- Meet The Girls
- Meet The Guys
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Thirteen
- Chapter Fourteen
This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.
This chapter includes mentions mental/emotional abuse/manipulation, and loss/grieving.
Eli didn’t slip into another car. At least, not straight away. Her blood was boiling in her veins, choking her on frustrations she couldn’t begin to unpack. The monster within her battered at her flimsy restraint. She itched to break free. To dive into that bar and scour every inch of it, leaving no door unopened, no cranny unsearched.
More than anything, she wanted to smack the glibness from the bartender’s face. She wanted to tear down every door until she found Archangel and drag him by the nape of his neck to that sticky, warped bar top. Hell, the beast inside her would stop at nothing to bring the Archangel to his knees before him. So that everyone knew that Queen Elizaveta was someone who should be feared. Someone whose very presence should make piss run down their legs.
Her hackles rose, bone-chilling, soul-biting desperation filled her, very near overriding all reasonable thought.
That was the problem with her nature. Regardless of how in control she believed she was, she never truly was. All it would take was one sideways look, and the evil that sat in her belly would break free. A demon who had corrupted her very soul. Over time, she had learned to love her darker whispers. Those impulses that seemed too bestial to ever indulge. They had become one with each other. Co-dependent in the way that only parasites could be. They were melding together over time. So much so that she often couldn’t tell where one began, and the other ended.
Perhaps, there had been a chance for them once that they could be something more than a beast. But that chance was ripped away when the Devil locked them in a cage and offered only the scraps from his table. They were a lapdog.
It took far longer than it should have to calm her quaking temper. She lost count of the many cigarettes she inhaled, only noting the staining around her fingers when she found herself on the main road. Growling under her breath, she thumbed up another car service. The hot Nevada sun beamed down on her, warming her perspiration-soaked skin.
She could smell her efforts. The stink of a traipse through the desert, where agitation left its mark as rivulets between her breasts. She’d have to clean up before getting back into the car. To hide her indiscretions.
Too quickly, her mind went from predator to prey.
She was so tired of the switching. Of the uneven footing. It was only a matter of time before she could no longer cope with a world where the earth threatened to bottom out beneath her feet at any moment.
Paranoia clawed at her, leaving throbbing bite marks along the back of her neck. She could swear she felt eyes on her. A cursory look around revealed no one. At least, in her direct eye line. Her insides turned to rot, thinking about what would happen if this departure was learned about. Landyn would not be as forgiving if he knew that she had slipped off like this. This was the first step toward trusting her, and she was blowing it.
A whisper of who she once was — feeble, desperate to please — awoke within her. The shell of a person who insisted on blaming herself for every cruelty enacted on her flesh awoke. She’d blown it. She deserved what was coming.
Eli buried the thought as deep as she could manage, her knee bouncing as she waited for her car to arrive. Her gaze swept anxiously up and down the street, noting every rogue plastic bag and crumpled-up can. The distant smell of fried food called to her, overriding even the most pungent stench of piss. She’d have to get dinner before she returned. If she was going to face Landyn today, she didn’t want to do so on an empty stomach.
The feeling of being watched never lessened. Not even as she climbed into the car and closed the door behind her. She could swear she felt eyes boring holes in the back of her skull. A gaze that tracked her movements until she was once again hidden in between racks of finery. Faceless, nameless, and unremarkable. Except for the credit card in her wallet.
Eli couldn’t recall everything she picked up. It was almost haphazard how she selected garments. She chose a few jackets — some shirts, all of which were in colors she knew she’d never wear. It wasn’t her money, after all. If an overpriced blouse sat at the back of her closet for years, it didn’t affect her in the slightest. She purchased some pants, some blazers — even some lingerie, hellbent and eager to ensure that someone other than the man who bought them would see her in them.
Her fingers drifted over the racks, too easily finding Damien’s favorite color. Green. Green and more green. The damned pile was all green.
