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Succubus Blues CHAPTER 23

“Two,” he said after a moment’s hesitation.“Just two.”

“Just two,” I repeated flatly, thinking oh shit.“Is that including you?”

“Yes.”

I rubbed my temples, wondering how I could warn Jerome and Carter that we had two nephilim to deal with now.

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No one had mentioned that possibility.

“Someone should have known that,” I muttered, more to myself than to Roman. “Someone should have sensed it… there would have been two different nephilim signatures. That’s how Jerome knew it was you. You have a unique signature – no one else has it.”

“No one else,” Roman agreed with a smirk, “except my sister.”

Oh shit.

“Jerome didn’t mention more than one – ah.” I blinked in sudden understanding. Jerome, by his own admission, hadn’t actually been around for the birth. “Twins? Or… more?” The archdemon could have fathered quintuplets for all I knew.

Roman shook his head, still highly amused at my deductions. “Only twins. Just the two of us.”

“So this is a family act then? You two hit the road together, going from town to town, wreaking havoc…”

“Nothing so glamorous, love. Usually it’s just me. My sister tries to keep a low profile – spends more time on her job and living her life. She doesn’t really get caught up in grand machinations.”

“Then how’d you rope her into this one?” Again, I thought about Erik’s words, how most nephilim simply wished to be left alone.

“She lives here. In Seattle. We’re on her turf, so I talked her into going in on the final kill with me. She wasn’t really into any of the stuff with the lesser immortals.”

“Except beating on me,” I pointed out.

“I am sorry about that. I think you pissed her off.”

“I don’t even know her,” I exclaimed, wondering which was worse: a nephilim in love with me or a nephilim holding a grudge.

He just smiled. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” He reached out to touch me, almost casually, and I backed away, making his smile slip. “Now what’s wrong?”

“What do you mean? You think you can just dump this on me and then expect things to be all peachy between us?”

“Well, why not? Honestly, what have you got left to worry about?” I opened my mouth to protest, but he continued before I could speak: “I’ve already told you, I’m not going to hurt you or any of your friends. The only person left on my list is someone you don’t even know or care about. That’s it. End of story.”

“Oh yeah? What’ll happen then? After you kill Carter?”

He shrugged. “Then I leave. I’ll find someplace to hang out for a while. Probably teach again.” He leaned toward me, holding my gaze. “You could come with me, you know.”

“What?”

“Think about it.” He spoke eagerly, excitement growing with each word. “You and me. You could settle down and do all the things you like to do – your books, your dancing – without any immortal politics to muck your life up.”

I scoffed. “Hardly. It’s not like I can stop being a succubus. I still need sex to survive.”

“Yes, yes, I know you’d still have to tag the occasional victim, but think about the times in between. You and me. Together. Being with someone you don’t have to worry about hurting. Being with someone simply for the pleasure of it, not for survival. No superiors to harass you about meeting your quotas.”

Seth came to mind just then, part of me idly wondering what it’d be like to be with him “just for pleasure.”

Shifting back to my harsh reality, I told Roman, “I can’t just run off. Seattle is my post. I have people to answer to; they wouldn’t let me leave.”

Cupping my face in his hands, he whispered, “Georgina, Georgina. I can protect you from them. I have the power to hide you. You can live your own life. No more answering to the bureaucracy above. We can be free.”

Those hypnotic eyes hooked me like a fish on a line. For centuries, I had lived out immortality achingly alone, bouncing from one short-term relationship to another, ending any connection that got too deep. Now, Roman was here. I was attracted to him, and I didn’t have to push him away. I couldn’t hurt him through physical contact. We could be together. We could wake up together. We could live out eternity together. I would never have to be lonely again.

Longing surged up within me. I wanted it. Oh God, I wanted it. I didn’t want to hear Jerome chastise me for my “all lowlifes, all the time” seduction policy. I wanted to come home and tell someone about my day. I wanted to go out dancing on the weekends. I wanted to take vacations together. I wanted someone to hold me when I was upset, when the ups and downs of the world pushed me too far.

I wanted someone to love.

His words blazed through me, piercing my heart. I knew, however, they were only that: words. Eternity is a long time; we couldn’t hide forever. Eventually we’d be found, or when Roman finally got destroyed on one of his “protest” missions, I’d be exposed and have a lot of angry demons to answer to. He was offering me a child’s dream, an impractical fantasy with a short-lived, doomed run.

