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The Reaper’s Mate
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This job. Boring is too colorful a word for it. I’ve been escorting humans to the afterlife for millennia. I’m over it. But when you’re the son of the two greatest reapers of all time, reaping is in your blood. My latest appointment is with one Annabelle Lyric, a twenty-eight year old New Orleans party planner. Snoozefest. But there is one bonus to this assignment: it’s Halloween night. In New Orleans. And she’s attending a posh party whilst unaware of her impending demise. I’ve been tasked with taking Annabelle’s soul right after the masked ball. The good news? I’ll fit right in with all the costumed partygoers. The bad news? That hits me when I realize Annabelle is much more than my next victim, she’s my fated mate.
Author’s Note: This is a short novella of Halloween fun. It’s smoking hot, spooky safe, and has a HEA.
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I TAKE ONE LAST drag on my cigarette, enjoying the burn as the toxic fumes fill my lungs.
“Those things will kill you.” The valet points at the cancer stick between my fingers.
“You, maybe.” I smile and stub it out. In my palm.
“Whoa.” He stares as I flick the butt into the trash can behind the valet stand.
The cool air eddies around us, bringing the distinctive smell of the French Quarter wafting through the streets. Wet pavement, last week’s garbage, and all of it coated with the hint of something sweet.
I take the dozen steps to the door of the grand ballroom and drag my cloak closer around my face. The humans won’t notice that I’m not one of them, but there’s no point in taking chances. I haven’t been made since ancient Rome, not that it mattered. I still bagged the human and sent his soul off to its final destination.
“Invitation?” An evil clown stands at the door and checks the partygoers’ smart phones or paper invites. Ladies in costumes with short skirts, and men in dressy attire flood through the entryway. I get an eyeful of more than a few garter belts and thongs. It’s going to be a good night.
I ghost past the security and solidify in the mass of people removing cloaks and overcoats.
“May I take your, um … coat?” An assistant in black tie stands and tries to figure out if my robe is something he can hang along the racks at his back.
“It’s all costume, my man.” I shoot him a smile. “Nothing to check.”
He stares up at me, his face going pale as he catches a glimpse of my eyes. Those always freak the humans out. Such a light blue that they appear almost clear, with a swirling black pupil.
But it’s Halloween night and oddity is expected. The attendant will be able to chalk it up to colored contacts, and I’ll be able to let off some steam.
I start to turn away from him.
“Sir, the weapon?” He points to the scythe hanging across my back.
“It’s plastic. No worries.” I whip it around, twirling it expertly and more than necessary. My hands move faster than his eyes can track, and I end my flourish and hold the black hilt in my palms like an offering. The decidedly non-plastic blade shines in the light from the glittering chandeliers, and hushed whispers erupt all around me. “Still want to take it, friend?”
He backs up a step, his eyes bugging. At this point, the attendant doesn’t realize it—not consciously—but he knows. On some level deep down, the visceral basement of his mind, he can sense that I am Death. All the blood drains from his face, and his hands tremble. Mortal fear.
He takes another step back and shakes his head. “We’re good here. Go on in.”
“Thanks.” I re-holster my blade and wink at him.
I turn and try to blend in with the other partygoers. It isn’t easy when you’re seven feet tall, dressed in the blackest of robes, and carrying a magical scythe. But I do what I can, keeping my hood drawn around my face and never meeting anyone’s eye.
Music thumps through the room as a DJ in sunglasses programs his computer and pretends to be some sort of modern day Beethoven. Laughable, really. I’m the reaper who claimed Beethoven. He was far gloomier than expected. Every time I tried to crack a joke about the afterlife, he just stared at me and tapped his ear as if it were the worst thing he’d ever heard. Buzzkill.
The dimness of the room soothes me, and the crush of bodies serves as an adequate camouflage. I rock to the beat, my body catching the rhythm as I pretend to be a mortal for the night.
I start to get my groove on when a fizz of effervescent life crackles in the crowd, reminding me that I’ll never fit in. The mortals can’t sense the glittering aura, but the buzz of electricity alerts me to my target; it has to be her.
Humans approaching their end carry a bright, flickering light, something like an afterlife strobe. Instead of fading into darkness, they burn even brighter before going dark forever. This particular mortal is glowing like a roman candle, her aura sending out glittering sparks.
I scan the swaying crowd, keeping an eye on the glow from my mark. The partiers dance and laugh as the beat drops and the lights begin to pulse in rhythm. They’re silly, quite a few of them high, and all of them brimming with life. I let the beat carry me right along with them.
Unlike many of my reaper brethren, I love humans. They’re here and gone in the snap of my fingers, but at least they truly live. Unlike me. Sure, I get extravagant pay for my reaping duties, plenty of vacation days, and all the demon harlots I can dick, but it’s not the same as what the humans have. Intangibles, I suppose.