“Sweet digs.” Vicky shouldered past Jeb with a toothy grin.
Jeb growled back, but cut himself short. In the short time Gerry had known the greed-powered demon he’d seen that the man liked to appear sophisticated.
<It makes sense.>
People who had money and power tended to be sophisticated. Jeb needed to act the same way to get close to his prey. It was a basic predatory adaptation.
Conversely, his reaction to Vicky was based on his basic nature and ingrained biases.
Infernals have a hierarchy in Eden just like in Hell. In Prince Seere’s kingdom you had the worker class: the forge workers, the whores, and the people who farmed the Elysian Fields. Above them was the warrior class. Those who fought and died in droves in defense of the kingdom. Above them was the officer class: the colonels, generals, Infernal Knights, and Prince Seere’s personal guards. Lastly, there were the royal administrators; the Duxes, and finally Prince Seere himself at the pinnacle of the pyramid.
While a similar hierarchy existed in Eden, it went beyond that. Entire species were worked into the hierarchy based on their usefulness. If your species was important to the ultimate goal of reconquering the high realms, then you were important.
A Soulless like Vicky, even though she was at the top of her species’ hierarchy, was beneath a demon like Jeb.
“It looks like your interior decorator ripped off Napoleon.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at Gerry, but he saw through her veneer.
Vicky had been in this place before, but she’d spent that time on her knees in the shag carpet with the old Dux’s cock triggering her gag reflex. Now, she was entering it as a lieutenant, equal in her eyes to the demon beside her, and possibly knowing the new Dux better than anyone.
Gerry didn’t mind a little bit of healthy competition between his underlings, but too much and there’d be problems. <I need to keep an eye on her.>
Jeb’s growl at her disrespectful comment seemed to reverberate in the space around him.
“Easy everyone.” Gerry made placating gestures with his hands. “Let’s get started.”
Jeb bowed his apologies while Vicky winked her thanks. If it came down to it, Jeb would rip her limb from limb with only moderate effort.
Two other people entered behind Jeb and Vicky. One instantly gave Gerry a raging boner while the other made him immediately wary. It was a confusing mix of emotions.
“Introductions are necessary, my Dux.” Jeb turned to his compatriots. “This is the lovely Jezebel.”
“Jizzabel.” Vicky coughed loudly.
Gerry gave her a hard stare and motioned for Jeb to continue.
“My Dux,” Jezebel took over and curtsied deeply.
Her skin was a sun-kissed bronze and her voice was soft velvet. Her hair fell down below her shoulders in exquisitely styled, silky, brunette ringlets, and her amber eyes smoldered in the crystal chandelier’s dancing light. She was wearing a black evening gown that had a slit all the way up to her waist, and revealed a toned, athletic leg that went on for days. As she bowed, Gerry got a good look down her dress at the impressive amount of cleavage. It was perfection. Her every movement and every word seemed designed to tingle his groin; which only meant one thing.
“I am demon of the Fourth Choir, my Dux.” She straightened out of her curtsey, and Gerry immediately missed the view of the demoness powered by lust.
“More like a slut of the triple penetra…”
<That’s enough.> Gerry reached out with the swirling æther of his demesne and grasped Vicky by the throat.
Her mutter turned into a shocked choked as Gerry slowly squeezed. Her eyes bulged, and her hands gripped the back of a chair hard enough that it shattered into splinters. All eyes turned to regard them, and he didn’t miss the slight smile that pulled at Jezebel’s lips.
“You have a lot to offer, Vicky. But don’t test my patience. I will return you to your former position. Do you understand?” He relaxed his grip so she could nod, and then he released her. “Thank you, Jezebel, please have a seat.”
That only left the last man. He was a giant who resembled men in Hell that Gerry had learned originated from islands in the Pacific. He had the same sun-kissed skin as Jezebel, but it seeped off him in rolls of fat. He was also tall, a few inches taller than Gerry, with a shiny bald head and beady black eyes. All of that made his child-like face that much more out of place.
“I’m Lono, my Dux,” his voice was low and he spoke slowly. “I am a demon of the Fifth Choir.”
Gerry nodded. It made sense the mountain of fat was from the Choir of Gluttony.
“There are only four of you?” Gerry had expected more, which made him confident the prior Dux had been a fool.
“Three, my Dux.” Jeb quickly corrected, shooting a sideways look at Vicky. “We lost four of our number in the battle for the city that killed your predecessor.”
“A battle you lost.” It was a statement not a question, and a statement that made all three demons want to look anywhere but at Gerry.
“I told them not to do it.” Vicky spoke up, but her tone held none of its former arrogance. It seemed Gerry’s display of power have leashed her for the moment.
Jezebel hissed slightly, but otherwise remained silent.
“That is the past. We must look to the future.” He put them all at ease.
He waved his hand over the polished surface of the wooden table and it rippled like he’d dropped a stone in a chestnut-colored pond. The tabletop twisted and grew upward into a three dimensional map of the greater Charlotte area. There was nothing mistaking the map for what it truly was.
A new battle plan.
Vicky saw where he was going first, which confirmed his choice to have her here despite her general dislike for the other demons.
“My coven holds territory in these areas.” Vicky touched the areas with her delicate, pale finger and a purple hue spread across the otherwise black city.
“My base of operation is here, my Dux.” Jeb highlighted a single skyscraper in green.
