Succubus Revealed Chapter 6

Fortunately, no dictionaries or bats ever came into play, and Seth and I spent a pleasant night together.He sent me off that weekend in a good mood, and during the time I was with him, it was easy to believe this might all end well.Once I began the tedious parts of travel by myself, the doubts began to set in.

The ride to the airport, security, safety instructions .

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. . all little things in and of themselves, but each one began to weigh on me. I just couldn’t see Seth moving to Las Vegas – not anytime soon, at least. That left long-distance dating, and it was hard to imagine us going through a trip like this every . . . hell, I didn’t know how often. And that was another problem. What exactly did long-distance dating mean? Visits every week? Every month? Too-frequent visits meant the irritation of travel. Too few put us in danger of out-of-sight, out-of-mind complications.

So, naturally, I was all worked up by the time my flight landed in Las Vegas. And strangely, I took comfort remembering Jerome’s words, of all things. If Seth and I had survived the huge problem of immortal?Cmortal dating, then really, what was a two-hour plane ride compared to that?

We could make this work. We had to.

“There she is!”

A familiar, booming voice startled me as I was waiting at the baggage claim. I spun around and found myself looking up at the tanned good looks of Luis, Archdemon of Las Vegas. I let him wrap me up in a giant hug, something he managed with remarkable delicacy, considering what a bear of a man he was.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, once those muscled arms had released me. Realization hit me. “You’re not here to pick me up, are you? I mean, don’t you have people who have people to do that kind of thing?”

Luis grinned at me, his dark eyes sparkling. “Sure, but I couldn’t trust an underling to pick up my favorite succubus.”

“Oh, stop,” I groaned. My bag came around the carousel, but when I went for it, Luis brushed me aside and easily lifted it up. As I followed him toward the parking garage, I couldn’t even begin to picture Jerome doing something like this.

“You scoff, but most of the succubi around here bore me to tears. Hell, most of our staff here does,” Luis said. “You get a full range of personalities and talent levels with so many. The exceptional and the unexceptional. You, my dear, are exceptional.”

“You don’t have to try to sweet-talk me into the job,” I said, smiling in spite of myself. “Not like I have a choice.”

“True,” he agreed. “But I want you to be happy here. I want everyone who works for me carrying stories about how awesome I am. It ups my cred at the annual company conference.”

“Jerome’s trying to up his by having us beat Nanette’s employees in bowling.”

Luis laughed at that and led us out to a gleaming black Jaguar double-parked in the handicapped zone. Once he’d stowed my suitcase, he even went so far as to open the door for me. Before starting the car, he leaned over conspiratorially and whispered loudly, “If you want to shape-shift into something else, now’s your chance while we’re still inside.”

“Shape-shift into what?”

He shrugged. “You’re in Vegas. Live the lifestyle. No need to resign yourself to jeans and sensible shoes. Give yourself a cocktail dress. Sequins. A corset. I mean, look at me.”

Luis gestured grandly at himself, just in case it was possible to miss the gorgeous and undoubtedly custom Italian suit he was wearing.

“It’s barely noon,” I pointed out.

“Doesn’t matter. I dress like this the instant I get out of bed.”

With a self-conscious look around the garage outside, I quickly shape-shifted out of my travel clothes and into a one-shoulder minidress that wrapped around me like a Grecian gown. The fabric glittered silvery when it caught the light just right. My long, light brown hair turned equally glam. Luis nodded in approval.

“Now you’re ready for the Bellagio.”

“The Bellagio?” I asked, impressed. “I figured I’d be shoved off to some crappy motel ten miles from the Strip.” I amped up my makeup for good measure.

“Well,” he said, backing the car out, “that is actually what the normal budget allows for when it comes to new employee visits. I was able to pull some extra funds – and dip into my own pockets – to upgrade you a bit.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” I exclaimed. “I could have paid for my own room somewhere.” Yet, even as I said it, I knew that if accruing funds over the centuries was easy for someone like me, it was a million times easier for someone with Luis’s lifespan. The car and his suit were probably bought with pocket change from his income. He waved off my concerns.

“It’s nothing. Besides, my car would probably get stolen if I parked it at one of the ‘budget-friendly’ places.”

The car’s readout told me the outside temperature wasn’t that far off from Seattle’s in December. The difference was in the light.

“Oh my God,” I said, squinting out the window. “I haven’t seen the sun in two months.”

Luis chuckled. “Ah, just you wait until high summer, when the temps hit triple digits. It cooks most people alive, but for someone like you, you’ll love it. Hot and dry. Doesn’t get below eighty at night.”

I loved Seattle. Even without Seth in the picture, I could have been happy there for many, many years. But, I had to admit, my one weakness with the region was the weather. Relative to the extremes of the East Coast, Seattle was a very mild climate to live in. That meant it didn’t get very anything. Not very cold, and certainly not very warm. The hot weather we got in midsummer was fleeting, and then the mildness of the winter was marred with rain and clouds. By February, I was usually ready to start consuming entire bottles of vitamin D.

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I’d grown up on the beaches of the Mediterranean and still missed them.

“This is great,” I said. “I wish I were visiting while it was warmer.”

