Hotter Than Hell
Click on image to enlarge.
by Raine Weaver
Description: Want a taste of Heaven? Go to Hell. Legend has it that the Incubi were originally fallen angels, irresistible creatures who sacrificed their place in Paradise for the touch of mortal lovers. They live among us still, in the shadowy, dream-haunted fringes of modern society, indulging their insatiable lust and feeding on our desire--with our blessings. The Rose Legacy A valuable inheritance is passed from one female member of a wealthy family to another, as it has been for centuries. But Camille Price, the beneficiary, doesn't know it's a generational curse that includes sacrificing her body and soul to an Incubus who fulfills her every erotic dream--and nightmare. Ravenous Failed cleric Adam Bachmann knows a demon when he sees one. He just can't seem to resist succubus Leyla Cheval, even though her insatiable sexual appetite is draining him of life. To save himself and others, he must sacrifice the only heaven he's ever known and destroy the dark angel he's come to love. Warning: This book contains explicit sex, second-story sex, cul-de-sac sex, shapeshifter sex, and things that really go bump in the night and make you beg for more sex.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009
8 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [398 KB]
Reading time: 245-343 min.
* * * *
As a dues-paying member of the species, Bachmann depended on this fact, subscribed to it--gloried in it.
Men lie about who they are, what they do and how much liquor they can handle. About their women, their prowess, their dicks. How big, how long, how thick and how much coochie it conquered on the playing field.
But just this once, on this very special occasion, Bachmann discovered his friends had not lied to him.
Leyla Cheval was every bit as hauntingly beautiful as they'd claimed.
She had the face of an angel and moved like a dream, and she'd come to save him from sin.
So naturally he hardened the moment he saw her, determined to have her and offer as much of his salvation as she could swallow.
Bachmann had never expected to find someone like this in the dead-end town of Claremount, Pennsylvania. Following the orders of the right-minded company that employed him, he'd climbed the filthy fire escape of a tiny bodega he'd never noticed before to find a well-designed office of contrasts. There was stark white, cool oyster, cutting black and soothing wheat, smooth, classic lights accented by strong, contemporary darks. Only the plush, crimson chair he relaxed into lent a splash of color to the ordered surroundings.
The woman he discovered there was also a study in contrasts. It wasn't just that she was beautiful. Beautiful women were a dime a dozen, and he'd had a few dollars' worth. This woman was positively stunning. Almost frighteningly so. A woman a man would die for, without regret.
A woman a man would kill for.
To all appearances, she seemed very professional--but he could tell what she was, what she needed. The thick mass of curly black hair might have been pinned on top of her head, but a few stray wisps were left to fall, as if she'd just hurried from her lover's bed. The prim white blouse may have been buttoned neck-high, but the knuckle-sized outlines of her nipples were clearly visible. And the simple black skirt may have grazed her calves, but it hugged a heart-shaped ass that made his fingers curve into cups.
Oh, yes. He would have her. She was made for him.
"Hi. You're Mr. Bachmann, right? Adam Bachmann?" Nodding, she smiled, and his world went still. "Good evening, Mr. Bachmann. I'm Leyla Cheval."
She sat in the small, schoolish chair before him and crossed her legs, rubbing them together as if she liked the feeling of her own skin. That flawless, olive skin. The hard, heated ache intensified immediately in his crotch. Good God, the woman was more than beautiful. She was a fantasy. "Yes. Right. I mean, that's right. I'm Bachmann. Adam. My friends call me Bach."
The smile quieted into a grin as she studied the clipboard in her hands. "Well, how do, Bach. My friends call me Smoke."
The nickname suited her, considering her profession. And the markedly husky quality of her voice made him think of sultry summer heat, of simmering need. Of raw, unrestrained sex. She retrieved a pencil from her hair, her movements as fluid as music. "But you can call me Ms. Cheval."
If it was a rebuff, he barely cared. As long as he could stare at those long, slinky legs, watch that skirt creep higher, and a little higher.
"You're perspiring a bit. Is the room too warm?"
He barely noticed his surroundings now. There were two finely-etched mirrors facing each other on opposite walls, a computer and CD player, and a single flower arrangement in shades of smoke-gray. And two chairs. Only two chairs in the whole room. Hers was hard and straight, while his was the softest suede imaginable. It made him want to sink deep inside.
"Nervous?" She reached into her jacket pocket, producing a silver case that gleamed like sun-struck glass, and flipped it open. "Cigarette?"
Damn, that voice did things to him. Leaning forward to hide the thickening regard in his lap, he bit off a smile. "That's one hell of an interesting offer, Ms. Cheval--especially since I'm here for your Stop Smoking course."
"No. No, you're not. You're here to relax. That's your job, all you have to do. The rest will be up to me."
Well, hell. He'd probably fail at that, just as he did at pretty much everything he put his hand to. There was no way he was going to relax around this woman. Despite the demands of the Waverly Insurance Company, the people he worked for. Despite the threat of losing his job. Despite her high-collared demeanor, thoughts of having that ripe rear end in his lap made him squirm. "No, thanks. Not my brand."
"What do you smoke?"
"No filters." Her tone was almost admiring. "You like it bareback, then?"
He nearly slid out of the chair. "Excuse me?"
"Sorry. That's what one of my other clients calls it. I meant you like your cigarettes without frills. Without apologies." She blinked, lush lashes momentarily hooding her pearl-gray eyes. "Is anything wrong, Mr. Bachmann?"
He muttered an unintelligible curse. What the devil was going on? He'd never behaved so stupidly toward a woman before. "No, I--I'm sorry. Maybe I am a little nervous after all. With the new company policy, I could be out on my can if I don't stop smoking. And I can hardly blame them, wanting their employees to be as healthy as they urge their customers to be."
"Then why don't we just plunge right in." Damn, he loved the way she threw metaphors around. "I'll explain exactly how this works, which should take the edge off your nerves. I'm going to help you relax. I want you to be completely open to me. No lecture, no cancer-scare stories, no subliminal threats. Just relaxation. Once you're in a relaxed state of consciousness, you'll be more amenable to suggestion. I'll make those suggestions, then slowly bring you back to your regular state of awareness. After this session, you'll be allowed three return visits for positive reinforcement, all paid for by your company. How does that sound?"
"Like it won't work. Nothing personal, but I'm really not much of a smoker. I only put away three, maybe four cigarettes a day. And I'm not sure I want to give that up--subconsciously, that is. I don't know if I even believe in this hypnosis crap." He grinned. If stupidity failed, try boyish charm. "And I'm not sure I like the idea of being mind-fucked while I'm asleep. How do I know you can be trusted, Ms. Cheval?"
"You won't do anything in a trance state you wouldn't want to do while awake, Bach." The sound of his nickname in that scorching voice of hers made him squirm again. "Tell you what--I'll make it even simpler for you. You can hypnotize yourself."
"Let me show you." She stood, moving slowly to the CD player on the nearby desk. "Why don't you take off your jacket, loosen your tie a bit?"
Bach bit back a groan as he watched her bend before him to click on soft music. That perfectly shaped ass made him salivate. With a frustrated yank, he nearly strangled himself before ripping the tie from around his neck and shedding his suit jacket. It was suffocating him.
