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I was exhausted. You try working 52 hours in five days and then tell me how you feel. Then tell me you aren’t tired. Usually, I love my job but the past few weeks have been hell on my body clock. Working from 7am to 4:40pm may not sound all that long or all that hard, but when you do it every day, it gets tedious. I rushed around, clearing the occupied tables, glanced at the clock thirty times in 2 minutes and bumped into three customers before it was time for me to go home. I sighed when the clock finally ticked round to 4:40 and tripped over my own feet collecting my things and leaving. I shouted breathless ‘goodbyes’ to my colleagues, then danced down the street. Slowly, the rush I got from being free faded and I strolled contentedly down Market Street, enjoying the evening sunshine and relaxed bustle of shoppers. I walked down the alley by the side of the large Debanhams, a shop I never went in; I mean have you seen the prices in there? It was dark down the alley, away from the sun, and I shivered a little as the temperature dropped. Rats scurried into corners and over rubbish bags left lying in the corner. I made a mental note to remind my boss to move those before the Health Officer Dude came. All of the Starbucks branches were being checked over the next day, and ours was the first on the list. Tucking a strand of black curly hair behind my ear, I pulled my mobile out, scrolled down to Doug the Boss, and called him, to tell him before I forgot. I have a terrible memory when it comes to things like that and, most of the time, forget where I’m going when I’m out shopping. As I ended the call, an old homeless woman reached out and grabbed the back of my jeans, pulling slightly so I stumbled. I wrenched them out of her grasp and turned to regard her. She was sat on the floor, huddled in a (I want to say shit-covered) blanket. A mouldy cap sat on top of her greasy head and she looked up at me through dirt encrusted eyes. As I stared down at her, a telltale shiver passed up my spine and travelled over my shoulders, resting just over my heart. I smiled at her as I said “Hel? That you?” The old woman nodded emphatically and grinned a toothless grin at me. “I got to say Hel, that’s the best disguise ever. It took me ages to realise it was you.” The Norse goddess of the underworld was too noticeable to pass as a human, her natural form being that of a half woman (on top) and half rotting corpse (on the bottom). So she took the form of a tramp or a drunk or an addict, something people would expect to be dirty and extremely malodorous. If you’re around her long enough, you get used to it. I guess it’s one thing I didn’t tell you about me. I can identify the gods who visit our realm frequently and try to pass as human. Most of them already have a human appearance as their natural form so they only have to tone down their supreme godly beauty. But others, like Hel, are so unnatural, that they have to take on a whole new human structure. I’ve heard it’s hard to keep up the guise for long unless the gods practice it frequently. The goddess was still staring up at me so I returned my attention to her and sank down on the floor, which was promptly covered by a fancy blanket.
“Thanks,” I spoke softly and sat down more firmly on the blanket Hel had fabricated for me, sitting cross legged opposite her. She grinned again and when she spoke her voice was reedy and thin, her heavy accent lisping. “We are all here now. All gods have come to earth realm, for party. They all have access now to earth realm, all visiting. Be careful little girl. Not all gods will appreciate your abilities.” Her English wasn’t perfect but the warning was clear enough. I shivered a little at the ominous advice but covered the movement with a cough. If anyone thought it was strange that a young woman was sitting on the alley floor, admittedly on a nice blanket, with an old homeless woman, then nobody showed it. She continued to chat away, an undoubtedly excited note to her voice as she mentioned certain aspects of an apocalypse. I politely nodded, not truly hearing her. My phone vibrated in my pocket and I gratefully pulled it out, flipping it open and pressing the ‘Accept Call’ button, whilst smiling apologetically at the goddess. “Hello?” My voice was pleasant as I listened for the response. I smiled as I heard my friend’s voice on the other end. “Boo!” I laughed, listening as the voice continued with, “How you doin’ sweetie? You have no idea what you’re missin’ at Uni, hun. There was this email sent around accidentally to all the people who attend the University, even the teachers.” I smiled again as her voice rose in excitement. Obviously this story was bad or she wouldn’t be this hyped up. Abbey Carloza, my long time friend and loyal guardian of all my secrets. Half vampire, half shape shifter, 100 % normal……ish……kind of. Most of the time. Don’t laugh, vampshifters can be normal. She very rarely spoke with full stops and you had to concentrate and put them in yourself. I listened as she continued with her story, the words coming swift in her enthusiasm. “It had pictures, like, bad pictures…..featuring a certain bald PE teacher wrapped around a certain blonde chav.” I gasped as her words sunk in. She laughed gaily, no pun intended, at my reaction and continued. “Apparently, she emailed it to one of her friends, but it somehow managed to get to everyone. If you checked yours, it will probably be there, with attachments. You have to check out those pictures. There are ten of them. The teachers are in an uproar over it and he may be fired. It’s great news.” Abbey hated PE, unless she got to do it with the boys, because she said, and I quote, ‘they’re more like me.’ This meant she could bitch and find out all the gossip. Abbey heaven. It was Saturday tomorrow and I waited for a break in her rambling before I asked, “What are you doing tomorrow? I have some shopping I need to do and could use some quality catch up with my favourite person in the whole world. Are you free?” I could almost hear the teasing in the silence that followed, knowing she was only pretending to think about whether she wanted to spend time with me. She heaved a sigh down the phone before answering. “Well…I suppose I could come, since I don’t have anything else to do.” She laughed and we arranged times for the next day before we hung up. Hel stared up at me as I ended the call, still grinning. I smiled back, in that moment loving my gift. Movement to the left had my head turning. A young woman approached us; face streaming with tears, pale, distraught. She walked nervously
towards us, arms clasped around her body in an attempt to protect herself. I slowly turned my body towards her as her voice quavered. “Where am I?” She had an accent, Polish, I think. “You’re in Manchester, England. Do you know what happened?” I kept my voice soft and lulling. “I remember….I remember big headlights,” she gestured with her hands, “I was in a, I don’t know the word here…..ummm…..Cor...No…Cir….no……Car. I was in a car and big headlights coming towards us. Loud crash and then?” She threw her hands up and shrugged, “I was here and no-one can see me. Apart from you and the old woman it would appear.” She was agitated now and paced the alley. Another thing I didn’t tell you. I can see, hear, talk to and touch the dead. Everyone that dies eventually comes to me. They may wander for a while but Hades once described me as a magnet for the dead. I draw them to me, they have to come. Wherever they are. I also have access to every form of heaven and hell that has ever been believed in. I can open the doorways and send the dead through to their rightful place. Downside is, I can pass people on the street and know when they are going to die, how and where they have to go, and all the sins they have ever committed. I can see all that in one glance. It’s truly disconcerting when I’m talking to someone and seeing them die. Also it makes you think less of people when you see everything they have ever done wrong. I try not to judge people. I glanced at the Polish woman as I spoke. “You ready to go?” She looked up startled by the sound of my voice. “Go to heaven?” I dipped my head in agreement. She was set for heaven as a Christian. She’d been a pretty good person overall. She pondered that for a while, but eventually nodded. I took a deep breath and opened the little vault in my mind. The best way I can describe this is like a computer. You know when you open one document and then minimize it before opening another? Well that’s sort of what I do. I can pull up whichever religion I need at the time, minimize it and open another. Concentrating on the Christian heaven, I opened the door. A white light, visible only to me, the dead and other gods, appeared in front of me. She cautiously peered into the light. “It’s safe, I promise.” “Have you been through?” Her voice trembled. I nodded, not lying to her. I really had been through. It appeared however you imagined it or formed itself around your greatest desire. If what you loved the most was a meadow covered in lilacs, that’s what you got. It changed to suit your needs too. I watched as she braced herself, thanked me and then walked into the light. I sighed as the radiance faded and blinked out. Hel was still looking up at me from her bundle on the floor. I glanced at my watch. 5:30. I had a class in an hour. Ancient History. I’d graduated from St Gabriel’s High School with 5 A’s, 3 A*’s and a B in maths. Then I’d enrolled in classes at Holy Cross College in Bury so I could still keep my job at Starbucks and pay for my flat. I aced all the classes, getting my A levels in Biology, Classical Civilisations, English
Literature and Spanish. Now I was taking classes at Manchester University. So no one can say that waitresses were stupid. I don’t even know why I take classes since I’m quite happy being a waitress. I guess it’s to keep my mind occupied and sane, seeing dead people all the time can sort of chip away at your little wall of sanity, until you’re completely insane. The classes topped up the bricks which got knocked off. I had to go. But I was still dressed in my work uniform and probably wouldn’t have time to change. I heaved out a gusty sigh and looked at Hel, an idea blooming. Sweetly, I sat down beside her again and smiled. She laughed. “Just ask, child. What do you want to wear?” After I described it, I was clothed in it and walked off with a wave and a grin. Classes were fun. I had tons of work to do and all through the class dead people had been popping up out of nowhere and scaring me silly. I’d had to send them all to different places too, so at the end I was shattered. It took loads of energy to open the portals. Three Christians, two Norse pagans, two Greek pagans and an old Hindu woman had come to me, all speaking different languages, and one speaking one I didn’t know. Two of the Christians and one of the Norse pagans had been listed for Hell. I hated doing