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Succubus on Top CHAPTER 8

“Georgina?”

I looked up from a baffling return Tammi had asked me to help her with.A customer without a receipt was attempting a refund on a stack of books with dog-eared pages and broken spines, claiming all of them were duplicates someone had just given him for his birthday.

“Just a sec,” I told her.“I’ve got to finish this.”

“Okay,” Beth said.

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“I just thought you should check out Casey.”

“Casey?”

“Yeah. She’s up in the cafe.”

That snagged my attention. I finished up with the customer, telling him nicely that we couldn’t accept books in this condition. Maybe if the alleged other books were in better shape, he could bring those in. He pouted and argued a bit before finally skulking off. I rolled my eyes once he was gone. One thing that never changed among humans: there were always those who wanted to get something for nothing. It was what kept hell in business.

I found Casey sitting in the cafe, drinking a glass of water. There were dark circles under her eyes, and she didn’t display her usual care in makeup and hairstyling. She stared bleakly at the table, eyes dull and glazed over.

“Hey,” I said gently, pulling up a chair across from her. “How’s it going?”

After a moment’s delay, she looked up, not really focusing on me. “Okay.”

“You sure? You don’t look so okay.”

“Dunno.” Her tone was flat, distracted. “I just had a late night, that’s all. Sorry. Sorry I came in like this.”

“No problem. I’ve had my share of crazy nights.” The thing was, Casey didn’t exactly look hung over. I mean, she definitely looked like she was recovering from something…but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was weird. “What’d you get into? A party?”

“Yeah. Doug’s band had another one.”

“Really.” News to me. “Must have been pretty good.”

“Dunno.”

“What do you mean? You were there.”

Her brow furrowed, confusion glinting in her brown eyes. “I don’t…really remember. Stupid, huh? I must have really been trashed. I remember…being with Alec. Then we left. We went somewhere. “

“You don’t know?”

She looked upset and closed her eyes. “There was this big house, and…I don’t know. I just…I just can’t remember. I’m sorry, Georgina. I shouldn’t have come in today, okay? Sorry.”

“It’s okay. So you have no idea what you did with him? Nothing at all?”

She shook her head. I shouldn’t have kept pushing for details of an employee’s personal life, but something here bothered me. It was more than my bias against Alec too. I remembered him pushing alcohol on women, his invitation to go somewhere “more intense.” Casey’s inability to remember what had happened with him smacked of date-rape drugs.

“Did Alec give you anything?”

For the first time in this conversation, her dull expression sharpened and looked alert. “I…no. No.”

But she was lying. I could tell. Why? Fear of him? Embarrassment? I couldn’t bring myself to question her anymore. She looked too miserable. I told her she should go home and get some rest; she didn’t need much convincing.

I took her place at the registers, silently fuming at that jerk Alec. My anger was furthered by the fact that I could do nothing. Casey’s life wasn’t really my business, and without her admitting to anything, Alec stood blameless.

With Casey now gone, Paige out sick again, and Warren golfing in Florida, I felt relieved when Doug showed up. He looked as energetic as ever, so I hoped he could counter my plunging mood.

“I heard you had a party.”

“Yup.” He grinned, working the register next to mine. “I tried calling you, but you weren’t home.”

“Had a party of my own. Hey, did you notice anything weird with Casey and Alec last night?”

“Weird how? I mean, they seemed to be hitting it off.”

“Nothing else?”

“Nope. Not that I saw. Why? Are you interested? He’s a little young for you, but if you’re into that, I can give you his phone number.”

“Hardly.”

“Whoa,” he suddenly exclaimed. “Check this action out.”

He picked up one of the books his customer was paying for. It was a romance novel, emblazoned with a big chested man holding an equally big chested woman. Her neck was arched back, her lips open in a moan. And her dress was falling off.

“Bet there’s some good shit in here. Nothing like some throbbing members and private time to get you off, eh?”

He winked at the customer, who turned crimson and didn’t say anything. She handed over some cash and hurried away as fast as she could.

Aghast, I ignored the customers standing there and grabbed Doug’s arm, jerking him away from the counter.

