Pure & Sinful Motha’ of all Teasers: Chapter 1
Tomorrow, Pure & Sinful officially releases. To whet your appetite, check out the WHOLE FECKING FIRST CHAPTER below.
Warning: adult language/themes
A priest, a witch and a demigod walk into a bar. No joke. In fact, laughter’s chances of scoring an appearance were slim, though the probability of tears still stood at fifty-fifty. Riona Dade was as prepared as a box of uncooked spaghetti for something like this. Every corpuscle-ridden, wart-covered, occasionally-horned, Hell-born head in Dante’s Inferno swiveled in her direction as the door swung shut behind her, sealing out the daylight, city noises and any option to bail. Oh, yeah, they knew who she was. There were more bared teeth and threatening glares thrown her way than if she’d been a biker walking into a ballet class. Which meant, there was a good chance they knew why she was here. She inhaled deeply, hoping to cleanse her thoughts and focus her mind. Their stink, acidic and yet sickly sweet, burned her nostrils. Demon stench could give Sudafed a run for its money any day of the week. She felt her stomach turn, and her body and mind almost followed. The frustration at having to go through with this ordeal turned to anger, her face burning almost as red as her hair. If not for the two men flanking her, she’d have been out that door quicker than a jack rabbit on speed. Riona knew, however, that Dee would use his megalodon-magnitude muscular mass to manhandle her back into place the moment he saw her lunge. Only the warm, gentle squeeze of the demigod’s hand on her shoulder from behind gave her the courage and patience to remain, and shattered the feeling of ice that had crept over her skin from the demons’ compassionless auras. Running wouldn’t have been a bad option, though. After all, the odds weren’t pretty. In her non-magical, it’s not your job to save the world from paranormal scum, you cannot wield the powers of the universe life, Riona earned a paycheck as a statistician. She knew numbers. The 8-to-1 ratio of demons to Pure Souls hardly encouraged her. While not a wet noodle, neither she, Dee, nor the priest that rounded out their demon-hunting trio, Father Marcello Angeletti, stood to compare with the collective destructive potential of this bunch of Marilyn Manson wannabees on steroids. Brawn would not win this fight; victory lay in the ability to flex magical muscle. That part didn’t concern her so much, though. She knew the spells, knew the hexes and counter-hexes. She never would have been sent on this mission if their appointed adviser from the Council of Seven, Archangel Ramiel, didn’t think she was ready. Unless this little tete-a-fret was another of his practical jokes, that was. In which case, he was so off her Christmas card list. A demon horde was no laughing matter. Riona was an equal-opportunity vanquisher of scum, and each of these minions’ numbers would be called soon enough. The VIP floating somewhere in the crowd was her target, however. Her gaze scanned the room and found his Mediterranean blue peepers fixed in her direction, joined farther down his face by an irksome grin, one corner of his devilish mouth curled. “Didn’t know it was ladies’ night,” he grumbled. Riona flexed her hand, cracking her knuckles like a string of firecrackers. “If there’s one thing I’ve never been accused of, it’s being a lady.” Even without his bronzed-skinned and brawny-shouldered glamour, Riona recognized Jerry from twenty paces. He wore smugness like a well-tailored shirt, and, oh, how she wanted to rip that from him and toss it to the floor. This green-skinned, yellow-freckled, damned-soul-incarnate sipping a pint of Bavarian brew was the reason she was here, after all, and the sooner she toasted his ass and sent his soul “disembodied” back to Hell and into the unloving embrace of Papa Satan, the better. Demonstrating that he had a bit of backbone left, Jerry didn’t make a run for it. He gave her one pulse-spiking wink, and turned back to the bar. A demon who drank lager with one raised pinky off the stein would have gotten his ass kicked if he’d been any other evil minion. Not Jerry. As one of Lucifer’s top agents earthside, she’d recently come to learn, Mr. Romani had been spreading evil since before the calendar flipped to A.D. The almost unheard of longevity and ability to outmaneuver demon slayers made him a bit of a legend in these circles. The reverence gave him airs. Jerry thought himself a demon of decorum and class. Riona had always said his eccentricities made him look like a friend of Dorothy in public. But damn it all, if he hadn’t disproven that association to her time and time again in fervent, pulsating, speak-in-tongues and curl-your-toes demonstrations of lust and pleasure against her burning flesh. But that was before. In his magically-engineered facade, he appeared to her as a black-haired, blue-eyed, Italian-American underwear model, sleek, shiny and sinfully lustable. The glamour, and their ensuing