Good Intentions 3: Personal Demons (8 page)

BOOK: Good Intentions 3: Personal Demons
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“If you gotta bail before I’m out, Happy New Year,” he said. “I love you.” Even if the angel alleviated his fatigue, he still half-staggered through the bedroom.

“I love dat ass,” Rachel laughed as she watched him go. She returned the smile he threw back at her, then sank into the bed beside her other naked lover. “Holy fuck, you two. Did I say that already? Wow.”

“You say that all the time,” said Lorelei.

Rachel curled up into her arms, heedless of the sweat coating Lorelei’s body. She took advantage of the moment to maul the other woman a little. “You keep getting better.”

“He’s no longer guilty or reluctant. I no longer worry about pushing him to a dangerous point.”

“You two are gonna tear up this town with your rampant fuck-mongering and it’s gonna be awesome,” Rachel sighed.

“Does the bond still let you feel him? For me it has blended with the curse. I thought your sense of it might fade.”

“It faded, yeah, but it isn’t gone. I still get wobbly-happy when it’s business time, but I have to concentrate to really feel all the fun. Maybe it’ll fade more. Maybe not. Still connected. For now it sure is a huge help in getting me through the shittier parts of my day.”

Lorelei stroked her blonde hair. “You have made such strides in this city in only a short time. Is it still so bad?”

“It’s still a mortal city,” Rachel snorted. “Wanna talk about chronic homelessness?”

The succubus lifted Rachel’s chin and cut off her sarcastic offers with a kiss. “Let’s not. You actively work to make things better and you keep the city safe from the worst predators. That is all that counts when you’re here with me.”

“Yeah. That’s what I wanted to talk about.” Rachel moved out of Lorelei’s embrace and tossed aside a pillow so she could sit up against the headboard. As they so often did, her wings faded into the wall behind her. “I’ve heard back from some of the guardians about our concerns. The big bads are looking for you, Lorelei. It’s not only Belial or any desperate little fuckers from Baal’s court like on Christmas Eve, and it’s not just here. A couple of my guys have had run-ins while looking after their other mortal charges in different cities. I’ve heard from LA, Paris, Rio. Couple others, too. It sounds like you’re on the most wanted list all over.”

“Have your sources told you anything more?”

“No. I’d tell you if they had. The thing is, most angels in dominion aren’t as aggressive as I am, so the guardians working their dominions can’t be, either. What I’m hearing comes from a couple of fights and some shit-talking. The fact that your name was a factor at all says you’re a priority. We’re on the case, but the drawback to having scrubbed this city like I have is that a new lead is hard to find.

“Still, if I’m making any guesses based on what I’ve got? Nobody’s taking for granted that you’re here. These assholes figure you’re on the move. Even Belial has his goons spread out elsewhere.”

Lorelei absently dragged the top sheet over her body, drawing a raised eyebrow from a lover. The troubled demon missed Rachel’s reaction. “They want the crown. No demon would pass up the chance to capture a new slave, but even I would not be worth the investment of such a hunt. The crown is the true prize.”

Rachel slipped her hand in Lorelei’s. “I’m here for you, love. No matter what. I just don’t know how to un-fuck this situation.”

“Nor do I. My only thought when we vanquished Baal was to win our escape. I expected someone would have claimed the crown by now. This is troubling.”

“Wish we could throw the fucking thing into a big-ass volcano.”

“Indeed,” said Lorelei. “What do you know of the crowns? You are older than I.”

Rachel shrugged. “Sometime after the Fall, some demon fucker or another came up with the idea and everyone else jumped up to hump the same bandwagon. Pretty much every lord in Hell has one. That’s all we know. I never thought the crowns themselves had all that much power or importance before our little clusterfuck. For all I knew, it was a fashion choice. I was hoping you would know more.”

“The princes and lords do not share the secrets of their power with their servants,” said Lorelei. “Not lightly, at least, and not without dire need. What little I ever learned was likely based on assumption, but it suggests the crowns are as old as every domain of the Pit. No lord to wear a crown has ever fallen to another demon save one who also wore a crown, or so it was told. Yet such tales never involved names or details. And as ever, demons lie.”

“Demons lie,” agreed Rachel. She leaned in to kiss Lorelei’s bare shoulder. “Except I know I can trust you.”

The succubus pondered. “The lords wage war constantly on one another, both in this world and in the Pit. It is the way of things, and to my knowledge always has been. Only once did I see a direct battle between two lords.

“Baal’s insults and trespasses against Belial mounted over centuries, but the two almost never came face to face. Finally, Belial caught him overextended in his schemes and managed to confront him in person. Powerful as he was, Baal did not fare well in that fight. In the end, Baal offered me up to settle the feud. Belial accepted and withdrew to his own realm with me in his possession.”

