Demonized: A Demonic Love Story
Demonized was first published in 2012 by Liquid Silver Books as A Friend In Need. Originally, I intended the book to exist as a stand-alone in the larger Sinners & Saints universe, and possibly fit into the ongoing S&S story-line later on. However, when I received the rights to the story back, it occurred to me that the characters might be better suited in a different universe; there was already a lot going on in Lucifer and Jev’s world, and adding to it seemed superfluous. So Weston and Charlotte have been rehomed, living now in the same universe as those titles that comprise my Connected Works. I think they’ll be happier there, anyway.
Happy freakin’ birthday.
Charlotte Sainte-Claire doesn’t have much cause to celebrate. The day started with the sexy subject of her schoolgirl crush walking in on her after a wardrobe malfunction, then proceeded from bad to worse when her mother announced that she would be claimed by a demon.
Because that’s not crazy at all.
Professor Weston Ryans has known Charlotte since her days as one of his students. Though they are nothing more than friendly colleagues these days, he clearly recalls her enthusiasm, wit, and the litany of sinful things he wanted to do with her after hours. After catching her off-guard and costing her a blouse, he decides to smooth things over, only to overhear that his favorite former student is about to be demon chow. Something Weston is all too familiar with.
Suddenly everything is thrown into question. Charlotte is about to change, but she doesn't believe it. Weston is determined to help, but he doesn't know how, and the clock is ticking. Yet when the transformation starts, Charlotte finds herself hungry for one thing…and Weston is more than willing to cater to her needs.
Charlotte flicked her gaze to the clock that hung over her office door, and her stomach crashed somewhere within the vicinity of her ankles. She had ten minutes to get herself presentable.
“Shit, shit, shit.”
She pushed away from her desk and sprang to her feet, her heart jumping into overdrive. A quick look at her current attire confirmed that, yes, she was indeed wearing her best skirt, which was coincidence, sure, but she’d take what she could get. It was, however, paired with her “Coffee Makes Me Poop” T-shirt, which she somehow didn’t think her mother would find funny.
A final look around her sloppy office—shelves of books along the wall, a file cabinet in the far corner, and various daily debris on the floor—confirmed that she had forgotten yesterday’s mental note to bring a change of clothes.
Because mental notes never worked.
Charlotte flexed her fingers, looking at her outfit again as though staring hard enough could make her more presentable. She didn’t look horrible—the skirt, petal pink, was pleated and hit her at the knee. The T-shirt was brown—obviously—with pink lettering, but it was fitted, at least. That had to count for something.
Only it didn’t. Because Frances Sainte-Claire, reigning champion of the What’s Wrong With Charlotte game, gave no allowances for unintentional accomplishments.
Especially when fecal-themed clothing was involved.
Just then, Rosemary Clooney’s voice burst from somewhere near the office vent where Charlotte had parked her purse. That would be Chloe, calling to remind her forgetful ass that they had a date with Mom.
Perfect. Just perfect.
Charlotte yanked out her phone, swiped to accept the call, then answered with a terse, “I’m fucked.”
“No, you’re not.”
That was not a good tone. It was her sister’s patented warning—the last thing the weak heard before being swallowed whole. Charlotte would have been annoyed had she not completely deserved it.
“I forgot. What do you want me to say?”
“You forgot your own birthday.”
Totally not without precedent. Charlotte pinched the bridge of her nose, her shoulders stiffening. “It’s not like—”
“Not like you begged me to cancel my plans so I could play ref with you and Mom? Except it’s exactly like that, and where are you?”
“In my office.” Charlotte looked down again. “I’m wearing the poop shirt.”
“The poop shirt.”
“What the eff were you thinking?”
“That it’s my favorite shirt. And hey, you got it for me.”
“Mom’s head is going to blow.”
Charlotte snickered. “Best possible outcome.”
“Don’t,” Chloe said, her sharp tone gaining more edge. Charlotte knew she was pressing her luck.
She couldn’t help the familiar pang that struck her chest, though—the one equal parts jealousy and betrayal. Those feelings were so old they weren’t worth exploring.
“So you’re in your office?” Chloe asked a moment later after clearing her throat.
“I’m on my way out now. Just stall, okay?”
Not that it would matter, but it was the thought that counted.
“Your file cabinet still in the corner by the window?” Chloe asked.
“What?” Charlotte blinked. Okay, random. “Umm, yes.” She looked to verify, as though the cabinet might have willed itself elsewhere just to be contrary. “Why?”
“Check the bottom drawer.”
A small thrill shot down Charlotte’s back. She crossed the room in a rush and dropped to her knees hard enough to leave a mark. “What did you do?”
“I looked into the future and predicted this day would come, is what I did.”
She wrenched the drawer open, her heart skipping as a cream-colored blouse and new pair of pantyhose slid toward her.
“Well, hell,” Charlotte muttered. “You’re a freaking genius.”
“Obviously,” Chloe replied.
“When did you do this?”
“After the Easter Incident of 2015. I honestly figured you’d have an SOS before now.”
Charlotte wedged the phone to her ear. “I honestly have,” she replied. “Many, many times.”
“Well, how many of those times were Frances emergencies?”
“Frances is the only emergency I have.”
“Fair point.” A rush of background noise crackled through the speaker, followed by one of Chloe’s substitute swear words. “Speaking of,” she said a moment later, “shouldn’t you be changing?”
“Right!” Charlotte practically sprang to her feet. “See you soon. Thanks. I love you!”
She ended the call before her sister could respond and turned her attention to the emergency clothes so fast her phone went flying to the ground. It landed with a harsh clatter that likely wasn’t manufacturer recommended, but Charlotte couldn’t afford to slow down. She had her poop-tee off in a flash, then busied herself trying to figure out which end of the cream blouse was up. She was so not a blouse wearer. Graphic tees and tank tops were her thing—things no respectable Sainte-Claire would wear in public.