"Now," she said, regaining her seat. "You'll note that there's a large mirror on the wall behind me. That's what I want you to focus on. Watch your own eyes, face, expression in that mirror. You won't have to trust me. Trust yourself. In a way, you'll be putting yourself into a trance. Fair enough? I'm just going to sit here and speak very softly. No harm can come of that, now can it?"
Bach almost laughed. Trust himself? She didn't have a clue. He didn't want to relax. He didn't give a damn about smoking. He just wanted to mount her like a rutting animal. It was what he did best.
But appeasing his boss was necessary. And this was not a woman he wanted to bend over a chair for a five-minute quickie. He could already tell--this was meant to be a soul-stirring relationship for him. Something sincere and meaningful that would last two, maybe even three whole days. "No. Nothing wrong with it, I guess."
She gave him a full smile for the first time, and he broke out into a fresh sweat. "That's it. Just open yourself to me, Bach. Now--I want you to look into the mirror. Listen to the music and the sound of my voice. Don't stare, but don't look away. Leave yourself completely in my hands, and just relax ... relax ... relax..."
* * * *
"Mr. Bachmann. It's time to wake up now."
Bach felt his body stir and struggled to open his eyes. Swirls of pale color, like fine particles of fog, fluttered behind his lids. He breathed. The air smelled of her exotic perfume. His eyes flipped open, slowly readjusting to the light.
"Welcome back, Mr. Bachmann. How do you feel?"
He stretched, raising his arms above his head. He was in the same chair, same position, his tie loose, legs wide. For all he knew, barely a second had passed. "My God. More relaxed than I ever have in my life."
She smiled and winked. "You make an excellent subject, sir. I was very impressed by how deep you can go."
Dammit, if she kept talking like that he just might have to hump the chair. "So that's it? Mission accomplished? I'm cured?"
"For some people it works that way. Most need at least one more session. It depends on how badly you want to stop. If you really feel driven to smoke right away, I could recommend nicotine gum, or the patch. I'd rather not, though--that's simply exchanging one addiction for another. I'd rather you focus your craving on other things."
His eyes shifted to her crossed legs. "And what did you have in mind, Ms. Cheval?"
"Regular gum is good. Hard candy. Mints." She leaned forward, her voice lowering. "Anything you can put in your mouth or suck on that gives you pleasure."
God. He had to get out of there.
He lurched to his feet, surprised to find his legs felt weak. Stumbling slightly, he grasped the chair's arm for support. She was watching him, nibbling thoughtfully on the eraser of her pencil. "You might want to rest for a minute," she said. "It's a bit like trying to shake off a sound sleep for certain people. I'd be happy to get you some coffee, if you'd like."
He glanced around the office. No clocks, no windows to tell the time. Only mirrors. "No, no I really should be going. Do I owe you--?"
"Not a thing. I've already been paid." She dazzled him with a smile. "Right up front."
The idea that he was just a client, another statistic to her, irritated the hell out of him. She didn't even move to see him out. "Then I just give you a call if I'm feeling ... vulnerable?"
"Yes. Definitely. And please recommend me to your friends. I'm always looking for new customers. Have a safe drive home, Mr. Bachmann. And pleasant dreams."
* * * *
Okay, that was just plain, old-fashioned weird.
Bach paused at the bottom of the fire escape to steady himself, letting snowflakes kiss his upturned face.
Holy hell. Had he just run like some pimply-faced adolescent from the sexiest woman he'd ever met?
Something was screwy here. He wasn't the smartest fella in the world, but if there was one thing he knew it was Adam Bachmann, and this behavior was all wrong for him.
He slowly drifted along the deserted street to his car, knees as weak as if he'd just made a ninety-yard touchdown run. He'd have to see her again, and soon. If the woman had this effect on him without even trying, he could hardly imagine how he'd react with her swimming in the sheets of his bed, bucking beneath him.
Next time. Now that he'd seen her, knew what to expect, the next time would be different. He'd be composed and charming and sweep her off her feet. Right now his hands were shaking so badly he couldn't seem to button his coat.
But there was nothing wrong with his hearing. The unexpected sound of snow tromped beneath the tread of a shoe and one crisp, sharp click was enough to set off a silent alarm in his head and send him diving for the pavement.
Taking the impact of the fall on his shoulder, he twisted and rolled into the nearby bushes just as a single bullet drilled a hole in the door of his shiny silver Lexus.
What the fuck? Somebody was shooting at him? Nobody in this overbuilt outhouse of a town could possibly want him dead. Hell, he wasn't important enough to kill.
Peering between the mesh of brambles for whoever had gotten hitman-happy, he quietly took stock of his defense capabilities. No gun. No knife. Old-style crowbar in the trunk of his car, but it would require getting there alive. Keys. Pocket change. Phone. Useless. Hand-to-hand he could probably take 'em--or drill them to death with the hard-on he couldn't seem to get rid of, even now. Dammit, he didn't want to die with a boner. He had enough to explain to his maker as it was.
The hollow echo of the blast lingered in the cold, thick air, undisturbed by the fairy-like flight of the snow. Holding his breath for what seemed like forever, Bach waited. Waited until all seemed still and silent once again. Waited until a wintry coating had settled over his body. Waited until the feeling of being buried alive became all too real before reaching for his cell phone to call the law.
* * * *
Leyla pinned a small black cameo to the high collar of her blouse. It was a good thing her client had decided not to stay. She was actually purring at her reflection in the mirror.
It had been a good session. Adam Bachmann, former jock, now agent and spokesman for Waverly Insurance. Who was it that he reminded her of? Oh, yes. Yes, that peacocky pimp in San Francisco so very long ago. The one who could almost--almost--keep up with her.
Bach was just as arrogant, and ever-so-slightly superior. Men were silly that way. It made getting what she needed so much easier. But he carried a supreme sword inside those tailored pants. The hardness of the thing had surprised even her, and the length was more than impressive. But the thickness of the beast was what had made him noteworthy. She loved a thick cock most of all. The very thought of it made her mouth water all over again.
And as careful as she'd been, he'd made quite a mess of her blouse. She glanced at the shallow closet behind her mirror, grinning. Twenty identical white blouses and an equal number of skirts waited there, for just such emergencies. Eons of experience served her well. The sensation, the surge of sexual power she'd absorbed from him, had been more than worth a little soiled satin.
Laughing softly, she secretly hoped her anti-smoking suggestions wouldn't work. She'd love another session with him, love to feel that rock-hard thickness inside her this time, to make a few suggestions that weren't on her professional menu. Yes, indeed--the things she could do with that big, buff body...
But if he never returned, it really didn't matter. She wouldn't be here long, and it was quantity, not quality, that always counted after all.
Considering her image in the mirror, Leyla smoothed her hair into a tight chignon for the next client. It looked more mature, more ... professional. This guy would be no Adam Bachmann. She'd read his chart, had already heard that her next client was a very balding, very neurotic older man, a heavy smoker scared of losing his job with only four years left to retirement. Maybe she could help him.
Even if she didn't, she'd help herself. He'd be her third one today. Not nearly enough to satisfy her--but there was always the night, and men who slept and dreamed to round off her appetite.
