“If you don’t have sex with this man, he’ll die,” Seth told Corey Reyman.
Her mouth fell open; all she could massage was her Blackberry. “This isn’t on my schedule,” she yelped.
How could it be? Just before Corey was to teach her ENG 102 class, some huge dudes had plucked her off the sidewalks of Catholic College (mascot: Cathy Crusader) and tucked her in a limo. The passersby didn’t seem to notice her screams.
“Relax,” Seth had told her. “I’m an omnipotent god of evil. They can’t hear you, and the police won’t believe you’re gone. Nobody can help you but me.”
Seth didn’t carry himself with Darth-like gravitas, but she figured he was some sort of grand poobah, because everybody called him “Lord Seth” and bowed to him, seriously, like he was the Pope. His ebony hair stretched to his feet, and his eyes were so dark, she couldn’t tell where his irises ended and his pupils began. He was supertall and perfectly muscled, and she’d be crazy hot for him if he weren’t such a freak.
For the first time ever, every stoplight on Highway 30 was green, and she was whisked to this über-luxurious compound in St. John, an Indiana suburb of Chicago. They’d traveled a slate driveway uphill to a mansion, at least twelve thousand square feet, contemporary, all windows and horizontal lines. Behind that was an even bigger dwelling, this one Tudor-looking. Surrounding the houses were a bunch of Mary Engelbreit-style cottages — and a forest with such dense foliage for late September, magic must’ve created it.
An Italian butler opened the door to the contemporary house, and she was swiftly ushered in. After negotiating secret passage after secret passage, she now stood in a NASA-worthy computer room looking at a monitor depicting what was happening behind a steel door. And what was happening was the most magnificent naked man, about six-six, hammering his arms and legs against steel cuffs anchored to a stone wall. Blood streamed from his wrists and ankles.
Seth said his name was Roan Wynne. Golden, sleek skin stretched over broad shoulders and a powerful chest. He didn’t have a six-pack; he had an eight-pack. His thighs curved with heavy muscle, and beautifully formed calves led to gracefully arched feet. He had zero percent body fat, which meant blood vessels were popped out on his arms and legs from his exertions. His cock was thick as a python and much longer than eight inches. Stretching way over his belly button, it strained and jerked, desperately seeking release.
Roan’s family surrounded her, females and males weeping. She’d never seen so many sexy/beautiful/glamorous people; it’d taken twenty years for Corey to find the perfect cut for her long blonde hair, but beside the Wynnes, she felt downright dumpy. And why not? Their idea of decorating in this functional room was black snakeskin wallpaper with botanical prints in gilded bamboo frames. She could see everybody’s reflections in a gold rococo mirror, so at least nobody was a vampire.
She told Seth, “I don’t want anybody to die, but I can’t have sex with some guy I’ve seen for all of a minute. Why can’t you help him?”
“I’ve done all I can,” said Seth. “Roan is a Mayhem demon. For the males of his breed, intercourse is necessary for you two to trade energy, and that’s what he needs to live.”
“Yeah, I’m so not surprised this guy is a demon,” she said. “Fortunately, I perfected my ability to suspend reality the moment I read my first student’s research paper. Why did you chain him?”
“All Roan can understand right now is his desperate need to unite with you. If I didn’t chain him, he’d rape and kill you.”
Her heart lurched. Curvy and tall, she lifted weights almost daily, so she always felt invulnerable, but a brute this huge could snap any of her bones with one hand.
Seth continued, “After you make love to Roan, you’ll no longer be a receptacle but a religious savior. If he died without joining with you, his soul would wither to nothing but torment. He’d never enter the Afterlife; he’d forever know nothing but the void of Hex outside its gates.”
“You,” Corey marveled, “are the ultimate wing man. But there are three billion women on this planet. Surely someone else can do the job. He’s so hot, you don’t need to pimp him. Any sane woman would do him. Any insane woman, too.”
