Old Demon and the Sea Witch (Welcome to Hell #9) - Eve Langlais Page 0,1

end for novels that never made it to market. For example, we had a whole shelf of stories by an author written while being kept prisoner by an avid fan. He died in captivity, and the reader hoarded the books written under extreme duress until Lucifer came to get her soul and she traded them for a spot in Heaven.

Rumor had it she’d kidnapped an angel. The one who’d helped the Christians write their Bible. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that book.

The goblin I tracked hovered mid-shelf, clinging with its gouging claws to the scratchable wood. The bookcase should have been made of something more durable, but the devil liked the look of it.

So did I, but I liked to bust his balls and proffer suggestions that we replace it with industrial metal shelving. I just hoped he never realized I mind-screwed him, or we could end up with a very warehouse look rather than a cozy library.

The creature dared to pull out a volume and wag it. I gave him my sternest look. “I can be nice about this.” I eyed the spinning lasso. “Or not.”

The thrown tome said not. No remorse filled me as the noose soared and landed around the goblin. He flailed and squawked. I tightened the rope, yanked him towards me, and spun it rapidly until he was bobble-eyed, staring at me from a rope cocoon.

I held out my hand without looking. Someone wisely gave me another rope. I hunted down the rest of the goblins, bundling them one by one. Some of my acolytes managed to snare a few.

There was only one left. He sat in the baby section, surrounded by books about raising them, corrupting them, the things to expect, the crazy mommy stories never published because infanticide was frowned upon.

The beast eyed me with black orbs that didn’t blink. He softened his expression, made his mouth tremble. He appeared innocent and childlike. I could feel my acolytes around me weakening.

They’d learn.

I said nothing as a student reached for the goblin saying, “You’re so cute.”

It took a blinking second before the student noticed the teeth locked around his wrist. Another before he screamed.

I chose to use this as a teaching moment. “Don’t put your hand near sharp objects. Understood?”

Fervent nods.

Since I didn’t have a clear headshot, I went hands-on. I jammed my thumbs into the hinges of the goblin’s jaws. When it unlocked, I wrapped an arm around its neck and held it while two of my students jumped in to secure its limbs.

Only then did I let go and eye the sobbing student. “Next time, pay attention to the rules. Find a medic.” I turned away. We didn’t coddle stupidity in Hell.

“Jerod.” I waved a hand, and the boy stacked the last goblin into a neat cord with the others. Thirteen. The usual number for a goblin gang.

“What should we do with them?” Jerod nudged a stubby-nosed goblin on the bottom.

“Don’t ask me. I need to go home and pack. I hear the kindergarten for Gifted Demonic Children is looking for some new toys.”

The bugged-out eyes on the goblins amused my acolytes as they scurried off with the donation. A short-lived amusement that quickly turned weary. It never changed. My life a never-ending saga of goblin catching, text restoration, and acolyte training. The only reprieve from monotony that I ever got was the raising of my nephew when his parents died.

However, his time with me was coming to an end, hence the reason I was taking a vacation. In the morning, we’d be leaving on a goodbye cruise. The nephew I’d raised approached the end of his life in a human body. Soon, a curse upon his line—passed down through generations—would strike, making him into a permanent sea monster.

Which really sucked. I still remembered the day Ian had come into my care, arriving along with news of my much younger sister’s demise. A solemn-eyed toddler, he’d gazed at me, doing his best to still a trembling lower lip. My first impulse as a confirmed bachelor was to send him to the orphanage. What did I know about raising a child?

Yet there was something in his face… He reminded me of his mother, but even more, I saw me. A mini-me, the son I’d never had.

“Guess we’d better move some books around and make room for you,” I’d said.

At the time, my home, the home of a scholar, hosted thousands upon thousands of tomes. Books that over the years found