Luke offered Grace his other hand and, despite being surprised at what she’d witnessed, she took it without hesitation.
She glanced at Luke’s companion again. He was beautiful, dark hair, tanned skin and a chiselled jaw. She could see his well built shoulders through his white shirt. He smelled like sex and sin and he looked like fun.
Noticing her sidewards glance, Luke cleared his throat.
“Before my darling Grace accuses me of having bad manners again, I had better introduce you. Grace this is Damien. Damien this is Grace,” Damien smiled at her pleasantly, his eyes though, they were suggesting things that made her blush.
“And Damien is your boyfriend?” She asked. There was no judgement, just curiosity. Maybe there was more to His Highness than she’d first thought.
“God no!” Luke laughed at her. “I forget that humans are so….restricted. No, Damien is my lover.” he answered. Damien seemed to take the turn in conversation as a queue to be elsewhere, he kissed Luke on the cheek and disappeared into a cloud of dark smoke.
Grace felt like she should be surprised by his sudden disappearance, but she’d had about enough shock for a lifetime.
“I am the Prince of hell, I rule over a kingdom of love, sex and sin. There is no need for labels here. There is no judgement or guilt,” the ocean in his eyes seemed to turn into a whirlpool as he spoke. “You are free to be as you wish to be,” he said softly.
Grace had never been free. She had never belonged solely to herself. By turning her into a demon, Luke had given her the chance to escape.
A single tear ran down Grace’s cheek and Luke kissed it away.
Holding her hand, Luke led her through some double doors and into a large ballroom. They were both well dressed, Grace was in her black gown and Luke wore a white shirt with burgundy trousers and black dress shoes. It took longer than it should have for her to realise that those trousers matched her lipstick and the colour of her wings.
Grace didn’t know what she expected when she entered the ballroom. She certainly didn’t expect over a hundred pairs of eyes fixed on them. She didn’t expect the owners of those eyes to be knelt on the marble floor as they entered.
Luke led her to the dias at the other end of the room. There was a throne mounted there, like his wings, it was iridescent too. Could it have been entirely carved of opalite? It was almost holographic, every step revealed a new colour as the light hit it at a different angle.
Serpents were carved into the arms and they wound themselves up and around the back of the chair.
He left her standing before him as he took the two steps to his throne and seated himself.
She wondered if she should kneel like the others. Before she’d made her decision, he gestured for his court to rise. They stood around her in one quick motion and she realised that she was one of the shortest in the room.
She tried not to glance around her at the others, some were winged like her, others were horned, some had the same colouring as humans, others had slick skin in shades of red, blue and purple. It hadn’t really sunk in, she realised. She hadn’t properly understood the gravity of it all until she was in that room with all of the other demons.
Grace was one of them. Grace belonged in hell now.
Luke held his hand out to her.
“Friends, let’s take a moment to welcome Grace to our court, she is the only human turned demon in our history!” Luke declared to the room as he pulled her onto the dias next to him. There was a hushed murmuring from the beings around her and then they began to clap.
Grace’s face heated.
She was the only one? What happened to all of the humans damned to hell? She made a mental note to ask Luke about it later.
Once the clapping subsided, Luke told his court to “Go and play” and they began dispersing to talk in groups, laughter filled the room and drinks were moving throughout the crowd. She still stood next to his throne and looked down at them all with him.
Her eyes took in the clothes. Some were in finery like her, others wore sexy pieces of lace and silk in various colours.
Music began to thrum through the room and some began to dance to its enchanting beat.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said, watching her as closely as she watched the others. She had no words.
Her eyes landed on a group of three in one of the corners of the room. There were two males and a female and they were kissing. The beautiful female with long blonde hair stood in the arms of one of the males and yet, her lips were occupied with the other male. It was nothing like Grace had ever seen.
Luke followed her gaze.
As they watched the male holding her began planting kisses on her shoulder, even as the other continued to kiss her mouth. It was sensual and respectful but so different to anything that she had seen as a human.
She bit her lip and Luke chuckled at her.
