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Hades(Hades: A Demonica Novella)(1) by Larissa Ione

Chapter One

The road to Hades is easiest to travel. ––Diogenes Laertius

Enjoy the trip, because the stay is going to be hell. ––Hades

If Cataclysm had to clean one more toilet in this demon purgatory known as Sheoul-gra, she was going to jump in and flush herself down.

She’d always assumed that when angels got kicked out of Heaven they got to do fun fallen angel stuff. Like terrorize religious people and drink foamy mugs of Pestilence ale with demons. But no, she’d gotten stuck wiping the Grim Reaper’s ass.

Okay, she didn’t actually wipe Azagoth’s ass. And if she did, his mate, Lilliana, would have had something to say about it. And by “say,” Lilliana meant “behead.”

Cat reconsidered that. Lilliana, who was still, technically, a fully-haloed angel, wouldn’t do anything quite so drastic. Most likely. But Cat still wouldn’t want to get on the female’s shit list. Anyone who pissed off Lilliana pissed off the Grim Reaper, and that...well, Cat could think of nothing worse.

Except maybe cleaning toilets.

Stop whining. You took the job willingly.

Yes, that was true, but she’d only agreed to serve Azagoth because she wanted to earn her way back into Heaven, and doing that required her to A) keep her nose clean, B) avoid entering Sheoul, the demon realm humans often referred to as Hell, and C) do something heroic to save the world.

Easy peasy.

She snorted to herself as she carried a tray of dirty dishes from Azagoth and Lilliana’s bedroom, her bare feet slapping on the cold stone floor that covered every inch of the ancient Greek-style mansion. He’d surprised Lilliana with breakfast in bed this morning, which was something Cat would have been shocked by a few months ago. Who would have thought that the Grim Reaper was such a softie?

She supposed she should have known better after he gave her a job and a place to live so she didn’t have to worry about some jerk dragging her, against her will, into Sheoul for fun or profit.

No, Sheoul was off limits to her. Entering the demon realm would complete her fall from grace and turn her into a True Fallen, a fallen angel with no hope of redemption. As an Unfallen, she had a little wiggle room, but even so, very few angels had ever been given their wings back. In fact, she knew of only two

One of those two, Reaver, was now not only an angel, but one of the most powerful angels to have ever existed. His mate, Harvester, had also spent time as a fallen angel, but her circumstances were unique, and while Cat didn’t know the whole story, she knew that Harvester had saved Heaven and Earth, and she deserved every one of her feathers she got back.

The thought of being made whole again made Cat’s useless wing anchors in her back itch. Her luxurious mink-brown wings were gone, sliced off in a brutal ceremony, and with them, her source of power. She totally understood why an Unfallen would cross the barrier between the human and demon realms to turn themselves into True Fallen and gain new wings and new powers. But was the evil upgrade worth it? Cat didn’t think so.

“Cat!” Azagoth’s voice startled her out of her thoughts, and she nearly dropped the tray of dirty dishes as she looked up to see him striding down the hallway from his office.

In the flickering light cast by the iron wall sconces, he didn’t look happy. He also wasn’t alone.

Hades, Azagoth’s second-in-command and the designated Jailor of the Dead, was walking next to him. No, not walking. With the way his thigh muscles flexed in those form-fitting black pants with every silent step, it was more like prowling. His body sang with barely-leashed power, and she shivered in primal, feminine response.

Son of a bitch, Hades was hot. Hard-cut cheekbones and a firm, square jaw gave him a rugged appearance that bordered on sinister, especially when paired with a blue Mohawk she’d kill to run her palm over.  But then, she’d kill to run her palms over all of him, and she’d start with his muscular chest, which was usually, temptingly, bare. Not that she’d complain about what he was wearing now, a sleeveless, color-shifting top that clung to his rock-hard abs.

She tried not to stare, but really, even if she’d stood in the middle of the hall with her tongue hanging out, it wouldn’t have mattered. He never looked her way. He never noticed her. She was nothing to him. Not even worth a glance. Those cold, ice-blue eyes looked right through her. And yet, this was a guy who laughed with Lilliana, pulled pranks on the other Unfallen who lived here, and played with hellhounds as if they were giant puppies. Giant, man-eating puppies.

Azagoth stopped in front of her. “Cat? You okay?”

She blinked, realized she’d been lost in a world of Hades. “Ah, yes. Sorry, sir. What is it?”

“Have you seen Zhubaal?”

She nodded. “He was heading toward the dorms about half an hour ago. I think he said he was going to be teaching some of the new Unfallen how to be an asshole or something.”

Hades barked out a laugh, and she caught a glimpse of two pearly-white fangs. She used to think fangs were repulsive, but if Hades wanted to sink his canines into her, she’d gladly bare her throat and invite him in. She tapped her tongue against her own tiny fangs, the smaller versions that Unfallen grew a few days after being de-winged. For the most part, she’d gotten used to them. She didn’t even bite her lip anymore.

“Z is finally teaching them something he knows all about,” Hades said.

There was no love lost between those two, but Cat had no idea why. She did, however, know why she thought Zhubaal was an ass. Not that she wanted to think about it, let alone talk about it. She just had to hope that no one else knew.

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