that. Though, actually, they’d deserved it. I shuddered at the thought. The streets were still packed as I walked to the car park near the university; I waved at my fellow classmates and climbed into my car. I was used to the strange looks by now. Driving around in a hearse will get you plenty of strange looks. It was black, with multicoloured Greek, Norse, Egyptian and gothic symbols, the letters arranged into words of protection, the gothic stuff just for decoration. Purple velvet curtains covered the long side windows, I swear there is no coffin in the back, and I had converted the back into a library, bed and mini-fridge area. It was certainly big enough. The bed was only a mattress, sheets and duvet, but sometimes I had to travel and sleeping in my car was a lot easier than driving home when I’m practically asleep already. It’s bad to fall asleep at the wheel. Trust me, I see so many people who have done just that, and let me tell you, they’re not exactly in the ‘I’m Living’ club. Did I know as I started driving out of the car park that this journey home would not be normal and the day was truly not done with its surprises? Nope. Not one little bit. I just figured I’d go to Asda for something sugary or alcoholic and then curl up at home in front of the TV. Fate had different plans. The sky was just beginning to darken, glowing scarlet and purple as the sun got ready for bed. I concentrated on the broken lines in the centre of the road, which at 70 mph looked like one long white line. ‘Carnival of Rust’ by Poets of the Fall blared from the shiny in-car CD player, extremely loud, pounding, and vibrating through my car and out into the atmosphere. I got dirty looks from other motorists but was too absorbed in the music to really care. As I sang along, loudly but very much in tune, I felt my entire world just float away, whipped out the window by a strong wind. I love driving. I was at the flat two hours later. It usually only takes me twenty minutes but I just couldn’t stop driving. I stopped off briefly at Asda – I desperately needed chocolate, some Strongbow and a giant tub of Half-Baked Ben and Jerry’s- but then carried on driving, into Manchester and then back out again. Along the way I’d somehow managed to pick up three tremendously annoying ghosties who were young and very happy that they were dead. I’d come back to my hearse, laden with the bare chocolaty necessities, and found them singing along to my CD’s, which really shouldn’t have worked without the engine on. Now, they wouldn’t leave me alone and I boarded the metal lift with my trio in tow. It ascended steadily and much too slowly
for my liking as the ghosties yapped away about what concerts they’d ‘crashed’ or whose houses they’d haunted. I padded on suddenly exhausted feet down the cream hallway and reached to unlock my door. It swung open before I could insert the key. I tried to quiet the jangling of my many keyrings, stuffing the set into my pocket. My phantom stalkers didn’t notice and danced inside. I’m sure they’d died stoned. I entered more cautiously, scanning for life, but only the ghosts registered. None of my stuff had been disturbed, nothing was taken or missing but there was a strange nagging feeling in the back of my head, a shiver riding my spine. I crept through to the living room, my black walls glittering with the sparkly stuff I’d mixed in. My furniture was still the same gothic black it had always been but…… “Something wrong, Aydrean?” The deep voice behind me startled me. I spun about and flung my hands up defensively. I opened my eyes to see the guy fly backwards, crashing into the plaster and brick of the opposite wall. Fissures appeared in the wall and there was a big man-shaped hole too. I stared, eyes wide, at the guy I’d thrown. I brought my hands up in front of my face, turning them palm up and then back, studying them with awe and fear. I’d never before thrown a guy through a wall. Exhaling a very shaky breath, I looked more closely at the intruder. His hair was a curtain of silvery white silk which had fallen to cover half of his porcelain white face. His cheekbones were high and sharp, his lips a perfect cupids bow. His eyebrows were perfectly arched and his nose was aristocratic and straight. He was beautiful. I know, I know. Men aren’t supposed to be beautiful but he was, gorgeously handsome. I can’t think of anymore words to describe his magnificence and from what I could see, the rest of him was pretty perfect too. The muscles in his neck were strong and corded, his chest muscled and defined and don’t get me started on his arms. Pure. Muscle. Just then he started to stir. At least I hadn’t been ogling a dead guy. His eyes flashed open and I saw the bluest blue I’d ever known. So ethereal. He groaned and lifted a hand to his head, feeling the back of it with a wince. Blood came off, tainting his white skin. I started forward and knelt by his side, pulling some gauze from the chest of drawers and unwrapping it. I pulled his hand away and tilted his head so I could study the extent of his injuries. The hair was red with blood, spreading out onto the silver strands and clotting. I grimaced as I tentatively dabbed at the cut before securing the gauze with a scarf. As I supported myself on my haunches, the guy leaned back and gently rested his head on the remains of my wall behind him. I waited until he had worked through the pain enough to speak. “Who the hell are you?” I demanded. He evaded, choosing to throw me off balance with his next words instead. “You pack one hell of a telekinetic punch, little one. I didn’t know you had it in you.” I frowned. I wasn’t telekinetic. The only thing I could do was the gateway-for-thedead thing, but what he said niggled at my mind and I thought that after what I’d just done there may be some truth to it. “Don’t look so perplexed, little one. You know very well what you’ve just done. One hell of a defence tactic. Threw me right off my feet.” He frowned and looked to the damage he’d made to my wall. I stood there sputtering as I watched him rise. “Don’t call me ‘little one’” I growled, still watching him unfurl his body from its sitting position on the floor. Once fully unfurled he stood at an amazing height. And I
