Succubus Revealed Chapter 7

No matter what shape he wore, Bastien always managed the same kind of smile – warm and infectious.I was grinning as I hugged him, too overwhelmed to form any other logical greeting or even ask why he was here.

The last time I’d seen Bastien had been in Seattle last fall.He’d come to town to help discredit a conservative radio host and had succeeded (thanks to me), earning him accolades from our superiors.

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I’d lost touch with him shortly thereafter and had thought he’d been transferred to Europe or the East Coast. Maybe he had been, but he was here now. The full impact of Luis’s earlier words came back to me as I stepped away from Bastien.

“Wait. You’re the other new employee?”

Bastien’s grin widened. He loved being able to shock and surprise me. “Afraid so, Fleur. I moved here a week ago, and our employer was kind enough to put me up here while I look for a place of my own.” He swept Luis a gallant bow.

Luis nodded back, clearly enjoying the scenario he’d created. “Which, hopefully, you’ll do soon. Accounting isn’t going to let me get away with this place forever.”

Bastien nodded gravely. “I’ve already scouted a couple of potential locations.”

“And,” I teased, “Bastien doesn’t even really need to find his own place. He could go out tonight, smile at the right people, and have a dozen rich women more than happy to give him a place to stay.” His current body looked to be in its late twenties, with sun-streaked brown hair and hazel eyes. It was pretty cute, but even if he’d looked hideous, he could still have talked himself into someone’s heart. He was just that good.

“Is that an invitation?” Bastien asked. “Because I have no plans for tonight.”

“Well, you do now,” said Luis. “I figured you and Georgina would want to catch up, and you can give her your impressions of the city so far – which are all good, of course.”

“Of course,” Bastien and I said in unison.

“Also, I’d like her to meet Phoebe and maybe some of the other succubi,” Luis continued.

“Ah, Mademoiselle Phoebe.” Bastien nodded his head approvingly. “An exquisite creature. You’ll adore her.”

“You apparently do,” I said. Succubi and incubi hooked up sometimes but generally stuck to humans for romantic liaisons. Bastien, however, had a particular penchant for my kind.

He made a face. “None of my charms seem to be working on her. She says that I’ll never be as infatuated with anyone else as much as I am with myself, so there’s no point in her getting involved.”

I laughed. “I like her already.”

“Then it’s settled.” Luis moved toward the door. “I have some business to take care of, but I’ll see you before you leave. In the meantime, I trust Bastien will show you a good time. Don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything.”

Luis snapped his fingers, and a small business card appeared in his hand. He handed it to me. It was still warm.

“Thanks, Luis,” I said, giving him a quick hug. “I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

Luis nodded gravely. “I know you’re not thrilled about this transfer, but I really, really would like for you to be happy here.”

He left, and Bastien and I stood there in silence for a few moments. “You know,” I said at last, “in the years I’ve been in Seattle, I don’t think Jerome has ever told me to call him if I needed anything.”

Bastien chuckled as he walked over to a small but well-stocked bar. “Luis is quite exceptional from what I’ve seen so far. I was lucky to end up here. You too.”

“Yeah. We’re all lucky, aren’t we?” I crossed my arms and leaned against the wall by the war. “How did you end up here?”

“The same way any of us end up anywhere. I was living in Newark until I got the transfer order a couple days ago. Here I am.”

I frowned. “I thought you said you’d been here a week?”

“Week, a few days. I don’t know. I admit, I’ve been kind of intoxicated since I arrived. It was recent, that’s all. And a surprise.”

“So was mine,” I murmured. “Astonishingly so. And now you’re here too. It’s kind of weird.”

“Is it?” He emptied a martini shaker into two glasses. “We’ve worked together before. Figures that it would happen again.”

I accepted the glass he offered me. “I suppose so. But still . . . the number of times we’ve ended up together has been pretty amazing. For it to happen again is a huge coincidence.” I took a sip and nodded approvingly. He’d used Grey Goose.

“Maybe it’s not a coincidence. They keep track of our performance records. They probably know we work well together.”

I hadn’t considered that. “You think they’d actually place us together because of that? To get results? I mean, I’m still trying to figure out why I was even transferred at all.”

