Coming Up

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Summary

Eden finds herself in the worst predicament of her life-- the opportunity to become a martyr. However, she finds herself face-to-face with the fallen angel himself, Lucifer. Stuck between a rock and a fiery place, what options are available to keep her life or lose it?

Genre:
Romance / Erotica
Author:
CB Walters
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
10
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

I dropped my purse by the ledge of the door and kicked off my heels as soon as I opened the door of my crowded apartment. I threw my keys on the counter with a ponderous sigh. My dead-end job as a writer for a small, local magazine read by no one but seen in waiting rooms sickened me. Tired of being callow and young, I thirsted for more. I longed for something that meant. I desired for a day I meant as I sat endless days in front of a computer typing passionless words in monotony. At the end of this particular day, though, I came to the thought that perhaps, perhaps, this was what God intended.

I sauntered over to the fridge per ritual and opened it, gazing at the emptiness. I grimaced, realizing I planned to shop after work. I closed the refrigerator and spun to grab my keys. However, my hand just touched linoleum. My vision shifted to the rest of the counter: empty. I turned back to the fridge, and then to the floor, and then to the door.

“Looking for something?”

I jumped back, colliding against the door harshly. Startled, my eyes widened as they narrowed in on the velvet voice’s origin.

A man stood in the middle of my living room, next to my cheap, used loveseat and beaten lounge chair. He held out his hand, jingling the keys gently. Dressed in a dark merlot three-piece suit and sandstone shoes, he didn’t fit in here. He didn’t fit in my hand-me-down monotony or this crusty town. His shaggy, midnight hair cascaded just to his shoulders and splayed out at the ends. His fierce, honey eyes nailed me in my place. A thin smirk spread across his lips as he murmured, “Eden, I asked a question.”

I launched over the counter and ran to the coat closet, not daring to cross the living room to my own room. For all I knew, he could have been stalking my every move for the past six months. I turned in time to see the strange man roll his eyes before I shut the door and locked it from the inside.

The vacant coat closet was a perfect panic room.

I flicked on the light to search for my phone in my slacks’ pockets, but the hairs on my arms and neck rose as someone’s breath fell across my nape. I did not dare move as my eyes slithered across my sclera to absorb the man standing behind me.

He smiled and raised his brows. “Eden, you can’t get rid of me.”

I almost ran through the door before I could unlock and open it to get away. I crashed into the floor and fumbled on all fours across the walkway into the living room. I whipped around as I heard the gentle thud of his footsteps crescendo closer to me. I meekly stared up at him and whimpered, “Who the hell are you?”

The man smirked smugly. He motioned to his suit and façade. “Aren’t I just devilishly handsome?”

Stunned and incredulous, I stared at the man who called himself a god. My brow folded, and I stared at him with wild eyes.

The man offered his hand towards me, and I ignored it. He began, “Yes, I’m what your brain is comprehending. Stop trying to persuade yourself differently. For instance, Eden, you can’t deny I’m not everything you lust after. I’m everything you believe is physically attractive almost to an exact T. You, my friend, would be smitten if I had not been so forward in meeting you.

“Think about it. If I was a mortal, would I have been able to get into that locked broom closet? How would I have gotten into your apartment without breaking in? How would I have taken your keys from the counter without your knowing? Furthermore, how would I have known your name?”

I continued to stare.

“I’m not here to hurt you.”

Cotton-mouthed barely covered how dry my mouth became as this man or demon or creature came closer and closer towards me. My arms and legs shook so hardily that I was unable to move away from underneath him as he stood over me, a shadow cast over me.

“Some call me the Devil. Some call me Satan. Some call me the Fallen Angel. Some call me God’s reject.”

I finally found my voice. “Prove it.”

Startled, the smirk fell from his face for a moment and then returned. He bowed. “Of course.” He turned to a glass of water that sat on my coffee table. He stared at it intensely, and I shifted my gaze to the glass. The water’s clarity dissipated into an opaque redness and then into a black smoke that formed into a large skull before he snapped his fingers. Then the frightening images disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.

I languidly turned back to him, the man still focusing on the glass. There was no other way to explain this. There was no way to explain any of this. “What do you like to be called?”

“Excuse me?”

“You have to prefer a name.”

His smirk finally fell into a sincere smile, “Lucifer. Just Lucifer.” He knelt down in front of me and offered his hand once again, more fervently this time. I reluctantly took it, and he pulled me to my feet.

His touch on my bare skin was incredibly warm—to the point where I feared he might have potentially burned me. I glanced at my epidermis for any redness or blisters, and he must have realized his effect on people because he gently grabbed the tip of my calloused fingers and leaned over my arm. He gently blew up and down my appendage this icy breeze, and the redness and swelling immediately subsided. “I apologize. I’m not used to human contact. I have not experienced it in a number of years.”

“No problem,” I whispered, stretching and prodding my new skin, dumbfounded and amazed with this new world I was being exposed to.

And then an idea finally bombarded me when I realized I had barely done something as sinful as have premarital sex at the ripe age of twenty-three with two different contraceptives and have an alcoholic beverage twice a week since the age of twenty-one. I never participated in drugs or cheated my way through life. I was brought up in a strict household, and those values still clung to me like manacles.