hot and heavy relationship, all amounted to an ingenious scam. Jerry was on a mission, and it wasn’t to win her heart. Lucifer had somehow gotten a heads up that Riona was next up on the roster to be vested as the Keystone Witch of the Pure Souls, she figured. Hell dispatched Jerry to assess her corruptibility, and feel her out (feeling her up was just a bonus). At some point, the need for the game evaporated and it nearly cost Riona her life. No one could have predicted that it would be at that particular moment that her powers would manifest, allowing her to walk through a solid wall and escape. It had to be a one in a million chance, right? Riona actually knew. The chances stood at 3,456,783 to 1. She had been the power ball winner in the supernatural lottery. Jerry chuckled from across the silent, tension-locked room. “Of all the bars in all the netherworlds, she has to come walking into mine.” Riona put up a false front of confidence in her best attempts at a bluff. “Why, hello handsome. Fancy seeing you here.” He took another swig of his beer before gently placing the bottle on the counter and pushing himself off his barstool. With a swagger that still melted her internally, despite the less than desirable exterior she now beheld, she still remembered the delectable ways in which those hips could swing. He made each step golden as he crossed the room. When they stood face to face, that unique mixture of anticipation and disgust only he could instill took up residency among the butterflies in her stomach. Despite the fact that his demon physiognomy was now clear as day, those azure discs that undid her so often during their short-term fling excited her in ways that weren’t proper for a Sunday. “I take it you’re not here for a drink, so I can only assume this is that long overdue booty call you know you’ve been hankering for.” Her breath went jagged as his scaly hand reached up and stroked the flushed alabaster of her cheek. She closed her eyes and tried to regain the locus of control. She would not, could not, let him get the better of her. “What can I say?” she bantered back, opening her eyes, now brimming with code orange vigilance. “Once you go demon, it’s them that you’re needin’.” “Cute. We should print that up on t-shirts. I know why you’re here, witch,” Jerry declared as he pulled back and sauntered a few steps. Marc and Dee took advantage of his retreat to tighten their formation behind her. “It’s a sort of a rite of passage for you, isn’t it? Your first demon slaughter.” “How do you know it’s my first?” The self-effacing admission escaped her lips before she could recall it. “Because you’re making small talk. I’m not Oprah, sweetheart. Despite what you’ve seen in every Joss Whedon fantasy, we’re not exactly the speechifying type. If you had come through those doors and I wasn’t here, you can bet legal money that they’d have you chicken-wired to a mattress out back by now. Probably Thing One and Thing Two, too, because your pillar Pure Souls do happen to be some fine specimens of men...” He shrugged dismissively. “… you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.” A rustle of cloth made her hope Dee was getting ready to land one squarely on Jerry’s jaw. When she looked back, however, she saw the boiling pot about to blow was actually the not-so-good Father. The very man who had made this whole having-magic thing a pain in the sarcastic ass. Jerry continued, unfazed. “But how exciting for you! Oh, you should really slow down and savor this. I can already picture you at home later, making up the latest addition to your scrapbook, plastering a severed incubus horn in with silver-foiled borders and fluffy poodle stickers on the side. Tell you what, for old time’s sake, I’ll make the chicken wire optional. I know you prefer to be restrained with leather straps, but I’m negotiable.” Jerry gave that lustful smirk he had mastered so well during their liaison, the one that always bypassed her brain, shot down her spine, and landed squarely in her hoo-haw. And damn, he knew how to tie up a woman proper, achieving just the right balance of tension and slack. Marc leaned in and whispered into her ear. “Watch yourself. Remember, he’s sampled your flesh, he knows your thoughts.” His proximity and concern both disturbed and surprised her, leaving her more confused than a Republican at a Pride Parade. When he added a reassuring squeeze of her elbow, embarrassment engulfed her at the way her checks flushed. Usually, the good priest was a conceited ass. Things must look really bad from his vantage point if he was ministering to her. “He’s sampled a lot more than just my flesh.” Riona felt the familiar frustration tug at her again. How was she supposed to know that lying with a demon gave him the ability to read a human’s mind? No wonder he had been such a good lay, though. He could anticipate her every desire the moment she felt it. “You can block him, you have the power,” Dee reminded her. “You just have to decide to do