The Holiday Season is the season for TV and film marathons. Who doesn’t like to sit in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn, their fave drink and totally veg out over blissful hours of telly favourites? The holidays are also the time when we love to curl up with a good read. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time for a marathon reading of my paranormal erotic novella, Demon Interrupted, which I wrote and ran as a serial on my blog over six months earlier this year. BUT at that time, I could only manage an episode every three weeks, so I thought it would be fun to make it more easily accessible.
For those of you who don’t know, Demon Interrupted is a Lakeland Witches spin-off story set in the fabulous landscape of the Lake District with the witches of the Elemental Coven. With the completion of Elemental Fire, I left my witches with so many stories untold, and they left me with so many mysteries I wanted to know the answer to that I felt compelled to return.
Starting today, for the next nine days I’ll be running a sizzling, chilling instalment of Demon Interrupted for your reading pleasure. Today I’d like to share with you chapters 11 and 12 of Demon Interrupted. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Thanks for joining for this Work in Progress. And if you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and Rising, Riding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!
Chasing the Dream
‘Lucia, I need you! Lucia! Lucia! Lucia!’ Shivering convulsively, Ferris woke croaking the demon’s name with a throat that felt like it had been bathed in hot coals. His head was pillowed on Tara’s lap, and it felt as though it would split in two. Someone had thrown a soft McKenzie tartan over him, and Fiori wiped his forehead with a cool cloth.
‘Welcome back,’ Tara said, smiling down at him.
‘Here, drink this.’ Sky handed him what looked like a glass of water, but it tasted herby and clean in his mouth and soothed his raw throat. He drank in thirsty gulps, nearly gagging.
‘Not so fast.’ She took the glass from him. ‘It’s stronger than you think. You’ll make yourself sick.’
As everything came back to him, he sat up in a panic. ‘It was … it was…’
‘It was a dream,’ Tara said, squeezing his shoulder reassuringly. ‘Your first in a very long time, my dear friend.’
‘And it was a doozy,’ Marie said, coming to sit cross-legged on the floor next to him. She was dressed once again in her pale blue ceremonial robe. In fact the whole coven was robed. He wondered how long he’d been out.
He drank again and looked around, the tension in his muscles dissipating with the sense of relief at being back with the coven, back in the Waking World. It had been only a dream. He had not betrayed them. He had not drawn them into dark hallucinations. They were all still in the Room of Reflection, and he was happy to see the horrific scrying mirror prison still untouched in its place on the altar. ‘It was a dream,’ he repeated, more for reassurance than anything else. Still not trusting himself, he looked around at the Elemental Coven, taking a mental head-count, Alice, Fiore, Kennet and Sky. Tim, Marie, Tara and Anderson. And, of course, his lovely Cassandra. Yes, they were all there, just as they had been when he entered the dream with Elaine. His stomach went into free fall. They were all there, but Elaine was not.
‘Where is she?’ He asked. ‘Where’s Elaine?’ Dear goddess, he hoped she hadn’t been so frightened that she’d fled. It must have been terrifying for her to see him like that, like he was in the dream. And humiliating for her to see herself as he had seen her with Deacon. Such a hideous creation from his unconscious would have caused anyone to run from him in horror. ‘Where’s Elaine?’ He asked again, struggling to keep the shame and the panic out of his voice.
For a moment, no one answered. The looks that passed between coven members were those same kinds of looks that flitted from person to person like a pestering insect when bad news is about to be shared.
‘Is she all right?’ He felt as though it were he who wore her noose around his neck, and that invisible hands were tightening it until he couldn’t breathe.
‘Ferris,’ Tara scooted closer to him and took his hand. ‘Ferris, You’ve talked about Elaine ever since you got back from Storm Croft. You even chased her across the fells when we were all in the Dream Cave, but Anderson and Fiori went with you and they didn’t see her.’
What do you mean they didn’t see her? I brought her back, we brought her back here to Elemental Cottage, and you asked her to stay, and we made love, and I left my body because it frightened her, the one I usually wear. Where is she? Just tell me where she is.’
