Chapter One: Two Demons Walk into a Bar, Ah Hell

“Eve, I need your help with a body again.”

I glanced at my watch and frowned. “It’s only nine o’clock.”

“Yeah, my date ended earlier than I expected.”

Clearly.

Damn it.

I couldn’t close the bar for at least another hour. Sheriff Montgomery was only on his second of the usual four drinks, Billy hadn’t passed out yet, and Betsy had just arrived with her worthless excuse of a husband.

It was shaping up to be a typical Thursday night at Violet’s Bar, including the call I had just received from my best friend.

I slid a glass of water over to Rosie, who looked ready to fall off her barstool, while balancing the phone between my ear and shoulder.

“I’ll be home around eleven.”

“Ugh, really? But he’s starting to smell,” Gwen whined. “And he’s oozing all over your rug.”

“Rug? What rug?” And why the hell would she wrap a body in it when there were plastic gardening sheets in the garage for this purpose? It wasn’t like this was her first bad date.

“It’s just a rug,” she muttered.

“Wait…” I turned to face the back wall and dropped my voice to a whisper. “Are you talking about my oriental rug?”

“What other rug could I possibly be referring to?”

“Gwen!” I snapped. “That’s an antique!”

“Well, what did you expect me to do? You know how I feel about leaving stains on the furniture.”

“Then you shouldn’t have had sex in the living room,” I gritted out. “Neutral territory, Gwen. Remember?” She probably didn’t. The woman was a damn Succubus. She had only one activity on her mind when she brought a man home.

“We got carried away,” she said, her voice catching at the end.

“Obviously,” I muttered. Since he’s dead.

I pinched the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes.

She’s your best friend.

She’s a relatively new Succubus.

Yelling at her won’t fix anything.

But she buried her latest conquest in my silk oriental rug. “We’re going to have a long chat when I get home.”

She blew a raspberry at me through the phone. “Fine, but what should I do in the meantime?”

“Call Kevin.” He was most useful in these situations.

“The Ghoul? Gross. No.”

Leave it to my prissy roommate to be put off by a little bone crunching. “Fine, then I’ll call him after work. See you in a bit.” I hung up before she could argue or complain about inviting a Ghoul over to the house for a late-night snack.

Rolling up a body in my fucking rug. Of all the things for her to do. Christ.

I swiped the sheriff’s now-empty glass and refilled it before tending to the couple at the other end of the bar. It was the usual crowd, all stopping by for a nightcap after work. Well, except Ray, the resident drunk. He didn’t work but somehow always managed to afford his tab. I swapped out his beer bottle for a fresh one and smiled. Mortals and their low alcohol tolerance.

“How ya doin’, Violet?” Betsy asked as I approached. The blonde bombshell was far too good-looking for her old, overweight husband and his wandering eye. Right now that rusty gaze was settled on my cleavage. One of these days, I would shove a blade down his throat and force him to swallow, but not tonight. Betsy still adored the old bastard. I’d wait until she left him.

“Livin’ the dream,” I replied as I started preparing her usual rum and Coke. “You?”

“Same old, same old,” she drawled. “Are y’all goin’ to the country fest this weekend up in Nashville?”

Ha. That’ll happen the day a Demonic Lord concedes his territory to an Orsini Devil.

But I couldn’t say that without offending everyone at the bar.

I opened my mouth to voice an excuse, but it died in my throat as electricity danced over my skin. Oh no. Not tonight.

Demons.

At least three.

My nostrils flared. A human wouldn’t be able to scent them or notice the subtle change in air they created, but I would.

I set Betsy’s drink down on the bar top with more force than necessary and focused on the door. The inhuman impostors had chosen the wrong bar to play in tonight, and they were about to be taught a lethal lesson.

Three.

Two.

Ding.

Sheriff Montgomery glanced over his shoulder with a smile ready, as did several of the others, but the man who sauntered in didn’t return the Southern gesture. He didn’t even acknowledge them. His eyes were for me, and me alone.

Fuck.

Not a demon, but something far worse.

Sin dressed in all black.

And damn, did he look good. He always looked good.

“Gin on the rocks.” His deep baritone brought up a flood of unwelcome memories and sensations. All of them centered between my thighs. I knew that body well, every lean, muscular inch, and I remembered what it could do. Pleasure and pain.

