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Demon Familiar

Supernatural Bonds


Jory Strong



Copyright 2011 by Jory Strong

Smashwords Edition


Cover design by Syneca Featherstone



* * * * *

Table of Contents


Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Thank You!

About the Author



* * * * *

Prologue


Miguel Torres sat in the corner near the altar, the old wooden chair pushed against the wall. Truth was, he'd be on the other side of the wall—outside in the fresh mountain air and free of this—if he could.

Respect for his mother kept him in place when the need to bolt nearly overwhelmed him. The smell of old age and sickness, tobacco smoke and copal, pitch incense, filled his nostrils in a mix of scents that made him slightly nauseous.

Freaking amazing, how he could stand over a dead body at a crime scene and never—well, not since the first time during his rookie year on the force—feel like puking, but here he was fighting the urge to hurl. Then again, to give himself credit; he was handling being named a brujo, a witch, pretty damn well.

Looking up from his study of the rough wooden flooring, he checked on his tatarabuelo, his great-great-grandfather, who sat in a recliner in front of the altar. The old man appeared fragile and ancient. Today only his face was visible in the wrap of colorful blankets meant to keep the chill at bay.

He should be in the hospital. Miguel had said as much, multiple times since coming to this remote village in the Sierra de Puebla with his mother.

"I'm not afraid to go permanently to Talocan," was the old man's response. "The lords who rule there know me. They know what I've been up too here. I'll introduce you to them, but not for a while yet. Better not to draw their attention until you understand their ways."

Miguel shivered. He didn't actually believe he was a witch, despite what his great-great-grandfather claimed. Even so, the prospect of visiting Talocan, the place sometimes called Most Holy Earth or the inferno, and the underworld of his tatarabuelo's belief system, was enough to lift the hairs on his arms and make his chest tighten.

Not happening. No way.

He could handle the weird. But that didn't mean he wanted to be a participant in the weird.

His tatarabuelo stirred, eyes moving behind his lids for long moments before they fluttered opened. It took moments longer for him to fully rouse and focus on Miguel. "Good, you've kept your promise and stayed. There's not much time now."

A knock on the door had relief surging through Miguel. He stood. "I'll get it." But it opened before he could take a step.

His great-great-grandfather's sister stuck her head inside. "Someone needs your help. She's traveled a long way."

The old man struggled with his blankets, finally freeing his hands and arms so he wouldn't appear like a swaddled infant. He told his sister to send the woman in.

Miguel rose and got another chair for his tatarabuelo's guest, the longing to escape sharpening with the sight of blue skies and colorful flowers through the open doorway. He'd offer to step outside to allow for privacy, but it would do no good. Since his tatarabuelo had claimed the recliner in front of the altar shortly after taking his breakfast in bed, he'd insisted Miguel remain with him.

Miguel's guts knotted. He couldn't shake the idea that his great-great-grandfather meant to make sure he died in his presence.

Reclaiming his seat, he let his mind wander, tuning out a conversation spoken in Nahuat. After the woman left, his tatarabuelo said, "A coyote killed her daughter's son."

Miguel straightened though he knew there was nothing he could do. He had no pull with Mexican authorities, and coyotes, human smugglers, were frequently connected to powerful cartels that controlled areas along the border through terror and bribes.

He knew he'd probably regret it, but curiosity made him ask, "Why did she come to you?" He didn't need to ask why she hadn't gone to the authorities. Fear.

His tatarabuelo smiled, eyes shining with approval. "She wants something bad to befall the coyote. There are ways to ensure it. I will teach them to you. The lords of darkness can cause terrible things to happen among the living when they see someone's cause as just. Once you know their ways, you can request their aid."

Dios. That's the last thing he wanted to do, tangle with beings he'd grown up thinking of as demons.


* * * * *

Chapter 1


She craved sex. Not the sustenance stolen from sleepers caught in webs of carnal fantasies, but the touch of skin to skin, the pounding ecstasy of penetration.

Until the summoning, it had been hundreds of years since she had walked among humans in her female aspect. Seductress, enchantress—succubus, stealing seed and sometimes life. It had been the same number of years since taking on a purely masculine aspect, becoming incubus in order to seduce the unwilling as well as to impregnate those witches who hoped for a child with dark, unearthly gifts.

Phantom lips curled in a smile as she thought of the medallion with its hidden spell for a secondary summoning. Wise, wise mage to have bargained with her when he first pulled her through the portal. He'd been made safe from her retribution, though he'd deservedly met his end at the hands, or rather, the teeth of another.

In the dark of the abyss, she was formless, unable to pleasure herself, sentient only because she was bound to the medal. But even that was preferable to returning to the dark realm and demon lord whose will she was subject to.

When she emerged from the abyss she would need to feed both aspects of her nature, though she had a decided preference for assuming the female form. She would be free, or as free as one of her kind could be after they'd escaped the shackles of their masters by binding themselves in a familiar-bond to a witch.

The next time she walked among humans she would be fully mortal. She would be human, perhaps as she once was, or perhaps for the first time, she didn't know which. Few demons knew the truth of their origins. What she did know was that slowly, over the long span of her existence, the dream of being human had taken hold and filled her with a longing she could no longer deny. All that was required now was for the right person to come into contact with the mage-spelled medallion.

* * *

Miguel felt the tension ebb as he drew near to his partner Conner's house, and the party already in progress. Dios, it was good to be back. He needed this. Between a good time with friends today, and reporting for work tomorrow, he could distance himself from the weird shit that had started in Mexico.

Maybe one day he'd share the experience with someone outside of family, but not likely. He was a homicide cop first, foremost and always.

Mierda. Shit. His tatarabuelo naming him a witch shouldn't have made it true, except somehow it had.