“There doesn’t have to be a reason, not with them.”

“I know. One theory about me being here is that I haven’t been all that great of a succubus.”

“Ah, then there you are. They sent you to me because they know what a good influence I am on you.”

“Bad, you mean.”

His eyes twinkled. “This is going to be a lot of fun having you here. I haven’t even gambled yet, and already I feel like I hit the jackpot.” He knocked back his drink. “Finish that, and let’s go have some fun. I know a great place for lunch. We’ll go there and then hit some games of chance.”

It felt weird going out on the town, especially so early in the day. I’d become too subdued in my Seattle life, I realized. I’d done such a good job at playing human that I’d forgotten what it was like to think like a succubus. Why not live it up in daylight? This was technically a business trip, but the point was to scope out the place of my future employment. I’d been here lots of times before, but this was the first time I really and truly studied the city through the eyes of an “on the clock” succubus.

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Again, I was struck by that earlier, heady sense: easy, so amazingly easy.

We caught a cab, and Bastien gave instructions for us to go to Sparkles. I ran through my mental list of Las Vegas attractions and came up empty.

“I’ve never heard of that,” I said. “It sounds like a strip club.”

“Nah, it’s a brand-new hotel and casino,” Bastien told me. “So shiny and new, in fact, that it just opened a couple of weeks ago, and already it’s a hit.”

“Why’s it called Sparkles?” I asked.

He grinned. “You’ll see.”

The answer was obvious once we got there. Everything was, well, sparkly. The exterior sign was a riot of glittering, chasing lights that should’ve had a seizure warning affixed to it. Everyone who worked in the hotel and casino wore elaborately sequined outfits, and all the decor was done in brightly colored metallic and glittering surfaces. Paired with the flood of flashing lights already found in a casino, the entire spectacle was hard on my eyes at first. Yet, despite what could’ve easily degenerated into tackiness, there was still something in the feel of the place that radiated luxury. Sparkles was over the top, yes, but in a good way.

“Here,” said Bastien, leading me through the maze of the casino. “There’s a little less sensory overload where we’re going.”

Opposite the side we’d entered in was a doorway dominated by a sign reading DIAMOND LOUNGE. With a name like that, I expected strippers and more glitz but instead found myself in a quiet and much more tastefully subdued establishment. Crystal chandeliers and wineglasses provide the only sparkle here. Everything else in the restaurant was warm, honey-colored wood and red velvet. When we were seated at our table, Bastien said to the waitress, “Can you tell Phoebe that Bastien is here?”

I gave him a wry look once we were alone. “I see how it is. Here I thought you were going out of your way to take me somewhere nice. You’re just here to visit your crush.”

“That’s merely a perk,” he told me easily. “The food here really is excellent. And Luis wants you to meet Phoebe too, remember? Don’t worry, you’ll like her.”

I made no effort to hide my skepticism. “I don’t know, Bastien. I can count on one hand how many succubi I’ve actually liked over the years. At best, they’re tolerable and semiamusing, like Tawny.” At worst – and more often than not – succubi were raving bitches. Me excluded, of course.

“Just wait and see,” he said.

We didn’t have to wait long because a couple minutes later, I felt the wash of a succubus aura come over me, one reminiscent of orange blossoms and honey. A tall, willowy woman in a black and white uniform appeared, carrying a tray with our cocktails on it. The employees here didn’t have to match the glitzy attire of their hotel brethren. She set the cocktails before each of us with a grace and fluidity that was almost too much for this establishment. It reminded me of something more suited to the serving halls of kings from long ago – which, I suspected, she had probably known very well.

“Ah, Phoebe,” Bastien sighed dreamily. “You are a vision, as always. Come meet our newest colleague.”

She gave him the look one has when indulging a ridiculous child and sat down in one of our table’s empty chairs. Her dark blond hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail, revealing high cheekbones and long-lashed green eyes. “Oh, Bastien, don’t start in on the vision stuff. It’s far too early in the day.” She extended a polite hand to me. “Hello, I’m Phoebe.”

“Georgina,” I said, shaking the offered hand.