The crowd started arguing with her, but she fixed her attention on Seth, who said, “It’s got to be you. In the history, present, and future of every universe, mode, and dimension, you’re the only woman who — ”
She was clear on the concept, so she tuned him out. A few hours ago, she was grading papers and fretting it was probably too late to freeze her eggs. She asked herself how she got into this situation.
I’m actually not in this situation, she answered herself. I fell asleep on the computer keyboard after a night of too much Internet porn starring that Romanian guy Niko. This is just a female version of a wet dream, and I’m about to have hot sex with a model right out of Men’s Health magazine. He’s younger than me, too; I’m not sure by how much —
“I can pick up most of your thoughts now,” Seth said. “You’re awake, but I strongly suggest that sexual fantasies of men other than Roan end now. He’s sure to put the ‘insane’ in ‘insane jealousy.’ But since you were wondering, he’s about ten years younger than you.”
Seth checked a wall clock. His dark eyes drilled into hers, and he scowled. And he growled, “I will ensure you survive this coupling. Now: Think what I think.”
Mind control! screeched her brain. But sex was part of many religious rituals. She was merely doing research. “I’m in,” she announced.
“Good,” Seth said lightly, “because Roan just blew apart my time patch. We’re operating in real time, ladies and gentlemen. Roan’s got less than an hour to live.”
The room rang with shouts and curses. Women hid their faces in men’s embraces.
Seth couldn’t talk fast enough. “Corey. No matter what, you’ve got to stay conscious to complete the sex act. There’s a chance Roan could drain so much energy from you, you’d die.”
“Hey — ”
“Everyone, stay in this room,” Seth told the standers-around. “I have enough to do without monitoring you.”
When Seth dragged Corey into the ceremony room, Roan’s body went slack. Here, white silk was draped over bulky furniture, and an altar was raised high on several platforms. A rainbow of colors flitted across various-sized pentagrams scattered on the marble floor.
“Greetings, apprentice,” Seth said. “Considering your present condition, I don’t expect you to greet me with traditional kneeling. By the end of this hour, I will have presented you with everything a father can give a son, for now, I give you life. I have found your human female, and her name is Corey Reyman. She will gift her energy to you, and you will live eternally.”
At first, it looked like Roan didn’t hear. But slowly, he looked up. His jade eyes glistened with tears and awe.
“Corey,” he whispered, his tongue lingering on every sound. “Aetae sheta.”
“Forever will I worship you,” Seth translated offhandedly.
“What does that mean?”
Roan attained a fetal position. He hung off the floor — and screamed.
— She thought Seth had a gun and blew off the top of her head. She lost contact with the world. Then she was stunned, like she got into a car accident. She saw white, which faded to the same glow she’d see in the dentist’s chair. Her arms and legs flailed about. She sensed she must cling to the white light — that if it vanished, so would she.
Seth staggered back, but he spoke delicately, as if meditating the merits of wine at a tasting. “Roan is assaulting me to get to you. Your mere presence is giving him a jolt of raw power. If you stay calm, it’ll help him stay calm. Talk to him. He’ll focus more on your words and less on the energy surge he’s experiencing.”
“But I don’t know — ”
“Just say something, for Hell’s sake. From now on, anything you say will be the most important thing in the world to him.”
She was struggling to chase the white light, which kept disappearing around the bend of a gray, featureless tunnel. With an exasperated curse, Seth shoved her into the anteroom, where women wiped sweat from her brow, pushed Evian to her lips, and felt her pulse.
“Say something,” Seth said. “If you told him purple Astroturf was sprouting from your ass, he wouldn’t fucking care. All he’s thinking about is you’re with him and you’re talking.”
“Let him drink her blood,” another tall guy proposed. “That might calm him enough to get her close.”
That meant she would have to give blood — unless they would take it — “Is Roan a vampire?”
“What is it with humans and vampires?” Seth asked. “Humans think every supernatural entity is a vampire, and that makes me feel downright marginalized. Of course Roan isn’t a vampire. She’s strong enough to talk, so I’m taking her back in.”
