others you drag into the shit with you Rafe, you need to pay for your disobedience.”
“Like hell.” Ravjeer stepped forward adding his massive size to the wall of muscles formed by his sons.
“I do like hell, Ravjeer. I remember at one time you liked it just as much, if not more than me.” The Conroy brothers came by their man
hore ways naturally. “Before you fell in love with an angel. Hello, Rachel.” Luke smiled at Ravjeer’s mate, his countenance one of welcome despite the bite to his words. He turned that smile on Kayley, making Roark growl. “Clementine, it’s been so long since you graced me with your presence.” He stepped toward the other angel in the room, drawing a deep, vicious snarl from Remington. He stopped, both dark brows arched above his even darker eyes. “Interesting,” he murmured before turning
away from his uninvited guests and returning to his negligent stance against his desk.
“Now, I believe we were trying to decide what Rafe’s forfeit would be for defying me and leaving hell without permission.”
“I have nothing to give.” Rafe spread his arms wide, playing the humble servant, waiting for a chance to attack the demon prince. There was literally no way in hell a hair on Julie’s head would be harmed or the life of their child endangered.
“Oh, I think you are wrong, my friend.” Luke focused his attention on Julie. “What about your woman? Will you give her to me?”
Rafe felt his body grow, his demon wanting out. He knew that would be a no win situation for everyone. He’d kill Luke, Luke’s minions would kill him and Julie would be left unprotected. “Julie is human. She has no part of this.”
“No part of this?” Luke’s laugh echoed off the walls. “She became a part of this the moment she became a demon’s whore.”
Every male in the room started forward, their faces twisted in anger.
Luke waved his hand and they froze in place. Rafe growled as he tried to move.
“Come here, little human.”
“No.” Rachel stepped forward, putting her body between Julie and Luke. Kayley and Clementine did the same.
“Ladies, I have no desire to harm you, but Julie
come to me.” The women whimpered as a wave of power washed over them.
The room filled with angry male sounds—growls, snarls, what sounded almost like a roared. He crooked his finger. “I said come here.”
Julie couldn’t stop herself from moving, moving away from the safety of Rafe’s and Remington’s bodies. She was under this demon’s control just like the Conroy brothers. She didn’t—couldn’t stop her forward momentum until she stood in front of him. Her stomach, already queasy from the portal travel, knotted into a tight ball. Maybe she’d throw up on him.
“Do you know who you are?”
Julie’s back bristled. “I’m not a demon’s whore, that’s for damn sure.”
Luke gave a dramatic sigh. “I suppose that’s true since Rafe seems to have
for you.” His big body shuddered as if the idea of having feelings were repugnant. “You are not human either.”
“I’M SORRY?” JULIE’S eyes widened at the demon’s pronouncement. “Not human?”
Luke snapped his fingers and a piece of linen parchment appeared in front of them. He plucked it from the air and handed it to her. “This is your birth certificate.”
Julie was afraid to take it, afraid to interact with the demon in any way. She looked toward Rafe for guidance. Luke’s holding spell disappeared and he stepped closer. Everyone else did too, forming a protective circle around her. Rafe nodded in reassurance. “Read it, baby.”
She knew she had been adopted at birth, but had never tried to find out what had happened to her birth parents. Heart hammering, hands trembling, she read the words. The almost silvery writing seemed to float before her eyes. Or maybe she was about to faint. She wasn’t sure.
The certificate did not hold any surprises. It listed the names of the man and woman who had raised her. She lifted her head. “I don’t understand. This doesn’t tell me anything else I didn’t already know.”
Luke turned the document around in midair. If Julie hadn’t been afraid she was going to be attacked at any moment, the demon’s powers would have fascinated her.
“My bad.” He waved his hand and the document turned back around. The writing on the document disappeared, replaced by the drawing of a tree, its limbs extending to the top of the paper. Names and dates appeared, hers at the very bottom.
Julie didn’t know if it was nerves or what, but she still wasn’t getting it. “I don’t understand.”
“For hea—” Luke stopped himself before uttering the word that would bring the wrath of
boss raining down on him. He jerked the paper out of Julie’s hand. “Your great-great-great, great-great grandmother was Iris.”
“Iris? Just Iris?”
“Yes, like Cher or Beyoncé. A diva. Or a demi-goddess in this case.”
Ravjeer and Ephraim gave sharp whistles of surprise. As Julie looked around, she saw astonishment on Kayley and Rachel’s faces. Clementine didn’t seem at all surprised. Ravjeer’s hand clamped onto Rafe’s shoulder, giving it a fatherly squeeze of approval. “You picked a fine woman there, son.”