"Power of suggestion," Miguel mumbled, but the words sounded like a lame attempt at denial even to him. The spirit-walking had started the very night his tatarabuelo had died.

Despite the Florida heat, he shivered at remembering being greeted in his dream by his great-great-grandfather. "Come, let me show you Talocan," the old man had said as they walked over a field of bones, the crunch of them beneath their feet so real, so visceral, the sound had still echoed in his ears after waking.

Every night since had come with surreal dreams, with introductions to the dead and knowledge about them that, when tested by asking relatives he'd never met before Mexico, couldn't be explained away.

He reached for the volume control, cranking up the tunes and filling his head with music for a minute before twisting the knob in the reverse direction. Last thing he needed was to get pulled over for a noise violation.

He glanced at the passenger seat and the Dos Equis he'd swung by the grocery store to get. Not that Conner wouldn't have plenty of brew, but all beer did not taste the same and he'd picked up a couple of six-packs, the first because he intended to share, the second because Storm O'Malley was at the party—and she wasn't alone.

Fuck! He'd been gone what? A little over two weeks, doing his duty as a good son and playing escort to his mother. A fucking two weeks, and in that time, Storm—who he'd been so sure was going to be the one once he finally convinced her to say yes to a first date—had found someone else. FOUND in capital and permanent letters, according to Conner.

Miguel massaged the area above his heart, soothing away pain he knew was more intellectual than real in nature. It wasn't like he'd shared anything personal with Storm. She'd never led him on about his chances, but damn…

He'd been half in love with her.

Grimacing, he admitted a different truth to himself. He was in love with the idea of being in love with her and she was just the latest challenge, though he refused to give up the belief completely that she might really have been the one.

Banging badge bunnies got old. He wanted what his mother and father had, what a couple of his brothers and three of his sisters had; a solid marriage, someone to come home to at the end of the day.

Apparently he wasn't the only one who'd reached that point, though he'd reached it long before his friends had. First Trace, taken out of play by Aislinn. And now Conner, snagged by Khemirra and already talking wedding dates.

Who next? Dylan, Trace's partner?

Miguel laughed, wishing he wasn't driving so he could open a beer and lift it in a silent tribute. As much as he wanted to be in a committed relationship, he wouldn't mind seeing Dylan get bumped to the front of the matrimonial line. Because when Dylan's turn came, it was going to be one hell of a show. Dylan wasn't going to go down easy.

Turning onto Conner's street, Miguel grinned. Cars lined the curbs on both sides. No surprise. Free food, free booze, both guaranteed a good turnout, but the real kicker for the cops in attendance was showing up to meet the woman who'd snagged one of their own.

He claimed the first parking spot he saw rather than risk having to circle the block, and putting the truck tight against the curb, grabbed up the Dos Equis before making his way toward Conner's house. A country song twanged from the backyard, a male voice singing about seeing his ex in the arms of another man.

It was enough to vibrate phantom strings in Miguel's chest and have him going through the front door instead of the side gate. He needed a minute to steel himself against seeing Storm.

Female voices drew him down the hall toward the kitchen, that and the fact he'd be able to observe through the window. Better to get the first look of Storm with her boyfriend and get used to the sight without being surrounded by sharp-eyed cops.

In the kitchen doorway, he got distracted by Aislinn and a woman who made him rethink his long-standing and nearly exclusive pursuit of blondes. He knew who he was looking at; had to be, given the legs that didn't stop and the exotic beauty.

Setting the beer on the table, he gave Aislinn a hug then pulled the stranger into his arms. "I'm Miguel Torres, Conner's partner, and I'm guessing you're Khemirra, the reason we're all here."

"You're right on the first count at least."

He laughed, releasing her. The attitude in her voice said it all. She was perfect for Conner.

Miguel reached for the beer but his eyes were drawn to a medallion on the table. His hand followed without it being a conscious decision and he picked up the medal.

"Fuck!"

He flung it down hard enough for it to bounce a couple of times.

Heat flamed through his cheeks. "Sorry, guess I'm still a little jumpy from my trip. It felt like my hand was on fire."

A burst of laughter gave him an excuse to shove the weirdness aside. Through the window he saw Dylan, Conner and Trace, and a short distance away, Storm next to a long-haired blond.

Mierda. They looked good together. Right together.

He surprised himself by being able to smile. It was okay. He could risk going outside without whimpering like a puppy or giving her sad eyes—both of which would lead to some merciless teasing, and fuck, he'd endured enough of it because of his well-known infatuation.

Lifting the cartons, he said, "I'll leave you two to your girl talk."

* * *

Inescapable summoning pulled her from the abyss, and in the moment of her mortal birth, pride gripped her. She refused to stand in for another, to glimpse her image in the mirror and know it was a copy of the original, a fantasy made flesh and based on a woman known as Storm.

She created herself in an image of her own making, choosing facial features more feminine than masculine, but only slightly so, minimizing the energy that would be required in order to shift between her two physical aspects. She did the same with her height, the knowledge gained the instant the familiar-bond snapped into place allowing her to match her body to Miguel's, so that when they lay entwined, male to male, or female to male, their eyes and lips would meet and their genitals would touch in perfect alignment.

Miguel Julio Torres. She tasted his name, felt the hum of it through her veins, the beat of it in her heart as her sex throbbed, her clit already erect, a tiny version of the penis she possessed in her male aspect.

She gave herself generous breasts, for her pleasure as well as his, though it galled her that the unknown Storm was also lushly endowed. Her eyes she left the dark sapphire blue she'd chosen when first called and forced to serve as a soul-sighted bloodhound wearing only the illusion of humanity.

