There was so much I wanted to say, but I just didn't have the words - or courage - to get any of it out. So, I remained silent, and the tears spilled out of my eyes.

Seth took a deep breath, forcing. "Let me go, Hugh. I won't hurt her. I don't want anything to do with her. I just want to go home. I need to get out of here."

"Don't," said Roman. "We need him. We need more answers, so that we can understand the contracts."

"Hugh, let him go." I barely recognized the voice as my own. Roman looked at me incredulously.

"We need him," he repeated.

"He's done enough," I said flatly. In my head, Seth's words echoed: I don't want anything to do with her. "We've done enough to him." When nobody reacted, I met Hugh's gaze squarely. "Do it. Let him go."

Hugh glanced between Roman and me and then made a decision. Still keeping hold of Seth's arm, Hugh steered him away from us and walked him to the door. Roman made more protests and took a few steps toward them, but I remained frozen where I was. I didn't look behind me, not even when I heard the door slam. Hugh returned, and Roman slumped back into his chair, sighing with frustration.

"Well," he said. "Once he calms down, we'll get him back and talk things out."

"I don't think he's going to calm down," I said, staring off at nothing. I don't want anything to do with her.

"He's just in shock," said Roman.

I didn't answer. Roman didn't know. Roman didn't understand the full scope of our history together. He hadn't seen Kyriakos's face after my betrayal, the grief that had been so deep it had nearly driven him to suicide. That was part of why I'd become a succubus, using my soul to purchase peace for him in the form of forgetfulness. It was the only way to save him. But if he remembered everything now, if he really was Kyriakos reborn . . . then, no. He wasn't "just in shock." I had done a terrible, terrible thing to him, and his outrage wasn't unfounded.

A shiver ran through me as I thought about the instant connection I'd had with Seth, the feeling like I'd always known him. It was because I had always known him. Life after life. I'd always felt like we were bound into something greater than ourselves . . . and we were. Something great and terrible.

Hugh dragged up a chair and sat across from me. He caught hold of one of my hands. "Sweetie, I swear to you, I had no clue any of that would happen."

I gave him a halfhearted squeeze back. "What . . . what did you think would happen?"

Hugh glanced at Roman. "He asked me if I could hypnotize Seth and attempt some past life regression. I had no idea what it was for. Fuck, I had no idea it would really work, let alone walk us through nine emotionally damaged lives. Ten, since we now seemed to have f**ked up this one."

I felt hollow inside, hollow and aching. I turned to Roman, astonished I could manage any sort of reasonable discussion when my world had just been destroyed. "How did you know it would happen? How did you figure all of this out?"

"I only figured some of it out," said Roman. "It was actually your stupid Santa stuff that tipped me off. About how that guy was worried about Santa being in two places at once?" He scoffed and raked a hand through his hair. "I started thinking about how everyone says your contract is fine and how Erik had mentioned a second contract. We'd already deduced Hell wanted you and Seth apart, but why? And I thought, what if it's like the Santa thing? There's nothing wrong with your contract or Seth's in and of themselves, but together, something goes wrong."

"How did you even know Seth had a contract?" asked Hugh.

"Well, that's the thing. I didn't. And since Seth had never mentioned it before, it seemed he didn't know he had one either. And how could that be? I started thinking maybe it was because he hadn't made the contract in this life. I thought maybe Hell had a long game going on with him across lives, and hence . . . the hypnosis."

"Jesus Christ," said Hugh, shaking his head. "You made a f**kload of deductions there."

"And they were right," said Roman. "Georgina and Seth both have contracts with Hell. And those contracts don't work together."

"Why not?" I asked.

That zealous gleam was back in Roman's eye. "What were we able to deduce about Seth's contract? What did he get?"

The only thing I'd deduced was that Seth was never going to speak to me again. When I refused to answer, Hugh obligingly played student to Roman's teacher. "He got ten lives instead of one. The gift of reincarnation."

"Why?" asked Roman.

"To find Georgina," said Hugh. He paused, and I guessed he was replaying what Seth had described. "It sounds like he died in that first life, and when the time came for his soul to move on, he was aware of missing her. I'm guessing Hell wouldn't have gotten his soul then, so they made the deal to give him nine more chances to find Georgina and be reunited with her."

"He did find me," I said flatly. "Over and over." Betrayal after betrayal.

"Yes," said Roman. "And you were drawn to him without even realizing it. He certainly seemed to fit your dreamy artistic type each time. But you never made it work out."

"Which Hell was probably hoping for," said Hugh. The imp in him was coming out, puzzling over how a contract like this would have been designed. "Hell has to be fair, but they always want an advantage. So, they probably went into the deal thinking a guy hoping to make amends with his soul mate could never do it if she was a succubus. Seth - or whoever - certainly didn't know that. He only knew that he was supposed to have forgotten her." He thought about it a few moments more. "There's nothing wrong with that, though. That's hedging your bets on a contract. There's no violation."

"You're right," said Roman. "And that's not the problem." He focused back on me. "What was your deal? What was your contract for becoming a succubus?"

"You already know it," I said wearily. I was tired of the scheming and fallout. I want to crawl off, curl up in my bed, and sleep for the next five centuries. I wanted to renegotiate my contract and have my memory and heart purged of all pain.

"Humor me," he said. "Just tell me the basics again. The deal Niphon made with you."

"Roman, leave her alone," said Hugh.

I waved him off. "Fine. I sold my soul and became a succubus in exchange for everyone I knew as a mortal forgetting about me."

Roman looked so supremely satisfied and triumphant that I wanted to punch him just then. He nodded to Hugh. "And tell me Seth's again, to the best of your guessing."

"At a guess? He gets to live ten lives, all of which will put him near her, giving him the chance to find her and make amends with her. Hell gets his soul at the end of the tenth life."

"And why did Seth make the deal?" prompted Roman, practically trembling with excitement.

"Because he remembered that - " Hugh cut himself off, eyes widening.

"Exactly," said Roman. He shook me in his excitement when I didn't react right away. "Don't you get it? Your contracts contradict each other! In fact, Seth's should never have even been written! He remembered you. He knew that you were gone from his life."

"He knew his 'soul mate' was gone," I said bitterly. "I don't think he remembered specifics. You saw how much trouble he had."

Roman shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I'm guessing your contract specifies forgetting you entirely. He remembered. By that happening, Hell violated your contract. Then, they wrote an impossible contract for him, claiming he'd have the chance to reunite with you - which again, implies a degree of remembering you."

"We don't know that exactly," warned Hugh. "We haven't seen the contract and didn't get all the details from him. I couldn't follow if he got anything for patching things up with her or not."

"We know enough," said Roman. "Seth wanted to be reunited with her and make amends. For that to happen, it would contradict Georgina's contract - specifying he forget her."

"I'd want to see the wording," said Hugh. "I'm not trying to dash your hopes. I just know how these things work."

"Fair enough," said Roman. "But can you deny that when Seth called her 'Letha' last month, that was most definitely in violation of her contract? He remembered. Not consciously. But some part of him, deep inside, remembered her."


Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
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