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At Fred’s subtle touch, my breath caught in my throat.
A small moan of delight escaped me, and I clutched at his sleeve. “Do it again,” I whispered.
He moved his fingers over the spot once more, his breath coming hard with excitement. I had to bite my lip to keep from crying out with sheer pleasure.
“What do you think?” he murmured huskily in my ear.
Oh God, I was in danger of losing control if he didn’t stop.
“Classic Puuc,” I said with a gasp.
“Do you think so?” He touched the monitor again and zoomed in on the area in question.
Good archaeology was better than the best orgasm. My fingers spasmed against his sleeve in excitement. “Oh my God! Stop! Stop right there! Look!”
Fred froze the cursor and turned the monitor to me.
I stared at the blocky red shape on the screen of the radar equipment with utter delight. “Definite classic Puuc! Look,” I said, pointing at the edge of the red blob with my fingernail. “Thick, heavy veneer stone with a clean edge. These lighter spots around the side suggest doorways cut into the rock. I bet if we dug it up, we’d find a stone relief to rival that of Chichén Itza.” I leaned over the monitor, my heart slamming in my chest. “Can we pan out to the rest of the jungle?”
Fred leaned over me, plastering his groin against my backside. My co-archaeologist was the possessor of one raging boner. Bad idea to lean over the table.
“Jackie,” he murmured in my ear. “Forget about the dig for a moment. I need to talk to you.”
I clamped my thighs together tightly, trying to rid myself of the unwanted feelings of pleasure. Despite the fact that I didn’t want Fred in the slightest, my cursed succubus body reacted to his touch. I shoved my elbow backward, hard, trying to gut him. “Get off of me,” I said, squirming away.
“We’re finally alone,” Fred said. “I wanted to tell you how I feel.” His young face was alight with desire, his dirty brown ponytail damp with sweat. “No one’s around.”
That had an alarming ring to it. I turned and glanced around and, sure enough, the local workers that we hired to help out around the dig were nowhere to be seen. None of the university team was around, either. That was odd. All the guys at the site were normally so taken with my looks that I couldn’t shake them, no matter what I did. I had an adoring admirer or two following me at all times, even to the port-a-potty.
It really sucked to be supernaturally beautiful.
Fred moved toward me again and caught my hands. “I’ve been holding back for months now, waiting for the right moment.” His hands were sweaty, and a droplet of sweat rolled down his nose and splashed onto my arm. Gross.
“And you think now is a good time? It’s ninety-five degrees in the shade, Fred, and we’re in the jungle. I haven’t showered in four days—and it smells like you haven’t showered for longer.” I wrinkled my nose and tried to jerk my hand away again. Where did everyone go? The deserted grounds should have been crawling with archaeologists.
It gave me the willies.
Fred pressed a fervent kiss to my hand. “You’re so beautiful, Jackie.”
Of course I was beautiful. I was a succubus. We were cursed to have our faces and bodies remolded into that of a man’s ideal fantasy. To think I’d once complained about how mousy my old looks were. I never realized how damned inconvenient it would be to be gorgeous.
“I’ve never met anyone like you.” He continued to kiss my knuckles, pressing moist lips against them.
I doubted this dork met a lot of women, period, much less a succubus. Fred was the type of guy who probably got picked last in gym class and owned a vast library of Dungeons and Dragons books. Not exactly a ladies’ man.
“Fred,” I began. “You do realize that Noah’s going to kick your ass if he sees this.” It was a bluff, of course. Noah—my beautiful Serim lover—might glare sternly at Fred or throw some money around to have Fred removed from camp, but I doubted he’d actually get physical with the guy.
Noah was too elegant for that sort of thing.
But my suitor was shaking his head with passion. “He’s busy right now. And this might be my only chance to show you how I feel.”
I frowned at that. “What do you mean, ‘only chance’?” We were all going to be on this dig for at least another two months.
More of his sweat dripped onto my arms, and I struggled again to break his grip. Why oh why weren’t succubi gifted with super-strength? No one needed it more than a hot immortal girl. Men were compelled to fall in love with my new face, and I’d have happily traded beauty for the ability to punch the hell out of Fred at the moment.
So I used the only other weapon I had available—I pretended to faint, going limp in his arms.
As expected, Fred released my hands to catch me as I went down, and I slapped my open palm against his forehead.
