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Harem of Sin by Clara Hartley (1)

The angel beneath me claws for my attention, but doesn’t know that by my hand, she’s about to die. She’s blinded by my empty promises and unaware of how I am merely using her as a means to an end. She’s a pretty thing, and I’m one to ruin pretty things.

We are lying on a bed—not my own, because I would never allow a creature like her in my chambers—with its soft crimson-colored sheets. The air of Hell prickles against my skin. The scent of lust and hunger always lingers here.

The angel’s lips are wet and pink, and her eyes are flaring, betraying her need for me. She’s rubbing her thighs together, trying to find release, and her expression lights with so much passion that it’s obvious she wants me. She’s not supposed to, but days of playing her mind with Sylver’s magic, dangling the promise of sex in front of her, has driven her mad.

This one broke too easily.

“Xeresss,” she hisses.

I don’t like hearing my name slip off her tongue.

Her eyes track every one of my movements. I sit up and pull my shirt over my head. A gasp slips out of her mouth, and greed flickers over her face. She’s acting like a lesser demon, unable to control herself, and is giving in to whatever is in front of her.

Three days ago, this angel was a creature of light. She was splendid and regal, exactly like how they depict angels in paintings. With her sword, she cut down my fellow demons. She was merciless, branding justice as her excuse to be cruel. Angels are all like that, but they are no better than us. They’re simply able to hide behind their false beauty—white cloaks, impressive statures, and ethereal wings.

This angel no longer has wings.

I hate her. I hate all of her kind, and she is one of the worst. An entire expedition I sent to Earth was killed by her, all beheaded without her batting an eye. Angels took my brother away from me. The man I looked up to.

She runs her hands down my torso before trying to pull me closer to her, but I don’t let her. I do things on my own time, wanting full control.

I grip her wrists and fold them over her head. She yelps as I tear the fabric of her clothes and press my weight against her thighs.

“I want you,” she says. Her voice probably once thundered across the battlefield, but now it’s nothing but a pathetic whisper.

“Give me what I want, then,” I reply.

“What do you want to know?” She arches her back, offering her body to me. “I will give you anything you need.”

I don’t take her body’s invitation, but my ears are open to her information.

It’s interesting to see the angel struggle to have me take her. I am a creature of both pain and pleasure—I’ll seduce an angel, but I won’t sleep with one. Looking at her kind makes my skin crawl with anger and distaste.

I run the back of my hand down her side of her face. “Do they still have the orb?” Whoever controls the Orb of Jehovah can control passage between all three realms. The angels have had it for centuries. But I think a new cipher, a person who is tied to the orb, has awakened, so the orb should have respawned and slipped from the angels’ hands.

I can pass to Earth when the angels are blocking the passage with the orb, but it hurts like a bitch every time. Plus, lesser demons who try to will not be able to withstand the pain and get singed to death. I can’t transport armies if the angels can block me.

Her eyes shift, and I can tell she’s hesitant. I wrap my hand around her throat.

“Do they have it?” I say again, lowering my voice to a whisper.

Her breath hitches. “No,” she says, confirming my suspicions.

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then you’re not very useful to me, are you?”

Her expression stiffens at the possibility of me leaving. “I’ll do anything. But I can’t tell you this because nobody knows where the orb is. It can only be found by the cipher.”

“Have the angels solved the riddle of the cipher?” It’s a long-ass goose chase to get to the prize. Riddle to cipher, cipher to orb. But it makes sense, since the prize is so powerful.

She shakes her head, and that brings relief to me, but not much. She could be lying.

I sigh and peel my skin from hers. I have touched her for long enough and am relieved that I can part from her. Her scent lingers on my body, and I’m left feeling in need of a long, cold shower.

Unfortunately, there are no cold showers in Hell. Everything here is sweltering with heat and flames.

The bed creaks as I step from it.

“Wait,” she says, pushing herself into a seating position. “Where are you going?”

I don’t look back.

She continues to beg and grovel as I leave her wanting. It’s a miserable sound and does the job of turning me off. I don’t frolic with her kind, but she is a beautiful thing. All angels are, with their perfect complexions and svelte figures.

She’s served her purpose. There’s no need to keep the enemy alive. I swing my dagger at her. It digs straight into her skull and thuds against the bedframe. Her life withers away, and her limp figure lies still against the sheets. Her blood spills, seeping into the sheets, dripping down before blending with the crimson.

Vickal, both my sworn brother and right-hand man, is waiting for me in the corridor. My real brother, Zrako, adopted him a couple hundred years back. We share an odd relationship. Technically, if we follow the family tree, I’m his uncle, but demons don’t do “technical” very well.

I raise a brow in question.

Vickal’s dressed in his usual leather, all black, with his fringe brushed back. He has an edged jaw. Sharp, just like him.

“You should have given the poor thing what she needed,” he says, “before you split her skull in two.”

“You could have pleasured her instead.” He hates her kind as much as I do. We’re demons from Hell and have been at war with the angels for as long as I can remember.

That’s saying a lot, because I can remember way back.

