Rough hands gripped my shoulders and jerked me around. "Wake up!"
Like before, the sensory overload vanished. I was left alone in a quiet, empty world. No more siren song. Roman stood in front of me, hands shaking me as his face stared down at me with worry. I looked around. We were in the kitchen. I had no memory of getting there.
"How - what happened?" I stammered.
The face that had taunted me earlier was now filled with concern, something that troubled a small part of me. Why should someone who wanted to kill me be worried about me?
"You tell me," he said, releasing his grip.
I rubbed my eyes, willing myself to recall what had happened. "I...I don't know. I must have sleepwalked...."
His face was still drawn and anxious. "No...there was something here...."
I shook my head. "No, it was a dream. Or a hallucination. I had it happen earlier.... I just drank too much."
"Didn't you just hear me?" There it was again, fear for me underneath the anger. "There was something here, some...force. I felt it. It woke me up. Don't you remember anything at all?"
I stared off, trying to summon up the light and haunting melody. I couldn't. "It was...it was exquisite. I wanted...I wanted to go to it...to be part of it..." There was a dreamy, wistful note in my voice.
Roman's expression grew dark. As a succubus, I was a lesser immortal, one who had once been human. Greater immortals, like angels and demons, had been created at the universe's beginning. Nephilim were born and fell somewhere in the middle. As such, their powers and senses were greater than mine. Roman could detect things I couldn't.
"Don't," he said. "You feel it again, you pull away. Don't let it draw you in. Under no circumstances should you go to it."
I looked back at him with a frown. "Why? Do you know what it is?"
"No," he said grimly. "And that's the problem."
I tossed and turned the rest of the night. Being visited by a weird supernatural force will do that to you. Besides, I had never fully recovered from the time an über-powerful entity of chaos had merged with me in my sleep and sucked away my energy. Her name was Nyx, and last I'd heard, she was imprisoned. Still, what she'd done to me - and what she'd shown me - had left a lasting impression. The fact that Roman couldn't identify what had happened tonight was a little unnerving.
So, I woke up bleary-eyed, sporting a massive headache that was probably equal parts hangover and sleep deprivation. Succubi had the rapid healing that all immortals possessed, which meant I must have seriously screwed myself up to have these lingering effects. I knew the headache would pass soon, but I took some ibuprofen to help the process.
The condo was quiet when I shuffled into the kitchen, and despite my efforts to clean up the food last night, I was still surrounded in the tattered and worn-out feel that followed most parties. Godiva, curled up on the back of the couch, lifted her head at my arrival, but Aubrey continued sleeping undisturbed in her spot on an armchair. I started some coffee and then wandered over to my patio, staring out at the sunny day and the Seattle skyline on the other side of the gray-blue water stretching off before me.
A familiar sensation suddenly swept me, like brimstone and red-hot needles. I sighed.
"Kind of early for you, isn't it?" I asked, not needing to turn around to know Jerome, archdemon of the greater Seattle area and my hellish boss, stood behind me.
"It's noon, Georgie," he replied dryly. "The rest of the world is up and around."
"It's Saturday. The laws of time and space are different today. Noon qualifies as early."
I turned around at last, largely because I'd heard the coffee-maker finish. Jerome was leaning against my kitchen wall, immaculately dressed as always in a black designer suit. Also, like always, the demon looked exactly like a circa 1990s version of John Cusack. He could appear as anything or anyone he wanted in this world, but for reasons he kept vague, Mr. Cusack was his preferred shape. I'd gotten so used to it that whenever Say Anything or Grosse Pointe Blank came on TV, I always had to pause and ask myself, "What's Jerome doing in this movie?"
I poured a cup of coffee and held up the pot by way of invitation. Jerome shook his head. "I suppose," he said, "your roommate is also being a sloth and isn't actually out running errands?"
"That'd be my guess." I doused my coffee liberally with vanilla creamer. "I used to kind of hope that when he wasn't around, it meant he was out looking for a job. Turns out I was just setting myself up for disappointment."
Honestly, I was glad it was Roman that Jerome had come to see. When Jerome was looking for me, no good ever came of it. It always tended to result in some traumatic, world-threatening event in the immortal underground.
I trudged back across the living room, noting that the cats had disappeared upon Jerome's arrival. Coffee still in hand, I headed to Roman's room, knocking once before opening the door. I figured as landlady, I had that right. Also, I'd found Roman had a remarkable ability to ignore knocking for large amounts of time.
He was sprawled across his bed, wearing only a pair of navy blue boxers that gave me pause. As I'd noted before, he was terribly good-looking, despite the prickly attitude he'd had since moving in. Seeing him half-dressed always gave me a weird flashback to the one time we'd slept together. Then, I'd have to remind myself that he was probably plotting how to kill me. It went a long way to stifle any residual lust.
Roman's arm covered his eyes against the sunlight streaming through his window. He shifted, moving the arm slightly, and peered at me with one eye. "It's early," he said.
"Not according to your exalted sire."
A few seconds passed, and then he grimaced as he too sensed Jerome's immortal signature. With a sigh, Roman sat up, pausing to rub his eyes. He looked about as exhausted as I felt, but if there was one force in this world that could drag him out of bed after a late night, it was my boss - no matter Roman's bold claims from last night. He staggered to his feet and moved past me in the doorway.
"Aren't you going to get dressed?" I exclaimed.
Roman's only answer was a disinterested wave of his hand as he headed down the hall. I followed him back and discovered Jerome pouring himself a mug of some vodka leftover from last night. Well, it was five o'clock somewhere. He arched an eyebrow when he saw Roman's scantily clad state.
"Nice of you to dress up."
Roman made a beeline for the coffee. "Only the best for you, Pop. Besides, Georgina likes it."
A moment of heavy silence followed as Jerome's dark eyes studied Roman. I knew nothing about Roman's mother, but Jerome was the demon who had fathered him thousands of years ago. Technically, Jerome had been an angel at the time, but making the moves on a human had got him fired from Heaven and sent off to work for those down below. No severance package.
Roman occasionally made snide comments about their familial relationship, but Jerome never acknowledged it. In fact, according to both Heaven and Hell's rules, Jerome should have blasted Roman from the earth ages ago. Angels and demons considered nephilim unnatural and wrong and continually attempted to hunt them to extinction. It was kind of harsh, even with the sociopathic tendencies nephilim tended to have. Roman had been instrumental in saving Jerome recently, however, and the two had struck a deal that allowed Roman to live peacefully in Seattle - for now. If any of Jerome's colleagues found out about this illicit arrangement, there would literally be hell to pay - for all of us. A good succubus would have told on her rule-breaking boss.
"So what brings you here?" asked Roman, pulling up a chair. "Want to toss the old football around?"
Jerome's face remained impassive. "I have a job for you."
"Like one that pays the rent?" I asked hopefully.
"Like one that ensures I'll continue to allow him to live in the lifestyle he's accustomed to," replied Jerome.
Roman had an amused, devil-may-care smile on his face that was typical of him, but I wasn't fooled. He knew the threat Jerome represented and also knew that part of their deal involved Roman doing errands for his father. Still, Roman made a good show of acting like he was the one doing Jerome a favor. The nephilim gave an unconcerned shrug.
"Sure. I've got nothing else going on today. What's up?"
"We have a new immortal visitor in town," said Jerome. If Roman's attitude annoyed him, the demon was just as good at masking his feelings. "A succubus."