She made her skin tone similar to Miguel's and her hair the same black as his, though vanity sent it cascading down her back in thick waves. It would cost her energy to shorten it when she shifted forms, but perhaps Miguel wouldn't require it.

Red lips pursed together in a frown. Scattered among the impressions gained with the forming of the familiar-bond were numerous images containing women who'd come to Miguel's bed. Blondes, some natural and some dyed, their bodies a variety of shapes and sizes. There were no male lovers.

It confused more than concerned her. She'd watched the mage carefully as he'd woven the secondary spell into the medallion, the incantations that would allow her a mortal existence. Only a male witch capable of feeding both of her aspects sexually could trigger the summoning.

Shrugging off thoughts of Miguel's past lovers, she glanced down at her naked body, its form shimmering at the edge of true existence, not yet real enough to touch and be touched though it hungered for both. Moisture glistened on her inner thighs, a wet invitation for a man's fingers and mouth and cock. For Miguel's. She could feed from others but to do so would only be a continuation of the existence she'd sought to escape. The longing to be human encompassed more than possessing flesh and blood.

A dark triangle of pubic hair pointed to her clit and opening. She made herself bare then thought better of it, saw in her mind's eye her male aspect and settled on a small patch of down, something that wouldn't interfere with the pleasure of having Miguel's mouth on her.

Satisfied, she clothed herself in miniscule shorts and a shirt tied beneath her breasts. Sandals followed, and a thin, folded collection of paper money, though unlike her physical body, the money and the things she wore were similar to faerie glamour. They would last only three days in the human realm. And once she stepped from the glimmering edge of the abyss, the place where creation was possible, she would be limited to a human form.

The spell crafted by the mage would pull her essence fully into the human realm. It would allow her to change her appearance and gender, to become a human shapeshifter, though the magic feeding the spell, and tied to her demon nature, would need to be replenished.

With a final assessment she took that plunge into mortal existence, leaving the void of dark potential to merge first with a narrow tree shadow and then to emerge from it. Her lungs filled with the sweet scent of flowers and she lifted her face to glorious sun, closing her eyes as she felt its heated caress on her skin.

The sound of music reached her, touching places inside her, drawing her forward as surely as the familiar-bond allowing her to find Miguel did. She went willingly, forcing herself to move slowly, not for the sake of pride but so she could savor the sensation of being truly mortal. Of having a heart that beat not because she had to maintain the pretense of being human—as she had when she came to this world as a demon lord's tool—but because she needed it to live.

That heart skipped into a rapid beat as she stopped in front of the house. Voices and music beckoned from the backyard. She glanced downward, resisting the urge to smooth her hands over her breasts, to rub her palms against hardened nipples before moving lower, across her abdomen, to slip beneath the waistband of her shorts.

Her channel clenched hungrily, her entire body shivered with the need for carnal touch and physical joining. Anticipation burned in her belly like fire, hot and eager, spreading upward to fill her breasts.

She chose to go directly into the backyard rather than pass through the house, each step heightening her need, pressing her clit to the soft material of her shorts. A smile curved her lips at the decadent feel of it, the knowledge she was bare beneath her clothing where others wore undergarments. At the gate she paused again, this time to gather her control and try to tamp down the natural allure that came with her nature. There was only one man here she wished to seduce, and be seduced by.

Opening the gate, she stepped into the backyard. A dozen pairs of eyes were immediately drawn to her, half of them darkening with lust, but only one pair mattered. Miguel's. Her body tightened in need and appreciation. Fantasy assailed her, where always before she'd been the creator of it.

Hunger and craving became inseparable, an indistinguishable part of the familiar-bond that stretched between them as their eyes met across the distance. The confidence of her kind became like surf against a sandy beach, claiming ground then giving it up.

Pride assailed her again, demanding he choose her of his own free will. She cast a tentative smile, breath coming again only when he took the first step toward her.

Dios, everything about her called to him. Whoever she was, he hoped she wasn't with a date. He could no more stop himself from crossing to her than he could prevent himself from chasing a running criminal.

It felt like his cock was on a leash and she was drawing him forward. And his eyes…it required a supreme effort of will to keep them lifted to her face when the hard press of nipples against her shirt kept trying to jerk them downward.

Reaching her, he held out his hand. "I'm Miguel. Are you looking for someone?"

Heat spread across his cheeks at how that had come out, a proposition backed up by a willingness to make good on it. He was half afraid he'd drop to his knees and press kisses to her belly, even with an audience full of cops.

"I think I've found him."

Jesus. He was grateful for the cold beer in one hand and hers in the other. Otherwise he might have reached for his cock like a kid just figuring out the pleasure to be found in masturbating.

"I wasn't officially invited to the party," she said. "I heard the music and… Do you think it's okay I'm here?"

Miguel squeezed her hand, wanting to carry it to his lips, his chest, his dick. "Consider yourself my date."

She met his eyes and he lost himself in the dark blue of them, seeing images of stretching her out on his bed and coming down on top of her, of finding her slit and filling it with his cock. The words, "Let's go," hovered on his lips even though he'd just gotten there.

He took a deep breath. A mistake, as the scent of her only fueled the lust, like the inhalation of pheromones signaling a need, a readiness to mate.

"What's your name?" he managed.

She hesitated, sending a spike of fear through him—that she'd give him a phony one because she'd already decided he meant nothing to her.

"Ianthe."

Truth or lie? "That's unique."

"It's Greek."

It went with the color of her skin and pitch-black hair, and damn, he didn't know much about the Greek goddesses, but she could have been one.

"You two going to keep standing there making moon eyes at each other, or you going to join the party?" Brady Sinclair yelled from his position next to the grill.

Laughter followed, scattered through the crowd like a shotgun blast. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the guys I work with, then we can grab a bite to eat. You want something to drink first?"