The small room had gone quiet, as it always did when a stranger arrived. This was the local bar—they weren’t used to out-of-towners, and Xai definitely resembled a foreigner in his hand-tailored suit. His tousled midnight hair, matching eyes, and sun-kissed skin marked him as clearly other. But it was his accent and gestures that really set him apart. He always stood out wherever he went.

My gaze drifted over his shoulder as two of his companions entered, both in suits far too expensive for this townie bar. They strolled up to flank Xai.

Guardians. I smiled. Glorified demon bodyguards. The angel thought he might need protection for this visit. At least I couldn’t fault his intelligence.

“They’ll have the same,” he added in that low, sexy murmur as he straddled the stool beside the sheriff.

“Sure,” I replied, mostly because I sensed my bar patrons were starting to grow uneasy by the newcomers. They might not be able to sense their demonic auras, but the three men oozed danger. Especially Xai.

I selected a bottom-shelf gin, knowing he would hate it, and poured three drinks as requested.

“Intriguing,” Xai said as I slid the glasses across the bar. He wasn’t referring to the cheap drink but to my willingness to serve him and his cronies. The latter eyed the liquor with distaste, clearly finding the alcohol beneath them. They probably wanted to get this party started but wouldn’t make a move without their keeper’s permission, and Xai loved a drawn-out game.

I leaned against the counter behind me and waited for his first move. Those wicked eyes danced appreciatively over my red halter top and jeans as he openly searched me for knives. He wouldn’t be able to see or sense them and he knew it, but he did it just the same.

“You look different,” he mused. “Did you lighten your hair?”

I snorted. Neither of our appearances had changed since our Fall to Earth all those millennia ago. I would forever remain the light to his dark with my pale complexion, blue eyes, and ash-colored hair, and he knew it.

“You must be seeing the gold halo hovering over my head,” I replied dryly.

“Ya know this guy, Violet?” Sheriff Montgomery interjected.

“Violet,” Xai repeated, his lips twitching at the corners. “Hmm…” His gaze slid over me in a way that said he was picturing me in purple lingerie. “How beautifully appropriate.”

I didn’t shift my focus away from the dark angel as I replied, “Yes, we’re acquainted.”

“That’s putting it a bit lightly, isn’t it?” Xai turned to the sheriff, and I could tell by the curve of his mouth that he was about to say something devastating. Something that would require cleanup in the form of mortal corpses. He always did enjoy a good slaughter. That was the problem with immortals our age. No humanity.

But some of us still cared.

At least a little.

I sighed, annoyed. If I didn’t intervene, all Hell would break loose, and I already had one body to clean up tonight. Adding a bloody bar to the mix would make for a very long night.

Damn it.

Xai would call me soft, but it was the practical option.

Their mortal lives were short enough already.

“All right, y’all, time to call it a night,” I said before Xai could create a scene. Since everyone was still gawking at the out-of-town guests, I didn’t have to raise my voice to be heard. But a few of them did look at me as if I’d grown two heads. “Seriously, the bar is now closed, but all your drinks are on the house.” Because I’ll be sending the bill to the man in the expensive suit.

Xai smirked. “How quaint.”

“Yes, having a heart is a weakness.” My retort knocked the amusement right off his handsome face. Those starless eyes glistened with memories better forgotten and a hurt neither of us would ever soothe.

Xai snapped his fingers. “Now.”

“Leave,” his Guardians said at once. The single word command reverberated around the room and forced the mortals into action. Damn compelling demons. They were useful in certain situations, but this wasn’t one of them.

“That wasn’t necessary,” I muttered.

Xai set his untouched drink off to the side—as if he couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore—while saying, “There’s a Scrubber waiting outside. They won’t remember anything except that they had a good night.”

It took conscious energy not to gape at him.

He brought a Scrubber demon? That explained the additional demonic presence I felt outside. But why?

Bringing a demon along who specialized in altering human memory implied he wasn’t here to harm. But the Xai I knew would never care about that. He considered our kind superior and never hesitated to play God.

“Don’t look so surprised, love,” he murmured, seeing right through me in that same way he always did. “I’m not always in the mood for blood.”

“Debatable,” I replied flatly.

He shrugged one shoulder as if to say, True.

I watched as the last of my patrons disappeared. Already I could see their brains working to formulate a logical reason for their sudden desire to leave. Mortals were always quick to ignore their instincts and fabricate stories to explain supernatural occurrences. It was the reason Hell had found sanctuary on this plane.