And if she sometimes felt a little reluctant about moving on when the time came, as she always did, or a bit wistful about remaining detached, even from the special ones, her very nature quickly reminded her of the necessity.
One man was simply not enough. She would inevitably drain him of life.
Her acute hearing picked up the sound of the outer door opening and closing very gently, and she smoothed her skirt and moistened her lips. The taste of Bach was still there--salty, tangy. Delicious. Sex on a hard, hot rod. Blowing a kiss at her image, she idly wondered how deeply he slept, how vividly he dreamed.
There were still many hours left to this night.
The pale, nervous man was fingering his hat as she slipped into the office, and she immediately assumed a sympathetic demeanor, smiling kindly.
"Hello, Mr. Wheeler. My name's Leyla Cheval. And I'm going to help you relax..."
* * * *
"Well, cowabunga, cowboy--what do you say? Think we can wrap this up sometime tonight?"
Bach started at the sound of the voice. Even as he pumped furiously away, he was almost surprised to find himself doing it to the woman in his lap, a woman he'd nearly forgotten about, whose taut breasts he held in both hands as she spread her thighs wider for him.
A woman with a bell-clear voice, minus the husky promise of passion. A woman who was not Leyla Cheval.
He hadn't been able to stop thinking about her. Even after lying in the bushes until his bum knee locked and he'd grown stone-cold. Even after filing a report for what that lazy-assed Sheriff McGhee said was probably "just some juvenile drive-by" and cruising home with his web-cracked window in the prickly night air. Even after trudging through six inches of partly cloudy from the carport to his condo and inhaling three shots of whiskey. Even as he picked up the phone to call Shelley, good friend and favorite sex stand-by, because he needed to get laid or burst.
And now, for the first time in his life--he couldn't. He couldn't get off.
But damned if he wasn't determined to keep trying.
"Bach? Hel-looo? Anybody back there?" Shelley grasped the arms of the chair, her words broken by each bounce. "I've enjoyed the ride, but c'mon man, let's make an end. We've both got work tomorrow."
"Just a minute longer, babe." He ground the words out between clenched teeth and slammed her hips harder against him. "Just one more minute..."
Ten minutes later he lifted her off his still-swollen sex, sputtering in frustration. "This just isn't happening. I'm sorry. I'm an ass. Go. You go on home. Get some rest. I'll give you a call. Sometime."
"Oh, please do, Mr. Bachmann." She ran her fingers through her straight blonde hair as her eyes began the search for her scattered belongings. "You do me that great honor, 'kay? 'Cause you realize my poor simple life will just not be complete until I fulfill my obligation to get you the fuck off whenever my phone happens to ring. And having failed today, I'm sure I've earned a black mark in the Book of Life, you being such a God-fearing man and all that shit."
He winced and bowed his head, suitably chastised. Not many people knew about his failed attempt to follow God. Even fewer would dare to refer to it. Shelley Tatum could be maple-syrup sweet, but equally vicious when crossed. And he deserved it. What had he been thinking to call her in the first place? It had never been his style to treat a woman badly. That kind of behavior always came back to bite you in the ass when you really did want the coochie.
Either way, he'd been wrong to use her. Shelley was a pretty special person to him. She deserved better. "Shell, I'm sorry. Really sorry. A thousand pardons, don't know what's wrong with me."
She was already slipping into her clothes, pouting, that slight Southern accent of hers bleeding through. "Is it me? Something I didn't do?"
Yes. She didn't have tousled hair as black as pitch, her voice didn't strike the chords that sent shivers through his body and her buttocks weren't round or firm enough. Special friend or not, she was no good to him now. He needed release. "No. Nothing. You're an angel, I'm an idiot. It's my problem. Go home."
He watched her sashay across the room and open the door, her bangle bracelets jingling. "It's not really so late, Brother Adam," she drawled. "There's still time for you to make a call, catch up with the woman you were really bangin' tonight--'cause it sure wasn't me."
Bach didn't want to argue. There was no point. She was absolutely right; he'd treated her like shit. And the thought of that would normally have sickened him.
But not tonight. As crude as it sounded, she was serving a purpose. He needed to get a nut and needed it desperately.
Without bothering to dress, he wandered toward the bathroom. The fact that someone had taken a shot at him earlier didn't seem important. Security? He wasn't even sure Shelley had closed the door of his apartment. It didn't matter. She didn't matter. He'd try to make it up to her later. Only the hungry hardness that preceded him into the dark room mattered right now.
Flicking the switch, he blinked at the bright light and reached for the tub's pewter faucet.
Hot. Pure, absolute heat. Slamming the door tight, he turned the hot water to shower mode and stood there, waiting.
Until everything in the room became a spectral shade of pale white, until the air itself condensed to steam.
No--not steam. It wasn't steam he was looking for.
It was very like smoke, only hotter, increasing his feverish need for release. Only then did he turn to the large beveled mirror on the wall to stare at himself. The vapors moved in and out of his lungs as his eyes grew red. His hand trembled as he lifted it, slowly traced a path down the flat of his stomach and tentatively stroked himself. He was so engorged his own touch was almost painful.
His gaze remained glued to the mirror as he circled his throbbing heat with his fingers, absently tightening his grip. There was something there, something more in the glass beside his intense expression and the glistening glans in his hand. Smoke. Billowing clouds of it, coating his body with a sheen of steamy moisture. It seemed to form an image in the mirror, the ghostly shape of a woman.
She moved toward him through the steam, her body born of the vapor. Her long black hair swept over the swell of her breasts and tumbled all the way down to the narrow waist that flared into full hips.
She knelt before him in the mirror. He couldn't see her face, her eyes. But her head dipped slowly, almost reverently, toward his erection and he felt himself swell between soft, sweet lips.
No need for coaxing or stroking or stimulation now. The minute her mouth closed around him he exploded. His body shook with an ancient, primitive force he'd never known, even as his mind disintegrated into a billion bits of ethereal light.
Searing, liquid sex poured endlessly out of him until he thought his heart would burst from the strain. And still her mouth moved on him, lips coaxing the very life out of him as she moaned, as if needing more and more and more.
Barely conscious, he gasped as he fell to all fours, able to close his eyes and breathe at last.
Dear God. What had just happened to him?
He was spent, absolutely devoid of energy. Struggling to his feet, he supported himself against the sink and peered into the mirror again.
Was it a sexual fantasy? A dream? Or did he want her so badly he'd conjured up a personalized demon to satisfy himself?
Nothing. He could see nothing there but the thickening mists that clouded his mind, his memory, urging him to forget. He could no longer even see any trace of himself.
Bach turned off the water, opened the door and breathed in the cool air of the hallway, clearing his brain. With one long swipe of his hand, he cleared a swath on the mirror.
Alone. He'd been alone all along.
Without bothering to lock his door or extinguish the lights, he stumbled into his bedroom and collapsed onto his bed.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be time enough to figure out exactly when he'd lost his freaking mind over this woman. And how he'd enjoyed the hell out of losing it. Tomorrow...
