Succubus Blues CHAPTER 24
“Well?” Roman asked softly.“What do you think? Will you go with me?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, looking down.“I’m afraid.” A tremulous note hung in my voice.
He turned my face toward his, obviously concerned.
“Afraid of what?”
I looked at him through my lashes. It was a demure action. Vulnerable, even. Hard to resist. I hoped.
“Of… of them. I want to… but I don’t think… I don’t think we could ever be free. You can’t hide from them, Roman. Not forever.”
“We can,” he breathed, putting his arms around me, his heart swelling at my fear. I didn’t resist at all, letting him press his body up against mine. “I told you. I can protect you. I’ll find the angel tomorrow, and we’ll leave the next day. It’s that easy.”
“Roman…” I stared up at him, my eyes wide, the look of one overcome with some emotion. Hope, maybe. Passion. Wonder. I saw my expression mirrored in his own, and when he leaned down to kiss me, I didn’t stop him this time. I even kissed him back. It had been a long time since I’d kissed simply for the sake of kissing, for the feel of his tongue gently pushing into my mouth, lips caressing mine as his hands held me tightly to him.
I could have kissed like that forever, just enjoying the physical sensation, devoid of any succubus feeding. It was magnificent. Intoxicating, even. There was no fear. Roman wanted more than kissing, however, and when he pulled me down, right onto my living room carpet, I didn’t stop him then either.
Obvious heat and yearning filled his body. Yet, he moved carefully and slowly over me, showing a restraint that surprised and impressed me. I slept with so many guys that yielded right away to their own needs that it was downright astonishing to have someone apparently concerned with my fulfillment.
No way was I complaining.
He kept his body against mine, so there was no space between us as he continued kissing me. Eventually he moved from my mouth to my ear, tracing it with his tongue and lips before shifting to my neck. My neck has always been one of my more erogenous places, and I exhaled a trembling breath as that clever tongue slowly stroked the sensitive skin, making gooseflesh rise. I arched my body into his, letting him know he could have expedited things if he wanted, but he seemed to be in no hurry.
Down, down he moved, kissing my breasts through the delicate charmeuse of my shirt until the fabric was wet and clung to my nipples. I sat up so he could pull the shirt off me entirely. While he was at it, he slid off the skirt too, so I was left only in panties. Still focused on my breasts, however, he continued kissing and touching them, varying between soft, feathery kisses and hard, biting ones that threatened to leave flowering purple bruises. At last he slid down, trailing his tongue along the smooth skin of my stomach, pausing when he finally reached my thighs.
Meanwhile, I was a wreck, aching and desperate to touch his body in return. But when I reached for him, he gently pushed my wrists to the floor. “Not yet,” he admonished.
I guess that was just as well since I was supposed to be doing something with time here. Buying it, right? Yeah, that was it. I was delaying so I could figure out a plan. A plan that I’d get to… later.
“Magenta,” he observed, running his fingers along the panties. They were flimsy, barely a collection of scraps of lace and sheer material. “Who’d have guessed?”
“I almost never wear any clothes in the pink and magenta family,” I admitted, “but for some reason I love lingerie in those colors. And black, of course.”
“It suits you. You can shape-shift these on anytime, right?”
He reached out and, with one deft motion, ripped them off. “Because they’re in my way.”
Bending down, he pushed my thighs apart and buried his face between them. His tongue moved slowly over the edges of my lips and then darted forward to stroke my burning, swollen clit. Moaning, I lifted and ground my hips into him, trying to get more of my aching need fulfilled. Once again, he pushed me back to the floor, taking his time, letting his tongue circle and tease me, driving me into higher and higher pleasure. Every time I seemed about to peak, he would pull back and move his tongue down, letting it actually probe inside me where I was growing wetter.
When he finally let me come, I did so loudly and wildly, my body practically thrashing as he held me down and continued sucking and tasting through my spasms. By then, I was so sensitive and dizzy that his touch was almost too much. I heard myself begging him to stop, even as he made me come again.
Easing up, he released me and backed off, watching as the blissful spasms in my body slowed down. Between us, we had his clothes off in about two seconds, and he laid his body over mine, pressing bare skin against bare skin. When my hands slid down, grasping and stroking his erection, he sighed with palpable bliss.