Her mood darkened further as she did her best to chase his memory away.
Thinking about him would do nothing. Just break her heart. There wasn’t enough left. What mattered now was survival. Getting free.
It was what Damien wanted. It was what she needed.
She’d escape. Then she’d grieve.
The earlier feeling of being watched had disappeared entirely by the time she returned to her penthouse. From what she could tell, no one had the slightest inkling of what she got up to during her shopping trip. Over the years, she had learned to trust her gut. It had helped her considerably with the Devil and his ever-shifting moods. Landyn was an expert at keeping his secrets and guarding his intentions. Still, somehow, the animal within her managed to pick up on even the slightest cues.
Thinking back on the day that Damien died, she realized she had felt that something was off. She should have canceled their plans — she should have told Damien to leave town without her. It was her who got in the way. She played make-believe in the Devil’s playhouse and naively believed he wouldn’t notice when Barbie went off with Ken.
Landyn had appeared soon after her arrival, insisting that she model everything she had purchased. He wore his appreciation openly as she admired her, his fingers steepled as he studied her curves.
He was different then. In a way that was hard to place. It wasn’t in his disposition nor in the way he sat. It was in the way he smelled. Not freshly bathed, scrubbed clean of anything that made him him. Instead, he smelled natural. The same scent she had come to know and love. The same smell that she had once craved on her second skin.
It rattled her. More than it should have.
He plied her with sweet words and reassurances of what the future would hold. He placated her with promises of being a better man. He spoke with the saccharine tongue of someone who could whisper only poetry for his heart’s mate. A less jaded Eli would have been tempted to accept these offerings. She would have allowed herself to be placated and subdued by the dreamworld the demon had laid at her feet.
But she was older, wiser, and broken. She knew their dance was only just beginning. Just like he had every time before, when the time came to hold her in a back-breaking bend, he’d let her fall.
They went out that night, this time to a restaurant that was more to her liking. The dress code was far more casual, and she, despite it all, felt more at ease when she wasn’t playing dress-up. A phone call from his father ended their evening early, for which she was quite pleased. His hands kept finding her body — his lips to her neck and to the shell of her ear. He held her with the desperation of a man who feared he’d lose her. And she knew the reassurance he craved laid between her legs.
He left in a hurry, leaving her alone to make her way up to her apartment. The elevator door chimed. Her heart sank to the bottom of her feet when she noted a new set of guards at her door. Strangers. Just like the ones before. The unfamiliarity was growing too familiar — she felt her island drifting further away from land. Just as Landyn wanted.
With a small, polite nod, she entered her apartment, trying not to think too hard about the distinct lack of acknowledgment she received.
The lights flicked on in a brazen flash. She yiped, her hand slapped to her mouth when she realized she was not alone.
A dark figure stood at the far end of the island, his hands pushed into the pockets of his jeans. It took a moment to gather herself and realize who was in her space. The russet skin, defined jawline, and the kiss of tattoos over the neck of his shirt made it abundantly clear.
She smirked, doing her best to regain her composure. Then, bracing her hand against her hip, her eyes locked onto his. “I didn’t have to work very hard to find you, did I?”
“I know better than to keep a Queen waiting,” he smirked, his arms folding over his broad chest. There was a playfulness to him, but she knew better than to perceive it as warmth. “And I was intrigued. I wondered what would make you brave enough to leave your castle and come to the slums to hang out with the lowlives like me.”
She made a quiet, thoughtful noise, her fingers trailing the edge of her quartz countertops. “I have work for you if you’re interested.”
“Aren’t we at odds?” He asked, quirking his head to the side, his smile broadening. “I’m pretty sure Nex wouldn’t be too pleased that you’re asking someone from Perdition to join in on your dirty work.”
“I have no intention of Nex knowing,” she said flatly.
Archangel’s expression remained aloof, but she could see the slight lift of his brows. The flare of his nostrils. He hadn’t been expecting that.
