Eve of Darkness - By S. J. Day

CHAPTER 1

The Devil is in the details.

Evangeline Hollis understood the true gist of that saying now, surrounded as she was by thousands of Satan’s minions. Some wore Seattle Seahawks baseball caps, others wore San Diego Chargers jerseys. All bore detailed designs similar to tribal tattoos on their skin that betrayed both what species of cursed being they were and what their rank in Hell’s hierarchy was. To her enhanced eyes, it looked like a damn festival for sinners. They were drinking beer, devouring nachos, and waving giant foam fingers.

In reality, the event was a football game in Qualcomm Stadium. The day was classic Southern California perfection—sunny and warm, the eighty-degree temperature balanced by a delightfully cool breeze. Mortals mingled with Infernal beings in blissful ignorance, simply enjoying a bit of afternoon spectator sport. To Eve, the scene was macabre; like watching hungry wolves sunning themselves alongside lambs. Gore, violence, and death were the inevitable result of any interaction between the two.

“Stop thinking about them.”

Alec Cain’s deep, sensual voice made her shiver inside, but outwardly she shot him a rueful glance over the top of her sunglasses. He was always telling her to ignore their prey when they weren’t on the hunt. As if rogue fae, demons, mages, werewolves, dragons, and thousands of variants of the same were easily disregarded.

“There’s a woman breastfeeding her child next to an incubus,” she muttered.

“Angel.” His nickname for her moved over her skin like a tangible caress. Alec’s voice could turn driving directions into foreplay. “We’re taking the day off, remember?”

She blew out her breath and looked away. At a few inches over six feet, Alec was blessed with a powerful chest and tautly ridged abdomen that were noticeable even through his fitted white tank. He had long, muscular legs presently showcased in knee-length Dickies shorts and biceps so beautifully defined they were coveted by both men and women.

He was her lover . . . occasionally. Like all sweets, Alec was delicious and satisfying, but too much of him caused a sugar crash that left her dazed and reeling. He’d also ruined life as she had known it. Her career aspiration had been interior design, not Infernal bounty hunting.

“If only it was that simple,” Eve groused. “How can I go on vacation when I’m surrounded by work? Besides, they stink even when I’m ignoring them.”

“All I smell is you,” he purred, leaning over to nuzzle his nose against her cheek. “Yum.”

“It creeps me out that they’re everywhere. I went to McDonald’s yesterday and the person serving me at the window was a faery. I couldn’t even eat my Big Mac.”

“Betcha ate the fries.” Pulling down his shades, Alec looked at her with somber eyes. “There’s a difference between staying on your toes and paranoia.”

“I’m cautious, not a basket case. Until I find a way out of this mark business, I’m making the best of it.”

“I’m proud of you.”

Eve sighed. Having Alec for a mentor was such a bad idea, and not just because it was the equivalent of a Hollywood casting couch in most Marks’ eyes. Never mind that the true “casting couch” was the exchange of sexual favors in return for a position you wanted. No one ever wanted the Mark of Cain.

The Marks’ hierarchy started at the bottom with the newbies and topped off with Alec, the original and most badass Mark of them all. There was no way to surpass him. There was also no way to work with him. He was the quintessential loner, the very definition of the word. Yet here was Eve, a six-week newbie in the field, perched solidly at the top because he didn’t trust anyone else to watch her back. She was important to him.

The other Marks thought working with God’s primary enforcer had to be a vacation. While it was true that Infernals didn’t mess with Alec unless they had a death wish, it didn’t make things any easier. Demons now targeted her as a way to get to him. To make things worse, Alec had been marked so long that he’d forgotten what it was like to be new and confused. There were things he expected her to simply “know,” and he became frustrated when he realized she didn’t.

He squeezed her hand. “What happened to the girl who just wanted to forget about everything for a couple of hours?”

“That was before she was kidnapped and nearly blown to smithereens.” Eve stood. “I’ll be back. I need to use the little girls’ room.”

As she stood, Alec

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