by Teresa Cain
I was more than a little nervous, which wasn't helping me stay the beautiful redhead in her early thirties that the mirror behind the bar showed me to be. I just knew my face was going to slip back into its normally youthful pre-twenties appearance. But dammit, I needed to get drunk after this past week and neither Aerael or Jade would buy me any alcohol. Who would have thought a dark faery and a demon would be so worried about contributing to the delinquency of a minor?
Well, it wasn't quite that. Aerael just didn't like me drunk and Jade just liked to pull my strings. I'd up and leave if I thought she wouldn't hunt me down.
I stared moodily into the Long Island iced tea sitting in front of me and heaved a sigh. Being a rich and famous millionaire was a lot harder than it sounds. Lucky I had Jade sneaking around in my head during board meetings and such to lead me through tight moments that instincts wouldn't. And it wasn't the business side that bothered me. I was actually enjoying it. It was keeping up the jet-setter lifestyle. Oh, and the men. I hated the guys in my imposed social circles. They were arrogant, stuck up, full of themselves, and completely oblivious to everything that might put a damper on their lives as arrogant, stuck up, full of themselves bastards! I just wanted to punch them in their perfect teeth... or at least shave off those eighty dollar haircuts.
I had my glass raised, signaling the bartender when someone sat down beside me. A bearded, black-haired, black-eyed chiseled biker took the stool next to me and grinned toothily, winking. I saw his face shift ever so slightly, so quickly I almost doubted what I saw. But I knew a signal when I saw it.
"Hey, Morte," I sighed, nodding at my shifter tutor. He was one of only three in all of New York, one of the only ten in all of the U.S. He was also probably the nicest of the bunch, too - but I only had Aerael's opinion on that. Still, I'd met the other two in New York, and I was inclined to agree they were a couple of pretty big bastards. Morte had a couple of morals hanging around in that shadow black frame of his - but they seemed focused towards kids. Adults could go hang, but he was always willing to help a child. It was sort of sweet - except I'd seen what he could do when sufficiently pissed off. I dreamed about it at times - usually after big snacks before bedtime.
"About time you used your talents for something useful," he said, still grinning. "Better than a fake ID, yes?"
"Easier anyway." I finally gave up on the bartender making his way back down to me any time soon and set my glass back down on the ground with a thunk. "Except I don't know how well I can keep a shape when smashed. What are you doing here?"
The grin disappeared, just like that, and he rapped his knuckles on the bar. It was his biggest nervous habit, and I hated it when he was nervous. When Morte was nervous, it made me paranoid. "What? What? What is it? Who's dead?"
"There was a succubus found dead in her lair. Beheaded."
I froze. My mind focused only on the words "succubus," "dead," and "beheaded," and a name instantly popped into my mind. I reached over, one hand grabbing a fistful of shirt and the other a handful of hair, yanking him close and growling, "Was it Aerael?"
He went wide-eyed in my grip and wrapped his hands around my wrists, squeezing them with painful strength. "What? No! You know Aerael tends towards a male form at all times! I said 'succubus,' you stupid girl."
I blinked, then sighed and forced myself to relax as I released him. "God, don't go for effect around me. I've seen Aerael take female form when desperate enough for a bed. You scared the shit out of me!"
"Sorry. Hell, girl, you need to relax."
I glared at him, then glared at the bartender flirting with some over-endowed blond at the end of the bar. Dammit, I knew I should have put on more cleavage. "Look, I'm living with a demon and living in mortal dread of my stepfather catching up with me. I think I have a damn good reason to be on my last nerve. And is there ANY FUCKIN' WAY TO GET SOME SERVICE DOWN HERE?"
"Carlie, settle. I think you want to hear about this."
I glared at the bartender, who finally found time to refill my glass. "Thanks. Sorry for making you do your job and all. Look, Morte, I'm sorry to hear about the death, but this matters to me... why?"
He waited until the bartender had gone back to his blond, then leaned close to my ear and murmured, "Aerael found her. He was so shaken I barely got the story out of him. Said her head had been cut off with one swipe - do you have any idea how hard that is?"
"Eli could do it," I muttered. "Had this bloody katana that was charmed to slay demons or monsters or something like that...goes through anything inhuman like a red hot razor through water. Even leaves the neck cauterized. Hardly any blood is spilled during a killing, which I guess is convenient if you want to leave as little evidence behind as possible."
Morte was sitting there blinking at me, then took my drink out of my hand. "How much of this have you had?"
"Third glass. Why?"
"Did you hear what you just said?" I looked at him, then went back over my words mentally. "Yeah, I was talking about Eli's swor - oh. Oh... hell."
"The worst part of it was that she'd just given birth," he went on, staring moodily into my drink. "Did you know that succubi lay eggs? Weird, huh? Aerael said the egg was smashed on the floor, about five feet away from the bed. Which means the bastard that killed her picked up the egg and dropped it."
"He'd do that," I whispered, horrified. "He loves doing that. He gets a bigger kick out of killing young demons more than he does killing adults. He used to say that at least he wouldn't have to worry about their having bred and having to track down their offspring, too. Oh God, Morte, he's here. Eli's in New York."
I jumped off the stool and frantically rooted through my purse, pulling a handful of bills out and dropping them on the bar. "Morte, I need a ride home. I've gotta see Aerael."
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Bargains ©2000-2001 by Teresa Cain
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