Chapter One: In Which A Demon Gets Hit With a Motorcycle.

Asmodeus was officially annoyed. It wasn't because his prey had continued walking, happily oblivious, down the street, or that the other six Deadly Sins had been pestering him all week. Oh, no. It was because some girl had just hit him with a motorcycle and called 911. So now he was surrounded by medical personnel and forced to feign severe injury. Heaving a sigh within his mind, Asmodeus closed his eyes and rested against the hard asphalt, feeling the angle of the pavement and adjusting his position accordingly. His head lolled convincingly to one side, as though unconscious, and Asmodeus listened to what was going on, attempting to piece together the situation.

"I'm not sure what happened. He just darted out in front of me," the girl was saying. What am I, a deer? Asmodeus thought in irritation. Also adding to the problem was the fact that the girl was resistant to his power. She had blinked straight through his charming spell when he asked her not to call an ambulance. What the hell is wrong with her?! No human should be able to do that! Asmodeus nearly threw up his hands, but quickly caught himself. Great, I'm getting taken to the hospital. That's a newborn demon's mistake.

Eyes still closed, he felt himself being lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled up into the ambulance, complete with that confounded neck brace. Asmodeus sensed the paramedics rushing around, the wind from their movements stirring his hair. The vehicle started up, and someone sat down in a chair next to him, murmuring a constant stream of soothing noises, something along the lines of "Stay with us, you're going to be fine."

Oh, shut up, Asmodeus thought.

"How is he?" Vanessa looked at the pink-haired man sleeping on the bed. She felt terrible, and was concentrating on not freaking out. A doctor had come into the room, flipping through a sheaf of papers, and a nurse was checking in as well, giving Vanessa sympathetic smiles, which made her feel a little bit better. Through the haze of slight panic, she only barely perceived how the man shifted a bit behind the doctor's back, opening his eyes and looking at her with unusual alertness for one who was supposed to be mentally swamped by pain medication and the effects of being hit by a motorcycle. The movement quickly passed, and the small corner of her mind which had noticed wondered if it had even happened at all.

"His injuries were surprisingly mild," the doctor explained, and Vanessa issued a slow breath of relief. "But his heart rate and temperature are much more elevated than they should be."

"How much?" She glanced at the heart monitor, which was emitting a steady stream of beeps, and then at the room itself. Other than the usual vital sign machines, the area was curtained off with a nasty green-colored plastic sheet. The corresponding cheap white plastic chair finished off the scene, and Vanessa had the distinct impression that the man, though asleep, found the arrangements just as hideous as she did.

"He's running a fever of 105 degrees, but when he was awake earlier he showed no signs of being delirious." The doctor was puzzled. "In fact, he told me to bugger off and went to sleep."

Vanessa pushed her black hair out of her face, studying the patient. He looked foreign, possibly Italian, judging by the deep natural tan of his skin. His hair was cut short on one side, with bangs covering his right eye. On the other side the pink locks curved towards his neck and just reached his shoulders. His nails were painted black, which Vanessa found odd for a man.

She finally tore her eyes away. Fast heart rate or not, he was in perfect shape. "Do you know who he is?"

"Asman Tarafel." The doctor tapped her clipboard. "That's all he gave me, but he sounded French. We've been unable to locate any friends or family to contact. There's a number listed for an antiquarian bookshop in England, but no one answered."

"Please tell me I'm not in a real version of Thor," Vanessa groaned.

"I highly doubt he's a Norse god in disguise, Miss Florence." The doctor smiled, and walked out of the room.

Vanessa sat in the chair and watched Asman in silence. He seemed to be sleeping soundly for the moment. After a few more minutes passed, she got up and went to go find something to eat.

Asmodeus cracked open one eye as the girl left and waited until her footsteps had faded away. Sitting up, he waved a hand in the direction of the heart and temperature monitor until they registered normal. From his bedside table, he grabbed his sleek black iPhone and dialed a number.

"Hey, Azzy," a voice answered.

"Luke, could you answer a question real quick?" Asmodeus glanced out of his room and down the hall, which was still empty. The doctor from earlier showed no sign of reappearing, and the nurse had finally left to do whatever it was that nurses did when not becoming increasingly frustrated by the insistent requests of their patients.