‘Ferris,’ this time it was Cassandra who knelt next to him. He knew that look in her eyes; he knew that her honesty would not allow her to lie to him. ‘Ferris, no one has seen Elaine but you. You’ve talked to her, you’ve … been distracted by her, you’ve clearly seen her, been with her, but we, none of the rest of us, have seen her. At all.’
The feel of falling was so intense that Ferris shoved his hands against the floor to stop it. ‘And the dream magic? Who was I with then? Who did I dream with?’
She held his gaze. ‘You dreamed with the strongest dreamer, Ferris. You dreamed with Tara.’
‘No! That can’t be right.’ The ache in his chest seemed to have followed him from the Dream World and the sudden pressure in his head felt like his brain would explode. ‘She was here. Elaine was here and it was her I dreamed with. I know it was her.’ He forced himself to his feet. ‘Elaine! Elaine, please come back. I didn’t mean to frighten you?’
When there was no answer and when the only response from the coven was shared looks of distress, he changed tactics. ‘Lucia? Where are you, Lucia? Please, I need you. I know she was here. Elaine! She has to be here. Lucia, please, help me?’ In a wave of vertigo, he grabbed his throbbing head between both hands and would have fallen if Anderson and Tim hadn’t caught him and eased him back onto the cushions.
When he had calmed a bit and Sky had forced him to drink a little more of the herbal concoction, he spoke. ‘If you dreamed with me, Tara, then you must have seen her. And the rest of you all witnessed. Elaine was there.’
‘Elaine grounded you and sent you back to us, ‘ Kennet said. ‘But what Elaine represented in your dream journey none of us can actually say. That’s for you to find out.’
‘She doesn’t represent anything,’ Ferris growled. ‘She’s real, as real as Anderson and Fiori and Sky. She’s real, and I need to speak to Lucia. Please.’
Kennet bristled. ‘You know Lucia doesn’t come on demand,’ he said. The man would know better than anyone since he’d lived as her possession for over seven years, years that had taken their toll on him.
Tara laid her hand on Kennet’s shoulder. ‘You know Lucia. She’ll show up when she’s ready, Ferris.’ He couldn’t keep from noticing the way she rubbed her fingertips absently over her sternum, the place that Ferris had always thought of as “the door” where Lucia came and went to her new possession. In spite of that demonic lifeline that she now provided for the high priestess, Ferris knew as well as the rest of the coven that the truce between Tara Stone and the demon, who took up residence in her was an uneasy one at best. Tara nodded to Sky. ‘Let’s open the circle, get something to eat and then get some rest. I think we all need it, especially Ferris.’
He balked as she stood and offered him her hand. ‘I’m not safe. You know that. I need to stay close to the scrying mirror in case you have to put me there …’
‘Bullshit,’ Tara said. ‘You need to be with your family right now, not in horrid isolation.’ This time he took the offered hand and came to his feet.
‘And will I dream if I sleep?’ He asked.
‘Quite possibly, the coven leader replied. ‘The dam has burst in a big way and we still don’t know who you are or what you need to know to recover your memories. But you’re not going to hurt any of us, and I’m very encouraged by the fact that you did dream rather than hallucinate.’
‘He hallucinated Elaine,’ Tim said, then added quickly, ‘possibly.’
‘He didn’t,’ Cassandra responded. ‘If Ferris says Elaine is real, then she’s real.’
Ferris was encouraged that Tim, who was inclined to be argumentative, only shrugged and nodded.
‘In the meantime, if you dream while you sleep –’
‘I don’t need to sleep,’ Ferris interrupted Tara. ‘Perhaps it would be better if –’
‘As I said,’ she held him in a cast-iron gaze, ‘in case you dream, you’ll sleep with Kennet and me, since we’re the strongest dreamers.’
Kennet moved to take her hand and the look in his eyes convinced Ferris that it was useless to argue. ‘Besides,’ Kennet said, ‘You’ll be there when Lucia returns – not that she won’t find you wherever you are, but I like to stack the deck in our favour.’