I fell back on my loveseat, incredulous and frozen. I finally murmured the question that I should have asked since the Devil strolled into my presence, “What did I do?”

Lucifer shook his head and smiled. He cooed, “You have done nothing.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because you are going to get a visitor, and he’s going to be a little… well, angelic.

I furrowed my brow, something building inside my chest frantically. I cried, “What is going on? Did I do something so bad that the Devil is in my apartment and then an angel is going to visit me?! What did I do?!”

He rolled his eyes and plopped down on the coffee table in front of me. He confidently explained, “Listen, it’s not you. You’re not the reason I’m here. You’re the reason he’s coming, but they’re the reason I’m here.”

“Who is they?”

Lucifer nonchalantly shrugged and commented, “God and one of His angels.”

“What?!”

“Look, I don’t know the full scoop, but one of my little birdies dropped a message by me the other day that this Eden Gray, who I presume and know is you, was going to be Visited. That usually entails becoming a martyr or a sacrifice. Who knows?”

“What?!”

“Is that all you can say?”

“This is ludicrous.” I ran to my room and rushed to my closet. I yanked my suitcase from the top of my closet and threw it on my bed. I gripped some clothes from the closet and dropped it in the luggage. I groaned as I continued to pack.

Lucifer seemed to melt through the wall, his head and shoulders just sticking out of the off-white. His yellow eyes peered at me, inquiring my obscure actions with a crooked brow. “What are you doing?” I could not believe how fast I became accustomed to the world Lucifer lived in—surreal.

“I’m leaving.”

“Why?”

I zipped up my pack and considered abandoning most of my other possessions. I did not need a blender. I did not need a TV. I did not need my collection of books (much to my dismay). My job wouldn’t care if I didn’t show up the next day. This was more important than that. I couldn’t be a martyr. I wasn’t important enough. I was Eden. I was nonexistent—I had been for the past twenty-four years. I couldn’t be living this monotonous life for nothing. I scanned the room for anything I could possibly need, but my brain was so frazzled I couldn’t compute without snow clouding my thoughts.

“You’re playing with God. Eden, He sees all. He even controls me. You can’t just run away from Him. You can’t run away from Him like you ran away from your hometown. From your parents.”

I ignored him.

“From your fiancé.”

I froze abruptly. “You did that, didn’t you?” I pivoted on my heels, snapping to attention, shoving a finger in Lucifer’s direction. “You made that bastard do what he did, didn’t you?! You made him have his infidelity. You made him lie. You’re Satan, so you had to have made him do what he did, you awful—”

Lucifer chortled, “And I believed you were jovial by asking for my name. I thought you to be amicable. I thought you to be a friend.”

“And I thought you to be a decent person, you piece of shit.”

Lucifer pulled himself from the wall gingerly and strolled to me, placing an icy hand on the back of my neck. Startled, I quit speaking. The touch was soothing and calming. I melted underneath him, and then a pain shot through my legs, forcing me to the floor. My hands collapsed over my knees, and my jaw dropped at the searing spears boring through my bones.

Lucifer snarled, “You see me for not. I know what I do, and you should respect my power. I take orders from God. Yes, I do my own work, but I do His, too. Your wonderful Paul promised to wed you despite being married to another woman and her having borne his two children, yet he is not the villain here? Yes, I may have done some acts in regards to that matter, but not all of those are mine. No one shall treat you justly your entire life, Eden. You of all people will know that.”

With that last word, the pain fled. I gasped, heaving in elated breaths as the spears seemed to have been pulled out of my flesh. My gray eyes bore into the demon before me as he pulled me up onto my bed under my arms without a groan. He pulled back a strand of blonde hair behind my ear and stared distinctly into my eyes. He murmured, “Michelangelo is going to have a jubilation when he gets his hands on you.”

I whispered, “Who is that?”

Lucifer rolled his eyes, which I began to realize were the exact shade of the anther of a honeysuckle flower of back home. I barely could concentrate on his words when he began to converse, but I caught on quickly. “The damn angel. I don’t know when he’s coming along.” Lucifer shuffled to the window of my bedroom and glanced through the shades of the window surreptitiously, and, I don’t know, I half-expected him to fry up from just the dull sunlight of the December sunset.

“Is he bad? Or are you bad?”

Lucifer’s fingers fell away from the blinds as he whispered, “That, my dear, you have to figure out for yourself.”

“What do God and Michelangelo want?”

“I do not honestly know.”

“Will I know who Michelangelo is when I see him, or will he be like you?”

Lucifer pursed his lips and pulled out a pocket watch attached to a gold chain. He spun it and whipped it at something only visible to him. I was becoming concerned that it was Michelangelo, but it soon became obvious it was just Lucifer entertaining himself. “What does that mean?”

“Will he look like a normal human being?”

“I choose to look like this.”

“You can change your appearance?”

He changed subjects quickly. “Michelangelo could appear as the literal sense of an angel or as a human. It depends on his mood. He is a flamboyant kiss-ass, so I suspect he shall unveil himself with wings once again.” Lucifer noticed a lamp on my bed stand and placed it on ground. He glanced around the room and gently placed a few knick-knacks on the ground as if to save them from harm.

