Good Intentions 3: Personal Demons (7 page)

BOOK: Good Intentions 3: Personal Demons
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Another whimper escaped the beast, but instead of frustration, this one signaled weakening resolve.

“Who else knows you’re here, darling?”

Sylyd resisted until it felt Lorelei’s breath against its skin. “No one,” the stalker admitted. “We hunt alone.”

“And whom do you serve, mighty hunter? Who sent you?”

“Be…Belial.”

“Ah. As I suspected.” Her talons flashed again, soon beheading the beast with the same lack of mercy she showed Voxrel. By then, the others had dissolved into nothing, leaving behind not even stains in the grass. Sylyd quickly followed suit.

“They would have killed me had I been alone,” Lorelei said as she stood once more.

“Shit, obviously could’ve taken me out alone, too,” agreed Drew. His tone of urgency hadn’t diminished. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I am hurt. You cannot see my wings, but they are wounded. Do not worry about me. I’ve borne worse pain with a smile.”

“Okay. What happens now? I mean with them?” He gestured to Sylyd’s quickly evaporating remains. “They don’t really die unless they get whacked on holy ground, right?”

“Or a few other unusual conditions, yes.” She rolled her shoulders, wincing at the pain, but shook her head at Drew’s concerned look. “They will return to their master’s realm and be reborn. The process is not fast. A demon slain in the Pit may reemerge in a day or two, but those killed here take much longer. This is over, Drew. The threat has passed.”

His jaw clenched. His hands balled up into fists. Drew looked away from her, breathing hard and seemingly angrier now than he had been during the fight. Lorelei watched and waited.


This
is what’s ‘troubling’ me,” Drew hissed, reminding himself not to raise his voice with a glance to the window only a few feet away. He pointed to the dissipating mess on the ground. “It keeps happening like this. Christmas fuckin’ Eve. My family is in there! What were they gonna do after they finished with us? Kill them, too? Or leave us chopped up out here for my momma to find?”

“One or the other, most likely,” Lorelei admitted. “I am so sorry.”

“It ain’t your fault,” he snapped. “I ain’t even mad at you. It’s not like that. I just…”

Lorelei winced. “You deserve better than this.”

“Nuh-uh. No. You’re my friend, Lorelei. You’re my friend and Alex is my friend and you see how we were both raised. I ain’t ever runnin’ out on either of you. Not ever.” Drew still fumed, but his breath came out easier with this off his chest. His eyes fell to the mess in the grass again. Sylyd’s remains were almost gone. “I just don’t know what the fuck else I’m supposed to do
besides
that. This crazy shit ain’t my whole life. I’ve got other friends. Other shit to do. Only how am I supposed to do that when we get fuckin’ monsters jumpin’ us on Christmas?”

“Drew? Lorelei?” came his sister’s voice from around the corner. “You get lost?”

Lorelei quickly took Drew’s wrist. “We’re back here,” she answered calmly. “Just talking.”

Sandra appeared at the mouth of the little alley between the house and the hedge. “C’mon, it’s time to start opening stuff up.”

“Be there in a sec,” Drew replied. “Christmas secrets.”

“I hope that means you got me something good if you gotta hide it from me out here,” Sandra teased as she turned away.

“Shit, we’re both all wet,” Drew muttered. “Be lucky if there aren’t grass stains all over me.”

“My illusions will cover us if you stay close. It is only your shirt that suffered. Alex got you a Seahawks jersey. Put it on as soon as you open it.” She paused. “Sorry to ruin the surprise.”

“I knew he got me more than a card. One of us pulls that shit every year. Don’t know how he could top your present, anyway.”

“Then you’ll accept?” she asked.

“You don’t owe me, Lorelei. You don’t owe me anything. I’m sorry I tripped out there.”

“You had every right. I cannot say how much it means that you stand by me. I only wish I had answers for what troubles you.”

Drew shrugged. “Guess that ain’t the kinda thing you talk out in two minutes, right?”

“I suppose not, no. As for the money, I promise you, this is not about obligation. As I said: if I have any family at all, it includes you. This is what family should do. It is something I want to do.”

