The Devil You Know

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE.

Following a drunken night together, the vampire Michael “Vegas” Tremayne takes off with no explanation, leaving Deziree Davanzati to wonder if they’d made a terrible mistake. Rather than obsess about it, Dez spends most of her time at Onyx, the rock club she owns and operates for the supernatural citizens of New York City. All are welcome-werewolves, witches, and anyone else willing to play nice while under her roof and pay their tab at the end of the night.

After two weeks of radio silence, Vegas returns with alarming news. For the first time in more than four centuries, there is reason to believe a pureblood demon is walking among them. They suspect someone from the the Council may be behind the creature’s return, but to what end?

With the Sentinel Stone missing, they’re down to the wire and don’t know who to trust. Will Dez and Vegas stop the demon in time? Or will Hell itself be unleashed upon the world?

The first full-length novel in the Hellfire series by internationally bestselling author Jena Gregoire.

 

 

 

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Michael

 

 

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Michael laid on his back, staring at the ceiling of Deziree’s darkened bedroom. The hot night air was thick and damp. The spinning slowed, the effects of the alcohol beginning to wear off. Finally, he thought. His patience was wearing thin. No matter how much water he consumed, the drunken state he had been in all night just didn't want to let go. Normally this wasn't a concern that would even register on his radar, but tonight was different. Tonight they had done something and crossed a line. Tonight he had slept with Deziree. His oldest friend. An action which irrevocably changed things between them. Forever. He just wasn't sure if it was a change for the better or worse.

Four centuries is a long time to know someone. It's also four hundred years of friendship that gets flushed down the drain if they're not on the same page. No sooner had that thought crossed his mind, he began to question himself.

Did you want this to happen?

Well, yes. He'd be lying if he said he'd never considered it before. Hell, they'd even come dangerously close to something happening a few times in the first hundred years they knew each other. Why not? She’s Dez. She’s beautiful with her long black hair, flawless skin, ice-blue eyes, and that body....

She was hard and lethal. Her form was toned and well-conditioned. Despite her average size, she could hold her own against just about anyone. However, the muscle didn't make her look masculine by any stretch of the imagination. She had generous curves in all the right places. In his eyes, she was the embodiment of the word sexy. Last night, he had found out just how perfect that word was.

He had been hired to get rid of a problem for one of his clients. The problem was an amateur extortionist who thought he could get away with trying to blackmail one of the wealthiest criminals in New York. When you have as much money and power as this particular client, blackmail doesn’t work. It’s usually just a fast pass to an early grave. Luckily for the man, Michael hadn’t received his usual call from this particular client. He didn't want the guy taken out, just scared off. He’d been trailing the guy on and off for about a week to get a sense of his habits. He was getting ready to go confront his mark when his cell phone rang.

"Hey, Vegas," she greeted as soon as the line picked up. She almost never waited for him to say hello anymore. Even without the aid of the caller ID, he would have known who was on the line simply by her voice. "I’m bored out of fucking my mind. What are you up to tonight?"

"I thought you had a job coming up," he replied. She’d been mentioning it for weeks. "Shouldn't you be out committing a Class A felony right about now?"

"I'm still waiting on a confirmation from the buyer. For a guy with too much money to ever have to worry about money, he sure likes to drag his feet when buying gifts for his wife. Or his mistress. I'm not sure which it is this time. Anyway, do you want to go do something? I can’t sit around here anymore, and I think I make Jack nervous when I hang around Onyx.”

He was about to tell her he couldn’t make it when he was hit with a stroke of genius. "Dez," he said with a smile, "put on something slutty. We're going out." After a quick shower, he put on a pair of his most comfortable dark blue jeans, a black button-down shirt, and his favorite pair of butter-colored Timberland boots. After slipping on his glittering platinum and diamond-encrusted watch, he grabbed his black leather jacket and headed for the door.

