Sweet Temptation Page 1

Author: Wendy Higgins

Series: Sweet #4

Genres: Young Adult , Fantasy

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PROLOGUE

“I wanna hate every part of you in me . . .

You say that I’m privileged but my gift is my curse.”

—“Bite My Tongue” by You Me At Six

“Sit down, son.”

Young Kaidan did as his father asked, obediently sitting in the oversized leather chair beside him in the sitting room of their London home. Kai’s stomach buzzed with nervousness. He rarely had his father’s full attention, so he felt heavy and exposed under his intense stare. Kaidan savored Pharzuph’s eyes on him, and for a moment let himself pretend this meeting was something more than business—he let himself imagine his father’s smile was born of concern for him, rather than the glee of malice. He wanted to tap out a beat on his leg to soothe himself, but his father couldn’t stand fidgeting of any kind so he remained still.

Pharzuph looked over his young son, whose hair was longer than the other boys’ at school, and had unruly curls at the edges. Kai wore the same white shirt and navy trousers as his peers, but he still managed to stand out through his musical talents and the way he carried himself. The way he talked with blasé confidence and walked in an unhurried stride—all of this had been practiced and orchestrated by the handsome man sitting before him.

“You’re eleven now. Time to begin your training.”

Kaidan nodded. He’d known this day was coming. He’d watched last year as his friends, the twins Marna and Ginger, faced their training. He’d been frightened by the bitterness that overtook Ginger, and the sadness that seemed to drape Marna. They were no longer his mates in the carefree way of children. Even their eyes were different: calculating and searching.

“You know you’re the son of Lust.”

“Yes, Father.” Kai had been made to watch his father at work for some time now. He’d been given magazines and films to peruse long before he understood any of it.

“Now, tell me the sins we deal with as Dukes and Nephilim.”

Kaidan pushed the hair from his eyes and rattled off the seven deadly sins in a shaking voice. “Lust, greed, sloth and gluttony, murder, pride, wrath, and envy. The other sins we promote are hatred, substance abuse, lies, theft, and adultery.” He placed his hands in his lap.

“Don’t sit like that,” his father snapped. “You look too proper. Put your hands on the arms of the chair like you own the place.”

Kaidan quickly moved his hands to the arms of the chair.

“Why do you suppose the sins are called ‘deadly’? Aside from the obvious. Murder.”

Kaidan swallowed hard. He didn’t know how to answer, and he was afraid of being whacked across the head, just as he had been when his favorite nanny was sacked and his father caught him crying.

Pharzuph leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and twining his fingers. “Listen well, Kaidan. Because this is the most important lesson of all. This is our purpose—the purpose of all demons and Nephilim. The sins are called deadly because they slowly kill one’s spirit.” His blue eyes began to glisten with fervent zeal as he went on. “Over time, something as simple as casual sex or nicking items from a shop can soon become obsessions. Humans need more. They are stupid beings, Kaidan. They never have enough. More thrills, more attention. They are selfish creatures. Never satisfied. It is our job to help them on their journey to ruin. Do you understand?”

Kaidan nodded. Disdain for humans had been ingrained in him from the beginning.

“They were chosen by the Maker to live lives of freedom here on earth while angels such as myself were banished for wanting a simple bit more.” His father’s eyes flashed red. “He chose them—this ungrateful race—to flaunt His blessings on, while we were left to rot in hell. But we’ve found a way to punish Him. . . .” Pharzuph smiled wickedly. “Every day we turn His beloved earthlings against Him. We cause them to focus on their bodies and their urges, their wants and desires. We give them something tangible to hold on to, but just for a moment. Because the sins are fleeting satisfactions.”

Kaidan nodded, shocked that the humans could be so easily fooled. So blind. “They deserve it if they’re that stupid,” Kai said, and his father gave a laugh of pride.

“Indeed, son. They deserve every moment of pain they get. The Maker tells them to be careful—he dangles a bit of fun in their faces, but tells them they cannot have it. But we are here to tell humans to take what they want. And when they have the nerve to cry over the consequences—to pout and curse the world—we laugh. Because the Maker is hurting.”

“Why?” Kaidan breathed. “If they’re all so horrible, why does it hurt Him?”

Pharzuph’s eyes narrowed into a sneer. “Because He loves them. Because He’s promised them free will, which means he will not interfere in their idiotic choices. It’s pathetic.” Now Pharzuph chuckled. “He’s backed himself into a corner and can only watch as His creation destroys itself . . . with our help. And never forget—as much as He loves them, he loathes our kind. Never. Forget. His unworthy humans are all born with a chance at reaching the heavenly realm. You were not born with that chance.”

Kaidan pressed his hands hard against the chair arms to keep from trembling. He hated when his father spoke of hell—that place of dimness where joy could not be had—the place he was destined to go when he died.

At a knock on the house door, Pharzuph smiled. “Now you understand the why of our job. It’s time to learn the how. Our helpers have arrived. Are you ready, Kaidan?”

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