“Oh God, Georgina,” he breathed, eyes on mine. “Oh God. You have no idea how much I want you.”
I guided him toward me, sliding him inside. My body opened to him, welcoming him like a piece of myself I’d been missing, and he moved in and out of me with long, controlled strokes, watching my face and gauging how each angle and motion affected me.
I’m buying time,I thought sagely, but as he pinned my wrists to the floor, claiming ownership of my body with each thrust, I knew I lied to myself. This was about more than just buying time to warn Jerome and Carter. This was about me. It was selfish. I had continuously craved Roman over the last few weeks, and now I had him.Not only that, but it was exactly as he had said: there was no survival here, only pleasure. I had had sex with other immortals before but not in some time. I had forgotten what it was like to not have someone else’s thoughts in my head, to simply luxuriate in my own sensations.
We moved with a practiced rhythm, like our bodies did this together all the time. Those controlled strokes grew more savage, less precise. Harder and fiercer he brought himself into me, like he was going to go through the floor. Someone was making a lot of noise, and I realized distantly that it was me. I was sort of losing track of what was around me, of coherent thought. There was only my body’s response, the building force that consumed me and set me on fire and still made me demand more. I longed for completion and urged him on, bringing my body up to meet his and clenching the muscles around him.
He gasped as he felt me grow tighter. His eyes burned with a near-primitive passion. “I want to see you come again,” he gasped out. “Come for me.”
For whatever reason, it only took that command to finish me off, to plunge me over the edge of that dizzying ecstasy. I cried out more loudly, my throat long since gone hoarse.
Whatever expression I wore, it was enough to drive him into his own finish. No sound came out as his lips parted, but he closed his eyes and held himself inside me after a final hard thrust, shaking with pleasure.
When he had finished, his body still trembling with the force of his orgasm, he rolled off me onto his back, sweaty and satisfied. I turned toward him, splaying my fingers on his chest, admiring the lean muscles and tanned flesh of his body.
“You’re beautiful,” I told him, taking a nipple into my mouth.
“You aren’t so bad yourself,” he murmured, stroking my hair. Perspiration rolled off my body too, making some of the strands damp and curl up more than usual. “Is this you? Your real shape?”
I shook my head, surprised by the question. I trailed my lips up to his neck. “I’ve only worn that body once since becoming a succubus. A long time ago.” Pausing mid-kiss, I asked, “You want something different? I can be anything you want me to be, you know.”
He grinned, flashing those white teeth. “One of the perks of loving a succubus, no doubt.” Sitting up, he scooped me into his arms and then rose, slightly wobbly with the added weight. “But no. Ask me in another century, maybe, and I might have a different answer. For now, I’ve got a lot more to learn about this body.”
He carried me off to my bedroom, where we made love in a slower, slightly more civilized manner, our bodies twining together like ribbons of liquid fire. With that initial animalism somewhat satisfied, we lingered longer now, exploring the different ways each person’s body responded. We spent most of the night cycling through a pattern: slow and loving, fast and furious, rest, repeat. I grew exhausted somewhere around three and finally gave in to sleep, resting my head against his chest, ignoring the nagging worries in the back of my mind.
I woke up a few hours later, sitting bolt upright as the previous night’s events came slamming back into me with sharper clarity. I’d gone to sleep in a nephilim’s arms. Talk about vulnerability. Yet… here I was, still alive. Roman lay beside me, snug and warm, Aubrey at his feet. Both of them regarded me with tired, squinty eyes, wondering at my sudden motion.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, stifling a yawn.
“N-nothing,” I assured him. Removed from passion, I found myself able to think a bit more clearly. What had I done ? Sleeping with Roman might have bought me time, but I was no closer to finding some way out of this crazy situation.
Lying there, I caught sight of Carter’s daffodils, and they jolted me into a decision. The flowers themselves had only been part of a small act, but something about them made me realize I could not sit passively by and let Roman kill Carter. I had to act, no matter the risk, no matter the likelihood of failure. We all have moments of weakness. It’s how we recover from them that really counts.
It didn’t matter if I loved the nephilim and hated the angel, neither of which was entirely true. This was more about me, about the kind of person I was. I had spent centuries hurting men for my own survival, often devastatingly so, but I could not be a part of premeditated murder, no matter how noble the cause. I hadn’t reached that stage of life. Not yet.
