Succubus Shadows Chapter 11

I was in Seattle.Modern-day Seattle, thankfully.I wanted to be nowhere near the fourth century, even though I dreaded what awful vision the Oneroi would show me now.

Not only was I in Seattle, I was with Roman.

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He had just parked on Cherry Street and was striding toward the heart of Pioneer Square, which was buzzing today with tourists and others enjoying the clear autumn night. This time, I wasn’t in the dream. I was an observer only, following along with him like a ghost or maybe a documentary camera. I wanted to talk to him, to communicate in some way, but I had no mouth with which to speak. I had no form whatsoever, only my consciousness watching this vision.

His pace was brisk, and he pushed through the meandering crowd with no concern for the dirty looks and occasional comment. He was focused on his destination, one I recognized immediately: the Cellar. Our favorite immortal hangout was crowded with mortals tonight. Yet, for whatever reason, no matter how busy the bar was, Jerome always managed to get the same corner table in the back. He sat there now with Carter but didn’t wear the usual unconcerned look we often found him with while drinking. The demon’s face was filled with agitation, and he and Carter were arguing about something.

Roman’s signature was masked, so neither angel nor demon noticed his approach. Jerome shot him a glare, no doubt thinking some human was bothering them. Jerome’s expression promptly changed when he saw who it was, and he opened his mouth to say something. He didn’t get the chance because Roman spoke first.

“Where is she?” demanded Roman. He sat in a chair and jerked it toward Jerome so that father and son could look eye to eye. “Where the fuck is Georgina?”

The music and conversation covered most of his shouting, but a few nearby patrons gave him startled looks. Roman was oblivious. His attention was all on Jerome. Anger crackled around the nephilim like an aura itself.

Jerome had been clearly distressed about something when Roman had entered, but now, in the presence of an underling, the demon put on the cold, haughty expression that was so typical for him.

“Funny,” said Jerome. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Roman glowered. “How the hell would I know? She vanished right before my eyes! You’re the one that’s supposed to have some sort of divine connection to her.”

Jerome’s face didn’t twitch, but his words were like a gut punch to both me and Roman. “I can’t feel her anymore. She’s disappeared for me too.”

I might have had no physical form, but cold fear ran through me nonetheless. An archdemon was connected to his subordinates. He always knew where they were and could tell if they were in pain. When Jerome had been summoned, that connection had shattered, cutting us off from our hellish “gifts.” Now, the opposite had happened. I had been summoned, so to speak, and torn from Jerome. The Oneroi’s words came back to me: He won’t find you. He can’t find you. You no longer exist for him.

“That’s impossible,” growled Roman. “Unless…” A troubled look came over him. “Someone’s hiding her signature?” It would be terribly ironic if the scheme he’d once planned came to be through someone else.

Jerome shook his head and gestured to a waiter for another round. “I wouldn’t be able to find her if that happened, but the connection would be there. I’d know she still existed.”

You no longer exist for him.

“Is she…is she dead?” Some of Roman’s initial fury had dimmed a little.

It wasn’t an unreasonable question, really. I kind of felt dead.

“No. Her soul would have shown up in Hell.” Jerome took a sip of his new drink and narrowed his eyes at Roman. “But it’s not your job to ask questions. What do you know? You said she disappeared. Literally?”

Roman’s face was downright bleak now. He glanced between Jerome and a grim, thus far silent, Carter. “Yes. Literally. She’s been having these…I don’t know how to explain it. She couldn’t even explain it.”

“I was there,” Jerome reminded him. “She told me. The music. The colors.” The sneer in his voice made it clear that he regarded those types of things as nuisances.

“It was like this weird force pulling her, enchanting her. It wanted her to come to it.” Roman was repeating known info, possibly to make Jerome take it more seriously. “She called it a siren song and kept sleepwalking, trying to get to it. And then…and then tonight, she went to it.”

“Did you see it?” asked Carter. It was odd to see him so serious and…well, confused. The former emotion I’d seen only a handful of times. The latter I’d never seen on him.

