by Teresa Cain
I knew I was upset when I let Morte take me home on that bloody-thirsty Harley of his, but I was so worried I barely noticed the death-defying ride through the streets of New York. Dammit, did no one in this town sleep? But as soon as he screeched to a halt in front of the building I'd come to know as home, I jumped off and ran for the door.
Morte's voice stopped me just as I was stepping through the door being held open for me. I whirled around, knowing my face must have been an etching in fear and frustration, to which his massive shoulders rose and fell in a sigh.
"Stay inside," he called. "Don't give him any advantages. Don't do anything stupid."
"No worries there," I growled, stalking past a startled doorman. By the time I was in the private elevator riding up to the penthouse, I was a shaking wreck of nerves.
I knew this was bound to happen sooner or later, but I suppose there had been some small part of my mind secretly wishing it never would. What a joke. Now Eli was here, I was doomed, and I needed to go get my last will and testament straightened out.
Well, there was still a small shred of hope. There was a slim chance it wasn't my stepfather. There was a slim chance Pauly Shore might win an Oscar. Either way, I wasn't betting any money. I leaned against the railing in the elevator and massaged my temples, trying to head off a pounding headache before it took root. Then I caught sight of my arm and looked down at myself, letting out a small groan.
Without noticing, I'd slipped into my "normal" form, which just happened to be a scrawny humanoid creature with wine red hair and eyes, and skin the color of onyx. My ears got all pointy in this form, too, but that seemed to be pretty much standard for any kind of fae... even half-breed dark fae like myself. But even though it was a private elevator and no one would see me, I still needed to force myself back to a human shape. Letting myself slide like this was dangerous.
Gritting my teeth, I concentrated until I'd taken my usual form, that of an equally scrawny 18-year-old redhead who was about to lock herself in a room until someone yelled rumors of her stepfather's death through the door. Damn, my life was annoying. Why couldn't I have normal problems... like the ebola virus or an apartment infested with ravenous army ants?
When the elevator hit the top floor, its doors sliding open silently, I caught sounds of mass destruction and high-pitched female voices shouting in Japanese. This was perfect...just what I needed. Jade was home watching anime, which usually ended in misery for me. She offered me a million bucks once if I'd shift into some cross-dresser named Nuriko from some cartoon called Fushigi Yuugi. Of course, looking like this pervert was only part of it. The other part had me hiding from Jade for a week. I still shudder to think of it.
I snuck through the living room, eyeing Jade as she lay upside down on the leather couch, watching great big robots blowing things up while she cheered them on. It was times like this I wondered why I was so terrified of her. Then I would remember watching her tear off some guy's arms and beating his head in with them. Then it would all become clear once more. But could anything else be expected for that demonic bitch?
No, no, wait. If I kept saying that, I was going to get in trouble with Aerael, who hated it when I called Jade a demon. He didn't care if she kept up that charade to the rest of the world, but with us three, he wanted truth. Not that the truth made much difference. Jade isn't a demon, she's a monster, which just means she's shadowspawn rather than hellspawn. Frankly, the only difference is that she has no affiliations with Hell or the devil or anything. It just means she scares the crap out of people just for her own sick pleasure.
Well, everyone needs a hobby, I suppose.
Frankly, I don't care what she is. She's still scary as hell, and I prefer to give her a wide berth when at all possible. Unfortunately, I'm her favorite chew toy and she does love to play with me (and yes, I fully realize how sick that sounds). Between her and Eli, I was surprised I had one smooth nerve left in my body.
"Blow it up! Come on, there's still a building in perfectly good shape over there! Make it go boom, you stupid piece of mecha trash!"
Still, watching the green-haired monster cheer on anime robots was kind of cute in its own way... kind of. But I left her to her videos and crept down the dark hallway towards Aerael's room. The door was closed, which rather surprised me. He never closed his door. How were we supposed to see him strutting around bare-assed and therefore giving him lusty little snacks when the door was closed?
I raised a hand and tapped tentatively on the heavy oak door. "Aerael? You in there?"
I wasn't completely sure, but I thought I heard a muted sob. Was he crying? Could lust-feeding dark fae cry? If a flesh-ripping monster could like Japanese animation, I guess the incubus could boo-hoo to his heart's content. Why not? When you live in a world of fantasy, you can't afford to disbelieve in anything. Otherwise you get beaned by falling pixies all the time, and damned if I was clapping one of those little bastards back to life. Ever see "Labyrinth"? Hoggle was right. Those things do bite.
Worried, I tried the doorknob and found the door unlocked, so I slowly pushed it open and cautiously peeked inside. "Aerael?"
"Not right now, Roselyn, please."
And that was another thing. He refused to call me Carlie. Instead, he called me by my real name, which happens to be Roselyn Thorn. Rose Thorn. Can you believe a mother would do that to her child? I wasn't sure of much, but I did know that if Eli killed me, I was going to hunt my mother down in the afterlife and jump on her head a few thousand times until I felt better.
"I need to talk to you," I insisted, glancing around the darkened room. "It's important."
The only light was being given from a few candles set on the nightstand by his bed, so when I first spotted him sitting on top of the coverlet, framed by his huge feathered wings, it didn't really register what I was looking at. Then somehow the light shifted, and I realized not only was he sitting there completely in the nude, but he wasn't actually a "he" at the moment.
I whirled around, a blush racing across my cheeks. Naked sobbing incubus I could handle. Naked sobbing succubus was a whole other situation. Frankly, the sobbing was making certain portions of his, er, her anatomy go bouncy bouncy, and that was nothing a perfectly straight girl like myself wanted to see. Dammit, I hated it when Aerael switched genders.
"I, uh, heard about the killing," I said, staring frantically at the wallpaper. "Morte filled me in."
A loud sigh was heaved behind me. "Renaeka. Ye gods, she was so happy about the baby. She already had these little outfits picked out for it and everything. Every time I saw her, all she could talk about was finding somewhere in the country to move so the child wouldn't have to deal with the city until it was old enough to have to. She had plans and hopes and dreams for it, like any good mother... all gone with one swipe of a blade."
She choked on another sob, then another, and suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck were raised by a soul-rending wail. I turned back around and saw Aerael with her head thrown back, her hands clutched tightly between her breasts and her wings stretched to their fullest span. I had an even better view of her body now, but it didn't matter anymore. I rushed over and hugged her, letting her bury her face in my shoulder and wrap both arms and wings around me while she mourned the death of her friend.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Bargains ©2000-2001 by Teresa Cain
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