Berith is a prince of Hell, just under Lucifer himself, which means he has enemies, and a lot of them. Usually, Berith solves that problem with torture and death, but that’s not always a possibility, like when he’s gifted a human by a demon who wants to see him torn off his throne. The only thing he can do is bond the human to him so he doesn’t die. But then what?
Mel has no idea how he ended up in Hell or how he’ll go home. The only thing he knows is that Hell is no place for a human, even when that human is bonded to a prince of Hell like he is—or maybe especially so. He’s being used as a chess piece, and he doesn’t like it, but what can he do when his new owner doesn’t allow him to go home?
Mel has to learn to live in Hell, while Berith has to understand how to deal with a terrified but stubborn human. As they spend time together, they both see that maybe things will work out, but they’re still in Hell, where everyone wants everyone dead. But maybe Mel can bring a little of his humanity to Hell, change how things work, and show demons they don’t have to torture their way through life.
That is, if he survives long enough.
It would be rude for Berith to get up and leave the throne room, yet, he was tempted to do just that. No one would say anything. Everyone liked their heads on their shoulders, and Berith was the one person here who could have it cut off with one word.
But he stayed where he was. It was his job as a prince of Hell, and no matter how much he hated it, he wasn’t going to get out of it.
Still, it wasn’t easy for him to sit on his throne and listen to the grievances of the demons around him. They all had something to complain about, or, usually, someone. They wanted Berith to kill their rivals, maybe torture them a bit, but that wasn’t what Berith was about. If they wanted someone to die, they’d have to get their own hands dirty. This was Hell, after all. They’d get them dirty anyway.
At least Berith didn’t actually have to listen. His personal assistant was standing next to him, taking notes as the people parading in front of Berith spoke. Sabin was good at what he did, and Berith trusted him with his life. He’d let him know something important was being said. In the meantime, Berith allowed himself to daydream.
This wasn’t what he’d imagined would happen when he’d become a prince of Hell. He’d been ambitious, but things had changed over the decades. They’d changed even more after he’d had a child, and he couldn’t wait for all of this to be over so he could go back to his daughter. When he thought about her recent kidnapping and rescue, his heart still raced in his chest, and he had to clutch at the arms of his throne so he wouldn’t throw himself out of it and go look for her. He’d almost lost her, but he had to remember that he hadn’t. She was safe somewhere in the palace, probably playing and driving her mother nuts. That was what Berith had to focus on, nothing else.
But it had been too close. Someone had taken his daughter and wouldn’t have hesitated to use her against Berith. They’d almost succeeded, and he’d been lucky someone trustworthy had found her. Still, he’d hired more guards, and he’d assigned a personal bodyguard to Cyarea. He wouldn’t risk her disappearing again. He couldn’t, not when he’d die if anything happened to her.
Sabin cleared his throat, jerking Berith out of his thoughts. Berith blinked and tried to look as if he’d been listening, but he wasn’t sure it was a success. Still, Sabin was there, leaning closer.
“Your Highness, this man was telling you what’s happening at the border.”
Berith straightened in his seat. “Can you repeat that?” he asked.
The demon standing in front of the throne was a hybrid. There had to be some onah there, and maybe zaron, which was an odd mix. Almost all demons were hybrids, though. Berith was one of the few who wasn’t, so it was easy to identify him as an oni demon.
“There have been attacks,” the demon in front of him said.
Berith should have been paying better attention. “I heard you the first time. I want more details.”
The demon quickly nodded. “I apologize. The demons attacking us are speedy, and they’re in and out of the village quickly. They kill anyone they can before disappearing again. They’re a mix of demons, but I think the one in charge is a surluh.”
That wasn’t surprising. They were some of the strongest demons around, and they were always in the thick of things when something terrible happened. “I’ll send guards to help,” Berith declared.
The demon looked relieved. “Thank you, Your Highness.”
Berith grunted. He didn’t know what was happening exactly, but he would before the day was over. He flicked his fingers at Sabin, who nodded and quickly typed on the screen of his tablet. Things had been more complicated when they’d had to use messengers and ink and paper, but human technology worked in Hell, too. They’d had to make a few changes to use it, but now Sabin could send a message, and a group of guards would be out of the palace in about half an hour, headed to this demon’s village to protect it.
Berith got to his feet. He looked at the long line of demons still wanting to be heard, but he wasn’t in the mood anymore. “Tell everyone else to come back tomorrow,” he declared.
The demons outside the throne room muttered and pleaded, but Berith had enough. If something was truly important, his guards would tell him about it. He needed to know if other villages were being attacked. But unless someone knew something about that, he was taking the rest of the evening off.
Or at least, that was his goal. Sabin was on him as soon as the doors of his office closed behind them.
“We should go over your appointments for tomorrow,” he said.
Berith flopped into his chair behind his desk and groaned. “Do we have to?”
Sabin arched a brow but didn’t say anything. He stared at Berith until Berith nodded and gestured at him to continue. “Fine. I’m listening.”
Sabin grinned and sat on the other side of the desk. “I’ll make sure to check on this last demon and his village, by the way.”
“I know you will. It’s why you’re my personal assistant.”
“And here I thought it was because you love me.”
Berith laughed. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone I love.”
But he did love Sabin. His life would be much harder if his friend weren’t in it, and he’d do everything he could to avoid losing him.