Esther Egg Hunt
Holidays Are Hell, Book 3
by Sam Cheever
eBook ISBN: 06268-02014
This Easter, Esther’s going to make sure Luc can’t ignore her any longer. She’s going to take her life back… and when she’s done with her sexy devil, he’s not gonna know what hit him!
Fire lit the night sky, painting the thin film of clouds with orange and yellow light. Esther Mooring laid her head back and sighed, enjoying the cooler air that came with the night. Another burst of fire lightened the sky, ending in a series of fiery loops that made a funny whirring noise as they plunged toward the ground.
Esther’s neighbors cheered, and somebody popped the cork on a bottle of something bubbly. She frowned, wondering what it would be like to celebrate Good Friday eve like a normal person. Well, at least a normal dead person living in Hell.
She sipped white wine and scratched a quickly growing bump from a bug bite. Hell didn’t have regular mosquitoes. They were more like small airplanes that buzzed and snapped razor-sharp teeth as they dived toward you.
Esther generally hid in the house at night. But the holiday fireworks display was too tempting to resist. So she’d come out dressed head to toe, with her hand-held flamethrower clutched in one hand to sear the biting bastards when they tried to dive-bomb her.
Good Friday was a major holiday in Hell. Unlike Christmas, which Hellions ridiculed and banned as fiction, the pre-Easter holiday from her youth was celebrated as a happy event, with presents and parties.
Esther had never joined in the fun. Not because of any residual childhood memories about the sober way her parents had treated the day, but because, for her, the spirit of the day was all too real.
The only thing that made it bearable was knowing she would soon see him again… gorgeous Luc with the intense green eyes and perfect, round behind that made her mouth water. Though her sexy perdition guide barely spoke to her, she knew he was interested by the way that serious green gaze followed her every movement when they were together.
A loud buzzing brought Esther’s head up and she reacted quickly, pressing the button to send a narrow flame into the sky from her mini-thrower. The fanged bloodsucker spread its wings and tried to stay outside the range of the flame, but it didn’t quite make it. The fist-sized bug sizzled into ash in the space of a heartbeat, falling to the ground and joining a dozen of its evil compatriots.
“Happy Good Friday, Esther.”
She looked up and smiled at her neighbor, Alice, who’d spoken to her from behind a privacy fence. The woman was painfully shy, but she’d been friendly enough to Esther, even though Esther had been honest with her about her situation from the very first day. “Hey Alice! Thanks. Are you going to any parties?”
“No. How about you?”
Esther shook her head. “I’ll be going in to pack as soon as the fireworks are over.”
Alice’s smile drooped. “Oh. Yeah. I’d forgotten. I’m sorry.”
Esther shrugged. “Thanks.”
“Maybe they’ll put you here again.”
Esther shook her head. “I gave up hoping for that a couple of years back. I’m afraid the judges get too much pleasure from jerking me around.”
Alice frowned. “I don’t get it. Your situation is rare. I don’t know why they wouldn’t work a little harder to help you. It’s not fair.”
Esther smiled. “Thanks, Alice. I appreciate your support. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
“Whatever happens, take care of yourself, Esther.”
“I will. You, too.”
Alice nodded and waved before turning away and disappearing behind her fence.
Esther smiled too. Because she hadn’t been just making conversation. She fully intended to get control of her situation this time. She was done letting fate decide her future. She’d been bitch-slapped by that evil hag more than enough.
It was time for Esther to grab fate by the hair and send her packing.
She frowned, thinking of what was ahead of her. She’d thought she’d known what Hell was. But she hadn’t realized that, for her at least, it meant reliving her death, over and over again.
Killed in a rockslide.
She shook her head, still not believing she’d died so stupidly. Esther had been active all her life. A true daredevil, she’d functioned under a continuous bucket list mentality. She’d jumped from airplanes, swum with sharks, traveled the Serengeti, and climbed the highest mountain peaks she could find.
She’d been caught in an avalanche in the Rocky Mountains. She’d been badly stung by a jellyfish, and had come this close to being eaten by a lion.
None of that scared her as much as reliving her death — and resurrection — every year.
That first year she’d just stood there and watched the rocks bear down on her. The second year she hadn’t acted quickly enough to escape dying again. But this time — the third year of her resurrection — Esther intended to take steps.
Then she thought of Luc. Sexy, wonderful Luc. She’d really only spent time with him when she was newly dead. Not the best time or place for building a relationship. But over the years they’d formed a certain kind of comfortable relationship built on silence and understanding.