“Good Lord, how many times have you met Michelangelo?”

“Michelangelo is God’s most recent little angel in his super brigade. To earn all of his Super Trooper badges, he must complete specific tasks. I think he and I have come across each other in the past century approximately… I lost count at 372 times.”

“Your sarcasm isn’t as endearing as you think.”

“Believe me, it’s one of the traits you find most attractive according to your dating track record which consists of one. Except for appearances. What the hell is with that? Great job on choosing by the way. Goodness gracious, Michelangelo looks like a cherub that finally grew up. If I have to come across that curly, tow-headed; tawny eyed; stern nosed; chiseled cheeked abomination again, I’m going to have heartburn from the cuteness for a week. He looks like a kid who is an adult who went through the first stage of puberty and then decided it wasn’t cool enough.”

“So you have no clue what they want?”

Lucifer stared at me for what seemed like an eternity; it was like he was sizing me up. It was like he was losing himself in me for a long time. I couldn’t figure out why he was just doing this because there was no reason to. There was no reason to fall into my eyes like that. His full lips parted for a moment, and he gently shook his head before he murmured apologetically. “No.”

I murmured, “Then, what do you want with me?”

“Whatever they don’t want.”

“What does that mean?”

He took a step towards me, standing a mere foot away from me, standing a foot above me. He stared down his long, straight nose at me. He clenched his fists at his sides, and he bared his teeth as I swore he hissed, “I want God to know he has no control over me.”

As the night wore on, we didn’t talk to one another. Lucifer was too busy opening and closing all of the closets in the apartment, and I was too busy staring at the front door. All of my six deadlocks were closed, and I hoped maybe an angel would knock instead of come in through a wall—be a little more polite. Lucifer became more on edge as the night wore on , but I found myself falling asleep on the couch as the hours crawled on to the early morning.

I finally stood up and walked to the fridge. Then I remembered it was empty. I hung my head and marched back to the couch, but Lucifer must have noticed my walk of shame. On the coffee table sat a plate of raisins, brie, and crackers. I smiled and turned up to see if the man was stalking back and forth to the closets, but he was in the kitchen. “Thank you.”

“Where’s the wine?”

“I don’t have any.”

“What?”

“You can conjure up some like you did the cheese and crackers, right?” I mumbled with my mouth full. Crumbs fell everywhere, and I dusted them off of me with the back of my hands.

“I’m Lucifer, not Jesus.”

“Oh, sorry. There’s malt liquor in the refrigerator in like green apple and hard lemonades in there, too.”

“How regal.” Lucifer pulled a bottle of malt liquor out of the fridge and offered one to me, but I denied one. I had work in the morning—well, four hours. I couldn’t be hung over or drunk at work. I couldn’t lose a job with rent due on Friday and the Christmas bonus just around the corner. He strutted to my side like a model and gently sat down on the sofa like royalty, barely disturbing anything. He snapped open the bottle with a blink of his eyes, the cap just clattering to the floor.

“You can’t create liquids?”

“My blood runs so hot they just evaporate.” I nodded, and he took a long drag on the malt liquor. He took it from his lips, and he smirked. “It does taste rather like apples.”

“Yeah,” I giggled.

“Delightful.”

“I’m going to bed.”

“Right now?”

“I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“What about Michelangelo? What if he shows up at work tomorrow?”

“I mean, I have work. I can’t just miss it. If I have a mental breakdown at work, at least I get an insanity check, right? And a nice asylum stay. Everything taken care of for me. And my parents get to acknowledge what great parenting they did. And then I get to tell them Lucifer came to visit me the night before and explain to them that I didn’t even leave Paul. Paul’s wife threatened legal action against me. Oh, wow, Merry fricking Christmas, everyone!”

Lucifer nodded. “Good plan.”

“Screw you.” I stomped off to my room, and I quickly ripped off my blouse and my pants. I shoved on a pair of my boxers and a tank top. I slid under the sheets and nuzzled into my pillow. I shifted and bucked until I forfeited that side of the bed and turned. I screamed. Lucifer sat on the other side of the bed, shirtless and in a pair of silk pajama bottoms.

He echoed my scream to an exact T.

“Get out!”

“Is this not what males wear to bed?”

“Get out!”

“What if Michelangelo comes in here?”

“I’ll take my chances!”

“I’m not going to do anything but sleep!”

“Can you sleep?”

“Believe it or not, yes.”

“Sleep on the couch.”

“I’m 6’3’’.”

“I swear, if I wake up, and anything of yours is touching me.”

“Nothing.”

Anything.”

“Only you could be so lucky.”

“Oh Lord.”

“Exactly.”

I slammed my head on the wall three times before shoving my hands into my eyes and wandering how I woke up in monotony and went to sleep next to Lucifer himself.

