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How to start a demonic cult
and get away with it

The second book of the "Inferno's forbidden archives"-series

Despite her physical constitution, which was actually quite robust and insensitive to many sensations, the cold of winter had crept into Lariza's bones. To warm herself up and sort out her thoughts, she stretched out in the bathtub. The warm water enveloped her, and she felt her muscles starting to relax. But her worries about Layla prevented her from regaining her composure. She had intended to stay away from Dante for a while, but now that she had promised Layla that she would think about her request, perhaps it was time to tell him what had happened between them — if Layla hadn't already done so, given how intimate they seemed to be at the moment. Lariza felt lost and carried away by her feelings for Layla, and perhaps that was what triggered the icy numbness that had consumed her.

When Dante tore open the door without warning, she gave him a bitter look. He didn't explain his behaviour and just waved a newspaper in front of her face, which Lariza now snatched out of his hand to read the headline. She frowned, dropped the newspaper carelessly on the tiles, and explained with boredom, "It wasn't me." The vampiress sat up a little and blew foam from her palm in his direction. "You prohibit me from doing anything fun."

Dante crossed his arms in front of his chest and took a step away from her to be on the safe side — he didn't want to end up getting drowned. "Someone is making young people disappear." He sighed. "There are a lot of virgins among them."

Lariza pointed at the hot water under the foam. "Does that look like virgin blood to you?" She stretched with obvious delight. "Besides, it's such a cliché, and it's damn hard to find a good virgin these days," she added. She leaned over the edge of the bath to pick up the newspaper again and study the article more closely this time. "As always, federal authorities are completely useless." She shrugged her shoulders. "Nobody has ever caught onto me, either." The vampiress looked up at Dante and grinned amusedly, whereupon he just sighed. "Where did you even come up with the nonsense of accusing me?"

"That wasn't really my intention. I just wanted your opinion on it." He took the paper from her hand, risking being splashed with more foam by Lariza. He looked down at her sternly before continuing. "It's a new assignment."

"Sounds almost too common for you," Lariza replied, now in a bored tone again. Dante shook his head. "Do you remember what Gideon and Finja mentioned?"

Lariza put one and one together and cursed under her breath. "Not bloody cultists, is it?" 

Dante nodded. "Who else would think it's a great idea to kidnap virgins?"

"And you think these are new devotees of your mother?" Lariza sank deeper into the water and stared in irritation at the white foam surrounding her.

"Her or another high-ranking demon. Or at least that's what Noah claims." He shrugged his shoulders. "Since federal authorities are, as you pointed out perfectly, completely useless, I was contacted." He scrutinised Lariza's expression closely. "A desperate father whose daughter I have been tasked with rescuing from their clutches."

"And why are you telling me all this?"

Dante grinned. "Because the cult kidnaps virgins." 

Lariza looked at him sympathetically, convinced that the time had finally come, and he had been hit on the head one too many times. "You've come to the wrong place."

"But you're a young woman, aren't you? At least on the outside." He pointed to the lower regions of her body beneath the bath water. "Unless something's happened down there that I haven't noticed yet. Hannah's revenge or something."

Lariza raised an eyebrow. "Don't be ridiculous."  She sighed and leaned on the edge of the tub, resting her head on her crossed arms. "So, what's your point? Come out with it already."

"You could easily infiltrate the cult and get the girl to safety. It would only be a small task for you — I would do the rest and crush the whole circus."

"No." Lariza stretched extensively. 

"On what grounds?" Dante enquired, unwilling to give up so easily. 

"I don't like the word 'task'. It sounds like chores and responsibility." She fished for her towel, which was hanging next to the bathtub.

"Shortcake, you get the most entertaining part of the whole plan. You can pose as a young mortal woman, infiltrate a society of naïve humans, and drive as many cultists nuts as you want."

Water trickled off Lariza's skin as she stood up and gave him a sweet grin. "If you put it that way." She gestured down at herself and laughed softly as she wrapped herself in her towel. "Besides, everything is still where it belongs. I'm perfect for the job." 

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