Feeling another twinge of nerves, Debbie looked longingly at the full wine rack on the kitchen counter. Don’t do it. You’re expecting. And it’s too late for a drink anyway, you’ve got to go to bed. You have to get more sleep, for yourself and the baby.
Stifling another yawn, Debbie put aside her laptop and rubbed at her eyes. Two hours, and not much to show for it, girl, except tired eyes. And you have to face facts: you’re going to need some reading glasses pretty quick.
Debbie couldn’t even remember the last time she’d been to the eye doctor. But she’d always had 20/20 vision, no problems. And now…now the printed script pages and memos were slightly blurry. She could make out what they said, but how long would that last?
Debbie felt a sudden rush of panic and squashed it down. Grow up, you’re a big girl. You knew this would happen. All women go through this along with slowing metabolism, wrinkles, and grey hair. What did you think, that you’d be the one to somehow escape it?
Debbie sighed, got up, and went to the bathroom, brushing her teeth before she surveyed her reflection in the mirror. Yes, that’s it exactly. I never thought it would happen to me. And now it is.
Debbie grabbed a brush, and began tearing it through her hair, looking angrily for grey hairs caught in the bristles and finding several. Swearing, she threw down the brush, cracking the plastic handle. Gritting her teeth, she set the brush aside and grabbed the mouthwash, taking a mouthful. She was just swishing it around her teeth when a sudden noise came from the living room.
Her eyes bulged, and she spat it as quietly as she could in the sink, listening, too worried to call out. Shaker! I need you!
“Debbie?” came Titus’s rumbling voice. “Are you here?”
It’s okay, Shaker said in Debbie’s mind. Titus has brought Devlin to congratulate you. He couldn’t keep the news to himself. And Devlin isn’t a man accustomed to boundaries. Just be polite, please.
Debbie’s muscles went weak with relief, and she sat down on the toilet, suddenly near tears. With effort, she shook it off, wrapped a robe around herself, then went out. “I’m in here, Titus.”
“Enchante, Deborah,” Devlin said, stepping into view clad in jeans and a denim jacket. “How are you, lovely mom-to-be? I asked Titus to bring me by when he told me the news.” He leaned down close to her waist. “Little child, blessings be on you. I will be most pleased to make your acquaintance.”
His tone was odd, but so was him just coming to her home this time of night, no matter the reason. Why would Devlin care about a baby? Shaker, what’s this about?
“I wanted to see you, is the real reason,” Titus said kindly, taking her hands in his clawed ones. “Devlin just wanted to add his congratulations.” He looked her over carefully, being obvious in what he was doing.
“Is there something you’re looking for?” Debbie asked, glaring at him.
“Just to see if you’re healthy,” Titus said. “And you are. Please don’t be alarmed, I’m just excited for you and my brother. Rip will be also.”
“Well, thank you for the congrats,” Debbie said with a firm smile. “But it’s late, and I should get to bed.”
“Of course,” Devlin said with a nod. “You both need your sleep. Rest well.” He left a small white bag festooned with silver ribbons on a nearby end table. “With my blessings.”
“I have something else for you,” Titus said. He whistled.
There was a deep chuff, and then from the nearest shadow, a large mastiff-type dog appeared, as if he’d been sitting there the entire time. His eyes were black, and his coat was black, his upright ears pricked attentively. But he was thin, almost gaunt.
Titus handed Debbie a collar made of matte hammered metal, lined with cloth. “Put this on him.”
“What’s his name?” Debbie asked, as she buckled on the collar. “There are no tags.”
“Guardian,” Titus supplied.
“Where did you get him?” Debbie said, excited but also worried about taking on a pet when she already was overwhelmed. “What do I feed him? Has he had his shots?”
“This is not a mortal dog,” Titus replied. “He truly will be a guardian to you, able to come out of any shadow when he is needed. He won’t require dog food, just some meat now and again with water. He will not need any vet care. Shaker will show you what to do.”
That sounds ominous. “Is he a demon?”
“A hellhound,” Shaker said, as he appeared nearby. “Brother, you shouldn’t have.”
“Debbie needs a guardian, one that can be with her at all times,” Titus said firmly. “Guardian will do that. Give him flesh and blood, the fresher the better.”
Shaker petted the hound, who allowed it but had eyes only for Debbie.
CEO Debbie and demon Shaker’s first year of partnership was a smashing success for both Pandora Productions and their own new intimate relationship, ending with the announcement of their engagement last New Year’s Eve. Shaker now inhabits a human host, Pandora’s rising action star Jett Black, putting the possibility of a family within Debbie’s tentative grasp as the couple pledges their love at the altar. But as before, one crisis after another ensues, beginning with Titan’s push to assimilate Pandora and the death of Debbie’s father, bringing her back together with her estranged family, and into the sights of a demon-hunting priest, Father Matthew, who will stop at nothing to not only send Shaker back to the Hell he came from, but also ensure Debbie is free of sin…permanently. When Shaker is sent back to Hell, Debbie is left bereft, her team of allies decimated, her best friend in a coma, she must decide if she will succumb…or rise from the ashes and fight ruthlessly for everything she loves, no matter the cost.