SOMETIMES, HOT MEN CAN BE REAL MONSTERS…
Tommaso Fierro is used to the finer things in life—nice suits, nice car, nice house. Okay, his past isn’t so nice, but that’s in the past. Or at least it was until he blacked out after meeting the woman of his dreams.
Annnd possibly capturing her.
Annnd possibly terrorizing her before she got away.
Annnd discovering that he’s turning into a horrible creature he loathes with all his heart.
Luckily, there’s a cure. Unluckily, it will require him to track this woman down and convince her to give him a second chance. But if he finds her, will she ever believe that he’s really not a monster?
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9:42 a.m., Los Angeles
Covered in bright red blood, Tommaso Fierro stumbled from his sleek black Mercedes and staggered across the litter-filled 7-Eleven parking lot, clutching the front of his sticky gray dress shirt.
“Sonofabitch,” he groaned. This can’t be happening. He’d gone through far too much, survived far too much, only to end up like this.
No. No. No. You are not turning evil again.
But then why had his turquoise eyes—the telltale sign of his godsgiven immortality—turned black? Why did his heart feel like it was being prodded with a red-hot poker?
And where the fuck did all this blood come from? It sure as hell wasn’t his.
He looked at his sticky red hands, suddenly seeing images of the dark-haired woman in his head. She was bound and gagged in his closet, screaming at him through a rope knotted between her lips.
Shit. Please don’t tell me I killed her. Because she was the one. Yes, the one. And no, he couldn’t explain why he had no clear memory of what happened, but he did remember the wave of intense desire he’d felt the moment he spotted her leaving the singles mixer last night—Wait. Was it last night? Everything was a blur after that, like watching a violent movie on a dark screen that sporadically flickered.
Godsdammit! Wouldn’t this just be his godsdamned luck? He finally meets the woman of his dreams—his true mate—only to turn evil for no other reason than the Universe had decided to be a huge bitch and mess with everyone.
More blurry images swarmed his mind: the woman screaming and then…images of him letting her go, only to start chasing her, like a cat playing with a mouse it wanted to torment before the kill.
That is very fucked up.
Tommaso suddenly felt like his skull was splitting open. Aaagh… He shoved his fingers into his sticky short hair, pressing the sides of his head. Then his lungs began closing up. I can’t…breathe. He fell to his knees on the hard asphalt. And godsdammit, he had just gotten his awesome pin-striped slacks back from the tailor. Three hundred bucks just for the hem.
A candy apple red Mustang tore into the parking lot, nearly colliding with a parked car before coming to a tire-screeching halt a few feet in front of him. The driver door popped open and out stepped a familiar face: Zac, God of Temptation.
The sound of Zac’s heavy biker boots thumped toward Tommaso as he tried to keep his vision from blacking out.
“Wow,” said Zac in his usual cocky tone while brushing back his mane of shaggy black hair with his usual affected gesture. “You weren’t joking. You really are turning into a Maaskab—not such a great look for you, by the way.”
Maaskab were an ancient sect of powerful, bloodthirsty Mayan priests who excelled in the dark arts. With their blood-caked dreads, soulless pits for eyes, and grime-covered bodies (they believed bathing robbed them of their powers), they looked like death warmed over, reheated in a microwave, and then deep fried in evil waffle batter. And though they were talented at many malevolent things, manipulating dark energy and enslaving others to do their bidding were their claims to fame, something Tommaso knew firsthand. For two loooong fucking years, he’d been pumped full of Maaskab poisons and used to spy on the gods’ army. It was a miracle he’d escaped, but an even bigger miracle the gods had chosen to help him versus ending his life after he’d been discovered.
Only now, he wasn’t so sure that he’d been cured (or what had happened over the last twenty-four hours or why he was in a 7-Eleven parking lot covered in blood with only a vague recollection of taking his newly found mate captive). In any case, Zac had been the first name that came to mind when he’d called for help.
Perhaps not such a wise choice. Zac wasn’t known for being the most compassionate of the gods. Okay. None of the gods were compassionate. Bat-shit crazy, the whole lot of them.
Tommaso looked up at Zac, seven feet of pure conceited asshole in leather pants. And topless?
“Why aren’t you wearing a shirt?” Tommaso grumbled. Proper attire was essential, even when one was in the process of transforming into a monster, as in his case. Didn’t see him ripping off his clothes and acting uncivilized.
