Wednesday, August 24, 2022

War in White Chocolate - Chapter 5

This is the last unedited sample chapter of War in White Chocolate I'll post. I promised a new, free short story in April, and I want to get that finished and posted for next week. That way you all will have something to read while I finish this book and get it edited.

Thanks again for taking a peek at my writing!

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An hour later, Wila pulled into the parking lot of Saint Michael’s Church. She didn’t like leaving Gammy alone at the house, but she had to trust the sigils Penny’s father-in-law Edward instructed her to paint over the doors and windows would keep any demons out of her home. It would explain why the demon waited until they entered the Arrow department store this morning before it confronted them.

But then, things had been changing so much in her life Wila hadn’t had a chance to take stock of it all. Such as the weird mix of older vehicles and rentals constantly parked at Saint Mike’s without an event scheduled. She pulled into the spot next to Father Perez’s tiny red hatchback. Since the demon hunters started pouring into Oakfield, a group of the parishioners had posted parking signs along the row closest to the church buildings. However, the signs were humorous labels for the people living and working at the little Catholic complex over the last month.

Most of the signs literally read “Demon Hunter”. Then there was “Kick-Ass Nun”, “Current Priest”, “OG Priest”, and “Mary, Wife of Jesus”. But the best were the four marked with “Soccer Mom”.

Wila pushed the button to turn off her vehicle, but her minivan/horse rumbled her displeasure via her engine.

“Baby, I told you before—” Wila stroked Scarlett’s steering wheel. “—if they put up a sign saying ‘Horse’, some idiot will leave their animal here. You’re so much better than a regular horse. Do you want some idiot animal taking a dump in your spot?”

A puff of steam floated from under the hood, and the engine stopped. Apparently, Wila’s crass point mollified Scarlett. For now anyway, but her horse would raise the issue again the next time they came to the church. Scarlett thought the Soccer Mom signs should be replaced with hers and her sister mares’ names along with their designated rider.

Wila slid out of the driver’s seat. She didn’t bother to lock the minivan anymore. If some dirtbag was stupid enough to try to jack her ride, Scarlett would deliver said dirtbag to the police.

Again.

And that was assuming said dirtbag could get past the patrols of the demon hunters and recruits guarding Saint Mike’s. Speaking of which, Lucas Manewell and Brother Giuseppe approached her.

“Buongiorno, Signora Guerra.” The former demon hunting monk bowed. For someone born in Italy during the Renaissance, he was adapting damn well to twenty-first century life in America.

“Is there something wrong, m’lady?” Lucas frowned. He’d been one of the vigilantes Francine ran into at the Oakfield Cemetery the day the dead starting rising. She had been forced to reveal her Soccer Mom persona of Famine to keep the idiots from shooting the newly resurrected folks. Unfortunately, that was when she was filmed as both human and Soccer Mom, and it ended up on the news later that night.

Lucas had recognized what Francine was, and it spurred him to volunteer his assistance at Saint Mike’s. The demon hunters took him under their wings, and in turn, Lucas had recruited his vigilante friends to be trained by the demon hunters. Subsequently, the former vigilantes assisted the local law enforcement and the Vatican demon hunters with protecting the public places where the resurrected were staying, like the other places of worship and the high school.

“No emergency yet, guys.” Wila grinned. “This is a fact-finding mission.”

Both men nodded and continued on their patrol. Lucas didn’t presume he could answer her questions, and Brother Giuseppe didn’t know enough American English to answer though he probably had the knowledge. A misunderstood fact about demons due to a bad translation could be disastrous.

Out of manners, Wila entered the church itself to let Maria Cordero, the church’s administrative assistant, know of her presence at the facility. Her husband’s name was the reason for the signage for Maria’s parking space. Jesus coached Derek’s soccer team, the Tiger Sharks.

