Succubus Shadows Chapter 19

“Real,” I gasped out.“That was…real.Seth didn’t give in to temptation.

Seth stayed with Maddie.”

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“Maybe,” said One.

The instinct to claw his eyes out rose within me, strong and sudden. It was animal and rash – and impossible since I had no form here. It was an urge I’d had on more than one occasion with the Oneroi.

“True. It was true.” This was like a child’s game with them, over and over. Or maybe the true/false section on the SAT. Circles. Circles. My life was a circle. “And Jerome…” The end of the dream came to me where my boss had spirited Seth away. “He’s coming for me. He took Seth. They’re going to do that ritual. Erik’s going to set it up.”

“Yes. And he’s going to fail.”

“No, he won’t,” I cried. Every ounce of me had become desperation: voice, mind, soul. “Jerome will come for me. He’ll save me.”

“No one is coming for you,” said Two. “They will try, but they will fail.”

Again, they sent me back to my world, and as much as I yearned for familiar faces, the doubt and uncertainty the Oneroi kept bringing up filled me with a despairing kind of confusion.

I was at Erik’s. And apparently, so was everyone else.

His store had a large back room used for storage that I’d only once caught a glimpse of. It reminded me of a garage, with unfinished cement floors and plain drywall on the sides. A small table held a bowl of burning incense that made the air hazy. The edges of the room were stacked with boxes and crates that appeared to have been shoved to create an empty space around the edge of the room. Also along the edges was the Seattle immortal club: Hugh, Cody, Peter, Carter, and even Mei. Roman was probably there too, hidden because of Mei. In the center of the room, Erik was drawing chalk patterns on the floor. Jerome stood nearby, and Seth hovered uneasily between them and my friends along the wall. I think he was having a hard time deciding who was safest. If not for Mei, he probably would have chosen my friends.

Mei watched Erik and Jerome with disapproval, her nearly black eyes narrowed and brick-red lips pursed. At last, she uncrossed her arms and strode toward the center, her stiletto heels clicking loudly against the cement. Seth scurried out of her way, retreating to the safety of my friends.

“This is ridiculous,” Mei said. “You’re wasting everyone’s time. Even with all of them” – she gestured to the wall gang – “it’s not enough to bring her back. You need to report it and get another succubus.”

“I report it, and there’ll be another archdemon here too.” Jerome cut her a look. “I’m kind of surprised you haven’t done that already.”

Good point. As his underling, Mei obeyed him, but she was ambitious. If Jerome got in trouble for losing me, it could be to her advantage.

“I don’t need to,” she said flatly. “You’ll be telling them yourself soon. Why do I have to be here? I have no connection to her.”

“Because I told you to! Stop arguing.” Jerome glared at her, and the two demons locked gazes. At last, Mei gave a sharp nod, but it didn’t seem like she gave in because of his authority. It was more like he’d communicated something, and she was acknowledging it. She returned to the side of the room, opposite my friends now.

Erik had to lean and get on his knees for a lot of his chalk work, something that had to be agony on his back. With a sigh, he finally stood up and examined his design. It showed two large concentric circles, filled and surrounded with a number of arcane symbols. Some I knew; some I didn’t. Jerome studied the pattern too, and for the first time ever, my boss looked…nervous.

“Is it ready?” he demanded.

Erik nodded, one hand absentmindedly rubbing his back. “Barring the spell itself, yes.”

Jerome’s eyes fell on Seth, who flinched. “You,” said the demon. “Come here.”

Seth eyed the pattern almost as uneasily as Jerome had. “What will happen to me?”

“It won’t kill you, if that’s what you’re worried about. And you can leave the circle whenever you want. Now stop wasting time.”

I didn’t like hearing Jerome boss Seth around. It stirred up those coals of rage that had been burning within me lately. I even grew angry seeing Seth obey; I kind of wanted him to defy Jerome. A moment later, I tried to banish such thoughts. I needed to save my fury for the Oneroi, not this group. Surely Jerome wasn’t lying. Carter, who’d remained quiet throughout all of this, would have called Jerome on it. I hoped.