Fiori’s classic late-night fry-ups with some of the best Cumberland sausages on planet Earth, was just the ticket for the caloric needs of the coven after performing such intense magic, and everyone ate with gusto. Ferris went through the motions but tasted nothing.
‘Ferris, are you sure Elaine and Patrick Farringdon lived at Storm Croft?’ Marie spoke around a mouthful of eggs. ‘Because I’ve been doing some research and so have Cassandra and Alice and none of us can find any evidence of any Farringdons at Storm Croft.’
‘She knew her way around the great house and she where the overgrown garden was,’ Ferris said, ‘and she spoke of the place as her hideaway from Faraday. I don’t know. Anderson, is it possible she might be from somewhere else? I thought ghosts were attached to places.’
All three of the coven ghosts chuckled and Anderson replied. ‘My dear man, as you can see we three are very far from the places in which we lived our lives, and though Fiori and I are not terribly far from the places of our deaths we are in no way attached to them. Indeed, Tara and I have been friends across several continents and all after my demise.’
‘That’s true,’ he said.
‘Then isn’t it possible that Elaine visited you in the place that she knew you would remember rather than the place where you knew her?’
Goddess, he loved the young succubus! She was the heart of him in so many ways and, as the others nodded agreement around the table, he felt relief that perhaps they now doubted him a little less about Elaine. He wanted them to believe him, needed them to believe him. He could not … would not believe that he had only imagined Elaine.
Tara and Kennet had drawn him into their lovemaking, as he had known they would. And as Tara welcomed him between her legs while Kennet caressed and fondled both of them, Ferris could feel the magic they wove around him, the protection spell along with the spell that would ease his passage into the Dream World. So strong was their magic that by the time he emptied himself into Tara, he already felt as though he’d been drinking champagne from Anderson’s special stash. The boundaries had softened to a gossamer blur and the world around him dissolved into images wrapped in soft gauzy cotton.
It was with a start he noticed Elaine sitting in the rocking chair by the foot of the bed watching him. ‘Elaine! Elaine I’ve been looking all over for you. Tara, Kennet, you see, I told you she …’ His words died in his throat as he discovered that he was alone in the bed. But it wasn’t Tara’s bed, nor was the room familiar to him.
‘She’s waiting for you,’ Elaine said. Then she stood and motioned him to follow.
‘Am I dreaming?’ He called out to her as he struggled into his trousers.
‘You mustn’t keep her waiting,’ she spoke over her shoulder.
He followed her into a long corridor lined with endless doors, each one identical to the other and, though he ran to catch up with her, he never seemed to get any closer. By the time she descended a staircase into a grand ballroom hung with chandeliers and lined with gilt mirrors he felt certain he had entered the Dream World again. The staircase continued downward through an enormous library whose shelves of books disappeared into the distance in front of him and above him. Then he descended to a drawing room where a blaze crackled in an enormous stone fireplace, and still they descended with Elaine always just ahead of him, just out of reach. Each floor revealed a different room, some grand, some plain, as they endlessly descended through dungeons and boudoirs, through kitchens and studies, through wine cellars and crypts. For days they descended. He could feel more than see the rising and setting of the sun, the turning of the night sky overhead. Elaine was always just out of his reach, moving as though she had conviction, moving as though nothing could stop her. He didn’t know how long they had descended before he realised the stairs were gone and they lowered themselves on bare rock, the path steepening with each step they took. Though there was no lighting that he could see, the deeper they went the brighter the red dance and shift of firelight reflected off the rock.
When the path became nearly too steep to walk, when he was convinced that surely they approached the centre of the earth, the space opened before him into a vaulted room and in the middle of that room stood Lucia, the dance of flames coming from the robe she wore. He was stunned by her beauty, which Elaine did not seem to notice. The woman moved, without stopping, without acknowledging the presence of the fire demon, to a stone ledge at the back of the chamber upon which she lay down and crossed her hands over her breasts as though she were laid out for burial. Before Ferris could call out to her, Lucia shrugged out of her robe and placed it over the supine woman. ‘Rest, my darling,’ she said, dropping a kiss on Elaine’s forehead. ‘I have no further need of you at the moment. My business is with this one.’