It didn’t help that Derek had been making cracks about Coach Cordero being the Second Coming. However, that idea was a step too far for Wila to deal with right now. If it weren’t for the dead starting to rise from their graves three weeks ago, she and the rest of her sisters would be in matching straightjackets.

Gammy was right. She was tighter with Penny, Dani, and even Francine than she had been with her brother Watende.

Wila popped the memory back in its little box with the rest of her past. It hurt too much to think about his and Mom’s deaths. The irritating shrink the VA had set her up with said the trauma of the loss of her immediate family was twined with what she went through in Afghanistan. Maybe she needed to get a referral from Penny’s husband Gene. The stress of being a Soccer Mom of the Apocalypse may be the proverbial straw that finally broke her.

She knocked on Maria’s open office door.

Maria stopped typing and looked up from her monitor screen. “Hey, Wila!” A frown immediately marred her pretty face. “Sorry, I didn’t hear the motion detector go off.” That may have been Wila’s fault. Yet another new ability popping up with no clue of what she did or how to control it. But that wasn’t any reason to scare the crap out of poor Maria.

Wila smiled. “It looked like you were pretty intent on whatever you were doing. Are Fathers Perez and McAvoy here? I had a weird experience with a demon this morning, and Penny sent me over to run it by them.”

Maria’s shoulders sagged. “Another one? Those things are worse than cockroaches.”

“It’s been a week since the last nest was cleaned out,” Wila said. “One was bound to pop out of the woodwork sooner or later.”

Maria picked up the receiver and pressed a button on her phone set. “Father? Wila’s here with some questions.” After a slight pause, she added, “She says she had a weird experience with a demon.” Another pause. “All right, Father.”

She hung up the receiver. “Father Perez will be here in a moment. He hopes you don’t mind a walk back to the rectory. Father McAvoy injured himself on Saturday.” “Let me guess.” Wila grinned. “The O.G. tried to keep up with his old team?”

Maria chuckled. “He may have been the youngest member at one time, but Fathers Mbaye and Lambert as well as Laura Hudson have died and been resurrected. Father McAvoy sprained his knee, and the only reason he’s staying off of it is because Sister Joan threatened to tie him to his bed.”

“You really shouldn’t be gossiping, Maria.”

Wila turned at the familiar masculine voice behind her. It was damn shame Father Perez was a priest. He was hot and kind. Things Dani needed in abundance. The girl hadn’t even dated since her husband Heath died in a car accident six years ago. Heck, she even refused when Wila offered to set her up with Ramon, a fellow paramedic who was attracted to Dani.

“It’s not gossip when the Soccer Moms need to know who’s available in a fight, Father,” she said. “Not to mention, he is the senior living Vatican taskforce member here. We need his brains and his English skills right now. What I don’t need is McAvoy getting himself injured or killed trying to prove he can keep up.”

She looked back at Maria. “Did he go to a doctor?”

The administrative assistant shook her head.

Wila faced the younger priest again. “Then as your resident EMT, I’m going to check out his knee while I tell you guys what happened this morning.”

“Actually, I’d be grateful if you did,” Father Perez said with a rueful expression. “He’d listen to you about seeing a doctor.”

Wila rolled her eyes. “You men are all the same.” She waved at Maria. “See you at the soccer game tomorrow night?”

Maria smiled. “I’ll be there.”

Wila strode down the back hallway of the church beside Father Perez. They’d have to pass through the community center to reach the rectory.

“How’s the rehoming going?” she asked.

“All the parishioners who can have taken in the recently risen.” He shook his head. “We still have dead folks trickling in though.”

“Has the Vatican figured out the rhyme or reason for the order of the dead coming back?”

Again, the priest shook his head. “They’ve called in some of the top mathematicians in the world. It seems to be totally random. Can I ask why?”

Wila sighed. “Dani was stressed about her mom or her husband showing up on her doorstep at first. Now, she’s feeling a little left out.”

“As long as the dead continue rising, we don’t have to worry about the Sixth Seal,” he said.

“Do we know that for sure?”