Lucifer literally went to work with me, which was the strangest conversation I had to have with Lydia. Luckily, I convinced him to change out of his ridiculous suit. He decided on a pair of black slacks, a white shirt, and a black tie. Lucifer swore he saw a man who looked somewhat like Michelangelo, but Lydia and I knew it was just Howard from Advertising. I was just tired of Lucifer looking over my shoulder at my emails and my memos, so I let him go hunt Howard. Perhaps Howard would get a broken collar bone and would stop harassing me about a date.

Lydia pulled away from her disorganized cubicle full of pictures of her twelve calico cats and the one or two photos of her husband and three children and inched over to me in her rolling chair. I was so broke I just had two folding chairs. She glanced over her shoulder to check on Lucifer and turned back to me. Her voice screeched like a siren, “Who is that fine piece of ass?”

I murmured, typing away, “Just my friend from college.”

“Friend with benefits, am I right?” She shoved a shoulder into my lower ribs.

I choked on my tea from the sudden impact. I pursed my lips. “Lydia, that thing is probably infested with all sorts of things. His dick has probably already fallen off if it doesn’t already look like Swiss cheese.”

“If I wasn’t married, I would take that man off of your hands and take him in the handicap bathroom right now.”

I halted everything I was doing and turned to the woman in ultimate disgust. “You’re revolting.”

“Don’t get married. You lose the passion. He doesn’t grab your hips and passionately grind into you anymore. He doesn’t go down on you anymore—especially after you pop out three of his kids. He doesn’t kiss you anymore. I don’t think I’ve been kissed in a month. Your kids hate you. All the love you get is from your cats.”

“Lydia, what did I say about this?”

“Tell my counselor.”

“Good girl. What’s your piece on this month?”

“The local farmer’s market vender that serves only bacon wrapped foods.”

“Sounds wonderful. Go finish it. Deadline’s this Friday.”

Lydia rolled back to her desk, and I immediately heard the rapid thud of her typing scramble to life. I secretly thanked God and turned back to my monitor. I glanced at the clock, and I turned back to my keyboard and rubbed my eyes. I scratched my crown and wandered what was going on in my brain. I didn’t have a piece.

It was Wednesday, which meant I usually skipped lunch so I could go home at three instead of four so I could work some more at home instead of here. I got so much more done at home because I was alone. Except, I had Lucifer…

“Wasn’t Michelangelo.”

“Aw darn,” I said flatly.

“You knew that, didn’t you?”

“No,” in the same tone.

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you either.” Lucifer pulled out another fold-out chair I had in my cubicle and placed it beside me, facing out of the cubicle. I pondered if this was what it was like to have an attack dog or maybe mace.

I turned back to my monitor and began typing furiously about the importance of security in the twenty-first century as a single female in her early to middle twenties. Then I realized how small my audience would be, and my boss would immediately want me to expand my audience or would throw out my subject. I cut out the twenties part. And then the female part. And then the subject just had been done so abundantly.

I groaned, “Crap.”

Lucifer replied, “What?” He had sat down facing my computer, his legs dangling over the sides. His arms settled on the head of the chair, and his chin settled on his appendages. He let out an exasperated sigh.

“I have nothing.”

“To write about?”

“Correct.”

“What time to you relieve yourself of your work?”

“Stop talking so strangely.”

“Excuse my language. I haven’t spoken in front of a human in an eternity it seems.”

I hissed, “Stop talking like that. I’m off in fifteen minutes.”

“I apologize.”

I glared at him. I don’t think I ever expected Satan to cringe at the gaze of a mortal woman, but I managed to make him desire to hide from my icy stare.

I smiled smugly and turned back to my monitor and continued to shove memos and questions at unsuspecting members of society, hoping to get inspiration from their answers. I considered typing up an inquiry from different teachers about a new teaching style I read a study on that morning using primarily auditory learning instead of visual learning. I also considered other beginnings but also endings. I even considered writing a need or a letter for help from Satan. How quickly would my boss fire me then?

Especially living in the Bible Belt.

I drove home cautiously like I usually do in my monotony, and I offered Lucifer control of the radio from my usual alternative station. He was polite, and he denied the chance to change the station. I leaned over to change the station this afternoon to the local metal station, and he practically jumped out of his skin.

“What is this?”

“You don’t like metal?”

“No! This is awful! I cannot stand this constant belligerence!”

“Fine, fine, what do you want?”

“When I was here in the 1970s, there was folk music. Do you have any folk music?”

I furrowed my brow and stifled a laugh as I continued to readjust my impression of Lucifer. I sought through different channels until I heard a station with a soft piano and a melodic guitar that didn’t drift on the side of country. He was so different than what I was so accustomed to society teaching me ever since I attended church since I was a little girl.

Lucifer began to sing along with the music, and I pondered if there was radio in Hell. He wasn’t bad at it, and then I wondered if perhaps he sang well because he was supposedly perfect. Because he could be perfect.

I parked the car, and we sauntered up the flights of stairs to the room. Lucifer immediately crashed on the couch and loosened his tie as if he did this every day. I gently sat next to him and unbuttoned the top of my blouse. I breathed in a deep sigh of relief and leaned back.

He smiled and asked, “Happy to be home?”

I closed my eyes and placed my hands over them. “Yes, sir. Thank goodness.”

