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Ezekiel steps closer to me, and I continue to try to draw a modicum of calm from him.

“Hell’s stomach is literally the place where the throat sends the most vile monsters that are too vicious for purgatory. It’s never been used as a location for the trials because it’s the hardest spot to survive. In fact, I haven’t ever heard of any survivors,” Ezekiel says quietly.

My eyes flick back to Lucifer as the wall opens the entire way.

“We were so busy accusing Manella that we never thought to suspect the devil,” I say quietly.

Gage bristles beside me, as does Ezekiel on my other side. Jude glances at me like he wants to agree, but has too much pride to take my side on anything.

“And we bought into everything he was saying,” Kai goes on.

“Number one rule in hell: Never trust anyone you’re not bonded to,” Jude states flatly.

All the competitors are allowed to pass through, and I follow the guys to the edge, looking over to see an endless wasteland of savage creatures racing around far below.

Lava runs far and wide, and now Lilith isn’t going to gift/curse us across it. Hellfire sprays up much like it did in hell’s throat, but it actually looks like acid reflux that would be in the actual stomach—I assume. You know, if the stomach had lava and monsters and stuff.

Some areas look like deserts. Some look like ashy forests. It all stretches and mingles together, making it impossible to miss any one thing.

“I’m afraid that other than the fact you have to survive all three days and cross the finish line, there are no rules,” Lucifer goes on. “It’s not like you can leave the boundaries unless you swim in the surrounding moat of hellfire and manage to survive,” he adds carelessly.

“No rules? What about other competitors killing and all that?” I immediately ask, panic pulsing through me.

Gage’s jaw grinds. “It’s another first,” he finally answers.

This course is designed to kill. Not to test.

He’s stripping the rules and making it a kill zone free-for-all amongst thieves, cheats, and murderers who have hellish powers and/or abilities.

I heave out a breath.

“Sounds like she just figured out how bad this is,” Jude drawls.

“I’m going to be exhausted when I finish saving you for three days straight without an ounce of gratitude to show for it,” I deadpan.

Kai snorts, and the other three just grin as I mimic the motions of running a hand through my hair the way they’ve all been doing. Even as I joke, I cast another apprehensive look toward the devil, wondering why the hell he wants them dead so badly.

His eyes settle on their backs as they continue to stare out at the death course from hell’s belly.

Lucifer’s calculated grin stays fixed on his lips as he says, “Let the games begin.”

End of book 1


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