When Heather Brewer isn't writing about demons, she's writing about vampires--which doesn't suck as much as you'd think. She's the author of a YA vampire series called THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD (Dutton/Penguin). The first book in her series, EIGHTH GRADE BITES, debuts in August 2007. Become one of Heather's minions by visiting her at www.heatherbrewer.com.
Mark bent over the sink and watched the blood drip from his nose into the pure white basin. A crimson circle slapped the porcelain. Another followed.
"God damn it," he growled, but God hadn't listened to Mark in a very long time. Not since he was Recruited.
He turned on the cold water and frowned at the blood as it swirled into the drain. He stuffed a wad of toilet paper up his nostril and returned to the bedroom, where Kelli was waiting.
"So let me guess this straight. Allina, head Recruiter for Heaven's angels, punched you dead in the face when you told her that the postal worker guy was on Hell's Recruitment list?"
Mark nodded and sat beside her on the bed. His entire face ached--much like it had the last time he and Kelli had indulged in rough sex.
Kelli chuckled. "Who knew God's followers could be so violent? I mean, an angel punching a demon--huh. Maybe they're not so bad after all."
Mark grabbed the remote and pressed the channel button until he'd exhausted all options. With a grunt, he tossed the remote back on the bed. "I'm tired of this shitty motel room."
Kelli slid over and curled into his side. She ran a warm finger down his bicep and purred. "It's not all bad, you know. I mean, no brimstone and week-long orgies, but Earth has its kicks."
Mark sighed and closed his hand over hers. "Any more sex and they'll have to downgrade you to succubus."
Kelli regarded him with a somber gaze. "Well, if that's not the pot calling the kettle black. What's wrong? You've been so moody lately. Normally you love coming to Earth and recruiting new legions for the Dark Lord."
Mark pushed her away and sat up, running his hands through his hair. "It's nothing. I'm fine."
She stared at him in disbelief. "Well, you don't act like you're fine. Is it me? Has the spark gone out of our relationship?"
Mark picked up the remote again, but she snatched it out of his hands and threw it to the floor. He flashed her a fiery glance. "It's nothing like that. Jesus--"
Kelli untangled her feet from the blankets and slipped on her shoes.
Mark watched her, unable to speak. What could he tell her about what he was going through? What should he tell her?
Kelli wrenched open the door. "First God, then Jesus. It's a good thing you're taking their names in vain or I'd be worried."
Mark parted his lips to speak as the door slammed behind her.
The phone rang and Mark put it to his ear with a sigh. "What?"
"That's the tone of an unsatisfied man." A woman's voice. Soft. Sweet.
Mark cleared his throat and glanced back at the door. "I don't think I can do this anymore."
"You know what I mean." On the nightstand lay Kelli's charm bracelet--a gold chain decorated with tiny pitchforks. It had been his anniversary gift to her last year. "Look, it's not you. It's me. And it's--"
Allina sighed. "Kelli?"
Mark picked up the bracelet and held it up to the light. Only last year, they hadn't had any secrets from each other. Last year had been perfect. "We've been married for five thousand years, you know?"
There was a rustling sound as Allina changed ears and then her voice again, purring into Mark's ear. "I know that. But have you considered what you'd be missing out on? We angels can be incredibly giving, if you get my meaning."
The door opened and Mark slammed the phone back into its receiver.
Kelli's voice sent a chill through him. "Who was that?"
All he could do was lie. "No one. Salesman or something."
Mark took a deep breath and steadied his hands before opening the door to room six. Kelli was on the bed, munching a piece of stale pizza. "Humans are so lucky," she said. "Why can't we get thin crust in Hell?"
She smiled up at him, but it was fleeting. In a second, she was off the bed and examining the fresh scratches on his face and neck. "What happened? You look awful!"
She ran her hands over his chest and he winced. The bruises were getting too hard to hide.
But maybe it was better that she found out on her own.
He wouldn't have to tell her then--not about Allina, about lying, about shirking his Recruiting efforts to fraternize with angels.
Mark met her eyes, but didn't speak.
See it, he urged with his eyes. See what I'm doing so I don't have to hide it anymore.
Kelli's eyes shimmered.
With a choked whisper, she said, "I'll always love you, Mark. No matter what you do."
Mark slipped his arms around her and squeezed. She smelled like beer and pizza and cheap motel rooms. But she felt like paradise.
Mark lay in the darkness, waiting. Kelli was curled up at his side. She'd cried herself to sleep. They hadn't spoken about what Mark had been doing.
And she hadn't begged him to stop.
The phone rang and Mark snatched it up. "Yes?"
He could almost hear Allina smiling on the other end. "Meet me down the hall, room nine."
Without answering, Mark hung up and slipped out of bed. He dressed and stepped out into the night, leaving his wife behind.
Room nine looked exactly like room six and smelled just as terrible. Allina let him in without speaking a word.
Mark slid his shirt over his head and proceeded to strip until he was completely naked. Allina smiled. "Marcus, you have done well in the eyes of the Lord. Being purged of your sins is not an easy task, but He is pleased that you would leave your sinful ways behind to be Recruited into the league of Heaven's angels."
Mark didn't speak. One last beating and he would earn his wings. After that, he'd focus on saving Kelli's soul--so they could spend eternity amidst harps and feathery clouds. Kelli deserved better than fire and brimstone. She deserved paradise.
And he would pay any price for her to have it.
Allina gestured to the angel near the door and he moved behind Mark, the large whip in his hand.
Mark shuddered at the first crack, but after the leather sliced into his skin, all he could feel were the warm streams of blood trickling down his skin--just like Kelli's fingers.
copyright © 2006, Heather Brewer