I blinked back sudden tears, overwhelmed by what I had to do. What I had to do to Roman.
“Then go back to sleep,” he murmured, running a hand along my body, from waist to thigh.
Yes, I knew what I had to do. It was a long shot, hardly a solid plan, but I couldn’t think of anything else to take advantage of Roman’s current, off-guard mood.
“I can’t,” I explained, starting to get out of bed. “I have to work.”
His eyes opened wider. “What? When?”
“I open. I need to be there in a half hour.”
He sat up, dismayed. “You work all day?”
“I still had a few more things I wanted to do to you,” he mumbled, sliding an arm around my waist to pull me back, cupping a breast in his hand.
I leaned back into him, feigning being caught up in passion. All right, I wasn’t exactly feigning.
” Mmm…” I turned my face toward his, brushing our lips together. “I could call in sick maybe… not that they’d believe it. I’m never sick, and they know it.”
“Fuck them,” he mumbled, pushing me back down into the bed, his hands growing bolder. “Fuck them so I can fuck you again.”
“Then let me up,” I laughed. “I can’t call in like this.”
Reluctantly he released me, and I slid out of the bed, grinning back at him as I went. He watched me hungrily, like a cat sizing up prey. Honestly, I liked it.
That desire quickly melted into apprehension as I walked into the living room and picked up my portable phone. I had left all the room doors open, acting as casual and relaxed as possible, giving Roman no cause for alarm. Knowing he could probably hear me in the living room, I mentally rehearsed my words as I dialed Jerome’s cell phone number.
Not surprisingly, however, the demon did not answer. Damn him. What good was our bond if I couldn’t use it at will? Having anticipated this, I tried my next option: Hugh. If I got his cell’s voice mail, I would be out of luck. I could not pull off my plan if I had to call his office number and wade through his arsenal of secretaries.
“Hugh Mitchell speaking.”
“Hey, Doug, it’s Georgina.”
A pause. “Did you just call me Doug?”
“Look, I can’t come in today. I think I’ve caught that bug that’s been going around.”
Roman wandered out of my bedroom, and I smiled at him as he made his way to my refrigerator. Meanwhile, Hugh tried to make sense of my nonsense.
“Uh, Georgina… I think you dialed the wrong number.”
“No, I’m serious, Doug, so don’t get smart with me. I can’t come in, okay?”
Dead silence. Finally Hugh asked, “Georgina, are you all right?”
“No. I already told you that. Look, will you just pass it on?”
“Georgina, what’s going on – “
“Well, I’m sure you’ll figure out something,” I continued, “but it’ll have to be without me. I’ll try to be in tomorrow.”
I disconnected and looked up at Roman, shaking my head. “It would figure Doug was there. He definitely didn’t believe me.”
“Knows you too well, huh?” he asked, drinking a glass of orange juice.
“Yeah, but he’ll cover for me, despite his complaining. He’s good like that.”
I tossed the phone onto the couch and approached Roman. Time for more distraction. I doubted Hugh would fully grasp the situation, but he would at least assume something wasn’t right. As I had noted in the past, one couldn’t live as long as an immortal did and be stupid. He would suspect something and hopefully hunt down Jerome. My job now was to keep the nephilim busy until the cavalry came.
“So what exactly was it you wanted to do to me?” I purred.
A number of things, as it turned out. We wound up back in my bedroom, and I discovered waiting out the time until Hugh could take action wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had feared. Slight twinges of guilt tugged at me over enjoying Roman so much, especially now that I’d made my decision and called for help. He had murdered untold numbers of immortals and had designs on a near-friend. Still, I couldn’t help my feelings. I was attracted to him – had been for a long time, even – and he was really, really good in bed.
“Eternity doesn’t seem so bad with you in my arms,” he murmured later, stroking my hair as I curled up against him. Turning my face toward his, I saw a somber expression in his eyes.
“Georgina… do you… do you really want me to leave this angel alone?”
“Yes,” I blurted out after a moment of surprise. “I don’t want you to hurt anyone else.”
He studied me for a long time before speaking. “Last night, when you asked me, I didn’t think I could. I didn’t think I could let it go. Now… after being with you… being like this. It just seems petty. Well, maybe petty isn’t the right word. I mean, what they did to us was terrible… but maybe if I keep going after them, I let them win. I become what they say I am. I let them keep dictating the parameters of my life. I’d be conforming to nonconformity, I guess, and missing what’s really important. Like loving and being in love.”