“No,” he said grimly. “I believe, but I never thought I’d see the end times.”

“It ain’t over yet, Padre.” She grinned.

The community center wasn’t as busy as it had been, but a glance at the gymnasium showed it was still about a third full. Francine had been turned into a liaison between Oakfield’s city and county governments, the local religious institutions, and the regional Red Cross office. And she was damn good at it, too. She’d been getting a ton of kudos through the city while she helped manage the crisis.

Which was driving Courtney Lasser, the president of the Oakfield Parents Association, absolutely crazy.

Metal clashed in the kitchen, and a female voice called out orders with military precision as Wila and Father Perez passed by the entrance.

She glanced at the priest. “Should I ask who took over cooking duties?”

“Sister Flavia.” He smiled. “She’s a force to reckon with, but she’s one heck of a chef.”

“I can’t believe how many women worked for the taskforce when they didn’t have rights anywhere else in the world,” Wila remarked.

“Is this going to be another rant about the Mother Church?”

“Sorry, Father.” She shot him an apologetic smile. “It’s more a rant about men. My ex-husband freaked out last night about my dead grandmother living with me. Or rather, he’s freaked she’s in the same house as his son.”

“Not everyone has welcomed the resurrected people back like you Soccer Moms have.”

She shook her head as they passed the classrooms that had been turned into nurseries for the risen children. “It’s one thing to see my Gammy again, but why would God force these children back to earth after they had such horrible deaths?”

“I wish I had an answer for you.” Father Perez pulled open the door into the rectory.

“Deke!” someone shouted.

Wila exchanged looks with Father Perez before they took off at a run through the house. When they reached the sun room, demon hunters and priests gathered around someone lying on the floor.

“EMT! Move out of the way!” Wila shoved past the unhelpful observers to find the person on the floor was Father McAvoy. His friend Father Mbaye knelt next to him. McAvoy spoke, but his words made no sense.

The resurrected priest originally from Africa stared at her with panicked expression. “He’s possessed!”

Thursday, August 18, 2022

War in White Chocolate - Chapter 4

Oops! Everytime I opened this website to format and post a chapter yesterday, I got distracted with another task. My apologies for posting late. As always, here's an unedited chapter of my current work-in-progress!

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“Let’s go to this guy’s office, and kill this demon’s ass,” Wila snarled.

“No.” Penny’s hand sliced through the air. “In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, it’s a trap.”

“So, what exactly is this demon up to?”

“Like you just said, they’re trying a new tactic.” Penny frowned as she looked at the picture on Wila’s phone screen again.

“If I wasn’t scheduled to work this afternoon, I’d say let’s have our girl’s night tonight,” Wila grumbled.

“Heck, I should keep a bottle of premade margaritas here.” Penny smiled. “I have the blenders and ice here. Unfortunately, the soccer coaches rather insist on sticking to the practice and game schedule.”

Wila rubbed the achy spot between her eyebrows. “You know the demon may have given you the wrong information about Laura’s situation.”

“I got a second opinion from your divorce attorney,” Penny said. “She said the same thing, and I met with her in person. I may have talked to the real Paxton on the phone last Thursday.”

Wila dropped her hand. “How is Lilah?”

“She’s fine. I forgot how feisty she is for someone older than my mother-in-law.” Penny chuckled.

“Speaking of old ladies, I left Gammy out in the dining room.”

Penny picked up her clipboard and pen. “I’m due for a break anyway. Is it okay if I join you?”

“Gammy would love it.”

Wila strode out to the hallway and headed for the dining room. As she passed the counter, Josie called out her name.

“Yes?” She paused.

“Give me a sec to steam the milk for your coffee.” Josie shifted to the closest espresso machine. “I wasn’t sure how long you would be back with the boss, and I know you like your mocha extra hot.”

Wila grinned as she approached the counter to collect her drink. “Bubblegum, I don’t know what Penny would do without you.”

