Saturday, November 9, 2019

Succubus Dreams CHAPTER 26

New Year's Eve. Warren, Emerald City's owner, had thrown a swank party at his house and invited the whole staff, along with about fifty others. His house was enormous, and he'd spared no expense. Waiters worked the crowd. A bartender made drinks with great flourish. A DJ spun music in the corner. It was probably the most elaborate party I'd been to all year. Everyone was having a great time. Well, except me, naturally. Maddie and Seth were there. Together. It was strange to see them out as a couple so openly, after all the time he and I had spent hiding our relationship. But when she'd arrived back in Seattle a few days ago, she'd made no attempts at secrecy. Everyone at the store had known within twenty-four hours, and it was still a source of much buzzing and speculation. The general consensus was that they were cute. And, watching them, I supposed that if I weren't so intimately involved, I'd think they were cute too. Mostly they made me want to go throw up the caviar I'd just eaten. They stood together with a few other staff across the room, holding hands. Maddie glowed like a succubus, talking animatedly to Beth about something. Seth, dressed up for a change and looking gorgeous, listened with a small smile – though there was something solemn in his eyes. He looked uncomfortable, and I strongly suspected he'd been brought here at Maddie's urging. I didn't think he was the type who'd come and rub their relationship in my face, but then, I'd never thought he'd break up with me either. Just then, he glanced up to scan the room and met my gaze. By accident or on purpose, I couldn't say. We held each other's eyes for a moment. His expression grew troubled, wistful. I don't know what mine looked like. A moment later, he turned his attention back to the others. But the small smile was gone. â€Å"Makes you want to brush your teeth, doesn't it?† Doug approached me, holding what I believed to be his fifth rum and coke. I pointed to it. â€Å"What, all that sugar you're drinking?† He grinned. â€Å"I mean my sister and Mortensen, as well you know.† I gave them one more glance, then turned back to him. â€Å"Everyone thinks they're cute.† â€Å"I guess. I can't decide how to feel.† He knocked back his drink. â€Å"I mean, he's sleeping with my sister, right? I'm supposed to be, like, outraged and want to defend her honor. Or something. But part of me's thinking maybe they'll hit it off so well that she'll move in with him. And that kind of makes me†¦happy.† Ugh. Bad enough they were dating at all. Moving in together? I couldn't even think that far ahead. They'd only been an item for a week. I silently counted to five and tried not to say something I'd regret. â€Å"Who can say?† I murmured vaguely. Doug tilted his head as he regarded me. â€Å"Always figured you'd be the one going after him, what with your hero worship and his erotic stories about you.† He was referring to a short story of Seth's that had appeared in a magazine not too long ago. The kinky heroine bore an uncanny – and completely coincidental – resemblance to me. I could tell by his voice and face that Doug was joking. He'd never believed there had been anything between Seth and me. Little did he know how close to home his joke hit. â€Å"Well,† I told him. â€Å"Looks like your sister's going to be the one in the erotic stories now.† Doug paled. â€Å"Oh my God. I never thought of that.† He glanced at his empty glass. â€Å"I gotta get another one.† I watched him go and felt a smile tug at my lips, despite my resolution to be miserable. And I was definitely doing a good job at the miserable part. I didn't approach anyone at the party and only spoke a few words to those who tried to engage me in conversation. I'd already turned down several men who'd tried to fetch me a drink or get me to dance. I just wanted to be alone. Really, I shouldn't have come. â€Å"Never thought I'd see you alone at an event like this.† I'd felt his presence behind me before I heard him. â€Å"Carter, you party crasher. I know you didn't get an invitation.† â€Å"Hey, I heard this was the place to be.† â€Å"Isn't crashing one of the seven deadly – holy shit.† The angel had stepped in front of me. His chin-length blond hair was washed and brushed, and he wore khakis and a blue polo shirt. The ensemble was utterly casual and also the nicest thing I'd ever seen him in. He laughed, knowing what had surprised me. â€Å"I couldn't show up like I usually do. I'm still underdressed compared to you.† I had on a form-fitting satin dress with a collar that went all the way up to my neck. Black. Like my mood. â€Å"Yeah,† I said, â€Å"but if we're measuring comparison to our normal ware, you're the best-dressed person in here.† â€Å"This is a great party,† he said, eyeing the room. He had a drink in his hand that I swore he hadn't had a moment ago. â€Å"You don't look like you're having a very good time.† I wasn't ready to talk about that yet, not to him. Averting my eyes, I stared absentmindedly to where Doug was hitting on some woman about twenty years older than he was. The DJ's current song ended, and the guitar notes of a new one kicked up. â€Å"Sweet Home Alabama.† â€Å"Oh, fuck,† I said. â€Å"What?† asked Carter. â€Å"I hate this song.† â€Å"Really? I've always liked it.† I sighed. â€Å"What happened to Yasmine?† His mocking humor faded. â€Å"You know what happened to her. She belongs to Hell now. I'm sure they'll make good use of her.† â€Å"But will she do it?† I asked. â€Å"Will she really turn her back on Heaven and fight?† â€Å"They always do.† It was exactly what Vincent had said. â€Å"Once she's spent enough time shunned by other angels and denied the face of the divine†¦well, she'll want to fight against Heaven.† â€Å"That's stupid. It's like she's†¦I don't know. Like she's being forced to go bad.† â€Å"She made the decision to fall.