"I'll have what you're having."

He grinned. "Further proof you're definitely a woman of discerning tastes."

Guiding her over to the table where he'd set the two six-packs, he released her hand long enough to open one of the Dos Equis and pass it to her, his cock throbbing when she lifted it to her lips and took a long pull from the bottle. Fuck, if he didn't get her out of here, sooner rather than later, he was going to end up giving the cops around him ammunition for an endless stream of teasing.

Seeing the way some of them were looking at her already had him feeling like a dog guarding a bone. He crowded closer, trapping her against the table and blocking a large number of male eyes while at the same time sending a message loud and clear. Stay away.

Ianthe basked in the heat of Miguel's gaze and the warmth coming from his body. A flutter went through her belly when he recaptured her hand, his thumb brushing over the back of it.

"So what do you do for a living?" he asked.

The question blanked her mind. In the past, when she'd been a frequent visitor to this world, it had been enough to be a beautiful, willing woman, or a handsome man exuding power. Nothing more was required to gain an invitation to someone's bed for a brief tryst.

Her lack of an answer had a frown forming on Miguel's face, suspicion gathering at the corners of his eyes. She hastened to answer, speaking without thought of where it might lead. "I don't have a job yet. I've only just arrived."

"From where?"

Unfamiliar emotion washed through her though she recognized it must be panic. "Nowhere in particular."

The suspicion in his eyes deepened and she had to fight against distracting him with lust.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"I don't have a place yet. Last night I stayed in a hotel."

The lie dulled the taste of the beer. It brought with it uneasy guilt despite having no choice but to utter it.

She could hardly tell him the truth, at least not here. Yet it felt uncomfortable to lie now, when once lies had been nothing more than honeyed words to her, bait set in a trap for mortal prey.

To forestall further questioning she tried to redirect the conversation, asked, "What about you, what do you do?"

"I'm a homicide detective. Conner, the guy throwing this get-together, is my partner."

Concern sped her pulse. Her mouth went dry as her thoughts flashed back to when Armand Scholes had possessed the medallion, when he'd ordered her to torture the werewolf Khemirra Reis—as Detective Conner Stern watched and made his wrists bleed, fighting against his restraints.

Khemirra had ripped the medallion from Armand Scholes' possession, breaking the primary spell and sending Ianthe into the abyss to wait for the right male witch to trigger the secondary binding. She'd sensed that not much time had passed between that first summoning and now, but it seemed inconceivable the werewolf had meant for her to be here.

She wanted to ask Miguel how he'd come to touch the medallion, anxiety rising until she realized the werewolf couldn't know about the hidden spell. Nor would Khemirra recognize her. Scent wouldn't give her away and her appearance differed from before.

Relief surged into Ianthe, foreign for all its intensity though it was short-lived, ending with Miguel's return to the topic she'd wished to avoid. "What kind of job will you be looking for?"

A certain amount of knowledge, an impression of current times and global reality, were imparted at passing through the barrier separating the dark realm from this one. She leaned forward, so her mouth was deliciously close to his, going on the offensive because she didn't want to mar this first day with more deceit, already hating that there was any between them. "Are you afraid I'll work as an escort or a porn star?"

A small moan escaped him, an unconscious closing of the distance between them. And then it was her turn to fight a whimper when he stopped himself from claiming her mouth in a very public kiss, murmured against her lips, "You'd rake in the bucks if you did."

The near taste of him whetted her appetite. "I'm not sure what I'll do for a living here. Perhaps tend bar. Will it make being with me okay if I tell you whatever job I take will be perfectly respectable?"

Something inside Miguel loosened. Fuck. Everything about her was an advertisement for sex. Was it any surprise a part of him had been worried she was a working girl, as defined by the guys in Vice?

"Yeah, it makes things easier," he admitted.

"I'm glad."

The sound of her voice was a hand sliding up and down his shaft. He might as well forget about catching up on what'd happened in his absence. He couldn't make himself care.

He told himself to put distance between her lips and his, because if he started kissing her, there was a chance it'd quickly become an X-rated show. But his mouth and his dick overruled him.

He set his beer bottle down on the table and released her hand, but only so he could settle both of his on the bare skin of her sides. Jesus, she was hot. To touch. To look at. He closed the minuscule distance between their lips. To taste.

Lust engulfed him with the first silky caress of her tongue to his, the flames of it like a partition of fire blocking out all reality except Ianthe.

Intoxicating. That was the only word to describe kissing her.

No. Make it consuming. An enthrallment that deepened with each small sound of pleasure he pulled from her as his hands moved up and down her sides and his pelvis ground against hers.

Her arms went around his neck, pressing her breasts with their hardened nipples more firmly against his chest. Inviting him to deepen the thrust of his tongue, though each foray of it into her mouth made his cock widen and lengthen and grow more desperate for the feel of her wet pussy.

One kiss and he knew he was hooked. And as that first moved into a second, he wondered how he was ever going to stop long enough to get her away from the party and home with him.


* * * * *

Chapter 2


The instant Khemirra stepped into the backyard, fear returned, expanding beyond the consequences to Miguel as a result of his touching the medallion, to now include the unknown woman he was kissing with enough passion to send a heat wave scorching through the gathered cops and their dates.

There were plenty of flushed faces, and the red didn't come from embarrassment. Hell, desire curled in her belly, nearly overriding the fear. In a minute she just might start panting, and she wasn't sure she could blame it on the wolf.

She searched for Conner, the wolf part of her nature snapping phantom teeth, a possessive message that her mate better not be lusting after another female. She found him standing next to Aislinn's husband Trace.