“Wh-what are you saying?”
He cupped my cheek. “I’m saying, I’ll do it, love. The past will not rule my present. For you, I’ll walk away. You and me. We’ll go today and leave all this behind. Get a home somewhere and start a life together. We can go to Vegas.”
I turned rigid in his arms, my eyes widening. Oh God.
A knock sounded at my door, and I nearly jumped ten feet. Only about forty minutes had passed. No, no, I thought. It was too soon. Especially in light of this sudden turnabout. Hugh couldn’t have acted so fast. I didn’t know what to do.
Roman raised an eyebrow, curious more than anything else. “Expecting anyone?”
I shook my head, trying to hide the racing of my heart. “Doug’s always threatened to come get me,” I joked. “I hope he didn’t finally decide to act on it.”
Getting out of bed, I went to my closet, urging every nerve in my body to look nonchalant. I put on a deep red kimono, ran a hand self-consciously through my messy hair, and walked out to the living room, trying not to hyperventilate once out of Roman’s sight. Oh Lord, I thought, approaching the door. What am I going to do? What am I going to –
The writer stood outside, a bakery box in hand, his own face registering as much shock as mine undoubtedly did. I watched his eyes quickly slip up the length of me, and I suddenly became aware of how short my robe was and just how much the clinging silk revealed. His eyes snapped up to my face, and he swallowed.
“Hi. I.,.that is…”
One of my neighbors walked by, stopping and staring when he saw me in the robe. “Come in,” I urged Seth with a grimace, closing the door behind him. Having expected a cavalcade of immortals, I felt more confused than ever now.
“I’m sorry,” he managed at last, trying to keep his eyes from drifting to my body. “I hope I didn’t wake you…”
“No… no… it’s not a problem…”
Naturally Roman chose that moment to make an appearance, coming down the hall from my bedroom in only boxers. “So what’s – oh hey, how’s it going? Seth, right?”
“Right,” said Seth flatly, looking from me to Roman and then back to me. In the wake of that gaze, I didn’t care about nephilim, immortals, or saving Carter. All I could think of was how this must look to Seth. Poor Seth, who had done nothing but be nice to me since I’d met him, yet who nonetheless managed to get hurt over and over by my insensitivity – not to mention an unfortunate set of circumstances. I didn’t know what to say; I felt as mortified as he apparently did. I did not want him to see me like this, all of my lies and inconsistent signals coming to light.
“Is that breakfast?” the nephilim asked cheerfully. He was the only one of us at ease.
“Huh?” Seth still looked stunned beyond words. “Oh yeah.” He set the box down on my coffee table. “Keep it. It’s a coffee cake. Maple pecan. As for me… I’m going to… I’m just going to leave now. I’m sorry to bother you. Really sorry. I knew it was your day off and just thought we could… I don’t know. You’d said yesterday… well. It was stupid. I should have called. It was stupid. I’m sorry.”
He started to turn, but the damage was done. Of all the possible scenarios, this would be the one in which short-spoken Seth chose to ramble. I knew it was your day off. Shit. Roman turned on me, the incredulity on his face transforming to fury before my eyes.
“Who,” he gasped, voice barely coming out in his anger, “who did you call? Who the fuck did you call?”
I stepped backward. “Seth, get out of – “
Too late. A wave of power, not unlike the one Jerome had used on me, slammed against both Seth and me, thrusting us against my living room wall.
Roman strode up to us, glaring at me, his eyes like blue flame. “Who did you call?” he roared. I didn’t answer. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
Turning from us, he grabbed my phone and dialed. “I need you to get over here right now….yes, yes, I don’t fucking care. Leave it.” He recited my address and disconnected. I didn’t need to ask who he had called. I knew. The other nephilim. His sister.
Running a hand through his hair, Roman paced frantically around my living room. “Shit. Shit. You may have ruined everything!” he yelled at me. “Do you realize that? Do you realize that, you lying bitch? How could you do this to me?”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. Movement, even talking, was too hard in that psychic net. I couldn’t even look at Seth. God only knew what he must think of all of this.