“What the hell was that?” I asked in a low, angry whisper.

He laughed loudly. “Oh come on, Kincaid. I was just having a little fun. Those romance novels always crack me up.”

“You do not comment on customer purchases. Furthermore, you certainly don’t swear in front of them.”

“Basic training. I know all this.”

“Yeah? Then act like it.”

We stood there, both of us shocked at my tone. I didn’t think I’d ever talked to Doug in such a reprimanding way. Certainly not here. We were both assistant managers, partners in crime. Our entire working relationship was one of lightheartedness and messing around.

“Fine,” he said after a moment. “Whatever.”

We went back to the registers, both of us pointedly ignoring the other. We worked without incident a while longer until I heard him say, “Man, this has to be rough. Hope it all works out.”

Looking over, I saw his customer buying a book about STDs. Doug returned my gaze with a challenging look. I finished my own purchase and then put up a “register closed” sign. Finding Andy at the information desk, I told him to ask Doug to swap spots.

“Don’t tell him I told you to.”

Doug seemed safer helping customers find books, yet no matter where I was in the store, I could hear him. He spoke and laughed too loudly. Whenever I caught sight of him, he was always in motion – like he couldn’t stay still. Once, he was – literally – juggling books for a customer. Another time, I saw him actually skipping as he led a customer over to the cooking section. I frowned, unsure what to do. His lively nature had been fun this last week, but he was pushing it now, and I wasn’t entirely sure what my role should be in all of this.

“That redheaded girl said you’re the manager here,” a middle-aged woman suddenly said, approaching me as I rearranged a display.

“I’m an assistant manager,” I told her. “What can I help you with?”

She pointed to the information desk. “That man was so rude to me. He helped me find some books, and then…he said…”

She couldn’t finish, oscillating between anger and distress. I looked at what she held. Books on clinical depression. Lovely. At least it wasn’t called Going Postal in an Insensitive Bookstore. I took a deep breath to steady myself and apologized profusely, promising I’d deal with it. I then walked her over to the head of the check-out line and told Andy to ring her books up for free. Warren never approved of that, but I didn’t care at the moment.

I waited for Doug to finish with his customer and then pulled him aside once more. “We need to talk in the office.”

He gave me a lopsided grin. Studying him, I saw his eyes glittering with a distracted fervor. “What for? Let’s talk here. I’ve got customers to help, you know. Can’t let this goddamned place go unattended.”

I blanched at this, still forcing calm. We had a line of about four customers listening.

“No. Let’s go in the back.”

He rolled his eyes and threw a friendly arm around me. “Christ, you’re uptight. What’s this about?”

“You know what it’s about,” I returned, wiggling out from under the arm. “You’re out of line today.”

His smile fell. “No, you’re out of line. What’s with the attitude anyway? You can’t talk to me like this.”

He was still too loud. More people were stopping. “I can talk to you like this when you’re acting like a jerk. You’re upsetting customers. You’re doing stuff that’s completely inappropriate, and you know it.”

“‘Inappropriate?’ Jesus Fucking Christ, Kincaid! You sound like Paige now. I’m having fun. Remember that? Remember when you and I used to do that around here back before you got this stick up your ass?”

We had a bona fide audience now. Customers and staff alike. Dead silence, save for the faint sounds of Vivaldi playing through the store’s sound system.

“I mean,” he continued, thriving on the attention, “where do you get off acting like this? Who put you in charge? You and I are the same rank, remember? It’s like you get ten seconds of fame in Mortensen’s story, and now you think you can put on airs. Why don’t you go find him? Maybe if you got laid again, you’d stop being such a bitch.”

“Doug,” I said, astonished at how firm and strong my voice was. It was like someone else was using my body to confront him, and I only watched. “You need to go home. Now. If you don’t leave, I’ll have you removed.”

Of course, I had no clue how I was going to pull that off. As it was, I felt almost terrified to be facing off against him like this. My heart raced. We were standing close, thrusting our wills at one another, and he had half a head’s height on me and a bigger build. I didn’t really fear violence from him, but the physical intimidation was as scary as the psychological. Still, I held my ground, keeping my expression commanding and decisive.