When she turned to him he was stunned to discover that, naked, her brilliance was even more dazzling that when she had been clothed in the fiery robe. She stood before him, the image of perfect womanhood and ancient power, terrifying and deadly, wild and exquisite, and yet his eyes darted back to Elaine.
‘Is she all right?’ he asked.
‘She is dead, my old friend, and has been for a very, very long time.’
‘So’s Anderson. So are Sky and Fiori,’ he said, desperate to erase the finality of her words.
‘And so they are.’ She reached out her hand. ‘But you did not come to me in order to discuss the afterlife of ghosts, my dear Rider. Look at you –’ she stroked his cheek with a scorching fingertip ‘—you have come to me in all your magnificence. How could I possibly resist?’ It was then that he realised he was no longer wearing the flesh of Patrick Faraday. He, like Lucia, was unclothed, as though he too had thrown off his robe and stood in the shadowy darkness that was his true nature. And though he did not know what that nature was, naked in himself, he felt full and strong and well-muscled. He felt power surge through him that he was certain human flesh could not contain, and he wondered how he had ever managed to fit himself into such a small and fragile vessel as Faraday.
Before he could contemplate further, Lucia moved into his arms and kissed him and guided his hands onto her breasts. ‘And now my dear Ferris, now that you have yielded to the world of dreams, I will guide you deeper.’
His cock responded mightily to the caressing and coaxing of the demon, who cupped his fullness until it felt as though it had never been emptied in all his long existence, and the need was unbearable. When he felt that he could hold it no longer, when he felt he would come in her hand, she pulled away and guided him to the ledge where Elaine lay beneath her robe. ‘I am a fire demon who has possessed, in succession, two witches powerful in Dream Magic, but neither Tara Stone nor Kennet Birch, nor any of their formidable coven can take you where you need to go, my dear Ferris. Even I may not perform such a
task. But I owe you a great debt for your patient and steadfast care of Cassandra, and I shall do what I am able to repay it.’ She sat on the edge of the bed and opened her legs wide so that he could see the depths of her — mother-of-pearl-slippery, swollen and splayed in welcome.
‘Kiss the Keystone, Ferris, and though I may not take you where you need to go, I may ease you into the
dream and guide you in the right direction. The rest, my dear man, is up to you.’
He practically fell to his knees on the cave floor and buried his face in her wet warmth, kissing and laving and lapping at her until he was intoxicated with the taste of her. His face was heavily dewed her juices and the Gateway was open and ready for him. Then he rose to his feet, gripped her behind the knees and thrust into her. It felt like he came instantly. It felt like he came forever, convulsing and trembling with her whispering in his ear, ‘chase the dream, Ferris. The Gateway is open to the depths of it, and you have but to enter. Chase the dream.’
‘What the hell?’ Ferris roared like an angry beast as he fought his way out of a blackberry bramble to land with his naked arse on the hard ground. The thick summer night effervesced with the tingle of strong magic, and the sting and bite of the bramble were evidence that he had been called, very unceremoniously, into physical form, but who would have treated him with such disrespect? And other than Lucia, the Fire Demon, and the demon who now possessed that evil aberration spawned in the Americas — what was it he called himself Deacon — there were few who could have done such a thing. Besides, what would either of them want with him? And certainly it behoved them to treat him with a little more respect than to up-end him bare-aresed and bleeding in a thicket. Whoever had done it, when he found them, they would be sorry for humiliating him so. He would make certain that they …
The yelp of a female voice put a halt to thoughts of punishing the transgressor. As he turned, the dance of firelight dazzling his eyes made him think for a moment that it was Lucia, who had summoned him. The Fire Demon’s sense of humour was evil at best. But the flames were nothing more than a tiny blaze set in an insignificant fire pit. And then he saw her. Beyond the blaze the woman stood as naked as he was with lustrous dark hair that hung down her back and over the swell of her breasts. He would not have imagined it to be possible, but the slender woman, body burnished golden in the firelight was the source of the magic that had summoned him.
