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Barbara Elsborg
20 January 2022
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An angel and a demon walk into a bar…

It should be the start of a joke, except Emmett and Phoenix loathe each other the moment they meet. Reluctant and mismatched partners they may be, but they’ve been given a job to do on Earth: persuade the newly dead to move on to wherever they’re destined to go.

A friendly word here, a nudge there, all the dead should need is a push in the right direction—but dark forces are working against the pair, and the mission takes a dangerous turn.

From hate at first sight, to toleration, to something more… Except time is running out, and soon Emmett and Phoenix will be torn apart and returned to the worlds from which they came. That’s not what they want, and neither is willing to go back without a fight…

…. Because even though they’re dead, they’ve never felt more alive.

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As he (Emmett) half-enviously watched the group, another guy came in, taller than Emmett, with scruffy dark hair, sharp cheekbones, a scar on his cheek and the bluest of blue eyes. His jeans hung low on narrow hips and he had long, long legs. He smiled as he moved along the back of the group at the bar, brushing closer to them than he needed to. Emmett would never have done that. When the guy reached the end of the row, he lifted a wallet from the last man’s pocket. What the…? Emmett’s jaw dropped.

Almost as if the thief sensed Emmett watching, he turned and stared at him. His smile widened, somehow making Emmett complicit in what he’d done. As Emmett contemplated standing up and saying something, though he had no idea what, the man pulled a twenty-pound note from the wallet, pocketed the money and dropped the wallet on the floor. To Emmett’s horror, he then walked over and sat down next to him. Go away!

“Hi,” the guy said. “This is a stroke of luck.”

Luck? Emmett was struck dumb with shock.

“Buy me a drink?” the man asked. “It’s a special occasion, so I think we should go for something with bubbles.”

Emmett pushed to his feet and walked over the bar, intending to speak to the person who’d just been robbed. He’d have to explain that he had no idea who this man was, even though he’d sat next to him. But the wallet had already been picked up and Emmett hesitated.

“What can I get you?” the barman asked.

Emmett placed the order wondering what the hell he was doing? Why was he buying this guy a drink when he wanted to tell him to fuck off? Except you know why. Low riding jeans and slim hips and that face and a long time since he’d had sex. I am as shallow as a puddle. Though the return of lust was somewhat comforting.

A few moments later, Emmett returned to the table to find his lunch being consumed. Fucking hell. That was totally unacceptable. He slammed the drinks down, the liquid sloshing over the sides of the glasses.

“Lemonade?” The thief laughed.

Emmett was too angry to speak.

“Tell you what,” the guy said. “I’ll increase your word ration to ten, if you go and buy something alcoholic.”

You arsehole. “You asked for bubbles. I bought you bubbles.”

“Eight words. You could have had two more.”

“You dickhead.”

The man laughed. “Which makes ten. I should introduce myself. I’m Nix.”

“Why would I want to know who you are? Of what possible interest would that be to me? Please leave me to enjoy my lunch in peace.” The spark of interest felt by Emmett had been obliterated by the man helping himself to his food. What awful manners.

Emmett picked up the fork, wiped it thoroughly on the paper napkin, delving between each tine, then recommenced eating. The guy watched him.

“Are you deaf? I asked you to leave,” Emmett said, once he’d emptied his mouth.

“I’m Nix.”

“So you said. Is that supposed to—oh.” It had taken Emmett too long to get it. He deplored nicknames. Partly because he’d been called Emma at school. But Nix was short for Phoenix. This was the guy who’d be sharing the job, the flat, the bedroom, his brief return to the world. Oh shit.

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