“I saw her disappear. Like, vanish into thin air. But I didn’t see it exactly. I felt it. I could sense whenever it was around.”

“What did it feel like?” asked Jerome.

Roman shrugged. “I don’t know. Just…a force. A power. Not an entity exactly. And not something I could identify. Not a greater immortal or anything.”

“That,” declared Jerome, “is absolutely useless information.”

Roman’s anger returned. “It’s all I’ve got! If you’d listened to her more, this wouldn’t have happened. You let this happen. You didn’t take it seriously, and now she’s gone!”

Yelling at Jerome. Not a good thing.

“Be careful, lest I revoke your invitation,” hissed the demon, eyes boring into his son. “And I did listen. I set you to protect her. You, apparently, are the one who ‘let’ this happen.”

Roman flushed. “I was in the other room when that thing showed up again. I hurried in as fast as I could, but it was too late. Georgina’d already given herself up, and honestly…I’m not sure I could have stopped it anyway.”

It was a big concession for Roman. Nephilim could inherit anywhere from none to all of their immortal parent’s power. Roman was very close to having as much strength as Jerome but still lagged behind just a little. Additionally, the types of power wielded by greater and lesser immortals differed. As a type of hybrid, Roman might not have been able to fight what Jerome could have.

Jerome didn’t push that point further. “So, we still know nothing.”

“We know that whatever did this isn’t one of ours,” said Carter quietly, speaking at last.

“Yes,” snapped Jerome. “Which only leaves a billion other things it could be. Unless…”

He glanced over at one of the chairs at their table. One moment it was empty. The next, Simone sat there. Carter didn’t seem surprised, but Roman and I certainly were. And she was especially surprised, as shown by her squeal of fear and befuddled expression. Being teleported by a greater immortal was not a pleasant experience.

She was blond today, dressed in a plain blouse and pair of jeans. It was a sign of her agitation that she didn’t widen her neckline when she saw Carter. “What – what’s going on?” she stammered.

“What’d you do to Georgina?” asked Jerome.

Her eyes went wide. He might still wear the guise of John Cusack, but as he stared her down, it was easy to see that he truly was a demon of Hell.

“Nothing!” cried Simone. She cowered back into her chair. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Jerome was up and out of his chair so fast, he might have teleported himself. He jerked Simone up as well and shoved her against a nearby wall, hand on her throat. I’d been in a similar position with him before and felt pity for the other succubus. No one else in the bar noticed, so Jerome was either glamoring them or making him and Simone invisible.

“Do not lie to me!” he exclaimed. “What have you done? Who did you get to do this?”

I could see his line of reasoning now. What Roman had sensed might not be demon or angel, but it wasn’t impossible that someone from our side could have worked with an unknown entity. It wouldn’t be the first time. Roman had caught on as well and leapt up to stand beside his father.

“I swear, if you’ve hurt her even a little, I will rip you apart!”

Simone’s fear was put on pause as she gave Roman a puzzled look. With his signature hidden, he only came across as a human to her. As far as she was probably concerned, he had no involvement in any of this – and no ability to back up his threat. Little did she know.

She turned back to Jerome, cringing when she saw his face once more. “Nothing,” she said, her voice hard to understand with Jerome choking off her air. “I didn’t do anything to her, I swear it!”

“You were trying to get Seth into bed,” said Roman.

“That’s all! I didn’t do anything to her. Anything.” Simone’s face turned pleading as she spoke to Jerome. “You have to know why I’m here. It’s not to harm her.”

Jerome’s face was still filled with terrible fury, but there was also a flicker of consideration in his eyes. He said nothing, and it was Carter’s voice that filled the tense silence.

“She’s telling the truth,” he said.

Jerome didn’t break his hold on Simone, but that calculating look was still in his gaze. “Do you know anything about her disappearing? Anything at all?”

“No! No!”

Jerome glanced back at Carter, who gave a swift nod. With a disappointed sigh, Jerome released her and stepped back.

