He was the personified equivalent to watching paint dry.

There was really nothing likeable about him, from the way he held his tablet to his ties that he always wore or even the way he tried to show everyone how nice he was by letting us leave earlier than our contracted hours.

"I want to commend Team 3 for their hard work. Because of Marigold and Braelyn, our rehabilitation techniques are showing a positive result, increasing the trust Mazerene citizens have in us." Even the way he spoke sucked. It was like he was born to be a supervisor. "Which brings me to my next point. The Council Judges and I have decided to make some changes to teams in order to help increase our numbers in other aspects and to help mentor those of us who are still struggling with less forceful means." I ignored the pointed look in my direction, instead wondering who the hell he was going to put me with next.

Sharice and I made up Team 7 for several months now. She never cared much for my more old school ways of detaining violent offenders by way of fist versus fist. I had a feeling she was never gonna be a fan of mine.

"Felix, I was wondering if my request to work with Barty was approved?" Marigold asked, shooting out of her chair and grinning at me. "We worked really well together a few years ago when we were on a team, so it may benefit him again to work with me." The nymph's mahogany skin was glowing slightly, letting her happiness beam and shine.

Glancing down at his tablet, Felix nodded slowly. "Yes, Colin mentioned that the two of you have worked together in the past. He also suggested you working together again." Tapping a few things on his tablet, he murmured to himself. Another thing I hated. Just say shit or don't say anything at all, but don't mumble under your breath. "So Bartholomew and Marigold, you're the new Team 3, while Braelyn and Sharice are the new Team 7. Onyx from Team 4 and Miles from Team 6 will also be switching." He redistributed his weight, switching from the left hip to the right hip. "Those were all of the team changes for now. Are there any other announcements or items of discussion before we end the meeting?"

"When are we getting new assignment details?" my now-old partner, Sharice, asked, raising her hand timidly.

"Tomorrow. It's already late enough, so I don't want to keep you all here later than you need to be." Felix placed his tablet on the long oval table, grinning at us. He had a wavering smile, like he was afraid that his fangs would pop out any second. "Thank you everyone for accommodating my schedule. I apologize for it being late. If you have any questions, call or text me, please."

Marigold was at my side before I could stand up, her hands on my left bicep to yank me from my chair faster. "I'm so glad we'll be partners again!" She didn't add anything, letting the words settle as they were, both of us accepting that what had happened in the past couldn't be changed. "Do you want to go to Harmonia's for dinner and drinks?"

"Yeah, but I want to get changed first." My burgundy blazer did little to spice up the plain work clothes.

"Who are you trying to impress? It's all just Mazerene workers." Her leafy green eyes followed Felix as he left in a hurry, sweeping past us without another word, his messenger bag over his shoulder. "I wonder why he never stays behind to talk to us. Do you think he has a family to get home to?"

"Probably not. He has the personality of wet cardboard." We were about fifteen feet behind him now. "He probably wouldn't tell us if he did have a family since he's so damn secretive anyway." Goldie shrugged, glancing up at me when I snickered. "What, you disagree?"

"I don't have a problem with Felix. I think he's been very sweet since he got here. Besides, Akiya and Colin wouldn't have hired him if he wasn't any good." Before I could stop her, she was already following him down a corridor. "Hey, Felix!" She waved her hand excitedly at the black-haired supervisor when he spun to look back at the two of us, ignoring my glare at her.

"Oh, Marigold, Bartholomew. Do you need something?" he asked, gray eyes looking between the two of us, a forced smile on his mouth. I chanced a look to see if his fangs had emerged from the sudden surprise of us being there.

All straight white squares in his mouth.

Marigold slapped my arm with the back of her hand, wanting me to drop the irritation from my face. "Would you like to get a drink with us? I'll pay for your blood," the nymph offered.

Felix tried to hide his surprise, his eyebrows almost raising before he got his emotions back under control. "That's very kind of you to invite me. I planned on finishing some work at my hotel, though, if that's okay."

"Man, come on. The lady asked you nicely." I begrudgingly wanted him to join us, just to make Marigold happy. She had a huge hard-on for the guy because of her own interest in her job and wanting to eventually move up into his position as enforcement supervisor.

He stopped taking little steps backwards, furrowing his eyebrows at me. "Perhaps the next time you two go for dinner, I'll come with you. Have a good night." He gave a quick wave goodbye before turning back around again, starting down the hallway.

"I'm telling you, he thinks he's too good for us." I followed Marigold back in the direction we came, watching the way her long yellow hair bounced with every step. She had an extra spring in her walk because she was upset with how things turned out with the bossman. She always walked with purpose, but when she was pissed, there was a bit more liveliness to it. A small peony had grown in her hair now. "Relax, Goldie. He isn't worth getting mad over."

