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Hell hath no fury like a rejected mate Years ago, my mate rejected me and stole my pack. Instead of licking my wounds, I set that mangy wolf on fire. The Supernatural Council executed me, and my soul went to the deepest punishment pits of Hell. That’s until the Demon King offers me an opportunity for freedom. My mate escaped Hell, and only one person knows him well enough to track him down: me. If I can find him and bring him back, they’ll move me out of the pit to a place where I can spend my afterlife in peace. Of course, I said yes, and with a fake body and an infusion of magic, I set off into the Living World. Tracking him is easy—our souls are connected, and we attract each other like magnets, but when our eyes lock, I hesitate to betray him. Griff is tall, dark, masterful, and each moment I spend with him reminds me of our bond. The air between us sizzles, and the tension burns hotter than Hellfire. Our souls resonate, and I can’t help but fall in love. But he doesn’t know I’m the mate who sent him to Hell… Heaven hath no rage like love turned to hatred Everybody hates me—Hades, Fenrir, and Griff. We’re caught in a magical tug of war between vengeful gods, and my mate thinks I’m to blame. His animosity blazes as hot as his passion, and I’m about to get scorched. If I don’t fix my mistakes we’ll both burn in Hell. Out of the Fifth Faction and into the Hellfire Just when I thought we had outsmarted Hades, he strikes back with a plan as devilish as it is dastardly. We have five days to break a curse or the Demon King will claim our souls.
There was a saying in Logris that Hell was the pinnacle of pain.
Whoever penned that phrase was full of bullshit. Sure, Hell was bad. It was loud and hot and ﬁlled with endless torment, and I wasn’t talking about the demons who supervised the Punishment Pits. The most torturous part of being in Hell was watching painful memories on an endless cycle of repeat.
I sat in my three-foot-wide cell within Tower Thirteen- Thirteen, one of the many mega-stalagmites that made up Pit 666. The rough stone wall raked across my back, even though I was no longer in possession of a body. There was just about enough standing room in my cell to straighten my spine and stretch my legs, but that would mean bending my neck at an uncomfortable angle.
When the imps weren’t taking us out for torture, this shit hole was a constant barrage of petty discomfort. Floors that grated against the skin like steel wool, a ceiling of sharp stalactites that crumbled dust in the eyes. The sticky kind that took an eternity to leave. The gritty specks that stuck to
the ﬁngers, so rubbing the eyes made the situation a thousand times worse.
But none of that compared to the worst part of Hell.
I stared out through the entrance-hole. Out into the ghetto of tall structures that stretched up into an endless void of black. Whoever had designed this place made it so one could just about see the other condemned souls staring out, trying to distract themselves from the torment.
It wouldn’t be Hell if they allowed us the comfort of seeing them. They taunted us with the knowledge that they were there, but we were condemned to endure our eternal punishments alone… always alone.
One of the rock spikes on the wall dug into my spine. That was another annoying thing about this cell. It never remained the same shape. That’s because it had an intelligence of its own and pushed me toward the conﬁned space’s only smooth surface:
The memory wall.
The memory wall played out the exact reason a person was condemned to the Punishment Pits. From the bittersweet beginning to the excruciating end. Another sharp stone lodged in my right ass cheek, making me shift to the left. Then rock dust streamed down in a convenient draft that forced me to turn my head in the same direction.
I clenched my teeth. The only way to get some physical comfort was by facing my mistakes. Maybe they wanted me to admit that I was wrong, to repent, to cry, to wail for forgiveness, but I’d be buggered if I excused the actions of that mangy wolf.
The ﬂoor shifted, and a tiny stalagmite rose from beneath me and pushed against my asshole.
“Shit.” I shifted in my cell, faced the wall, and watched my most painful sequence of memories.
Franklin Gri ths, the most beautiful wolf-shifter who ever lived.
He was more handsome than Burt Reynolds, cooler than the Fonz, and danced better than John Travolta. He was my mate. Yet he had deceived me and broken my heart.
The screen played the day we’d met.
