Devil May Care
Holidays are Hell, Book 2
by Sam Cheever
eBook ISBN: 06190-01988
Valentine Smith H-A-T-E-S the month of February. The constant jokes about her name and comparisons to the chubby guy with arrows are enough to make her want to run and hide for the entire month.
But, this Valentine’s Day, the ultimate joke is about to be played on poor Valentine. She’s supposed to choke on a chocolate heart and die. You’d think that would be bad enough. But when she misses her chance to die, she finds herself running from an overly ambitious angel and a sexier-than-hell devil named Abbadon. In the race between good and evil it’s no contest. Hell has sexy green eyes, lots of yummy muscles, and a truly decadent pair of lips to ease her pain!
“Valentine Marie Smith, you come out of there!”
“I’m not coming out until the holiday from Hell is over!”
Another round of pounding on her locked door had Valentine covering her head with a pillow. “Go away!”
“Honey, it’s just a party with friends. I promise you’ll have fun.”
Valentine snorted into her pillowcase. “Fun is not a word I ever associate with Valentine’s Day.” She cringed when her roommate screamed in frustration.
“Okay. Have it your way. Stay here all alone in your pajamas and pout.”
“I will. Thanks. Have fun.”
“I refuse to have fun without you.”
Valentine smiled. She knew better. Her beautiful, lighthearted roomie would be in her element at the Valentine’s party. Surrounded by doting men and women who wanted to be her friend in the hope that some of her perfection would rub off on them, Aimee would have enough fun for both of them.
Still, as Valentine lay there on her bed and listened to the sound of Aimee leaving the apartment, she couldn’t help feeling a little sad. Part of her — a tiny part — wished she could go to the party and have fun too. But the stupid holiday was the bane of her existence, and she’d sworn off all celebration of it.
She refused to buy or accept cards or gifts, and she’d turned down all invitations. She’d even said no to a date with a cute guy she met the previous week at her favorite club. She was determined not to contribute to the stupidity that was Valentine’s Day.
Still, as the apartment throbbed with silence, the window glass crackling as an evening chill replaced an unseasonable warmth, she couldn’t help feeling a little lonely.
Restless and bored, Valentine got out of bed and headed into the kitchen, looking for something to eat. Her stomach rumbled as she opened the refrigerator door and looked inside. It was filled with food, but it might as well have been empty. Aimee was a health nut and only bought stuff that was good for them.
Valentine was in the mood for comfort food. Which for her meant junk food. Fifteen minutes later, she had to settle for a bowl of sugary cereal that Aimee hadn’t been able to talk her out of buying. She headed back to her room with the cereal, intending to send some emails and then settle into bed to watch a movie.
Setting her cereal bowl on the nightstand, Valentine carried her laptop to the bed and climbed under the covers. She clicked the television on and spent the next half hour visiting her favorite online spots and responding to emails from family and friends.
A chat message popped up and Valentine grinned. Artcritic1 had taken the bait.
Good evening, StolenHeart.
Hello, critic. Have you given any thought to my proposition?
I have. I’d like to discuss it over dinner tonight.
Valentine frowned. She really didn’t want to go out. But she’d been trying to cultivate that particular client for months. She stared at the blinking cursor on the screen, unsure how to respond.
Sighing, Valentine made the only decision she could. Where and when?
Nourrir le Cœur, eight o’clock.
Valentine glanced at the clock. She had an hour to shower, dress, and catch a ride across town. It would be a stretch, but for the chance to steal the famed Walk Along the Seine, she’d manage it. She typed I’ll be wearing a red dress and shut down her computer, heading for the shower.
* * *
Abbadon crossed his arms and glared at the assembly. He’d never heard of such a thing. “This is bullshit, chief. Can’t we do something to stop them?”
The scaly red devil sitting at the front of the hall shook his horned head, his clawed hand tightening visibly on his pitchfork. “We’ve tried, guide. But ever since Damian’s naughty vixen chose Hell over the pearly palace, they’ve been on the warpath. They’re determined to grab our supplicants before we do.”
“But what good will it do them? A damned soul is a damned soul.”
The judge curled a scaly, red lip. “New regs. They’ve put an escape clause into their application. Any naughty soul who qualifies for the upper levels of Hell can be given probationary status in Heaven for a term of twenty years. They figure by that time they’ll either have recruited the lost soul or we’ll have lost them in our system. Our record-keeping sucks compared to theirs. They can afford the best software. There’s just no money in being bad anymore.” He shook his massive head. “Either way, we lose a soul and their numbers improve.”
Abbadon glanced at the large screen playing behind the assembly. A woman with long, straight black hair that hung like a silk curtain over her pale arms was climbing into a taxi. She wore a tight, red dress cut in an oriental style, with a high neckline and cap sleeves. With long, toned limbs, a pert behind, and bright blue eyes overscored by a straight fringe of silky bangs, she was exotic and stunning. “That her?” She carried a long, black coat over her arm and appeared to be in a hurry.
