"That doesn't make sense." I smiled sadly. "And I'm not everything. You love them too. And you'd hate yourself for running off with me while they need you so much."
"So, what? You've made my choice for me?" he asked. There was a playful note to his voice, despite the deadly seriousness of the topic. "Are we breaking up?"
"No! Of course not. I just . . . I just want you to know that I don't expect you to come with me. Do I want to be with you? Yes, of course. But I love your family, Seth. I love all of them. My happiness . . ." It was strange, speaking those words. My happiness. For so long, I'd been miserable. Happiness wasn't even a concept I'd imagined for myself in ages. "My happiness isn't worth theirs."
He leaned down and brushed his lips against mine. "What about mine?"
I stared in astonishment. "Are you saying you'd abandon them and run off to Las Vegas?"
"No," he said firmly. "I would never abandon them. But there must be some middle ground here. Some way that doesn't involve sacrificing us or them. We just have to figure it out. What we have is too important. Don't give up on us yet, okay?"
I hugged him, losing myself in the sweetness of his warmth and scent. My heart had lightened a little at his words, but I still didn't want to get my hopes up. There was too much at stake, still too much that could go wrong.
"I love you," I told him.
"I love you too." He squeezed me tight and then kissed me again before pulling apart. "Now. Let's go watch that movie and pretend to be social so that we can leave early."
"Because if you're going to Vegas this weekend, then I want to get you home and get some quality time in tonight."
I grinned and put my arm around him. "Does 'quality time' mean what I think it does?"
"Yes," he said, as we walked back to the living room. "Yes, it does."
"Well, then, you know that's against the rules."
"Rules that you made up," he pointed out.
"Rules that are for your own good," I corrected. "It's not time yet. Remember, we have to ration ourselves."
It was part of the conditions of us getting back together. Keeping strictly platonic before had strained us, so this time, I'd agreed that some sex was okay . . . even though I cringed at the thought of how each act, no matter how small, would take away some of his life. Seth had told me he didn't care, that he'd take any risk to be with me. I was still cautious, and he'd yielded to me to set the schedule for our rationed sex life. I still wasn't entirely sure what constituted proper rationing in this situation, but something in my head said we should have sex only every few months. I hadn't told Seth that, though. It had been one month since the last - and only - time we'd had sex since getting back together as a mortal and a succubus, and I knew he was getting restless. It was especially difficult for him because although he respected me, he also didn't think such caution was needed when he was the one who faced the dangers - dangers he swore he didn't mind.
"Not tonight," I continued.
"It's practically a special occasion, though," he told me. "A big send-off."
"Hey, I didn't say we couldn't do anything," I replied. "Just not as much as you'd like to do." One thing we'd inherited from our chaste days was a set of several creative workarounds, mostly involving doing unto ourselves what we couldn't do unto each other. "The question is, is there going to be a problem with your houseguests?"
"Not if we're quiet," Seth said. After a moment, he shrugged. "Scratch that. I don't care. Let them hear."
I scoffed. "Oh, yeah. So that your mom can come break down your door with her baseball bat."
"Don't worry," he said, kissing my cheek. "She's no match for you and that dictionary."
Fortunately, no dictionaries or bats ever came into play, and Seth and I spent a pleasant night together. He sent me off that weekend in a good mood, and during the time I was with him, it was easy to believe this might all end well. Once I began the tedious parts of travel by myself, the doubts began to set in.
The ride to the airport, security, safety instructions . . . all little things in and of themselves, but each one began to weigh on me. I just couldn't see Seth moving to Las Vegas - not anytime soon, at least. That left long-distance dating, and it was hard to imagine us going through a trip like this every . . . hell, I didn't know how often. And that was another problem. What exactly did long-distance dating mean? Visits every week? Every month? Too-frequent visits meant the irritation of travel. Too few put us in danger of out-of-sight, out-of-mind complications.
So, naturally, I was all worked up by the time my flight landed in Las Vegas. And strangely, I took comfort remembering Jerome's words, of all things. If Seth and I had survived the huge problem of immortal-mortal dating, then really, what was a two-hour plane ride compared to that?
We could make this work. We had to.
"There she is!"
A familiar, booming voice startled me as I was waiting at the baggage claim. I spun around and found myself looking up at the tanned good looks of Luis, Archdemon of Las Vegas. I let him wrap me up in a giant hug, something he managed with remarkable delicacy, considering what a bear of a man he was.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, once those muscled arms had released me. Realization hit me. "You're not here to pick me up, are you? I mean, don't you have people who have people to do that kind of thing?"
Luis grinned at me, his dark eyes sparkling. "Sure, but I couldn't trust an underling to pick up my favorite succubus."
"Oh, stop," I groaned. My bag came around the carousel, but when I went for it, Luis brushed me aside and easily lifted it up. As I followed him toward the parking garage, I couldn't even begin to picture Jerome doing something like this.
"You scoff, but most of the succubi around here bore me to tears. Hell, most of our staff here does," Luis said. "You get a full range of personalities and talent levels with so many. The exceptional and the unexceptional. You, my dear, are exceptional."
"You don't have to try to sweet-talk me into the job," I said, smiling in spite of myself. "Not like I have a choice."
"True," he agreed. "But I want you to be happy here. I want everyone who works for me carrying stories about how awesome I am. It ups my cred at the annual company conference."
"Jerome's trying to up his by having us beat Nanette's employees in bowling."
Luis laughed at that and led us out to a gleaming black Jaguar double-parked in the handicapped zone. Once he'd stowed my suitcase, he even went so far as to open the door for me. Before starting the car, he leaned over conspiratorially and whispered loudly, "If you want to shape-shift into something else, now's your chance while we're still inside."
"Shape-shift into what?"
He shrugged. "You're in Vegas. Live the lifestyle. No need to resign yourself to jeans and sensible shoes. Give yourself a cocktail dress. Sequins. A corset. I mean, look at me."
Luis gestured grandly at himself, just in case it was possible to miss the gorgeous and undoubtedly custom Italian suit he was wearing.
"It's barely noon," I pointed out.
"Doesn't matter. I dress like this the instant I get out of bed."
With a self-conscious look around the garage outside, I quickly shape-shifted out of my travel clothes and into a one-shoulder minidress that wrapped around me like a Grecian gown. The fabric glittered silvery when it caught the light just right. My long, light brown hair turned equally glam. Luis nodded in approval.
"Now you're ready for the Bellagio."
"The Bellagio?" I asked, impressed. "I figured I'd be shoved off to some crappy motel ten miles from the Strip." I amped up my makeup for good measure.
"Well," he said, backing the car out, "that is actually what the normal budget allows for when it comes to new employee visits. I was able to pull some extra funds - and dip into my own pockets - to upgrade you a bit."
"You didn't have to do that," I exclaimed. "I could have paid for my own room somewhere." Yet, even as I said it, I knew that if accruing funds over the centuries was easy for someone like me, it was a million times easier for someone with Luis's lifespan. The car and his suit were probably bought with pocket change from his income. He waved off my concerns.