Seth walked over to Jerome’s side, careful not to step on any of the chalk lines – like how superstitious people avoid cracks on sidewalks. Erik gave Seth a small smile.

“He’s right, Mr. Mortensen. This won’t hurt you. Though it will be…strange.”

Mei suddenly went rigid again. “Him? That’s all you’re using? Jerome, one person can’t – “

“Enough!” roared Jerome. “I’m tired of listening to everyone backtalk me. Can we get on with this?”

Erik nodded and walked over to the table with the incense. There was also a small bowl of water and a long, roughly hewn piece of stone. Smoky quartz, I thought. Erik picked it up carefully, reverently. He pushed the tip of the wand into the smoldering incense, and then held it up so the smoke could swathe it. A couple seconds later, he dipped the wand’s end into the water. When that was completed, he began carrying the wand to the circle.

“Wait,” Carter suddenly said. He straightened up from where he’d been slouching against some boxes. “I’m going in too.”

“You’re all crazy,” muttered Mei.

“She has a point,” said Jerome. “If you’re in here – “

“I know, I know,” said Carter, stepping over the lines to join Jerome. “And I also know what might come out.” The two of them looked at each other, more silent messages passing, and then neither spoke again.

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Erik returned to the circle’s center, holding the wand up high. Both Carter and Jerome had moved as far from the humans as possible without crossing the inner circle. As Erik’s arms reached heavenward, he suddenly didn’t seem like a weak old man. True, his body was frail and growing gaunter every day, but as he stood there and began chanting, he became so much more than human. Dante was a better magician when it came down to it, but Erik wasn’t without his own power, even if rarely used. If I’d been there in the flesh, I would have felt the magic he was summoning. Knowing it was there almost made me believe I could see it.

He finished his chant, spoken in words I only knew a little of, and then walked around the circle. He touched it in four spots with the wand, all equidistant from each other. The instant his wand touched the fourth spot, every immortal in the room suddenly flinched and looked uncomfortable – even the greater ones. Seth mostly looked confused.

As a disconnected observer, my view was like Seth’s. I saw nothing happen either. But I realized then that if I’d been there, I would have felt what all the other immortals had as well. Erik had locked the circle, slamming invisible walls into place. All magical circles were different, but he’d told Seth that he could cross out – meaning this was a circle to keep only immortals in. It wasn’t exactly like a summoning. Summonings required massive amounts of magic because they were enslaving an immortal against his or her will. This circle was a prison too, but it required less magic because the immortals had entered it by choice. Jerome and Carter had just knowingly allowed themselves to be entrapped.

This was why he wanted Mei around. For an unscrupulous magic user – say, like Dante – this was a golden opportunity. Two imprisoned greater immortals? It had infinite possibilities for a magician. Whatever Erik was doing here, I didn’t believe he’d abuse this situation. But Jerome, being a demon, didn’t trust anyone. Jerome had wanted Mei on hand to do some smiting if Erik wouldn’t release his prisoners. Of course, she would be powerless to do anything until Erik left the circle – which he’d have to do eventually.

If they were all trying to rescue me, though, Erik couldn’t have created this circle with the intent of trapping Jerome and Carter specifically. The angel’s words came back to me: I also know what might come out.

Erik stood in front of Seth, who was growing more nervous by the second. The strain in Erik’s face showed the power he was keeping in check. He couldn’t play kindly old man right now, but he did what he could.

“Do you care about Miss Kincaid?” he asked Seth. “Do you want to save her?”

“Yes,” answered Seth swiftly.

“Then you must think about her. Focus every ounce of your being on her. Imagine her. Cry out for her. There must be no other thoughts in your head – only her.”

Seth looked puzzled but nodded. Erik turned to Jerome and Carter. “And you must stop him from going in entirely. You can’t enter yourselves, but you can keep him here. You have to, or you’ll lose both of them.”