Corey felt like a dog on a leash as he jerked her into the ceremony room. Roan was swaying from side to side, staring at her with wonder, as if he couldn’t believe she was there.
“He’s afraid if he looks away, you won’t be here anymore,” Seth commented. “Don’t worry, Roan. She will be. We’ll make sure she never goes away.”
Feeling important rather than alarmed — hey, maybe I should feel alarmed; oh, screw it — she said, “Hi, Roan. I’m here to help you. We’ll get to know each other much better in the next few minutes.”
“I would rather die than harm you,” Roan rumbled. “Tell my patriarch to speak formulae to make you ready for my body.”
“I don’t believe he’s the right fellow for the job,” Seth said. “Right now, I’m controlling fifty-three aspects of this episode of sexual intercourse — magical, spatial, temporal, physiological — you get the idea. If your patriarch took charge, you’d drill through this future grandmother like a nail through an eggshell. Try to relax, and picture something pleasant, like skinning tax collectors alive.”
Roan tore his eyes from Corey and narrowed his gaze at Seth.
“You’re just now noticing me?” Seth said. “Been distracted, have we?”
“You mean only to destroy her, and in doing so, annihilate me,” Roan grated.
“I’ve been keeping you from reducing her to a pile of ash,” Seth retorted.
She couldn’t listen. She was tiring again, her limbs so heavy.
“More than anything, you hate me,” Roan told Seth, his movements resuming their agitation.
“You’re pretty full of yourself,” Seth said. “More than anything, I want my mate. After this, you’re to locate her and my sister-in-law. My brother and I also can’t wait to see our children again, and you should have no difficulty making that happen. Your patriarch promised. He owns you, so it’s done.”
Corey was straining to hear and see. Didn’t her life depend on staying awake?
“I will,” Roan said. “But you’ll hurt my ullu-bearer. Corey, don’t be afraid. I wish I could protect you. After tonight, I promise you — ”
“Puh-leeze,” Seth said. “You can trust me. Why, I haven’t had sexual contact in 420 years, four months, two weeks, two days, seven hours, and — ” he cocked his head “ — seven minutes. I’ll spare you the seconds. I keep track because the last time I made love was with my mate.”
He ruffled Corey’s hair, and she jumped. His hand was so cold, it burned her scalp.
“You’re freezing,” she said, shivering.
“That won’t hurt you,” Seth answered. “Only my woman will find me and mine warm.”
He picked her up and set her down in the anteroom. He flicked his wrist, and the crowd vanished. She heard Roan screaming, then lumber popping and metal squealing.
“Roan just pulled a chain from the wall trying to reach you,” Seth explained. “If he breaks free, he’ll kill you, but at the rate he’s draining your energy, you’ll be dead in about twenty minutes anyway.”
He waved a hand before her face. She was too tired to blink. “I’ll supplement what Roan’s taking, but soon, he’ll start to derive energy from your core,” he added. “For me to give you that kind of permanent energy, I’d need to merge our souls, and I wouldn’t dare do that. I don’t care how disorganized Roan’s thoughts are right now; he’d slice, dice, and julienne me for being that intimate with you. If we can get him to touch you, he’ll start cycling energy back to you, and you’ll be all right.”
She could concentrate on his words; she felt a little better. He smiled, very grimly, very happily.
“Have you any idea what it’s like to endure four centuries and never look upon the object of your passion?” Seth asked, voice silky. “Then I met Roan, and I loved him, and he spurned me — for you. You’re all he ever thought about, do you know that? Human women never want their bloodthirsty demons, at first. But just in case you can’t resist Roan’s golden hair and skin, I’ll plant a subconscious suggestion so you can. This is a marvelous opportunity; I can’t resist it. If he doesn’t desire me, I’ll ruin the only thing he does desire.”
“You. I’ll be inside you before he is. You won’t remember much of this day, weak one. But I’ll plant another, quite simple recollection in your brain for when you next awaken.” His smile became wicked. “Tell Roan I hurt you.”
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