He drifted away, deeper and deeper into exhausted sleep, until all thought deserted him. A sigh of contentment was his last memory as the cool bedroom air blew scintillating circles over his heated skin, soft as a willing woman's lips, intense as fire and vague as smoke.
* * * *
"You look like hell, man."
Bach barely glanced up at the thin man who entered his office. The room was too light, too cold, and his coffee too weak. Maybe he was coming down with something. He couldn't even summon the energy to protest when his guest carelessly shoved a small pile of papers aside to perch almost daintily on the edge of the desk.
"You're one to talk," Bach muttered, tamping the end of a fresh cigarette on his blotter. "What'd you do--sleep in that suit?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. But that's okay. People expect me to look like shit. What's your excuse?"
He was right. It was well known around the company that Rudy "Rude-boy" Waverly was probably smoking something far more potent than cigarettes. But then, being the nephew of the CEO of the company, he could do as he pleased. "Rough night. Guess I didn't sleep very well."
"You mean banging Shelley wore you out this much?" Rudy tilted his head. "I'll have to be more careful about what I throw away. Must've missed something. Maybe I should give her a second chance."
He'd always tolerated Rude-boy, but he definitely didn't like him. Any guy who told a lady's business wasn't much of a man in his book. "That'd be up to you."
"Oh hell, Bach--what's the point of being the town stud if you keep the juicy details to yourself?" Rudy paused, then knocked on the desk as if it were a door. "Yo, Bach? You okay, dude? Going through a withdrawal thing, are we? Hey, I've been there. If you're worried about the old man and wanna run out for that cigarette, I'll cover for you. You've done it often enough for me."
He blinked, staring at the thing in his hand. He hadn't even been aware he was holding it. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't had a cigarette with his morning coffee, or on the slow, snowy drive to work. He'd always made a habit of lighting up before he entered the building each day, knowing how long it'd be before he could manage the next one.
Today he hadn't even given it a second thought. "Screw the cigarette. Don't want the cigarette. It's just ... just something to do with my hands."
Rudy cleared his throat. "Nervous, eh? Maybe you need that cigarette. You, uh, haven't become a part of the Waverly Company's stop smoking conspiracy, have you? It's all part of the government's plan to subjugate the individuality of the citizens, you know, to make us easier to control." He looked away. "Unless, of course, you've fallen under the influence of something a lot more dangerous."
"Yeah." Rudy grabbed the cigarette from his hand and lit it, drawing deep. Bach scowled at him, but kept his silence. The spoiled little bastard knew he could get away with anything. "Yeah. Dangerous. Like the fatal charm of a certain hypnotherapist?"
For the first time that day, Bach felt alert. "What? What are you talking about?"
"I said the government is--"
"Don't screw with me, Rudy. I'm not in the mood. What's this crap you're talkin' about Leyla Cheval?"
"Ahhh, then you have visited Our Lady of the Smoke." He detached his hip from the desk, easing away. For the first time Bach noticed how thin and pale Rudy had become, just since Adam had signed on with the company three months earlier. His cheeks had literally sunken in below the hollows of his puffed eyes and boyish bangs. Time for another stint in rehab. Definitely.
"You should try the nicotine gum, Bach, or the patch if you're really determined to stop. Medically approved methods." His eyelids flipped wide. "Why let somebody into your head that way? Somebody you don't even know?"
Bach felt his shoulders gather about his neck. The chilled morning air had invaded his bones, his body. Even his coffee had failed to warm him, and the candy-yellow glare of the office lights made his eyes ache. "Your family business is paying for her services. She must have come highly recommended."
"Yes. Along with a smile that turned my uncle to mush, she also came with unbelievable references. Unbelievable."
"So what's the problem?"
Rude-boy shuffled to the door, turning as his free hand grasped the knob. The hand was curiously gnarled and slight for a man of twenty-eight, the veins a blue network beneath thin, ashen skin. "The problem is that I know what you want, Bachmann." His lip curled, a canine smile of contempt. "You think I'm stupid, man? I know what you're really after. And if I wanted to be a real sonofabitch, I'd let go and let you have it. It would serve you right. Because I can stop you, y'know. It wouldn't be hard. You make two-bit commercials for a nickel and dime company. Your job here isn't that damn secure." His fingers trembled. "Your life isn't that secure."
Something about his voice, about his cornered-animal expression, made Bach pause. And think. It was impossible, of course. He'd actually convinced himself that Sheriff McGhee had been right and the shooting incident had been just that--an incident. Kids strolling by, and he happened to be in the way. Rude-boy might've been suicidal, but he wasn't capable of harming anyone else.
Was he? "Rudy? Did you know somebody took a shot at me last night?"
His face remained impassive as a vein throbbed in his neck. "Is that right?"
Not one iota of emotion or surprise. Jesus. Jesus Christ. "Yeah. Real gun, bullet that went bang. I reported it to the police and everything."
"Well damn. Sounds like you've got an enemy or two, huh? Who woulda thought it, popular guy like yourself?"
Bach felt the acrid taste of his morning coffee coming back in his throat. This was about Leyla Cheval. He knew it. Could this maniac take pot-shots at men over some woman he barely knew? "Rudy? You've got me worried, man. You do understand that the male employees are only going there for treatment, right? Are you really that far gone or--or are you in over your head with this woman?"
"Woman?" The smile returned. "You're even thicker than I thought."
"Rudy, are you sleeping with her?"
"Sleeping?" He snorted. "Just take my advice, Bachmann. Back off. Not for my sake. For your own. La petite mort..." His voice trailed off.
"What? What'd you say?"
"That's what they called it," he responded eagerly. "With no idea how close they were to the truth, that's what the French named it. La petite mort. That's what they called the sexual climax. The small death. And if you're gonna be stupid enough to beg for it and can't take a hint, don't look for me to save you, asshole."
"Save me? Save me from what?"
Rudy ignored him, slowly disappearing through the door as he continued to mumble. "I can't save you. Even if I wanted to. Hell. Can't save myself..."
Adam stared unblinking at the door for several moments before making up his mind. Gawd. The woman had actually driven the man to distraction. Quickly filling out a sick leave request for the rest of the day, he grabbed his coat on his way out the door.
He didn't know anything about Leyla Cheval--who she claimed to be or where she'd come from. But a vague memory clawed at the corners of his brain, even as his crotch crowded at the thought of seeing her again. Things he'd read somewhere, books he'd studied during his short stint in the secular world. Matters spoken of only in whispers by the iron-willed brothers who believed in such things.
Bach didn't believe. He never really had. Rudy was a crackhead, and this was the twenty-first century, for Pete's sake. Rude-boy was being ridiculous, trying to justify his own weakness. Just as Bach had when he'd given up on God.
But none of that mattered. He intended to have her, despite the warnings and danger signals. Maybe they even made him want her more--and how twisted was that?
Harsh sunlight and a bitter cold wind slapped his face as he emerged from the Waverly building and rushed to his car. Peeling out of the parking lot, he tore through the streets of Claremount like a man possessed, lighting his first cigarette of the day and daring anyone to try to stop him.
Screw Rudy, the smoking, and the sorry-assed job. If having a taste of her meant dying a thousand small deaths, he was ready to be damned.
