Everyone knows the quote from Milton. That one about it being, “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.” But Gena Showalter has already shown that demons can be redeemed, or can fight their nature, with the help of the right woman. She proved that in her Lords of the Underworld series.
Wicked Nights is the first story in a spinoff series in the same universe, Angels of the Dark. And Zacharel certainly is a dark and brooding angel. Also a disobedient one. His Deity has made him general of an army of misbehaving angels who are all one step, or maybe that’s one wingspan, away from falling into the dark.
Zacharel is the one who is whipped every time one of them disobeys. Or accidentally kills a possessed human when they battle the demons. Every one of his soldiers is damaged goods. They’ve all been tortured by the dark.
Zacharel lost his brother to the demons. Hadrenial was the best part of him. But after his repeated, soul-destroying torment by the demons, Hadrenial begged Zacharel to kill him. To kill his spirit, destroy his soul and burn his body. To remove him utterly from existence. In the angel’s realm nothingness was better than being consigned to hell by self-murder. And Hadrenial’s self-destructive actions became more and more depraved by the day. Zachariel finally gave in, and killed him. Destroying his soul. He also carved out a piece of his own soul, all the love he felt in the universe.
Or so he thought.
Annabelle Miller watched a demon rip her parents to pieces right before her very eyes. Eyes that the demon had just ripped from their sockets. Then he marked her as his own and left Annabelle to attempt to explain what she saw to the police. Who of course believed that she was an insane psychopathic murderer and locked her up in a mental institution.
Where she was under continual attack by, not just demons that no one else could see, but by the staff who treated her as fair game for sexual assault. After all, no one would believe the crazy girl.
Until the angels came to investigate the place. Zacharel’s army was tasked to discover why this one building kept being attacked by demon armies. It was assumed that someone inside was possessed.
What Zacharel found, was Annabelle. A woman who could see the demons. A woman who had been claimed by a demon. Yet a woman who had absolutely not invited that demon to claim her. As an angel, Zacharel could “taste” when someone was telling the truth, and Annabelle was telling that truth.
He was intrigued in spite of himself. And that was a feeling. Zacharel had no feelings. He’d cut them all out of himself when he’d killed his brother. But Annabelle’s defiance of her circumstances made him feel. She was not broken, not yet.
But he could see that she would be. Not yet, but one year, or two. And his task was to protect the humans from the demons. He decided to protect Annabelle by rescuing her.
The demons chased them. Everywhere. Zacharel discovered that he wanted to do much more than just protect Annabelle. Even if he didn’t know what it was that he was feeling. Or why the demons were so intent on this one woman.
She was his woman now. And hell could be damned if he would let them have her.
Escape Rating A-: This is one of those stories where you just kind of buckle up, because you know it’s going to be a really bumpy ride. And I mean that in the best way possible.
The Lords of the Underworld series was not sweetness and light. Those dudes all had somebody pretty nasty sharing headspace with them. This is a spinoff series, so don’t expect fluff here either. Both Annabelle and Zacharel have incredible amounts of baggage. Whole steamer-trunks full.
These two tortured souls take a long time to trust each other, and they should. There’s a very rocky road to even see happy someone over the next horizon, and that’s the way it should be. These are two souls who don’t think happy could have ever applied to them. Getting there is what makes the story.
One small spoiler. Dr. Fitzpervert doesn’t get anywhere near what’s coming to him. But it was a good start.