Griff’s long, black hair swept backward as though caressed by the wind. Streams of sunlight hit its ends, turning them a vibrant mahogany. On other men, the style might look like the less glamorous one in Charlie’s Angels, but on Griff, the style was a perfect frame for his masculine beauty. Perhaps it was the sideburns that ended at his high cheekbones that made him look so manly. They drew the gaze to a pair of kissable, plump lips. The bastard even had a sexy chin dimple.
My breath quickened, and my gaze ﬂicked up to his eyes. They were liquid gold encased in amber. At the time, I wondered if his wolf would look the same.
I had no idea how many years had passed since my arrest, but I’d spent several months in jail before my execution in 1978. Yet watching this memory on the wall made every butterﬂy in my stomach take ﬂight with a rush of infatuation.
It was impossible to describe the man’s animal magnetism in words or even scents. He was the sort of wolf a bitch would be wise to avoid… if she had any sense. The sort to admire from afar, only to dwell upon when under the covers with a dildo.
I placed a hand on my heart and whimpered.
On the wall, Griff walked to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive,” catching the attention of everyone. Women wanted him, kids thought he was the disco equivalent of Superman, and men wanted to wring his neck because no female with a pulse could resist his allure.
At the time, I was nineteen—two years from becoming eligible to take over the pack. Dad had been our alpha, but he had died, leaving Mum and my little sister devastated and me as his heir. There hadn’t been any time for grief. Our beta, Gerrison, had spent every day training me on how to become the strong alpha to lead our pack into the 1980s.
In the memory, Griff swaggered up to me and grinned, revealing a mouthful of perfect white teeth.
Most wolves wore jeans and leather jackets, but not Griff. He was always impeccably dressed. On that day, he wore a black, three-piece suit with a sky-blue polyester shirt that was unbuttoned to the waistcoat, giving more than a tantalizing glimpse of the luxuriant hair of his prominent pecs. He wore a gold chain with a runic medallion that indicated he worshipped Fenrir, the Norse god of wolves.
At that moment, the world tilted on its axis, and so did the cell. Even though I knew it was a memory replayed to maximize my misery. Even though I knew exactly how things would end, it still didn’t stop me from parting my lips to release a moan.
“Cathwulf Aibek?” said a small voice.
My heart somersaulted to the back of my throat, and every molecule of my transparent body tightened with terror. There was only one reason a demon visited our cells, and that was to take us out for exercise. And by exercise, I meant torture.
I squeezed my eyes shut, scratching their surfaces with lids encrusted with grit. “But I already had my punishment.” I tried not to let my voice shake, but the effort was futile. “Check your clipboard.”
The punishments were another shitty part about Hell. If they were consistent, like a whipping every Friday, a girl might get used to it. Tune out the pain or do something else to become immune. But it was never the same with those red-skinned fuckers.
Sometimes, they would pull out the ﬁngernails. Other times, it was a cat-o-nine-tails. No, not the whip. An actual, honest-to-Hades feline with a grin that stretched beyond its demonic face and ten bony appendages with spikes that shredded the spirit. When I commented on the false advertising, the demons only said the tenth tail was a bonus.
“Cathwulf Aibek.” The voice sliced against my back, making me ﬂinch.
“Yes?” I whispered. “Someone wants you.”
I turned around, ﬁnally meeting crimson eyes that burned with the ﬂames of wrath.
He was the size of a large bat but shaped like a man. Bull- shaped horns curled from his temple, ending in sharp points. When he smiled, his serrated teeth contrasted with skin the color of freshly spilled blood. A pair of leathery wings
ﬂapped behind his back, narrowly missing his twisting, serpentine tail.
As a pit imp, he could make himself small enough to ﬁt the tiniest of cells. The ﬁrst time his kind had tried to take me out for punishment, I had swatted him away, only for him to grow seven feet on the outside.
I’d love to say it was the last time I’d tried to ﬁght back, but it wasn’t. Anyway, after several punishments, I’d learned that even ﬁghting back with words could get a girl grilled over the Lake of Lava. Nope, it was best to be polite and keep the shit-talk to oneself.
“What have I done wrong?” I asked.
His lips spread into a broad grin. “This will be a ﬁrst for you, eh, Aibek? Being wanted.”