Their eyes met as if he'd been looking for her too. His smile nearly made her purr like a damn cat—a disconcerting effect and one he continued to have on her despite the nearly nonstop lovemaking they'd been engaged in since Armand Scholes was taken into custody.

Thinking about the reclusive author who'd intended to use her in a breeding program doused the lust with a reminder that Conner had been running interference, keeping the uber-protective Trace out of the kitchen while she'd talked to Aislinn about the medallion. For the first time since Conner had accepted her being a werewolf, Khemirra dreaded the coming conversation about the supernatural.

When they were being held captive, he'd promised a spanking if she brought up the supernatural in any way, shape or form—and he was a man of his word, much to her delight. But this time the subject wasn't going to serve as foreplay.

He was going to be pissed. Worried. And he had a right to be.

Damn. She should have held off, met Aislinn today then gone to Inner Magick tomorrow for the consult about the medallion. Instead…

She grimaced. Water under the bridge. Spilt milk and a hundred other clichés, none of which were going to make her feel any better. She touched the pocket of her shorts where the medal was now a smooth piece of silver, an ordinary piece of jewelry holding no significance.

Khemirra forced her gaze from Conner and turned toward Aislinn, who'd emerged from the house right behind her. Inside, Aislinn had thought Miguel's reaction to the medallion, and the medallion's reaction to him, meant he was about to meet his mate, but the woman caught in his passionate embrace bore no resemblance to the small, beautiful blonde Scholes had used as a soul-hound.

Khemirra couldn't suppress a shiver at remembering the taste of brimstone and ash when her wolf had ripped the medal from Scholes' throat rather than ripping out his throat. She couldn't forget the merciless fury of the being bound to it, and didn't want to imagine that same deadly intensity directed at the dark-haired woman now in Miguel's arms and seemingly well on her way to his bed.

"Do you recognize her?" Khemirra asked.

Aislinn shook her head. "I don't know her."

"Then I think I'd better find a way to warn her away from Miguel, before the blonde shows up."

"Or vice versa."

Khemirra turned back toward the kissing couple and was hit by another blast of lust-producing heat. Oh yeah, good luck with that.

* * *

Ianthe wanted more, needed more. Miguel's desire fed her and yet at the same time increased her hunger.

She craved the touch of naked flesh to naked flesh, along with penetration. There could be no satisfying it—not here—though a sound of protest was torn from her when a man joined them, his presence causing Miguel to end the kiss.

"It's starting to look like I'm the last man standing," the dark-haired stranger said. "Are you going to make introductions or keep us all guessing?"

Miguel stepped away from her, clasping one of her hands as he used the other to reclaim his beer. "Dylan, Ianthe. Ianthe, Dylan. He works Homicide."

The detective's eyes held desire but they didn't dip below her face. She nodded in greeting and he returned it with a slow, seductive smile then surprised her by shaking his head, visibly dispelling the lust.

Once his ability to do so would have frightened her, for what it might mean and how she would suffer as a result of it, but here, it pleased her to know Miguel had friends with a strong moral code.

The demon lord she'd called master had likened her kind to a Venus flytrap. It was an apt description. Had once been an accurate description of her, but no longer. She was mortal now, human, though despite it, fear streaked through her as she and Miguel and Dylan drew near a group that included the blonde—Storm—in whose image she'd refused to create herself.

Fey. The knowledge hadn't been present in the impressions gained when the familiar-bond slipped into place, but it was there for her to see now. Storm's soul-aura was streaked with faerie essence, and at her side was a nonhuman touched by mortality only because he was bound to one.

A surge of adrenaline accompanied a sudden, intense urge to flee. She fought against dragging her footsteps, from coming up with an excuse that would take her in the opposite direction.

Without weapons, she was defenseless except for her ability to seduce. And that wouldn't work against the fey they approached, given his bond with Storm.

In olden times, before the decrease of magic and overabundance of humans caused their exodus into other realms, fey, Elven and dragon alike would kill a demon on sight if they could, denying her kind the opportunity to feed or play in this world.

Her hand tightened on Miguel's. He squeezed back, leaning over to brush a kiss across her ear and whisper, "Don't be intimidated. I've got your back."

She drew strength from it. I'm no different from any other human possessing supernatural gifts. She forced herself to relax though it was impossible to be completely calm. Conner—the Were's mate—was among those gathered.

Miguel introduced Storm as "Brady's partner, for better or worse", and her boyfriend—the fey—as Professor Tristan Lisalli, then Trace as Dylan's partner and, lastly, Conner as his.

The beat of her heart peaked in crescendo. And she, who had once boldly brought monarchs and holy men to their knees with the sultry demand in her eyes, quickly averted her gaze when she saw the glimmer of suspicion in Conner's. Too late, she realized it had been a mistake not to change the color of her eyes from the sapphire blue she'd had when Scholes possessed the medallion and commanded her obedience.

The Were joined them, accompanied by a woman wearing butterfly earrings perched on her ears to hide the pointed tips, though her soul-aura revealed the truth of her heritage, half-elf, half-human. Even without the heated possessiveness of Trace's arm around the woman, introduced as his wife Aislinn, Ianthe saw the bond that existed between them in the way the violet and gold of Aislinn's aura encircled Trace's.

The look of surprise on Aislinn's face made fear spike through Ianthe at somehow being recognized in spite of the purely human form. She tensed when the half-elf reached over, squeezing Khemirra's arm in the silent conveyance of a message.

The Were's nostrils flared, as if seeking demon scent. Her expression flashed to puzzled, but when the introductions were made, there was no doubt that she knew who Ianthe was.

It seemed equally certain the Were hadn't meant for Miguel to touch the medallion. Khemirra's eyes bored into hers, lips curving in a smile that was nearly a wolf's baring of teeth, a warning that her protection of her chosen male extended to his partner.

