Author: Lyssa Dering
Length: 25,000 words
Freedom wasn't supposed to be this dangerous...
When succubus Reth finally meets their soul quota and gains freedom from Hell, they decide to take up residence in New Orleans. Immediately they discard the body they've been wearing since 1952 and slip into something a little more virile, pleased to find they get a cozy apartment for their trouble. Too bad the apartment has a joint lease with their body's ex-boyfriend Jude.
Jude is walking around with a black eye and a bad attitude, and when Reth tries to explain things, Jude doesn't believe them. Plus, he refuses to move out. Reth doesn't want to take Jude's soul, and they really like this body. So they show him some succubus action minus the soul-grabbing, hoping to scare him off.
But they never expected for the mortal to take a liking to them. And they never could have predicted just how pure Jude's soul would be. When Reth unwittingly commits a sin against Lucifer, they'll need Jude's help to avoid an eternity of suffering... For them both.
The room was thick with tension, but Jude was feeling reckless. He set the cards back on the table and came up to Reth's back, pressing his lips to the top of his spine. When Reth didn't tell him no, he settled his hands tentatively on his hips.
Reth turned his head, looking at Jude over his shoulder. When he next spoke, it was in a near-whisper. "I already told you this wasn't a good idea."
"I'm just..." He sighed. He didn't know what he was doing. He'd never touch a stranger like this, or someone he'd only rubbed up against once. He stepped back, shoving his hands into the pockets of his sweats. "Sorry. This is stressful. Everything is stressful."
"I understand." Reth turned around, abandoning his cabinet search for alcohol. He averted his eyes but then focused them back on Jude. "I need you to do something for me, even though you're stressed."
"Don't tell anyone what I've told you. About what I am. About what you saw."
Jude couldn't help but laugh. Who would he tell, anyway? His mom? She didn't need to hear about his love life, especially when it was a mess. She'd taken a couple of years to be okay with him being queer, but demons? That would take her years to get comfortable with. And his best friend Brett was always traveling for work and wasn't great at long distance communication. "They'd think I was crazy."
"Good. Actually, it might be better if I left. And you could pretend Tyler ran out on you."
The mention of Tyler pinched Jude's chest. "He did run out on me. Basically."
"Perfect." Reth tried to leave the room, but Jude grabbed his fingers.
"Hey, wait. What's going on? You can tell me." Reth stilled but didn't say anything. "We already decided that you were staying, that you were going to help me with the rent. Just tell me what's going on so we can handle it."
Several strained seconds passed in which neither of them moved. Then Reth turned around and pulled Jude into a searing kiss.
Lyssa Dering is an author of queer erotic romance. She writes about damaged characters in impossible situations who, despite often horrifying struggles, will always get their happy ending.