* * * *
Bach approached the bar slowly, hands shoved deep into his pockets. It was still early, so there were few customers. Considering what he was about to risk, this was definitely a good thing.
Paulie's Place was a peculiar blend of lounge, sports bar and steam room. The early hours of the day favored housewives faded positively pale with tedium, and the weekends were reserved for the raucous sports enthusiasts who swilled beer and worshipped the flat screen.
But the evening hours catered to the weary office worker who wanted to sip away his stress in a relaxed atmosphere of fine wine and gentle music.
Paulie Benuevo, the club owner, had seen this establishment from a brawling Irish bar to its current successful state by claiming to be part of the mob--yes, in the foothills of hicktown Pennsylvania. He'd never had to break up a single fight in the bar, always treated his customers like honored guests and kept all tabs at a manageable level. Bach respected the hell out of him.
But today he walked right past the smiling man behind the bar as if he didn't exist and zeroed in on his target.
Somehow he knew he'd find Leyla Cheval here. Paulie's place was the only one of the three bars in town with style.
She slowly stirred her martini with its speared olive, never even glancing up to see who he was. Paulie's young nephew tinkled a muted tune at the piano bar as her husky voice sent Adam's testosterone into overdrive. "Coming back for seconds already?"
He climbed onto the empty stool beside her, inhaling her scent and holding it. Her simple black dress dipped just enough in front to display the shadow of cleavage, and that long fall of hair cascaded carelessly around her shoulders. Slinky legs that seemed to go on forever were crossed before her, and she balanced a dangling strapped shoe off the tip of her toes. She was molten lava on an icy slope. Within thirty seconds of spotting her, his balls were tightening against his body, churning out heat. "I had a feeling I'd find you here, Ms. Cheval."
"Really? I'll have to re-read your chart. It failed to highlight your clairvoyant ability."
"I doubt I'd find out everything about you from your file either."
"I certainly hope not."
Her self confidence was totally unnerving. If he didn't know better, he'd peg her as some arrogant pencil pusher who wouldn't give him the time of day. But he wasn't fooled. He'd experienced the heat simmering below that surface. The only question was how to bring it out. No doubt she'd probably heard every pick-up line known to man. It was, he figured, time to shake things up. "I'd like my follow-up session now, if you don't mind."
"Now? Here? Don't be absurd. I don't work outside my office."
"I don't think I believe that, Ms. Cheval. Leyla," he corrected himself, savoring the sound of her name. "I think you do work outside your office. I think you do a lot of strange things in a lot of strange places."
Still refusing to look at him, she slipped half the olive between her lips and sucked. Bach watched her intently, a starving man gathering crumbs. Damn she did that well. Her mouth puckered slightly from the tart taste and she pulled it slowly away, licked her lips and softly drew the fleshy bauble off the toothpick, closing her eyes as she enjoyed the flavor.
Bach very nearly choked on his own Adam's apple.
"Do you really have nothing better to do with your personal life than speculate about mine?" she asked.
He moved closer, close enough to see the steady pulse in her throat. "I know what happened in your office yesterday."
"What's to know? I told you ahead of time what to expect. There were no surprises."
"You didn't warn me that Rudy Waverly would try to kill me."
"Did he really?" She turned to him for the first time, one exquisite eyebrow slightly raised. "Well, we can't have that now, can we?"
Oh, she was smooth, this one. But he could see the surprise in her eyes, despite her casual reaction. "I also know about the visitation last night."
"Visitation? Are you having holy hallucinations, Mr. Bachmann?"
"Decidedly carnal ones."
"And you think this has something to do with your hypnosis?"
"Not a thing. It has to do with you. Only you. You were the visitor."
"I know because I saw you in my bathroom mirror."
"That's not possible."
Her eyes sharpened to silver as she snapped at him, and her voice had a harder, abrupt edge. So he hadn't imagined it. If he wasn't sure before, he was now. "Have I struck a nerve, Ms. Cheval?"
"Don't be ridiculous." She recovered quickly, a cat landing on its feet. "I've never been anywhere near your bathroom, mister. Sounds like you need more than a hypnotherapist's help."
"I saw you. I saw you on your knees before me, damn near as clearly as I see you now. I felt your lips play me in the most intimate way possible. No way I'd forget that. I've never come so hard in my life. I think I know why I saw it, and I think I know you."
"And I think you're delusional." She laughed softly. "Been sharing goodies with Rudy Waverly, have you?"
He certainly felt like it. Felt like he was speeding and plodding stupidly along at the same time. Forming sentences was a labor when his body was screaming one simple word. Want. "I wondered why Rude-boy seemed so taken with you, seeing as how he never gave a flying fuck about anybody. He probably doesn't even understand it himself. You've become his new drug of choice, haven't you?"
"Is that what this is about?" She caressed the stem of her glass with an up-and-down sliding motion that made his gut clench. "You think I'm having sex with him?"
Bach felt the blood simmering in his veins. He didn't want it to be true. The idea of her sharing Rude-boy's bed made him want to toss her over his shoulder and drag her into a cave, never let her loose again. This woman he barely knew had set him on fire. "Probably."
"And if I am?"
"Then I'd say you were being unethical. And you should be careful, because Rudy's a head case, and that relationship could prove dangerous for you." His voice lowered, grated in his throat. "And I'd say he was the luckiest sonofabitch on the planet."
She hid her eyes behind long, luscious lashes. "You may actually be a little more interesting than I thought."
His hard-on lurched at the sound of her words, leading him to edge closer. "So tell me I'm wrong."
"Not that it's any of your business--but as it happens, Rudy is not one of my clients. His health doesn't seem to concern him. He had a death wish long before I came along, so you can hardly blame me for that. But he's a big boy who makes his own decisions, so there'd be no conflict of interest if I were sleeping with him."
"No. Only if you were killing him in the process."
"Mr. Bachmann, you are--"
"I saw you." He reached out with his forefinger, just far enough to touch her hair. "I know what you are and I saw what you did to me."
She slapped his hand away with a good deal more strength than he would've given her credit for. "Look, I can't help whatever fantasies you may entertain in your bathroom. Now, I've told you you're not making sense. What else do you want from me?"
Bach focused on her mouth, the fullness of her lips, as he gently took her hand and placed it on his crotch. "I want you to do it again."
* * * *
Paulie, who rarely missed anything, made a great deal of noise slapping a thin, corked coaster on the bar before Bach. His words were sharp and succinct, and his thick eyebrows had gathered to form one long, cautionary line. "You're not bothering this beautiful young lady, are you, friend?"
"Evenin', Paulie." Bach offered his host a wide grin, but did not relinquish her hand. "Just making small talk with one of my company's newest employees."
Leyla moved her hips in a delicious circle on the stool, resisting the urge to lap her martini like a cat. Oh, this evening was turning out to be much more interesting than her previous plan to pick up a stranger or six. Paulie didn't look one bit amused. Nice old-school gentleman. A single word from her and she was sure he'd have the ex-jock tossed out on his ass.
Instead, she curled her fingers into Bachmann's lap and gave his crotch a hard squeeze that nearly sent him rocketing off the stool.
"Perhaps Mr. Bachmann would like a drink, Mr. Benuevo--since he'll be paying for mine."