Ianthe didn't lower her gaze. She met challenge with challenge but offered no hostility.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, Khemirra thought. This was well beyond her experience, and she'd seen some strange stuff. Shit. There was zero doubt in her mind that Ianthe was the being Scholes had used as a soul-hound. Different form, and this one was purely human. Same unmistakable eyes.

She wanted to grab Aislinn and return to the kitchen for a second consult, before she hauled Ianthe in for one. Conner was going to—

He snaked his arm around her, and by the tension running through it she was glad he wasn't wearing a gun. "Khemirra?"

The rumbled sound of her name told her everything she needed to know. He wasn't just reacting to her reaction, but had seen Ianthe's eyes and made the connection himself. Oh yeah, the conversation they were going to have after their guests left was not going to be fun.

Better defuse the situation for now and accept Aislinn's earlier pronouncement about Miguel meeting his match. Deal with it later, including paying a visit to Aislinn's witch acquaintance and gathering information, as well as talking to Ianthe.

She forced herself to relax—no easy feat—and touched her hand to Conner's belly, giving it a little pat. "I think it's time to get you something to eat. You're getting growly."

Laughter met her statement, easing the awkwardness created by the nonverbal exchange between her and Ianthe. The comment triggered a general move toward a grill surrounded by male chefs swapping gossip.

Relief surged into Ianthe, along with a feeling of gratitude toward Khemirra for breaking the tension instead of escalating the confrontation or demanding she leave. But while those emotions were disconcerting, unfamiliar yet easy for her to adjust to, the heavy quality of Miguel's silence fashioned the familiar-bond into a hangman's noose.

As they approached the grill, her stomach signaled physical hunger and her mouth watered. Miguel released her hand to pass her a plate. One of the gathered policemen asked, "Hamburger or hot dog?"

"Hot dog."

Miguel chose a hamburger, the two of them stopping to apply condiments before he guided her to a padded chaise lounge. She sat with her back against the cushion while he straddled the chair.

The position made it impossible to ignore warm brown thighs and the pronounced bulge of his cock against the front of his cutoffs, though his voice was terse rather than warm with desire when he asked, "How do you know Khemirra?"

Her throat ached as if the imaginary noose had tightened. She found an answer containing the truth. "Through a mutual acquaintance."

It was no act to summon rage and allow Miguel to see it, fury at having been forced to touch a cattle prod to Khemirra's skin when ordered to do so. "He wronged Khemirra but there was nothing, nothing, I could do to prevent it."

She swallowed down the anger. "I'm hopeful Khemirra understands and will forgive me. But if I'd known this was her party, I wouldn't have shown up as I did."

Miguel visibly relaxed, letting it go as Khemirra herself had let it go. And though Ianthe hadn't thought to offer either apology or reassurance to the Were, the release of emotion accompanying the feeling of "rightness restored" between Miguel and her, prompted her to say, "I'll seek Khemirra out tomorrow and speak with her. If it's possible, I'd like to one day call her a friend, and have her think the same of me."

His smile was her reward. It curled her toes and flooded her with happiness, making her glad she'd dared to do what few of her kind did, exchange one type of bondage for another.

Hunger returned in a rush, for physical sustenance as well as that required by her soul. She glanced downward and the sight of Miguel's muscled thighs and the hard ridge of his erection had her channel clenching. She licked her lips unintentionally and he gave a strangled laugh, a husky, aroused curse. "Mierda."

He lowered his plate so it blocked her view, though his face held a hungry expression. His gaze dropped to her breasts with their taut nipples, lingering there for a heated moment before lifting to meet hers again. Had they been alone, she would have touched herself, first through the shirt and then after parting it.

His throat worked on a swallow as if he grasped the nature of her thoughts. "Keep that up and I'm going to jump you."

"Here, among your friends?"

Once the idea might have appealed to her, had appealed to her for the tremendous boost of easy energy in days when voyeurism served as an appetizer and orgies often became a feeding frenzy attended by several of her kind. But now, the idea of sharing Miguel, of letting anyone witness his sexual pleasure, had her hands tightening on the hotdog partially lifted to her mouth, crushing the bread so ketchup dripped like blood, hitting the paper plate in her lap.

Miguel grinned. "Don't freak out, I can wait until we get back to my place before pouncing. Barely. But I can hold out that long."

She loosened her grip on her food, his humor making her laugh. She took a bite of the hot dog, closing her eyes at the unexpected bliss of its taste.

She'd eaten exquisitely prepared meals served in nearly endless courses, dined in the company of kings and popes and emperors. But those meals taken with food, chewed and swallowed while wearing the illusion of humanity, were dust compared to the rich flavors against her mortal tongue.

A second bite brought a soft sigh from her but a low moan from Miguel. She opened her eyes to find him staring at her mouth, his heated expression presenting a temptation she couldn't resist. She lowered her hands, angling them to allow him to see the length of the hot dog nestled in the bun as she touched her tongue to the meat, eliciting a curse from him.

Fuck! It was time to leave, before something went sideways or he embarrassed himself. His cock screamed the message and the rest of him went along with it. He didn't even care about abandoning the Dos Equis and getting home to a refrigerator without beer if it meant making a beeline from the lounge chair to his bed.

"You want to get out of here?"

Her smile heated him up, making his dick feel like one of those balloons blown up and twisted into the shape of a hound.

"Can I take my food?"

A gentleman would say, We can stay long enough for you to finish it. He couldn't bring himself to do it. He felt desperate to get her alone.