was way little compared to him. I stood at only 5’5” and even though it’s not that small, if I placed myself next to him….. I wouldn’t reach his elbow. He had to be at least 6’10. He smiled softly as he looked down at me. I stared up into his azure eyes and saw a strange emotion there that I was too scared to even contemplate. The sounds of my chatty ghouls drew his attention to the bedrooms and he patted my curly black hair as he passed. His hand lingered in my silky locks (I knew they were silky- I use Treseme and silkiness is guaranteed). My lips parted on a gasp as sudden heat rushed through me. I followed him as he strode through my little flat, watched him run his fingers along the spines of my many books (the whole flat was lined with shelves filled with books or a bookshelf stuffed into every corner, it looked like a bizarre library.) He stopped short at the sight in my bedroom. The three ghosts were curled up on my bed, bodies embedded in each other until they looked like one single entity. With three heads, six arms and six legs. They were sleeping, and looked so out of place in the black room, with its velvet drapes and gothic arches. I glanced at his face, expecting to see him staring at my room, but he was looking, with a tender smile on his face, in the direction of my bed. Right at the ghosts. I tugged his arm until he turned to me and insisted he tell me who he was. “Who are you?” I planted my fists on my hips and flicked my hair impatiently out of my eyes, awaiting his answer. “I am Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, at your service, Lady Aydrean.” He bowed smartly at the waist, his long hair flowing to the floor as I just gaped at his words. He straightened with a flourish and grinned rakishly at my expression. “Your eyes are the most brilliant colour of green. Like moss and leaves on a summer’s day.” His words made my cheeks heat, I glanced away, blushing, and his grin widened. Gods, he was handsome. “Shut up. I’m trying to think. You’re really Satan?” He nodded. “You’re really the dude who owns the whole of the Christian Hell?” Again, he nodded. “Why is this so hard for you to comprehend? You’ve met Hades and Zeus, Kali and Shiva, Anu and Bast. Yet you can’t believe that I’m the Devil?” I grinned sheepishly at him and smoothed a hand over my wild midnight curls, a nervously embarrassed gesture that I’d done since I was little. He seemed fascinated with the motion, eyes tracing the movement with a sort of childlike wonder I never thought I’d see on a grown man. It was sweet. No, I thought, it is not sweet; he is Satan, as in evil dude. I shook my head. Facing him, I was taken aback by the godliness of him. I mean, yeah sure I’m used to seeing through godly glamour’s, but seeing him in his full form, he was……oohf. “So you’re Lucifer? Neat. Hi, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Finally. Next time, though, knock before you come in. I might take your head off if you sneak up on me again.” “I’ll remember that. So, there will be a next time?” His voice softened at the last part and my knees weakened. His presence was exhilarating to me, I felt drunk around him, giddy and it was getting really annoying. I huffed, fluffing hair out of my eyes and stared up at him. A comfortable silence fell between us. “So what can I do you for? I’m used to gods popping in and out, but you’re new. What’cha need?” I’d had to force the bright chirpiness into my voice, even though what I really wanted to do was curl up amidst my sheets and teddies and go to sleep.
“I need your help retrieving something.” “Okies. I usually deal with dead people; I’m not that good at finding stuff. Usually I lose stuff. Why do you think I can help?” I was bewildered. This had come completely out of the blue and I had no idea how to deal with it. “You’ve been well recommended. By many people. I thought I’d at least give you a go.” “G-g-give me a g-g-o? What the hell do you think I am?” I sputtered furiously. I watched his face redden in embarrassment as what he’d said finally registered. He spluttered, nervous and apologetic, and he looked so lost I couldn’t help but start to laugh. And laugh, and laugh. He stood, startled, as I giggled helplessly. I waved my hands trying to say sorry, doubled over, and crying mascara. I gasped in a breath and calmed myself enough so that I could breathe. “Ok, as long as you never say anything like that to me again, you’ll be safe. Now what did you want me to retrieve, Oh Great Lord of Darkness?” He’d seemed to have forgotten and had to rouse himself. I hid a smile at that. It also seemed that he was as intoxicated by my presence as I was by his. That was something I guess. For moments he couldn’t speak and just stared blankly at me. Then, finally I got to hear that sinful voice of