“Whatever Bastien’s told you, only believe half of it.” She reconsidered, eyeing him carefully. “Make that a third.”

“Hey,” exclaimed Bastien, with mock incredulity. “I resent that. As if I would ever lie to two such treasures as yourselves !”

“Bastien,” said Phoebe dryly. “You’ll lie to anything female if you think it’ll get you in their pants faster.”

I laughed in spite of myself, earning me another wounded look from Bastien. “Fleur, you know that’s not true. You’ve known me longer than anyone.”

“Which is exactly why I know it is true,” I replied solemnly.

Bastien muttered something uncomplimentary in French and was saved further indignation when Phoebe’s colleague returned to take our order. Phoebe, with our permission, ordered for us, requesting some “specials” that weren’t on the menu.

“Are you a cook here?” I asked her.

“Bartender,” she replied, clasping her hands and resting her chin on them. “Gives me something to do until the show starts.”

“Show?”

Bastien’s earlier dismay was gone, replaced with an expression of supreme smugness. “You see, Fleur? I told you I had a good reason for coming here. My lady Phoebe here is a . . .” He paused delicately. “Is it still polite to say ‘showgirl’? I can never keep track of what’s PC anymore. It took me ages to figure out why I kept getting in trouble for calling career women ‘working girls.’ “

Phoebe laughed. “Yes, ‘showgirl’ is fine.”

I felt myself sitting up straighter. “You’re a dancer? Where do you perform?”

“Here,” she said. “Or, well, I will in a couple months. It hasn’t opened yet.”

“What kind is it?” I asked. “I mean, is there a theme?”

“It’s a full-fledged Vegas music-dance extravaganza. Exactly what you’d expect from a place called Sparkles. Rhinestones everywhere. Scanty, but not topless.” She tilted her head, regarding me with interest. “Are you a dancer?”

“I dance,” I said modestly. “I haven’t done full stage performances in a very long time, though. I’m out of practice.”

Bastien scoffed. “That’s nonsense. Fleur can pick up any routine. She used to bring the dance halls of Paris to their knees.”

“Yeah,” I said. “A long time ago.”

“Are you interested in being in it?” asked Phoebe, face serious. “They’re still scouting. I can get you an audition. Although . . . you might want to make yourself taller.”

“I . . . I don’t know,” I said, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. “I mean, my transfer doesn’t take place until next month. . . .”

Phoebe was unconcerned. “I don’t think Matthias would mind. He’s the company manager. In fact . . .” She glanced at her watch. “He’ll be around in another hour or so. I can take you to meet him.”

“She’d be happy to,” said Bastien.

“I’m sure she can answer for herself, monsieur,” replied Phoebe tartly.

I chuckled at seeing Bastien dressed down again. “I’d love it. That’d be great.”

Phoebe left us as our food began arriving, promising to return at the end of our meal. Everything she’d ordered for us was amazing, and I fretted over eating so much since I wasn’t entirely sure if this meeting with the company manager would turn into a full-fledged audition.

“Lovely, isn’t she?” asked Bastien.

“She is,” I agreed. “You were right.” What I found more astonishing than having the chance to dance in a Las Vegas show was that Phoebe was responsible for orchestrating it – and had seemed genuinely happy to do so. In my experience, succubi would jealously guard those kinds of positions, keeping out the competition.

“I have no doubt you’ll dance your way right into this Matthias’s heart,” Bastien mused. He gave a mournful sigh. “Would that I could dance so easily into Phoebe’s heart.”

“She’s too smart for you,” I said. “She knows your tricks.”

“Of course she does. I’d think that would be half the appeal.” He paused to finish off the last of his cocktail. “Speaking of bizarre attractions . . . I’m totally behind in what’s transpiring in your Northwestern world. Are you still joined at the hip with that introverted mortal?”

“Literally and figuratively,” I told him. Thinking of Seth diminished some of my earlier good mood. “This transfer . . . it was kind of a shock. I don’t know how it’s going to affect our relationship.”

Bastien shrugged. “Bring him here.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.”