Ten minutes later, I heard another knock. If I had any sort of divine favor left, it would be Jerome and Carter, ready to come to my rescue. Surely even a succubus deserved a break now and then, I thought as I watched Roman open the door.
Helena walked in. Oh, man.
“About time,” Roman snapped, slamming the door behind her.
“What’s going – ” She cut her words off, eyes widening at the sight of Seth and me. Turning back to Roman, she gave him and his boxers a once-over. “For crying out loud, what have you done now?”
“Someone’s coming,” he hissed, ignoring her question. “Right now.”
“Who?” she demanded, hands on hips. There was no rasp in her voice now, and she looked amazingly competent. If I hadn’t already been rendered speechless, the sight of her would have done it.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Probably our exalted sire. She called someone.”
Helena turned and approached me, making terror sink into my bones as I realized my danger. Helena was the other nephilim. Crazy, swindling Helena. Helena, whom I had insulted on a number of occasions, mocked behind her back, and stolen employees from. The look on her face informed me she was considering all of those things as she stared me down.
“Drop the field,” she snapped to Roman, and a moment later, Seth and I slumped forward, gasping, as the power released us. “Is he right? Did you call our father?”
“I… didn’t call… anyone…”
“She’s lying,” Roman observed mildly. “Who did you call, Georgina?”
When I didn’t answer, she walked over and slapped me hard, the impact making a loud crack. There was something oddly familiar about it, but then, there would be. Helena was the one who had beat me up that night on the street. I realized then she must have known it was me when I went to Krystal Starz, in spite of my disguise. Recognizing my signature, she had chosen to play with me, feeding me the lines about having a great future as she pushed titles and workshops on me.
“Always difficult, aren’t you?” she scoffed. “For years, I’ve put up with you and others like you, those who mock my lifestyle and teachings. I should have done something about you a long time ago.”
“Why?” I wondered aloud, gaining control of my voice again. “Why do you do it? You, of all people, who know about angels and demons… why do you tout the New Age bullshit?”
She eyed me scathingly. “Is it really? Is it bullshit to encourage people to seize control of their own lives, to view themselves as sources of power instead of getting caught up in all the guilt of what’s right and what’s wrong?” When I didn’t answer, she continued, “I teach people to empower themselves. I teach them to let go of sin and salvation, to learn how to find happiness now – in this world. True, some of it is… embellished for the sake of creating wonder and awe, but what does that matter, if the ends are achieved? People walk away from my classes feeling like gods and goddesses. They find that within themselves, rather than selling out to some cold, hypocritical institution.”
I couldn’t even begin to formulate a response, and it occurred to me that Helena and Roman thought exactly alike, both of them dissatisfied with the system that had spawned them, each of them rebelling against it in different ways.
“I know what you think of me. I’ve heard what you say about me. I saw you throw away the materials I gave you that night, no doubt thinking I was just some crazy, babbling New Age crackpot. And yet… for someone so smugly confident, so critically self-righteous, you are one of the most unhappy people I’ve ever met. You hate the game, and yet you play it. You play it, and you defend it because you don’t have the courage to do anything else.” She shook her head, chuckling dryly. “I didn’t have to be psychic to give you any of those predictions. You are gifted, but you waste it. You are wasting your life, and you will spend it miserable and alone.”
“I can’t change what I am,” I told her hotly, stung by her words.
“Spoken like a slave to the system.”
“Fuck you,” I shot back. Having one’s pride and self-identity shattered will often make a person irrationally angry, regardless if the point was well made. “Better a comfortable slave than some freakish divine bastard. It’s no wonder your kind is being hunted to extinction.”
She hit me again, this time packing nephilim power with the punch, not unlike that night in the alley. It hurt – a lot.
“You little whore. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She moved to hit me again but was stopped as Seth suddenly pushed himself in front of me. “Stop it,” he exclaimed. “Stop it, all of – “
A blast of power – from Roman or Helena, I didn’t know – pushed Seth across the room, to the other wall. I flinched. “How dare you – ” began Helena, her blue eyes flashing angrily. “You, a mortal, who have no idea what you’re – “
I was already moving before the words could even come out of her mouth. Seeing Seth abused sparked something in me, an angry response I knew to be hopeless but which I couldn’t really prevent. I sprang at Helena, taking on the first shape that came to mind, no doubt thanks to seeing Aubrey earlier: a tiger.