Mierda. It hadn't been that long since he'd had sex. He'd said no to the badge bunnies while pursuing Storm because banging one of them would have gotten back to her, but it's not like he worried going forward about his hand becoming the only way he found release. He'd lost his virginity before he was a teenager, to a girl who was four years older. Since then, he'd never had to go without unless it was by choice.

He got to his feet and waited for her to do the same. Sparing a glance in Conner's direction, he gave a small wave when Conner's attention caught on him, then turned and guided Ianthe to the gate.

Upending the beer bottle, he watered a bed of cactus plants before ditching the glass in a recycle bin Conner had strategically placed by the gate. It was too much to hope he could leave without being noticed—obviously with a woman and in such a hurry he was taking his food with him, and making her do the same, rather than remaining and acting civilized.

Whistles and half a dozen ribald comments followed them out. Cops. Tomorrow he'd be wearing a couple of new nicknames.

He glanced at Ianthe to gauge her reaction and saw a small, pleased smile on her face. Jesus, he'd be lucky if he made it home without jumping her.

They ate while he drove. Ditched the paper plates in a receptacle set in the parking lot to encourage tenants not to litter. It left their hands free when they got inside his apartment.

She turned into him, arms going around his neck as though she was as hungry for this as he was. He took her mouth, moaning at the soft feel of her lips and the way she instantly opened for him, her tongue as bold as his.

Lust swamped him, swallowed him in a blistering inferno. His hands stroked the bare skin of her back, traveled lower, grasping her ass in a way it had taken all his self-control not to do when he'd had her trapped against the refreshment table.

He nearly started panting. One day he was going to spread her buttocks and fuck her there, but here, now, he released the teasing curves in order to burrow his hands beneath her shirt, verifying the lack of a bra as he traced the feminine lines of her shoulder blades and held her tight to his chest, hyperaware of her breasts with their hardened tips.

With each thrust of his tongue into her mouth, his cock screamed its need to tunnel into the wet heat of her slit. But he couldn't break away from the kiss long enough to free his dick. His surroundings faded, dimmed until his reality became black-rimmed, a shrinking circle threatening to take consciousness with it.

His heart pounded in his ears with frantic warning, like a survival instinct kicking in. He ignored it, unable to make himself care. Having her in his arms was worth passing out over.

She tasted like sin. Dark and spicy, and he couldn't get enough of her. His reality narrowed further, nearly becoming a pinprick before he relinquished her mouth—at her insistence, not his.

He was panting, chest moving in and out rapidly. It should have embarrassed him but he felt only satisfaction when he looked at Ianthe.

Her lips were parted and swollen, glistening. Her eyes were closed, the thick, dark lashes accenting the flawless perfection of her face.

"Fuck, you're beautiful. I want to see the rest."

Her eyes opened, just enough to make her seem submissive, and his cock spasmed in a primal reaction that left the tip wet with arousal. He'd never played dominance games with a lover but he wanted to with her.

He didn't order her to strip because the idea of taking possession of her held greater sway, pulling his balls tight in anticipation. His hands went to where her shirt was knotted beneath luscious breasts.

She tilted her head back in acquiescence, the movement jutting her chest out, straining the thin material over taut, visibly outlined nipples. He brushed his thumbs over them, buttocks clenching at the sound of her husky moan and the grinding of her pelvis against his.

Slowly he undid the knot, the backs of his fingers caressing the smooth skin beneath the shirt. The appearance of submission gave way to a sultry expression and the sensuous rub of her body to his.

He could barely believe he'd been the one she'd chosen. He'd seen the looks some of the other cops had given her, seen in her eyes that she recognized their lust. But from the moment he met her at the gate, he'd felt sure of her, sure of her desire for him.

He couldn't shake the feeling that somehow she was different from the other women he'd pursued in recent years. Something had always held him back from talking marriage and children, a topic that made a lot of guys break out in a cold sweat and put on their running shoes but made him fill with an aching emptiness.

You know why they were never completely right. You know why—

He slammed the door shut on that internal voice, shoring up a long-standing denial by focusing on her breasts. If he put his mouth on them, he might not lift his head again.

"Do you want me to strip for you?" she asked, flooding his mind with the imagined beat of music, with the slow removal of clothing in a dance meant to part men from their sanity.

He cupped her breasts, unable to stop himself from lowering his face, capturing a cloth-covered nipple, stroking his tongue over it, wetting it through the material.

She arched her back, spearing fingers through his hair. "Suck me."

He bit instead. Sensual discipline and open desire delivered with masculine authority.

He liked the way it made him feel. Powerful. Possessive.

Possessed.

Lust was a roar in his head, his bloodstream. It was a firestorm licking over his skin and surging through his cock to gather in his balls.

He widened his mouth, taking more, nipple and the area surrounding it. Reveling in the sounds she made, the desperate, tiny cries and quick, shallow inhalations.

Her fingers tightened in his hair. His went to her hips, gripping them, pulling her lower body forward as her upper body curved away from him. Allowing her to feel the rigid length of his cock though he held her immobile against it as he bit, sucked, tormented them both by leaving the barrier of her shirt between them.

The scent of aroused woman had his foreskin retracting farther, his cock jerking, leaking. He lifted his head and met her gaze, found the pupils dilated, as if he'd become a drug, and his mouth on her the fix she craved.

"Unbutton your shirt," he ordered, a raw, primal thrill going through him when she immediately pulled her hands from his hair and obeyed, parting the material and revealing herself.

He could come just looking at her breasts. He could spend hours with his mouth on them, his hands. If she lived with him, he'd want them left bare all the time, accessible so he could touch them, suck them at will.

The thought shocked him. Excited him.

He claimed a nipple. Closed his eyes at the taste and texture, the way her fingers once again tangled in his hair, holding him to her as she moaned, not afraid for him to know how much she liked what he was doing to her.

