I feel guilty showing you the
When Nita woke up the next morning, Nick was back at the table, going through Rich’s ledgers. She squinted at him over Stripe’s back. No five-o’clock shadow.
Well, of course not. Dead Men Don’t Grow Beards. It sounded like a noir novel. Maybe she could get him a fedora while he was on Earth—Mr. Praxis probably had one—and make him say, “I won’t play the sap for you, sweetheart” before he left. That made her laugh, and he looked up front the ledgers.
“Good morning,” he said, as if life were normal.
“Good morning.” She sat up and stretched, and Joyce sat up and stretched with her, too, just like always.
He closed the ledger. “Breakfast?”
“I need a shower first. I smell.” She looked at her hand where Jeo had bandaged it. “Like blood and sweat and baph and . . . “
“Bathroom’s that way,” Nick said, nodding toward the back of the apartment. “I’ll take Stripe out and then we can go eat.”
“Take your time,” Nita said. “I’m gonna need a long shower.”
Nick whistled for Stripe and the dog slid off the bed and fell over. Then he picked himself up and staggered off after Nick, who patiently held the door for him when he got confused in the kitchen. It was funny and warm and normal and . . . she struggled to find the right word as the sun poured in the big bay window and warmed her bed.
It was homey.
Not my home, not my bed, she told herself as she stretched again, annoying Joyce, but the truth was, she liked the apartment better than her house. It was full of light and it was clean and spare and efficient. Something to aspire to. And Joyce seemed to like it.
Maybe she could talk Vinnie into renting it to her when Nick went back to Hell.
The last part of that thought was depressing, so she got her black jeans off the floor and a clean black T-shirt and underwear out of the closest garbage bag and went to the bathroom to get ready for work. The bathroom needed a few things like tile on the gutted walls and towel racks—and towels, she thought and went back to get her terry cloth robe from another bag—but it was clean and the shower worked and Rab had put a kitty litter tray in there for Joyce, so that was taken care of, and she could stand under the blessedly hot water and try to accept the revelations of the day before, one at a time, letting the water wash over her as she processed her new reality
After fifteen minutes, Nina turned off the water, still a little shaky. Maybe processing everything should wait until later. Maybe it’d be better to believe one unbelievable thing at a time.
She got dressed and went back out into the apartment, only to stop in the archway when she saw a naked redhead in her bed.
The woman said, “Hello, lover,” and rolled over, smiling until she saw Nita in the archway.
“Hi, Lily,” Nita said.
Lily sat up, holding up the comforter to cover her nude body. “Well, this is embarrassing.”
“More puzzling,” Nita said, wondering how Lily had gotten into the apartment and undressed in such a short time—well, that had been a long shower—and much more important, why Lily was there.
Joyce leaped on the bed, and Lily raised her eyebrows, but after a moment, Joyce curled into a ball and went back to sleep, and Lily went back to smiling at Nita. “I thought it was Nick in the bathroom.”
“The two of you close, are you?” Nita said.
“Well.” Lily pulled the covers around her. “Yes.”
Nita smiled at her. “Gives a whole new dimension to ‘boning’, doesn’t it?”
Lily looked startled, but then the door opened and Nick came in carrying paper bags and a drinks carrier with two giant cups of orange juice and an equally large tea, followed by Stripe, who was looking geriatrically perky.
“Good walk?” Nita said to the dog as Nick put everything on the counter.
“Short walk,” he told her. “But effective. I got take-out from Sandy’s since I wasn’t sure you’d be ready to face a crowd . . .” His voice trailed off as he followed her nod to the bed. “What are you doing here?” he said to Lily.
“Oh, Nick,” Lily said, batting her eyelashes at him.
Nick looked at Nita. “What is she doing here?”
“No idea.” Nita took the bags. “Is there French toast?”
“I told Sandy to send everything.” Nick scowled at Lily. “And extra syrup. Has she done anything horrible?”
“Just tried to make me think you had sex with her. I told her to bone away.”
“You are not helping.” Nick turned back to Lily. “How did you get here?”
“The boss sent me,” Lily said, looking cautiously at Nita.
Demon, Nita thought, opening one of the bags. Well, that made sense. “Would that be Satan?”
Lily turned on Nick. “She knows?”
“She knows more than you do,” Nick said. “Go back to Hell, we’re handling this.”
Lily studied him. “You’re not even a little bit tempted by me?”
“I’m dead,” Nick said. “You know that. What are you doing here?”
Lily stood up and dropped the sheet.
Her body was magnificent.
“Nice façade,” Nita said, opening the bacon as an antidote to jealousy.
Jeo came through the door holding a sheaf of papers. “We need–” he began and then he saw Lily, naked in the archway. “Whoa.”
“We don’t know why, either,” Nita told him. “Did you have breakfast?”
“Going there now,” Jeo said, trying not to look at Lily. “Why is she here?”
“That is the question of the moment.” Nita opened a box that had French toast. “We’re eating in this morning. Would you like to join us?”