“Just feels funny after all this time and all the money I’ve saved. Me and my momma. But you’re right, it’s not enough. I know it ain’t enough. Figured I’d have to take out big loans.”

“You will not. Use what you have saved to help your mother and your sister. We’ll come up with an explanation. Or spend it all on travel or women and wine. That’s up to you.”

He let out a big breath. “Okay. Okay. Time for our game faces, huh?”

“I’ll help with that, too.” Lorelei stepped closer to wrap her arms around him. “Thank you, Drew.”

He hugged her back. “Merry Christmas, huh?”

“Yes. That, too.”

Chapter Two:
Domestic Bliss

 

Noise from the unending chaos carried far across the ashen plains. For once, the ground held greater anarchy than the endlessly storm-wracked skies. Unrelenting battle consumed most of the landscape, intensifying at its center while often dragging back those who tried to escape for a moment’s respite. Opportunists lurked at the edges, looking to cut down the weary or wounded who fled the battle.

The observers on the hill not far away knew the whole fight was pointless. Any and every demon struck down in such a battle would rise again. Death offered no release from Hell’s torments, neither for those born of the Pit nor the mortal souls condemned for their deeds. Only the most extreme and unusual measures could destroy a denizen of Hell forever.

The circumstances leading to this mess had been unique.

“Abaddon dragged himself free of the scrum yesterday,” said Azazel. “My scouts tell me he has already made it back to his fortress.”

He stood tall among the assemblage, rising more than twice the height of any mortal man. His face and body presented too much muscle and thick bone covered by too little skin. His crown of gold gleamed as if to serve as a replacement for a lost halo. Further ostentatious gold and jewelry decorated him from head to toe, including his wings, his horns, and his tail. None of Hell’s princes could shed the features that marked them as demons. Most chose to take pride in the signs of their curse.

The others all bore those same key features—including, for the most part, crowns—though beyond that none looked remotely similar. Moloch was so thoroughly covered in yellow pustules and crusted decay one could barely make out any healthy skin. Beelzebub no longer had even a humanoid form, his shape instead combining the ugliest aspects of a beetle, roach, and fly. Adramalech, too, now only existed in an amalgamation of animal shapes so distorted no one would ever have thought her once an angel of the hosts. The inhumanly corpulent, hairless lord Mammon held back from the rest with bodyguards to his either side. He alone felt the need to bring some extra protection, though one attendee was no lord at all.

The armored herald respectfully stood two steps away from the ring of lords. Her wings were powerful and broad, yet her most striking feature hid within her mouth. With every word, jagged teeth seemed to unfold and protrude from her lips. “Is that why you called for this meeting?” she asked. “To relay this news? Leviathan is beyond the concerns of your kingdoms. Leviathan is greater than this realm, or any other. When Leviathan awakens, she will crush—”

“Crush us all beneath her vastness, we’ve heard the speech before,” interrupted Mammon. He glared at her impatiently from under a crown of rubies and diamonds. “You wouldn’t be the first herald to never make it back to the sleeping one. Be silent and listen or suffer for wasting our time, wench.”

“Is that supposed to impress us, Mammon?” spoke up an amused voice from within a hooded robe. Unlike the rest, she bore no wings, nor did the fabric over her head suggest any sort of horns. “All your worst enemies in one place, and the only person you insult happens to be the weakest among us. No offense, herald. It is what it is.”

The herald tilted her head with respect. Mammon let out a derisive snort, shifting his posture for a subtle step farther away. “Not all my worst enemies are here,” he said.

“No,” agreed the hooded woman. “It’s true. Lucifer isn’t here. He never comes to these things. He always was kind of a dick.”

Heads turned toward her, but none spoke. Her casual mortal colloquialisms were the least of her differences from the others. Hell’s princes drew their ranks from the most powerful of fallen angels and a handful of deposed and forgotten ancient gods.
She
was something else entirely, and none of them ever forgot it.

“Why did you call us here, Azazel?” asked a harsh, hostile voice. Like Azazel, he was much taller than any mortal man. Where Moloch bore scars of disease and Mammon’s flesh abounded, this prince had burned away the weakness of skin until the charred remains served as armor. A green fire lit his eyes. “Do you seek some truce for the duration of this chaos? Do you hope to lay claim to what is rightfully mine?”