it. Resist your urges. Use your strength as the Keystone.” She nodded and closed her eyes again, momentarily blocking out the hum of the chattering demon crowd, the clinking of glasses at the bar, and clanking of bottles on the tables. Pulling her self-control together, she recalled the facts of the matter. Fact: she was a Pure Soul, one of the trinity entrusted by the Council of Archangels to ferret out and fight the minions working on Lucifer’s behalf to corrupt men’s souls and spread evil and hate. She’d also heard that they moonlighted at the DMV. Demons represented the enemy: the souls of mortal men damned to Hell for their sins, given new bodies to house those corrupt souls while they walked the earth. A demon’s physical body could only be destroyed by magic, which released his soul and returned it to Hell. Riona as the Keystone could wield this power to its full extent, assisted by Marc and Dee. Both her partners, her pillars, had spent years learning the ways of witchcraft through perilous training and dedicated study. Riona had been given a Red Bull and sent to read the Cliffs Notes version. Yeah, no big whoop. She felt her mind lighten, as though someone had been gently massaging her temples and now withdrew. Jerry was no longer in her head. Which, given the way he growled, showing each of his pearly whites, really must have ticked him off. She leaned to the side, angling her hip and crossing her arms over her chest. “If you know why I’m here, why all the chitchat, Jer-Bear? Lie down like a nice little scumbag and go peacefully.” “So desperate to get me horizontal, Riona? That can easily be arranged, if you ask nicely.” Without warning, a pig-headed behemoth barreled in their direction at full force. Jerry, easily outranking all the other riffraff in the joint, made no movement to recall the banger demon that jumped into the fray without order. Instead, he observed, with what looked like demented pride, as Riona reached out her hand and invoked a lower-tiered vanquishing charm. “Fornox tierna!” With a huff and a puff, she blew his house down, making a nice little pile of demon dust as the banger disintegrated. The others witnessing the scene felt their grog-filled bellies turn in fear, but Jerry only smiled wryly. “Impressive,” he commented, adding a round of mock clapping. “See? I was right about you. Chuck, there,” he pointed to the heap of purple-black Rorschach on the floor, “thought you were just another Willow Wannabe. But me? I saw you for what you really are.” “Smokin’ hot and way too good for you?” Riona returned. “Thanks, but I didn’t need you to tell me that.” In a dazzling blur of speed, Riona found herself pinned to the wall, a good twelve feet away, at the back of the bar, leaving a sea of demonkind between her pillars and she. Marc and Dee gawked as they witnessed their favorite witch, scared broomless, her demon ex-lover choking the life from her, her feet dangling dangerously above the floor. Demon magic, properly wielded, could destroy a witch of Riona’s caliber, but the old-fashioned, mortal methods still worked just as well. Luckily, that bus stopped on both sides of the street, and Riona had not forgotten how sensitive Jerry’s giblets were. She swung her boot point blank into his demonic assets, sending him on an impromptu one-on-one with the floor. A sound akin to a teenage girl being told “yes, that dress does make your butt look big,” filtered through the room, mixed equally with Riona’s coughing and the other demons’ jeering as she tried to reclaim the air her lungs so desperately needed. Marc watched with a fretful lip as Riona struggled to form words, a twenty-demon variety pack seeing their chance to pounce, slowly closing in on her. If she couldn’t speak, she couldn’t focus her magic. Her self-defense instinct might kick in and manage to pull something off, but in that circumstance, she was as likely to take out her teammates as well as her enemies. “We’ve got to do something,” he shot at the demigod. Dee turned to him, one eyebrow raised, a “What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” expression on his face. “We don’t stand a chance against a gaggle of goblins this big. Riona? Yes. Us?” He shrugged, “Toast.” The priest rapidly indexed their options. True, with their magic, they could maybe dish out a few a bad cases of PMS, or perhaps athlete’s foot (or was it athlete’s hooves with this crowd? He’d have to check on that later), but banish or destroy them, they could not. That was a Keystone’s job. Always the resourceful one, however, Marc widened his vision and surveyed the room. Not much to work with, and quite a bit more to work against. Their backs were more or less against the wall. It would be easier to flee than fight. Seeing this out to its end, however, was critical for Riona. Having a demon on the loose that had the ability to read her mind and wreak havoc was too dangerous. Not to mention, he didn’t like the way that asshole looked at her. Jerry had to be dealt