Cumar has been living in the human world for the past eight years, and he has no intention of changing that. He has a job he likes, friends, and he’s in love with Yo’ash, the bouncer of the only club for demons in Chicago. That love might be unrequited, but it’s better than anything he’d have had in Hell, where he grew up.
Yo’ash likes his life predictable and boring, and Cumar is anything but that. They share a past, but Cumar has never seemed to recognize Yo’ash, and Yo’ash is glad for it. It’s a part of his life he’d rather not think about, and it’s one of the reasons he keeps Cumar at arm’s length, the other one being that Cumar doesn’t seem to be able to commit to one person.
When someone comes after Cumar, exposing who he is and his past and forcing him to go back to Hell, Yo’ash has to make a decision. Will the trouble Cumar is facing be enough for him to step away once and for all, or will they both realize that together they are stronger than apart?
Cumar scowled at his reflection in the chipped bathroom mirror. He’d hoped the wounds would have healed by now, but he should have known better. He wasn’t invincible, and Urias hadn’t gone easy on him. The fucker had reduced Cumar’s back to a mess of crisscrossed wounds. He couldn’t use his claws like every other demon, no. He fancied himself Indiana Jones, with his whip and that ridiculous hat. Except Indy wasn’t in the business of whipping people, and he was a hell of a lot cuter than Urias. Of course, anyone would be cuter than Urias, considering he was a ghoul.
Cumar’s scowl deepened. He couldn’t even take care of the wounds himself, no matter how hard he tried. He’d have needed two tails to do that, but he had to make do with one, which he supposed was better than none. At least he hadn’t had to tell Thailor about it yet. He wouldn’t be able to keep it from Chase, and Chase would fuss and insist he had to help, and he’d mother Cumar to death.
No one needed to know what had happened. Cumar had known it would go that way before going, and he’d gone anyway, because Aiden was his friend.
That was all he had to say about it.
He grabbed a cotton swab from the edge of the sink with his tail and the bottle of antiseptic with a hand. He doubted it would help much, but he didn’t have anything else available.
It burned. Cumar gritted his teeth and looked away from the mirror, but there was nothing else to focus on. His bathroom was still his bathroom—harsh white light shining from fixtures that had to be older than him, leaky bathtub faucet, rust stains, and an unidentifiable black substance on the cracked shower tiles.
This was when Cumar regretted leaving home. Then he remembered who his father was and what he was, and he suddenly loved his dingy apartment in the rundown building reserved for demons. All the golden faucets and soft towels in the world weren’t worth what he’d have to deal with if he went back home.
Nausea swamped him, hand in hand with pain. He wasn’t doing a good job taking care of his back, dammit. Should it still hurt like that after, what had it been? A week? No, wait. Eight days? Nine?
It didn’t matter. What did matter was that the damn whipping wounds weren’t healing as fast as Cumar needed them to. He had managed to avoid work since coming back from hell, but Christmas was over and done with, and Jadon wasn’t going to let himself be brushed off much longer. He’d demand to know why Cumar was avoiding him, and Cumar would either have to tell him the truth or to come up a good reason. The problem was, he sucked at lying, at least most of the time. He’d certainly never been able to lie to Jadon, no matter how many times he’d tried.
Cumar shuddered when he rubbed the cotton swab against a particularly deep part of the wounds. He wasn’t even sure where it was on his back exactly. His entire back was a ball of pain that pulsed and made him want to cry out—or downright cry. He wasn’t sure at this point.
He shivered, the cold of the apartment getting to him through the pain. He couldn’t tell if he was doing more bad than good or the other way around. Maybe he should stop messing with the wounds. Patching himself up wasn’t a new thing, but not with wounds this deep and this extensive. He’d always had someone help him when something like this happened in the past, first the palace’s healers, then the League’s doctors or Chase.
Cumar sighed and dropped the bloodied swab into the sink. The wounds looked exactly like they had before—long, puffy red lines that ran from his nape to the small of his back. They were bleeding even more than before, red drops rolling down the skin.
Cumar sighed. That didn’t look good. He was probably going to have to go to Hell’s Gate, or to the League’s infirmary. He wondered which one was safer. The infirmary’s doctors would tattle to Jadon within seconds, but he might cross Chase’s path in Hell’s Gate, and Chase would talk to Thailor, who would then talk to Jadon because it wasn’t safe for Cumar to work in his condition.
As if Cumar didn’t know that.
His phone rang. He jerked, his torso twisting toward the living room, pain shooting everywhere. His mouth tasted of blood even though he was pretty sure he wasn’t bleeding, not there anyway. His head spun, and he had to lock his muscles to avoid toppling over. He breathed in and out a few times and prayed the black spots in his sight weren’t permanent. Then he moved toward the living room, slowly and carefully. He berated himself for leaving his phone on the coffee table when he had to lean down to pick it up. He breathed through the pain some more, especially after seeing who was calling.
That could only mean one thing, and Cumar wasn’t sure he was ready for it.