“That doesn’t sound like the story Alex got,” said Rachel.

“No. Baal spun a far more self-aggrandizing tale. Demons lie,” she repeated.

“Ah. Yeah. Fuckers. So that was it? Baal yelled ‘uncle’ and gave you up to get out of an ass-stomping?”

“It was more than that. He seemed frightened, and Belial was earnest, yet the fight was not a one-sided affair.” Lorelei’s brow knit as she pondered. “I thought Baal feared for his life. Everything about the fight seemed like it might lead to true destruction, not the usual cycle of rebirth of the Pit. Yet Belial did not finish off his rival. He took me instead. I don’t know why. If he’d destroyed Baal, he would have had me along with everything else.”

“That’s something,” said Rachel. Her face seemed as dark as Lorelei’s. “I’m sorry you went through all that.”

“I know,” said Lorelei. She shook her head. “The crown is too great a prize. They will never stop trying to claim it. Yet if any of them could take it, they would have done so. What if I am the only one who can?”

“Do you want it?”

“Of course not. I want to stay here with you and Alex. That is my dearest wish. Yet even before you, I stayed out of Hell as much as I could. The only ‘lord’ I know of who could leave hell with any frequency was one who wore no crown.”

“Yeah, I know who you mean. Fuck that guy. Anyway, if you don’t want it, they’re shit out of luck. They’re not getting you here, Lorelei. Not in my city. I’ve got plenty of back-up on that, too. Fuckers on my team who don’t even like you would protect you from those assholes. Nobody’s letting them take you without the fight of their lives.” Rachel took her hand and kissed it softly, holding it to her cheek. “You won’t find a safer dominion than mine.”

A sharp buzz interrupted their thoughts. Lorelei rolled out of the sheets to take up one of the two cell phones on the nightstand. “It’s Drew. He’s asking if we’re still planning on the party at Onyx and Molly’s tonight.”

“I thought he had other parties tonight?” the angel asked.

“He did, and they all sounded much more his style. Apparently he’s changed his mind. I wonder why?” Lorelei opened the phone’s messaging app to reply, but stopped after a thought. Memories of Christmas hadn’t been far from her mind. She looked up to her lover. “How safe is everyone else with me here?”

Chapter Three:
Stay for the After-Party

 

Too many people showed up for the party. Some of them brought food. Some brought booze. Judging by the scent of more than a few guests, a handful brought along something special to smoke. Thankfully, most of them remembered the house rules before lighting up to celebrate the New Year.

A couple needed gentle reminders.

“Outside,” said Onyx. She pointed to the door right at the end of the small kitchen. “Smokers go outside.”

“But the smoke goes straight up through the vent if you do it over the stove!” protested her guest in a weak, slurred voice.

The arm and outstretched finger remained in place. Her other hand came over his lighter. She could not have struck a more different image than the would-be smoker if she’d tried. Onyx had dolled herself up for the party with a black dress and stockings. Nick wore old flannel over an even older t-shirt and a wool cap.

In fairness, most of the guests dressed down. Onyx fully expected that, and had no problem with people going casual at all. She only wished some people didn’t put so much faith in patchouli as a fabric freshener. “The lease says no smoking inside, Nick. We’ve got a back yard for you right through that door.”

“Seriously, pot is legal now,” he tried again. “It’s been legal for years.” His voice barely carried through the music and laughter from the living room just around the corner behind Onyx. “Everybody can do it now, it’s cool.”

“Legalization doesn’t change the terms of our lease, Nick. We’ve lived here for all of four days and we’re not screwing it up now. Out.”

Crestfallen, Nick turned away and shuffled outside. A chorus of voices in the yard welcomed Nick into the fold before Onyx closed the door behind him. With a sigh, she turned back to the two young men who’d wandered into the kitchen with her. “Sorry I had to deal with that,” she grumbled.

“It’s cool,” Alex replied. “Some people just don’t get it.”

“Yup,” Drew agreed. “It’s always the ones who look like Jesus.”

That got a laugh out of her. “I’m glad you came tonight, Drew,” she said. “Molly is, too.”

“Thanks. But why wouldn’t I?” he asked.

“You haven’t hung out with us a lot,” Onyx answered hesitantly. “Plus Alex warned us you might have other parties to go to.”

Alex shrugged at Drew’s questioning glance. “What? Tell me I’m wrong.”

“Hey, I got other invitations, yeah,” Drew admitted, turning his attention back to Onyx. “But I wanted to be here with you. We’ve been through some shit together this year, y’know?”

“Aw!” Molly interrupted as she came into the kitchen. She threw her arms around Drew from behind. Stacks of empty red Solo cups filled each of her hands. “We were afraid you didn’t like us!”

