May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.
Enya's job is to escort the dying on their final journey, to make sure their souls get to heaven before a demon can steal their bodies. For centuries she has done this without emotion, until the body in question belongs to Kane Sullivan. Not only does she desire his rock-hard body, she can't bear the thought of him dying. But she's not supposed to become emotionally involved in a death.
Kane's sudden run of near-fatal accidents always happen when Enya is present. She might be hot, but he's not willing to die to get to know her. Then he discovers she's fighting for his soul. That damned immortal temptress might be the death of him.
He is the one.
The raspy, windblown voice of Death snaked into her head, identifying the next assignment. Enya Morgan bit her lip, looking from the raven who spoke to her toward the man crossing through the yellow beam of light in the parking lot. It was a shame to see a man like that die. Even from a distance, she knew he would tower over her small stature, and he was broad enough to fill the doorway. His walk, his open chest and sure steps, proclaimed him a man who had life by the reins.
Slipping closer to the entrance of the Rusty Bucket pub, she cast his features to memory. The lights on the outside of the building revealed them. His ash brown hair slicked back off his face, showing a hairline just beginning to recede. Faint lines traced across his brow, and his goatee was trimmed close. Her universal knowledge gave his age as thirty-seven. He was so young to have run out of time.
Noise spilled out the door when he went inside. She waited a few moments for him to find a seat before she followed. The small room held the typical crowd, half a dozen or so gathered around the pool table, three sitting at stools along the bar, the rest laughing and slamming down their beer bottles on tables. The air stunk of booze and too many bodies, with undertones of stale cigarette smoke reeking off clothing. The jukebox blasted out a crossover country song, guitars and drums pounding a rock beat for the traditional lyrics encouraging the listeners to drink more and love less.
Enya smiled and nodded at familiar faces as she searched the room. She wiggled her finger at the waitress to signal her usual drink on her way to the back booth where Talon sat. "Hey."
"Hi." He slid the bowl of peanuts across the scarred wood table. His long black hair hung loose tonight, combining with his high cheekbones to make him look like the native warrior he'd once been. He needed a good woman, she thought, but hadn't shown interest in anyone in all the years they'd worked together. "You following a new mark?"
"Yeah. Him, at the bar. Kane Sullivan," she added, sharing information the raven had given her.
"I've seen him around. He's a good guy."
She sighed as their subject laughed at something the bartender said. "They usually are. The good always die young, right?"
"It's scheduled for some time this weekend." While fate could choose a time for a death, free choice had the power to adjust it by a day or two in either direction.
Talon nodded, took a handful of peanuts and began to peel one. He crunched quietly. Enya looked around the room again. In the next few months, how many of these people would need her services? Probably only one or two. Her territory was large, covering several counties around Willow Mills in southwestern Missouri. On a rare occasion, she drifted into Oklahoma or Kansas, wherever the council sent her.
A cold breeze washed the room. A tall, top-heavy blonde teetered in the door wearing tight jeans, an even tighter tank top, and stilettos. Enya couldn't tell if it was the woman's shoes or a heavy dose of alcohol making her wobble, but the effect had her breasts bouncing, to the apparent delight of the men she brushed as she approached the counter. Enya crossed her arms over her close-fitting t-shirt, suddenly self-conscious of her own lack in that department.
The blonde landed mostly on the stool beside Kane, who had to reach out to keep her from sliding off the other side. The woman laughed and tossed her big, curly hair. Then she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
"Who's she?" Enya asked.
"Her name's Monique. She's trouble. You'll want to keep her out of the picture, if you can. You'll never get close enough to earn his trust if she's around." Talon tossed a peanut in the air and caught it in his mouth.
"Are they a couple?"
"No. He's a loner."
The waitress set a bottle of pale ale in front of Enya. "Hey, girl, how are you tonight?"
"I'm good, thanks." She slid some bills across the table. "How's your boy?"
"Much better. His fever broke during the night. Now I have to hope I don't get it."
She nodded, ignoring Talon's glance her way. He knew better than to ask if she knew anything about the woman and her son. She had no more knowledge than he did about the future. They never knew someone's time was near until the council gave them an assignment.
Monique wobbled her way to the jukebox. Her ass gyrated while she studied the buttons. When the song changed, she wiggled to the nearest table and dragged a man out on the floor.
Enya shook her head, wishing she could pick and choose her assignments and escort that woman to the hereafter. Some people just seemed so unimportant in the grand scheme of things, while others, like the man at the bar, should have a major role.
"Now, that's not very charitable of you," Talon scolded with a grin, obviously reading her expression.
"I'm not in the charity business. And don't worry. I'm not going to argue about the fairness of who dies of old age." That would accomplish as much as beating her head on the table. Sitting up straighter, she ran her fingers through her hair and swiped under eyes to check for stray mascara. "I'll be back."
She wove her way through the tables, stopping to talk with friends when they called her name. Monique was still dirty dancing, so Enya sat on the empty stool beside Kane. She signaled the bartender and ordered some mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce. Winding a strand of hair around her finger as she leaned forward to rest her elbows on the bar, she stole a glance at the impressive man beside her.
His wink greeted her and she smiled, putting a hand to her stomach to smother the embers his eyes threatened to stir. This was business. Sexual attraction might be necessary to get as close to him as she needed in the next twenty-four hours or so, but enjoying it was a distraction. "Hey, I'm Enya."
"I'm Kane." His large hands cradled his beer bottle; his thumb spread a dribble of condensation over the label. Muscular forearms rested against the bar. A tattooed dragon-tail coiled around his wrist, the body of the beast hidden by the rolled sleeve of his pale chambray shirt.
Her eyes traveled up the thick arm to his neck, where she noted more tats. "I don't think I've seen you in here before. We must come in on different nights."
"Must be. I don't come in all that often."
She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by an eardrum-shattering squeal. Monique bounced up from behind Kane and grabbed his shoulders.
"Dance with me, baby!"
He leaned close and said something in Monique's ear, which made the woman pout. "Oh, please. You never dance with me."
Grabbing her arm, he steered her toward a barstool beside him. "I think you should call it a night," he said, barely loud enough to reach Enya's ears.
"It's still early, honey. I've got a lot more dances left in me." The woman giggled, sending her breasts quivering, much of the flesh threatening to spill over the top of her shirt. She stalked off toward the dance floor.
Eyes wide, somewhere between amazement and disbelief, Enya watched Monique wrap herself around another man. She turned back to Kane and raised an eyebrow. "Is she yours?"
"She belongs to anybody who's willing to buy her a drink." He looked at the dancers and spun back to his beer. "I'm not buying."