A pull of his lips had her saying, "I want you inside me."

He kissed across to the other nipple instead, laved it with his tongue, sucking the pouting flesh deep into his mouth, hands abandoning her hips in order to hold the globes of her breasts together, shortening the distance between taut nipples.

He couldn't remember a time when he'd been so hard, so thick and long, as though his cock intended to escape the confines of his shorts by lengthening and stretching upward. He might have laughed at his fanciful thoughts except for the throbbing pulse in his penis, the increased flow of arousal beading at its opening. He bit down on her nipple, as if the clamp of his teeth on it might translate into the vise-grip of a phantom hand on his dick.

Delicious pain spiked through Ianthe, from nipple to clit, a hot streak of fire through her belly, a revelation she hadn't expected when she exchanged one type of enslavement for another.

The familiar-bond altered the dynamic when it came to sex. What she'd once gained while lying with humans had in turn been siphoned from her by the demon lord she called master. He'd fed, taking great delight in ripping the stolen essence from her painfully, leaving her with only enough to sustain existence—and that sustenance had barely lasted long enough for her to reach Miguel's apartment.

She'd lost control as they kissed. Miguel's hunger had been a feast and she'd gorged herself, the need inside her so great she'd nearly taken too much and sent him into an exhausted sleep before he could fill her with his cock. Before he could touch his lips to her pussy, tasting her, thrusting his tongue into her slit. Before he could capture her clit in his mouth and suck on it as he was her nipple, pulling energy from her, reclaiming some of what he'd lost.

She felt it draining away through the familiar-bond but didn't care. What he was doing to her felt good, beyond good, like nothing she'd ever experienced though she'd seen it in those she'd seduced.

Before, when she was a demon in succubus form, sex was an act. Her satisfaction came in the conquest and feeding, like a human prostitute's pleasure coming only from the money gained and what could be purchased because of it.

Her responses hadn't been real, hadn't been deeply felt or honest. She'd been an actress on a carnal stage, programmed to deliver lines consisting of throaty moans and orgasmic screams, grunts and praise of a lover's prowess.

There was no pretense with Miguel. Her fingers tightened in his hair. She arched her back as if he could take the whole of her breast into his mouth and swallow her down.

"I'm wet for you," she said, her channel clenching, arousal finally slipping past the hem of her shorts to become visible on her inner thighs.

He groaned, making her cry out in protest as he took his mouth from her breast, his face lifting so their eyes met, his a molten pool of dark hunger. His desire intoxicating, so much more potent than anything she'd ever known.

In her female aspect, she would never need anyone else. He was enough for her, as he would be in her male form.

She shivered in anticipation of the future. The days they would play together with her shifting between aspects as the mood and desire demanded, fucking and being fucked as a male and a female.

She tried to grind her pussy against his cock. He prevented it by dropping his hands to her hips, holding her still though the feel of her clit pressed to his erection sent another wave of ecstasy through her.

"I want you in me," she told him again, and knowing something of the fears of this modern world, added, "I won't make you wear a condom. I'm safe, there's no fear of pregnancy or disease."

His hands tightened on her hips. "You're used to calling the shots with men, aren't you?"

"Yes." There was no reason to place a lie between them.

"Not with me. I won't let you do it with me."

Mierda. He wondered if he spoke the truth, and forced the doubt from his mind by touching his lips to her nipple.

He captured it. Sucked. Long, slow pulls before releasing it with a pop and kissing downward, despite his proclamation, slowly kneeling in front of her.

Her belly invited exploration. He dipped his tongue into her navel, hands gliding along sleek, feminine sides to halt just above the waistband of her shorts. He could easily rid her of the clothing, but as he'd done earlier, he commanded her instead. "Show me."

Her hands left his hair. As they had to bare her breasts for his view, they hurried to the front of her shorts. Undoing, opening, surprising a moan from him at seeing she wore no panties.

He pushed the shorts off her hips to drop unnoticed to the floor, the whole of his attention captured by the sight of her pussy. A tiny patch of hair gave the appearance of delicate femininity while leaving darkened folds and an erect clit accessible, a blatantly carnal invitation for a man to explore with lips and tongue.

Miguel fought the summons. He refused to yield to it without glancing upward to read her expression. Gave over to the compulsion to touch, to taste, only after seeing pleading rather than demand in her eyes, neediness rather than the wielding of sexual power.

He pressed his mouth to her heated skin and she widened her stance, rubbing her pussy against him, pushing her clit deeper into his mouth when he held it between his lips, driving his tongue farther into the slick depths of her channel when he entered it.

Her scent and taste were intoxicating, a blend of the exotic. A potent aphrodisiac and instant addiction made more compelling by the sounds that told him she was close to release.

His hand dropped to his cock, fingers clamping down on it through the material of his shorts. He didn't dare free himself for fear he wouldn't be able to keep from fucking through his fisted grip and coming.

A cry and the long, hard shuddering of Ianthe's body marked her orgasm and had satisfaction surging through him, an incredible rush of power that intensified as she went weak with the force of it.

He caught her up in his arms. Carried her into his room and placed her on the bed.

The sight of her, legs splayed and arms open, looking at him through dark lashes as her tongue darted out to wet sultry lips, had him stripping out of his clothing. Condom, the rational part of his mind whispered, trying—despite what she'd said about it being safe—to compel him to retrieve one from the nightstand drawer.

His cock fought to override the caution and the battle was decided with the touch of her fingers to her slit, a stroking caress that left them wet before she brushed them along the underside of her clit and over the tiny head.

He joined her on the bed, his knees on the mattress between her legs, his thighs widened enough to provide a primitive display of engorged penis and the testicles hanging beneath.


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