That wasn’t entirely inaccurate. Not only did I feel guilty about sleeping with Seth, I also didn’t like to sleep with nice guys in general. They didn’t deserve to lose their life energy and get wiped out. Of course, those were exactly the kind of guys Hell wanted damned, so my employers didn’t appreciate me only going after corrupt men. I had “improved” recently for the sake of my career, but Jerome really had put up with a lot from me in the past.

“It’s not fair,” I growled.

Jerome snorted and spoke in a simpering voice. “Oh, oh. You’re right, Georgina. It isn’t fair. Thank you for helping me see the error of my ways.”

I glared. “You’re a real ass**le, Jerome.”

“That,” he said seriously, “is the first reasonable thing you’ve said since I got here.” He tossed the envelope onto the toilet lid. Seth jumped as it became visible. “This is neither an option nor a request. You will go to L.A. tonight.”

Jerome turned, and I knew he was about to disappear. Anger and frustration flared inside me, mainly because there was nothing I could do. Suddenly, he stopped and sighed. He glanced back at me, annoyance all over him. A rectangular piece of white paper materialized in his hand. A plane ticket. He tossed it on top of the envelope.

“Take the human with you.”

Jerome vanished.

After almost a minute of silence, Seth finally figured out that our visitor was gone. “You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said shaking my head to clear it. “I think so.”

Seth pointed to the papers. “What is that? What’s going on?”

I took the towel from him without challenge and wrapped it around me. “This trip’s about to take a different direction.”

“Oh? How?”

“We’re going to the City of Angels.” I paused and reconsidered. “Or rather, the City of Demons.”

The great thing about Los Angeles, at least, was that it was warm. And when you were just starting December in Seattle…well, even smog and urban sprawl seemed like small sacrifices for sun and surf.

Our flight down was uneventful. Seth worked on his laptop. I browsed through the papers in the envelope, trying to figure out what I’d gotten myself into. When we’d landed and retrieved our baggage, I hailed our cab and gave the driver the address. Seth, still engrossed in whatever novel he was writing, didn’t pay much attention to the ride. So, he was kind of surprised when we arrived and he stepped out of the taxi.

“A Marriott?” he asked, looking up at the building in front of us.


“But…” He frowned and took a suitcase from the driver. Seth’s reticence in conversation usually came from a need to choose his words carefully. I could tell this particular moment called for special care. “You’re going to some kind of demonic council, right?”


“And it’s at a Marriott.”



Luggage in hand, we walked into the lobby. It was wide and round, with a faux marble floor and a huge, gaudy chandelier that looked shabby and cheap. I was willing to bet its sparkling shards were made of plastic, not crystal.

“Why not?” I returned. “They’ve got to hold it somewhere.”

“Yeah…but why not around a bonfire in the middle of the woods? Or at least a Masonic temple.”

I walked toward the desk and crooked him a grin. “No room service.”

Our room was nothing special, but that didn’t matter. I’d gone into this weekend wanting to spend time with Seth, and now we could have it. Sort of. In fact, depending on how long this absurd tribunal went, we could be spending a lot of time together. But, the trial didn’t start until tomorrow, so for now, it was just me and him. The thought filled me with happiness, and I was almost able to forget I was here against my will.

Feeling saucy, I patted the bed. “Want to break it in?”

Seth raised an eyebrow, and I immediately felt stupid. Of course we couldn’t break it in. The joke had risen to my lips without thinking. Suddenly, like that, the bubble of joy burst, and reality slammed into me. It didn’t matter if I was on a cold island or a queen-size bed with a plaid comforter. Seth and I could never reach the intimate levels we both craved. I don’t know why it hit me so hard just then, but that’s how it was. Sometimes I could deal with the hands-off nature of our relationship; sometimes it killed me. But, regardless, it was better than killing him.

Seth, noticing my mood change, smiled gently. The physical limitations we faced saddened him too, but he dealt with them with infinite patience. I’d told him he was welcome to get cheap sex anywhere since I was certainly busy myself with succubus “duties,” but he never took me up on the offer. He always said he wanted to be with me and me alone. He wouldn’t be budged. His strength continually amazed me.

Ignoring the awkwardness created by the joke, he shook his head. “I’m too tired to break it in. But you, Georgina…well, if you want to…”

The dangerous smile was back on his face, and I could feel a similar one coming onto my lips. We might not be able to touch each other without serious repercussions, but I could touch myself without any sort of loss.

And Seth…well, Seth loved to watch.

Chapter Two

The next morning, Seth and I headed downstairs to the trial. I stifled a yawn in the elevator and leaned my head against his shoulder. He slid his hand down to my lower back and brushed an absentminded kiss into my hair.

“This is going to be a long day.” I sighed.

“Did you read up on the…case?” The catch in his voice showed how weird he still found all of this. I didn’t blame him. When I nodded, he asked, “What’s it about?”

The elevator reached the lobby, and I waited until we had stepped outside and were away from the other occupants.

“Murder,” I said, yawning again.

Seth looked at me.

“Murder,” he repeated flatly.


We started walking toward the hotel’s meeting rooms. After several moments of silence, he finally spoke again.

“I can’t believe you just yawned while saying that.”

“It’s not very exciting.”

“It’s murder. And aren’t we…aren’t we dealing with immortals here?”

We reached a long corridor and suddenly slammed into a wall of people. There were a few humans mixed in with the bunch, but most were immortals. Demons. Vampires. Imps. Even a few succubi and incubi. I rarely spent time around this many immortals, however, and nearly staggered from the force of all those signatures—auras, if you will. It was heady and oppressive. Like breathing in too much perfume.

I peered around them. “Jesus. This is the line to get in.” I hated lines.


I turned back to Seth. “Huh?”

“Murder? Immortals?”

“Oh. Well. It can happen. You know that.”

“Yeah, but the last time it happened, you weren’t this calm.”

He had a point, and I shivered involuntarily, recalling the incident he referred to.

“Well…that time involved a serial killer taking out immortals at random. And who, um, had a crush on me. No one knew what it—he—was. This time, it’s pretty obvious what happened. A demon destroyed another demon.”

It was something demons did from time to time. And honestly, when you considered demons’ selfish and prickly natures, it was a wonder it didn’t happen more often. Sometimes demons would set up formal duels. Sometimes one would just get pissed and incinerate the other. Demons varied in strength, and two who were matched in power mostly just tended to circle and scuff each other up. When the power levels varied wildly…well, things ended pretty quickly.

Regardless of how it went down, destroying each other was not looked upon favorably among our masters. It was disorderly and annoying and created a lot of paperwork for the personnel department.

“If it’s obvious, then why are you here?” Seth wanted to know.

“Because they don’t know which demon did the, uh, smiting. All the evidence shows a demonic attack; there’s no question about that. What they have to figure out here is who the murderer is, so they can make an example of him or her.”

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
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