By Erica Hayes
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2009 Erica Hayes
All rights reserved.
The dark shape in the bed didn't stir. I trailed tingling fingers over silken sheets, carpet soft and luxurious beneath my feet. I inhaled crisp male cologne and sweat, and it made me drunk with excitement. The French window lay open, city lights glittering beyond, citrus summer breeze teasing the pale lace curtains. They drifted over me like a lover's sweet touch, and I burned. If I didn't have this man soon, I'd spend the night sick and sorry. And I didn't even know who he was.
Sometimes I feel so cheap.
My demon lord, Kane, calls it rapture. Our victims, if they live long enough, call it the sexiest thing they've ever seen, which of course, is the point. It's easier to suck out someone's soul if their attention is elsewhere. Only problem is, it's the succubus equivalent of a raging hard-on, and frankly, it's humiliating to slaver like a sex-starved ghoul over some fat chauvinist gangster or unwashed backroom drug dealer just because they were foolish enough to cross Kane and his charming minions, the Valenti crime family.
But it's my job. I'm in thrall to Kane for a thousand years. I was just glad no one could see me this time.
I crawled toward him, arousing my scent so it drifted over him like a sweet cloud. The sheet slid off his massive shoulder, baring his chest, and I bent to sniff his stubbled throat, my hair brushing his face.
He didn't stir.
The dark smell of his skin made me moan, and I slid my tongue along his warm collarbone, desperate to taste him. My breasts ached as I pressed into him, only my thin tank top separating us.
He didn't even twitch.
I dragged my fingers through his lank fair hair, and his head fell sideways, limp, no breath forcing from his slack mouth.
My racing heart missed a beat. I fumbled on the bedside table, switching on the dim lamp. His hard features lay softened in death, his tanned skin already pale.
I stared. I knew that blond ponytail, that unforgiving mouth, those rigid gym-built muscles. I'd danced with him, dined with him on amatriciana and red wine at Valentino's, peeled his big hands off my ass more than once. Nino Valenti. Gangster, extortionist, multiple murderer. Ange Valenti's right-hand man.
Kane had sent me to kill one of his own minions. And Nino was already dead. His glazed eyes shone vacant, colorless, their once-steady blue drained. No blood, no vomit, or marks on his body. It wasn't a typical mob murder. He wasn't drugged, shot, strangled, fae-poisoned. Someone had sucked out his soul. They'd beaten me to it.
What the hell?
I sat up on my knees, my chest heaving, frustrated desire radiating off me like sultry summer heat. Dead. But still fragrant, still warm. Which meant ...
My back thudded into the soft mattress, the weight of a hard male body between my legs pressing me down. Strong hands grasped my wrists, trapping them above my head, strands of my hair pulling in their grip.
"Wrong place, wrong time, sweetheart." The voice was low, breathless, a hint of exotic Hindi accent. I glimpsed dark tangled hair, a flash of golden-brown eyes, fragrant brown skin. Fresh desire burned over me, my urgent breath searing my throat, my entire body straining, yearning for sex.
Sweat trickled on my skin, running into my hair and dampening my hands. I couldn't believe this. Of all that could possibly happen to me this evening, I'd never imagined I'd end up panting with lust under Rajahni Seth.
Not that Rajah wasn't worthy of some serious panting, along with a scream and an oh, god or two. He was the kind of incubus who didn't need the rapture to get his victims begging for him. I'd never even spoken to him before. The words out of my league didn't even approximate.
The words you killed Nino Valenti, however, did.
"Get off me!" I kicked, wriggling, but succeeded only in pressing him tighter between my legs, my thin skirt rucking up to the tops of my thighs. He wore no shirt, and in the lamplight, his taut brown skin glistened, sweat running on curving muscles.
He twisted his dark head back a little so he could see me, wet dark strands falling in his face. Sexual energy glimmered off him in waves like a heat haze, his eyes glowing with desire, his ripe lips parted and slick. His magic didn't affect me, of course. An incubus's rapture doesn't work on succubi — or vice versa, for that matter. But I was worked up enough already, and likewise I couldn't imagine the smoldering need in his eyes and the deliciously hard bulge pressing into my crotch had anything to do with me.
"Jade?" His sinful lips formed my name, caressing it like a kiss. "Kane's Jade?"
He recognized me. My mouth watered. God, I hoped I had underwear on, or I'd make a mess of his jeans. Then again, if I wasn't wearing any, I could unzip him, squeeze myself onto him, and do something about this wasted rapture that made me ache.
Of its own accord, my leg wrapped itself around his thighs, straining, pleasure flowering at the pressure. "Well spotted, genius. You gonna get off me?"
His fingers tightened on my wrists and he ground against me with a helpless little groan, but his eyes glinted with amusement as well as lust. "Are you sure you want me to? I could get off in you, if you like."
