In a very new and different series from bestselling author Renee Bernard, the first book in a slightly dark comedy, DEVIL TO PAY.
“Filled with sparkling wit and devilish charm, DEVIL TO PAY is a delightful visit to the Shangri-La of Hell!” — Erin Quinn, The Three Fates of Ryan Love, NYT Bestselling Author
“Only Renee Bernard could make dating Satan sexy as sin! Funny, fresh, irreverent and utterly adorable!” – Dakota Cassidy, National Bestselling Author
Workplace comedy is always fun but when the company in question in H.E.LLc (Hades Enterprises LLc) and your job is being Lucifer, let’s just say, there are some unique challenges beyond Casual Fridays and who keeps taking your lunch out of the break room. Even if Hell really is just a place where evil is tracked and analyzed in endless cubicles—no brimstone and not a human soul in sight—there’s no room for error. This Lucifer (who is the seventh unlucky archangel to get the position behind the black onyx desk) is about to have his entire world rattled when a very sweet and likable mortal woman crosses his path.
After all, angels can’t lie. And when Jayne Hamilton wants to know what he does for a living, all bets are off. Because “dating” isn’t exactly in the cosmic scheme of the Eternity Gambit, but Love… Well, Love is never really off the table.
Now, if Lucifer can just figure out how to win the girl and get himself fired, he’ll be one very very happy angel.
EXCERPT from DEVIL TO PAY:
“You’re mental, right?”
“I think if we were having this conversation in a basement decorated with torn out newspaper articles, black-light posters and me drooling about how I have conversations with dogs and wear tinfoil underwear, you might have a case.” He deliberately glanced around the room, silently pointing out the lack of “mental” revealed by his beautifully appointed modern office and furnishings. If it weren’t for the black onyx desk, it would be easy to mistake it for an extraordinary executive’s digs. “I think we can rule out insanity—on both sides of this argument.”
“Right, since I’m not the one proclaiming to be the Prince of Darkness,” she said with a touch of sarcasm she couldn’t prevent. After all, even pretending to take him seriously made her consider that she might not be firing on all cylinders. Her hands were shaking, so she pressed them together as firmly as she could. Were crazy people like bees? Could they smell fear? “Is it possible you’re just a very wealthy man in need of medication?”
“Sure. Anything is possible,” he conceded, his open smile disarming her as he was obviously beginning to genuinely enjoy the debate. “Jayne, I could be an eccentric billionaire intent on impressing you by pretending to be Lucifer. Stranger things have happened.”
“Name one thing stranger than this.”
“Besides the fashion of the 80’s and people who resemble their dogs?”
She smiled. The man was just too charming for his own good. “Okay, stranger things have happened. It doesn’t mean you’re the Devil.”
“Okay? That’s it? No offer to demonstrate your powers or even just a few more clever arguments about how medication won’t help?”
“It’s a job, Jayne, not an illness. But a demonstration… That might work.”
“Might?” She crossed her arms. “What kind of lame demo are you imagining if I can potentially blow it off?”
Why am I egging this man on? What is wrong with me?
He laughed. “The human mind is a tricky thing, lady. No matter what the “wow factor”, I’ve seen people blame food poisoning or look for green screens before they’ll believe their own senses. It’s always a revelation how far you’ll go to ignore the truth after it’s bumped up against your nose.”
“I meant to say, “you” as in the general “you human beings”… I’m not going to thump you on the nose, if that was a concern.”
He was so calm and she suddenly had the sinking feeling that there was a small chance that she was wrong and that he wasn’t lying or playing a game. But I need you to be crazy, big guy, because the alternative is…unacceptable. I can’t be sitting here making cow eyes at a man who wears horns and a red suit on casual Fridays!
“I’ll skip the demo then,” she offered, hating the tremor in her voice that made her sound frightened and small. “But I will say this, for the Devil you’re being very forthright to admit it, aren’t you? I mean, wouldn’t lying be more in line with your character?”
