Bastien nodded gravely. "I've already scouted a couple of potential locations."
"And," I teased, "Bastien doesn't even really need to find his own place. He could go out tonight, smile at the right people, and have a dozen rich women more than happy to give him a place to stay." His current body looked to be in its late twenties, with sun-streaked brown hair and hazel eyes. It was pretty cute, but even if he'd looked hideous, he could still have talked himself into someone's heart. He was just that good.
"Is that an invitation?" Bastien asked. "Because I have no plans for tonight."
"Well, you do now," said Luis. "I figured you and Georgina would want to catch up, and you can give her your impressions of the city so far - which are all good, of course."
"Of course," Bastien and I said in unison.
"Also, I'd like her to meet Phoebe and maybe some of the other succubi," Luis continued.
"Ah, Mademoiselle Phoebe." Bastien nodded his head approvingly. "An exquisite creature. You'll adore her."
"You apparently do," I said. Succubi and incubi hooked up sometimes but generally stuck to humans for romantic liaisons. Bastien, however, had a particular penchant for my kind.
He made a face. "None of my charms seem to be working on her. She says that I'll never be as infatuated with anyone else as much as I am with myself, so there's no point in her getting involved."
I laughed. "I like her already."
"Then it's settled." Luis moved toward the door. "I have some business to take care of, but I'll see you before you leave. In the meantime, I trust Bastien will show you a good time. Don't hesitate to call me if you need anything."
Luis snapped his fingers, and a small business card appeared in his hand. He handed it to me. It was still warm.
"Thanks, Luis," I said, giving him a quick hug. "I appreciate everything you've done."
Luis nodded gravely. "I know you're not thrilled about this transfer, but I really, really would like for you to be happy here."
He left, and Bastien and I stood there in silence for a few moments. "You know," I said at last, "in the years I've been in Seattle, I don't think Jerome has ever told me to call him if I needed anything."
Bastien chuckled as he walked over to a small but well-stocked bar. "Luis is quite exceptional from what I've seen so far. I was lucky to end up here. You too."
"Yeah. We're all lucky, aren't we?" I crossed my arms and leaned against the wall by the war. "How did you end up here?"
"The same way any of us end up anywhere. I was living in Newark until I got the transfer order a couple days ago. Here I am."
I frowned. "I thought you said you'd been here a week?"
"Week, a few days. I don't know. I admit, I've been kind of intoxicated since I arrived. It was recent, that's all. And a surprise."
"So was mine," I murmured. "Astonishingly so. And now you're here too. It's kind of weird."
"Is it?" He emptied a martini shaker into two glasses. "We've worked together before. Figures that it would happen again."
I accepted the glass he offered me. "I suppose so. But still . . . the number of times we've ended up together has been pretty amazing. For it to happen again is a huge coincidence." I took a sip and nodded approvingly. He'd used Grey Goose.
"Maybe it's not a coincidence. They keep track of our performance records. They probably know we work well together."
I hadn't considered that. "You think they'd actually place us together because of that? To get results? I mean, I'm still trying to figure out why I was even transferred at all."
"There doesn't have to be a reason, not with them."
"I know. One theory about me being here is that I haven't been all that great of a succubus."
"Ah, then there you are. They sent you to me because they know what a good influence I am on you."
"Bad, you mean."
His eyes twinkled. "This is going to be a lot of fun having you here. I haven't even gambled yet, and already I feel like I hit the jackpot." He knocked back his drink. "Finish that, and let's go have some fun. I know a great place for lunch. We'll go there and then hit some games of chance."
It felt weird going out on the town, especially so early in the day. I'd become too subdued in my Seattle life, I realized. I'd done such a good job at playing human that I'd forgotten what it was like to think like a succubus. Why not live it up in daylight? This was technically a business trip, but the point was to scope out the place of my future employment. I'd been here lots of times before, but this was the first time I really and truly studied the city through the eyes of an "on the clock" succubus. Again, I was struck by that earlier, heady sense: easy, so amazingly easy.
We caught a cab, and Bastien gave instructions for us to go to Sparkles. I ran through my mental list of Las Vegas attractions and came up empty.
"I've never heard of that," I said. "It sounds like a strip club."
"Nah, it's a brand-new hotel and casino," Bastien told me. "So shiny and new, in fact, that it just opened a couple of weeks ago, and already it's a hit."
"Why's it called Sparkles?" I asked.
He grinned. "You'll see."
The answer was obvious once we got there. Everything was, well, sparkly. The exterior sign was a riot of glittering, chasing lights that should've had a seizure warning affixed to it. Everyone who worked in the hotel and casino wore elaborately sequined outfits, and all the decor was done in brightly colored metallic and glittering surfaces. Paired with the flood of flashing lights already found in a casino, the entire spectacle was hard on my eyes at first. Yet, despite what could've easily degenerated into tackiness, there was still something in the feel of the place that radiated luxury. Sparkles was over the top, yes, but in a good way.
"Here," said Bastien, leading me through the maze of the casino. "There's a little less sensory overload where we're going."
Opposite the side we'd entered in was a doorway dominated by a sign reading DIAMOND LOUNGE. With a name like that, I expected strippers and more glitz but instead found myself in a quiet and much more tastefully subdued establishment. Crystal chandeliers and wineglasses provide the only sparkle here. Everything else in the restaurant was warm, honey-colored wood and red velvet. When we were seated at our table, Bastien said to the waitress, "Can you tell Phoebe that Bastien is here?"
I gave him a wry look once we were alone. "I see how it is. Here I thought you were going out of your way to take me somewhere nice. You're just here to visit your crush."
"That's merely a perk," he told me easily. "The food here really is excellent. And Luis wants you to meet Phoebe too, remember? Don't worry, you'll like her."
I made no effort to hide my skepticism. "I don't know, Bastien. I can count on one hand how many succubi I've actually liked over the years. At best, they're tolerable and semiamusing, like Tawny." At worst - and more often than not - succubi were raving bitches. Me excluded, of course.
"Just wait and see," he said.
We didn't have to wait long because a couple minutes later, I felt the wash of a succubus aura come over me, one reminiscent of orange blossoms and honey. A tall, willowy woman in a black and white uniform appeared, carrying a tray with our cocktails on it. The employees here didn't have to match the glitzy attire of their hotel brethren. She set the cocktails before each of us with a grace and fluidity that was almost too much for this establishment. It reminded me of something more suited to the serving halls of kings from long ago - which, I suspected, she had probably known very well.
"Ah, Phoebe," Bastien sighed dreamily. "You are a vision, as always. Come meet our newest colleague."
She gave him the look one has when indulging a ridiculous child and sat down in one of our table's empty chairs. Her dark blond hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail, revealing high cheekbones and long-lashed green eyes. "Oh, Bastien, don't start in on the vision stuff. It's far too early in the day." She extended a polite hand to me. "Hello, I'm Phoebe."
"Georgina," I said, shaking the offered hand.
"Whatever Bastien's told you, only believe half of it." She reconsidered, eyeing him carefully. "Make that a third."