‘What do you want, little girl, and why have you called me in such an uncivilised manner?’ He said, making his voice as thunderous as possible and pulling the shadows around him like a cape because it lent him at least a little of the dignity she had stolen from him.
But she did not cower. Instead she squared her shoulders and stood to her full height, which, as with most mortal women, was not significant compared to him. ‘I am no little girl, Rider, and I have summoned you to do my bidding.’
Though he made no effort to hold back the roar of his laughter, the mortal did not so much as cringe. ‘You summoned me to do your bidding, little one? You are either very brave or very stupid.’ With a sudden flick of his wrist the wind rose and swirled around her, whipping her hair across her face and then back over her shoulders, and he saw that she was, indeed, no little girl. Her breasts were in the full bloom of womanhood crowned by roseate nipples that peaked in the cool kiss of the wind he had summoned. His cock rose in response to her, and for the first time since his unceremonious arrival, he was pleased to be in physical form. This human, this mortal woman was delicate of build, skin as pale as the finest porcelain, skin that seemed lit from within, skin that contrasted with hair that was night itself and eyes that were like a moonless sky. Her hips flared away from her center as though they hugged the soft pillowing of dark curls that caressed her womanhood, and she stood unladylike, with her feet set wide apart on the ground so that even his tempest did not unbalance her.
‘I am neither brave nor stupid,’ she said, when the wind settled enough that she could catch her breath to speak. ‘I am without recourse.’
He moved closer to her, so that the fire did not interfere with his vision of her, and still she did not flinch. ‘You must be desperate, indeed, if you would summon a Soul Rider to do your bidding.’
She ignored his statement. ‘You have it within your power to visit horrible hallucinations upon those who displease you, do you not? It is within your power to drive them form their sanity, and it is said that you have power even to drive them to their death. Is that not so?’
He moved still closer, until he could see the rapid rise and fall of her chest that belied the nerves she hid so well, until he could feel her warm breath against the body that now held his essence. ‘Shall I demonstrate that of which I am capable upon you, little one?’ As he reached for her, she stepped back.
This time he stepped close enough that she had to bend her slender neck back as far as she could to look up into his eyes. ‘And might I ask what’s in it for me?’
‘Anything.’ Her breath caught in her throat and for the first time he felt the passion of her request with the intensity of the powerful magic she had just performed and what that magic had cost her. And was that passion tinged with more than a hint of despair? ‘Anything you ask.’
‘And if you are the payment I demand?’
Her eyelids fluttered and her voice was little more than a whisper. ‘As I have said. Anything you ask.’
That she did not frighten easily, that she was braver than most men who had, ultimately, cowered before him made him want to taste her fear all the more. ‘Then I shall have you.’ He pulled her to him and took her mouth, not expecting the full pout of her lips to part for him, not expecting her body to relax and soften into his embrace nor her arms to encircle his neck. As his tongue flicked over hers, he was stunned to find it was not fear he tasted; it was power, exhilaration, need, mixed again with a heavy patina of desperation, and all of those tastes in this woman made him want her even more. His cock stretched hard, pressed against the tensing muscles of her belly. The pillowed press of her breasts against him in her battle for breath made him want to take more of her breath, so that the pumping of her lungs would keep her fullness rising and falling and nestling against him.
He unclenched her fingers from behind his neck and guided her hand down between them, down to rest on his cock. ‘It has been long since I have worn flesh. My need is nearly beyond my control. It may well be that I would split your fragile frame in two, little girl.’
Before the words were off his tongue, she circled his hardness with slender, but strong fingers, and began to stroke the length of him, whispering in his ear. ‘I told you, whatever you asked, and I am not nearly so fragile as you might think.’ But then the brazen child did something he could have never anticipated. She stepped out of his embrace, back just enough that he could not easily touch her. ‘But I am not yours for the taking until you have done my bidding, Rider. Then split me in two, you may, or in a thousand pieces if it please you.’