Erik waited for no acknowledgment from the angel and demon. He held up his wand again and touched Seth on his forehead, both cheeks, and chin. Seth shivered.

“Remember,” said Erik. “When the gate opens, think of her. Only her. Reach for her. And when you find her, do not let go.”

“Gate?” asked Seth. “What – “

But Erik was chanting again, and a wind emerged out of nowhere, ruffling the hair of those in the circles. His voice grew more and more powerful, and then –

I was back with the Oneroi.

“What happened?” I exclaimed. For the millionth time, I wished I could beat on the walls of my prison. I wanted to claw their eyes out again. I wanted to choke them. “Show me what happens!”

“Failure,” said One.

“They won’t succeed,” added Two. “The demoness was correct. A dozen humans who loved you couldn’t reach you, let alone – “

He stopped speaking. His eyes met One’s, and then both glanced around as though searching for something. I tried to see what they saw or heard, but there was nothing for me. Only blackness and silence.

Then, I felt the stirring of another dream coming over me. The dark world started to go blurry, and both Oneroi jerked their heads toward me.

“No!” exclaimed Two, extending his hand.

Everything grew clear again. I didn’t dream. I stayed where I was.


My name. For the first time in – well, I had no idea how many days – I heard something that wasn’t the Oneroi. It was so faint, a whisper lost on the wind. My name. One of them, at least.

I couldn’t tell where it came from, but every part of me tried to focus on it, to figure out its origin.


“Yes?” I said aloud. “I’m here!”

The world grew blurry again. I didn’t hear my name, but it was like the siren song all over again. Music without sound, colors without description.

“Stop this!” cried One. I had never heard the Oneroi raise their voices. They always spoke in those low, sly tones. But they were pretty upset now.

“Fight it!” This was Two, speaking to One. “Join me! Don’t let it – “

I left them for another dream. Or, well, more like another place. No, it wasn’t even a place. It was like I was floating in space, in a nebula. Perhaps a hurricane was a more accurate way to describe it because things were swirling around me and blowing past. Wisps of smoke. Bits of colors. Brilliant stars. Some touched me. Some went through me. And every time I made contact, I felt an emotion – an emotion that wasn’t my own. Happiness. Terror. With that emotion came a brief flash of an image. A green field. An airplane. A monster. It was a snowstorm of stimuli.

I was lost and adrift, almost more scared than in my prison with the Oneroi. At least that had had some substance, no matter how insignificant. But this…what was this? Every once in a while, it would start to dissolve to black, like I might be returning to the box…. Then, the darkness would fade, again leaving me helpless in this mad riot of sensation.


My name again. And with it, that pull. That pull of familiarity. Though I technically had no body here either, I searched for that voice and that pull, looking through the riotous color.


It was stronger. That sense of summoning. I burned with the need to get to it. It was part of me. It was home. And then, in all that chaos, one light shone brighter than all the others. It was white, pure and pristine amidst the kaleidoscope raining down upon me. I stared at it, reached for it in as much as I could. The world started to fracture to black once again, but it was the last time. I wouldn’t return to the box. Not with this light before me. It’s hard to say if it became brighter and brighter or if it just grew closer and closer, but suddenly it was before me. It was around me. I was it.

Just like when I’d brushed against those other dreams, I had a flash of vision that snapped me briefly from the whirlwind. I was in Seth’s arms. Or was I? As he held me, his face seemed to shift over and over to different forms. No, it was him. I would know him anywhere. He was so familiar, and now this close to me, I couldn’t let go of him. He was home.

Georgina. The voice came again, and it was his. Georgina, don’t let go.

No. I wasn’t letting go. I was never letting go again….

That brief moment of human contact gave way to the starry field of dreams, but this time, I had an anchor. I was with the light. I was the light. I felt it pulling me, but I needed no urging. I would go wherever it took me. I released all control. I had the sensation of floating, of being stretched and reaching forward. Behind me, something tugged at me, but it wasn’t strong enough. I was moving forward. Forward and forward and –

The sound of screaming filled the room. My screaming. Screaming over the pain of being torn apart and reassembled. Pain from being stripped of all energy within me. I was weak. Raw. Nothing.

