Authors: Amy J. Hawthorn
Demon Runners of Unearth
Azrael longs for a vacation that’s over two hundred years late. Overworked and heartsick, he’s desperate for peace and solitude.
Diane, a former goddess, wants nothing to do with the immortal world or its inhabitants. She’s living on Earth, posing as a bartender, and couldn’t be more content. That is, until a tall, dark, and dangerous Soul Runner storms in and turns her world upside down.
Azrael’s confused by a beautiful little barmaid who appears to be human, but something’s not quite right. He doesn’t know which frustrates him more, the fact that he doesn’t know who or what she is, or that she’s pulling at his heartstrings with her stubborn chin and the sexiest set of eyes he’s ever seen.
But it might not matter when they are called on to prevent the collapse of Unearth and find Lucifer’s lost daughter. Coming from opposite realms with opposing needs, will the two immortals find more than they bargained for?
Demon Runners of Unearth
Amy J. Hawthorn
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62740-069-5
First E-book Publication: July 2013
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For my personal guardian angel. I’ll miss you until we meet again. No matter where you are, I’ll love you forever. I have no doubt you’re keeping everyone on their toes in the best part of Unearth. Fly high, my little Scott-tot.
And Jilly and Inez? I’d be lost without you, your support, tolerance of my 3 a.m. texts, and sharp minds. Oh yeah, and those busy, bleeding fingers. Love you.
Demon Runners of Unearth
AMY J. HAWTHORN
Copyright © 2013
The midday sun beat down in bright, piercing rays. Baking beneath his leathers in a lounge chair too small for his length, he absorbed each individual ray. The gods could stake him to the desert floor of Death Valley and as long as the sun continued to do its best work, he’d die a happy male.
Calm, clear waters lapped at the boat’s hull and rocked him into a relaxation so deep he might never return to reality. Again, fine by him. This all-too-brief reprieve would be over in the blink of an eye, and he was determined to experience each second of solace.
He’d more than earned it.
Contrary to myth, Death did vacation, but it was a rare event. He was allotted one brief break every two hundred years, but this time around it came late. His vacation was eighty-three years and fifty-two days past due. The excruciating delay only made the reprieve that much more precious.
Yet it wasn’t going to be enough to remove the dark stain from his soul. That was what happened when one spent every waking moment transporting the dead from Earth to their final place in Unearth.
Unearth existed beyond the gate between the physical and metaphysical world. It consisted of Olympus, Heaven, Hell, Hades, Limbo, Valhalla, and every other metaphysical realm mortals had created with their dreams or imagination. All of the immortal realms were divided by invisible barriers.
As a designated Runner, or glorified errand boy for the gods, he was one of the few who could travel from realm to realm without the use of gates. For a few Runners the assignment was an honor, but for most it came as punishment.
Runners were assigned sparingly because the god governing them was required to give a small fraction of their own power to their chosen lackey. They used the system as a checks and balance system to limit the amount of servants a god could have. Types of Runners varied depending on the god who supervised them and the duties required of them.
As the Fates’ only working Soul Runner, he was beyond overworked. Traveling the various realms as easily as if he walked through his own home, he spent countless hours collecting departed souls and delivering them.
Once a soul reached its final home, there it stayed for eternity. Demon, god, or elder god, not even the most powerful immortals could retrieve it.
He’d been doing so for three thousand years and had one thousand more left in his service. He reminded himself the bulk of his sentence had been completed.
And maybe if he repeated that back to himself another fifty times, it might sink in. One could hope.
Then again, maybe there was no hope for him. Guilt battled with exhaustion for the title of greatest soul oppressor. For the first time since he’d begun his service to the Fates he’d been gifted with help.
All he’d had to do was train his apprentice, and he would have had a partner to share his burden.
Somehow he’d fucked it all up. He’d left his apprentice behind in the depths of Abaddon’s abyss. Each time he closed his eyes, the terror replayed in a nonstop loop on the insides of his eyelids. As many times as he’d watched it, he had no clue where he’d screwed up.
The only thing he did know was that something had gone very wrong, very quickly, and he’d give anything to be able to go back and start over.
The anxious tap-tap-tap of a heeled boot on the deck broke into his thoughts. With his eyes closed tight, he held his breath and prayed the sound went away. Demon nails raked across iron bars had nothing on that tapping boot.
The tapping grew in tempo and volume
He was so screwed.
He might as well kiss his vacation good-bye. Though he knew the effort was wasted, he wasn’t going down without a fight. He refused to give her the respect she demanded of everyone else.
“Az? Azrael? Will you look at me? This is important.” That smooth, honeyed voice made his skin crawl.
“Go away, Lilith.” He kept his eyelids closed. With each word that came out of her mouth, he saw drops of his vacation falling through his fingers like water.
Though they’d known each other for millennia, he reminded himself she was the queen of duplicity. Her moods changed in the blink of an eye, and so did her favored “friends.” The fickle bitch had to be in some serious trouble if she’d come here seeking help.
He cursed the stupid human who dreamt her into godhood millennia ago.
“Azrael, I know you hate me, but I wouldn’t ask unless it was important.” Holding his tongue, Azrael reminded himself that it would do no good to call her on her own bullshit. Lilith was one of the most selfish beings he’d ever encountered. In his more than three thousand years of existence, that said a lot.
“No. I don’t care what you want. It doesn’t matter. The answer is no.” He gave in and opened his eyes, then gave her the look that made grown demons shudder and flee.
She stood there uncaring and continued tapping the toe of her boot. It was red today. Only Lilith could pull off such a look. A red dress that would make mortal men cry with want and red heeled boots that would make veteran runway models cringe in fear completed today’s look. Her skin was as pale as the moon she commanded, and her hair was spun platinum.
Yet, he couldn’t see what his friend Luc saw in the coldhearted bitch.
“Okay, I know you hate me. Everyone does. Forget me. Will you do it to help Luc?” That particular plea almost worked, except for the fact that Luc was capable of solving his own problems. He may not be a choir boy, but he was damn smart. And above all else, Luc hated to be indebted to anyone. In his world debt equaled weakness.
“Lilith. I’m not helping you clean up your latest mess. Go away. Now.” He turned to stare at the vastness of the Caribbean. The tapping of her boot stopped, but he knew better than to think she’d gone away.
“Please, I’m begging you.”
In all of the long years he’d known her, not once had he heard her use the word please. Demand was her middle name, yet she hung her head. The tips of her knee-length hair nearly touched the deck of the boat.
“So, what’s it to me? He’s a grown demon and perfectly capable of coming and going whenever he pleases.” If Lilith expected him to get involved in some petty lover’s spat she was even crazier than he’d originally thought. He didn’t do marriage counseling. He was the one and only Death. He was the fabled Grim Reaper, for crying out loud!