The Devil In My Bed: Excerpt
Book 1: His Return
Trouble walked into the Black Gator on the heels of a storm the likes of which Beau Monde hadn’t seen in years. It swept across the sleepy Louisiana town in a fury of hail, thunder and lightning. Upending vehicles and flattening trees, it thickened the air with the kind of humidity that filled lungs solid in one breath. It tore at the edges, crept along sidewalks and back alleys, long fingers that sought out every nook and cranny so not one inch was left untouched. The storm produced so much water in such little time the riverbanks overflowed and flooded homes, spewing gators and filth and other dark things into the streets.
Later, folks would talk about it in whispers, calling it the storm of the century. And maybe they were right. Maybe there wouldn’t be another one like it for one hundred years. But it was more than just a storm. It was alive with something.
I felt it crawl up the back of my neck and burrow under skin.
The storm might have cut a path through trees and homes in Beau Monde, dumping debris and flying squirrels along the way (no joke one flew by the window) but it also dumped something dark in my backyard. Something other. And it was only a matter of time before it found me.
It’s part and parcel of who I am and what I own—the Black Gator, a paranormal beacon to all things that go bump in the night. When something erupts from below or above or anywhere in between, it always comes calling for some reason or other. It’s part of the Gator and it’s part of me. Gramps said it has to do with our location and the fact that our blood is tethered to the land. Whatever the reason, things that go bump in the night are our family business and we are the conduits for all sorts of craziness. And by we, I mean me.
The Gator has been around longer than memory, in some form or other, though the current building was erected at the turn of the century by a guy named, Gerard Davieux—my grandfather several times removed. The place, and whatever existed before it, has been passed down to the firstborn Davieux since anyone can remember, and as far as I know, I’m the first to inherit by default on account my twin brother Samuel, older than me by exactly thirteen minutes, refused to stay in this backwater town out in the bayou. He’d up and left the day he turned eighteen and never looked back.
I get the odd birthday card, or super tacky postcard from some place on the planet I’ve never even heard of, but he hasn’t stepped foot in Beau Monde since he left. Which is why I stayed and carried on the family business from the back of the bar, while my best friend Abel Cartwright ran the place and made sure it actually turned a profit. It helps that he’s a Warlock and has a way with people—human or otherwise—and he’s a god in the kitchen, a connoisseur of fine wine (which we have no need of) and good with money. It also helps that he gives a damn.
I don’t know what I would do without him. It’s a thought that hits my brain at least ten times a day, and today is no different. He’s a little rough around the edges but I love him. He’s the Christina Yang to my Meredith Grey. The Robin to my Batman. And if he wasn’t gay, maybe we’d be more than best friends.
Abel spit tobacco juice into the bucket under the bar and nodded as the door swung open letting in a blast of that Louisiana heat. The storm had come and gone in under ten minutes and now the sun shone down like it was a beacon from God himself.
“Gabe’s here,” he said turning to me with a questioning look. “You want me to suggest he leave?”
“Nah,” I replied, “I can do that all on my own.” I walked to the end of the bar and gave Abel a look. “And no tobacco spittin’. First of all, I hate the sound it makes when it hits the tin can. And secondly, you’re violating all kinds of health codes.”
“Like you care about health code violations.”
I would have protested, but he and I both knew I didn’t give a rat’s ass.
“And we both know the clientele don’t give a goddamn,” he continued dryly.
He had me there.
I snuck a quick look in the mirror, pleased to see that even though the humidity was sky high, my hair was behaving itself, the long waves neat down my back instead of frizzing into a halo around my head. I ignored the new strands of gray poking through my dark roots, but made a mental note to make an appointment with Sally at the salon.
My black T-shirt was snug across my chest on account of a brand new padded bra and though there was an extra little roll overtop the waistband of my jeans, my butt filled out the Levi’s the way they were supposed to. Lord knows I hate the gym, but in my line of work, I need to at least try to stay in shape. The treadmill and the big bottle of pain medication I keep handy sure help.
