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Lead me not into temptation.Follow me instead! I know a shortcut!--T-shirtTwelve. Twelve of the deadliest beasts ever forged in the fires of hell have escaped onto our plane, and they want nothing more than to rip out Charley Davidson’s jugular and serve her body to Satan for dinner. So there’s that. But Charley has more on her plate than a mob of testy hellhounds. For one thing, her father has disappeared, and as she retraces his last steps she learns he was conducting an investigation of his own, one that has Charley questioning everything she’s ever known about him. Add to that an ex-BFF who is haunting her night and day, a rash of suicides that has authorities baffled, and a drop-dead sexy fiancé who has attracted the attentions of a local celebrity, and Charley is not having the best week of her life. But all of that barely scratches the surface of her problems. Recent developments have forced her to become a responsible adult. To conquer such a monumental task, she’s decided to start small. Really small. She gets a pet. But how can she save the world against the forces of evil when she can’t even keep a goldfish alive?A tad north of hell, a hop, skip, and a jump past the realm of eternity, is a little place called Earth, and Charley Davidson, grim reaper extraordinaire, is determined to do everything in her power to protect it. We’re doomed.
“Now, let’s see what you’re capable of.” He crossed his arms over his wide chest. His hair curled around his ears, the thick dark mass shimmering in the low light. “Just play along for a minute.”
“Okay, what do I do?”
He lowered his head and gazed at me from underneath his lashes. “Imagine I’m one of the Twelve,” he said, his voice soft, smooth.
“One of the Twelve. Got it.”
“Now drop me.”
“Like you did today.”
“No,” I said, alarmed. “What I did this morning was not okay. You couldn’t breathe.”
“It was brilliant.”
“It was reckless,” I argued.
“Dutch,” he said in warning.
“Fine.” I lowered my lids and morphed into a lean mean fighting machine. I’d imagined myself as a coffee machine for so long, it was difficult, but I managed it. I opened my eyes and bore my gaze into his. “You are the disease and I’m the viral inhibitor that blocks attachment to the host cell and prevents the release of cloned viral particles, attacking from both ends.”
He fought a smile, then asked, “Where’d you get that?”
“Theraflu commercial, mostly.”
“Dutch,” he said in warning again, “drop me or you’ll wish you had.”
I didn’t doubt his words, though I had no idea what he would do to make me wish I had. After drawing in a lungful of air, I concentrated, ordered myself to drop him.
He kept his gaze locked on mine. “Dutch,” he growled, giving me one more warning.
But I couldn’t figure out what to do to drop him. I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to put him through what I’d put him through that morning.
I blinked, and in that instant, he was on me. He grabbed me by the throat and lifted me as though to body-slam me on the bed. Without thought, I slowed time to his speed, then slowed it more, until I had the advantage. Until I had the strength to break free from his hold, to twist my legs around, to grab him by the throat, and to use time itself to help me force him over my shoulder, to flip him and slam his body onto the ground.
As I allowed time to grab its footing again, the sound deafening as it ricocheted into place, I said one simple word to make sure I kept the advantage for a few seconds more.
Reyes’s back arched as the pain hit him. He threw his head back in agony and growled between clenched teeth, his muscles tense as though seizing. I watched for a split second and wondered, as time settled around us, if I could cause pain, could I do the reverse? Could I cause pleasure?