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The Entity Who Came for Christmas
By Cat Devon
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Cathie L. Baumgardner
All rights reserved.
"Happy Sol--crap!" Pru Daniels said after opening the front door of her friend and fellow witch Zoe Adams' house. Seeing who was standing on the front porch this Winter Solstice made Pru's heart and her fists clench.
Out of all the vampires in the world, he had to walk back into her life. Simon Howell. As a witch, she should have known better than to hook up with a vampire Demon Hunter. She should have known better than to hook up with a vampire, period. Adding Demon Hunter to the mix just made things worse.
"Happy Sol--crap to you as well," Simon drawled. "I believe the proper greeting is Happy Solstice. Or Happy Yule. Unless you were going for the more generic Happy Holidays?"
She recognized that lift of his eyebrow. He did it whenever he was baiting her. Or getting ready to kiss her. He looked as sexy as ever with his light brown hair, blue eyes, and a wickedly endearing smile that hid the fact he was capable of ripping your throat out. He was dressed all in black, from his long leather trench coat to his cashmere sweater and well-fitting jeans.
Pru had only arrived in Chicago a few hours ago to visit her friend Zoe. The two of them had been members of the same witches' coven back in Boston. Pru had flown in on American Airlines, not a broomstick.
"What are you doing here, Simon?" she demanded.
"Visiting Damon," Simon replied.
Damon Thornheart was Zoe's boyfriend. "No way," Pru said.
"What are you doing here?" Simon asked. "Waiting for me, perhaps?"
"I had no idea you'd be here. If I did, I would never have come to visit Zoe. This is her house, not Damon's. You can't cross the threshold unless you're invited."
"Simon!" Damon greeted him as he came to the door. "Great seeing you, man. Come on in."
Pru held out her hand in the universal stop-right-there motion. "It's not his house," she reminded Simon.
"What's going on here?" Zoe said as she came to stand beside Pru.
"He can't come in," Pru said.
"He's Simon Howell," Damon said. "My sire. The vampire who turned me."
Pru shouldn't have been surprised to learn that Damon was a vampire. She should have picked up on that when she'd first arrived but had been distracted. Besides, Damon had been gone most of the day.
Pru pointed to Simon. "He's a vampire Demon Hunter."
"So am I," Damon retorted. "What's the problem?"
"I do believe the problem may be that the lovely Pru and I hooked up last year." Simon's voice was smooth.
"You two know each other?" Zoe looked at Pru with surprise.
"How long are you going to make me stand out here?" Simon demanded. "It's starting to snow."
"Invite him in," Damon ordered Zoe.
"Please don't," Pru begged her.
"Are you afraid of him?" Zoe asked Pru.
"Tell the truth now," Simon drawled. He drawled a lot. Not in a southern charmer kind of way but in a British snarky kind of way.
"I'm not afraid of him," Pru said. "I just hate him, that's all."
"Why? What's he done to you?" Zoe demanded.
"Yes, Pru. Do tell them what I did to you." His voice was like smooth chocolate with a kick. "Tell them every breathtaking intimate little thing. Don't leave out any of the sexual details."
Zoe put an arm around Pru and glared at Simon. "You may not come in. Damon, I suggest you take your friend to your own place and get him the hell off my front porch!" Zoe shoved Damon outside and shut the door.
* * *
"Nice move, pissing off two powerful witches," Damon growled. "Was that really necessary?"
Simon shrugged. "Perhaps not, but it was fun."
"I suggest we go to your place."
"Follow me." Damon moved with vamp superspeed the few blocks to his loft apartment. He and Simon arrived together.
"Nice place," Simon noted. He liked the open floor plan, which made sneak attacks more difficult. Simon was aware that Damon was now living in an area known as Vamptown. Not known to mortals, of course. Only to vampires. All the major cities had districts that were devoted to various vampire clans. Here in Chicago there were three major clans–Vamptown, Gold Coast, and South Side. Personally, Simon thought "the Gold Coast clan" sounded more aristocratic, but then no one had asked for his opinion.
Simon was more formal than some other vampires in both his attire and speech. He'd been accused of being snobbish and aristocratic. He was famous for his calm ... and his ruthlessness. All of which was fine by him.
"You've been off the radar for months. What's going on?" Damon demanded.
Simon removed his trench coat and made himself comfortable on Damon's leather couch. He didn't like having to explain himself to anyone. He certainly didn't like the way things had turned out lately. But in order to get the situation fixed, he needed to be up-front with Damon ... or at least partially up-front.
"I'm cursed," Simon said.
Damon laughed. "So? What else is new? You're a vampire Demon Hunter. Of course you're going to be cursed by demons."
Simon supposed he couldn't blame Damon for teasing him. Perhaps he should have come to Vamptown sooner. But he'd been busy tracking down leads that had ended up going nowhere. So he'd finally come here. "This is serious."
"Being cursed by demons isn't serious?"
"No, really, I'm cursed and it's all that witch's fault!" Simon growled.
Damon looked at Simon in disbelief. "My witch cursed you?"
