Payable On Death
The Jax Rhodes Series
Print Length: 207 pages
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Genre: New Adult Urban Fantasy
A deal with the Devil. Demons haunting your every step. When an Angel offers you the chance to redeem yourself, you take it. Because eternal damnation isn't all it's cracked up to be.
But the Devil always gets his due.
On the streets of Baltimore redemption is..... Payable On Death.
"You're too young to be so troubled. You haven't even seen a quarter century. You're just a babe." The man flicked his cigarette in to the dark, a shower of little orange sparks erupting when it hit the pavement.
"I'm not your babe. Leave me alone." I pushed off the railing on the pedestrian bridge crossing over I-95 and walked away.
"Ah, poor choice of words. I was simply commenting on your age. You're no one's babe, Jacqui. How could you be? You're too afraid to let people get close, lest they see the bruises." He ran a hand along his hair, ensuring each piece in the slicked-back style remained in place.
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" I'd never seen him before in my life. Someone that perfect left an impression. If we'd met before, I would've remembered.
"I can make things better for you. Take away your pain, ease your suffering. You hardly sleep, listening at your bedroom door for any sign of trouble. I can help with that." He was confident. He had to be, walking around Baltimore at night dressed in a three-piece suit, diamond cufflinks gleaming even with only the dim blue light from the police CCTV cameras to highlight them.
"I don't know what you think you know about me or what you've heard but I don't do drugs. So you can go peddle that shit somewhere else. I'm not buying." Despite having more reasons than I could count, I'd managed to avoid getting hooked on heroin - an impressive feat given the amount flooding the city.
"Mmm. I almost wish you were. It makes things so much easier when drugs are involved. Let me ask you a question. Do I look like some street thug drug peddler to you?"
I took in the meticulous tailoring, the expensive shoes. "You're definitely not from around here." I gestured to the boarded up row homes across the street.
Weeds overran the small front yards, brushing the bottoms of the windowsills. Plywood replaced glass in almost every window. Trash littered the street, the city cans overflowing onto the sidewalk to the delight of the ever growing rat population. Sirens echoed in the distance, the dealers on the corner unfazed.
Welcome to Harm City.
Still, it was safer on the street than at home most nights.
"Home for me is a lot farther south of the Mason-Dixon line than Maryland, dear child. What are you doing up here? Shouldn't you be home? With your mother?"
"You don't know me, you don't know my mom. Get the fuck out of here before I call the cops." I held up my phone and pointed at the BPD security camera.
He clucked his tongue, wagging a finger at me. "Such a foul mouth for such a pretty face. I know a lot about your mom. The lie she told about going to a basket bingo with her friend Janice. Mom never made it out of the house by the way. She's very pretty, your mother, I see where you get your looks. Maybe if she hadn't fussed with her hair and makeup so much or if she'd chosen a different blouse..."
I'd heard those excuses from my mother so many times. If she hadn't done this or that, he wouldn't have beat her. Breathing seemed to be what set him off where I was concerned. I avoided going home as often as possible. For my mother's sake as much as mine. He seemed better when I wasn't around.
"It looks bad this time. The neighbors are out for the night. No one to call for help. And he's upset, very upset."
"The neighbors are out? If by ‘out’ you mean abandoned and boarded up, then yeah, they're out. He's always upset. I've begged her to leave, so many times. She won't. She said if she ever did, he'd kill her. Trust me, if I go back now, it will only make things worse.."
"It's different this time, Jacqui girl." The same thing my mother said every time my stepfather came home with flowers and a box of wine to apologize. "He came home early, found the suitcase she packed to take with her to the shelter by the door. She's hurt. All alone in that house. With him."
I started to run, only making it a couple of steps before he grabbed me.
"You'll never make it in time. I can help you, Jacqui girl. I can put an end to all this. Don't you want to help her? Don't you want to save your mother? Save yourself? This isn't the life you deserve. No one should live like this. Forgotten by everyone, left to the drunken rages and violent fits of that monster you live with. Why is this happening? Why did He forget about you? He's supposed to love you. Doesn't He care what happens to you?" He pointed toward the sky.
"What's in it for you? Why do you care what happens to us? If you know all that, you know I don't have any money and neither does my mom." I should have screamed for help.
His breath whispered across my ear. "Money isn't the only form of payment.”
For a moment, I considered it, considered giving over my body in exchange for him following me home and killing my stepfather. In all the years of darkness and misery, I’d managed to stay straight, stay on the path. Faced with the brutal murder of my mother, was I willing to throw it all away?
"I know a place we can go, but not until you hold up your end of the bargain." My stomach heaved when I thought about what I'd agreed to do.
"Oh, you sweet, simple girl. You are so delicious. The soft unmarked skin of youth pulled tight over toned muscle." He licked his lips. "Yes, I am quite sure I would enjoy every moment. However, I don’t recall stating the terms."
"Do we have a deal or not? You said I was out of time." Panic gripped my heart. Was she dead already?
"You're right, Jacqui girl, I did Have you put it together yet? Who I am? He didn't answer you. He never helped you. But I can."
Everything clicked. I should have ran. I should have said no. There were a million things I should have done.
"Can you save her? Can you put an end to this?"
The Devil smiled. "I believe we can come to an agreement."
About the Author:
Rachel Rawlings was born and raised in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Her family, originally from Rhode Island, spent summers in New England sparking her fascination with Salem, MA. She has been writing fictional stories and poems since middle school, but it wasn't until 2009 that she found the inspiration to create her heroine Maurin Kincaide and complete her first full length novel, The Morrigna.
When she isn't writing, Rachel can often be found with her nose buried in a good book. An avid reader of Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Horror and Steampunk herself, Rachel founded Hallowread- an interactive convention for both authors and fans of those genres.
More information on Hallowread, its schedule of events and participating authors can be found at www.hallowread.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/Hallowread .
She still lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.
Goodreads Author Page http://goo.gl/FZW0RN
Amazon Author Page http://goo.gl/Q6Ubn1