with. Now. The tips of Marc’s ears went crimson. “Damn it all to hell!” “And this from a priest,” Dee quipped. Marc knew Dee registered as their resident pragmatist. No doubt, they were both surfing the same wave on this one, trying to find a solution. As a demigod, Dee’s muscles could out-whip any mortal born to the ranks of man, and he was nearly as strong as any demon divo in this joint. But could they really take on a horde of this fortitude? Seemed Dee concluded they could. Without another word, Marc watched as his best friend picked up a nearby chair and turned it over, gripping the back like a handle of a true weapon. “You know what they say, Father,” he proclaimed as he took three measured steps and landed the lounger over the head of a warthog demon, passed out cold. “God helps those who help themselves.” Marc made his standard preemptive sign of the cross before lunging for a barstool and joining the action. At the back of the bar, Jerry recovered much more quickly than Riona. It looked to her like he didn’t like being kicked in his favorite body part — next to his hair, of course. Not by a long shot. “That’s going to cost you, witch. Infuita permuter!” She nearly doubled over in fear. Nearly. She hadn’t a clue what an infuita permuter charm did, but if it was demon magic, probably nothing good. The smug look on Jerry’s face confirmed she was likely in a heap of trouble. Her fight or flight instincts kicked in, and ratcheted her into high gear. She needed to know what she was up against. She needed Dee and Marc. Without another moment’s hesitation, she leapt to the left, spanning a distance that would have made a bullfrog jealous. Despite the circle of demons playing audience, probably savoring every lame quip Jerry spouted, she thought there was enough of a gap between two in that direction to break through. But when her body slammed into some sort of invisible brick wall, the answer to “What does infuita permuter do?” was all too clear. And painful as a bitch. Trapped. In every direction she ran, the barrier bounced her like a basketball. Confirming her suspicions, Jerry made no effort to stop her attempts to escape. Her battle with him would be mano a mucus. Riona turned back around, trying to manufacture some confidence in her features if it wasn’t in her heart. “Looks like you got me all alone now. So I guess we’re not doing the group thing today?” Jerry froze. “Would you have… gone for that? Damn, talk about a missed opportunity.” She nearly choked on her own words. “Come on, Jerry. You know me better than that. I’m much too greedy to share something so good.” “You did think I was good.” It didn’t come out as a question, more of an affirmation of what was undoubtedly true. In fact, his attitude gutted her, and Riona worked hard to keep her mounting anger from making her irrational. “Oh, shut up,” she snipped back, her nails digging into her palms as her fists balled up way too tightly. “You know you’re good. You’re a demon. Sexual gratification is part of your damned repertoire. Next to the deflowering of virgins and stealing socks out of dryers, it’s just the thing you do.” “I never should have shown you my collection,” he scowled. “Oh, you are the single most frustrating, fucking witch I ever… Argh! You think I do that for everyone?” he barked back as his body responded to the insult. His jittery pace could have burned a hole in the floor. “Hell, no! You were special, Riona. Yeah, I may get around because of my work and all, but I don’t always care what the other person gets out of it. For you, I tried to make it worthwhile.” Visibly, she seemed to melt. “Aw, Jerry,” she cooed, “that is so sweet.” Then, her mock smile soured. “If only you hadn’t locked me in a meat locker with a half-cocked crazy who thought he was Attila the Hun, it just might have worked out between us.” He tilted his head. “Holding a grudge over that still?” “What can I say?” she returned, her arms spread out in a questioning posture. “Setting me up in a kill-or-be-killed situation? Kind of a deal breaker. Worse than leaving the toilet seat up, in my book.” If demon teeth could withstand the level of gnash Jerry was applying, Riona thought black boxes on airplanes should be built from them. “Come on, baby.” His voice and features took on a more relaxed tone as he stood and gazed at her tenderly. “Deep down, you know I’d never put you up on the chopping block like that. I knew you could take him. It was sort of the whole point, getting you to kill so you’d start down a path to evil. Don’t you get it, Riona? It was a set-up to get you to fall before you could be recruited by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Marc back there. It’s not just about your power. Yeah, Lucifer wants that hella lot, and who could blame him? But me? I just wanted you.” Green, bumpy skin gave way to smooth, olive delicateness as Jerry managed in the midst of this declaration to pull his glamour back over himself. The swirl of scales atop his head showered