Read Demon Possessed Online

Authors: Stacia Kane

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Women Psychics, #Chase; Megan (Fictitious Character), #Paranormal Fiction, #Contemporary, #Murder, #Demonology, #Crime, #Women Psychologists, #Occult & Supernatural, #Paranormal

Demon Possessed (6 page)

 

The difference was that Megan couldn’t get used to that and always rather expected the smear, the run, or the frizz. Even on a night like this one, clad in a black silk evening gown with iridescent dark green feathers— dark green was one of her House’s colors—edging the irregular hems of layers of taffeta overskirt. Even with the diamond necklace and earrings Greyson had given her for Christmas. She still couldn’t quite accept that she looked the way she looked.

 

Win smiled and put his arm around the woman. Jesus, how many girlfriends had he brought? “Megan, this is my daughter, Leora.”

 

Right. That’s why the girl looked vaguely familiar. The resemblance was there in the deep blue eyes and the fine, straight nose. Megan had met both of Win’s sons but hadn’t met—wait, his daughter? He’d brought his daughter along to a gathering to which he’d also brought his girlfriend?

 

Too unsettling. She didn’t want to stand there anymore, while Leora told Greyson something about her recent trip to Washington, D.C.—his hometown—and Sarita leaned against Win. No matter how tightly Greyson held her hand or how reassuring that firm grip was, she wanted a drink, and she wanted not to have to smile politely at a man who was cheating on his wife. Publicly.

 

Greyson must have noticed she wasn’t making much conversation. “Meg, shall we go get ourselves a couple of drinks?”

 

She nodded; he led her away, toward the bar but not actually to it. They stopped a little more than halfway there, by one of the large marble pillars supporting the high arched ceiling. It really was a hell of a room, a small and intimate reception area before the private dining room, but those high ceilings and the pale walls and floors gave it a sense of light and space. At the apex of the ceiling stretched grids of tiny white lights. The glow they cast reminded her of the walls in their bedroom earlier, and some of her anger drained away.

 

Some but not all. She didn’t think a bath in a vat full of gin would be able to wash it all away.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“What?” In trying not to speak too loudly, she accidentally hissed the word; luckily it seemed lost in the leafy vine wrapped around the pillar. She tried again, with more success. “What do you think is wrong? I just had to stand there and pretend it doesn’t bother me that Win’s here with some woman who isn’t Alvia, and I know Alvia. How can I look her in the face after this?”

 

Confusion spread over his features. “Alvia? Why would you—”

 

“Yes, Alvia. Win’s wife. You do know her. And look, they all have girlfriends with them. Am I supposed to—”

 

“Okay. Okay, calm down, please, before they really start to get curious.” His arm slid around her shoulders, bringing their faces and bodies closer together and affording them a bit of privacy. A bit more when he shifted them around so their backs were to the small crowd.

 

It
was
a small crowd; aside from the Gretnegs and the girlfriends, there were assistants. That was it. Something struck her about that, but she filed it away for later.

 

“You can look Alvia in the face after this because she is fully aware of what Win is doing and who’s with him. You don’t think he’d bring his daughter into a situation that would divide her loyalties like that?”

 

“What? She knows?”

 

He nodded. “All the wives know. It’s a—a status symbol. Their husbands are wealthy and can afford to keep a mistress. The prettier she is, the nicer her home and car . . . Come on,
bryaela
. You know the story.”

 

Uh-huh. She sure did. Appearances again. “And his daughter ?”

 

“Leora’s known Sarita for years. Since she was a child. They all know her. She and Alvia exchange birthday gifts.”

 

She examined his face, tried to persuade herself to believe him. Well, no. She did believe him. She just didn’t want to, because to believe him would send her thoughts running down alleys she had no desire to enter.

 

“These guys are the old guard, Meg. Their marriages were arranged. Win and Alvia are lucky, you know. They’ve always liked each other. Templeton and his wife usually had a good time. But they’re not all lucky like that. It’s just the way things are done—the way they
were
done.”

