The following is a serialized story which will appear monthly on Digital Digest. It is part of the Finders Keepers series coming this fall from Red Hot Publishing.
“Why in hell am I here?” Demonica grimaced at her reflection in the cracked restroom mirror. Every year, middle of March, she inevitably ended up in the same dingy Irish pub. The only changes in the place over the centuries? The layer of grime on the floor and the revolving door of wait staff.
Quickly applying a fresh coat of gloss, Demo – as her friends called her – gave her appearance one last check before wading back into the mass of people occupying the bar. Waitresses in short black skirts and low cut tops scooted by. Trays laden with steins of frothy green beer balanced precariously on their hands as the girls navigated the rowdy revellers.
Scanning the room as she walked, Demonica located her companion for the afternoon and jostled her way back to their table. The flavor of the crowd carried an edge of danger she hadn’t detected earlier, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what caused the change as she scanned faces for clues.
“I was beginning to think you’d decided to skip out on me,” her date confessed in a bur softened voice. Medium height, strawberry blond and slight of build, he missed the marker for Demo’s type by several miles – and served as the perfect foil for keeping the riff raff from bothering her.
“There was a line,” she flicked her eyes at him briefly and resumed her surveillance. A cold chill ran down her spine, pulling a violent shudder through her delicate frame. Her companion moved to put his hand over hers and Demonica slid it out of reach. She gave him a vacant smile, “Sorry, I don’t like being touched without invitation.”
Intense blue eyes blazed at her from by the bar as she completed her third sweep of the room. Attention caught, Demo focused on the rest of him. Short, cropped hair, a strong jaw and panty wetting physique. Closing her eyes, she tasted the air and smiled as she opened them again. Whatever category he fell into, human wasn’t tops on the list of tall, dark and yummy’s attributes.
“Mmm, hello handsome,” Demo purred as she slid from her seat. She took a step toward the bar but got no further. A sweaty hand clamped down on her arm and stopped her.
“Monica? Where are you going?” her table mate asked.
“Let. Me. Go.” Demonica spared him a glance, demonic nature shining in her eyes as she ripped her arm free of his grasp. “You’re lucky I don’t break your fingers for that.”
Demo turned back and looked for the handsome supernatural. The brief seconds she’d been distracted were enough. When her gaze settled on the spot he’d occupied, she discovered it empty. He disappeared as quickly as she’d found him.
“Shit,” she tossed a few bills on the table and took off in pursuit. Whatever game he thought they were playing, she intended to come out on top.
Picking a seat near the door had been a smart move. Five long strides had her out the door and into the thick crowd milling about in all of their green finery. St Patrick’s Day celebrations were in full swing and the streets brimmed with people.
Demonica scanned the crowd. Her senses picked up every kind of supernatural being for blocks around her – except for the one she’d spotted in the bar.
“Damn it.” The taste of power roiled inside her brain and taunted her to figure the puzzle out. Something animalistic about the ferocity she’d seen in his eyes when they’d met hers across the room amped up her curiosity. “What in hell are you?”
The inside pocket of her leather jacket buzzed with silent vibration and Demonica reached in to pull out the tiny black cell phone. She gave the Caller ID a passing glance before flipping the device open. One person called on this line and only in the case of an emergency.
“Hey, Marco.” She smiled at the code name. Marco Polo had been their favorite game as children. Of course, as old as they were, the game had a different name back then.
“Polo, you’ve got a tail again.”
Demonica laughed at the irony of the statement. “Again? Don’t I always have a one?”
A husky male chuckle caressed her ear over the phone line. “You do, and it’s a damn sexy one too, but that’s not what I meant and you know it.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She scanned the crowd on the off chance her runner made another appearance. “I’ve already spotted one of them. Since when does he send the tall, dark and handsome type? Most of his goons are ugly, slavering beasts.” Silence greeted her question. “Kaleth?”
“If he’s good looking, he isn’t one of the goons chasing you. Honey,” her best friend’s voice softened and she knew – whatever he said next, she wouldn’t like it. “Let the pretty boy go. You can’t take the risk right now. We need your ass hidden until this shit blows over or we’re screwed.”
Marco cursed vehemently and Demonica held the phone away from her ear. “What in hell do you mean, too late? Demo, what have you done?”