My throat thickened, and I tried not to think about Griff’s betrayal. “Is this verbal torture a new initiative? Because it really stings.”
The imp ﬂapped his wings. “The boss has a proposal for you.”
“My answer is no.”
Demons always wanted some poor bastard to test out a poison or an invention or a new form of torture. It was the only way apart from exercise sessions that we were permitted to leave our cells. After the time some crackpot alchemist had given me an elixir that turned my skin inside out, I’d learned that the stalagmites were the safest place for a sinner.
He rubbed his chin. “That’s a pity, because refusing means double punishments and double the discomfort of your cell.”
My eyes narrowed. “What’s the point of asking me if you’re making it impossible for me to refuse?”
“Hell is all about free will,” he said with a cold chuckle. “After all, aren’t you here because of your choices?”
“Fine,” I growled. “Take me to your leader.”
The imp tucked his clipboard beneath one arm and stretched out a clawed hand.
I ground my teeth. It went against my every instinct to let this accursed creature take me to goodness-knows-what kind of boss. Some of the demons in Hell were as tall as hills and chewed souls like mine for sport. That had been my second punishment, by the way. After traveling through the bastard’s digestive system, the imps had shoved my shredded carcass back into my cell. It had taken me ages to heal, and the moment I did, it was time for my third punishment.
“Each minute we waste is a minute that we’ll add to your future torture sessions.” He wiggled his sharp ﬁngers in a silent gesture for me to hurry.
“All right,” I snarled and offered him my ﬁnger.
“About bloody time.” The imp gave his wings a sharp ﬂap, shifting the air so a stream of dust blew into my eyes.
Bastard knew exactly what he was doing. I squeezed my eyes shut, but it was too late. Enough grit landed on their tender surface to keep them streaming for at least a week. Not that I could track time in this demonic dimension.
I blinked away the tears as he pulled me from my cell. It was hundreds of feet over a large courtyard consisting of a lake ﬁlled with lava. Hanging over the heated monstrosity was a rickety suspension bridge that looked like it might crumble with the weight of a feather.
My nostrils ﬁlled with the acrid scent of brimstone, which went down my throat and coated my sinuses in a poisonous ash. I tightened my stomach muscles and shuddered as we ﬂew over the body of molten ﬁre and hoped to Hades that the demon didn’t release me.
I wasn’t exaggerating, but if I had a stone for every imp who dropped a spirit they ferried out of the pit, I would be able to build a tower to reach heaven.
“Ah,” he said as he expanded to his full seven-foot-tall, muscular grandeur and cradled me to his broad chest. “That’s better.”
Shivers skittered down my spine as his mighty wings slashed through the air like whips. I didn’t know where to put my hands because I’d be damned if I touched a creature that thrived on torture and sex. I let my arms go limp and tried not to look at his muscles or inhale his brimstone scent. This part of Hell was dark, largely because the stalagmites were so tall that they blocked out all the light. Not that we ever got the sun or anything other than ﬂames. The only source of illumination came from the lake beneath us and the souls glowing from their cubby holes within the huge rock structures.
The Punishment Pits were a conglomeration of high-rises arranged around an open space. Except these towers were jagged and made of stone, with surfaces that resembled the nests of cliff swallows.
We ﬂew a gut-wrenching path between the massive structures, ﬁlled with the endless screams and moans of the condemned. I sucked in a deep breath, trying to remain calm. “Excuse me,” I rasped. “Where are we going?”
The arm holding me around my back loosened, making my stomach lurch. “Are you going to barrage me with questions, or should I let you drop?”
A moan made its way from the pit of my gut to the back of my throat, but I swallowed it down. “What about your boss?”
“Huh?” The imp turned his head to me and scowled. “He ordered you to bring me, right?”
“Well, if you let me fall into the lake, I’ll sink down into the lava and have to wait for the demonic piranhas or whatever’s down there to ﬁnish eviscerating my soul.”
He snickered because everyone who worked the punishment pit was a sadist.
Annoyance prickled across my transparent skin. “What would this boss of yours say if you failed to deliver me to his feet?”