What room was this? I saw faces. Faces near me, faces along the room’s wall. They looked at me like they knew me. Did they? Did I know them? My legs buckled underneath me, weak like a colt’s. One of the men standing near me reached out, but I scrambled backward, needing to escape. I couldn’t let him touch me. Of that, I was certain. My mind had been shredded and ripped open. I didn’t want to be touched in any other way. The floor was cold and smooth as I scurried over it, but I was stopped by a wall. At least, it felt like one. I saw nothing there, only a blue line upon the floor. The invisible wall was familiar and triggered fear. It reminded me of the box. I drew my knees up to me, trying to make myself small as I trembled.

The men near me – four of them – were speaking in a language I didn’t know. They were arguing. One kept trying to come to me, but another stopped him. That one was terrifying. His features were nothing extraordinary – tall, with dark brown eyes and hair – but there was something about him that made me cold all over. There was power in him, power all around him. I could feel it and see it. It reminded me of sulfur. His eyes fell on me as he spoke harshly to the others, and I cringed further. I felt certain I knew him, but he still scared me.

Suddenly, another of the men exclaimed something and touched the dark-haired one’s arm. This man was blond. I sensed power around him too, but it felt different. It was clean and crystalline. All four turned around, putting their backs to me as they stared at something. Nothing was there at first, then I began to see and feel it. A glowing purple orb appeared before them, becoming larger and larger. As it did, I saw it was more of a spiral, its arms whirling as it grew. The two men who didn’t radiate power stepped back. If the unseen wall had let me, I too would have moved away.

Out of the purple light, two black forms suddenly materialized and stepped forward. Two black figures who were somehow luminescent at the same time and had brilliant blue eyes. My own eyes widened. I might not know anything else that was going on around me, but I knew them. I knew them, and I was going to kill them.

I’m not sure how I did it since there seemed to be no spark of life left within me, yet somehow, I mustered the strength to spring up and run toward them. My shrieked words were incoherent, but it didn’t matter. Only their destruction did. I would rip them apart. I would make them suffer the way they’d –

Strong arms grabbed me, stopping me as surely as the wall had. It was the blond man, and his grip was like iron. “Let me go!” I screamed. “Let me go! I’ll kill them! I’ll kill them both!”

The dark-haired man glanced back toward us. “Do not let her go,” he said mildly, this time in a language I understood. I fought in vain against the arms but made no progress.

The dark-haired man turned to the Oneroi. “This isn’t your world,” he said.

“We’ve come for what’s ours,” said one of the Oneroi. “You took her.”

“I took back what was mine,” the dark-haired man countered. “You stole her.”

“We won her. She came to us of her own free will.”

The dark-haired man snorted. Jerome, I suddenly remembered. His name was Jerome. “We have different definitions of ‘free will,’” he said.

“We want her back,” protested the Oneroi.

“You’re taking nothing back,” countered Jerome, voice hard. “Go before I change my mind.”

I’d gone slack while they spoke, but now my fury was renewed. I struggled again. “Let me kill them!” I screamed. “Jerome, it’s my right! Let me destroy them!”

Jerome turned back, maybe surprised I’d used his name. “I don’t think you’re in any shape to kill anything.”

“It’s my right,” I said. “After what they did – they’ll suffer like I did. I will shred them. I’ll rip their souls out!”

“They don’t have souls,” he said dryly. “But I like your enthusiasm.” He turned back to the Oneroi. “So, you stole my succubus and tortured her.” His voice carried that reptilian chill. It froze my blood. It made the air crackle with tension. The Oneroi shifted uncomfortably. They weren’t unaffected.

“Because of her, our mother was recaptured,” one of them said. But he didn’t sound as confident or outraged as before. “We are entitled to revenge.”

“You believe insult to another justifies revenge?” asked Jerome. Oh, that voice. That voice made the air grow still.

