Playing with Fire by Christine Pope
length: novella (approx 25K words)
Cover Art by StonyHill Productions
Samael calls the City of Angels home, but he’s far from angelic. His assignment: Bringing the souls of L.A.’s unquiet dead to the underworld. His duties don’t preclude more earthly entanglements, as long he keeps things purely physical.
When he meets Felicia McGovern, he soon realizes his attraction to her goes far beyond her admittedly enchanting flesh. Her unexpected discovery of his true nature separates the lovers, but when her life is in danger, Samael risks everything to keep her safe. He faces certain punishment…or possibly a redemption he never imagined could be his.
She’d just taken a sip of wine when the next victim slid into the seat opposite hers. As she looked up to see what she was being inflicted with next, she stopped, wine glass lowered a few inches from her mouth.
This new somebody was the polar opposite of the IT guy: tall, with a head of wavy overlong black hair. Black leather jacket, but not biker style -- it was sleek and seemed to mold itself to his broad shoulders, and he wore a dark collared shirt underneath. A small red stone glinted from his left ear. Normally Felicia wasn’t much for earrings on men, but somehow this one seemed to suit him, gave him an almost gypsy-ish air that went along with the inky hair and swarthy skin.
“F-Felicia McGovern,” she blurted.
He smiled. “I’m Sam.”
Such a prosaic name for an exotic specimen of a man. “Sam what?”
“Let’s just go with Sam for now.”
Fine. She knew the event organizers had everyone’s pertinent information, so if she wanted to let them know she was definitely interested in this Sam-whatever, she didn’t think they’d have too hard a time figuring out which Sam she meant. There weren’t many six-two black-haired Italian underwear models in this lot.
Not that he really looked like an underwear model. He wasn’t pretty enough. His features were on the rough side of handsome, and when he smiled, lines showed in the skin around his eyes. She liked his looks no less for that. In fact, she liked them better. The planes of his face made her fingers just itch to pick up a paintbrush.
She decided it was probably better not to dwell on what those shoulders and broad, capable hands did to other parts of her anatomy…
“You ever been to one of these before?” she asked.
“No.” He shot a quick glance around the crowded room, at the well-dressed men and women and the faint air of desperation that seemed to cling to each one of them. “I’m guessing you haven’t, either.”
“Am I that obvious?”
“Let’s say you don’t really fit in.” His own drink was a shot of tequila or vodka; he lifted it and consumed its contents with a neat, practiced flip that told her he’d done that sort of thing a time or two before. “But that’s all right. I don’t, either.”
That was for certain. He stood out like a Chinese crested rooster in a clutch of white hens. “So why did you come?”
Those dark eyes caught hers. He had amazing lashes, sooty and thick as his hair. “I was looking for something different.”
Her agent Lauren probably could have come up with a witty reply to that. Felicia forced herself to hold his gaze and said, “So have you found it?”
He didn’t blink. “I think so. Tell me, is your hair color natural?”
It wasn’t the first time she’d been asked that question, but for some reason she could feel the heat rise in her cheeks. Damn that whole redhead-skin thing anyway. “I suppose you want to know my age and weight, too.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just that it’s quite…unusual.”
So are you, she almost said, but she managed to keep the words from slipping out. No point in getting quite so personal just two minutes after meeting the guy. She shrugged and replied, “Irish on both sides of the family. Mom and Dad were both redheads. I just got it double barrels. So what about you?”
“Neither of my parents is a redhead.”
She lifted an eyebrow.
Another one of those white-toothed smiles. She noticed that his canines were slightly sharper than normal. “Actually, I’m part Irish, too. Black Irish, though.”
She wondered if he were teasing her. It was probably best to ignore the teeth; it would be just her luck to have the hottest guy in the room turn out to be a vampire or something. Keeping her tone dry, she said, “I would never have guessed.”
Of course the event’s host chose that moment to tap his spoon against the glass. It figured. The conversations with the guys she didn’t care about dragged on forever, and this one felt as if it was over before it even got started.
Sam didn’t seem inclined to move, however. He gazed at her thoughtfully, then said, “Why don’t you and I get out of here?”