Hitting forty a few years back was an eye opener. I suppose it would be for any woman. But hitting forty when you’re a vampire hunting, demon chasing, werewolf catching kind of gal? Well, that brings with it a whole other level of eye opening experiences. Trying to behead a demon while in the middle of a hot flash isn’t fun.
I made a face at the thought. I’m not hung up on my age. I don’t feel much different than I did twenty years ago. It’s more of a betrayal. I can’t run as fast as I used to. My knees ache when I overdo it and in the last year I’ve thrown out my back more times than I care to count. Why just last week I threw a stake at a nasty vampire who was coming for me and missed. Twice. I told Abel my hands were sweaty—that I’d lost my grip. But truthfully, I’d forgotten to pop in my new contacts and couldn’t see shit twenty feet away when the lighting was wrong.
At the moment however, I had no problem with my vision and squared my shoulders as I glanced across the bar at my ex-boyfriend.
Gabe was a big man, easily topping six foot six, and he sure as heck was built to fill in every bit of his frame. The man had big hands and big feet which meant he was a big boy everywhere. For the last two years, I’d had all of that hard frame to myself and enjoyed him like a champ.
I wasn’t in love with him or anything, but once a girl’s out of her thirties there’s something to be said about being exclusive. It takes all the worry and angst out of dating. Especially when you land a guy who knows what to do in the sack, one with a big appetite; one who likes to eat downtown if you get my drift. He wasn’t stingy in that department and was damn good at coaxing the big O more than once in a night.
We had a pretty good thing going up until about a month ago when Gabe starting talking about moving in together and getting our own place. I wasn’t interested. I’d done the relationship thing once, a long time ago, and it bit me in the ass so hard there were teeth marks on my right cheek for weeks. (Again, no joke, actual teeth marks).
Gabe didn’t take the rejection well. He said he wouldn’t let me use him for sex if there was nothing more. Ironic, isn’t it? Men do that shit all the time. I told him we were done, that he’d crossed a line from casual to serious and I wasn’t ready for that. He told me no one could satisfy my kitty-cat the way he could. And yes, he calls my pussy a kitty-cat. I told him he’d come crawling back when his balls turned blue.
He said I was sadly mistaken.
Turns out he was right. I lasted as long as I could, and then decided to smooth things over and take some initiative. I thought I’d throw him a bone, give the guy a drawer at my place he could fill with his underwear. Maybe allow a sleepover once a month.
So last week I left the bar early and headed to his house, my mind on a night of heavy, hot sex and not much else. I’d been feeling at loose ends for a while with the kind of restlessness that cut deep. I figured a hot workout between the sheets was what I needed to shake things off. I let myself in to his place and tossed clothes everywhere as I headed for his bedroom. Which meant by the time I got there I was buck naked, but then so was Gabe…and the woman on all fours in front of him.
They both turned when I opened the door and his expression was comical. It was pain and glory, and as his eyes moved over me I saw anticipation mixed in with a little dash of hope. God, these men. I swear you could offer them one million dollars or a threesome and they’d stay poor just to have with one helluva a story to tell their pals.
“You joining us sugar?” the woman said, between moans and groans. “I don’t mind if you watch.”
“Not today darlin’. I’m not really into odd numbers,” I replied. “He’s all yours.”
There was some yelling and cursing and a big commotion behind me as I scooped up my clothes and headed to my truck without putting any of them on. I was pissed and horny, and Lord knows I should have been angrier than I was. But as much as I was disappointed in Gabe screwing some random woman behind my back, I was more disappointed about the no sex thing and the fact that my ladybird vibrator was busted.
So there you have it. The sad story of Gabe and Lily and the longest non-relationship I’ve ever had. The no sex thing had me in a grumpy mood for days, but this storm is what had me agitated. I didn’t smile as I walked up to him, though I nodded to his pals, Kirby and Matt. “A round of beers on the house boys,” I said pleasantly. They took the hint and headed for the bar, while I raised an eyebrow and cranked my neck back in order to see Gabe properly.
“You’re looking good,” I said slowly. It wasn’t a lie. The man had been blessed in every physical way possible. At forty-five he had all his hair, good teeth and a strong jawline. He made a faded white T-shirt and a pair of old, beat up jeans look real good. And well, those big hands and all.