Because heaven forbid…
The silky material made her skin tingle, but not in a fun way. More an itchy, church-clothes way, and that brought enough bad memories to last until her next birthday. Not to mention, the blouse was very definitely made for someone who didn’t have the boobs of a twelve-year-old boy. It gaped wide and noticeably in the chest area. She could practically rent out the extra space.
It doesn’t matter, Charlotte told herself. And it didn’t. After all, it was Mom-appropriate.
She had just finished buttoning the thing when she realized she’d missed a hole.
For a long moment, Charlotte considered leaving it like that.
Then she pictured her mother’s expression, realized she was already late and there was no reason to add wardrobe malfunction to her crimes.
Charlotte drew in a deep breath and began unbuttoning, forcing herself to ignore her pounding heart and actually pay attention this time. Tardiness. If that was all Frances had on her, then she might actually end up having an okay afternoon.
A voice. A male voice. One she didn’t immediately recognize.
Charlotte swung around, which proved to be another in her growing list of bad decisions, as several things happened at once. Her feet parted company with the ground in such a way she could have sworn gravity had taken a holiday. A horrible cry pierced the air, informing her that she sounded like a dying rabbit when she screamed. The cry was chased by the telltale tear of fabric.
And that sound was enough to sober Keith Richards.
“Oh shit.” She swung around, her gaze following the progress of a dozen buttons scurrying across the ground. “Oh shit oh shit oh shit.” She blinked, remembered she wasn’t alone and looked up.
Weston Ryans was in her doorway.
Staring at her.
Or, more accurately, at her chest.
Which felt chillier than it ought to.
She looked down, saw she was covered in nary but her old lady bra, promptly squeaked and wrapped the sides of the blouse around herself.
“Professor Ryans,” she said, trying for cool and casual and failing miserably. “What, erm, can I do for you?”
He blinked at her, his mouth agape, his expression slack. Charlotte put a wish out into the universe for a massive hole to form under her feet, but the universe was an asshole and refused to comply.
“I…” He seemed to be struggling with himself. In all her years at Linden College—both as a student and as a librarian—she had never seen Weston look so thrown off his game. Were the situation different in any respect, she would have found this entirely entertaining.
“I thought I heard something,” he said at last, his massive shoulders—that she had not once fantasized about digging her nails into, thank you very much—dropping. “But you’re…okay?”
“No,” she replied curtly. “I just destroyed my emergency shirt. It’s safe to say my mother is going to murder me.”
When his frown deepened along with the confusion in his eyes, Charlotte bit back a groan. “Professor, do you mind?”
“I need to change. I need to—” She stole another glance at the clock and felt herself knock over the line separating modesty from expediency. “I don’t have time for this,” she decided and shrugged off the ruined blouse. To hell with it.
The heat of Weston’s stare made her skin tingle and her insides burn with a marriage of embarrassment and irritation.
“This is not how I thought today was going to go,” he murmured.
Charlotte grabbed the poop tee from the back of her chair before aiming a glare at him. “Do you mind?”
At that, an honest flush stole up his neck and spread to his cheeks, peeking through under the perpetual layer of manly scruff that lived on his jaw. Scruff that she had no time to ogle now, and likely never would again after today. She’d be lucky if she ever found the courage to meet his laughing brown eyes after this. He might have squeaked—she would never be sure—before making a prompt about-face and presenting her with his back.
His broad, broad, broad back.
Charlotte cursed inwardly and huffed, tossing her hair over her shoulder. Another time—any other time—she might have enjoyed a good long fantasy about what could have lured Weston freaking Ryans to her doorway. Lord knows she had a bountiful stockpile of go-to fantasies involving him and those hands of his. And whatever had brought him here had to be good. He only popped by a few times a semester, typically to ensure the library was stocked with enough spare copies of his current required reading to effectively usurp any student’s attempt to weasel out of assignments.
But in May, with finals nearly over and graduation just around the corner…
Yeah, she had nothing.
Except a lifetime to remember the look on his face upon being flashed by a former student.
With the poop tee officially again in place, Charlotte sighed and brushed herself off. “Okay. I’m decent.”
Weston turned, his face still a mask of confusion. It might have been her imagination, but she would have sworn some leftover red stained his cheeks. Given he was roughly the size of a giant—having always looked a bit like Jared Padalecki, though his personality was more in line with Padalecki’s small-screen brother—this threw her for a loop.
A flustered Weston Ryans was a dangerous thing. It was cute—damnably cute.
And she had no time for it.
Weston blinked, then lowered his eyes to her shirt. The corner of his mouth—kissable, infuriating thing that it was—twitched. “This suits you better,” he said.
Charlotte crossed her arms. “Did you have something for me?”
“Professor Ryans, I am about a thousand years late for my birthday lunch. Did you need something from me?”
“It’s your birthday.”
“Yes!” The word came out as an irritable hiss. She waited a moment while he did his best owl impression, then shook her head and somehow managed to refrain from stomping in frustration. “Well?”
“Do you have anything for me?”
Weston’s brow furrowed. “I… This seems like a bad time.”
This was why attractive men weren’t worth pursuing. While they might be fun to look at, they didn’t have much going on upstairs. Even if they happened to be wildly acclaimed professors.
A heavy sigh broke through Charlotte’s lips. “I need to go,” she said, striding toward him. He didn’t move until it became clear she would bowl him over, and even then looked befuddled with the whole situation.
The motive behind Weston’s visit would undoubtedly haunt her later today, when she wasn’t occupied with the looming luncheon with Frances.
Which, judging the way her luck had run over the past ten minutes alone, would be an even more miserable affair than usual.