The previous night became the routine for us. Lucifer stayed awake late in search of the angel, searching tirelessly for any traces of him. I half-expected to find a simple, white feather nestled gracefully in the carpet one of these days, but it never occurred. I pondered the presence of a beam of sunlight streaming in from an unusual place and a being raining down from above. Lucifer doubted the evidence would be so obvious.

Lucifer followed me to work, but my boss forbid him from attending to my needs inside the office because he distracted Lydia from work. He faithfully waited outside in the hallway of our offices like a guard dog. When I ventured out to utilize the washroom, Lucifer would follow me until I would literally order him to stop himself. I feared I would see his image instead of my reflection in the mirror while I washed my hands.

Friday night rolled around, and Saturday morning came to rise. My alarm rattled at the same time as it does on the weekdays as usual, and I regretfully pulled myself out of the bed and threw on some workout clothes. Before I remembered my guest, I opened my front door to go for my weekend morning run and started as the towering figure stood right before me. I squealed and jumped back, tripping on my welcome mat and falling back.

Lucifer commanded, “Get back in your home.”

I whined, “Oh my god, use the door!”

“You need to be supervised.”

“Can you supervise me while I run?”

“Fine.”

As my feet padded across the asphalt as I completed three and a half miles, I groaned and complained as I was followed closely by Lucifer. I even sped up to deal with him and hopefully lose him, but he continued to crawl to a faster pace. I ended my run in a pool of sweat and heaving breaths that burned my lungs in the middle of November. My relaxing jog turned into a literal run with the Devil.

Rain poured during the weekend, and Lucifer and I barely shared a word. I would try to communicate with him, but he would shift the conversation from himself to what he knew about me. I knew he was the Devil, but he knew so much about me. How could he know so much about billions of people on the earth? And then the angels? And then God? How could he retain all of this information? It was amazing. I attempted to utilize his power and snoop on people from high school like that girl who mysteriously disappeared freshman year, but he wouldn’t bite. I even picked up a newspaper and asked if he knew who was in the obituaries, but he wouldn’t play my game.

Lucifer stared out the window the whole weekend longingly. Not out at the people under the colored umbrellas, or at the saturated ground that nourished the leafless plants, or at the dancing children. He stared up at the gray, dense clouds the whole weekend with such desire and desperation that even I stifled my inquiries.

I would look up from a book, and his eyes would be glued out the window. It was almost as if he had forgotten for a moment that he was waiting for Michelangelo. It was as if his whole world had been disintegrate for that one time so he could focus on the sky.

I surreptitiously split my fingers, and I glanced over at Lucifer. His eyes were glued on the TV in front of us. His long, black hair fell in loose waves to his shoulders, and his golden eyes were shaded by his dark brows. His full lips parted as he mouthed something under his breath. I murmured, “Whatcha doing?”

“Reciting.”

“What?”

“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

“You know that whole book?”

“Yes.”

“That’s amazing, Lucifer!”

“Thank you.”

“How did you learn it?”

“I recite it when I get nervous.”

“Are you nervous because you don’t know me?”

“I know you. I know your first memory is getting spanked for taking fault for your older sister’s mistake. You don’t remember the mistake, but you took fault for it. The main reason you dated Paul is you didn’t feel like anyone else would ever love you because of what those boys said about you in middle school and high school due to your athletic build. I know Paul proposed to you almost without a ring, and you two were engaged for nearly a day before Viviane confronted you. You didn’t have intercourse with him until he proposed to you because he coerced you into sex when you were drunk. I know—”

I tore my hands away from my face and glared at him, baring my teeth as if I was a feral animal. “It was my choice to have sex with him.” I don’t know why I defended the man. I don’t know why I felt the need to save him from Lucifer, to hold him and care for him when he left me alone and afraid, when he abandoned me so easily after he slept with me.

“Then why did he have to get you black-out drunk before you could barely slur a response to him? Then why did he have to help you undress in front of him? Then why did you sob after you slept with him? You were physically sick after you slept with him for the rest of the night. You could barely look at yourself in the mirror for a week.”

I rose to my feet. “He loved me!”

Lucifer stood beside me, and I shrunk underneath him as he bared his teeth. I noticed these awful canines that extended and sharpened far past those of a mortal being. He hissed, “He used you!”

Retrospectively, I should have listened to the god who probably managed the many actions of Paul Shroud, but I was so enveloped in the goodness of people. I couldn’t believe that Paul had this dark side in him. I just believed he made a mistake. I expected him on my doorstep any moment with the divorce papers from his wife. It would be the perfect romance story.

But this isn’t that story.

“You know nothing!”

“I know everything about you, Eden!”

I shook my head and marched away from Lucifer angrily.

He roared, “Where are you going?”

“To take a fricking shower.”

“Call me if you want a friend.”

I thought, Fucktard. “No thank you.” I slammed the bathroom door and let out a silent scream. I slid down the door to the floor. I rubbed the tears away with the back of my hand and tried to stifle my sobs. I couldn’t bear to let Lucifer hear me broken. I couldn’t let him know he did this to me. I sniffled and turned on the shower and silently undressed with tears cascading down my round cheeks. I bit my lip as I stepped into the steaming shower. I took in a deep breath of steam, trying to relax, and I just stood there for what seemed like hours.

