You’re always stronger in the broken places…
Angela Stanton has it all—the brilliant mind, the political job that can make a real difference, the townhouse full of strays she attracts wherever she goes. She’s also got a secret that nearly destroyed her when she was a child. A secret she’s buried so deep, it can’t hurt anyone anymore.
Gregori of the Syx, a gifted empath, has avoided all human emotion since he became a demon. Now he must convince Angela to trust him with her deepest pain, revealing a truth that could change the role of demons on earth forever. Unfortunately, the intensity of this particular human connection might also shatter what’s left of his soul. But this time, he won’t turn away.
Falling in love can utterly end you when you’re a Demon Ensnared.
Read an Excerpt
It was such a short, unassuming word to carry this much weight, so quiet and small. But it roared in Gregori’s mind with the force of rage, desperation, and despair.
He’d silently met every assignment given to him in his role of demon enforcer of the Syx with this same howling rebuke, yet never once had he given it a voice. Never objected, never begged off. Never turned aside from the horrific assaults on his senses that the Archangel Michael had forced him to endure, every time the Syx were ordered to dive once more into the world of humans, to rescue God’s children from the worst of Gregori’s own kind.
The luxury of denying that call had been taken from him, he’d reminded himself, job after job, year after year, century after century. This was his path now. This was where his weakness had brought him.
But…enough was enough.
“No,” he murmured again, the word low and thick, rumbled in his deep voice.
Beside him, his fellow demon Hugh shifted up on his toes, and Gregori fought the grim smile at what the sly and silver-tongued demon enforcer must be thinking. No one opposed the archangel. Least of all the surliest, most taciturn member of their team.
Michael the Archangel, however, didn’t move. His eyes remained ghostly white, his expression unreadable. “You cannot refuse this charge, Gregori. You know this as well as I do.”
Gregori lifted his chin and intensified his glower at the archangel. The problem was, he knew far more than Michael had ever seemed to understand. Once an exalted angel of the heavens, Gregori had rashly agreed to become a Fallen, fully prepared to serve the children of God as a teacher and supporter, helping them navigate the magnificently complex planet on which they lived, guiding them as they reached for their highest potential. He could hear their cries all the way to heaven, could feel their frustration and their pain. How much better would he be able to serve among them, with such an attunement to their needs?
Upon becoming Fallen, however, he’d immediately realized his mistake. His sensitivity to mortal thoughts, emotions, and sensations had been magnified a hundred-thousandfold. He was an angel who knew, who felt, and who experienced too much. Far too much. Every time a human would cry out for his aid, Gregori would practically be driven to his knees with their debilitating agony, crippled with despair.
He’d tried, of course. He’d served. He’d bent and toiled. Until at last the day had come when he’d simply—refused. Just once…just once he’d needed to turn away, to not accept the cup of the humans’ pain, the cloak of their anguish. Just once he’d needed to take a deep and shuddering breath that was not laced with mortal cries.
And in that breath, he’d lost the grace of God and become a demon.
It wasn’t fair. It was, perhaps, not even just.
But it was so nonetheless.
All these millennia later, Gregori could manage the pain humans caused him so much more easily, though it was always there. It dogged his crippled, shattered form beneath his glamorous façade. He’d never lost his prescient awareness of the agony that awaited him in the mortal space, lurking in the shadows, eager to strike—but he’d eventually learned ways to manage it.
To be fair, he was not normally the member of the Syx who was directly called, nor the demon who led an expedition. As a secondary set of fists serving another of his team, he could distance himself from what was going on directly in front of him. When he was called upon to fight under the direction of Warrick or Raum or any of the other enforcers, he could focus on the task at hand, ignoring the rest.
But now, everything had changed.
“You know what’s been required of all the enforcers,” the archangel continued, eyeing him more closely now. “You’ve been set on a path of redemption, like every member of the Syx. If any one of you refuses to walk that path, however, all will be lost. There will be no second chance.”
“And I know that you are the one who created this path and these requirements,” Gregori said, once again not missing the demon Hugh’s shift of surprise beside him. One of the most elusive of their number, Hugh had rarely been called to partner directly with any of them until recently. His curse of deception had become his gift as a demon enforcer, allowing him to do his best work when he slipped alone through the most twisted of mortal throngs.
