Prologue

Beleth, I need to speak to you. The thought rushed out of my mind to the older demon's, an extra push of insistence added to my tone. I stood outside his bedroom door, where he and his human, Gabel, had been shut away for a good number of days. Sensing Beleth catch the line of telepathy in his mental grasp, my sharp hearing picked up him shuffling from under the covers and saunter to the door. Tugging it open, he was clad only in sweatpants, and even then they were barely hanging from his chiseled hips. Dazed ruby eyes caught mine as he heavily leaned against the gray frame.

"What is it, Furi?" he mumbled tiredly and smoothed a hand down his face. My old friend wasn't exhausted from hanging out in bed for an extended period, but instead from Gabel's intense and agonizing mourning period. Father Ben, Gabel's closest friend and guardian recently died thanks to that despicable lowlife Zavebe. A fallen angel, he'd impregnated a young college student and then when Gabel brought her to safety, Zavebe took it out on the person who was the easiest to kill and would cause the most emotional damage. Filthy coward. Frankly, I thought Zavebe got off easy with being obliterated into nothingness. Had he descended into Hell, I had many friends and connections who would've taken personal enjoyment out of torturing the waste of existence for the next millennia.

Despite all this, I had something demanding my attention. With a sigh, I linked my arms. "Unfortunately, a sorceress has asked me to kill that annoying splat Pruflas. An easy kill, but it'll still take a few days."

"Pissed off enough people, did she?" mused Beleth while he smoothed a hand over his lips. "Alright. I'll have Judas oversee your duties until you return. And-"

The old demon stopped short when Gabel appeared in the doorway, his hair nothing but a mop of black and his emerald eyes squinting from the onslaught of light. The only clothing he adorned was one of Beleth's bulky sweaters, which was long enough to reach his thighs. Despite the amount of rest, dark circles pressed under his eyes and he looked worn. Beleth automatically wrapped a protective arm around the smaller male's shoulders and squeezed him close.

Offering him a warm smile, I murmured, "Hello, Gabel."

"Hey," he muttered back, glancing at Beleth and I. "What're ya talkin' about?"

His rich southern accent never failed to endear me. "One of my regulars summoned me, and she requested I exterminate a nuisance. I'll be away for a few days, and I was simply letting Beleth know the situation."

"Nuisance to her or everyone?"

I chuckled. "Frankly, everyone."

Then puppy-dog eyes peered up at me, my gut tugging in a way most humans couldn't do to me. Perhaps because he was in our protection, but even after Gabel discovered who we were, he didn't grow fearful or wary of us. Therefore, a platonic possessiveness of my demonic nature built between myself and him. To develop a bond like that between a creature of evil and a man of God was nothing short of impossible, but it happened anyway.

Gabel's next question only solidified that bond more, if it was possible. "Is it dangerous?"

Shaking my head, I laughed softly. "Pruflas has wished upon death for some time now. I just happened to be the one who will take her down. But no, it won't be dangerous."

The young man's intense gaze burned into me and a crawling feeling of nervousness came out of nowhere. He said softly, "Please be careful..."

Compelled to comfort him, I cupped his shoulder with my hand. "Don't worry. It's not like I don't have backup."

Gabel pulled another unexpected move by lifting himself from Beleth's side and circling his arms around my neck. Oh, shit. I wasn't good in these sorts of situations. From the penetrating gaze Beleth was giving me, however, I was confident he would cut off my head if I brushed away Gabel's open show of affection. Embracing the human's form to mine, I hoisted him up and clutched him tightly. His sweet vanilla scent filled my senses and warmed my belly.

"Please come back," he whispered into my ear.

I smiled. "That's a promise."

Easing Gabel to his feet once more, I bid the pair goodbye and then retreated to my office. Working and spending time with that man always carried its fair share of surprises. Yet, I believed this time Gabel felt vulnerable after losing Father Ben and didn't want to lose another in his close circle. Most of the time, the blessed human was friendly but kept his distance. Now that part was out of the way, and I could focus on my mission. I considered going as a male, only so I wouldn't raise any suspicions, even if it was in the middle of Michigan…

The phone rang, which I quickly answered. "Yes?"

First thing, I heard a screeching feminine voice in the background. Then whoever was manning the front desk said, "Hello, Ms. Tombs, this is Tom at the front and there's this young woman here who claims to know Gabel and she's making a scene and I'm not sure-"

"Hand her the phone, would you, Tom?"