“What are the rules here?” she asked him, finally managing to drag her eyes away from the three. She met his eyes.
“With sex?” he asked. Her face heated again and she was sure that red had begun to sneak into her cheeks. He didn’t even seem remotely embarrassed. She nodded.
“The women initiate, permission has to be acquired before even touching another person and it can be withdrawn at any time. We might be in hell but we aren’t animals. Outside of that, whatever happens between adults is their business,” his mouth began pulling up at the corners. “Are you considering testing out your new body?” he raised his brows, his question was serious but humour danced in his eyes.
“No, I…” She didn’t finish the sentence. She had not committed to Azriel, but she had felt like something had been growing between them. Grace wouldn’t betray that. Whatever it was, she wouldn’t risk hurting him.
Luke seemed to know what she was thinking and didn’t push her on it.
“What happens if someone breaks those rules?” she asked, changing the subject. Luke’s eyes turned feral, a mask of ice settling over his features. Did he know what she’d been through as a human?
“We aren’t known as the masters of eternal torment for no reason, Grace,” his words were quiet and lethal. “The punishment is so severe that we haven’t had anything like that happen in three centuries.”
Grace thought about that for a second. Doctor Edgar’s face flashed through her mind and she cringed. Was he here somewhere? She wondered. Had she unknowingly damned him to her new home?
“What happens to human rapists when they die?” it came out of her in a whisper. Luke’s face softened as he looked at her again.
“I knew you’d taken a life, but I had no idea…” he murmured and she blanched at the cascade of memories. “The letter they gave me said you’d murdered another human being. The bastards didn’t tell me why,” if Luke looked like this when he was angry, she felt sorry for anyone experiencing his wrath.
Grace just shrugged. She didn’t want to rehash her history or relive the memories. She willed strength into her bones and she lifted her chin in defiance. Doctor Edgar could not hurt her anymore.
Luke sighed when he realised she wasn’t about to share any details with him.
“Human evil is kept on the lower levels. There are different rooms depending on the degree of evil. When human’s say you’ll be damned to hell, they’re telling the truth. If I view what you’ve done as abhorrent or not, that determines the type of hell you’ll experience,” he clarified.
“So, gay people and people that have sex before marriage are here being punished too?” Grace pushed. Some of the rules spouted by fanatics had always been stupid in her eyes.
“Oh they’re here because my brothers don’t know how to have a good time. But they are far from being punished,” he grinned, the gleam in his eye said enough. “Look around you,” he gestured at the rest of the room. Grace followed the movement with her eyes and took in the revelry.
The sexual energy was intoxicating. Males and females were kissing each other, there didn’t seem to be any labels, judgement or ownership.
“I don’t care who fucks who. If it’s respectful and consensual, I’m not about to judge or torture anyone for being who they are. There are worse things in existence than love and sex,” he sounded like he was about to say more but stopped abruptly.
Someone had caught his attention and Grace followed his gaze. A woman moved through the crowd towards them. Her eyes were a vibrant shade of emerald, her chin length hair was dark and her skin was the colour of caramel. She wore a green silk dress, the shade was so close to the colour of her eyes that Grace could believe she’d had it made for her.
The dress clung to every curve and the neckline was so low it was almost at the woman’s navel. She was breathtaking.
As she reached the bottom of the dias she bowed to Luke, so low her head wasn’t far from the floor. The movement was almost feline. As she did so her scent reached them, it was exotic and musky.
When she rose again. Luke smiled at her.
“Nehemia,” he greeted her with a lazy smile. “Here I was thinking you’d moved on,” his voice was seductive. Even Grace got goosebumps, the tone that seemed to caress her skin.
She looked at him incredulously, had he been intimate with his entire court? Would there be an orgy at the end of this party? Grace seriously hoped not, that was perhaps a step too far for first introductions.
Nehemia was beautiful though, Grace could see the appeal.
“I actually wanted to see if Grace would like to dance,” Nehemia didn’t even look at him. Her eyes seemed fixated on Grace and they were… hungry.