into a beautiful cascade of wild, untamed, ebony grace. Thin lips concealing a forked tongue softened to kissable, tender tildes. But the eyes, they stayed the same: blue as summer skies over Rio. Eyes truly were the windows to the soul, she’d learned, and a soul carried its signature color no matter which body it inhabited. “But, Jerry, now you’ve got me trapped, and as of two minutes ago, seemed quite intent on killing me,” she reminded him with a confused shrug. “You seem to be a demon who doesn’t know what he desires.” “As much as I love every inch and every taste of your glorious human body, killing you wouldn’t take you away from me. It would give us the gift of forever when your soul sank into the underworld and Lucifer remade you into demon flesh.” Hellfire blazed in his eyes, making her feel warm in all the parts she knew to high heaven should be icy cold right now. He licked his lips seductively before adding, “I know exactly what, and whom, I desire.” His hands were on her hips with blinding speed. “You.” He pulled her close and reclaimed her lips, the heat of Hell funneling his need. Despite herself, Riona gave into her momentary lack of judgment, and ability to stand, and let him take from her what he wanted. It would be a lie to say it was unpleasant. As his tongue found hers, she even thought for a moment that she felt that old flicker of warmth for him. But it couldn’t be… Things were different now. Riona knew who she was, and who she wasn’t. And who she wasn’t was any two-bit demon’s welcome mat, ready to be used whenever he decided to breeze into her good graces. She was a Pure Soul, and a cosmically powerful, ass-kicking Keystone witch, at that. The blasting hex took only a moment to leave her lips, sending Jerry on an improvised spacewalk into the invisible wall he created. She expected him to propel himself forward, to lash back in his usual bipolar way, even if a moment ago he held her with a level of intimacy and sincerity that had her head spinning. He didn’t. Gravity pulled him without objection to the floor, where he sat mournfully, looking at her with a hurt, defeated expression. His words were laced with muted pride. “That’s my girl. Now, have at it.” Something about seeing him give up so easily, to accept his end, knowing she held his earthbound existence in her hands… Something shifted. Sure, Jerry Romani was a demon of legendary dark deeds, and sure, he probably wouldn’t hesitate if their roles were reversed, but was that justification enough to destroy him? “I … can’t!” Her tone approached an apology. “Jerry, please. I know there’s good in you. Someone who was as caring and tender with me as you were can’t be all evil. Isn’t there a way? Can’t you come back to our side?” He looked like a man in mourning as his head shook. “The road to Hell has few exits and only goes one way. I can give up the demon, but I can’t forgo the damn.” “There must be a way. Maybe—” “There’s not, babe,” he said, cutting her off. “Believe me, it’s all been tried. I am a demon, you are a Pure Soul. If you’re not willing to come over to our side…” She shook her head. “Well, then,” he sighed, “let’s just leave the past behind us and get to kicking each other’s asses. In the end, we’ll always have Paris.” She clicked her tongue. “We never went to Paris.” “That wasn’t you?” He scratched his head. “Hmm, who the hell was it then? Damn, she was a sweet lay.” Reminded all too well of the fickleness of a demon’s heart, Riona lashed out. “Quantos mironus!” It was so cliché, so Captain-Kirk-gets-attacked-by-an-alien, but magic was what it was. The power gathered at her fingertips and shot forward. The lightning-like stream collected into a ball at the pit of Jerry’s stomach before extending across the planes of his chest and down the tips of his limbs. A shake and a shimmer, a smidgen of a pained wince, then he gave her one last, enduring smile. “Brava, amaro mio.” He didn’t vaporize like the other demon did; he exploded. In chunks. Riona found herself looking into blue eyes one moment, and picking bits of those eyes out of her hair the next. “Could this be any grosser?” she mused to herself as she flicked what was probably a tooth off her blouse. “Keystone!” Was she so centered on the showdown that she forgot all about the buffet of bad asses who filled the room? Riona’s attention turned immediately to the brawl and bashing that could have been filmed on a Hollywood set when she heard Marc bellow, “I know breaking up is hard to do, but maybe you could, you know, help us?” Dee threw demons left and right with rippling muscles and domineering physique. He looked like a Greek god defending Olympus from the Titans. Wouldn’t his daddy be proud? Riona thought. The priest, however, was doing what little he could, using a simple, electromagnetic charm to shock three scaled demons who had him cornered. His eyes were wild with fear, an emotion she had never witnessed before in his features. Sensing that the magical barrier had disappeared with