The Demon's Song - By Kendra Leigh Castle

Chapter One

Once a fallen angel got kicked out of Hell, there weren’t a lot of places to go.

He’d found one...but that didn’t mean he had to be happy about it. Then again, not being happy was kind of what the Fallen did.

Phenex perched on a stool on a small raised platform, ignoring the many eyes on him as his fingers danced over the guitar strings, coaxing from them an intricate melody that echoed out over the crowd that had gathered. He rested the heel of one battered boot on the bottom rung of the stool, tapping the toe of the other in time to the music. He hadn’t bothered to dress up—shredded jeans, an old T-shirt. No one in the fancy crowd of self-important humans and sleek vamps gave a damn what about he looked like when he played, and he knew it. That was fine. He wasn’t the type to play dress-up.

Phenex felt the song spark and catch deep inside his chest. He might not have a soul...but when the music began to flow through him like lifeblood, he thought this must be what having such a thing felt like. This intense connection of his was one that could be heard, felt, in every single note that poured from him. It was why the vamps loved to have him play at their pretentious club, and why he always accepted despite the fact that they paid like shit and made him buy his own drinks.

When he played, he was the music. But then, no amount of time spent in Hell would ever erase the fact that he was the original Angel of Song.

Phenex leaned into the microphone positioned in front of him and began to sing. His clear tenor went husky as the words twined with the guitar.

His lips curved, eyes slipping shut. He loved to play flamenco, loved the passion in every word, every chord. He doubted many in his audience fully appreciated it, but it didn’t much matter. They just stood there, some swaying, some gaping, whether he was in the mood to play Springsteen or classical...and that was fine with him. This was the one time nobody bothered him.

And considering how much work the white wings had been throwing him and his fellow Fallen exiles lately, somebody was always bothering him. A year ago, he never would have imagined all of this—Lucifer deciding to put him on a hit list, and Leviathan, of all the shapeshifting monstrosities in Hell, cutting a deal with the angelic host and bringing him in on it, effectively saving his immortal skin. Seven of them had escaped, seven mercenaries now gainfully employed by a bunch of uneasy, overworked angels. Seven Fallen trying to find a place among angels and vampires, werewolves and witches, none of whom were all that thrilled to see them running loose.

This—the stage, the guitar—was Phenex’s place. It was all he knew.

Phenex let “La Malagueña Salerosa” cast its spell over the crowd, savoring every honeyed word in Spanish. The storm so often raging inside of him quieted, and all of the empty places filled with music. He was used to walking around pissed off to one degree or another. He was a fallen angel, after all. Being pissed off was kind of a way of life. But when he was playing, he could admit to himself that all the anger was tiring. There had to be more, even if he didn’t know what the more was.

Not like he’d be asking anybody. His Fallen brothers gave him a hard enough time about his future in a boy band. And he’d ruined enough good instruments busting them over people’s heads.

Phenex let his hand fall across the strings, the final chord seeming to hang in the air for a long moment before vanishing. He opened his eyes, watching the people in the crowd blink and look around as though they’d just been released from a spell. Then the clapping began. And the whistling. And the shouting for more.

As the music left him, his stomach sank. Same old story—he showed up, everyone wanted what he had. Like he was a thing. A shiny, dangerous toy, wind it up and watch it go. There’d never been any getting away from that, not Above or Below. Or anywhere in between. Usually he could shrug it off. Tonight, he wasn’t in the mood.

Hellfire. Phenex stood, slinging his guitar across his back. No way was he leaving it on the stage for some sticky-fingered patron to paw at.