Excerpt

Loving and Loathing Vegas

Chapter One

Jackson wiped down the lunch counter for the thousandth time. He counted. Of course he’d counted. Like he counted the notches on his bedpost.

He sighed. Why couldn’t they close Eaven for Thanksgiving? It’s not like there were any patrons within a ninety-mile radius. Tezcatlipoca, New Mexico was a sleepy, one-stoplight town that not even Google Maps could find with both hands feeling for assholes. And Eaven was one of the two eateries. At least they were the more popular of the two. Or that is, when there were actual customers.

Did anyone even cook turkeys here? Jackson had considered the same deeply philosophical question every year. The nearest supermarket was in Santa Fe, ninety miles to the north.

One thousand and one, he counted as he made another pass across the counter. The aluminum edging gleamed bright enough to be a lighthouse’s Fresnel lens. Maybe it would light the way for starving customers? Ones who took a wrong turn on the interstate and ended up in an odd little town like Tez?

Come, he prayed. Come try the pie!

Jesus, fuck. Someone show up. And dear God, bring enough money so we can finally fix the neon sign. Eaven had ended up sticking as a name, since the H had long burned out.

One thousand and two.

“I don’t see any tickets on my cook line,” Vegas called from the kitchen.

Jackson gave a dirty look into the pass-through from the counter to the kitchen. “I’m sorry. All the imaginary customers can’t decide.” He threw the rag down in a huff. “Why do you insist on keeping the damned diner open on Thanksgiving? The whole town is shut down for the holiday but us. There’s much better things we can do with our time than wiping down spotless counters and washing unused pots.”

“It’s Sisyphus,” Vegas said with a pleased grin.

Jackson groaned and tossed up his hands. “Again with the Sisyphus bullshit.”

Vegas nodded. “Once a year we must remind ourselves that humanity is torture and hopeless.”

Jackson fell back on the counter like a spoiled child. “And whose bright idea was it to decide to move out of the Seventh Circle? The condo was nice and out of the way of all of that nightmarish traffic coming of the Phlegethon River.” He rubbed his temples as he slumped off the counter. “My God, I can still hear the shrieking when we had to make a grocery run.”

Vegas shrugged. “The rent’s cheaper here. And I didn’t have to make a Faustian deal to get a business license. Can you imagine what would have happened to us when it came time to collect?” He snorted. “No thanks.”

“And now you get to freely serve your sinfully delicious pies to silly humans who take a wrong turn.”

Vegas furrowed his thin blond brows. “Is that sarcasm? I’ll have you know my pies are damned good.”

“Fuck yeah, they are,” Jackson agreed with a nod.

“I didn’t earn that TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence on my megawatt smile alone, you know.” He pointed to the aged, peeling window cling on the scratched-up glass door. “How’s the counter coming?”

Jackson wilted. He could feel his spiritual energy leaving his body in sickly coils. “I am Sisyphus,” he muttered and picked up the rag. “Doomed to this hell.”

“Don’t insult home like that,” Vegas warned him.

Jackson wiped down the counter again.

One thousand and three.

Vegas chuckled behind him. “You have any better ideas of what to do for the holidays?”

Jackson snorted. “Yeah, genius. Fucking. Fucking. And”—he turned, giving Vegas a lecherous grin—“more fucking.”

Vegas scowled. “You know the rules. While we’re among mortals, our powers are sealed.”

Dammit. If he wasn’t so adorable, Jackson would have gladly pushed Vegas off that damned cliff epochs ago. “We’re incubi,” Jackson spat. “You know what that means.” He slapped a hand to his check. “We fuck. A lot. We do it to live. We do it to give our partners a good time. A real good time. We’re damned healers!”

Vegas pursed his lips as he peered at Jackson. “You got that last bit from that Channing Tatum movie.”

“Vegas! Work with me,” Jackson snapped. “Do you even feel what it’s like walking around as living Viagra?”

“Of course I do.” He fixed Jackson with a dour look. “Because. Duh.”

Jackson slowly rocked his hips in the customary motion. “Don’t you want your own holiday feast? We could eat our way through Santa Fe in singles looking for a good time for the holidays.”

Vegas crossed his arms. “Grindr is not a damned menu. They’re humans. You need to respect them.”

Jackson threw up his hands. “Why are you so impossible?”

“How’s the counter looking?”

Jackson made an overdramatic sigh and made another pass on the immaculate counter.

One thousand and four.

Pots and pans clattered, and the stream of water hissed from the kitchen—Vegas starting yet another round of washing already clean pans.

One thousand and five, Jackson counted. He looked over his shoulder, watching Vegas in the pass-through. His face heating at how Vegas’s shoulders flexed under his tight shirt. His jeans low on his hips and frayed at the pockets, the denim dappled with stains from an array of grease, ingredients, or whatever else missed his chef’s apron. It baffled him how Vegas could get so damned dirty, yet look flawless, as if he meant to do that.

The human world had softened Vegas. He’d adapted better than Jackson had. He fell in love with the quaint, quiet charm of Tezcatlipoca, and Jackson didn’t argue. Their super in the Seventh Circle was a bit of a prick.

Jackson had picked up on Vegas having a thing for the bubbly redheaded guy who ran The Charms of Zephyr, a hokey New Age charms and crystals place. Over a Fourth of July bar-b-que, the guy revealed he was truly an alien from an ancient galaxy. And that was their cue to pass on the wine coolers and fireworks and make for the quickest exit.

For Jackson, the guy was a big bucket of nope. But he knew Vegas was still sweet on him.

They stayed friends. Awkwardly and pretending they’d never heard about his xenomorph heritage. But friends all the same.

Vegas absolutely spent more time in the shop than he should have. Always special-ordering shit that was nowhere near authentic. Like wine coolers made with the tears of angels. Fuck if humans knew where to get genuine seraphic anguish. It was probably fucking tap water from Wisconsin.

Jackson polished the aluminum edging on the counter.

One thousand and six.

He really was Sisyphus. Doomed to a worthless cause.

He watched Vegas happily clean the pots, rinse them, and then clean them again.

Dammit. Why did he have to be so gorgeous?

Tall, blond, piercing green eyes in that “Top 10 Sexiest Chefs in the World” way. And a megawatt smile that could light up the Vegas Strip. Which was why he chose the name for himself when they arrived. Vegas looked the part of a high-roller and dripped with himbos when he took the casino for all it was worth. He showed everyone a good time.

A real good time.

But Jackson wasn’t prepared for when Vegas made a vow of celibacy.

An incubus.

Made.

A vow.

Of celibacy.

And he decided to move them out to the middle of nowhere to make goddamn pie.

Jackson went along with it, hoping that one day, just one day, Vegas would finally notice his incubi roomie wanted to be way more than just a roomie.

Jackson had no idea what sex between two incubi would even be like. Would the world explode? Would he explode?

But he’s seen what Vegas was capable of in the sack.

And what a way to go.

One thousand and seven.