“Oh, you don’t have long to wait,” he told me. “Another month like this, and then the temperature will start going up. You can break out your bikini by March.” I thought that might be kind of an exaggeration but returned his grin nonetheless.

We were approaching the Strip and all its glory. The buildings became more flamboyant and expensive looking. Sidewalks and streets grew more crowded. Billboards advertised every form of entertainment imaginable. It was like an adult-oriented theme park.

“You seem pretty happy here,” I said.

“Yup,” Luis agreed. “I lucked out. Not only is the place great, but I command one of the largest groups of Hellish servants in the world. When I saw your name come up, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get her in on this.’ “

Something in his words put a crack in the rose-colored glasses I was viewing the wondrous sights around me through. “When my name came up?”

“Sure. We get e-mails all the time about transfers, job openings, whatever. When I saw you were being moved out of Seattle, I tossed my hat into the ring.”

I turned toward the side window so he couldn’t see my face. “How long ago was that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. A while ago.” He chuckled. “You know how long these things take.”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to keep my voice light. “I do.”

It was exactly what Roman and I had talked about: the painstakingly long time Hell took with personnel decisions. Roman swore the circumstances surrounding this transfer were suspicious and implied a rush. Yet Luis was behaving as though everything had gone along according to perfect procedure. Was it possible there really had just been some oversight with Jerome’s notification about my transfer?

It was also possible, I knew, that Luis was lying. I didn’t want to believe that of him, but I knew that no matter how friendly and likable he seemed, he was still a demon at the end of the day. I couldn’t allow myself to be lulled into complete trust by his charm. We had a favorite saying among my friends: How can you tell if a demon is lying? His lips are moving.

“I was surprised to be transferred at all,” I said. “I’ve been happy in Seattle. Jerome said . . . well, he said it was because I was a slacker employee. That I was being moved for bad behavior.”

Luis snorted and pulled into the driveway for the Bellagio. “He did, huh? Well, don’t beat yourself up, honey. If you want a reason for them pulling you out, my guess is that it has something to do with Jerome getting himself summoned and letting nephilim and dream creatures run rampant with his succubus.”

I had nothing to say to that, but fortunately, we reached the hotel’s entrance and yielded the car to a valet driver who seemed familiar with Luis and his generous tips. Entering the Bellagio, I was soon awash in stimuli – color and sound and life. A lot of the people moving in and out were dressed as glamorously as us, but plenty of average “everyday” people walked through as well. It was a mixing of all social classes and cultures, all here and united in search of enjoyment.

Equally overwhelming was the intense wave of human emotion. I didn’t have any magic power to let me “see” emotion, exactly, but I was very good at reading faces and expressions. It was that same knack that had let me pick out the desperate and hopeless at the mall. This was the same, except magnified a hundred times. People swung the full gamut of hope and excitement. Some were joyous and eager, either high off of triumph or ready to risk it all for triumph to come. Others had clearly attempted it – and failed. Their faces were full of despair, disbelief at how they’d ended up in this situation and sorrow over their inability to fix things.

Just as obvious were the good marks. Some guys were so blatantly trolling for a hookup that I could have propositioned them then and there. Others were ideal succubus bait, guys who had come here saying they were going to keep themselves in line – but who could easily step off the edge of temptation with the right finessing. Even with my heart tied up with Seth, I couldn’t help but take in and thrive under all the admiring looks I got. I was suddenly glad I’d taken Luis up on his shape-shifting suggestion.

“So easy,” I murmured, staring around as we waited for an elevator. “They’re just there like . . .”

“Cattle?” suggested Luis.

I made a face. “Not quite the word I wanted.”

“Not much difference.”

An elevator opened, and a cute twenty-something guy gestured me forward. I smiled winningly at him, loving the effect I had. After he exited on his floor, Luis winked at me and leaned over to whisper in my ear.

“Easy to get used to, huh?”

Our floor came next, and Luis nodded to our right when the door opened. A few steps down the hall, I realized something. “I have a suite?” I asked, startled. “That’s a little much, even to make a good impression.”

“Ah, well, that’s what I didn’t get a chance to tell you yet. You have a suite because it has more room. You have to share it with another new employee.”

I nearly came screeching to a halt. Here it was, the catch in what was otherwise a sugar-coated fantasy. I envisioned myself rooming with another succubus and immediately knew I’d be seeking other accommodations. Succubi forced into close proximity put reality show drama to shame.

“I don’t want to impose on anyone’s privacy,” I said delicately, wondering how I could get out of this.

Luis reached a door and took out a keycard. “Nah, the place is huge. Two bedrooms and a living room and kitchen that go on forever.” He unlocked the door and opened it. “You could avoid each other all weekend if you wanted to. But somehow, I don’t think you will.”

I was about to question that, but suddenly, there was no need. We’d stepped into a living room as expansive as Luis had promised, all sleek lines and modern furniture, colored in shades of gold and green with dark wood trim. A long window offered a sweeping view of the city, and a man stood in front of it, admiring the panorama.

I couldn’t see his face, and something told me that even if I could, I probably wouldn’t recognize it. That didn’t matter. I knew him by his immortal signature, the unique sensory markers that distinguished him from everyone else. I could scarcely believe it, even as he turned around and smiled at me.

“Bastien?” I exclaimed.

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