his again. “I need you to retrieve my…….heart.” He flinched away from me as though expecting me to laugh in his face. Not that I could reach his face. I didn’t move, absorbing that little piece of information with a deep dread. “Again, I ask whether you’re serious. You can’t possibly want me to go get your heart. What you really mean is that you fell in love with some woman and she metaphorically stole your heart.” All through my little speech, Lucifer had been shaking his head in sympathy, sympathy, for me. When he was the one who had no heart. Eyes held wide to prevent imminent tear spillage, I walked around him, pacing as I thought over his request. Whirling, I stomped back over to him and stared up the long length of him. “I need the whole story.” I whispered it reluctantly but looked deep into his eyes. It was as if the entire world had been holding its breath, waiting for my answer. His shoulders sagged and his pain-tautened face relaxed as he exhaled. “Thank you.” And then he collapsed. And I was buried under two hundred pounds of man. I was pinned beneath an unconscious male with no-one to help me. Perfect. I lay there, taking in shallow breaths, and trying to figure something out. In ten minutes my life had been completely disrupted and I’d volunteered myself as a Quest Master. All I needed now were the very helpful dwarves one usually got with such a role. I narrowed my eyes as I concentrated. Obviously I’d done something before to make Satan fly into my wall. I tried to do it again to no avail. It was getting desperately hard to breathe and I could feel myself start to panic as my lungs struggled for air. My vision consisted of little black dots whizzing about on my ceiling and the room got darker. I didn’t even have enough breath to call out for the ghosties. I thought about dying and, slowly, my panic eased, my mind cleared and I could think more easily. Morbid, huh, that death was one of the things that never failed to calm me? I concentrated on thinking about moving Lucifer’s prone body from me, and voilà, hey presto; heavy unconscious guy is floating, his angelic face
hovering inches above mine and his hair flowing over me like a glossy blanket. I gaped, incredulous, at the magic trick I’d just pulled off and began to hyperventilate. The panic of being trapped had faded, but came rushing back like an eager puppy the moment I used telekinesis to free myself. I pushed with my new found power until Lucifer rested on the couch, face down and I lay exhausted on the carpet. My elbows were sore from where the carpet had chafed the skin and they burned and itched a little, uncomfortably. I pushed myself up and regarded Satan with a concerned eye. Why had he collapsed? I’d only agreed to help him retrieve his heart…….hadn’t I? I was suddenly very worried about what I’d got myself into. I walked on jelly legs to the couch to peer down at my new job. Tugging with all my strength until he lay on his back, I looked at his chest dubiously, head cocked to the side and eyes narrowed. Leaning down, I placed my ear to his chest and listened. “You won’t hear anything, sweet. I don’t have a heart remember?” His voice startled me and I fell backwards, whacking my head on the corner of the coffee table. “Ouch!!! Damn that hurt! Don’t wake up on me like that!” He laughed as I rubbed the back of my head and pulled me to my feet with one hand. “Sorry, sweetheart. Next time I’ll stay unconscious whilst a beautiful raven haired woman lays her pretty head on my chest, and her hair, smelling so gorgeous, covers my face until I’m drowning in the smell of her.” His sarcasm made my lips twitch with amusement and I had to think of a decent comeback. Very few people got my sense of humour and usually took offence. It was nice not to have to worry about that. Lucifer was of the same humour. “Yep. That would be very helpful thank you. Some of us want to keep our brains in our heads. Plus brain matter is really hard to get out of the carpet.” I smiled mordantly and he laughed again. It appeared to me that Satan was relearning how to laugh. And smile. His first attempt at smiling had been rather forced but with the proper emotion behind it. I felt like he only smiled around me. “You’d be right, there, Gate Keeper. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt amusement of any kind or found the right moment to smile over. Hell isn’t exactly rainbows and puppy dogs. Live there long enough and you’ll forget everything human. How to laugh, cry, and smile. I thank you for that gift and now regret asking you what I have.” “You mean about your heart?” He nodded, “Hey, you can read minds?” “Only when I want to, or when someone in close proximity is broadcasting loudly. And you were.” He smiled again that heart stopping smile. I frowned at him, or tried, but his smile was infectious. He wandered around the room, examining things with a child’s eye. “You haven’t been on earth much have you?” I asked, watching him turn things over and inspect them closely. He shook his head and continued to peruse. “I’ve only read. I buy books off the internet, ‘cause I don’t exactly have time to come up here shopping. Torturing evil souls is a full time job.” He looked at me, seeing if I’d got the joke, assessing my reaction and, when he found no judgement or disgust, returned his attention to my trinkets. Fantasy ornaments, dark, gothic ones. Fairies, angels, vampires. He picked up a Final Fantasy figurine of Sephiroth, a birthday gift off my friend Bobby, and stared at it.