“Belial,” chittered Beelzebub. “If this was yours, you’d have already taken it.”


My
slave brought an end to Baal,” said Belial. “She will return to my service, and she will bring the spoils of her deeds to me.”

“How is that working out for you so far?” asked the woman in robes.

Belial ignored her. He turned his attention back to Azazel. “Why are we here?”

“To make sure you all understand the implications of this,” Azazel replied, pointing to the raging battle in the distance. “Abaddon has been struck down, not by a fellow lord but by an unthinking mob. He rose, of course, only to be brought down again and again. Baal is no more, also at the hands of lesser beings.

“We have long known what it takes to vanquish a lord of Hell. We have long known the cost. The common rabble have not held such knowledge, yet now they see two examples to suggest it can be done. This turmoil spreads. Sooner or later, it will affect us all.”

“Abaddon fell because he trespassed into a greater lord’s realm,” said Belial. “Do not make the same mistake. Stay out of my way.” He turned his eyes from Azazel to the quietest member of the assemblage and added, “Especially you.”

Of all the lords, only Sammael presented a natural, attractive image. Like the woman in robes, he displayed no tail and no horns. His body and face matched the primal beauty of the finest incubus serving any lord. Unlike the rest of those fallen from grace, his wings still held all the feathers and grandeur of old, though they were now jet black rather than white. Only the color of his wings and his lack of a halo marked him as anything less than the archangel he’d once been. “Why Belial, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

“I speak of treachery and lies. I speak of one who likes to play with toys that don’t belong to him,” said Belial.

“You’re off the hook, Mammon,” said the hooded woman. “The patriarchy is much stronger with these two.”

“Ah! You wound me with such labels,” Sammael objected.

“All of them are accurate,” said Belial.

Sammael rolled his eyes. “I was talking to her.”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” she said with an indifferent shrug.

“You’re wrong.”

“And I can surely trust every word spoken in this crowd,” she replied.

“Enough,” said Belial. “You will not interfere with my hunt. If you do, you will pay. Do not forget that I wear a crown and you do not.” He turned his glare from Sammael to Azazel. “Have you news to share? An offer of aid or service? No? Then you waste my time.”

Belial stormed away. One by one, the others departed. Mammon returned to his chariot at the base of the hill, guarded by his fiercest lions. Beelzebub flew off. The woman in robes simply vanished while no one was looking. Moloch, Adramelech, and all the rest took their leave without ceremony or even a goodbye. Only the host and Sammael lingered.

“He doesn’t have a plan,” noted Sammael. “I don’t believe he even has a lead on her.”

“We have no leads, either,” said Azazel.

“No, but that isn’t important to your plans. What is important is that your closest neighbor is in no position to strike while you are extended. His forces are massed to seize Baal’s realm, not yours. Besides, as you said, the cost of a final conquest over a rival is too high. He would be weakened by an assault on your realm, and Belial will not risk weakness.”

Azazel’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at the fallen archangel. “Would that I could travel to the mortal realm as easily as you,” he rumbled.

“Everything comes with a price,” said Sammael. “You have already paid mine. I’m more than happy to help you out in this endeavor. Speaking of the mortal realm, I should get back there.” He looked from Azazel to the battle and the barren landscape all around. “I can’t imagine what would make anyone leave all this,” he said, not bothering to hide his sarcasm.

 

* * *

 

Once upon a time, Alex’s hang-ups and worries got in their way.

Alex held back as much out of concern for others as he did in fear for himself. Throughout his early years, every storied example of romance threatened dire consequences for anything less than sincere attempts to find true love. Some warnings he rejected as base prejudice or Puritanical extremes. Others remained. Mixed messages from his youth confused his young adulthood.

Then he met Rachel and Lorelei and the whole world turned upside down.