“Now that we’re alone…” Xai steepled his long, elegant fingers against the bar. “Care to dispose of your knives?”

That was an easy question. “Nope.”

He clucked his tongue, his expression one of amusement. “Are you going to make me come get them?”

I smiled sweetly. “Are you going to make me kill you?”

His grin grew with anticipation. “The last time we fought, you ended up naked beneath me,” he sighed. “A moment I cherish and would love to repeat. However, there’s the matter of Lord Zebulon’s message that we must discuss first. He wishes to see you.”

I should have known that was the reason for his visit. Everything Xai did was for Zeb.

“When?” I asked.

“Sunday.” Xai reached into his suit jacket and pulled out an envelope. “I believe all the information you require is in here.”

I didn’t take the envelope. “What does he want?”

“To talk.”

“About?”

“That is for him to explain, not me.”

Typical Xai answer. Oh, he knew exactly what Zeb wanted, but he wouldn’t tell me. It had nothing to do with morals or loyalty to his Demonic Lord. He just wanted to annoy me, something he excelled at better than others.

Rolling my eyes, I took the envelope and opened it. It was filled with travel documents. “Miami,” I said, reading the destination. I looked at Xai, my expression cynical. “There’s this great invention called the telephone. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”

“Perhaps I wanted to see you,” he countered, a slow, sensual smile forming on his lips.

“I was referring to Zeb flying me to Miami with less than three days’ notice, not your surprise appearance.” Though, come to think of it, he could have used the phone, too, and just sent me the plane ticket electronically.

“It’s an urgent matter.”

“Regarding?”

“Nice try,” Xai replied as he stood up. The Guardians took that as a sign of permission to leave and did so promptly. “I’ll be picking you up from the airport. And it is a business meeting, so please remember to dress appropriately.” The look he gave me said my current attire wouldn’t cut it. He started toward the door, his mission seemingly accomplished.

“You’re forgetting something,” I told him when his back was to me.

He glanced over his shoulder, his look dangerously seductive. “Oh, I haven’t forgotten our little fight, Evangeline. I have every intention of picking up that particular argument when you arrive in Miami.”

“I wasn’t talking about my knives,” I replied, my voice dry again. “I’m talking about a little thing called ‘agreement.’ I might have plans this weekend.” I didn’t, but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t succumb to anyone’s demands, including the Demonic Lord of North America. If he wanted to arrange a meeting, he could call for my availability and schedule some time in Nashville.

Xai smiled. “I have no doubt you’ll arrive on time.”

“And why is that?”

“Because, Evangeline,” he said as he started toward the door again, “you’re curious.”

Damn straight I was curious. Zeb never summoned me. Even when I worked for him, he would send me a note via courier with his request, and I either accepted the job or refused it. But to send Xai here, and demand my presence in Miami, was suspicious, to say the least. Zeb notoriously hated the southern states. They were too close to the borders with Valentino, the Demonic Lord of South America.

This couldn’t be about a job.

First, I was retired.

Second, he would never risk discussing an assassination so close to another Demonic Lord’s territory.

So this is personal, then.

Damn.

This really was going to be a long fucking night because now I needed to get my affairs in order. Nothing good ever came from having a personal discussion with a demon lord.

“Oh, by the way,” Xai added as an afterthought. “My apologies about your oriental rug. I imagine that will be difficult to replace, yes?”

For the second time tonight, I fought my urge to gape at him. He’d obviously shown up prior to his demon counterparts and deliberately listened in on my phone call with Gwen. I couldn’t sense him the way I did demons. Angelic auras were different from the underworld.

But that wasn’t what bothered me. Spying I could handle, but his falsely casual statement revealed a lot more about our current situation. And the potential for blackmail.

He knows about Gwen’s control issue

I folded my arms to distract my hands from fondling my knives. Knowing Xai, that was the purpose of his statement. He loved a good fight, and we both knew I was the best fighting partner alive.

“Eavesdropping isn’t an attractive trait, Xai.”

“Yes, and neither is this soft side you’ve been showing lately.” His sardonic tone grated on my already-tried nerves. Then he grinned, and I stopped breathing.

Wicked.

Cruel.

And downright mean.

This was going to hurt.

“It would be a shame if Lord Zebulon found out about Guinevere’s control issues, yes? I suspect he would send her back to Hell for more training, and we both know what that would require.”

