Saturday, 31 March 2018

Coming Darkness by Susan-Alia Terry

Archangel Lucifer lives a comfortable life of self-imposed exile with his vampire lover, Kai. When the other Archangels come to him with a problem — Heaven is gone and their Father is missing — he refuses to get involved because not only is it not his problem, but it's probably some elaborate ruse they've cooked up to lure him back into the fold. When he's personally attacked, he finds that he's wrong on both counts. There are other powerful gods at work, gods who believe the current creation is flawed and must be destroyed.

Kai is thrown off balance when Lucifer disappears, and his life begins to spiral out of control. In the past, he never cared that he was looked down upon and called Lucifer's pet. But with Lucifer absent, he's left to navigate a world that doesn’t respect him. Since the only true currency is respect, he must gain it the only way his enemies will understand, through blood.


         Roberta picked up the offending garment with two fingers and threw it back into the corner. The novelty of the man’s sudden disappearance had worn off soon enough; she had her own problems to deal with. One thing she knew for sure was that she had no plans to walk around mostly naked.
         She looked at the hated thing piled in a heap. It wasn’t even clothes. It was nothing but straps, chains, and… how was she supposed to put it on? She squinted at it from her vantage point in the middle of the room. He’d held it up for her, but looking at it now, she couldn’t tell the top from the bottom. Maybe a porn star or a prostitute would wear something with so much negative space—but not her.
         It wasn’t that she was a prude. She would wear lingerie—in private, with a lover. She would not, however, flounce around in public wearing that. It was doubtful that the thing would even fit.
         She plopped on the couch and crossed her arms, not wanting to think about the fact that maybe, just maybe, if she weren’t so fat she wouldn’t be so freaked out by the idea. Skinny women liked flaunting their bodies if the clothes they wore were anything to go by. The thing winked at her in all its strappy glory. If she were skinny maybe she’d wink back and take it for a test drive. Maybe the idea of wearing it wouldn’t terrify her. Maybe.
         Roberta could barely wrap her mind around the whole slave issue. Given the nature of the thing she was supposed to wear, she was pretty sure she knew what that meant, and she didn’t want to think about it. Wrapping her arms around her body, she fervently wished she could go home, even though she no longer knew where home was.
         Five years. She had lost five years. In her mind, it still seemed like she’d worked for The Asshole for only a month. The circumstances around getting the job had always been strange, but she’d thought it more serendipity than anything else. She had just come off of a long job and had planned to take some time off when Bree, her contact, had called.
         “I know you wanted to take some time off, but we’re in a bind, Roberta. We’ll totally make it worth your while if you could help us out.”
         “I don’t know.”
         “Look, he’s run off two temps already. No one’s ever complained about you. If we can put you in with him for a few weeks so you can get things running while he looks for a permanent secretary—that would be perfect. You’ll be doing us a real favor. Losing his business would be bad.”
         “Two weeks? I guess I can postpone my vacation.”
         “You’re a lifesaver. Look, we’ll sweeten the pot for your vacation too. How’s forty an hour sound?”
         “I’ll take it.” She’d almost fallen out of her chair when Bree had quoted the salary.
         The interview with The Iron Lady had been odd. She’d been asked questions that she was sure were illegal: did she live alone, did she have a lot of friends or a boyfriend. How was her relationship with her parents? They’d been asked during what appeared to be a brief chat afterwards, but still—hindsight, of course, told her why. Maybe there were warning bells. Looking back now, she could see the red flags, but then she thought of the money and the gold star on her resume that would be working for The Asshole’s company, and whatever hesitation she’d had evaporated.
         The black guy said that he could restore her memories of those years—did she want them back?
         Her body spasmed with a sudden spike of anxiety. She remembered a month of his abuse. Did she really want to remember five years of it? Her gut reaction was no. As to her friends, she assumed they’d just given up on her, and she had no boyfriend.
         But what about her parents? Granted, she wasn’t close to them but sent them the usual Christmas/birthday greetings. At least she had five years ago. What did they think happened to her? Were they still alive? The oddness of having dropped out of time left her feeling raw, and the only way she knew how to fix it was to again move her thoughts along to the next crazy thing she had to deal with.
         P2. Best. Drug. Ever.
         After rehearsals and classes she’d smoked pot with her actor friends, gotten drunk at the occasional party—but this stuff was totally outside her frame of reference. The high was amazing. It was like nothing she’d ever felt and everything she longed to feel for the rest of her life. So far the downsides appeared to be irritability, mood swings, and a ravenous appetite.
         But then all of that could easily be attributed to suddenly finding out she was a slave held captive in an underground city and not having eaten in who knows how long. What day was it, anyway?
         It was easier to think that it was the drug’s side effects that had made her go ballistic over that stupid thing she was supposed to wear. Because that really wasn’t like her. The man was trying to be helpful, and despite his condescension, he didn’t deserve to be yelled at like that. He was certainly better than The Asshole, and she’d never gone off on him. She really needed to apologize.
         Throughout her mind’s rant, Roberta paced the room. She could feel the agitation rising within her and took deep breaths to try to calm down. She was trying her best not to think about Uriel.
         What if he hadn’t enthralled her? Gregory would have disappeared, and maybe she’d still have her life. Okay she’d lost five years and probably would have continued to lose more—but at least she wouldn’t know. As disgusting as that thought was, it was better than her current reality.
         She could feel her desire to bask in Uriel’s presence warring with her desire to scream at him for ruining her life. What really hurt was that she knew he didn’t care now and hadn’t cared then. He’d gone right on about his business, intending to leave her like that. Bastard. He was an angel, for God’s sake. Didn’t he have a conscience—some kind of holy code that said fucking with human minds was wrong?
         There was a knock at her door.

Author Bio:

They say it’s never too late to find and pursue your passion. Turns out they’re right. Although Susan loved to read, she didn’t start writing until she was in her late 40’s. A stint in grad school helped her hone her craft, and now she happily spends her days making up stories and figuring out how best to emotionally (and sometimes physically) torture her characters.

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