by Teresa Cain
"You were right," I heard Aerael yell as I walked down a horribly dark and frightening hallway. This looked like somewhere that a demon would live. Black walls, black carpeting... the medieval woodcuts were a bit much, in opinion, but I wasn't going to tell her. I finally reached the door at the opposite end and paused, listening to the incubus rave.
"I am the greatest idiot in the world. I had all of New York to pick from, and the girl I pick, well, guess who she is?"
"Not a clue, but you're amusing the hell out of me right now. If you could see the look on your face - "
"Eli Thorn, Jade. A whole city, and I pick up Eli Thorn's daughter!"
You hear about a demon's shriek, but you simply can't imagine how horrible it really is. The whole damn place shook. Pictures actually fell off the wall. I lost all feeling in my legs, and hit the ground, curling into the fetal position. My heart missed three beats, and I went blind for about ten seconds. It was enough to send me crawling back to the bedroom, where I would have gladly crawled under the bed and lived for the rest of my life had not a clawed, death white hand curled around my ankle. I was hauled unceremoniously out of the hall and into a room only marginally brighter.
I managed to pull loose and scramble away, stopping only when I found myself pressed up against Aerael's leg. One black wing wrapped itself around me protectively, hugging me closer, and if it came down to being pressed up against an incubus' leg or near the being glaring daggers at me, I'd take the incubus any day. The lesser of two evils, as it were.
I was getting my first good look at the female Jade, and all I wanted was to have that blindness back again. Aerael, despite the wings, horns and eyes, still looked a little human.
But Jade. Jade was terrifying.
How either of them had thought she could ever pass as human, I had no idea. Aerael was pale; Jade was pure white. Her face was triangular, with green eyes so large they dominated her face. Her body was tall and thin with appendages that, though humanoid, were overlong and should have made her look gawkish and clumsy - not graceful. She was also covered in fine, small, smooth scales, like a snake, which went well with the mouthful of needle-like fangs that were being bared at me. And sure enough, she had the tail she spoke of, a whip thin, spiked number that was wrapped around the length of her left leg. She did have hair, though - long, ankle-length hair that swung around her like a cloak. It was also very, very green, and I had an idea of where her name came from.
She wasn't wearing clothes, but she had nothing to show. She was as smooth as a Barbie doll. I could just see that one on the shelves: Demon Barbie. Wouldn't the parents just love that? "Hey, girls, Demon Barbie now comes with head-spinning and vomiting action! Accessories include a contract for your soul and a pen filled with real human blood! Pea soup bile sold separately."
Yep, I was definitely freaking out.
The wing tightened around me as she drew closer, and I buried my face in the black pants leg beneath my cheek, shivering. I'd never felt such malevolence in my life and I'd grown up with Eli Thorn. And the only protection I had was another demon that had saved my life a few hours ago, but was still a demon nonetheless.
Rock and a hard place, I thought frantically. Well, rock and a hard thigh. Wow, talk about a hardbody....
Okay, this was so not the time to get interested in the incubus' muscle groups.
"Oh, don't get so protective, Aerael," Jade hissed, eyes nearly glowing as she stared down at me. "Like I would be so stupid as to hurt the child of a monster hunter like that Thorn bastard."
Despite her words, I felt the other wing wrap around me as well. "Then take a few steps back. You're frightening the child."
"I'm not a child!" I yelled, voice muffled by layers of feathers. "In three months I'll be able to vote, smoke and die for my country!"
Silence. Then I heard her laugh. It sounded like the breaking of a stain glass window, but perhaps as long as I was amusing her, she'd refrain from tearing my head from my shoulders.
"A smart-ass even when she's about to piss her little cotton panties," she giggled, and that giggle was as bad as her laugh, if not worse. "Oh my... move your wings, Aerael. I want to get a good look at the kid. I wasn't aware Thorn even had a child. I'd like to see his little slice of immortality."
I felt him pause, then slowly, the wings lifted away, leaving me bare to their vision. How had I gotten into this mess? All I'd wanted was to get away from that bastard I'd called "father" for thirteen years before.
I heard the chorused intake of breath between them and tensed. Oh... shit. I hadn't even felt it happen. But I knew that what they saw wasn't what they should have been seeing. And I knew I'd just given myself away.
"Shit on me," Jade said in wonder, her eyes glinting with unholy glee as she clapped her hands together. "Looks like Mrs. Thorn put horns on her hubby's head with something that probably had less metaphorical horns of its own."
"A half-breed," Aerael breathed, staring down at me. "A shape-shifting half-breed. Eli Thorn, monster hunter extraordinaire, has a half-breed daughter."
I hugged my arms tightly, staring at the dark red carpeting beneath me. Half-breed shape-shifter. They'd known me at once, which only confirmed what Eli had been screaming at me since my thirteenth birthday. I was a demon...a damn half-demon cuckoo put in his nest. That's what he had said, right before he dragged me down into the basement and tried to burn the evil out of me.
Aerael had thought it a coincidence that out of an entire city, he had picked me. But maybe it hadn't been a coincidence. Maybe, just maybe I had called to him subconsciously, and maybe just as subconsciously answered a fledgling's call to an adult. It's why I had come to New York after all. Not for the fame or fortune that most kids thought they would find, but to find others like myself.
Still shocked the hell out of me to actually find them. I guess I hadn't really thought I'd find anything.
Slowly, I rose to my feet, knowing my body had grown painfully thin, and my skin gone from its normal honey color to shadow black. My hair was the same, I knew, but wine red generally isn't a color found in nature when it comes to hair... or eyes, for that matter. I backed off and kept my gaze on the floor, not wanting to look at either of them. Yeah, I'd found what I'd been looking for, but I was afraid to see the acceptance in their eyes. I was afraid it would have severed my last ties to my human life, and I really, really preferred being human. Humans didn't get chased and tortured by the likes of Eli Thorn.
"No," Jade said suddenly, "not demon."
"Are you sure?" Aerael asked. "Yeah, I'm sure. She has that same smell of ice and cold that you do. Kid's father must have been dark fae."
I jerked my head up and stared at them both. "What?"
"Fae, kid. Faeries. Nasty faeries. Like Aerael here, though he's pretty laid back for one of the Unseelie."
I looked up at the incubus, who shrugged both wings and shoulders. "So I don't like sleeping sixteen-year-old virgins. Sue me."
My mouth began to twitch. "You're a fairy?"
His eyes narrowed warningly as he shook his head at me. "Don't go there."
It was a good joke, but the smell of testosterone rising made me drop it. "I thought incubi were demons."
"Well, don't forget that this was from medieval times when sex, though as popular then as it is today, was still taboo, and anything that was so focused on sex must have been a demon from the darkest depths of Hell intent on leading young innocent girls down the paths of depraved carnality." He shrugged again and gave a sudden grin. "But then, the fae were always being confused with demons. Doesn't bother me."
"Sooo..." I looked at Jade skeptically and raised one brow, "she's a fairy, too?"
Well, there went my sight and all feeling in my body again. When I got over it, Aerael was crouched down with his wings and arms folded protectively around me, glaring at Jade.
"Stop doing that," he growled, his eyes narrowed at the uncaring demon. "She's not full fae. Your temper tantrums might very well kill her."
"Oh please," Jade snorted, waving one hand carelessly as she stalked out of the room. "She might go permanently blind or turn paraplegic, but I seriously doubt my screaming will kill her."
"Oh, gee, I like her," I muttered sarcastically, clutching at Aerael's arm. "Can I go now?"
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Bargains ©2000 by Teresa Cain
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