She made no show of the fact that she was possessively cupping him, but no attempt to hide it either. By the time Paulie served him a scotch on the rocks and a hard parting stare, Bach seemed able to breathe again. "You're a mite aggressive, Ms. Cheval. If I'd known this would be your response, I would've dressed down. To naked."
She laughed, maintaining eye contact. "I love a subtle kinda guy. My Lord, man, is this what you did to get the groupies at Penn State to grope you?"
"And who would that be, Leyla?"
Her smile faded immediately. This one was different. Never had anyone faced her down so effectively. And never for her was a very, very long time. Men had dreamed about her for centuries, but none of them had ever been able to see her in her spirit form--through a mirror or otherwise. Bachmann apparently had a gift beyond the hefty package she held in her hand. She licked her lips, remembering the salty male flavor of him, wanting to taste him again. "My Lord? There is only one."
"Then we agree on something."
He leaned in closer, and suddenly she felt uneasy, struggling to maintain her composure. There was an irresistible scent about him, like an opiate, a memory, stirring all her senses to life. It was just the promise of sex, she told herself. Just sex...
Bach snared a long tendril of hair and lazily twisted it around his finger. "I know what you are, Leyla Cheval. I know what you are and what you do."
The worn denim of his jeans was soft against the side of her hand, and her fingers found his zipper. She toyed with it, watching the sheen of perspiration glisten on his forehead. It was so tempting to take him right there. He had no idea how close she was to doing just that. "Well, since we're sharing all sorts of things here, why don't you tell me? Exactly what is it you think I am?"
"I suppose there are a lot of words for what you are, different for every culture, every time. Demoness. Lilith. Fallen angel. She-devil." His eyes, nearly the color of the whiskey he tasted, flared open. "Succubus."
She hadn't heard the word tumble from the lips of such a sexy man in ages. It washed over her like a forbidden lover's caress. "Succubus?"
"A demon that assumes a pleasing feminine shape in order to lie with men as they sleep. The proverbial thief in the night in its most erotic form. I believe you are such a creature."
"Sounds like a fairy tale. A lame mythology invented by men to justify their own behavior under their sheets at night."
He released her hair, maintaining eye contact. "I wouldn't have felt the need to justify anything. I wanted to get inside you the moment we met."
She might just have to wipe down the stool before she left the bar. "So I'm some kind of demon because you had a wet dream about me?"
"Because I think I've had enough experience with being a lost soul to recognize the soulless."
She believed him. She'd had enough experience with the darkness of the human heart to recognize truth when she saw it in a man. "Then let's suppose you're right. I said suppose," she added hastily as she felt him stiffen in her grasp. "Anyone in their right mind knows that's just superstitious nonsense. But let's assume I am this monster you've decided to believe in. Where are your defenses? Your priest? The holy water? Stake and crucifix?"
"Tradition says the Fallen Angels are notoriously immune to such talismans, since the afflicted soul never truly wants to be rid of their tormentor."
"Give the people what they want."
"And you would know all about that, wouldn't you, Leyla?" Bach edged his stool closer, legs spread, allowing her easier access to his hard-on. "I didn't even need to pick up the phone. All I had to do was imagine having sex with you, humping you hard against a wall, sucking those scrumptious nipples sore, or burrowing so deep inside you that whatever was left of me was lost forever. I think you needed it as much as I did. Just the thought of it was enough to summon you to me."
"Summon?" Leyla wrinkled her nose as she said the word. As if he exercised some power over her? "All right, I've had enough of this 'let's pretend' game. If you wanted to play with demons, why didn't you just stay in that grim little Trappist monastery you'd holed up in?"
"It wasn't grim. It was quiet and serene, conducive to contemplation." He shrugged. "It was a phase. Everyone goes through them. I needed the time to figure out who the hell I was supposed to be and I thought God might take a hand in straightening out the mess I'd made of myself. Unfortunately, the brothers seemed to think my true calling might lie elsewhere. Just because of a little incident at a guest house within walking distance, a small spiritual retreat for women, and--"
"Couldn't keep it in your pants, huh?"
She was more than glad about that. Terrible waste of wonderful equipment. "So your way of exorcising female demons is to put your dick in their hands?"
Bach tossed back his remaining scotch as if it were water. Breaking into a drop-your-panties grin, he gently lifted her hand to his lips. "Just a little taste, a little tease. I want you to think about how much I want you, to remember how good it felt to suck me dry. I intend to imagine having sex with you every chance I get, to think about every position, every sensation, every scenario, to drive you to me as often as I can. Oh, yeah, babe. I know exactly what you are and what you need, and I'll be waiting for you to come back to me. And you will. This was just my way of letting you know that I plan to enjoy the hell out of being ravished by you, Leyla Cheval--before I destroy you."
* * * *
Leyla paced the confines of her penthouse suite, shoving her hair out of her face, then shaking her head so furiously it fell right back.
Damn him. Damn him to hell. She would drag him there herself, and leave him to rot.
How dare he tempt her that way. No mortal man, in her limitless sense of time and memory, had ever done such a thing. No one except...
Dismissing the thought, she focused on the present. So he figured he could come at her, tempt her, then threaten to destroy her on his way out the door? Exactly who did he think he was screwing with here? She would make Bachmann pay. The sonofabitch would surrender every drop of fluid in his body before she was done, and beg her to finish him.
But not yet. She'd take him slowly. On her own terms. And as much as she hated witnessing the horrific after-effects of her appetite on her conquests, she would enjoy taking this one apart.
No matter how much he reminded her of Theo.
Right now she needed a fix. Immediately. Her hands were actually shaking, the mortal shell she'd assumed aching to be filled. The idea that she was a junkie nearly made her laugh. She, one of the Favored who'd once burned so brightly, who'd been a presence even when the cornerstones of this universe were being laid--she was now little better than an insatiable drug addict.
The idea made her think of Rudy. He was always easy prey, ever eager. If only she could catch him before he hit the pipe--but no. Too late. He'd already been at it, and she sensed he was neither asleep nor alone. She was in tune with him enough to know. And she had to be careful. She wanted to remain here as long as the meat supply stayed fresh and unsuspecting.
Establishing a new, suspicion-free identity every few months was becoming more and more tiresome--but it was the price she paid for preferring the guise of a human. If she was careful, she could take on some other man from Waverly Insurance tonight. Any man except Bachmann. As desperately as she wanted him, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of proving him right.
But one man wouldn't be enough. His teasing had undone her. She was famished.
Hurrying to the full length mirror of the walk-in closet, she set her mind to imagining what she wished to be. Tall and blonde this time, with boobs that screamed silicon and a butt that could bounce a quarter and make fifty cents change. Stripping away her street clothes, she did a slow turn before the glass and extended the range of her energy so that her aura glowed white-gold.
Leyla paused just long enough to study the assumption, the guise that all human eyes would see by her will. A designer dress, one size two small. Bright red, baring all but nipples and tight as spandex around the ass. Stiletto heels for pushing the offerings up and out. No coat, despite the cold. She wanted to showcase the goods. Perfect bait, no stutter about it.