His sable irises gleamed as the threat settled in the pit of my stomach. I read the hidden meaning behind his words. Show up on Sunday, or I’ll tell Zeb about Gwen.

“Do it, and I’ll kill you,” I promised. He knew my one weakness was my best friend, and he used it against me. This was why I hated him. And also why I once loved him. He knew how to play me better than anyone did, and time only strengthened that bond.

“Don’t worry, Evangeline. Your secret is safe with me.” He fucking winked, the bastard. “Have a lovely evening, darling. I look forward to strip-searching you on Sunday.”

Chapter Two: To-Do List: Crematorium and the Silver Maker

“You didn’t need to burn it,” Gwen muttered, her slender arms folded around her torso. “I mean, the mortals have dry cleaning.”

“And how would I explain the stains?” Not to mention the stench. She’d created a corpse burrito by rolling up her date in my oriental rug and then left him in the living room. Even Kevin had gagged a little, and he literally lived for that shit.

“I don’t know. Maybe say an animal died?” she suggested as her cute little button nose scrunched.

“Too late now.” Not that it would have worked anyway. Handwoven silk was not meant to be deep cleaned, nor was it meant to hold dead bodies. “Next time, remember the plastic sheets, Gwen. I don’t want to do this again.”

“It hasn’t been enjoyable for me either,” she murmured, broken. Her cerulean eyes were a shade darker than normal and underlined with unshed tears, and her full lips trembled. Most Succubi didn’t kill during sex unless they wanted to, but Gwen couldn’t seem to help herself. She always got caught up in the moment, feeding a little too hard, and by the time she realized what she’d done, it was too late.

I wrapped my arm around her small shoulders and hugged her to me. “You’ll get there.”

“You say that every time, Eve. And every time, you’re wrong.”

“Then maybe you should take Zane up on his offer.” The Incubus had offered to supervise her feedings in the form of threesomes, but so far she’d refused. Mostly because she was secretly in love with the gorgeous man, something he seemed completely oblivious to, and also because a relationship would never work out. They both needed to feed sexually, and it could never be from each other.

“I know it’s not what you want to hear,” I continued. “But you really need to consider it before someone else finds out.” Demons were under strict rules in this region regarding mortal kills, and Gwen had more than exceeded her allotted quota. If Zeb found out, he would send her home, and I’d never see her again.

Hence Xai’s parting comments. I had no doubt he would follow through on his unveiled threat if I didn’t board that plane Sunday morning. And then my roommate would be in serious danger.

Ultimatums and cryptic games.

Oh, I’d show up all right. If anything, so I could reacquaint the bastard with my knives. The man always did look good in red.

Gwen sniffled. “I’m not sure what would be worse at this point. Sean was so sweet, Eve. He didn’t deserve to die like that.”

His frozen expression of ecstasy said he hadn’t minded all that much, but I kept that thought to myself.

She fiddled with a strand of her long, almost-black hair and bit her lip to keep it from trembling. “My heart can’t take much more,” she admitted. “He’s the fourth one this month.”

I nodded but remained quiet. There wasn’t much to say other than, I know.

Gwen sighed and looked upward at the Heavens, as if my ancestors held all the answers, then shook her head. “Ugh, you’re right. I need to stop being selfish and talk to Zane. He couldn’t possibly hurt me more than I’m hurting right now.”

A partial truth. I had a feeling Zane could do a lot of damage if she let him, but her heart was in the right place.

“You’re a good person, Gwen.” A demon with a conscience was an oddity in this world and probably why she had become my best friend over the years. I hoped she never changed, but I knew there was a strong probability that she would eventually. Most immortals did.

“I’m really not,” she replied. “But I’m trying to be.”

“And that’s what counts.” I hugged her again and started toward the crematorium exit. My rug was incinerated, as were the body parts Kevin hadn’t wanted, and I’d already fiddled with the building’s security tapes. Time for the next stop on our early morning tour around Nashville.

Gwen figured out my intentions about ten minutes into our drive, her lips curling down. “Why are we going to your armory?”

“Errand,” I replied vaguely. Gwen was one of two people who knew about this place, and because I had trust issues, it was the only one she knew about. But this weaponry superseded the others because it contained my favorite asset: Danny Gleason, also known as the other person I trusted with this location.