He growled his frustration, and his cock bucked against his belly. ‘I do not need your permission to take you, little one.’ He took a menacing step closer to her, and she stepped back again until she stood flush with the bramble behind her. ‘Nor do I need to do your bidding. After all, your invitation was not very polite, now was it?’
‘There was no invitation, Demon. There was a summoning and a bargain to be struck.’
‘Again, I will ask you why should I not take what I want now rather than wait. I am the one who –’
His words died in his throat as her power buzzed over him, a bolt of lightning and a touch of silk and he sucked breath to keep from humiliating himself as the content of his balls threatened to spill itself at her feet. Though in truth, he was not sure that perhaps it was his very life force that this woman, this witch threatened to coax from his cock with her magic. He raised his hands, palms facing her, in a gesture of peace. ‘Tell me then, what is it you want, little witch.’
She studied him for a moment with eyes bottomless as the night sky. ‘I want you to ride the soul of my enemy. Make him suffer long and hard, make him pay for what he has done. If this you do for me, then I am yours to do with what you will.’
‘Are you sure this is a price you can afford to pay, little witch?’ With a move that was no more human than he was, he pulled her into his arms and fisted her thick mane of soft hair and shoved it off her shoulders, seeking to admire the delicacy of the mortal form, as one did art in a gallery — beautiful creations that were far too fragile for any practical purpose. Their fragility in itself a part of their attraction, and his ability to break them somehow made them even more valuable to him. With his eyes shut, he tracked the beat of her pulse to the soft spot on her throat, then bent to nuzzle her there, and just as she moaned a sigh, he bit her in that spot against the thud, thud of her tenuous life force.
At first he thought the near sob that breeched her lips was a release of her pleasure, disappointingly easy, he thought. It was as he opened his eyes that he saw the bruises on her neck, green and angry in the dance of the flames, and he realised the sob had been one of pain. Though he was no fire demon, the thought of his little witch — for that is how he thought of her now, as his possession — the thought of her in pain kindled a strange inferno in his belly that burned with the same rage he would have felt if someone had so marred the Mona Lisa’s perfection. ‘Who did this to you?’ Even as he spoke, he noticed other bruises on her arms, on her hips … on the insides of her thighs. ‘Who did this to you,’ he growled.
She shoved her way free from his embrace and stumbled backward nearly falling before she caught herself. He could taste the rage rolling off her, overpowering the desperation, overpowering the longing, overpowering all else to the point that it was he who was rendered breathless by it. ‘The one whose soul I wish you to ride, the one who I seek revenge upon. He did this to me and more than even your demon eyes can ever see. He took everything from me, and I want him to pay! I want him to pay!’
‘Elaine! Woman! Where the hell are you, you little cunt.’
She jerked as though she had been shot, and in the next instant she was scrambling in the shadows for her clothes. ‘He’s not supposed to be here! He’s supposed to be in Edinburgh.’ Her voice was little more than a hiss. ‘And he’s drunk.’ The curse that she whispered under her breath was an ancient one in Latin, the shock of it coming from the lips of such a delicate female would have made his blood run cold, if he’d had blood. ‘I fear there will be more than bruises when next I see you, Rider,’ she said as she struggled into her gown.
As she turned to go, he grabbed her by the arm. ‘There shall be no bruises, nor any other sort of pain for you, my little witch. You are Elaine?’
She nodded, glancing quickly over her shoulder as the man roared more foul abuse into the night air.
‘And this roaring sack of excrement is the one whose soul you wish me to ride?’
‘And who is he to you?’
‘He is my husband, Patrick Farringdon, and I hate him with a hate that burns me like the flames of hell.’
As the man roared again, Ferris could sense the rage and fear and myriad other emotions racing through the woman’s delicate frame. ‘Elaine, what I do tonight is because I admire your bravery. This night, I promise you, he shall not harm you. In truth, he shall not harm you until next we meet. You intrigue me, my dear little witch, and I will hear your proposition.’