“Casual Friday.” Zac shrugged and then bent to help Tommaso to his feet.
Tommaso’s gaze gravitated toward the hazy figure of a petite blonde standing beside the god, wearing only a pair of enormous flowery granny panties and matching brassiere. He recognized her to be Tula, the new assistant at Immortal Matchmakers, Inc., which was run by Zac and Zac’s insane redheaded mess of a sister, Cimil—the Goddess of the Underworld.
“What’s with Tula’s outfit?” Tommaso mumbled, wondering if he wasn’t dreaming.
“Casual Friday,” Zac answered for Tula. “Did I not just explain that?”
“Okay, you two,” said Tula, in a sugary tone, “let’s get out of here before the police show and suck up another day with all their questions. I’m still trying to get them not to press charges for the singles mixer.”
Tommaso hadn’t stayed for more than a minute at that party, but he could only imagine the long list of reasons the police had been called. Things tended to end up decimated or lit on fire when a group of immortals got in a room and started drinking. Belch, aka the God of Wine and Intoxication, for example, held the all-time record for destroying the most hotels. Five hundred and twenty. All burnt to the ground. All by accident.
Tommaso winced, the pain of whatever searing through his veins becoming almost unbearable. “Take me home.”
“Who said anything about home, compadre?” Zac said. “You’re not safe to roam freely with the masses.”
Zac looked at Miss Flower-Power Panties and instructed her to retrieve Tommaso’s keys from his pocket.
“But Zac,” Tula protested, “a man’s pocket is his private space. Next to his privates.”
She was standing in the middle of a public parking lot in broad daylight, wearing only her undergarments—albeit, very unsexy undergarments, but undergarments nonetheless—and she was concerned about improper behavior?
“My keys are in the ignition,” Tommaso groaned, the splitting pain in his head and heart only worsening. “And I’m sorry about all the blood in the car.” Sorrier than anyone could ever know. Please don’t let it be my mate’s. Please.
Zac bent his head and gave Tommaso a whiff. “Hate to break it to you, evil buddy, but if what’s in your car is the same stuff that’s on your shirt, that’s not blood. Cherry Slurpee is my guess.”
Really? Tommaso looked down at his sticky gray shirt. “I killed a woman and went to get a Slurpee? I am a monster.”
“Do you specifically remember killing someone?” Zac asked.
Sirens began wailing off in the distance.
“Time to go, big man. Let’s get you to a secure location. We’ll sort it all out later.” Zac turned toward Tula, who was already getting into Tommaso’s Mercedes. “I’ll meet you back at the office.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
“And, woman?” Zac said, his deep voice filled with agitation.
“Yes?” she answered.
“The next time I see you, you’d better be wearing proper office apparel. We hold to certain standards at Immortal Matchmakers, Inc. Even on casual Friday.”
“For the last time, I am not going to work naked, Zac!” She slammed the driver-side door shut and zoomed out of the parking lot.
“Humans,” Zac grumbled. “So damned uppity! You know what I mean?” Zac looked at Tommaso, fishing for validation.
Tommaso frowned up at the deity, whose face was becoming a mishmash of swirls. I’m losing my mind. “Sure. Yeah. Wearing clothes is so last year.”
“I know, right?” Zac grabbed Tommaso’s arm to steady him as he began falling sideways. “All right, let’s get you off to jail.”
“You’re taking me to jail?” Tommaso stumbled along toward the Mustang, without a hope or a prayer of getting free. Not in my condition.
“Well, I’m really taking you to Cimil’s basement until we can get you moved to our real prison. But where else would I take an evil, bloodthirsty Maaskab to rot for eternity?”
Rot? Eternity? Oh hell. Maybe Zac was right; that was where he needed to go. Because if Tommaso had harmed a hair on his mate’s head, he deserved to putrefy in a dark dungeon for all time.
But what if she’s not dead? He had seen an image of him untying her and of her running away. Gods be damned. I have to find out what I did… He needed to know she was all right. Okay, and his heart demanded to see her again and beg her forgiveness.
But who was she? He’d only seen her for a moment in passing as she left the mixer—that part was clear. As for how would he go looking for her when he could barely see straight? Not to mention you’re going off to immortal jail.
There was only one person he could turn to.
Gods help me…
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