Furthermore, running off with Roman meant complying with the outcome of this insane plot of his. Logically, I could understand his angst and desire to lash back. I felt for his sister – even if she inexplicably hated me – who simply wanted to live an ordinary life. I had seen slaughter and bloodshed over the years, the extinction of entire populations of people whose names and cultures no one remembered today. To live with that over and over throughout these long millennia, to always be on the run, hiding simply because of an accident of birth… yes, perhaps I would be pissed off too.

Yet, I still could not see that as sufficient reason for the random killing of immortals, simply to “prove a point.” The fact that I knew these immortals personally made it worse.

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Carter’s attitude still unnerved me, yes, but he had saved my life, and my days with him hadn’t been unbearable. If anything, Roman should laud the angel. The nephilim’s biggest complaint was that immortals stayed locked into archaic sets of rules and roles, but Carter had broken the mold: an angel who chose friendship with his hypothetical enemies. He and Jerome typified the kind of rebellious, nonconforming lifestyle so advocated by Roman.

Too bad that didn’t seem to be enough to dissuade the nephilim. I wondered if I could.

“No,” I told him. “I can’t do it. And you don’t have to do it either.”

“Do what?”

“This plot. Killing Carter. Just let him go. Let it all go. Violence only begets more violence, not peace.”

“I’m sorry, love. I can’t. There’s no peace for my kind.”

I reached out and touched his face. “You call me that, but do you really mean it? Do you love me?”

He caught his breath, and I suddenly realized he could be just as hypnotized by my eyes as I was by his. “Yes. I do.”

“Then do this for me if you love me. Walk away. Walk away from Seattle. I… I’ll go with you if you do.”

I hadn’t realized I’d meant it until the words escaped my lips. Running off was a child’s fantasy, true, but it would be worth it if I could avert what was to come.

“You mean it?”

“Yes. As long as you can keep me safe.”

“I can keep you safe, but…”

He stepped away from me and paced around, running a hand through his hair in consternation.

“I can’t walk away,” he finally told me. “Almost anything in the world I would do for you, but not this. You can’t imagine what it’s been like. You think immortality’s been cruel to you? Imagine what it’s like always running, always watching your back. I have just as much trouble settling down as you. Thank God for my sister. She’s the only one I have, the only mainstay in my life. The only one I loved – until you, at least.”

“She can come with us…”

He closed his eyes. “Georgina, when my mother was still alive – millennia ago – we lived in a camp with some of the other nephilim and their mothers. We were always running, always trying to stay ahead of those pursuing us. One night… I’ll never forget it. They found us, and I swear, Armageddon itself could never be so terrible. I don’t even know who did it – angels, demons, or whatever. I mean, when it comes down to it, they’re all the same really. Beautiful and terrible.”

“Yes,” I whispered. “I’ve seen them.”

“Then you know what they can do. They swept in and just destroyed everyone. It didn’t matter who. Nephilim children. Humans. Everyone was considered a liability.”

“But you escaped?”

“Yes. We were lucky. Most weren’t.” He turned back to look at me. His heartache made my eyes burn. “Do you see now? Do you see now why I have to do this?”

“You only further the bloodshed.”

“I know, Georgina. For Christ’s sake, I know. But I have no choice.”

I saw in his face then that he hated being a part of that bloodshed, part of the same destructive behavior that had haunted his childhood. But I also saw that he was inextricably tied to that. He could not escape it. He had lived too long, so much longer than me. The years of fear and anger and blood had twisted him. He had to see this game played out.

Ifight every day to not let the past overtake me. Sometimes I win, sometimes it does.

“I have no choice,” he repeated, face desperate. “But you do. I still want you to come with me when I’m done.”

A choice. Yes, I did have a choice. A choice between him and Carter. Or did I? Was there anything I could do to save Carter at this point? Did I want to save Carter? For all I knew, Carter had slaughtered countless nephilim children over the years in the name of good. Maybe he deserved the punishment Roman wanted to mete out. What were good and evil, really, but stupid categories? Stupid categories that restricted people and punished or rewarded them based on how they responded to their own natures, natures they really didn’t have any way to control.

Roman was right. The system was flawed. I just didn’t know what to do about it.

What I needed was time. Time to think about all of this, time to figure out a way that would save angel and nephilim both, if such a feat were possible. I didn’t know how to buy that time, though, not with Roman standing there staring at me, aflame with his romantic notion of running off together.

Time. I needed time and had no idea how to get it. I had no powers to help in a situation like this. If Roman decided I was a threat, I would be unable to fight against him. A nephilimcould easily blow one of you out of the water. I could not pull divine strings and contracts like Hugh, had no superhuman reflexes and strength like Cody and Peter. I was a succubus. I changed shape and had sex with men. That was it.

That was it…

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