“Nothing,” she protested. “I was having a drink with one of the local yuppies and debating whether to dump his lame ass when I picked up another supernatural in the room…and hello, F.I.N.E. doesn’t even begin to describe what I found. When I located him – he was staring right back. You’re sure he’s not one of Bub’s goof troop?”
“Positive,” the sound of keys clicking told Demonica he was looking something up. Probably trying to bring up satellite imagery of her location to determine if he could work out the identity of her mystery man.
“Find anything?” she asked after a few minutes ticked by.
“No,” he growled. “Listen – you know as well as I do, Beelzebub’s men are not known for their looks or their subtlety. Whoever your man is… Just leave it be. Get your ass to safety and forget you ever saw him.”
“Fine.” Demo clicked the phone shut and pocketed the device. Her curiosity was piqued, and Hell would have a thick coating of ice before she let it go unsatisfied. “You can run, but you can’t hide forever.” A sentiment she was well acquainted with.
Focusing her energy, Demonica disappeared from the alley and rematerialized outside of her favorite inn. She smiled up at the sign and pushed open the door to Danny’s Pub. Warmth settled over her as she stepped over the threshold and into the familiar environment.
The people seated at the bar and scattered throughout the room were a veritable supernatural spumoni. Considering their proximity to the biggest fairy circle on the planet, Mission, Montana was a hotbed for all the things humans thought existed only in fairtytales and nightmares.
“Danny,” she smiled at the blond barkeep. “The usual, and keep ‘em coming?”
Finder grinned as the petite blonde left the safety of the bar he’d tracked her to in Ireland. The demon footing the bill for this track hadn’t given him details of the why’s or what’s for the mission and Finder didn’t really care as long as he got paid. At least he hadn’t until the beautiful Princess stepped into the crosshairs on his rifle’s scope a few weeks ago. His interest had peaked then, as did the price for bringing her in.
“Come on, sweetheart,” he cajoled. “A bit closer and I can tranq your sweet little ass for transport.”
No way would he dare taking her in without a healthy dose of tranquilizer on board. Tiny she might be, but the Princess of Hell packed more power than a legion of demons. The demon who tamed her would be a lucky bastard to come out the other side alive with all of his parts intact.
Fingers cramped from gripping the tranq gun for hours, he nearly dropped the damn thing when the phone in his rear jeans pocket buzzed. He ignored the first two rings but the momentary distraction cost him – his prey had vanished into thin air, literally.
Pulling the device from behind him, Finder accepted the call and jammed the phone to his ear as he scanned the crowd.
“What,” he barked.
His present employer’s voice oiled over the line and sent a shiver of disgust down his spine. “Progress report.”
“Fuck your progress report, Beelzebub,” he tossed back. “I told you I’d bring her in if, and when, I catch her. Your damned call just cost me two weeks of work. At this rate, I might just say fuck it and keep the bitch for myself.”
The sound of Beelzebub’s teeth gnashing reached his ears and Finder grinned. Yeah, keeping the Princess for his own enjoyment looked real good if it meant he could stick one in the fat bastard’s craw.
“You will bring Princess Demonica to me,” the other demon screeched into the phone. “She will be my bride and I will rule Hell through her.”
Finder arched a brow and relaxed against the wall at his side. So the lowlife thought to dethrone Lucifer, did he? Rumors had flown for eons about the Morning Star’s readiness to retire and hand the reigns over to his daughter – provided she find a suitable mate and breed a dozen little hell spawn. Huh, interesting.
“I’ll consider it,” he ended the call and smirked at the rage he imagined covered Beelzebub face.
Scrolling through his contact list, he stopped at the first one listed under the letter K and grimaced at his brother’s name. Kaleth, the king’s favorite and the princess’ trusted guardian. Finder punched a quick message into the phone and hit send.
Your charge is getting careless, brother. I nearly tranq’d her a minute ago.
The reply came back almost instantly. Nearly. Losing your touch, Carel?
Finder growled at the taunt and pocketed the phone. No love lost between them, but then – how did you love the brother who’d been responsible for tossing you into the deepest pit of Hell for seven thousand years?
Come back on July 21st for Chapter Two of Finders Keepers: Tempted.
Copyright © 2011 Danielle Gavan and Jennifer Feuerstein
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.