I wandered over and plucked it from his fingers. “He’s special. My best friend gave me that for my 11th birthday. I was totally in love with Sephiroth.” I gave an embarrassed smile. He indicated the figurine clutched to my chest. “He looks like me.” I frowned and looked at the metal warrior again, more closely. “So he does. Your hair’s as long as his, your eyes are a shade or two bluer and you don’t have wings, but, yeah, I can see the resemblance.” He grinned and posed in the stance Sephiroth was eternally fixed in. I laughed and found myself completely relaxed, for once in a long time. Coughing to hide the next burst of laughter, I placed Sephiroth back on the mantle and curled up on the couch. I dragged the Asda bag over to me and pulled out the tub of slightly melted Ben and Jerry’s, searched around in my coffin purse ‘til I found a spare spoon (some days I got really depressed; ice cream was needed urgently to combat it) and scooped out a large chunk of brownie. Lucifer looked at me enquiringly and I held out the tub to him, spoon embedded in the icecreamy goodness. He frowned at it before drawing out the spoon and putting a lump into his mouth. He moaned and sank down next to me, rolling the ice cream in his mouth. I smiled and snuggled into the cushions, watching him savour it. “I have just tasted heaven, for the first time in 2 million years.” He smiled at me beatifically and I found myself for the millionth time completely frozen. How had I become so comfortable with him in such a short time? “So, if I am going to help you, I really do need to know the whole story. You seem very reluctant to tell me, even though you’re asking a lot from me.” I glanced purposely at him and he sighed, settled more onto the couch, tub clasped in his hand and turned slightly towards me. “It’s a long story.” I encouraged him to continue, to actually get around to telling me. He hesitated, rolling the ice cream carton between his hands, and then began. As he spoke, I felt my face change so many times, flick through emotions like a slideshow. What he said was impossible. Well, talking to dead people was impossible to most people, but this was impossible to me. What he described filled me with pity, sorrow, anger and sympathy so profound I wanted to hold him tight and comfort him. He looked so lost, sat on my black settee, so innocent. I sat gaping at him as he finished his tale, depressed and utterly speechless. He looked to be carved from marble, posed completely immobile opposite me. Waiting for a reaction…..a bad one. I didn’t react at all. Kept my poker face in place and blew out air I didn’t realise I’d been holding in. He seemed to take that as permission for himself to move because he blinked slowly at me. “Hmmmm. You have a big problem then don’t you?” I kept my voice even. “It’s the world’s problem, too. If I don’t get it back…..” He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. The lights flickered overhead, and I glanced up with frustration. Lucifer however looked spooked. “It’s just a storm. The lightning interferes with the building electrics so our supply fluctuates. Nothing to worry about. If it goes completely, I always have loads of candles at hand.” I softened my voice, trying to placate his obviously frazzled nerves. It was strange to have him unnerved, who would have thought the Devil was so easily frightened?
“I’m not frightened. I just didn’t know what it was. You can’t blame a man for starting at something unfamiliar. You live with the same thing for millions of years and anything different is going to startle you.” He was defensive and I fought back a smile. “I was just thinking. Jeez, Luc, can I call you Luc?” he nodded, “Well anyway, I was just kidding with you. I understand. I’d be freaked in Hell, with random demons walking past me.” I giggled at the thought. “Well, if I’m going to help you, I’m going to need some help. I’m not exactly a hired assassin. Let me call some friends of mine and then we’ll get started. One heart coming up.” I jumped to my feet, grabbed up the phone and walked into my room, already dialling. He stayed on the couch, frowning. About ten minutes later, I emerged, grinning, flipped the phone into the air and caught it in one hand. “Cavalry’s all sorted. You can scoot on home and meet me here at about ten in the morning. Then we’ll see about that heart of yours.” He looked at me perplexed. “What?!” He just carried on looking. “I thought I told you. I can’t return to Hell, not now that Michael’s tossed my heart into the Fire of Salvation. I have no idea why he’s only just decided to do it now, after 2 million years of possession, but now that he has, I need my heart back before I’m destroyed completely.” “Why will you be destroyed?” This was starting to sound bad. “I’m the Prince of Darkness. I am the personification of Sin. I control sinners, I am evil, sometimes, and Michael has just tossed my heart into the Fire of Salvation. Salvation. As in sins are forgiven and a soul is saved. If I am Sin, what happens when Sin is removed?” He looked at me pointedly. “Oh.” My voice was breathless, soft and whispery, desolate and panic stricken. “You’ll just disappear, wont you?” My heart constricted and a lump formed in my throat. He nodded. I sat down with an “oohf!” on the couch. “You really need my help.” Again with the nodding. “My friends will help me help you. Meet me here at ten tomorrow morning and we’ll get started.” “I can’t return to Hell. Remember? Where am I going to go?” “Oh, right. That completely missed entering my mind. I don’t have a spare room, but the couch is comfortable enough. You can bunk here.” I scrambled up and crossed the room to the closet with the giant crack in the door. Pulling out a spare duvet and some pillows, I looked back at the handsome man standing in my living room. I was in deeper than I’d thought. After setting Luc up on the couch, I made my way to my room. My night clothes were strewn around the room, holey t-shirt crumpled at the base of the bed and my ripped sweats, thrown carelessly so they hung from the top of the closet. Grabbing them up, I locked myself in the bathroom for a quick shower. The hot spray was heaven on my skin, washing away the sweat of work and easing the headache which had been creeping up on me since that knock on the head. I massaged Dove shower gel onto my body so it lathered and I was covered in white foam. The scent of vanilla filled the room and I leaned back against the wall, letting the water wash everything away. I opened my eyes…..and screamed. One of the male ghosties was sat on top of the toilet, head in his hands and he was rocking back and forth. I grabbed a towel,