“I’m the CEO of a successful online dating service,” Jezebel poked the black map with an exquisitely polished nail just east of the main city around the Charlotte Country Club. “I also arrange meet and greets for exclusive clientele, which puts me in contact with many of the city’s elite.” Pink specks lit up all over the city.
“She provides hookers for all the rich guys and dabbles in sex trafficking.” Vicky spoke plainly.
“Succinctly put, yes.” Jezebel ignored Vicky and smiled and Gerry. “My presence is not measured in territory but in influence, favors, and my currency is secrets.”
“Yeah, guys say anything when they want you to make them cum.” Vicky showed the demoness some fang. “My own coven has learned a few secrets too.”
“Petty things compared to my knowledge.”
Gerry could see fire behind Jezebel’s eyes so he stepped in. “Anything and everything will come in hand.” His tone made the women back down. “Lono?”
The big man wobbled over and touched his finger in two dozen parts throughout the city and suburbs, lighting them up with an orange glow. “I own popular food chains.” He informed simply.
Gluttony could take many forms, but from what Gerry had researched in his short time before the meeting, food was a common one in modern day America.
“Thank you, Lono.” Gerry leaned back and studied his combined territory.
It was sparse, separated, and dangerously vulnerable. He touched his own index finger to the tower they were in. It, and the block surrounding it, ignited to create a blood red glow.
“We’re weak.” No one liked to hear that, but it was the truth. “We need to consolidate our forces, research our enemies, and deal with them one by one; preferably silently. We need to draw as little attention as possible to ourselves while we gather our strength. We cannot survive a large scale assault on our positions now.” It was a barebones plan, but it was a start.
“Tell me about our enemies.”
Jeb got to his feet, but Vicky beat him too it.
“As I said on the car ride here, the Lycans in Rock Hill disrupt our distribution system, and the pack that roams between here and Columbia sometimes hunts as far north as Carowinds Amusement Park.”
“Those are not relevant enemies.” Jeb cut in, a vein pulsing in his forehead from the irritation. “They have never bothered our assets, just harassed the Soulless. They have not dared to declare war against us.”
“Jeb is right, Vicky.” A sharp look from Gerry stifled the retort the Soulless was preparing. “Until they threaten us more we cannot take action. One day,” he reassured her. “But right now we need to focus on immediate threats. What else stands in our way of consolidating the downtown business district?” He highlighted the area surrounding the hotel they were all sitting in.
“Our first and gravest threat is the Divine Sanctums.” Jeb started to jab his finger into the blackness and the locations turned a luminous white. “The Divine will not directly interfere with mortal affairs, but if they sense demonic presence they will act swiftly. That is how the last Dux fell. The Dominion of the city cut him down with her flaming sword.”
Gerry involuntarily shuddered, and he wasn’t the only one. He had no intention of tangling with angels who were the relatives of Prince Seere anytime soon.
“Human sorcerers, the Salvatore Family, is concentrated mostly in the city, and extends out toward the airport.” Jeb waved to an area which turned sky blue.
“They run an import export business out of the airport,” Jezebel smirked. “A few of the underbosses are regular clients.”
“They’re enchanters who have a habit of bottling sunlight and selling it to vampire hunters.” Vicky spat.
Vicky caught the uncertainty in his eyes.
“Enchantment is one of the branches of magic, and the Salvatore’s are one of the older families practicing that art. The main family is from Naples, but they have branches all over the world,” Vicky explained. “Their form of magic allows them to give specific properties to an object. They can make a suit jacket bulletproof, a tennis ball explode on contact, or, as I’ve seen before, a bottle of water that glows with the powers of the sun.”
Gerry could see how a bottle of sunlight could be a pain in the ass to Vicky and her coven. “Any other mortal threats?”
“There are a scattering of magical creatures throughout the area. Most are not coordinated, and might even become allies with the proper suggestion. The same is true of solo magical practitioners. A circle of witches operates and protects Lake Norman in the North from human interference, but we haven’t dealt with them at all. Other Lords of Hell hold minor sway in the area, but they have been greatly depleted in recent years. Far more so than us. Besides them, our greatest threat is the Remnant that resides at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.”
<Remnant?> Gerry was getting tired of not understanding what was going on around him.
“A Remnant of the old world, and quite a spirited one.”
Gerry didn’t know if his eyes were playing tricks on him, but he swore that Jezebel was blushing.
“Remnants are what remain of the world before the False God conquered Eden. They are the old Gods, greatly reduced in power, but still dangerous.” Jeb finished. “Jezebel is our liaison with him, and their relationship is of a purely physical nature.”
“Understood.” Gerry fought down the jealousy rising in his gut, and the urge to kill this Remnant.
He knew his lust was empowering Jezebel, and he couldn’t show weakness in front of her. They’d just met. “For now we will concentrate on the Salvatore Family. If we can drive them from the city we will unite our position here with the rest of Vicky’s coven, Jeb’s company, and Jezebel’s enterprises.”
Everyone around the table nodded, even Lono.
“We are here to serve, Dux.”
Gerry got to his feet and everyone did the same. “Prepare your troops. We begin tomorrow.” He dismissed the demons with a wave of his hand.
“Vicky.” He held her back, and felt her unease.
She’d debased herself countless times in this room, and he could sense she feared it would happen again. Despite his urge to teach her some manners, he wasn’t going to do that to her.
But that still didn’t quench the carnal desires he’d been holding back since first arriving in Eden.
“Bring me your best whore.” He commanded, watching the tension leak out of her. “Someone with stamina.”
She backed out of the room, and twenty minutes later Caroline showed up.