“You thought that? Why?” Drew asked. Then his eyes slid over to Alex again.

“Don’t look at me. I’ve been telling them that wasn’t true at all.”

“Uh-huh,” Drew replied.

“No, it’s true, he did,” Molly put in. “We’ve got this deal where he only gets to fool around with us if he tells us the truth about everything. Onyx calls it full disclosure.”

Onyx buried her head against Alex’s shoulder. She pointed blindly to Molly. “There she is, ladies and gentlemen,” she said into his shirt. “The love of my life.”

“I like you both,” Drew reiterated. “We’re cool. Look, I’ve got friends and stuff to do besides this crew. It don’t mean you aren’t my friends, too. I have more than one social circle is all.”

“Pretty much like I explained already,” added Alex.

“It’s just that you’ve never come to hang out with us before,” Onyx explained. “Not until last week when you helped move us in. We were worried you thought you had to pay back a favor or something after all the craziness. You know we’re not keeping score, right?”

“Naw. We’re cool.”

“Our friends like you,” said Molly. “In fact I think Julie out there
really
likes you.”

“Molly, you dropped your subtlety again,” noted Onyx.

“Oh. Right.” She released Drew, tossed her plastic cups in the trash, and whispered loudly, “I think our friend Julie likes you. Should I hook you two up?”

“Nah, that’s…that’s nice of you, but…”

“Hey, are you seeing someone we don’t know about?” Molly asked.

“No, it’s not that.”

Onyx frowned thoughtfully. “Molly, ease off a sec.”

“Yeah, the last guy in Seattle who needs help hooking up is Drew,” said Alex.

“Wow, projecting much there, dude?” Drew countered. “What’s your count like now?”

“I don’t keep a count.”

“Is the number too high already?”

Molly glanced to Onyx as the guys bantered. The redhead quirked an eyebrow. Her partner tilted her head toward Alex, then nodded away from him. Both young men missed their entire exchange.

“So it’s not a count for you so much as clocking hours, is that right?” Molly broke in, looking to Alex. She slipped one hand to Drew’s wrist behind her back.

“Wait, when did this become about me?” asked Alex.

“This is what happens when she drinks,” Onyx said, leaning over to him.

“What’s that?”

“Oh stop, I’m not even halfway drunk,” Molly complained.

“You don’t have to be,” replied her partner, though she seemed more amused than annoyed. “You can drink anyone in this house under a table, but it only takes two shots before your filter goes out the window and it’s Internal Monologue Theater.”

“Whatever,” said Molly. “Alex promised us full disclosure. So here’s what I want to know: how often do you get home and find Lorelei in nothing but lingerie and a smoky stare, saying, ‘
Come to me, my love
?’”

“Molly!” Onyx objected.

“Wow, nothing awkward about this,” said Alex.

“Yeah, but now I wanna know, too,” Drew teased.

“Okay. I’m bowing out on this one,” Alex declared, blushing fiercely. He slipped away from Onyx and darted around Molly’s poking fingers. “Have fun with this, Drew.”

“You’ll be back, and I’ll still want to know!” Molly called after him.

“That might’ve been going too far,” said Onyx.

“Nah. He’d tell us. He just didn’t want to talk about it in front of Drew, or where someone else might wander in.”

“Like that’s a bad thing?”

“I had to make it look good. It’s not like I haven’t wanted to know. Besides, we needed him to go away.”

“Why?” asked Drew.

Molly turned to face him. Onyx stepped in a little closer. “Hey,” Molly asked. “We’re sorry if that question about Julie hit a nerve. Is everything okay?”

“Nah, it’s all good,” Drew replied, surprised at the sudden shift in their tone. “I appreciate the offer, but…” He paused. The two women waited patiently. “Is Julie, um…” he glanced back toward the people talking only a few feet away in the dining nook. Others gathered in the living room around the corner. With less than a week to unpack, Molly and Onyx offered more space for a party than their house would probably fit once they’d fully settled in. “I’m not sure if I should be asking this here. Is Julie like you?”

“Is she bi? I don’t think so,” Molly answered. “But I can ask. As for everyone else, yes, they know Onyx and I are together, at least. That cat’s out of the bag. We don’t really care if they find out we have a dude on the side.”

“No, it’s not that,” Drew laughed. “No, I mean is she a…um…” he glanced over his shoulder again.

“She’s not a witch, she’s just kind of a modern hippie type,” said Onyx. “You can say ‘witch’ here. It’s fine. Everyone else here thinks it’s our form of paganism, which is partly true. They either don’t know or don’t believe we can work magic.”

“Their loss,” grunted Molly.

“Why do you ask, though?” Onyx continued. Her gentle, discerning eyes never left him. “It’s part of why you haven’t hung out with us before, isn’t it?”

