“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”
My good friend, author Loren Rhoads, gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.
After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell.
Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.
Lorelei & Tuan on Melrose, an excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas
Lorelei led Tuan down to the less fashionable end of Melrose, away from the designer boutiques and overpriced restaurants. When she stopped, the shop’s windows were smeared with dust, less as a decorative motif than as a philosophical statement. A mangy taxidermy chimpanzee crouched on a threadbare purple silk cloth. Beneath one of its paws rested a human skull, spade marks still visible on the dirt-scuffed cranium. Secondhand paperback books on ritual magic and serial killers formed a circle around the monkey. Their covers were marked with masking tape that quoted very reasonable prices.
“What are we doing here?” Tuan asked.
“Picking up a gift for Floria.” Lorelei swung the door open. The room smelled musty, with an undertone of unpleasant incense. Lorelei wound through the jumble of glass cases filled with charms. Tuan tore his eyes away from Lorelei’s juicy ass, only to meet the gaze of the guy behind the counter. He looked like a wax figure with watery colorless eyes. Then he blinked.
“Hi, Daniel,” Lorelei cooed. “I need to go through my stuff.”
The old man shifted his gaze to her. He manipulated the ropy muscles of his face into a corpse’s grin. “I’ve missed you.”
“It’s been too long, hasn’t it?” She slipped into his arms, pressing herself against him, and pulled his head down to meet her kiss. When his tongue searched her mouth hungrily, Tuan turned away.
The old guy started to heave in Lorelei’s arms. Tuan twisted back to stare at them in shock. Lorelei was smiling against Daniel’s lips. With one painful lurch, he coughed up a key. Lorelei caught it between her teeth, then reached up to take it with her fingers. “Thank you, Daniel.”
In an old man’s emphysematic wheeze, he asked, “When will you come spend the night again?”
“Have you been missing me?”
He guided her free hand to the front of his trousers and let her find out for herself.
Tuan fought back a shudder, desperately looking for anything in the shop that wouldn’t freak him out on some level.
“I’ll work you into my schedule soon,” Lorelei promised. “Maybe I can swing you a whole weekend.”
“How long has that been?” He gave Tuan a death’s-head grin and waggled his enormous gray eyebrows. Then he came around the counter and used a key from the ring in his pocket to unlock a closet tucked into the corner of the magic shop. Tuan noticed that the book Daniel had laid down on the counter when they came in—the one he’d been reading—was called Killing for Company.
Lorelei ducked into the walk-in closet. Tuan followed her, more comfortable in her company than alone with the skeezy shop owner.
Lorelei knelt in front of an old-style steamer trunk. Standing on its end, it was more than waist high. She fit the key Daniel had coughed up into the trunk’s ornate lock plate and turned it three times. After the third twirl, the trunk unlocked with a thump. Lorelei pushed the two sides of the trunk apart. Each half was lined with heavy particleboard drawers.
As Lorelei opened the drawers and rummaged around in them, Tuan said quietly, “He doesn’t look good.”
“Who, Daniel? Always three steps ahead of death.” She shrugged but didn’t turn away from her chest of drawers. “He wanted to live forever. He didn’t ask for eternal youth.”
“One of yours?”
“One of the early ones.”
Lorelei pulled out a couple of dresses, some prescription vials, and a roll of bills.
Curiosity got the better of Tuan. “Is this everything you own?”
“I’ve got a couple of other trunks stashed here and there. Floria does, too.” She glanced over her shoulder for his reaction.
Tuan wasn’t sure if he was meant to feel jealous that Floria kept her past and possessions from him. To be honest, he was relieved not to have been drawn into it. He changed the subject back. “You are powerful enough to keep someone alive forever?”
“It’s a matter of separating the soul from the flesh,” Lorelei said offhandedly. “In the state I found Daniel in, it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.”
“Is his soul in Hell already?”
The succubus shook her head. “It’s hidden.”
“Does Daniel know where it is?”
She laughed. “He can’t get it, give it up, or die, without my permission.
Tuan felt as shocked as he was fascinated. “What if he’s in an accident or something?”
“He’d just better hope he’s not in an accident.”
“Why does he live in earthquake country, then?”
She looked at Tuan like he was stupid. “ ’Cause somebody’s got to watch my stuff, Tuan. Daniel watches my stuff and I keep an eye on his soul and he gets to live until he begs me to let him die. Not an elegant arrangement, but I was young when I set it up.”
“How old were you?” Tuan asked.
Lorelei stepped out of the closet to ask, “How old are you, Daniel?”
He shrugged. “I was born the 19th of February in the year 1832.”
“Had enough?” Lorelei teased.
She grinned as she went back to searching through the trunk. “Eternal devotion,” she marveled to Tuan. “Hard to believe he really meant it.”
Tuan felt his stomach spasm in disgust. Every time he started to think that Lorelei was the better sister, the more compassionate one, he discovered something horrifying like this.
One of the drawers clattered, full of brightly colored laminated cards. “What’s that?” Tuan asked, grateful for the distraction. He had to get it together.
Lorelei slid some of the cards out, turning them over in her fingers as she handed them to Tuan: The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Doors…all the dinosaurs of rock. Most of the laminates said, “All Access.” “Me and Floria worked the rock shows,” Lorelei explained. “Back in the day.”
She closed that drawer and opened the next. A stench oozed out like the damp, dense darkness of a swamp. Lorelei pushed that drawer firmly shut and opened the next without comment.
This drawer was filled with diamond rings. There were easily fifty or sixty of them, each representing a broken engagement. Lorelei dug through them as if they meant nothing to her. Tuan felt ill.
“There it is!” Lorelei pulled out a crumpled-up newspaper and handed it to Tuan. Afraid of what he might find, he gingerly unwrapped the package. Despite the closet’s dim lighting, crimson gems flashed inside the nest of paper.
The succubus hooked the necklace with her forefinger and held it up to make it shimmer. Five square rubies burned like the deepest hearts of Hell among a constellation of diamond chips.
“Where’s the newspaper from?”
Lorelei traced the name at the top of the paper with her left forefinger. “Pravda. The headline says, ‘The Socialist Fatherland is in danger.’”
“What’s that mean?”
“The Nazis had invaded Russia. 1941.” She smiled. “That was a good year. People were lining up to get into Hell.”
Tuan recoiled in horror. “A Nazi gave you this?”
“No, a communist did. Floria ought to love it. It is totally worth me gangbanging a handful of boys that she doesn’t give a fuck about.” Lorelei held the necklace out to Tuan. “Do you want to present it for me?”
“I’m gonna meet up with her tonight,” Tuan said, staring, unseeing, at the gems. He had to play this very carefully. Floria had stressed repeatedly that Lorelei could not suspect a thing. “Wanna come along?”
“Might as well,” the succubus decided. “Probably better if I apologize in person.”
“Yeah,” Tuan agreed. He thought his agreement sounded unconvincing. Lorelei didn’t seem to notice.
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