Just when I thought my life could get back to normal, reapers start disappearing. Lucifer won’t leave me alone no matter how much I tell him, I’m not interested. But when Than disappears, I know something is wrong and have to report it to our boss.
Once the beasts attacking the reapers come after me, I know there is nothing I can do except find out where they have come from and why the spirits are coming to me for help. With my personal life going crazy and the beasts pouncing from the shadows, everything has been thrown upside down.
My only path is to follow my instincts and where the spirits are leading me. It’s either that or take Lucifer up on his offer. And no matter how many reapers are going missing, I’m not heading down that road because there would be hell to pay.
I stood in the solace of the graveyard, taking in the quiet of the world around me. The spirits who lingered in this forgotten place knew better than to interrupt me. The moon hung low. Opposite the pale orb, the pastels of dawn dimmed the stars. As the world shifted from darkness to dawn, life froze. I reached out with all my senses, taking in the beauty and harmony of the moment. Only a few precious minutes none of the burdens of my existence hung on me in this treasurable time.
The calmness within the boneyard renewed my spirit. Of late my nerves had been bristling. Existence seemed gritty, covered in fine sand I couldn’t brush off. A breeze rattled the leaves from the boughs. They drifted to the forest floor below, adding to the growing mounds of reds, oranges, and yellows. When I was a kid, I’d jump in the large piles my father would rake before he burned them. Now they gathered around the slate stones and tree trunks. Instead of bringing me peace, it added to the growing unease settling on my shoulders.
Something wasn’t right in the universe.
I couldn’t put my finger on it no matter the avenue I pursued. My psychic senses foretold nothing. I no longer felt the pull to collect souls. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being a grim reaper, but I also missed being human. I took a calming breath. The past was in the past. Although I could tamper with time and fix my grievous errors, I didn’t mess with it no matter what the temptation.
“But there’s always temptation. It’s a basic human necessity.”
Damnit. The stench of sulfur permeated the air. Lucifer, The Devil, or Mastema as he was known to all the angels, enjoyed crashing in at the most inopportune moments. “What do you want?” Dawn crested, spreading its brilliance over the boneyard.
His fingers trailed down the side of my cheek. The caresses felt real enough that I could’ve sworn he was beside me. However, no one was there. The wispy reminders of souls who lingered in the cemetery retreated because of his presence. It didn’t matter where I went, he would find me, again and again. He had almost entered into our world to spread his evil to all of humanity. All dimensions were closed off to him once more, and he was locked away in Hell. No matter how tight the doorways were sealed, some places remained thin. This was one of those, at least for me, where the veil could be breached. What else was a graveyard for a grim reaper but a portal into purgatory and the world of the dead?
“You know what I want. Take me up on my offer and let me pleasure you one of these days. Kerstin, you may not realize it, but you stand much my equal. It’d only take a little bit to elevate you to stand by my side for all time.”
A tremor of desire ran down my spine at the thought of ever seeing him again. Many believed the Devil had horns. In the guise I saw, he was the most ravishing creature I had ever laid my eyes on. He was lust personified. “You already know my answer, Mastema. I’ll never allow you into this world. You may have gotten my blood and my death to open the doorway before, but you never claimed my soul.”
“It isn’t your soul that I’m after, Kerstin, merely your friendship. Even if you don’t wish to acknowledge it, I owe you a boon.”
“I’m not one of your devoted followers who blindly renounced their souls to gain some stripped down version of the power you supposedly offer. I have no need for such abilities or promises.”
He chuckled so softly longing rolled through my body. Damn. Even his very laugh turned me on and made me question my own sanity.
“I’m the Prince of Darkness. I invented every base yearning and debauchery you can imagine that lives within the human psyche. I have no need for your soul now. Our last meeting was something to cherish. I had no knowledge you were a grim reaper. The power of our soul would have added to the power to let me escape. All the other spirits who were pulled through my rift made a wonderful addition to hell. You really should see it sometime. You might find it more to your liking than that eternal purgatory you linger in.”
“Enough taunting, Lucifer. Leave me be. I’m not going to give in, and your incessant prattling is enough to drive me mad. I won’t turn from my course and slip into hell. I’m a reaper first and foremost.”
“Maybe you are, and maybe you’re not. Either way just remember that you’re the one who set events in motion.”
I rolled my eyes. I was still cleaning up my mess from my last lifetime as a grim reaper when I got Sariel trapped in Death’s Dance. The settlement had been a thriving frontier town formed by murderers, thieves, and every low life scum imaginable. Over time that lawlessness spread and innocent people were getting hurt. The women of the town were tired of all the violence and called upon one of their own to do something about it. The witch called down a curse upon the town. In my former incarnation as Lissandra, I had heard her call for death and went to her. Than and Sariel had followed. Because of my decision to collect the souls, we had been wrapped into the web of the plague the woman wrought upon the town. A giant tornado decimated Death’s Dance. Than and I escaped the blight, leaving Sariel behind. Because of that, ramifications rippled throughout the universe.
One such consequence was Death’s Dance had become something like the Bermuda Triangle and Gettysburg wrapped into one. It was an otherworldly beacon that could not be switched off. It was in this place that the Devils’ serial killer had brought me back, hoping to take my soul and use it as the final key to open the gateway to Hell.
“Yeah. Yeah. Tell me something I don’t know. Now go away.”
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