At last, he backed down, breaking eye contact. He shrugged and gave his goofy grin to those watching, like they were in on some joke with him. “Sure. Whatever you want. I don’t care. I could use a day off anyway.”

He looked around again, face smug and defiant, like he’d won. After another survey of the crowd, he laughed and stalked out.

Nobody spoke or breathed after that. I drew myself up, like none of this had bothered me either. I strode purposefully away, saying to Beth as I passed: “Will you cover the desk now?”

I went upstairs to the caf?¦ and had the barista make me a mocha. I took it with shaking hands and turned around to find Seth standing there. He wore a Ratt shirt today.

“Thetis,” he said softly.

I walked over to one of the windows, and he followed. Outside, cars and people moved throughout Queen Anne. I watched them without seeing them. Seth moved behind me, his presence steady and reassuring. Waiting to catch me, even though I refused to fall just yet. This, I realized, was why I chose to stay with him, sexual mishaps or no.

“I suppose you witnessed all that.”

“Yeah,” he said. “You handled it well.”

“I didn’t want to handle it at all.”

“Someone had to.” He touched my arm gently. “You can be pretty fierce sometimes.”

I shook my head, still numb. “I don’t want to be fierce either.”

“Georgina. Look at me.”

I turned and looked. Those lovely eyes were soft and full of love, yet underscored with strength.

“You did the right thing.” He rested his hands on my arms, thumbs stroking the bare skin. “You did the right thing.”

“He’s my friend.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“What’s wrong with him, Seth? What’s gotten into him?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“Not to me.”

He smiled ruefully. “The same thing that made you eat a bag of Taco Bell food last night.”

“What? Pot doesn’t do that. Make him behave like he did, I mean. Not the Taco Bell thing.”

“No,” he agreed. “Pot won’t do that, but he was obviously on something. “

I turned back to my view, thinking. I recalled Doug’s nonstop vigor, that feverish look in his eyes. Yes, it made sense, and it was saddening. I’d never known him to mess around with anything much harder than alcohol and marijuana. Yet…there was more to his exuberance lately. A drug couldn’t make you good at Tetrisor churn out an album’s worth of songs in under a month.

“I don’t know what it could be then. I’ve tried almost everything once,” I admitted sheepishly. Immortality allowed experimentation without the dangerous consequences mortals faced. “But I haven’t made enough of a study to really ID anything. What do you think? Some kind of amphetamine?”

“I don’t really know either.”

I rubbed my temples, sensing a nasty headache coming on. I wanted nothing more just then than to go home and veg on the couch with Seth on one side, Aubrey on the other, and a plate of brownies on my lap. It wasn’t going to happen.

“I’ve got to get back down there. We’re short two people now. I’m going to be here until closing again.”

“You want me to come over after work? I’m supposed to paint at Terry’s, but I can bail on it.”

I assured Seth he didn’t need to change his plans for me and then returned downstairs. Functionality had resumed as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The only thing noteworthy was the way the other staff watched me now. Not with mockery or amusement, but something else. If I hadn’t known better, I would have said my respect rating had just shot up.

I got home after work, drained. Weak with exhaustion, mental and physical. When I absorbed life from victims, it was usually to sustain my immortal existence and shape-shifting. But life was full of other things that required energy. Breaking and entering. Working two twelve-hours shifts in a row. Staying virtuous around the man of your dreams. Reprimanding one of your best friends and discovering he was probably addicted to something nasty.

The need for vitality itched within me, making me irritable and anxious despite my worn-out feeling. For me, that energy-longing translated into lust, a sudden need to be touched and consumed by someone I could consume in return.

I called Bastien.

“What is it now?” he asked sarcastically. “I suppose you’re just going to cut to the chase and call Dana. That way you can get it over with and tell her how her neighbor has a plan to seduce her and bring down her organization. Maybe while you’re at it, you can mention the break-in and get me arrested. You could even key my car if you wanted. It would be a perfect ending to my already ruined career.”