She surprised him by pressing a fervent kiss onto his lips before hurrying from the overgrown garden.
Ferris found his little sorceress locked in a pleasant tower room that he suspected was the place to where she escaped the monster that was her
husband whenever she could. The walls were lined with books and there was a huge free-standing orrery in one corner of the room, close to a polished bronze telescope facing the large window that looked out onto the northern moors. On a huge desk, there were stacks of parchment and a holder with extra quills, not the kind of room in which one would expect a woman to spend her time.
As though she had heard his thoughts, she spoke. ‘This room was covered in dust when I arrived. Patrick Farringdon has no love for learning. He loves money and whores and torturing me. He doesn’t come into this room because I have convinced him it is haunted.’ A smile curled the corner of her lips. ‘He’s a very superstitious man.’
‘And yet her married you, little witch.’
‘Do you think I had a choice? He was more in love with my father’s money than he was afraid of my craft. After squandering his own fortune, marrying a witch seemed less loathsome than being poor. For him. For me nothing is more loathsome than being forced to do his bidding.’ Her voice was dark, venomous, and even Ferris’ skin prickled at the hatred therein. She shook herself and shrugged as though coming out of a bad dream. ‘I have no doubt that the time will come when he will use my craft against me to his advantage.’ She turned to face him, ‘If he lives long enough for such scheming. He has already let it be known among the villagers that I am a strange one, that I have … unholy tendencies.’
Ferris moved to stand behind her and closed the book she had been reading. ‘The death of one accused of witchcraft is not pleasant, my dear woman.’
She raised her eyes and looked out the window at the night sky. ‘I can only die once and then this suffering will be over. But I wish to insure that he suffers much before I do, and that my … dear husband … precedes me in death. Since he has not sought me tonight, then I assume you have paid him a visit.’
Ferris laid a hand against her jaw and pulled her hair back to reveal the angry bruise. ‘He will give you no bruises this night. Night terrors can be so troublesome, and they often leave one far too exhausted for such spineless activities as beating helpless women – for days at times, or so I am told.’ He slid his hand down onto her collarbone and was once again surprised to find she did not cower. ‘But then I see no helpless woman here.’
‘Is my proposal acceptable to you then, demon,’ she asked. From the angle at which he stood he could see the hardening of her nipples below the fabric of her gown and the rise and fall of the rounded tops of her breasts.
‘For the price we have agreed upon, I will do your bidding,’ he said. ‘It shall give me pleasure to lay waste to such a corrupt soul.’ He slid his hand down over her sternum and inside the gape in her gown to caress her breasts and felt the catch of her breath in unison with the catch of his own, which was only a memory of breath, but a memory he knew well. ‘In the meantime, I will enjoy the world of the flesh.’
She shoved his hand aside. ‘I am not yours to dispose of until you have given me what I ask.’ She pushed her chair back and came to her feet, turning to face him. ‘If you take me now, than I have naught with which to bargain.’
He bowed his head. ‘As you wish, my little witch.’ As he lifted her into his arms, she yelped and he felt her body tense against him as he carried her to the cot on the far side of the room where it was clear that she spent most of her nights. ‘Then you shall sleep, and I shall watch over you.’ He undid the robe that she had carelessly thrown around herself, the one she had worn from the garden, and slipped it off her shoulders. Then he guided her down beneath the blanket.
‘You don’t have to watch over me. That was not a part of the bargain.’
‘Indeed not,’ he said, as he settled onto the bed next to her. ‘But I must protect my investment. When my end of the bargain is fulfilled, I would not want my reward damaged and unable to uphold her end.’ He brushed a kiss against her lips. Her breath was warm and sweet and he longed to linger in it until dawn.
‘How can I trust you to keep your word?’ She whispered.
‘How can you not?’ He replied, curling up next to her on top of the covers. ‘What I have promised I will perform, now rest, my little witch, and be at peace.’