Sympathy for the Devil by Christine Pope
sensual paranormal romance
length full-length novel (105000 words)
Cover Art by StonyHill Productions
You know what they say about deals with the Devil…
This time the deal the Devil makes is with God, who offers him a chance at redemption if he can experience human love. Easy enough, according to the Devil, who thinks that making the woman God has chosen fall in love with him will be a simple task. Unfortunately, Lucifer didn’t count on interfering demons, blundering boyfriends, and a young woman who has more questions than he’s willing to answer.
For a second, I just goggled at him. Then I remembered to shut my mouth. At first I wanted to demand how the hell he could possibly know my name, and then that thought got twisted up in bemusement at the fact that he still looked exactly the same. My tongue tripped over itself, and all that came out was a strangled, “Wha -- who -- ”
Again that smile. “Call me Luke.”
If someone asks you to “call them” something, then you can be pretty damn sure it’s not their real name. I clutched my Victoria’s Secret shopping bag against my chest like a shield and tried to gather whatever shreds of my dignity might be left. Not knowing what else to say, I asked, “I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?”
Perhaps? Who says “perhaps” these days? “I know I saw you,” I said firmly. “About seven years ago, on the campus at UCLA. Or maybe we should go a little further back...say, to my eighth-grade graduation?”
“You do pay attention, don’t you, Christa?” He glanced around us, at the people hurrying in and out of shops and restaurants. “Not a very private place for a conversation, is it?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why would we need to have a private conversation?”
“You’ll see.” He stuck his hands in his coat pockets, still smiling that enigmatic smile, and then suddenly we were someplace else.
The whole world seemed to tilt around me, and I let out a little shriek. Not very dignified, I know, but you try standing in the middle of a shopping center one second and then being -- well, I didn’t know exactly where I was, but it certainly wasn’t The Grove.
My first impression was of a panorama that glittered in the darkness, and then I realized I stood in the living room of a house that must have been built up against the Hollywood Hills or someplace like that. Los Angeles lay spread out beneath me, a moving carpet of light. After I caught my breath and looked around a little more, I realized the place looked oddly familiar.
What the hell? “Is this the Charlie’s Angels house?” I demanded.
“The what?” he asked.
“In the first Charlie’s Angels movie, the computer genius who turns out to be the bad guy had one of those houses up on stilts in the hills. This one looks just like it.”
He appeared nonplused. “Aren’t you even going to ask how we got here?”
Well, my brain had sort of skipped over that part, probably because if I’d stopped to think about it, my head would have exploded. But the rationalizing had already kicked in. Maybe he’d injected something in my arm when we bumped into each other, and he’d dragged me up here while I was in a drugged state. Or maybe I only thought I was here, while in reality I’d actually fallen down and was now lying on the ground, still at The Grove, with a concussion and possibly worse.
I shot him a wary look. “Are you going to tell me if I ask?”
He gave me the last answer I had expected. “Of course.”
That took me off-guard, so I had to digest his reply for a few seconds before saying, “Okay, then...how did we get here?”
Up until that moment I had thought he had dark eyes, since his hair and brows were such a deep brown, but as his eyes glinted at me I suddenly realized they were a very dark blue. A corner of his mouth lifted slightly. “It’s because I’m the Devil.”
Again, I could only stand there and stare at him, feeling as if somehow I had been made the butt of a colossal joke. Finally I managed, “The what?”
He moved across the living room, which was decorated with museum-quality ’60s-vintage modern furniture, and paused at the bar that separated the kitchen and dining room. “Cosmo?”
“Yes,” I said automatically. Right then the only thing in the universe I thought I had a firm grasp on was the fact that I needed a stiff drink.
As if by magic a cocktail shaker appeared on the bar before him; he busied himself with pouring a measure of Grey Goose vodka into it, followed by the necessary cranberry juice and Cointreau. He transferred the resulting concoction into a martini glass, then came back around the bar and handed the drink to me.
I looked at it with some suspicion, but need won out over caution. I took a sip, then another. It was good.
“So you’re the Devil,” I said, in what I hoped was an off-hand conversational tone. He didn’t look particularly crazy, but that didn’t mean much. The evening news was full of people saying, But he seemed like such a normal person....
“Yes,” he said.
“And so you’re visiting L.A.?” I asked, thinking, Just don’t make any sudden movements, and you’ll be fine.
“You don’t believe me.”
“I didn’t say that,” I said hastily. Nutcases hated having their psychoses thrown back at them.
“This isn’t evidence enough?” He gestured toward the oddly familiar room in which we stood.
I hesitated. While I wanted to point out that he could have drugged me and brought me here, or that he could be another element in some elaborate hallucination, I didn’t want to upset him, either. Just because I couldn’t see any sharp pointy objects in the vicinity didn’t mean he couldn’t get his hands on something if necessary.
Realizing I still held the Victoria’s Secret bag, I wadded it up and shoved it inside my purse. There were just so many blows to my dignity I could take in one evening, and every time his eyes went to the shopping bag I wondered if he were imagining what sorts of unmentionables I had hidden inside.
“All right,” I said at last. “If you’re really the Devil, why go for something so -- so -- ”
“So what?” he asked softly.
“So typical,” I replied. “I mean, wow, you’re the Devil, and now you’ve got the ultimate L.A. bachelor pad from the movies or whatever. Do you really think this sort of thing impresses women?”
Dead silence. I swallowed, and wondered where the front door was and whether I could get to it quickly enough before he decided my rudeness deserved a quick evisceration.
Then he threw back his head and laughed. It wasn’t crazy hysterical laughter -- he just sounded like someone who had heard a friend tell a particularly funny bar joke. “I begin to see what He meant,” he murmured.
“Nothing.” For the first time I noticed he held a martini of his own. I hadn’t seen him mix it, but maybe he’d had a second cocktail shaker hidden somewhere on the bar.
Or maybe he really is the Devil, I thought, and he just conjured it out of thin air...because he can.
“Let’s try this again, shall we?” he asked. Lifting his glass, he took a swallow of his own martini. Then he winked at me.