Anger boiled my desire, though the thought of him thrusting into me, exploding deep within me with his lips on mine, made me faint with longing. No way would he use me for his twisted little games, even if he was a secret fantasy fuck of mine from way back. "Give it a rest, Seth. That's a dead body, in case you hadn't noticed."
His lips hovered over mine for a heart-stopping instant, but before I could slide my tongue out to taste him, he rolled off me and rose, pacing, scraping tense hands through his hair.
I sat up, fury searing away my regret. "What are you playing at, using a Valenti for sustenance? Kane'll have your ass."
But I couldn't help watching as he found his shirt and slipped it on. They sure built them beautiful in seventeenth-century Lahore, or wherever the hell he was from. Dark locks tangling on his collar, sensual mouth quivering, perfect nose, strong chin, upswept cheekbones. Legs long and muscular in soft black jeans, tight ass begging to be squeezed with both hands while he fucked me. Broad golden thrall bangles, thicker than mine, glinting tight on his forearms. He moved with raw grace, his movements swift and tense as he struggled to contain his rapture-soaked lust.
He retrieved his etched brass soultrap bottle from the carpet and dangled it in front of my eyes, wiggling it so I could see from the weight that it was full. "Kane's orders. I don't ask; I just fuck."
Which explained the state he was in. He hadn't consumed Nino's energy, but trapped it, and he'd obviously ignored soul-trapping rule number one: Don't let your victim come first. I'd never pictured Rajah as going both ways. Maybe he hadn't either, but Kane's word was law. I sympathized. All the same, my sex ached just thinking about a threesome.
I scrambled up from the bed, jerking my damp skirt down over my exposed thighs. "Yeah, I've heard that about you."
He gave a wicked smile and hissed like a cat, miming striking claws. "No need to be nasty. I offered." His smile turned sultry. "Sure you're not tempted?"
My heart pounded. Oh, I was tempted, all right.
I struggled to keep my mind on the issues. What would Kane want with his own minion's soul? He'd get it soon enough anyway. And why had he sent both of us to do the same thing?
But Rajah's dark, spicy scent wrapped me like a sweet mist, my rapture blinding me to everything but him, his eyes, his wicked black lashes, the pulse throbbing at his throat, that slutty mouth made for pleasure. ...
I stepped closer. He stepped closer. He dropped the soultrap bottle with a soft thud and ran his fingers into my hair, twisting, sliding in deeper. My breasts brushed his chest, my nipples so hard, the pleasure hurt. I slid my hands over his hips to his gorgeous firm ass and pulled him against me. He was hard, pulsing, so ready, and wetness slid from me, staining my skirt, painting the insides of my thighs with hot need.
We both groaned, the air around us shimmering. Already his burning fingers sought my skirt hem, dragging it upward. He nuzzled my throat, his lips firm and insistent, his clever tongue making me shiver. "Jade," he breathed, his voice thick with lust, "I never knew you were so damn beautiful."
Cold humiliation washed over me, spoiling his glorious caress. He'd never noticed me before. What was I thinking? He was Rajahni Seth, the hottest incubus in Melbourne, who had any woman he wanted with a single sultry glance from those bedroom eyes. And I was me.
Stick-thin, mousy-haired, tongue-tied me. Certainly not beautiful or engaging. It wasn't like we could have a relationship, not in our line of work, even if I wasn't the world's most boring woman and so far below his standards that even a glance from him was charity. So we'd have sex in a cloud of drunken rapture, it'd be magnificent, and I'd be miserable for the next six hundred years, pining for him. And he'd forget about me, we'd meet in the street or a bar and smile uneasily and look away, and he'd laugh with his friends about how he was once so desperate, he had to fuck me.
"This is a bad idea," I whispered, trying to push him away though my body still ached for him to give me release, my treacherous hands still wanting to explore him, pleasure him. "I don't even know you."
He stilled, his lips wet on my throat. "Are you serious? Most girls don't want to."
Now I did shove him away, my hands trembling more with fury than with desire. "Am I supposed to feel sorry for you? Just get out of here before —"
Fists thudded on the apartment door. "Police, open up!"
Before anyone finds us here.
For a few pulse-rippling seconds, Rajah's lips bruised mine, shocking, arousing, our teeth clashing in a feral kiss. "Some other time, princess," he breathed, and vanished.
I stumbled into the space where he'd been, the spicy taste of cardamom still stinging my mouth.
Jesus. He'd disappeared. I couldn't do that. How did he do that?
I cursed, and scrabbled on the carpet, but his soultrap bottle was gone. He'd taken it with him. Leaving me with the cops and a dead Valenti body in a room that reeked of sex, and a most unflattering wet patch on my skirt.
On the rooftop, Rajahni Seth leans over, hooking his elbow into the wrought-iron trimming, and watches the uniforms bundle Jade into the back of the blue-and-white Holden double-parked in the street below. Other drivers slow down as they pass, rubbernecking, and a gleaming silver tram rattles up the middle of the street, wires sparking, bright lights pouring from square windows advertising broadband Internet.