The chief judge nodded without turning. “Yes. She’ll arrive at the restaurant in twenty minutes. She’ll be late and hurrying. You need to arrive first and get rid of the man she’s meeting.”
Abbadon frowned, his stomach twisting with doubt. “I don’t like it, sir. It feels way too much like we’re tampering with that woman’s fate.”
The chief judge slammed his pitchfork into the ground and glared down at Abbadon. “Just do what you’re told, guide. It’s not your place to question the assembly.”
Abbadon tightened his jaw against an angry retort, his fists clenching at his sides. “As you wish.”
“Here, try to get her to sign this. Once she signs it, she’s ours.”
Abbadon inhaled a cloud of smoke and glared down at the nasty creature holding a scroll toward him. The small, round man wore wire-rimmed glasses and stood in a haze of smoke that rose from the cigarette dangling between his lips. Worm was the clerk for the assembly vault and a really reprehensible human being. “You don’t seriously expect me to hand the woman a scroll covered in micro-script written in blood, do you?”
Worm grinned around the cigarette. “You don’t seriously expect me to answer that, do you?”
Abbadon longed to yank that cigarette out of Worm’s nasty mouth and shove it up his ass. Instead he grabbed the scroll. “Fuck you, Worm.”
The round-faced clerk shook his head. “I must be the most delectable morsel. You guys are always propositioning me.”
The chief judge looked down at his supplicant tablet, waving a red-clawed hand dismissively. “Get a move on, PD Abbadon. The woman will be arriving at the restaurant shortly.”
Feeling the weight of his job as he rarely did, Abbadon turned on his heel and stalked from the assembly vault. He headed for the nearest portal to Earth. At least if he got his hands on her before the men in white did, he could protect her.
If necessary he’d keep her from choking to death until a better time. It was the least he could do, given that she’d unwittingly become a pawn in a battle between Heaven and Hell.
* * *
“Please hurry. I’m late.” Valentine sat back and watched the buildings on either side of the taxi flash by. She twined her hands nervously, a habit she’d had since she was a child and had been unable to break. She’d worked long and hard to reel in Artcritic1, and she didn’t want to lose him because of something as stupid as being late to their meeting.
Glancing at her diamond watchband for the tenth time in as many seconds, Valentine squirmed in her seat. “Take the next turn.”
The cabbie glared at her in the rearview mirror but managed to resist commenting. She knew she was being anal. Of course he knew where he was going. But she couldn’t help herself. She’d been a control freak all her life. She wasn’t about to stop now. Not when it had served her so well over the years.
She finally saw the lighted sign of the restaurant up ahead. Gathering her purse and gloves off the seat, she pulled a bill out of her wallet and handed it to the cabbie. “Thanks.”
She was climbing out of the cab before it rocked completely to a stop. When she stepped down onto the curb her heel slipped, pitching her forward. Valentine gave an alarmed squeal.
A hard pair of hands grabbed her arms, banding them in delicious heat. The hands tugged her upright, and she stumbled into a body as firm and warm as the hands. A deep, soft voice rumbled next to her ear. “You okay?”
She turned her head and saw a broad shoulder covered in a charcoal gray tweed sport coat. “I… yes.” She tried to pull away. “I’m fine. Thank you for helping me avert that nose dive.”
He released her and she turned, pulling a surprised gasp of air into her lungs as she got a good look at him.
He was gorgeous.
The man had to be over seven feet tall, and he was built like a mountain. He had deep-set, bright green eyes with lashes that curled softly at the tips. His hair hung in glossy waves to below his chin, and he’d tucked it behind his ears. His face was square, with strong, masculine features and a sensual mouth. His prominent chin had a sexy little indentation in the center.
Momentarily forgetting her meeting with Artcritic1, Valentine smiled and offered him her hand. “I’m Valentine.”
As soon as she told him her name she instinctively cringed. But her yummy hero didn’t react to her name at all. Instead he bent over her hand and kissed it with old-world charm. “Abbadon. But my friends call me Don.”
She took note of the slight accent. “English?”
“It’s so nice to meet you. I…” She suddenly remembered her meeting. “Yikes! I’m sorry. I’m late for a meeting.” She turned around and started toward the restaurant.
Don fell into step beside her. “I’m afraid I’m late for my meeting as well.”
A delicious thought occurred as Don pulled the restaurant door open for her. Was it possible? “You’re…” She stepped inside. “You’re not by any chance Artcritic1?” She pulled her coat off as they entered the pleasantly warm restaurant. Red and white lights twinkled from the beams overhead, and heart-shaped balloons floated everywhere.
Don helped her off with her coat and smiled. “Red dress. Wonderful!” He extended a very large hand. “Let me introduce myself again. I’m Artcritic1, and you must be StolenHeart?”