My mind wandered through different memories and different thoughts. I couldn’t wait for the weeks to pass so I could go home for Christmas to see my parents and sister. Then I could come back here and be thankful I don’t live in Monrovia anymore. Reminisced about the days when I chased after Paul, my college professor at the local university, not knowing about his personal life.

I rolled my neck and clenched my eyes shut.

I continued to wander to different ideas—my counselor said I couldn’t focus on Paul that much. The court ordered I spoke to a counselor after Viviane intervened.

What if maybe I wrote a little comedic piece about living with Lucifer? What if I wrote a piece about Satan’s hatred for metal music and his love for folk music and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? What is the significance of his love for that piece of literature?

Would anyone read it?

I heard someone else breathing in the bathroom, and I immediately howled, “Lucifer, get the hell out of the bathroom!”

I opened my eyes, and I crawled out of my skin like a snake molts—slowly and naturally. My lips quivered as a cool breeze whistled through the bathroom. I pivoted on my heels and stared at the tawny eyes and dark brows of a circular face. Freckles mottled his cherub face under blond curls. I gulped and feared him despite the toothy grin he gave me. He stood on the other side of the shower with magnificent white wings, knocking over all of my bathing products on the floor and into the tub. A white t-shirt and jeans flirted with showing his teenage figure. He put his fingers to his lips, telling me to be quiet. He whispered, “It’s okay, Eden Gray. I’m an Angel of God.”

I hissed, “Why can’t you people use the front door like everyone else!”

Michelangelo glanced down at his pelvis and immediately covered his genitals. I blushed immensely and covered myself. He apologized, “Excuse me, ma’am. I have not seen a woman in quite some time.”

“Get out of the bathroom!” I screamed.

Lucifer slammed the door open. He shoved the curtain away from the shower and glared at Michelangelo, totally ignoring me (which I found kind of insulting but also nice). He snatched one of the angel’s wings and yanked him from the shower. He slammed him against the door and pinned Michelangelo by the angel’s neck with his arm to the door. Lucifer hissed, “Catch an eye-full, God’s dog?”

“Oh, Lucifer, good to see you, sir!”

“Quit the act. What are you here for?”

I whispered, “Lucifer… Lucifer…”

He glanced over his shoulder once and then he just stared at me with wild eyes. He growled, “What do you want?”

“Can you hand me a towel?”

Lucifer tossed a towel my direction and turned back to the angel. “Again, what are you here for?” I quickly wrapped the towel around my torso and positioned myself in the corner of the shower.

Michelangelo shrugged.

Lucifer’s jaw unhinged and dropped as he let out an animalistic roar that sent chills down my spine. His mustard eyes roamed over the angel until he noticed the angel’s erection. Lucifer turned back to the angel’s face and let out bestial growl. “I swear, you little imp, I will have you as one of my little peasants if you lay one hand on her or have one impure thought about her late at night. When you’re alone and you’re thinking about who you would love to beat off to, you better think of my face because if I hear it’s hers, I will come up to those Golden Gates and rip your dick off so you don’t have this problem again.”

“Don’t threaten me, old man.” Michelangelo slid away from Lucifer’s grip fluidly as if he deconstructed the strength of his bonds in his molecules. He slithered to his right and stared at the Devil, taunting him with a mischievous grin. His eyes became dark slits. The angel smacked Lucifer in the face with the tip of one of his beautiful wings, forcing the man to take one step back.

“You little cherub, I’m going to tear you limb from limb.” Lucifer cracked his knuckles by simply clenching his fists at his sides. He glanced at me over his shoulder and nonchalantly mentioned, “Stay back for a second.”

I muttered, “Um, okay.”

Lucifer blinked, and the honey in his eyes dissipated into a merlot. In an instant, he was engulfed in a blue flame that licked at the bottom of the tub. The water that remained at the bottom of the tub blew into the air as steam. The heat came to the bottom of my feet intensely, and I perched myself on the edge of the shower.

The angel shrugged and inquired, “Are you too scared to unveil your true form, Satan? Are you afraid the friendship she’s entrusted in you will quite literally evaporate if you allow your true form into the equation?” Michelangelo turned to me. He cooed, “You should see it, Eden. It’s quite terrifying. The first exposure I had was exhilarating. I pleaded God to not send me on missions anymore, but He said He had reason to make the King of Hell so menacing.”

A heavy stream of blue flame cascaded over Michelangelo, but the angel simply deflected it with his hand to the left. Nothing caught aflame. The only things affected by the flame were the gods. Lucifer howled and halted the stream in dismay.

I turned to Lucifer, the perfect specimen. The only characteristics that gave away his demonic prowess were his fangs and unnatural eyes. Beyond that, his beautiful and handsome characteristics could entrance anyone for hours on end. Michelangelo peaked my interest in discovering what hid behind this mask. What was Lucifer hiding from me that would scare an angel?

The angel tilted his head and hummed, “Naughty, naughty, Lucifer. Come on, one should be proud of being so horrifying. One should be proud of masking it so well as well.”