The transformation only took a second but hurt like hell, as my human body expanded, feet and hands turning to heavy, clawed paws. I had the element of surprise, but only for a moment, as I slammed into her, knocking her slight body to the floor.
My victory was short lived. Before I could sink teeth into her neck, a hurricane-worthy force blew me from her into my china cabinet. The impact was ten times harder than the one that had pinned Seth and me earlier, and the pain jolted me back into my normal shape as glass and crystal broke behind me, pieces falling around me, cutting my skin.
I moved again, frantic, knowing the futility but needing to do something, too caught up in battle lust. I lunged at Roman this time, urging my body to take on the shape of… well, I didn’t even know what. I had no specific form in mind, only features: claws, teeth, scales, muscles. Sharp. Large. Dangerous. A creature of nightmares, a true demon of hell.
I never even came close to touching the nephilim, however. One or both of them anticipated me, mid-leap, throwing me back to land near Seth this time, his wide eyes watching me with terror and wonder. Bolts of power struck me, making me cry out in pain, shattering every nerve within me. My new shape’s hide protected me only briefly, and then hurt and exhaustion made me lose control of the transformation. I slipped back into the slim, human body just as another net of power pinned me into place, ensuring I couldn’t move anymore.
My entire shape-shifting attack had lasted all of a minute, and I now felt completely drained and worn, my reserve of Martin Miller power finally dried up. So much for bravery. A nephilimcould easily blow one of you out of the water.
“Valiantly done, Georgina,” chuckled Roman, wiping sweat off his brow. He had expended a great deal of power too, but he had a lot more of it to spend than I did. “Valiant, but foolish.” Walking over, he looked me up and down and shook his head with bitter amusement. “You don’t know how to ration your energy. You’ve burned yourself out.”
“Roman… I’m so sorry…”
I didn’t need him to tell me how low on energy I was. I could feel it. I wasn’t just low, I was empty. Running on fumes, so to speak. Looking at my hands, I saw my appearance flicker slightly, shimmering almost like a heat mirage. That was bad. Wearing a body for long enough, even if it isn’t your original, becomes ingrained after a few years, and I had had this one for fifteen. It was second nature to me. I thought of it as my own; it was what I always unconsciously returned to. Yet, I was fighting to hold on to it right now, to not slip back to the body of my birth. This was bad – very bad.
“Sorry?” Roman asked, and I saw on his face just how terribly I’d hurt him. “You can’t even begin to imagine – “
We all felt it at the same time. Roman and Helena spun around to shoot each other alarmed looks, and then my front door blew open. The bonds holding me dropped as the nephilim redirected their power at the apocalypse coming through.
Brilliant light spilled inside, light so brilliant it hurt. Familiar light. The same terrible shape I’d seen in the alley appeared once more, only there were two of them this time. Mirror images. Indistinguishable. I didn’t know who was who, but I remembered Carter’s offhand observation from a week ago: an angel in full form will freak most beings out – it’ll kill a mortal…
“Seth,” I whispered, turning from that glorious spectacle to look at the writer. He was staring at it, brown eyes wide with awe and fear as the glory of it drew him in. “Seth, don’t look at them.” With my fleeting strength, I lifted a shimmering hand and turned his face toward mine. “Seth, don’t look at them. Look at me. Only at me.”
Somewhere beyond us, someone screamed. The world was blowing apart.
“Georgina…” breathed Seth, gingerly touching my face. “What’s wrong with you?”
Focusing all of my will, I urged my body to fight and hold on to the shape he had first come to know me in. It was a losing battle. A dying one even. I could not survive much longer like this. Seth leaned closer to me, and I tuned out the sounds of chaos and destruction raging around us, instead focusing all the world, all of my perception, toward his face.
I had said Roman was beautiful, but he was nothing – nothing at all – compared to Seth in that moment. Seth, with those long-lashed, quizzical brown eyes, kindness made manifest in all of his actions. Seth, his messy hair and slightly unkempt facial hair, framing a face which could not hide his nature, the strength of his character shining out at me, his soul like a beacon on a foggy night.
“Seth,” I whispered. “Seth.”
He leaned toward me, letting me draw him closer and closer, and then, as heaven and hell raged beyond, I kissed him.