Roman looked doubtful, but he too had to know that if Carter vouched for her, it was gospel, so to speak. Jerome returned to his chair, downing his drink in one gulp. Roman joined him a moment later, but Simone remained standing, watching the whole group uncertainly as she rubbed her bruised throat.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but if there’s anything – “

“I’m done with you,” said Jerome harshly. He waved his hand in a type of dismissal, and Simone vanished as quickly as she’d arrived.

“That was mean,” noted Carter, idly stirring his bourbon.

“I sent her back to her hotel,” said Jerome. “Not to a desert island.”

Roman’s anger had cooled a little, and he wore a calm, considering expression that looked remarkably like his father’s. “What did she mean when she said you knew why she was here? Why was I following her?”

“I can’t report this,” said Jerome. He was speaking to Carter, like Roman wasn’t even there. “Not yet…not unless I have to. We can’t let any higher authorities know.”

“And I can’t do anything at all,” mused Carter. “This is technically your problem.” He took a long drink, as though that would fix everything.

“But you will,” said Roman boldly. “You’ll try to find her?”

“Of course,” said Carter. One of his trademark cynical smiles lit his lips, replacing the grim expression from earlier. I suspected it was a cover-up for how he truly felt. “This place would be too boring without her.”

For a heartbeat, I kind of liked this invisible watcher thing. Carter had no sense that I was there, and for the first time, I was able to truly study him without him looking back. He might have that annoying levity on now, but he’d already shown concern for my well-being. And I really couldn’t believe it was simply because he found me entertaining. What was his game? Those gray eyes revealed nothing.

“Yes,” said Jerome dryly. “Who knows how we’ll get by without her maudlin misadventures.”

Carter started to protest, but again, Roman came forward with an interruption. “Oh. That’s the other thing, what we talked to Erik about.” He gave them a brief recap of Erik’s observations and how I was only visited when I was depressed. Roman also described each of the incidents in as much detail as possible.

Jerome and Carter exchanged looks. “With as down as she usually is, that’s not much to go on,” noted the demon. “But it might be worth a visit to the old man.”

“Jerome,” said Carter in a warning voice.

The two locked eyes again and had some sort of silent communication. When Jerome finally looked away, it was to casually pick up his latest drink. “Don’t worry. I won’t scare him. Much.”

I wondered if he’d go to Erik right then, but I didn’t get a chance to find out. The world dissolved once more, and I found myself back in my prison. Aside from being terribly uncomfortable, I also felt exhausted. Studying the smiling, shining Oneroi, I could guess what had happened. In feeding off my dream, they’d taken some of my energy with it.

“Dream…” I murmured, suddenly confused. I’d braced myself for some terrible outcome, but it hadn’t happened. “That wasn’t a dream. That was real. You showed me what was really happening. What my friends are doing.”

“Some dreams are true, and some are lies,” said Two. I really wanted to slap him. “That one was true.”

A story came back to me, the faintest memory from my childhood. Christian priests had long had a foothold in Cyprus when I was born, but old stories and rites had lingered. What were considered myths today had been held as fact back then. One such story said that dreams were sent to humans from one of two gates: one of ivory and one of horn. Those from the ivory gate were false; those from the horn gate were true. I didn’t know if that was just a metaphor, but the outcome apparently had some validity to it.

“But why?” I asked. “Why show me true dreams? You’d torture me a lot more with another stupid nightmare.” That nightmare hadn’t been stupid. It had been agonizing, but I didn’t want them to know that. What was stupid was me suggesting how they should torment me.

“Because you don’t know,” said One. “Soon you won’t know truth from lies. You assume everything that causes pain must be a lie. But you won’t know. Soon you won’t trust anything at all.”

“I’ll know,” I said adamantly. “I can tell the difference.”

“You believe what you just saw was true?” asked Two.

“Yes. Absolutely.”

“Good,” said One. “Then you’ve also learned another truth: it’s impossible for anyone to find you. You’ll stay here forever.”

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