"No, of course not. It was the other one. Pru."
"The one you hooked up with last year?"
"Yes. Big mistake."
"Dealing with witches can be tricky," Damon said.
"Having sex with one is even trickier."
"I know. What were you thinking?"
"That she's beautiful and hot."
"And a witch."
"Yeah, that, too."
"I didn't think witches could curse a vampire Demon Hunter," Damon said.
"Normally they can't. But Pru isn't a normal witch."
"She's a crazy one?"
"Then what exactly?" Damon demanded. "Why was she able to curse you and what exactly is this curse? Does it prevent you from hunting and killing demons? Because if so, I'll have Zoe reverse the curse immediately."
"No, the curse doesn't affect those abilities."
"Then why didn't you come when I was dealing with the demon outbreak here in Vamptown earlier this year?" Damon demanded.
"Because it was Silas. I'd already helped you with that uber-demon before. I was not allowed to help you with him again. Besides, I knew you could defeat him."
"So there is a limit on how many times you can assist me in defeating demons?" Damon asked.
"Not a limit per se. Silas was a special case because I helped you escape his fiendish torture when he wrongfully imprisoned you in hell."
"What about since then?"
"Things have been relatively quiet in Vamptown since then, have they not? Demon-wise, I mean. Isn't that correct?" Simon asked.
"And I've been dealing with demons overseas," Simon said.
"Let's get back to this curse Pru supposedly placed on you."
"There's no 'supposed' about it. She definitely cursed me."
"You said she's not a normal witch. What makes her different?"
"Aside from the fact that she has the most gorgeous face and long blond hair and eyes like emeralds?" Simon drawled sarcastically.
Damon grimaced. "Like emeralds? Really? Yeah, aside from all those clichés."
"It's rather a long story."
"I've got time," Damon said.
"Don't you have to return to Zoe?" Simon asked.
"She kicked me out."
"Not permanently, surely."
"No, she and her grandmother along with Pru are doing some sort of Winter Solstice dinner and celebration tonight."
"And they didn't invite you? How rude of them," Simon said.
"I don't eat. I consume blood, remember?"
"Of course. And I hear the blood here is of a particularly high quality."
"Is that why you came to Vamptown? As part of a blood-tasting tour?"
"No. I came to see you." Not entirely true, but Simon wasn't ready to put all his cards on the table yet. "So all is well with you and Zoe? You kiss and ta-da, you get to live happily ever after like in a fairy tale?"
"Vampires don't usually show up in fairy tales. I don't know of any that feature a vampire living happily ever after," Damon said. "But Zoe and I are good. Very good."
"What about work? Are you enjoying being the Head of Security here in Vamptown?"
"And when you are?" Simon asked.
"I'll deal with it then."
Simon looked around. He much preferred asking questions to answering them. "So you work out of your loft here?"
"No. The security headquarters is located in the Vamp Cave."
"Really? That's the best name you could come up with?" Simon mocked.
"I didn't name it."
"Who did?" Simon asked.
"I don't know."
"Clearly it needs a new name. Who should I speak to about that?"
"No one. You're avoiding my question about Pru and that curse," Damon said impatiently.
Simon sighed. This entire matter was becoming more complicated by the minute. Perhaps he'd made a mistake in coming to see Damon. Yet he couldn't ignore the tip he'd been given. Not that he planned on revealing everything until he had more information. Until then, he'd only share what he had to and keep the rest to himself.
"I don't recall how much I told you about my past," Simon said.
"As I am your sire, the one who turned you into a vampire on that battlefield in Gettysburg, we share a special bond."
Damon nodded. "Go on."
"I, too, was a warrior once."
"You're still a warrior," Damon said.
"I meant that I was a human warrior once. Before I was turned." Simon paused. He really didn't like talking about his past. He hadn't done so in centuries. Many, many centuries. But he had no choice. "Have you heard of King Arthur?"
"I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain when it first came out."
"Yes, well ... I was a vampire in King Arthur's court."
Damon blinked. "But that was--"
"A very long time ago," Simon interrupted him. "I am aware."
"No, I was going to say that's fiction."
"The book was, yes. Not King Arthur or Camelot. I assure you it was not fiction."
"Did you know Merlin?"
"He turned me," Simon said curtly. He had no intention of going into the details of that story.
"No shit? Merlin was a vampire? I thought he was a wizard or something. Actually, I didn't even think he was real."
"Oh, he was real all right."
"Is he still around?" Damon asked.
"I'm not at liberty to say. Getting back to Pru's part in all this--"
"Wait," Damon interrupted him. "She was alive back then? Or undead back then?"
"No. She was neither alive nor undead back then. But she comes from Morgan Le Fay's bloodline."
"No shit?" Damon said again. "What are the odds?"
"They are damn high when you go looking for her descendants," Simon said.
"Morgan's descendants? Why the hell would you do that?"
"For old time's sake."
"You had sex with Morgan and you wanted to have sex with--"
"I did not have sex with Morgan."