That wiped the smile off his crimson face, and he tightened his lips.
I held back the urge to smirk. Petty victories were all well and good, but demons had memories even longer than their tails. One day, he would repay me for catching him out in a bluff.
You know what? Fuck it. It felt good for once in this awful afterlife to have the upper hand.
The rest of our journey through Hell passed in silence. We glided over the conﬁguration of rocks that bordered the exercise arena. Each one was shaped like a person who either
crouched or lay or stood in with their body twisted with agony, encased in metallic rock.
No force in Heaven, Hell, or the Living World would convince me that they weren’t once giants. Between the huge statues were smaller platforms where the demons laid out the Pits’ inmates and delivered hours of torment. Poles, crosses, and X-shaped stands stood around them, as did an object that resembled a spit.
My asshole clenched at the memory of that torture device.
These demons were bloody sick.
“If you must know, we’re headed toward the palace,” the imp said with a sniff as we left the torture arena.
If this was an attempt to make me beg for details so he could say something snippy, I would hold my tongue.
We traveled over a chasm of black stone. Heat radiated from the surface, which formed cracks that revealed orange streaks of lava.
“Ain’t you curious?” he asked with a deep rumble.
“Of course, I am,” I blurted before I could stop myself.
The imp grinned, making those serrated teeth of his look like tiny guillotines.
Once again, I cursed myself for being so impulsive. Gerrison had always told me that my recklessness would get me and the pack into trouble. Did I listen to the warnings of our wise beta?
I shook off that thought. Regrets were for the weak. Once I made a decision, I stuck to it and damned the consequences.
Thick clouds covered the sky or however one could describe whatever was above us. Hell wasn’t quite the
underground cavern they showed on human TV. It was another dimension, but one that didn’t get the sun. Fire licked beneath the clouds, making the whole place look like someone had set the air alight.
“Go on, then,” said the imp. “What?” I replied, my heart sinking.
Conversations with these creatures could be aggravating because they existed to create torment: physical, mental or social… that’s if they weren’t demanding blowjobs.
This exchange was a typical example of impishness. He knew I had to be shitting myself with terror at the thought of being taken away to some mysterious demon. To pass the time, he wanted me to beg and whine for crumbs. Because I wasn’t acting how he wanted, he was prodding at my sense of curiosity and dread.
“Ask me about what the boss wants from you,” he said. “When you said the boss, I thought you meant the pit
supervisor,” I drawled, trying to make my voice sound breezy. “Thanks for letting me know I’m wanted by one of the higher-ups.”
On the inside, I smirked.
The air thickened, and the orange atmosphere darkened into a thunderous hue. We ﬂew over a different part of hell which was covered in sand, with the occasional ﬁre lighting our way. Gigantic bones littered the ground, and a ribcage lay half-buried the way the Statue of Liberty did in Planet of the Apes.
As we traveled over the huge structure, I tried to convince myself it was the skeleton of a whale. But deep down, in the
pit of my soul, I knew. I knew that it had once been a supernatural creature, and that no creature swimming in the sea would earn itself a place in Hell.
“You’re no fun,” said the imp.
“Sorry for not giving you job satisfaction,” I said. “Maybe you’d feel a bit better if you spared a thought for us poor bastards who are here to suffer.”
He snorted. “Nobody is in the pit who didn’t deserve it.” “You could be right.” I kept my voice light because what I
had done went against everything Gerrison and Dad had taught me about being a good alpha.
A good alpha dispensed punishments that ﬁtted the severity of the crimes. Intellectually, I knew what I had done had been wrong. That’s why Logris had laws and packs had unwritten codes. But Griff had wronged me ﬁrst. Imaginary claws sliced through my heart, making it bleed.
My eyes welled with tears that washed away the sulfur and the dust and the grit. Things would have ended differently for me if the laws were made by women.
I pushed down my self-pity and crushed it into a ball. I did what I did, and I had no regrets.
The imp said something else, but by now, we’d ﬂown out of the dark zone into an open space where the air was lighter, brighter, and resembled a hazy sunset but without the ball of hot plasma.
