Being the Devil is a job no one wants. The hours are terrible, the workload unbelievable and frankly, customer service is a nightmare. You're blamed for everything and liability is no joke when you're the Lord of Darkness. As a result, turnover for the position is fairly high. The current Lucifer is the seventh lucky one to lose the ultimate lottery and land the title. Truthfully, there's very little evil to be instigated. Free will and a bad history of twisted mythology takes care of all of it--so the guy behind the black onyx desk is generally just the unhappy Arch Angel left filling out paperwork and doing his best to keep the Big Boss happy. And for Lucifer, forget about dating. It's a long, dry run, unless you're into the women that might be into you--and frankly, the current Lucifer isn't too turned on by ladies wearing spider web stockings and red Jell-O in their hair. Not that he blames a few of his predecessors with embracing the Goth hooker thing, but--an Angel has to be true to himself. So when Lucifer accidentally bumps into a mortal woman who makes him rethink the wisdom of not applying for that maintenance position in Purgatory, it's a roller coaster ride. Love can make anyone crazy. And Lucifer is determined to see if he can make it snow in Hell if it will polish up his wings enough to win the girl and get himself fired.
Renee Bernard is an award winning and USA Today bestselling author of historical romance and recently, contemporary romantic comedy. She won RT’s Reviewer’s Choice award for “Best Debut Historical” in 2006 and never slowed down (she missed the memo). By the end of 2014, she will have fifteen books out there in the world. She has published with Simon & Schuster and Berkley as well as branching out into independent publishing, audio books and comic books. For over four years she has been the host of “The Romance Bookmark” (formerly “Canned Laughter and Coffee”), a weekly internet radio show with between 80-100K registered listeners via Readers Entertainment. From wine wrangling to stand-up comedy and public speaking, there’s nothing off the table. (No really. Nothing. Except anything involving a pole. She’s past that now.)
Renee lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains with her husband and daughters, and an adequate number of cats to qualify as a romance writer.
So much for youthful idealism. I think I just grew up a little bit despite myself. But I swear to God, I sure could use a boost up into the saddle…
And that’s when she saw it.
It was a skyscraper like no other. Dark reflective surfaces and gleaming steel, it was easily almost seventy stories and striking, jutting up like a black modern katana sword up against the blue sky. It was set back from the pavement with its own miniature plaza, void of any kitsch sculptures or obligatory fountains.
But what was most striking about the building was that she’d never seen it before. Not in all her twenty-seven years as a city girl. Not once.
And this wasn’t a building a person would miss.
This wasn’t a building that wasn’t going to show up on a panoramic cutout of the skyline.
She glanced around, mentally mapping her location and setting the familiar landmarks down to get her bearings. Yup, there’s the Transamerica Building and the good ol’ Millennium Tower, and yup, the rest of San Francisco’s biggies just the way they should be. So where the hell did you come from?
Skyscrapers weren’t the kind of construction known for being thrown up overnight, but there it was.
Tanner wants new fish. I’d say that’s the definition of new fish. Okay. Big girl panties: on. I’ll just take a peek and see who’s home.
The lobby was unlike anything she’d seen. Black gleaming surfaces of stone made her feel like she was walking into a weird photo-negative of Wonka’s camera room. There was no bland muzac to cover the click of her heels against the marble floor, and she stopped in her tracks to take it in.
Well, this is intimidating. If cartoon villains had a lobby, I’d say I’m strolling into it like an idiot.
It was completely deserted without a single chair or bench for would-be visitors.
Hint, hint. No visitors welcomed here.
Jayne glanced over at the wall next to a bank of what looked like elevator doors for a company directory and saw nothing but more shiny black marble. Really? I’ve never seen a single occupant skyscraper. There’s always a hundred tenants and businesses and even the lobbies are overflowing with Starbucks and sandwich shops, so what the—
“May I help you?”
She squeaked in surprise and did a terrible imitation of a ninja jump, her hands popping up defensively in a mock jujitsu pose. The voice had sounded as if someone was directly behind her, but Jayne immediately saw that there was no one there.
Except the über average looking security guard sitting behind the—you guessed it—black marble desk fifteen yards away that she hadn’t seen just seconds before.
Okay, time to prove you’ve earned those big girl panties and just get this over with. You’re already in, Jayne. So running out like a teenager gets you nowhere. Just ask the nice Twilight-Zone lobby attendant what you need to ask him and let’s roll.
She did her best to channel someone fearless like Katherine Hepburn or even Duane Jonson and walked over as if this were the most ordinary recon she’d ever done in her life. But as she got closer to the desk, the black wall behind him finally yielded the first clue as to the building’s occupant. Cut from more delightful black were stone letters that were only visible if you stood to the left or right—or if the light hit it properly, she surmised.
But there it was.
Wow. There’s an unfortunate name choice for a corporation. I wonder what knucklehead thought of that one. Or what graphic arts school reject decided that black on black was a brilliant call.