“Oh shut up,” I snapped, not having the patience for this. Apparently I still had some fury left in me from earlier. “First, you were not going to bed Dana last night, so get that out of your system. Second, you probably deterred her by answering the door in the first place, as stoned as you were. Third, if you’d really wanted to endear yourself to her, you would have shown more concern for me rather than coming off as an uncaring asshole.”

“How is your ankle?” he asked reluctantly.

“Fine. You know how it goes.” A sprain was barely a day’s concern for an immortal. “Good enough to go dancing on.”

“Dancing?”

“Yes. I want you to take me out. Now. I just had the worst day ever. “

“Sorry.”

“Sorry? Are you turning me down? Since when have you been such a grudge-holder?”

“It’s not just that…well, okay, maybe a little. But Bill invited me over to watch a football game.”

“You hate football.”

“Yeah, but I might see Dana. Sorry, Fleur . You’re on your own tonight. “

Annoyed, I hung up and dialed the next best dancer I knew.

“Cody,” I said, “we’re going clubbing.”

“Okay,” he returned agreeably, “but I’ll have to bring Hugh and Peter.”

“Ack. They dance almost as badly as Seth.”

“Yeah. But I promised I’d hang out with them tonight. Unless you want to come over here? We’re playing D&D right now. Do you know how many hit points a succubus has?”

“All right, all right. Bring them along.”

I hung up. It didn’t really matter who came anyway. I mostly just wanted people to go out with. Companionship gave the outing some semblance of normality, though it wasn’t like I needed any of them for what I was going to do.

“Jesus, woman,” breathed Hugh when I answered my door an hour later. “You’re kind of screwing with my sisterly feelings for you.”

I had on a pleated black skirt that covered less than half my thighs. My top was off the shoulder with three-quarter sleeves, and it stopped just above my belly button, leaving my midriff bare. It was made of clinging, stretchy black lace that looked opaque in dim lighting and showed everything – and I do mean everything – in full light.

The only decision left was what body to go out in. I didn’t like to do succubus work in my usual shape – the one that worked at Emerald City and slept with Seth. I wanted an anonymous face, one that could forget and be forgotten. Staring at my bathroom mirror, I considered a number of features and ethnicities. Finally, I opted for a pretty Latina look, sultry with long dark hair.

We went to the same club Bastien and I had danced at before. It played varying genres of music, but all of it was fast and heavy. It thrummed in the blood. Hugh immediately parked himself at the bar, looking exactly like the creepy guy who ogled younger women that he was. Peter seemed torn between joining him and hitting the floor. He was homebody enough to want to stay with Hugh, but I knew places like this were fertile hunting grounds for vampires and succubi alike. Reluctantly, the frumpy vampire bought a drink and then made his way to the dancers, looking hopelessly out of place. I knew he’d survive, though; he’d been doing what he did almost as long as I had.

I walked up to the bar and ordered a shot of Rumple Minze, which I downed immediately. It was funny – part of me thought that I could scorn Doug for getting mixed up with some drug when I turned so readily to alcohol to ease my own tension.

“Dance with me,” I told Cody, grabbing his hand.

He looked good tonight, wearing a button-up shirt untucked and loose. It had a neat printed pattern on it, one of those that only confident guys with real fashion sense could actually wear. With his agile dancing and golden blond looks, he made a good partner.

“What am I, your warm-up?” he asked me a few songs later.

I laughed. We were dancing awfully close, and I had been moving my body more provocatively than I normally would with a friend. Unconscious motion. My succubus hunger surfacing.

“Does it bother you?”

“Nope. Well, other than giving me that weird incest feeling Hugh was talking about. But I don’t think you’re going to get what you need off me.”

“True,” I said scanning the crowd. The place was packed with mortals, all warm and energetic and burning with life in a way my friends and I did not. Again, the itch of longing seized me. I wanted to touch them all and knew I’d have to break from Cody soon.

“What’s got you all fired up anyway? We don’t usually see you like this.”