“Penny would be mixing alcohol with her coffee and losing all her business,” Penny said as she stepped behind the counter to brew her own concoction.

“Rum goes really well with the peanut butter latte,” Josie volunteered.

Wila hid a snicker while Penny paused in squirting pumpkin spice syrup into her mug.

Josie’s cheeks matched her hair, and she mumbled, “Just sayin’.” Her focus on pouring the steamed milk into Wila’s cup was more than was normally warranted.

“Don’t give Bubblegum the evil eye, Penny,” Wila chided. “You were a college student once upon a time.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Penny glared at her over the top of the espresso machine she used.

“It means you could get more creative with your alcohol than I could while stationed in Germany.” Wila shook her head. “There’s only so much beer a woman can drink before it totally ruins her palette.”

“That’s because beer sucks.” Josie handed Wila her white chocolate mocha.

In turn, Wila raised her extra-large cup in a salute to the assistant manager. “Amen, sister.”

Once Penny completed her pumpkin spice latte, they crossed to the dining area to where Gammy sat enjoying her sandwich—egg, bacon, and cheese on an English muffin. Wila slid into the booth beside Gammy while Penny sat on the opposite seat.

Gammy looked around before she whispered, “You told Penny about that demon in the department store, right?”

“Yes, ma’am, I most certainly did,” Wila assured her grandmother.

“You girls need to take care of him before he hurts somebody.” Gammy’s attention shifted to Penny.

“We need to find out what he’s up to first,” Penny said.

“But with all the formerly dead hunters staying at the Catholic church, surely you have enough people to watch your backs while you kill this one.” Gammy took another bite of her sandwich.

The Vatican had refused to send any more living demon hunters to Oakfield, despite Father Perez and Father McAvoy’s entreaties, other than Karen Longstreet. But once the resurrected hunters found out about the need of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, they poured into the city. Father McAvoy took charge of the risen hunters and assigned one to each of the Horsemen’s family members when the Horseman wasn’t home.

Some of the oldest hunters thought Wila and her friend’s calling themselves the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse was sacrilegious, but Sister Joan and several other nuns thought the moniker was totally appropriate.

“If the demons are trying a new tactic to get their hands on the risen, the last thing we want to do is put them in harm’s way,” Wila protested.

“We need to run this past Father McAvoy.” Penny glanced at her watch. “I can’t get out of here until Valerie gets here at one.”

Out of an abundance of caution, the Soccer Moms visited the rectory at Saint Michael’s Church in person when they needed to consult with the members of the taskforce. That way, they could confirm whether the person they spoke with was free from demon influence.

“Dani’s at work, and Francine is with Karen and Sister Joan training the police on dealing with demons today,” Wila said.

Penny chuckled. “I know. I’m picking up the kids from school today and taking them to soccer practice this afternoon.”

Gammy patted Wila’s arm. “Baby girl, drop me off at the house, then go over to Saint Mike’s before you gotta be at work.”

“I promised you I’d help with the greens.” Wila stared at her grandmother. The old woman never let any of her grandchildren avoid work, much less break a promise.”

“Your role as a Soccer Mom is far more important than washing and tearing a mess of collard greens,” Gammy stated firmly before she turned to Penny. “Have you thought about staying open later in the evening?”

Leave it to Gammy to change the subject to prevent any more arguing.

“No,” Wila said. “You’re not hitting up my friend for a job.”

Gammy shrugged. “Laura and I need something to do besides putter around our family’s houses.”

“I can take care of you,” Wila protested.

“I know you can, baby girl.” Gammy reached over and patted her hand. “But I’ve been taking care of myself all my life. I don’t see why I can’t contribute to your household while I’m living there.”

“Besides, Wila, weren’t you the one suggesting Java’s Palace stay open twenty-four hours when you’re on the late shift?” Penny’s brown eyes twinkled as she took a sip of her coffee.

“We weren’t in the middle of the Apocalypse when I said that,” Wila shot back.