"Of course. I'm waiting for the weekly report from our outpost in Greenland. What is it?"

"There's a human here who resisted my charm spell like it was nothing," Asmodeus explained. "I've never seen that before."

"Where is here?" his friend asked with suspicion.

"Nowhere," Asmodeus answered guiltily. The lecture on the dangers of being in the human world was lengthy, and he had no desire to listen to it again.

"Riiiight. Well, keep an eye on them for now and tell me if anything else comes up." Luke ended the call, and Asmodeus listened to hear the dial tone before hitting end himself.

Turning to the rest of his things, Asmodeus checked to make sure nothing was missing. All hospitals usually had one or two young angels hanging around, and a demon could never be too careful. He noted with satisfaction that everything was in a neat stack, with his apartment key on top of his black hunting clothes. It's a good thing she didn't run into me on my way back from hunting, or else I'd have to deal with police too, Asmodeus thought.

When Vanessa returned from eating a mid-morning meal, the doctor was scolding Asman on the dangers of stepping in front of moving vehicles.

"So, you're already getting released?" She smiled. "I'm glad you're okay."

Asman glanced up at her, reddish-brown eyes piercing her with a smooth, calculating expression. "Yes," he finally replied with a French-tinged accent, "I apologize for the trouble. It was my fault entirely." Asman flashed her a winning smile.

"Oh. Thanks." Vanessa blinked, questioning the man's sanity. He'd just gone from Mr. Suspicious to Prince Charming in practically the same sentence.

Confused, she collected her things and got up to leave. Behind her, Vanessa could hear the doctor fussing about Asman's release, emitting a running babble about follow-up tests and keeping him a few more hours to ensure that his condition didn't change.

The man said something Vanessa couldn't distinguish in a low, amiable voice. A few minutes later, she saw him checking out.

Asmodeus unlocked the door to his apartment, seething. What's wrong with me?! he mentally shouted. I'm the Patron of Lust, not some ordinary human! That girl should have been fawning over me!

The demon growled. His smile should have been enough to make her blush, at the very least. Sighing, Asmodeus changed into less monochrome clothes and headed to his office for work.

"Morning, Tanza." Asmodeus waved a hand at his secretary as he walked in. All of the offices for his business, besides being relatively few, were all small side rooms opening in to the main area which he liked to call the courtyard. It was mostly free space, with only the secretary's desk near the main door. A few shade-loving houseplants lurked in the corners, while the walls were all windows, letting in a lovely view of New York City.

"Afternoon, Asman," she reproached him, strawberry-blonde hair wrapped up in a stern bun. She was dressed in crisp business clothes over her thin frame, which only served to accent her interrogative posture. "It's past lunchtime. Where in hell have you been?"

"Oh, you know. Elysium, Asphodel, Punishment, Pandaemonium. The usual places." Asmodeus gestured vaguely.


"You asked." He shrugged and moved on.

"Oh, your new assistant is here." Tanza opened the door for the girl as she walked in. "Miss Vanessa Florence, right this way."

Vanessa was surprised to see that the man she'd hit with her motorcycle this morning had gone back to work, and worked here of all places.

It was her fifth job in a year. The other places she'd worked just hadn't...felt right. Either they weren't friendly, or...and that was the problem. Vanessa couldn't place what else she didn't like about them. Something was off, and that was it. But this was another new start, and she was willing to give it her best.

"Hey!" she called. "You're...Asman, right?"

Asman turned in surprise. He then performed a series of movements so strange that Vanessa felt the need to compile them into a mental list.

Open window. Look at sky.

"Very funny," Asman informed the clouds.

Close window. Walk away.

"What...was that all about?" Vanessa raised an eyebrow. Asman only matched her expression and said nothing.

"So, who's the mastermind here?" she quickly changed the subject to get away from the intensity of that gaze. Asman didn't just stare vaguely in her direction. He looked directly into the depths of her eyes, as if he could see her mind through them.

"Me," he answered.



"You're the owner of the Luxuria fashion line?"

"Was that an attempt at an insult, Miss Florence?" Asman smiled.

"No! I'm just..." Vanessa was finally stricken speechless. Everybody knew about Luxuria Fashions. They were one of the world's best. And she'd hit the master designer with her motorcycle this morning. Figures.