It worked. He collapsed.
I didn’t hit him hard, of course. I doubted I could hit him hard enough to leave a bruise. But his mind shut off with the touch of my hand to his forehead, and he went down for the count.
There was one perk to being a succubus, at least. I could shut down his mind and put him into a deep, dreamless sleep, and then pick through his memories if I wanted to. Not the most handy skill, depending on the situation, and I tried not to use it much, since it tended to backfire in rather spectacular ways. But desperate times call for desperate moves.
I didn’t let him stay unconscious long. Kneeling beside his prostrate body, I touched his forehead to wake him up again, then patted his hand as if I were worried. “Fred? Fred? Are you all right?”
His eyes fluttered open slowly and focused on me. “What … what happened?”
I put on my best concerned expression and squeezed his hand, maybe a little too roughly. “You were leaning in to kiss me, and you passed out,” I lied.
Fred sat up, cradling his head in his free hand. “I did?”
“You did.” I helped him to his feet, then dusted off his shirt. “Fred, I’m not sure but … I think you should go see a doctor.” Step one: lay the trap.
He gave me a confused look. “Why?”
I made my eyes go wide. “Well, you do know that if you pass out when you get an erection, that’s an early warning sign of extremely high blood pressure. And you’re far too young to have that sort of thing happen to you.”
Brushing the sweaty, long hair off his forehead, Fred stared ahead blankly. “I’ve never done that before.” His hand went to his wrist, as if checking his pulse.
“Of course not,” I said sweetly, taking him by the elbow and pointing him toward the Jeep. “I’m sure it’s nothing to be worried about.” Step two: play to the ego. “You’re a healthy, strong man. It’s probably nothing. But just to be safe, don’t you think you should head into Mérida and get yourself checked out?”
“But … the survey equipment … the dig …”
“There’s nothing that can’t wait until the crew returns later tonight.” I pulled my keys out of my pocket and placed them in his hand. “Why don’t you take my Jeep? Go to town, spend the night in air-conditioning, get checked out by the doctor, and come back in a few days. I’ll explain everything to Mr. Gideon.”
“Everything?” Fred swallowed hard.
I took pity on him. “Almost everything.” I shook my finger at him. “And as long as the rest never happens again, it’ll remain our secret.”
Sorta. I planned on complaining long and hard to Mr. Gideon.
In a daze, Fred climbed into the Jeep and started the engine. I tried not to smile too cheerfully as the Jeep disappeared down the dirt road into the jungle. My problem neatly disposed of, I raced back to the GPR equipment to get another glimpse of those red blobs. To think that we had found another set of outlying buildings! We could expand on the dig, perhaps get another grant from the university … my mind raced at the thought.
To my disappointment, Fred’s fall had jostled the computer, and the screen was dark. I tapped the monitor twice before glancing down and seeing the plug hanging out of the socket. A quick replugging showed that I needed a password to reboot the system, a password I didn’t have. I sighed in disgust. So much for that. And without someone to help me move the surface antenna, I couldn’t do any further radar scans until the others returned.
Disgruntled, I packed up the equipment I could and went in search of the rest of the crew. We’d decided to set up in the least thickly forested portion of the ancient grounds of Yuxmal, and workers had cleared even more area to set up the tent city that had been our home for the past few months. A very empty tent city. It was midday, so unless everyone had ran off for an impromptu siesta, the campsite was truly deserted.
What the heck was going on?
The tent I shared with Noah was at the edge of camp, near the base of a massive stone pyramid—the discovery that had started the dig itself. As I approached our tent, I could hear the generator humming and the sound of rotating fans buzzing. I paused outside. The door flap was down, which seemed like a bad idea given the heat and humidity. Inside, I heard a muffled curse.
Noah was here, at least. I put aside my odd foreboding about the camp’s emptiness and ran my long fingernails along the weatherproofed canvas, the sound that passed for a knock in a tent city. “Knock knock.”
“Don’t come in,” Noah barked.
I frowned at the tent wall. “What do you mean, don’t come in?” I lifted the flap and entered anyhow.
My jaw dropped. Noah was clad in nothing but boxer shorts, and beads of sweat trailed down his flat, golden abs. The large folding table that filled the middle of the tent was covered with a paper tablecloth that fluttered in the wake of the rotating fans set at each corner of the tent. Two place settings decorated the table, along with a large covered dish. A row of pale candles was lined up in front of Noah, who held a box of matches in his hand.