He knew there was no hiding his reaction when he had arrived at her place. She opened the door, and he found himself utterly speechless. She stood there in a black sequined halter top, form-fitting black patent leather pants, and a pair of sexy black stiletto heels. She topped the whole outfit with a leather bolero jacket that looked like something out of a Mad Max movie. Deziree was dressed to kill and she was stunning. He stood there staring like a fool, momentarily at a loss for words.

“Wow, Dez. You look sensational.”

Dez smiled and with a wink, she replied, “You don’t look so bad yourself.” Then she added with more seriousness, “Now, pick your jaw up off the floor and wipe the drool off your chin. We are going out, right?”

“Not exactly. I’ll explain in the car.” She glared at him with suspicion. “You’ll love it,” he promised. “Shall we?”

He held his hand out for her to walk ahead of him. He took in the sight of her and his priorities shifted. Suddenly, going to work was the last thing on his mind. They made their way down to his Aston Martin waiting for them by the curb. As they approached the car, he reached around her, purposely leaning in close while he reached for the handle. He held the door as she carefully slid into the passenger seat. He closed the door and hurried to the other side to climb into the driver’s seat. The crimson red Vantage boasted a V12 with far more power than any car its size needed. The engine roared to life with the pressure of the crystal key in the center console. He had a few cars stored in various high-priced private garages around the city, but this was one of his favorites. You couldn’t help but feel good when you were behind the wheel.

They had only driven a few minutes when Dez started demanding answers. “So? What does 'not exactly' mean?” He explained the job to her and how he wanted to approach it. When the plan was all laid out for her, Deziree smiled like the Cheshire Cat. She clasped her hands together and bounced in her seat. “Oh, this is going to be way more fun than just going out and getting drunk.” He couldn't help but laugh. He had expected the plan would go over well, but was not prepared for bouncing.

The nightclub was packed. The main parking lot was full, and there was a line out the door and halfway around the block. The place was trendy enough that they had valet service. They climbed out of the car and Michael slipped the valet a crisp hundred dollar bill. As he did so, he pulled the man closer and whispered in his ear, “One scratch and I'll snap your neck.” Michael backed off and smiled. “Savvy?” The young man nervously nodded his head. “Good. Now, keep my keys handy. I don't know how long we are going to be here.” Michael walked around to Deziree and presented the crook of his arm.

She smiled, looped her arm through, and said, “Game on.” They ascended the steps of the massive brick building.

The facade of the building gave a completely false impression of what lay concealed within its walls. Judging by the black-painted brick walls and scarce lighting, a stranger to the club would probably expect a dirty, unkempt grunge-rock club. They couldn’t be further off the mark. The interior was lavishly decorated to emulate an old bordello. The plush leather and velvet seats were accented by warm red and purple lighting. The whole place gave off a vibe of pure sensuality.

Had they been prepared for the sheer number of bodies in the room, Michael probably wouldn't have chosen the club as the location to approach the guy. He knew they’d be busy, but they had to be way over capacity. He suggested they grab a table, and they were able to get a perfect spot at the back, up on a slightly elevated level, only a few steps above the main floor. It was a perfect vantage point to scan the room for their target. He slid into the plush leather crescent-shaped booth and waved a waitress over. He ordered their usual drinks and surveyed the crowd. A sweep to the left. A sweep to the right. Then his eyes landed on Dez.

He hadn't realized when she'd slipped away. A quick glance at the other half of the booth told him she had shed her jacket and immediately took to the hunt. She moved through the crowd with a grace the humans could only wish to match. Without even trying, she commanded the attention of the patrons, male and female alike. She searched out her prey with the skill of a master predator. Had he not known what she was, he would have pegged her for a vampire from a distance.

Michael smiled to himself as he watched her dance her way through the crowd. Once upon a time, he’d seen her as so much more than a friend. Every time they’d come close to anything resembling romance or sexual tension, something was always off. The timing wasn’t right or whatever the excuse of the day happened to be. Sometimes it was her hang up, sometimes it was his. When they just couldn’t seem to get it right, they gave up on the idea of being together, no matter how easy it should have been. The thought brought him up short with a sense of longing — and mourning. Mourning for a life they could have shared. They had made the decision together to keep things friendly, but every once in a while, regret clawed at him. He thought he was making the right decision at the time, but more than once, he second guessed himself.