“It’s not a bad idea though,” Penny said. “I’ve been thinking about leasing a second space sooner rather than later. The owner of the Waterford Crossing contacted my real estate broker last week about a storefront I checked out last month. He’s willing to make a ton of concessions in order to rent out the space.”

“Is this the corner spot where the Mongolian restaurant used to be?” Wila frowned.

“Yep.”

“You said it needed a ton of work.”

Penny nodded. “Still does. The owner’s willing to do the clean-up and build out of the place, and he’s willing to knock off twenty-fiver percent of the monthly rate for the first year.”

Suspicion raced through Wila. “Why?”

Penny pursed her lips. “Oh, he wants to make sure he goes to Heaven.”

“You can’t promise him that!”

“Keep your voice down, baby girl,” Gammy murmured.

Yep, everyone was staring at the loud Black woman. The world may be ending, but some things simply didn’t change.

“I didn’t promise him any such thing,” Penny said. “Nor did he actually say that’s what he wanted. But with Francine being outed on the news as Famine and everyone getting sick here at the cafe, more people are putting two and two together than just Mayor Oldham and Chief Wright. But I’d be a fool not to take a prime offer.” She grinned. “Especially when we stop the Apocalypse.”

If they stopped the Apocalypse, but Wila wasn’t going to ruin Penny’s good mood by saying it out loud. Besides, maybe getting Gammy out of the house a couple of days a week would brighten her outlook.

It would definitely help with Wila’s meditation exercises if her grandmother wasn’t banging pots and pans most of the day.

“All right.” Wila held up her hands. “We need to find you a car then, Gammy.”

“You’re not buying me a car,” her grandmother snapped.

“Damn straight, I’m not.” Wila grinned. “It’s a loan with payments and interest that you will pay back to me.” It was the same lecture Gammy had given her in high school.

“Well, then.” Gammy sniffed. “I guess I can agree to that.”

“Great.” Penny nodded. “You want to start training Wednesday morning?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Gammy practically jiggled on the bench.

Wila glared at Penny. “You’re only saying because you know I have the day off Wednesday, and the ex-louse is picking Derek up from school.”

“Ex-louse?” Gammy narrowed her eyes.

“And you’ll have the time to talk to Neal about getting something for your grandmother to drive.” Penny sipped her coffee before she added, “If Gammy Wilkinson is willing to drive Laura to and from Java’s Palace, I’ll chip in half the car payment.”

Wila groaned. “Why do I feel like I’ve been set up?”

“We’re just being practical.” Gammy patted her hand.

Except their practicality made Wila feel incompetent for not being able to take of her own family.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

We'll Be Back After a Word From Our Sponsors

I'm interrupting my chapter posting to remind you that The Trickster Priestess and the Demon (Tales of the Twelve #1) is available for pre-order and will drop on Monday, August 15th.

This story is a weird amalgamation of me reading African folk tales, submitting to a new fantasy magazine, and coming up with an idea set in the Justice universe. The editor rejected the original version, and rightly so. He pointed out a major flaw I needed to fix. And rather than toss it to the side as is my wont, I spent a rare free day fixing said flaw.

I admit I rather enjoy this universe, and I'll probably continue writing stories in it, skipping around Balance's two thousand-year time table and around the world, long after the Anthea novels are completed. It has become my Valdemar/Pern/Barsoom.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

War in White Chocolate - Chapter 3

Things are chugging along with the writing of War in White Chocolate. Here's another unedited sample to whet your whistle!

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Wila squelched the threatening hysterical laughter. “Now, why on earth would I believe that?”

“You haven’t even heard my offer yet?” it said with mock disappointment.

“I don’t need to hear it to know it’s utter bullcrap.”

It clicked its tongue against its teeth. “Such an angry Black woman. Positively a textbook stereotype.”

“I’m not an angry Black woman,” she shot back. “I’m an irritated Soccer Mom with a flaming sword. And I’ve got a hankering for demon shish kebab.” She lunged for the demon.