whipping it from around the towel rack and wrapped myself up in it, uncaring that I was still under the water, and more concerned about protecting my modesty. I moved to the edge of the tub, fully set on giving him an earful, until I noticed that he was crying. “Are you alright?” He shook his incorporeal head. “What’s wrong?” Again he shook his head. I let out a frustrated breath. “Do you want to leave? I can send you back.” He’d only been dead a few months and the doors would still open for him. A year was the limit. They didn’t like waiting. “I did what I hung around to do and then I found the others, and stayed with them, because I had nowhere else to go. But now my girlfriend is marrying some other guy, and I’m going to be around to witness it. I don’t think I can stay.” He looked up at me with a sorrowful gaze, pleading. “I’ll send you back.” My voice was soft in sympathy as I summoned his door. He stared at the bright light as it grew from a tiny spot of shimmering gold into a doorway. “It’s your choice.” I stood clutching my towel to me and waited for him to make a decision. He took a deep breath that he didn’t need and after inclining his head to me, walked tearfully into the light. With an exhalation of breath, I closed the door and wearily rinsed the foam from my body. I dried in a daze and then went to tell the other spirits about their friend’s departure. As I walked into the bedroom, I saw they were still asleep, four legs instead of six. They looked wrong without their friend. Chewing my lower lip, I glanced at the clock; 8pm. I’d tell them when they woke up. Nodding decisively, I padded into the living room to check on Luc, to make sure he was comfortable enough and to watch TV quietly. Not that there would be anything good on. After checking on my devilish guest- who was sound asleep and snoring like a dragon, not that I’ve ever heard a dragon- I switched on the TV, turned down the volume and went to the kitchen for my cider and ice cream. After calling Abbey to cancel our plans for the next day – she was part of the supernatural world, but wasn’t exactly the most useful beastie to have on my side - I sat down on the floor with my back to the seat of the settee, against Luc’s stomach, and settled down to watch Friends and then Little Nicky. It always made me laugh, and I thought Luc might appreciate it. But he looked so peaceful that I couldn’t bring myself to wake him. I have no idea when I fell asleep. I woke up curled around something hot and hard. Rubbing sleep from my eyes I looked at whatever I was laying on….and found it to be Lucifer. I was sprawled atop his body in the most undignified way, my head on his chest, my leg between his and my left hand tangled in the mass of silky white hair that fell across my shoulders. His arm was around my waist, securing me to him, his free hand buried in my own locks and his thighs gripping mine. His head was laid on my own and his hips were nestled against my stomach. His breathing was still even so I knew he was still asleep, and as I tried to untangle myself from him without awakening him, I found it to be impossible. He was holding onto me as though he would never let me go, and when I shifted my body off of his, he whimpered, actually whimpered, in protest. I eased back down and moved my hands and arms to hold him, humming soothingly until the whimpers ceased. I drifted off to the sound of his peaceful breathing and light snores. I awakened some time later, groggily looking up into piercing ice blue eyes. I’d somehow changed positions and was now in an even worse place than I had been
before. I was lying flat on top of him. My breasts were mashed to his chest; my thighs were pressed tight to his. I wriggled a little and Luc let out a moan, biting his lip in agony. I checked to see whether my elbows or knees had somehow hurt him, but nope, they were safely tucked against my body. “Morning.” His voice was strained, and it was only then that I realised the cause of his pain. When I’d wriggled, I’d inadvertently rubbed against an extremely sensitive part of him, a part that quite enjoyed the fact that I was female and on top of him. To think that he thought of me that way sent warm tingles all the way through my body. I stared down at him, eyes flicking across his face until they came to rest on his lips. My heart stuttered. He laughed. And rolled until I was beneath him. I groaned at how good he felt on top of me. Now it was his eyes that were fixed on my lips. “I have to kiss you.” His voice was rough with his need and the strength it took for him to resist. I nodded helplessly, bringing my arms up to pull him closer, wrapping my fingers in his hair and dragging his mouth to mine as my own need became unbearable. His lips took mine with a ferocity I’d never known. So soft and firm, he tasted like coffee and caramel, and man. Deadly, sinful male. The voice in my head reminded me, pointlessly, that I was kissing the Devil. That Satan had his tongue in my mouth and I was enjoying it. I drew back, desperately needing to breathe. We stared into each others eyes, fire licking over my body. I leaned forward, lifting my lips to his…….and the phone rang. I fumbled for the little handset on the table, still trapped beneath Lucifer, and managed to snatch the little thing before it fell. “Hello?” I was breathless, “Aydrean here.” “Well, who else would it bloody be? You live