"I'm not mad at him." She glared over her shoulder at me and stopping her walking. "I'm mad at you. You've never made him feel welcomed here, and now he doesn't want to do anything with you. How am I supposed to schmooze if he doesn't like my friend?" When she turned her whole body towards me, I saw that she was pouting, her round cheeks giving her an innocent, childlike appearance. "Just be nicer to him."

Rolling my eyes, I started walking ahead of her, hands in my pockets. "I'd be nice to him if he wasn't just so. . ." I rolled my wrist flippantly, thinking of the best way to describe Felix. "Boring. He's boring. He's like if white rice was a vampire." I smirked when Marigold snorted, the peony in her hair growing at the sudden onslaught of joy.

"You're mean, even for a demon." She leaned against the wall while we waited for the elevator, crossing her ankles and peering up at me. "All I'm saying is to cut him some slack. He's still pretty new here, and I think he's been doing a good job of assigning us tasks and handling our teams. Besides, he's really nice to you, despite you treating him like garbage." She stepped onto the elevator before I could. "Like I literally don't understand the hate. Did he take your taxi or go after Cade or something?"

"He'd be dead if he went after Cade, first of all." My older sister was one of the few people I cared about and one of the reasons Felix was currently working on Mazerene since she was the one who processed his paperwork down in HR. I always reminded her of this whenever Felix did an extraordinary job of pissing me off. "He's just, you know, a vampire. You know how I feel about them."

"Akiya's husband is a vampire, and you never act like this around him," Goldie mentioned, referring to one of the Council Judges.

"That's different. Akiya can vouch for Evander and trusts him not to just start attacking." A shiver shot up my spine, somewhere in my conscious reminding me of what had happened twenty years before. The doors opening on the first floor cleared my mind, Marigold and I exiting before it was filled up quickly by other workers. "So are we drinking to celebrate us being teammates again?"

"I thought that went without saying." A line of taxis was waiting outside for Mazerene workers, and we got into the first one together. "You're staying at the Imperial, right?"

"Always," I responded, sinking back into the cushy seats, taking stock of the island. The whole city was lit up and almost blindingly bright from all the streetlights and businesses. I could see my hotel from atop the hill where Council Hall was, the taxi winding its way down towards it. "I'll change, then we can grab some dinner, and you can come back to my room afterwards to watch a movie." I gave a knowing glance to Goldie. "You skipped out on getting a room again, didn't you?"

"You know I can always depend on you to let me stay over," Goldie responded, grinning. She had been staying in my hotel room for the past four years, ever since we became best friends when we worked as a team together for the first time. "Do you want me to text Cadence and see if she wants to join us?"

"She's working from home this week." Home was Savannah, not Hell, given how much of a pain in the ass it was to go from Earth to Hell lately. The only reason my sister and I were able to stay on Earth was because of our visa to let us work. Otherwise, I would have had to leave all of this behind and gone back to Gehenna. I much preferred it here, where I at least had Goldie and could depend on our favorite joint always serving the best vegan fried ice cream.

Fried foods were a thing that had not caught on very well in Hell.

"Oh, I see you upgraded this time around." Marigold stepped into my room first, scanning the digs before throwing her shoulder bag on the couch. She made herself at home and went to the kitchenette fridge, opening to check the contents, finding a few bottles of water. Opening one, she continued her investigation of the suite, peeping her head into the separate bedroom. "Are you expecting me to sleep on the couch this time?"

"It's a pullout, relax."

"I can respect that. Hurry and change so we can go. I'm starving." Being a nymph, she avoided any sort of animal products and only ate things that were considered vegan. She felt it went against nature to eat anything animals produced. Because of her diet of mostly plants Marigold always smelled sweet, like warm honey. She was beautifully full-figured, which she claimed was a sign of a healthy tree nymph.

Nobody could argue with that. Goldie was gorgeous, from her bright butterscotch-colored hair with little green leaves in it to the slight gap she had between her two front teeth, leaving her with a mild lisp.

Rushing, I swapped my white button up and black slacks to jeans and a hoodie, the Atlantic breeze enough to give anyone goosebumps, despite it being August. Mazerene was a few hours east of Georgia. We could only get to it via specific planes that took off in Savannah. Because of that, my sister and I had decided to just move to Savannah.

"'ight, let's go," I announced, leaving the bedroom.

Marigold looked at me like I had two heads. "You went through all the hassle of changing but didn't fix your hair. Come here, you big baby." She went to work on my hair, cut to about my ears, but long enough to hide the pointed tips of them. It was snow-white, which made my short black horns show more, something I hated. I hated how my hair curled even more.