He was mostly silent, and Esther understood he was going to be that way.
Only thing was, she thought of nothing else all year long. Even her ongoing and impending death didn’t hold her thoughts as often as Luc did. She thought about the way his sexy, dark green gaze raked over her, touching her with heat, and the way his big, calloused hands pressured her so gently as he guided her toward the portal that would lead to her doom.
And the way he fought for her, every single year, trying to get the evil, nasty judges to give her a permanent place to return to every time. He’d nearly gotten himself thrown into the fiery pits on her behalf the previous year.
Esther thought that was the moment she’d started to fall in love with him. But something was holding him back. Something was keeping him from taking the next step with her. And Esther was tired of waiting.
So this year, when she faded away from Perdigo and landed in the road behind her car, Esther wasn’t going to just stand there and let herself be crushed all over again. She was going to run. And if Luc wanted her badly enough, he would have to chase her. At the thought, she experienced a delightful little thrill.
Esther suddenly realized the hardest part of the whole thing would be resisting the overwhelming urge to let him catch her.
* * *
Perdition Guide Lucifer dreaded the Good Friday holidays. It wasn’t the holiday per se; it was more what he had to do a couple of days later that he hated. He’d appealed to the judges’ assembly several times to be relieved of the responsibility, but in typical fashion the judges had gleefully denied him, preferring instead to see him suffer.
Luc hadn’t come to the assembly the same way the other guides had. He had a stain on his soul the assembly couldn’t forgive. They disliked him so much, in fact, that Luc was convinced they’d given him his current assignment knowing how much it would chafe.
Unlike the other guides, who’d come to the PD ranks directly from the human realm, Luc had been a guardian angel before his fall. He’d known the wonder and beauty of Heaven. But somehow he’d never quite fit in there, which was why, after getting in trouble several times for bucking the system, Luc had been unceremoniously flung out of Heaven like an ugly drunk from a bar. He wasn’t exactly proud of that time, but he wasn’t overly embarrassed by it either. Obviously, somebody had made a mistake when they’d given him his wings.
Luc belonged right where he was.
He stood in his back yard, watching the fireworks display bursting across the night sky, and pondered whether she was doing the same thing at that moment. He wondered if she was sad about the holiday, and if she dreaded what was to come.
Luc figured it must be horrible for her to be uprooted every year. Not to mention the yearly trip before those ass-wipes on the assembly. He knew she must be lonely. Maybe even scared. Rubbing his chest where the almost constant ache seemed to sit, Luc sighed. He’d give anything to take those feelings away from her. He’d love to wrap her in his arms and soothe her pain, turning it to something much more pleasant. Luc had dreamed about it nearly every night for the last three years. He’d fantasized about claiming those full, burgundy lips in a kiss that would make her forget for all time she’d ever felt pain or sadness.
But imagining making love to her was as far as it had gone. Perdition guides were not allowed to form attachments to their supplicants. The rules were simple and clear. The punishment was a long stay in the fiery pits, screaming in agony until you couldn’t scream anymore.
He’d heard stories of the fiery pits from perdition delivery guides who’d been there. And he never wanted to find out if the stories were true.
Recently there had been rumors of a couple of guides who’d fallen for their supplicants and gotten away with it. But when Luc had asked the chief judge about it, he’d denied the rumors and threatened Luc with fiery pit time just for asking.
Luc wasn’t fooled. Something was going on with the perdition guides, and Luc intended to find out what it was. If there was a way he could be with sweet and beautiful Esther, he was definitely going to take it. Even if it meant a few weeks of agony in the pits.
Longing for her day after day and knowing he couldn’t have her was pure torture. He figured being burned to a crisp would be a vacation compared to that.
Though he kept tabs on her throughout the year, mostly from a distance, Luc missed her smile, her gentle touch, and her exquisite scent. He’d been anticipating seeing her again for weeks. Now that it was only a few hours away he thought he’d lose his mind with the waiting. Especially since he’d decided to take steps to help her.
Luc went back inside to make sure he was ready. He mentally retraced his plan again, hoping he hadn’t forgotten anything. He checked the two bags he’d placed on the table by the door, checking their contents against the inventory he kept in his mind.
On an impulse he added another bottle of water to each and stuffed a first aid packet into the bigger of the two bags. He checked again to make sure he’d included the salt pills. Those would be the most important thing. Finally, Luc set the bags beside the door. He was as ready as he’d ever be.
Now all he had to do was wait. Waiting sucked. He’d rather be boiled in oil.