It danced out of reach of her steel. “Talk to your sisters, War. Before you all make a decision you’ll regret. I’ll be in touch.” It backed out of the housewares aisle and disappeared around the endcap.

Wila started to follow, but Gammy grabbed her right arm. “Don’t be a fool, child. He’s taunting you to get you to act stupid. While I’d do my best to watch your back, I’m not your sisters.”

“I don’t have any sisters,” Wila growled.

“Penny, Francine, and Dani may not be your kin by blood, but the four of you are tighter than any family.”

Gammy was right about the demon as much as it burned Wila to admit it. The bastard could have an associate waiting for her to leave Gammy alone. It wouldn’t be the first time the demons kidnapped a family member of the Soccer Moms to use as a hostage against them. As one of the resurrected, Gammy was super vulnerable. Only God knew was else the demons could do with a human soul.

Besides use them to kill the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse.

And Gammy was right about the other Soccer Moms, too. They’d always been there when Wila needed someone. Even Francine, who normally irritated the hell out of Wila.

Wila closed her eyes and evened out her breathing. The weight of the steel in her hand faded. When she felt calm enough, she opened her eyes.

“Let’s pay for your colander, and get out of here,” she muttered.

“What about your own shopping list?” Gammy protested.

“Those things can wait.” Wila softened her voice. She didn’t need to take her bad mood over the demon out on her grandmother. “Right now, I need coffee and a talk with one of my so-called sisters.”

##

The parking lot in Java’s Palace was more than half full when Wila turned into it twenty minutes later. She and Gammy wasted fifteen of those minutes in the check-out line when Arrow’ store computer crashed and all the registers went down. If Wila were a betting woman, she’d lay a week’s paycheck the damn demon who’d confronted her was behind the computer issues.

She parked her red minivan next to Penny's white one. It would give Scarlett and Silver a chance to spend time together. Wila couldn’t say how she knew it, but the four Soccer Moms’ minivans/horses seemed to communicate with each other, especially about their drivers/riders. It was freaky as hell, but it was just one more element in the weirdness her life had become.

They entered the coffee shop. Penny’s assistant manager Josie grinned at them from beneath her mop of wild pink curls as they approached the counter.

“What can I make for you this morning, Wila?”

“My usual, Bubblegum, but I also need to talk to Penny. I thought she worked today.”

“She’s in the back doing inventory.” Josie reached for a large paper coffee cup and scribbled their code for a white chocolate mocha and handed it to Oliver who was manning the espresso machines.

“Gammy, order whatever you want. I’ll be right back.” Wila handed her grandmother her debit card and strode down the hallway toward the cafĂ©’s store room. She opened the door. The light was on. “Hey, Penny!”

“I’m in the back!”

Wila followed Penny’s voice to the corner of the store room. “We’ve got a problem.”

“Besides my missing shipment of large cups?” Penny rose from where she crouched and counted plastic-wrapped stacks of coffee cups on a shelf. She set aside her clipboard and pen before she brushed an auburn lock that had escaped her ponytail behind her ear and grinned.

“More like demon trouble.”

Penny’s smile fell, and she swore under her breath. “Another team try to kill you and/or kidnap your grandmother?”

“Actually, this was a new tactic.” Wila hugged herself. Things could have gone very badly at the super store. “A demon approached me while Gammy and I were picking up some things at Arrow. He made some nasty comments, but nothing worse than the shit our dear Officer Pence has said to me.” The beat cop had it out for all the Soccer Moms because they failed to stop a demon from killing his own resurrected grandmother.

Wila frowned as she replayed this morning’s incident in her head. “The demon said it would help the Soccer Moms stop the Apocalypse for something other than our souls, but it didn’t specify what. It also said I needed to relay the offer to my sisters, and it would be in touch. And the weirdest part was that it just walked away. Not move to hurt me or Gammy, much less any threats.”