Vickal snorts. “I’ll pass.” He folds his arms. “What did you get from her?”

I don’t like the way he looks at me. It’s because of his cold blue eyes, which have the most piercing gaze I have ever come across. Does he want my position as head of our clan? Or is he my loyal servant, as he claims? He’s very good at acting loyal. Maybe it’s just me who doesn’t trust easily. I know he’s equal to me in terms of power, and I’m wary of him testing that out. I’m not afraid of most things, but Vickal is the exception, because I love him and hate him at the same time, and if he ever challenges me, I fear what might happen to us.

I look back at the broken angel. Her eyes continue to stare at the ceiling.

“They don’t have it,” I say. “Better make sure they can’t get to it either.”

We stroll down the corridors of the demon palace. I want to find my she-demons after this to wash off the grime that angel left on my body. But finding the orb is a more pressing matter. Right now, we have free passage because the angels don’t have the orb to block us with anymore. But the angels are also able to wander around as they please. A realm war is going to start, with both sides fighting over the cipher and the orb.

We’re headed toward the portal to the human realm. To Earth.

Vickal frowns. “That’s what you used Sylver to find out? That’s not much. There was pain when I travelled the Earth, but none when I got back, so I could have told you as much.”

“At least we know the angels aren’t any closer to gaining it. She verified they didn’t have the cipher.”

“They’re not closer. We are. Because my men and I have found out who the cipher is. You’re welcome. Took me days of stalking to figure out his identity.”

Vickal’s looking smug. He’s efficient, but that’s why he’s my right-hand man. I don’t say anything to reinforce his smugness, even though on the inside, I’m impressed.

The cipher, an individual, always leads to the Orb of Jehovah. The oracles left a prophecy regarding it a hundred years ago, and everyone, angels and demons, has been waiting for that person to appear since then. The orb can only be found through visions by the cipher, and both of them are interconnected. Once the cipher’s demon or angel powers awaken, the orb will reset its location, and the visions will start.

From the looks of it, those powers have just awakened.

“You’ve found the cipher to the orb?” I ask. “That quickly?”

Vickal smirks. “It was trouble to track him, but my abilities never let you down.”

“So where is it? What does Dark Hollow mean?”

He shrugs. “It’s not as ambiguous as everyone thought. Both angels and demons are chasing their tails trying to figure out the convoluted message. It’s not an analogy. Dark Hollow is a place. The cipher was a male born in a storm, seventh of July, in a town named Dark Hollow.”

“I always thought it’d be something laced with more mystery.”

“You and me both.”

I pad forward, my boots clicking against the marble of the demon palace.

Vickal follows behind me. “The cipher isn’t alone. He has a sister. A fraternal twin. She’s a looker. Always has her tits out.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

Silence rings between Vickal and I. I spin around, facing him. “Why? Do you care for her? Sounds like you were busier staring at her tits than trying to find her brother.”

He rolls his eyes. “Nothing of the sort.”

We step out into the courtyard. The red sky of Hell greets us. There’s a mountain in the distance spewing out orange lava, but the lava does little to light the constant gloominess. I prefer how dark it is here because I’m a creature of the shadows. I’ve been to Heaven countless times, and its fluffy clouds and bright sunlight don’t appeal to me. The facade of Heaven makes my skin crawl because of how many lies it hides.

A lesser demon flies around us. It has bat-like wings and a smashed-in face. It’s no bigger than my fist. This one seems more stupid than their brethren, because most know not to mess with me. It swoops past Vickal’s feet, and Vickal stomps the life out of the creature without batting an eye. Those things are nuisances. Like cockroaches.

“So, we’re passing through the veil,” I say. I turn my nose up at the word, remembering the few times I had to go to Earth and travel through it. It felt like my skin was peeling off. “There’s no more pain, now?”

“Nothing I can’t handle.” Vickal cracks his knuckles. He’s is the only one of us who is accustomed to the pain—he’s been going back and forth between realms the last hundred years, and not once has he complained.

I shake my head. “Still would rather avoid it.”

“You’re beginning to sound like a wuss.”

I narrow my eyes at Vickal, and he senses my anger. He takes a step back and raises both hands. “I’m kidding. But no, it’s as easy as stepping through a door. Been centuries since we were last able to do that. It’s nice to not have a splitting headache each time I have to run errands.”

Vickal and I travel toward the portal on foot. It lies a fair distance from the demon palace—red, pulsing with power, a swirling mass of energy floating in the middle of a valley of mountains spilling hot lava.

Vickal steps up to the portal and reaches in; once he does, an invisible force bends around his hand. He forms a fist in the veil and pulls. The veil throbs, breaking open.

A reddish glow spews out and shoots toward the sky.

I smile.

It’s been forever since we had free passage. I can’t wait to spit in the faces of the great angels.

“The twins…” I say. “What are their names?”

Vickal steps through the portal, and half his body disappears through the glowing ball of red energy. “Valerie and Jared.”

The girl’s name sounds pretty—but I’m one to ruin pretty things.

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