her ex, Riona summoned the power that so easily channeled through her. Still, it was her first attempt at multiple demon dumping, and she only hoped she was up to the task. Who was she kidding? She had just destroyed Jerry Romani, the devil’s right-hand demon. She could take on Lucifer himself right now and probably get away clean. Her hands worked the magic, moving in concentric circles as the power gathered from the reaches of the universe into a silver ball of light before her. “Corbelum frotai nokturna fiente!” The ball grew from a pinprick to an omnipresent light radiating throughout the room. As it touched each demon, a momentary sense of shock and pain overcame their ghastly features before each in turn fell to ashes in its wake. Of course, the power of the light only passed briefly through Marc and Dee, giving each no more than a tickle. Dee swung a barstool through empty air, making contact with nothing and spinning in the wake. Marc stumbled forward, his ramming charge pointless with the defeated enemy now gone. A few moments later, the silence was permeated by the click-clack of Riona’s heels. The priest doubled over, breathless, and looked up to take in her blood-stained visage. “What happened to you?” he gasped. She looked down at herself in observation. “Jerry always did like a big finish,” she said. “Father, maybe a word or two…” The priest looked up at her in confusion. She motioned with her hands at the piles of dust surrounding them. “Oh, right,” he answered as he straightened up, grabbing a whiskey bottle from one of the amazingly undisturbed tables nearby and taking a quick swig. “Heavenly Father, we thank you for overseeing our acts today and keeping up safe. May they all burn in Hell.” “Amen,” Dee added, taking the bottle from Marc’s hand. He laughed, only seeing afterwards the remaining hurt evident on Riona’s face. “Hey, kiddo,” Dee cooed. Crossing to her, he put an arm around her shoulders before pulling back. The sleeve of his jacket covered in something. Or was it, someone? “You did good. That was hard. It’s what they do; play with your emotions that way. Don’t let anything he said get to you.” “I wanted to give in for a moment,” she answered shamefully, eyes downcast. “For a moment, I thought about how good it would feel not to vanquish him.” “But you did it. Riona, it’s not about what you want, it’s about what you decide to do despite that. The Council is going to be very happy with what you pulled off here today.” “What we pulled off,” she corrected. “Though I have to say, you all could have been a little more proactive in the ass-kicking.” Marc shook his head. “No, we couldn’t. Direct orders. You had to sink or swim on your own.” “You mean, this was the plan all along? Me against twenty-four demons, one of which could read my mind?” Riona gasped. Though it made sense. After all, she had unknowingly spent months having conjugal visits (and re-visits (and re-re-visits)) with a pretty high-profile demon. True, his service to Old Nick hadn’t exactly been part of their pillow talk, but sure as sunshine, her loyalty had to be tested at the get-go. “As it turned out, twenty-four demons and an imp,” the priest corrected. Riona shot him daggers with her eyes. She half-contemplated picking up one of the leftover beer bottles and chucking it to complement. Marc pointed to the bar. “He was hiding behind it. Lucky for us you used the right hex that works on both. Beginner’s luck.” Dee could see trouble brewing; his eyes focused in on the witch’s fist clenching and the priest gave her a “get-over-it” glare. Quickly, he moved to turn things towards the positive. “But, hey, you got the job done. Seriously, Riona, we wouldn’t have gone along for the ride if we didn’t trust you at the wheel. Marc and I have been near death too many times to rush into something that’s over our heads. Or, I guess in this case, over your head.” Riona smiled warmly, knowing Dee wasn’t the type to deceive. And frankly, yeah, she had been pretty damned awesome. “Fucking great. Can we eat now?” And in the end, Marc was still Marc, and still didn’t seem like a man who had any speck of good will for her personally. Riona nodded in response to his rude inquiry, and hooked elbows with him, making him squirm in discomfort at the familiarity. “But this time, it better be something more than cheap wine and vanilla wafers. I am so not crashing another first communion.” Dee fell in line behind them as they left Dante’s Inferno. “How about Greek? I know someone who’d cut us a good deal.” “The last time you said you knew someone, you gave my dry cleaning to a centaur.” “And did he not return it sparkly white and crisp?” She grimaced. “Yes, yes he did,” she admitted, before bitterly adding, “and that was my favorite black silk shirt. Pizza, Dee, let’s just do pizza.” They made their way down the wet street, passing through the September night, not even turning back once to see the dark eyes following them from the shadows of the alley next to the bar.