Penny’s right eyebrow rose. “Do you believe it?”

“It’s a different play than interfering in our lives or trying to kill us outright.” Wila shrugged. “But no, I don’t believe it. I can’t figure out why a demon would want to stop the Apocalypse.”

It was Penny’s turn to shrug. “Maybe they’re worried their boss will lose the war, and they won’t have humans as playthings anymore. Or one of the translations I said they’d be condemned to non-existence once the Lamb and His armies won.”

“Maybe.” Wila shook her head. “There’s something else. Gammy could see it was a demon.”

“Really?” Penny’s eyes widened. “My mother-in-law was trained on what to look for, but your grandmother?”

“I know. She caught me off guard, too.”

“If any of the other dead can see demons through a possession…” Penny’s attention was lost in her analysis of the situation from every conceivable angle.

“Has Francine or Dani mentioned anything about the dead being able to see demons?” Wila prompted.

“Neither of them has said anything to me,” Penny said. “Should we call them?”

“No. I’ll text a warning to them in case this idiot shows up again.” Wila sighed. “We can discuss it in depth during our girls’ night. Is Laura coming with you?”

“Yeah.” Penny grinned. “She likes you grandmother.”

“And the situation with Edward and Marian is still driving her crazy.” Wila laughed.

“She’s honestly trying to remind herself their vows were until death do us part.” Penny leaned closer to Wila. “Would you believe Gene told Edward if he didn’t like Laura staying with us, he could move in with Marian?”

“And what did Laura and Marian say to that?”

“Marian refuses to sleep with him, much less have him stay at her condo. She’s of the opinion Laura’s resurrection nullifies her death. Therefore, Edward and Laura are still technically married.” Penny sighed. “On the other hand, Laura says her death ended their marriage, she has the right to date, and Edward can—and I quote—go screw Deborah Gibson’s brains out—as far as Laura is concerned.”

Wila cocked her head. “Who the hell is Deborah Gibson?”

“A neighbor Edward was having an affair with while Laura was in hospice.”

“What!” Wila stared at Penny. “Mr. I’m So Conservative I Make the Amish Look Like Punk Rockers had an affair?”

“I’m afraid so.” Penny grimaced.

“I know damn well he wouldn’t admit that to Gene, much less you. And I thought Laura didn’t remember the last year or so of her life.”

Penny sighed. “She doesn’t. Deborah recognized Laura when we were at the grocery store over the weekend, and with the coming Apocalypse, she decided she needed to beg for Laura’s forgiveness for committing adultery with Edward.”

“Oh, my god. What did Laura do?”

“She cold-cocked the bitch.”

Wila pursed her lips in an attempt not to laugh.

Penny chuckled. “Go ahead and laugh. I did when it happened.”

Wila roared at the thought of some elderly woman thinking a badass demon hunter like Laura Hudson wouldn’t slap her silly for screwing with Laura’s husband.

When Wila finally got her mirth under control, she said, “This Gibson woman isn’t going to sue Laura, is she?”

Penny shrugged. “If she does, how’s the court going to handle it? Laura may be running around now, but legally, she’s dead.”

“Is that what you think, or is that what Fred Whittaker said?”

“It’s what the attorney Fred referred me to said,” Penny amended.

A chill ran through Wila. The demon she and Gammy encountered at Arrow claimed to be riding a lawyer, but the timing couldn’t be a coincidence. She pulled out her phone. “What’s the name of the guy you talked to?”

“Chance Paxton.”

Wila tapped the name into her phone. A local listing came up with a picture. Her heart stopped. She turned the phone to Penny. “This the guy?”

“Yeah.” Penny looked up at Wila, and her face turned sheet white. “No. Oh, no.”

“Yep. This was the demon who confronted me at Arrow.”

Wila wanted to scream. The shit that went down with Seth Rimmon had been bad enough. Through this Chance Paxton, the demon inside him could make their lives living hell.