The mist parted to reveal a huge structure that was both shaped like a demon but also resembled a haunted castle. Twin towers stood from its pinnacle like horns, with a pair of gigantic furnaces in its middle burning like eyes.
“Is that the palace?” I asked, interrupting whatever he was saying.
“In a few minutes, you’ll be kneeling before the King of the Fifth Faction,” he said, leaving a whole lot unspoken. “He’s not one to tolerate fools, so you’d best learn what he wants now.”
“Right.” I exhaled a long, shuddering breath. Apart from sassing a few imps at the pit, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Had I?
The Fifth Faction was one of nine divisions within Hell and the only one that housed supernaturals. Its leader was Hades, the Greek god who had once ruled an underworld of the same name. We learned about him in history classes at the Academy of Logris, but he was also one of the monarchs in our supernatural city.
Logris was hidden within Richmond Park in London, and it housed angels, demons, vampires, faeries, witches, mages, and shifters. It was hard to believe that Dad had been both the alpha of our pack, the Shifter King, and a colleague of Hades. Even harder to believe that Hades was one of the judges who had sentenced me to death.
“What does he want, then?” I asked, my heart sinking.
The imp chuckled. “You know, I can tell you everything for a price.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and pinched the bridge of my nose. This was exactly what he wanted. For me to amuse him with a round of whining and groveling or to debase myself for information. He was about to be disappointed.
“Oh, please, mighty demon,” I said, my voice ﬂat. “Will you tell me what I need to know?”
My breath hitched. It couldn’t be that easy.
His rumbling laughter made my insides twist into terriﬁed knots. Possibilities ﬂickered through my mind. This was where he told me that Hell was full, and I had to live at the bottom of the lake. Or that they’d caught me avoiding the screen replaying my worst memories, and it was time to downgrade my accommodations to the Abyss. Whatever he said next would be heinous.
“I’ll tell you everything you need to know. But ﬁrst, you have to suck my cock.”
I rolled my eyes. How many times had I laid on the stone tables, watching others give the imps fellatio, only for them to resume their torture the moment they’d cum? The worst part was that they’d add on the time a condemned soul spent pleasuring them to the punishment session. Anyone with a lick of sense would just take their beating and get bundled back to their cell, battered, broken, but at least with their pride.
“I’ll take my chances with Hades,” I said. “Are you frigid?” he snarled.
“Only when it comes to demons.”
His roar made my eyes bulge, but he didn’t toss me on the ground like he might have done if this had been my time for punishment.
We approached the palace’s outer perimeter, which consisted of a hundred-foot-tall curtain wall surrounded by a lava-ﬁlled moat. The more practical part of my consciousness told me to cling onto his neck so he wouldn’t drop me out of revenge, but I curled my hands into ﬁsts.
There was no way this demon would transport me across Hell and then toss me away. Not when it would take days for me to recover from the injury. Not when his king wanted to speak to me right now.
As we ﬂew over the ﬁrst layer of defense, a forty-foot-tall rock troll with curled horns rose from the lava and swatted at us with a massive paw.
My soul seized with a whole-body shudder, and I clenched my teeth. If the building’s exterior was this inhospitable, then its interior would be ten times worse.
I glanced away from the palace in the direction of the Punishment Pits. Coming here had probably been a terrible mistake.
The palace’s interior wasn’t what I had imagined based on how it looked on the outside. For starters,
the hallway looked like a picture I’d once seen of Versailles. Sunlight—I have no idea where it came from—streamed in through twelve-foot-tall windows and hit a row of crystal chandeliers that took up the twenty-foot-wide space.
Opulence didn’t begin to describe the life-sized gold statues of people twisted in agonizing positions, their faces forever frozen with terror. Each of them held candelabras that provided unnecessary illumination.
“Wow,” said the imp. “I thought a bitch as ugly as you would gobble down my cock like it was the last salami on a smorgasbord.”
The insult stung as it usually did, but it was nothing compared to a lash made of barbed ﬂames. Nor was it as bad as what Griff had said the day he’d died. They’d called me everything when I had been alive: moose, beast, behemoth, monster. I’d heard it all.
When Mum told me I took after my Dad
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