He continued to watch Dez. She stopped at one point to buy a shot off of a waitress attempting to snake her way past a crowd of, assumedly, drunk frat boys. The petite blonde seemed grateful for the reprieve from dodging flailing elbows.

Dez locked eyes with him and nodded her head towards the bar. Michael followed her line of sight and saw what had her attention. It was difficult to see the man's face from the way he was sitting at the bar. He took one brief look over his shoulder at the dance floor, and Michael had the confirmation he needed that she had found the right guy. In the car, he had given her as accurate of a description as he possibly could without actually showing her a picture, and she had picked him out of the crowd faster than Michael would have guessed possible. He nodded to her discreetly, and she smiled with an arched eyebrow and then turned her attention back to her mission.

Michael chuckled and took a sip of his drink. Poor fucker is never going to know what hit him.

He watched as Dez worked her magic. She had her target and nothing was going to stop her now. She worked her way slowly through the crowd toward the guy without making it obvious she was after him. That sexy little strut of hers grabbed the attention of their mark in no time, and she took the opportunity to make eye contact. Dez smiled at him coyly and eased toward him. Once she reached him, she came up behind his seat, bent in close, and whispered in his ear. Michael felt pangs of something he never expected. Jealousy.

As Dez pulled back from him, the guy looked awestruck. He nodded enthusiastically to whatever she said. Deziree was probably the last woman on Earth he would have expected to come on to him. Little did he know, he was in for a big surprise. Michael watched as she took the man by the hand and led him down a hallway tucked away in a shadowy corner of the busy room.

While Deziree was gone, Michael couldn't help but let his mind wander to what could have been. Triggered simply by her proximity to another man, a man Michael knew full well was about to wish he had never laid eyes on her. It had been years since he'd had those types of feelings for her and yet, there they were.

Before he could marinate in hypotheticals, Dez emerged from the hallway, alone and smiling. She weaved her way through the dance floor of gyrating bodies to their table. She picked up her drink and took nearly the entire glass in one gulp.

“So?” Michael looked at her expectantly.

“Not going to be a problem anymore,” Deziree assured him as she set her glass on the table and waved a waitress over. “As it turns out, Mr. Roberts would very much appreciate the ability to maintain his position on the mortal plane.” She took four shots from the waitress’s tray. They were the novelty kind in plastic test tubes, each one filled with a different brightly-colored mixture. She dropped a fifty dollar bill on the tray and the woman started to dig out change. “You’re all set,” Dez purred and winked at the buxom brunette.

Deziree enthusiastically downed the first shot, and then leaned forward and smiled at Michael. “Did you know,” she started as she held her hand up in front of him, “there are twenty-seven bones in a human hand?”

Michael looked at her hand in confusion.

“Not that I’m against higher learning, but why am I getting an anatomy lesson in a bar?”

“Well,” Deziree explained, “not to brag or anything, but I just broke fifty-four bones in that gentleman’s body. Oddly enough, by the time I was through with the second hand, Mr. Roberts no longer had any interest in pursuing his recent activities involving your client.” She drank down her second shot and smiled, obviously proud of herself. “Sadly, I do believe Mr. Happy is going to be quite neglected for some time. Serves the man right, all things considered. Thinking with that particular head is what landed him in that nasty little room with me in the first place. When I left, he was headed for the back exit. I imagine he’s going to need some help with that door handle.”

Michael shook his head and smiled. He should have known she would have something like that planned. He took his two shots and glanced around for the waitress. “This calls for a celebration.”

The rest of the evening had been spent drinking and dancing. The more alcohol they tossed back, the further their carefully-held restraints blurred. By the time they left the club, their usual harmless flirting had turned into shameless making out and hands that just would not keep to themselves. Rather than chance getting kicked out for public indecency, they decided it was time to leave. Vegas retrieved the keys to his car from the valet attendant, and then hailed one of the many idling taxis waiting outside for intoxicated patrons.

