I'd joked before that I was like a vampire, sucking up my men's gifts. But I hadn't known before what I was talking about, and it hadn't really been true. Now it was.
My lover had given off energy during orgasmic release, spilt it out of him like firecrackers bursting, and I had drunk it down.
I was lucky I was only hyperventilating and not grieving. I was lucky Dontaine wasn't dead.
He wasn't, thank God. He was peachy keen, in fact. With a cherry on top. But it was too close to what I had done with Mona Louisa. The fact that I'd sucked all her energy, all her light, her life-force, out of her – and I'd done that all by my little ole self, no demon-tainted ghost involved – and into me hadn't bothered me much. The bitch had deserved it. But this... doing this to someone I cared for... that just freaked me out.
Knowing that Halcyon, my Demon Prince, had sipped down a little of me when I had come apart, orgasming in his hands... that was fine with me. Actually nice, knowing how good it felt. But that was the trouble – it was too nice. Too wonderful. It could easily become addicting, like getting that necessary shot of caffeine every morning.
I glanced over at Dontaine, sitting next to me on the plane. His long, beautiful, tapered fingers wrapped around mine, and he gazed at me with an expression I'd never have imagined on that proud and arrogant face – the soft and tender look of love. A look that plucked an answering chord within me, God help me. He should have looked at me with fear instead. But that was okay. I had enough fear pounding in me for the both of us.
I looked at that handsome sculptured face sitting beside me and wondered if it were possible to love a man to death. The word succubus whispered through my mind. Creatures of myth, old legends, ancient tales. But the problem with myths and legends and ancient tales was that they were usually based upon a kernel of truth. A little kernel that could take root and grow into a frigging great big oak tree that could end up falling on top of you and crashing you.
I'd given my testimony before the High Council the next moonrise, and compared to what I'd just gone through, it had been a piece of cake. Calmly anchored by Dontaine's electrifying touch, I'd told them all I could truthfully tell them, and left out what I couldn't. I was as honest as I could be, but not stupid. I wasn't going to hand them my head on a platter. Halcyon's secret and mine were safe. For now. When some Council members tried probing into sticky demon matters, like how Halcyon had become weak enough to be captured by Mona Louisa, I'd told them I did not exactly know but that they could ask the High Prince himself at the next Council meeting. That, and a quick glance at Princess Lucinda sitting there with lazy observing menace, had shut them up.
Lucinda. She dressed the most modern, the most human, among us. But was actually the least so. The clothes might be contemporary, but that face, that striking face... And it really was striking when your gaze wasn't distracted by that lush, voluptuous body. With bold features, larger than life – or would that be death? – she had the face of a goddess of old. Something you worshipped, offered sacrifices to. Blood sacrifices. She'd sat there, far enough away from me not to trigger my new inhabitant, my inner demon, sated for now. With Dontaine's distracting touch – I'd clutched his hand like a safety blanket the entire time – we made it through with no screaming, no near possession, no crazy Mixed Blood Queen freak show. Cool. Neat-o. One fit per Council meeting was enough.
Why had I wigged out the previous night? Because the stress had triggered my beast. That was my story, and my men and I were sticking to it. It was the truth, so far as that went. Only they thought I meant my animal beast – I had two of them now, it seemed – when it was really the demon beastie in me causing all the ruckus. I made Dontaine and Tomas swear not to tell the others what had really happened. And they had given me their oaths because they were afraid for me, while I was afraid for them. Blaec, the High Lord of Hell, had killed all of Mona Louisa's men to keep his secret. I did not want the next men he slaughtered to be mine.
We were flying home. But we were not safe and not sound. Something dead, demon dead, resided within me, like an unpredictable bomb that could go off at any time. It wasn't safe to be around me. True in the past; even truer now. The men who loved me, who stayed around me, died. Only the threat now wasn't from others, it was from me.
I sent up a silent prayer to God for my human side. Help me, please. Then that other part of me that was not human but Monere looked out into the night sky, onto what had once been our home. I looked to the moon, so serene, pale, and distant, but hesitated. The last time I had asked for help, I'd ended up sucking Mona Louisa's demon-tainted essence into me. But old habits – and new habits, too, for that matter – died hard. I lived but did not learn. I sent a prayer winging out to that distant power, to our Mother Moon. Please. Keep my men, my people safe, I prayed. Keep them safe from me.