He shook his head. “Ah, the myth about being the Prince of Lies!” He retrieved his glass and rolled the amber liquid around as he spoke. “Fiction and dogma have done a lot for the job’s reputation, but seriously, while the first Lucifer may have bent a few rules as directed, deception’s not our strong suit.”
“Deception isn’t whose strong suit?” She gripped the smooth cushion’s edge. Please don’t say aliens or superheroes because I swear—
“Angels. Anything a shade or two past a white lie, which even we need for our social survival on this planet, but anything heftier than that—it’s like retching up battery acid. I’ve never heard of any one of my peers even attempting a good whopper. It doesn’t exactly make sense, considering the omniscient powers of Upper Management. I mean, a lie is a pretty stupid invention, isn’t it, if you report directly to the top? I’m guessing Upper Management doesn’t have to wait for a performance evaluation to call you on it.”
Angels. Why didn’t I think of that?
“So you just tell everyone you’re the Devil, right up front? Doesn’t that make soul collecting a little challenging?”
“No and Hell, no! Souls aren’t souvenir spoons and what in the world would I do with them!” He looked genuinely insulted. “I don’t tell anyone much of anything, since I don’t usually interact with too many people. So there’s no Faustian quest… Your soul is yours to protect and keep just as it should be, Jayne.”
“Of course it is! I just… If you’re not walking around with gold glowing contracts in your back pocket, what is your job, exactly?”
“Well, besides just existing and providing a focal point and scapegoat for those who need it, there’s a lot of paperwork and record keeping involved. It’s not as exciting as one might imagine. It’s more like cosmic data entry.”
“You don’t…create evil and destroy people?”
He ran a hand through his unruly curls and sighed. “Evil may have required a nudge in the early days, but that hasn’t been the case for more centuries than you want to count. Human beings are capable of inventing their own atrocities and coming up with their own methods of destruction.” His grief was palpable. “I’m just the unlucky guy who gets a front row seat.”
Angels. Demons. Devils. Every word had felt a tad cartoonish before this moment. But here you are, and I’m looking at you and if ever a man looked like an angel with those burnished gold curls and those tawny eyes—okay, guy, I’m not laughing anymore.
He reached out and took her hand, the movement swift enough to arrest her train of thought but not fast enough to be alarming. “Demo time, Jayne. Then I promise I’ll answer any question you have.”
The shift was instantaneous and didn’t come along with a single movie sound effect to undercut its impact. One moment she’d been sitting in a leather upholstered chair across from Luke and the next, Jayne was standing with him on the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking a vast ocean lit with the orange glow of a setting sun. There was a tropical warm breeze pushing her hair back from her face and somewhere far below the surf pounded in a rhythm that synchronized with her heartbeat. His hand holding hers was the only constant, and it was all she could do not to start screaming or babbling in sheer terror.
Omigod! Holy freakin’ mother of all hallucinations! What the–?!
His voice was calm, holding her in check. “I told you a demonstration isn’t always the way to go. But to be honest, I need you, Jayne.”
“Y-you need me?” His words were so unexpected that Jayne’s shock at locale gave way to focus only on him and the flow of a conversation more surreal than anything else.
“I need you to believe me. I need you to trust me. And—“ he paused suddenly.
“And?” she prompted him breathlessly, her grip on his fingers tightening.
“I need you to love me.”
What in the world is a retired Navy chaplain’s daughter doing writing scorching hot historical romances and paranormal graphic novels? Renee Bernard is applying a great education from traveling all over the world to story telling and doing her best to keep her father proud. Truthfully, her father is her number one fan, even though he has sworn never to read a single word of her books (a vow he has kept to this day!) Nothing stops him from telling everyone he knows that his daughter is now a USA Today Bestselling author or from handing out bookmarks on the golf course. Love can make even a minister do strange things!
Renee Bernard is a freelance writer and host of “The Romance Bookmark” on Readers Entertainment, as well as a contributor to Romantic Times BookReviews magazine. Renee currently lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. (Note an interesting proximity to great wineries!) For more information, please visit her website at www.reneebernardauthor.com.