The parking lot was vacant except for an inexpensive gray sedan. With the amount of money I paid Gleason, he could afford better transportation. I hopped out of my considerably nicer SUV, and Gwen followed with a grumble. The bar didn’t help me afford this lifestyle, but rather my former career did. A few millennia as the top assassin on Earth had set me for, well, eternity. It quite literally paid to be the Daughter of Death.

I tapped twice on the side-entrance door, paused, and then added a third knock. A sleepy and slightly irritated Gleason greeted me with his trademark scowl in place.

“Hello, handsome,” I said with a kiss to his cheek. His deep-red stubble tickled my lips. So sexy. His thick auburn hair and muscular build weren’t bad either. Gwen knew better than to touch him, so she just gave a finger wave. This was the one mortal on Earth I forbade her from fondling, no matter how much she might want to. I needed him alive and would go to great lengths to keep him that way.

“This better be good,” he grumbled.

“I’m always good,” I teased.

His green eyes shifted upward in his version of an eye-roll before settling on me. “Stop flirting and tell me why I’m here.”

“Such a sweet talker, Gleason.”

“It’s three o’clock in the morning, Eve. If you want sweet talk, then fuck me first.”

I patted his sturdy chest. “All in good time, my love.”

He snorted. “Right.”

We both knew I couldn’t sleep with him, not because I found him lacking in any way, but because I considered him invaluable.

Silver didn’t exist on Earth thanks to demons eradicating it over a millennium ago. They replaced element 47 with a new version that was considerably less harmful to underworld beings, and then they unleashed an army of Scrubbers to alter mortal perception. Humans no longer knew the substance existed and were hardwired to not even consider the potential chemical properties. All because pure silver could kill.

Which was why Gleason meant so much to me—because despite the mental blocks in place, he had figured out how to reproduce the precious metal. It helped that I provided him with the source material in the form of an old blade.

“Do you have my toys?” After Xai left, I had sent Gleason a list with what I needed from the vault.

“Yes.” He led the way to his lab. “You realize you have a key, right? That you don’t need me to pull this shit out for you?”

“But then whom would I flirt with?” Not a lie, but not the truth either. I would tell him why I wanted him here after I reviewed the merchandise. Then the fireworks would start.

He just shook his head and kept moving.

Gwen admired his ass with a seductive smile, and I flashed her a look. She just shrugged—her way of saying, He wears those jeans well. Which, yes, he did, but my heart only seemed interested in a certain tall, dark, and handsome angel in a black suit. Two-thousand-plus years, and I still found him attractive. Unbelievable.

Gleason stopped at a table and folded his arms. It stretched his gray shirt across that strong chest, which elicited a sharp intake of breath from the Succubus beside me. Or maybe her reaction was to all the silver tools on the wood surface. I picked up the one closest to me.

Pure silver was too soft to form solid weapons, but even a tiny amount fused with a harder metal could kill a demon. The hair sticks in my hand were exactly what I needed. I twisted up my blonde strands with one hand and slid them into place to test their weights. The sharp, pointy ends rested against the back of my neck at the perfect location.

“Nice,” I said, grabbing the shoes next. They were the right size and fit, with a sharp silver-infused heel. A necklace and matching earrings were up next, all holding sharp edges in the right places, and last was a set of handcrafted blades with an E carved into the handle. I caressed them in reverence as I met Gleason’s impatient gaze. “I just fell even more in love with you.”

He wasn’t amused. “Are we finished here?”

“Not quite.” I secured the blades from the table and prepared for a verbal battle. One that would put me on one side and Gwen and Gleason on the other. “Xai came to see me tonight.”

What?” And there was the shouting I expected from Gwen. “We’ve been together for the last four hours, and you’re just mentioning this to me?”

“We had other problems to deal with.”

She scoffed at that. “Oh, please. We deal with dead bodies every week, and Xai is so not the norm.” Her eyes narrowed as speculation tainted her features. “Did you fuck him?”

Of course she would ask that. “No, it was a business visit. Zeb wants to see me.”

Her jaw dropped while Gleason paled. He knew of the Demonic Lord because I’d warned him years ago that his work for me could get him killed. But the insanely smart chemistry professor had been too intrigued by the “new metal” to ignore the opportunity, not to mention his fascination with the underworld. I told him everything because I considered it a fair trade for more silver products. Most of mine were centuries old and tarnished. The effect didn’t dull, but the look and feel did.

“Why?” he asked, all his earlier grumpiness replaced by concern.

“He wouldn’t tell me.” Hence the reason I called this impromptu meeting. “But I’m flying to Miami on Sunday.”