"So you had sex with Pru instead?"
"It wasn't like that," Simon said curtly. He got up and started pacing before flinging himself back onto the couch. "I'm not a volatile vampire. I'm rock steady. Nothing throws me." He'd seen it all and beat it all. He'd killed and destroyed without hesitation.
Despite all that, he didn't know how to explain the fiery chemistry between Pru and him. He certainly hadn't anticipated how strong their connection would be or how incredible the sex was.
Yes, he'd gone looking for her. Yes, he'd wanted to seduce her. And yes, once he had her in his bed the results had been unbelievably good. At least the sex had been. Off-the-charts good. Bloody spectacular. So damn spectacular that he'd been shaken to his core. He couldn't risk getting attached to her. He couldn't lose his focus, which had to remain on hunting and destroying demons.
He'd hoped that mating with her would change him for the better. Make him a better hunter. It hadn't, despite multiple tries and multiple orgasms over a week's time. Merlin had lied when he'd said while training Simon that finding Morgan Le Fay's descendant in the beginning of the twenty-first century would greatly increase Simon's power.
So Simon had left. He'd tried to do so without waking Pru, but the witch had damn good hearing. She'd confronted him. He'd told her the truth. That he'd had sex with her because of her ties to Morgan. She hadn't taken the news well.
"So what exactly is this curse that Pru cast on you?" Damon asked.
"I um ... my ability to have sex has been ... compromised."
"I haven't had sex in months," Simon growled.
Damon took a step back. "How do you break the curse?"
"I was hoping your girlfriend Zoe would help me with that," Simon said.CHAPTER 2
"You had sex with a vampire Demon Hunter?" Zoe stared at Pru in amazement.
"Don't give me that look," Pru said. "Apparently you have sex with a vampire Demon Hunter all the time."
"Yeah, you have sex all the time," Zoe's cat, Bella, said.
"I'm still not used to your familiar being able to speak," Pru said, staring down at the grey cat sitting on the floor. "I'm actually between familiars at the moment. I'll have to put in a request for one that talks."
"Be careful what you wish for," Zoe said.
"Yeah, I learned that the hard way with Simon," Pru said.
"What's the deal between you two? How did you meet? Did you two cross paths back in Boston?"
Pru knew Zoe and her grandmother from being in the same coven with them in Boston. Pru could still remember the uproar her friend had created when she'd broken the coven's rule of never telling a human you were a witch. Zoe had told her fiancé at the time. Later he'd dumped her or she'd dumped him, Pru wasn't sure. She only knew that Zoe and her grandmother had been sent away. They'd come to Chicago and all hell had broken loose. Literally. The Book of Darkness had accidentally been opened, releasing brutal demons from hell.
Pru had only learned about the demon stuff after it was all over. She'd wondered if Simon had been involved but hadn't been able to ask because she didn't know about Zoe living with a vampire. "Why didn't you tell me about Damon?" Pru asked.
"I told you I love him."
"You didn't tell me he was a vampire."
"It wasn't my secret to share."
"Are you keeping other secrets?" Pru said.
Zoe nodded before quickly adding, "But none that affect you."
"How can you be sure they don't affect me?" Pru said. "We've both had sex with vampire Demon Hunters."
"True." Zoe nodded. "I'll bet not many witches can say that." She paused to hand Pru a Red Velvet cupcake. "Do you love Simon?"
Pru deliberately sidestepped the question. "I love this cupcake," Pru said. "It's magical."
"Actually, it's not. It's made by my friend Daniella, owner of Heavenly Cupcakes."
"Mmm." Pru wiped a dab of cream cheese frosting from her mouth with the napkin Zoe provided. "She's not a witch?"
"No. But let's get back to you and Simon. I know you said you hated him, but if that was the case, why did you have sex with him?"
"I forgot how stubborn you are," Pru said.
"I prefer to think of it as being focused."
Pru pointed to the Keep Calm and Carry On red T-shirt Zoe was wearing.
Zoe looked down and laughed. "Daniella got me a T-shirt that says 'Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes.' Damon got me one that says 'Keep Calm and Read a Book.'"
"Do you miss your days as a librarian?" Pru asked.
"I do at times," Zoe admitted. "But I love my work as a soap maker. Aromatherapy is a powerful thing. Lavender is one of my favorite scents. It's meant to have a calming influence, while citrus can be refreshing. Even though I'm not using any magic in my Bella Luna bath and body products, they are still selling faster than I can make them."
"Because she won't let Gram use magic to create more product," Bella said, pausing while washing her face with her front right paw.
"Will your grandmother be upset that we ate a cupcake before the Solstice Yule dinner she's prepared?" Pru belatedly asked.
"Not at all," Zoe said. "Gram likes having dessert first. She's prepared our traditional meal of pumpkin soup, roast chicken, sweet potatoes with cranberries."
"And eggnog with rum to drink?" Pru asked.
Excerpted from The Entity Who Came for Christmas by Cat Devon. Copyright © 2013 Cathie L. Baumgardner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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