“So do you,” he replied, his eyes on my chest, that half grin of his firmly in place. I kinda missed it.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. If it weren’t for the storm I might have considered forgetting his romp with the blonde and taken him back to the office so I could screw him until all this pent-up energy in me was laid to waste. But the storm changed everything and seconds later the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
Gabe was still talking but I had no idea what he was saying. That thing I mentioned earlier? The thing that rode the storm all the way to Beau Monde? Well, it was here. Just outside the door to the Gator.
“Hey, why don’t you go get yourself a drink. Abel will look after you and we’ll talk later, okay?”
“Are we good then? I miss you, Lily.”
I pushed him toward the bar and nodded, though my eyes were on the door and the smoky mist that leaked from underneath. It had a green tinge to it and that wasn’t good. I glanced back at Abel. He gave a slight nod and with one wave of his hand Gabe turned on a dime and headed for the bar, along with the other humans in attendance—Barb Baxter and Hank Reynolds. They were each married to someone else but spend at least two afternoons in the Gator sucking face in the shadows. The two of them stumbled out of the darkest booth in the back corner and rolled up to the far end of the bar.
Anything else in the place was otherworld, and they scattered just as quick, disappearing into the shadows and beyond, little flashes of energy that dissipated into a soft glow.
The door to the Gator slowly creaked open, spilling the kind of light that was wrong for this time of day, which was approaching dusk. It was too bright. Too sharp. And it was meant to be hard on the eyes. Someone stood just inside the place. A big someone. He was nothing more than a shadow against that light and I couldn’t see shit.
Damn, I thought, should have put in my contacts.
“Hello Lily.” The voice was melodious with a hint of barbwire, like whisky over rocks. It was intimate and coaxing, and in that first moment or two I felt the pull as surely as I did eighteen years ago when he first stepped foot in the Black Gator.
He was the one man in the entire universe, including the upper and lower realms, I hated more than green peas. Which was a lot.
Except he was no man. He was both fallen angel and avenging demon. He was beautiful and arrogant, and charming and funny. He was also bossy and full of himself—an all-around asshole. He was king of the underworld. Lucifer, the fucking devil himself.
He took a moment. Let the light settle a bit as the shadows rippled and fell from him like water down the drain. His dark beauty was undeniable. He was six foot four inches of hard muscle, broad shoulders and long legs wrapped in denim and leather. His face was perfect in every way, masculine and strong, though his mouth was almost feminine in its fullness.
“Why are you here?” I managed to say through clenched teeth. “I told you never to come back. We agreed on that.”
He smiled then, his light hazel eyes darkening with flames as he did so, and tossed a coin onto the table beside me. It landed with a thud and I flinched when it hit.
No, I thought, as my stomach turned over.
He nodded toward the table and I glanced at the coin. It was old. Ancient even. Inscribed in a language not known to man. It was a coin I’d seen once before and I couldn’t turn him away even if I wanted to. It’s not the way things are done.
He headed for the bar, but paused a few feet from Abel and glanced over his shoulder. His eyes moved over me in a slow, methodic way that heated my insides even as my skin broke out in goosebumps.
I had a very bad feeling about this.
“Buy me a drink,” he said softly.
Anger made me bold, I was literally shaking with it. “Fuck you.”
“Our daughter is missing.”
I think my mouth fell open. I know it felt like my jaw was sitting on the floor. I stared at Lucifer for so long my eyes blurred. My body shook. My insides quaked. My legs were wooden pins that I forced to move. But move they did.
Heart pounding, I stood in front of the table and stared down at the coin. I scooped it up, felt the power that lay within and studied it for a few moments, then tucked it into the front pocket of my jeans. I nodded to Abel.
“Bring the bottle of tequila to my office and two glasses.”
I walked past Lucifer, the man who’d rocked my world off its axis, broken my heart and left me dazed for nine months until he came topside again to claim our child. The pain and despair I’d buried roared to life and my soul was black with it. I swore I’d kill him if he came to the Gator again. It’d told him as much when he’d ripped our child from my arms.
And kill him I would.
After I found our daughter.