Warm summer breeze whispers through Rajah's dark hair, drenched with the smell of thunder, tracing teasing fingers over his hot skin. A million city lights from skyscrapers and neon signs block out the stars, their reflection glowing orange in scudding storm clouds. The brass bottle burns his hand, the fresh soul energy within bubbling angrily in its new confinement, and Rajah's cock tightens even more as he thinks about what it means. One down, three to go, and Rajah will be free of Kane's thrall forever. The legend is true. He knows it. He can taste it. He senses it in the soul's mad struggles in his bottle. He feels it searing through his blood.
It was sickeningly easy to get. He'd seen the burning green aura that identified Nino as his target days ago, and he'd bided his time, contained his excitement, weighed up his chances. Nino wanted so desperately to be straight, it was painful, and to have another man get his cock hard made him glow with shame and sick hatred. Once they'd made it to the apartment tonight after a few solid hours of watching Nino drink and eye him off, Rajah made the moves, and Nino's face darkened, he pulled his .45, yelled that he wasn't fucking gay, that Seth could get the fuck away from him or he'd blow his girly faggot ass to hell.
But a fragrant shimmer of rapture changed all that, dragging the poor kid kicking and cursing exactly where he wanted to go. Nino had beautiful, grabbable hair and a professionally sculpted body, even if he was a self-hating homophobe and Neanderthal dumb, and Rajah relished the thought of claiming that rock-hard far-from-virgin ass, working inside into the heat, and stroking Nino into orgasm that way. But Nino couldn't wait; he'd started to come before Rajah had more than a finger inside him and then it was too late.
But it didn't matter. Rajah had figured aching balls were a small price to pay for this first special soul. Perhaps he'd head down to Unseelie Court on King Street and tease a blow job from one of those willowy blue-haired banshees who were forever giving him the eye, just to silence his rampant rapture.
And then Jade showed up. Slender, slate-eyed Jade, with her sexy mouth, gorgeous little breasts, and narrow, perfect ass. No makeup, short plain nails, simple clothes, gently brushed dark hair falling in her face like she couldn't be bothered with it.
He's seen her before, she's Ange Valenti's trophy girl, but she'd always dropped her gaze or scowled or pretended not to see him. Suspicious of his good looks, wary of his reputation. A woman of class like that probably thought him a slut and a pickup artist. He'd never imagined he'd be lucky enough to have her lithe body straining beneath him, her wet little cleft hot and tempting against his bursting cock even through his jeans. Yeah, baby. It made him want to fill her, stretch her, hear her scream his name.
He watches the cop car drive away down the tree-lined street toward the river and St. Kilda Road, still staring long after it's gone. She didn't want him. Not really. It was just the rapture, right? No way she'd ever want a party boy.
Sure, he gets his share of women who aren't business, men too. Most are easy airheads looking for a good time or a dark taste of danger. Not like her.
I don't even know you, she said. Like she might one day want to.
He wonders what that would be like, and something diamond-cold in his heart softens.
But he can't let anything distract him, not now. He's waited centuries for this chance, and he won't throw it away because a sexy little waif gets his cock hard. Really hard. Can't-walk-properly hard. Maybe he'll find that banshee after all. But first, to hide this soul away where not even he can get at it, just in case.
Rajah turns away with a stretch and a sigh, his fingers tightening around the quivering soultrap. Just the rapture. Just a sweet little succubus, embarrassed by her lust.
This is bullshit." I glanced at the photographs again, dragging on my cigarette. Minty smoke burned my throat, and I coughed. I don't smoke, not anymore, but something about the St. Kilda Road cop shop makes me nervous.
My reflection in the one-way glass along one side of the interview room showed me hunched over on the steel chair, my hair tousled, dark sweat patches staining my tight gray tank top, my flimsy white skirt smeared. My skin gleamed sickly, my lips dry, the hand holding the cigarette shaking. The circles under my eyes stood out like stage makeup, making my eyes look darker blue than they were. I'd calmed down an hour ago, but all that unrequited rapture was taking its toll. I needed energy, and I looked like a junkie denied a fix. Not a class act.
Fluorescent lights glared too bright, and the air-conditioning hummed like a pissed-off insect, maddening. I shivered. It was too cold in here, and my clammy skin wore goose bumps, the stink of rapture-suppressant spray stinging my eyes.
"Look at the damn pictures, Jade." The man sitting opposite me across the aluminum table drew on his own cigarette, golden links shining amid dark hair on his heavy wrist. He flicked ash onto the floor, brushing an imaginary fleck off the sleeve of his expensive gray suit. Detective Sergeant Killian Quinn, Melbourne Homicide's paranormal expert. Black shirt, no tie, sweat gleaming in brown curls, golden chains tangled around his thick throat. Pale brown eyes, blank and hard like an animal's. Cunning, handsome, madder than a cut snake. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Shadowfae by Erica Hayes. Copyright © 2009 Erica Hayes. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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