Further and further I drank, my desperate and weakened state unable to stop.
"Why doesn't she date?" Seth asked Cody. Cody? Yes, there he was, in the back of Seth's mind. A memory. Cody secretly giving Seth swing lessons, neither of them telling me, instead making up vague excuses for why they always had to be "somewhere." Seth, trying so hard to make his feet obey so he could dance with me and be closer to me. "She's afraid," the vampire replied. "She thinks love causes pain."
Love causes pain.
Yes, Seth loved me. Not the crush I'd imagined. Not a superficial attraction I thought I'd dissuaded. It was more, so much more. I embodied everything in a woman he could ever imagine: humor, beauty, intelligence, kindness, strength, charisma, sexuality, compassion... His soul seemed to have recognized mine, drawn uncontrollably toward me. He loved me with a depth of feeling I could not even begin to tap into, though believe me, I tried. I wanted it. I wanted to feel it all, to suck up that burning within him. To consume it. Set myself on fire with it.
Somewhere far away, someone called to me, but I was too into Seth. Too into absorbing that strength within him, that strength fused with his feelings for me. Feelings brought on, amplified even, by kissing. Lips soft and eager. Hungry. Demanding.
I wanted to become one with Seth. I needed to. I needed him to fill me up... physically, mentally, spiritually. There was something there... something concealed inside him I couldn't quite reach, hovering in the background. A tantalizing piece of knowledge I should have long since recognized. You are my life. I needed to get in farther, reach out for more. Find out what was hiding from me. That kiss was my lifeline, my connection with something bigger than myself, something I had been aching for all my life but never known. I couldn't stop. Couldn't stop kissing Seth. Couldn't stop. Couldn't -
"Georgina! Let go!"
Rough hands tore me away from Seth, like flesh ripping from my own body. I cried out in agony at the broken connection, fighting the hands that pulled me and held me. I clawed at my captor, needing to find out the secret lurking beyond that kiss, yearning for the completeness of that union with Seth -
My hands dropped, and I blinked, bringing the world back into focus. Reality. I was no longer inside Seth's head; I was still in my apartment. A feeling of solidness settled in me, and I didn't have to look down to know my body had stopped its shifting, my form snapping back to a short, slim woman with honeyed brown hair. The girl I had been long ago was buried within me once more, never to come out if I could help it. Seth's life force now filled me to overflowing.
"Georgina," murmured Hugh behind me, letting his hands ease up on my arms. "Christ, you scared me."
Looking across the room, I saw Carter, bedraggled as usual, leaning over Seth's body.
"Oh God - " I sprang up and moved to them, kneeling beside the angel. Seth lay on the floor, skin pale and clammy. "Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Is he... ?"
"He's alive," Carter told me. "Barely."
Stroking Seth's cheek, feeling the fine golden-red haze of his near-beard, I felt tears brimming in my eyes. His breathing came shallow and jagged. "I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to take so much..."
"You did what you had to do. You were in bad shape, could have died."
"And now Seth might..."
Carter shook his head. "No. He won't. He'll need recovery time, but he'll pull through."
I drew my hand back, half-afraid my touch might harm Seth more. Glancing around, I became aware of the disheveled state of my apartment. It looked worse than Jerome's. Smashed china and glass. Broken tables. Overturned chairs and couch. The unstable bookshelf in pieces at last. From the kitchen, Aubrey hunkered down under the kitchen table, wondering what was going on. I wondered myself. The nephilim were nowhere in sight. What had happened? Had I really missed it all? The epic, divine battle of the century, and I had missed it for a kiss? Admittedly, a really good kiss, but still...
"Where is... everyone else?"
"Jerome's off doing, uh, damage control with your neighbors."
"That doesn't sound good."
"Standard practice. Supernatural battles aren't exactly quiet, you know. He'll do a little mind erasing, make sure no authorities get notified."
I swallowed, afraid to ask my next question. "What about... what about the nephilim ?"
Carter studied me, gray eyes holding me long and hard.
"I know, I know," I said at last, looking down, unable to return that gaze. "There's no ten years and parole, right? You destroyed them."
"We destroyed... one of them."
I looked up sharply. "What? What about the other one?"
"He got away."
He.My looming tears slipped out now; I could not control them. For you, I'll walk away. "How?"
Carter laid a hand on Seth's forehead as though taking vital stats and then turned back to me. "It all happened really fast. He masked and went invisible in the confusion, while we were taking on the other one. And honestly..." The angel looked at my closed front door, then at Hugh and me.
"What?" I whispered.
"I'm not... I'm not entirely convinced Jerome didn't let him get away. He wasn't expecting two. I wasn't either, though I should have, in retrospect. After killing the first one..." Carter shrugged. "I don't know. Hard to say what happened. "
"Then he'll be back," I realized, fear and relief blending weirdly in me over the thought of Roman's escape. "He'll be back... and he won't be happy with me."
"I don't think that'll be a problem," the angel observed. Gently, he lifted Seth up and walked to my overturned couch. A moment later, it flipped over untouched, righting itself. Carter laid Seth on it and continued speaking. "He took a real beating - the other nephilim. A really bad beating. I can't believe he had the power left to hide himself from us; I still keep expecting to feel him again any minute. If he's smart, he's running as fast and far from us as he can right now, getting out of our range - out of any immortal's range - so he can drop his shields and rest."
"Then what?" asked Hugh.
"He's in bad shape. It'll take him a long time to recover. When he does, he knows he doesn't have the backup to return here again."
"He could still take on me," I noted, shivering as I remembered Roman's wrath toward me at the end. It was hard to believe we'd been wrapped in each other's arms, caught in the throes of passion, less than twenty-four hours ago.
"He could take you on," agreed Carter. "But he can't take me on. Or Jerome. He certainly can't take both of us on. That was what decided it, in the end. They didn't expect that. Us teamed together. It'll give him pause to just come bursting back here, even if you alone pose no threat."
I didn't find that reassuring in the least. I thought of Roman, passionate and rebellious, always eager to make a point against the system. That personality type lent itself well to revenge. I had tricked him, made love to him, and then betrayed him, resulting in the annihilation of his plans - and his sister. Thank God for my sister. She's the only one I have, the only mainstay in my life.
He might pause, as Carter had suggested, but not for long. Of that, I was certain.
"He'll be back," I whispered, more to myself. "Someday he'll be back."
Carter gave me a steady look. "Then we will deal with him then."
My front door opened, and Jerome entered. He looked neat and prim, hardly like he'd just been in an apocalyptic battle with his own offspring.
"Housekeeping all done?" asked Carter.
"Yes." The demon's eyes darted over to Seth. "He's alive?"
Angel and demon locked eyes then, and a tense moment of palpable silence hung between them.
"How fortuitously unexpected," Jerome murmured at last. "I could have sworn he was dead. Well. Miracles happen every day. I suppose we'll have to wipe him now."
I stood up. "What are you talking about?"
"Nice to have you back with us again, Georgie. You look lovely, by the way."
I glared at him, angry at his joke, knowing it was Seth's energy giving me the succubus glamour now. "What do you mean you have to 'wipe' him?"
"What do you think? We can't let him walk away after everything he's seen. I'll diminish a little of his affection for you while I'm at it; he's a liability to you."