Gregori’s sin—that of indifference—had no such silver lining. It also proved no impediment to his work, Gregori made sure of that. He would serve as he was demanded to serve, atoning evermore for the humans who’d died because he couldn’t be moved to aid them, because he had not yet learned how to cope with the torment their needs kindled within him.
But, again, enough was enough. “There are many ways for us to find our redemption, many paths we can take,” Gregori rumbled. “That you set this task before me shows either that you don’t know me very well, or you know me so well, you deliberately risk the future of the Syx on their most tenuous member. Which is it, archangel?”
It was probably the longest speech he’d ever made to Michael, and by this time, Hugh was staring at him openly. Michael remained unmoved.
Resolutely, with no expression at all marring his eerily pale face, the archangel lifted his hand—and both Gregori and Hugh were gone.
A moment later, they appeared in the center of a crush of people who were practically vibrating with their riotously conflicting emotions and tangled needs, and Gregori drew in a sharp, agonized breath as he recalibrated himself. It was like this every time he was thrust into a human crowd, but he could manage it. He. Could. Manage. It.
“What the hell happened to you?” Hugh spun him around. “And I mean that quite literally.”
Even the touch of his brother demon’s hand upon him made Gregori stagger back. In an instant, he knew all of Hugh’s thoughts, his emotions, his hopes and fears, a cascade of images and feelings that threatened to bury him alive. He nearly choked on the intensity of it, his lungs squeezing with alarm, panic searing his nerves.
Drawing in a ragged breath, Gregori forced himself not to strike out at his comrade—they’d worked together for six thousand years, and none of the other demons knew the full extent of his weakness—but it was a near thing. Hugh was tall and slender, sinuously built. In their present appearances, Gregori towered over him like a mountain. A fight between the two would not go well for the quick-witted demon.
“Seriously, since when did you become the biggest badass of the Syx?” Hugh pressed. “I’ve never seen anyone back-talk the OG like that before.”
Gregori grimaced, compelling himself to remain upright, forcing his hands not to clench into fists, his voice not to build to a roar. Eventually, the screaming cacophony in his mind eased. “This isn’t the right job for me to lead,” he said gruffly.
Hugh snorted. “Well, it’s pretty much the kind of job we always get. Lots of humans, lots of shadows, lots of bad shit on the verge of happening.” He squinted, clearly trying to make sense of the main attraction in the stadium. “Any idea why there are a bunch of pickup trucks driving around inside the building?”
“No.” Gregori took in the cheering of the crowd and the squeal of tires as trucks spun in the center of an enormous indoor stadium that had been inexplicably filled with dirt. The trucks were large, their tires larger, but it wasn’t the Monster! Truck! Extravaganza!, as advertised on countless banners around the space, that had him worried. Not exactly. “There’s a new kind of demon here,” he murmured. “You can smell them.”
“Maybe you can smell them, my brother. I can’t,” Hugh said, giving him a sidelong glance.
Gregori sighed. This was why he didn’t lead expeditions. Even his most basic explanations of his abilities left his team confused.
“But I’m willing to roll with it,” Hugh continued. “You tell me we’ve got a new rando demon breed to deal with, I believe you.”
“You do?” Gregori shot Hugh a look, expecting a mocking grin, but for once, Hugh’s ordinarily cheerful eyes were flat and serious.
“Yup. One of the benefits of being a consummate liar.” Hugh shrugged. “I can always pick another one out. You suck at it, and you always have. Generally speaking, the rest of us use your mood as a sort of unofficial barometer. The unhappier you are, the more we’re going to get beat to shit on a job. But, here we go. What’s the story on this dirt palace?”
The completely incongruous sound of dogs barking barely reached Gregori over the roar of trucks, and he scowled. Dogs? No way. There wouldn’t be dogs here. Not with all the noise and trucks—and demons. Dogs and demons never mixed.
“I don’t know, exactly,” he said gruffly. “Whatever these new demons are, however, they’re closing in at the far side of the arena. See there? And there.”
Hugh squinted in the direction Gregori pointed. “I do see. They’re moving fast too, the scum suckers. Like they’ve scented their prey.”
“Agreed,” Gregori said, his eyes narrowing on a roped-off area near the midpoint of the stadium, where a group of incongruously well-dressed people milled about. “We need to move.”