“What is all this?” I asked.
“A surprise. Or it was.” He scowled.
I let the flap slide shut behind me and fanned my hand at my face. In the heat, with the humidity, no number of rotating fans could make the tent feel like less of a sauna. It seemed awfully odd to have an elegant dinner set up in the tent, but it looked like that was Noah’s plan. I was torn between thinking he was sweet or totally mad. “Where did everyone at camp go?”
“They went to town. Paid vacation day. A vacation day that I paid for,” he said irritably as he pulled another match out of the box. “Fred was supposed to keep you busy for another hour.”
I snorted and moved to the far end of the table, where a chair was set out. “If by ‘keep me busy’ you mean try to molest me, I’d say he finished early.”
Noah ran the match along the side of the box, and a small flame flared to life. He leaned toward the closest candle, and the match abruptly sputtered, then blew out, from the breeze of the fan. He swore again and pulled out another match.
Well, now. Noah seemed a little crankier than usual, but I blamed it on the bright blue in his eyes. The closer we got to the full moon, the more moody he became as the curse came over him and his need for sex rose.
Of course, the sight of those blue eyes and that delicious, bare sweaty chest gave me another idea—a rather naughty one. I moved to his side, my finger tracing one runnel of sweat down his chest. I dipped my finger in the damp bead and met his eyes, then tasted the droplet, a blatant suggestion if there ever was one.
“Not now, Jackie,” he said impatiently.
With a sigh, I dropped my hands, returned to the far side of the table, and sat down so I wouldn’t be tempted to touch him again. Another symptom of the full-moon curse—Noah was completely and utterly uninterested in sex for the days preceding the full moon, upon which we’d stay in the tent the entire day and have sex until he passed out. I gave him a bright smile. “When are you due, so we can get back to normal and I can get laid?”
He pulled out another match, glaring at it with all the hatred in the world. “The moon is full in two days.”
Well, thank God for that. I did a little fast math in my head. We’d had sex yesterday morning and I would be due tomorrow morning. If I had to wait another day after that I’d be miserable as hell, but I wouldn’t die from it. An overdue succubus was an exceedingly horny one, so I’d have to avoid the other men in the camp for the day, or I’d have the men trailing me like I was the Pied Piper of Hamlin. “That day can’t get here soon enough,” I murmured. Just the thought of not having sex for another two days made me crave it, and I crossed my legs under the table.
Noah looked over at me, a hint of a frown marring the line of his eyebrows. The scent of sulfur grew strong in the small tent as he tried to light another match.
“Don’t worry about the candles,” I said. “They’re giving me a headache.”
His jaw was set in a stubborn line that I recognized about once a month. “Fine.” He put down the matches and placed the candles back in an orderly row along the table. “What were you saying about Fred?”
I glanced at the covered tray, my mouth watering as I wondered what was underneath. Was it someone’s birthday? My taste buds gave a little thrill at the thought of birthday cake and ice cream, though no ice cream would survive this heat. Maybe chocolate, to take the edge off my desire. Noah knew that I loved to eat. “Fred confessed undying love for me,” I said, distracted by the tray and my rumbling stomach. It had been a few hours since I’d eaten breakfast, and lunch sounded rather tasty now. “Though I promised him that I wouldn’t say anything to Mr. Gideon.” I gave Noah a pointed look. “Consider yourself out of the know, Mr. Gideon. And don’t worry. I used my Suck powers to draw him off and convinced him to visit town.”
Noah gave a little shake of his head. “Jackie, we’ve had this conversation before. You need to be careful around the men at camp.”
My jaw dropped. Careful?
Steamed, I grabbed a steak knife off the table. With my other hand, I took off my dirty baseball cap and shook down one of my long, bright red braids. I held the braid out from my head at a straight angle and in fast, jerky motions I sawed at the base of my braid and hacked the entire thing off, then tossed it down on the table.
Noah rolled his eyes at my dramatic show.
“Watch,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest.
Sure enough, less than a minute later, I felt the hair follicles on my scalp slither and the familiar tingling that told me my hair was growing back. I grabbed a handful of the sheared ends and watched in disgust as they grew, my hair pouring down my shoulders and over my shirt, returning to the lengthy, flame-red curls.