“No, he would not.” Nick took a giant orange juice out of the drinks holder. “Daphne’s next door. He does not want to join us.”
“No, I do not.” Jeo turned for the door.
Lily looked at them all in disbelief. “Whatis this?”
Rab came through the open door with more papers. “Okay, I think I’ve got this–” He stopped at naked Lily. “Hello. Nice body. Kind of wasted here.” He looked at Nick. “It’s not cheap stocking a bar. Are you sure you have the money for this?”
“Yes, I have the money,” Nick said. “No, I don’t want to stock a bar.” He took a piece of bacon from the box Nita was holding. “Do you want breakfast?”
“I’ll go next door,” Rab said, looking from Lily to Nita and back again. “It’ll be more restful. Nice to see you again, Lilith.”
He shook his head, and he and Jeo left, and Nita frowned at Lily. “Wait. Lilith? TheLilith? Adam’s first wife, the demon who causes nocturnal emissions?”
Lily closed her eyes. “That’s my mother.”
“That’s Lilith Prima,” Nick said. “This is Lilith Secunda.”
“Oh, your mother.” Nita thought about Mitzi. “We should form a support group.”
“Do we have plates?” Nick said, looking around the gutted kitchen.
“We don’t even have cabinets,” Nita said. “Where would we have plates?”
Nick went to the door and yelled down the stairs, “Rab! Plates, please!”
“And cabinets,” Nita called after him.
“We’re not going to be here long enough to need cabinets,” Nick said, coming back for more bacon.
“I might be,” Nita said. “I like it here. It’s sunny. But it needs cabinets.”
Nick opened another carton. “Toast?”
“You know, if we had a toaster, we could make our own and it would be hot,” Nita opened another carton and offered it to him. “Eggs?”
“We need plates,” Nick said frowning.
Lily put her naked hands on her naked hips. “What is wrong with you people?”
“I missed lunch yesterday,” Nita said.
“Do not get between this woman and food.” Nick picked up a piece of bacon.
“Also,” Nita said to Lily, “you are obviously up to something, which you will either tell us now, or we’ll find out later. What I will not do is tell anybody that you’re a demon. They wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“I need to talk to you,” Lilith said to Nick.
“We need forks,” Nick said.
Nita passed him a plastic fork from one of the bags.
“No,” Nick said. “I need a realfork–”
Rab came through the door with three china plates with silverware piled on top. “Take these back to Sandy’s when you’re done,” he said and left again.
“We need a kitchen,” Nita yelled after him. “Well, I need a kitchen.” She raised her voice again. “And tile in the bathroom!”
“Do you realize there’s a white power group on this island killing demons?” Lily said.
Nita felt Nick freeze beside her. “What?” he said.
Lily nodded, looking satisfied at the response. “There’s a white power group on this island that’s targeting demons. They meet after Stitch and Bitch at the Historical Society.” She picked up the underwear she’d dropped by the bed and began to get dressed.
Black lace, of course, Nita thought as she watched her, but Lily did look spectacular in it. She turned and Nita saw a small tattoo of a black cat above her right buttock, the same black cat that was on the Sadie’s Demonistasign.
Maybe Sadie was handing out temporary tattoos? It was cute. If she’d been sleeping with somebody, she’d have asked for one. Kind of wasted since the guy she was staying with was dead. “Nice tattoo.”
“White power?” Nick said, still mostly concentrating on the food.
“Yes,” Lily said, fastening her bra over her C cups.
“You really did a nice job on that façade,” Nita said.
“What façade?” Lily said.
So of course that’s the way you really look. Nita sighed. “Look, we have no racial problems on this island. Nobody’s dumb enough to piss off Sandy and Daphne and Dom, let alone . . .” She stopped. “Wait, they’re targeting demons?”
“Yes.” Lily put on her shirt and buttoned it over her ample rack. “Marvella and the Witherspoons are their leaders, and they poisoned the doughnuts.”
Nick sat down at the table with the plate he’d just filled. “They poisoned demons. How do they even know there are demons on the island?”
Lily shrugged, which did nice things for her shirt, and then picked up her pencil skirt and stepped into it. “All I know is, they were thrilled when Button showed up at Stitch and Bitch last night, and the white power meeting was after that. They thought she’d be killing demons for them.” Lily looked at Nita. “She doesn’t believe in demons.”
“No.” Nita sat down across from Nick. “She has no idea she’s from a family of demon-killers.”
“And you haven’t told her,” Lily said, sliding into her heels.
Four inch heels at least. You can’t chase bad guys in those, Lilith. “I had a very full day yesterday,” Nita said. “I’ll catch her up today.” Nick gave her a plate of eggs and French toast, and she took it, realizing belatedly that the Devil had just handed her breakfast. “Thank you. I like a full-service Master of the Underworld.”
“Otherworld.” Nick picked up another piece of bacon.
“Dead fifteenth century son of a pope who became the Devil’s fixer and is now the Devil’s heir.”
Nick handed her a fork and Nita cut into her eggs.
“Unbelievable.” Lily went past them to the door, snagging a piece of bacon on her way out.