“Yes,” said the Oneroi as one.

“Me too,” replied Jerome.

He didn’t even move, but I felt the power flare out from him, like a torch thrown into dry tinder. It exploded – and so did the Oneroi. Well, it was more like they imploded. That power hit them, and then – they were no more. Just like that.

“Oh, Jerome,” said the man holding me. “Do you know what you’ve done?”

Jerome glanced back at us and shrugged. “I don’t like people taking my things.”

The swirling purple gate had never left, and now it began to grow brighter and rotate faster.

“Shit,” said Jerome. “I was hoping no one would notice.”

The man holding me sighed. He looked down at me, and silvery gray eyes pierced my soul. “Listen to me. Do not move. Do you understand? Stay right here.” When I didn’t answer, he sighed again. “Do you know me?”

Did I? Yes. The eyes. I knew the eyes. “Carter.” The word came out strangely on my tongue.

“Yes,” he said. “You know me. Trust me. Do not move.”

He let go of me, waited to see what I’d do, and then walked up to join Jerome when I stayed in place. Nothing could have made me move anyway, not when I saw what came through the gate.

It was monstrous. Literally. Yellow-eyed and scaly, mottled purple and gray. It had what looked like a pig’s snout, and seven horns ran over its head like points on a crown. It towered over Jerome and Carter as it emerged from the gate, but the two of them stood where they were, regarding it defiantly.

“You destroyed my subjects,” the creature growled. Its voice came from deep within its throat and made the floor vibrate. “You broke the laws.”

“Your subjects were in our realm,” said Jerome. He was perfectly calm. “They stole one of my people and abused her. They broke the rules.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to do what you did,” came the response.

“They would have destroyed her if they were capable of it. Next time, keep a better watch on your employees so that they don’t go causing trouble where they shouldn’t.”

The monster’s nostrils flared. “I could destroy you for this.”

“Try,” said Jerome. “Try taking on both of us.”

Those yellow eyes flicked over to Carter. A few teeth showed in the creature’s mouth. I think he was smiling. “An angel and a demon fighting together. It would almost be worth seeing.”

Heavy silence fell as everyone sized each other up. I had no sense of the monster’s strength. Physical size was not proportional to power. Jerome and Carter, however, were burning like small suns, ready to burst at any moment.

At last, the monster shrugged. Or did his equivalent of it. “But it’s been enough just to see you defend each other’s honor. I will not destroy you…today. There will be no more assaults on my people. If there are, I won’t be so forgiving.”

“And if your people don’t leave mine alone,” said Jerome smoothly, “I won’t be as forgiving either.”

The creature snarled, and for a moment, I thought he might very well change his mind. He didn’t. Instead, he stepped backward toward the purple light. He merged into it, vanishing to our eyes, and then the gate itself disappeared as well.

“He is such a fucking liar,” said Jerome. “‘Forgiving’ indeed. He knew we’d blast his scaly ass out of here.”

“Yeah, well, I hope we never find if that’s true or not,” said Carter. “Fighting a Morphean demon would generate paperwork even on my side.”

Jerome’s lips twitched into a smile. “Now that would be worth seeing.”

I looked between both of them, my fear from the near-confrontation fading. With the last of my energy, I lunged for Jerome, beating my fists against his chest. He caught them and stopped me as easily as Carter had.

“You should have let me do it! You should have let me destroy them! It was my right!”

“That’s what you’re pissed off about? Georgie, I’m not even sure how you’re still standing.”

“It was my right,” I repeated. “You don’t know what they did.”

“I can make some good guesses.”

I stopped in my struggles, and at last, the full force of everything that had happened descended on me. My being’s full depletion hit me. I sagged in his arms, and he caught me. The sights and people around me were still a little muddled, but lots of things were starting to come back.

“You were supposed to keep me safe,” I said in a small voice. I felt my eyes grow wet. “You shouldn’t have let that happen – let them take me. You’re supposed to protect me.”