Crossing her arms before herself, she closed her eyes and, with barely a thought, folded her essence layer by layer in upon itself. Second nature to her now after so many centuries, condensed calm with a fiery core, then a white hot flash of light before the leaden limits of time and space gave her form once again.
* * * *
It was a dead-end alley behind an equally dead-end drinking hole. Wooden crates and overturned trash. Urine-stained brick and shards of glass. None of the ambiance of Paulie's place, but it served a purpose. She'd been here before. Once with the bar's bouncer. Not a bad lay, but he was pumped up on steroids, which always left her feeling like a human wired on sugar. Twice with men who actually paid her to have them. And one glorious ménage with two sailors on weekend leave who'd escorted her to their hotel afterward. The boys in uniform always knew how to party. They'd barely let her up off her back the whole time. It was sublime.
Pubs weren't always the best venues. She preferred to snare her prey before they were wasted. The taste of alcohol with body fluids didn't appeal to her and dissipated the sexual energy. But since no one was loitering outside, she assumed a position at the opening of the dark womb and leaned against the old, battered exterior of the bar. And waited.
It didn't take long.
She felt them coming long before they lurched into the alley. Three men. Young, healthy and primarily heterosexual. Their auras were only slightly skewed. They'd had a little liquor before hitting this bar, but not much. Just enough to loosen them up for her.
Leyla stretched her long legs and wiggled in anticipation, physical body thrumming, ready for the feast.
"Hot damn, look at that."
The two tall ones approached her eagerly. The shorter, bandy-legged fellow followed, but slowly. He seemed ... unsure. Worried for her safety? She would save him for last. "Hey, boys." She smiled, felt them drawn by the thrall as surely as if she were hauling in a net. "How's it hangin' tonight?"
The blond with the bad haircut approached first, eyes sharpening to slits as he looked her over. "It ain't hangin' any more, baby doll. You got it all revved up and ready to go. What you doin' back here all by yourself? Ain't you cold, standin' out here in the snow half-nekkid?"
Leyla softly purred, rubbing her back against the wall as he narrowed the small distance between them. "I was on my way inside to have a nice warm drink. But maybe I don't have to go that far. You'll do."
Before he could respond, she yanked him forward by his belt. Before his surprise could register, she pried his zipper open. Before he could refuse, she was on her knees and had taken him into her mouth.
His body stiffened, jerked in shock. "What the f--?"
"Oh, well, holy shit."
Leyla felt him shiver with excitement as he began to harden between her lips. Arousing his friends as she fed added a bit of spice to the mix, but she already knew he wouldn't be enough. Unimpressive dick, low energy.
Appetizer, she thought vaguely, sucking harder.
"Jake. You checkin' this out?" The blond grabbed her hair, trying to delve deeper into her mouth. "The bitch is so hot she can't get it fast enough. Talk about luck. We got us a real pro here."
"Oh, well, holy shit." Jake, long and lanky, eased closer to watch, fumbling with his own belt. "Must be a working girl. I got no money, but damn if I ain't gonna hit that. C'mon, man, pop that head. I'm next."
"Next my ass. This one's all mine. Soon as I finish, we throw her into the car, take her to my place and keep her there 'til I'm ready again and--"
A sickly groan escaped his mouth as he came. And continued to come, spurred on by her fingers latching onto his balls and squeezing. Hard. He shuddered, whined and began pushing at her shoulders, trying to loosen her hold without ripping off important parts of his anatomy. "J--Jake. Help me. She's--"
A touch of her palm set him flat on his back in the snow, snoring as if he'd just crawled into bed. Leyla ran her fingers through her hair, calmly combing it back into place before her eyes found the next one. His heart rate was nearly twice the normal, his gaze fixed on his incapacitated friend. Fear plus sexual excitement. What more could a girl ask for?
Without bothering with the pretense of rising and walking over to him, she appeared right before the stunned Jake, kneeling as she skillfully unwrapped his package. "Hello, Jake. A little gift from me, on behalf of working girls everywhere."
"Oh, hey, no, wait a minute. You did something weird to my boy there. Something ain't right about--"
"Don't move. Don't speak." Leyla smiled sweetly up at him, watching his eyes widen in slowly realized terror. He was panting, his breath misting the air as his muscles trembled with the desire to flee. She fingered his erection and laughed as his arousal stoked her energy. "Yes, it is very like sleep paralysis, isn't it? Fortunately, some parts of the body remain unaffected."
Jake was slightly more well-endowed than his friend. But he gave up less cum and didn't last much longer. After barely thirty seconds he was spent, lying face-down in yellow snow and twitching in the throes of deep slumber.
Two of them, and she'd barely felt a thing. But there was still one more, the one who'd been concerned for her, the one she'd saved for last.
The younger man had not moved an inch, had watched with mouth open as his companions fell. Leyla walked toward him with a purpose now, struck by how young he seemed compared to his friends. He'd also had less to drink. Excellent. "Come on." She grinned, crooking her index finger at him. "Don't worry. This won't hurt a bit."
"You--you stay away from me."
"Oh relax, Mr.... what's your name, cowboy?"
It was snowing again, persistent flakes of the stuff clinging to his dark, collar-length hair. Within seconds of her pressing her chest against him, his temples were dripping sweat. "Because I'm a friendly kinda girl."
"What are you? What did you do to them?" His voice rose hysterically. "Get away from--"
Leyla placed a calming hand on his arm and watched his eyes grow dim. Not too far, she warned herself. Drowsy, but not drunk with dreams. She wanted this one to be alert. "Your buddies are fine. I promise. Your name?"
"Name? It ... it's Mitch. Mitch is my name."
"Mitch? Lie down. You look a little sleepy."
Mitch, as it turned out, was considerably more gifted than his jackass friends--and extremely cooperative. He didn't seem to mind the wet cold against his back as she brushed the snow from his hair and invited him to feel her up to his heart's content. His dick was high and hard, made for sex on two legs. She thought of dragging him to the wall, letting him work on her against the weathered brick. But she couldn't wait. A sizzling current of need ran through her as she straddled him. Her hunger was keener than it had been before she'd left her suite.
Mitch praised the gods of rock and roll when she let him suckle her breasts, and lurched eagerly beneath her when her fingers found him slick and ready. His untalented hands squeezed and fervently groped, and she happily relinquished control. It was no longer necessary. He was firmly in the grip of the thrall, would've killed one of his so-called friends rather than give up the chance to have her now. "That's it, cowboy," she murmured, positioning herself over him. "Keep 'er hard, keep 'er steady. Now. Let me have that ride."
* * * *
Leyla was surprised to find the ghost of a half-moon behind the curtain of free-falling snow. It caught her attention as she emerged from the alley where she'd left Mitch with his head pillowed on his arm and a sleepy smile, like a kid who'd gotten everything he wanted for Christmas.
They'd all awaken within minutes of her departure, cold and half-crazed. But one session with her wasn't enough to make them addicted. For a few days they'd prowl the darkened streets, looking for the horny blonde with the talented tongue and big heart, giving up once the thrall gradually wore thin and they never found what they wanted.
She could appreciate that feeling. She was still, unbelievably, ravenous.
