Ebony Fight - Sneak Peek

Stone walked through the blood red streets that were Hell, ignoring the moans and cries and scents of sin flavoring the air around him. His gaze was as hard as his namesake. He could have been in any other bad part of a forgiving human city, but here there was not the slightest chance at redemption. Here the only light at the end of the tunnel were the fiery fires of Hell.
Trying to ignore the heavy pulse of music throbbing in his chest, he was pissed off. His left wing still needed time to heal, and for more than a week he was grounded. Stone looked at the neon signs advertising any type of club you can think of, but pulled his thoughts back to the meeting ahead. The job offer. His gaze darkened even more. Stone wasn’t very picky about the jobs he took, but the simple fact that he wouldn’t be able to turn this one down bugged him more than his lack of flight. You see, when a marquis of Hell asked for your services, you didn’t say no to him if you preferred your intestines to stay where they belonged – inside and not in a heap at your feet.
Stone turned left into the bustle that was Shop Street. Catering for all tastes – in exchange for the right amount of souls, of course – it never slept. Stone ignored the stores and walked towards the dark building he had been summoned to. A fancy black glass and concrete tower that reached up towards the bloody sky, it certainly didn’t look like anything a marquis would live in. But this was Hell and not the middle ages.
Geryons, giant centaurs, guarded the entrance. Grotesque and hairy, their hooves were sharp as razors and teeth poisonous. He strolled past them and headed towards the double glass doors, watching out of the corner of his eyes for any sudden movements.
Once inside, he walked towards the succubus sitting behind the front desk.
“May I help you?” she asked, her voice and smile laced with a sweet promise of sex.
She looked cute, and any other time he might have returned her smile, but today was not it. “I have an appointment with the Marquis.”
“Your name?”
The succubus turned towards her computer screen and then looked back at him. “Please take the second elevator on the left. Top floor.”
He nodded his thanks. The doors opened with a ding as if they’d waited for him, revealing a plush blue and gold interior which must have cost more than the apartment he called home. Stone couldn’t wait to have this done and over with. The doors dinged once more, spitting him out on the top floor.
He took in the hallway which led towards black wooden doors carved with intricate swirls that represented the fiery wings of the pit. Stepping towards them, Stone wasn’t surprised when they opened on their own accord. He wasn’t quite sure what word would fit the room better, lounge or bureau, since it was definitely a mix of both.
“Ah, Stone. Glad you could make it.”
Andras, a marquis of hell and commander of thirty legions, got up from behind the oversized black desk dominating the room. He looked like an ordinary thirty-something human – lean, with sandy-brown hair and wearing jeans and a button-down, the sleeves of which were rolled up to his elbows. A mate you could have a beer with in a pub. However, at a closer look that misleading image faded quickly. It wasn’t the giant deep red wings of a bat rising from his back, but rather the eyes that were too old for any mortal.
A sharp nod was all the greeting Stone gave.
Andras’ lips twitched with the hint of a smile. “Follow me.” He led the way towards another room, a plush lounge that was all leather and dark wood, before looking back at Stone to ask, “Care to join me for a drink?”
No, he wanted to know what he was doing here. “Yes, thank you, Sir.”
“Beer, if it’s all the same.”
“No problem.” Andras smiled, honestly this time, and opened a wall cabinet.
Stone strolled over and picked a Corona. Screwing the cap off and taking a swig while the marquis poured amber liquid into his own glass, he admitted there were worse ways of waiting for his answers.
“Lord Verin...she recommended you to me.”
Stone had suspected as much. Now he wondered whether the bitch had done so to get him into her pants, or as a punishment for not having gone there yet.
“You are her favorite assassin,” Andras went on. “And from what she told me, I have to say I like the way you work. Alone and discreet, something lacking in most Ebonys. And they tend to brag. But let’s get back to the matter at hand.” The marquis walked towards one of the sofas, sat and calmly savored a sip of his drink before looking directly at Stone. “I need your services.”
“You have them.”
“I need you to find me a witch. The do-gooder kind,” he added on an exasperated sigh.
For a second Stone wondered whether he had heard right. Why would the marquis be interested in the witch? She wouldn’t be the first to get off the right path, nor the last. After the initial surprise wore off, questions swirled in his head, but he thought it best to keep them to himself for now.
 “She’s been causing a bit of trouble. A nuisance really.” The golden liquid in his glass swirled. “She has managed to get a few demons on her side and is making people wonder. Rumors are spreading.”
“Yes. Rumors. I need you to find out what the hell that witch is up to.”  His brow rose subtly when he added, “Do you think you can do that for me?”
Usually Stone went after Ivorys, not rebels who thought they found God or grew a conscience, but he knew he would be in a world of trouble if he declined.
“Sure I can.”
“Good. Her name is Becca.” Andras rose. “I trust your abilities and hope you will keep up the good work.” Again eyes that were too old stared at him, bored into him about as gentle and subtle as a glaring sun. “Alone and discreet.”
“Of course.”
“Good.” An easy smile curved his mouth. “A pleasure doing business with you.”
Stone recognized a dismissal when he heard one. He nodded before heading out the way he had come in.
In the quiet of the lift, he played the conversation over in his head.
He didn’t understand people like her. On one hand he almost felt something close to pity for the witch who wanted to be good, but on the other he could only shake his head at her stupidity. Instead of being quiet about it, she was foolish enough to flaunt it and make the marquis take notice. Whatever the witch was doing, he hoped it was worth it – because she was as good as dead.
Outside, he turned right and into the fray of Shop Street again, not once glancing back at the tower. He had a mission to plan.
Infiltration and information. And most likely elimination, the part of his mind that was hard as stone added. 

Copyright 2015 by Natalie Herzer

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