He wrestled with his answer. Someone came through for more ice from the freezer before he spoke, but the two women waited. “I’m not seeing anyone ‘cause of all the crazy shit we’ve been through lately,” he admitted. “I don’t want anyone getting hurt because of whatever nonsense is going on with my friends. Like if something happens to me, that’s the way it goes, but…”

“But you got attacked on Christmas with your family only a few feet and a door away,” Onyx finished for him. “That would shake anyone up.”

“And then you helped us move a couple days later and hung out a little,” noted Molly.

“Hey, I ain’t hangin’ out with you ‘cause I’m looking for protection,” Drew explained. “I’m not worried about that. It’s about what might happen to people close to me. I don’t like the idea of putting anyone in that situation without ‘em knowing up front. Like if people know about this supernatural nonsense and they can look out for themselves and take their chances, that’s fine, but…” he shrugged.

“But you can’t ask people that up front,” said Molly.

“Right. Or find ‘em on a dating site. They probably don’t make filters for that.”

“Probably not, but they really should.”

“I ain’t ever even seen anyone pull a gun in real life ‘til all the crazy stuff started,” he went on. “At first I thought we handled that first demon we ran into and that was it. Then we had vampires and more demons, and then it was the vampires and the werewolves, and now it’s fuckin’ demons for Christmas comin’ after Lorelei and anyone else in the way. How am I supposed to drag anyone into that? I mean I know plenty of women who can take care of themselves, but there’s muggers and then there’s monsters, y’know?”

Molly looked to Onyx. “You know what I’m thinking,” she said.

“Love charm,” said Onyx.

“Love charm,” Molly confirmed. “Totally the right moon for it tonight, too.”

“What?” Drew blinked.

“A love charm. It brings love to you. Magic.”

“Isn’t that skeezy?”

“Nah, you still have to do all the relationship stuff yourself,” said Onyx. “The magic only puts the right people on the right path to meet each other. It’s like Lorelei’s succubus cooties, but reasonable.”

Molly seized Drew by the wrists before he could object. “To the batcave!” she declared, dragging him out of the kitchen. Onyx followed close behind. They wove around party guests along the way, cutting through one corner of the living room to take him down the short hallway beyond. Though the house wasn’t large to begin with, the presence of a few dozen extra people made it seemed positively cramped.

“Hold up, does this shit actually work?” Drew asked.

“Worked for me!” both women answered, then laughed.

“Trust us,” said Onyx. “We won’t steer you wrong.”

“Onyx,” someone hissed. “Wait a sec.”

She looked over her shoulder and stopped as Alex caught up to her. The others continued on. “Hey, I’m so sorry about Molly back there,” Onyx began. “That was too far and she’ll totally apologize. I’ll talk to her.”

“Oh, whatever,” Alex chuckled. He pulled her in to hug away her worries. “I think I can take a little teasing.”

“You sure? That was still out of line. Lorelei doesn’t deserve that, either.”

“It’s fine. I’m not upset. Lorelei won’t be, either.” Then his mouth spread into a mischievous grin. “Besides, I’ve got an idea to settle up with Molly if you’re okay with it.”

Onyx immediately liked the glint in his eye. “Go on…?”

Unaware of her partner’s delay, Molly threw open one of the closed doors at the end of the hall and tugged Drew inside. While much of the house still awaited the unpacking of belongings and decorations, this room had taken priority. Sturdy, second-hand shelves held glass jars, boxes, and far too many books. Against one wall, Drew saw a table holding a chalice, a dagger, candles, a pair of wands, and a couple of small statuettes.

“Hang loose,” said Molly. She pushed open the closet and reached for another box sitting on plastic shelves inside. “This’ll only take a second to get ready.”

“All good,” he murmured, having no clue what else to say. His eyes wandered, but mostly he only saw more books, even more candles, and—“What the fuck! Is that a live bat?”

“Yeah, that’s Peggy,” Molly explained as she gathered materials. “She doesn’t live here. We took her in while she’s getting over a cold.”

Drew looked from Molly back to the small bat perched on top of the highest shelf. As if on cue, the little thing sneezed. “Aw, don’t worry, Peggy,” said Molly. “We’ll be out of here soon.” She shuffled around Drew to grab the chalice off the table. “It’s too noisy with the party going and the door open.”

“Um. Okay?” he mumbled.

“Okay. Close your eyes and breathe deep,” Molly instructed. “Breathe like however they teach you in kung fu. If it’ll help, you can sit or kneel or whatever there in front of the altar.” She pointed at the small table.

“And you have to believe,” said Onyx, closing the door behind herself as she joined them. “It won’t work at all if you don’t believe.”

“Believe in what?” asked Drew. “Like I gotta convert to your religion?”

BOOK: Good Intentions 3: Personal Demons
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