I think poor Tom was grateful for the request and not a moment later the screaming girl barked into the phone, "I SWEAR ON MY MOMMA'S GRAVE IF YA DON' LEMME SEE GABEL I'M GONNA LET OFF A STINK BOMB IN THE LOBBY-!"

I chuckled. "Is this Annie?"

"YES THIS IS ANNIE MOTHERFUCKIN' TURNER!"

Annie was Gabel's best friend from his hometown in Texas. I wasn't surprised she somehow wound up on our doorstep. Tapping at my computer, I pulled up the security camera for the front desk of Regal Tower, which Beleth and I owned. A petite blonde in tattered shorts and a black t-shirt was gripping the marble counter, having thrown the pen cup, the business cards, and an assortment of other things at Tom in her rage. I don't imagine I would've believed her otherwise.

"Turn to your right. There's a group of elevators, and the one with the dragon decal leads up to our floor. The passcode is two-five-six-nine. After punching in the passcode, press the sixty-third floor. I'll meet you in the foyer." Then I hung up the phone, and Annie's confusion was priceless as she gaped at the phone. Then she threw that at Tom, too, before grabbing her bag and stomping over to the elevators.

Gabel had kept his phone off since Father Ben's death, which naturally worried his best friend. The fact she'd thrown together a bag and traveled to New York within three days meant she was already aware of Father Ben's demise. However, it would be a good thing to have the support of his childhood friend in his time of need. Not to mention Annie also knew we were already demons-when Beleth had explicitly told Gabel to keep our heritage a secret, that request didn't apply to his greatest ally and friend. Therefore Annie wasn't just upset over the minister's death and Gabel's reaction to it, but also the predicament the young man found himself in. Surrounded by demons and his support base torn out from under him? It was no wonder she was strung out.

When Annie arrived in the elevator, her expression said she was prepared to stab someone. Before she could even speak, however, I said, "I'm glad you're here, Annie. Gabel's been resting for a few days, and he's presently with Beleth in his room. Let me show you the way."

Up close, Annie was a southern belle with gruff charm. Her t-shirt said Sweet Southern Mess and her ripped-up shorts were dotted with rhinestones. Sunkissed curls hugged her slim shoulders, large blue eyes seething hate, and her skin toned bronze after long hours in the hot sun. Large, unlaced boots clunked against the tiles as I led her to where Beleth and Gabel were sleeping.

"Well, ya certainly can tell who's got the pants on 'round here," she grumbled, miffed.

"I apologize if you weren't able to contact us. Our staff can be protective of our privacy. Also, we've just been trying to allow Gabel time to grieve. Which is why I'm glad you've arrived." Stopping mid-walk, I turned and gazed down at her. "He needs you right now."

Annie was startled by the admission. Then she narrowed her eyes. "Yer a demon, right?"

"Yes. My name is Furfur, but you can call me Furi."

Taking a significant step back, she grumbled, "How do I know I can trust ya?"

"Perhaps if you can't trust me, you can trust Beleth. He cares for Gabel deeply, and Father Ben's loss has been great on both of them. Father Ben was able to meet Beleth before he died, and those who are considered part of a demon's trusted pack is what you would consider a family member. They've both…" I drew in a sigh, working to keep my mind away from Beleth's tormented and disbelieving expression when he told me the priest died. Clasping my hands, I said, "They both are trying to recover."

Though still unsure, the answer was enough to appease her for the time being. Once I brought her to the door, I took her bag and gave it to one of the housemaids. I pressed a finger to my lips and then clicked open the door, where darkness cloaked the elegant room. Dark curtains were drawn around the immense four-post bed, the golden thread gleaming from the hallway light. I ushered Annie in and she adopted a worried look. Despite being in an alien situation, she proceeded forward to the bed. Slipping the curtains apart, her slight form tensed and she whispered Gabel's name. In turn, the man gasped and then the comforter brushed back. Annie climbed onto the mattress, slipping her boots off and then worked her way beneath the safety of the blankets.

Satisfied, I glided the door shut. I wasn't lying to the young woman when I said I was glad she arrived. Annie's fire would rekindle the light in Gabel's heart, and in turn, Beleth's as well. Her presence was desperately needed in this dark time, and better for it if the three of them spent some time alone together.

Meanwhile...I had some killing to do.

OOO