One tense and silence-riddled car ride later, they were back at Deziree’s apartment. The trip did little to cool them off. Michael could feel his extended fangs pushing against the inside of his bottom lip. He kept his mouth closed in an attempt to hide his steadily-growing arousal, but there wasn’t much he could do to hide his eyes. His normally rich golden irises cast a bright glow which was impossible to miss. He glanced at Dez and caught the smirk playing at the edge of her lips.

Deziree led the way into the building, up the stairs, and to the door. As she fumbled with the lock, Michael stepped back and leaned against the wall. He tipped his head, allowing his eyes to roam over every inch of her lithe body, taking in every arc and curve. He had spent the entire evening with those curves pressed up against him and now he wanted more. He imagined running his hands and mouth over her soft, naked skin and felt the sharp points of his teeth extend further.

When she finally won the battle against her keys, Dez turned around, grabbed him by the shirt, and tugged him into the apartment. As soon as the metal door closed behind them, Michael lost any semblance of control. A low growl escaped from deep in his chest as he spun, pinning her up against the cool steel, and he kissed her hard, one of his fangs scraping her bottom lip, just barely breaking the skin. The aroma of her blood drove him further out of his mind.

As their mouths met, passion exploded between the two of them; a passion of which, until now, he hadn't been aware. There had always been a latent attraction between them, but this was animal. Primal. Feral. Passion quickly gave way to urgency as they stripped each other’s clothes off. After unsuccessfully trying to remove his shirt in the conventional way, she gave up and yanked it open, ripping three buttons off in the process, sending them scattering across the floor.

“Dez,” Michael began, pulling back slightly. In the midst of his drunken haze, a thought crossed his mind. What if we're making a mistake?

“Shut up,” she quickly replied in a breathy voice.

She grabbed a fistful of each side of his open shirt and guided him back to her. She ran her hands up his bare tattooed chest and he closed his eyes, allowing himself to feel every sensation. She lightly ran her fingertips up his neck, along his jaw, and finally caressed his lips. He couldn't take anymore. He grasped the sides of her face and crushed his mouth to hers. They finally gave in to a need they had both been trying to ignore for far too long. They weren’t even able to make it to the bedroom the first time.

Michael glanced over at Deziree’s sleeping form as all the memories of the previous hours continued to dance through his mind. He had wanted this, wanted her, so intensely for years, and he’d worked very hard to bury those feelings and pretend they didn’t exist. Now he had to wonder if this meant he was actually within reach of the life he dreamt of so long ago. Is it safe to even think that way? He had no idea how Dez was going to feel about this when she finally woke up. She may write it off as a one-night slip caused by far too much alcohol. He knew he didn’t feel the same way, and he dreaded the conversation that would undoubtedly follow. He didn't want the spark of hope simmering in his core to be extinguished.

Michael’s thoughts were interrupted by his cell phone ringing in the other room. In the silent house, "Dirty Deeds" cut through the air and the AC/DC song serving as his ringtone seemed much louder than it really was. He eased off the bed, careful not to wake Dez with his movement. While in the throes of passion, he hadn’t been particularly focused on where his phone had been thrown. The ringing song came to an end just as he clicked on a small table lamp. It was quiet for about ten seconds when the ringing started again. Must be important. He followed the incessant noise and eventually found the phone under the edge of the couch.

“This is Michael,” he answered, voice still gravelly from sleep and too much Captain Morgan. He listened as the caller hurriedly explained why he was needed. “I will be on the first flight out.” The caller thanked him and disconnected.

Michael gathered his things and put on his clothes. He went back into the bedroom, contemplating whether or not to wake up Deziree and let her know he was leaving. Fear of the impending conversation made the decision for him and he resolved to call her later in the day, after he landed. He quietly made his exit from the bedroom, making his way to the front door and stepped out into the night to retrieve his Aston Martin from across town.

 

 

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