Lucifer threw a punch into Michelangelo’s face, and the angel slammed into the door, cracking the grain on the door—there goes my deposit. Lucifer stood over him for a moment before the angel pulled himself to his feet. Lucifer snatched a wing and attempted to dislocate it from the angel’s back, but the wing stood at attention. Lucifer finally growled, “What are you here for?”

“Eden Gray,” Michelangelo murmured, exhausted.

“Why?”

“God told me she is supposed to save someone.”

“He usually just sends them on their own free accord if it’s just one person; why is he sending you?”

“…She isn’t where she’s supposed to be.”

“I didn’t send her to move here, so God must have sent her here.”

“No, God did not lead her here. She did this all by herself. She fell through the cracks somehow. You hid her from us with your magic. You did this on purpose. You knew exactly what she was put on this earth to do, but you are so hung up on power.”

“I did no such thing.”

Michelangelo snapped to attention and fluttered his wings with massive strength, shoving ponderous gusts throughout the room. I slammed to the floor, and Lucifer flew across the room into the sink. I heard something crack, and he folded in half. I screamed as he broke his back and crumbled to the floor. Michelangelo fell to his feet, and his wings retracted and folded into his back neatly, gone and unseen.

I pulled myself from the tub and crawled to Lucifer. I placed my hands on both sides of his face—burning my palms. His honey eyes stared straight to the ceiling, but his lips quivered. I accepted the searing pain as I gently placed his head on my lap. I murmured, “Holy shit. Holy shit.”

Michelangelo came over and glanced at Lucifer. He nonchalantly shrugged and mentioned, “Oh, he’s fine.”

Lucifer sat up, and he cracked his back several different directions until he was in a normal direction. He noticed my burnt hands, and he gently blew on them again, convalescing my wounds. “Stop freaking out. Immortality is a thing for me.”

I retracted from his cool words—offset from the nonchalance both of these gods were taking from my reactions. How was I supposed to accept these new powers so easily? Was I supposed to just easily accept and move on with life as these two mystical beings came into my life? I needed time to resume life. Life differed from my previous monotony, but the both of them did not seem to appreciate that.

Michelangelo stalked to Lucifer’s side and gingerly aided him to his feet as if the angel was not the one who initially broke the Devil’s back. Lucifer took the angel’s arm and then easily helped me to my feet.

“You know the man you are supposed to save, don’t you, Eden Gray?” Michelangelo turned to me with those doe-like eyes.

I shook my head hesitantly, awaiting my answer cautiously.

“Do you know of a Paul Shroud?”

“Paul is not a good person,” my sister snapped under her breath the night he left. It was the right before he left me forever. Her pixie-cut, midnight hair accentuated her icy eyes perfectly as they narrowed venomously as she hissed her warnings. “He is no good.”

“He’s perfect for you. You can get out if that’s your problem,” I retorted.

“He’s treated you like shit since the time I’ve been here.”

“I’ve been acting immature.”

“I’m your sister. You can act like yourself around me. You should be able to act yourself around him. He shouldn’t shepherd you like he does. He’s controlling you constantly, telling you to quiet down, telling you to stop a subject, telling you to do this, telling you to do that.”

“He’s fine.”

“He’s abusive.”

“He’s never hit me.”

“He doesn’t have to.”

My heart fell to the floor and splattered blood against my bare feet. My lips parted as my eyes widened wildly. I turned to Lucifer suddenly. I don’t know what for—security, comfort? I shouldn’t have been scouring for such properties in literally Satan.

Lucifer bared his teeth and snapped, “You’re telling me she’s supposed to save ass-hat Paul Shroud? The man who broke her heart by cheating on his wife and mother of his two children with her? And tell me, what are the great perks of saving this man from whatever danger he’s to face?”

Michelangelo smiled and clapped his hands together. “I can’t tell you what the danger is, but I can tell you that you will die.”

My heart retracted into my brain abruptly, and I became light-headed. I stumbled dizzily for a moment before putting out an arm for a wall. My other hand grabbed my head and cradled it for a long moment before I could face the two men in my bathroom (wow, I never ever thought I’d say that).

Lucifer’s voice rose three octaves. “And that’s supposed to be good?”

Michelangelo continued, “No, it means Eternal Life for Eden and could result in being one of God’s Angels.”

Lucifer turned to me, and those eyes lingered on mine for a millennia. I pondered what must be going on in that mind for some time. I wondered what he could be thinking, what argument could be brewing in that brain of his. What could he be sketching in his brain that could be more attractive than saving my cheating ex from death?

Yeah, I think bathing myself in acid sounded more appealing than saving Paul from anything at that moment.

Lucifer began to escort Michelangelo to the living room, and I interrupted, “Wait, what?”

Lucifer raised his brows and inquired, “What?”

“You two are fine, now?”

The two men glanced at each other and nonchalantly shrugged. He turned back to me and added, “Females tend to hold grudges longer than males. The same goes for gods and angels—except when you deal with the Elders. Those bastards can hold a grudge until you turn blue in the face.”

I rolled my eyes and released an exasperated sigh. “So, what, I just wait for him to kill me?”

