From the Author
From the Inside Flap
It felt so good to be outdoors. The warm air was soothing, the traffic noises and bustling crowds reminding her of New York City. Faina didn't often get nostalgic for her human life, but today she did. If she succeeded in this mission, she'd be human again. Warm weather, noisy crowds and city life would be her reality, not simply the realm in which she was allowed to work.
Unless Mastema had tricked her. No. She wouldn't think about that now. She had a job to do. She took her time, peering in shop windows and trying to look like just another California trust fund babe out for a stroll on a bright summer day. The fact nearly every man pounding the pavement tripped over his own two feet as she strolled past wasn't lost on her. She didn't have the baby face, long blonde curls, and legs up to there for nothing.
She avoided eye contact. It was enough to leave them with her scent, they'd have trouble getting it out of their head for weeks, but to look them in the eyes would be downright cruel. Even when she'd been alive all she'd had to do was turn her baby blues in a man's direction and he followed her around like a dog in heat. She'd made more money for Madame Lily during her first six months than most of her girls made over the course of two years.
As she made her way to the entrance of the 770 Wilshire Building, she caught a whiff of burned toast. She ducked into the nearest shop and pressed her nose to the plate glass window, scanning the crowd for a familiar face. She'd only seen Mastema appear once in human form. He'd looked ridiculous dressed in a long coat and cowboy hat on the streets of Aurora Nebraska, population four thousand two hundred and twenty-five as of last year. His bad-boy Western get-up would have been more appropriate for Arizona in the late nineteenth century.
Either Mastema hadn't been the demon she smelled or he'd already evaporated. The sidewalks were filled with six foot blondes and men who looked like they walked off the cover of GQ. Not a weird outfit or menacing swagger in sight.
"Help you, Miss? You need mani and pedi today? We have new summer colors look perfect on you."
Faina whirled around to face the ancient Vietnamese woman. She'd ducked into a nail salon. Her senses had been so focused on the burnt toast smell and Mastema's human form she hadn't noticed the acrid smell of nail polish.
"No, not today. I'm sorry. I've got to go."
Faina opened the door and strode to the parking garage entrance of the building. On the way a clock struck five. The smell of burnt toast wafted from a nearby taco stand. Had that been what she smelled? Tacos? She was jumping at shadows. That wasn't like her.
She made her way to Jace's sports car by visualizing it. As the flood of workers poured into the garage, she hoped Jace would stay calm when he saw her. She was taking a risk as there would be plenty of witnesses if he wigged out.
He was busy scrolling through messages on his phone as he sauntered to his car, and didn't see her until she stepped in front of him as he was about to open the door.
"Oh Jesus. Holy fu--" His warm brown eyes opened wide and he visibly swallowed. "How did you... you're real. Holy shit."
"Get in your car, Jace. People are staring. One of them looks like he's going to take a picture with his cell."
The lie snapped him out of his trance. He unlocked the doors and she slid into the passenger seat. "Start the car but don't move yet."
He stared straight ahead as the engine roared to life. Beads of sweat pooled at his hairline. She could hear his heart pounding. When she reached up to wipe his forehead he moaned. "It's all right, Jace. Just try to relax."
"I don't understand." His voice shook.
"You don't need to. Wait until the garage clears out a bit. Then we'll leave."
"I... I have a dinner date. A family friend. I have to go. I don't want to but... I... I should."
"Do you want me to leave?"
He looked into her eyes with the most desperate longing she'd ever seen on a human face. A flash of apprehension shivered down her spine, unbalancing her. She was going to hurt him. Badly. He'd lose everything. His home, the Foundation, his dinner date, maybe even this fancy sports car. And some kid wouldn't have a place to sleep on a cold, winter night, or a youth group to keep him off the streets.
The men she brought to Mastema were bad-to-the-bone to begin with. They just needed a little help to push them in the right direction. The inevitable direction, as he liked to call it. But Jace Blackmon was a good guy.
Then why does Apollyon want him? But what if he didn't want Jace? What if Jahi was right and Mastema had forged the contract?
"Faina." His whisper pulled her back to the present. Until she had proof to the contrary, it was Jace's soul or her eternal torment as one of Mastema's sex slaves. This was self-preservation. Nothing more.
She looked into his eyes and smiled "Yes, Jace?"
"Please don't leave, Faina."