Julie’s thoughts bounced around her head faster than a rubber ball in a steel box being shaken by a monkey. A hysterical laugh almost escaped her.
“I’m a descendant of a god?”
“Demi-goddess.” Luke walked away, moving to sit behind the great oak desk. Its massive size barely took up any space in the cavernous room.
“What happened to her?” Julie had never heard of a demi-goddess named Iris.
Luke refused to meet her gaze and flicked off a piece of imaginary lint from his shoulder. “Iris, umm, died.”
Clementine stepped forward, coming to stand in front of Luke’s desk. “You mean she was killed. Eliminated because the gods were afraid.” She turned back around, announcing to the room at large. “She was the goddess of the rainbow. A link between the gods and humans. Scared ‘em shitless when she started bringing humans to Olympus.”
Rachel gasped at her language and Remington hid a smile behind his hand.
“I’ve never heard of her.” Julie whispered.
“Exactly.” Clementine moved back to stand beside the two women. “They wiped her from the history books.”
“Since when did you become such an expert on mythology?” Luke grumbled.
Julie suddenly realized what game the demon was playing. Rafe’s summons to hell, the contract on her. Neither had anything to do with Rafe escaping or her having sex with a demon, they were just a means to the end. A way for Luke to get his hands on their child.
“Ahh, did the lightbulb go off, Julie?” Luke finally met her gaze, smiling. He really was devilishly handsome she thought in an off-handed way. As he continued to look at her, his features blurred, taking on a dark and demonic shape. Which was the real Luke?
Julie’s fingers spread across her abdomen, forming a protective barrier around the life inside her. When she did, she experienced the same slight movement she’d been feeling ever since Rafe had burst back into her life in the diner.
She might not have any powers that would help Rafe, but, if what Luke and Clementine were saying was true, their child just might. Closing her eyes and opening her mind, she searched for the consciousness of the life inside her. At first, she felt nothing. Then, she felt a deeper movement, a slight roaring sound inside her head. A heart. She was hearing the sound of her baby’s heart. As their minds touched, she realized the baby was a girl. Anna. The name whispered through her mind and a smile touched her mouth. No arguing with Rafe over names now.
She opened her eyes to find all the occupants of the room staring at her. Her attention focused back sharply on Luke. “You need to end this.”
“I don’t think so.” Even as Luke spoke, a look of fear flashed across his features. If she hadn’t been looking directly at him, she would have missed it. Oh, she thought, how the mighty were so reluctant to fall. And fail. Anna’s consciousness left Julie’s body, floating across the way to hover just in front of the Prince of Hell. The man thrust his chair back as if the little girl was physically reaching out for him and he was scurrying out of her reach.
For a moment, it looked as if Luke was going to pass out. Julie had no idea what her baby was doing to the demon, but at this point she really didn’t care. She just wanted to get the hell out of… hell.
As the seconds ticked away, she realized Luke might not be in danger of passing out but she was. Suddenly, the walls were closing in around her, her vision narrowed to a tunnel of light and the ground came rushing up at her.
The first thing Julie heard as consciousness returned was Rafe’s voice, pleading with her to wake up.
“Come on, honey, open those beautiful eyes. Please wake up,” he begged her, his voice scratchy with emotion.
She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. The air held the taste of ash and fire. She could see the faintest suggestions of shapes colored in shades of midnight black and charcoal grey with flashes of steel and chrome. The sharp curve of Rafe’s shoulders finally came into focus. Behind him was that same curve, repeated again and again. She was either having double vision or more than one person was looking down at her. Julie looked up to see that she was indeed the center of attention. Even Luke stood above her. She swore she saw a look of concern in his light blue eyes. Eyes that were… wait was that a wink he just gave her?”
“Julie, Julie, are you okay, baby?” The roaring in her ears began to fade and she could finally understand what Rafe was saying.
“I’m… okay.” She hesitated saying she was fine because quite frankly she wasn’t sure. She felt as if a bolt of lightening had jolted through her when their daughter had unleashed whatever it was she’d unleashed.
She opened her eyes slowly then struggled to sit up, her body lethargic. Whatever had happened had sapped her energy.
“Take it easy. Let me help.” A strong arm encircled her back. Rafe’s other hand stretched over her stomach as if he were trying to protect the life inside. As he helped her to her feet, another set of hands reached for her. She looked to her right and saw Remington. He gave her a quick wink. The Conroy brothers were certainly charming.
Rafe immediately cupped her face and gave her a sweet, tender kiss. “You scared the hell out of me.”
Julie couldn’t help the small burst of laughter at his words. “I certainly hope so,” she answered with a grin as she returned the kiss. “But it wasn’t me.”
