Pure & Sinful (Pure Souls) - By Killian McRae

Chapter 1

A priest, a witch and a demigod walk into a bar.

No joke.

In fact, laughter’s chances of scoring an appearance were slim, though the probability of tears still stood at fifty-fifty. Riona Dade was as prepared as a box of uncooked spaghetti for something like this. Every corpuscle-ridden, wart-covered, occasionally-horned, Hell-born head in Dante’s Inferno swiveled in her direction as the door swung shut behind her, sealing out the daylight, city noises and any option to bail.

Oh, yeah, they knew who she was. There were more bared teeth and threatening glares thrown her way than if she’d been a biker walking into a ballet class. Which meant, there was a good chance they knew why she was here.

She inhaled deeply, hoping to cleanse her thoughts and focus her mind. Their stink, acidic and yet sickly sweet, burned her nostrils. Demon stench could give Sudafed a run for its money any day of the week. She felt her stomach turn, and her body and mind almost followed. The frustration at having to go through with this ordeal turned to anger, her face burning almost as red as her hair. If not for the two men flanking her, she’d have been out that door quicker than a jack rabbit on speed. Riona knew, however, that Dee would use his megalodon-magnitude muscular mass to manhandle her back into place the moment he saw her lunge.

Only the warm, gentle squeeze of the demigod’s hand on her shoulder from behind gave her the courage and patience to remain, and shattered the feeling of ice that had crept over her skin from the demons’ compassionless auras.

Running wouldn’t have been a bad option, though. After all, the odds weren’t pretty. In her non-magical, it’s not your job to save the world from paranormal scum, you cannot wield the powers of the universe life, Riona earned a paycheck as a statistician. She knew numbers. The 8-to-1 ratio of demons to Pure Souls hardly encouraged her. While not a wet noodle, neither she, Dee, nor the priest that rounded out their demon-hunting trio, Father Marcello Angeletti, stood to compare with the collective destructive potential of this bunch of Marilyn Manson wannabees on steroids. Brawn would not win this fight; victory lay in the ability to flex magical muscle. That part didn’t concern her so much, though. She knew the spells, knew the hexes and counter-hexes. She never would have been sent on this mission if their appointed adviser from the Council of Seven, Archangel Ramiel, didn’t think she was ready.

Unless this little tete-a-fret was another of his practical jokes, that was. In which case, he was so off her Christmas card list.

A demon horde was no laughing matter. Riona was an equal-opportunity vanquisher of scum, and each of these minions’ numbers would be called soon enough. The VIP floating somewhere in the crowd was her target, however. Her gaze scanned the room and found his Mediterranean blue peepers fixed in her direction, joined farther down his face by an irksome grin, one corner of his devilish mouth curled.

“Didn’t know it was ladies’ night,” he grumbled.

Riona flexed her hand, cracking her knuckles like a string of firecrackers. “If there’s one thing I’ve never been accused of, it’s being a lady.”

Even without his bronzed-skinned and brawny-shouldered glamour, Riona recognized Jerry from twenty paces. He wore smugness like a well-tailored shirt, and, oh, how she wanted to rip that from him and toss it to the floor. This green-skinned, yellow-freckled, damned-soul-incarnate sipping a pint of Bavarian brew was the reason she was here, after all, and the sooner she toasted his ass and sent his soul “disembodied” back to Hell and into the unloving embrace of Papa Satan, the better.

Demonstrating that he had a bit of backbone left, Jerry didn’t make a run for it. He gave her one pulse-spiking wink, and turned back to the bar. A demon who drank lager with one raised pinky off the stein would have gotten his ass kicked if he’d been any other evil minion. Not Jerry. As one of Lucifer’s top agents earthside, she’d recently come to learn, Mr. Romani had been spreading evil since before the calendar flipped to A.D. The almost unheard of longevity and ability to outmaneuver demon slayers made him a bit of a legend in these circles. The reverence gave him airs. Jerry thought himself a demon of decorum and class. Riona had always said his eccentricities made him look like a friend of Dorothy in public.

But damn it all,