Sweet Reckoning Page 1

Author: Wendy Higgins

Series: Sweet #3

Genres: Young Adult , Fantasy

PROLOGUE

Not a soul in the Vegas cocktail lounge had any idea demons were in their midst. Not a soul would believe the four gentlemen receiving appreciative stares and envious glares were some of the best workers of hell ever to walk the earth. Humans could sense their allure—the power and mystery in their handsome faces—and were drawn to them like butterflies to bright, poisoned nectar.

Pharzuph, Astaroth, Mammon, and Melchom sat unsmiling in crisp new suits, sipping martinis and scotch, discussing events from the night before. They’d taken four women to Melchom’s private island off the California coast, ruined them, and then abandoned them at the docks after promising transportation back to Vegas.

“I’d love to see those cows explain this one to their husbands and fiancé,” Astaroth, the Duke of Adultery had said, laughing as they sped away.

But the fun and games were over now, and it was time for business. They sat contemplating all they’d learned last night about traitors in their ranks and among their children.

Mammon, the Duke of Greed, absently swirled his scotch in the melting ice, thinking about the son he’d killed on the island. Flynn had been his favorite Nephilim child in centuries, and he’d turned out to be an ungrateful Judas. The shock of his betrayal still stung. It’d been many years since Mammon had killed, and it left a bad taste in his mouth—not that he’d ever admit that to his brethren of hell.

“He showed no signs of rebellion before last night?” asked the Duke of Envy, Melchom.

“None.” Mammon tilted back his drink and emptied it before slamming it to the table with a grimace.

“It’s time to tell the other Dukes. We’ll gather tonight.” Pharzuph’s arms were crossed as he thought.

“Some have already left town,” Melchom said. “Like Belial.”

“We’ll call them back,” Pharzuph said with a sneer. “We can’t let Belial know we’re on to him. Let’s make him think we’re only suspicious of a Neph uprising.”

Astaroth ran a hand through his shoulder-length blond waves and pulled out his cell phone, dialing. The others listened in on the conversation with their keen supernatural senses.

“Yes?” said a voice with French inflection.

“Brother Rahab. Call the Dukes back to Vegas. We have news.”

Rahab paused. “Very well.”

“And one more thing,” Astaroth continued. “The old prophecy.”

“What about it?” Rahab snapped.

“Can you recite it for us?”

“To my knowledge . . .” His voice went gravely with disgust. “A Nephilim pure of heart shall rise up and cast demons from earth to the depths of hell, where they will remain until the end of days.”

The table quieted, and the demon men appeared momentarily ill.

“How certain are you of its validity?” Astaroth asked.

“Lord Lucifer himself told me of the prophecy.”

The four Dukes exchanged silent looks as the lounge bustled around them. Pharzuph cleared his throat and took the phone from Astaroth, speaking low.

“How did our Lord obtain this information?”

Rahab’s voice was a dangerous whisper. “You dare to question him?”

A carefully blank look remained on Pharzuph’s face, and his smooth English accent never wavered. “Don’t be ridiculous. I question his source.”

Rahab was quiet. Then, in a tone of reluctance, he admitted, “It was a whisperer. One of the Legionnaires.”

Again the Dukes exchanged skeptical looks. This was the reason nobody had ever taken the prophecy seriously. It seemed unlikely that a worthless Legionnaire spirit could acquire important information and recite it back correctly.

“The prophecy is valid!” Rahab shouted through the phone. “I’ve been telling you fools for two millennia not to trust the Nephilim race! Why are you bringing this up now? What has happened?”

“We will discuss our findings soon, brother,” Pharzuph assured him.

Rahab let out a low grumble before disconnecting.

“Right, then. What’s the plan?” Astaroth asked.

“First we find out if Belial and the girl followed through with the orders given at the summit. See if she’s still a virgin. She’s number one on my suspicion list. The angels of light had never intervened for a Neph until her.”

Melchom leaned his elbows on the table. “How will we find out if she’s pure?”

A wicked grin spread across Pharzuph’s face. “Leave that part to me.”

“And if she is?” Melchom asked.

“We kill her immediately before the damned angels can stop us.” Pharzuph finished his martini and eyed a woman who kept stealing glances at him. “And wait to see Belial’s reaction to gauge whether they’re working together or if this is a Neph-run operation.”

“None of it makes any bloody sense.” Mammon rubbed his forehead. “We had the lot of them tailed after the summit.”

“Only for the first six months,” Astaroth clarified. “Apparently they’ve been busy in the year since then.”

“We’ll have them tailed again. For as long as it takes.”

Melchom shook his head. “Lord Lucifer won’t be happy about this—using his Legionnaires to babysit the Neph again when they should be focusing on humans. He was livid about the wasted efforts after the summit.”

Pharzuph sighed. “Fine. We won’t sic the whisperers yet. We’ll wait and see what we find out about the daughter of Belial.”

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