"I don't think that's necessary," said Roman. He gave the door a sharp kick. It shuddered but didn't come close to breaking apart action-movie style. Keeping his nephilim powers in check meant he had the same abilities as a human.
Peter sighed. "Let me." He took Roman's place, repeated the kick, and this time the door did burst in and break apart. With their goofy attitudes, it was easy to forget sometimes that both Cody and Peter had super fast reflexes and enhanced strength. Peter stepped back, brushing splinters off his pants.
The foursome entered, and a light turned on in the back of the house.
"What the hell?" a voice demanded.
What the hell, indeed. Dante entered the room.
He took one look at my friends and said, "Oh, shit."
Then he bolted back toward the room he'd come from, no doubt heading for a window. He was too slow, though. In a flash, Cody had Dante by the scruff of his shirt and dragged him back to the living room, shoving my ex-boyfriend into a chair. Dante immediately started to rise, noticed how my friends had closed rank around him, and then thought better of it.
Dante sighed. "Well, I knew this had to happen some day. Why didn't your boss come himself?" He peered at Roman. "And haven't I seen you somewhere?" Dante had seen Roman on a beach when we rescued Jerome from the summoning. There'd been a fair amount of chaos, so I wasn't surprised Dante's memory was sketchy - especially since he'd been beaten up by a demon.
"We're not here because of Jerome," snapped Hugh. Then, he reconsidered. "Well, we are, but not for the reasons you think."
"Answer our questions, and you might live another day," said Peter. Apparently, the action-movie theme was still going strong.
"Where's Georgina?" demanded Roman. It was interesting that every time my immortal posse interrogated someone, they phrased the question that way first, instead of, "Do you know where Georgina is?" When you worked for Hell, everyone was guilty until proven innocent.
Dante's face lost some of its fear and took on its usual cynical look. He tossed messy black hair out of his face. "In Seattle, sleeping with that f**king writer."
"No," said Roman. "She's not."
"She's not what? In Seattle or sleeping with the writer?" Dante arched an eyebrow. "And who are you exactly?"
"The muscle," said Hugh dryly. "Georgina's gone. Vanished. And if anyone's got reason to make her disappear" - he paused and glanced uneasily at Roman - "it's you."
"I'm not the kind of magician that pulls rabbits out of my hat. Or makes them disappear." Dante was growing more and more confident, now that he knew Jerome wasn't going to send him to the torture pits of Hell. "If you can't find her, ask your archdemon. Unless he's been summoned again, he'll know."
"He doesn't," said Cody. "But maybe you already knew that."
Dante rolled his eyes. "You think I'm going to go anywhere near Seattle when there's a price on my head? Do you think I'm hiding out in the f**king sticks because I want to? The best I can do is sell charms and fake fortunes to tourists in Coeur d'Alene."
"Carter should have come with us," said Hugh in exasperation. "He should have known that too after sending us here."
Dante stiffened, his arrogance faltering. "That angel knows where I am? Then Jerome has to know."
"He's keeping it from Jerome. For now." Peter was still using that melodramatic voice. "That can change if you don't help us."
"I don't know where she f**king is, okay? I told you: I can't make a succubus disappear."
Roman's hand closed around Dante's neck in a fair approximation of Jerome. Even without supernatural abilities, Roman was still strong. "You've worked with immortals before. You could do it again and have them do the dirty work."
"I show my face to any immortal, and I'm a dead man," choked Dante. Roman fixed Dante with a dark glare that reminded me of the time Roman had tried to kill me. And when he had killed me in a recent Oneroi dream. At last, Roman let go. Rubbing his neck, a puzzled Dante asked again, "Who are you?"
Cody glanced at the others. "Do you think he's lying?"
"Wouldn't surprise me," said Hugh. He crossed his arms across his broad chest. "But maybe you can be useful. What could make a succubus disappear?"
"What'll you give me for helping you?" asked Dante slyly. Yes, that was my ex. Always looking for an advantage.
"We won't call Jerome," growled Peter. This time, the anger in his voice was not faux movie style. It was real, again a reminder that at the end of the day, he really was a vampire who could break necks easily.
This sobered Dante up. "Fine. Not that I care what the f**k happens to her. How did she disappear?"
Again, the story was recounted, something that was beginning to depress me - largely because everyone seemed to emphasize just how depressed and miserable my life was.
"It's a lure," said Dante with certainty.
"We know that," said Roman. "Erik told us."
Dante scowled at the mention of his nemesis. "Of course he did. It's a wonder you need me with his almighty wisdom at your disposal."
"What would lure her?" said Peter, no doubt interrupting Dante from asking again who Roman was.
"All sorts of things," said Dante. "Anything could create a lure, but visions like that would most likely be tied to dreams. Did you guys lose Nyx again?"
"No," said Hugh.
Dante shrugged. "Then look for something else that can control dreams, maybe try a - "
I stood in the village I'd grown up in.
The transition was so abrupt that I was dizzy for a moment. There hadn't been a transition, no fragmenting of the image or a fade to black. It had been a quick movie cut. A bad editing job.
I stared around, seeing again the place that had caused me so much torment. I wondered what else the Oneroi had to show me here and why I'd come here so suddenly. I'd already relived the false wedding accusations. At one point, they'd even had me dream the true story of how my infidelity had led to me selling my soul. I was probably now in store for some new contrived horror. The world spun around me, the buildings and people moving around in rough-spun clothes dizzying me.
"Are you all right?" a voice asked.
Turning around, the scenery settled a bit and I found myself looking into the face of an ancient man. Bushy eyebrows stretched across a heavily lined brow, nearly obscuring dark brown eyes.
"Yes...I'm fine." I frowned and did a double take. "Gaius?"
Those eyebrows rose. "Have we met?"
I stared, unable to speak for a moment. I'd known Gaius since the time I could walk. He was a blacksmith, the brawniness of his arms proving as much. But he'd been young the last time I'd seen him, a man in his prime. With no control, words spilled off my lips, words I'd spoken before when I'd lived this event the first time. This was a true memory. So far.
"We met a very long time ago," I said.
He chuckled. "Girl, I'd remember you. And 'a very long time ago' could only have been a few years for you."
I became aware of my body, knowing what I looked like even without a mirror. I had shape-shifted just before entering the village, taking on a form I had sworn I would never, ever wear again. And, in fact, after this day, I never would wear it again. I was in my original body: fifteen-year-old Letha, too tall with thick, tangled black hair. I'd come here to find out something. Something I had to know.
I gave Gaius a weak nod. My old self had been as shocked as my current self at what time had done to him. How long since I'd become a succubus and left my village? Thirty years ago?
"Can you tell me...is there a man here - a fisherman - named Marthanes? Does his family still live here?"
"Sure," he said. "Same house they've always been in, out past the - "
"I know where it is," I said quickly.
He shrugged, not minding my interruption. "He's probably down at the bay, though. He's too old to still be working but swears his sons-in-law can't get by without him."
Sons-in-law. Of course. My sisters would have gotten married long ago.
"Thanks," I said. I began to walk away. "It was nice seeing you again." He gave me a puzzled look but said nothing more.
I walked toward the bay, where the water glowed with such a vivid, teal-tinged blue that it seemed to be some Technicolor vision. Surely nothing in nature could produce such beauty. Longing and nostalgia welled up within my watching self.