“We’ll figure something out.”

Michelangelo cocked a brow, and Lucifer patted him on the head before dragging him to the couch.

I went to my room for a change of clothes.

I did not know what particularly what the dress code was for having dinner with Lucifer and an angel, but I sure knew it was not the pajamas I was planning to wear. I grabbed a pair of jeans I slipped into and a graphic t-shirt from a concert I went to in college with my sister.

I sauntered out of the room and into the living room. I crunched my wet hair for a moment to whisk away some of the dampness, and then I halted for a moment. I turned to the kitchen and then turned back to the living room. Back and forth for a second time. A third time. “Where’d you get that?”

“Conjured it from Hell,” Lucifer noted. He twisted to the left on the loveseat beside Michelangelo. They both held game controllers for Play Station’s new gaming station and pressed and throttled the buttons and each trigger. The TV showed a large futbol match, and then I glanced at the teams playing—Heaven and Hell. I glanced at the coffee table: two malt liquors on the table atop coasters.

I furrowed my brow and pointed at the liquor. “Is Michelangelo old enough to even drink?”

Lucifer turned to the kid. “He’s about five centuries.”

I nodded. “Cool, you’re good.”

I went to the fridge, forgetting, yet again, it was empty. I turned to the two idiots on the couch. “Hey, you two ever been to a grocery store before?”

“Yes.” Simultaneous response with a slight tone of excitement involved.

“Good. We’re going. You can pick out a frozen dinner so I can write my piece so the editor can bleed red ink on it and trash it just in time for me to stay up writing until my eyes bleed red tears on the deadline.”

Lucifer snapped his fingers, and all the equipment turned off. I blinked, and he was right beside me, handing me the keys. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the counters. Michelangelo skipped over to us and opened the door.

The car-ride over to the grocery store was an absolute zoo. Michelangelo taunted Lucifer about winning the fight earlier when Lucifer kept trying to wager that he actually let the angel win. Then they brought me into the argument, and I didn’t care and was quite vocal about it to their dismay. Then shot-gun was a huge deal (because that shows who is superior in the eyes of God apparently). There was a lot of eye-rolling on my part.

I thought it would calm down at the store, which it actually did. I grabbed a buggy, and Lucifer stayed right at my side. Michelangelo went exploring, which I didn’t mind because he promised to meet me at the register with his meal in thirty minutes. He wanted to take a look at the magazines and catch up on the new celebrity gossip since the last time he was here.

I began at the usual part: produce. I surveyed the bananas and picked the green bunch and placed them in my buggy. I marched on to some spinach and glanced at the packaging.

Lucifer murmured, “You know you don’t have to do this, right?”

“Grocery shop? I have to. I can’t conjure things up like you can.”

“No, no, you dumbass! You don’t have to save Paul from whatever trouble he gets himself into. He’s not a good person, we’ve already established that. He’s not a good husband. He’s not a good father. He’s not a good boyfriend. He’s not a good professor. He’s not a good professional. He’s not a good person. What’s the point of him living if he brings nothing but bad to the table?”

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

“In the perfect situation, he’s a zero. He’s a nobody. He’s nothing to you. He’s a jerk. He’s just somebody in your past. What is he to you that you have to throw away your whole life for?”

“Why are you even talking me out of this other than to get your own gain? How are you any better than him? Why should I listen to you? You, Michelangelo, and Paul are all the same. You all are just using me for your own gain. Now, I don’t want to talk about this right now. Go pick out your damn meal and your favorite wine.”

Lucifer stood speechless. His eyes scoured my image for a moment, and then he walked down to the freezer aisle. He came back within a few minutes with a frozen meal of macaroni and cheese and a large bottle of merlot. He noticed my strange glance, and he smirked. “I like to keep things somewhat classy.”

I nodded sadly, focusing again on my decision sent down by God.

Lucifer stepped closer to me and pushed my hair over my shoulder. He placed his hand on my neck and whispered, “Listen, I’m not going to mention that thing again, unless you want to talk about it, okay? All I’m going to do is show you that life is worth living, okay?” He pulled out a small platter of sushi rolls from down the store and smiled. “I found your favorite.”

I lightly slapped him. “Put it in the cart, you cad.”

Lucifer took the buggy, and we rolled to the magazine aisle. We caught Michelangelo in a circle of tabloids with stars I didn’t recognize. He finally looked up and shrugged his shoulders. He inquired, “Why is it front-page news if somebody gains weight?”

Lucifer shook his head and whispered, “I told her that last Twinkie would be the one that did it, but, no, she could have twenty, and it wouldn’t be an issue. That’s her own damn fault. The Devil even came to tell her that. That’s her own fault.”

I chuckled, and we checked out.

We went home, and I sat at my laptop while the boys played their console. Michelangelo enjoyed some spicy gumbo that I could smell from across the room. I swore I would get diarrhea just from the smell of it. Lucifer was kind enough to share his merlot with me, but I must admit I drank a little too much that night because I wrote a piece about what true peace was. And somehow, it was the Devil on one shoulder cussing and an angel on the other singing while falling asleep to the sounds of them playing a video game.

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