 

Memory dinged in the back of her head. Templeton Black’s wife, teary at his funeral. And something else too. “Your parents hated each other.”

 

“Right. With a deep and fiery loathing.” He smiled and squeezed her shoulder. “Come on, let’s get you a drink. You look naked without one.”

 

“I do not.”

 

“Maybe I just wish you were.”

 

She returned his smile. Returned the sentiment be hind it too; she really didn’t want to be there, not when that big bed upstairs was empty. “Maybe later you’ll get your wish.”

 

“Now, that,” he said, taking her hand and heading toward the bar, “is something to look forward to.”

 

Chapter Six

Five minutes later, nicely fortified by a cold gin and tonic and a kiss, she spotted Roc sitting in a chair against the wall. Of course; everyone was supposed to have met in the room at nine, but she and Greyson had been a few minutes late.

 

Beside him sat Carter Slade, Greyson’s assistant. Well, “assistant” wasn’t quite the right word; after Templeton Black—the old Gretneg of Greyson’s house—had died and Greyson had become Gretneg, Carter had taken Greyson’s old job, which meant he was a sort of advisor/assistant/second-in-command.

 

Both of them rose when she and Greyson approached. Only one of them met her eyes. Carter kissed her hand, made an appropriate greeting, but didn’t look at her. He never did. She didn’t know if it was some kind of respect thing—she’d never heard of it, but she kept forgetting to ask—or if it was a particular issue of his, but a tingle of annoyance rose up her spine just the same.

 

Much like the tingle when she realized what had been missing from her discussion with Greyson by the pillar.

 

She was at the meeting as a Gretneg, an equal. What if she wasn’t? Would he have brought her anyway, even though she wasn’t a demon? Or would he have brought . . .

 

someone else?

 

“I have those papers for you to sign, Grey.” Carter started to gesture, as if he was picking up his briefcase, only to discover it wasn’t there. Just as well. It would have spoiled the perfect lines of his tuxedo, his perfect appearance in it. Carter’s dark hair never seemed to grow; his olive skin never flushed. Typical for a demon, really, but still.

 

When had she become so surrounded by cool, immaculate adults?

 

Except Roc. Bless him. Or whatever one did for demons. She smiled at him. Being who and what they were, they didn’t have important business to discuss that couldn’t even wait until after dinner. People were unhappy; her demons fed off it; that was pretty much it.

 

“They’re in my room anyway,” Carter went on. “And tomorrow morning you have a meeting with Lord Lawden.”

 

“Can’t you delay that?”

 

Megan couldn’t read demons, at least not very well. Since the events of the previous December, she’d occasionally been able to get flashes—usually from Greyson when they were physically close—and she’d always been able to feel demon anger like an icy breeze over her skin. But this time she absolutely felt Carter’s desire to glance at her, felt him resolutely avoiding doing so. Why?

 

“I really think it’s best you get it over with quickly,” he said, and a shiver ran down Megan’s back that had nothing to do with the fact that she was standing directly beneath an air vent.

 

“I seriously doubt it will be the last discussion I have to have with him,” Greyson replied.

 

“No, but—”

 

“I’d rather you delay it. I need a few more days to prepare.”

 

Carter shrugged. “If that’s what you want.”

 

“It is.”

 

Megan and Roc glanced at each other. Greyson hadn’t said anything to her about a meeting with Win, but then they didn’t discuss his business, so why would he? It didn’t concern her, and one of the best things about their relationship—one of the best things on a list she thought was rather embarrassingly long—was that they didn’t invade each other’s privacy.

 

Private business apparently dealt with, they all headed into the dining room. Megan barely managed to suppress a gasp on entering; demons were into formality and luxury and didn’t believe much in the character-building powers of self-denial, but even some of the grandeur she’d seen in the last eleven months faded when compared with the room before them.