“Like hell you are,” Gwen snapped. “The last time you went to see Xai, he…” She trailed off after remembering the mortal in the room. “Yeah, well, you know what he did.”

I did. Only too well. “I can handle Xai.”

Her eyes told me just how much she didn’t believe that. Fair enough.

“Anyway, there’s a small chance Zeb knows about our arrangement,” I said, bringing us back to the point. “It’s unlikely, but he isn’t following our established protocol, and something feels wrong.” I couldn’t put my finger on it, but my instincts flared with warning. Nothing good was waiting for me in Miami.

“Yet you’re going,” Gwen muttered.

“Yes.” Here was the part I dreaded having to say, but I had to tell her. She deserved to know. “Xai overheard our call tonight about the rug.” Her rosy cheeks whitened as my words translated. “It wasn’t enough to cause an immediate issue, but it could pique Zeb’s interest if he tells him.” Which he would if I didn’t show up on Sunday, and then we’d be dealing with not only an irritated Zeb but also a curious one. And the last thing Nashville needed was a pissed-off Demonic Lord to arrive with his entourage.

“If?” Gwen sounded both incredulous and nervous. “You mean ‘when.’ ”

I pursed my lips. “Maybe, but Xai’s more likely to stay quiet if I show up on Sunday.” He loved to piss me off, but he never crossed the line into unforgivable territory, and he had to know this would do it. “Besides, he doesn’t have ample proof of anything. We’ve disposed of the body, and it’s only the one occurrence. But I’d rather Xai not give Zeb a reason to watch you.”

“What do you think he wants?” Gleason asked, his expression more curious than afraid. “Because I have a feeling if he knew anything about me, I wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

I shook my head. “Zeb’s a master manipulator who loves a good game of chess. Your being alive may only be temporary, which is why I need you to take a vacation.”

His scowl returned. “It’s the middle of summer semester, Eve.”

“Then it’s a good thing you have teaching assistants, Professor Gleason.”

He didn’t appear impressed by that response. “And where do you want me to go?”

“Europe.” The Demonic Lord in that region loathed Zeb. It would take months for them to work out any kind of mutual agreement, and by then, Gleason would be somewhere else. “It’s just a precaution,” I added. I doubted this meeting had anything to do with my silver maker, mostly because I’d done a fantastic job hiding him. If Zeb had discovered my secret, I would be more impressed than anything else.

“He probably just wants you for a job,” Gwen murmured, her earlier concern replaced by thoughtfulness. “And Xai used it as an excuse to see you.” She added that last part with an eye-roll. “Fucker.”

“Most likely, but they both know I’m retired.” Not that either of them cared.

“Right, and they want to change your mind. Especially Xai.”

“If anyone wants to force me out of retirement, it’s Zeb.” He always did enjoy a good negotiation, and he loved confusing his opponent, which could explain his sending Xai to the bar.

“Or maybe,” Gwen continued, her tone speculative. “Maybe it’s not a job at all.” Her brow furrowed. “You haven’t done anything to piss him off, have you?”

“Not recently.” I could think of over a dozen things I’d done in the last decade alone, but something drastic enough to warrant punishment? Doubtful. Zeb liked me too much.

“Not a convincing answer,” she replied knowingly. “What about Lord Valentino? Miami is near his territory. Maybe he’s requested a meeting through Lord Zebulon?”

“I haven’t seen that arrogant bastard in over fifty years, so I doubt it. Besides, Zeb would never hand me over to him.” He hated Valentino more than I did and would never agree to a trade.

Gwen sighed. “Well, I have no idea, then.”

“Me neither.” But as Xai predicted, I was curious. Why Miami, and why Sunday? “The way I see it, Zeb’s provided me with a fully financed trip to Miami. Might as well enjoy the mini-vacay on his dime.” The lightness in my voice was more for their benefit than mine. This would in no way turn out to be a fun trip, but they didn’t need to know that. The last thing I wanted was for them to worry. I could handle myself.

My attempt at humor seemed to work, because Gwen’s lips lifted at the corners. “Right. Because you need free vacations.”

“It’s the beach. I’d be a fool to turn it down.”

And a fool to go, her eyes seemed to say.

I couldn’t argue with that.

It seemed to be a common theme with Xai, ever since the day I Fell. Love made you do crazy things, and this trip would be no exception.

END SAMPLE

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