That was true. Mostly he and the others just heard me bitching and moaning about my infernal job and how I hated seducing nice guys. “Need to burn off some Seth lust. That, and I got majorly run down today,” I explained, proceeding to tell him the rest.

Cody felt as sad as I did about Doug, whom he knew and liked. The young vampire agreed that Doug’s erratic behavior sounded amphetamine based, and he threw out a few suggestions for me. I made a mental note to look them up later.

Cody and I finally split up, each to take care of our own business. I started working the room, much as I had the other night, only this time my motivation was legitimate. I had my pick of partners and no end of free drinks. Each time I got someone to buy me one, Hugh – still at the bar – would shake his head with wry amusement.

In about two hours, I had my mark. He was young and muscular, made extra gorgeous by sexy Mediterranean features. Italian descent, I suspected. He was also sweet and shy, clearly astonished that I kept dancing with him. His friends, watching from afar, apparently felt the same way.

We had moved to a crowded part of the dance floor, jam-packed with other sweating, frenzied bodies. I rubbed mine against his in a more intimate way than the crowd quite required, my hands sliding over his body as we swayed. When our lips brushed against each other’s, he pulled back.

He told me then – awkwardly and reluctantly – that he had a girlfriend. That didn’t come as a surprise to me. We stopped dancing, getting jostled by the crowd, and I feigned modest embarrassment for my boldness while pretending not to notice how he hadn’t seemed to want to make the girlfriend admission.

“Er, wait,” he said as I started to turn and leave. Hesitation hung heavy in his voice. The voice of someone trying to rationalize something he knew he shouldn’t be doing…but wanted to anyway. True consternation churned on his face. “I mean, we can still…we can still…keep dancing. Can’t we?”

Five dances later, I’d sweet-talked – and bribed – one of the waiters into letting us into a storage room in the club’s basement. It was dark and small and filled with extra tables, but it sufficed for what we needed. I could still hear the music from above, though none of the song’s specifics. The whole building vibrated with the beat. My guy still appeared nervous, but alcohol and opportunity were clearly winning out over his better judgment. I didn’t tell him my name. I didn’t ask for his.

I pulled him to me, and we kissed – the kind of hard, furious kissing that makes your lips feel swollen afterward. His hands started on my hips and then moved upward, peeling the lace shirt up as they went, exposing my breasts. His hands fondled them wonderingly, feeling their shape and size, making my nipples harden and stand out. He leaned down and put his lips to one, sucking hard. When I felt his teeth bite gently, I grunted in approval and shifted my hands down to loosen his belt.

He straightened back up, and this time I was the one who went down – literally. On my knees, I tugged on his boxers and released the erection that had been straining at the fabric.

I ran my tongue along its tip, tasting the few salty drops that had already seeped out. Then, without further hesitation, I took the whole thing into my mouth, letting my tongue roll over it as my lips moved back and forth along the length of the shaft. He groaned and laced his fingers across the back of my neck, trying to push more of him inside. The first tendrils of his energy began flowing into me, sweet and delicious. He was a good one, full of strength. I sucked harder, teasing him for a couple more minutes, then broke away and stood up. The look on his face when I stopped became almost comically desperate. Like he couldn’t believe I had just done that to him. Like I had just gone and hit his shins with a baseball bat.

I licked my lips and smiled. “You want more? You’re going to have to come and get it. “

This was the clincher. If I was going to go to the trouble of bagging a guy with a strong life force, I might as well hit my quota with Jerome and do some corrupting as well. A guy with a serious girlfriend might feel guilty about fooling around with another woman, but he’d feel guiltier still if he was the one who took serious steps toward initiating it. It was too easy to say she made me do it. My part was done; he had to take over now.

This guy might not have realized my ulterior motives here, but he seemed to sense the gravity of the situation. He stood on the edge now, the edge of a decision that could affect his eternal soul. Did he or didn’t he? Did he give in to his lust and betray a woman he cared about? Did he take a chance with me he might never get again? Or did he reject me and walk away? Did he stay faithful?

My smile grew, slow and languid, as he debated. I paced around the room like I had all the time in the world, like I didn’t care what he decided to do. The click of my heels sounded loudly on the hard floor. I turned away from him, trying to make out some old framed picture on the wall. It was mostly a dark blur in the dim lighting.