† â€Å"She did it out of love! You're always telling me that love is the most wonderful thing in the universe.† â€Å"It is. But an angel's love must be given to the power above first, then to humanity as a whole second. It can't be bestowed on just one person – human or nephilim.† â€Å"That's stupid. I think the nephilim have it right thinking all of us are messed up.† I handed my glass to a passing waitress. It had been empty for a while. Hesitantly, I brought up something that was still troubling me, something this song wouldn't let me forget. â€Å"Carter†¦about Nyx. Her visions†¦are they always true?† â€Å"As far as I know. They don't always play out like people think, though. Why do you ask?† â€Å"No reason. Well, I mean, just curious about what she showed me.† â€Å"Ah. Yeah, that's tricky.† He frowned. â€Å"Since she was actually manipulating you, it's hard to say†¦I don't know everything about her. What'd she show you?† â€Å"It's not impor – â€Å" The music abruptly stopped, and from across the room, I heard someone shouting numbers. â€Å"Ten†¦nine†¦Ã¢â‚¬  I looked at a nearby clock. Nearly midnight. â€Å"Eight†¦seven†¦Ã¢â‚¬  People were getting out noise makers and drinks. Couples were getting close. â€Å"Six†¦five†¦Ã¢â‚¬  Maddie drew close to Seth. He leaned down toward her, looking nervous. â€Å"Four†¦three†¦Ã¢â‚¬  I clutched Carter's arm. I couldn't watch this. I couldn't watch Seth and Maddie kiss. â€Å"Get me out of here,† I gasped, suddenly having trouble breathing. â€Å"Two†¦Ã¢â‚¬  â€Å"Carter! Get me – â€Å" The world exploded in color around me. Cold night air blasted my face. Disoriented, I staggered and felt Carter catch my arm to steady me. We stood on top of a roof, directly facing the Space Needle. Fireworks burst around it in showers of rainbow sparks. The accompanying noise startled me, and I gasped. Farther away, other fireworks sparkled on the horizon. â€Å"Best view in the city,† joked Carter. I stared around, still confused, until I was finally able to triangulate our position. â€Å"We're on top of the bookstore.† He released my arm, and we stood there watching the fireworks for several minutes. We were so close to the Space Needle that I could soon smell the smoke as the wind blew over us. I started to rub my arms, then remembered to shape-shift on a coat. â€Å"A new year has all sorts of possibilities, Georgina,† Carter finally said, eyes still on the show. â€Å"Not for me. I've lost all mine. I've lost Seth. I screwed up.† â€Å"It's not all your fault. Relationships are symbiotic. Takes two to make them work, two to make them fall apart. Seth's got plenty of blame in this.† I shook my head. â€Å"No†¦the things he did. It was my fault.† â€Å"You're missing the big picture, Daughter of Lilith. You're forgetting Niphon's role. What was he trying to do?† â€Å"Ruin my life,† I said bitterly. â€Å"He had a part, yeah, but he complicated what I'd already messed up.† â€Å"Why? Why'd he do it?† â€Å"Because he hates me.† Carter sighed. â€Å"You're not getting it.† I turned toward him. â€Å"What do you mean? What more is there to get?† â€Å"Only so much I can tell you. Only so much I can interfere.† He fell silent as a particularly showy burst of silver sparkles lit the night sky. The deli conversation with Hugh came back to me. â€Å"Did†¦did he really mess something up with my contract? Is it flawed?† â€Å"That's your side's business. I can't tell you anything about that.† He sighed once more. â€Å"I can tell you that eternity is an awfully long time to keep accruing and carrying around guilt.† â€Å"Why do you care so much?† I demanded. â€Å"Why do you care so much about what happens to me and Seth?† He looked back down at me. â€Å"I like happy endings. I like helping make them happen.† â€Å"Yeah, well. You kind of fucked this one up.† His old, cynical smile returned. â€Å"You want to go home?† I turned toward the Space Needle. â€Å"I want to finish the show.† â€Å"Okay.† â€Å"Oh, hey. Wait.† I reached into my purse and pulled out a cashmere knit hat. I handed it to him. â€Å"Merry Christmas. Sorry I didn't wrap it.† Carter examined his Secret Santa present, then put it on. â€Å"Neat.† When he did finally take me home, he used the same angelic teleportation that always made me slightly nauseous. Aubrey greeted my entrance, rubbing against my legs as I fumbled for the lights. Beneath the floor, it sounded like my neighbors were having a party. I kicked my heels off in the middle of the living room floor and walked toward my bedroom, unbuttoning my dress as I went. I let it fall to the floor, happy to be free of the tight fabric. Opening my closet door, I knelt down and began rummaging through it until I unearthed the old shoe box again. Reaching up to the spot just above my breastbone, I found Seth's ring on its chain. I unfastened it and held the ring in one hand for a long time, staring at its smooth, shining surface and winking sapphires. I took out the old worn ring from the box and held it in my other hand. For a while, I just sat there, looking back and forth between the two. They were different†¦and yet so alike. You were destined for heartache. And are going to repeat that forever. You aren't learning. You aren't changing. With a sigh, I placed both rings into the box, next to a heavy gold cross. I closed the lid and shoved it all back into the closet. It was over. It was all over. Still half-naked, I walked back to where I'd dropped my purse and found my cell phone. I dialed a number and waited. â€Å"Hello?† â€Å"Dante? This is Georgina.† â€Å"Who?† With a start, I realized I'd never actually told him my name. â€Å"The succubus.† â€Å"Oh.† I had a feeling he'd already recognized my voice. â€Å"Happy New Year.† I took a deep breath. â€Å"Are you free tonight?† There was a long, pregnant pause. â€Å"What about the man in the dream?† he finally asked. â€Å"There is no man in the dream.†

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.