 

Candles floated above the table, courtesy of the air demons—House Caelaeris—led by Baylor Regis. At her feet were flower petals, strewn from ivy-covered wall to ivy-covered wall.

 

Ivory damask tablecloths peeked out from beneath an enormous silver centerpiece loaded with ivy and white roses; silver plates waited at every chair, surrounded by crystal glasses and solid silver cutlery. Demons liked to eat. She had no doubt this would be a meal to remember.

 

And it was, but not for the reasons she expected. No sooner had they sat down than Justine Riverside, Gretneg of House Concumbia, turned to her, her succubus smile spread all over her perfect features.

 

“So, Megan,” she cooed. “We’re all dying to hear about your plans for your Haiken Kra. When will you be doing it?”

 

Had someone dropped a pin, Megan felt certain she would have heard it. She wished someone would. It would provide some distraction.

 

But no one did. No one made a sound.
Shit.

 

“I don’t plan to do it, actually. There’s really no reason for me to, at this point.”

 

Justine’s perfectly arched eyebrows shot up almost to her hairline. “No reason? I certainly think—”

 

“Justine, Megan will make the decision she feels is right,” Winston cut in. Megan shot him a grateful smile, which he returned. “It’s not our place to say what she should do.”

 

“It is! Just the presence of a human here creates a problem for us. Her mind is weak.”

 

“She’s a psychic,” Greyson said. He squeezed her thigh beneath the table. “Nobody’s going to hypnotize or entrance her.”

 

Justine frowned. “I think we should take a vote on it.”

 

“Excuse me,” Megan said. “I don’t think it’s up to any of you. I don’t actually believe it’s any of your business.”

 

“Human vulnerability is our business when it affects us.” Justine flicked her long hair, shining black in the candlelight, off her bare shoulder. “Look at that silliness going on in the hotel down the road, that flea-pit whatever-it’s-called. That ridiculous man claiming to heal possessed people. And they believe him. They flock to him. They give him money—hmm. Maybe that’s something we should look into.”

 

A ripple of appreciative laughter flowed around the table at this. Megan didn’t join in. “Wait, what? What man?”

 

“Some reverend man.” Justine’s shudder turned into a graceful undulation when the servants—not the hotel’s, but demons handpicked by each House—brought the first platter, loaded with appetizers, and started parceling them out. Apparently being seen to react horribly to something was not on Justine’s list of acceptable things. “He’s holding some sort of weekend prayer meeting at that hotel over there.”

 

“The Windbreaker?”

 

“That’s the one.” Justine picked up her fork and twirled it in her red-tipped fingers. “Why, are you planning on joining them?”

 

“No, I—no. No, I’m not.” Damn it! She should have told Justine to go fuck herself, something she’d been dying to do for some time. She’d never forgotten her first glimpse of the woman, though they hadn’t been officially introduced. It was the day Megan was forced to remember the Accuser, the demon who’d infected her with a piece of him almost seventeen years before. The day she’d been forced to watch Greyson tortured, chained, and whipped with an iron-tipped whip.

 

Justine had been there. She’d enjoyed the show. Megan would never forget it. Would never forget that Justine had enjoyed the show despite the fact that she’d also enjoyed having Greyson in her bed at one time.

 

Or several times. He’d never really given Megan details, and she’d never asked. It was enough to know that it had happened, and that it wasn’t happening anymore. Wouldn’t happen again. When he was Templeton Black’s second-in-command, Greyson had been called on to perform such acts, payback for favors, little treats to sweeten deals. As Gretneg he no longer had to.

 

She supposed that was Carter’s job now. Although she preferred to think it wasn’t anybody’s.

 

Except . . . Greyson had asked his friend Nick to do something for him, back at Christmastime. Something he didn’t want to do, something involving a woman. Could that have been ?

 

But what favor would Greyson have been paying back then, when he’d been Gretneg for barely twenty-four hours?