“Can I get you something to drink?” She asked, already walking toward the bar before he could respond.
“Whatever you’re having.”
“Hm,” she hummed, pouring them both a glass of bourbon. “Interesting.”
“How so?” He asked, taking the glass from her. The tumbler looked almost ridiculous in his oversized, tattooed hands.
“You allowed me to choose the drink,” she shrugged. “A social move to make you seem malleable. Agreeable.”
His smirk broadened. “Or, maybe, I already scouted your drink collection and realized we have the same taste.”
She returned his with a smirk of his own. “I suppose we can agree on having good taste in common then.”
“We can,” he folded his arms across his middle. “The question remains what else we have in common?”
Eli’s jaw worked, her eyes darting to the bag left on the counter. She allowed the silence to hang between them as she padded her way back across the floor. Her cigarettes were soon pulled from the front pocket. Without a word, she led them both to her balcony. She offered him one, unsurprised when he declined with a shake of his head and produced a pack of his own. They were silent as they ignited their smokes and imbibed in the first few puffs. Neither pushed the subject nor broke the silence. It was the sort of peaceful, amicable stillness that could only be achieved between two smokers.
“Our hatred for Nex,” she said, at long last.
Archangel watched her for a long moment, his thumb picking at the cuticle of his index finger absently. “You’re going to ask me to move against them?”
It was hard to tell in the dim lighting, but she suspected she saw a smirk.
“Yes,” she replied without hesitation.
“What am I moving?”
He balked at her, for the first time his composure faltering. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I want you to get a friend and me out of here. Across the country.” She straightened, her chin lifting in a near-regal way as she studied him. “I was told you were the best. Is that not the case? Should I be looking for someone else?”
He frowned, his jaw set. “No, you came to the right person,” he drawled, imbibing in a deep pull from his cigarette. “Something like that is going to cost you.”
“I have the money.” What she had stolen before. And undoubtedly could get more before she left.
“And this friend… Is she also…?”
“She’s no one to them,” she said, tapping her cigarette into an overpriced, crystal ashtray. “She’s a dancer at one of their clubs. A singer.”
His face changed in what she could only assume was recognition. “Her name is Yuina,” she offered, taking another puff. “Do you need time to think about my proposition?”
Archangel’s lips pursed, his eyes falling to the glowing ember between his fingers. He killed it with one last inhale, snubbing it out with a few firm twists. “I’ll need to see the money upfront,” he said, matter-of-factly. “It will take some time to get everything together. And when the time comes, you have to do everything I say. Down to the letter. No fighting, no bitch-fits, no telling me that you’re my boss. None of that shit. Is that understood?”
A wry smile twisted on her lips. “You’d be surprised how capable I am of submitting.”
His eyes roamed over her body — over the temptress’ curve of her hips. “I doubt that.” He seemed unfettered, but the beast within her knew his interest for what it was. She could hear his heart rate quicken — taste the salt on the air as he began to sweat. Never mind how his pupils blew wide enough she could see them, even in the dark.
“I’ll be in touch,” he said, downing the remainder of his glass. “Thanks for the drink.”
Eli frowned, her eyes darting into the apartment. “How are you going to get out of here?”
He grinned wolfishly, walking backward toward the railing. His hands remained stuffed in his pockets. “Impatient, aren’t you?”
She watched with marked horror as he stepped onto the railing, his balance swaying as the breeze picked up.
“What the fuck are you doing?” She snarled, racing to his side. She reached for him, her hand closing around the fabric of his leather jacket, only to feel it slip through her fingers.
She gasped, throwing herself over the railing to watch as her one last hope at escape fell to the strip beneath them. But instead, all she saw was a hawk — wings flapping furiously as it climbed up high in the sky.
There was no body left as broken pieces on the ground. There were no screams from pedestrians as they walked past the shattered remains of a too arrogant coyote.
The hawk called to her, its voice carried to her on the winds.
What the fuck did I just see?
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