“What?” His confusion was echoed on the faces of everyone else.
She took his hand and placed it on her belly where their baby was twisting and turning. It felt like butterflies fluttering inside her. A light entered his eyes that she’d never seen before. When his hand spread across her stomach, she realized she was seeing the love he had for their child.
“I’m so proud of both of you.”
“I hate to break up the happy moment, but we still have business to settle here, folks.” Julie and the others turned back around, facing the demon who had brought them to this moment.
“Seriously, Luke?” Rafe took a threatening step in his direction. His brothers’ restraining hands on his arm was the only thing that stopped him from ripping the man’s head from his shoulders. “You just put my woman and my child in danger and you’re still harping on me leaving hell? After, I might remind you, the curse was broken?”
Julie turned her attention to Luke. “Are you going to let him go? Let us go?”
“Of course he is.” Ravjeer moved forward,
Ephariamby his side. “Aren’t you Luke?” There was no need to use threatening words or intimidating gestures. The power radiating off the two other demons said everything that needed to be said.
“Now, now, gentlemen. No need for that.” Luke had moved back behind his wooden desk, his arms braced against the top, breathing rapidly. His appearance disheveled. Whatever had happened had hit the demon with quite a punch. “Everyone is free to go.”
He smiled at Julie and she almost—almost—forgot why she was here and what was happening. When she shook her head to break the spell, she saw the knowledge in his dark eyes that he’d almost had her. That he’d used his powers on more than one occasion to make a human obey to his commands.
“We—I.” For the first time that
nighthe stumbled over his words. “I just wanted to see what powers the little one had. Remember, if the curse hadn’t been broken and she was a boy instead of a girl…” He let his voice trail away and stroked a hand over his hair, smoothing it back in place. “It appears she is very powerful indeed.”
He walked around the desk and held out his hand to Rafe. “Congratulations.” Again, another smile. This time it didn’t appear fake or controlling. It was—genuine?
Rafe refused to take his hand, instead, grabbing the demon by the throat. “You mean you deliberately brought my innocent child into this twisted little game of yours?”
“It had to be done.” Luke slipped from Rafe’s hold easily. He sat on the edge of his desk again, one of his long legs swinging back and forth. When Rafe gave him a killing look, he laughed. “Don’t worry, you’ll soon get the hang of raising a half-demon, half-demigod.”
Julie looked at Luke, her eyes wide with apprehension. She’d been somewhat filled with fear about her child being half-demon, but now… He winked at her again and for some reason she found that very reassuring. Suddenly, she knew she and Rafe would raise this child together. Raise her in love.
Rafe pulled her into his arms and she knew she had found what she’d been searching for her entire life. Home. She’d found her home in the arms of this seductive demon.
A FEW MONTHS LATER…
Rafe couldn’t take his eyes off Julie; couldn’t believe this woman was his mate. The mother of his child. His daughter. He took a moment to indulge himself letting his gaze sweep over her. Her amazing hair hung in waves around her shoulders. She’d cut some off, saying it was too difficult to take care of now—now that she was almost ready to pop out their baby. He smiled thinking she would chastise him for thinking that way.
Hell, every female in his family would. He had to admit the new style suited her. Made her look more carefree. He hoped that he helped put that look on her face as well. That was his job now—making her life worry free.
Today she wore a thick sweater over jeans and boots, her stomach stretching the knitted fabric. Rafe thought he had never seen anything so beautiful.
Except when she was naked, her rounded belly and heavy breasts in front of him, waiting for his touch.
He walked over to her, putting his arms around her. “I like this. Shows off your baby bump.” His palm smoothed over her stomach and he felt their daughter move. He was damn proud of his kid and she hadn’t even been born. Anyone who could put that look of discomfort on Luke’s face had earned his undying respect.
Julie pushed her glasses up on her nose and leaned back against Rafe’s muscled chest and aroused lower half. It always surprised her that he wanted her with such ferocity, all the time. It did wonders for her ego, especially now.
“You mean my baby blimp. I can’t believe how much weight I’ve gained.”
“I’m fat. Fatter, I should say.”
He used that low growly voice that he used when he was upset. The one that turned her on so damn much.
“You’re having a baby. My baby. There isn’t anything sexier than that.”
“I can’t wait to hold our baby,” he said in her ear, his voice low and rough as he tenderly stroked the heavy mound beneath which their child lay. His hands slid to her hips, pulling her close. He rubbed his cock against her ass. He could have stood there forever, just like this, if it weren’t for the fact that he was hot and hard, and his jeans were growing more uncomfortable by the second. He wanted to make love to her right now.