But it didn't matter. Seth's soul could shine like a supernova and he would still go to Hell, because it was the same soul he'd had as Kyriakos, the one that had made the bargain to come and find me.
"We don't know for sure," I said. "He didn't make it clear if he definitely signed his soul over or if there was a wager, like he'd get to keep it if he made amends with me."
"Which doesn't really seem like it's going to happen at the moment," said Roman. "So either way, he's damned."
"Unless we can break his contract too," I said. "And we need his help for it."
Hugh gave me a sympathetic look. "Do you want me to try to talk to him?"
I had hated myself for what I'd done to Kyriakos all those years ago, hated myself so much that I'd paid the ultimate price to be wiped from his memory. And after seeing the look in Seth's eyes earlier . . . well, honestly, if given the chance, I might very well have asked to be erased again. I couldn't stand seeing that hate, that disappointment in the eyes of someone I'd loved. I'd hurt him. I'd let him down. I wanted to hide and never see him again because if I faced him, I would have to face the failings within myself.
That had always been a problem for me, I realized. I hated confrontation - especially when I was the one at fault. I'd continually run away from that my entire life.
I forced a weak smile for Hugh, who stood there offering me a cowardly way out. No, I decided. If we were going to get Seth's help, it would be better coming from me. Would he talk to me? I didn't know, but I had to try. For nothing else would I have risked facing that hate and sorrow again . . . but for Seth's soul, I would.
"I'll go to him," I said.
It was easier said than done, and once Hugh and Roman gave me some space, the full impact of what had taken place really and truly hit me.
Seth was Kyriakos.
Kyriakos was Seth.
Even after witnessing what I had with my own eyes, I don't think I would have believed it if something inside me . . . some gut instinct . . . hadn't told me it was all true. Not that I'd ever suspected it. Not that I'd ever dreamed it. The draw that I'd felt to Seth had been strong, no question, just as the draw to his other incarnations had been. I'd always felt there was something special about Seth in particular, though, and wondered now what might have set this life apart from the rest. Did some part of me - or some part of him? - recognize that this was the last chance for us to be together? Was that where the urgency was coming from? Or was it more about the passage of time and whom I had become? Recent years had made me more jaded about life as a succubus, and I wondered if perhaps that was what made him and our love so precious to me at this point in time.
Our love, which had just blown up before my eyes.
I called in sick to work the next day, something that didn't really go over all that well. It was Christmas Eve, one of the busiest days for Santa and his mall team, but I didn't care. There was no way I could face that chaos, not after what had happened with Seth. I was told curtly that if I didn't come into work, then I shouldn't expect to be rehired next year. I almost laughed and only barely managed to cling to some shred of professionalism, as I gravely informed my manager that I'd take that risk. Next Christmas, I'd most likely be in Las Vegas. Even if I wasn't, I was pretty sure I could manage to get by without minimum wage and my foil dress.
Finding Seth proved trickier. He didn't answer my phone calls, and when I went to his condo, no one answered. Neither his nor Margaret's car was parked out front, leading me to believe they were either doing last-minute Christmas shopping or visiting Terry and Andrea. If it was the former, I had no way of locating Seth easily. If it was the latter, I certainly wasn't going to barge into Terry's house and demand Seth speak to me. The situation might be dire, but I still had my boundaries.
It would've been so easy to use these obstacles as the means to dodge talking to Seth altogether. Despite my assurances to Hugh and Roman, I really didn't want to see Seth. Well, the part of me that was in love with him did. That part was in agony every moment we weren't together. But the rest of me didn't want to face that expression again, that terrible hurt on his face. I didn't want to confront the reality of what I was.
Despite agreeing to see Seth, I really hadn't been able to truly convey to Roman and Hugh just how agonizing the thought of facing up to my sins was. I hadn't been able to handle the wrongness of what I'd done then; I could barely do it now. I'd sold my soul, blighted away the memories of all those I'd loved . . . all because I didn't want to accept the responsibility of what a terrible thing I'd done. You'd think after almost a millennium and a half, that fear and self-preservation would have changed. I guess it hadn't.
Or maybe it had. The fact that I was trying to find Seth now was proof that I had changed a little, enough to attempt another conversation after his adamant rejection of me.
I glanced behind me. I was standing in line at a coffee shop Seth occasionally patronized to sit and write. Coming here had been a long shot, and I hadn't been all that surprised to see he wasn't around. Last I knew, he hadn't been here in ages, especially with everything going on in his family. Apparently, this place had other patrons I hadn't known about.
"Doug," I said in surprise. I quickly placed my order for a white chocolate mocha and then waved as Doug strolled over to me. He'd just come in, and fine drops of water covered his black hair. "What are you having?" I gestured to the barista. Doug looked a little surprised but only hesitated a moment before ordering an inhumanly sized cup of drip.
"Thanks," he told me, when I handed it over to him.
"You want to sit a minute?" I asked. My original intention had been to grab the mocha and go. I didn't know what Doug's plan was, but some perverse urge made me want to try to get a moment with him.
"Sure," he said, looking a little uncertain. "But just for a minute. I've got to be at work in an hour."
"We don't want you to be late for that," I agreed, settling down at a small table that gave us a fine view of the sleet outside. Seattle wasn't really known for white Christmases. "All those last-minute shoppers trying to get their boxed sets."
The ghost of a smile crossed his face. "You know it. I'm surprised you aren't at work. Is it true? I heard you were, uh, working elf duty at a mall on the Eastside."
I grimaced. "Painfully true. But I quit today."
His eyebrows rose. "On Christmas Eve? That's cold, Kincaid. Think of the children."
"I know. But, well, something came up. . . ." I glanced away, unable to meet his eyes as all my troubled feelings threatened to surface.
"Yeah, I can tell," he said.
I dared a look back. "What do you mean?"
Doug shrugged. "I don't know. Just this vibe I always got off of you when you were feeling blue. You put on a good face for most of the world, but when something hurts you, your energy changes. Christ." He took a big drink of coffee. "Now I'm sounding all New Agey and shit."
"Well, whatever it is, your instincts are right." I reconsidered. "Though 'blue' is kind of an understatement. More like navy. Or even black."
"Mortensen?" he guessed.
I shook my head and glanced away again. "You don't want to hear about that." Although, perhaps some part of him would be glad to know Seth and I were through. It'd be vindication after what we did to Maddie.
"Try me," said Doug. When I didn't answer, he sighed. "Kincaid, I don't hate you. I'm not happy about what went down, but in some weird, twisted way, I do still care about you. If something's wrong, you can tell me. Did Mortensen hurt you?"
"No," I said. Then: "Well, yes, but not without cause. I hurt him first."
I dragged my gaze back to Doug. His eyes were dark and serious, no trace of enjoyment in my suffering. "I've been trying to find him today . . . trying to get a hold of him. But I think he's avoiding me. No, I know he's avoiding me."
"You'll patch it up," said Doug.
"I don't know. I don't think we can this time."
" 'This time,' " he scoffed. "Kincaid, the first moment I saw you and Mortensen together, there was something there. I don't know how to describe it. I was always surprised you guys never went out. I was surprised when he started going out with Maddie, though they seemed happy enough until . . . well, you know. Until he figured out he should be going out with you." He paused, thinking. "Anyway, I talk a good talk about love in my songs but really don't know shit about it in real life. From what I do know, though, I feel like it's going to take more than whatever argument this is to keep you guys apart."