"Was she bat-winged and flame-eyed?" I asked, recalling Dante's long-ago joke about the mythological description of succubi.

"Not a succubus, I'm afraid. That might be easier. No, this...I believe...was Nyx."

"Did...did you say Nyx?" Of course that was what he'd said, but I'd been waiting for him to launch into a discussion of Oneroi, not their mother. Nyx made no sense. It was one thing for dream spirits to appear in your bedroom and in your dreams. It was an entirely different matter for a monstrous primordial entity of chaos who had been instrumental in creating the world as we know it to appear in your bedroom. It was like saying God had stopped by for waffles on the way to work. Maybe Erik was still delirious.

"Nyx," he confirmed, no doubt guessing my thoughts. "Chaos herself. Or, more accurately, Night herself."

From the corner, Dante laughed softly. "We're all f**ked now."

"She's the mother of the Oneroi," Erik reminded me. "And, although dreams aren't her sole domain, she too is connected to them."

"Then..." I tried to grasp the implications. "Are you saying she's been responsible for what's been happening to me?"

"It almost makes sense," said Dante.

Erik apparently agreed. "She's linked to time and all the myriad potential fates that exist for the universe. Fate and time are forever moving closer to chaos - to entropy - and that's what she feeds off of. She's trying to create more of it in the world, to bring us that much nearer to ultimate disintegration. But she's a long way from bringing anything like that about, so she settles for small acts of chaos."

I wasn't following. "My dreams and energy loss are acts of chaos?"

"No." Erik glanced at Dante again. "We believe you're her instrument. Since she's connected to time as well as space, she has the ability to see pieces of the future. And there is no greater way to cause chaos in this world than by revealing the future to mortals. Such visions prove consuming, and if crafted in a certain way, they can drive a person to madness. That person will obsess on it, struggling to either stop it or bring it about in a way it's not actually meant to unfold. Both acts are futile. The future plays out as it is meant to. In trying to alter it, we only make it happen that much more quickly."

"Like the Oedipus story," noted Seth. "His father's attempts to change the prophecy's outcome are what actually made it happen."

Erik nodded. "Exactly."

I understood now too. "Just like the cop who saw his partner getting shot. And the man who saw his family benefiting by him swimming the Sound."

"It's how Nyx operates. Everything she shows them is true...just not true in the way they expect. The ensuing madness and destruction brought about by showing mortals their futures - futures that they end up bringing about - feeds her."

"But where do I fit in?" I demanded. "She isn't showing me my future or making me do crazy things."

"That's where the theory ends, succubus," Dante said. "You're part of it, absolutely. And she needs you to do all this...but we don't know the mechanics of it."

"This is insane," I said blankly. "I'm the instrument of an all-powerful primordial deity's wave of chaos and destruction."

"That's kind of extreme," said Dante jovially. "It's not like you work for Google or anything."

Seth gently touched my shoulder. "Can I ask a question here? I'm confused by...like, how is it possible that you're just now realizing that this...Nyx...is out there? I mean, if she's as powerful as you claim...I don't know. Why didn't you think of her right away? Why hasn't this happened before?"

"Because she's locked up," I said. "Or well, she's supposed to be. Heaven and Hell have their own agendas for the world; they don't want her running loose and messing it all up. If this is her, I have no idea how she got loose. She's supposed to be guarded by angels, and if there was ever a group that could - " I let out a gasp that turned into a groan.

The others stared at me. "What's wrong?" asked Seth.

"That's why they're here," I said. "I'm such an idiot. There's a monstrous regiment of angels in town. I knew they were looking for something, but I didn't know what." That would also explain Vincent's interest in local news - he was looking for Nyx-patterns that would provide them with a trail. He'd even started to pursue my knowledge of the cop story, but Seth's shooting and his outing as a nephilim had distracted us all.

"Yeah, well, they're doing a bang-up job," said Dante.

I rose from Erik's bedside. "I have to tell them what we know. Maybe they'll understand what she's doing to me."

"Be careful," Erik warned. "She's suspicious now...I think that's why she came after me. I was looking into this, and she didn't want me to succeed."

Something else suddenly occurred to me. "Erik...did she show you a vision?"

He nodded.

"What was it?" It must have been horrible, whatever it was. He'd clearly been in shock when Dante had found him.

Erik looked at me, and for an instant, I saw a flash of the terror he'd shown when I first walked into the room. Then, it was gone.

"It doesn't matter, Miss Kincaid. She wanted to scare me, to stop me from helping you...but it didn't work. The future will unfold as it's meant to." Seeing my doubtful look, he smiled again and pointed toward the door. "Stop worrying about me. I will be fine. Go find your angel friends before anything worse happens."

I gave him a quick hug before stepping into the other room with Seth and Dante. Once again, I paused to study the picture of Erik and the woman. Just as I'd always imagined Erik living in his store, I'd also never pictured him having any sort of personal life. Obviously, that was a foolish thought on my part. Who was this woman? Wife? Lover? Just a friend?

Beside me, Dante held out his hand to Seth and introduced himself. The two men sized each other up.

"I've heard so much about you," said Dante cheerfully.

"I never heard of you until this morning," remarked Seth.

My eyes were still on the picture. Near the edge of the frame, I noticed a crease in the photograph. I don't know what made me do it, but I picked the frame up and pulled the picture out. The right-hand third of the photo had been folded, obscuring another person who had been with Erik and the woman. Dante.

I looked up in surprise. Dante took the picture and frame from me and reassembled them. "There's no time for this, succubus."

"But - "

"We have more important things to deal with than your own curiosity right now."

I cast an uneasy look at Erik's closed bedroom door. Dante was right. "Do you think you could maybe..."

Dante sighed, anticipating my question. "Yes, succubus. I'll check in on him today."

For a moment, I thought I saw something in his face...something that wasn't just him grudgingly humoring me. Like that maybe - maybe - he cared about Erik too. It was weird, but then, they'd all looked pretty happy in the photograph. The worst enemies were often those who had been friends. This Erik-Dante puzzle just got weirder and weirder.

I started to turn away, then Dante called, "Oh, hey. I can probably make your charm, now that we know what this is."

Hope surged up in me at the thought of finally having safe dreams again. "Really?"

"If you still want me to," he added warily.

I presumed he was subtly referencing my skepticism - which hadn't entirely abated. Still, now that I had a name for my predator, I was more anxious than ever to take whatever protection I could get. "Definitely. If you think it'll work."

"In theory, at least. Nyx isn't exactly a run-of-the-mill spirit. I'll see what I can do."

I drove Seth back to his condo, anxious to let him off, so I could do some searching. "I have to go find the angels," I told him. "I'll catch up to you later."

"So...no movie tonight?"

"I - what? Oh, damn it." I'd forgotten about the plans we'd made. He'd gotten tickets for an indie movie that was showing one night only here. "I'm sorry...I really am..."

"Well," said Seth wryly, "considering life and death are literally on the line, I think I can forgive it this time."

"You know what you should do? You should take Maddie. You still owe her a date."

He smiled. "I have the best girlfriend in the world, always trying to push me into the arms of another woman."

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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