Prologue from Reap & Repent:
What does a guy have to do around here to get some service? Deacon Walker marveled as he glared at the undulating queue of grotesque reapers in front of him.
For all that’s holy, move the hell along already.
It had been a long week, and it wasn’t over yet. He needed to make at least one more pass through the hospital circuit before he could call it a day. He could already feel the tug of a freshly departed soul. Again. People were dropping like flies lately.
He massaged his brow, trying to soothe his exhausted patience as the line inched forward at a snail’s pace.
He was worn thin. Over the past few weeks, three demon soul poachers had popped up in his fair city of Meridian like poisonous mushrooms after a hard rain. While it wasn’t unheard of for one to slip out from Hell every now and then, three was a nightmare.
When it got topside, a demon’s M.O. was to steal a human body, poach a few souls from the dead and dying, and then make its merry way back to Hell, taking its host’s soul along for the ride. The only way to save the souls a poacher was carrying was to behead the host with a scythe. Not a pretty thing to do, but the poor suckers were too far gone by then to survive anyway. No human could withstand the pressures of being ridden by a demon. And it was worth it to save a handful of souls, not to mention inconveniencing the demon.
Deacon refused to lose any souls from his territory. At all.
So far the score was Deacon, 3. Demons, 0.
As a reaper, carrying souls to Purgatory for judgment was his job and he wasn’t about to cede his territory to poachers who used up their hosts like they were disposable Tupperware. So now, in addition to his normal day job, he also had to keep an eye out for more demon invaders.
While demons burned through most human hosts in a matter of days, some in a matter of hours, they had discovered long ago that under the right circumstances they could ride a reaper. Of course, they couldn’t just worm their way in like they did with humans—they had to be invited. But once a deal was struck? They were in.
And reapers? Yeah, they could hang on for decades inside a reaper. Deacon knew that fact firsthand.
His stomach twisted at the thought, but he shook it off, looking ahead with a heavy sigh.
Seriously, this line? Still. Not. Moving?
God, he needed a freakin’ vacation. Extended. He dragged a hand through his hair in frustration as his mind flipped through postcard-esque locations of reapings past. He snarled at the thought of New Orleans in summer. He would definitely want to go someplace cool—cool as in frigid, not hip. He was sick of the heat, and it was only the beginning of summer in the semitropical Midwest.
Come to think of it, he was sick of a lot of things.
This place was high on the list. It was as hot as…well, Hell actually. Or at least what he imagined Hell to be, although he’d never actually been there. Thank God.
Steam rose from random cracks in the stone floor of the underground station, veiling the place in a humid sulfur stench.
He pushed forward, finally making his way to the front to deposit his cargo of souls. He didn’t bother chatting. In. Out. Move on. It was a motto that served him well.
Mission completed, he hustled through the crowd, forgoing the bar-side frivolity of some of the more socially inclined reapers and their small talk about their glory days in the field or—even better—the missteps of the newest reapers. Newbies often tested their limits to humorous if not disastrous effect at least once in their early careers. That was exactly why new reapers had mentors or at least worked in teams. From all the laughter, he could tell that the stories were good ones. It didn’t tempt him.
He slapped his palm against the black granite monolith and flashed out of Purgatory to what he prayed was his last stop of the day.
BUY LINKS: Reap & Repent is available March 3, 2014 in a Harlequin E Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance Box Set with the works of three other amazing new Harlequin authors! Reap & Repent will be available for single-title release June 2, 2014.
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