 

Fuck Justine, and fuck all this stupid demon crap. The implication that Megan’s silly human brain was so easily manipulated, that she would be just as likely to run off and join up with a fundamentalist exorcist as to do anything else, rankled. The implication that because she was human she didn’t belong there, that simply hurt. As much as she didn’t want it to, it did. She did want to belong there. She did want to fit in. She just didn’t want to give up her humanity entirely, to lose things she considered valuable and important.

 

Allowing the demon to grow inside her, to become more of a part of her so she would be genetically demon, might not change that. But she couldn’t be sure. And nobody could give her a truly compelling argument for doing it, so why should she? She’d thought it wasn’t a problem.

 

And now with one little conversation all that had changed.

 

Food was put on her plate, and she picked up her fork without thinking, only to be stopped by Greyson’s hand on hers. “Don’t eat that one.”

 

“Why?” Shit, she didn’t want to sound bitter and pissed off, but she couldn’t help it. She hated feeling like an outsider. “Is it made of human flesh or something?”

 

He looked at her strangely. “No. Bell peppers.”

 

“Oh. Right. Thanks.” Oops. She was allergic to those.

 

“Is everything all right,
bryaela
?”

 

She tried to smile. It didn’t turn out too well. “I’m just—I’m fine.”

 

His palm stroked her thigh now, gliding up and down over the silk of her skirt as he leaned over to whisper in her ear. “Watching you stand up to Justine was awfully sexy.”

 

“I don’t think I stood up very well.”

 

“Oh, I do. Very few people ever even attempt it, so you get points just for that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so surprised.”

 

This time her smile did work. True or not, it was nice to hear. “Really? I would have thought you’d managed to surprise her a few times over the years yourself.”

 

“No. She never got my best stuff.”

 

“Well, didn’t she miss out.”

 

“I like to think so. But such is life. Unfair.”

 

She looked up at him, into his eyes. The rest of the room turned into nothing but a discordant hum in the background, a blur of ivory and green, a set painting. “Sometimes it isn’t too bad, though.”

 

“No, sometimes it certainly isn’t.”

 

She didn’t know how long they sat like that. Not long, she didn’t think. Not in such a public place, in such a small group where everyone at the table could watch and probably were. But it was long enough to remind her exactly why she was still there, why she still wanted to be there. Long enough to know he wanted her there too.

 

“I was thinking,” he said finally, giving her thigh another squeeze and taking a sip of wine with his other hand. The sound of the room rushed back, the others talking, the faint tinkle of silverware on plates. More servants moved in with larger trays, delivering what looked like pheasant. “We haven’t been back to Italy. Want to go, week after next?”

 

“For your birthday? Oh . . . shit, I can’t. I can’t take more time off so soon, and the rest of my vacation time at the station is booked for Christmas. I’m sorry.”

 

He shrugged. “No problem.”

 

“I took your birthday off, though. And the day after.”

 

“Oh? Planning something?”

 

“Maybe.” Actually, she was; she’d found a nice hotel on an island off the coast, just a few hours’ flight away, and had booked the night before and the night of, with a late checkout the day after. Malleus had helped her plan it; she’d needed him to check Greyson’s appointments.

 

He started to reply but stopped when someone said his name. Winston’s daughter, Leora, sat at his left side; Megan hadn’t noticed before. The seating around the table was arranged boy-girl, with Win on Leora’s other side and his girlfriend—Sarita, right?—on his other side. The assistants, exclusively male, sat at the end closest to the kitchen doors in a ring.

 

Gunnar Ryall from House Aquiast sat at her right. While Greyson turned to Leora, she spoke to him, making desultory conversation. No other kind could be made with Gunnar, at least not in her experience. He liked to talk about fish. A lot.

 

Her pheasant was placed in front of her. With gratitude she turned to it and accepted another cocktail as well, instead of wine. Her stomach practically screamed at the sight of the food; she’d hardly eaten all day, and while full-blood demons could subsist for long periods of time simply on energy like what she’d exchanged with Greyson earlier, she couldn’t.

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