Then, I felt him behind me. His hands slid from my waist down to my hips, then lower to cradle my ass. He pushed up what little of the skirt there was and pulled down the strappy black thong I had underneath. Slowly, his hands traced every curve, feeling and exploring. One hand moved around the outside of my leg toward the front, between my thighs. The movement forced him to move closer to me, and I could feel him – still hard, still ready – press against my flesh.

The exploring hand pushed farther between my thighs, and his breath was hard and hot on my neck. His fingers brushed the small, neatly trimmed patch of hair between my legs, then moved lower, dancing at the edges of my lips, teasing them. A small, urgent moan left my mouth, and I ground against him, hoping to get a response.

He slid his fingers in a smooth rhythm, stoking my already raging desire. A minute later, those urgent fingers moved into me, probing and exploring. I was wet and slippery, but it still caught me by surprise, and I exclaimed loudly. He wrapped his other arm around my waist, pulling me even closer, and continued driving those fingers in and out. His life poured into me again. A purely physical burning welled inside of me too, growing stronger each time he moved in. But before that feeling could reach completion, he pulled his fingers out and left them out. My turn to feel unfulfilled. Gripping my shoulders, he turned me around, and I braced myself to be shoved on top of the table or up against the wall.

To my astonishment, he pushed me onto my knees instead, his breathing frantic now, his eyes burning with hunger and lust. “Your mouth,” he gasped out. “I want your mouth again.”

Unexpected – and perhaps a little disappointing – but it all worked the same for me. Before I could even act, he thrust himself back between my lips. A surprised sound lodged in my throat, and it seemed to turn him on even more. I no longer had to worry about who was taking the initiative here; it was all him. His hands held my head and neck in place as he pumped away, pushing into me over and over.

The life-force transfer started in earnest, his energy flooding into me with his thoughts and feelings. Finally, finally, finally, he thought, aching desire crackling through him. Feeling his mind and soul, I realized then he might not have been so easy a tag as I originally thought.

He loved his girlfriend. Loved her passionately. But she didn’t like oral sex, and one of the biggest fantasies of this guy’s life was to – bluntly – fuck her face. Had I started foreplay in some other way tonight, he might very well have been strong enough to decline. But I had given him the one thing he couldn’t refuse. It overpowered the guilt lurking in the back of his mind.

I’ll never get this chance again. Allison doesn’t have to know.

I knew that rationalization well. It was just about the oldest in the book.

He thrust more urgently, that long shaft filling my mouth as his eyes watched me eagerly, and unintelligible, primal noises sounded in his throat. And for me, who had been denied an orgasm, pleasure was building in a different way. Life-force transfer doesn’t occur at the point of a physical contact or even orgasm. It’s bigger than that, more holistic. Soul to soul. His energy washed over me now in waves, and it was pure ecstasy as I rode that ocean higher and higher. My body burned with it, nearly to the breaking point. Before that crest crashed over, before our connection broke, I caught one more thought from him, plain and simple: mouth or face}

Ah, men.

He chose mouth, moaning loudly as he came. Warm, bitter liquid flooded over my tongue as his body spasmed and his nails dug into my neck and scalp. I waited until he finished, then swallowed because I knew it was what he wanted me to do. It was what every guy wanted. And really, it was the least I could do for him, because with his orgasm came a climax of my own.

The full force of his energy hit me like a bolt of lightning at the same time he felt its loss. I broke from him, gasping at the feel of that power, swimming in that bliss, invigorated and alive. He, however, stiffened and paled, suddenly weak and confused at losing something he hadn’t even known he had. He groped blindly for support and caught the edge of a table as his legs gave out underneath him. The table saved him from completely falling over, and I caught his other arm, balancing him. Carefully, I eased him down so he could sit and lean his body against a chair.

His eyes struggled to stay open as the shock of his energy loss pulled him toward unconsciousness. Another cardinal succubus rule: the stronger the guy, the stronger his loss would be. “Oh my God…what’s wrong with me?”