alone, girly.” Ah, Parsimonious, named so because her parents believed her to be, as a child, prudent and cost conscious. She was the complete opposite and one of my best friends. “What’s up, hun?” I smacked at Luc as he slid his hand along my thigh. “The head honcho. Mr Prince-of-Darkness himself. He’s disappeared. He’s never left before, and the other vamps are starting to panic. You know for a bunch of bloodthirsty maniacs, they’re surprisingly needy.” “I thought they didn’t like him, why are they worrying?” I shushed Luc before he could speak. “It’s only my Kiss that objects to being ruled by him, the others are all goo goo eyed for him. Seen him around? I have an almost riot on my hands.” She sounded angry, her voice, usually like the notes of a piano, was low and husky. “I’ve never met Satan, so I wouldn’t know him if I saw him. Sorry, hun. Anything else I can do to help?” I hated lying to my friends, especially when said friend could rip my throat out. “You couldn’t get someone to deliver a load of animal blood to the club could you? I don’t dare let them out of here without Satan present to corral them.” “I’ll see what I can do. You still alright for this morning?” She would soon find out where Luc was. She replied with an affirmative and then hung up. I dropped the phone to the floor and sighed, puffing air from between my lips and blowing hair from my face. I turned slightly to the right to look at Luc. “You cause so much trouble, you know that?” He rolled his eyes, actually rolled his eyes, at me before getting off me and heading towards the bathroom. I frowned, cold
now that his heat had gone, before rolling groggily off the couch and padding towards my room. My head hurt terribly, whether because of the fact that I had to meet with two of my best friends, who actively hated Lucifer, and ask them to help me save him… or that the world was about to end. Maybe both. Yippee! I rolled my eyes and bent to pick up a brush that had fallen on the floor. The ghosties were beginning to stir and I quickly pulled on some clean clothes before I got an audience, dragging the brush through my curly hair and pinning half of it back. The shower was still going but I crept in to wash my face and brush my teeth, hurrying out before I could be tempted to take a peek. I packed my bag quickly, shoving in my purse, phone, wet wipes and makeup bag, after I’d made myself up. I had everything ready and was all set to go out when Luc emerged from the shower dripping wet……and very, very naked. I spun at a dizzying speed to give him my back, and hoped that the beetroot red would drain from my face by the time I turned back round. “I couldn’t find a towel, Aydrean. Did you use the last one?” There was laughter in his voice and it just made my blush worse. I did remember that I had indeed used the last towel in the bathroom. I always did that, but since I lived alone I could easily walk naked to the cupboard to get one. I waved my hand in the direction of the towels, squeezing my eyes firmly shut and trying not to think too hard about what I had just seen. Didn’t really work. Once I’d heard him take a towel and move back into the bathroom, I rushed to the fridge for a glass of cold orange juice, seriously considering jumping back in the shower with the tap on cold. “You don’t have any clothes my size do you?” The deep timbre of Luc’s voice and the close proximity of it had me jumping ten foot in the air and sloshing juice down the front of my shirt. I squealed as the freezing liquid hit my skin and then proceeded to jump around like an idiot for a few minutes, shaking my shirt. Lucifer was pressed up against the sink, his eyes wide, regarding me as though I were some lunatic banging up against the glass of my little padded cell. I laughed before answering his question. “No. Most definitely not! You’re a giant!” He rolled his eyes and wandered into the front room. “Go and change your shirt, Gatekeeper, and then we’ll go and meet that cavalry of yours.” I dutifully went. An hour and a half later, we were sat comfortably in the restaurant, waiting for my friends. Frankie and Benny’s had always been a favourite of mine. I sat anxiously twiddling my fingers in the far corner of the booth, biting my lips until they bled and going over persuasive arguments for Luc’s case in my head. My friends could be quite stubborn when they wanted to be. Satan was still traumatised from the tram ride – I’d flatly refused to use my car because I firmly believed that I was going to need a lot of alcohol to get through the meal safely – so he wasn’t much company, I distracted myself with replaying his reactions on the tram. We’d walked the short distance to the Victoria Station, I answered every question he threw at me – which was a lot since he’d never seen most of the things we encountered before – and then we had to get on the tram. As soon as he saw the thing race down the track, he dropped into what I could only call a battle crouch, manifested a sword from somewhere, and prepared to kill the harmless tram. I was laughing so hard at him, and the faces of the other waiting passengers that I almost didn’t catch him as he leaped to
stab the metal. He tried to protect me from the advancing tram by pushing me behind him and dropping into his scary fighting stance. I gripped him by the neck of his shirt and proceeded to drag him onto the tram, push him into a seat – a very hard thing to do because the guy is pure muscle and weighs a ton – and make sure he didn’t hurt anyone. He continued to scowl at everyone, the people passing outside, the ones in the tram, and when it started moving he leapt up, obviously frightened but unwilling to admit it and I reached up, slowly and gripped his hand. I watched as he tensed. His head lowered and I was suddenly pierced by the intensity of his eyes. He shocked me by tugging me up out of my seat, pulling me skin tight to his body and harshly slanting his mouth over mine. I’d let out a deep groan and responded wildly.
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