Impatiently shaking off the guise of the busty blonde, she stood naked as Leyla Cheval on the sleepy street in Claremount, her feet soft paws in the snow. Angry with herself. She'd have to leave here soon, head for a larger city. This town had been one of thousands she'd simply meant to pass through. The space was too small and too short of men to sustain her.
And Adam Bachmann was here. He was more of a danger to himself than to her, but even that was significant. For the first time in over one hundred and fifty years, she'd whispered the name of one man while possessing the sex of another. Dear Mitch had been too preoccupied to notice, of course, but it had shaken her. The men she enjoyed weren't faces or personalities, rarely even names. They were slabs of beef on the plate she always licked clean before moving on.
But Bach was, as she'd thought, different. She was ultra-aware of every thought, every one of his movements. He'd purchased corned beef after leaving the bar, picked over it without appetite and had clearly visualized feeding it to her in small pieces, imagined brushing his thumb across her lower lip as she fed. He'd stared into every mirror in his apartment until his eyes were glazed and dry, searching for her. He'd showered and stayed under the steaming water until his skin puckered and grew red, trying to summon her to join him. The urge to comply had been nearly overwhelming.
And now he was in bed. Waiting for her. There'd be no sleep for him this night. His muscles were coiled tight as a spring, his cock feverish, refusing him rest.
But she would not go to him. Not tonight. Despite her animalistic behavior, she wasn't some beast he could use and order about. She'd been there, done that with Theo and wouldn't allow it to happen again.
Leyla clenched her fist in her resolve and was stunned to find her hands still trembling. God, she felt so weak, so hungry. She'd barely have the energy to convey herself back to the suite. It was never enough, could never be enough.
She fell to her knees and covered her face with her fingers, resisting her mortal body's urge to weep. Resisting the urge to pray. She was done with all that, had been ever since she made her decision to become what she was. There was no going back now. For a moment she even imagined she felt the damp cold, the desperate isolation of being human, imprisoned by limitations--by need.
Turning what energy she had left inward, she choked back a cry of anguish. An eternity of living as a parasite, an eternity of frantic nights of hunger and despair--this was to be her future. It was not what she'd envisioned, even in those dark times so very long ago.
Leyla felt the shimmering energy that was her true form burn through her flesh, then collapse into a hard core like a dying star.
Maybe Adam Bachmann was right. Maybe there was a way to put an end to it, to her. Maybe he was the one man who might actually be able to find it.
And maybe, just maybe, she would let him.
* * * *
Cold days were made for warm baths. Deep beds. And definitely for hot sex.
But the one thing Leyla was not in the mood for today was work.
She had only managed to gather two more men to herself after the alley incident. Barely enough to stop the shakes and stay away from Bachmann. Too many men in this stupid little town had wives and girlfriends they slept with. Didn't they know adultery and fornication were in vogue? And while she could easily keep the partner asleep while she indulged herself, she always felt crowded and hurried--and a certain sympathy for women who loved their men. She simply didn't like doing it.
Now she had to put on the pretense of this stupid job, and she had only four men scheduled for the day. At this rate she'd have to leave town earlier than she'd planned. She was starving.
The toothless old woman who owned the bodega below her office waved hello as Leyla started up the fire escape. Leyla returned the greeting, laughing softly to herself. Mrs. Stacy sold everything from expired groceries to roach clips and thought no one knew about the weekend meetings she held there with her small group of Satan worshippers, trying to summon demons to do her bidding.
If she only knew...
Leyla reached the landing outside her office and shook off the fluffy crust of snow that had gathered on her coat. The stuff was coming down like crazy today. There'd be a good foot of new snow before the night was over. It would've been so much simpler to transport herself and not bother with cumbersome travel. But she had to be seen doing the mortal thing sometimes.
Key in hand, she stopped a few inches short of opening the door, clucking her tongue. Too distracted, too self-absorbed, she warned herself. How could she have missed that familiar vibration? Man inside. Man with a nice, healthy libido inside.
The man she wanted more than anything in the world was inside. This day was looking up after all.
"Mr. Bachmann?" He was a morning-gray shadow in the office of contrasts, sitting in her red chair. He'd removed his coat, helped himself to her coffeemaker and made himself quite at home. "What are you doing here? How'd you get in?"
"I broke the lock."
Promising. "You really should've called for an appointment," she said, closing the door. "I have other clients scheduled for this morning."
He lunged from the chair and was on her before she could move. With her arms still trapped in the sleeves of her coat, he shoved her against the wall and pressed his body into hers. "They'll have to wait," he muttered. "I can't."
He looked tired, she noted. Such a shame it couldn't have been for a better reason. "I'm not exactly sure why you're here."
"I had to come. I couldn't sleep, couldn't dream." One shoulder heaved in a half-hearted shrug. "I practically begged you to haunt me, didn't I? I honestly thought I could handle it, fool that I am."
Of course he'd thought so. They all did. Still, the heart that wasn't hers ached for him, would have released him if she could. She had very little control over the thrall. It had become a part of her very nature, the slave of the slave. "Mr. Bachmann--"
"You didn't come to me last night."
"Of course not."
"You knew I was thinking about you."
"Look, this delusion of yours--"
"Tell me you knew." He touched his feverish forehead to hers. "Tell me I'm not crazy."
Oh, he was definitely crazy. He had no idea what he was asking for. "I can't do that."
He grimaced, and she almost felt his pain. With a forceful yank, he pulled her blouse out of her skirt. One of his hands came up to work the buttons on her blouse, the twenty-four tiny little buttons that had frustrated so many men. A few had simply ripped the shirt open. One or two had resorted to begging her to remove it.
Bach skillfully freed one at a time, his fingers moving up the garment. She held her body's breath, watching his eyes watch hers. It felt as if he were slowly picking her apart. "Tell me you weren't with another man last night."
She let her coat slide to the floor, tempted to lie to him. She wasn't very good at it, rarely needed to bother. But there was no point. If he'd guessed enough about her to ask, he already knew the truth. "I can't do that."
Her bare nipples hardened as he peeled the blouse down her arms. She heard him take in a huge breath as he pushed her hair away from her face and skimmed his fingertip along the line of her collarbone. It dipped lightly between her breasts as his eyes flared wide. "Then tell me I'm wrong about what you are. Tell me you don't want me."
The magnetism of the man was astonishing, so similar to the effect of her own thrall it was almost devastating. She wanted him more than anyone she'd ever desired. This attraction was worth being exposed. It was worth everything.
"Tell me I'm wrong, Ms. Cheval."
"I ... I can't do that."
He whispered in a tone that might have been a prayer. "Thank God."
His lips barely grazed hers, and she closed her eyes, shivering with the surprising sweetness of it. No one had ever been gentle with her before. It wasn't what she thrived on. She needed the heated spike of sexual energy. But this was something different. Cupping his face in her hands, she slid her lips across his, marveling at the sense of closeness. It brought back vague memories of being one of the Favored, of belonging to something larger than self.
Memories best left forgotten. "Mr. Bachmann?"
"Mmm?" His tongue traced the lines of her lips.
"The only thing I'm sure of is that I'm dying to have you, Leyla."
"Not yet," she murmured, surprised at the heavy feeling of her body's heart. "But you will be."