“Um.” Jayne took a deep breath and decided there was no time like the present to look this guy in the eye and take the plunge. She held out one of her business cards. “I’d like to leave this for your head of marketing. It’s forward to just drop in, I realize, but if they have five minutes, I wouldn’t mind a chance to introduce myself.”
There was a long awkward silence before he took the card from her.
Then there was a longer, more awkward silence while he studied it, as if business cards were quite the breakthrough, or he wasn’t sure where to put this small white foreign object that obviously ruined the color scheme and pristine emptiness of his universe and the black stone desk he sat behind.
“I will see it delivered to the proper person.” Her card disappeared into his front shirt pocket, and Jayne’s stomach churned with an irrational icy fear that made her want to leap across the counter and wrestle her card back.
“Great.” Jayne winced when the word came out clipped and tight from fear. “Super. Thanks.”
No! Don’t run! Maybe it’s like those handouts about mountain lions. You’re not supposed to turn your back on them and run, or they’ll just take you down.
The man didn’t blink, and Jayne stopped caring how stupid she probably looked. She put one foot back and then another and like a hiker moving off carefully from a wild animal, she started edging her way away from the desk.
Jayne’s nerves got the upper hand as she heard an imaginary beep-beep-beep sound as she backed up. The giggle was stifled into an unfortunate hiccup, but she was starting to feel like she’d achieved a good respectful distance to turn and make good on “not running” as quickly as she could out of this building.
So when her backside bumped up against a solid warm wall of person, it definitely wasn’t her proudest moment.
It was a cinematic scream of surprise followed by another of her signature instinctive attempts at self-defense—this one involving her purse as a ridiculously slow moving perimeter defense. She swung it out without aiming and nearly lost her balance. Which would have been humiliating enough, but was especially embarrassing when the strap broke and everything from pens to apartment keys went up in the air like confetti.
“Whoa!” He put his arms up over his head to try to shield himself from the worst of the fallout, and sidestepped her loose change as it showered down over him. “I’m sorry if I startled you.”
Shit! Sure you are buddy! After all, it’s such a crowded lobby and—
Jayne finally, really, caught sight of her “assailant” and forgot everything, including her native language. Oh, man… If the Marlboro Man, Fabio and the guy who played Thor were put into a blender, they could be this guy’s ugly sidekick. He was so masculinely beautiful, a burnished gold and tan living statue of David in a three-thousand dollar black suit; patiently looking at her with golden eyes while she gathered her wits that Jayne had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from giggling at him like an eleven-year-old at a teen pop star concert.
“Here, let me help you with your things,” he offered, his voice rough warm silk that made her want to sigh.
It was all she could do to just nod.
Hooray! I’m officially an idiot.
The quest for her makeup compact was a welcome distraction from the delectable stranger in her peripheral. Heat flooded her face as she dismally noted that her crap was everywhere, having rolled or skidded on the slick marble floor, so there would be no graceful way to accomplish anything. She knelt humbly to get most of the heavier and closest targets with a soft groan of disappointment.
Can’t fix it now. Just get your stuff, crawl back to your office and call it a day.
“Ms. Hamilton?” he asked, holding out her purse to drop in her lipstick. “Here, let me help you up.” He held out one hand and waited.
“I’m fine. I just…” But as illogical as it was, she found it easy to ignore the mess and took his hand to stand to face him. He really has golden eyes. The electric warmth of his touch was like sweet honey across her skin. “I really should pick all this up before someone does a Chevy Chase on a ballpoint pen.”
He smiled and her knees turned to rubber. “You’re kind to worry about others.”
“I’m just imagining a lawsuit would top my morning so perfectly, that I’d best not leave anything to chance.”
He laughed, and Jayne decided she was as infatuated as any girl could be. “I love your humor.” He politely returned her purse to her. “There, all restored and as it should be.”
She felt the familiar heft of it and a small twinge of confusion at the sensation. “Well, yes, but…” The strap was fixed and a single glance inside assured her that everything was back in place. She looked around the lobby and was amazed that not a single object littered its floor. “How did you do that?”
He smiled and shook his head. “I can’t see allowing a lawsuit to ruin the rest of your day.”
My purse strap broke. My stuff went everywhere. He never moved from that spot. Who is he? David Copperfield?
“Thanks, Mr…?” she fished for a name.
“Morningstar. But please call me Luke.”
“Luke,” she repeated in a daze. Now the instinct to retreat had a completely different flavor and shape. This was more about protecting her tattered dignity before she lost herself in his eyes and started babbling about her eternally single dating status. “I have to go.”
He nodded. “I know.”
Run. Run, Jayne, run.
Okay, feet don’t fail me now.
“Goodbye, Luke. It was nice meeting you.” She turned in what she hoped was a brisk but not unfriendly manner and headed toward the glass doors as fast as her high heels could carry her.
It was only when she was out in the bright sunshine of the day and three blocks away that a question pushed its way to the front of her brain.
Forget the purse trick.
How did he know my name?
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