I had a growing suspicion that I hated myself as a whole the older that I got.

She had made sure my hair was still covering the tips of my ears, but the rest was tussled in just the right way. She cared about my appearance more than I did, always calling me a video game or anime character since it was unusual having paper white hair with tawny skin. The small devil horns near the front of my skull and the red eyes helped absolutely none.

While I looked like a cartoon character, my sister inherited the nice looks from our parents. She had the same skin tone, courtesy of Mom, but with chocolate colored hair that matched beautifully with her bronze horns. It was no wonder she had zero issues finding dates whenever she had time for it.

"I love your hair. You don't give yourself enough credit."

"It's hard to when I hang out with people as pretty as you." Diverting the conversation always worked with Goldie, given that flattery went long ways with her.

I loved when she felt good about herself because she liked to squish her round cheeks with her hands, like a hamster packing its mouth full of food. "Stop, you know you don't have to suck up to me. Although I once won an award for prettiest tipu tree!" It was a proud moment for her. Tipu trees, like Marigold, grew bright goldenrod flowers and had beautifully dark bark, owning to her appearance.

"You are definitely the best-looking tree I know. Come on before it gets too crowded. I'll buy you a round of wine." She grinned at me while I winked at her, following her out of my hotel room. We were able to catch a cab dropping off a few lawyers, taking it to Harmonia's.

"What do you think our new case will be?" Marigold asked when we were seated at the bar, my usual bartender, Cole, already pouring me my double whiskey. I liked coming to Harmonia's Bar before a new investigation, always getting a double whiskey on the rocks, like I had been doing for twenty years. Marigold started joining me about four years prior when she started up with the enforcement squad, a young nymph fresh from college.

"I really don't care. I'm glad we're working together again, so that's all that mattered. And I'm assuming you went to Colin with this request you mentioned?" The Scottish Council judge and I got along well enough, despite me going against his idea of how the Mazerene Magical Enforcement Squad (MMES) should have operated.

"Yeah, that was all me." Marigold's eyes brightened when I raised an eyebrow at her. She waved her hand casually, as if she was suddenly a badass. "I went to Colin and Akiya a few days ago to see about changing up teams since I knew we'd be doing that soon anyway, and I requested that we be put together."

Laughing wasn't the appropriate response. I sucked at appropriate responses, though. "People tend not to ask reapers and shapeshifters for things, especially when they're Felix's boss's boss." Akiya was a Mazerene Council Member as well as a reaper, meaning that he could take souls from just about everything and everyone. He wasn't the guy you'd want to piss off. Colin, the second of three Council Members, was a shapeshifter, but that wasn't what made him scary. Him being a stereotypical Scotsman is what did that. "That's ballsy, Goldie, I gotta say."

She had a drink of her white wine that Cole gave her before slouching on the stool. "You're not mad at me for requesting the change, are you?"

Scoffing, I took a swig of my whiskey before putting it down. "I should be asking you that. You're the one who got pissed at me the last time we worked together." It got quiet between us, the jumbled voices and music of the bar filling in the silent spaces.

"It irritated me last time because you kept getting hurt and wouldn't let me defend you or myself." Goldie's voice was gentle, like it was spun from spider's webs, careful about how she was wording it. The last time we had discussed this, we only got upset with each other: her because she thought I wasn't taking her seriously and me because I was scared about her getting hurt. "If we're working as a team, you have to let me help, Barty. You ended up in the hospital last time, and it could've been prevented if you had let me help you. I want us to work together again, but let me get hurt and make mistakes. That's how I get stronger."

"Goldie, I know, b—"

"Don't give me excuses. My mom already worries about me being in this field, so I need someone cheering me on and trusting my abilities."

I sighed through my nose. Marigold was undoubtedly strong. She was able to control all of the flora in the area and sometimes the fauna, which was impressive. "I don't like the idea of you getting hurt, but I know you're capable. Just don't be an idiot and bite off more than you can chew." Bumping my shoulder into hers, I smiled down at her. "If we're ever fighting someone in a greenhouse or a forest, that's definitely all you."

She grinned, flashing that little gap between her teeth, then started giggling. "Maybe I'll start bringing around a little plant with us wherever we go. Then I'll have a plant to control, even if we're in the middle of a city."

"I'm not babysitting a plant. Absolutely not."

"Well think about it. It could be something small, like those little cacti they sell in gardening sections. Do you know the damage I could cause with those?" She finished the rest of her wine and pushed the glass towards Cole for a refill. "Either way, thanks for trying to make an effort. No more hospital visits this time, okay?"

"I'll try. I can't promise, but I'll try."

She eyed me, taking her glass back once it was filled. "That's a start.