Pushing aside whatever kindly feelings or sympathy I might have, reminding myself he’d – eventually – recover, I stared down at him coolly and rearranged my clothes. “I think you drank too much.” I leaned over and tugged up his pants. “I’ll go get help.”

He started to protest, but I was already out the door. I strode back to the dance floor, haloed in his energy. I felt like a goddess entering a temple of worshippers, and many sets of eyes seemed to regard me as exactly that. A few quick searches, and I found his friends from earlier. I told them he’d passed out downstairs and left them to deal with it.

“This one’s on me,” I heard Hugh say when I walked back up to the bar. My post-sex glamour would be especially obvious to him.

I ordered a shot of Jagermeister and chased it with another shot of Goldschlager. Nothing like funny-named liquor to top off an evening.

“Does it make you feel better?” the imp asked. He inclined his head toward the two empty glasses.

“No,” I said. “But sometimes it helps me not remember as much.”

I went home after that and cooked myself in a long, hot shower, trying to wash away the feel of sex. My buzz soon yielded to my second headache of the day and a slightly nauseous feeling. I had just settled down on the couch for mindless TV watching, back in my normal shape, when Seth showed up.

“I wanted to see how you were doing,” he explained, sitting down next to me.

“Better,” I told him uneasily. “Sort of. I went out with the gang.”

“Ah. Sounds fun.” He didn’t sound entirely sincere. I think “the gang” still kind of weirded him out a little.

He leaned his head on the couch and stared at me for a long time, not saying anything.

I laughed in spite of myself. “What?”

“I don’t know,” he said, face serious. He reminded me of a child staring at the tree on Christmas morning. “It’s weird. It’s just you’re so…so beautiful tonight. I mean, you’re always pretty, of course, but tonight, I don’t know – I can’t take my eyes off of you. I want to…” He didn’t give voice to the urge.

“Must be the wet hair and pajamas,” I said lightly. “Always a turn-on.”

But I knew what was bedazzling him. The guy from the club. Or rather, that guy’s stolen life. Humans couldn’t resist it. Immortals couldn’t resist it. Racking my brain, I realized Seth had never seen me so soon after a fix. He’d seen me the same day sometimes – and also commented on my attractiveness then – but this was the first time he’d received its full effect. It made me feel guilty to see him looking at me like this.

His hand reached for mine, and I tried not to flinch as he took it. Even after the shower, I felt dirty and cheap. I didn’t want him to touch me after what I’d done, even if it had been in a different body. I didn’t deserve such love.

Seth sighed, still enchanted. His long fingers traced warm, whirling patterns on my skin. I felt my breathing grow heavier. “I wish I could put your beauty into words. But I’m not that good of a writer. Guess I need some work.”

I stood up hastily and tugged at his hand. “Now you’re just being silly. I think you’re the one that needs to go home and rest.”

He blinked. “Oh. So no more, uh, attempts at sleeping?”

I hesitated. I wanted to do it again but still didn’t trust myself. Or Seth actually, not with the way he kept watching me with such rapt admiration, that heat burning in his eyes. One would have thought a backroom fling might have sated my lust for the night, but I wanted Seth just as much as ever. Of course, in retrospect, maybe that wasn’t a surprise after all. Said fling hadn’t exactly addressed my physical needs.

“No,” I told Seth. “Not yet. Too soon.”

He looked like being separated from me would hurt him physically, but he finally conceded when I let him kiss my cheek. It was long and lingering, more sensuous than one would expect, making me inhale and then exhale a long, shuddering breath. I wouldn’t return the gesture, however. Not with these lips. He waxed on about my beauty a few more times before finally leaving, and I went to bed shortly thereafter.

Lying there, I told myself over and over that I had done the right thing at the club. I had done what I needed to do to keep myself strong and capable. After all, Seth had said he loved my “whirlwind.” Sex was the means of keeping it strong. I had done the right thing. And I had done the right thing with Doug too. Everything I’d done today had been for the best.

And yet…if that was true, then why did I feel so terrible about it all?

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