The misfired ritual that bound them together created troubling yet seductive power dynamics. The succubus curse amplified and enabled his desires, and the angel cheerfully played right along. Alex took nothing for granted, but at every turn their love only grew and dismissed his concerns. Immortal perspectives scoffed at earthly traditions and expectations. Monogamy went out the window to a fast and early death.

Alex awoke on the morning of New Year’s Eve to Lorelei’s smile beside him. He pulled away the sheets and kissed her without a single word. They hardly spoke as they made love throughout the day. The pleasures of Lorelei’s body distracted him from mortal needs, creating a silent drain on his health to give her much more than the ordinary joys of intimacy and sex. She drew power from every aspect of his lust, yet it was always so much better when he pushed further than he should.

He knew it would happen, whether he felt it or not. He loved and trusted her enough not to care. They stayed in bed all day. By the time the sun set once more, sensual affection gave way to something else.

As always, Lorelei sensed his desires. She lay on her back, her legs stretched out along with his. She enjoyed the constant caress of his hands, his familiarity with her body, and the slow grind of his flesh within hers. Lorelei encouraged the shift in his hunger with hotter kisses, moans, and nails dragging down his back. Her legs spread further to welcome his need.

Alex curled his fingers in her hair at the back of her scalp and pulled her head back against the pillow. He moved up on his knees, digging in as her breath deepened in pleasure and anticipation of more. His lips hovered over hers without a kiss. Not now. He wanted to hear her and to watch her beautiful face as long as he could keep his own eyes open.

Old hang-ups and worries fell far behind. Lorelei welcomed his cock with all the same passion he put into every possessive thrust. A thought flashed through his mind, a wordless thrill at her reactions and the freedom of the moment to disregard patience or romance when they wanted each other like this. A couple of months earlier, Alex would have been mortified at himself. Now he recognized the approving purr in her voice and held on to that thought as he fucked her with abandon.

Satisfaction neared in due time. Whether a matter of technique or a benefit of the connection Lorelei enjoyed to every aspect of his sexuality, the couple felt the approach of climax together. Pulses of excitement ran from groin to thigh. Their breath shook. Alex continued on as Lorelei scratched and pulled and bit at his chest, the pain distracting him just enough to delay the end for one minute more.

The end came in a rush of spasms and shouts. In those first instants of release, strong yet gentle hands slipped over his shoulders from behind to pull him upright on his knees. Rachel’s kiss came out of nowhere, but Alex bent back to receive it as the angel knelt beside her two lovers. Alex greedily clutched Lorelei’s hips rather than breaking from her in their climax.

As soon as their lips met, one of those hands on his shoulders fell away. He knew it would be for Lorelei, a thought confirmed with a change in her breath as she came with him. Rachel’s touch immediately banished his fatigue. Her perfect timing prolonged the moment for all of them.

The kiss ended, but no one moved apart for the cooldown. All three wanted to savor this. Alex kept one hand on Lorelei’s hip and another in Rachel’s hair. The two women split their attention much the same way.

“Fucking awesome,” Rachel exhaled. “I needed that. You two. Wow. It’s like you’re trying to seduce me into your heretical orgy-cult.”

Alex laughed breathlessly, his forehead leaning against hers. “You should join. The high priestess is amazing. And I don’t think it’s technically an orgy until we get more members.”

“Oh, you make up for lack of numbers with good vibes,” the angel replied. “Besides, I have too much on the agenda tonight. This is the only break I can manage. And you’ve got your
other
ladies to see.”

“Hey now. That’s an inaccurate use of possessive labels. I only get that way with you two.”

Lorelei purred in approval, bending one leg up to caress Alex along the back of his thigh and a little further up. Rachel resisted the appeal of such talk with a shake of her head. “Can’t play tonight, babe. Wish I could. I need a few minutes with Lorelei, though, and you need a shower.”

“Fair,” he said. Alex didn’t question requests for privacy. They had their own romance to enjoy, and Rachel was right about the rest of the night. Tempting as it was to throw everything to the wind and stay home with Lorelei, they had other people in their lives. Onyx and Molly wanted them at the party. Alex stole another kiss from Rachel and savored one last moment of intimacy with Lorelei before pulling away.

BOOK: Good Intentions 3: Personal Demons
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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