“Not if he wants you badly enough. Here.” Bastien waved to get the waitress’s attention. “Have another round with me. That’ll fix everything.”

“Not when I might have to dance soon!”

But I shared the round anyway and found my cheerfulness returning. It was hard not to with Bastien. I’d known him for a long time, and there was something so easy and comforting about being in his presence. We swapped stories and gossip on immortals we knew, and I got the scoop on some of the more colorful ones I’d eventually be meeting here in Las Vegas.

Phoebe returned just as we were paying the bill, having swapped her work attire for casual dance clothing. She led us back through the labyrinthine glitz of the casino and into the quieter and much more subdued back halls of the building. They in turn led to a backstage door to the casino’s theatre, which wasn’t yet open to the public. We found the vast space empty, save a couple guys installing tables in the seating area. The pounding of their hammers echoed through the room. A moment later, I did a double take when I saw a man sitting off to the side of the stage, so still I’d hardly noticed him. He glanced up from a sheaf of papers at our approach.

“Phoebe,” he said. “You’re early.”

“I wanted to introduce you to someone,” she said. “Matthias, these are my friends Bastien and Georgina. Georgina’s moving here next month.”

Matthias looked like he was in his late twenties, early thirties at most, and had sandy blond hair in need of a haircut. There was something cute about its disheveled state, and he took off wire-rimmed glasses to peer up at me. I couldn’t help but think Ian would’ve liked those glasses, but unlike Ian, Matthias probably needed them. Matthias blinked a couple of times, and then his eyebrows rose in surprise.

“You’re a dancer,” he said to me.

“Er, yeah, I am. How’d you know?” Per Phoebe’s suggestion, I’d made myself put on some height while we were walking down the back halls, but that was hardly enough to tip him off.

Matthias got to his feet and studied me up and down, not in a leering kind of way . . . but more like how someone assesses the value of a piece of art. “It’s in how you walk and stand. There’s a grace to it. An energy. It’s exactly what she does.” He nodded toward Phoebe. “Are you guys sisters?”

“No,” said Phoebe. “But we’ve taken some of the same classes.”

Bastien choked on a laugh.

Matthias was nodding, completely enraptured. He picked up his papers and flipped through the pages. “Yes . . . yes . . . we could definitely use you here and here.” He paused, checking a few more places. “And here. Maybe even here.” He jerked his head up, blue eyes alight and excited. “Let’s see what you can do. Phoebe – do the opening part of the second number.”

Phoebe responded instantly, springing to center stage and instantly falling into line as Matthias began counting off beats. When they finished, he looked at me expectantly. “Now you do it.”

I started to point out that I was in heels and a dress but then realized showgirl attire probably wouldn’t be too different. I took a spot near Phoebe and mirrored her as Matthias counted again. We repeated the combination, and by the third time, I hardly had to look at her to get the steps. He directed her to a different number, slightly more complicated, and a similar performance ensued as I sought to match her. When we finished, he clicked his tongue in approval.

“Amazing,” he said. “You guys need to tell me where you trained so that I can recruit all your classmates.” Turning back to his papers, he began scribbling notes. “Phoebe, can you lend her some clothes for practice? Not that it’ll affect her performance, of course, but I imagine she’d be more comfortable in something else for two hours of rehearsal.”

Phoebe winked at me. “I’m pretty sure we can get her a change of clothes.”

I glanced between her and Matthias. “Rehearsal?”

“Sure,” said Matthias, still not looking up. “That’s what we do to get ready for performances around here.”

“You want to be in the show, don’t you, Lucy?” teased Bastien.

“I understand . . . but I’m not moving to Las Vegas until January,” I explained. “I have to go home tomorrow night.”

Matthias finally glanced up briefly from his beloved notes, seeming as pained as Seth often was when interrupted while writing a book. “You’re here right now, aren’t you? Might as well get started. Unless you’ve got something else going on?”

I looked helplessly at Bastien and Phoebe, who were grinning like idiots. The incubus slung a friendly arm around me. “Of course she doesn’t.”

After a moment’s hesitation, I gave a slow nod, still a little overwhelmed at how fast things were moving here. “I . . . I’d love to rehearse.”

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