“Do you see this?” I jerked at my T-shirt. “I’m wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt, cargo shorts, and a baseball cap. Not exactly seductress material.”
“Zane’s shirt, I noticed.”
Grrr. He was missing the point entirely! “What I’m trying to remind you of is that no matter what I do, I can’t disguise how I look. I’ve shaved my head. I’ve worn thick glasses. I’ve done everything short of wearing a ski mask, and it’s no use. I could go out in a trash bag and someone would still hit on me.”
“You know,” I went on, angrily rebraiding my “new” hair, “I thought this dig would be good for my career. I could finally set myself up as a serious archaeologist. But it’s like I’m the Hooters girl at the church social! The men leer at me constantly. Someone tries to cop a feel if I so much as bend over. And all the women on the team hate me because they think I’m blowing you just to get you to sponsor the dig.”
“You are blowing me,” he interrupted with a hint of a smile.
“Not to further my career,” I bellowed. “Remember that whole ‘have to have sex every two days’ thing? Hello? Succubus?”
He gave me a patient look. “I wouldn’t be out in the jungles of Yucatán spending a small fortune on sonar—”
“Radar equipment if it wasn’t for you. So they do have a point.”
My eyes narrowed. “You are so not helping your case right now, buddy.”
Noah chuckled, showing me a glimpse of the good-natured, strong protector that I usually adored. He moved to my end of the table and pulled me up into his arms. “Poor Jackie. I’m sorry this isn’t turning out like you want.” His warm hand stroked my braids and down my back.
My bad mood rapidly dwindled now that I was pressed against his hard, sweaty body, and I slid my hands up and down his bare, damp skin. He felt so good against me. Really good. It reminded me that I was due for the Itch in a short time, so I reluctantly pulled away. “Unless you want to make out on the floor, maybe we shouldn’t touch.”
I wanted him to protest, to kiss me senseless and prove me wrong, but all he said was “You’re right,” and released me. Spoilsport.
I sighed. I hated the days up to the full moon.
“I brought you a few presents from town,” he said, returning to the other end of the table.
Sitting back down, I clapped my hands in delight. “Edible things?” In this part of Mexico you could get a lot of standard stuff from the big Walmart in Mérida or the local tedejon, but I missed the small luxuries, like Pringles or my favorite shampoo. Noah was constantly bringing me boxes of treats as a result. Last week it was foil-wrapped Ding Dongs, which I tore through in about five minutes.
Succubi weren’t known for their self-control when it came to food. Hedonists for the win.
Noah smiled at my delighted expression. “Part of your present is edible, yes.” He disappeared under the paper tablecloth and reappeared a moment later with a large cardboard box. The words “Pop-Tarts” was printed across the side of the box.
I squealed. “Oh my God! Pop-Tarts! A whole case!”
“I had them special ordered for you in Mérida. They’re chocolate.” At my second squeal of delight, he chuckled. “Try not to eat them all in one day.”
I eyed the box with hungry, avid eyes. “They might last two days.” Maybe three, if I paced myself. It was so hard to find chocolate Pop-Tarts in this part of Mexico.
A radar discovery and Pop-Tarts. This day just got better and better.
Noah seemed pleased, his eyes so blue they glowed in his tanned face. “I never thought I’d see a woman get so turned on over a package.” His voice had dropped to a huskier octave, showing that he wasn’t totally immune to my charms just yet.
Encouraged, I leaned over the table, my voice turning into a purr. “Show me your package, and I’ll show you an even more turned-on woman.”
His eyes flashed and I recognized the interest there, fighting the lethargy that always set over him before the full moon. “Your other present first,” he said.
“Whatever floats your boat,” I breathed, clamping my thighs together so they’d stop quivering with excitement.
Hot diggity, I was going to get laid today after all!
He leaned over the table, placing his hand on the dome of the silver platter. I couldn’t wait to find out what was underneath. This was why he’d sent everyone away from camp to be alone with me—the reason behind the big production.
“If that’s a milk shake under there, they’re going to have to pry me off of you with a crowbar,” I warned, my eyes glued to the tray.
He lifted the lid.
A tiny turquoise box with a bow lay in the center of the plate. It looked like … a ring box.
“Shit,” I blurted.
© 2011 Jill Myles