Jerome looked truly surprised and didn’t respond to me immediately. I was afraid he’d get angry, but instead, he said quietly, “Yes. I am. I did in the end, but – I was late.”

“Great apology,” said Carter.

Now Jerome’s anger returned. “I have nothing to apologize for!” He turned back to me, and again, his voice was calm and patient. Almost gentle. I knew this was uncharacteristic for him. “I brought you back. You’re safe now. They will never harm you again. Do you understand?”

I nodded.

“Good. Now it’s time to finish this.”

Jerome turned toward the humans. One of them was old, very old – with dark brown skin and graying hair. His eyes were compassionate. The other man was younger, with messy hair and brown eyes that turned honey-amber when the light caught them. He was staring at me like he knew me, which wasn’t a surprise because I knew him too. I didn’t know how, but I did. In fact, I was beginning to realize I knew everyone in this room. Other names were coming back to me. This one man’s name eluded me, though, largely because several kept popping into my head. He studied me intently, like he was trying to figure something out, and I found myself falling into those golden brown eyes.

Jerome said something to the gray-haired man in that other language. I still couldn’t understand it, but there was something familiar about its sounds. The old man didn’t answer or move right away, and palpable tension fell over the entire room. At last the old man took a wand he was holding and began touching points on the circle upon the floor, murmuring softly as he did. When he touched the circle a fourth time, it was as though a great pressure – one I hadn’t even known was there – was released from the room.

Jerome exchanged a few curt words with the man and then turned to me. “As I was saying, how you’re conscious is beyond me – but considering all the other absurd things you do, I shouldn’t be surprised.”

He stepped toward me and pressed his fingers to my forehead. I gasped as a jolt of…something…raced through me. At first, it was shocking and prickly. Then, it transformed into something sweeter and more wonderful. The most wonderful thing on earth. It filled me up, energizing me, making me whole. Until this moment, how could I have thought I was alive?

The world came into greater focus, the sights grew more familiar. I staggered, not from weakness this time, but from the pure bliss of life Jerome had gifted me with. He said something to me in that other language, and I frowned, not understanding.

He spoke again in my own words. “Change back, Georgina. Time to go.”

“Change to what?”

“Whatever you want. Your current favorite, I’d imagine. Not this.” His hand gestured toward my body.

I examined myself for the first time. I wasn’t quite as tall as him, a few inches shorter, maybe. My legs and arms were long and lean, my skin tanned from the sun. A plain ivory dress covered me, and I could see the tips of black hair falling onto my chest. I frowned. This was me…and yet not me.

“Change back, Georgina,” he repeated.

“That’s not my name,” I said.

“Shake off what they’ve done,” he said, clearly impatient. “It’s over. They’ve fogged your mind, but you can clear it. Change back, Georgina. Come back to this time.” His next words were in that other language, and I shook my head angrily.

“I don’t understand. I shouldn’t be here. This is my body, but this isn’t my time.”

He gave another command that I still didn’t comprehend, and I uttered the same response. Three times we went through this, and then on the fourth, his words came through to me, perfectly understandable. I knew what he was speaking. The English language exploded in my mind, and with it, much more.

I held out my hands before me, staring long and hard as though seeing them for the first time. “This is my time,” I murmured in English. I looked down at my long legs. A strange sense of revulsion ran through me. “This is not my body.” Yet…it was. It was, and it wasn’t. With no energy, it was what I had reverted to.

“What’s your name?” he demanded.

Letha. My name is Letha.

“Georgina,” I said. And with that, I summoned the power to make my body’s shape change. Slim and short, with light brown hair, and golden green eyes. The off-white homespun shift became a blue cotton dress. A moment later, I changed it to jeans and a blue shirt.

Jerome glanced at Carter. “See? No harm done.”

Carter didn’t acknowledge that. Instead, he asked, “So now what?”

“Now?” Jerome’s gaze fell on me again. “Now Georgina sleeps.”

“What?” I cried. “No! Not after…no. I’m never sleeping again.”

Jerome almost smiled before touching my forehead again.

I slept.

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